Baby We’re Guilty (Wherever We Are)

Summary:

”Meet me in the bathroom in a couple of minutes.“
”For real? The bathrooms are so gross.”

Also on ao3: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14618225

– – –

Ally was on an 11-hour flight to Japan. She wasn’t seated near the other girls, but she had an aisle seat so she had nothing to complain about. Through the years of traveling she had actually grown to enjoy the alone time she got during long flights. Sure she wasn’t actually alone, the air was dry, the food wasn’t great and contrary to what her taller bandmates might believe, having your feet dangle in the air for hours was actually wildly uncomfortable. But when you took into consideration that what was expecting them in their destination was three weeks living in a crammed, stuffy tour bus where peace and quiet didn’t exist, the 11 hours spent reading, listening to music, watching movies and most importantly talking to absolutely no one, except for maybe the friendly flight attendants, didn’t sound half bad. And had she ever had any complaints about flying, the invention of in-flight wifi had been sure to throw all of them out the airtight window she was currently looking at the clouds through.

It was around two hours into the flight when Ally was scrolling through her Twitter mentions and got a notification. It was a text from Lauren.

meet me in the bathroom in a couple of minutes

Ally rolled her eyes but couldn’t stop the smile spreading across her face. This was exactly something Lauren would suggest.

For real? The bathrooms are sooo gross

Lauren replied with a few annoyed looking emojis and a simple ”baby”. It’s not like Ally really needed much convincing anyway.

I’ll be there in a bit

Ally waited for a little while just to make sure no one would get too suspicious, and then unbuckled her seatbelt, stood up from her seat and made her way to the bathroom door. She knocked quietly with just the knuckle of her forefinger. Lauren unlocked the door and opened it just enough to see it was Ally, and Ally stepped right in, closing the door behind her.

”Hey there”, Lauren said quietly, wrapping her arms around Ally’s shoulders, and leaned down to kiss her.

Ally placed her hands on Lauren’s hips and leaned into the kiss, standing on her toes a little bit. She let her hands wander upward, over Lauren’s stomach and then her chest while she deepened the kiss. Lauren reciprocated by running one of her hands up the back of Ally’s neck and threading her fingers into her hair, which allowed her to pull Ally’s face even closer to hers. Ally moaned against her lips.

Ally stepped back down and broke the kiss, her eyes going from Lauren’s eyes to her lips and back.

”So how are we gonna do this?” Ally asked, moving her hands from Lauren’s chest to her shoulders.

”I don’t know, I thought you could just quickly get me off and we’d get out of here as fast as possible but now it looks like you’re just as into this as me”, Lauren said, her voice breathy.

”Fuck off. You’re a selfish lover”, Ally joked and pulled Lauren back in for a kiss. She pulled back quicker this time and looked around the tiny bathroom.

”Okay”, she said, making sure the toilet lid was closed and seemed clean enough before she sat on it, and pulled Lauren closer by her hands. She untied Lauren’s sweatpants and pulled them down with her underwear, and then turned her around and pulled her down until she sat on her lap. She wrapped her left arm around Lauren’s waist and slid her right hand over her thigh and then between her legs.

”Already wet for me, princess?” she murmured right into Lauren’s right ear. Lauren gasped and a shiver ran through her body.

Ally circled her fingers around Lauren’s clit and a quiet high-piched whimper left Lauren’s lips.

”Were you thinking of me? Tell me”, Ally spoke into her ear, her voice calm and controlled. She kept up the movements of her hand but added more pressure, and Lauren was trembling. She let her head fall back on Ally’s shoulder and started talking with a shaky voice.

”Ye-yes. Fuck, I couldn’t help it, I-I guess I was bored and I just started thinking… Of what you could do to me if we were home…”. Her eyes were squeezed shut and her face was turned towards Ally’s, breathing in the scent of Ally’s hair and neck.

”Hmm, and what would that be?” Ally asked, moving her left hand from Lauren’s waist to her lower stomach and then to her left thigh.

Lauren whimpered louder this time.

”I”, she started, but it just came out as a desperate moan. ”I don’t know, anything, anything Ally, please”, she whined.

Ally stiffled a laugh. She already had her begging, she didn’t even have to try.

”Please what, baby? You need to be more elaborate.” Lauren was moving her hips against Ally’s hand, trying desperately to get as much friction as possible.

Lauren let out a pained noise. ”Please just make me come.” Her right hand was tangled into Ally’s hair and her left one placed over Ally’s hand between her legs.

Ally lifted her left hand from Lauren’s thigh and gently nudged Lauren’s head with the shoulder she was laying on to get Lauren to lift her head and look at Ally. She brought her left hand in front of Lauren’s mouth and touched a couple of fingers on her lips. Lauren was staring deep into her eyes, her eyes glazed and eyelids heavy, parted her lips and let out a sharp, shaky gasp. She took one of Ally’s fingers into her mouth and licked and sucked on it before moving onto the next one. She could barely keep her eyes open but her stare never left Ally’s eyes as she moaned around her fingers.

Lauren was soaking wet and it’s not like she would’ve needed any extra lubrication, Ally just knew this drove her crazy. Ally pulled her fingers out of Lauren’s mouth and Lauren begrudgingly let them go with a whine.

”It’s okay, baby”, Ally whispered as she moved her spit-soaked fingers down. Her wet fingers briefly brushed against her and Lauren’s hands on her clit before she pushed two fingers into her. Lauren shivered, buried her face in Ally’s neck and whimpered incoherently.

”Ally”, she whined, pushing against Ally’s fingers and moving her hips in circles. Ally moved her right hand faster on her clit and rubbed the fingers inside her right where she knew Lauren liked it.

”Does it feel good, baby?” she asked, even though Lauren’s body language didn’t leave many questions unanswered.

”Yes”, Lauren moaned. She was shaking against Ally, obviously close to her release.

”Come on, princess, come for me”, Ally whispered into her ear before guiding Lauren’s head with her shoulder again so she could suck Lauren’s lower lip between hers. Lauren was whining into her mouth as Ally leaned in to kiss her. The kiss was deep and desperate, and Lauren came with her moans muffled by Ally’s mouth. She was still whimpering as she broke the kiss to suck air into her lungs. Ally wrapped her left arm around Lauren again, still gently massaging her clit as she shook through the aftershocks, just like she knew she liked it, before moving her right hand away to hug her tighly. She kissed the side of her face, closing her eyes and slowly rocking Lauren back and forth in her arms.

They had already stayed in the bathroom for way too long. There was no question the flight attendants knew what was going on and the other passengers were surely getting impatient too. Ally knew they had to go.

”I love you so much, baby, but we need to get you back to your seat before you pass out”, she said, gently pushing her girlfriend forward. Lauren let out a disgruntled sound but still slowly got up, used some toiled paper to clean herself off and lifted her pants back up.

Ally stood up and washed her hands before stopping to fix her hair in the mirror. Lauren stood behind her and looked at her in the reflection.

”I have more to worry about than you”, she said, trying to smooth her own hair down. Ally laughed.

”We really have to go. I’ll go first, sort your hair out and get out soon after me, okay? I’m sure everyone hates us”, Ally said and turned to leave.

”Fuck them. I love you”, Lauren said and leaned down for one more kiss. Ally hummed into the kiss happily before stepping away, smiling at Lauren, unlocking the door and leaving the small bathroom.

She walked back to her seat with confidence, expertly avoiding eye contact with everyone she passed on her way, including the man seated right next to her. She sat down, spread her big scarf over her lap like a blanket and put her headphones back on like nothing happened.

A/N: Sequel to Kiss For A Kiss (My Two Lips Got You Racing) and part 2 to my Untitled Alren Smut Series. All parts still make sense as standalones as well. Thank you for reading, I’d love to hear your comments.

Camren: At First Sight

When they opened the gates, a hum of nervous energy spread through the crowd like wildfire. It had my little sister bouncing on the tips of her toes. 

What are you doing, Camila? I scolded myself. Get back behind the computer screen, where you belong

But I was hundreds of miles away from home—in North Carolina, of all places. And like it or not, I was auditioning for the X Factor. The thought had my stomach protesting.    

“Come on, Camila, this way!” Sofia slipped her little hand into mine and tugged me to the front of the queue.    

The white tents offered some relief against the sweltering heat, so I wiped my brow and pretended the sun was the cause of the sweat trickling down my back. 

“Hold up, you. Or Mom’s gonna kill us both.” I spun in a circle, unable to find her through the heads towering over my own. “Let’s go to the side.” 

I bent to the concrete and helped Sofia onto my shoulders. “Do you see her?”

She squinted. “Yeah, she’s coming.” Her waving hands, stretched high above her head, knocked me off balance and into the side of a trashcan. 

“Dear god!” I cried, holding back an expletive in a remarkable show of self-restraint.  

The little monster giggled. “Sorry, Kaki.”

“Sure you are.” I shook my head ruefully. Her feet touched the concrete as Mom rounded the corner. 

“Don’t do that!” she panted. “Stay with me, now. We’re almost at the sound booth.” That sent a jolt to my stomach.    

It didn’t take long before I could hear a girl’s voice leaking through the walls. “Man, she sounds really good,” I whispered. 

“Nah, you’re better.” Sofia hugged my waist. 

The chills on my arms disagreed. “No way. Did you hear that note?”

Mom squeezed my hand. “You’re going to do great. You have nothing to worry about.”

I rolled my eyes. “Tell that to the thousands of people who want a spot. I—"

The sound booth door opened, and a girl stepped into the sunlight, blinking. She ran her hand through her hair and headed directly toward me.

Her eyes were too green. “I love your top,” I blurted. 

“Thanks. I love your jacket.” Her smile lit her face. “Good luck!”

“Camila Cabello,” the assistant called, and I jumped. “In here, please.”

Mom ushered me forward, whispering advice in my ear. I looked over my shoulder just before I stepped through the doorway. The green-eyed girl was gone. 

A/N: Hi guys! I hope you liked the prologue to Camren: At First Sight 🙂 There are 20 more chapters posted on wattpad (@paigejv) if you want to check them out! <3

just a dream – seventeen

December 18th, 2016

When Camila wakes up, she looks at the date on her phone, and feels anxiety building up in her chest. She doesn’t know why, because this isn’t her world. She should be happy and excited, because if Lucy is right, she’ll be going to sleep tonight and waking up where she’s supposed to be.

So why does she feel so empty inside?

When a text from Lauren comes through, Camila smiles to herself. Maybe that’s why you feel weird, Camila. When you wake up, you won’t get random texts from Lauren.

Laur (12:34PM): Hopefully you’re awake by now, because I’m coming to your house. I need to drop your Christmas present off. And NO OPENING IT BEFORE THE 25TH OR I’LL FIGHT YOU.

Camz (12:34PM): yes i’m awake and i’ll open my presents when i want thanks

Camz (12:34PM): what are you the christmas police

Laur (12:35PM): Yeah, I am. And I’ll arrest you for being a Grinch if you open your present before the 25th.

Laur (12:35PM): Anyway, put on your best Christmas sweater and get those chestnuts roasting on an open fire or whatever. We’re having a Christmas movie day.

Camila smiles down at the message, because if this is her last day here, there would be nothing better than spending it with Lauren. Especially if a movie day is involved, because Lauren is a very cuddly person when she’s watching movies.

Camila gets out of bed and brushes her teeth, before jumping in the shower so she’s presentable for Lauren. She gets dressed, pulling on some skinny jeans and a Christmas sweater, before heading downstairs to get something to eat.

When the kitchen and the lounge are deserted, she figures her parents took Sofi out for last minute shopping, and left her to sleep. She appreciates that, because Camila hates the mall around Christmas time. It’s way too busy.

She makes herself some toast, and is in the middle of making hot chocolate for the both of them when there’s a knock on her door, and she smiles. She opens it up and pulls Lauren in for a tight hug, her heart hurting at the possibility that this will never happen again, that she’ll never open her door to Lauren stood there.

“Hey, Camz,” Lauren grins, stepping inside and looking over her sweater. “I’m glad you listened to my instructions and put a festive jumper on.”

“I was making us some hot chocolate,” Camila explains, “so go get comfy on the couch and I’ll bring it through.”

Lauren beams. “That’s why I like coming over here. I get waited on like the queen I am.”

Camila snorts. “Someone thinks a lot of herself.”

“Nothing wrong with loving yourself,” Lauren shrugs, digging into the backpack on her back and holding out a gift. “If you open this before the 25th, I’ll know. I’ll make Sofi be my informant and come over every day for updates.”

“Thanks, Laur,” Camila smiles and pulls her in for a hug. “I guess I’ll respect your wishes and keep it wrapped. Once I’ve made the hot chocolate I’ll run upstairs and get your present.”

“You have my word that it won’t be opened before Christmas.” Lauren promises, nodding towards the stairs. “Can I put my backpack up in your room?”

Camila frowns. “Just leave it by the door. Isn’t it empty after my present, anyway?”

“Oh, I didn’t tell you?” I’m sleeping over,” Lauren announces, and Camila laughs a little. She misses the days she and Lauren were so comfortable around one another that they could show up for impromptu sleepovers. “So I’ll go and put this upstairs while you finish making hot chocolate.”

Before Camila can reply, Lauren heads up the stairs, so she just smiles to herself and heads back into the kitchen, making the cocoa. She takes it out into the lounge, since nobody is home and they can use the big TV, and gets herself comfortable. Lauren sits down next to her and grabs her mug of cocoa, taking a sip.

“Do you like it?” Camila asks, suddenly rather nervous. “Sofi tells me I’m the best at making hot chocolate, so your approval would be great.”

“It’s good, Camz,” Lauren assures her, taking another sip before she sets it down on the coffee table. “Anyway. Christmas movies. What’s your favourite?”

Home Alone,” Camila replies, “you?”

Lauren hums. “I don’t know.”

“Yeah, I love I Don’t Know,” Camila retorts, and Lauren laughs, “screw Home Alone, I don’t know is my favourite now.”

“Camz,” Lauren gives her a gentle shove, “don’t be mean to me. Now I’m not staying. Bye.”

“I mean, I didn’t invite you, anyway,” Camila argues as Lauren dramatically gets off the couch and shoots her a glare as she heads for the door. “So, you leaving isn’t really a punishment.”

Lauren pauses halfway out the door and seems to consider this, before letting out a loud psh and turning back around, flopping down on the couch. “I’m staying and forcing you to cuddle me. Suck on that.”

Camila doesn’t comment as Lauren curls up next to her, resting her head on Camila’s shoulder. Lauren’s arms wrap around her waist, and the younger Latina starts playing with Lauren’s hair. Camila lets out a sigh of content and closes her eyes, her heart aching at the thought of going back.

I’ll never get this again, Camila thinks to herself, Lauren and I will never do this again. If anything, that makes her heart hurt more, and her grip on Lauren tightens a little, as if the older girl is slowly fading away.

“You still have your Wii?”

Lauren’s question takes Camila off guard, and she opens her eyes to zero in on the gaming console by the television. “Oh, yeah. I don’t really play on it though.”

Lauren grins and sits up, and Camila already misses how it felt to have Lauren pressed up against her. “Alright. Mario Kart rematch. Get ready to be destroyed, Camz.”

Camila can’t hide her smile. “Fine. I’ll get it set up.”

When Camila gets up and leans over the Wii, switching it on along with the TV and grabbing two controllers, she doesn’t notice the way Lauren’s gaze lingers on her ass for a little longer than it should.

“Were you mad at me?”

Again, Lauren’s question takes her off guard, so Camila frowns as she makes her way back over to the couch and gives Lauren a controller. “When? And probably not, no.”

“Earlier this week,” Lauren clarifies, “you avoided me pretty much all day on Monday. So I was wondering if you were mad at me. Because you seemed pretty annoyed when I told you I had a date with Brad.”

Camila’s breath catches in her throat, and her heart stops in her chest. Busted. But, instead of freaking out, she decides to play it cool. “I wasn’t mad. I just had a lot of work to do that day. But I guess you’re right in a way. I didn’t like that you went out with Brad.”

Lauren hums. “Why?”

“He just isn’t good enough for you,” Camila says, and it’s part of the truth. “Besides, he seemed like a fuckboy.”

Lauren snorts. “He was. It’s not like it was a huge deal, but it kind of helped, in a way. I realised that going out on some lame date with someone I don’t have a connection with isn’t for me. I want to connect with a person. You know?”

Camila bites down on her bottom lip, nodding. She thinks back to when Lauren had told her that she felt a weird connection to Camila, like they were supposed to be friends. Maybe Camila can make her see they’re supposed to be more.

“I feel that,” Camila finally answers, “but that connection is rare. And sometimes you can’t tell if it’s platonic or romantic.”

Lauren hums. “Yeah. Anyway, before we start, can I make a Mii? We can play Wii Sports after. But I’ll have you know, I’m an actual professional at the bowling.”

Camila clicks on the Mii creator and gives Lauren the player one controller. “Here. You have full creative control.”

Lauren smiles and starts creating a new Mii, at first trying to make Camila laugh by making herself as ugly as possible, but then by actually creating herself. Once she finishes, she passes the controller back to Camila. “Nice. Now I’m officially your best friend.”

“Cut to Dinah, jumping through the window to fight you on that.” Camila jokes, and Lauren laughs, but the younger Latina is hit with a sudden wave of sadness. When – if – she wakes up tomorrow, she won’t have Dinah again. She’ll have lost her rock for a second time.

“Alright, fine, I’m one of your best friends. Is that fair?” Lauren corrects herself, and Camila forces a smile. Lauren seems to pick up on this once she turns around from selecting her character – her own Mii – from the available options. “You know you can talk to me about anything, right?”

If anything, that just makes Camila sadder, because it’s been a long time since that was true for her. “Yeah, I know.”

“Come on,” Lauren nudges against her, “perk up. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And the best person on the planet is gracing you with her presence right now.”

Finally, Camila laughs a little, and Lauren smiles victoriously. “Thanks for gracing me with your presence, Laur.”

“No problem, I love charity work,” Lauren teases her, and Camila gives her a light shove. “Hey, careful, I bruise easily.”

“Alright, sorry,” Camila says, finally picking her character – Yoshi – and going to select her kart. “I’ll get you back in another way; by kicking your ass at Mario Kart.”

“In your dreams,” Lauren scoffs, but her expression softens and she squeezes Camila’s hand. “Seriously, Camz… are you okay? Is it… is it that girl you told me about a while ago?”

“What girl?” Camila blurts out without realising, and then she remembers she’d effectively told Lauren about her alternate self without naming any names. Because while Lauren is the thing on her mind, it’s not that Lauren, it’s this one. “Oh! Yeah, no, it’s not her. That’s… communication has been cut off since September. I… I have feelings for someone else now.”

She says it like that because it’s effectively the only way to voice it. Even though they look the same, and sound the same, and smell the same, and feel the same, this Lauren and the one she left behind are a lot different. Camila doesn’t know why, but there have been times when she feels like she’s closer to this Lauren than she ever was to Fifth Harmony Lauren.

Maybe it was the fame. She knows that the other Lauren had to adapt a lot to being a public figure, and there’s nothing about being famous that wouldn’t change a person, whether it be in a positive, negative or completely neutral way. This Lauren is seventeen and she knows who she is, and what she wants in life. Fifth Harmony Lauren, however, was a different story. The one word Camila would use to describe that Lauren at seventeen was confused. And while this Lauren and the other one are the same in a lot of ways, they have their differences, too.

They’re different people, is what Camila had argued to Lucy, when Lucy had been avoiding this Lauren for something the other one had done. So, the only way she can really put it is having feelings for someone else. Because this Lauren is someone else.

She’d always thought that Fifth Harmony Lauren was her Lauren, and that this one was just the closest thing she could get. But now, she’s not so sure.

Maybe this Lauren is her Lauren.

“Oh, little Camzi has a crush?” Lauren smirks, but Camila swears she can see some other emotion concealed in Lauren’s emerald eyes. “On a girl, I’m guessing?”

“Yeah,” Camila replies, looking through the races and deciding to start off with a classic; Coconut Mall. “And before you turn into Dinah and Ally and start pushing me for answers, I’m not telling you who she is. Dinah knows, but only because she guessed.”

“Guess I’m going to head to the store after this and get some hot Cheetos to bribe Dinah with, then,” Lauren tells her, smirking. “That’ll suck for you; first you’ll get your ass kicked, and then Dinah will tell me your deep, dark secret crush.”

Camila rolls her eyes. “Shut up and get ready to lose, Jauregui.”

“Damn, that’s fighting talk, Cabello,” Lauren replies, turning to the screen and readying her controller. “I beat you once, I’m not afraid to do it again.”

As the race starts, Camila smiles. “Don’t you think it’s funny how our entire friendship is essentially stemmed from playing Mario Kart at your party?”

“Actually,” Lauren corrects her, “it’s founded on your litter sister having more game than you.”

“I thought you didn’t like me, okay? It’s not my fault you were all sullen and unapproachable.” Camila scoffs, and bashes into Lauren’s character out of spite. “Anyway, picking your Mii? Boring.”

“Hey, my Mii is new, I’m introducing her to the world of gaming,” Lauren defends herself, “and I was hardly unapproachable if a six-year-old could invite me to lunch without any kind of worry. Meanwhile you were shaking in the corner like a scared puppy because you were intimidated by my sheer awesomeness.”

“Who the fuck says awesome anymore,” Camila retorts, rolling her eyes, “like, 2008 wants its vocabulary back.”

Lauren laughs, and Camila smiles to herself, proud she could make that happen. “Alright, cool it on the sass. It’s supposed to be a festive, happy time.”

“You ruined any happy time when you suggested this rematch,” Camila replies, “I’m out for blood.”

Lauren hums. “Funny, coming from the girl who’s about to be in second place.”

Camila frowns, but when the annoying fucking blue shell comes and blows her up, she growls in frustration, seeing Lauren’s Mii drive past her at top speed. “Fucking hell. There’s nothing worse than the blue shell. And it’s always some annoying ass computer kart from the back that sends it, but it’s not like it’ll benefit them.”

“Sure benefitted me,” Lauren smirks as she passes the finish line, “when I was younger and I played the DS version with Mani, any time I was in first and I saw on the item thing that someone had got a blue shell, I let Mani pass, so it’d lock in on her and she’d get hit. Either way, I’d still win. But because this game doesn’t show you other players’ items, that strategy is dead.”

Camila scowls at the television when she finishes in second place, and she finds herself seriously rethinking her crush when she sees Lauren’s name at the top of the scoreboard. “Whatever, Jauregui. There’s still three races left. Plenty of time for me to crush you.”

But, Camila speaks too soon, because three races later, Lauren is smirking at her as her character stands on the first place podium, while Camila had come second. She’d managed to beat Lauren in the last race, but the first three were a complete flop. She puts two of those losses down to the blue shells, and claims that the game is rigged.

Lauren just laughs. “Or I’m better than you. Could be that.”

“I don’t know about that, but I do know that you’re a jerk.” Camila sends Lauren a sickly sweet smile and puts her controller down. “Christmas movies or Wii Sports?”

“Wii Sports,” Lauren replies, smiling, “I feel like I’m on a winning streak right now.”

Camila rolls her eyes, but gets up and changes the game discs. “You know, one time I played boxing on the Wii, and my arms were aching for days after. It was actually kind of depressing how much of a physical toll it took on me.”

Lauren laughs. “I used to do my fitness age, and if it brought up a task I sucked at, like golf or whatever, my age would end up being like, fifty or something.”

“My age was always over fifty regardless,” Camila replies, “my athleticism really isn’t something to brag about.”

Lauren hums, her eyes raking over Camila as the younger Latina sits back down. “So you’re not athletic and you don’t work out, but you still have that body? That’s just not fair.”

Camila’s stomach flutters at Lauren’s words. Is she flirting? She tries her best to play it cool. “I mean, if we’re talking about nice bodies… go look in a mirror.”

“Oh, this old thing?” Lauren looks down at herself and sends Camila a grin. “Thanks, Camz.”

“No need to thank me, I’m just stating facts,” Camila shrugs, smiling at Lauren. “Little Laur needs to know she’s cute.”

Camila swears Lauren blushes. “I’m not little, I’m older than you. I can call you little, but you can’t do that to me. Respect your elders, Camila.”

“Eight months,” Camila reiterates for what feels like the millionth time. “You’re eight months older than me. But I guess everyone always sees me as the dorky little sister type.”

Lauren murmurs something, but Camila doesn’t catch it. Before she can ask Lauren to repeat herself, the older Latina just smiles. “Dorky, for sure. And definitely goofy. But not, like the weird kind. You know, the cutesy kind of goofy.”

Camila remembers those same words, said in a different time, in a different context, but weirdly, they mean more here. “Thanks for calling me cute. Not to sound like Dinah, but I know I am.”

Lauren doesn’t reply, and when Camila turns to look at her, she meets Lauren’s gaze. Lauren has a soft, almost dreamy smile on her face, and she’s watching Camila, looking completely content. For a moment, Camila’s heart soars, and the smile gives her hope, but then reality hits her.

I’m going back. I’m going to wake up tomorrow, and Lauren will hate me again. The other girls will too.

Camila tries to push that thought from her mind, but it keeps creeping up on her. I’ll never have Lauren Jauregui. I’ll never be the one she’ll be out and proud with. I’ll never be the one she loves.

“I mean, you’re not wrong,” Lauren answers after what feels like a lifetime, and for a moment, Camila thought she’d spoken aloud. But when Lauren elaborates, she relaxes a little. “You are cute.”

Camila swallows the lump in her throat, because Lauren seems a lot closer than she was before. “I am?”

“Mhm,” Lauren murmurs, and Camila swears her gaze flicks down to her lips, before green locks with brown once more. “You are.”

Camila isn’t sure if this is entirely real, because it seems like Lauren is starting to lean in, and Camila isn’t exactly going to stop her. When she feels Lauren’s hand on her thigh, she almost jumps, but instead, she takes it as a positive sign and starts to lean in as well. They’re just inches apart, and Camila feels like maybe today wasn’t a negative omen after all, when the front door opens and Sinu calls out, “mija? Are you awake?”

Camila almost groans in annoyance as she moves away from Lauren, but she reigns it in. She looks anywhere but the older girl and calls out to her mom. “Yeah, I’m in the lounge.”

When Sofi walks in and spots Lauren on the couch, Camila knows that any chance they’d have to actually talk about how they were about to fucking kiss is ruined. From her experience, Lauren won’t bring it up, and if Lauren didn’t bring it up, then Camila didn’t either.

“Are you guys playing bowling?” Sofi looks at the TV, and then back at Camila. “Can I play?”

Lauren answers for her. “Of course you can play. Go grab a controller.”

Sofi gets the last controller from the drawer and sits down as Lauren works on connecting it. Camila, feeling a little upset that all of her last chances are being ruined, excuses herself to the bathroom to breathe. When she locks herself in, she sinks down against the wall and sighs.

Talk about bad timing.

Lauren closes her eyes, comforted by the gentle rise and fall of Camila’s chest. The way she’s sat, she can hear Camila’s heartbeat, and when she’d first cuddled up to her, it was practically pounding in the other girl’s chest, but her heart rate had slowly gone back to normal.

Even though they’re both keeping up the pretence that nothing happened earlier, Lauren knows that there’s some residual tension. She knows she shouldn’t have tried anything, and she doesn’t know what had come over her. All she remembers thinking was how beautiful Camila had looked, and suddenly she was leaning in, like she was being possessed by something.

But after they’d been interrupted, and she’d had time to think about it, she’s kind of glad that nothing happened. Not ten minutes before, Camila had told her that she has feelings for someone, someone that probably isn’t her. Lauren feels like she knows Camila pretty well, and she’s pretty sure that Camila’s crush is someone she gets nervous around, and Lauren likes to think Camila is comfortable around her.

Kissing her would’ve made things awkward, Lauren decides. It would’ve messed with their friendship, and Lauren doesn’t want that. She’s never felt so comfortable around a new person since she’d met Normani back in kindergarten, and she doesn’t want to jeopardise this, especially not if Camila is already crushing on someone else.

And it’s not like Lauren has a crush on Camila, anyway. Sure, she’s beautiful, and funny, and smart, and Lauren does have a connection with her. But it’s not a crush, because Camila is her friend.

Camila lets out a small sigh, and Lauren feels the vibrations of the younger girls’ chest against her as she speaks. “Not to be a drag, but this movie is boring.”

Lauren opens her eyes again and looks up at Camila. “Why do you think I was falling asleep?”

“I did suggest Home Alone 2, but someone vetoed that,” Camila looks down at Lauren pointedly. “Picking a movie neither of us has seen is always a dangerous move in case it sucks.”

“Sometimes it’s good if a movie sucks. Like, it’s so bad that it’s funny,” Lauren says, sitting up and immediately missing Camila’s warmth. “There have been times when Mani and I look up an infamously bad horror movie and spend the whole night mocking it.”

“I thought we had to be festive today,” Camila comments, “you know, since it’s the holiday season and all.”

Lauren laughs. “Yeah, we do. And we’ve watched one Christmas movie, so I’d say we’re good in that department. Anyway, we have more pressing matters at hand.”

Camila raises her eyebrows, but Lauren senses a little panic. “We do?”

“Yes,” Lauren nods, “did you get a place on the Universal trip?”

“Oh,” Camila laughs, a relieved smile on her face, “yeah, I did. It’s actually the week after my birthday, which is pretty cool.”

Lauren frowns. “You’ve never told me your birthday. Camila, I’m offended. It’s like you don’t want presents.”

“You don’t have to get me anything,” Camila rolls her eyes, “but it’s March 3rd. And yours is June 27th.”

Lauren blinks in surprise, because she’s never told Camila that. “How do you know that? I’ve never mentioned it.”

“I guess you could say I’m kind of psychic,” Camila smiles knowingly, but laughs at Lauren’s confused expression. “Kidding. It’s on your Twitter profile, dumbass.”

“Oh,” Lauren laughs, “yeah. That’s true. For a minute, I thought you were some stalker. Not that I’d blame you, I am pretty amazing.”

“Pretty egotistical, too,” Camila comments, before her smile softens and Lauren’s stomach flips. The first thought through Lauren’s head is fuck, she’s beautiful, and the second one is but that doesn’t mean anything. “You know, and also just pretty.

Lauren feels butterflies, but does her best to shrug them off. She knows this isn’t real flirting; she jokingly flirts with people like Mani all the time. Just because both Lauren and Camila like girls, doesn’t mean it’s anything more than a joke.

“You know you’re absolutely drop dead gorgeous, Camz,” Lauren replies, resting her head back on Camila’s shoulder. “And the best cuddler I’ve ever met.”

“You know, when you slept over here for the first time, literally five minutes after you fell asleep, you rolled over and started cuddling me.” Camila teases her. “It was honestly kind of adorable.”

“What can I say, I’m a big cuddler.” Lauren shrugs, rolling over on Camila’s bed and grabbing Nala from her overnight bag. “That’s why I need this baby when I’m at home. I need something to cuddle.”

“I’m totally telling everyone in school that the supposedly badass and super cool Lauren Jauregui needs a stuffed lion to sleep.” Camila laughs. “Then I’ll be the cool one in this friendship.”

Lauren snorts. “I’m not ashamed of mine and Nala’s intimate relationship. I’ll tell everyone myself. It’ll be my second coming out.”

Camila laughs, and Lauren smiles at the sound. “Damn, and here I thought you’d deny it.”

“It doesn’t make me any less cool,” Lauren shrugs, “I have nothing to worry about.”

“So, uh, what’re your plans for after Christmas?” Camila asks after a few moments of comfortable silence. “Going to a New Year’s party?”

“Not sure yet,” Lauren replies. She’d been considering going to a party with Normani, but hadn’t decided if she’s up for it. “What about you?”

Camila’s mood drops instantly, and Lauren squeezes her hand comfortingly. She doesn’t know why this happens sometimes; she’ll say something completely mundane, and suddenly Camila will get upset.

Before Lauren can ask her if she’s okay, Camila speaks. “I don’t know. I’ll probably just sit in my room and write emo lyrics.”

“Then it’s settled,” Lauren decides. “I’ll have the house to myself on New Year’s Eve, since my parents have an annual thing they do with their friends, and my siblings will be with their friends too. So you’re coming over, and we’re going to get drunk and see the New Year in together. Okay?”

If anything, that makes Camila even sadder, and her forced smile makes Lauren’s heart sink. That’s when she realises why Camila is so upset; she wants her New Year’s kiss to be with the girl she’s crushing on. Even if she hangs out with Lauren, she won’t get that.

“I’d love to-” Camila starts, but before she can finish, Lauren interrupts.

“Or we could go to a party with Mani.” Lauren suggests; even though she prefers her earlier idea, if it’ll make Camila happy, she’ll take her to a party. Maybe it’ll give her the chance to kiss the girl she likes at midnight. “It’s up to you.”

Finally, Camila laughs. “You know I don’t like parties, Laur. I’d love to come to yours and hang out.”

Lauren cracks a smile, and her heart soars. “Nice. I’ll get us a decent alcohol supply. But are you going to tell me why you were so sad?”

“I just… feel really weird today. Like…” Camila sighs, “like it’s my last day on Earth.”

Lauren frowns, because she doesn’t exactly know how to comfort Camila when it’s something like that. “I mean… when I went through a rough time, when I was figuring myself out and everything, I guess sometimes I felt like that. Like there wasn’t a point in doing anything. So I made plans with Mani and… and Lucy. You know, to have something to look forward to when things were bleak.”

But making plans is the problem, Camila thinks, because I’m not going to be here to do them. I’m going to be somewhere you hate me. “I guess. Thanks, Lauren.”

Lauren smiles, giving Camila a comforting squeeze. “I’m always going to be here to impart wisdom on Camzi.”

Camila laughs. “Stop acting like you’re so much older than me. I get it, I’m like a little baby sister to you.”

Lauren looks Camila over with a smile. Definitely not with some of the thoughts I’ve been having lately. Admittedly, when she first met Camila, she did see her like that. But she hasn’t thought that way for a while.

“I guess we will be the same age soon,” Lauren replies, “looks like you’re elderly, too.”

Camila just smiles and wraps her arms around Lauren’s waist. “Shut up and watch this dumb movie with me. Maybe it’ll get better as it progresses.”

It definitely doesn’t. When Sinu comes in to tell them to turn it down, Camila and Lauren are passed out in each other’s arms, the movie still playing in the background.

December 19th, 2016

Sunlight from the open curtains wakes Camila up. She blinks, squinting, quickly rolling over and hiding her face in her pillow. Judging by how groggy she is, it’s way too early for her to be awake. She enjoys the few moments of blissful ignorance that comes with just waking up, when her heart drops.

She fell asleep.

She sits bolt upright, but she doesn’t even have to check her phone to know what’s happened. The bed next to her is cold, and Lauren is nowhere to be seen. Inexplicably, her eyes start to well with tears, and her heart feels empty. She’s back. She’s back in a world where Lauren hates her, where the girls hate her.

She has her career back, at least. That’s one thing she doesn’t have to worry about. She gets to do the thing she loves, and even though she’s in the exact same position she was before, somehow it hurts so much more.

She rolls over to pick up her phone, not sure what she’s even going to do once she gets it, but lands on something soft. She frowns, wiping the tears from her eyes, and puts her hand under the sheets to grab the item.

It’s Nala.

Camila’s eyes widen as she looks at the stuffed animal in shock, and she jumps up from her bed, flinging the bathroom door open, not caring if Lauren is stark naked in there, and just hoping that she’s there. But when she opens the door, the bathroom is empty, and Camila’s heart sinks. She cuddles the stuffed lion to her chest, burying her face in Lauren’s comforting scent, wondering if this is all she has left of the older girl.

She shuts the bathroom door with a sigh and squeezes Nala tightly, before putting the lion down on her bed. She opens the bedroom door this time, and listens for any sign of anyone awake in the house, but she’s met with silence.

With a sigh, she goes downstairs and into the kitchen, her eyes widening so much they nearly pop out of her skull when she sees Lauren Jauregui, sat at the kitchen table, sipping on a mug of tea.

Lauren looks up and smiles at her. “Hey, Camz. Sorry, I woke up a little while ago and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I figured I’d come and make a hot drink and see if that’d help. I didn’t think you’d- whoa!”

Lauren cuts herself off as Camila practically jumps on her and pulls her in for a hug. She blinks in surprise, but her arms wrap around Camila and give her a gentle squeeze, and the younger Latina can’t quite believe she’s still here.

“I thought you’d gone,” Camila murmurs, burying her face into Lauren’s neck. “I thought…”

I thought I’d lost you, Camila finishes in her head, I thought you hated me again.

“Sorry. I didn’t know that’d freak you out.” Lauren replies, pulling away a little to smile at her. “You know I wouldn’t just sneak out and ditch you, right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Camila nods, breathing a sigh of relief, “I know. I was just worried.”

That little part of her, the part that wants her career more than anything is yelling at her, saying what the fuck Camila, don’t you want to be back where you belong? But Camila isn’t thinking about that right now. The only thing she’s thinking about is how Lauren is here, and she doesn’t hate her. They’re friends and everything is okay.

Yeah, except you’re stuck in an alternate universe. That isn’t okay, her brain rationalises, you can’t let a crush get in the way of your dreams, idiot.

But it’s not a crush. Camila knows it’s not a crush. There’s much history and emotion between her and Lauren for it to be anything less than love.

“Come on,” Lauren says, draining her mug and standing up. “Let’s go back to bed. It’s way too early for me to function properly.”

Camila nods, following Lauren back upstairs and clambering into bed next to the older girl. She practically wraps herself around Lauren, not wanting to let go for fear of her disappearing.

Lauren doesn’t seem to find her too clingy. Instead, she laughs and puts an arm around her. “Alright, I guess I can be the big spoon for once. Sleep well, Camz.”

Camila doesn’t go back to sleep. She’s not sure if she’s just so happy that she can’t sleep, or she doesn’t dare go back to sleep, in fear of being sent back to where she’s supposed to be. Either way, for the moment, she decides not to dwell on it, and save her confusion for the next time she meets up with Lucy.

For now, she’s perfectly content to lay here with Lauren while she sleeps.

Come Back, Be Here – Chapter 60

“You better have her home by at least 2 am. Any later and I’m coming to drag you all home myself.” Lauren raises one of her perfectly sculpted eyebrows and stares seriously at the group of girls in front of her.

Tonight is Camila’s bachelorette party and Dinah insisted they go to a strip club. Camila didn’t agree at first, but once Lauren assured her it was okay and Dinah assured her they would be taking the green-eyed girl to one too, she caved. However, when Lauren looks at her wife tonight in her short red dress, fishnet tights, and high heels, she almost tells her she can’t go. Instead of doing that though, she just chooses to give them all a quick lecture before they leave for the club.

image

“Don’t worry, Lauren. You know I’ll take care of all of them.” Ally pipes up from the doorway and Lauren does have to admit that Ally being there makes her feel a bit better. She just nods gratefully at the shorter girl before closing the distance between her and her wife. All the girls leave the house to give them some privacy and when the front door closes, signaling that the two of them are alone, she gently cradles Camila’s face in her hands and stares deeply into her favorite pair of brown eyes.

“Call me if you need me. Call me if you get scared. Call me if a creepy guy hits on you. Call me if you feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable. Call you if you need anything.” Lauren leans in and places a gentle kiss to the tip of Camila’s nose. “I’ll have my phone on loud so I’ll answer immediately I promise.”

Camila smiles tenderly at her wife. She thinks it’s so fucking adorable how protective Lauren is of her. “I love you for looking out for me, but I’ll be fine, Lo. I pinky promise.” She holds her pinky up and the older of the two wraps her own around it.

“I know you’ll be fine and I know you guys will have so much fun. I just worry. I trust you completely. I just don’t trust everyone else in the world. Not everyone is as kind as you are.” Lauren sighs before leaning in and placing a single kiss to Camila’s lips. Even after all these years, one single kiss is enough to set free a million butterflies in each of their stomachs.

“I think it’s cute that you worry. You worry because you care. I know that.” Camila places both her hands on top of Lauren’s, which are still cupping her cheeks.

“Now go have fun… but not too much fun. I love you, babe.” The green-eyed girl releases her hold on her wife and takes a step back.

“Will do, baby. I love you more.” Camila winks before turning around and walking out to the driveway, where the rest of the girls are standing. Camila’s bachelorette party crew consists of Dinah, Normani, Vero, and Ally.

“Let’s get this party started!” Dinah yells and all the girls cheer as they pile into the car.

“Make sure one of you stays sober so you can drive the rest of you home!” Lauren yells from the doorstep as she watches the girls pile into the vehicle.

“Just go to sleep, grandma! We’ve got it from here!” Dinah yells out the window and Lauren rolls her eyes. She laughs when she sees Camila slap Dinah on the arm for her comment. Camila then puts her hand to her lips and blows her wife a kiss before they back out of the driveway. Lauren blows her one back before shutting the door and making her way to the couch where Sofi is sleeping. She gently covers the girl with a blanket before grabbing her glass of wine and flipping on the television.

As soon as the bachelorette crew arrives at their destination, Camila stands in the club, wide-eyed as she takes in her surroundings. The club is dark, crowded, and smells kind of bad, just as she had imagined it would. Truth be told, this is the first time she’s ever set foot inside of a strip club. So when she watches the half naked women sliding down the poles, she cannot bring herself to look away. Suddenly the room has gotten 10 degrees hotter. She doesn’t even realize that her jaw has dropped a bit until she feels a hand under her chin lifting it back up. She turns to her right to see Dinah smirking at her.

“It’s so obvious that this is your first time at a strip club, Walz.” Dinah laughs as she grabs Camila’s hand and ushers her, and the rest of the girls, to a booth near one of the stages. After they all get settled in the booth, Camila looks toward the stage again and sets her sights on a brunette that is in minimal clothing and is dancing seductively. Camila gulps when she makes eye contact with the woman. The Latina watches as the woman walks toward the edge of the stage. She figures she is just going to dance there. However, the exotic dancer has other plans and she makes her way down the stage stairs and walks over to their table. Camila’s eyes go wide and her mouth gets dry when she watches the woman stop in front of her table. Luckily, Normani and Vero are on the end and not her.

“Any of you ladies want a lap dance?” The beautiful woman asks, her voice raspy.

“This one does.” Dinah points to Camila and the Latina immediately shakes her head no. She promised herself she wouldn’t touch any of the stripping ladies. Even if other people think it’s harmless, she just can’t bring herself to touch another woman that isn’t Lauren.

“I’m um..” Camila starts stuttering when the half naked girl starts to come closer to her side of the table. When Vero stands up from the booth and gives the woman access to Camila, she panics. “Going to go get a um drink at the bar.” The flustered Cuban scrambles out of the booth before the dancer can get to her and practically sprints to the bar.

When she gets to the bar, she orders two shots of tequila. Once they are poured, she is about to down one until someone interrupts her.

“Well well never thought I would run into you here.” Camila hears a vaguely familiar voice say. She sets her tequila down and turns to the person beside her. Her eyes widen when she sees who it is.

“Jamie.” She nods her head curtly at the man.

Jamie is Austin’s step brother. He is 3 years older than him. Jamie never liked Camila to begin with so she has no idea what to expect from this conversation.

“Austin used to love to come to places like this.“ The man says as he looks around the club. “He was so young. Had a whole life ahead of him, but you took that from him.” She watches as his face turns up in disgust when his eyes land on her. His words make her insides boil. The shots of tequila are very tempting at the moment so she takes both back to back without even grimacing and turns to Austin’s brother.

“I had a full life ahead of me too and your brother almost took that from me. He is the reason I have nightmares almost every night. He is the reason I flinch every single time a man gets too close to me.” Camila motions for the bartender to pour her more shots.

“He was obviously provoked.” Jamie scoffs and Camila balls her hands into tight fists. “I mean if I remember correctly, you were the one who went to his place. If you were so scared of him why did you go over to his house and provoke him?”


Luckily, the bartender is back with her shots and she takes two more. Liquid courage.

“I went to confront the bastard because he was blackmailing and threatening me!” She shouts loudly, not even caring that several people at the bar have turned to face them.

“When you went over there, you were asking for it.” He seethes and Camila raises her hand and slaps him across the face. Maybe she had too much liquid courage.

“You bitch…” The tall man lunges at Camila, but is held back by a security guard, which luckily was already headed over after witnessing Camila slap the man.

“Walz, what in the world?” Camila hears her best friend’s voice and turns to her right to see Dinah standing there wide-eyed. The Polynesian ran to the bar as soon as she witnessed the Cuban slap the random man.

“It’s nothing.” She shrugs Dinah off coldly and staggers over to where the rest of the girls are sitting. Her head is spinning and she curses herself for taking those 4 tequila shots back to back.

“Mila, what’s going on?” Ally asks worriedly when the brunette enters the booth. “Why did you slap that man?”

“He was Austin’s step brother.” Camila reaches across the table and grabs Normani’s vodka cranberry. Before the dark skinned girl can take her drink back, Camila downs it and then wipes the remaining liquid off her face with the back of her hand. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Walz…” Dinah starts, but Camila holds up a hand cutting her off.

“Please, Dinah. I just want to enjoy my night. He doesn’t get to ruin all my fun times. I won’t let him.” Camila slurs and Dinah drops it. Honestly, she knows that once the alcohol fully sets in, the Latina will probably tell them all anyway.

Boy was she right.

About half an hour later, Camila drunkenly explains what happened earlier at the bar while she angrily throws money at the exotic dancer that is on stage.

Dinah’s money.

However, the Polynesian is not complaining because after Camila went through twenty one dollar bills, Dinah gave her a stack of play money she got from Walmart. Camila is so drunk that she doesn’t even realize she’s throwing fake money at real strippers.

“He fucking said I went over to Austin’s house because I was asking for it!” Camila slurs as she attempts to throw another fake one dollar bill at the dancer in front of her. However, it doesn’t even make it across the table, which the girls are thankful for. The dancers may start taking it personally if they realize the brunette is only throwing fake money at them and not real money.

“Mila-” Normani starts to try and comfort her friend, but Camila cuts her off.

“Was I asking for it? Maybe I wanted a fight. Maybe that’s why I went over there.” Camila grabs at Ally’s drink and downs it. Ally doesn’t stop her considering she has only been drinking water tonight. Someone had to be the designated driver.

After chugging the water, the intoxicated Cuban leans back in the booth and then lays her head on Dinah’s shoulder. “I want Lo.”

Vero immediately pulls out her phone and texts the green-eyed girl. Shortly after she sends the text, Camila falls asleep on Dinah’s shoulder. While she’s out, Ally scoops up all the fake dollar bills from around their table and shoves them into her purse.

Lauren arrives at the club exactly 30 minutes after receiving the text from Vero. She had to drop Sofi off at Shawn’s before she could head to the club. Her friend was very vague, but she knew something semi bad must have happened tonight. The older Latina rushes into the club and frantically looks around for her wife and friends. She spots them in the back corner booth and jogs over to where they are sitting.

“What happened? Is she okay? Was she drugged?” Lauren panics as she takes in the sight of Camila asleep on Dinah’s shoulder. Her lips are slightly parted and there are strands of hair stuck to her forehead.

“She ran into Austin’s step brother and he said some things that upset her. Then she drank a lot to cope with the anger.” Dinah whispers and Lauren frowns. All the girls slide out of the booth so that Lauren can slide around to get to her wife. When the older brunette is finally sitting by her wife, she positions Camila so she’s laying on her instead of Dinah and plants a kiss to the top of her head.

“I love you.” She whispers to the younger girl and upon hearing the sound of her wife’s voice, Camila wakes up.

“Lo?” The younger Cuban whispers groggily.

“I’m here, baby.” Lauren replies immediately. She grabs Camila’s hand and places a kiss to the back of it. When Camila realizes that it is in fact her wife that she is laying on, she crawls into her lap and buries her face into her neck.

“I’m so sorry you had to drive all the way here.” Camila apologizes and Lauren immediately shakes her head.

“I’ll always come when you need me.” The older brunette assures. “Please don’t ever apologize for needing me.”

“I’ll always need you, Lo.” Camila whispers into Lauren’s neck and the older girl can tell by the tone of her voice that she is falling asleep again.

“And I’ll always be here.”

just a dream – sixteen

December 12th, 2016

“I just don’t understand this,” Camila sighs, leaning against the desk as Lucy shuts the classroom door. “Why would we come here for like… four months, just to go back again after nothing significant? If your theory was right, I’ve got until Sunday. I’ll go to sleep on Sunday and wake up back where I’m supposed to be. But why?”

“Look, I know it’s complicated, but what else could it be?” Lucy asks her. “You kissed Lauren and you didn’t go back, and we thought that’d do it. So maybe it’s something simple like that. We go back on the day we got here.”

“It doesn’t feel right, though,” Camila argues, “I feel no different than I did when I got here, except the feelings for Lauren that I’ve spent so long getting rid of are back in full force. So that’s great.”

“I think you’re pretty different,” Lucy shrugs. “And it might not just be Lauren. You’re closer with the other girls too.”

“Yeah, but there hasn’t been a big thing,” Camila insists, getting so frustrated she starts to pace. “I just don’t see why I’d go back yet.”

“Change is subtle sometimes,” Lucy answers. “I think it’s pretty impossible to go through something as insane as this and not change at least a little.”

Camila sighs. “Well, yeah, but… it just doesn’t feel right.”

Lucy laughs. “What’s right about any of this? We’re stuck in some weird, alternate dimension. That’s not normal.”

Camila can’t help it; she laughs too, but it doesn’t do much to ease the tension in her body. “I just don’t understand any of this. Why would I go back after doing nothing significant?”

Lucy frowns at her, as Camila lets out a long sigh. “Shouldn’t you be happy, though? Do you… do you not want to go back?”

“No, what? Of course I do,” Camila answers, a little too quickly. “It’s just… I haven’t done anything, you know? I don’t want to go back with all of these lingering questions, is all.”

Lucy watches her for a moment, considering her words, but not looking like she believes her. “Well, I don’t know. Do you have any theories?”

“No,” Camila answers, “I’ve been here for months and I’ve come up with no reasons as to why-”

“Camz?”

At the voice, Camila cuts herself off, and the classroom door opens. When Lauren sees her, she smiles, but then she spots Lucy and her face falls. Camila clears her throat at the immediate tension in the room.

“Uh, hey, Laur,” Camila smiles at her. “I didn’t realise we were talking so loudly.”

“Uh, yeah,” Lauren replies distractedly, not taking her eyes off Lucy. “Um… hey.”

Lucy sends Lauren a tentative smile. “Hi, Lauren. How are you doing?”

Lauren bites down on her bottom lip and looks away, shrugging. “Fine. Um, Camz, I need to talk to you, so…”

“Oh, okay,” Camila grabs her backpack from where she’d left it on the seat. “I’ll see you around, Lucy.”

“Yeah,” Lucy replies, “see you guys.”

Camila walks over and meets Lauren, following her out of the room. As soon as they’re out of sight, Lauren lets out a long sigh and shakes her head.

“Sorry,” Lauren apologises quickly, “I didn’t mean to… to interrupt and make things awkward.”

“It’s not a big deal,” Camila answers, “I know you’re not entirely okay with her yet and-”

“It isn’t that. I still… obviously I still care about her,” Lauren interrupts, “but I just… wasn’t expecting to see you with her. And I haven’t really… spoken to her since we broke up.”

“Maybe you should,” Camila suggests, knowing that it might still be too early. “I mean, you guys were best friends before you dated. So part of it is probably missing the friendship too. So… when you’re ready, you should rekindle that with her, you know?”

Lauren shrugs. “I mean, I get the idea, but I’m not sure. She really hurt me.”

“I know, and I’m not saying right now,” Camila clarifies. “I mean like, once you’re ready and feel like you’re over the romantic feelings you have for her.”

“I guess I’m making a step in the right direction.” Lauren shrugs. “I have a coffee date later.”

Camila’s heart stops, and she feels that familiar sting of heartache she’d get every time Lauren would mention liking someone that isn’t her. “You- you have a date?”

“It’s not anything serious,” Lauren is quick to explain, “it’s just… a guy asked me out to get some coffee and I figured why not, you know?”

“Oh,” Camila bites down on her bottom lip, “you know, it’s just… I thought you weren’t over Lucy yet?”

“Well, not one hundred percent, and I don’t think I ever really will be because she’s my first love,” Lauren explains, “but it’s not a big deal. It’s just one little date.”

“If it’s not a big deal then what’s the point in you going?” Camila tries to reason as casually as possible. “Besides, you just said you’re not over Lucy.”

Lauren just shrugs. “I also said I don’t think I’d ever be over her. Not entirely. And like I said, it’s one little date. I figured I might as well go.”

“Oh, um,” for some reason, Camila feels like torturing herself a little more. “Who is it with?”

Lauren shrugs. “Brad Simpson. He’s in my math class.”

Camila’s stomach drops even more, and she tries her best to get the image of Lauren and Brad of all people out of her head. “Um, okay, I have to go find Dinah. Bye, Lauren.”

As Lauren replies with a ‘wait, what?’ Camila practically sprints down the hallway, getting away from her. She can’t believe it. She’s probably going away on Sunday and she’s already missed her chance with Lauren because of some dumb guy.

It makes her blood boil. It makes her want to fight everyone in sight because she’s so fucking angry, but she’s not sure who she’s madder at; herself, or Brad. She decides she hates Brad, for asking Lauren out, because Lauren was supposed to be hers.

“Do you want to watch a movie with me and Dinah?” Camila asks carefully, knowing things have been awkward around Lauren for a while. “We were going to watch some weird conspiracy videos and I figured you might want to join since Ally and Mani are with their families and-”

“I can’t, Camila,” Lauren answers curtly, not looking up from her phone, “I have a date tonight.”

“A- a date?” Camila cringes when she stutters. “Oh. With who?”

“Brad. He asked me out and I figured why not,” Lauren shrugs, standing up and stretching. “I have to go get my makeup touched up. My call time was three this morning and I want to look presentable. Later, Camila.”

Before Camila can respond, Lauren has walked past her and out of the door, still engrossed in her phone. She sighs to herself, wondering how things ended up so strained.

Camila shakes that memory from her head; that’s not something she wants to think about. What she wants to think about is the wonderful mental image of her punching Brad’s stupid face. That’s what she needs to focus on.

Not about how mad she is at herself for being too late again.

She stalks into her first period class, glaring as she finds her desk, and a rather confused Dinah turns to her with a frown.

“What’s wrong, Chancho?” Dinah asks, and Camila can be glad that that’s at least one thing she’s done right. She still has Dinah as her best friend. “Did you forget your textbook?”

“No,” Camila bites out, trying her best to contain her anger. “Stupid, ugly Brad Simpson asked Lauren out. Before I could. I would’ve done it if I’d known she was ready for that. But some dumb boy got there first. He doesn’t even- how could she want to go on a date with him? He doesn’t even have lips. You can’t kiss someone with no lips.”

Dinah snorts, and Camila tries not to vomit at the thought of Lauren kissing him. Or anyone, really. Anyone that isn’t her.

“Truly savage, Walz,” Dinah laughs, “but what’s the big deal? It’s only one date, right?”

No, because one date can lead to more dates, and more dates can lead to a relationship, which means Lauren would be off the market again and I would’ve completely missed my chance.” Camila slams her head down on the desk, frowning when she actually kind of hurts herself. “Maybe that’s why I’m here. Maybe this is my second chance with her, and I’ve gone ahead and screwed it up. Maybe I will go back on Sunday after all.”

“Wait, what?” Dinah frowns. “You think you’re going back on Sunday?”

“Well, December 18th, 2016 was when I left. I figured- well, Lucy figured that since we both went back by a few months, that’s the time period we’re here for,” Camila tries explaining, hoping that the other students slowly filing into the classroom aren’t listening in and getting ready to commit her to an asylum. “So maybe since I’ve fucked up my second chance with Lauren, I’ll just wake up and be back where I was.”

Dinah hums in thought, but doesn’t comment. “Well, if you wanted a chance with Lauren, why didn’t you tell her?”

“Because I thought she was still heartbroken,” Camila answers, sighing again. “I was trying to be respectful.”

“I’m sorry, Walz,” Dinah squeezes her hand. “Come over to my place tonight. We’ll get takeout and watch a trashy movie to take your mind off her.”

Camila nods, resting her head on Dinah’s shoulder. “Thank you, China. I love you.”

Dinah pauses for a moment, but then she gives her a soft squeeze and murmurs, “I love you too, Mila.”

“So, what do you like to do for fun?”

Lauren takes a sip of her coffee and shrugs. “I like to paint. Sometimes I write songs, but it’s not a big thing that I’m super serious about. It’s pretty much just a form of escapism for-”

“I totally get that,” Brad interrupts her, and Lauren lets out a subtle sigh. Irritatingly, this isn’t the first time he’s interrupted her so far on this date. “I write songs too. My friends tell me I’m like that Shakespeare guy with my lyrics, which is pretty cool. Do you want to listen to one of our songs? I’m in a band, you know.”

Lauren wants to roll her eyes at that last comment. Obviously, the whole I’m in a band thing is a classic line he uses to make girls swoon. Unfortunately for him, it makes Lauren think he’s a douche. But instead, she’s not really thinking about Brad. When she hears you know, it just makes her think of Camila, since the younger girl has a habit of finishing her sentences with you know or you know what I mean, and Lauren has always found that cute.

When she thinks back to Brad’s question, she doesn’t really know how to respond. She really doesn’t want to listen to his music, so she puts on her flirtiest smile as a distraction. “How about you play me it for real some time?”

She hopes that’ll be enough of a no thanks without actually saying no, because after this is over, she has no intention of hanging out with Brad again.

“Sounds good, babe,” Brad smirks at her, and Lauren cringes a little. Too soon for pet names, definitely. “So, what’s with you and that girl you keep hanging with? The dorky one? Is she some kind of charity case or does she just follow you around?”

He laughs at his own joke, but Lauren just frowns. “Um, what?”

“You know, that awkward girl that follows you around,” Brad explains, “the one who fell flat on her face trying to talk to my buddy Austin last year.”

“Are you talking about Camila?” Lauren asks, studying Brad carefully. “Because if you are, she’s my friend, and I don’t let people make fun of my friends.”

“It’s a joke,” Brad replies, “relax. Besides, it’s not like there isn’t truth there. You’re fucking sexy, and she’s awkward and weird. It’s not-”

“Not a very funny joke,” Lauren tells him, standing up and grabbing her jacket. “If you have to make jokes at the expense of someone else, clearly you’re not very funny or original. This date is over.”

With that, she turns on her heel and walks out of the coffee shop, regretting her decision to go out in the first place. She sighs, and sends a text to Camila, seeing if she’s busy, then tucks her phone into her pocket and gets into her car.

She slumps down in the driver’s seat and wonders when dating got so hard. With Lucy, while she had her worries about coming out, and she was confused about her sexuality for a little while, once they’d actually started dating, and were out and proud, everything was simple. Sure, they had their fights, but it never took them long to make up.

She misses that. She misses the connection she had with Lucy, and she knows that one day, she’ll want to be friends again. But right now, that’s too hard. And maybe going out for coffee with whoever asks her isn’t the right way to go about getting back into dating. Maybe she just needs to wait for that connection again.

The only person she’s felt even a small connection with is Camila, but that wouldn’t happen, since they’re friends, and Camila wouldn’t like her like that, anyway. She’s hung up on the girl who would always kiss her and then act like nothing happened, and Lauren wouldn’t want to confuse her even more.

Not that I wouldn’t mind dating Camila, Lauren thinks, but blinks in surprise when that even crosses her mind. No, she’s already ruined one friendship by dating the person, and she doesn’t want to lose Camila, because slowly but surely, Camila has wedged her way into Lauren’s life and made herself at home. Camila is like her rock now, an anchor that has always kept her safe.

When her phone buzzes, she smiles, expecting a text from Camila, but it’s not. It’s from Normani.

Manibear (6:02PM): How’s the date?

Lo (6:02PM): It sucked. I left.

Manibear (6:03PM): You should’ve known it would suck. No white boy in a band is ever interesting.

Lo (6:03PM): Matt Healy begs to differ.

Lo (6:03PM): Did you see Camila at all today? I barely saw her after I ran into her and Lucy.

Manibear (6:04PM): She’s still friends with her?

Lo (6:04PM): Yeah. I told her it’s not a big deal.

Lo (6:04PM): Because it isn’t.

Manibear (6:05PM): As long as you’re okay with it.

Manibear (6:05PM): Are you heading home?

Lo (6:06PM): Yeah. Probably going to watch a few episodes of a show and wallow about how much dating sucks. Feel free to join me.

Manibear (6:07PM): Be at your house in a half hour. Get the popcorn ready.

Lo (6:08PM): Will do. See you soon.

Lauren locks her phone again, happy that she has plans with her best friend to take her mind off her awful date. She hopes there’s a party this weekend, because she really feels the need to get drunk and forget about her worries for a night, but with her luck, there won’t be.

She drops her phone on the passenger seat and starts her car up, humming along to the songs on the radio. Her mind drifts to Camila again, and she finds herself wondering what she’s doing right now, since Camila generally replies to texts instantly.

Even though she’s trying not to care, she finds herself waiting for her phone to buzz, ready to pull over at a moment’s notice, but she doesn’t get a text by the time she gets home. She unlocks the door and says a quick hello to her parents, before she gets the popcorn ready in time for Normani’s arrival.

Once her best friend shows up, they head up to her room, and Lauren gets into her sweats, not caring about looking presentable for her friend. Since they’ve been friends for so long, Normani had definitely seen her at her worst.

“The date really sucked that bad?” Normani asks as they’re picking a movie. “I mean, I figured it would, but I also wanted you to have fun and get back out there.”

“Yeah, he was more concerned about himself,” Lauren answers, shoving a handful of popcorn in her mouth. “It was like… he’d ask me a question, and I’d start answering, and then he’d find a way to segue it back to himself. Or his music.”

Normani snorts. “Trust me, I heard his music at the school talent show last year. It’s really not something to brag about.”

Lauren laughs a little, reaching around her friend to grab Nala, and cuddling the toy to her chest. “I guess everyone has got to go through some shitty dates in their lifetime.”

“That’s true,” Normani answers, squeezing Lauren’s hand. “You know, if you’re interested in another date, I have plenty of people I can set you up with. You’re like, the hottest piece of ass at our school, except for me. Pretty much everyone has been waiting until you were ready to date again.”

Lauren smiles at except for me, but doesn’t comment on it. “I don’t know. I don’t really want to date someone unless I have a connection with them, I think. Not someone who wants me for something as trivial as my looks.”

“Just don’t pick a fuckboy, thanks,” Normani says, “Brad was bad enough. Am I staying over tonight, by the way?”

“I’m working tomorrow, so unless you want to be woken up at four by my alarm, no.” Lauren answers, pushing the bad date from her mind. “Can’t wait to get called sweetheart by creepy old men.”

Normani laughs. “I thought you said Camila kept showing up to keep you company.”

“No, she shows up to mock my work uniform,” Lauren replies, smiling to herself at the constant jokes she gets. Camila had also taken to sending her stock images of grocery store workers in ugly uniforms with the caption ‘is this u’. “And she comes because she wants a ride to school sometimes.”

“Dinah told me she gives her a ride,” Normani replies, and Lauren frowns, because she hadn’t known that Normani had been spending time with Dinah. “Anyway, you and Camila have gotten pretty close lately. Dinah told me you guys went ice skating. Thanks for keeping your best friend in the loop.”

Lauren frowns. “There’s no loop for you to be in. I just went ice skating with my friend.”

Normani laughs a little, and if anything, it makes Lauren frown even more. “Yeah, okay. So, you want to watch comedy, horror, or a comedy-horror?”

Lauren just shrugs. “Anything. Something cheesy. I don’t mind, just-”

When her phone pings, Lauren cuts herself off to pick it up and check it, and Normani just rolls her eyes. Lauren doesn’t notice, and her face practically lights up when she sees a few texts from Camila.

Camz (6:59PM): hey sorry for the late reply i was watching trashy movies with dinah and hadn’t looked at my phone

Camz (6:59PM): how are u?

Camz (6:59PM): also

Camz (7:00PM): why is there a pic of u on google

Laur (7:00PM): Haha wow so funny

Laur (7:00PM): Hope you’re having fun watching movies. I’m currently doing the same with Mani. Date was a total flop.

Camz (7:01PM): i’m sorry it sucked

Camz (7:01PM): hope you’re okay

Laur (7:01PM): Yeah. It’s not like I was crushing on him or had any big expectations, so I’m fine. I’m working tomorrow if you’re going to make a surprise appearance for a discounted sandwich and a ride to school.

Camz (7:02PM): i’ll be there 🙂

Lauren smiles when she reads the message. Aside from the bad date, today had gone well, and she hopes tomorrow will be even better.

just a dream – fifteen

December 3rd, 2016

“So, on a scale of one to ten, how festive are you?” Lauren asks her, swinging their hands as they walk down the street. “Are you one of those people who literally gets excited for Christmas in June, or are you a Christmas Eve excitement kinda girl?”

Camila smiles a little, thinking back to Christmases when Sofi was really little, and how they’d both be so excited for Santa. If she’s being honest, Camila believed in Santa Claus for an embarrassingly long time.

Lauren’s question, however, makes her think about how she won’t be here for Christmas. She’ll be back in her real life, gearing up to start her solo career.

“Yeah. I get excited pretty early,” Camila finally answers, and Lauren frowns at the lack of enthusiasm in her voice. “Like right now. We can’t really be super festive in Miami, considering it’s kind of a perpetual summer, but we could try?”

Lauren brightens when Camila seems to perk up. “Yeah, sure. I know a place we can go ice skating-”

“That’s a definite no,” Camila interrupts. While she’s outgrown her clumsiness at least a little, Camila Cabello and ice skates are not a good mix. “I’ll crack my head open on the ice or something.”

Lauren pouts, and Camila has to look away, because there’s no way she’ll be able to say no to that. “But Camila. It’s the only wintery thing we’ll get to do. Unless you want to fly up to Canada to play in some snow.”

“Maybe if we had infinite money,” Camila comments, and when she looks back at Lauren, she’s still pouting. It’s enough to make her cave. “Fine, okay? We’ll go ice skating, but you have to protect me.”

“Duh, of course I will,” Lauren smiles at her, squeezing her hand. “I know you’ll be like baby Bambi once we get on the ice.”

Lauren looks so happy on the walk back to the car, that Camila almost blurts out how beautiful she thinks Lauren is. She knows Lauren wouldn’t think anything weird of it, and would just take it as a compliment, but for a split second, Camila wants Lauren to know how she means it.

But she shakes that off, because there’s no point. Starting something with Lauren would only hurt her when she leaves in fifteen days. Just this friendship is going to hurt her, because she’ll wake up in a world where Lauren Jauregui hates her. And Camila isn’t sure she’ll be able to handle that.

“What’re you thinking about?”

Lauren’s question makes Camila jump. She can’t exactly be honest without coming off like a complete psychopath, so she makes something up. “Just about my impending death on the ice.”

Lauren laughs, holding open the passenger seat door for Camila. “I told you I’d protect you.”

Hearing that makes Camila’s stomach flutter, but she ignores it. “Yeah, but you’re not exactly strong. You’re a seventeen-year-old girl, not John Cena.”

“Hey,” Lauren pouts as she buckles herself into the driver’s seat. “I can handle your skinny ass.”

Camila frowns to herself. “I’m pretty sure my ass is the one thing about me that isn’t skinny, Laur.”

“Oh, shut up,” Lauren rolls her eyes, starting the car. “You know what I meant. My point is, I’m going to protect you. So shut up and let me do that.”

Camila rolls her eyes, but smiles. “Fine. I guess I’ll let you look after me. Unless… can you even ice skate?”

“I mean, not to brag or anything, but I’m basically a pro,” Lauren announces, but after a few moments, she laughs. “No, not really. I’m okay at it. Last winter, I- um, I went with Lucy, and I was better than her, so-”

“Can I ask you something really quick?” Camila interrupts, and Lauren blinks in surprise, glancing over at her quickly before turning back to the road. “And you have to promise not to get mad.”

Lauren frowns, but nods in confirmation. “Okay. Shoot.”

“You’re not, like… substituting me for Lucy, right?” Camila asks, because it’s been on her mind a lot. Especially after that kiss. “Like… ever since you guys broke up, you always seem like you want to be around me, and you keep cuddling up to me and now you’re taking me to do the thing you did with your girlfriend last Christmas. It’s just… I don’t know how to take it. Because I want you to spend time with me because you want me, not because you’re filling some kind of hole.”

Once Camila finishes, she breathes out a small sigh of something like relief. She knows that if she were actually sixteen, and still so insecure in herself, that she’d never have had the guts to say that, and maybe that’s where she went wrong with Lauren the first time. She never stood up for herself when Lauren would sneak into her bunk, kiss her, and act like nothing happened the next day.

“Okay, um,” Lauren frowns, and pulls the car over quickly, “I’m a little hurt that you think that.”

Camila blinks in surprise. “So you’re not?”

“No. I’m not.” Lauren sighs, “I mean, why would you even think that, Camila? Yes, we’ve got closer since- since Lucy broke up with me, but that’s because you were there for me. You came over and skipped school just to make sure I was okay. You let me crash your sleepover with your friends. You’re clearly going to be one of my best friends after that.”

“You said you wouldn’t get mad but it sounds like you are,” Camila points out, “I didn’t mean it in a bad way, like I think you don’t value our friendship or something. I meant it like… I don’t want to just be someone to spend your time with in place of a significant other. Just to- just to get ditched when you start dating someone else. Because I- I don’t have many friends, and I really care about you. I don’t want to lose you, Lauren.”

She strategically leaves out the whole oh, you’re the only person I think I could love and I’d fucking kill me if you were just using me. She doesn’t exactly think Lauren needs to know that.

“I’m sorry if it came off that way.” Lauren says, taking Camila’s hand and squeezing it. “And I guess I can see it from your point of view. But I promise you, it’s not like that. And I wouldn’t ditch you for a future girlfriend or boyfriend. I’m not into anyone like that right now, and I don’t know if I will be for a while.”

“Okay,” Camila nods, “I’m sorry for asking that, but… I really needed to know.”

Lauren pulls her in for a quick hug. “It’s okay, Camz. Now… are we still going ice skating?”

“Damn,” Camila laughs, trying to ease the tension. “You’re really fucking desperate to go ice skating. I guess we can go, but if I die, you don’t get Sofi in my will.”

“I don’t think you have the authority to give Sofi away,” Lauren laughs, “that’s your parents’ thing. But I’m offended anyway. And to think, I was going to give you Nala if I died.”

“Okay, I take it back, you can have Sofi,” Camila quickly makes amends, laughing. “How’d you get Nala, anyway?”

She asks because Fifth Harmony Lauren had received her Nala from a fan, but it’s kind of impossible for not-famous Lauren to have gotten her Nala in the same way.

“Oh, my abuela gave her to me,” Lauren answers with a smile. “I was like, three years old and obsessed with The Lion King. Believe it or not, I was actually disappointed with her. I cried because I wanted a Simba, not a Nala.”

Camila laughs, imagining that tantrum in her head. “That’s like when those rich kids tweet about how much they hate their parents when they get them the wrong colour Ferrari.”

“Ugh, I hate those tweets,” Lauren replies, “there’s nothing worse than entitled rich people. Or just entitled people in general. That was honestly one of the things I- well, I loved about Lucy. Her family was well off because of her dad but she was never stuck up about it.”

She said loved, Camila thinks to herself. Past tense. “Oh, really? What does her dad do?”

“He’s Carlos Vives, Camz,” Lauren laughs. “I thought you knew that.”

She did, but she’s not about to tell Lauren that. “No, I didn’t.”

“I thought you were friends with her,” Lauren points out, “you said you got coffee with her last week?”

“Well, yeah, but we’re not really close or anything. Not like I am with Dinah or Ally. Or… you.” Camila answers, and at her last addition, Lauren grins. “Anyway, there’s no need to be jealous, Laur.”

“I’m not jealous,” Lauren answers quickly, but Camila smirks at how defensive she seems. “I was just curious.”

“Sure,” Camila laughs, “You’re as green as your eyes right now.”

“Suddenly I have brown eyes,” Lauren comments, setting off again. “I’m not jealous, Camz. I don’t care who you’re friends with. Just as long as you’re friends with me.”

“That was cute.” Camila laughs. “How long until we get to the rink?”

“Shouldn’t be too long,” Lauren answers. “Why? Are you secretly looking forward to our ice skating adventure?”

“Oh, of course not. I just need to know how much time you owe me.” Camila says, and at Lauren’s confused look, she elaborates. “Well, you’re forcing me to ice skate, so however long this takes, you have to give me an equal amount of time at an activity you’re not too keen on.”

Lauren laughs. “You know I’d hang out with you anyway, right?”

“Shush,” Camila shakes her head. “You’re ruining the illusion. I need my payback.”

“Alright, fine,” Lauren answers, and a few moments later, she’s pulling over again, this time at an ice skating rink. “Come on, Camz. Time for you to fall over.”

Camila rolls her eyes, but gets out of the car and follows Lauren towards the booth to buy a ticket. Unfortunately for her, Lauren gets there first, paying for them both before Camila can even open her mouth to ask for a ticket.

“You need to stop doing that,” Camila commands as Lauren carries their skates over to a bench. “You work at a grocery store, you’re not a millionaire. You can’t afford to buy me stuff constantly.”

“I wanted to come here and you didn’t. I’m not going to make you pay for something you didn’t really want to do.” Lauren shrugs. “It’s fine, Camz. I promise.”

“Fine, but I’m paying you back in some other way.” Camila decides on the spot. “Like if you come with me to the movies, and it’s not a movie you want to see, it’s one that I want to see.”

“Okay,” Lauren answers, and Camila takes that as a win and sits down, starting to put her skates on.

It takes Camila a while to get her ice skates on – so long that Lauren has to help her – and then the older Latina takes their shoes and puts them in a locker. Camila doesn’t try getting up until Lauren is by her side again, and when she does, she almost topples over, unable to balance on the skates already.

“I’m not even on the ice yet,” Camila sighs as she leans against Lauren. “This is going to be a disaster.”

“Believe it or not, it’s harder to wear ice skates on regular floor than it is on the ice.” Lauren laughs and walks them towards the door to get out onto the ice. The older Latina lets go of her to skate out a little, then holds out her arms. “Come on. Trust me.”

Camila chews on her bottom lip, debating if she should actually do this, but at Lauren’s open arms, she can’t help herself. She awkwardly waddles towards the ice, and once she steps on it, she almost falls, but Lauren catches her yet again.

Camila breathes out at the feeling of her friend’s arms around her. “I was so scared for a second there. Thought I was going to fall.”

“Hey,” Lauren smiles at her and gives her a soft squeeze around the waist. “I told you I’d always be there to catch you.”

Camila’s stomach flutters, and she knows she’s blushing, but if Lauren asks, she’ll blame it on the weather. Even though it’s definitely not cold right now, by Miami standards it’s slightly chilly, so she feels like she could make up some excuse and it might work.

Lauren slowly lets go of her, but keeps a tight grip on her hand. “Alright, we’re going to start slow. Even though I’m not exactly a pro here, I think I can manage to get us both around this rink safely.”

Camila nods, but sticks to the side anyway, one hand on the rails of the rink, and the other gripping onto Lauren’s for dear life. “Please don’t let me die here, Lo. You’re my only hope.”

Lauren laughs. “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi.”

Wow,” Camila snorts. “You’re such a fucking nerd. I can’t believe you’re quoting Star Wars when- no, no, keep holding my hand.”

Lauren smirks. “Yeah. Call me a nerd one more time and you’re on your own, Cabello. I don’t think you want to take that risk, do you?”

Camila grumbles. “That’s just mean. You’re mean.”

“Oh, no, my hand slipped,” Lauren says, pulling out of Camila’s death grip and skating a little ahead. “What’re you going to do about that, Camz?”

“Kick your stupid ass,” Camila defends herself. “I swear, Lauren, come here.”

Lauren snorts. “You’re going to kick my ass? Little Camzi, taking on Miami’s badass, me? I’d love to see that.”

“Okay, first of all, you’re not a badass, you’re a puppy,” Camila points out, “and second of all, I could take you, Jauregui. I’ll prove it.”

“You might prove it, yeah,” Lauren turns to her with an evil grin, “but you’ve got to catch me first, so I don’t think you have much of a chance.”

With that, she skates across the rink, and Camila’s heart drops. She tries to push off from the side, in a futile attempt to chase Lauren, but one foot slips into the other, and suddenly the ice is coming towards her, so Camila resigns herself to her fate.

But then a pair of arms are around her waist, and she’s being helped upright again. She clings onto Lauren, sighing into her friend’s shoulder. “Thank you, Lo. I thought you were going to leave me to die then.”

“I told you that I’d protect you, didn’t I?” Lauren smiles at her, pulling away and squeezing her hand. “Anyway, all jokes aside, what am I getting you for Christmas? I know I shouldn’t be worrying about that just yet, since we still have a few finals until Christmas break, but I like to get all my shopping out of the way, and I want to know what you want.”

“I didn’t… I didn’t think you were buying for me,” Camila replies, honestly a little shocked. She hadn’t expected Christmas presents, and for a moment, she forgets that she’s not going to be around to open it. But then it hits her, and a sad smile forms on her face. “I don’t mind. Anything.”

“Whoa, why do you look so upset at the thought of a Christmas present?” Lauren frowns. “Presents are good things, and of course I’m buying for you, Camz. You’re one of my best friends.”

“I- well,” Camila shrugs, trying to think about something her sixteen year old self might like. “I don’t know, really. I need a new capo for my guitar? Just… little things like that. What do you want?”

Lauren shrugs. “Anything but chocolate. I get chocolate from distant family members and I have to give it to my siblings. It’s sweet that they thought to get me a gift, but I really don’t like chocolate.”

Camila pouts. “Give your spare chocolate to me, I’ll eat it.”

Lauren just smiles. “Why do I feel like you’re going to buy me chocolate just so I’ll have to regift it right back to you?”

“I wasn’t going to, but thanks for the idea,” Camila grins, and it’s that moment she realises she’s ice skating. And not falling on her ass. “Wait, we’re moving. Oh my god, I’m doing it!”

Lauren beams at Camila’s enthusiasm, and when the younger girl turns to her with the biggest smile on her face, her brown eyes lit up, Lauren’s stomach flutters involuntarily. She brushes the feeling off and squeezes Camila’s hand.

“Yeah, you’re doing it,” Lauren smiles, “you think you can do it without me holding your hand now?”

“Whoa, not so fast,” Camila shakes her head, “let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Maybe next year I can try without your help.”

Maybe next year has a different effect on both girls. For Lauren, it makes her heart feel warm that Camila wants to come here next year, but for Camila, she feels empty. For Camila, next year she’ll probably be on a tour somewhere, without four other girls on that journey with her. Without Lauren on that journey with her.

It makes her heart hurt, if she’s being honest.

“I have a query,” Lauren announces, and Camila pushes down the dull ache she feels. “Do you think alternate universes are a thing?”

Camila tenses up at Lauren’s question, but the older Latina doesn’t notice. While Camila’s having an internal crisis, wondering what Lauren knows, Lauren is busy humming to herself, awaiting Camila’s answer.

“I- um, I don’t know,” Camila finally replies, “do you?”

“I don’t know either, but nobody knows. It’s what you believe that I’m asking,” Lauren says. “I feel like there are. And if there are, it’s probably like, based off the choices we make or something. And every time we get that big decision, our life curves a different way and another alternate path is created.”

“Well, I mean, I don’t know,” Camila nervously answers, “I guess there might be. What made you think about that, anyway?”

“I don’t know, I like thinking about stuff like that. How the universe works.” Lauren shrugs. “how big decisions we make can shape our whole reality.”

Camila hums. “Well, what’s a big decision that you think shaped your reality?”

“There are a few that come to mind,” Lauren comments, “my decision to come out is one. Or, I mean, I guess my decision to not go on The X Factor. Not that a dumb reality show would’ve changed my life, though. I doubt I would’ve gotten very far.”

Camila’s stomach drops. Because maybe the things Lauren is talking about… maybe it’s all true. Maybe this is a reality where none of them decided to audition, and she’s in that timeline. But there are parts of it that don’t line up, and that’s what Camila wants to know.

“Are you okay?”

When Lauren speaks, Camila jumps, but nods. “Yeah, I’m fine. Totally fine.”

Lauren frowns. “You don’t seem-”

“What song were you going to sing?”

“What?” Lauren blinks in surprise at Camila’s question. “What song?”

“For your audition,” Camila clarifies. “What song would you have sung?”

“Oh,” Lauren laughs a little, “actually, I was practicing If I Ain’t Got You by Alicia Keys for weeks before I read the fucked up contract and backed out. If you don’t sign then you can’t audition.”

Camila bites down on her bottom lip, tears stinging at her eyes. “You would’ve killed it. I know that.”

Lauren smiles at her. “Thanks, Camz.”

“So, um, why don’t you think you wouldn’t get far?” Camila asks. “I mean… you have a beautiful voice and you’re really talented, so…”

Lauren shrugs. “I guess it’s mostly because I’m not really the fame type. People look for that star quality in people, and the X Factor as an actual thing is like… how you act towards big crowds and how extraverted and friendly you are. You have to have the specific personality as well as the talent, and I don’t have that. And I’d be miserable trying to act it. Plus, you’ve got to be pretty PG and I cuss a lot, which they wouldn’t like. And, you know, there’s the whole… I like girls thing.”

Camila mulls over Lauren’s words, and she has to admit, she has a point. Management had silenced Fifth Harmony Lauren, and made her stay in the closet for years, and Camila had seen first-hand how miserable that had made her.

If anything, Camila is happy that this Lauren hadn’t had to go through that. “Yeah. That’d suck. Especially if you had to act like someone you’re not.”

Lauren just smiles. “Anyway, enough dwelling on maybes things that might have happened. It’s time we turned you into a pro ice skater.”

Despite the words, as Lauren pulls her around the ice for their second lap, Camila can’t seem to stop thinking about her world, where Lauren did audition, and where everything seemed to be a lot less happier than they are here.

Love Drunk (Chapter 6)

Chapter 6: we push and pull like magnets 

***

The cool marble of the bathroom sink does very little in soothing Camila’s increasingly flushed skin.

She’s been rooted to the same spot for the past few minutes; her heart thumping so hard it might as well be bouncing off the walls. Her head is reeling and she isn’t sure if she’s enjoying the high or absolutely dreading it. Lauren makes her body react in ways she’s never had to deal with before.

Mason has never caused such an avalanche of emotions within Camila the way Lauren does. He never made her feel so jittery, yet so calm and collected all at once. Her head has never felt so muddled, yet clear at the same time. Camila has never wanted someone to kiss her so bad, yet simultaneously push them away to shield them from all the insecurity and doubt festering up inside her.

She doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Camila’s always been scared of hurting people that mean the most to her, and she would never forgive herself if she ever hurt Lauren. Lauren’s been through a lot and Camila doesn’t want to add to that.

They have a strong connection; she can only feel it growing with each passing moment they spend together. She’s just afraid that if she gives in to the physical desires, when it comes time to give herself emotionally—she won’t be able to.

Camila’s working on dealing with the issues Mason’s left her with. Being cheated on isn’t something you can easily move on from. What if she thinks she’s ready, but she really isn’t? What if Lauren ends up feeling more for her than she does for Lauren? What if she can’t give Lauren what she wants? She can’t bare disappointing people, she’s always been a perfectionist when it came to that.

BreatheCamilaBreathe.

Don’t work yourself up.

Inhaling slowly through her nose, and exhaling softly at the count of five through her mouth, the tension begins to drop from Camila’s shoulders. When the marble beneath her fingers finally feels colder, she knows it’s working and she feels a lot more relaxed.

Camila trusts Lauren—she hasn’t given her a reason not to. Lauren every bit proved that she’s willing to give Camila time and space to sort out her feelings.

Camila’s really come to admire the green-eyed girl. She’s been very patient and understanding, and it’s pretty rare these days to meet someone so genuinely kind and selfless. Lauren is definitely someone worth giving a chance to.

There’s no way to know how Lauren is when she’s in a relationship (unless she were to date someone else, but the thought of that makes Camila feel queasy even if she has no claim on the girl—but in a way, that’s like, her girl). But the thought of being with Lauren is exciting. Lauren is sweet and charming—as was Mason, but it’s just so different with Lauren (everything is)—and Camila doesn’t feel like she’s walking on eggshells trying to protect herself around her.

Camila turns around to face the mirror and run her hands through her hair a few times. Can’t look like I’ve been having a love-life crisis, she thinks, can’t have Lauren think she got one over on you.

She’s not so much worried about dealing with Lauren anymore as she is of having to face Dinah and Normani now that she’s sure they know she and Lauren have spoken. The embarrassment starts to seep in, and she blushes again before saying ’fuck it’ and bounding through the door to make her way back to join her friends.

After a shared look of understanding between the dark-skinned girl and the blonde, they don’t poke and prod her about what happened (Camila knows Dinah will surely corner her at some other point and Lauren will undoubtedly tell Normani). They do however, snicker with each other about the red tint on Camila’s cheeks and the glances she’s been sending Lauren’s way any time she catches sight of her.

The bartender approaches their table and slides a drink across it to Camila. It bumps against her hand, some of the liquid sloshing over the rim. He looks apologetic, but she just smiles.

“I don’t think I ordered this.”

“There’s a guy over at the bar that bought it for you,” The bartender points his thumb vaguely in the direction of the bar. He smiles and leaves them to tend to his other customers. No one seems to be looking over to their table at the moment, so Camila isn’t really sure who it could be.

“Free drinks are free drinks, Walz. But if you don’t want it, I’ll take it.” The blonde eyes the bar curiously in an attempt to find the mystery man. When she locks eyes with the stranger, she tugs on Camila’s sleeve. “Hey, I think that might be him.”

“Stare harder, Dinah. I don’t think he can see you,” Normani says sarcastically, jamming an elbow into the Polynesian’s ribs.

Camila concludes that he isn’t unattractive. He has nice dark eyes and perfectly quaffed dark hair to match. He’s got a little stubble going on, but it suits him. He’s smiling at her, eyes twinkling as the lights reflect off them and the beer bottle in his hand.

He’s cute but he isn’t Lauren.

Camila looks back to Dinah, who’s chugging the drink down.

“Yeah, sure you can have it.”

“I tried to stop her,” Normani defends.

Dinah swallows the rest of the contents of the glass and places it back on the table. “He’s coming over here.”

“What?” Camila splutters. “Fuck. Shit.”

“Hey,” The man says smoothly, eyes trained on Camila. “That was some show you put on earlier.”

Now that she can see him more up close, it’s obvious that the man is a lot older than she thought. To each their own, but Camila personally wasn’t into guys old enough to be her father.

And again, he wasn’t Lauren.

“Yeah,” She agrees half-heartedly. “It was.”

He takes another sip of his beer before smiling. “Can I buy you another drink?”

“Uhm—I’m good. But thank you.”

“Not much of a talker, are you?”

Camila opens her mouth to respond, but Dinah beats her to it, “She doesn’t want to talk to you, dude. She’s with us trying to enjoy herself. She isn’t here for old men to hit on her.” Normani nods in agreement, although she wouldn’t have used those exact words.

“I’m sure if she doesn’t want me here, she can speak up for herself.”

“She’s right,” Camila speaks up, the man looking a little offended before she clarifies, “It was a little out of line for her to say it like that, so I’m sorry about that, but I’m not really interested. Thank you for the drink though.”

After a moment of contemplation, he decides on, “Fair enough.” He gives Camila another once-over quickly, yet his eyes linger too long for her liking. “But if you change your mind, I’ll be at the bar. Have a good night.” He turns on his heels to return to his spot at the bar.

“That was easy,” Normani comments.

“I swear, Mila. You’re such a douche magnet,” Dinah huffs. “First that Logan kid, then this old dude. What is with these guys?”

“To be fair, you were rude to him first.”

“Seems like he’s over it already,” Normani points to where the man is buying another young woman a drink and attempting to feel her up.

“Still think he wasn’t a douche?”

“Alright, alright. You made your point.”

“If he comes back, I got you. Don’t worry. But for now, let’s do some more shots, bitches!”

***

Lauren was proud of herself for the way she handled the situation between herself and Camila in the bathroom. Even though she was satisfied with how it worked out, she was still frustrated with the current turn of events. At first glance, Camila comes off as very reserved, quiet and timid. But this version of her right now—the one that’s sending Lauren smoldering looks, flirtatious glances, and lots and lots of lip bites (which Lauren knows is payback)—might actually be the devil. 

She knows a lot of it is because Dinah and Normani have gotten her progressively more drunk than she already was because they’re bad influences, but like, she’s almost dropped her tray of drinks a few times because Camila just looks so hot—she can’t stop thinking about how she wants to be the one biting that lip—and that’s just not cool.

Her job is annoying enough already. She doesn’t need some sexy, emotionally unavailable girl sending her ’take me to bed’ looks from across the room when she knows it’s nothing but the alcohol talking.

Lauren’s thankful in a way that their interaction for the rest of the night is limited to fleeting glances and distant flirting; she isn’t sure she’d be able to handle herself if Camila actually tried to touch her.

She’s relieved when the final call for drinks rings out and the lights start to flicker, indicating it’s time for everyone to get the fuck up outta there. After a lot of grunting and grumbling, the crowd eventually dispersed, although Lauren’s friends decided to stay behind and wait for her.

While she was cleaning up for the end of her shift, Lauren offered to drive the girls home. Normani declined—reasoning that she had already called a cab for herself and Dinah—and that she would just see Lauren in the morning. She then proceeded to give the Latina a not-so-gentle nudge in the ribs while telling her to take Camila home instead.

Unsurprisingly, she didn’t protest.

“Come on, Camz. Left foot, right foot.”

Lauren circles her arms tighter around Camila’s waist when the girl’s steps falter, causing her to stumble as they enter her apartment. She was completely wasted, the alcohol seeming to have turned her legs into actual Jell-O.

Lauren deposits Camila onto the couch, shaking her head as she watches the girl attempt to take her shoes off. It’s like watching a baby deer try to do anything—it’s very clumsy, but adorable, nonetheless.

Her fingers fumble against the clasp on her heels and Lauren can tell she’s had about enough of this fuckery when she huffs and lays across the cushions in defeat. She’s pouting now, and Lauren’s heart has lept a million times in her chest because she can’t get over how much she just wants to hug Camila and squish her little cheeks.

“Can’t get them off,” Camila slurs to no one in particular. She isn’t even sure if Lauren’s paying attention anymore. She’ll sleep in her fucking heels if she has to. Not like she can feel her feet at this point anyways.

She vaguely registers the husky chuckle from Lauren as the girl leans down to unclasp her heels and pull them off her feet. Placing them off to the side—careful to leave them out of the walk way—the green-eyed girl squeezes Camila’s ankle lightly. “Better?”

“Yes,” She hums against the cushion. “Thank you, Lo.”

“Alright, drunkie.” Lauren straightens back up and reaches for Camila’s hands. “Let’s get you to bed.”

Camila frowns and pushes her torso from off the couch in what feels like slow-motion. She ignores Lauren’s outstretched hand and glances over at the kitchen. “I’m so hungry,” She complains. “Will you please make me some food?”

She knows Lauren isn’t going to say no, but she gives her the puppy dog eyes anyways.

Lauren wanders off into the kitchen to prepare something. Thankfully, Camila already has some left over chicken and rice, so she doesn’t have to go through too much trouble. She empties the container onto a plate and heats it up. When the food is all warmed up, she grabs a few paper towels and fills a glass full of water. 

Miraculously, Camila has managed to stay awake while waiting—even though she looks like she’s about three seconds from passing out. “Do you want to eat in there or in the kitchen?”

“I’ll come in there.”

It takes her a little while, but she makes it to the table and (ungracefully) plops down in one of the chairs. She wastes no time with the food, making a show to quickly scarf it all down.

“Slow down,” Lauren warns. “You’re going to choke. And that sort of defeats the entire purpose of me being here to watch over you.”

Camila rolls her eyes, mouth stuffed with food. “Sorry, mami.”

Lauren knows that Camila is just being a smartass by comparing her nagging to that of her mother’s, but something about the nickname makes heat slowly creep up her neck. It goes unnoticed by Camila, her focus still glued to the food in front of her.

When the girl is done practically licking her plate clean, she deposits the dish in the sink, opting to wash it later. Lauren knows that if she even tried right now, she’d probably drop it and break it. And the last thing she needs is to have to drive Camila to the hospital for stitches.

“Are you going to stay over?”

The thought of staying over hadn’t actually crossed her mind. She just figured once she got Camila to bed, she would stay passed out for the rest of the night and she’d check on her later to make sure she was feeling alright.

Camila bites her lip and nods shyly. When she leads her to the bedroom, Camila picks out something for Lauren to wear while she changes and uses the bathroom. Once she’s done, she and Lauren switch places while she waits for the girl to finish.

Camila had decided to just sleep in her underwear and a shirt, so when Lauren comes out and finds her sitting on the edge of the bed dressed like that, her brain short-circuits and her mouth goes dry. Her eyes have a mind of their own as they wander up the smooth, caramel skin of her legs. They look so soft and inviting, all Lauren wants to do is kneel in front of her and run her hands over them.

It’s times like these Lauren can appreciate the fact that Camila is spaced out so she doesn’t call her out on her blatant ogling.

“Camz?” Camila’s eyes open slowly when she hears her name. “You okay? You’re not feeling sick, are you?”

“I’m fine,” The girl assures her with slurred speech and a slow blink. “I’m just…relaxing.” Her eyes close again and she hums in satisfaction.

Lauren laughs lightly as she throws her hair up in a messy ponytail. “Exactly how much did you drink tonight?”

“A lot. I don’t know if I should hang out with Dinah and Normani together when we go out anymore.”

“You’re going to have an awful headache in the morning.” She pushes the blanket open and pats the spot next to her. “C’mere.” Camila obeys, crawling across the bed to where Lauren is. In any other moment, this would seem really seductive, but with Camila’s drunken stumbling and her tired eyes, Lauren can’t think about being excited to do anything other than just hold her.

Camila’s body is warm as the girl cuddles close. Her nose grazes the underside of Lauren’s chin, while her arm bunches up the fabric of her shirt at the waist. It all has such a domestic feel to it.

Lauren loves the way Camila feels. She loves how they seem to fit together so well. She wishes things could have been different so that maybe Camila could already be hers.

But if there’s one thing that Lauren is—it’s patient.

She’ll wait however long, because this seems like it could be more than worth it.

Lauren’s broken out of her thoughts when she feels fingers pressing against the underside of her jaw. She shifts a little and squeezes Camila’s shoulder. “You okay?”

“More than okay,” Camila mumbles into her neck. “I like sleeping with you.”

Lauren’s heart flutters at Camila’s confession. She knows the girl probably wouldn’t admit this to her without having had more than a few drinks, but she appreciates it nonetheless.

“You’re very cuddly,” Lauren replies light-heartedly.

“You’re so warm and soft.” Camila hums comfortably, enjoying the feel of being wrapped up in Lauren’s embrace. “Just wanna stay here forever.”

Lauren doesn’t respond, instead just strokes up and down Camila’s arm. The girl’s breathing evens out and she’s pretty sure Camila has fallen asleep until she speaks again.

“Do you think he cares about what he did to me?”

Lauren doesn’t really know how to answer this question. She doesn’t want to tell Camila how she really feels in fear of upsetting the girl, but she doesn’t want to play it off like Mason cares when he’s already shown that he in no way seems to. 

There’s no way for her to know for sure, but she has a feeling he doesn’t.

“Camz…” Lauren begins softly. “I don’t really know if I can answer that.”

“I don’t think he does.” Lauren can feel Camila’s breath against her neck as the girl talks. “It’s like he turned into a different person completely out of nowhere. He was so sweet and caring, then he was cold and a complete dick. I just don’t understand what happened or where it came from.”

“I don’t know, Camz.”

“I just don’t understand how someone can play with another person’s feelings like they aren’t an actual person.”

“Some of them just don’t have any concern for others,” Lauren explains. “It’s not right, and it isn’t fair, but it’s just how it is. Some people can coast through life making other think they care just long enough to get what they want until they don’t need them anymore. It’s the shitty truth, but it goes back to how there’s always bad to balance out good in the universe.” She feels Camila squeeze her side in understanding, and quickly adds, “But you never deserved that. You’re the embodiment of everything good in this world, Camila. I hope you know that.”

“I’m just tired,” Camila says after a beat.

She feels Lauren’s hand make its way into her hair, stroking the strands lovingly. She breathes a sigh of relief, everything seeming easier with Lauren by her side.

“You should sleep, Camz.”

“I didn’t mean that I’m physically tired—well, I sort of am—but I meant that I’m just so over feeling like this.” Lauren continues her gentle strokes as she lets the girl vent. “I’m so tired of being stuck feeling like shit over someone who didn’t give a fuck.” She hurriedly wipes at the tears of frustration she knows are forming, “I don’t even care about him anymore—it’s just the fact that it was so easy for him to get under my skin and now I don’t know if I can trust someone so easily again. I’m stuck with feeling like I won’t be enough, like I won’t be able to keep someone happy, and I’m going to be constantly paranoid I’m going to get cheated on again and be stupid enough not to be able to see it.”

Lauren’s heart aches in her chest painfully for Camila. She’s such a sweet, genuine person and it hurts her so much that she feels like this. Anyone would be the luckiest person on the entire planet to be with her, and she’s so deserving of love.

“And I’m so scared—I’m so fucking scared that no matter how much my mind protests, that I just can’t feel that way with you.”

Lauren blinks slowly. Did Camila really say that or is just hearing things?

“I’m trying so hard to keep myself guarded; to let myself get over this. But I just—I don’t know what it is about you, but it just makes me want to dive head first into it without caring. I like you more than I thought I would, but I can’t allow myself to do that. I want to say fuck it so badly and just worry about the consequences later—if there even would be any—but I can’t. I just can’t.”

Lauren can feel her own eyes growing watery at the pain and desperation in Camila’s voice, so she presses a kiss to the girl’s forehead and pulls her closer, wrapping both her arms around her frame. “You deserve the world, Camz,” She whispers, rubbing her back. “I know it’s hard for you to see that because of what some undeserving prick did to you, but it’s so true. And I so willingly would give that to you—but only when you’re one hundred percent ready. Don’t push yourself because you think it’s what I need, I’m so happy to be your friend, too. You being around is just enough for me.”

Camila sniffles and lifts her head to look at Lauren. She can vaguely make out her features from the dim light of the moon shining through the curtains, but it’s enough to see the shining tears against her cheeks. Lauren reaches out slowly to wipe away her tears and cradle the girl’s face in her hand. Camila leans in to her touch, her heart hammering at the feel of Lauren’s compassion for her. 

“It isn’t fair to you, Lauren.”

“Hey, don’t think that I’m not okay with waiting until you’re ready—if you’re ever ready for me. But in the meantime, I’m totally fine with just being your badass bartender.”

And just like that, Camila’s laughing again and Lauren allows herself to get lost in the sound. If it was the only sound she was able to listen to for the rest of her life, she’d be okay with that.

Camila settles back into Lauren’s chest, “Sorry for keeping you up. I don’t really know where all of that came from.”

“Please stop apologizing. I’m not angry with you, and you have every right to feel what you feel and express your emotions. I like that you trust me enough to share them with me. It makes me feel special.”

“You are special,” Camila murmurs against her skin.

“You should get some sleep now, babe. That hangover’s gonna be killer in the morning.”

Camila smiles at the pet name, sighing at the warmth that envelopes her chest. “Don’t remind me, I can already feel the headache coming on.”

“Here, let me help.” Lauren weaves her fingers through the silky smooth strands of Camila’s hair for the next few minutes again, fingertips grazing soothingly over her skull. “Better?”

When the younger Latina doesn’t reply, Lauren knows this time she’s finally fallen asleep.

***

Several things come crashing into Camila’s conscious when she wakes the next morning.

One: there’s a dull ache in her head that throbs harder any time she so much as breathes.

Two: she did (and said) a lot of embarrassing things last night at the bar that she sadly has to remember (would be a lot easier if she couldn’t). Everything after is still a bit hazy.

Three: she’s lucky she woke up when she did, considering she has to work in about two hours (she would call out, but she needs the money).

And four: Lauren is no longer in bed with her, which prompts her to wonder where the hell green-eyed girl is and why she isn’t cuddling her.

Camila rubs at her aching head and reaches over to grab her phone from the night stand. She almost knocks over the glass of water that wasn’t there the night before. Sitting up, Camila opens up the few text messages she has.

Dinah: waaaaaaaaaaaaalzerio! Just checking in to make sure your huge Cuban ass got home alright and if I never get a response im just assuming you got lost in lauser’s vag

Mani: ignore that dumbass, Laur told us you got home safe. Had a fun time, see you again soon! x

Lo: Good morning Camzi! Or whatever time it is when you wake up, lol. I had some classes today, so I couldn’t stay to make you any breakfast or make sure your head didn’t explode. I did leave some water and Tylenol on the nightstand for you, so take that when you can. Hope you feel better, and we’ll talk later.

Camila groans and drops her phone without replying to the messages on the bed next to her. She reaches out for the water and takes the Tylenol. Hopefully her head will stop throbbing by the time she has to go to work.

She dozes in and out of sleep for the next thirty or so minutes before she finally drags her ass out of bed to take a shower and get dressed.

She’s wrapped a towel around herself and secured her dripping hair when her phone rings from the bedroom. Hoping it’s not because her boss is pissed that she’s late, she scurries to answer and finds that it’s only Dinah. She’s relieved that she has more than enough time to get to work. 

Walz, you never replied to me. I thought maybe you died.”

“I can assure you I’m very much alive. Although my head kinda feels like it’s been ripped in half, so maybe it’s up for debate.”

Yeah, yeah,” Dinah feigns interest. “So, what happened with Lauren? I want details. I know something happened last night.

“Nothing happened.”

You’re a shitty liar, Mila!

Camila puts the girl on speaker so she can get dressed. She dries her hair off with the towel, rolling her eyes the entire time at Dinah’s antics. “Fine,” She hisses. “But I promise nothing happened. We just sorta had another moment.”

What the fuck does that mean! Start talking! How do you expect me to be a good captain if you won’t tell me anything?”

“Alright, alright. Calm your tits. I was really drunk—as you know, because it was your fucking fault, but we’ll talk about that some other time—and we talked in the bathroom and I sort of—uhm, we were touching a lot and like—I told her I wanted her to kiss me.”

The other end is silent.

“Dinah?” She’s half convinced Dinah’s hung up until the girl yells.    
Oh my fucking god! Did she do it? Ew, she didn’t fingerbang you against the sink did she? Nasty lesbians.”

Camila rolls her eyes so hard she’s afraid they might pop out of her head. “First of all, we aren’t lesbians. We’re both bisexual, so shut the fuck up. Secondly, no. She didn’t fingerbang me against the sink you nasty ass pervert.”

Did she do it in the stall?”

Dinah!”

Dinah scoffs incredulously, how dare Camila act like this when she’s the one withholding all the information. “Then what even happened? One second you’re being bold as fuck during karaoke then you’re running back like a scared little puppy with its tail between its legs. Then you’re back to the gay, longing stares from across the roomWhat. The. Fuck!”

“I was a little embarrassed, Dinah. I practically threw myself at her. And then I was really wasted so I probably didn’t give a fuck.”

“It’s about time! And she still went home with you, so I don’t see what the big deal is.” The blonde sighs defeatedly. “So what did she say then?”

Camila blushes when she thinks about what Lauren had said. Not yet, not like this. “She wants to kiss me, but not when I’m drunk off my ass or still upset about the shit with Mason. She’s just giving me time and space. We talked about other stuff too, but I was really wasted so some of it I can’t really remember. I was pretty upset though.”

Oh, no. You ugly cried, didn’t you?” Camila can imagine the look on Dinah’s face right now, knowing how Dinah feels when people start ugly crying. “Well, if that didn’t completely scare her off then I guess you’re good. But that’s nice of her, she seems really respectful. I’m glad she didn’t take advantage of you.”

“She wouldn’t do something like that.”

Let’s hope not. I wouldn’t want to have to fuck up her pretty face.”

Camila groans, “That would be absolutely tragic, but I’m sure it’ll be alright.” In an attempt to change the subject, she asks, “What are your plans for today?”

Gonna have lunch with Mani soon, so I probably need to go get ready. But keep me up to date on your lesbian affairs—”

“I told you we aren’t lesbians!”

Bye, Walz! I’ll tell Mani you said hi, have fun at work!”

The line clicks off and Camila scoffs in annoyance, throwing her phone on the bed behind her. How dare Dinah hang up on her. She shakes her head and continues getting ready for the long day ahead of her.

***

Lauren slides off her bed into a crouching position beside it; she locates the box she’s looking for and carefully pulls it out to place it on the bed. Popping the top off, she sifts through a few pieces of the memorabilia until she locates the photo she’s been looking for.

It’s a favorite photo of hers; one that has a very special place in her heart. Lauren isn’t sure exactly when it was taken, but it was some time after she and Reagan had celebrated their two year anniversary. They ended up having a late celebration party and she remembers that Normani had caught them cuddled up together on the porch swing; all smiles and giggles as they talked and kissed. Lauren couldn’t remember being happier.

Her thumb trails across the expanse of the photo and stopping on Reagan’s face. She could never forget the way her lips curled when she smiled; or she would laugh with her entire body when she found something particularly funny. It was forever etched into her memory, and Reagan would always be her favorite memory.

A drop of wetness hits the hand that’s holding the photo, and before Lauren knows it, she’s crying. Her fingertips come up to rub the moisture away. She sniffles, a giggle caught in her throat.

“God dammit, Rea. You always know how to get to me, even when you’re not here.”

She pauses as if she’s waiting for a reply.

It doesn’t come, and it shouldn’t be surprising, but it always hits Lauren the same. She’ll never get a reply from Reagan again. She’ll never hear her laugh again, or argue with her again. They’ll never hold each other after an exhausting day, or kiss just because they can.

It’s a feeling Lauren isn’t sure she can ever get used to.

She’s come to terms with it, but it still hurts and it always will.

Her mind then drifts to a certain brunette with her big, bambi eyes and cute little button nose that Lauren wants to kiss a million times. She may have lost someone that’s always been so near and dear to her; but at the same time she feels as though she may have gained so much more.

“You’d really like her Rea,” Lauren says quietly, as if the girl were right in front of her. “I know she would’ve liked you.”

The Latina makes herself more comfortable on the floor; knowing now that Reagan is listening, she has a few things she wants to share with her.

Reagan’s always been a good listener.

“When I first met it her, it was so fucked up, Rea. She was so heartbroken and I didn’t know who she was or what even really went down, but I felt so protective of her. I was so drawn to her, I have no idea how to explain it.” Lauren runs a hand through her hair.

“I was so fucking distraught after you died. I know you were probably so disappointed with the way I handled everything, but I was just so lost.” Lauren frowns when she thinks of how Reagan would have reacted. “And I know I’ve apologized so many times, but it’s not okay,” Her thumbs caresses the photo as she sniffles. “I haven’t done anything like that in a while though, you know that I’ve been getting better—I’m a lot better now. I mean, I’m still a human and a girl has needs,” She chuckles to herself, knowing that if Reagan were sitting opposite of her, she’d be laughing too, “But it’s been so different since I met Camila.”

“She’s still hurt—I know she is. I can see it sometimes, you know? It’s bothering her less, but it’s still there. Her piece of shit ex-boyfriend made her doubt her worth, and I just—that’s so fucked up, Rea. He was so fucking wrong for that. If anyone deserves the world—it’s her, you know? She has such a beautiful mind, and she’s so compassionate. I could say so many things about her and it still wouldn’t even touch the root of who she is and how amazing she is.”

“I could see myself with her; I’d be lying if I said I could see myself with anyone but her now. And I know it’s so crazy because it hasn’t been that long, but I’m such an idiot around her. It’s like I don’t know how to human anymore, it’s ridiculous.” Another chuckle. “It’s so refreshing to be able to feel that again, Rea. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to move on, I was so convinced my heart would be broken forever. I just built my walls so high that no one would even try to climb them. I always made sure I couldn’t fall for anyone. And god—she isn’t even trying, but she’s done it.”

A beat passes.

“I could love her. I could definitely love her.”

She sighs.

“I just hope she could love me, too. And I would never rush her—God knows I wouldn’t. I’ll give her all the time she needs, and I’ll be there for her every step of the way. I need to be. Even if all she ever wants is to be friends, I’ll take it. I would rather be her friend than not have her in my life at all.”

“I just want her to be happy. After all this shit she’s had to deal with, she really deserves it.”

“You deserve to be happy, too, ya know?”

Lauren’s eyes widen at the sound of another voice and she whips around to find Normani leaning against the doorframe staring at her. “How long have you been standing there?” Her voice is high and squeaky, embarrassment settling in.

“I didn’t mean to scare you or intrude, Lo. I couldn’t help but hear you though, and I really hope you know that Reagan would be so proud of you, and you deserve to be happy as well. Whether it’s with Camila or not.” Normani smiles softly at her friend. “Even though Dinah and I need another couple to double date with.”

Lauren laughs while wiping whatever remaining tears that are on her cheeks away, “Thanks Mani.”

Normani pushes herself away from the doorframe to enter Lauren’s room. She crouches next to the girl and wraps her arms around her neck, embracing her with a heart full of love. “I know you miss her, Lo.”

“I always do,” Lauren clutches at Normani’s arms. “I miss talking to her most of all.”

“She listens to you,” Normani assures her, dropping a kiss against her hair. “She hears everything you say to her. She’s watching over you.”

“You think so?”

“I know so.” Normani releases her hold and stands, grabbing Lauren’s wrists and helping her to her feet. “And who knows? Maybe she’s the reason Camila’s here now. Maybe she sent her to you.”

“I don’t know about all that—”

“I do,” Normani cuts her off with a serious look. “Reagan was head over heels in love with you, Lauren. How do you know she didn’t give Camila a push in the right direction? That girl would have given you her kidneys if she had to. And seeing you with Camila—you haven’t been this happy in years.”

Lauren stares at the girl reluctantly. She isn’t so sure about the power of angels, and Heaven and God, but she does know that Reagan loved her more than anything. And she isn’t really sure how she feels about it, but perhaps Normani does have some sort of point.

Normani points to the photo in Lauren’s hand, to which the girl passes over to her.

She smiles knowingly—the same smile that she had worn that same night when she found Lauren and Reagan together so blissfully happy. “You remember this day? I used to think about it a lot when you were self-destructing. I couldn’t get over how happy you looked. It was like you were a completely different person here.”

“Yeah,” Lauren agrees half-heartedly. “A lot has changed. I’m glad I got help when I did.”

“Me too, I couldn’t stand losing my best friend.”

“Rea was always good at keeping me grounded, but I lost all my footing when she died.”

Normani’s frown quickly quirks back into a smile, “Remember how mad your mom was when she saw how trashed the house was after the party?”

“Oh my god, she was pissed,” Lauren snickered. “I’m surprised I’m alive right now.”

Normani lowers the polaroid camera as the photo pops out. She plucks it from the device, shaking it a few times just because she’s seen them do it in movies.

“Let me see!” Reagan squeals as she unwraps herself from Lauren’s hold causing the older girl to pout without her space heater. She saddles up next to Normani, grinning hard as she scans over the picture. It’s cute and she really likes it. Definitely going up on her corkboard.

“Babe, come here. We’re so cute!”

Lauren grumbles and pulls herself from the porch swing. She wraps her arms around Reagan’s waist and cuddles close to her with her head on the girl’s shoulder. She looks over the photo and a matching grin spreads across her lips.

“We are cute. But you’re cuter.”

“Babe,” Reagan says sincerely. “You’re the cutest.”

“As cute as you both are—” Normani rolls her eyes and shoves the photo into Reagan’s hands, “—this is no time to be gross couple goals.”

“Someone’s salty,” Reagan jokes as she pinches Normani’s cheeks. “We have enough love for you too, Manibear.”

“Not a chance, Valdez.”

She shrugs. “A girl can dream.”

“I’m right here you know,” Lauren comments while Reagan’s busy making heart eyes at Normani. She bites the girl on the shoulder in order to get her attention.

“Lauren Michelle, my darling, the light of my life, I love you so so so much, but I can’t help my attraction to Normani. I mean, have you seen those abs? They’re unreal!”

“You’re not funny,” Lauren pouts.

“I’m hilarious.” Reagan slips around in her grip to plant a sweet kiss on Lauren’s lips. “You know you’re the only girl I have eyes for.”

Lauren smiles and rests her forehead against Reagan’s. “I know.”

“Hate to break up this incredibly disgusting—I mean cute—moment but Laur, I think your mom just pulled up.”

“What?” Lauren visibly pales (and it’s impressive how Normani spots this given how pale Lauren already is). “She shouldn’t be back until tomorrow afternoon.” She whips around and glances around the corner of the porch to see that it is indeed her mom’s car now in the driveway. “Fuck! The house is a mess, I’m so fucked!”

Lauren rushes into the living room the same time her mom is turning the key in the doorknob.

When the door opens and Clara looks around to find her couch no longer in the spot it was when she left, picture frames crooked on the walls, and trash littered all over the room, Lauren gulps because she knows Normani and Reagan are going to need to start planning her funeral.

Clara has an unreadable look on her face, although her eyes contradict this. They’re bubbling over with anger and Lauren can feel it radiating off her body.

When she opens her mouth and hears that ‘Lauren Michelle Jauregui Morgado’ she knows she’s definitely fucked.

“It’s a good thing your dad got there when he did, otherwise you probably would be dead.”

“He’s always been a lot easier on me. Perks of being the firstborn girl.”

Normani tuts, “I think it’s just because you’re cute and that puppy dog face is hard to deny.”

“Possibly,” The Latina grins. She puts the photo back in the box, closing the lid and sliding it back under her bed. “Enough sappy shit, what are you up to today?”

“I was going to meet Dinah for a lunch date. What about you?”

“I dunno,” Lauren shrugs. “I’m free now since I already went to class, so I guess I was just gonna relax and read or something. Maybe catch up on Game of Thrones.”

“Why don’t you go visit Camila at the bookstore? Dinah talked to her earlier and she said she had to work today. And I know how much you love bookstores.”

Lauren makes a face that Normani isn’t sure how to react to. “She’s working after as much as she drank last night? That’s dedication. She must be hungover as fuck.”

Normani looks a little sheepish. “Dinah and I may or may not have had something to do with that,” She mumbles.

Lauren slaps Normani in her not-so-surprisingly-hard-as-rock abs and scowls. “I know, she was really fucked up. She wasn’t even that drunk the first time I met her.”

“We were having a good time, not my fault she can’t handle her liquor!” She lightly shoves Lauren and runs out of the room. “Go see Camila! I gotta go now, my bae is awaiting. Bye!”

The front door shuts loudly and Lauren just shakes her head.

Never a dull moment

***

The bell above the door rings through the store, indicating the arrival of a customer. Camila doesn’t look up though, still nursing her now-slightly-less-throbbing-but-still-feels-like-she-got-hit-by-a-bat headache, but still greets them as chipperly as possible. “Hi, welcome to—”

“Hi Camz.”

Camila almost chokes on air when she looks up to see Lauren staring back at her with a smile on her face. “Hey, Lo—I—hey—how did you—uhm, not that I don’t like seeing you, but why are you here?”

Lauren chuckles when Camila rambles nonstop. “I thought I’d surprise you.”

“How’d you know I worked here? I don’t remember telling you which bookstore.”

“Ouch, Camz, seems like you do mind seeing me. Perhaps I should go,” Lauren giggles when Camila opens her mouth to splutter out a protest, her face turning a deep shade of red, “Relax. I know you didn’t mean it like that, I was kidding. I asked Dinah.”

“Not funny, Jauregui.” The Latina crosses her arms petulantly. “What do you want?”

“I just wanted to see where you worked. You’ve been to the bar a couple times and I’ve never had a chance to visit you here.” Lauren takes a moment to look around and survey the area. “Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been to this bookstore before.”

“Well, if you had come here any time I was here, I definitely would have remembered you.” Camila groans inwardly at her awkwardness, hoping Lauren won’t laugh at her for being so lame.

Lauren bites her lip flirtatiously. “You hit on all of your customers, Cabello?”

The younger Latina leans forward on her elbows, feeling an urge of playfulness. “Only the ones that I know can get me free drinks.” She winks.

“Fair enough, I’ll keep that in mind. So are you gonna just stand there or are you gonna show me around?”

“Oh! Uh, yeah. I can do that.”

Lauren likes this bookstore more than any previous one she’s been to—and not just because Camila works there. They have a very wide selection of books, and there are many different sections that even have lounge chairs and tables for the customers to sit and read at. Lauren’s favorite part is the music department of the store. It’s much smaller than the actual bookstore area, but it contains nothing but records, CDs, and posters—Lauren is in heaven.

Camila leaves her to explore to her heart’s desire as she tends to the new faces that have walked through the door, and Lauren uses this as her chance to observe Camila as she works. She’s never seen Camila at work before, so this is interesting.

She watches as Camila gives them a radiant smile—the same smile that makes Lauren’s heart melt inside of her chest—and they have no idea how lucky they are to be on the receiving end of that smile. Her demeanor is very friendly as she guides them through the store in an attempt to get a feel for what they may be interested in purchasing.

The sudden feel of a hand on her shoulder causes the Latina to gasp and whip around quickly.

“Sorry!” The girl squeaks out. Judging by the logo on her tucked-in shirt, Lauren can conclude that she indeed works here. “I was just wondering if you needed some help, you’ve been standing over here in the same place for a while.”

Lauren bites her lip, the blush creeping up her neck when she realizes that she’s been so caught up in staring at Camila that she’s actually caused some concerns from her fellow workers.

Way to look like a creepy psycho.

She quickly—and nervously—rubs the back of her neck. “Uh, I’m okay. Sorry, I was just—I was just looking around. Trying to decide between a few books.” She quickly snatches two books from the shelf beside her, not bothering to look at the covers.

“Hmmm,” The girl—her name is Jess apparently (thanks, nametag)—squints as she analyzes the covers of the two books Lauren’s holding. She points to the one in her right hand, “Get the Guy? I seriously doubt you need this one.”

Lauren frowns as she finally looks at the cover. It’s super cheesy, and she can feel her eyes wanting to roll out of her head, but she stops them. “Thanks,” She hastily shoves the book back on the shelf. “That one seemed pretty shit anyways.”

“I’ve looked through it a few times, it’s not one of our best sellers,” She confirms. “I mean, you’d think a guy would give his advice on getting a date to men, not women, but whatever.” She shrugs her shoulders.

“Right. Weird,” Lauren comments off-handedly. “Anyways, thanks for your help.”

“No problem. If you need any more help, don’t hesitate to ask.” She gives the girl a friendly smile in hopes she’ll leave her alone. It’s returned, and she leaves.

She puts the other book back on its shelf and high-tails it as far away from that girl as possible. Once she feels safe in another section, she decides to actually look for something to read.

Once a cover has caught her eyes, and she’s thumbed through it to see if she’s interested or not, she settles at a table near the corner of the non-fiction section. She hasn’t seen Camila since her little incident, but she figures it’s probably for the best.

The less workers call her out, the better.

She’s only a few pages in when Camila decides to grace her with her presence.

“There you are.”

Lauren looks up from the words splayed out on the pages to find Camila’s soft brown eyes focused on her, a small smile playing on her lips. Her own lips mirror the action.

“Hey.”

Camila doesn’t sit next to her, instead opting to stand beside her. She reaches out to idly run her fingers across Lauren’s shoulder as if by instinct. The motion both calms Lauren and makes her heart race all at once. “Whatcha reading?” Camila asks softly, not wanting to disturb the girl.

“Just some book about the Bermuda Triangle and all of its mysterious glory.”

“Ah, cool.” The brunette nods in understanding. She smiles playfully and tilts her head, “So you took a break from spying on me to enjoy the wonders of the Bermuda Triangle?”

Lauren pretends she doesn’t hear her. “…What?”

“Don’t play dumb, Lo.”

“I wasn’t spying on you.” The glare Lauren sends her is so unthreatening, it’s ridiculous. She’s a little puppy. “Why would I be spying on you? If I wanted to talk to you or hang out with you, I would. I don’t need to spy.”

Camila pokes the tip of her tongue out between her teeth as she giggles (and it’s the cutest thing she’s ever seen Camila do). “Jess told me that there was an incredibly flustered vampire-looking girl ’admiring me from afar’ and asked if I knew you.”

What a fucking snitch,” Lauren mumbles lowly to herself. She’s not even offended that the girl called her a vampire, she’s gotten that many times. It isn’t her fault she’s just naturally pale. “I wasn’t, I swear. I was only trying to find a book and you just happened to be in the general vicinity.”

“It’s okay. I told her that you were my flustered vampire, and you aren’t a threat. She seemed pretty happy about that.”

“Please,” Lauren scoffs. “Like I’d suck her blood anyways.”

“I don’t know if I should be happy you’re saying that, or scared that you might be claiming that you’re actually a vampire…” Camila trails off, smiling.

“Even if I was,” Lauren holds her hands up in defense. “Not saying I am, but if I was, I wouldn’t hurt you.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t? Why’s that?”

“Because I like you,” Lauren says seriously.

Camila didn’t expect Lauren to be so blunt, and the blush is spreading before she can stop it. “Oh, well, I like you—”

“And you’ve got a great ass.”

She’s got a smug little look on her face like she’s so proud of herself. It makes Camila want to kiss her, but that’s highly inappropriate so a slap will do instead. The green-eyed girl yelps loudly, to which Camila shushes her.

“So rude. I’ll be sure to include ‘bullying customers’ on the review I’m going to write later.”

Camila gasps, worried that Lauren might actually do it (as if she would ever say anything bad about Camila). “You better not!”

“Stop abusing me and maybe I’ll reconsider.”

Camila crosses her arms against her chest, deciding to let it go for now. “So, do you like the store?”

“Yeah, it’s really cool. I like the music section the most, they have a lot of awesome records.”

“How come you didn’t get any?”

“I might on my way out, I wanted to look around over here more first.”

Camila smiles cheekily. “And by looking around you mean spying on me, right?”

Lauren shuts her book quickly and slaps it against Camila’s thigh. “I was not spying on you!”

“Sure you weren’t!” The younger Latina leans down and wraps her arms around the other Latina’s shoulders to subdue her offending limbs. “Keep telling yourself that,” She husks against the shell of Lauren’s ear.

“Get off, jerk.”

“No!”

Camila feels the sharp tug of teeth against her forearm. She pulls back quickly, a grin on her face. “Did you just bite me?”

Lauren wears a matching grin as she quirks an eyebrow, “I don’t recall.”

“You totally bit me, asshole.”

“You can’t prove it.”

Camila makes a move to slap her again, but pauses when she catches sight of some dark ink on Lauren’s skin. Her gaze softens as she runs her fingertips over the dragonfly on the back of Lauren’s neck. “I never saw this tattoo before.”

“Yeah, I have a few.”

Camila’s eyebrows furrow together. “Really? I’ve never noticed.”

“I have my abuela’s name on my wrist, twenty-seven in Roman numerals on the inside of my forearm for my birthday and the dragonfly on my neck.” The light scratch of Camila’s nails against her neck makes her heart flutter wildly.

“I like it, it’s pretty.”

“I got it after Reagan…” She swallows hard and pushes away the thoughts forming in her head, “…yeah. She loved dragonflies.”

“She would love it, Lauren.” When Lauren meets Camila’s eyes, she’s met with the most gentle and understanding look she’s ever seen pass over the brunette’s features. And just like that, the bad thoughts leave her head and she only feels the adoration Camila wears for her.

I really wanna kiss you, she thinks, but instead, says, “Thank you.”

Camila gives her shoulder a light squeeze then flashes her another smile. “Hey, do you wanna go get something to eat? I’m on break for a little and I wanna go to the sub place a few doors down.“ 

"Sure.”

Lauren follows as Camila leads them to a little hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop. They choose a table next to the window looking out onto the street. The waitress approaches them and takes their order, Camila insisting on buying Lauren some lunch, to which the girl continuously refuses, but eventually she caves when Camila looks at her sadly with those big, brown eyes.

“So did you have a horrible hangover this morning?”

“It wasn’t too bad, it only felt like my skull was being ripped in half,” Camila jokes. “But I’m managing. How were your classes today?”

“They were good until this asshole guy Brad decided that he wanted to debate with me over how gay people don’t deserve the same rights as straight people.”

“Did you punch him in the face?”

Lauren shakes her head, “Wanted to. But I just settled on embarrassing him enough to make him get up and leave.” The cocky smile was well-earned.

“That’s better than getting kicked out of college.”

“Very true.” Lauren shuffles in her seat uncomfortably. “Uhm, so I was thinking—should we, like, can we talk about last night?”

Camila looks down at her hands. She had been hoping they wouldn’t have to talk about it, but she guesses it’s probably for the best. “Y-yeah,” She starts in a shaky voice. “Okay. I’m sorry if I made it awkward or anything. I had way too much to drink and I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t mean to embarrass you at the bar." 

"It’s okay. I wasn’t too embarrassed to be honest.” She lowers her voice, and it so sounds so sultry that Camila’s heart speeds up, “I meant what I said about that little display of dominance being hot, though. Never had a girl do anything like that for me before.”

Camila’s mouth dries up instantly as she looks anywhere besides Lauren’s eyes. “I—”

Within a second, seductive Lauren is gone and replaced with the typical gentle and caring Lauren. “I like you, Camz. And I know it’s hard for you to open up to someone else after everything you went through and how he made you feel. I know you don’t want to get any deep feelings involved between us when you can’t fully commit to a relationship right now—and that’s okay. I’m just asking that you try to give us a chance if that’s something you want.”

Camila opens her mouth to reply, when Lauren continues, “I’m not asking you to be my girlfriend right off the bat. But could I maybe take you on a date? It doesn’t even have to be a real first date, it could be a pre-date date. Sort of like a trial-run, you know? A platonic hang out to see if you’d ever be interested in going on a real date with me.”

Camila smiles when Lauren won’t stop rambling. She’s really nervous, that much is obvious. 

“…Only if you’re interested, of course.” Lauren runs a hand through her hair. She hopes Camila will take her up on her offer. She just really wants to impress her. “I think it would be cool. I know it’ll take some time to build things between us, but I feel like it’s really worth the wait. I feel so comfortable with you already, and I haven’t felt like that with someone in a long time." 

"Me either,” Camila adds shyly. “A trial-run?” The brunette repeats, a small smile playing on her lips. Lauren blushes and ducks her head. “I think that would be okay." 

"Really?” Lauren looks like she was just told she won a million dollars, and Camila can’t help but feel so honored that it’s because of her. 

“Really." 

"I promise I won’t kiss you until you’re absolutely ready.” The dark-haired Latina assures her, but then smirks deviously when she adds, “No matter how much you beg me to.”

“Shut up,” Camila bites back, no malice in her tone. “I did not beg you.”

“Just like you weren’t hitting me earlier, huh?”

“Stop acting like you don’t like it a little rough.”

Lauren’s eyes shine with mischief and Camila just knows she has a sarcastic, snarky comment up her sleeve. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“You’re already starting off on the wrong foot. Don’t make me regret this, Jauregui.”

Lauren reaches over the table to grab Camila’s hand and interlace their fingers, “No way would I ever purposely try to ruin this.”

Camila blushes when the girl runs her thumb over her knuckles. “You’re such a flirt.”

“I’ve had plenty of practice.”

“Lauren!” Camila pulls her hand from Lauren’s grasp and slaps her on the forearm.

Lauren cradles the arm close to her chest, “I was joking! Stop hitting me, you’ve been spending too much time with Normani.”

“Dinah deserves every slap she gets.”

“I agree, but that isn’t always the way to go.”

Camila’s reply is hot on her tongue when the waitress approaches them with their food. She places it on the table in front of each of them, asking if they need any extra condiments before she returns behind the counter.

“Just shut up and eat your food.”

Lauren smiles back at her, happy to comply. “Yes ma’am.”

They eat together in silence for a while just enjoying the food and each other’s company. Lauren’s more than half-way through with her sandwich, and Camila is almost done when she remembers something important.

“Thank you for taking care of me last night, too. I don’t think I mentioned that to you yet.”

Lauren nods, “It wasn’t a big deal, but you’re welcome.”

“I know dealing with my drunk ass isn’t exactly the easiest. Thanks for putting up with me.”

“It wasn’t the bad,” Lauren shrugs her shoulders nonchalantly. “You just kinda ate, changed, had a slight mental breakdown, then went to bed. No biggie.”

Camila’s mortified that her brain chooses that particular moment to remember what she had said. “I’m so sorry about that, I don’t know what happened. I’m really embarrassed.”

“Don’t apologize, please,” Lauren’s tone grows serious. “You’ve been pushing things down for a while. It’s okay to let them out, don’t be embarrassed. We don’t have to talk about it.”

Thankful that Lauren is so understanding, Camila nods and continues eating her sandwich.

“Hey, I wanted to ask you something though.”

“Hmm?”

“It doesn’t have anything to do with last night, don’t worry. I was just wondering if you wanted to play in a softball game with me and bunch of my friends next week. You can invite Dinah.”

Camila’s eyebrows furrow curiously, “Is it like a real game with a crowd and everything or are you guys just playing for fun?”

“It’s just for fun. There’s a softball field included in this park that’s like twenty minutes away from my place. I do this thing with my friends where we all get together like once or twice a month to do something one of us really likes. It’s my turn to pick this time, and we’re going to have a little softball game,” Lauren explains. “I haven’t played in a while and it’s a good way to brush up on my skills." 

"That’s pretty cool, but I’m not really good at sports,” Camila says awkwardly. “I was really bad at putt-putt and that barely requires much strength.”

“It’s okay, it was cute.” Lauren smiles at the girl. “You don’t have to play, but you can still come if you want. You can meet my friends.”

“Is Normani going?”

“Yeah, she’ll be there.”

“Then I’m sure Dinah will want to go. She might also want to get revenge for putt-putt so don’t be surprised if she takes it a little too seriously.”

Lauren clenches her fists in the air, “Tell her to bring it on!”

Camila laughs, “Calm down, crazy.”

“I’m very passionate about my softball, Camz. One does not simply ‘calm down’ when it comes to softball.”

“God, you sound like such a jock.”

“It used to be worse, you’re lucky you didn’t know me in high school.”

“I was like really nerdy in high school, I’d say you’re the lucky one.”

Lauren balls up one of the unused napkins on the table and tosses it at Camila. “Don’t say that, I would have loved to know you in high school. I bet you were really cool.”

“No,” Camila throws the napkin back at her. “I was nerdy and people picked on me. I really doubt you would have liked me.”

“I wasn’t superficial, Camz. I wouldn’t have cared if you were ’nerdy,’ I probably would have had a big crush on you then like I do now.”

“You were with Reagan.”

“So? I’m sure if I had known you things might have been different. She was my best friend before we started dating, she would have still been my best friend even if we weren’t together.”

“Don’t say that,” Camila says, her voice growing defensive. 

“What?” Lauren asks innocently. I’m just saying, if I had known you before—”

“Well, you didn’t,” Camila spits back at her. Lauren’s taken aback by her sudden outburst, unsure of what to say. “Things weren’t different, Lauren. I didn’t know you, and you didn’t know me. You loved Reagan, you didn’t love me.”

Lauren swallows harshly. “Camila—”

“Don’t.” She holds up a hand to halt the girl. “Just stop saying things like that.”

Camila can see the hurt flashing in Lauren’s eyes as they fall to focus on the table, suddenly finding it very interesting. She looks dejected and Camila instantly feels guilty for snapping. She doesn’t even have a good reason for doing it.

She wants to apologize, but her mouth feels like it’s full of lead.

“Okay,” Lauren says, breaking the awkward silence that’s fallen upon the girls. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to annoy you.” Camila doesn’t respond—or even make any indication that she’s heard what Lauren’s said—so Lauren gathers the trash from the table with shaky hands to put it on her plate. “I think your break is probably over,” She says as if Camila’s going to yell at her again at any given second. “I should let you get back.” Quickly standing up, she pulls a few crumpled bills from her pocket to lay them on the table next to Camila’s clenched fists. “That should be enough to cover mine.”

Lauren feels awkward and she just really wants to get out of there. She doesn’t know why Camila’s so angry all of the sudden, and she isn’t sure if she wants to risk pissing her off further. Giving her space is probably what’s best right now. 

“Let me know if you still wanna come to the game. I’ll see you later.”

“Lauren—sit down.”

Lauren’s heart clenches painfully at how it sounds more like a desperate plea as opposed to a harsh demand. She obeys, carefully sliding back down into the seat, eyes trained on Camila and how she’s fidgeting with the ring on one of her fingers. 

“I’m sorry I snapped at you,” Camila says remorsefully. “Especially after every stupid thing I’ve done in the last twelve hours. If anyone deserves to be mad right now, it’s you.”

“It’s okay.”

Camila shrugs, the indifferent look on her face giving no room for debate on Lauren’s end. “I don’t know why I got so mad, I just—something about what you said rubbed me the wrong way. But I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that.”

Lauren nods, allowing Camila to carry on. The brunette’s definitely gotta give her props for how patient she is.

“I just don’t want you to discredit your relationship because you met me.” Camila bites her bottom lip nervously, afraid of Lauren’s reaction. “I don’t want you to end up forgetting about what it was like to be with Reagan just because you like me. And I know that’s fucked up to say, but I-I don’t want that to happen.“ 

The other Latina still doesn’t reply, and it makes Camila feel uneasy. She’s worried that she’s crossed a line and Lauren doesn’t want to talk to her anymore.

The nerves are getting to her, so instead of just shutting up, she keeps talking. "I don’t want you to think of me as a replacement.”

“You done?” Is all Lauren says.

Camila nods her head sheepishly. She’s braced and ready for whatever angry retort Lauren has on the tip of her tongue, but she’s not prepared for how much she knows it’s probably going to sting.

“Camila…”

Her eyes shut tight and she holds her breath.

“I didn’t mean for it to come off like that.”

Wait, what?

“I was only saying that if you had been in my life before, things would be a lot different than they are now. I’m not trying to discredit my relationship with Reagan because I loved her. I love her. But that doesn’t change the way I feel about you, or anything that’s happening between us." 

Lauren’s green eyes shimmer with warmth and adoration for the girl in front of her, and Camila wonders if this is what it feels like to finally be able to breathe. 

"She’ll always be my best friend—here or not. Nobody could ever replace her, and I would never trade any of the memories we have for all of the money in the world. She has a piece of my heart that I’ll never get back.”

“Don’t think of yourself as a replacement for anyone else, because when I look at you, I only see you.”

Camila wants to cry because she’s being so overly sensitive and Lauren has such a beautiful way with words. She opens her mouth to respond, but Lauren beats her to it.

“And I get where you’re coming from. Don’t you ever think I feel the same way about Mason? That I might just be someone you’re trying to use to get over him with?”

“But you’re not—”

“Then you shouldn’t feel that way with Reagan.” Lauren tilts Camila’s chin up so she’s forced to look at her. “I’m not using you and you aren’t using me. We’re just two people who are attracted to each other who are coping with what we feel by taking it slowly and exploring what this could turn into. We aren’t replacing anyone or anything. Everything we have been through, and the people we have loved will always stay with us and that won’t change. Okay?”

“Okay,” Camila agrees, instantly feeling relief wash over her body.

“Okay,” Lauren confirms, her smile returning as she reaches across the table to give the girl’s fingers a light squeeze when she tangles them together. “Now, let’s get you back to work. I need you to help me pick out some records." 

And just like that, everything is okay again. 

***

A/N: hi. i know this took a hot minute but it’s the longest so far and i hope this was worth the wait.

also, i know it may get repetitive at times with how the characters are feeling and what they will and won’t do, and how they might often contradict themselves. the human emotions are very complicated and fragile; we all do things to protect ourselves and i hope it isn’t confusing on how i’m trying to portray that. but with that being said, thank you for your patience and i’ll see you for the next chapter which is undoubtedly going to be one of my favorites. ❤