It honestly shouldn’t surprise Sterling how long it takes two adult women to finish a television series. But it takes them a long time to finish Buffy.
At first, there’s this problem - well, definitely not a problem - a situation that arises as soon as they get back to April’s apartment from the airport and they realize that they are all alone in the same space for the first time since they’ve actually been together. So they aren’t exactly inclined to watch television.
And even when they are inclined to watch television, sometimes April strokes up Sterling’s leg, or presses a kiss to Sterling’s neck, or just fucking looks at her in that one specific way, and Sterling tries to keep watching the show, she really does, she’s invested, but then April’s breath will be hot and her smile will be too knowing and Sterling will have to reach for the remote to pause it.
By the time they finish season three (“Faith isn’t gonna die, is she? She’s coming back right?” “Just watch the show, Sterling. My lips are sealed.” “Your lips are a lot of things, but I wouldn’t say sealed.”), summer is almost over, and Sterling has to coax her teens through the anxiety of returning to school.
April is starting to take meetings with Joaquin to discuss a potential city council run, always coming back from them looking invigorated. One day, she draws a diagram for Sterling on one of her legal pads about the makeup of LA’s city council, who is essentially a lost cause to mega-donors, and who could still be swayed; the demographics of District 13, who voted in the last election, who hasn’t, how they can mobilize the latter.
It reminds Sterling of in fifth grade when they were learning all the capitals and April wrote each state and each capital and one fun fact about every one out in her precise little eleven-year-old handwriting, not even for an assignment, just so she would know them all by heart. And Sterling was so in awe of that, remembers talking to Blair about how cool it was that April knew so much and was so smart, and Blair had told her very seriously that her definition of cool was deeply wrong.
“Are you following?” April asks now. April who falls asleep next to her nine nights out of ten. April who leaves for work with a seamless I love you like it's nothing. April who is actively pursuing running for city council like it’s just another day of the week. “I know it’s a lot of information at once.”
“I’m following,” Sterling assures her, “this is actually super fascinating. I just, God, I just love you so much.”
April beams at her, puts aside the diagram for a minute just to kiss her.
When they are halfway through season four (“Oh my god, Willow is gay?” “How have you been a queer person on the internet this century and not know Willow was gay, Sterl?” “I mostly just watch videos of different animals becoming friends with each other, you know this. Wow, look at sweet Willow, I’m so proud of her.” “Are you crying?” “Shut up.”), Sterling has a Bad Day at work. She manages to keep it together all the way through the metro ride to April’s apartment, then she uses the key that she now has to slip in, sees April at the kitchen table, looking up from her work with a smile, one that quickly turns into a frown when she sees Sterling’s face.
“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” she asks, immediately at Sterling’s side.
And Sterling breaks a little, crying into April’s soft perfect shoulder, about how Owen and Julia’s mom pulled them out of the program right when Owen was really starting to make progress, and there’s nothing Sterling can do about it, and how these parents just don’t get that this is a process, that stopping the counseling abruptly will hurt these kids, and Sterling is still low enough in the hierarchy that parents don’t listen to her, and she sometimes feels just so so helpless.
April strokes her hair, wipes her tears away, before grabbing her car keys from the hook on the wall.
“What are you doing?” Sterling asks, still a little teary.
April holds up her keys.
“Well, these things are called car keys, and they power a vehicle that most people in this city use to get around.”
Sterling lets out a wet huff of laughter.
“Also,” April says, softer, “sometimes a person will use them to take their girlfriend on a drive out of the city when she’s had a shitty day. You know, if she wants to.”
Sterling sniffs a little, but nods.
April lets Sterling pick the music as she drives them God knows where, only stopping briefly to grab them some food.
“Eat, Sterl. I know you don’t feel hungry when you’re sad, but eat. It will help.”
So Sterling reluctantly munches on a burrito (which does help, April is infuriatingly always right), while she plays her her go-to Bummed Out playlist, one that has got her through various years of being homesick or heartbroken or that kind of melancholy where she’s not sure where it comes from, but sometimes just chooses to take up up residence in her chest.
April doesn’t say much, just hums along to the music, moves her hand to take Sterling’s as Los Angeles fades further away.
“Jesus, this playlist,” April says, as the fifth Joni Mitchell song in a row starts, “I didn’t know you had it in you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sterling asks with a bit of a laugh, spirits buoyed by the food in her stomach and the hand warm and solid in her own.
“Sterl, we grew up together, we shared earbuds on field trips. It was like an explosion of bubblegum pop.”
“When I was, like, twelve!”
April shoots her a look.
“And still now! Whatever! But also I have grown to appreciate the melancholy in music over the years. God, I must have started making this playlist when I was sixteen or so. You know, with everything...”
“With your parents?”
“Also you, dummy.”
April gives a small little smile, before softly singing along with the music.
You’re in my blood like holy wine, tastes so bitter and so sweet. Oh, I could drink a case of you.
“This one was for you,” Sterling says quietly.
April squeezes her hand and glances over to her with an open tenderness that Sterling never could have imagined back when she made this playlist.
They finally stop driving a few hours outside of the city, April pulling into what can barely be described as a parking lot in what, quite frankly, seems to be the middle of the desert.
“Where are we?” Sterling asks, stretching as she gets out of the car.
“Joshua Tree,” April says, “this place mostly exists for actors to drop acid and feel self-important between projects, but it’s actually… I used to drive out here a lot when I first moved to LA. Look up.”
Sterling looks up. Stars litter the sky in a way Sterling hasn’t seen in years, not since Blair made them go camping a few birthdays ago.
“It’s very cliché,” April continues, “but there is something about seeing the stars that reminds me the world is big and I am small. When I first moved here, I was going through some adjustments. I had basically been in school for twenty years of my life and I was good at it, I could figure it out. But then school became work and there weren’t those easy answers anymore. We’ve both chosen fields where others depend on us and sometimes that weight can be incredibly overwhelming. So when it gets too bad, I just drive out here, look at the stars, and breathe. Perspective, you know?”
“Perspective,” Sterling echoes. She looks back up at the stars, the way they spread all the way to the jagged rocks on the horizon, to the gnarled trees dotting the landscape.
She leans back on the hood of the car and April joins her, arm naturally coming up around Sterling’s shoulders. Sterling sinks into her, smells her familiar smell, the soap that Sterling had started using too.
“Have you brought anyone else here?” Sterling murmurs against her chest.
And Sterling knew that, really, but it’s nice to hear it out loud, to be able to relax into this person, to sit with her, looking up at the stars like they are just any two people in the world.
“Thank you,” she whispers.
April kisses the top of her head.
“Of course, my love,” she whispers, “and whenever you’re ready, I will make a thorough list of all the ways we can upend the hierarchy at your work so you can keep those kids.”
Sterling lets out a soft laugh.
“Have I mentioned I’m stupid in love with you?”
“It’s been at least five minutes. So a new record for you.”
“I’ll make it to six someday.”
April chuckles, and they both look up at the stars again as she whispers, “we have all the time in the world.”
By the time they’re partway through the fifth season (“A sisters, but they aren’t really sisters, but they are sisters plot? Are you kidding me?”), Sterling's roommates that she barely ever sees ask her if she wants to renew her lease at the end of the year. Sterling knows the answer deep in her gut, but she also knows she’s probably got to at least have a conversation about it.
April has one of her city council prep meetings that evening, so Sterling lets herself in, feeds Faith, puts on one of April’s Columbia hoodies and some loud pop music (okay, yes, that is still mostly her taste), and slides around the kitchen in her socks. She scoops up Faith after she finishes eating, who reluctantly accepts her fate.
“Do you know who Carly Rae Jepsen is?” Sterling asks her, “I feel like your mommy did not properly educate you on the pop divas of our youth.”
“I won’t accept that kind of slander in my house,” Sterling hears from the doorway, as April walks in the apartment, looking amused and tired and gorgeous. “Faith is very well educated.”
Sterling grins, gently placing Faith on the floor so she can slide over to April, wrap her arms around her, and kiss her enthusiastically.
“You’re in a good mood today,” April remarks once they finally part, mostly just so April can put her stuff down.
“Any particular reason? Is it because Owen’s back at-”
“Do you want to move in together?”
April just blinks at her for a second. Sterling figures she maybe could have been more deliberate about bringing this up.
“I just - my lease is up on January 1st, and I spend all my time here anyway, and like, I know it’s only been a few months, but I mean - we’ve never been great at moving slow, so I just kind of figured-”
April presses a quick kiss to Sterling’s lips, effectively shutting her up.
“Okay,” April says.
“I mean, yes, let’s move in together.”
Sterling beams at her, letting out a joyous little laugh.
“That was easy.”
“I mean it’s only logical,” April says with a smile that tells Sterling its far far more than just logical, “Faith could use the extra company.”
“Sure. Faith. Uh-huh.”
“Yes, I’m sure Faith counts herself incredibly lucky that she’ll get to wake up next to you every morning.”
At first Sterling thinks she’ll just move into April’s place, but the more they talk about it, the more it makes sense to find something with more space, a bit closer to Sterling’s job. Also, an added benefit is that April is scarily thorough about house-hunting in a way that Sterling finds mind-bogglingly hot.
They tour a beautiful two-bedroom in Echo Park that is slightly out of their price range, until April reminds the landlord of specific rent control ordinances that went into effect last year, and that she knows people who could check the records of all the buildings he owns, and suddenly the apartment is no longer out of their price range.
“Can we have a minute to discuss?” Sterling asks the landlord, who has turned a deep red, and quickly leaves them alone in the master bedroom.
“What do you think?” April asks, “I think the building is a little old, but the location really is perfect.”
“I didn’t want a moment to actually discuss, you idiot,” Sterling says before pushing April against the wall of hopefully their future bedroom, and kissing her deeply. “God, it’s stupid hot when you negotiate.”
April laughs, flushed and out of breath.
“I’m extremely lucky that this does it for you,” she says.
“Damn right,” Sterling says, kissing her again, reveling in April’s mouth opening against hers, in April clutching at her, at the way this is all so familiar now, the way she knows April’s body like her favorite book, but still the same excitement rises in her bones when she was sixteen and in awe of what this girl’s touch could do to her.
By the time they finish season five (“Okay, there is no way in hell Buffy is actually dead, she’s the name of the show!” “I’m saying nothing.” “That means she’s totally not dead.” “That’s confidential information, Sterl.”), it’s late December and they fly back to Atlanta for Christmas, only making it twenty depressing minutes into the sixth season premiere before April passes the heck out on Sterling’s shoulder.
Sterling is pretty sure her parents prefer April to either of their children at this point, as Blair loudly declares, but neither of them are really mad about it. It’s easy to fold April into their traditions, to have her precise eye when it comes to decorating the tree, for her to whisper scathing commentary on cheesy Christmas movies into Sterling’s ear.
April stays in Sterling’s room again, and the memory of six months ago makes it impossible for either of them to keep their hands off each other for too long.
“These have been the best six months of my life,” Sterling whispers, when their bodies are in that blissful relaxed state between sex and sleep.
“Me too, baby,” April whispers into her chest, “me too.”
On Christmas, Sterling wakes up in the early hours of the morning, right before the sun has risen, to see the other side of her bed empty. April does this sometimes, gets restless and wakes up at ungodly hours, and Sterling will find her curled up on the couch with Faith and a book and her glasses and Sterling will need to take a moment to adjust to how lovely a sight she gets to witness.
Now, though, in her childhood home, Sterling’s curiosity gets the better of her and she pads down the stairs, sees a light on in the kitchen. She expects to see April there alone, but instead sees her mom, clad in her robe, sitting across from April at the kitchen island, laughing together over two mugs of coffee.
Neither of them notice Sterling, which is maybe for the best because Sterling is having a probably disproportionately emotional reaction to the sight of her mom and her girlfriend perfectly at ease like this.
“Oh, we disagreed on just about everything,” Debbie is saying, “I don’t think past the age of 15, I really had anything in common with them. Sometimes I think that - oh, this just is awful to say - but I think that if they were still alive, we wouldn’t even be close.”
Sterling swallows. Debbie is talking about her parents, something she barely ever does, even now. But she sounds so open, sitting in the early morning, chatting with April like they’re old friends.
“I don’t think that’s awful to say,” April says, “trust me, I understand.”
“I know you do, hun. Though I will say, my folks probably do have a couple points up on yours.”
Sterling raises her eyebrows as her mom’s candor.
April just laughs.
“Now that’s a low bar, Debbie.”
And then they’re both laughing again and the whole thing is weird but sweet in a way that makes Sterling kind of want to cry. Instead, she clears her throat and steps out into the kitchen.
“Look who’s up early,” Debbie says, as Sterling gives her a sideways hug.
“I know,” April says, “it’s before 10am, not on a work day, who are you?”
“Oh, be quiet, the both of you,” Sterling says, before going over to April, pressing a kiss to her cheek, and resting her chin on her shoulder. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas, sweetheart,” April whispers, and Sterling closes her eyes for a second. Not because it’s six in the morning, but because there just certain moments that deserve to be elongated.
Blair flies with them back to LA to help with the move and christen the new guest room. It ends up being ideal for Sterling, given that both Blair and April are way stronger than her and excel at carry boxes and building furniture, while Sterling can do the important work of picking out wallpaper and making sure Faith doesn’t freak out too much and also watching April carry boxes and build furniture until Blair smacks her on the arm and tells her to contribute.
Right before they go to bed, Blair takes Sterling aside and solemnly tells her, “don’t worry, I brought the noise-cancelling headphones.”
“Oh, shut up!”
But later, when April has Sterling pressed up in the bed she built hours prior, mouth kissing the dip of Sterling’s throat, hand spreading Sterling’s legs apart as she whispers, “you look so beautiful on our bed, baby,” Sterling figures that, yeah, okay, it’s probably smart Blair brought the headphones.
Sterling takes extra time off from work to be Blair’s tour guide, spending the whole first week of January eating at decadent restaurants from the spreadsheet and drinking fancy cocktails on rooftops and Sterling sucking it up and going on several hikes because she loves her sister more than she hates hills.
The day before Blair leaves, they spend the day at Universal Studios, eating overpriced junk food and riding The Mummy ride over and over like they are kids again, not a couple months shy of thirty. The exhaustion hits like they are thirty though, Sterling leaning her head on Blair’s shoulder on the metro home.
“I’ll miss you when you go back,” she says.
“Duh,” Blair says with a laugh, “you’ll be fine though, Sterl. This is… I mean, this is the happiest I’ve ever seen you.”
“Well, I really love theme parks.”
“Fuck off, you know what I mean.”
Sterling leans up to grin at her sister.
“Yeah,” she says, “I know exactly what you mean. I thought… I don’t know, Blair, it’s crazy, I spent so many years thinking about April, building her up, but all those years of fantasizing and daydreaming, it’s absolutely nothing compared to the real thing.”
“Sap,” Blair says affectionately.
“Oh, I’m just getting started. You know, more than anyone, how I’ve always loved love stories, the rom coms and romance novels and all that. But they don’t really capture how much - that it just keeps getting better. Like I know I sound incredibly cheesy, but each day I love her a little more and each day I don’t think that it’s possible but then I just do. And I’m not even afraid of anything going bad this time, because, because this is just it for both of us, I know it, I know it in my gut.”
Sterling realizes that she’s crying on the red line but she doesn’t really care. Blair’s arm comes up around her shoulders.
“First of all, incredibly cheesy doesn’t even begin to cover it. Second of all, no one deserves this more than you, Sterl.” Blair lets out a little laugh. “If you had told me when we were kids that April fucking Stevens is the one whose got you like this, I would have been deeply confused and probably a huge bitch about it. But I’ve been watching you guys this whole week and it just works, dude. Y’all are so gone for each other it’s crazy. And I’m really fucking happy for you.”
Sterling laughs into her shoulder, smiles the whole ride back, hugs April extra tight when she gets back to their home.
They’re midway through season six (“You really know every word to every song, huh?” “It’s an excellent musical within a perfect episode of television!” “I’m not fighting with you. It’s cute. Also thank god for a fun episode, this season has been a bummer so far.” “Oh honey. Brace yourself.”), when April officially announces she’s running for city council, with an LA Times piece and a video going up on social media, where April grins at the camera and says things about how it’s about time we make this city work for everyone. Sterling has seen about forty cuts of the video by now, but still, hearing, I’m April Stevens and I approve this message, like, unreasonably turns her on. It’s fine.
There’s a whirlwind of media chaos that first day, April constantly on the phone or doing filmed interviews or consulting with Joaquin on a new field strategy. While April talks to every journalist in the greater Los Angeles area, Sterling checks social media, even though she’s been warned to take everything with a grain of salt.
She sees a fair amount of shitty takes from guys with South Park avatars (Sterling didn’t even know that show was still on, but it’s apparently an institution in this weird corner of the internet), but she also sees this incredible enthusiasm for April, for her April, people saying things about how thought out her plans are already, how she could actually get through to people who only vote every four years, also some pretty relatable tweets about how good she looks in a suit.
Sterling screenshots the particularly thirsty ones and shows them to April that night in bed. April laughs, long and loud, an electric energy radiating off of her even after such an exhausting day.
“Not exactly the reaction I was expecting, but if that means they’ll vote for me, I’ll take it.”
“April.” Sterling sets the phone aside so she can climb onto April’s lap. “You cannot be surprised that people are into you. You’re the hottest thing this city has ever seen.”
“Actually,” April says, hands coming up to rest on Sterling’s thighs, “this city is literally known for its hot people, so while I’m flattered, that statement is not- ”
Sterling kisses her just to shut her up, and April responds eagerly, hands pulling Sterling closer.
“Don't fight me on this,” Sterling says, panting a little. “I will win.”
“Perhaps,” April says, playing with the bottom of Sterling’s shirt, and it's probably the closest thing Sterling will get to a concession.
“Oh my god,” Sterling says at the thought. “Oh my god, baby, I’m going to get to vote for you.”
April lets out a sharp gasp beneath her. Sterling grins.
“Oh you’re into that, huh?”
“Perhaps,” April repeats, but her eyes are blown and her breathing is heavier and, with no warning, she flips them so Sterling is on her back.
Sterling laughs breathlessly.
“Good to know,” she breathes and then April’s kissing her again and she spares a moment of sympathy for all those thirsty people on the internet who will never be as lucky as her.
By the time they near the end of season six (“Tara isn’t really dead is she?” “Sterl…” “No! Normally you say some cryptic thing and so I know they’re coming back but...” “Sweetheart, I’m sorry.” “Why did you make me watch this show?” “If it makes you feel better, if you died, I would probably also turn to dark magic and flay a man alive.” “Weirdly, it does kind of make me feeling better.”), it’s coming up on Sterling’s 30th birthday (her real one, followed closely by her fake one), with April’s about a month later.
They take a long weekend in mid-March to celebrate both, the last time that April will conceivably be able to take off before the primary. They drive to Joshua Tree for real this time, renting out one of those fancy trailer things that always make Sterling roll her eyes at the sheer California of it all.
“I assume we’re not going to drop acid like the celebrities,” Sterling jokes when they’re planning.
“Not during campaign season,” April says with a smirk, “though I could be convinced to bring some edibles.”
Sterling just blinks at her.
“What? It’s been legal for years, Sterl.”
“I know. I just - you never struck me as the type. In high school, I remember you calling weed ‘the Devil’s plant for lazy miscreants who have to resort to substances to feel pleasure.’”
“You have an uncannily good memory sometimes.”
“Only when it comes to you.”
April blushes a little at that, something she still does nine months in, which is just so fucking cute that Sterling can’t take it.
“Anyway,” April says, clearing her throat, “I occasionally partake in the Devil’s plant now. Call me a lazy miscreant. It helps me sleep sometimes.”
Sterling tilts her head.
“I haven’t noticed you having any trouble falling asleep.”
April rolls her eyes.
“Yes, stunning powers of observation, Sterl. What do you think has changed in the last nine months?”
“Oh,” Sterling says, her turn to blush.
So they end up taking some edibles down to Joshua Tree. Sterling knows she’s an adult, that she’s mere hours away from turning thirty, but still she sends a quick text to Blair on the drive down: I can’t believe I am about to do DRUGS with APRIL STEVENS.
Blair responds with, fucking dorks both of you.
Sterling wakes up on the morning of her 30th birthday (the real one) to bright sunlight streaming through the curtains of their bougie little trailer and the smell of something salty in the air and April softly pressing a kiss to her shoulder.
“Morning,” Sterling mumbles, eyes not quite ready to be open.
“Morning,” April echoes, kissing the dimple in Sterling’s shoulder, the top of her spine, the back of her neck. “Time to wake up, baby.”
Sterling sighs into it, the feel of April’s lips soft on her skin, the way her body always lights up when April calls her baby.
“That feels good,” she says eloquently.
April grins against her back.
“I’m sure it does. But, come on, I made breakfast.”
She kisses up Sterling’s neck, strokes her fingers softly down Sterling’s side, until her hand curls around Sterling’s hip.
“Fuck breakfast,” Sterling breaths.
“Well, that’s not fair. I made a frittata.”
“We’re in the middle of the desert and you made a frittata?”
“We have a stove in here. We have eggs. It’s really not that hard to make a decent frittata, Sterling.”
“Oh my god, I don’t care about the frittata, it’s my birthday, just fuck me already.”
“You’ll regret that once you’re eating cold frittata.”
“I really - oh my god, April - don’t think I’m going to regret any - holy shit, baby - of this.”
They wait until late afternoon to take the edibles, then go on what Sterling calls a hike and April calls a light stroll to watch the sun set.
“It’s really fucking beautiful,” Sterling says, at a loss for more descriptive words as the sky turns a brilliant orange, and she leans back into April on the sort of large boulder they’ve perched themselves on.
“You know,” April whispers in her ear, “if this was one of those cheesy movies you love so much, I would look at you while you look at the sunset and say ‘yeah... it is so beautiful.’”
“Hey, I wouldn’t complain.”
“You asked for it,” April says. Sterling can’t see her, but she knows that she is grinning that smug little grin she gets sometimes. “A few years ago, I went to Hawaii and hiked up this mountain to see the sun set over the ocean from a bird’s eyes view. You could see the whole island from up there - see how every inch of the water turned these brilliant colors as the sun went down. I think we overuse the word breathtaking in the English language, but the sight truly took my breath away.”
April leans closer so her lips are right on the edge of Sterling’s ear before whispering, ever so softly, “but that’s nothing compared to what it’s like when I look at you.”
Sterling thinks she’s going to cry. She turns her head so she can look at April, who is smiling sweetly down at her, simultaneously looking at her with such care and love, but also with a smug sort of satisfaction that she knows what she just said was good.
Sterling is so in love with her she could burst.
“Wow,” she says, at a temporary loss for words, before leaning forward to kiss her.
“What can I say,” April says, “I’m a wordsmith. Also, full disclosure, a little high right now.”
Sterling giggles longer than she should, perhaps a little high herself.
“You should get high more often, I could use the flattery.”
They stay out there until the stars start to dot the horizon, then they walk hand and hand back to their trailer. They pass a few others, mostly people in their 20s, which Sterling realizes abruptly isn’t how she would be described anymore. She’s three decades old, high in the desert, holding hands with her girlfriend. Her girlfriend who used to bully her in math class when she got anything under a 95. Who would have thought?
Right before they get back to their trailer, they pass a family, two young, frankly quite hot dads, one of them holding a fast asleep child in one arm while his other is firm in the other man’s. They smile at Sterling and April when they pass, a classic, “we’re all gay here,” acknowledgement.
Sterling watches them, the sweetness of it all, before blurting out, “do you want kids?”
April, if she’s surprised by the question, doesn't show it.
“Only if I adopt.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’ve always said too.”
“Do you ever feel like we keep having these big conversations in, like, two seconds?”
“Maybe we’re just better than everyone else.” April grins before looking at Sterling with her signature focus, like she’s actively thinking. “Or we spent so many years not being in the same place or being on the same page, so now that we are it’s just… right.”
“I like that answer.”
“I like the one where we’re better than everyone else.”
“Of course you do.”
By the time they start season seven (“Okay, so just any vampire can get a soul now?” “Well, it seems to be an arduous process.” “I’m just saying, the fact that Spike can just go off and get a soul is wild! They really made us think Angel was the only one.” “And yet their souls can’t stop them from being men.” “Aw, I love how this show makes you even more of a lesbian.”), it starts raining. Like real rain in LA, which apparently sends everyone who lives here into a weird state of shock and inhibits their ability to drive even more than usual.
April has a big canvass the weekend of the storm, and is determined to go through with it, literally rain or shine.
“I have to set an example,” she tells Sterling, all stern and serious future politician, which is also unreasonably cute, “if I am asking these people to go out there in the pouring rain and ask people to vote for me, I have to walk the walk as well. Quite literally.”
And Sterling gets it - she does, April is not one for half measures or performativity in this campaign, but when she comes home soaking wet and with a very warm forehead, Sterling can’t help but affectionately say, “you idiot.”
“Hey!” April says, voice a little hoarse. “I’m doing this for my future constituents.”
“I’m sure your future constituents will love you getting sick instead of having the common sense not to canvass in the rain.”
“I’m not sick!” April snaps, before coughing loudly.
Sterling raises her eyebrows.
“Come on, get out of those wet clothes, and get into bed.”
“Buy a girl dinner first,” April says with what tries to be a “come hither” nod but just turns into more coughing.
Sterling tries very hard not to laugh.
“April, sweetheart, I love you very much, you know this, you made me realize I was into a whole gender that one time, but right now, none of that. You need to sleep.”
April shakes her head.
“Can’t sleep. Campaign.”
Sterling takes April by the shoulders and leads her into the bedroom. She strips off her clothes, using a towel to dry her off. Her skin feels hot, too hot.
“Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?” April asks hoarsely.
Sterling rolls her eyes, pulling April’s pajamas on over her head.
“Dear God, you’re frisky when you’re sick.”
“You know,” Sterling says, running to the bathroom for the thermometer, “this is what happens when you run yourself ragged and neglect your personal health. Open.”
“I’m doing this for the city of Los Angeles,” April mumbles around the thermometer.
“Shh,” Sterling scolds, despite how cute April looks. “The city of Los Angeles will be fine for a couple days while you rest.”
“She will not.”
“She? Mouth closed.”
April grumbles to herself but keeps her mouth closed until the thermometer beeps. Sterling takes it out.
“See, 102. You are not going to work. You need bed and fluids.”
“You need bed and fluids.”
“See, now I can’t even tell if you’re hitting on me again or just being childish.”
“I am not childish,” April says, crossing her arms across her chest. “And I’m not sick.”
Sterling resists the urge to shove the thermometer in April’s face and say “you’re the fucking lawyer, look at the evidence!”
Instead she gently scoots April into the bed, covers her with the blankets, puts a cold washcloth on her forehead.
By the time she comes back with some tea and ibuprofen, April’s eyes are closed, curled into a little blanket burrito on their bed. Sterling just stares at her from the doorway, utterly floored by how this larger than life presence is so tiny, so vulnerable. How Sterling is one of the only people who gets to see her like this.
“Are you just gonna watch me sleep?” April chimes up from the bed, amusement mixing in with sickness. “Creep.”
Sterling laughs, before setting the tea on the bedside table and schooching in beside April. She presses a kiss to April’s clammy perfect cheek.
“Watch out, you’ll get sick,” April mumbles.
“Ha! You admit it, you’re sick.”
Sterling shifts a little, so April can lean against her chest. Sterling pulls her closer, kisses the top of her head.
“And I don’t care about getting sick, I care about taking care of you.”
“Gay,” April murmurs against her chest, before her breathing goes steady and her body fully relaxes against Sterling.
Sterling kisses the top of her head, watching April drift off. She laughs a little, thinking about how April would hate this back when they were kids, the idea of being less than one hundred percent and letting Sterling of all people look after her.
But then Sterling wonders when the last time it was that someone really took care of April when she was sick, held her and cared for her and forced her to sleep. Sterling swallows, strokes her hand through April’s hair, smiling softly when April sighs in her sleep.
“Never again,” Sterling whispers, even though she knows April is out cold. “I’ve got you from now on.”
By the time they are almost done with season seven (“Oh my god, Faith!” “Mrew?” “Not you, the other one. Your mommy gave you that name because she was horny and gay for this girl right here.” “Hey!” “Am I wrong?” “You’re just jealous because I wasn’t horny and gay for you.” “Please, you’ve been horny and gay for me since puberty.”), Sterling is starting to feel a little sad about it.
Season seven, episode twenty-two, “Chosen,” stares at her from the bright light of the TV. Sterling stares back.
“Are…we gonna watch it?” April asks.
“Just give me a minute.”
Sterling takes in a deep breath. She can do this. This is an episode of television. She’s fine.
“Oh, sweetheart, are you crying?”
“No,” Sterling says petulantly, even though she knows she is. “Yes. It’s just. We started watching this show over a year ago, and we’ve been through so much, and now it’s just gonna be over!”
“There are comics. There’s Angel.”
“It’s not the same!”
“I know, baby.”
April’s smiling at her, a combination of soft and like she’s trying not to laugh.
“Don’t laugh at me!” Sterling says, for some reason all of twelve.
“I’m not laughing at you,” April says, laughing at her. She schools her features. “I’m sorry, it’s just - I just love how much you care about this show. It’s so… you.”
“It’s not just the show. It’s just - this was what - you asked me to hang out to watch it last year. And it just felt so huge. And now it’s ending. I hate endings.”
“Just because this show is ending, doesn't mean…” April trails off, looking as if she’s considering something. “Give me 10 seconds.”
And then she’s off to the bedroom, leaving Sterling a little stunned. She wipes her eyes, feeling a little silly for crying over the concept of a television series ending, even though she’s lost count of how many times she’s actually cried at Buffy at this point. She takes a deep breath. She can get it together.
Then April’s back, looking a little out of breath, hands behind her back.
“I had a plan,” she says cryptically.
“What?” Sterling asks, “for finishing Buffy?”
“No, you idiot. For doing this whole, um, well, okay - the thing is-”
Sterling just stares at her. April is flustered. April doesn’t get flustered.
“The thing is?” Sterling prompts, very much charmed and also confused by whatever’s going on.
April comes to sit on the couch next to Sterling, but she’s practically vibrating with energy.
“The thing is,” she repeats unsteadily, “the thing is, Sterling, that you hate endings.”
“And don’t get me wrong, I do love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the good things, the big things, the important earth-shattering things that we didn’t think were ever possible - none of that ever has to end.”
Something starts in Sterling’s chest, something that she can’t quite name, hope and anticipation and joy that maybe April is implying what Sterling thinks she’s implying.
“And I know we’ve been together for less than a year, even though we’ve been telling people we’re together for more than a year now, but honestly, Sterling, I’ve spent two thirds of my life in love with you, so - so who the fuck cares how long we’ve been together? I just know that I never want it to end.”
Then, like in slow motion, April is dropping from the couch down to a knee and there’s a box and a ring coming out from behind her back and fuck, if Sterling thought she was emotionally compromised by some TV show, it’s nothing compared to the sight in front of her. To April fucking Stevens kneeling in their apartment, wearing a god damn Columbia sweatshirt and glasses and looking up at Sterling like she is the most important person in the world.
“April,” she manages to get out, voice cracking on the world, tears already gathering in her eyes.
“Sterling,” April says gently, hand not holding the ring (the ring) reaching up to wipe away her tears. “Marry me?”
And the answer is, of course, of course, I’ve loved you for so many years, but so much is rising Sterling’s chest that all she manages is, “shut the fuck up.”
April just grins up at her.
“I was hoping for a ‘yes,’ but I’m willing to work with-”
“Oh my god, yes, April, of course, you asshole, I love you so much.”
Then April’s grin grows impossibly wider and she’s putting the ring on Sterling’s finger with soft and steady hands, before her hands move to cup Sterling’s face, to kiss her tears away, to hold her close.
Sterling lets herself sink into April’s embrace, tries to remember how to breathe with this much joy pounding in her chest, with the knowledge that this is real, that this is all real, that this is the same April who laughed with her late into the night at sleepovers, the same April who opened up something unheard of in her when she was sixteen, who has spent the last year making Sterling’s world the best version of it it can be, that April is holding her and whispering her love and telling Sterling she wants this to be forever.
“Where’d you get the ring?” Sterling asks, once she can form sentences again, staring down at her hand. “When did you get the ring?”
“Your mom, actually.”
“On Christmas morning, we were both up early and she just goes-” April puts on a stunningly accurate impression of Debbie “‘-oh, hun, let me grab you something real quick,’ so casual, that I thought it was going to be a book or something, but she comes back with this box and starts telling me about how she had such a complex relationship with her parents, but when they passed, she kept her mother’s engagement ring to pass it down to you or Blair and that she - that she saw the way we were together and thought I should probably hold onto it.” April swallows a little. “Six months, in and she knew, she - she - trusted me with this and so… well, here we are.”
Sterling is crying again, unsure if she ever stopped.
“Wow,” she manages. “That’s - wow.”
“She’s pretty great, your mom.”
“She’s yours too,” Sterling says with a smile. “If - well - when -” she gestures helplessly at the ring on her finger, still not great at talking. “My family is your family too now, even if we weren’t - even if you didn’t just propose, you know that, right?”
“I know that,” April says, crying freely too at this point. “Of course I know that, my love.”
And she proves it, a few minutes later, when they are both slightly more composed and April’s first thought is, “oh my god, you have to call Blair.”
And then Sterling starts crying again because April just knows her, knows that the first thing she wants to do is always call her sister.
“Okay, maybe we wait on calling Blair until you can speak again.”
Sterling just nods tearfully, leaning back into April’s arms. April kisses the top of her head, smooths her hair back, holds her as long as she needs. Because she’s April. Her April. Her fiance. The thought makes Sterling start crying again, laughing a bit this time too. April chuckles into her hair.
“We’re never going to finish Buffy, are we?”
“We will.” Sterling leans up to kiss the underside of April’s jaw. “We just have the rest of our lives to do it, now, don’t we?”