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Love is possible

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Chelsea FC Cobham Training Ground, Cobham, Surrey

 

 

“Stop staring, Vic. She has a girlfriend.”

“So? I’m not going to woo her, anyway I just like to watch. That’s it.”

Victoria Chase handed the ball to her teammate Chloe Price and headed to the locker room. The practice was over. She didn’t stop staring, at all, though. Number 16 the newest addition to Chelsea defence was definitely something worth to look at. Doesn’t matter if she cleared the ball, performed the tackle, drink from the bottle or just breath. 

“But you’d love to.”

“As you said. She's taken. And even if she wasn't, queen bitch like me won't be her type. And even if it was… whatever. This is all new for me. Watching is more than sufficient.”

Victoria sighed. Frankly, She had no clue what she would love to. It’s only been a couple of months since she finally admitted boys will not do it for her. It’s only been a couple of days since she told her parents, which ended in disaster. Which she kind of expected. She entered the locker room and finally stopped shamelessly ogling Number 16. It was a sacred place. Checking out a shirtless teammate in there was off-limits. She was many things, lots of them she’d discovered only recently, but she wasn’t a creep. 

“Did you pick a suitable candidate for a roommate already?”

“No, I didn’t. And find someone else to pester, will you?”

Chloe was more pain in the ass than usual, and even when she meant well, Victoria wasn’t in the mood. She tossed her things to the sports bag, took the towel and hoped the shower will wash away at least some of her pressing issues. Like the desire to look at Number 16 glorious ass. When the water was cooling her heated body situation only worsen. Her thoughts went two weeks back to birthday dinner with her parents. 

“You can’t break off the engagement with Nathaniel, Victoria. He’s such a nice guy. He studies at Oxford and his parents--”

“Nate is gay, mother!”

“Every issue can be settled, my dear if there’s a will.”

“As I am! We are both homosexuals. You know. As Elton John or Martina Navrátilová.”

“Martina who? I don’t understand.”

Yeah, Mrs and Mr Chase definitely didn’t understand. Engagement with Nathan Prescott was the last thing that kept them in check. Her football carrier didn’t make them particularly happy, mildly speaking. She had pissed them almost equally with her major choice. Forensic science. Mother couldn’t even spell it correctly. Father refused to pay tuition until she chose a proper major. She had had to work her ass off to get a scholarship. And she had also been successful in deceiving the parents that Nathan is going to live with her, so they had agreed to pay rent till they both studied. While Nate had outmatched his parents the same way and was fucking some fancy boys in Oxford, she had had the place all for herself without a need to take care of expenses. But it wasn’t true anymore.

“Damn it!”

She slammed the shower wall and pondered if it had been any other way how to act. Maybe she should lie some more, keep engagement intact. Mother and father had believed that because of Nathan, she will drop forensic science and football eventually and go to Oxford. So if she’d lied a bit longer… No, she couldn’t. She knew when she broke it off with him, they’ll lose patience and stop supporting her for good. The gay bomb had been unnecessary, but it felt amazing. For a very brief moment. Father had tried to reason with her. First warning, the tow truck taking away her beautiful Aston Martin was a hit below the belt. 

But it only pissed her more and convinced her she’s not going to yield, or moving out from her apartment, even when the rent was expensive as fuck. Not to mention her indulgence in luxury. She didn’t know how, yet but she was about to find a roommate who’ll pay half of the expenses and fix this mess.

“Hey, queen bitch, are you coming or what? Max is here, we can drive you home.”

Chloe shouted from the locker room. Victoria wanted to tell her to fuck off, but without Aston Martin, she had limited options. Use public transport or go with Chloe and her girlfriend Max and listen to the patronising speeches how she should finally pick someone. Some freaking stranger who will share an apartment with her. 

“Just give me a sec, loser.”

“Ok. We’ll wait for you in the parking place. Wanker.”

If not for the messy situation, she would shout some more nice words towards Chloe, but it all made her feel drained, so she passed. She just turned down the water, dried herself and put on her fancy clothes. The clothes she maybe won’t be able to afford to buy soon.

“Hi, Vic. Are you alright? You seem troubled.”

Great. It was only her and Number 16 left in the empty locker room. She smiled at Victoria warmly and looked genuinely concerned. It made her nervous. Now, when she stopped pretending she’s someone who she’s not, straight judgemental asshole, she has no clue how to behave around girls. Especially girls who she liked. She had used to be a bitch. The more she had fancied someone, the more bitchy she had been. Defence mechanism. But there was no reason to be like that anymore. Unfortunately, it was the only pattern she was familiar with. 

“I-I’m fine. Just exhausted.”

“I heard about your break-up. I’m sorry about that. I’m here for you if you want to talk.”

It wasn’t any effort to get close to Victoria, she was sure of that. Number 16 was just a fellow defender. A normal, kind and friendly person. A person who would never be interested in someone like her.

“It’s fine, really. It wasn’t a bad break up or anything. We just aren’t into the same things. He is into boys I’m into girls. Kind of incompatible.”

“Oh, I didn’t know.”

“Yeah, I tried to pretend I didn’t know either.”

“That’s one more reason I’m here for you if you want to talk.”

“Thanks, but I really have to go.”

“Have a nice day, Vic.”

“You, too.”

Victoria smiled and left the locker room. Number 16 and her girlfriend have been together for two years, and everyone knew. Literally. Friends, teammates, coaches. They fucking kissed in the national television broadcasting Danish footballer of the year gala. It sounded like sci-fi. She couldn’t imagine holding hands with a girl in public, thinking about kissing a girl in tv made her sick on her stomach. She has been judged her whole life because of who she was. Rich man’s daughter. And now this infatuation with women that couldn’t be ignored anymore. Fuck. She just wanted to kick some asses on the playfield, wear her Burberry dress and Dior bag in the club and not give a shit what anyone thinks about that. She couldn’t.

 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

Chloe and her girlfriend Max had been camping in Victoria’s apartment for the whole evening. Or more specifically on the floor of her living room. Maybe they tried to prepare her for the fact she’s not going to be here alone anymore. Or perhaps they just wanted to piss her. She shouldn’t be such a bitch about this. She knew that. They were trying to help. With her shitty personality, she didn’t even deserve friends like them. It still surprised her sometimes how it all happened. She knew Chloe for years, they played together since she could remember. And had totally hated each other in the beginning. Two stubborn, strong-willed individualities couldn’t have it any other way. Right after they had found a way how to respect each other on the field, it almost had gone to shit quickly after one crazy night. They had won youth league and partied hard and hooked up. It had been the first time Victoria realised her preferences might be different than she had supposed to believe. Of course, it had caused a mess in her head. She avoided Chloe, she lied to herself about the insignificance of the whole encounter and chased boys like her life depended on it instead. Crazy times. And then Chloe’s father had a car accident. Victoria still had no clue how exactly it all happened. That she actually was a human being for once, not the queen bitch and supported Chloe when she needed it the most, but it brought them together again. As friends. Having a friend indeed was one of the most remarkable things in the world. But then Chloe met her long lost friend/lover Max when she attended the college. Victoria liked Max instantly. Well, of course, she pretended she couldn’t stand her. Also accepting the whole lesbian thing between them was a tremendous struggle. Even when they were always cautious in front of her. When Chloe and Max got back together, she felt a whole range of mixed emotions. Jealousy, rage, sadness. She thought she’s going to lose a friend. Instead, she gained a new one. Somehow, they stuck with her. And in the end their sweet gross loving relationship fell into place like one piece of great puzzle and became one of the reasons she finally admitted she cannot pretend anymore. That she cannot marry Nathan Prescott, or any man and she doesn’t have to be a pretentious bitch all the time because of her own frustrations. This realisation supposed to free her and bring her happiness. Yet, it didn’t feel like it recently. 

“What about that girl, you talked with, yesterday? This one.”

Chloe beamed and fetch the laptop she was checking to Victoria, who was sitting on the couch, massaging her temples and hoping to wake up from this nightmare. 

“Did you see her profile?”

“Yeah, it says she studies medicine. She wants to help people, no? It’s a good thing.”

“When asked about him she said Louis Daguerre is a singer from One Direction.”

“Doesn’t mean she’s a bad person if she doesn’t share your artistic obsession.”

“And her favourite book is 50 shades of Grey.”

“See, she likes colours. Some sense of art at least.”

“Check her profile more thoroughly, Chloe. It suggests she slept, or she wants to sleep with every boy, girl and probably also the stuffed animal in the campus. I don’t want this place to become a brothel. Animal brothel.”

“Ok. Ok. Maybe she’s not the best candidate.”

Victoria was ready to open the bottle of wine and drink it in one shot when Max woke up from her dream world and turned to Chloe.

“What about Steph. You know the Nerd girl. Parents work in the film industry. Best friend of your classmate Mikey. She studies Electrical Engineering, same as you but she’s already couple of steps ahead because she didn’t slack off like...”

“You’re awesome, Max. Steph would be perfect. She shared the place with Mikey and his brother last year but constantly complaint about too much testosterone. She’s on vacation in Italy now. So I think she hasn’t figured the housing situation, yet. I’m calling her.”

Victoria would stop this insanity right away, but it was so unexpected she only could stare in awe. The phone call was very brief, and it seemed this Steph girl was going to accept the offer. The offer that wasn’t even on the table.

“Wait, Chloe, wait!”

Victoria snapped the phone before the deal was sealed.

“As long as it’s a neat and quiet place, where I can focus on my master degree in peace, I don’t care about money. I’m in.”

Initially, she planned to cut the call quickly without any deal, but the voice on the other side was magical. Magical, what a stupid pathetic expression, she thought. But that was precisely the first thought that came to her mind after hearing it. The words neat and quiet also help to melt her bitchy heart. A bit. So instead of politely telling the potential roommate to fuck off, something else happened.

“Good day. I am Victoria. Victoria Chase. The owner. Would you kindly answer a couple of questions first?”

It wasn’t for the debate, and she wasn’t the owner, but this conversation had to stay civil, she’s in charge despite the weird magical power of the voice on the other side.  

“Oh, hello. I’m Steph. I can--”

“Do you enjoy a company of stuffed animals?”

“Stuffed animals? I can't say I do.”

“What’s your favourite book?”

“My-- --book?”

“Exactly.”

“I guess, Gray & Meyer’s Analysis and Design of Analog Integrated Circuits. Or, wait… I choose The Art of Electronics from Horowitz and Hill instead.”

Was the girl teasing her, she wondered.

“Fiction. I meant fiction.” She said matter of factly.

“Harry Potter.”

“Holly shit in the bucket, could you be more original perhaps?”

“The wonderful wizard of Oz.”

“No kidding, Dorothy.”

“Steph, my name is Steph.”

Was she oblivious or just responded to the sarcasm with much better sarcasm? Victoria was irritated and interested at the same time.

“Who’s Louis Daguerre?” Max and Chloe gave her WTF look because this question definitely was unfair. 

“The guy who exposed a thin silver-plated copper sheet to the vapour given off by iodine crystals, producing a coating of light-sensitive silver iodide on the surface… and seized the light? I guess.

“ So is that an answer or a question?”

“Are you asking these questions every potential candidate?”

“SHE DOES!” Chloe shouted before Victoria could react, which resulted in the middle finger pointed her way.

“Did someone answer correctly?”

“No.”

“Are there any more questions?”

“No.”

There was something about this girl. She was amusing. In a weird way. She wasn’t stupid and had a sense of art. Sort of. And sought for neat and quiet. She reminded Victoria of Chloe. Minus rebellion without the cause element and neat and quiet. Damn it! The possibility she'll find someone better was equal to zero.

“So are you interested?”

“Do you have a bathtub?”

“Are you interested?”

“If you have a bathtub.”

“I haven’t.”

“Shame.”

“Too bad, Dorothy. We could be perfect roommates. But I only have a whirlpool tub. Bye, then.”

“Wait. Wait, Victoria Chase, the owner. I’m interested.”

Victoria felt back on the horse. Even when she wasn’t straight judgemental bitch anymore, she still had what it takes to be a queen. 

“I’ll email you the details. When you can move in?”

“September the 4th. But my dad would bring my stuff on 1st.”

“Alright. Don’t forget about neat and quiet. That’s the main rule here.”

“I thought it’s no stuffed animals.”

“That too, smartass.”

“Have a nice evening, Landlady. I am looking forward to meeting you.”

“Wish I could say the same, Princess of Oz.”

Victoria handed the phone back to Chloe, who bore smug expression. As she just solved the world biggest mystery. Even when it was actually Max, who brought Steph in.

“Don’t grin like that. If she pisses me, I kick her out. And I’ll kick you in the shin.”

“And then what? Sell all your Dior bags? I just save your ass. And your precious bags.”

“If I remember correctly, it was your precious girlfriend suggestion that saved my precious bags. Temporarily.”

“Thx, Vic.”

Max said, took Chloe by hand and dragged her to the hallway.

“Come on, Captain Chloe. Our job is done here.”

Chloe gave Max a light peck and looked at Victoria one last time.

“And I have a bonus for you. Steph is a lesbian. If you’ll be nice, she can give you a handful of advices.  She definitely knows how to get a girl. Her girlfriend is Elite look model who works in Milan.”

They left, and she sighed. She didn’t need any guidance. She wasn’t about to make a move on anybody anytime soon. Watching was pretty much enough for her.

 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

“This one is good, Vic.”

“No, shit, Max. And you’re supposed to be the new rising star of photography? It’s rubbish.” 

“Alright, It’s rubbish. Satisfied?” 

“Very much.”

Victoria grabbed all photos spread on her kitchen table and tossed them where they belonged. In the trash. She had taken them the other day in Westminster. She believed a little photo shooting diminish the overwhelming feeling of anxiety that was appearing a lot recently. But it didn’t. Football always worked for her when she needed to release some steam, to be wild and ferocious. Photography had the opposite effect. It always calmed her. There were times when she dreamt about her pics in some big gallery. Like real art. Although she had many nasty personality traits, thankfully stupidity wasn't one of them. She figured out her cold, bitchy heart and self-discipline can make her a great footballer but never an outstanding photographer. She didn’t have what it takes to be an artist. Sensibility. Like Max, for example. That’s why she didn’t choose photography for her major and picked forensic science instead. She found it amusing that her pictures of crime scenes will help catch criminals, eventually. Her photos will definitely affect people's lives. Just not the way she had imagined.

“Hey, what’s bothering you?”

“Except your girlfriend occupying my couch, eating my food playing on my console? Nothing, really.”

“I heard you,” Chloe shouted.

“I hope you did and take your lazy ass somewhere else.”

“Is this about Steph?”

“Steph?”

“Your new roommate who is going to move in on Monday.”

“Fuck, I forgot it’s almost the time. Thx, Max. Now I will think about this shit, too.”

“So what are those other shits you’re thinking about so hard you can’t even take one solid picture.”

“It supposed to make me feel better to admit it, but it didn’t. Hell, I feel like crap most of the times.”

“And you are talking about?”

“I don’t want to be a lesbian.”

“Oh. Is there any particular reason why?”

“Because it complicates everything.”

“Like?”

“Like everything, for fuck sake. I don’t even know how to recognise those of my kind. What if I hit on someone who’s heterosexual?”

“She rejects you. No big deal.”

“No one rejects Victoria Chase!”

“I thought your I’m the queen of the universe period was over.” Chloe joined the conversation again. 

“Some piece of garbage on my couch can speak. How marvellous.”

“Vic, calm down. If this bothers you I can assure you, there are places we can visit, where are plenty of girls that are our kind.

“What about the door or jacket?”

“What about--- what?”

“Who holds the door for who and who gives the jacket to who if there is too cold when both are girls. Who?”

“I’ve never---”

“And what if she would want to hold my hand in public. Shit. I don’t want that. Everyone will look at us.”

“No one will care. Besides, you don’t have to hold hands in public if you don’t feel like it. Some couple don’t do that, no matter if there are two girls or boy and girl or--”

“And what about the wedding?”

“You are really wrecked, aren’t you? From I will not hold her hand to a wedding in less than three seconds. Anyway, same-sex marriage is legal in England, you know..”

“I’m talking about proposal. Who proposes who? It’s so confusing. Everything. Why things can’t be simple? Where I learn about these shits?”

“It’s not something you should learn about, it’s how you feel it. You and your future girlfriend or wife. When the time will come, when you'll meet her, you'll know what to do. Maybe don’t be bothered by that, yet. Just try something easy. Hook-up or dating. No one marries the first person they meet.”

“Bullshit. I bet you’ll do. Besides, this is so easy for you to say. You and your lowlife girlfriend are fucking soulmates. One of a kind. Childhood best friends became lovers and lived happily forever after.”

“It was anything but easy for us, Vic. I hurt Chloe in more ways you can imagine. I didn't know if she would take me back if she’s ever loved me in the first place. I had to fight for her. And I would do it again thousands of times. It took me a long time to understand, but she's my number one priority.”

“And you are mine.”

Chloe appeared next to Max and suddenly look all tender and vulnerable. It wasn’t something one could see often. Victoria was sure they would kiss if she wasn’t there but respected her state of utter loneliness and just stared at each other lovingly. Like forever, until Chloe turned to her.

“And you Vic, you’ll find special someone, too. And the fact that it’ll be a woman won’t change anything. But Max is right, just take it easy. One step at the time. Don’t be bothered by jackets and door or for fuck sake proposal. Try to grab a coffee with a girl first. No need to hold her hand, right away. Or try it with a couple of different ones and all those other things will come naturally.”

“Well, if an asshole like you found a perfect girl like Max, there is definitely a chance for me, too.”

Victoria chuckled and felt her eyes watering. She would swear Chloe wanted to react, but instead, they both hugged her tightly. 

“I hate you guys. I hope you know that.” 

She muttered, and a felt a lot better. 

“Don’t you think it’s becoming hot in here? And I mean really hot.”

Chloe was first who left the triple hug and looked severe.

“We told her to grab a coffee with a girl first, isn’t it too soon to even joke about threesome, love?”

Max didn’t sound amused.

“Oh, babe I didn’t mean… You two don’t feel it? I lower the temperature at air-condition console three times and despite that this place is becoming hotter and hotter.”

Victoria rolled her eyes. She was happy and calmer for two seconds. If air-condition really was broken, life had a funny way how to screw up with her. 

 

Chapter Text

Victoria’s head

 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Chelsea FC Cobham Training Ground, Cobham, Surrey

 

The practice was over. Number 16 was mesmerising as always. And still in the relationship with the best midfielder in the world who currently played in Germany. Hundreds of kilometres away. Still, they were able to maintain a genuine connection. Victoria wasn’t able to maintain any connection even with girls they were right next to her. Like the other day, when she had gone out for dinner with girls from the team. Chloe had tried to hook her up with a waitress. It didn’t end well. The waitress had been good looking, not a total dummy and clearly interested. Still, Victoria had felt anxious and under pressure. Everything about their conversation was forced. Flirting with a girl in public just came out wrong and extremely uncomfortable. She couldn’t make herself to enjoy it. She suffocated. Stalking No. 16 from afar was pleasant and satisfying. And safe, because No. 16 had a girlfriend and nothing will ever happen between them. But real interactions, those only brought a massive headache. She sighed, thinking she’ll never have an actual girlfriend because, in her stupid head, Victoria never will fully accept the fact that she’s a lesbian. It was so frustrating. She would blame her wicked family for it, but the truth was, it was only herself who was stuck with irrational fears.

Another pain in the ass was the situation she couldn’t ignore anymore. Some strange girl is going to move with her today. She didn’t even know how she looked like, nor she spoke to her again. All formalities had been settled through email communication.  Seeing this girl or hearing her again would make all this roommate thing real, which Victoria wanted to avoid as long as possible. So a couple of hours still left. Even when her things already were in the spare room of Victoria's apartment. Dad of the roommate and some friend named Miki had brought them on Friday. But she is not going to think about it now. She decided she didn't need a migraine. Yet. Chloe appeared right next to her and smiled sympathetically. No sarcastic remarks, no teasing. Maybe she was a bit emphatic for once and realised how hard this new life of a lesbian without money was for Victoria. Or maybe Max just told her to be kind today. Because she was the one from this couple who actually knew what empathy was. One way or another, nothing could ease her raging thoughts and suppress her bitchiness. Not today.

“Need a ride home?”

“I’m not going home. I have an English literature class.”

“Don’t you study forensic science?”

“I do.”

“Since when it’s necessary to take English literature classes when you study forensic science.”

“It isn’t.”

“You’re really charming, you know? Everyone must love spending time with you.”

“Absolutely.”

“Are you going to act like an asshole all day.”

“You, bet.”

“You know what. Use public transport and suffer.”

“With pleasure.”

“And fuck you.”

“You wish.”

Public transport. What a nightmare. Especially in hot September day like this one. She left the stadium and took the bus that was only half full of people. The sufficient space around meant no sweating stinking tossers in her proximity. She was more than thankful for that. If she will be consistent and keep her spot in starting eleven, maybe she could buy a car, she thought. Her contract with Chelsea F.C. Women guaranteed extra money for a clean sheet and for playing from the start. Her performance on EURO’s was also solid. Initially, she shouldn’t even play, just warm the bench, but Laura Bassett had injured in the first game, and Victoria replaced her. Maybe that was one of the reasons she had finally found the confidence to break the fake engagement. Also playing for the National team wasn’t only a matter of pride but also brought some financial bonuses. So maybe she won’t need this new roommate for long. She just had to play her best, be focused, and destroy the opponents‘ effort to score in cold blood. Yeah, she definitely was great at it. And she also loved it. So it should be no trouble. 

After two bus stops, she got out and head to the underground. The platform was crowded. Two things popped in her head. No chance of half empty wagon.  Risk of sweaty morons around imminent. Maybe she should be nicer to Chloe, she could sit in her pick-up, right now. Damn! The underground train arrived, and if she didn’t plan to go on foot, she had to join the swarm of people trying to get in. She considered the spot right next to the door as best because she could go in and out on every stop and enjoy some space compared to the packed wagon. When the door was about to close she spot the nerdy but cute girl in red and white baseball t-shirt with batwoman logo and simple blue jeans running toward the train. Such foolishness. Never run after the bus or a girl, there always be another one, she thought. At the same moment, a stinking weirdo behind her decided to take something from his backpack and pushed her in the process. She stammered and hold the closing door in an attempt to regain stability. The automatic safe system opened the door again, and Nerdy girl was able to catch the train.

“Thank you. I hate to be late, and if I didn’t catch this train I wouldn’t catch the consecutive-- Well, I guess you don’t need to know that. Anyway, thanks. I owe you one.”

The girl winked, and Victoria realised it must look like she held the door on purpose. She also realised she found this girl really appealing. For a nerd. And that voice of hers. Did all nerds have such a magical voices, that was a question that came to her mind. The train moved, and since none of them was holding, they moved too, and Victoria basically ended in girl’s embrace. She must be freshly showered. Because the runner girl not only looked nice, she also smelt marvellous, and it made her shiver. If this was a movie one of them would ask another for a coffee and eventually it’ll all end with a pompous wedding. Victoria was fully aware of cold reality without any invitations for coffee or weddings and also of her raging desires and frustrations. That’s why she backed off quickly.

“No prob.” She cleared her throat. “You hair smells nice, by the way.” Holly fuck. She couldn’t believe what in the hell just happened, but she was sure those words were indeed said aloud, not only in her head. She had to save the situation, right away. “So in return, you can shield me from these sweating zombies around.”

The girl smiled so there was a hope it didn’t sound completely idiotic.

“So you want me to use my special fragrance attack?”

“Shield. I have plenty of my own powerful attacks.”

“Like?”

Victoria grinned and turn to the smelly backpack guy who had pushed her to the door before.

“Would you do yourself a favour and ask your girlfriend to buy you a deodorant for your birthday. Oh, wait. You don't have a girlfriend. Nevermind, then.”

Guy frowned and looked embarrassed. Some of the other passengers chuckled, but runner girl smile was the only thing that caught Victoria's attention.

“Like sarcasm and bitchiness, you see.”

“Oh, I bow to you, powerful warrior. Those traits are really invincible. But could such power be used properly without my mighty fragrance shield?”

The girl added with cockiness and pulled Victoria closer in an attempt to save her from sweaty hordes eager to get in the train when it reached another stop.

“I suppose not.”

The hell just had to freeze. A really lovely lady was probably flirting with Victoria. And she definitely was flirting back, and it didn't make her feel sick on her stomach or anxious.

“So you play for Chelsea?” The girl pointed to her sports bag. “Or just fangirling, too much?”

“Do I look like a fangirl to you?”

“Absolutely not. But you don’t look like a football striker either. So it let me wonder..”

“About?”

“Why you have Chelsea sports bag that totally doesn’t fit with your whole posh outfit.”

“And you already have some theories, don’t you?”

“I do. I am good at creating stories.”

“Well, I’m definitely not good at listening to other people stories, so you have one shot.”

“Your boyfriend forgot the bag at home, and you love him so much you don’t mind to travel across London with public transport just to make sure he can go to the practice.”

“Hell, no.”

“Easy, I was teasing.”

The girl laughed, and Victoria realised how easily she could be read. She also noticed how much she didn’t want her to think she got a boyfriend or any interest in boys. And it didn’t make her feel awkward or embarrassed. She wanted to spend more time with this weird but adorable creature. Unfortunately, she was running out of time. When the train stops next time, she’ll have to get off. It was now or never situation. She could act, or she may not see her newest crush ever again. Not long ago, it seemed unthinkable, but she was about to make a move. On a girl.

“Right, storyteller. But the next stop is my last on this train, so if you want to share more of these stories of yours, you have to--”

“Exclude boyfriends from my wonderful storytelling?”

“I definitely wouldn’t mind but what I meant--”

“--that I have to get off on this station too? No prob. My journey on this train ends here, as well.”

The girl linked her arm with Victoria’s got off the train and walk towards the elevator, and it caused shivers down her spine.

“You’re peculiar type, fragrance shield girl. Did someone ever tell you?”

“Pretty much, everyone. So, I have to catch another train to Euston Square, which gives us ten more minutes for storytelling or talking about my special fragrance shield.”

Oh, Victoria could talk about that captivating scent for hours. About how she could let herself to be lost in it. About how she would bury her nose into the crook of the neck of the girl she met 20 minutes ago and.. Fuck. Her sexual frustration just reached a new peak, and that’s why she had to cool down immediately. Intending to leave the left side of the staircase free, she stepped on the escalator leading to the Northern line platform reluctantly and unhooked her arm from her lovely companion.

“So you said Euston Square?”

“Or we can discuss Euston Square if you like. Yeah, I mentioned it.”

“Do you study on UCL, too?”

The girl left the escalator staircase, waited for a second for Victoria doing the same and then hooked their arms again and grinned. As it seemed they were both heading to the same location. University College London.

“If I didn’t yet, I think I’d send application right away.”

“Because they have the best department of tactical shielding, I bet. Fragrance shielding, to be precise.”

“Now you confused me. Did I pass charisma check or you just turned me down?”

They both laughed and entered the train to Euston.

“Are you asking if your attempt to flatter me was successful or if I missed it completely?”

The banter, the easiness of the whole conversation, the little bit of flirting on both sides. Victoria had never known she was capable of such a thing. With a girl. The only time when she wasn’t uptight and tensed was on the football field, or in her whirlpool tub. It wasn’t even her primary focus, and she accomplished great achievement. She didn’t overcompensate at all. Unfortunately, anxiety was such an integral part of her life she couldn’t rid of completely, yet. And it slowly started to crawl under her skin. Was this girl making a move on her? Teasing her? Or just trying to be friendly? Did Victoria want the first, second or the latter? Damn.

“I asked if my charisma…”

This was deep waters for Victoria, she needed to go back to something she was good at.

“Hold the thought about charisma, till…” She did the dramatic pause, just to transfer girl attention from possible flirting. (or just being friendly, which couldn’t be recognised, yet, with so little experience in the field of flirting with girls).

“Till?”

“I wonder how did you know about Chelsea? Are you a football fan?” Victoria pointed at her sports bag witch Chelsea F.C. badge and revived her prior conversation topic.

“No. God. No. Sports are not for me. I don’t watch, I don’t do--”

“You don’t?”

The girl froze for a moment and then burst into laughter.

“I guess now I ruin my chances completely. Telling the football player, I don’t like football.”

“I’ve told you the bag is not my boyfriend’s, and I even might suggest I don’t have one, but I’ve never said I am a foot--”

“Defender, or midfielder. Definitely not a striker.”

“Ok, go on.”

“Well, I’ve told you storytelling is one of my feats. Every good storyteller has to be observant.”

Observant storytelling companion smirked, and Victoria pulled her a bit closer when the train stopped, and a crowd of the commuters went in and out. She breathed her scent again, cautiously, look her in the eye and then she knew. This wasn’t only a little chit-chat.

“And what did you observe?”

When the gap between them was reduced to a minimum for this time, it wasn’t Victoria’s doing.

“Except your nicely shaped shoulders and biceps? Beautiful smile.” The words were said in a low voice, so only Victoria could hear them. Unexpected and for a yet undiscovered wave of energy floated through her body and she bet she produced one of those smiles again.  Those she never imagined someone could call beautiful. The train stopped again, and they were both threw back to reality realising it was Euston. Their destination. For a while, they walked in silence but still arm to arm till they left the underground.

“So how my biceps connected me to a midfielder or defender position.”

“Nowise. But you are too clever to be a striker. They are always dummies.”

“And what makes you think I’m clever?”

“Dumb people usually don’t attend UCL.”

“Seems like you don’t lack a wit either.”

“Are you trying to flatter me, football player?”

“Am I more successful than you, storyteller?”

They stopped because they reached the UCL main building.  The girl checked her watch and sighed.

 “I have a class in building D in five minutes, which is like half a mile from here and then I have to run some errands and settle some issues, but--- I wondered if--”

“Meet me at Bronze tomorrow. At twelve. We can grab a coffee or whatever you storytellers are drinking.”

“Sounds great.”

“And you can tell me how it is possible for someone who doesn’t like football to know so much about it. And maybe also your name.”

“It’s S---”

“Hey,” Victoria put the finger on girl’s lips gently, “I said tomorrow. Don’t you know you can’t say the whole story at once? What kind of storyteller you are? You need to keep the listeners tensed. So they crave for more.”

Not eager to do so, she removed her finger and was rewarded with a playful smile.

“The one who will be late for a class if not leave immediately. See you tomorrow, a football player with no boyfriend.”

Victoria reluctantly unhooked her arm and watched the girl leave, still grinning like a thirteen-year-old who just bought the ticket to One Direction concert.

“Centre-back.”

She shouted, in need to see the girl’s face one more time, and it worked because she turned. “I’m great full back, too but I prefer centre-back position. So yeah, true defender.”

“I should have known. That’s why you were so smitten by my fragrance shield. You want one as much.” Was her answer before they finally separated and rushed to attend their classes.

 


 

Steph’s heart

 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fancy residential building, Richmond, London

 

Steph reached her destination and looked up at a fancy residential building. It was one of those characterised by the superior display of provisions along with the touch of elegance in all spaces. No wonder the rent was so high. Fortunately, she didn’t have to care about that. She had a full scholarship, and her parents didn’t mind to cover all other expenses till she is in college. They even wanted to buy her own place when she started UCL, but she refused. She agreed as an adult she shouldn’t live with them, anymore. And actually, for two years she didn’t need a penny from them. She made her own money and shared an apartment with her best friend Mikey and his brother Drew. In the neighbourhood that was far from as nice as this one. It definitely had some pros to live with two boys, but in the end, the cons outbalanced them. So she knew she had to move out for her third year. One of the options was living with her girlfriend. Her two years contract with Elite Model Milan was supposed to end, and she planned to come back to London. None of it had happened though. When Steph had come to Italy in June, she kind of knew. Deep down, she knew the end of their relationship was near. Their love faded away long before that day. Their vacation didn’t even begin, and it was over. Steph wasn’t sure who brought up the possibility of a break up first, but they both agreed, eventually, that it will be the best path to chose. They had drifted. In the end, their lives hadn’t been intertwined at any point. Despite everything, she decided to stay in Italy and travelled for almost three months. By herself. Roadtripping, enjoying Italian cities and landscapes. And women. Never staying more than a couple of days. It was so out of character for her, but maybe she needed that. Such catharsis. To realise she’s ready to move on. Steph didn’t believe in God or fate, but it sure felt like higher power when Chloe had called her two weeks ago. Because it had been exactly that point when summer adventure started to become walk on the wild side. The side when she was considering skipping the year or not coming back to England at all. Mum and dad always gave her freedom and would support any decision of hers, but Chloe’s call reminded her the life in London she actually missed very much.

And there she was back in her hometown. She took a deep breath and entered the building. It looked even better from inside. She made herself acquainted with the receptionist. He politely asked her to sign necessary legal documents and then he gave her the keys. He also said that miss Chase didn’t come home, yet. Miss Chase. Steph smirked and pushed the elevator button. She doesn’t even know how this miss Chase looked like, yet. She didn’t care much. Chloe told her she’s busy and antisocial but good at heart and then Max, Chloe’s girlfriend, added that she can be a really great friend when she comes out of her bitchy shell.  Frankly, Steph’s mind didn’t go that far, yet. Probably because another girl dwelled in her head. Blonde Chelsea football player with a beautiful smile, really kissable lips and insanely long fingers. The things she could do with those… Steph left the lift and tried to stop the naughty thoughts. They knew each other only for a couple of hours. It was inappropriate. Yeah, in the summer she had enjoyed a couple of one night stands, focused solely on sexual attraction for the first time in her life, but she wasn’t that girl, she didn’t want to be. Besides, the sexy footballer was so much more than a looker. She was witty and charming. Definitely a girlfriend material. Girlfriend. Thinking about someone as a possible girlfriend right after meeting her wasn’t the best approach either. Steph opened the apartment door and decided to cool down a bit. Take things to step by step. Coffee first then it will be decided what’ll come next. She walked through the apartment hallway and stopped in the large living room/kitchen divided by a bar counter. The place was spacious, bit minimalist but still cosy, precisely what dad told her. She doubted him a bit because minimalist and cozy usually were exclusive, somehow it worked in this apartment. But it was also extremely hot in there. There were two possible explanations. Victoria Chase was an avid fan of heat and saunas or… Steph’s eyes checked the apartment and found the air-conditioner unit next to the balcony door and remote controller on the coffee table near. It didn’t require a master degree in electrical engineering to figure out it was out of order. She trusted her abilities and had no doubt she could fix it in no time. But first, she needed to ask the receptionist if such self-repairs are even allowed and second she needed to change to some shorts and a tank top because with extreme heat around the risk of melting was imminent. 

45 minutes later, the AC was fixed, and the apartment started to cool down, finally. Steph knew she should begin to unpacking, but after the situation with heat had been solved, her thoughts went back to the girl from the metro. So the only thing she unpacked was hibiscus tea. Then she went back to the kitchen and found the kettle and the teapot in the counter. When the tea was finished, she sat on the bar stool and put her phone on the bar table. For a moment she just stared at it wondering if she should check the football player. It would be so easy, if she played for Chelsea FC, Steph just needed to type the Chelsea FC Woman squat to google, find her name and absorb as many information as this girl was willing to share on her social networks. She grabbed the phone and touched the screen and.. Fortunately, in the last possible moment she decided, she’s going to be a normal person, not a crazy stalker and wait for tomorrow. When she was about to head to her room and start unpacking the sound of the keys clicking in the lock suggested Victoria Chase, her new roommate was already home.

“Hello, Victoria, the owner. I’ll be right there with you.”

Steph realised she is wearing black shorts and a blue tank top. No bra. Which was a perfect outfit to survive the heat wave caused by broken air-condition, but it definitely wouldn’t be her first choice of what to wear when meeting a posh roommate for the first time.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I fixed your air-condition. I talked with the receptionist, and he told me there is some problem with the contractor. So I decided to check it myself.”

It wasn’t any time left for picking a new suitable outfit, so she at least hoped her explanation will be enough.

“I’m St--”

Holy Shite. Steph forgot the outfit once she entered the hallway. Victoria Chase, her new roommate, was the same girl she met on the metro, the girl who said her hair smells nice 30 seconds after the encounter and brought the shiver down her spine. It was a shocker, but significant part of Steph was actually thrilled, she will have many more opportunities to be acquainted with this girl than she hoped for. Alas, Victoria Chase didn’t seem to share the same enthusiasm.

 

Chapter Text

Split

 

Monday, September 4, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

Victoria entered the housing complex, and her head was still full of the girl she had met earlier. Her thoughts were so occupied she forgot about the matter of utmost importance that she couldn’t ignore anymore.

“Good evening, ma'am.”

The receptionist gave her a warm smile and a cheerful greeting. 

“I’ll be damned if it wasn’t, Albert.”

She also forgot about how mad she was with him and with the complex manager for still not be able to fix the situation with broken air-conditioning.

“Oh, ma'am miss Gingrich already arrived, so I gave her keys as you ordered.”

“What? Who?”

“Miss Gingrich, your new roommate. We discussed this two weeks ago?”

“Right.”

Now, she remembered. Fucking hell. That’s where her good mood went in no time. She took a lift to her floor and tried to think positive. Having some stranger around was just a necessary inconvenience. As much as she knew about her from Chloe and Max, this girl was a win-win situation. Money wasn’t the issue for her, she was friendly and mainly focused on her master degree. So there will be no partying or excuses about why the rent wasn’t paid in time. According to Chloe, she also had a long time girlfriend who lived and worked in Milan. Which meant no frequent visits nor one night stands. Maybe they won’t even see each other much. Who she definitely was eager to see more was the mysterious beauty with fragrance shield. She decided to take comfort in the thought they were about to meet tomorrow and opened the main door of her apartment. The smell of hibiscus tea, her favourite was the first thing that stunned her. She was out of stock, so the new girl must bring it. Then it was cool air, making the place suitable for the living. Air-condition was working again. The third occurrence didn’t just stun her. For a moment, she thought it gave her the stroke at least. 

“Hello, Victoria, the owner. I’ll be right there with you.”

“Well, whatever.” She tried to stay calm, but the voice from the kitchen delivered very conflicted emotions. 

“I hope you don’t mind, but I fixed your air-condition. I talked with the receptionist, and he told me there is some problem with the contractor. So I decided to check it myself.”

“I have a  feeling that would be the last thing I mind,” Victoria muttered, so her companion hardly could hear her.

“I mean, I hoped for better achievements, when I decided to study electrical engineering but it’s a start.”

The voice was elated and coming closer, but the new roommate still wasn’t in sight. Maybe Victoria was mistaken and…

“I’m St--.”

But she wasn’t. The girl in front of her and the girl she had met earlier was the same person. 

“Oh my, what a coincidence. Anyway, I’m Steph, the storyteller but also your new roommate.”

Steph was a bit shocked, but it seemed she was adjusting to the new situation well offering a handshake. Victoria, on the other hand, she wasn’t adjusting at all. She just endured in the hall staring in awe. As if it wasn’t enough, the girl who intrigued her more than anyone before is going to be her roommate. This girl stood right in front of her wearing just clingy black shorts and a white tank top. No bra. And now, when barely dressed, it couldn’t go unnoticed that she was perfectly tanned. And those legs of hers and arms. There was no way she didn’t do any sports as she claimed. She lied. One couldn’t have such legs from sitting on the couch. But if they were sitting on the couch, Victoria would definitely like to put those delicate legs in her lap and slowly explore what kind of sport made them so delightful. And this girl, this body will be around every day. Shit. It was too much, too soon. She needed to calm down.

“Damn it!”

For the second time that day, something that wasn’t supposed to be said aloud escaped her mouth.

“Are you okay?”

“I-I am.” 

It took everything in her, but Victoria finally managed to put her shits together. For a moment.

“I just remembered I have.. dentist appointment tomorrow, I can’t have a coffee with you.”

“Well, no problem. Since we live together, we can have coffee together at any time.”

Steph took a step back and gave up on the handshaking. It seemed Victoria‘s deception went unnoticed. Also, the little distinctive smirk she always did when being dishonest.

“Or Tea. I brought hibiscus, Chloe said you like it and thought it could be a nice welcome present. Since I didn’t know much about you. Except you have a whirlpool tub.”

Whirlpool tub. Steph had to mention the freaking whirlpool tub, and Victoria’s thoughts almost wandered from exploring her legs on the couch to exploring them in the whirlpool tub.

“Right, nice. I-I mean, thank you, but I need to shower now. It’s hot in here. I meant outside. Not here. Here, it isn’t anymore because you fixed the air-condition. I-I still need the shower though, so talk to you later. I guess.”

Victoria dropped the sports bag and head right to the bathroom. She didn’t even bother to take off her clothes; she just went in the let the cold water cool her raging emotions. What in the hell was happening?

 

Monday, September 18, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

Victoria was lying on her bed, staring to the ceiling. It was almost dark, but she couldn’t bring herself to stand up or turn the lights on. The situation was bad. Not critical but difficult. Steph, the roommate, was über hot, funny, and Victoria’s cold attitude didn’t discourage her from being friendly. Not at all. And she was exactly what she supposed to be. Neat, quiet and focused on studying. At least they had a very different schedule. When Victoria was leaving in the morning, Steph was still in the dreamland and when she was coming back after afternoon classes or practise she was out. Mostly. They barely meet or saw each other, but when they did, oh Girl. Like the other day. Victoria couldn’t stop staring. Or restrain from the interaction. Steph was outgoing and so easy to hang out. It was difficult to not engage in conversation she occasionally started. At least Victoria never initiated one.

 

The main door opened. Till she stays in her room, she was safe. There will be no temptations. Like secretly indulging herself in watching her roommate from afar being focused and sexy no matter what she was doing. Preparing Caesar Salad, doing the dishes, reading a textbook or vacuum cleaning. Victoria could hear Steph was talking with someone on the phone. Most likely, her girlfriend. She spoke to her every time she came back from school. But ended the call almost immediately after closing the main door. On the one hand, she was relieved Steph had a girlfriend because the girls with girlfriends are off limits, which meant no treat of lesbian anxiety. On the other, it pissed her to no end. Because girls with girlfriends are off limits, no chance of getting better acquainted with them. Victoria really was a mess recently. They never had had that are you dating someone conversatio n, still mentioning a girlfriend if having one would be just a normal thing to do. Steph had never done. Not a once in two weeks. That was weird. And confusing. If one is in a relationship with someone for four years, they freaking say something about their significant other from time to time. Or at least Victoria would. If she and Steph dated... Damn it. She cursed herself. She barely could look at Steph without starting an inner struggle, how could she date her? She rolled to her side and then she heard the knock on her door. 

“Are you there, Vic? Can I come in?” The devil herself. Or Angel.

“If you must.”

“Hey. Can we talk?” Steph said softly.

“We are talking, aren’t we?” Victoria spat and regretted her cold tone when she turned and spotted a concerned face of her roommate in the door. 

“I just wondered. Did I do something? It seemed we could get along well at first, but now you are… I don’t know distant.”

If Victoria stood up and take one step, she would be right next Steph. She could put her palms on her troubled face and captured her lips and.. She shook her head instead.

“No, you didn’t do anything.”

Except for flirting with me like crazy when having a supermodel girlfriend in Milan. And walking around in clingy shorts and a tank top without a bra, lying about not doing sports but having a perfect body and teasing every cell in my body. When you are actually unattainable. Not to mention if you were available, I would probably make a move on you, embarrassed myself then take a step back and have an anxiety attack right away about holding hands and jackets or zillion others lesbian stuff and ask you to move out in no time. And there are like dozens of voices screaming in my head, and I have no idea what any of them trying to say

Victoria sighed and cut the insane flow of thoughts in her head.

“It’s who I am. Cold bitch. I don’t do friendship. Little chit-chats and bonding are not for me, really. We are just roommates, there is no need to fake sisterhood or something.”

“I just thought-- I mean…. Well, if that’s what you want.”

“Yeah, that’s what I want. Neat and quiet. Isn’t it what you sought for, too?”

Victoria also wanted to pull Steph into the bed with her and bite her neck. Then spill kisses all over there making this freaking sexy nerd moan, only to silence her with a ferocious kiss and…

“People aim for lots of things, and when they have them, it’s not what they imagined. Don’t you think?”

What Victoria thought was, that if Steph stayed for one more moment, the scenario in her head would become a reality but with no small chance to end very differently than she desired. The best outcome would be her freezing after the anxiety would kick, looking like a moron. The worst would be Steph slapping her or kicking in the shin. So she turned the lamp on the nightstand on and grabbed a random textbook from it.

“I have a lot to do. So if you excuse me.”


 

Decisions

 

Friday, September 15, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

Steph washed the roman lettuce and then dried it carefully. Usually, they weren’t home at the same time, but for tonight it looked like none of them have any special plans. She started to tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces but didn’t dare to peak towards the couch. Victoria was laying there, watching a football game. Well, watching the game was an understatement because her main focus was elsewhere. Steph took the chicken breasts from the oven to let them cool a bit and turn it off. Then she put a pan on the stove and carefully looked into the glass door of the kitchen cabinet. She has been watched. The glass door reflection confirmed her suspicion, but it wasn’t really necessary. She already knew. It’s been ten days since she moved in. Ten days since she met her roommate for the first time. Without knowing it was her. And then felt a strange warmness and shiver that was replaced with confusion. And more confusion. From the very first moment, they just clicked. And from the second moment, they just drifted. Victoria kept her distance, but at the same time, she couldn’t take her eyes from Steph, thinking she was subtle when doing so. Maybe it would go unnoticed if infatuation didn’t rise on both sides. Steph moved to the fridge and took the Parmigiano cheese and anchovies, then look into the glass door again. 

“Do you like anchovies?”

She saw Victoria flinch as if she was caught doing something illicit then she calmed down when realised Steph didn’t look at her. Well, she definitely had no idea she actually did. Indirectly.

“Anchovies?”

“I thought that maybe you’ll change your mind about Caesar salad and would like to take a bite later, but I usually made it with anchovies and lot of the people don’t like them, so I thought I rather ask.” 

“You--”

Victoria turned off the TV and glanced at Steph. Then she stood up from the couch and move her way. The kitchen or her room had to be the destination. It remained to be seen.

“--You’re really kind to think about me but I think I pass. The practises are exhausting, so I guess I’m off to bed.”

Steph couldn’t shake off the disappointment, but more importantly, she couldn’t get the thought of stopping Victoria from her mind. So she wiped her hand to dish-cloth and crossed her path.

“Wait a bit.”

She said softly stopping way too close to the Chelsea defender. Victoria gulped and made a barely audible sigh but didn’t attempt to avoid further interaction.

“Care to share your opinion about anchovies first? Maybe now you’re not hungry but trust me sooner or later you are going to fall for my Ceasar salad.”

“I-- I do like--” Victoria held her breath and Steph would swear her eyes slid down to her lips. “...anchovies.”

She said after the while and looked up. Even when eager to leave before, she stayed in the place for another moment. The spark from day one was back. The electricity between them. Attraction. It was there Steph didn’t imagine it, or the whole watching thing or Victoria’s eyes on her lips.  It had happened. It was happening. 

“That’s great. Because I like them too.”

The strange, alluring tone of her own voice surprised her. And also the stupidity of her statement. 

“Enjoy the salad, then. I’m-- I’m going to enjoy my room.”

Victoria said and disappeared too quickly. 

The spell was broken. It was gone. Maybe Steph imagined all those things after all. She leant up against the wall and bit her lower lip and knew it wasn't the thing. That was something going on between them and whatever it was, it was mutual. Damn. If she could make Victoria watch her, she could also make her talk. And once they talk, they’ll figure this out and move from this weird limbo. But not now. Definitely not now. Steph realised her body was still trembling, from lust probably and her mind was clouded by Victoria’s scent. She was in no shape to talk and stay rational. But soon, she will. For tonight, she’ll just have her amazing Caesar salad. With anchovies. 

 

Monday, September 18, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

Steph walked in the residential building her phone stuck to her ear. Since she came back from Italy, mom wanted to talk at least once a day. Or visit at least once a week since her parents lived in London, too. It kind of freaked her. The receptionist smiled at her but didn’t offer a greeting or little chit-chat respecting her privacy. 

“So if you feel like it, you can move back with us any time. Or we can buy your own apartment.”

“Mom it’s fine, really.”

She never was very close to her mother, but it didn’t mean they have a bad relationship. Steph just wasn’t into girly stuff much and when a kid rather than spend time with mom she played games with dad. Whether it was tabletop or video games. 

“Honey, I just want you to be happy. You’ll fall for this football girl, she’ll get an offer from overseas, and you’ll be unhappy again. Long distance relationship just doesn’t work. You know it.”

“Mooom.”

Instead of using the lift, she took the stairs to avoid losing the signal. Even when she kind of wanted to. In her family, they always talked about things.  Not over analyse them, but there were no secrets. So she mentioned thing or two about Victoria to dad, and he obviously didn’t keep it to himself. Steph had always been taught to express herself and don’t hide anything. She had accepted this approach, and because of that, there was no restriction from her parents at all, only subtle guidance. And maybe that was the reason she never felt any urge to rebel and never gave her parents a hard time. Well maybe except from this summer. She was radio silent for almost three months. And even when mom admitted nothing, she was a bit hysterical recently. Dad told her that she had missed her like crazy, and the thought of losing Steph made her very edgy.  No loss was going to happen and no more talking about falling for a girl before talking to the girl. That was for sure.

“If you really like her, I respect that. But she should forget overseas and stay here in London. We have plenty of top clubs. We Englishmen invented football, honey, not some over-seaers. Oh, please, don’t move overseas, too.”

It was getting out of hand. Steph had to chuckle. She had never experienced her mother being so concerned. Was she really that unhappy last year and didn’t notice or was Mama Gingrich exaggerating a bit?  There was no time for such speculations because she was almost home, and mom needed to be cool down. 

“Listen ma, I’m not falling for anybody. I don’t even know if she likes me. Or girls in general. And I’m not moving anywhere. I’m also delighted to be back in London. With you and dad close to me.”

“Are you sure?”

Steph unlocked the door of the apartment and turned the lights on.

“Yes, ma. I’ve been through worse than break up or…” She peeked to the living room. It was empty. Victoria was probably in her room. The door was closed, though. “...roommate crush.” She whispered. “And you’ve never freaked out as much.”

“Oh, honey, I don’t think you were.  Besides we were always right there if you needed something. Which you never did. But now you just left for Italy and said you may not come back.”

“But I came back, eventually. And live next door. Almost. So no worries.”

“I’ll try.”

“Good. Mom, I have to go but have a nice evening and say hi to dad.”

“I will. You too, honey.”

Steph put the phone on the bar counter and thought about the conversation she just had. According to the open door policy Gingrich's had,  she never felt anxious talking about these things. Liking girls never were a problem. But because mom actually didn’t know much about liking girls , she usually talked about this stuff with dad. Well, not usually, all the time. She had no idea mother was so invested. And worried. Maybe mom didn’t know either till Steph vanished in Italy for three months. But hopefully, she wasn’t concerned anymore because they talked it off. That’s what great about talking, actually. It always solves thing out. When the dialogue serves a useful purpose. That’s why Steph knocked on Victoria’s door and hoped for success.

“Are you there, Vic? Can I come in?”

“If you must.”

Her enthusiasm and belief in the power of candid conversation were diminished immediately. Still, she didn’t plan to retreat. But things went from bad to worse quickly. Victoria not only refused to talk about their relationship , she basically refused to talk at all when banished the friendship option. 

“I have a lot to do. So if you excuse me.”

Steph just left the room, her mind blown away by the outcome. She didn’t expect the love confession, but she would never imagine being turned down so brutally.

 

Sunday, September 24, 2017   

Kingsmeadow, Kingston upon Thames, London, 

Chelsea F.C. Women vs. Bristol City Women, Women's super league

 

Stupid. It was such a stupid idea to came to the stadium. Victoria looked outstanding, played outstanding and acted like a cold-hearted bitch only against Bristol players. When interacting with teammates, she was the girl Steph remembered meeting on the metro. Enchanting and glamorous. Most importantly, she smiled again, especially when fellow defender Chelsea No. 16 was around. Steph tried to convinced herself she wasn’t jealous. Without success. 

“She’s stunning, isn’t she?”

Mikey North, her best friend who sat next obviously couldn’t take his eyes from Victoria. Just like Steph. It was him who had convinced her to come. Not like she needed much convincing. 

“Magdalena Eriksson?”

No. 16 was stunning too, indeed. Did Victoria think so? Were they involved? Steph did a little research, in the halftime break. Well, more like social network stalking. No. 16 had a girlfriend. Still, they worked great together with Victoria on the pitch, and she had to wonder if they worked great off the pitch, too.

“What?”

“You said she’s stunning, so I guessed you meant--”

“I meant Victoria Chase, geez. Your roommate. The reason why are we here.”

Mikey met Victoria once when he and her dad had brought her things to the apartment. And harboured a little crush in the meantime, it seemed.

“Didn’t you say I should go with you to see women’s football because there will be plenty of girls here that can heal my broken heart after the breakup? Which is already completely healed by the way.”

“Well, if you’re not interested in dating again, I definitely am. So maybe you could help me to figure out how to ask her out.”

Mikey’s crush wasn’t little. It was massive. Steph couldn’t say he blamed him. It didn’t take much effort to fall for Victoria Chase. When she didn’t have her cold-hearted bitch attitude on. 

“Guys, guys…”Max, who sat with them, joined the conversation for the first time. 

“First of all, I’m sorry about the breakup. I didn’t know--”

“It’s cool. I’m cool, really. It’s been more than 3 months already, and it wasn’t working, anyway. We both agreed on the that. So let’s just drop it.”

She didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Yeah, she was screwed for a couple of weeks, but it stayed in Italy, there was no point to wallow in pity again.

“Okay then, second of all, Mikey, sorry to disappoint you, but Vic doesn’t play for your team if you know what I mean.” 

Steph felt her heart beating faster from all of a sudden. Her witt was telling her the whole time that her roommate was gay as the window, but the confirmation stunned her anyway.

“My team?”

“She’s gay Mikey. Victoria likes girls.”

Mikey frowned and got stuck in his head for the moment. Steph probably did the same. If Victoria was gay and flirted with Steph the first time they met, it could only mean she liked her. But then she stepped back and basically told Steph to fuck off two days ago. Maybe she was only into casual hookups. If they hooked-up, it would be awkward to live in the same apartment. Or maybe… well, whatever it was she didn’t want to be more acquainted with Steph, anymore. She made it very clear. Or she only confused Steph more and more every time they interacted. Exactly the kind of girl that should be avoided at any cost. The sound of the referee whistle ended the game, and the crowd exploded with joy. Steph decided there was no reason to linger.

“I’m leaving guys, you enjoy the exuberant celebrations.”

“Don’t you want to at least say hi to Chloe and Vic? We can drive you home after. We will drive Victoria, anyway. She still has trouble to use public transport after her father took her car.”

It was nothing more than innocent rambling from Max, but it peeked Steph’s interested. Still, asking about details could be a bit suspicious.

“Why Victoria’s dad took her car?”

Fortunately, Mikey didn’t have any self-preservation instincts. 

“Because she broke off her engagement and told him she’s gay because she refused to go to Oxford, because she didn’t stop playing football. Many reasons, I guess.”

“She was engaged? So she likes boys too?”

Mikey wasn’t ready to give up. Steph wondered about this fiancé. Did Victoria love him? But Max said gay specifically. Not bisexual. Was it only a figure of speech?

“You know what, go ask her. But if she kicks you in the shin, don’t blame me.”

Max burst into laughter, and Steph definitely could imagine Victoria doing so if someone would piss her. 

“Guys, it’s been fun with you, but I really need to go. I have a date with mom, we are going to do girl stuff.”

“Since when you’re doing girls stuff, S.G.?”

Mikey was genuinely surprised. Steph was indeed lying, she just wasn’t in the mood to interact with Victoria or see her hugging with No. 16. 

“Well, since today, obviously.”

She waved them goodbye and rushed to the exit. 

 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

University College London campus, Bloomsbury, London

Whaler’s gym

Her calves were burning, her lungs begged for more air, and the rest of her body ached for the break. Steph didn’t stop, though. She decided to do a hundred more double unders. A couple of years back, the gym would be the last place she desired to enter. But the college duties, hours spent bent over the laptop, and consecutive back pain and stiff neck had made her wonder if she shouldn’t move a bit more. Drew, the older brother of her BFF Mikey and also a AFC Wimbledon team striker, gave her some tips on how to get in the shape and avoid stiff muscles. Usually, Drew was precisely that kind of I’m a football striker douchebag, but he loved Mikey unconditionally and when not around his football wankers he showed a hint of kindness and empathy towards other people, too. It was also him who recommended adding some high-intensity workout to her functional training. She was reluctant at first and hated Drew for stating the obvious. He said that she needed some hardcore workout if she wanted to deal with her sexual frustrations without cheating. She would never cheat, and she didn’t want to admit she had any frustrations at all. But seeing her girlfriend just once in three months definitely had negative effects. An intensive workout or lifting heavy helped to minimise those effects and brought some additional bonuses.  Like really hot body. Steph did the last jump, release the rope and went down on her knees. She was destroyed. But it was worthy. For the whole 90 minutes, she didn’t think about Victoria Chase once. 

When finally able to catch a breath, she stood up and emptied her bottle of water. Then she moved to the mat with a plan to do some stretching when her eyes stopped on the weightlifting platform. Damn. Life really did have a funny way how to sneak up on her. The queen bitch was right there warming up. Steph could easily change direction and go right to the locker room instead, without being noticed. Her brain demanded her to do so. Her body didn’t respond, though and performed opposite action. She tried to justify her irrational need to catch up with her roommate and say hi. If Victoria doesn't react to pumped sweat body in sexy shorts, Steph will drop this stupid infatuation for good. The problem will be solved. And if she will, then what, you Idiot? The rational part still tried to intervene, but it was too late.

“Hi, Vic.”

“Oh, hi.”

It was hard to tell what was happening in Victoria’s head. Because in the span of three seconds whole range of emotions reflected in her eyes. Till she shut them down and build an ice-cold wall. Steph should suppress the desire to go any further. She should say something like enjoy your workout, bye. But it seemed like she tended to act a bit masochistic recently. 

“I wouldn’t expect you here.”

“In a gym? I am a pro athlete where else you’d expect me?”

Victoria smirked and turned her down again. Way to go Steph. 

“I mean, in this particular gym, I thought Chelsea has… well, it doesn’t matter. Anyway, I just wanted to say hi. So, I should go.”

She was about to turn away and lick her wounds somewhere in private when it happened. Again. The ice wall melted, Victoria’s face softened. She even let her eyes roam Steph’s body appreciatively. They picked exactly where they had left three weeks ago on the metro. The conversation was flowing naturally. Till the game against Bristol was brought, and Steph mentioned Mikey and his crush. Victoria looked terrified from all at once, and pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place, slowly. 

“Hey, don’t worry. He’s a cool guy, and he won’t make a move. Especially after Max told him that you’re  playing for the other team .”

The words itself achieved enough. But what really was a game changer came with the touch. When Steph’s hand reassuringly laid on Victoria’s bare shoulder. There wasn’t any doubt left. The question if Victoria Chase liked her was off the table for good. She indeed did. But she struggled and tried to suppress this feeling most of the times. Maybe the girl with No. 16 on her jersey was behind it. Maybe something else. Till Steph figures out what was the issue, she should not push. At least not too hard. 

“The other team. I’ve never thought it could sound so cool till it was said aloud.”

Victoria smiled shyly and then held her breath. Steph let her indulgence assume control once more and gently run her hand up and down Victoria’s upper arm. The tips of her fingers tingled. She wanted to drown in that sensation. But last time they were so close, it scrambled Victoria’s mind for three weeks till she was able to recreate their connection again. 

“Well, I’m not going to keep you from bars, anymore. Enjoy the workout.”

She pulled her hand unwillingly, missing the contact immediately.

“Thanks. I’ll see you around.”

“We live together, so I bet you will.”

Steph chuckled and finally made herself head to the locker room. Even when the temptation to stay and watch Victoria clean and jerk was too big. Maybe one day. 

 

 

Chapter Text

One step forward

 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 

University College London campus, Bloomsbury, London

Whaler’s gym

Victoria’s noon class was cancelled. She could do plenty of things. But she felt like hitting the ‘bar’ on her own, not with girls from the team. There was a gym on the campus. It wasn’t as good as the one the Chelsea F.C. women had, but there was a weightlifting platform, so it was more than enough for her. Even when she had to deal with the dumb receptionist whose eyes laid on her the moment she entered and checking her without making any bones about it.

“Long time no see, Viki.”

“Indeed it was, Logan. Wonderful time by the way. Without your fake testosterone muscles around.”

“Uh--”

She passed him and wondered why such wankers always hit on her. On the other hand, will she really be able to take it to the next level if hotties like Steph or the one she just spotted in the far end of the gym doing double unders made a move? Victoria had to stop for a moment and stare because that eye candy did an amazing job. She only saw her from behind, but it was a mesmerising view. The girl with the jumping rope wore black under armour shorts and a turquoise tank top that revealed too much of her back muscles and her arms and legs worked in perfect harmony. In theory, double under was just jump higher than usual while swinging the rope twice under the feet. Simple enough. In reality, it was ridiculously difficult. Especially as many reps as turquoise tank top girl were doing. Better stop staring and get changed, you stalker. Victoria scolded herself and head to the locker room. Maybe she should let Max and Chloe take her to one of these places where girls who are into girls going. But what kind of girls it would be. Predators? Or submissive dummies who want to be pursued. What if she won’t like them. What if she will like them? Why everything had to be so complicated? When in the pink tank top and black leggings, she took the towel and bottle of water and exit the locker room. She also made a promise to not look at jumping rope girl again or any girl in the gym and fully focus on weightlifting. After the warm-up, her state of mind was much better, and she looked forward to hitting the bar. Something else hit (on) her though. A magical voice from behind.

“Hi, Vic.”

“Oh, hi.”

Under Armour shorts,  turquoise tank top girl with the jumping rope was no one else than Steph, the roommate standing right next to her. Of course, it was her, Victoria should know the moment she found the girl attractive, even when she couldn’t see her face because this girl occupied her mind more than she dared to admit. 

“I wouldn’t expect you here.”

Steph looked puzzled, but she was shining like always. Maybe more than usual because her body was covered with sweat. Combined with unique gym lightning, she looked like a goddess. Victoria realised she is not far from going full mental because she felt the urge to lean closer and inhale Steph’s after workout scent. She bit her lips instead and sighed at the ridiculousness of the whole situation. 

“In a gym? I am a pro athlete where else you’d expect me?”

“I mean, in this particular gym, I thought Chelsea has… well, it doesn’t matter. Anyway, I just wanted to say hi. So, I should go.”

It was as if Steph remembered the further rejection all of a sudden and was ready to respect the boundaries. The thing was, Victoria didn’t want her to. She was all fired up to stare at that hot pumped body as long as possible. She got no explanation, but anxiety vanished. And against everything she was or had been, for the moment she didn’t give the slightest fuck about the world around her. 

“I would say if someone’s presence in here is unexpected, it’s yours. Also your double unders. They were perfect. Didn’t you say you hate sports? How does it work with sweating in the gym and being so good in it?”

“So you were watching me?”

Steph chuckled, and Victoria had to do the same. What this girl was doing to her? She was flirting again and doesn’t even feel bad about it or awkward. She also swept her eyes down appreciatively, linger way too long on tortoise tank top cleavage before she brought them back up to meet Steph’s gaze. 

“Did you see your double unders? Of course, I was watching you.”

“So it would be only fair if I watch you too, wouldn’t it?”

“You’ve already watched me. On Sunday. When we hit Bristol City for six in the season opener.”

Victoria would swear Steph blushed but it was hard to tell in gym dim light. What the hell was going inside this girl’s head, she wondered. The moment Victoria allowed to melt her icy facade for a second and be at least a bit friendly, Steph become all outgoing and flirty with her. And then she became shy and distracted when caught being at the stadium. Watching the game when she had mentioned before she didn’t like football. 

“Who said I was watching you? Maybe I was watching a game.”

“You don’t like football, remember?”

“Damn, you got me.”

“So what brought you to the stadium?”

“My friend Mikey. He may harbour a little crush on you when he brought my stuff back then. Remember him?”

Of course, Steph didn’t come to watch her game but as a sidekick of her friend. Especially after she was basically told to fuck off. What was Victoria thinking? But what makes her even more disappointed was the fact that Steph was probably trying to hook her up with her pal who was a guy. It was like a punch in the face. It erased everything that happened between them. The flirting, electricity, attraction. Or maybe it had never been there for Steph in the first place. She thought Victoria was into boys the whole time. And the worst part was, she had no right to be angry. There never was any promise between them. She wasn’t ready anyway. This lesbian thing was so confusing. Her head felt dizzy, her heart felt heavy. She just wanted it to disappear, till Steph raised her hand, touched her bared shoulder and smiled reassuringly.

“Hey, don’t worry. He’s a cool guy, and he won’t make a move. Especially after Max told him that you’re  playing for the other team.”

The massive flash of that strange unknown energy she felt on the metro three weeks ago run through her body again. For a short amount of time, she thought it was so intense that it caused a nose bleed. But it didn’t. All just come into place and everything felt so great, however.

Monday, October 9, 2017

University College London campus, Bloomsbury, London

Victoria packed her things but didn’t leave the class right away. She just sat there in an empty room, trying to clear her mind. The phone in her bag buzzed, but she ignored it. She should be in a rush. Chloe was already waiting for her in the campus parking lot, so they can drive to Heathrow Airport together. Tonight Chelsea Women were flying to Munich for Champions league game. They won in the first leg, which was terrific, but it was a close call. And the match in Germany will be completely different. For example, Steph won’t be in the stands. She checked her watch and stood up finally. 

“Oh, fuck.”

She closed her eyes for the moment and tried to reason with her stupid infatuation. She couldn’t. So instead of heading to the parking lot, she made a little detour. If she’s lucky, she’ll spot Steph at least for a couple of minutes before her next class will begin. She rushed towards the building D, and massive relief washed all over her when it happened. Steph was sitting on a stairway chatting with some boys, her classmates probably. She wore dark blue jeans and a black polo t-shirt + red beanie. No matter if she smiled or lightly punched one of the guys to the shoulder, Victoria found her powerfully attractive. She licked her lips and felt the buzzing phone in the bag again. It must be Chloe. 

The call remained ignored. Victoria should be aware of how Chloe hated when someone wasn’t picking the phone because of the accident her dad had had. The summer, three years ago. He was supposed to pick Chloe on the stadium and drive her home. He didn’t. Chloe called him a couple of times, but the call went to the voicemail after a moment every time. They were on non-talking terms back then, Victoria and she, it was a couple of months after their hook-up. It was obvious something was off, so she stayed with Chloe, anyway. When it was revealed dad’s car was destroyed by truck, it showed as a very good decision. William survived and recovered, eventually. Their friendship was renewed, too. But Chloe’s panic attacks when someone wasn’t picking the phone didn’t fade away a bit. Victoria should remember this. But her head was up in space. 

Her eyes slid down to her watch reluctantly. She decided to allow herself five more minutes of indulgence before she starts to feel like a stalker and leave. Or maybe… maybe she could go there and say hi. That’s pretty normal between roommates. Meet at the campus and say hi. It’s definitely more normal than watching someone from afar like a creep, she thought. It settled, then. She walked towards the little group sitting at the stairway in front of building D. Just say hi and then finally go catch up with Choe. Maybe sniff her hair a bit. She told herself. When Steph spotted her, she jumped right to her feet with joy. Victoria couldn’t help and smiled.

“Vic?! Hello!”

“Hello.”

“It’s good to see you.”

“I was going to meet Chloe and drive to Heathrow, and then I saw you, and I wanted to say hi.” It was absolutely unnecessary to explain herself and also stupid. Still, Victoria kept talking. “..so, hi.”

“Well, hi, yourself. Again.”

“Now, I should probably go.”

“Well, good luck in Munich.”

“Victoria Chase doesn’t need luck.”

“Oh, right. How could I forgot, Victoria Chase depends solely on other stats. Charisma, Intelligence and Bitchiness.”

“Not everyone has a mighty fragrance shield like you.”

It was insane and idiotic and inappropriate, but Victoria couldn’t stop herself and lean towards Steph a bit, her hand stroked strands of Steph‘s auburn hair. She would probably do the sniffing too if some college Hermione Granger look-a-like didn’t interrupt them.

“Steph! Hello! Guess what, dear, I have great news for you.”

“Spill it out then.”

Victoria’s anger and disappointment were interfered by the buzzing phone. Everything was better than stand and watch how that bitch ruined her moment with Steph, so she walked away a bit and picked it.

Chloe was… Actually, Victoria came to the conclusion no words could adequately describe her wrath, so she just pretended to listen to the flow of swearing and complaining. But it didn’t bother her much. What disturbed her greatly was Steph expression full of excitement and then her arms wrapped around Hermione Granger double. Was this girl the girlfriend from Milan? But she supposed to be the model, not a dork. It fucking doesn’t matter. The sharp, intense pain in her chest paralysed her body. She almost dropped the phone. Her fingers felt numb. She forgot to breathe. Or couldn’t. Nothing she ever felt before hurt like this. Where this agonising irrational blast came from, remained a mystery for now. But it was worse than a kick in the shin. She couldn’t know it was jealousy. She never experienced it before. Confused and conflicted, she turned away and started walking away from hugging couple. She needed to focus on anything but them. The phone seemed like an as good option as any. 

“So where the fuck are you and when you finally bring your ass in here?”

“I’ll be there in a minute.”

She said flatly and ended the call before Chloe could add any more ire. Breath just breath. Her brain fought to regain control of her body. The air in the lungs eased the pain a bit indeed, so she quickened the pace.

“Vic, hey, Vic.”

But Steph caught up with her. What in the hell she wanted?

“Listen, I just--”

“You, are not going to bring that girlfriend of yours to my apartment or any girl. When I’m in Munich. Or ever. You can mingle someplace else. Those are the rules. Understood?”

“Wh-what? She's not--”

“Understood?”

Victoria interrupted sharply, and Steph just stared in confusion. 

“Well, no but… Yes. I guess.”

“Good. I have to go.”

And she did. For this time, Steph didn’t follow, and she was glad. In the car, Chloe just spat at her that she’ll never talk to her again and taking her to the airport was the last thing she ever going to do for her. The drive to Heathrow was worldless. Usually rational and thoughtful, Victoria suddenly didn’t understand a single occurrence happening in her life. All she wanted to do was burst into tears or scream or both. She had to stay calm, though in front of the press or coaches or teammates. She needed the spot in the starting eleven. When in the plane, No. 16 gently touched her arm and suggested to take a seat with her.

“Are you ok?”

“No, not really.”

“Do you wanna talk--”

“If I talk, I burst into tears.”

“I’ll speak to Viggy, and ask her if she has no trouble to switch so we can be in the same hotel room. Then you’re going to tell me everything. How about that?”

Victoria nodded and somehow survived the whole flight to Munich snuggled into No.16 side. But in hotel, when they reached their floor and headed to their room, she just couldn’t anymore. The breakdown came in the middle of the hallway.

“She has a girlfriend. And she must think I’m a psycho. I think I’m a psycho, too.” Her voice broke. The tears started to fall down her cheeks.

“Chloe?” No. 16 dropped her bags and took Victoria into her arms.

“She, as well, I guess.” She sobbed, “Everyone probably thinks I’m a psycho,” and fell deeper into the hug.

 


 

Two steps back

 

Monday, October 2, 2017

University College London Library, Bloomsbury, London

Steph sat in the UCL library, waiting for her next class. Mikey and Chloe were only sophomores, so they didn’t share courses, but they were free at the same time on Mondays, so they always joined her. Well, Mikey always joined her. Chloe teamed up with them frequently and sometimes also her girlfriend Max. Like, now. Usually, they talked about school stuff. Or Mikey and Chloe asked her about the lecture they were struggling with, and she tried to educate them. But when Max was present, it was mostly the little chit-chat. Today, Steph didn’t participate much. She wasn’t even sure what they were talking about. Just nodding and saying things like Oh really from time to time to look invested. Her real interest was something else. Someone. She was staring at her phone replaying the video from Saturday game when Chelsea played in Sunderland. Victoria scored her first goal this season. The beautiful header. She knew she was screwed. She liked her roommate far more than she should. She was attracted to her. And even when the attraction was almost undoubtedly mutual, she still had no clue why Victoria was so restricted so often and refused to act upon her feelings.

“You like someone. Oh, you do!”

“What?”

“You’re staring at your phone and grinning like an idiot. You either tell me, or I take it from you and find out which hottie are you checking on Instagram.” 

“I’m not checking anyone just the news.”

It was nothing bad with liking Victoria but Steph wanted two of them to figure things out before anyone else know. So she hoped she sounded convincing and Chloe will not dig deeper. She was cool to hang out mostly, but sometimes had her moments and acted like twelve years old. Her curiosity could get the best of her. Fortunately, Mikey intervened. 

“It’s Fatima, the exchange student from Turkey, isn’t it? The one who likes stuffed animals.” Or unfortunately. His suggestion was outrageous. 

“Mikey North, I thought you are my best friend, and you would know some trophy hunter who slept with everyone around never will be my type.”

“Well, your type can change. I’ve never thought I’d have a crush on someone like Victoria Chase.”

“Mikey, buddy drop it, she’s not into guys, you know that.”

Chloe became strangely overprotective of Victoria, and Steph had to wonder, why. 

“She had a fiancé for two years, that means--”

“No, Mikey, she’ll never go back trust me.”

“Damn. Sometimes I wonder if there are any straight girls around me at all. Maybe it’s your influence. Maybe I should--”

“--ask your best friend Steph how to flatter a woman. I like a girl, and I wait till she makes a move is not the best approach.”

Mikey frowned and buried his head in a textbook. He retreated from the dispute with Chloe, who turned to Steph instead. 

“So who’s the girl and when you’re going to ask her out? Maybe she has a sister, and you’ll convince her to go out with Mikey.”

“No thanks, if that sister isn’t Victoria.”

Steph rolled her eyes and shook her head. She didn’t plan to answer and regretted Mikey didn't accept the truce because Chloe was about to lose her patience. Then Max softly stroked the small of her back and save the situation.

“You know, what? Keep it to yourself. If it’s not Victoria, I’m cool with anyone.”

Chloe joked, but it felt like a cold shower.

“What if it is Victoria?”

Steph half teased but part of her was serious, that's why Chloe’s shocked expression surprised her so much. Mikey wasn’t very pleased with her statement, either.

“Steph Gingrich. Please. Please, tell me it’s not Victoria.”

“It’s not,” Steph said resolutely. “Now, you’re going to tell me why I can’t like Victoria Chase.” She added with a pinch of anger.

“You can’t like her because I liked her first, that’s a bro code.”

Mikey made his last attempt to prove his claim for Victoria is most genuine and justified. For this time, Max reached for his hand and squeezed it lightly.

“Ever heard of the saying silence is golden ?”

He looked at Max then at ired Chloe and then he went back to his textbook. 

“Steph, you know I love you.” Chloe started still a bit annoyed. “But you can’t get involved with Victoria. You two are in completely different stages of your lives. You are out and proud, comfortable with who you are and seeking for love. She’s still struggling, anxious about her new identity. She can't even think about holding a girl's hand in public without an anxiety attack. She’ll hurt you because she won’t be able to give you what you need and deserve and you’ll hurt her because you’ll put too much pressure on her. Because not being out and hiding and struggling would be a step back for you and you won’t be able to stand it. It’ll end in disaster, and I’ll have to decide which one of you still will be my friend, and I don’t want that. I want you both.”

“So I can’t like Victoria because you’re selfish?”

“You completely missed the point!”

“Easy, easy, Chloe.” Steph put both hands on Chloe’s shoulders and offered peace. “Actually, I think it was the selfless thing I’ve ever heard from you.”

“Sometimes, there is sparks of kindness in me, after all.”

“Yeah, so don’t worry. It’s not Victoria. It’s Samantha from my class if you really must know. But it’s nothing serious. I don’t like her that much, anyway. So let’s not talk about it, anymore.”

“Okay, fair deal. But when you like someone THAT much, you'll say.”

“You bet.”

Chloe smiled and reluctantly reached for the textbook, too. Steph didn’t show a hint of her inner struggle, but she felt weird. She never lied to Chloe. Telling her she liked Samantha just to shut her up was necessary, but still, it left the bitter taste in her mouth. 

 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

The phone rang. Steph opened her eyes and tried to come to her senses. What time it was? Who the hell was calling her? And why? And then she remembered the weird interaction with Victoria yesterday and her theatrical departure to Munich. Followed by all Steph’s calls going right into the voicemail. So maybe someone came back to her senses and was finally calling back. She grabbed the phone enthusiastically but lost the vigour when seeing it was only Chloe.

“I hope you have a good reason for waking me up so early.”

“Early? For fuck sake, Steph it‘s almost eleven. It’s not early even for me.”

“So? My classes start at 2 pm.”

“Well, you’re awake already so…”

“Sooo?”

“I need to talk to you about something.”

“Or I can tell you to sod off and go back to sleep.”

“Come on, you can’t be a bitch, even if you wanted to. It’s not who you are.”

“Watch me. Or listen.”

“Steph, wait, please. It’s important.”

“Urgh, speak then.”

“I-- It’s about Victoria. She-- Fuck. Remember our conversation about her anxiety. Lesbian anxiety?”

Of course, she remembered, she thought about it a little too much. Especially after yesterday. Was that a reason why Chloe brought it up? Did Victoria said anything to her? They must spend lots of time together, flying to Munich. Maybe even share a hotel room. But what could she say? Steph didn’t plan to bring any of girls to their apartment. She wasn’t interested in any. Well except Victoria, but she didn’t push, nor she put any pressure on her, did she? Before jumping to the conclusion, she decided to let Chloe talk.

“Well, refresh my memory, maybe.”

“We, talked about it the other day, that she’s struggling with… Shit, it doesn’t matter if you don’t remember. I just.. I wanted to ask. I think she’s falling for someone and doesn’t handle it well, and…”

Chloe wasn’t herself. It was so strange for her to stutter like that. And she was overprotective of Victoria again. Was she jealous? Of Steph. Shit. Steph rather stayed silent evaluating a situation. 

“...and. Damn. She’s not much of the talker when it concerns her feelings, but maybe she mentioned something to you. You live with her, after all. I really want her to feel better. But yesterday we fought and then she cried. Fuck, I’ve never seen her cry before. She’s screwed. I really hope it’s only because her parents shunned her and she is still bent out of shape because of it and because she finally admitted she likes girl. It sucks, still fixable, though. But if she likes this particular girl, it’s much worse. So did she--”

Now, Steph was confused. It definitely wasn’t about her. Was it ever about her?

“Who?”

“What?”

“Who’s this girl.”

“Our teammate. No. 16. You probably don’t know her. The problem is she had a girlfriend, and if she’s messing with Victoria’s fragile heart, it won’t end well. So did Victoria say anything?"

No. 16. Fucking No. 16. So this tall, athletic nordic bitch with fantastic legs and amazon warrior vibe was the reason behind Victoria’s lack of interest, after all. Not anxiety. She thought. If Steph weren’t overwhelmed with an inexplicable outburst of jealousy, she would see how many holes Chloe’s theory had. Or that there are actually two theories, one without any actual girl involved. Unfortunately, a wave of emotions ripped her rationality apart. 

“We barely talk.”

“Oh, come on. You are so easy to hang out. She must share something with you. I’ll bet you were even able to smooth her bitchiness. With your dry sarcasm.”

“Have you heard me? If you don’t talk to someone, she can’t be a bitch to you. Or share anything with you. So she wasn’t a bitch to me and didn’t say a shit about...”some fucking, she wanted to say but bit her lip instead and only added… “No. 16.”

“But…”

“Chloe, listen carefully, I guess I’m not that easy to hang out as you think because she hasn’t expressed any intention to be acquainted with me. Period. Something else you need?”

“Did Victoria--”

“Something that doesn’t concern Victoria. Who is her own person and should have an option to make the terrible choices, like falling for the taken teammate, if she’ll decide to do so. And then learn from these choices, perhaps.”

“I don’t know if they are involved, ok? Maybe she is just low because of how things ended with her parents and stressed that she has no idea who she really is anymore. That’s why I wanted to ask if you noticed anything because you’re always pretty mature about everything and observant and… whatever, if you don’t hang out at all, you couldn’t notice a shit. And you’re right if she wants to mingle with someone who’s taken and be hurt, it’s her choice. I will not bother you anymore. Bye, Steph. 

“Wait, wait… Fuck.” 

Chloe already ended the call and let her drown in confusion. Did Victoria also liked No. 16, or did she not? Could things ever be less complicated between them?

 

 

Chapter Text

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Grünwalder Stadion, Munich Germany

FC Bayern Munich vs. Chelsea F.C. Women, UEFA Women’s Champions league

The last third of the game was near. It was 30 minutes plus additional time what stood between Chelsea and another round of Champions League. Victoria looked at No. 16, playing as her twin centre-back and then back on three Bayern midfielders getting too close to their box, for zillionth time tonight. But the solid backline was their bane. They worked together really great, it was one of the reasons Chelsea defence played so well. So swift non-verbal exchange between them was enough to understand each other. No. 16 closed the midfielder with the ball. Under Pressure, she wasn’t able to deliver her pass properly. Victoria expected that much and intercepted it just in the right moment. Bayern defence was too high at the moment. She saw two Chelsea strikers, Chloe and Fran Kirby having a lot of space in Bayern half of the pitch. Chloe was closer, forty meters approx. Victoria would deliver the pass without trouble. Fran was across the field, almost eighty meters away. Odds for success were lower. If Chloe wouldn’t act selfish and pass to Fran, it could be a great opportunity. But if she’ll try to score by herself... It wasn’t time for contemplation, though. Victoria glance at Chloe, who started an amazing sprint, right away. The ball was delivered perfectly. For the moment, Victoria thought Chloe decide to go through two centre backs which would end in disaster. But she didn’t, she deceive them and passed to Fran Kirby, who almost tore the net of Bayern goal. 1:0. According to the first game, Bayern needed to score three goals to beat them and make it to the other round. She walked to the No. 16 and jumped on her happily. 

“You know this goal, this is your doing. You stopped the Bayern effort and started the counterattack. No to mention you helped me find my sanity, again.”

“We did it. So it’s our doing. But don’t tell strikers. Especially not to her.” No. 16 laughed and pointed to cheery Chloe, celebrating with the rest of their teammates. 

“You don’t have to worry about it. She’s still not talking to me.”

 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Franz Josef Strauß Airport, Munich, German

Standing in the plane aisle, Victoria stared at her baggage, reached for the pocket where her phone was but change her mind, eventually. The plane will start to roll soon, anyway. She closed the overhead bin and sat next to No. 16. 

“Being a coward, persistently keeping your phone off, I see.”

“I’m not a coward, just--”

“Chill Vic. I was joking. And if you want to talk about Steph some more, I’m here.”

Victoria blushed a bit. On Monday she had been a total mess, Chloe was pissed with her (for a good reason), and the emotional outburst with Steph surprised her so much, she just had to tell someone. Even if Chloe wasn’t angry, speaking with her wasn’t an option because she was a friend of Steph as well. And then No.16 just happened to be there.  Victoria would never consider to had such talk with her another crush, but in the end, it was the best thing that could happen. Because unexpectedly, she understood Victoria and her situation more than well. First, it had been almost unbelievable that her unintelligible mumbling interfered with uncontrolled sobbing brought up some tangible informations. But her fellow defender, No. 16 was patient and listened carefully, asked or added a thoughtful remark at the right moment.  And then Victoria calmed down a bit, and her own words started to make sense. Maybe because she dared to be honest, didn’t overcompensate and for the first time her hazy suppressed desires and slurred bewildered thoughts got a precise shape when said aloud. Long story short: She liked Steph a lot. She was appalled what would happen if Steph liked her back but even more dreaded she didn’t feel the same. Supermodel girlfriend only worsened both of her worries. The good thing was there were moments of brightness when she wasn’t anxious and unsettled that Steph was a girl. As incredible as it seemed she really had that calming effect on Victoria. It definitely was a good start. But then again, the girlfriend factor was another obstacle in the way.

Considering her young years, when she hadn’t hesitated to chase any boy, break any relationship just to prove she’s not a lesbian, she had sworn she’ll never stand between two people again. No. 16 gave her hope, though. She shared her own story about how she met her current girlfriend, the girlfriend that kissed her on national television and everyone could see how much in love she was with No. 16. The story knocked Victoria down. Since when they had met for the first time, this girlfriend dated someone else. A boy. So it brought a slim chance for a good ending. No. 16 gave her hope she'll overcome her lesbian anxiety but also warned her to not cross important boundaries with Steph. If she and her girlfriend weren’t meant to be, they have to figure it out by themselves, without Victoria’s intervention. She could be a catalyst for the break-up but not a reason behind it. That’s what No. 16 claimed, and it made sense. But what was the most important and most awesome about their conversation two days ago, that it helped Victoria to calm down a bit and admit she wanted to be with Steph, even when she didn't know if she's capable of seeing or dating a girl, for now. 

“Thanks but I already talked too much. Your pretty head must be overload by my stupid rambling.”

No. 16 wanted to say something. Something nice and sweet no doubt because she was just like that. Except for the time on the playfield, there she was a fearful warrior. Off the field, she was one of the nicest and sweetest people Victoria ever met. Before she could say anything passing Chloe interrupted. 

“So you not even replaced me with this amazon girl but also you’ve stopped hold yourself in check and flirt with her shamelessly.” 

“I’m not flirting, Jesus H. Christ. I have no idea how to flirt with a girl. I expected you to know the sole thought itself disturbs me greatly. And I didn’t replace you. You said you’re never going to talk to me again, only because I was late for our meeting.”

“You were 30 minutes late and weren’t picking the phone. I thought you were dead. Anyway, flirt whit whoever you want, anxiously or happily, it's none of my business. Just remember she’s taken. Mingling with someone who’s with someone else always causes a terrible mess.”

Chloe made Victoria unsettled but not because of No. 16 who had to notice and joined their conversation. 

“If you drop this mingling nonsense and never bring it again I’ll consider to give her back and switch seat with you for the flight back.” She said to Chloe and turned to Victoria. “Just talk to her, you’re friends after all.” 

“You can’t be serious, I can’t--”

“Not about that, about how sorry you are you were late and weren’t picking the phone.”

“Oh, right. Okay.”

No. 16 stood up and suggested Chloe should take her seat.

“With who are you, well with who am I sitting, now?”

“Brighty.”

“Cool. Just be nice to Vic, or I’ll rouse the whole Chelsea defence line, and we will show you, striker. Not even Fran Kirby right foot will help you.”

Chloe was keen to be herself and release a snarky comment but bit her lips instead. Then she sat next to Victoria and sighed worriedly. 

“Look, I’m sorry I yelled at you on Monday. And thank you for the great pass yesterday.”

“Doesn’t it suppose to be me who’s apologising?”

Chloe looked troubled and rolled her eyes.

“I saw you on Monday evening when we arrived at a hotel in Munich. I saw you in the hallway. You were crying, on HER shoulder. Like really crying, not figuratively. And it made me even madder. Sadder. Jealous. Shit.”

“For fuck sake Chloe, I’m serious, nothing is going on between me and--”

“Not like that, Jealous. Fuck, I have a girlfriend, remember?”

Chloe threw her hands up in frustration and tried to explain herself again. 

“Vic, I’m your best friend. Or I hope I am.”

“You are.”

“And I’m supposed to be here for you like you were there for me when dad was in the hospital. But I underestimated this whole coming out situation, you obviously don’t handle well. I’ve never seen you cry before. Remember how that French bitch kicked you in the shin on U-20 world cup or when your Father told you you’re never going step on the field nor touch the ball again? Not a single tear was shed. But on Monday, you were wrecked. You struggle, and I’m the one who should hug you and listen to your rambling, not some nordic warrior with no 16 on her back, you didn’t even know a couple of weeks ago.”

“Chloe, it’s cool, and maybe I needed some outside perspective. I’m glad she gave me one.”

“No you don’t understand, I’m the first girl you’ve been with--”

“First and only.”

“See, that’s what I’m talking about. You know you’re gay because of me. I’m kind of responsible for you. I should be your support and...and.. you know me. I’m barely able to be my own support and…”

Slowly, it started to make sense to Victoria. 

“Sooo.. you figure it out when you saw me cry. That I still have hard times to accept my homosexuality?” Victoria knew exactly one person who could see right through people, but it wasn’t Chloe.

“No, I didn’t figure it out, fuck, of course, I didn’t. I saw you crying on Monday, and it scared the shit out of me because Victoria fucking Chase doesn’t cry. So I called Max, and she told me what may be your problem. And she was right as always, wasn’t she?”

“What would you do without Max?” Victoria had to laugh.

“I don’t know. Probably suck royally. But thank fuck, I have her. And you have us. We are here for you if you need anything. I owe you big. For that time when dad was in the hospital. And for those passes, like the one from yesterday.”

“You don’t owe me a shit, Chloe.”

“Shut up, tosser. If I say I owe, I owe you.”

“Just be obstinate as always, and my perfect passes will find someone else next time.”

“Well, fuck you then. Maybe I make friends with your No. 16 fella. She has a better pass success percentage than you. 0,5 better.”

“Pff, you’d betray me just like that. And you claim to be my best friend?”

“I am. That’s why I also called Steph.”

Victoria froze. Fuck. What Steph could say? That Victoria is a psycho. But usually, Chloe was greatly oblivious without Max. And Max wasn’t really acquainted with Steph, so maybe it was nothing. So she tried to keep it cool. 

“What does Steph has do do with anything?”

“Nothing. Totally nothing.  But I had to ask her about, well you. About your last month. She lives with you after all, and you weren’t all too happy about roommate thing. So after the talk with Max, I wanted to know how this new reality affects you.”

Good. Chloe was the most straightforward person. She couldn’t hold herself back. Never. If Steph said something about psycho behaviour, she would already say. 

“And what did you find out??”

“Steph said you barely spoke to her the whole month and you weren’t a bitch for once. You must be super down when you forgot about your best quality. Bitchiness.”

Such a lie! She definitely was a bitch at least twice. Steph might be close to Chloe, but she basically didn’t say a shit, and it was a fucking lot what happened between them. Whatever it meant, remained to be seen.

“Well, I guess I’m not a great roommate, but if I forgot to be a bitch, it should be  a good thing, shouldn’t it?”

“It’s not a point. I’m also a good friend with Steph, and, you know… You’re doing great, and your contract is about to be renewed. You’ll have a lot better deal, no doubt. And rumour has it Subaru, Chelsea main sponsor have some very nice deal for us since we beat Bayern, so you can have your own car again.”

“And you telling me this, because?”

“If the roommate thing stresses you so much that you forgot how to be a bitch, you probably consider being without a roommate again. Or you will soon. Well, trust me Steph will understand, just tell her in advance, will you? She deserves that much, so she can find a new place in time.”

Steph indeed was a great girl that’s why Victoria didn’t think about being without her for a second. On the other hand, maybe Chloe (or Max most likely) was right again, even when she didn’t know a shit about real struggle. Not living together could be the right choice, considering Victoria’s feeling and Steph’s girlfriend situation.

“And this you figure out by yourself?”

“Fuck, are you high or something? I can’t figure out how to tie my cleats by myself. Max contemplate about this after my hysterical call, and she came to this conclusion.”

“And does Steph want to move out? Because I’m a crappy roommate?”

“I don’t fucking know. Fuck. I didn’t ask if she wants to move out. I asked how are you doing, and she said she had no idea because you barely talk to each other. If someone so outgoing as she couldn’t maintain any connection with you, you must be really screwed.”

“Chloe, oh god, maybe next time you want to analyse my inner mess, try to start with me, not with everyone else around.”

“Don’t worry, Steph’s super cool. I told her a lot about you, and she doesn’t mind a shit, like a really mature person and stuff, she really gets everything. Maybe a step ahead of Max  even but don’t tell Max I said so.” 

What Victoria really wanted was to beat the shit out of Chloe and make her say everything that Steph get, but instead, she kept calm.

“I have a proposal for you. You either drop my personal life shits for good, Chloe or I’ll go to Brighty and ask her to switch the seats.”

“But I--”

“You are my best friend, but there are some things I have to deal with myself.”

“Fuuuck. Ok. Alright. If that's what you want.”

“Awesome. Now you tell me what made you pass to Fran, instead of being a fool and rush through the defence on your own, yesterday?”

 

Thursday, October 12, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

Victoria nestled deeper into the driver's seat and tried to enjoy the leather. Subaru BRZ wasn’t the car of her dreams. It was nothing like her beloved Aston Martin, but since Subaru was one of Chelsea F.C. prominent partners and she played for Chelsea they offered her a very favourable vehicle leasing contract, so hopefully, she’ll never need to use public transport again. Fortunately, taking care of necessary formalities didn’t take much and she settled everything very quickly right after coming back from Munich this noon. So she drove the car into the underground garage and reminiscence the whole trip to Munich. It was amazing, actually. They beat Bayern according to away goals, she had played her best, and the talk with No. 16 helped her sort her feelings for certain nerd. She hoped she won’t be such a baby about this, anymore. She had a crush on Steph. Not a crush. She liked her. Victoria also had a gay panic, too often. Steph, on the other hand, had a supermodel girlfriend in Milan. The girlfriend she’s never talking about. They both needed some time to figure their things out first. Victoria had to be patient, do one step at the time and try to avoid emotional outbursts. Except, what if Steph just wasn’t into her.

“Damn, Victoria. Just stop being such a mess!”

She cursed herself, parked the car and headed to the lift. She was an adult person for fuck sake, so she should better start act like one. Whatever is going to happen have a solution that didn’t contain psycho behaviour or anxiety. She should be friendly and maybe even flirt a bit when she feels like it. Not too much, though. She also should avoid stalking and emotional outbursts. That will do. The lift reached her floor, and she went out. The door to their apartment opened before she could reach it, and Steph showed up in the hallway with the travel baggage. Boom. Anxiety and psycho behaviour combo came back at full force.

“You-- you’re leaving?”

“I am. I sent you a message. And then I tried to call you, but your phone was off.”

“It-it died. I-I… Are you seriously moving out?”

“What? No. Why would I-- I’m just going to Stockholm for three days. For Electrical engineering conference. I was picked for our department as a student representative because of my thesis. That’s what the student council president told me the other day when you saw us. I was so happy I had to hug her.”

“Oh. Right.”

Victoria felt like an idiot. Of course, Steph wasn’t an emotional wreck like her affected by every single occurrence between them, so she wouldn’t just move out after one heated conversation. Nevertheless, dizziness was not about to leave, yet. But this kind of dizziness was different. It brought a great sense of pleasure. Because Steph’s hand laid on her shoulder accompanied with a concerned look.  Against all odds, Victoria loved it. The way Steph cared. The way she touched her.

“Are you ok? You look pale?”

“Just tired.” She lied and tried to not faint. “It was a tough game yesterday.”

“You played like a football goddess, though. I couldn’t take my eyes from the TV screen for a second.”

“I knew you were lying when said you don't like football. Everyone likes football. Next, time when at the stadium don't be a stranger and come to say hi.”

She had no clue how it happened or when she probably didn’t realise it at all, but she was under Steph’s spell again. Victoria dared to be all happy and excited about the fact that someone who she’s crushing hard watched her game and was not moving out and was holding her shoulder and enjoying her presence greatly. So what if she was a girl. With a girlfriend, or lover or whatever. 

“I’d love to. And I’d love to stay and talk, but I have to catch a train to the airport if I don’t want to miss my flight to Stockholm.”

“I can drive you.”

“That would be great but since when you have a car?”

“Since today. It has some benefits to play for Chelsea. And beat the shit out of Bayern. 

“Let’s go then, Bayern beater.” 

“Let’s.”

She let her own baggage in the apartment hallway and took Steph’s suitcase. When in the underground parking, she not only put the bag into the trunk of Subaru BRZ but opened the passenger door and hold it for Steph, before. Had she understood what she was doing, maybe it would freak her out, but all of it happened without her conscious effort. The traffic was heavy, but Victoria didn’t mind. She asked Steph about her thesis and about the conference and despite her effort to put it simply, Victoria only understood a little. It wasn’t trouble, though.. Not a slightest. Because Steph had this storyteller voice, after all, and listening to it was a pure pleasure, no matter what the topic was. Not even an arrival at Heathrow airport and their upcoming separation brought any uneasiness. Because stripped from all bullshits Victoria felt something she only felt rarely, and it was always connected to football before. Happiness. After she parked Subaru BRZ in front of terminal 2, she did the same as in apartment underground. She opened the door for Steph and took her bag from the trunk. No conscious effort involved again. Before they entered the terminal 2 departure hall, the fresh Heathrow breeze gave them a hard time for the moment. Victoria took off her Burberry Harrington vintage check jacket and put it around Steph’s shoulders. 

“You can’t be serious,” Steph smirked, and then Victoria came to her senses. What she was doing? What she had done? Holy mother of God. Holding doors, offering a jacket what will happen next? Proposal? Shit. 

“Uhm…”

“What makes you think, your over expensive shiny luxury jacket. I mean crusader armour, will fit me, bystander storyteller. Or more importantly, if I even meet requirements.”

Steph played it cool. As if she was aware of the upcoming meltdown. It wasn’t a victory, but anxiety suffered a crushing blow and had to retreat. Victoria knew it was now or never.

“You’re kind of special, you know. My crusader wall of steel should be impenetrable, yet you tore it down effortlessly.”

“I-I… Did I?”

“So you fit requirements, just fine. Besides, there is cold in Stockholm. Your fragrance shield can protect you from stinking hordes in summer, but it hardly can stop the northern cold.”

Victoria moved to the entrance, Steph’s baggage still in her possession. She was barely able to believe that she found the courage to say such words. But she also hoped they won’t talk about it now. It was enough courage used for one day. Steph caught up with her, still puzzled but grinning like a Cheshire cat. Fortunately, she didn’t add anything more. Yet.

“Do you need to do the checking,” Victoria asked when realised she didn’t know where to go.

“No, I did online. My gate is 17, so we should head there.”

They did, and Victoria had another moment to ponder about what had been done. She wasn’t very acquainted with this lesbian courting stuff, but she thought the message behind her recent words and actions was delivered. Next move was supposed to come from Steph, but she never thought it could come right away. They stopped in front of the Security check area from where only one of them could proceed. It looked like Steph was going to take her hand. Hand specifically. Not arm, not shoulder but hand. If she did without hesitation, maybe Victoria wouldn’t back off. Any previous attempt to touch her was warmly welcomed because it came naturally. But now, they both let their mind wander for too long about what would such touch mean. And too much time to ponder meant too many reasons for doubt.  Victoria gulped and panicked, projecting the thought about all these people around watching them, whispering. Two girls holding hands, being so affectionate, oh how inappropriate. Steph surely noticed and retreated from the touch, eventually. She didn’t surrender completely, though. 

“Vic, why did you think I’m moving out.”

“I didn’t.”

Victoria said too quickly and recognised how much of the mess she must be recently. She was annoyed that Steph actually didn’t take her hand. Victoria’s body language made it pretty clear it’s off-limits, and she didn’t want to be touched in public and the girl next to her respected that and now two seconds later it made her vexed, craving for the touch. Bonkers.

“You asked me if--”

“Well, you know me, sometimes I say stupid shits just to prove my bitchiness.”

“How does it fit with.. Nevermind. Unless, do you want me to move out?”

Steph pushed. She didn’t leave the topic, and Victoria knew she deserved it because of her hot and cold behaviour. She hated herself for it, but it just kept happening. She wondered how long till Steph will get fed up with it. Then she took a deep breath and remembered she’s not thirteen anymore and could use some reason from time to time. Especially when the thought of not having Steph around was way more scary than holding her hand in public. 

“No. I don’t want you to move out. I mean, it’s a pain in the ass to have a roommate, but you are closest to bearable I could find, so I don’t mind if you stick around.”

You don’t mind will be the closest I get to I am so happy to have you around Steph?

Steph chuckled, and good spirit was restored. 

“Probably.”

“Is it weird if I think I'm going to miss you? I already missed you when you were in Munich.”

“Definitely. No one really misses me. I am mean, obnoxious, boring.”

“Yeah, I'm going to miss those qualities.”

“You're weird.”

“You like it.”

“I do.”

Victoria muttered and tried to ignore the mushy feelings making her body warm. Steph must leave sooner or later. What will happen then? There was no chance she will initiate any physical connection after being dismissed the first time. 

“See you on Sunday, then.”

Exactly as predicted, she was about to take her baggage and go. Victoria grabbed her forearm clumsily and pull her into the hug. Awkward oh how very, awkward, she thought ready to release it when she felt her companion falling deeper. 

“Don't you dare to find another roommate when  I'm gone.”

Steph's words were barely audible. She was significantly smaller, and her embrace was really tight, so her head was pressed on Victoria's chest. Damn it. She had to be deaf to not hear the echoes of defibrillating heart inside. Victoria inhaled the ravishing scent deeply and enjoyed the daze. 

“Till your hugs are going to be reserved for me, I may consider to keep you.”

Steph run her hand up and down Victoria’s back softly and release the grip. 

“I think about it. If you appoint your bitchiness for anyone but me.”

Victoria moved from the hug and struggled if she should keep her queen bitch position or kneel down in front of Steph completely. Fortunately, she didn’t have to decide what to do next because Steph put the finger on her lips and took the lead.

“Decide later, perhaps. If you’re turning me down again, I don’t want to know just, yet.”

Steph took the bag and head to the security check. Victoria wanted to say, she already decided, but then some weird überpissed nazi looking guy in a rush stumbled on her, and she cowardly backed off.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Subaru

 

Thursday, October 12, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

It was late afternoon. Steph checked her phone. The messages to Victoria remained undelivered. So there was no point to call her. She needed to leave, though and catch her flight to Stockholm and her roommate still didn't come back from Munich even when she was already supposed to be back at noon. An option to leave a real message, written on the paper crossed her mind but the lack of time interfered. But maybe it was a good thing, she had had no time to be emotional and analyse why Victoria’s phone was still dead. So she grabbed her luggage and opened the main door.

“You-- you’re leaving?”

Victoria Chase. Right in front of her. Visibly shaken and disturbed by her departure. Still mesmerising, though. Victoria who might be attracted to her or being head over heels with No. 16. Victoria who might like them both or just struggling with the feeling of liking any girl. Steph didn’t have answers, but she had an eagerness to help with any issue that could cause Victoria’s disturbance.

“I am. I sent you a message. I also tried to call you, but your phone was off.”

“It-it died. I-I… Are you seriously moving out?”

Victoria asked about moving out with dread in her eyes. 

“What? No. Why would I-- I’m just going to Stockholm for three days. For Electrical engineering conference. I was picked for our department as a student representative because of my thesis.  That’s what the student council president told me the other day when you saw us. I was so excited I had to hug her. It’s epic. I’d hug you too, but you were calling with someone and than you kind of weren’t in the mood for hugging.”

Steph’s words brought relief, which encouraged her to do what she always desired to do when Victoria was around. Touch her. It was walking on the thin ice every time, though. Follow this longing or hold herself in check. So far, she was able to draw the line between do and don’t. And it seemed, she was able to choose the right moment again. So she laid her hand on Victoria’s shoulder. It was warmly welcomed, and it led to something unexpected. Actually, the whole chain of consecutive events was incredible. Victoria being all charming and chivalrous. Offering to give here a ride to airport, taking Steph’s bag holding a car door for her and now when in front of the Heathrow terminal 2, she even took off the jacket and put in on Steph’s shoulders to keep her warm. Calling all this Incredible was an understatement before, but when Victoria said Steph was special, the word came with a new meaning. She had expected nothing and had been given everything. She had only a little time to ponder about the whole situation till they reach the security check area, which meant they were about to be separated soon. Steph looked at Victoria, feeling like a teenager after her big crush finally kissed her. And the kiss wasn’t even involved. Only the Burberry jacket, way too big on her and way too woven by Victoria’s scent. Steph yearned to take her hand and say she felt the same, about special, but then she remembered Chloe’s words from before. She wavered. 

She’s still struggling, anxious about her new identity. She can't even think about holding girl's hand in public without an anxiety attack. 

Despite unexpected acts of affection in the last hour, everything that had happened recently only confirmed it. The fear about the whole liking girls situation weren’t erased. Steph almost brought her hand to take Victoria’s but looking in her startled eyes she reconsidered, eventually. She couldn’t ask for too much, too soon. No holding hands in public. She should just say her goodbyes and be glad for what was given to her. She didn’t. For the countless time, Steph pushed her luck with Victoria. 

“Vic, why did you think I’m moving out.”

“I didn’t.”

Damn. Why she couldn’t keep her mouth shut. Her words brought the familiar air of distraction.

“You asked me if--”

“Well, you know me, sometimes I say stupid shits just to prove my bitchiness.”

“How does it fit with.. Nevermind. Unless do you want me to move out?”

Victoria frowned. Same as in the gym two weeks ago, Steph thought she overstepped, but then, Victoria melted again. 

“No. I mean, it’s a pain in the ass to have a roommate, but you are closest to bearable I could find, so I don’t mind if you stick around.”

You don’t mind will be the closest I get to I am so happy to have you around Steph?

“Probably.”

“Is it weird if I think I'm going to miss you? I already missed you when you were in Munich.”

“Definitely. No one really misses me. I am mean, obnoxious, boring.”

“Yeah, I'm going to miss those qualities.”

“You're weird.”

“You like it.”

“I do.”

To the hell with this , Steph thought and curled her hand into the fist in desperate attempt to not do something stupid. Like touch Victoria. She needed to leave, or she won’t be able to hold herself in check.

“See you on Sunday, then.”

She almost grabbed her bag, but before it could happen, Victoria grabbed her forearm and pull her into her arms. Steph should back off. She should make it clear they couldn’t continue like this. Victoria was changing attitudes from affectionate to reserved with lighting speed and even when the affectionate split was great the reserved one was tearing her apart. But then she heard Victoria’s heart beating like crazy and decided to hold on. 

“Don't you dare to find another roommate when  I'm gone.”

“Till your hugs are going to be reserved for me, I may consider to keep you.”

Steph run her hand up and down Victoria’s back softly, and she decided to wait. She’ll wait for this amazing girl till she is ready. 

 

Saturday, October 14, 2017 

Hellstens Glashus hotel, Stockholm, Sweden

 

Steph left the bathroom, one towel still wrapped around her head and another around her freshly showered naked body. The hotel room was great. She didn’t expect such luxury, but the conference organiser paid all expenses. Thinking about the last two days, she deserved a bit of deluxe care, though. She sat on the king's size bed and unwrapped the head towel. Since she had come to Stockholm, it was nothing but a stream of speeches, presentations, discussions, sessions of various commissions and councils. On some, she was expected to be an active participant, lecturer even, the other events just required her presence or short contribution. Her theses how to upgrade pump hydroelectric energy storage plants using the less environment invasive methods caused some fuss. Positive and negative, too. It was only a theory, yet. The whole conference was exciting, lively, but also exhausting. She was supposed to attend evening gala, the grand pinnacle of the event but she excused herself. All she wanted after two tiresome days was to take a shower and crash in bed. Well maybe text a bit with one particular football player. Or maybe have her right here in this awesome hotel room, in this marvellous bed. That thought just couldn't leave Steph‘s head. A picture Victoria had sent earlier, the workout picture, had something to do with it no doubt. It had been a result of the innocent, mundane conversation. Well, maybe not so innocent. Sheph had sent the text at noon when she had a break.

Steph:

I'd bet you’d be jealous if you knew what I have for lunch. Something very Swedish.

Victoria:

Hmm. Let me guess…

Victoria:

Absolut Vodka. On ice.

Steph:

No, silly! :)

Victoria:

Then I surrender. Don’t know anything more Swedish than Absolut Vodka.

Steph:

Meatballs with cream sauce, mashed potatoes, pickled cucumber, and lingonberry jam.

Victoria:

Still think Absolut Vodka is more Swedish but sounds yummy enough. Send a pic.

Steph:

Vic. There are the best scientists in the field of electrical engineering around me. No way, I’m going to take a picture of my food like some ill uneducated insta attention whore. I mean “influencer”.

Victoria:

I’ll start bargaining, when I’ll stop laughing. 

Steph:

Pretty sure there is nothing that could make me take a pic of my food.

Victoria:

What about the picture of my lunch. ;-)

Steph:

Srsly? That’s your offer? I’m starting to wonder if it’s Absolut Vodka that you’re having. :)

Victoria:

Nope. Something better.

 

And then Victoria had gone silent for a couple of minutes, and Steph had thought she just dropped it. She did not, though. Victoria sent a pic of her pumped sweat body only in sports bra and shorts, pulled up the bar. It took everything in Steph to stay professional and compose the whole afternoon after seeing that photo.

 

Victoria:

Instead of lunch, I hit the bar. No Absolut Vodka in here, though. Just fifty pull-ups. :)

 

That’s what Victoria had written obviously teasing. It had been a very pleasing surprise, though. Steph only thought about the pic, and it made her shiver, she didn’t even need to look at it, again. Now when her duties were over, and there weren’t any scientists in the field of Electrical engineering around her, she had tough times to banish dirty thoughts. Alone in her hotel room she looked at her phone on the nightstand and knew she lost. Steph sank to the bedsheets, the towel falling down, leaving her completely naked. Then she closed her eyes. She couldn’t fight it anymore, even if she wanted to. And the thing was she didn’t. Because what happens in Sweden stays in Sweden, right? Her hand caress her hardened nipples, and she moaned in pleasure. In her mind, though, there was a completely different story unravelling. The story where she wasn’t alone. The story where Victoria Chase was leaning over her one moment, staring in her eyes longingly. And another second, she was kissing her neck, her breast her tummy moving along a smooth skin raising the level of Steph’s arousal beyond limits. And then Victoria’s head was between Steph’s legs relishing her pussy. It took no time till her body squirmed in the thrilling experience of reaching orgasm after allowing herself to fantasise about Victoria. 

“Damn! I hope no one will complain to the hotel manager about loud moaning.”

Steph smirked and finally removed her hand from the drenched place between her legs, still enjoying the aftermath of coming. Then the phone on the nightstand buzzed. She peaked to the screen and laughed. 

“I need to get my shits together.”

She went to the bathroom and refreshed a bit, then put some clothes on.

“Just don’t tell her you’ve just came screaming her name.”

Steph told herself smirking when came back to the room, only slightly embarrassed and reached for the phone.

 

Victoria:

Home, already. What about u? Back in your h-room?

Victoria:

Btw., it's so great to have a car again. Only thing greater than that would be u being my passenger, telling me about hydroelectric power plants. 

Victoria:

Or if that car would be my beloved Aston Martin.

 

Steph rolled on her side, smiling, clutching the phone like it was something extremely precious. Only because it contained messages from Victoria. Yes, the shattering orgasm from before was great, but Victoria’s real attention felt maybe even better.

  Steph:

I have the same value as some car. Oh, how ecstatic. No one ever complimented me like that.

 Victoria:

Silly. Not some. Aston Martin Vanquish S. So I bet no one ever complimented you like that.

 Steph:

Still only a car though. If you ask me.

 Victoria:

Tis not. Saying AM is just a car is like saying you’re just some girl I know.

 Steph:

Am I not? Elaborate, pls.

 

Steph replied in no time, but her excitement was fading away quickly. The response wasn’t coming. It wasn’t even in construction because the screen reminded idle, without any is writing a message and then the other side went offline.  It was such an innocence request. Or was it not? With Victoria, one could never know what could trigger her lesbian anxiety. Damn!  Steph always considered herself as calm and composed. Never had a problem to control her emotions. With Victoria around, it wasn’t true anymore. But how it could be?

The whole Your hair smells nice/I don’t want anything to do with you,

and then You’re special, take my coat/don’t you dare to hold my hand/I hug you anyway

and now You’re not just some girl/but let’s not talk about it.

Without any activity, phone darkened. Steph decided she won’t allow any anxiety to rule over her. The resolution didn’t stay intact for long. Which was happening way too often, recently.  She couldn’t come with anything funny and clever that would revive the conversation. It was unnerving because she desperately wanted to. Before she could go full mental the device in her hand buzzed. So, fortunately, the angst of how she always made a promise to wait and appreciate whatever Victoria was willing to offer but right away she yearned for more of her was quickly forgotten. 

 

Victoria:

Someone would say I drive (drove) a sports car just to prove I’m real big baller cause I have a million dollars and I spend it on girls and shoes.

Victoria:

Without parent’s money, I’m almost broke. I think I’ll never see AM again. And I have no idea how to talk to girls without embarrassing myself. Mostly. Frankly, I think they wouldn't like me even if I paid them. Lol

Victoria:

I spend a lot on shoes and bags, though. That’s why I needed a roommate. I needed half of the rent for shoes. And bags.

Steph:

So that’s why I’m not just some girl you know. Cause thanks to me you can buy shoes and bags. That’s even better compliment than comparing me to the car. :D

Victoria:

I need U, dummy. shoes and bags are essential, so are U. Can’t u see the connection? :).  And you’re also fun and smart. Quite a looker, too.

 

Again. Victoria complimented her again, for this time Steph didn’t have time to react because the flow of the messages kept coming.

 

Victoria:

Back to Aston Martin, though. I’ve overcompensated my whole life and thought I had to prove something. But not with AM.

Victoria

I know, sounds stupid. Me saying driving super expensive sports car doesn’t mean I want to prove something or overcompensating when basically, my whole life was proving something to people who didn’t give a shit about me. Do U think it sounds stupid?

Steph:

Well, I really want to say it doesn’t, but it kind of does. But maybe if you elaborate some more.

  Victoria:

It’s just love. Pure and simple. AM keeps me safe and cherished and doesn’t judge. I can hide in its leather seat whenever I need a shelter. Or could. It doesn’t care if my shoes fit with a bag or if I like girls or boys. Or if I’m only little piece of shit.

Steph:

U are not. But why Subaru can’t love you only Aston Martin can?

Victoria:

Well first of all, Subaru belongs to someone else.

Victoria:

For now.

Steph:

Oh. Of course. Now I get it.

Steph: 

No, actually, I don't get it at all. U lost me. 

Victoria:

Maybe Subaru could love me, too. Maybe Aston Martin never really loved me. Who knows. But I was raised in a different world. Narrow and twisted. Everything outside this world basically didn’t exist. No Subarus there.

Victoria:

And now when I decided to cut those ties, the car that can provide me comfort I seek is the one that belongs to someone else. Leasing company. It’s not mine. Maybe it never will be. Do I even deserve it?

 

Steph stared at the screen and knew Victoria was trying to tell her something really important. It wasn’t about cars anymore, but that thing about Subaru belonging to someone else confused her. Before she could reply, the display changed and indicated an incoming call. The call that definitely couldn’t be ignored anymore. She had taken a rain check with this one five times already.

“Hi, ma. Listen, I call you back in the minute.”

“Stephanie Rose Gingrich!”

“In a minute, ma. Bye.”

She ended the call and created the message in super speed because the angry voice of Mama Gingrich suggested she won’t take I call you later for an answer for this time.

 

Steph:

Sorry to cut you short but one very persistent caller demands my attention, and I can’t ignore her anymore. Give me 10 minutes, and I get over with it. Then we can pick up when we left.

Victoria:

K.

 

Excitement looks different,  Steph thought but couldn’t do anything about it cause persistent caller made herself known again.

“I’m all yours, ma.” She said when she picked the call but didn’t stop thinking about Aston Martin and Subaru.

 


 

Aston Martin

 

Sunday, October 15, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

Victoria called the lift and felt restless. Steph will be back tonight. She missed her like crazy. The couple of hours that left couldn’t pass quick enough. She must ask about the girlfriend, oh she does. She needed to. She still wasn’t entirely convinced she can keep her anxiety in check, and she also should be patient, but the confession on the airport and half-naked workout pic from yesterday already broke a few barriers. Within Victoria and outside, too. It was still a bit unbelievable she found the courage to send such photo, though. Steph didn’t text anything back. But the picture of meatballs with lingonberry jam took around the best scientist in the field of Electrical engineering was the valuable answer.

That’s why was Victoria kind of appalled she won’t be able to restrain herself again from using some secrets weapons on Steph once she’s back, trying to impress her. Like awesomely scented shampoo and body lotion. But once she opened the door of the apartment, she smelt trouble. The lock was already unlocked. She proceeded to the living room that was disturbed, and she realised the bigger issues lay in front of her. 

“Father?”

“Good evening, Victoria.”

Good evening. Normal father would say hi or hello or how are you doing. But Victoria’s father was a special kind of mental. He said, good evening. Good fucking evening. She used to be scared of him. Terrified. But it didn’t stop her from disobeying him. Sneaking out to play football, apply for the college he disapproved. Break off the arranged engagement. The fear didn’t stop her, but it didn’t mean she wasn’t aware of how powerful he was. And intimidating. She felt her insides tremble. But she decided to not succumb to her fear.  She had already won this fight. She didn’t need him nor his money anymore. The fact that he refused to accept it didn’t change anything.

“It was until you showed up.”

“I’m sure it’s not necessary, to be so bitter.”

“Oh, I’m not bitter. Just honest.”

“Look Victoria, regardless of what you think I am on your side.”

“You are? Great, so you brought back my Aston Martin, then?”

“Unfortunately, I didn’t.”

“Figures.”

“Listen. I thought about it a lot. You can still have this unnatural occurrence in your life and marry Nathaniel Prescott.”

“Excuse me?”

“If she’ll stay a secret.”

“Father, I think you should leave.”

“Life is so much easier when you approach it as a business deal. No hard feelings. Besides, you cannot possibly believe it will work with her. I understand, your generation was given the freedom to do whatever you want. But once you get over with it, you’ll see that thing is contrary to the ordinary course of nature. Depraved.”

Everything was a business deal for Victoria’s father. And what wasn’t the business deal, for example, love that doesn’t involve arranged marriage and dominant husband and obedient wife relationship was unnatural and depraved . Well, fuck that. Victoria had no clue if she was in love, but she was more than sure than she didn’t want her life to become a business deal, and she will not be forced to obedience. Her father stood still and enjoyed wearing an impressively large coat. He knew how to make himself look invincible. He was ingenious, after all. And sinister. That’s how he made all that crazy money, no one should have. Funny that he didn’t see that as depravity. Despite his brilliant mind, his body was ungracefully thin and tall. Fortunately, Victoria knew him too well and his unhealthy habits. She inherited the tallness, but thanks to the choices she had done, the path of the athlete, she replaced thin with powerful. She could grab him and throw him away from the apartment in no time without giving a fuck about consequences. That was exactly what she planned to do when she heard the main door opened.

“Hellooo, crusader. I caught the earlier flight. I didn’t tell you, because I wanted to surprise you. And I had good news, your jacket withstood legendary northern cold, so--”

Steph stepped into the living room and grinned. Victoria was so happy and totally terrified of what will happen next, at the same time.

“Oh, hello sir, in a strange coat. Agility -50 but intimidate +100, I bet. At least I’m immune.”  She pretended to whisper, but she said it loud enough for him to hear.

“So that’s her. Your perverse, illicit lover.”

Victoria rolled her eyes and sighed heavily. Her father gave a brief look to their newest companion and didn’t even try to hide his disgust.

“There is no lover. And only illicit occurrence in this room is you, father. You REALLY should leave.”

“Girlfriend.”

Steph said resolutely and shocked Mister Chase. But who was even more surprised was Victoria.  She was already planning how to apologise for her father assumptions and nasty behaviour, but the storyteller girl didn’t seem to be offended at all. Quite the opposite. She was eager to turn this awkward situation into funny roleplaying. So she took a step towards Victoria put the arm around her waist, stood on tippy toes and kissed her forehead. 

“Did you miss me, babe?”

“You have no idea how much.”

Those words were one of those rare genuine things that left her mouth. With Steph around, it was happening more and more often. If she lingered one more moment, she’d kiss her. Like a full mindblowing kiss. She was sure of that. Not because it would piss her father but because her body ached for that. Unfortunately, their physical contact was broken abruptly when the object of her eternal affection walked to her father.

“I wish I could say nice to meet you, Mister Chase. But there is nothing nice about you so far. Anyway, I’m Steph. As I said, Victoria’s girlfriend.” Steph raised her hand ready for a handshake. The wealthy man in the strange coat with zero agility didn’t even look at her. Rather approach his daughter again.

“I talked with Nathaniel. He is ready to reinstate your engagement. You can still have the wedding in March as we planned. So the Chase enterprises and Prescott Ltd. merge can be finished till the end of the year. Think about my words. You are always welcome in our house and in our lives. When you admit, this wickedness is not going to get you anywhere.” 

Victoria moved away from him only to reach Steph and take her hand. 

“You’re kind father, but we can arrange our own wedding…” Steph confirmed her status of the best role-player ever and slid her arms around Victoria's hips again. Her smile was encouraging and welcoming. So Victoria played her part with ease. She didn’t even have to play. It all came naturally when she swayed towards her faked lover and put both hands on her cheeks, “ ...can’t we sweetie?”

“We can do so much more.”

It would be so easy to kiss. Victoria glanced to her father once again. 

“You’ll be back when you get out of money. There is not possible that this wench has anything to offer to you.”

He spat and spare no time to leave. They were left alone.

Two girls, too close had eyes only for each other again. If Victoria moved her head only for a bit... 

She never initiated a kiss with a girl before. She never kissed a girl before when sober. Or anyone. She was always hammered. What if she’ll suck? The desire was overwhelming, though. What had started as little hum couple of weeks ago evolved to rumbling vibration whenever this magnetic girl was around. And now it came like thunder. Crashing and terrific but powerfully appealing when one stopped to fear it. Victoria felt her lips tremble. Her whole body was shaking. From, anger, fear, desire. She bent down, and in the last possible moment, she realised she can’t do it. She flinched and separated her body from Steph’s. Because the panic told her to do so.

“I’m sorry. About.. Him.”

“It’s alright. You’re not responsible for his--”

“Still, I apologise. He was rude. And ill-mannered. You-you are not wench, or perverse or illicit or--”

“It’s ok, Vic, it’s ok. I know those are his words, not yours.”

“I-I need to finish some papers for tomorrow class. I’ll talk to you later.”

Victoria rushed to her room and Steph didn’t follow.

Damn. Damn it! Why she didn’t follow? And what if she followed? Fuck. After father left she didn’t break the contact, she didn’t back off, but she was idle. She hesitated, didn’t she? Thinking about her girlfriend, perhaps? Or not wanting to kiss at all? Victoria pressed her back to the wall and slide down to the floor. Shit. How many chances she’s going to screw up? Will be any more?

 

 

Chapter Text

Sweet

Thursday, October 19, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

Victoria was a pain in the ass. Disaster. Beautiful disaster. And marvellous and so freaking hot. Steph lied on the couch and stared to the ceiling. It was after midnight. The living room was mostly dark, only lit by the dim light of the tv. She should turn off PS4 that was ignored for quite a time already and go to sleep. Instead, she thought about the kiss. Almost kiss. It had been four days since Mr. Chase visit. They didn’t talk about it. Neither about him nor the kiss. Steph wanted to but then everything that Chloe said kept coming to her mind. Victoria needed her space and time to come to terms with everything. She had wanted to kiss her, though. Steph had no doubt about it. When she bent over their lips had been a second from touching. And then, she had flinched. She definitely wasn’t ready. Did she even kiss a girl before? Steph didn’t know and had no idea how to find out. Asking Chloe would be like shooting herself in the foot. Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t notice her surrounding came to life. When Victoria appeared above her, she quailed a bit.

“S-sorry. I thought you fall asleep. I brought you a blanket.”

“No. No, I-I’m sorry. I wake you up, didn’t I? Because I was playing.”

“You didn’t. I didn’t even realise you’re still awake. And I couldn’t sleep anyway. So I thought I’ll have some tea, and then I saw the TV was still on and...”

Victoria stood there wearing only a long white sleepwear t-shirt with big I WOKE UP LIKE THIS sign. The T-shirt itself looked really sexy on her, the beautifully shaped naked legs, though, those made Steph a bit dizzy. Victoria was clutching the blanket so intense, her fingers were becoming white. They were staring at each other, and Steph felt like everything else except Victoria disappeared. And then she bit her lower lip like she intended to say something but change her mind, at once. In the meantime, Steph’s eyes flicked down to her legs, feeling only a bit guilty. She knew she needed to assume control over her body. The body that was screaming for being closer to Victoria. She squeezed the PS4 controller to engage her hand into something that didn’t involve touching Victoria’s leg and pulling her down. Do not impose, she reminded herself and stood up from the couch being cautious to not get too close to her roommate. She had no doubt that if she caught even a hint of her fragrance, it could be her doom. 

“Is hibiscus alright?”

“What?”

“You wished for tea. Let me make you some.”

“Oh, right. Hibiscus is great, but you don’t have to--”

“It’s fine. I’d liked to.” 

Steph smiled and moved to the kitchen. She found a kettle and put it on the stove. She was about to open the cupboard and find the bag with dried hibiscus. When she turned around, she bumped into Victoria, who already sought the necessary ingredient. 

“Here.” She offered the small sachet, and their hands brushed. Steph lingered too long before she took it and then she nervously turned to the kettle. Her was head spinning. Her brain was dazed by Victoria’s scent. Her resolution to not impose was faltering. She inhaled deeply trying to tame the thrill of infatuation. Thankfully, Victoria took a step back.

“Did you ever cheat?”

“How can you cheat making the tea?”

Step faced Victoria again a bit more composed and had to laugh. The question didn’t make sense. Maybe it would if her mind wasn't occupied with burning skin in the place they bodies touched a moment before.  

“I didn’t mean tea, silly. I-I’m..”

“I’m listening.”

“Did you ever cheat on your girlfriend? Would you?”

“No. No. I mean, anything could happen, but I don’t think I would.”

“So if you met someone else and felt the connection you’d end it with that first person first. Or maybe you wouldn’t act upon your feelings and cut it short with the second?”

Steph stopped stuffing the tea infuser that was already full and put it on the counter. Victoria looked so vulnerable. Her bitch part took a vacation, lately. But why was she asking about this? Did she think something was going on between Steph and the school president? If so, was Victoria considering herself as the first in this storytelling or the second? The cautiousness was absolutely necessary to avoid any collateral damage. 

“I guess it depends on a variety of circumstances. Who would I choose. But what’s really important is always talk about these things.”

“Like calling her every day, right?”

“What?”

“Nothing. It’s stupid. It doesn’t concern me.”

Victoria wasn’t far away from leaving. Steph was desperate to make her stay, to pull her back and kiss her but still could manage to find a bit of a reason somewhere deep inside. So she only touched Victoria’s shoulder gently. Just for a short period, though. Overstepping the boundaries right now, when Victoria finally dared to talk about their attraction could cause a disaster. 

“Vic, what doesn’t concern you?”

“Nothing. I-I should go.”

“What about you stay and we talk about something else. Something that concerns you. Like Offside trap. For example, that one you and Brighty executed the other day. And there will be amazing Tea in here very soon.”

It worked, and the girl in I WOKE UP LIKE THIS t-shirt stayed.  She even allowed herself to relax a bit again.

“Will you ever tell me how some football non-lover know so much about football?”

“Whenever you ask.”

“Maybe someday, I will. But for now, no football rambling. You’ll talk about something you like. Tell me something about these D&D stuff, you love so much.”

“Oh, I see. You want me to bore you to sleep.”

“Now when you’ve figured it out, don’t let anything to stop you.”

Victoria smiled shyly and took the hibiscus tea. Two hours later, when she excused herself and said she needed at least some sleep before morning practise, Steph couldn’t understand how she was able to hold herself in check the whole time. Because they touched like zillions times.

 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

Steph woke up and tried to adjust her vision to the dark environment. She wasn’t in her bed, in her room, and most importantly, she wasn’t alone. Victoria’s soft body was pressed against hers emanating pleasing heat and sensual scent. Was she really awake, she wondered, or was it a dream? She remembered being at Mikey’s playing D&D. Then Chloe, calling her that Victoria got injured on practice and stubbornly refusing to admit it. Please go back home ASAP and check on her. Please. Chloe begged. It had shown Victoria’s injury was only the black eye. But Steph definitely didn’t mind to come back home and spend time with her. She had studied for quite a time with Victoria sleeping in her lap. At some point, she fell asleep, too. Still sitting. And now she was lying and having Victoria in her arms, her head resting on Steph’s chest. She intended to run her hand up Victoria’s arm and gently tap on her shoulder to wake her too. But her index finger stumbled on Victoria’s shirt and pulled it up a bit till rest of her fingers caressed the bare skin under lightly. Steph panicked for a moment, she didn’t pull out, however. Her whole hand slid underneath the cloth instead and stroked Victoria‘s side. For this time, intentionally and more daringly. Touching Victoria’s exposed body lighted a fire. Fires. First, it started at the tip of her fingers. Simultaneously the heat spread from her lower tummy. She knew she should stop, she should wake Victoria and tell her to go to bed. But the determination to keep things under control was burnt to ashes in no time. Her hand became audacious and explored wider areas of Victoria’s back, enjoying every bit of that delicious skin. And then Victoria’s body stirred. Steph froze and thought she was doomed. There was no excuse for what she had done. What could be said? Sorry I caressed your back for ten minutes, your skin is just so silky, and I thought I could figure out what body lotion you use. You know, you were tired, and I didn’t want to wake you up. Yeah, it definitely sounded like the most idiotic statement. It seemed like an eternity, but it only lasted a few seconds, till Victoria nestled deeper into her embrace and murmured to the crook of her neck.

“Why did you stop, S.G.?”

Her hazy voice was barely audible. Steph hesitated. Was Victoria awake and asking her for more cuddling? And even if she wasn’t. Did it change anything, she did so when moony? Maybe it did because in full consciousness she wouldn’t be so touchy, restricted by her own fears. Steph decided she didn’t give a damn. At least for now. And her hand under Victoria’s t-shirt revived and provided exactly what she was asked for. Light gently strokes.

“See, that’s much better, hun.”

Said Victoria and her breathing became slow and steady, again in no time. Steph followed soon and very comfortable with the new situation fell asleep, too. 

 


 

Bitter

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

The apartment was empty.  It was late afternoon, but Steph had her D&D meeting till late, so it supposed to stay like that for some time. Good. She needed some peace and quiet. Victoria crushed the couch exhausted from practice, from the busy school schedule and from her suppressed desires. The top of everything was pulsing bruise around her left eye. She wasn’t sure who had kicked the ball that had hit her head on practice, but it was one of the hardest shots, so it had to be Chloe. Everything was a bit blurry after that, and she was apologising to no end. She had offered to drive her home with Subaru BRZ and take a bus on her way back and then she had even demanded to stay and take care of Victoria. That would be a disaster. Overprotective panicking Chloe around. Plus Max would also stop by too, no doubt. Thank fuck she had been able to convince Chloe, the bruise is nothing, and she’s going to be just fine on her own. The couch was warm closer than a bed, and she wanted to stay there till all shits just go away. The best course of action would be to obtain some ice or frozen peas and cool down the irritated piece of skin. But if Victoria stood up and went for the refrigerator, she would see her black eye in the reflection of the kitchen cabinet, and it would make her numb at best pass out at worst, so she rather stayed in her secure, warm spot on the couch. She closed her eyes and tried to avoid the pain, but her head was on fire. She was too tired, too weakened to keep her luscious thoughts under control. Her mind went back in time to the moment when she was so close to Steph’s lips. But for this time she wasn’t a coward. She didn’t flinch when her father left. She pulled the face of her dream girl closer and pressed their lips together. First, hesitantly. But then when she felt soft hands finding their way under her t-shirt, she allowed her tongue to enter Steph’s mouth. And then, the door slammed. Not in fantasy. In reality. Victoria opened her eyes and glanced towards the hallway.

“Steph?”

“Yeah, that’s the name.”

“You-you home?”

“D&D meeting ended early.”

“Oh, ok.”

Victoria laid her exhausted, frustrated head back on the couch when the realisation hit her. So she raised again.

“You are D&D, it only could end early because you ended it.”

Steph looked puzzled, and Victoria knew this is Chloe’s doing.

“Chloe called you and told you I’m dying or something. Well, guess what? I’m not, I was just kicked in the head. So listening to that dummy, you ruined not only your evening but mine too.”

“I-I ruined your evening?”

“Yes because now I feel bad that you cancelled your plans because of me when there was no need for that.” I also could lay here on the couch in peace thinking about making out with you, which I can’t when you are right next to me, Victoria almost added but rather bit her tongue. 

“You didn’t ruin anything. I have to study anyway and had a hard time to convince myself that's what I supposed to do. So maybe your kick in the head was a destiny.”

Steph smiled put her bag down and sat right next to Victoria, who just adjusted to the sitting position as well. 

“You look like a shit by the way.”

“Thx. You aren’t Miss universe either if you must know.”

"Am I not? Oh, my life has no meaning anymore."

Steph chuckled, and her thumb gently stroked Victoria’s black eye. Victoria had to hold her breath to not whimper. Or say something incredibly silly. Like but I don’t mind because no Miss universe is as beautiful as you. 

“Just let me bring you some frozen peas, and then I let you have your eventful evening on the couch. What about that?”

Steph was about to let go, but Victoria touched her hand still lingering on her face. It felt way too intimate. Even more intimate than almost kiss, because this moment wasn’t preceded by them pretending anything. Victoria couldn’t remember if she ever felt such closeness before. Maybe because she didn’t. The girl right next to her wanted to take care of her when she was bruised and exhausted, but not because she was obliged to do so. 

“So not only engineer, charmer, storyteller, but now you are also a doctor?”

Victoria said in a sulky voice trying to keep her smug attitude, without much success, though. 

“Yeah, the knowledge about frozen peas and black eye makes you a neurosurgeon. At least.”

Steph breathed. She was supposed to step up and seek the fridge, but she didn’t. Maybe because her hand was still captured. Maybe because she enjoyed this moment as much as her companion. 

“Well, doc, go grab some peas and perform the surgery, then.”

Victoria finally released the gentle grip and encouraged her doc to go. After the almost kiss, she had expected awkwardness. But none had come. Steph didn’t shy away from her, and they stayed on very friendly terms. No one mentioned the situation from before. Victoria kind of wanted to, and also wanted to ask about the supermodel girlfriend, she just didn’t know how. Any attempt was super awkward, so eventually, she left the topic untouched. Matter of factly, that discourse was the only thing that stayed untouched. Because they were touching a lot. Recently. Since the almost kiss. Well, the quantity wasn’t in the measure. Usually, it didn’t take longer than second or two. But when they did… oh my. Victoria couldn’t recognise who was responsible. She didn’t try anymore. But when they were in proximity the touch just become indispensable. Being anywhere in the apartment closer than a half meter, it always resulted in the light brush of their hands, at least. Deliberately or randomly? Victoria did not have an answer.  

She growled quietly and sunk back to the couch. This girl was a keeper. She was smart and funny and sexy and always nice and cheerful and smelt like heaven. And fuck… Of course such an amazing person had a girlfriend, and of course, it never supposed to be a bitch like Victoria Chase. But this feeling of joy, this connection was mutual. Or was she really that delusional? Steph left her D&D meeting early just to take care of Victoria, she helped her to get rid of Mr. Chase, and she always beamed when they hang out. Maybe that’s how friendship supposed to be, but Victoria was too emotionally crippled to know. That's why she tended to misunderstand it for affection.

“I brought you some water too. You should stay hydrated. Trust me, I'm a doc.”

Steph carefully put the glass of water on the table and softly pushed the bag of frozen peas on bruised skin. Victoria wasn't sure who initiated the move, but the moment later her head laid on Steph's lap.

“When you cancelled all your plans just for me I guess I allow you to take care of me for a couple of minutes.” She whispered, making herself comfortable.

“You allow me?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Oh, great queen Victoria. You are so kind to allow me--”

“In silence. I allow you to take care of me in silence. Because I'll fall asleep very soon, I assume.” 

She assumed correctly. The last thing she remembered was a delightful feeling of ice-cold material numbing the pain in her head and Steph's hand slowly running up and down her side. Maybe she just imagined that second occurrence. But most likely not.

 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 

University College London campus, Bloomsbury, London

Bronze café

It was a cloudy, cold afternoon, and Max and Victoria were sitting in the café talking about Max next photography assignment or just photography in general like they used to every Wednesday. But even when photography still was Victoria’s passion, something else was bringing strong and barely controllable emotions more and more often. Someone. The memory of the almost kiss with Steph that happened two weeks ago still made her week on her knees. It wasn’t just her who had wanted that kiss to happen. Damn it. Sometimes she really believed that. Her subconsciousness definitely believed that when dreamed about two of them cuddling or kissing or other things unspeakable, too often. After one such dream, she even woke up in Steph’s arm. It was literally a dream come true. But also torture. That’s why sometimes she was so angry with herself, keeping her expectations high. Steph was still taken. That was how it was. No matter how touchy they became. No matter how good it felt to hear her heartbeat lying on her chest. No matter that her skin was so smooth and delicious and scented like heaven. Victoria couldn’t reach Steph the way she wanted for many reasons. Some were within her some far away in Milan. None could be changed for the moment. 

“Hello, is someone there?”

“Huh?”

This Steph thing went too far it seemed because Max, the dreamy hipster Max, noticed her mind is not in café but somewhere over the rainbow. 

“Are you ok, Victoria?”

“Relax, Max. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You just zoned out for a moment.”

“And now, you’re afraid we are in an alternate reality because zoning out and staring out of the window like a psycho it’s usually your job?”

“Nevermind, seems like queen bitch is back at full strength. Everything is just as it should be.”

“Have you ever met her?”

“Depends…”

“Depends?”

“..on who the hell are you talking about.”

Right. Really smooth, Victoria. But so what. She decided to follow this path. 

“Steph’s girlfriend. The model.”

“I suppose you are asking only because we've talked about fashion photography.”

“What? Oh, yeah, of course.”

“No I didn’t meet her, but if you want to see shots of her, we can google. I know her name.”

“No, I-I don’t. I-- No need for that.”

But Max didn’t listen. She took her phone and browse the internet for the best shots of the supermodel girlfriend.

“Look.” She brought the screen right to Victoria’s face. “She’s stunning, isn’t she?”

Rachel Amber. She indeed was beautiful. Well-liked, adored by thousands of dedicated followers and probably so many other things that Victoria wasn’t.  Like Steph’s girlfriend.

“They must be so in love. The long-distance relationship is surely difficult.”  

“I suppose it was because they aren’t together anymore.”

“They are not? Did they break up recently?”

“No, not really. I guess it happened at the beginning of the summer. I’m sure Steph was already single when came back from Italy. When we attended the season opener, she said they weren’t  together for some time.”

Victoria’s head spun. When they had met for the first time, Steph wasn’t dating ANYONE. And they had a great time together, and she was all fired up to be better acquainted with her. And Victoria didn’t feel anxious about it. Damn it. 

“There is a new girl though, Sam or something. But Steph said it’s nothing. Or at least it was nothing two weeks ago.”

What? No! She can’t let some Sam interfere now when Steph is single. Lead by the uncontrollable unreasonable urge to talk with her roommate in person right away, the urge that erased every possible anxiety, she jumped on her feet.

“I have to go!”

“What? Where?”

“The practice.”

“You don't have a practice Wednesday’s afternoons. That's why we have these sessions.”

“Usually. But today is special. Uhm... That's why I almost forget. Bye, Max.” 

“Does Chloe know? Should I remind her?”

Victoria didn't care her deception won't stay unnoticed. She didn't even hear Max. Her mind tried to reproduce the image of Electrical engineering third-year class timetable stuck to their refrigerator. Steph had class in building 3C, and that was where she headed. She rushed through the campus and hoped to be there on time and catch her before another class begins. The building 3C appeared to be a fucking maze so asking some louse wanker for directions came as a necessity, but thankfully she finally spotted the desired classroom. Steph was standing outside, chatting with some brunette with awful hair and taste of fashion. Right. Fuck. What now? Victoria definitely hadn't planned the next step. The more she lingered, the more she regretted her decision to come.

The unfashionable girl was giggling like a 13 years old schoolgirl talking with a handsome teacher. But that wasn't the worst part. She kept touching Steph. First, she stroked her arm. Then she adjusted her beanie. And Steph just fucking let her not setting any boundaries. No fucking rules about personal space were settled. Or maybe she just liked to be touched by that stupid nobody. Because that’s what people do when they like someone. They touch each other even in public, and they don’t have anxiety attacks after that. Victoria was about to turn and run away as far as possible when Steph noticed her. She smiled, and their eyes stayed locked for a moment. The moment that was probably too long and revealed too much from the crumbling mind of the disturbed observer. Victoria couldn’t have this conversation right now. She turned on the heel, feeling the anger taking control. She was so mad at Steph. Was she so touchy with every girl that was around? Was Victoria no special to her? Or did she like this terrible girl more? If so, Victoria only could blame herself. Awfull hair chick just provided what she couldn’t.

“Vic. Vic, wait!”

She didn't feel like facing Steph. Actually, it was the last thing she should do. She knew that much and quicken the pace. As if she could achieve something by this crazy stunt. 

“Vic…”

Steph grabbed her hand and pulled it gently. Of course, she wasn’t able to resist the touch and the softness of familiar magical voice and ended almost in her embrace. Not the right place to calm her raging emotions, she realised. 

“Oh, hi, Steph. My class was rescheduled, and I got lost, and I really need to find it, so we hang out some other time. I’m in a rush.”

She really tried to stay calmed and avoid any outburst. Except it seemed Steph wasn’t interested in her words or even listened to them. 

“Samantha is just a classmate. I’m not taking her to our apartment. Or anywhere for that matter. I am not even hanging out with her much, she’s too talkative. Not like you. I-I mean... I really like your non-talkativeness it’s refreshing, really.”

“I need to go. The class will start in no time.”

Samantha. That name was enough. She tried to free her hand, but the grip tightened. She wanted to say Steph to get off her and never touch her again. She also wanted to kiss her so badly, which was insane. There were people around. So many people. Kissing another girl in public wasn’t something she was ready for. Even if she was, even if Steph really wasn’t in the relationship anymore it didn’t mean she desired to be kissed by Victoria. Especially with this Samantha girl around.

“Sorry to interrupt, but our next class will begin soon, so we should probably go Steph.”

She appeared next to them. Victoria only noticed because such bad hair should be against the law. Her arrival caused distraction, she desperately needed. 

“Yeah, you definitely shouldn’t be late. And for your own sake, I hope it’s the class about how to take care of hair.”

Somehow she was even able to create a sarcasm and smug grin after her hand was freed from Steph’s. Leaving the awkward situation was successful, but it didn't bring any solution on how to deal with the mess in her head. She took the phone from her bag. The message from Steph popped on the screen. She ignored it and wrote to someone else instead.

Victoria:

Feel like party hard?

No. 16:

Depends on what bar you want to hit.”

Victoria:

There is only one bar for me :)

No.16

Then you should put police on speed dial because we’re going to kill the gym.

Victoria:

You bet.

 

Chapter Text

 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 

University College London campus, Bloomsbury, London

Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering

 Samantha was sayings something about circuitry or circuit training. Steph wasn’t sure and couldn’t care less. Sam was a nice girl, but sometimes she talked too much.  If only Victoria could speak to Steph more. Or at least talk. Not that like no talking period of their times together were bad but… Damn. Five days ago, Chloe called that Victoria was injured in practice and acted like nothing happened, being though. Chloe asked Steph worriedly to come home early and check on her. It was no big. Or it supposed to be no big. Steph was eager to cancel D&D and happy to have an excuse to spend evening with her roommate, anyway. Just the thought of being close to Victoria,made Steph shiver. Eventually, they really had been close. Much closer than she expected. They ended on the couch and fell asleep their bodies intertwined. It was hard to tell which memories from that night were real and which were fragments of Steph’s dreams. They actually never talked about what happened, but something shifted between them. Victoria became more comfortable with their closeness.

Like the other day. She had sought Steph on the couch and sat next to her. After small talk about hydroelectric energy and Steph’s resolution to take a break from studying for a moment she had put her head on Steph’s shoulder and suggested to Netflix and chill. It had been amazing even when it really was only Netflix and chill. So only upgrade that could make that evening more perfect would be cuddling becoming kissing. Which didn’t happen, but in the end it didn’t matter. It was great, anyway. She was so occupied with this memory everything Samantha did or said was lost on her. Even her overly affectionate attitude. What would never get lost on Steph appeared in her line of sight, though.

She was here. Victoria stood in the hallway, staring. Monumentally beautiful. And vulnerable. She struggled. She suffered. But she came because of Steph. She came because she wanted to see Steph and couldn’t wait any longer. It was written all over her face. But instead of coming closer she had this spark of panic in her eyes. She turned and was about to disappear. No way. No more running away. Steph decided Victoria won’t get away with that shit again. She headed her way, grabbed her hand and pulled it gently. There was no resistance. 

“Oh, hi, Steph. My class was rescheduled, and I got lost, and I really need to find it, so we hang out some other time. I’m in rush.”

It was all lies, there wasn’t the slightest doubt. Victoria did that little distinctive smirk she always does when being dishonest. It could go unnoticed but Steph already knew her that much. Victoria’s fear and anxiety attempting to control her were becoming weaker and weaker every day, and Steph needed to reassure her there is no need to be scared of anything, but nothing she said had any effect. Victoria was in daze and left, eventually. Following her and try to settle this in public could worsen everything. So there was nothing much left to do than wait till this outburst is over. She headed to the classroom with Samantha and wrote a message on her way. 

Steph:

Vic, we should talk. I’ll skip my last class today and meet you at home.

It was delivered, but not seen. No surprise. Usually, Steph loved Statics & Dynamics, but for this time, nothing could hold her focus. She jumped from the chair the moment the class was over. She left the room in rush and reach for the phone in her bag. There was still no messages, and she realised she had no idea about the next step. It was Wednesday, only day in the week when Victoria didn’t have afternoon classes nor practice. Texting didn’t seem to work. Maybe she just saw the message on the screen and went home. Steph didn’t have any other clue, so she decided the plan to go back to their apartment is as good as any. On her way through campus she made another try and called her stubborn roommate, with no luck. Damn. Why Victoria has to be such an idiot? Why she always has this completely irrational breakdowns? And why Steph couldn’t just drop it when it leads nowhere between them? And it never will.  Those were questions without proper answers. What she knew for sure she needed to see Victoria and finally talk about this thing between them. 

“Steph, hey Steph.”

Max was walking her way waiving. She was a phenomenon. This girl, Max Caulfield, was a mystery. One moment she was like an open book. Happy or sad, winning or losing it was in her eyes and everyone could see that. And then, there was time she zoned out, stuck in her dream world.  No one would be able to figure out what she’s thinking about. Well, except for Chloe. Max’s girlfriend. They were like a perfect match. Even though at first sight they didn’t match at all. If they worked why Victoria and Steph couldn’t? Oh shite. Just woman up. She brought her shits together and waived back. 

“Hi, Max. What’s up?”

“Lovely  Wednesday, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps. Did you see Victoria by any chance?”

“I did. Wednesday afternoon is our coffee time, but she bailed on me because of practice.”

“Practice? But, she doesn't--”

“I know. She lied. So I have no idea where she went.”

“No prob. I'll see her later one way or another.”

“Listen Steph, I was about to meet Chloe later, but she let me down too because she struggles with some lectures and refuses to leave the library till she gets it in her head. So we didn’t do anything together for a week. Well it’s not some class. It’s Introduction to Embedded Systems Software and Development Environments. She has a tough time to process and..and.. Well, you know her, she talks about unimportant stuff all the time, but she’s too stubborn to ask for help. But if she’ll fail this class, she’s done. Like done and she’ll lose her scholarship and--”

“And I suppose it shouldn’t look like I’m helping her.”

“Exactly.”

“Ok. I already know, what's the problem. Chloe’s mind is sometimes overcharging, that’s why she struggles. And avoids simplicity. I’ll talk to her without betraying you. But not today, I have to take care of something.”

“Awesome. You just have it. It’s in you. The goodness.”

“You’re flattering me because I promised to help your girlfriend.”

“No..of course not.”

Max hit Steph on the shoulder playfully and gave her a big grin. It was time to say bye and go. The conversation was over. That’s what she supposed to do. But she didn’t. Instead her emotions took control.

“Sooo, I guess it must have been difficult.”

“Well, it depends...”

“Depends?”

“...on what are you talking about.”

“Oh. Right. I meant Victoria and her parents when she came out, and they basically shunned her.”

“It was. It still is. But not because of them. There were always high expectations put on her. By others. By herself. Occasionally, she still has hard times to understand she doesn’t have to live those expectations. In the way she still wasn’t able to break these chains completely and freaks out when she dares to be happy.”

“So.. did she came out because she liked someone. A girl?”

“No. I guess she didn’t allow herself to like a girl before.”

“She’s never been with a girl, then?”

“She was.” “She and Chloe hooked up when they were 17.”

“They did? I guess you're cool with that.”

“It was just one night after the party. Chloe did that a lot in the past and Victoria went to complete denial, after that. They weren’t in love or anything.”

“I wouldn’t see Victoria as Chloe‘s type. Or vice versa. For the record.”

Steph gave Max a smile that said Chloe’s only type is her. They look at each other in comfortable silence for a moment. Steph didn't need to wonder about what her companion was thinking about. Her dreamy look full of devotion was a clear answer. But then Max’s expression became serious.

“You don’t like Samantha from your class, do you?”

Steph just shrugged. Max might look like a lost puppy for someone who didn’t know her, but she could be very observant. If she asked she must already know the answer. 

“I will not act with a temper like my outspoken girlfriend, but I agree with Chloe on this one.”

Steph rolled her eyes and sighed. As if she didn’t know they were both right. Especially after what happened today. And so many other things. 

“Does, Chloe know?”

“No. I don’t think so. She still believes something’s going on between Victoria and their other teammate. That swedish girl with No. 16. But it’s not true, isn’t it?”

“I can’t read minds. How could I know who Victoria likes.”

“So it wouldn’t bother you if it weren’t you?”

It was just a moment of weakness. Steph wanted to say she was a mature person who can handle her own feelings, but she didn’t say a word. Her silence proved the exact opposite.

“Look, Steph. Victoria is a great girl. So are you, but if you ask me, there is a high potential for a disaster.”

“If she doesn’t like me, I’ll respect that. I’m not some teenage girl, anymore, who’ll brood after rejection.”

Whether if it was an attempt to convince Max or herself, it wasn’t very successful. 

“If she didn’t like you, it would solve everything, wouldn’t it? You could move on. But if she likes you, you can’t. Even when she’s unable to act upon her feelings.”

Those words made her head spin, and despite what she said, Steph definitely felt like a teenage girl with a crush on someone unattainable.  

“Max, why are you telling me all this?”

“I-I… I have no clue. I just had a coffee with Victoria and then she was upset from all of the sudden when, when… and then left and you’re clearly upset, too and, and.. oh, crap. I don’t make much sense, do I?”

“Unfortunately, you don’t.”

“If you really like her, give her time. I hope she’ll see it soon that her own restrictions are useless and should be abandoned. I hope it’ll happen before you hurt each other.”

Steph fell lump in her throat forming and even if she mostly didn’t give a damn about what people think about her, crying in public definitely wasn’t on her list what I want to experience before I die. 

“Bye Max, I think have nothing more to say to this topic.”

“I’m sorry if… I-I... I really hope you two will live happily ever after. If that’s what you both want..”

Max shouted, but Steph didn’t turn back.She headed to the Euston underground station, and  on the train she tried to figure out how exactly everything went to hell. 

When she arrived at their apartment, Victoria wasn’t there. It only took few minutes to realise that coming back to empty place wasn’t the smartest thing she could do. Because there was nothing to do. Nothing could occupy her mind except for thinking about Victoria. Where did she go? What was she doing? When waiting for her roommate to show up, she tried to clean the kitchen, her room but realise she’s basically only moping around. Then she turned on PS4 starting with Dishonored 2 moving to Diablo 3 and eventually launching Fallout 4. Nothing really worked for her. So she reached for her laptop hoping working on her theses will provide at least some distraction. It didn’t. She ended with stalking Victoria’s social networks which evolves into following the Chelsea F.C. Women hashtag which showed as the worst decision in decisions making history. Because she found a live stream involved Victoria, No. 16 and enthusiastic guys in pub having a great time. 

Steph was becoming more and more irritated. She didn’t understand why it was so easy for Victoria to hang out with No.16, out lesbian, be all affectionate and touchy on the field and off the field, too.  On the other hand with Steph around Victoria’s anxiety always kicked sooner or later. Finally, around midnight the agonising evening exhausted her enough, and slumber overcame her. Not for long though. The sound of obstinate keys dangling, struggling with the lock woke her up. She headed to the door dreaded what awaited behind them. The lock didn’t seem to surrender, anytime soon, so she opened them. 

Victoria was wasted. She was barely able to stand. She smelt like a whiskey and women’s perfume. The perfume that wasn’t hers. Steph was so happy to see her. And so pissed. There were so many things she wanted to say, not all of them kind but she knew that would be no point with so much alcohol involved. They needed to have the what’s going on between us conversation, desperately. But not when one of them was drunk and the other tormented by jealousy. 

Unfortunately, “Do you-- Do you want me to be-your-business?”, Victoria gibbered obviously decided to do be honest.

Now. When she was hammered, and Steph was mad, and whatever would happen, whatever would be said will not have any worth tomorrow because of that. Nothing good could come from this situation. And then Victoria leant in with clear intention to kiss her.

 



 

 

Thursday, November 2, 2017 

Goose Pub, Fulham, London

It was after midnight. Victoria definitely hadn’t planned to stay out for so long or getting wasted, she had a practice in the morning. But the thing was, she and No. 16 not only had killed the gym, but they had also hit the real bar right after and they hit it hard. Not just a bar, The Goose. Iconic place right next to Stamford Bridge. The home stadium of Chelsea men’s team. Some lads recognised them and offered drinks. No. 16 politely refused, Victoria didn’t hesitate to use a bitch mode and told them to fuck off. It showed they are not complete morons and one of them had a little sister who was loyal fan of Chelsea women, especially its impenetrable defence line. So eventually, they sat together. Victoria turned the bitch mode off and accepted the drink(s). As she realised she could use one. Or lots of them. And what started as the bitch mode on, ended as a great evening. The guys were quite nice, they talked about football mostly, took some pictures together and Victoria and No. 16 recorded a video message for the little sister.  And now they both were waiting for a cab, standing outside the Goose. One of them happy because of intoxication, the other because calling with her girlfriend. Intoxicated part of their little party was leaning on the happy in love sidekick, who offered the support, gladly. Yeah, fortunately, No. 16 was much more restrained with alcohol. Probably because all her passion was reserved for the girl she was talking with right now on the phone. From the moment they had met today, it was the first time Victoria was left alone with her thoughts. Her own phone was overloaded with missed calls from Steph. She wasn’t sure why she didn’t pick up at first and then she was just busy with everything else going on and now when she wanted to hear Steph’s voice more than anything, it was late night, not the appropriate time for calling someone. If it’s not one’s girlfriend.

“Come on, tipsy, the cab is here.” Said No. 16, ending her own calling session. 

“Oh, right.”

With the help of her companion, she got in the car and snuggled into her. It wasn’t the very proper thing to do, but her need for human touch was pardoned, considering the circumstances. She thought of Steph again and of how great it would be to sit like this with her.

“You smell nice.”

“Probably because I didn’t have a dozen shots of Johnnie Walker.”

“Not as nice as Steph but still nice. And it wasn’t dozen. Seven at the most.”

“You have to tell her how you feel. But not today. Not when you wasted. You have to be sober.”

“I know. I knooooow.”

Suddenly, Victoria’s drunken brain couldn’t understand why she was so anxious about everything. She had acted like a psycho so many times, and Steph never backed off but the opposite. They were becoming closer and closer every day. No Samantha or any other girl could change that. They will figure this out.

“I had a crush on you, you know. Before I met Steph.” She said after a long moment of comfortable silence.

“And you telling me this now, because?”.

“Because I need to practise how, to be honest, and we agreed I should finally start to talk about my emotions.”

“Sober, Vic. When you’re sober.” No.16 chuckled, and Victoria did the same.

“Right, you’re right.”

“Considering your level of drunkness, it will be 3 days from now. If you’re not going to die on tomorrow morning practise.”

“Oh, shit. Why you allowed me to drink so much?”

“I went to the bathroom, and when I came back, you already had three shots. That was the point of no return. I only could stop you if I’d drink all alcohol before you could.”

They both laughed and then cab stopped in front of the residential building where Victoria lived. She gave the driver enough money not only for her drive but also for No. 16.

“Hey, I can pay for myself.”

“Well, pay for yourself when you must. But today was about me and no one else, so paying is also about me.”

“You’re crazy.”

“I know, but I’m finally trying to fix it.”

They hugged, and before Victoria got out, she was given the most important advice once again.

“Talk to her, but not today. Tell her you adore her but sober up first. Promise!”

“I’ll promise. And thx for today.”

The walk towards the building was a bit tricky when no one was supporting her.  Still, she made it to the apartment’s door, eventually. Thirty minutes ago when leaving the bar, she felt only tipsy. For a moment she even wanted to drive back home. Fortunately her fellow teammate had convinced her to take a cab instead because now those shots of Johnnie Walker really started to kick. It took forever to find the keys in the bag, and it seemed finding the keyhole could be another monumental task. When she thought she’s not going to make it the door opened. From the inside. 

“Oh, hell-o.”

Steph Gingrich in shorts and an oversized t-shirt with impressive dragon looked a bit angry a bit relieved and absolutely irresistible. 

“Vic. You know what I was wondering?”

Victoria didn’t know a shit. Her brain was floating in alcohol. She took a step forward but stutter and fell right into Steph arms. Even with almost all systems down, something activated her numbed senses.

“Why your hair always smells so amazing? That must be it. I w-was won-der-ing about that, too.”

Victoria closed her eyes and inhale the scent that was messing with her head for so long without a shame. 

“No. It’s not the case.”

Steph pushed her away from her arms and dragged her to the kitchen.

“I was wondering why the hell you even have a phone when you never pick it? I called you like five times.”

Angry Steph was smoking hot Steph, it was so tempting to piss her even more. But at that moment everything was difficult, standing included. So Victoria leant against the cupboard trying to regain some strength or just don’t slide down to the floor perhaps because her companion wasn’t holding her anymore but tampering with the tap instead.

“Okay, stay silent, no prob. It’s not my fucking business, anyway.  What are you doing in your free time. And with who. But we’ve lived together for more than two months, and you never came home so late.”

Victoria stared at Steph and stubbornly ignored the glass of water that was passed to her.

“Drink the water, Vic and go to sleep. You have a practice early in the morning.”

“Do you-- Do you want me to be-your-business?”

The level of alcohol was too high to hold her desires in check. And the promise she gave, to talk about this when sober, was long forgotten.

“This is not the right time for such conversation. Actually, it’s the worst time.”

At the moment, Victoria didn’t give a shit about right or wrong. She was about to take what she had yearned for months and kiss the lips that were haunted her dreams for too long. Surprised but vigilant Steph took a step back and evade the kissing attempt. Another one came right after and was even more unexpected, but she kept her wits about her and dodge it the last moment possible. The second rejection was like a cold shower. Victoria woke up from the alcoholic daze and backed off.

“I guess I can’t compare to supermodel from Milan. Or maybe if I had a bad hair like the electro-engineer chick.”

“Vic..”

Steph tried to grab her hand, but hard reality sobered her enough to not waiver and move swiftly.

“You’re a really nice couple, just tell her to do something with the hair, will you?”

“...Vic, it’s not like that..”

Much more was said, but Victoria didn’t hear it as she disappeared in her room and slammed the door.  Thankfully she was completely drained, and sleep came almost right after she fell to the bed, so she had no time to wallow in self-pity. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Thursday, November 2, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

It was almost seven. Steph was tossing and turning all night so hearing Victoria moving around getting ready for the departure didn’t really wake her. The night was already sleepless  Even without noisy and probably really clumsy roommate suffering a terrible hangover. The morning practice will be hell for her, no doubt. Steph had replayed the previous day and night in her mind thousands of times and wondered if she should do something differently. Was it the wrong decision? Being restraint, not taking advantage of drunk Victoria? She needed to know and couldn’t wait any longer. She jumped from the bed and reach for the door handle.

I like you.

I’ll help you with any issue you’re struggling with.

But you have to stop being a coward.

She made a mental list with points of utmost importance that had to be mentioned in the upcoming conversation, no matter what and pushed the handle. Victoria was standing in the kitchen, looking drained. First, she didn’t even notice Steph approaching. When she did her face, become even more exhausted, but she didn’t say a thing. Just stare like she wasn’t sure if this is really happening or it’s just her imagination screwing up with her mind. 

“Vic-- Victoria, listen. I think we finally have to talk about this.”

Steph took a deep breath and watch her roommate’s eyebrows creating a very frown expression.

“Oh, fuck, it sounded so much easier in my head.” She muttered surprised by her inability to say what she wanted to say.

“I did something terrible, didn’t I?” Victoria was apologising, but from all of a sudden, she stood high, and the exhaustion was diminished. It was very peculiar and reminded Steph of something. Something she couldn’t grasp.

“No, you didn’t. You d--”

“I threw up on your shoes. Or something worse. Your laptop.”

“No you did not do such a thing and--”

“Whatever it was, I am genuinely really sorry. I was beyond wasted. Don’t remember a thing. I’ll promise it won’t happen again. No late arrivals or alcoholic escapades.”

Steph stared in awe and finally knew, what was happening. Victoria Chase really was a true defender. She was well aware that her mistakes could lead to the defeat of the whole team. So if she wallows, if she blames herself she only makes it worse. So she had to accept every failure and then leave it behind in no time, be ready to continue strong and collected. That’s precisely what she was doing. Except, for now, she hadn’t made any mistake. She just chose the wrong timing.

“Victoria--”

“I hope you can forget about the incident and we can move on.”

Victoria lied. Steph knew she remembered. The distinctive lying smirk told the truth. Victoria remembered and wanted to forget. Typical. She was playing with Steph the whole time, and now the game was over. She was never supposed to win Victoria’s heart. The odds were never in her favour. 

“Sure. There was nothing, anyway. You can come late whenever you want or get wasted and threw up if it pleases you. It’s your apartment, after all.” She said flatly and disappeared in her room. 

 

Thursday, November 9, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

Steph put remaining textbooks into the box and sighed. It was the last one. Moving out was the right decision she told herself in a desperate effort to accept what she was about to do. Things between her and Victoria became incredibly awkward. They didn’t say a word to each other, except casual greetings. And Victoria was trying hard to avoid her. What she couldn’t avoid was stealing glances, thinking Steph didn’t notice. Oh, how so very Victoria Chase like standing afar buried so deep in her comfort zone that not even CAT 5230 coal mining excavator couldn't dig her up.  Steph paid the rent for November but couldn’t stay any longer. Three weeks should be enough to find a new roommate. Tonight she was going to tell Victoria and leave all this behind. Then she heard a knock on the main door. Weird. She hoped it wasn’t Mr. Chase coming to lecture her daughter about the wickedness of being a lesbian. She would kick him into the shin. He did enough damage already. She headed to the hallway wondering about the visitor.

“You?”

“Me?”

“Yeah, you.”

“You know, me?”

“Who wouldn’t know the famous No. 16.”

“Is there any particular reason why all Victoria’s friends call me by my number, not my name?”

“Well, maybe if they called you by your name, you’d become a real person, not just some NPC. Anyway, I’m not Victoria’s friend.”

No. 16 didn’t seem amused. She still reminded the nordic warrior the same as on the field, but Steph didn’t plan to be intimidated.

“What do you want?”

“Are you going to invite me in?”

“I don’t see why I should. She’s not here.”

“Of course she’s not here. We are playing Rosengard in less than four hours. It’s Champions league eight-final. She needs to focus, not be distracted. Anyway, I came to see you.”

“What do I owe this pleasure.”

“Well, I certainly hope you’ll tell me?”

“Me?”

“A week ago, Victoria was all fired up to finally wear her heart on her sleeve yearning after you. Now, she refuses to talk about anything than corner kick, dribbling or taking that freaking striker down. You weren’t at last game. She’s lucky she wasn’t sent off.”

“So you not only drunk her but you also told her to put her heart on her sleeve when she is wasted and not having a clue of what she's doing.”

“For your information, she is capable enough to get hammered by herself, and I specifically said to talk with you when sober. Looking at your face, she didn’t take my advice.”

“No, she didn’t.”

“So, can I come in now?”

“Fuck it. Come. I bet I’m gonna regret this later.”

It showed No. 16 was pretty cool for someone Steph wasn’t supposed to like. She expressed genuine concern for Victoria as a good friend and when talking about the situation she even dropped the nordic warrior attitude. She explained how Victoria was becoming more and more comfortable with the affection towards Steph and had never stopped talking about her recently. Till a week ago, when she finally agreed to stop being a pussy and tell how she feels. Then when asked about it she just stated there is no Steph, no love and no more trying to mingle with girls. Ever.  According to No.16 Victoria also lost any life and passion. Except for desire to destroy opponents on the field and destroy herself on the practice. She became a lifeless machine. And instead of talking she was only making growling sounds.The top of everything was Chloe blaming No.16 for that claiming she broke Victoria’s heart. That was the end of story for now, but it didn’t bring any conclusion. Steph was thinking about everything she just heard and couldn’t decide where it put her.

“I know you like her back.”

“Oh, not only the nordic warrior but also an oracle, I see.” It wasn’t a compliment, and No.16 didn’t miss the mockery.

“You attended every game, except this weekend. I saw how you look at her. If one did not know what to look for, it would be easy to miss it, but it’s there.”

Steph sighed. Was it really that obvious, she wondered. Everyone could see it except for Victoria. And Chloe. 

“And I also can see how you look at me. Like you wouldn’t mind to kick me in the shin.”

“Don't get ahead of yourself.”

“You looked at me just like that when you opened the door, earlier.”

“Well, ok. Fine. I did. Because Victoria is all touchy and smiley with you, every time even with photographers and cameras around but with me, when she dares to touch me in public she needs three weeks to recover from her gay panic.”

“Have it ever occurred to you that it’s because she considers me as a friend and you as the object of her affection?”

“Uhmm-- No. Actually, it has not.”

It surprised Steph, but it made sense, really. Unfortunately, it didn’t make any change, considering the situation. Victoria was willing to accept her feelings only when asleep or intoxicated. 

“Give her a chance. Tell her you feel the same.”

“I definitely don’t feel the same! No panic attack appears when I’m with her because one shouldn’t feel under pressure when being with the loved one. But if this insanity with one step forward and two steps back will continue, I have no doubt my sanity is going to suffer irreparable damage. So I’ll rather pass.”

No. 16 put a hand on Steph’s knee, and she understood why Victoria liked her that much. She was nordic warrior only on the playfield. Off the field, she was exactly that kind of person who will make your day better, no matter what.

“I can’t tell you what to do, but remember she thought you had a girlfriend. Plus everything is still so very new for her. Just think about my words, will you?”

“Why are you doing this, anyway? Helping her. Helping us.”

“Not sure. Maybe because I am lucky enough to find true love, already. You’ll see once you’re happy yourself, that you’ll feel the need to give back in some way.”

No. 16 stood up, smiled lightly and left. She left the apartment, and she left Steph wondering.  

 



 

Thursday, November 9, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

Victoria parked Subaru BRZ in the underground garage and took the lift to her floor. They destroyed Rosengard in the first leg of Champions league eight-finals. No chance Rosengard could turn the tables next week in Sweden. Euphoria from victory was powerful and only strengthen Victoria‘s will to move from past slips. Steph must already be at home. But it didn’t bother her anymore. Despite the fact it was such a failure she knew she had to leave it behind. Her times as a football player taught her, there is nothing older than yesterday defeat, and that failure actually made her a better athlete, not victories. 

It's been a week since that stupid stunt when she had found out her roommate doesn’t have a girlfriend, then ambushed her and drunk herself to oblivion and tried to kiss her. Twice. The day after despite the massive hangover she brought her shits together and apologised. Not for the kiss, though, she didn’t mention it at all, but for coming late and being wasted as fuck. She also said she doesn’t remember anything. Steph played along claiming it was nothing, and they should just leave it behind. So they had done. And everything else. So except causal greetings they didn’t spoke or interact any other way in past week. It was probably for the best.

Victoria convinced herself she even felt better because she didn’t have to think about what if anymore. Steph just wasn’t into her, so it was time to move on. It was time to forget about this lesbian insanity or love in general. Maybe her father was right after all, and everything was easier when approaching as a business deal. Nah, she cursed herself. He father was a dick and didn’t know a shit about love. But neither did Victoria, and frankly, she didn’t want to if it supposed be so cruel. She opened the front door of the apartment. Steph’s jacket hung at the coat rack, and her scent was strongly present. She was at home, indeed. Victoria peeked to the living room and spotted her lying on the couch playing PS4.

“Hi.” She said bluntly and took off her own coat.

“Hi.” Steph cut it short too. She didn’t even take her eyes from the tv screen. 

Five minutes. That’s how much she will be able to tolerate Victoria’s presence. Maybe six. Victoria told herself and tried to transform her biggest defeat to something less agonising. Like betting game. So if Steph disappears in her room in less than five minutes she’ll make waffles for dinner. If it’ll take her more than five minutes Victoria will order some nasty pizza and have an epic cheat meal. She deserved it after outstanding performance in tonight’s game. She moved to the kitchen with intention to have a glass of water. Victoria just checked the clock on microwave, instead and then checked Steph’s body spread on the couch.

Steph was fully focused on the screen biting her lips. Her hair was still a bit damp, and she only wore a long t-shirt. No bra. Which was absolutely sexy. Damn it . Steph was freshly showered, oh she was. Victoria was captured effortlessly again and dared to stare. Well, so fucking what. She told herself. Steph was probably already trying to find new housing when realized her roommate is a psycho. She was just too nice to hold it against Victoria. So as long as she stays, Victoria will enjoy the view. It’s just watching, right? As if Steph heard to her contemplations she turned her head and looked right into Victoria‘s eyes. Victoria opened the fridge just to block the line of sight and panted nervously. What now? Nothing, just pick something from the fridge and get lost in your room. She scolded herself but wasn’t able to focus on anything. And then she felt someone’s presence right beside her. Not someone. Steph. 

“So how long exactly are you planning to do this?”

Steph was raging. Victoria needed to calm this shitstorm, which shouldn’t be a problem because in the past week she embraced her cold-hearted bitch personality, again. Or so she thought. She took a deep breath and turn to her roommate. 

“I beg your pardon.”

“How long are you going to pretend you’re not watching me.”

“I wasn’t. I am not! I’m not some cre--”

“And how long are you going to pretend you don’t want to kiss me?”

“K-kiss?”

Damn! Victoria‘s eyes betrayed her and laid exactly on Steph’s lips. She looked away quickly as if it can help to solve this mess.

“And why are you even doing it?”

“I-I don’t want to kiss you. I didn’t want to do it. I was wasted ok, I had no idea what I was doing, I barely remember. You wanted to forget, too, because you didn’t mention it once. So why bring it now?”

“So you do remember, you tried to kiss me.”

“I don’t! I said… What do you want, Steph?”

Victoria groaned in confusion and wondered why Steph waited so long to bring this up. 

“I want you to be honest with me and with yourself.”

“I tried to be honest, and you rejected me, remember?”

“You said you were drunk as fuck and you didn’t even know what you were doing!”

“Yes, exactly. And you rejected me. And I respect that.”

“Of course, I rejected you! What, the hell did you expect!? That I take advantage of you? That I risk you won’t even remember what happened between us in the morning?”

They were yelling at each other, and it felt more and more surreal every consecutive moment. What was Steph suggesting, it couldn’t be what Victoria thought it was. Or could it?

“You should say something!”

“I tried, you lied that you don’t remember.”

“Because you rejected me. I was embarrassed as hell.”

“Kiss me!”

“What? 

It was an unexpected turn of events. Steph just dared Victoria to kiss her. 

“Kiss me now! When you can’t blame it on alcohol when you can’t say you don’t remember tomorrow.”

“So you can reject me again!?”

“A coward. You, Victoria Chase, are the fucking coward. I’ve been head over heels for you from the very beginning and YOU… you’ve. Just. Been. A coward. You needed bottle of Jack to do something, and then you lied you don’t remember. Fuck you.”

Despite harsh language that was used, Steph wasn’t angry, anymore. Her words were calm, and she spoke slowly. She resigned. That’s what Victoria saw in the corner of her eyes when she turned away and headed to her room. Fucking great. If she ever wanted a future that’s not forever alone she should not make girl’s eyes wet. Being a coward, a fucking wanker will not help anything. She was full of anger, at once. So pissed at herself. And then, that anger exploded.  She made a quick move and grabbed Steph’s hand with ferocious intensity. Then she pushed her against the kitchen counter with the same drive and reduce the space between them as much as it got. Their bodies were touching almost everywhere. They were breathing the same air. Steph wore the wary expression, but she didn’t do anything to stop Victoria or escape. Even if she did, she’d probably wouldn’t stand a chance. The raw greed scared Victoria, but it didn’t overcome her. Because there was so much more between them. She released the heavy grip and replaced the hunger with tenderness. Her hand went up Steph’s arm her fingers delicately tracing every piece of skin they touched causing goosebumps. And moan. The low moan escaped Steph’s mouth, and she bit her lips right after probably trying to hold another one. Victoria kept staring into her dark blue eyes that become even darker when trough slow careful motion Victoria's hand reached Steph's face and stroked her lips gently. She still had difficulties to believe she’s going to capture them very soon, but for the first time she hadn’t any doubt. Because she realised there is no place she rather be than here with this wonderful girl. 

Steph’s whole body was trembling, and she caused all this. Suddenly Victoria was so grateful for the previous rejection. Her memories of that night were compromised by alcohol, foggy and unsettled. But now, everything was clear. The depth of her perception on this very moment was endless.  She desired to remember everything. To remember it forever and replayed it whenever. Frame by frame. That Steph wanted her. 

And then, they were kissing.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Thursday, November 9, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

“A coward. You, Victoria Chase, are the fucking coward. I’ve been head over heels for you from the very beginning and you... 

...you’ve. Just. Been. A coward.

You needed a bottle of Jack to do something, and then you lied you don’t remember. 

Fuck. You.”

Steph resigned. There was no point in trying. They were in completely different stages of their lives. And Victoria Chase was a coward. She turned away and was about to take refuge in her room. The firm grip of her wrist stopped that from happening. It was unexpected, raw and incredibly sexy. She gasped for air when pulled back vigorously and gulped after Victoria pressed her to the kitchen cupboard. Finally. 

And then they were kissing.

It was like nothing Steph had experienced before. Initially, she expected a relentless takeover. Oh, that move definitely inspired a fair amount of terror within her. When Victoria grabbed her wrist, there was pure greed in her eyes. Intense and almost selfish, because she decided to take what she wanted, eventually and nothing could stop her. No fear, no anxiety. Nevertheless none of it happened. Relentless, selfish or takeover would be the last words coming to Steph’s mind if trying to describe how it felt. 

At first, Steph thought the time slowed down. Stopped, nearly. When Victoria pressed her lips on hers, ever so lightly. It was barely a brush, but she knew two objects didn’t need to touch to create a massive electromagnetic field. The charge was enough. The second kiss was more daring, but just the tiniest bit. Same with another. And another. Victoria went further by every step but still kept everything incredibly slow and gentle. Not only her mouth but also her hands. One tangled into Steph’s hair and the other sneaking under Steph’s shirt stroking the freshly showered skin.  As slow as it was, it could be misguided for hesitation. But it didn’t feel like it at all. Steph didn’t know if Victoria was acting on purpose or she just doing it naturally but every small move, every kiss bolder that previous one, every little piece of her skin Victoria’s hand traced on the way up to her breast felt like a part of impeccable plan how to create ecstasy.

It took forever till Victoria’s tongue entered Steph’s mouth, but it was blissful eternity. The charge inside Steph intensified. It caused the field of fervent arousal spread quickly from her lower belly to the furthest part of her shivering body. She’d never been so aroused before and yeah she was definitely visibly shaking. When Victoria deepened the kiss, and her exploring hand finally reached Steph’s swollen nipples Steph whimpered feeling the muscles inside her pussy contracting. She went weak on her knees. Trying to avoid sliding down to the ground, she instinctively clutched Victoria’s hips maybe too firmly. She couldn’t possibly come just after sensual kissing, could she?

“I-I’m sorry.” Victoria broke the kiss, her hands retreated, and she was staring at Steph worriedly. “Are you alright? Did-did I do something wrong?”

Steph almost felt down without support still gripping Victoria’s hips when trying to put together, why was she apologising.  Being overcome by delight of unexpected orgasm, she couldn’t.

“I did, didn’t? I hurt you. I-I have no idea how to do this, I’ve never been with… well, I was once, but I was hammered.”

As her head stopped spinning, Steph realised how she must look like. A bit otherworldly.  She tried to regain her composure, till Victoria kept rambling.

“Steph, I apologise if--”

The kissing was restored, and the possible anxiety attack averted. When Steph was sure Victoria relaxed again she pulled away a bit, reluctantly.

“Listen, Vic, baby. You didn’t do anything wrong. You can’t--”

“Are you sure? You looked like you’re going to faint. I want to do this right. I want to make you feel good. Just--”

“Let me tell you a secret.” Steph took Victoria’s hand spill a couple of light kisses on the palm of it, paying the honour to the settled super slow pace. Then she led it down along her body to her waist. “Or, I’ll rather show you.”

It could be too much, it could ruin the moment, but somehow Steph knew it could also be a push the right way. The final destination. Her hand still holding Victoria’s slipped down her underwear but release it immediately when she was sure Victoria got the message. When the hand was in the right place.

“You--” Steph panted feeling Victoria’s fingers awakened and gently rubbing her centre through the soaked silky panties. “--you’ve done this. So don’t worry. You can’t hurt me. For the first time, you did everything altogether just right.”

“So you just--. I made you--. Uhm-- Really?” Victoria’s expression changed significantly when she realised what power she had over Steph.

“You did. So I’d appreciate if you stopped talking and keep doing--.”

The sentence wasn’t even finished, and Victoria's hands landed on Steph's booty. She lifted Steph in the air and captured her lips in the process. It was absolutely enticing. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Victoria was capable of something like that. She was the professional footballer after all. Athletic, fit and strong. On the other hand she had this side, pleasingly graceful and stylish in appearance and manner. Delicate, also. A bit timid, maybe. Sometimes it was painful to wonder which part of Victoria’s personality take the dominance, but for now Steph considered it alluring. In this very moment it seemed both sides had come to consensus of what Victoria desires. Or who. She had no trouble to carry Steph through the apartment right to her room, not separating their lips for the second. They crashed into bed, and Victoria sat up on her knees, straddling Steph’s hips and pulled her t-shirt over her head in one swift move. Then she used the slow-motion approach again and caressed Steph’s naked torso staring at her longingly. 

“You are so beautiful. I can’t believe how much I want you.”

Steph couldn’t believe either. There was this little voice in her head, that had been telling her the whole time that the magnetism between them was so intense it would be impossible to withstand. This physical connection was inevitable. But in those moments, when she dared to admit they end in bed together eventually, she thought it would be her guiding Victoria. Reality seemed to be very different. When it was happening, it preceded all of her expectations. It was like wild fantasy. Overwhelmed by emotions and lust, Steph was left speechless. For what she couldn’t say, she could show, though when claimed Victoria’s lips in hungry kiss. She was dying to feel the pressure of their naked bodies together. Victoria’s blouse and bra stayed in the way but not for long because Steph got rid of it in no time forgetting about slow. Both shirtless they pressed closer their mouths crushing hard. And then Steph knew she wanted more and she wanted it right away. She reached for the button on Victoria’s pants, but her effort was interrupted. Victoria pinned her down on the bed and broke the kiss for the second. They were both panting frantically. Steph whole body was on fire. If this were the step back, if she’s going to be turned down it would cause her physical pain. She craved Victoria as pathetic as it sounded, she did. Preparing for the worst, she was astonished by Victoria’s words.

“Steph, you have the last chance to stop this. If we go any further, I won’t be able to control myself. I can’t tell you what I’ll do with you because a simple thought of it is causing a sheer terror inside my head but for what it's worth I can promise you I’ve never wanted anything in my life more.”

Steph exhaled in relief.

“Shouldn’t it be me asking for reassurance you really want this? Protecting you?”

“Just tell me,” Victoria whispered, refusing to answer and kissed Steph nose softly, “tell me if something isn’t right for you.”

“Victoria, you are right for me. You take my breath away. So Please, touch me, kiss me again.”

And then it was settled. Victoria took off Steph’s panties with one motion, and for this time she didn’t interrupt when Steph was doing the same with the last pieces of her own clothes. When both naked Victoria didn’t hesitate for the second to reclaim Steph’s body. It came almost unbelievable. Whatever Steph was yearning for, whatever she desired to do to Victoria, Victoria did to her first. Kissing her neck, her breasts, stroking her hips, pushing against her. Then they mouth crushed again in searing kiss, and she felt Victoria’s hand between her legs Steph shifted her hips to urge Victoria inside. She did with pleasure and filled Steph with her hand moving easily against slick heat. 

“Victoria. Vic-toria.”

Steph grabbed Victoria’s shoulders, and everything just went away. There was nothing except Victoria with her, thrusting within her. Steph wanted to wait, make it last. She couldn’t. The orgasm overtook her. When she returned to herself she was lying on her side Victoria spooning her. She was spilling kisses everywhere in the reach, whispering. 

“You’re so soft.” Kiss. “I love the way you say my name when...” Kiss. “Oh, God, you’re so soft.” Kiss. “I love your scent, I love the way you arched under my touch.” Kiss. “This is incredible. You’re incredible.”

Steph turned and put both of her hands on Victoria’s face. Her primal intention was to say Victoria was incredible, actually but when she saw the softness, the vulnerability in her eyes she needed to kiss her, at once. She was drowning in the kiss, in the aftermath of a powerful climax and the heat inside her was rising.”

“I want you.”Steph said softly,” All of you. Will you let me…” and her hand tentatively moved from Victoria’s face travelling across her body aiming for the drenched place between Victoria’s legs.

For the moment Steph thought Victoria was going to stop her because her own hand intervened and squeezed Steph’s lightly. It wasn’t even a proper squeeze just barely a touch. But there was a message behind it, no doubt. Message that couldn’t be said aloud, for some reason. Victoria swallowed hard any words that were meant to be spoken, and her breathing quickened. 

“Is it too much?”

Steph had only a little time to struggle with possibility, she won’t be allowed go further, tonight because Victoria shook her head resolutely. 

“So should I continue?”

She nodded, but Steph could sense her body stiffened.

“Are you sure?”

Victoria nodded again, but her hand laying on Steph didn’t move.

“Use your--your mouth. Please.”

“You want me to go down on--”

Victoria finally released Steph’s hand and put the finger on her lips. Then shut her eyes tightly and nodded for the third time. Steph placed a soft kiss on her lips and started the journey to where she was desired. The kisses were spilt all the way down. Victoria’s body was still tensed, but her muffled moans revealed what’s behind the stiffness. She wasn’t afraid or anxious. She was tortured by expectations of how it would feel. When Steph’s mouth reached Victoria’s inner thighs the tension started to dissipate. With every delicate kiss coming closer to her centre she was losing all chains. And when Steph finally buried her head in flooded place between Victoria’s legs she gasped out loud in pleasure. Her hips moved forward granting better access. Steph knew she was dying to lick that pussy for quite a time. And it was thousands times better than she imagined. Her tongue was eager to explore, to taste that intoxicating essence of the girl below her mouth. Eating Victoria out would be enthralling enough but feeling her body squirm hearing her unbind moans gave the new meaning to the word Pleasure. She wished to fulfil that meaning entirely for Victoria as well. First being slow but unpredictable, then pressed more and ad finger or two, eventually as perfect conclusion of this enticing connection. Victoria’s panting became erratic in no time, however and Steph sensed she was close, too close. It barely went from slow to unpredictable, and Victoria’s body arched in wild climax. Her strong thighs almost Imprisoned Steph head in the pool of wetness but she didn’t mind at all. It was the sweetest jail. When Steph finally escaped she climbed up yearning to hold Victoria in her arms. She was visibly dazed, still trembling. But when she felt Steph’s arms around her body she squeezed her in the firm grip.  

“S-Steph.. Steph. You-- You are the goddess.”

Victoria struggled to speak coherently, and Steph had to smile. She kissed her forehead, her nose, her cheek. She kissed her everywhere she could and murmured.

“You are.”

 

***

 

Steph laid on her back, drained from many waves of bliss. Her body was brought to the state of utter pleasure but also complete exhaustion. She couldn’t even open her eyes because it would be too much energy to use. The energy she didn’t have. Although Victoria, laying on her side pressed against Steph slightly, had access to some magical limitless source of power. It seemed. 

“You’re so soft.”

She murmured, her hand caressing Steph’s tummy.

“You’ve said that like dozen of times already, Vic.”

Steph allowed herself to laugh, but her eyes still remained closed. She needed some more time to rejuvenate. 

“I know, I know. I just…” Victoria placed a couple of light kisses on Steph’s collarbone and then moved a bit so she could lay on Steph’s chest and bury her face in the crook of her neck. “It’s incredible. The delicacy of your skin. Your heavenly scent. The finesse of your tongue when you’re kissing me when you--”

Steph didn’t need to see Victoria’s face to know she felt embarrassed after she stuttered. No way she was going to finish the sentence and say licked my pussy. It was a reminder of how conflicted she still was according to liking girls and accepting her suppressed feelings. Whatever was meant to be said, they did, and both enjoyed greatly, yet Victoria couldn’t vocalise it. Steph had no doubt Victoria wanted her, wanted all of this, but her mindset was like two sides of Janus coin, asunder. It could lead her to the future, it could help her save the games she played on the field, differentiate between important and wasteful, making the best decision in a split second. And it also could hold her in the past, stuck with irrational fears and patterns. But Steph didn’t plan to ruin this moment. She knew well enough that nothing worthy ever come easy.

“There will be no spontaneous combustion when you say those words aloud. I can assure you.”

She said playfully and kissed Victoria on the temple.

“You don’t have to say it, though till you allow me to do that.”

Then she finally mustered enough energy to activate her muscles, so she shifted her body and laid on her side then intertwined her legs and arms with Victoria’s, so she could look her in the eyes.

“Thank you. I-I just--”

Steph silence Victoria with the kiss. 4:30 in the morning and total exhaustion weren’t ideal conditions for any conversation. 

“You as an outstanding athlete have a lot of experience with enervating situations and much better stamina and endurance than I do, a simple storyteller and wannabe electrical engineer. Not to mention, you undoubtedly mastered the art of how to use your reserves when needed.”

“Is that a compliment?”

“It is. It is also a subtle hint that you have a day off tomorrow, and I have to present my thesis to professor Francis at 10 am. I need to sleep a bit. Once I’m back we can talk. Or not talk, just… well, you know do other things. I promise.” Steph grinned, being a bit mysterious not using any specific words on purpose.”

“Deal, then. But listen…”

Victoria did a dramatic pause, and Steph couldn’t put a finger of what she was thinking about.

“I am listening.”

“Would it sound too creepy if I said I will be watching you?”

Steph wasn’t sure if Victoria was joking or being serious. The tone of her voice was elusive. And she also wasn’t sure what would be creepier, Victoria watching her, or Steph not minding at all. It felt weird. And enticing. Weirdly enticing. If anyone did that, if anyone suggested watching her sleep it would horrify her probably. But once she imagined Victoria doing it, that image didn’t bring anything unpleasant. Quite the opposite. Before she could say anything, Victoria burst into laughter.

“Don’t worry. I was kidding, silly. I think I stalked you enough for the past couple of months.”

Steph had to smile, too remembering all those moments when Victoria was secretly watching her.

“But could you stay here with me? In my room. In my bed. I’d love to hold you when sleeping. Hold you and never let you go.”

What the hell? Steph was dumbfounded. So Victoria couldn’t say words licking the pussy, but she blurted never let you go like it was nothing. And Steph hated it. And loved it. Because it could be true. And because it didn’t have to be. Maybe it was only after orgasm Euphoria speaking. 

“Shit, it sounded even more creepy than watching you sleep, doesn’t it? Oh fuck. Sorry. Sorry I--”

Victoria wanted to separate their bodies bud Steph didn't allow that and silenced her with a kiss once again. Despite the fact she desperately wanted to know how deep is Victoria’s affection, she also needed to be at least conscious tomorrow on the meeting with professor Francis.

“Please hold me, babe. And we could talk about anything you want, tomorrow when I’m back.”

She took Victoria’s hand, then turn and nestled deeper into her embrace. The sleep overcame her in no time.

 

Chapter Text

Friday, November 10, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

Victoria woke up, hearing the muffled sound of the alarm that sounded unfamiliar. She was too drained to open her eyes. Fortunately, the noise ceased quickly, which almost brought her back to sleep. But it didn’t. The feeling she is robbed of something very precious to her, something sweet and warm, forced her to open the eyes. She spotted Steph carefully disentangling from her embrace. 

Steph.

Victoria shivered and relived the last night in the few seconds. The wave of pleasure overcame her again. Her body acted without her brain giving the orders. She reached for Steph’s shoulder and pulled her back gently. 

“I didn’t want to wake you.” Steph smiled and found a place in Victoria’s embrace easily. 

She probably wanted to say more, but Victoria pressed their lips together. The kiss was slow but possessive and gave Victoria everything she wanted at the moment. It was amazing, and she simply couldn’t understand why she waited so long to explore such a mind-blowing thing. Kissing girls. Her first and only kiss with a girl, even corrupted by intoxication and guilt was earth-shattering when compared to kisses with boys. But it scared the shit out of her, and she was just too ashamed to admit it. Damn. If she wasn’t such a coward, she could enjoy this wonderful feeling of kissing girls for years. Could she, really, though? It still scared the shit out of her. How delightful and enticing it was, when in fact it didn’t suppose to. Being with a girl. But somehow, Steph’s presence diminished all feelings harrowing and haunted. Also, her soft lips helped a lot. And delicate skin. And her skilful tongue. And the taste of her… Victoria whimpered at the thought and felt a bit embarrassed of how much she was relishing all this, embarrassed about what she had done. And what kind of pleasure she had allowed receiving. Steph sensed her momentary distraction and broke the kiss.

“Are you, alright, Vic?” She stroked Victoria’s cheek patiently waiting for the answer.

“I am. I am more than alright. You may have something to do with it.”

“Same.” Said Steph and put a light peck on Victoria’s lips. “It’s already 8:15. I have to go to meet professor Francis.” She added and was about to leave the bed. And Victoria.

“Wait, wait a bit.” Victoria, who definitely wasn’t ready to be left alone, with all of those feelings stopped her. “Could you postpone it?”

“I could, but it’s unwise. Professor Francis can be turbulent, and he could hold it against me later.” Steph sighed, and it seemed she was decided. “I’ll go, but I promise I’ll be back till noon. And I’ll bring any food of your choice with me, what about that?”

“Ok. Ok. But remember, I’ll be cold and lonely without your mighty fragrance shield. Are you not afraid I’ll freeze to death?”

“I think you won’t even notice I’m gone because you’ll fall asleep the moment I leave this room.” Steph grinned. “Because you have the game with Rosengard behind you and the night without sleep. Your body will ask for the rest very soon.”

“I thought you’re a storyteller, not a scholar who knows everything.”

“Just tell me what you want to eat. That I definitely do not know. What should I bring for you?”

“Doughnuts. Salty caramel doughnuts. Lots of them.”

“Wow. I’ve lived with you for more than two months, and I never saw you eat junk food. But your wish is my command.”

“Don’t mock me, storyteller girl. I am a mighty crusader. And don’t get me wrong I love rice, broccoli and chicken breast, but even professional athlete deserves a cheat day. Especially after such strenuous physical performance as we achieved yesterday.”

“Truth.”

“And before you leave the apartment, come back here to give me a goodbye kiss, will you? It’ll keep me warm till you’re gone.”

“Sure thing, babe.” Steph promised, and despite Victoria’s dislike, she moved towards her daily errands. As much as she was looking forward to goodbye kiss once Steph’s showered and dressed ready to leave, Victoria had no clue if she stopped by. ‘Cause exactly as Steph predicted, her body asked for more rest, and she fell asleep in no time. 

When Victoria woke up the second time that day, it was because she desperately needed to pee. The room got significantly lighter, but she couldn’t recognise what part of the day it was. There was no sunlight behind the window stained by intense rain, only cloudy sky. Poor Steph, she was there somewhere. 

Steph. 

If her scent still weren’t strongly present in Victoria’s sheets, she would tend to believe the whole night was just a dream. It was too good to be true. Victoria checked her phone on the nightstand. There were no messages. It was 12:35. Steph said she will be back till noon. So it meant she could show up any minute. Victoria stretched her exhausted muscles and went to the bathroom.

First, she thought only about quick refreshment, but once in the shower, she realised how exhausted her muscles really were. The full competitive game itself was hardcore enough. Combined with night without sleep being very active, too her sore muscles craved hot steamy massaging flow of water. She spent whole half an hour there till she felt energised enough to encounter Steph, again.

Steph.

Damn. Just her fingers on Victoria’s skin set her off. Her hot breath on Victoria’s skin gave her willies. And oh, girl when she went down on Victoria. It felt gentle and smooth but intense at the same time. So intense. So right. Victoria left the bathroom dressed only in the towel wrapped around bursting with happiness but felt disappointed when Steph still wasn’t back. It could be nothing, she could just get stuck somewhere, meet a friend or something. Victoria didn’t want to panic. Everything was great, after all. It really started to feel natural, that she was so smitten with Steph. It definitely was a progress Victoria loved to be proud about.   And maybe all would go well if she didn’t decide to peek into Steph’s room. Everything was packed. All of her things were safely stored in the boxes that just waited to be taken away. That little castle she’s just built in her head where they lived together, protected from outside world fell apart. Fuck. She was blown off. But why? Was Victoria too emotional, too attached? Did she impose? Did she make Steph uncomfortable? Did she scare her? Or maybe it was Steph’s plan the whole time. Perhaps she wasn’t that sweet and ongoing girl. She just wanted to score with Victoria, and now when she did, there was nothing much left for her. 

The gym. Only the gym could help her right now. Or a bottle of wine but it would be a disaster for muscles regeneration. Same with hard workout in the gym after the game night without rest, she realised.

“Oh, fuck it. I can do both, anyway. First gym, then booze.”

Victoria cursed and went back to her room, furious. And disappointed. And still only dressed in the towel. She put some fancy clothes on instead and some gym clothes in the sports bag in a rush forgetting she’d probably faint doing workout or having any alcohol because she didn’t eat for 24 hours. Fortunately, she didn’t even reach apartment hallway when she heard to sound of the front door opening. She froze in the middle of the living room. The visitor was careful to not be noisy and brought a wonderful scent with them. The scent of caramel and doughnuts. And the scent of Steph. Probably because it was Steph in the hallway.

“Oh, hello.” And now in the living room.

“Hello.” Victoria's stomach gurgled. The hunger smelling doughnuts could cause it. Or Anxiety.

“Going somewhere?”

“To the gym.” She said coldly. Still mad at Steph for only justified reasons, she believed. 

“Ok.”

“Ok.” Steph said, ok. Fucking ok. Was she okay with Victoria leaving? So she can move her stuff in peace?

“I’ve had another workout in mind. And I also have doughnuts. Salty caramel. And crodoughs. Salty caramel also plus pistachio. It was hell of the adventure to keep those two intact. Protected from heavy rain.” Steph lifted two big paper bags. One with Rinkoff Bakery trademark on it, the other with Crosstown Doughnuts “But if you prefer to leave, who am I to stop you.” 

Victoria glared on paper bags and felt dizzy.

“How many?”

“What?”

“How many doughnuts and crodoughs, whatever they are, do you have?”

“Six for each. I thought you’d be a fan of sixpack. So it’s twelve in sum.”

“You brought me two different types of salty caramel doughnuts?”

“Yep. Well, the other ones are crodoughs, but it’s the same concept, only the dough is a bit different. I am not much of a doughnut or salty-sweet combo person, so I needed to do some research. I wanted to bring you something special. That’s why it took me so long to come back. Rain didn’t help much either.”

“Can I have some?”

“Sure, it’s yours, but what about the gym?”

“Oh, fuck the gym.” Victoria tossed the sports bag to her room. Then grabbed both paper bags Steph’s was offering and landed on the couch. Doughnut or crodought? That was the question. She took doughnut with right hand and crodought with left and took a bite from both.The sugary pastry and salty caramel brought and imminent pleasure. She was sure she moaned when enjoying the taste. Steph joined her on the couch and chuckled.

“You like?”

“I love.”

“I’m glad. You look, adorable by the way.”

Victoria shook her head amusingly and swallowed the last bite.

“You crazy or what, young lady? I must look like six years old peasant boy who ate mud instead of breakfast.”

“So what. I’d kiss you if not afraid of salty caramel combination that infested your mouth.”

“Don’t say you never had salty caramel before, storyteller. What kind of adventurer you are?”

“It’s too conflicted for my taste. You know, sweet and salty. Aren’t those opposites? How it could even work?”

“Oh, it works, trust me. With little patience, one can experience heaven.”

Victoria leant towards Steph and sealed their lips softly. Only for a moment though, before she retreated. She felt dizzy again, not from the hunger anymore, however and she also yearned to see Steph’s reaction. She licked her lips and frowned. Before she could protest or dismiss delicious taste, her eyes brightened. Her tongue run across her lips again, and she smiled and kissed Victoria, seeking more adventure perhaps.

“ I think I might give this peculiar thing a chance. This sweet caramel nonsense.”

“Oh, you love it, I can tell.”

“I said I’ll give it a chance.”

“Uh-huh. You’re lucky I’m nice enough to not eat all of them and leave some for you, too.”

Victoria winked and lay down to her side carefully putting her head on Steph’s lap. 

“Damn. I think I have a food coma. If not for this night, I’d say it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Steph didn’t say anything. She didn’t even move or bid Victoria make herself comfortable in her lap. She was stiff. Victoria knew, if she looked up she’d see something she didn’t want to see. No matter if it was doubt, concern or reproach. What she yearned for was Steph’s hand stroking her hair. When it wasn’t coming she was ready to ask for it. To beg for it even, perhaps. But she didn’t have to. Steph’s seemed to solve her inner conflict, eventually and touched Victoria’s body lovingly. It was an incredible feeling, and Victoria let this warmness soak her whole body before she asked.

“So, you like me? Like, like me.”

“I do. You don’t make it easy for me, though.”

“I know.” Of course, Victoria knew, and the only thing that made it bearable was the knowledge that Steph liked her back. 

“How long?”

“How long what?”

“How long do you know you don’t make it easy for me to like you?”

“Well, now I know I didn’t make it easy for you from the beginning, but you were pain in the ass, too. Just for the record.” Said, Victoria despite it was clear to her that no one was really to blame for that shitstorm of miscommunication between them. 

“Really, like how?”

“Well...well, first of all, you had a girlfriend. Or so I thought.”

“Did I mention any girlfriend? Did I act like someone with a girlfriend? Did you ever see any girlfriend?”

“She supposed to be in Milan. Besides, you didn’t mention break-up either. And you called with someone every day when came back from school. I thought--”

“‘Twas, my mother!”

“And you were so touchy and flirty with every girl in your proximity. How could I know I am any different?  How can I know?” Victoria sat up, ready to defend her position. The thing with girlfriend who wasn’t had been caused by lack of communication but Steph’s fondness of girls company was a fact. 

“Victoria--”

“And all of your stuff are packed. You’re going to move out and forgot to mention it.” Same as those boxes in her room. And suddenly the calming effect of salted caramel and Steph’s soothing hand was gone.

“I am not--”

“Now, when you finally seduced me, you can move to someone new. Was it a game for you, the whole--”

“Silence!”

Steph finally broke the flow of thoughts that was bringing Victoria’s head close to insanity. With a soft quick kiss of course. 

“--”

“I wanted to move out.” She said, and when Victoria intended to open her mouth again, Steph used the kiss silencing again. 

“--”

She sighed heavily and took both Victoria’s hands.

“I wanted to move out and intended to tell you, yesterday because I wanted you and you were ignoring me for a week. I thought you just made a decision to suppress any potential feelings towards me, and I couldn’t stand that. I couldn’t be in the same room with you anymore knowing I’m not able to touch you. To talk to you. You were hot and cold from the very beginning, but those last couple of days it seemed like you decided, you’re done with me.”

“Because you reject--” Fortunately, the kissing tactic worked for the third time in the row. Victoria, actually couldn’t complain even if it was a bit unfair from Steph, ‘cause she must know Victoria had zero immunity to it. 

“I believe you already understand why I rejected you, back then. Do you?”

“Because I was drunk as fuck and you didn’t want to take advantage of me,” Victoria answered, her voice lacked the vigour from before. 

Steph moved closer to her and stroked Victoria’s cheek gently. The gesture itself was sweet and welcomed, but it was still difficult to know what Steph was thinking. Her eyes were serene. 

“We are different, Vic. You and I.”

“What do you, mean Steph?”

“I know what I want, who I want.  My feelings don’t confuse me, don’t make me feel embarrassed. But you… With you around sometimes I question my own sanity. Did she really said I’m special at the airport. Did she almost kissed me when I came back from Stockholm? Did she pull me down to lay next to her when we both fell asleep on the couch? Or did I just imagine it?”

Steph’s hand retreated, and she also broke the eye contact. Instead she was looking down on her feet. 

“Sometimes, I think my own mind is betraying me. It feels like a thirteen years old girl who built up a world of magic because her own life was tragic. And also created some imaginary girlfriend.“

“So you have an imaginary girlfriend when you were thirteen?”

“No. No. I already have a real girlfriend. Since twelve.”

“Twelve? With a girlfriend.”

“Well, I always knew I like girls. When I was seven I wanted to marry Keira Knightley. Or Jules, specifically, her character in Bend it like a Beckham. My mom was exalted I choose a proper English Lady with manners, and my dad appreciated she’s also a skilful footballer. I guess that was my coming out.”

“What is the story with you and football? It becomes more and more cryptic every time you mention something football-related from your past.”

“It’s not really, it’s pretty simple.” Said Steph, her eyes still carefully inspecting the floor instead of looking at Victoria, who had only little strength left to stay patient. 

“The whole liking girls seems pretty simple, too.”

“It was. My parents always supported me. That’s why I didn’t need any imaginary world for dating a girl. I always told the girl. She either rejected me, it made me sad a bit, but I moved on. Or she liked me back. And I was happy. The only imaginary world I created was the one with dragons and dungeons. Those things that really do not exist in reality. Unlike love.”

“You make it sound so easy.”

“It is easy.”

“It is easy for YOU to say!” Victoria rose her voice again, “you never had to, you never…” then stuttered realising it’s really not Steph who should be blamed for her fucked-up childhood. “Sorry. It’s not your fault, that…”

“Your father is a dick?” Steph finally looked up from the floor, and her eyes met Victoria’s. She had the same unreadable expression, though. 

“Yeah.”

“Vic, I really like you. A lot. The things you do to me, I can’t even explain. And I thought I know everything about attraction and liking girls. So I wish you saw this thing between us as an opportunity, not a burden. It doesn’t seem like you would.”

Victoria’s head spun. She felt a lump in her throat and couldn't swallow it. And damn, she really tried hard.

“So that’s why you want to move out? That’s what you were thinking whole afternoon? That you’re done with me That’s why you came back so late? ‘Cause you we preparing for this confrontation? Victoria spat, on the verge of tears. “Is this a consolation prize?” and point to two paper bags on the coffee table. 

“No. No and no. Fuck. Victoria, are you even listening?” Steph sounded frustrated.

“I didn’t sleep the whole night. Last time I eat something was 24 hours ago more or less. If you don’t count protein shake after the game with Rosengard. And now I erased 6 salted caramel doughnuts. Croudoughts. Whatever. So I went from hypo to hyperglycemia, in no time. My blood sugar must be high rise. Don’t hold it against me if I don’t make sense. I’m not even sure if this is really happening or I’m still asleep.” 

Victoria was still shaken, but three no’s from Steph brought a bit of peace. 

“Welcome to my world with you around. Nothing’s for sure.” Said Steph and reached for Victoria’s hand again. “Even without blood sugar spikes,” she added and smiled.

“Anyway, I already explained why I wanted to move out. I wasn’t preparing for the confrontation with you the whole afternoon because the only thing I could think about was how much I want to be in your arms again Well I also dared to think about how you said you’d love to hold me and never let me go. But only for the moment because having hopes up according to your attraction is always a bane. One never know if you mean something or you’re caught in the moment and change your mind a second after.”

“Did I really say that? That I’d never let you go?”

“See, that’s exactly the point. Now you’re going to act all mental and panicking and back off and say you don’t remember, or you didn’t mean it or…”

Victoria had enough. She grabbed Steph’s t-shirt and pulled her in, so their lips crashed. Maybe it was high blood sugar euphoria. Perhaps she'll panic later, but right now she needed Steph’s heat. She craved her. The kiss was an explosion of bliss. Victoria took off Steph’s shirt so swiftly she almost didn’t have to break it. And pushed her down to the couch. 

“Vic..Victoria. We should-- we should not be doing this.” Steph gasped for air but didn’t make any effort to break the contact, nor she interrupted the kissing. Whatever her brain was trying to achieve her body refused to cooperate. She grabbed Victoria’s hips maybe trying to support her statement initially. In the end her arms wrapping Victoria’s body bringing her closer till she deepened the kiss. They fitted. All about their connection felt perfect. Victoria planned to kiss her way down, starting at Steph’s neck. The more she was losing herself in her scent, relishing the taste of her soft skin the less she understood how she could ever be without it. Steph’s mouth, though without proper attention regain ability to speak, it seemed.

“We need to.. talk. Vic, babe. You n-need to stop. Please..”

Victoria didn’t want to talk. She wasn’t good at it.  In her family, they never talked. Definitely not about feelings. There was only directives that had to be fulfilled and rules that couldn’t be broken. No discussions. And on the playfield she didn’t need to talk mostly. Scream a simple command or a note was more than enough to communicate things with her teammates. She was supposed to perform not talk about it. And she definitely had no intention to hear how almost everything between them sucked. Because there was one thing that definitely didn’t suck. The lovemaking. But this wasn’t Chase family Christmas nor kicking Rosengard ass on playfield. This was her chance to become decent human being.

“Okay. Alright. We talk.” She separated from Steph and sat on the far side of the couch. “Or you talk. I-I need calm down a bit, first.” It wasn’t easy to convince herself she didn’t regret the decision.

“It’s.. It is really great that we had such chemistry but..”

Steph also in the sitting position again bit her lips and turn her eyes back to the floor. But what? Victoria didn’t understand what but could go after we had such great chemistry.

“...I don’t, I can’t..” She looked up meeting Victoria’s eyes again. “Listen, Vic there is only a slim chance I am able to exist in a.. in the re-relationship based solely on physical attraction.”

It was such a bomb, Victoria wasn’t sure what part of the statement freaked her more. I can’t or Relationship.

“And you probably going nuts right now because I said Relationship.”

If she said no, she’d be lying. If she said yes, it wouldn’t be true either. So she stayed silent instead.

“I definitely didn’t want to have this conversation today because everything was so perfect this night, but when I came back you were giving me cold shoulders again.”

“I thought you are moving out!”

Before Victoria had seen Steph’s room full of boxes ready to be moved out, she was more than okay with a progress a relationship between her and Steph took. It was a significant step forward but not in the world she imagined it needed to be defined somehow.

“Ok, I am not moving out. The good spirit is restored, isn’t it?”

They glared each other and Victoria was sure nothing is restored ‘cause Steph is going to push. 

“So let’s just say if I want to have the relationship with you... Or take your hand when we go for a walk? Would it be ok and you’re not going have a panic attack, right away?”

Victoria was sure she’s not going to have a panic attack because she already had one. What’s this shit about holding hands? Why they had do define what was going on between them? She put two fingers on her pulsing temples, trying to suppress the incoming headache. 

“See it didn’t even happen. Only the possibility it could happen is driving you nuts.”

“N-no… I’m fine. J-just. Why we… why it’s so important… To label what’s going on between us. We are doing great. Everything is fine.” Victoria reached for Steph’s hand and ignored the minor resistance.

“Look, we are holding hands. And there is so much more between us than physical attraction. When we spend time together, just two of us, it’s always amazing. I love hearing your stories, I love the passion you have when talking about your thesis. I love to stalk you when, well, basically when you do anything. And I’m sure you noticed some time ago and still stuck around.”

“I told you I really like you, Victoria, and I definitely noticed your stalking habit. And It’s insane that I don’t consider it creepy but sexy. But...”

“We can figure this out, Steph. I know we can.”

“I know it’s great when there is only two of us. I know that. But I have to be honest with you. And with myself. I wish I could say it will be enough for me. But I don’t think it will. No chance I will be able to switch off my feelings when other people around. Maybe for some time but eventually I would want to be with you all the time. Not only when no one can see us.”

Victoria was mad with Steph and so infatuated with her at the same time. She had no idea if she sought just for the sexual pleasure or if she could go for a deeper connection, eventually. Fortunately, at least she gained clarity at one thing. What she didn’t want. She was dreaded at the thought Steph could move out, or to be touched by some Samantha girl. Victoria couldn’t stand the idea another girl is kissing Steph, enjoying everything she could offer. It was ill and possessive and crazy, but Victoria hated the thought, Steph wasn’t hers only. It made her sick. And if she could get rid of this feeling if she could feel what she felt last night, she would do anything in her power to achieve it. That’s how she decided. 

“You told me I was coward yesterday,” Victoria spoke seriously and was glad that it caught Steph’s attention. “Isn’t what are you trying to do the exact definition of cowardice?”

“Of course, it’s not. It’s reason winning over emotions.”

“Where was this reason, yesterday, then?”

“Vic, when I came back today, you were standing right here looking at me like so many times before. That look said you can’t deal with me and want me gone. I don’t know if I can get any more of such looks.”

“I thought you used me and bailed on me when I finally admit how much I want you. It wasn’t oh I like Steph panic. It was oh I like Steph, and she doesn’t give a shit kind of panic.”

“I do like you, I adore you, can’t you see? But..”

“Look, Steph. I-I will not hop on a rainbow chopper and become champion of the lesbian just. Not for you, not for anybody. And if this the only reason, you have doubts, I hope you reconsider.”

“I don’t... I don’t want you to hop on the rainbow chopper. I just-- just..”

“Want to hold my hand,” Victoria squeezed Steph’s hand still in hers gently,” and brag about how you wooed Chelsea Women best  defender?”

“I thought No. 16 is Chelsea Women best defender.” Steph chuckled, and Victoria knew, she won. She pulled both of them down to the couch and bid Steph to rest in her embrace. It was a great feeling, having her so close, knowing how much Steph wanted her. It was the sensation she didn’t want to forget. And if using a bit of deception to keep it was necessary, she was willing to risk it. 

“See, we are already holding hands and  trust me, it’s good all those fanboys and fangirls don’t know I choose you, they would give you tough times.”

“Maybe there is something good about you still being locked in the closet.” Steph murmured into to crook of Victoria’s neck.

“Is it? Interesting.”

“Because I’m pretty sure no girl will be able to resist your shining charisma when you decide to use it.”

“That’s how you fell for me?”

“Pretty much. You were irresistible. In the metro. Confident, delightfully charming and shamelessly flirting with me. It was such a surprise, when I found out, you’re not very comfortable, yet with liking girls. Not to mention you were engaged to a man.”

“Frankly, I had no idea I could express my fondness of girl’s company so openly. I’ve never done. It terrified me before. But you, you unlocked something within me.”

“What freaked you out, then? When you saw me in your apartment.”

“You kidding? What didn’t freak me would be definitely a shorter list.”

“You looked petrified, indeed and left me confused. Mildly speaking.”

“I was confused, too, believe me.  Conflicted. I wanted you but at the same time I was filled with horror when thinking about you could want me back or not want me back. Having you right next door only multiplied both feelings. The desire. And the terror. Besides a couple of weeks before I met you, I-I was…” Victoria stuttered. Her life could be so different, now, if…

“Hey, hey, baby. Are you alright?”

She must zone out because Steph wasn’t lying in her arms, anymore. She was sitting right next to Victoria both of her hands on Victoria’s cheeks, caressing them gently.

“I will be when you kiss me,” Victoria whispered and could burst with happiness when  Steph’s hot lips landed on hers immediately. A couple of minutes ago, she was all fired up to tear Steph’s clothes down and relish her whole body. But now, Victoria sought for something else. Something she definitely wasn’t used to.. And Steph as it seemed, did not hesitate to offer the exact thing when she broke the kiss tentatively. 

“If something’s troubling you, I’m here. I hope you know that.”

“I can’t believe I was willing to marry Nathan. I would marry him. I almost did.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

“No.” The statement itself didn't sound convincing,  “I don’t know,” and Victoria wondered, who was she trying to convince, “Yes,” before she resigned, eventually.

Chapter Text

Friday, November 10, 2017 

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

Victoria made a brief break to her narration and nestled deeper into Steph’s embrace. It was like the whole thing drained her, and she just needed to recover a bit. They were both lying in Victoria’s bed snuggled into each other covered with the warm blanket that kept every threat of the outside world far away from them. Or at least Steph found comfort in that thought. It wasn’t easy, though to process what the girl in her arms was saying. Victoria didn’t go much into details, but it was enough to give Steph willies. How she had needed to fulfil lots of expectations put on her. How she had had to pretend, to cheat and lie. Sneak out to play football. Through years Victoria had developed a very advanced skill on how to outmanoeuvre her father and create a secret pact with her alcoholic mother. That was her way how to survive, but the cost was too high. She hadn’t been sure anymore, what’s a lie and what’s real. And even when her father couldn’t forbid her to play football once she was adult, he could threaten her that without his money, she would be nothing. Steph understood quickly that threatening was his signature skill. 

“That engagement was my greatest leverage, you know.”  Victoria restored the storytelling and Steph was pretty sure she didn’t know. She had no idea how it must be, “but it also was my worst nightmare. The rift in my mind was getting worse and worse.”

Step kissed Victoria’s forehead because there were no words that could make what happened better.

“Nathan Prescott, a latent gay, was the best fiancé latent lesbian could hope for. Plus his father is maybe even the bigger douchebag than mine. We‘ve understood each other and went along more than well. Still being with him meant a career of obedient housewife controlled by my father full of wealth and luxury, though. On the other hand there was what I really wanted, the career of football player, unfortunately with salary that is basically a farce.”

Steph ordered herself to not contemplate much about we went along more than well , still couldn’t help and remembered the conversation with Victoria about cars. About how Aston Martin loves her. Could Aston Martin be also a metaphor for Nathan Prescott, that was a question. 

“I needed my father’s money, but he needed me as much. He knew he won’t be here forever to run his financial empire. That’s how this arrange marriage came into being.”

Damn. It was so unbelievable. Steph was sure terms like arrange marriage belong to the middle age, not to 2017 London. 

“I-I negotiated an agreement with him. With my father.” Negotiated??? Damn did Victoria really said negotiated?

“I was allowed to play football till my 22nd birthday. Then I was supposed to drop it and start to prepare for the wedding.”

“You disobeyed.”

Steph wasn’t even aware she actually voiced this thought of relief, but Victoria shifted in her embrace and then lifted her head just to stare into Steph’s eyes. She didn’t say anything, though. Only nodded and then went back to the safe harbour she’s founded recently.

“Maybe it was because I was aware 2016/2017 could be my last season I played so well, maybe I just progressed naturally. One way or another when Phil Neville called me I’m going to be a part of EURO squad the first spark of rebellion was ignited.”

“I didn’t follow EURO’s, ‘cause I hate football obviously but dad was all fired up about England performance. He couldn’t stop gushing about it when I came back from Italy. Now, when I’m thinking about it, he mentioned some fresh air in their fossilised defence line. I supposed it was because Mark Sampson was finally sacked, not because new star defender.”

Victoria left Steph’s embrace again, but there was no stupor in her eyes, anymore. Even when she really tried to look serene, it didn’t work.

“Stephanie Gingrich. I had enough. You are going to tell me the story about you and football right away. I’m done with your I don’t like football bullshit.” Then she cracked and burst into laughter.

“Ok, ok.” Same as Steph who pulled her back but didn’t miss the opportunity to kiss Victoria before doing so. “I’ll tell you everything, but please finish your story first. Will, you babe?“

“Fine.” Victoria agreed dazed by the power of Steph’s soft lips. “And for the record, we weren’t outstanding. I was devastated when we lost in semis.There is lot to improve. Still I believe we could win the whole thing if not for those vigorous Dutches. Especially Viv Miedema.” 

Steph almost blurted that that girl is a legend, but fortunately, she didn’t. Victoria’s story didn’t need any more interruptions, and her desire to know about Steph’s connection to football didn’t need any more teasing.

“So you can imagine the EURO tournament was a significant part of my decision. Of my disobedience. Even when we lost. I gain of lot of confidence there. I’m the worst bad loser, trust me. The semis defeat against Netherland broke my heart because I knew I could do better. But thanks to that, I knew if I bow to my father and quit football, I would lose, too. It wouldn’t mean much for engagement, though if that another thing didn’t happen.”

It was kind of clear what the other thing was still Victoria take her time to continue. It took a couple of moments. In the meantime she was running her fingers gently up and down Steph’s arm.

“God, you’re so soft. Did I tell you how soft you are? I love it.” Said Victoria and Steph felt she is smirking into the soft skin of her shoulder. 

“No, you didn’t. Not once, definitely not ten times, already.”

“Silly. So, I was friends with Chloe for years. And then Max appeared. They were always cautious in front of me but trust me having such a lovely lesbian couple around makes it really hard to suppress homosexuality.”

“It must have been difficult, to finally admit it.”

Steph never really felt like being a lesbian is something unusual or wrong or faulty. Yeah, the morons are everywhere, and she heard couple of nasty remarks about gays in her life. But such morons would insult anyone for any reason. Or even none. Victoria’s acceptance of her own sexuality was road much more bumpy as it seemed.

“I hooked up with Chloe once. When we were 17.”

“Oh, really?” Steph knew, but if she admitted it, she would probably also have to explain how she knew. So it meant revealing the conversation with Max. Even when Victoria was lying in her arms, being all cuddly and emotional, Steph didn’t want to risk her anxiety will kick because someone might know about two of them.

“It felt so right, you know. And it felt so wrong. I didn’t talk to her for weeks. And did everything in my power to prove I do not like girls.”

“So if it weren’t for lousy Father and his obnoxious views of the world, you’d end up with Chloe?” Steph asked too quickly. And felt incredibly stupid. She didn’t even want to know. 

“No, I don’t think so.” Victoria chuckled and brought a massive relief. “Never. We’d kill each other.” She added, and Steph was grateful she kept herself in check and didn’t inquire more.

“Good for me.” She sought for another information, though. “But being friends with her, seeing her with Max it made you realise you can’t marry Nathan, right?”

“Well, not exactly. It surely helped to admit that men don't exactly do it for me, but I respected Nathan a lot and didn’t want to hurt him. Actually, after EURO I knew I won’t quit the football no matter what, and I expressed doubts about our engagement. He convinced me it’s best and safest choice for both of us.”

Well, something else definitely happened in those hot days of last summer, because there was no engagement anymore. Victoria was struggling how to voice it though or maybe with something else. The longer the silence lingered, the more Steph was dying to know. 

“Now, when I'm thinking about it I'm sure if not for No. 16. I would l keep the engagement intact. But she happened, and I betrayed him the same day I promised the loyalty.”

It could be a combination of couple of circumstances. Or it could be the sole fact that Steph already seen how close Victoria were with her fellow teammate. The nordic defender with irresistible charm. One way or another her reaction was little exaggerated. Or more than little.

“You two were involved?” She squirmed. Screamed. Suffered. One of those. Or all of them.

“No, of course not, silly.” Victoria lifted up amused and surprised. “Are you jealous?”

“N-no.”

“Really?”

Oh, she really was. And she hated herself for not being able to hide it. Because revealing to Victoria how much, how much Steph really was enamoured of her could have many downsides. It could scare her, or it could give her an advantage. Because even when Steph wanted to trust her, so many things from Victoria’s past suggested taking advantage of any opportunity that showed, being in control of everything, had been her way how to survive. Such habit is hard to die. 

“Yes. I’m not jealous. ” She tried to shook it off. “So are you going to finish your story, mighty crusader, or what?”

Without success.

“I don’t know. First I want to relish this moment. Steph Gingrich is jealous.” Victoria’s sudden playfulness was deteriorating Steph’s will fastly. She resigned.

“Fine, why not. I should be pleased my pain is giving you pleasure. “

Victoria cupped her face, and she definitely didn’t look scared nor ready to take advantage of the situation. 

“Hey, hey, Steph. what pain? Does it really bother you that much?”

“No.”

“Steph.” 

“I wish it wouldn’t. God. I really do. But she’s-- you’re--”

Victoria shifted and straddled Steph then pull her up gently with one hand, the other slowly stroked her lips, “she’s taken, and I’m totally into you since the moment you enchanted me in the metro.”

“You and your fragrance shield,” she breathed, and their lips met in the sweet, deep kiss, “and...and it’s so sexy that you’re jealous.” Her hands found the way under Steph’s t-shirt suggesting the storytelling was over. It was tempting to succumb, but silence between them caused enough damage already, and Steph was desperate to know, what terminated that engagement.

“Vic-- Vic, babe. I love this but, please will you finish-- will you--”

Victoria grunted but stopped the kissing, eventually.  “Ok, alright.” Then moved from Steph and sat right next and hugged her knees.

“It was the first practice in the new season. I saw her and knew who she was.”

“You mean a lesbian?”

“Yes.”

“So what happened between you two? Did she talked to you?”

“Nothing happened. I wouldn’t dare to get closer nor speak to her.”

“Well…”

“You know there are no fans and usually even no journalist allowed inside the Chelsea FC Cobham Training Ground, but her girlfriend was there the whole time watching.

“The Danish NT captain?”

“Uh-huh.”

“She’s a real football superstar, isn’t she?”

“She is. They both are. You know they are pretty open about their relationship, it’s no big deal for them. And after they were playing together for three years for Linkoping, they were about to be separated. One ended in Wolfsburg the other here in London. It was their last day together before both should join their new club. It was crystal clear how hard it was for them.”

Steph involuntarily remembered how her ex-girlfriend was leaving for Italy for the first time, more than two years ago. She expressed a lot of emotions that day but even when Steph tried, she couldn’t recollect hard to leave . Surprisingly, the memory stung a bit more than a little. 

“After the practice was over… I can’t even properly explain how much it affected me. But the way they interacted, looked at each other and kissed, and freaking didn’t give a damn about the world around...  I wanted the same thing, I had no idea if I ever could have it, but I wanted the same thing they had and it that moment I was convinced it can’t be with Nathan or any man.”

Victoria was clutching her knees, and Steph had no clue if she was feeling relief or regret.

“I only left him a text message that it’s over. Which was pretty uncool from me. He tried to contact me, but I dismissed every attempt. I didn’t talk with him since then.  And the day after I told my parents. It felt great at first. And miserable not long after. Father took my Aston Martin, no Danish NT captain a.k.a. soulmate waited for me after the practice. And the sole thought of flirting with woman made me sick on my stomach.”

Steph put her arm around Victoria’s shoulders, and despite the lack of excitement in her voice, she decided to push her luck. 

“How do you feel now?”

“Well, I’d feel better if your lips weren’t engaged in talking but kissing me.”

And so they weren’t.

 

Somewhere between sleep and being awake, Steph stirred and rolled to her side. She inhaled the intoxicating scent of Victoria mixed with arousal and desire and smiled. Her eyes didn’t have to be open to know Victoria is lying very close to her. And somehow she also knew she had been watched. 

“You were stalking me when I was sleeping.” She said softly.

“I was. I still am.”

“So, you’re not going to drop this habit of yours?”

“No. Because you’re beautiful and I simply can’t take my eyes from you.” Still blinded Steph felt Victoria’s graceful fingers tracing her face. “You mind?”

“No, but I wish you’ll see also my other qualities and enjoy all of me, not only my body.” She finally opened her eyes. It was almost dark around. Somewhere between talking and lovemaking, the afternoon became an evening. Victoria’s features were barely visible. 

“I do, ” She said and smiled. “ I do enjoy all of you, storyteller girl. And you own me the story by the way. About football. Also speaking about your physical structure, I deserve to know why some No. God. No. Sports are not for me. I don’t watch, I don’t do girl owns a beautifully shaped body of an athlete. ”

Those were the words said the first day they met. And any resistance left in Steph started to vanish because they were remembered.

“Ok, I guess it’s time.” She leant over Victoria and turned on the nightstand lamp. She lingered for a moment and let herself to be lost in her emerald green eyes.  And she knew. She knew she would do anything to see those eyes happy. “Or it will be very soon.” Then she crouched over her heading for an alone time she needed to adjust to this realisation.

“W-wait. Where-- where are you going?”

“To pee.”

Said Steph trying hard to stay calm, but Victoria’s obvious concern and desperation caused only by the simple act of separation for the shortest moment sealed the deal. And killed the reason.

“Fine, but I want you back. ASAP.”

“Yes, sir.” She saluted mockingly and climbed out of the bed.

Once she was back from the bathroom she barely could approach the bed when Victoria attacked her and pull her back to the sheets. 

“Now talk. I waited for this story forever.”

“Well, I lied. I like football. End of story.” Firmly locked in Victoria’s arms, Steph laughed.

“Don’t play with me, storyteller girl.”

Victoria pinned her to the bed a little relentlessly a bit more playfully and demanded answers. 

“Fine, alright. I yield. I yield.” Steph faked downfall, and her surrender was rewarded with a kiss.

“Good move.” Said Victoria, released the grip and pull her prisoner up. 

“It’s pretty simple, really.” Steph adjusted herself into the sitting position so they could face off. “Dad and Grandpa are avid football fans. They attend every Arsenal home game since forever.”

“Arsenal, oh you traitor! That’s why you rather lied than admit you are rooting for our archenemy.”

“Shut up!”

“You are despicable! You let me fall for you, you Arsenal fan, so you could steal all Chelsea secrets. It was your plan all along.”

Steph put both hands around Victoria’s neck and kissed her at once felt her smile against her lips. “Shut. Up. Silly.”

“Well, explain your treachery, then.” 

“As I said Dad and Grandpa attend every Arsenal home game since forever and for the record I’m not rooting for them or anyone. Except for you my star defender.”

Victoria dismissed the pretended temper and pull Steph down to bed, so they both lied on their side, their noses almost touching. 

“Okay. Go on.”

“They were always so excited before the game. I remember when I was a kid I believed football must be something marvellous seeing them so happy about it. But they were reluctant to take me to the stadium. Grandpa said it’s not the place for the little girl.”

“Oh.”

“But they promised to take me once I’m older. Till then I was stuck with Galactik Football or Bend it like a Beckham.”

“You watched Galactik football when a kid?”

“You bet, at least zillion times. Having a super crush on the blond midfielder. At age 7. But I replaced her once Keira Knightley showed up as Jules. But you already know about my past resolution to marry her.”

“So, what happened? Not with Keira, with football.”

“They took me to the game, eventually, when I was 12.”

“Aaaaand?”

“I felt betrayed. There was no Keira Knightley. Or sexy skilful blond midfielder, no defender with beautiful silky hair. Only sweaty men, who were probably practising for some theatrical stunts, falling to the ground without any contact or gesticulating wildly when talking to referee. Only few of them were playing football. I don’t think you can imagine how disappointed I was. Wanted to go home after first half. Not to mention everyone in there was talking dirty. I've never heard my parents talk like that. It was a nightmare.”

“Oh, you poor soul.” Victoria brought Steph’s hand that she was holding the whole time, to her lips and left a couple of kisses on its palm.

“Yeah. My infatuation with football evaporated quickly, but I met Mikey.” 

“Your best friend, who has a crush on me?”

“Uh-huh. He was as much annoyed to be there as I was. His older brother was supposed to babysit him. Mikey wanted to stay home and play videogames. Drew wanted to see the game. Easy math. We clicked instantly, and instead of watching the game we spent the second half disputing if Diablo is better or world of warcraft.” 

“Seems, like there was a silver lining after all.”

“It was. Besides if dad took me to the women’s game back then, I would become Arsenal women fan and instead of Chelsea sexy defender I would be mingling with your archenemy, Arsenal legendary striker instead. Vivianne Miedema.”

“No, you would not! You’re not into strikers.”

Victoria released Steph hands and moved away. Now, her anger wasn’t fake. Arsenal and its best striker was her sore spot it seemed. And it probably didn’t help that that striker was the part of Netherland team who kicked Lionesses out of EURO tournament. It was such an excellent opportunity to tease Victoria and maybe make her a bit jealous, too. Steph couldn’t resist and went on.

“Oh, but this one, in particular, is an exception.”

“This is not funny. She’s my greatest opponent. Not to mention she really is an outstanding player.”

“Okay, alright. I choose you. Now and ever.”

Steph pulled defiant Victoria into her arms and appeased her with a couple of tender kisses.

“Not funny, S.G.” Said she but the ire was gone. “So there is only one last secret unrevealed. You and the gym.”

“Nah. You don’t want to hear it anyway.”

“Oh, come on. Now I want to hear it even more.”

“Fine. Since my then-girlfriend decided to take a job offer in Milan without any discussion with me and had time to visit only once in couple of weeks, I become sexually frustrated to the point Drew noticed.”

“Drew, the older brother? Football fan?”

“Yep. He also plays for A.F.C. Wimbledon and can be a royal prick. Typical striker. He is mostly nice to me, though.”

"What exactly mostly nice mean?”

Steph explained their hate/love brother/sister relationship. How he had suggested that a young vital body can’t be without sexual pleasure for long and that’s why Milan/London relationship won’t work. First she had told him to fuck off and take his theories to the place with no sun. But she had suffered, after all, missed the warmness of human touch and reluctantly sought him for advice. His advice was to find some girl toy only for sex, which as he said should be no problem because nerds are IN.

“You can imagine I told him to fuck off, once again.”

“And went to the gym instead?”

“No. I bought the ticket to Milan and surprised my sweetheart. Who was so busy, she couldn’t even meet me for five minutes. So I flew back even more frustrated.”

“You went a thousand miles to see her, and she couldn’t reschedule some stupid catwalking?”

“Well, she had her priorities clearly. Work first, than popularity, money, friends… relationship seventy-second. Probably.”

“So that’s how you dump that bitch.”

“Watch your mouth! Don’t suggest I made such a terrible decision and dated a bitch for four years.”

“Whatever. But I hope you dumped her after that.”

“No. She sent me a beautiful bouquet of roses the day after. And apologised. And then skyped in the evening. And made a private fashion show for me. Without clothes.”

Without revealing anything, specific Steph continued about how it had helped a bit for a moment, but everything had remained the same after that. Milan supermodel only had called rarely, when she needed the shoulder to cry on and moral support. And Steph frustration had been growing. Drew saw and dropped his macho attitude. He came with two solutions. The break-up which was dismissed at once. Or hard work out. Which wasn’t very welcome either but in the end brought a lot of good. Strong athletic body and no time to think about sexual frustrations. 

“I don’t understand. Why you didn’t break up with her? She clearly cared more about herself than about you and your relationship.”

It was funny how Victoria defined their relationship perfectly with only so little knowledge about it. She heard a 3-minute version of their love story and saw the obvious. It took two years to realise it for Steph. And only now for the first time she dared to voice all those concerns and issues buried and forgotten. Had she been lying to herself the whole time? She had no answer.

“I’m keeper. I loved her. I’m not a quitter who resign after first obstacle in way. I believed I could make it work.”

“But two years, Steph.”

“It supposed to be three months at first. Then it became six, nine, twelve. After a year I begged her to come back. The more I pressed on, the less she was willing to talk about it. I resigned and accepted her rules of virtual relationship that basically wasn’t. And became a nerd who is also a gym freak.”

“So how did you break up, eventually?”

“Peacefully. It shouldn’t be surprising how easily she let me go, but I still was in some kind of denial. If I brought it up sooner, I think she wouldn’t try to save that relationship, anyway. She just waited till I made the first move because she didn’t want to be a bad guy. I guess.” And she also guessed why it was so difficult to admit all this and why it was happening right now. Steph had no idea. She knew one thing, though. “The fault is my own. I should recognise sooner, she’s never going to give me what I want.”

“And what do you want, Steph?” Victoria made an inquire and also made a distance between them. She made sure it’s not too long, and her movements are not too rushed but couldn’t hide the spark of panic in her eyes.

“I think, you know, Victoria. I think you know.”

It was clear from Victoria’s face that she knew and it caused a wave of discomfort. Steph was getting better acquainted with her situation and fears and anxieties. She should be the one who is more mature and patient and see the reason. She shouldn’t push. But she also couldn’t pretend and lie to herself like she had done before.

“I can’t help it. I’m not the person who just mess around. I lost enough time with the wrong girl already.”

That wasn’t what her bedfellow wanted to hear. Steph had no doubts. And suddenly she couldn’t be in her presence anymore. Without a word, she rolled over and swung her legs off the bed. Before the lump in her throat become unbearable she was pulled back.

“Hang on, please.”

Victoria forced her to stay and joined her on the edge of the bed. Then took her hand.

“This thing between us it’s still under construction. And I hate to be pushed to do something. I hate to be out of control. So even if it’s something I want, it has to be me who decides to do that and when. Steph, I won’t hold your hand outside this apartment or change my relationship status on facebook, anytime soon. It’s probably a long way there or close to there, but I want you to stand by my side walking that pavement. Will you?”

It was such a tempting offer. Steph exhaled heavily, and the remnants of the voice of reason were strongly recommending to say ok, but only as a friend. She didn’t listen, though. She had faith she could handle this if she acts with both feet on the ground. 

“Alright, I accept your terms. But I have one of my own.”

“Fine. Of course. Go on then.”

Victoria initial relief was replaced with worry, she had difficulties to suppress. That was exactly why it was so important what Steph was going to say. 

“Vic, I’m ready to respect any proposal you’re going to offer any boundaries, but you have to promise, you’ll always tell me how do you feel. If you’re anxious about something, scared, uncomfortable... I deserve to know, and you’re going to tell me. If you want space, you’ll tell me. If you don’t feel like doing something you’ll tell me. If anything rubs you wrong way just say it. Don’t lie. Don’t hide and walk away from any problem that could arise. And most importantly, don’t appease me in the false belief you can manipulate me. Deal?”

Victoria pinched the bridge of her nose and shut her eyes. It was no surprise such deal weren’t particularly appealing for someone who was used to lie on the daily base before.

“Ok. I won’t lie, and you won’t push.” She said with all seriousness. And Steph wanted to believe her. More than anything. And when pulled into hug, she did. It really did seem at the moment it could work between them. They were both ready to give up something to gain something more.  It sounded like a great deal.

They weren’t. It wasn’t.

Because every decision for something is also a decision against something.

Chapter Text

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Colchester community stadium, Colchester, England

FIFA Women’s world cup qualification, England vs Kazakhstan

It was a chilly November night upon Colchester community stadium. What it lacked in warmness it returned in beauty.

“Didn’t he want to come because of your barbie roommate?”

Drew pointed to Mikey in the jolly conversation with his newest crush a couple of seats away on their left. The sister of one of the England strikers. Steph wasn’t sure which one, but it didn’t really matter, till Mikey was happy.

“Well, maybe it’s fate.” She chuckled but didn’t look their way. Her eyes were still fixed on the field. “If he didn’t have a crush on Victoria, he wouldn’t be so desperate to go to Walsall last week, and he’d never met this ebony beauty.”

“Who would have guessed this pillar of reason believe in fate?”

Drew add something more, but Steph hardly recognised he was talking to her. For the second game in the row, Victoria was a starter for the England national team. And she had played flawlessly four days ago in Walsall against Bosnia and Herzegovina, and she had been outstanding so far as well. Not in the world could she take the eyes from her. Steph was delighted, but she also missed her terribly. Two qualifiers and NT call meant Victoria spent the last ten days with the team mostly in St. George's Park national football centre. That wasn’t exactly next door. And even if it was, they weren’t open about their relationship. Or encounter. Or whatever it was between them. The connection Steph agreed they are not going to define, yet. Which had brought a bit more stress than healthy when she realised Victoria's NT trip meant a long period of separation for them. And the potential risk of lesbian anxiety. Caused by being in the spotlight or rude fans, Kazakhstan and Bosnia and Herzegovina weren’t precisely those open-minded countries, or anything actually could be the trigger for Victoria’s inner demons. Steph already knew that much.

As unbelievable as it sounded though, none of it had happened, and it was already day 10. The sole fact she was sitting here on the stadium gave her so much hope for their future. Of course, Steph had been yearning to come and cheer for England great defender. Considering the circumstances, it had been unclear, mildly speaking, what Victoria would think of that. Chloe was still waiting for her first senior NT call, not to mention her recent Achilles tendon rupture, so without her around there was no point for Max to come. Going alone would be a bit suspicious, and even when Steph had known Mikey would gladly accompany her, she had had no clue if Victoria didn’t consider her as distraction or burden. When she had been leaving for NT camp 10 days ago, they didn’t talk about it. The last thing Steph had wanted was to impose. She had felt dejected though when Victoria didn’t bring it up. And then two hours later her phone rang. 

“Hello, S.G.”

“Hello, who’s that?”

“It’s me, Victoria. You didn’t rec--, Oh, you’re teasing.”

“You seemed a bit tensed when leaving. I just wanted to… I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t be, silly. But listen, I was-- I just-- I know you’re probably busy and don’t have own car, but if by any chance your friend Mikey still had this little crush, I had some free tickets to NT games in Walsall and Colchester. And you can accompany him. It’s not that far.”

“You want Mikey to come to cheer for you.”

“No. I want you to come but--”

“I’ll come.”

“You will?”

“Yes.”

“But I won’t be able to talk to you or anything. You know it’s NT, and I have to be focused, but it doesn’t mean it won’t make me happy that you’ll be there.”

Steph relived the conversation, and even if there was a small catch, it was actually understandable. That Victoria was having other duties than little chit chat with Steph. So, she had stayed true to her words and had not interacted in any form last week in Walsall or tonight. But she called Steph every day. Twice actually and only the memory of those conversations made her weak on her knees.

“Helloooo, is someone there?”

Damn, Drew was probably talking to her for quite a time already.

“We came to watch a game, not gossip. Look, this is a perfect chance to score.” 

Steph pointed to the Kazakhstan box because Lionesses was preparing for the corner kick. 

“Right. Because you love football so much.”

Whatever he said it was lost on her because Victoria jumped the highest and her marvellous header ended in the goal. It was her first NT goal. Steph almost knocked Drew down with a massive hug.

“Or maybe you really do, damn.”

He laughed and got caught in pure joy, too.

“See, you almost missed it.”

She said teasingly and went back to her seat, reviving her favourite activity. Watching Victoria on the field. And then it happened. It didn’t take more than a couple of seconds, but the thunderous sound of her own heart was telling her it was real. Victoria looked right at Steph. Not to the crowd of fans cheering for her, not to the cameras of photographers. She looked specifically at Steph and kept their eyes locked. Then she smiled. It was a quick and simple gesture, and it was one of the most incredible things that ever happened to her. 

“Holy shit. You got lucky with this girl, aren’t you?”

Drew noticed.

“What? No!” She kept her voice down.

“Oh, you’re guilty as charged. You’re shagging the barbie girl.”

“Shut up. Just shut up.”

“You’re--”

Steph stomped on his foot and glared at him angrily. Outing Victoria in the stands of the stadium would be a disaster.

“If you won’t shut up, I’m going to tell Mikey you slept with his math teacher in high school.”

“You stomped on my foot!”

“Would you prefer a kick in the balls instead?"

Drew was massaging his bruised leg and the painful grimace on his face was an answer enough.

“Does anyone know?”

“No. And if you like your balls, it stays like that."

"Geez, why so sensitive? But don't worry, it's not like I give a damn about your love life, anyway nor I understand why you always pick such preposterous bitches." Said he and turned his attention to some girls sitting in the row below them.

Steph was more than glad because left alone she could fully focus on the object of her desires without interruptions for the rest of the game. And it was an eventful match. England won 6:0, eventually.  After the game was over, Drew was still engaged in lively conversation with his two new fangirls, and Mikey stuck with the girl he met four days ago in Walsall. Which wasn’t a problem at all because Steph had more time to watch sweaty sexy Victoria stretching. Or being all friendly and gracious around fans who wanted to take a pic with her. The evening was delightful enough already but when England defender climbed over the barrier between the field and the almost empty stands and went right her way, she had to pinch herself just to be sure it’s not a dream. Steph stood up and move to the aisle warily still processing what was happening. 

“Hi, random fan.” Said Victoria and stopped before the distance between them became too close. She seemed wary, nervously looking around but also excited at the same time.

“Hi, random England player.” Steph teased a bit, too trying to banish Victoria’s discomfort. 

“Hey, I’m not random. I scored the first goal!”

“Really? I thought it was Melissa Lawley.”

“Jerk.”

“Steph. My name is Steph.” She said, repeating the phrase from their first phone conversation ever, more than three months ago. It brought a broad smile on Victoria’s face.

“Silly. Listen, I spoke with Phil today, if it’s okay to leave the team right after the match. Since the qualification games are over, he said, it’s no problem. Soooo… I can travel back to London with you if… if it’s okay with your I’ve drunk too many protein shakes driver.”

Holy hell. It must be a dream. It had to. She thought she won’t see nor touch Victoria till tomorrow evening and now she was saying it could happen right away.

“It is.” She blurted.

“Are you sure?”

“I know his darkest secrets. So even if he wouldn’t be okay with it, I have a lot of blackmail material.”

„What about Mikey?“

„Sorry to disappoint you, but Mikey had a new crush.“

“Oh, my heart is broken.“ Victoria put a palm of her hand on her chest and performed an advanced dramatic gig. Her acting was maybe even better than some male football players in the box when falling to the ground, screaming in pain and demanding the penalty when no physical contact happened from their opponent.

„Don’t die, yet. Please. I can’t talk to him. Change his mind, perhaps.“

„Nah. It’s cool, I’ll manage.“ Being a real football player again not squirming mess, Victoria smiled softly. „So, I’ll meet you in the parking lot in 30 minutes.”

“Deal.”

33 minutes later Steph felt her heart beating like a drum and her palms sweating like a crazy when she spotted approaching Victoria. She looked like she came straight from the magazine cover, not from the football pitch. And was charming as ever.

“You must be Drew. Thanks for the ride. I’m Victoria.” She shook his hand and totally threw him off balance.

“Wha-whatever. Just stay away from my little-- bro--brother. Just stay away from him.”

“You mean that guy?” Victoria pointed to Mikey engaged in very non-PG activity with the stunning sister of one of the England strikers. “No prob.” She laughed and put her sports bag into the trunk of Drew’s Subaru Forester.

Then she went by Steph and subtly brushed their hands before hopping in the car. The gesture undemonstrative and unnoticed by anyone else, something so plain as the flapping of the wings of distant butterfly, still it caused a storm.

“Mikey come on! There is two hours’ drive in front of us.”

Drew shouted, and Steph sneaked around him just to enter the Subaru Forester, too and take place on the back seat right next to Victoria. She was tensed unable to steady her heartbeat. They were alone. The car didn’t protect them from possible starry eyes of people outside but if they’re lucky they’ll have a moment to talk a bit, unheard.

“Hi.” Said Victoria and licked her lips. Randomly or deliberately, it wasn’t important. Steph was dying to capture them. 

“Hi, again.” Steph breathed and felt herself shiver.

She was well aware she had missed Victoria, but this feeling she was experiencing right now was insane. It was unacknowledged, unexpected and unbearable. Two more hours till she will be able to touch her sounded like torture. Especially when she was right here. But even if it seemed there were only thirty centimetres of heavy air between them, it was so much more.

“You played outstanding today.”

Steph finally formed a sentence that could be said loud and didn’t include any stupid confessions.

“I am so happy you came. You can’t imagine.”

To her surprise, someone else was really close to heartfelt confession. Not only that. Victoria’s lips were trembling.

“You-you cold?”

Bewildered Steph intended to reach Victoria to warm her than stopped herself abruptly realising touching is not an option, so she retreated and started taking off her coat, instead. Her clumsy moves were destined to be interrupted, though.

“No. No, it’s not… I’m not…” Victoria’s hand laid on her arm. “...cold.”

Steph became locked in the moment. Her gaze was fixed on the place of the contact, and her body stiffened. The cold was the last occurrence present in the car that was the only thing she could swear on. Everything else came surreal. With coat armour, the distance between Victoria’s bared hand and Steph’s skin was relatively great. She would probably barely notice any pressure on her arm. But somehow seeing it was happening, connected all her senses to one. The grip was intensifying, long beautifully shaped fingers were encircling Steph’s tensed limb to the point when not even the thick coat could save her from the fervour of that connection.

“Steph…” 

It was just a word. Few letters put together. She heard it million times in her life none felt like this. Steph’s eyes flicked up from her arm just in time to see Victoria licked her trembling lips again. It was a ridiculous idea, but Steph felt like she would die for a chance to kiss those only for a second. And then the relentless force was pulling her arm. And the remorseless sound of opening doors destroyed everything. Victoria untouched her in the second and retreated to the furthest place on the backseat. Steph didn’t realise she did the same unconsciously only focused on how her head was spinning how her insides were aching. Fortunately, two boys in front didn’t pay much attention to them. They were either arguing about something or bragging. Or both. Steph couldn’t make herself care. It took her good twenty minutes to get her shits together. She didn’t dare to look Victoria’s way though. The chance she’ll be able to hold herself in check was none. 

She took a couple of deep breaths and stared out of the window instead. Steph was aware she was just a normal girl, no one omniscient, but she had believed in age 23 she knew everything necessary about love and affection, already. Hell, she had two serious relationships behind her. Three, if holding hands and confessing undying love with Danielle Scott through the whole sixth grade was counting. But recently this belief was shattered entirely. Well, a couple of minutes sooner, to be precise.  Steph never experienced such an untamed desire. Being close to Victoria, doing things with her she had done so many times before with someone else felt utterly different. New, more exciting, more real but unfortunately more painful, also. It was amazing and beautiful and absolutely terrifying. It was like falling in love for the very first time with that person one was looking for the whole life, just didn’t know till this person came along. And as much as Steph wanted to relish everything this new phase of her life brought; she couldn’t get rid of the fear it didn’t mean that much for Victoria. And it never will.

Victoria’s voice caught her attention and made her senses focus on reality again. She wasn’t talking to Steph thought. Mikey asked her something about the game. And as their conversation flew the longing to have at least a glimpse of the blond beauty grew. 

“So, what do you think S.G.?” Mikey asked, and she thought a lot of things, but neither of those was related to his question.

“She probably didn’t even watch the game, she hates football.” Drew pointed, and it was apparent he was planning something mischievous. “Only the hotties…” Steph was so close to slapping him for being such a dick but from all of the sudden something changed in his attitude and his voice softened. “...hot dogs. I meant hotdogs. I must be exhausted. Only the hot dogs had her attention. She ate three of those in the halftime break.”

The truth was Steph didn’t have a single hot dog, not on the half-time break. Not ever. And couldn’t put the finger on what was going on with Drew. Because he basically saved her skin when redirected the attention from her newly found love for football to Mikey.

“So, have you even thanked her, buddy. She suffered all this football shits only because you had a crush on her barbie roommate, and four days ago she even helped you to find a new girl.”

It couldn’t be seen, but probably no one doubted that Mikey was blushing. Steph really didn’t want to laugh. She loved Mikey and even when she really did help him find someone new, she still felt a bit strange about sleeping with a girl he liked. But there was something weirdly entertaining about this moment. Especially after her tentative look on Victoria revealed she was fighting the urge to burst into laughter, too.

“Why are you such a douche sometimes, Drew?” After the moment, Mikey obviously psyched himself up. “Anyway Victoria, I am sorry for my douche brother and for my shameless crush on you, which is over now. Mostly.”

“It’s ok. No harm done.”

“And Steph, thank you for being my friend and loyal sidekick.”

“The honour is mine, bro. Now if you'd be so kind, all of you and exclude me from this conversation. I'm drained. Eating hot dogs and hating football is really tiresome."

She said faking severity, but her voice sounded light-hearted. 

“I’m saying what about some music instead of this pointless chatter?” Drew offered. “But before that, give her the jersey as eternal gratitude, she picked you as her best friend from all of the people.”

“Jersey?” Mikey and Victoria snapped simultaneously.

“Yeah, the Jersey, Mikey. The one you obtain from the Arsenal goalkeeper when you played FA CUP game last Saturday.” That was a clear tease.

“Arsenal?” Both Victoria and Mikey repeated their synchronized action of a surprise, but Steph already knew. 

A month ago, when it had been settled that Drew’s team A.F.C. Wimbledon is going to play Arsenal in FA CUP next round Steph had asked him to approach its player Petr Čech, if possible. Her dad’s 50th birthday was coming, Arsenal world-class goalkeeper Jersey, the one he actually wore was the perfect gift.  Even when Mr Gingrich as a hardcore Arsenal fan had been struggling with the transfer of former Chelsea player initially. Through last two seasons, however, Petr Čech proved as a great professional and loyal Arsenal player and that won Steph’s dad heart. Grandpa Gingrich even claimed, on the moment of weakness his son admitted, it’s the best goalkeeper that ever played for Arsenal. 

“Mikey, you didn’t even lay that football sister and she already erased your mind. You can’t let girls do this to you. Are we even related?” Drew scoffed. “Steph’s dad 50th birthday. Petr Čech. Does it ring any bell?”

“Oh, right!”

“The glove box.” 

Mikey opened the compartment in front of him, took out the paper bag with a great treasure inside and gave it to Steph. She peeked in and couldn’t avoid stroking the red crest with the golden cannon. 

“Traitor,” Victoria whispered her mouth to close to Steph’s ear. When she leant in and how Steph missed it? She didn’t know. Hell, she wasn’t even sure if it happened or she just wished for the closeness because hot air causing goosebumps on her neck disappeared too quickly.

“Hey, it’s not me who left Chelsea for Arsenal, but Petr.”

“I’m not talking to traitors,” Victoria stated smugly feigning ignorance, but Steph still felt her eyes on her.

“And a bonus, it’s signed and also contains a personal message for your dad.” Said the driver and she still couldn’t believe he did it. Drew had agreed to try but also said the best goalkeeper in the world would hardly swap jerseys with some third division nobody. Steph hadn’t had her hopes up but knew the paper bag with Arsenal Jersey in her laps wasn’t a fluke. Petr Čech was not the person who would consider anybody as nobody.  

“Thank you, guys. Papa Gingrich will love it.”

“No prob. And now, time for some music. I vote for Adele, and since this is my car there is no democracy in here. So, it will be Adele, whether you like it or not.” Drew concluded, and in no time Subaru Forester was filled with Adele’s emotional voice.

On the corner of her eye, Steph registered Victoria was still watching her. She put a paper bag aside and dared to turn her head.

This ain’t lust, I know it is love,

The song was like salt to the wound,

If I tell  the world, I’ll never say enough, cause it was not said to you,

and the strongest remedy at the same time.

And that’s exactly what I need to do, If I end up with you,

Because she was sure, no one had ever looked at her ever before, like Victoria was looking now. Her hand tentatively crossed the boundary between two of them and stopped ridiculously close to Steph’s that was now lying on the backseat. She didn’t see because she didn’t dare to take a look, but warmness of another human’s body said it all.

Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing pavements? Even if it leads nowhere.

Adele kept singing. Victoria interlocked their pinkies. And Steph never felt happier.

An hour later Drew dropped them in Richmond. The first touch of cold came when their hands separated. It was inevitable, though they had to leave the car, eventually. The other thing that sent chills down her spine happened right after. Steph offered to take Victoria’s travel bag, but she was dismissed with an obstinate wave of hand and slam of the trunk door. So, after saying goodbyes to Drew and Mikey, they walked towards the residential building in silence. It was after midnight, so everything was quiet and peaceful. Except for Steph’s mind. They entered the building and porter greeted them with a silent nod. When in the elevator she tried to calm the raging storm inside her head. Reacting to every little thing Victoria did was the road straight to hell. Besides, she agreed to keep her distance when people around. That thing with baggage, being all caring and helpful in front of Drew and Mikey was imbecile. When confident about not being a mess anymore she lifted her head up and smiled at Victoria.

“Good to be back in your awesome luxury suite, isn’t it?”

“You bet. I was delighted to be with the NT, but there is some comfort only my own place could offer.”

The elevator door opened, and Victoria took her travel bag with one hand. The other squeezed Steph’s and pulled her gently towards the apartment.

“And even when Fran is a great football roomie, you outclassed her. Just a little, though.” She rambled till her thumb was massaging the soft skin on the back of Steph’s hand.

“You’re sure, I did? Maybe you’re wrong, and it’s time to replace me.” 

Steph said teasingly and freed her hand then took a small step back from Victoria. The effect of this action was precise as she predicted. She was pulled back in no time and pushed to the apartment door. They were just millimetres apart. 

“You’re not going anywhere, storyteller girl.” Victoria breathed. “Now, opened the gate to our invincible fortress.” 

Steph reached for the keys in her pocket, feeling the shaking hand of her companion sliding down her coat unzipping it in the process. Her own body wasn’t particularly steady either. She unlocked the door as quickly as she could without facing it because her eyes never left Victoria’s. Once the access to the apartment was granted the pressure on her chest made her move backwards and release the paper bag with Arsenal jersey. Victoria freed her both hands too and threw the sports bag to the hallway then stripped Steph’s coat. The door behind her shut and the darkness enclosed them. No one attempted to turn the lights on. Steph heard her pulse pounding in her ears when she hooked her index finger to the Burberry Harrington vintage check jacket pocket and tugged Victoria forward. To her surprise their lips didn’t clash. She felt Victoria’s arm grabbing her butt and lifting her up. Another surprise came after Steph draped both legs around her hips with expectation to be carried into the bedroom. She was seated on the shoe cabinet right there in the hallway, instead.

Due to the shoe cabinet support, the height difference between them changed. So, for this time it was blond head buried in Steph’s chest not otherwise. It was a strange feeling, this shift. This demand of hers to be smaller for the moment. Steph undressed Victoria’s Burberry Harrington vintage check jacket and let it fall to the floor. The layer of fabric between them got thinner, the distance between them became non-existent when Steph arms encircled the trembling body standing between her legs. Victoria slowly slid her hands under Steph’s t-shirt and the direct touch only confirmed she was shivering. But there was no way she could be cold. Actually, her palms were scorching, the skin on Steph’s back she touched was burning. It didn’t take long and the movement, the caress stopped, and Victoria just clutched her tighter. Then moved her head a bit so her lips brushed Steph’s bared collarbone. No kiss followed. Only the tingling of hot air on exposed skin. When Steph got what it meant, it was overwhelming. Through the slow steady inhales Victoria was breathing her. Relishing her scent like it was the essence of life. She locked herself into Steph’s arm secured in the knowledge she was wanted right there. It wasn’t just lust. It couldn’t be. Steph never felt so appreciated in her entire life and she thought she never felt more ready to give someone so much from herself as she was willing to give Victoria. 

 

Chapter Text

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

University College London campus, Bloomsbury, London

Bronze café

 

Steph walked into the Bronze Café looking for a suitable table for her and Victoria. It was still a bit unbelievable she agreed to grab lunch together. To hang out in public. It was after 1:15 pm., so the lunchtime was basically over. The place wasn’t crowded, nor it was empty. Just fine for the first date. Well, technically it wasn’t a date. Only two roommates having a coffee and sandwich together. Still, she was super excited. Because it was the first time two of them will spend time together outside the apartment or car or… Damn. Max was just waving at her from the window table. It wasn’t planned and maybe counted off sweet talk, but it couldn’t kill the mood. She’s going to spend an hour with Victoria one way or another. So, it didn’t matter if they’ll be alone or if they’ll have company and Steph just be close to her sexy roommate and stare speechlessly. So, she smiled and went to greet Max and Chloe.

“Hi, guys.”

“Hi, Steph. You look gorgeous.”

Said Max and made her blush a bit. The truth was she put a lot of effort to look good today. For no special reason of course.

“Thanks.”

Steph sat down next to Chloe who only grunted in frustration and lay her head on the table. She wasn’t doing well. She failed the Embedded Systems Software and Development Environments exam for the second time and two weeks ago she suffered Achilles tendon rupture, which meant no football for a long time. 

“You’re a pretty lovely yourself. I bet your girlfriend is such a lucky girl to have you.” Steph responded to the compliment and watched Chloe look up wearily.

“I need to pee.”

She muttered and grabbed the crutches leaning on the chair. She struggled with them clumsily and with every move, she was becoming more and more irritated.

“Let me help, love.” Max stood up but was dismissed right away.

“It’s fine! I’m fine. I’m not a cripple.” Chloe shook her off and finally straighten up. “Or actually, I am. Fuck. Sorry, babe.” She mumbled with remorse and headed to the restrooms.  

“So, it’s all rainbow and unicorns, I see.” Steph smiled sympathetically, “but don’t worry, I talked with professor Francis, he’ll give her another chance and she’ll make it,” then squeezed Max shoulder reassuringly. 

“I thought going out for a bit, will cheer her. It didn’t. Anyway, thank you, for helping. It was bad enough, without that injury. Now it’s thousand times worse. I know she can make it, if only she believed that, too.”

“It’s going to be alright. Chloe won’t give up. Because of you. She loves you more than anything.”

Max smiled and fetched her a drink menu template. “As my gratitude, let me buy you a drink. What about some special coffee?”

“It’s okay. I’ll wait for-- I-I--” Steph stuttered, suddenly not sure what she should say. Should she admit their encounter is deliberate or should she pretend and look surprised when Victoria will show up as if it was a coincidence.

Eventually, she didn’t have to decide because the phone in her pocket buzzed with a new message. She pulled it off and glared at the screen, too long overflew with a disappointment. 

Victoria:

Sorry, can’t make it. Will explain later.

Whether it was intentional or coincidence, Max saw the message, too. More importantly, she saw who send it.

“I know it’s none of my business but isn’t it Victoria right there walking away from here." She pointed out of the window on the classy girl in rush, who definitely was Steph’s roommate.

Victoria must notice them behind the window and decide to blow her off. Just like that. And she lied. And maybe Steph should stay calm and let her explain later, but the rage in her was stronger than reason.

“I have to go.” She jumped on her feet but didn’t leave right away. “Just, just don’t tell. None of this happened.” 

Steph pleaded and basically run out of the café tailing Victoria. She caught up with her in no time.

“Hi, Vic. Going somewhere?”

“Oh, hello. I-I texted you. I can’t have lunch with you be-because I need to go to library. They’ve just called me that I can pick the photocopies of old forensic journal I need from my papers.”

“Well, I can walk you, then.”

Steph knew it was a vain attempt before Victoria started to stutter. That distinctive smirk of her revealed her deception. There were no photocopies of a forensic journal.

“It’s--It’s not here, not in the college library. It’s in the royal library. And you have classes, in hour so. But we’ll have lunch another time. I promise.”

“You’re lying.”

“What? I’m not. I’m not lying.”

“You know I would respect if you said you don’t feel like hanging out with me in public, that you're not there yet, but this utter bullshit I cannot.”

“I am not lying, fuck. It’s true.”

“Whatever have a nice afternoon. And next time you want to lie about royal libraries, check the open hours. It’s closed on Wednesdays.”

“Steph. Steph wait! I’ve meant police archives. Not library. Fuck.” 

Victoria lied again but didn’t do anything to stop her. She wouldn’t dare. What would people think about it? 

 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

Steph opened the front door and the smell of something delicious hit her immediately. She realised she didn’t eat much today. And she still didn’t feel like eating. Or seeing Victoria. Actually, Steph was almost convinced she won’t find her in their apartment. Because she was about to do what she always does when something inconvenient arises. She backs off and pretends it isn’t happening. Steph took off her coat, the coat that didn’t make much difference for her through the day. But she felt nothing could help shook the coldness for the moment, anyway. Without having any clue what awaited for her, she left the hallway. Any preparation would be useless she realised because when she spotted Victoria standing next to the counter, she knew nothing could prepare her for this. 

“Hello, S.G.”

“Hi.”

“I believe, I promised you a meal. I hope you like Duck breast with chicory and potato dauphinoise.”

“Victoria…”

Steph wanted to say some duck bullshit will not solve this nor erase the humiliation she had to go through today. It was really hard, though. Because the smell of amazing food wasn’t the only thing that was messing with her senses. Victoria wore a green dress that fitted her perfectly. Yeah, Steph was pretty sure she never ever in her life saw something so sexy. 

“And I have something else for you, too.”

”Thank you but I don’t feel like having dinner right now. I’m tired. I'll go to sleep.”

"Wait!" Victoria basically ignored the dismissal and took something from her room enthusiastically. 

“I’m sure you’re going to look outstanding in them and even more amazing once I get you out of it.” 

She brought the maroon dress that was maybe even a bit more stunning than her own. Steph felt a shiver down her spine but took a couple of steps back and send to approaching Victoria a clear message. It took everything in her but she had to resist. She knew once they’ll be in proximity, any reason will go to shit. 

“I don’t think it’s going to happen, Vic. Have a nice evening.”

Steph knew she couldn’t reach her room without being too close to Victoria and she was also very sure the more she’ll stay and stare at that marvellous fit body in tight dress the less she’ll believe in any reason. She turned on her heel and headed right to the bathroom. Confused and conflicted. She had been almost sure Victoria won’t be around. Her plans were to pick some clothes and stay at mum and dad’s house at least for tonight. Because she needed to figure out what to do next. Last month was like a dream. Every touch, every kiss, every look at Victoria felt like the first time. So mysterious but so incredibly real. Like electricity, like break in the clouds and first ray of sun. When they were together, they couldn’t separate and when they weren’t together they couldn’t avoid texting and calling every moment possible. It was insane. Steph never thought love could be so addictive. So fulfilling and wild and scorching at the same moment. Love. Yeah, she definitely felt like falling in love with Victoria. She would tell the whole world how amazing this girl is and how remarkable it feels to be with her. And before today's overkill she was so close to believing that the feeling’s mutual. 

Nevertheless, the dream became a pure nightmare. Or maybe she just overdramatized. But Victoria had lied just to avoid being with Steph in public and then lied again about not lying. And they have no lies no push agreement. Was it violated on both sides? Steph wondered, got rid of her clothes and put them into the laundry basket still feeling excessively cold. The shower was usually the great way how to ease any problem but even when she adjusted the water to hotter than whole Maxim women of 2017 list, it didn’t help with the coldness.  Chloe and Max were her closest friend, who also happened to be together. In very sweet very lesbian relationship. They would not judge. If Victoria couldn’t come out to them about this thing, she will never come out to anyone. Steph will always be just object of lust to her, guilty pleasure, dirty little secret.

“Fuck!”

She folded her fingers tightly into the centre of her palms and hit the wall. And resigned. There was no point in staying. She turned off the water and left the shower. There was only one thing that could suppress the coldness. A touch. She wrapped herself into the towel and hated how much she yearned for that touch. Fortunately, Victoria wasn’t in the kitchen nor in the living room, when she came from the bathroom. The door to her room was closed but the thin line of light under her door suggested she’s still in the apartment.  Despite the temptation Steph pushed the right handle, eventually. She still wasn’t safe, though. 

In her room, a surprise awaited for her. The maroon dress lied on her bed. Also, the carefully folded paper and stilettos of the same colour. It was ridiculous. Steph never was into dresses and definitely not into high heels but there was something about these two pieces of wardrobe. It was like they were talking, to her luring her. She had no strength left to oppose the desire, she didn’t even understand. In no time she was fully clothed looking at herself in the mirror and wondering how it is possible to look so good and why those killer heels felt so comfortable. She also dared to unfold the little piece of paper a bit soaked now, because she held it too long in her sweaty palm.

Sorry.

It contained the shortest message, but the delicate handwriting did not suggest little effort but otherwise.

“I told you, you’re going to look outstanding.”

Steph flinched startled because she had no idea when she stopped being alone.

“You knew. How the hell did you know I will have to try them.”

She should say just go away. Or leave me be. Or fucking anything but gushing about the stupid dress. 

“Because this dress is perfect for you. Like you know that wizard wand in Harry Potter books.  It picks the owner. And this dress picked you.”

“Vic, it didn’t pick me. You bought it. And you’re going to give them back. It must cost the fortune.”

Steph didn’t dare to turn around and face the reality. She stared to the mirror reflection instead as if the solution of what to do next was over there, through the looking glass.  

“And there is also something else that picked you.”

Victoria rose her left hand and revealed something yet unnoticed. Something that was tearing Steph apart. She opened a small black box and got closer. So, close her hot breath cause a shiver. Victoria took the small shiny thing from the box and put the box on the desk. 

“Did you-- did you ever see me-- what did make you think I am a necklace person?”

The answer didn’t come immediately. First, there were Victoria’s hands putting the necklace around Steph’s neck with utmost tenderness. The pendant was mesmerizing. A delicate and refined pavé cage held a large, fancy-cut crystal with geometric facets in a cool blue tone.

“It fits your eyes perfectly” Victoria whispered, her lips brushing Steph’s ears.  “And Mikey has this picture on his Facebook page. Bit outdated but kind of cute. Super excited about his awesome friend. The girl with the dragon pendant necklace. That’s how I knew, this beautiful piece of your body,” she run her fingers softly up Steph cleavage, “needs to be rewarded with fine jewellery.”

“Rachel gave it to me.”

On their first anniversary. It was long forgotten. And it seemed this memory will bury the previous one even deeper.

“Well, now you have a new girlfriend. It’s time for a new necklace.”

Steph had no clue how Victoria did that but the stereo turn on and Adele was singing again about how she should give up or keep chasing pavements. She felt caring hands sliding down her sides, and when they reach her waist she was turned around.

“Will, you dance with me, Stephanie Rose?”

“How--how do you know my middle name?”

“I’m your stalker, remember?”

No reason could help Steph to run out of Victoria’s spell. She would do anything for her, at the moment. And she would forgive any crime great or small, large or petty. She yielded to the overwhelming might of the girl in the green dress put her arms around Victoria’s neck and rested the head on her chest. 

“I’ve never danced before. With a girl. Or anyone. So, you better watch your shoes.” Steph breathed surprised how fast Victoria’s heart was beating.

“I’ve never danced before, with anyone I wanted to dance. Until now.” She said and kissed Steph’s hair. Then guided her moves slowly, to allow her to enjoy her first dance. 

***

Two hours later, relaxed, disposed of all the tension due to Victoria’s proficient hands and master tongue, Steph was standing in the kitchen ready to fulfil her last need. 

“This is freaking heaven.” 

She said savouring the duck breast with chicory and potato dauphinoise. Victoria stared at her chuckling. She looked adorable leaning into the counter next to Steph in her I WOKE UP LIKE THIS sleeping t-shirt.

“It could be even better perhaps if you heat it and sit when eating. You know.”

“I didn’t eat the whole day. I’m starving. If I waited one more minute I would faint.” She put another bit of delicious meal into her mouth and didn’t mind at all it’s not properly warmed. 

“Then I could revive you with some mouth-to-mouth breathing. A kiss of life.” 

Victoria swayed towards Steph and hugged her from behind. 

“No offence, baby but right now, I’d choose a duck breast instead of your lips.”

“Believe it or not. None taken. I’m happy you like it. I wanted it to be perfect.”

Victoria kissed her neck, her ear, her hair and hugged her tighter. It really felt like a perfect moment. Maybe because Steph had thought she already lost it all. But more she thought about it the more she believed she would change the dance in luxurious dress, lavish meal and excess of attention tonight for simple coffee and sandwich at noon when Victoria wasn’t ashamed to sit next to her in café. She pushed the plate away and turn around in Victoria’s embrace.

“Why, why you panicked today? Why you lied? I would not swoop on you in front of Max and Chloe. I wouldn’t push.”

“I know. I know you wouldn’t.”

Victoria sighed and broke the contact. She let her hands hang at her sides and took a step back. Her eyes were looking somewhere behind Steph and it was obvious she didn’t want to talk about what happened. Exactly the moment before the danger that she is going to be left alone in the kitchen arise, her mouth opened, her eyes found Steph’s. 

“I just.. I saw Max with you through the window and I couldn’t handle it. Steph, they know me. They would notice something’s going on between us. No matter how hard I would try to hide it.”

“So, whatever you feel for me, whatever is going on between us. It’s-- it is so wrong, despicable that you have to hide it.”

It surprised Steph greatly but her voice was shaky and distraught all of the sudden and she realised she’s on the verge of tears. 

“That’s just great, Victoria, isn’t it?” She said and felt the teardrop is already falling down her cheek. “And-and you didn’t even have balls to tell me, rather manufacture some pathetic lie about the library.”

She tried to swallow the lump in her throat but couldn’t. Even when Victoria did wrong, crying about it like silly teenage girl was far more pathetic. Actually, Steph couldn’t come with the worst reaction than this, she was sure when saw Victoria’s appalled face.

“Fuck. Maybe, if you didn’t lie about it at least.”

“Wait.” Victoria grabbed Steph’s hand before she could disappear. “This is exactly why I lied.” She pulled her closer and wiped a tear on her cheek softly, “I thought I was protecting you, so you won’t over complicate things,” then kiss her front head gently and whispered,” over here.”

“Well, make it simple for me then,” Steph mumbled into Victoria’s chest feeling her arms encircling her caringly. “How can I appreciate you want to hide your feelings and lie. And no more sham. I can handle the truth, I’m a big girl. Even when it doesn’t look like it, now.”

“I want to make sense of all this, first. What’s going on with me. Before anyone else will start to think it’s their business. Especially when it’s the first time for me.”

“Believe it or not, Vic, so many things with you are also the first time for me. Like the dance.”

Steph said softly fully realising that some dancing cannot compare to coming out or being with a girl for the first time. Still, she was convinced she could help Victoria to deal with things if there was a will to talk about them.

“And I’m really flattered but something’s telling me you weren’t appalled to dance, before. Maybe not eager, but it didn’t scare you.”

Steph thought nothing really had scared her before she met Victoria and now the fear, she’s going to lose her was showing up, way too often. But she didn’t say anything just shook her head.

“Look, Steph. It’s… You know Chloe. She is super overprotective of people she cares about. Knowing so much about my background and according to the days when her father was in the hospital and I stood by her side, she feels obliged to be twice as overprotective of me. If she knew about us, she wouldn’t be able to stop herself and made us her business, too. Not to mention someone knowing about us would make it...well, official. So, I would feel forced to define it. Which I’m unable to do, yet...and. Fuck. Does it make sense at least a bit?”

“Kind of. But why lie to me? I am the significant part of that, ain’t I? I can help.”

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Yet, you did.”

“I apologized.”

“And I value that greatly but a lot of overdramatizing and over complicating, over here, “Steph patted her front head softly, “could be avoided if you just said the truth. That you’re not ready to sit next to me in the café. Or Chloe and Max to know about us. I’d understand. ”

“You’d be sad and disappointed.”

“Victoria, I promised you to be patient. I’m only asking you to be honest with me. I don’t need us to be the UCL hottest showmance and walk hand in hand trough campus. But is it so bad I want to know that you at least care about me to the point you won’t lie to me?”

“Ok, then. Ok. What about movies?”

“What?”

“What about we’ll go to the cinema together. On Sunday. I have a day off after the game with Reading on Saturday. There is dark in the cinema and no one will see us. You’d be with me in public and I won’t panic.”

It sounded eternally appealing. And as much as Steph didn’t think about herself as a hysterical woman, she was woman, indeed. And recently she realised it also meant sometimes there was no way to avoid overdramatize and over complicate things in her head when the wave of emotions attacks. So what she could avoid were situations like the one from today noon. Because there were no guarantees cinema (non)date won’t end with same result. 

“We don’t have to--”

“Steph, do you want to go to the cinema with me. On Sunday?”

“Vic, baby--”

“Do you?”

“Yes.”

Damn it. Steph was screwed. If Victoria asked her to become a vegan, she’d probably do so. Nah. That one, she wouldn’t. But everything else, she would. 

“Well, it’s a date then. I’ll pick the movie. And if you don’t hate it, you can reward me with the precious work of your tongue when we are back home. What about that?”

“Sounds like a deal to me.”

Victoria pressed their lips together for a second. When she broke the kiss there was a wild hunger in her eyes.

“Or you can reward me, right away. Because I’m pretty sure you’re going to like my pick.”

“U-huh… alright. But if I won’t, you’ll reward me instead. With double reward.”

“You know what. The bed. Now!”

 

Chapter Text

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Victoria’s apartment, Richmond, London

 

“This is garbage! I look like a cheap wannabe influencer.”

Victoria undressed the blue velvet shirt and tossed it on the bed angrily. Good spirit definitely wasn’t her companion at the moment. Or for the whole weekend.

This is insane! Steph wanted to scream but her lips stayed sealed. She inhaled deeply and tried to stay calm, to figure this out. What in the hell had happened? The Wednesday (non)date disaster had been averted and they talked it off. Thursday sweet texting followed by heated late night that brought Steph pleasure she wouldn’t dare to dream about was unforgettable and when she was leaving for the Dad’s birthday party on Friday evening Victoria couldn’t take her hands from her, so their farewell was profuse and everlasting, which resulted in almost two hours delay, late arrival and missing the cake. Steph didn’t mind, her dad took it easy, too probably understanding that the young flourishing love’s behind it when seeing her dreamy expression. So, everything seemed well. But when she came back to the apartment yesterday morning, she found Victoria unusually tensed. Edgy. The first thought was Steph had written her inappropriate and pushy message at night. 

Something like My mum would love you and I’m sure you’d love her, too.

Or Oh, God I wish you were here with me.  

Or even Gingrich Family Christmas needs you, you’re coming with me in two weeks.

Yeah, she had been a bit tipsy at the birthday party and missed her girl, terribly gushing about Victoria whole evening, without mentioning her name of course. So Saturday morning Steph had checked her phone appalled, her deep affection towards Chelsea defender had got the best of her and she pushed. But there was nothing. She had held herself in check and didn’t write nor call anyone the previous night. That must be something else behind Victoria’s discomfort. Unfortunately, the game with Reading F.C., later that day had screwed her even more. Steph was trying to be supportive and give Victoria time and space, to adjust. She promised herself to do everything in her power to not overthink things and definitely not overdramatize them. But it seemed there was something else in the air than failed match. Could Victoria be so wrecked because of their upcoming together time in public? Steph didn’t even bring it up today, because she thought the mood for a movie (non)date wasn’t present. But Victoria did. And now she seemed super annoyed about going out. Steph was out of her depth. Nothing she had undertaken to make her feel better had worked. Nevertheless, she ventured one more time,  moved closer to Victoria and slid one hand around her bared waist, the other cupped Victoria’s cheek.

“Babe, we don’t have to go today. What about tomorrow or Tuesday. Or not have to go at all. We can stay home and watch any movie or well, do whatever you want.”

“Of course we go. Tomorrow is Doctor Who marathon on BBC3 you've yearned to watch. And I can’t on Tuesday. I have other plans. So today it is. I promised you movies.  Besides if, we don’t go, you’ll be all emotional and whiney that I’m ashamed of you or whatever.”

The words hurt, the impassive tone of Victoria’s voice felt even worse but the most agonizing occurrence was her lack of reaction to their physical contact. She dismissed Steph’s attempt for tenderness quickly and swiftly escaped her embrace just to rummage her closet for an appropriate outfit for a date she obviously didn’t even want to go to.  Whatever had triggered it, started yesterday before that fucked up game with Reading F.C., when Chelsea didn’t win. The whole squad wasn’t outstanding, struggling with the opponent, with the weather with pretty much everything but Victoria blamed herself in the first place. In the stoppage time, she had scored own goal which ruined Chelsea’s chances for victory. Which totally wasn’t her fault because the whole defence line had screwed up. Everyone knew that and no one held it against her. Except for Victoria herself. 

So for the first time from the day they kissed, there was no physical interaction between them when sleeping in the same bed. Steph tried to not take it personally. Be understanding. Hell Victoria even warned her this can happen, that she’s the worst loser and any other outcome than victory is a good ground for a lot of things unpleasant. Still, it was Steph who has to accept the coldness and couldn’t shake it off, like it was nothing. Chelsea didn’t even lose just tied. It was only half of the season and it didn’t mean a single thing for the team's greatest ambitions. 

“Ok. I’ll be in the living room, so pick me when you ready.”

Steph was about to back off, trying to avoid a fight because she was very tempted to tell Victoria she’s acting like a moron and should calm her tits.

“What? No! Stay here.” She poked her head out of the closet and spat. “I need you to help me to pick the right outfit.”

Maybe she didn’t know any other way how to vent. Maybe it was Victoria’s encrypted message to say, just stay with me, please sorry I act like a prick. One way or another Steph was sure this day will be long and difficult, no matter what she’ll do.

When the proper outfit was picked and they finally entered Subaru BRZ in the garage, it went from bad to worse. Victoria put her phone into the hands-free set and before she could start the engine the message popped up. It wasn't like Steph was nosy but it was impossible to miss who wrote that message. And the words it contained.

Nathan:

hi hun

And another was delivered right after.

Nathan:

have time?

And another.

Nathan:

some shits didn’t work

And another.

Nathan:

so I’m free tonight

Yeah, it definitely seemed Nathan Prescott was that kind of ADHD writer, who just needed a single message for every fucking word. Something that Steph find infuriating and childish. Even when she wasn’t on the verge of overdramatizing things. 

Nathan:

we hang out

Nathan:

instead of tue

Nathan:

or we can both

The phone buzzed another message came but this one Steph didn’t see, because Victoria finally grabbed the phone and muted it. Then put in it in her purse and started the engine as nothing happened. The Subaru BRZ left the garage and best course of action was to left the beeping phone topic behind, too. Victoria and Nathan knew each other for years, so they probably still texted each other from time to time or meet. No big. But if it was no big why Victoria never mentioned it and claimed they weren’t in contact since August.

“You’re not going to answer that?” 

She had promised. That day when Victoria had revealed how she almost yield to her father and accept the life she didn’t want with someone she didn’t love, Steph had promised to not push. Yet, she was about to do the exact thing. 

“No. Since I’m supposed to drive and I don’t want to kill us.”

Victoria responded angrily as if killing someone was her primal intention, anyway.

“You can stop the car. Seems important to me. He sent eighty-five messages, already.  Very communicative for someone who you haven’t talked since august, isn’t he, hun?” 

Steph didn’t fool herself. Her words were petty and so was her attitude. But Victoria wasn’t the paragon of the nice person last couple of hours either. 

“Why you have to be like that?”

“Like what, Victoria?”

“Over dramatize, over something you’ve just overthink. If you could just focus on what’s important for once!”

“Oh, I will. So you know what else is over? Overlooking your over heinous demeanour. So stop over there. Today meaningless encounter has just ended.”

Victoria didn’t stop the car nor she spoke again. She was just clutching the steering wheel as her life depended on it. Her lips were pressed together so tightly there was only a thin line visible where her mouth should be. She was raging but surprisingly she kept it to herself. Steph turned her head away and lean it towards the cold window in hope to suppress the pulsing pain in her temples. It took twenty minutes until Subaru BRZ found the vacant spot in the Westfield mall underground parking lot. No one said a word. No one acknowledged another person presence. They just sat in the car both of them lost in their thoughts. 

“The movie starts in ten minutes. We should go.”

It was Victoria who dared to speak, eventually. Her voice lacked annoyance from before and also hadn’t excess of phlegm. Steph didn’t say anything just took her coat and left the car.

“You don’t need the coat,  we’re staying inside.”

Her soft words were left unnoticed so Victoria took her purse and followed her silent companion. They were walking side by side towards the elevator. The gap between them was non-existent. It felt like Victoria wouldn’t mind holding hands, that she even yearned for that. That kind of truce would sure help. Because Steph had no idea what she should do. The significant part of her desired to overdramatize, over something she was sure she didn’t overthink. Victoria’s ex-fiancé was communicating with her vividly, as it seemed. How could she not mind? Especially after Mr Chase visit and his reassurance that Nathan is still ready to marry Victoria. And she said the last contact between them happened in August. They stopped in front of the elevator and Steph felt the sleeve of her coat is being pulled down.

“I know I suck. That own goal, I fucked up."

Said Victoria and pulled the sleeve harder when no reaction came from the other girl. Their hands brushed gently and Steph was overwhelmed by the surge of warmness and intense shudder that erupted in her lower belly. She had to bite her lip to not release any sound. 

“As a teammate. As a defender. And now as a girl--”

But as quick and sudden as it came, it was no more. The elevator ringed and the doors started to open without any of them calling it. Victoria made a quick nervous move and backed off because it had to mean someone was in there. Two handsome young men got out and made no bones about checking her out. Steph had a strong urge to kick them to the place that hurt the most. But could she know if it’s not exactly what her companion wanted? To be ogled by those two tossers. She went in and hit the up button, fiercely. Victoria slipped in too and when the doors closed she tried the sleeve pulling approach again. Without words for this time.

"Maybe if you didn't count off to talk things over every time. If you didn’t avoid actual communication, you'd see it doesn’t hurt from time to time. To communicate."

Steph turned to face her stubborn roommate. And suppressed the spiteful thought of bringing Nathan into this and their supposedly vivid exchange. 

"If you speak with people, for example, your teammates, you'd know no one holds it against you when you’re not flawless. It’s human to be imperfect."

Victoria rolled her eyes and made a low guttural sound.

"But if you think growling and moving your eyes upwards is working better, have it your way.”

The elevator reached the floor and Steph’s frustration reached a new highlight. Which was actually a good thing because she couldn’t imagine this day turns any worse. So this must the lowest point. They left the lift and strolled across the mall silently as if there was no hustle and the movie didn’t start in less than five minutes. Fortunately, they didn’t wait at the box office, cause Victoria had VIP membership and scanning the QR code from her phone was enough.  When they entered the auditorium it was already dark but the film didn’t start, yet just commercials. 

“Come, we have the best seats.” 

Said Victoria and grabbed Steph sleeve because the real hand-holding around all these people who had no chance to see them was still forbidden and cursed. Their seats were in the last row. VIP, that meant bigger and more comfortable.  

“You don’t need this, I told you.”

The tender words were whispered when Victoria unzipped Steph’s winter coat. Steph wished they’d be alone, that those messages from Nathan Prescott never existed and she desperately wanted to hug Victoria. None of it could she have at the moment. The only option she had left was take off the unzipped coat and sit down. The seat was über comfortable and a couple of minutes in it was enough to ease the cluster headache that attacked her in the car. The movie was entertaining and Scarlett Johansson a real eye candy and Victoria’s warm body still so close to hers, not anyone else. It meant something. It had to. When the closing credits started to roll none of them moved. Steph wanted to say something, to make things better between them without sounding over jealous or childish or overdramatized. For someone usually skilful with words and figures of speeches, she couldn’t find any. The whole afternoon left her drained and uninspired. 

“Did you like the movie?”

Victoria picked up the most obvious and simple topic to revive some warmness between them and it worked. Steph couldn’t understand why she wasn’t able to do that. 

“Yeah, I did.”

“Of course the original Japanese version is way better and shittons of people complained Scarlet was a wrong choice because she’s not an Asian but I think she did a good job.”

“Well, we should watch it one day. The original version. Together. I’d like that.”

“Me too,” Victoria said and run her hand down Steph arm. It was so rushed, she wasn’t even sure if it happened or if she just yearned it to happen.

“Steph, listen. I-I…” She stared at her intently. Maybe the contact did happen indeed. “I need to pee. Will you take care of my purse in the meantime.” Or maybe not.

“Sure, sure. Let’s go then.”

So they stood up and left the auditorium with the last visitors.

“I’ll wait for you there in front of T2 Trainspotting poster, okay?”

“Yep.”

Steph walked to the poster and decided she won’t ask about Nathan. She won’t push. It won’t be easy, she knew. But she’s a mature person who will not be consumed by jealousy.

“Holy, hell. Steph?!”

Someone screamed and jumped on her. Basically.

“Rachel. You-you’re not in Italy?”

“I came back two days ago. And it seems I’ll linger for this time. At least till the end of the year. Maybe we can hang out. What’d you think?”

Rachel was all touchy and affectionate like they had never broken up.

“Maybe.”

“So what’s new with you? Life treats you well, I hope. You look magnificent by the way. And this… ...this my dear is marvellous.” She clutched the classy pendant on her necklace and pulled Steph closer. “New girlfriend?”

“No. No girlfriends.”

It just slipped her mouth. Steph didn’t intend to lie but she realised the whole situation with Victoria screwed her mind so deeply that she lied deliberately even when it wasn't her primal intention.

“So I still have a chance, to win you back?”

No girlfriend fact fueled Rachel playfulness and even when Steph reacted swiftly she couldn’t escape her proximity in time before Victoria joined them.

“You waste no time, I see. Real womanizer.” Who also happened to wear I’m an utmost bitch expression proudly. Rachel had her fair share of bitchiness, too and lift up her right hand with an offer for a handshake that was supposed to be anything but friendly.

“Rachel, ex-girlfriend. Just for the time being, perhaps.”

“Victoria. Chase. I’m… I am...”

Bitchy attitude didn’t help to breach the cowardness so Steph decided to step in. 

“The roommate. She’s my new roommate.”

“Maybe if you laid her, she wouldn’t be so tensed. You are a master of stress relief, aren’t you?” Rachel leant closer and faked whispering but it was clear she wanted Victoria to hear it, for whatever reason.

“We are in a rush, actually. So bye Rachel.”

Steph waved to Rachel, gave Victoria back her purse and bid her go with the same hand but different wave.

“I'm sorry for her… stunt. I didn’t know she’s back and I definitely had no idea she could be here.”

There was no reason to apologize but Steph wanted to make sure who was her priority.

“Whatever. I don’t care about your slutty ex.”

Victoria’s priority though was to be angry at any cost. She rushed through the mall avoided the elevators and used the emergency staircase to the underground garage. Yeah, being captured in the small metal box wasn’t the best course of action. The whole time she was running through the messages on her phone probably chatting with Nathan. And definitely wanted Steph to note. Because her phone was in the loud mode again, so every letter wrote made a sound. When they reached the car the phoned rung. Victoria stared at it staggered by an unexpected caller before she finally answered.

“Mother?”

Miss Chase talked hectically and emotionally but it was unintelligible for Steph.

“Oh, are you alright? What happened?”

It’s not like Victoria was totally off balance but she was surprised greatly.

“So he’ll live but stay disabled?”

Whoever HE was, the other side confirmed his fate because Victoria nodded.

“I’m on my way.” She ended the call but still couldn’t take her eyes from the machine.

“What’s going on?” Steph asked softly but firmly.

“Mother called. Father had a massive stroke. An ambulance is taking him to the hospital.” She looked up but still stuck to her place.

“Did she tell which one?”

“I didn’t ask.”

“No prob. Your parents live in Kensington, right? So it will be St. Mary’s or Nixon memorial. I think St. Mary’s.”

“No, no. He was at work. His offices are in the Leadenhall Building.”

“St. Bartholomews, then. Do you want me to drive?”

“No!”

“Ok, let’s go then.”

Steph tried to be as supportive as it got without actually touching Victoria.

“Or maybe drive.” But she touched Steph’s shoulder lightly and gave her the car keys. “I’ll call mother again. She-- she’s upset.”

“Sure. And Victoria, whatever will happen, you’re going to make it through.” Steph smiled a bit reassuringly and opened the passenger door for Victoria, then hopped in the car herself. The phone call was already on.

“Mother, listen. This is not a bad thing. He had it coming. This is what vicious habits will do to one’s body.”

She was shaken but there was a strange kind of relief in her voice either.

“Mother, mother, stop! You should not feel bad about not feeling bad that he’s never going to fully recover. You are free, now. You can be your own person again.”

When they arrived at St. Bartholomew’s Steph encouraged Victoria to go immediately and promised to park the car safely. Which wasn’t the best decision because when alone she had no connection to Mr Chase and receptionist was adamant about not sharing the information about his whereabouts. She wrote the short message to Victoria about the situation not sure if she’ll even receive the answer or if she should be there. The phone beeped after five minutes and the reply contained the floor and room number. It did take some time to find it but when Steph did she hoped she rather didn’t. The doctor was talking to the tall exhausted women, who was very beautiful once surely. But those times were long gone. Next to her stood Victoria and young man with too much wax in hair outfitted as wealthy Oxford student in his Sunday causal.

“For now he’s stable but his limbs are completely paralysed. With the right diet and exercise, there is a significant chance he can walk again in a year or two. Running is probably out of options though. If he’ll ever be able to properly talk again, only time will tell.” 

Nathan Prescott was the guy in there. Steph had never seen him but she knew, instantly. He hugged Mrs Chase and held Victoria’s hand, possessively. She didn’t flinch nor she shook it off. If Steph dared to do that, it would cause a fuss bigger than the fight between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy who’s the best WAG. She should not let her petty fears affect her, especially in such a difficult moment for Victoria. But the more she watched their little assemble the more clear it was, it’s not a coincidence she was ostracized. She didn’t belong there, with Victoria. She tried to fight this feeling and be a good friend at least if she couldn’t be a girlfriend at the moment.

“Victoria…”

She stepped in and realised she had no idea what she wanted to say, what she was supposed to say. The woman she yearned to love stood there holding the hand of another man acting like they were complete strangers. Like it was him who she wanted by her side, not Steph.

“Maybe you should leave. This is a family matter.”

That prick dared to tell her to leave. Victoria didn’t oppose. She didn’t say a word.

“Maybe I should.”

Said Steph and regretted it, immediately. Because the girl she was sure she could love did not plan to stop her. Not at all. Victoria only gulped and looked away. She fucking didn’t have guts to say three words to her after everything they had been through. 

“‘Well, Victoria. Goodbye and good luck.”

She pushed her hand with car keys to Nathan’s chest. She wished her fist could meet his face. But this was all she got. “The keys from Subaru.”

She spat and turned away. And it was over. There was no going back. Her heart desperately hoped, she is going to be stopped. That Victoria will tell her to linger and accept her love and support. Her head though had no doubts. That was no chance it’s going to happen. And it didn’t. No one followed when her legs kept moving, leading her out of the hospital eventually. But there were no direct orders from her brain. Nothing existed in her world except the deep dark hole in her chest.

It was cold outside. And raining. The heavy raindrops were hitting her body hard. Steph wasn’t aware of the grim weather, though. She barely could understand what she was doing. Wandering aimlessly. Despite her tremendous effort to take a proper breath she simply couldn’t get enough air into her lungs. She decided it’s necessary to sit down for a moment and retreat. As there were no suitable places to sit the curb of the sidewalk was as good spot as any. She felt drained. The heavy soaked clothes were like chains that confined her to this particular point and she had zero strength left to move. After a substantial period of time, persistent rain and coldness finally got under her skin and reminded her she’s still alive, even when only just. She knew she couldn’t stay here, there was nowhere to go, though. It was a crazy idea that popped in her head but desperate times required desperate solutions. She founded her phone somewhere in the pocket kind of relieved it still worked withstanding the flood. Then pushed the call button. The person on the other side picked up almost immediately. 

“Hi, Steph.”

“Hi. Hello.” Her own voice sounded strange. Nasal. She realised she was crying.

“What’s going on? Are you alright?”

“No. Not really. I’m sorry to bother you, but I have no one else to call.”

“It’s ok, It’s fine. Just tell me what’s going on.”

“I-I... Can I sleepover tonight?”

“Of course.”

“And could you, could you maybe pick me up, like now?”

“Sure, where are you?”

“Uhm...I have no clue.”

“It’s ok, S.G. Everything’s ok. There is this app, I’ll send you the link. And using this app you’ll send me your location. What about that?”

“Ok.”

“I’m going to end the call and you’re going to send me your location. Do you understand?”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“Just hold on. Despite what you might think I’m not going to let you down. I won’t. Never.”

The call ended and the phone beeped right away. Steph hand was shaking and it took tremendous effort but she did what she was asked, eventually. Then dropped the device and hugged her knees.  Her eyes were closing, it was impossible to keep them open. She laid her head on forearms trying to ignore the coldness and the massive hole in her chest. And the shaking. Halfway to the unconsciousness, the big car stopped next to her and someone’s arms were lifting her up. Pushing her into the backseat.

“Oh, God, Steph. What happened?”

The saviour struggled with her feeble body but in the end, got her into the car successfully.  She struggled with pretty much everything sobbing and shaking and the only thing she accomplished was falling down on the seat and spread there limply.

“You need to take this drenched clothes off and we’re going to the hospital.”

“No!” She’ll rather die than go to that hospital. She knew that much. “No hospital. Just-- just take me-- take me to your place. Please.” She gathered the last remnants of strength that left and prayed her wishes will be accepted.

“Bloody hell, okay, fine. But take off the coat and pants at least.  I have some picnic blanket in the trunk. Not much but better than a rusty nail in the eye. Just take these off.”

Steph was left alone for a moment and tried to do what she was supposed to. It was a tremendous task, though. The rear door opened again and in the deafening sound of raindrops staining the car, she heard a worried sigh.

“Steph, please. Cooperate a bit.”

“I-I-- I’ve tried.” She muttered but wasn’t sure if it was heard.

“Damn. I’m going to to take off your coat, your shirt and pants. Is it ok?”

She nodded and closed her eyes. “Are you sure?” She moved her head again, this time more fiercely and felt how her heavy clothes are stripped. She was wrapped into the blanket and also in the saviour own coat. Her companion helped her to sit and kept rubbing her freezing body, till she opened her eyes again.

“Thank you. I-I’, sorry-- for--”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about but I need to go to the driver seat now.  I’m still with you, though. Just don’t fall asleep.”

She was trembling wildly but without those soaked chains it was getting better. The sleep would be welcomed, actually. When left alone she slid down on the backseat and her attempt to keep her eyes open failed. The car moved and the familiar voice spoke to her again.

“Steph! Steph, talk to me, okay? Tell me about that movie.”

“Mo-movie?”

“Yeah, come on!” The left hand of the saviour left the gear lever and find Steph’s under the blanket, then squeezed it encouragingly. “Tell me about that terrible movie how those two sexy football players fell for the coach when they were meant to end up together.”

“Bend it like a Beckham?”

“Yeah, that one. That’s your favourite.”

“No. Not anymore.”

“That’s great to hear because it’s awful.” Said her companion still holding her hand. “But don’t worry. We will find you another one. A new movie, that will be so much better. You have to stay conscious, though. Stay with me.”

“Damn. Okay. Okay, then. What're your suggestions?” Steph responded and decided to fight the coldness, the sleep and the void in her chest. And find a new favourite movie or the old one she dismissed before.