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Brooke Lynn is twelve years old when her father leaves.

Her mother cries and mourns for days on end and Brooke Lynn - 

- Brooke Lynn becomes Brooke. 

Floral textured wall paper.

80’s patterned carpets.

Empty bottles of whisky and tequila. 

Reflections in mirrors evolve as she watches herself burn down to the wick, melt into puddles of hot wax and ashes. Her hands belong to an adult over night and her younger sister Katya sobs on her shoulders until sleep drags her under. Shirts become ruined and tubes of coloured mascara wasted but it doesn’t matter. 

it’s a responsibility and she takes it. 

Forgotten textbooks.

Sinks piled with dishes.

Grown out roots and greasy hair. 

Her friends drop off like each ounce of patience that dwindles, vanishes. Cooking becomes a chore and school a priority that she’s unable to afford. There are hushed conversations behind her back about her mother falling deeper down a hole but Brooke’s the first to notice. 

Before anybody. 

A bare minimum effort and a demolished heart ensure that the shell of their home becomes walls of a coffin. It’s just an eighteen year old Brooke and a sixteen year old Katya when their grandparents show up six years later, trust fund and spare bedroom tucked safely under their arms. 

Hopeful promises.

Mapped out futures. 

Goodbyes that come too soon. 

They take pity on Katya but Brooke is Brooke, and Brooke being Brooke doesn’t get her many places. It gets her to the dingy bar on the outskirts of town, the bikers clubhouse that spot her ragged edges and think yes, she’ll do. 

Lighters burning cigarettes.

Exhaust fumes and diesel. 

The first arms to welcome her. 

It gets her into the beds of older women with ease and the bank accounts of even older men. Because they cast an eagle eye to her allure, too, her charm, and think yes, she’ll do. 

Silk bed sheets.

Rolexes on wrists. 

Guns tucked into waistbands. 

But her grandparents dismiss her with a no, a shake of their heads, because she won’t do. She’s intelligent, but not like Katya. Compassionate, but not half as loving as Katya is. knowledgable, willing to mature even further than she already has because there’s been no other option. 

Though she’s no Katya. 

Rejected conversations.

Disapproving snickers. 

Family hands that she couldn’t hold. 

They pack up Katya’s belongings and hand Brooke a cheque, sign it off with a shrug. She cashes it the following day after pressing a kiss to Katya’s forehead, hands clutching tightly at her shoulders. 

Brooke tells her not to worry but knows that Katya isn’t oblivious; she witnesses Brooke slumping into her leather jacket and starting her motorcycle with trembling fingers. 

And she watches Brooke run. 

Then Brooke never stops.

*****

Each stretch of road is new.

Car horns and grinding gears fill Brooke’s ears like the only symphonies that she needs. She grips tighter at the handlebars of her bike, accelerates down the freeway, follows the blaring backlights of Kameron’s Harley that speeds ahead of her. 

Brooke focuses her eyes through the dusted perspex of her helmet. Her tyres kick up minute rocks and grains of sand along the desert road, send them hurtling towards her face. If she scrunches up her brows enough then she can see clearly. 

Or just about.

Kameron had told her of a decent bar on the opposite side of town. Brooke doesn’t know the area well enough to know whether her judgements are reliable or not, but Kameron’s decisions have never lead her far wrong in the ten years that they’ve known each other. 

She tells Brooke that she’d passed through the streets that whir behind them like bullets on many a family vacation. She mentions the hotels and their casinos that have evolved yet remained the same, the diners with their red leather booths.

Brooke nods her head and listens intently; the more information she knows about somewhere foreign to her, the better. 

Kameron navigates her way with an expertise that Brooke admires. She weaves in and out of cars that sling their abuse and catcalls out of rolled down windows. Brooke knows it’s merely because of the long hair that flows past their shoulders, catches in the breeze.

The strands tell onlookers that they’re women, probably, so it’s enough to warrant it.

naturally. 

If Brooke could roll her eyes hard enough that they’d dislodge from her skull then she would, but settles for gritting her teeth. It’s all she’s able to hear over the hum of her engine, her heart that’s beating out of its position in her chest. 

It strains against her ribcage, and Brooke feels at home. The ground is a blur beneath her and the sunset that’s unfolding in watercolours in the sky is familiar. She’s on the road and she belongs there, she thinks; Kameron pulls into a gravelled courtyard and Brooke’s still smiling away to herself. 

Kameron catches her when they remove their helmets but she doesn’t downplay it. 

It feels good. 

“God damn!-“. Kameron chuckles.

“-Never gets old, huh?”. 

“Wind in my hair, dust in my eyes, almost crashing at every turn, what more could I want in life?”. Brooke jokes.

Kameron’s head tilts back in laughter and Brooke follows suit. An elbow digs its way into her side, nudges her to the left. She parks her bike and locks it, hooks her helmet to the seat. Kameron is a step ahead of her, is already shrugging off her denim jacket. 

She folds it over her shoulder, motions towards the entrance of the bar. It’s smaller than Brooke had anticipated, older than she could have prepared herself for but she’s already able to hear the bustle that permeates through the wooden double doors. 

Brooke takes a step closer and Kameron’s hot on her heels; they part the doors like the Red Sea and then all that’s visible is smoke, rising from the ground in waves. 

It’s crowded, yet not cramped. Loud, although far from deafening. Brooke peels away her leather jacket as soon as the humidity hits, ties is tactically around her waist in a single knot. She’s left in her shredded white T-shirt and Kameron gives her an obligatory once over, nods her head in approval. 

The action isn’t asked for but it’s appreciated.

They both look good, Brooke thinks.

Or knows. 

Roberta’s is the type of place to be filled to the brim with locals, people who frequent the joint often. It’s evident in the way that all eyes flock to herself and Kameron, a combination of fire and ice that burn together as they crash the room, rebuild it with each step.

Kameron’s auburn hair radiates under the dimly lit bulbs, glints like copper coins, but Brooke’s own blonde tresses absorb the scarlet spotlights. She’s a walking warning siren and she crosses the room like a hazard to be avoided. People stare but her nonchalant attitude puts them back in their places. 

The bar stool that she snags creaks under her weight. 

There isn’t another one free, yet, but with a look and a shake or her head there is. Kameron smirks obediently at the vest clad man who hobbles away and sits herself down with a grace that Brooke doesn’t harbour in a single bone. 

“Don’t get too comfortable, B-“. Kameron warns.

“-People around here won’t take that kind of shit”. 

Brooke props a disinterested elbow onto the wooden bar top.

“Worked, didn’t it?”. 

She’s smug, but thinks that she has every right to be. Kameron kisses at her teeth and shakes her head dismissively, beckons over one of the bartenders with a wave of her hand. Brooke watches the impatience drip off of her like the beer that’s swimming on the ground around them, rolls her eyes. 

And the audacity, Brooke thinks, the sheer nerve. 

People around here won’t take that kind of shit.

She digs her teeth into her cheeks and bumps against Kameron’s shin with the toe of her boot. 

“Hey, fuck off outta’ here with that”. Kameron chastises. 

“What?-“. Brooke grunts.

“-I’m not allowed to be a dick but you are?”. 

Her eyes widen in disbelief and Kameron shakes her head no. She tells the bartender that she’ll take four beers, and he slides them across the counter wordlessly. He pops open the bottle tops, slams a wedge of lime into each neck. Brooke snatches one into her grasp and swigs back half of it in one go. 

“Difference is-“. Kameron sings.

“-I know how to handle people”. 

Brooke knows that she’s right, but it’s still a punch to the gut. Kameron has a way with people that she doesn’t, is oriented to them in a manner that Brooke’s never understood. Kameron shrugs apologetically, gestures to the bar surrounding them, and Brooke lets herself deflate. 

“Just try to have fun tonight, yeah?”. Kameron adds.

But Brooke isn’t listening. 

Her eyes land on those of the other bartender, brown and mischievous and challenging. 

And Brooke thinks that maybe she will. 

“Yeah, sure, whatever”. 

 

Chapter Text

Brooke orders another beer.

One bottle still sits untouched in front of her and Kameron smirks across at her knowingly. Brooke’s eyeing the bartender like she’ll be her fun of the night, and the warning dig that she gives to Kameron’s shin tells her not to intervene with that.

“Her? Really? That was quick”.

“She’s lookin’ like the only other dyke in this place”.

There’s an exchange that consists of a glare from Brooke and a wink from Kameron but it’s over as quickly as it happens; Brooke’s beckoning the dark haired bartender over once more with a crook of her pointer finger and it’s then that Kameron makes herself scarce.

She tells Brooke that she’ll be somewhere if she needs her. It doesn’t matter where, Brooke knows it’ll be some place within the bar, or knowing Kameron, the bathrooms. It doesn’t matter where, because the bar tender that she’s been ogling for the best part of an hour is there, sauntering towards her.

The grimy wood of the bar top is intrusive between them but Brooke bends across it like she owns it. The scintillating eyes of the woman stare back at her, intense and bright and understanding. Brooke lifts her bottle to her lips, sips at it whilst maintaining the eye contact that’s burning down to her chest.

Her lips pull away and the woman gets closer.

As she leans, her arms push together. She’s wearing a loose denim button-up dress that isn’t flattering, admittedly. Brooke thinks it looks like something yanked from the depths of her closet, but she makes it work, somehow.

Brooke’s eyes hone in on her cleavage that’s peaking above the top button, and deciphers that maybe that’s why. Gold necklaces hang like garlands, and Brooke doesn’t miss the way her chest heaves with each breath. She moves to rest her elbows on the bar, slouches her back so that Brooke’s able to look down on her.

And it’s a sight.

She blinks up from beneath her eyelashes, dark and dramatic and heavy. Brooke thinks about them fluttering on her skin before a word has even left her mouth and she kicks herself for the fleeting want that’s more intimate than it should be. She’s only wrenched out of her thoughts by a chuckle that’s low, breathy.

“Eyes are up here, asshole”. The woman snickers.

If Brooke had any dignity left she’d stutter out an apology, she tells herself.

But she’s not sorry and she’d lost any remaining shreds of dignity a long time ago. She shrugs her shoulders nonchalantly instead, settles for narrowing her eyes at the woman. Her wavy hair clings to her neck and she brushes it away futilely. Brooke wants to do it for her but then she’s shaking her head, amused.

“What?-“. The woman adds.

“-You ain’t ‘gonna order another beer just so I ‘gotta watch you not drink it, are you?”.

Digging her teeth into her bottom lip, Brooke shakes her head. She braces both arms on the bar top, folds them across her chest. The woman watches with intrigue and Brooke beams, basks in the confidence that the woman’s attention conjures up within her.

“Wasn’t planning on it-”. Brooke chuckles.

“-You ‘wanna tell me your name instead?”. She tries.

The woman’s looking at her sceptically, but Brooke doesn’t miss the way the corner of her mouth twitches. She rakes her eyes across Brooke’s face, shrugs once. Brooke outstretches a hand, curls a finger into the collar of her shirt.

She tugs gently, and the woman’s eyes blur.

“Vanessa-”. She breathes.

And Vanessa bats Brooke’s hand away.

“-What’s yours, Blondie?”.

She regains her composure quicker than Brooke’s ever been able to herself. Her back straightens and her shoulders square off; Brooke’s scrutinising her with a craving that’s intense, unwavering, but Vanessa doesn’t flinch.

Brooke sits back, perches her feet on the bottom ledge of her bar stool. She kicks her boots against it, keeps one elbow balanced on the counter. Vanessa’s eyes burn through the muscle of her bicep that clenches with the effort, though if Brooke tenses her arm to emphasise it she keeps it quiet.

“Pretty-“. Brooke thinks aloud.

Because it is.

Vanessa simpers, and it’s soft. Brooke doesn’t think she could have prepared herself for the lightness of it if she’d tried. She purses her lips, huffs out a breath through her flared nostrils, and Vanessa’s leaning closer.

Closer still.

“-Brooke”. She introduces.

There are beads of sweat gathering around Vanessa’s hairline, and they gleam in the low light of the room. They’re barely visible, but they’re close, are getting closer because of Vanessa’s arms that glide against the wood.

She’s inches away from Brooke, though Brooke’s certain if it wasn’t for the volume of their surroundings that Vanessa would be able to hear her gulp. She swallows it down, drains the remaining dregs of beer that have grown tepid in her bottle. It’s slammed back down onto the counter with a thud but Vanessa still doesn’t recoil.

And it’s infuriating.

“What you doin’ out here, Brooke? Haven’t seen you around before”. She opts for instead.

Brooke has to centre herself when she’s placing a hand on her bicep that’s still tensing, clenched. Vanessa blinks innocently, but Brooke spots the humour that washes across her face, the lust and desire that flickers behind her eyes. Brooke bites into her cheeks, clamps her jaw.

Vanessa’s scrutiny doesn’t waver.

Her hand grips more forcefully and Brooke grits her teeth. It’s like the rub of sandpaper in her mouth, but Vanessa’s presence is soothing. Brooke notices that Vanessa keeps her nails short, painted red, and is grateful for it when they dig into her skin.

“Just passing through”. Brooke establishes.

Vanessa’s eyebrow curls imperceptibly.

“That so?”.

“Mhm-“. Brooke mumbles.

She’s bored, or getting there.

Small talk doesn’t do it for her. It never has. She likes to blaze to her point like a tripped fuse rather than dwelling on it akin to a switch that’s neither on or off. Vanessa’s looking at her like she’s waiting for something, impatiently, and Brooke gets it because she is, too.

“-When do you get off?”. Brooke adds.

“Are you offering?”.

Brooke has to laugh.

“Sure”.

She is.

Brooke had known that she’d wanted the woman in one way or another before even finding out her name. But Vanessa is even more alluring than a nameless face with her tender yet certain touches, her brash words and husky chuckles.

They reverberate in Brooke’s ears but don’t travel much further. The bar is more crowded now than it was at the beginning of the night, and an extra handful of staff have joined. They pop bottle caps and glare at Vanessa as she wastes her time, talks to Brooke and only Brooke, but Brooke doesn’t have it within her to care.

If the man twice Vanessa’s size can’t handle a gaggle of tequila fuelled patrons then that’s not her problem.

Vanessa raises an eyebrow, and Brooke doesn’t miss it. She reaches out once more, straightens Vanessa’s collar. Vanessa doesn’t bat her hand away, this time, instead relaxes into Brooke’s ephemeral caresses, the pads of her fingers that brush up tantalisingly against her collarbones

“Then meet me out back in ten-”. Vanessa grins.

Only then does she pull away, turns on her heel.

“-Tell Yvie, tall bald lady over there, that Vanjie told you to be let through”.

Vanjie?”.

Brooke’s buzzing with want.

“Just go do it, bitch”.

And Brooke’s not one to deny herself of pleasure.

*****

Yvie looks at her quizzically, but Brooke flashes a smile along with Vanessa’s name, and that’s enough.

She lights up a cigarette in the isolated back alley, derelict and void of anything besides the echo of music and voices from within the bar.

Her back rests against the rough brick exterior of the building and it’s frigid through her thin t-shirt. She has half a mind to shrug on her leather jacket that’s still tied securely around her waist, but then the door next to her is creaking open, and Brooke has to focus in order to not choke on her smoke filled lungs.

The light is low. The sun has long since set and the only light that illuminate the area is that of a streetlamp at the end of the alley, the occasional headlights of a car that speeds past. Vanessa looks up at hr with a shiver, gestures to the blunt that she has dangling between her thumb and forefinger.

It’s unlit.

“You got a light?”. She asks.

Brooke does, of course she does. She has a lighter in the back pocket of her pants and another in her jacket, probably. Vanessa crowds into her space like she had inside the bar and Brooke shakes her head. She points to the glowing tip of her cigarette, presses it to the end of Vanessa’s blunt instead.

Vanessa inhales, ignites, and Brooke stands up straight.

Shit-“. Vanessa laughs.

Smoke floods Brooke’s face.

“-How tall are you?”.

Vanessa’s jaw is slack, and Brooke remains silent until Vanessa visibly relaxes. She smokes through the first third of the joint, hit after hit, lets her shoulder press into Brooke’s. Brooke extinguishes the end of the cigarette in a drain at her feet and turns to face Vanessa with a smirk.

“Five-eleven”. She answers simply.

They’re stood close, illuminated in yellows and reds and oranges. The chocolate of Vanessa’s hair appears copper in the shadows and Brooke has to remind herself that she’s real, that she’s there. Vanessa’s eyes widen; she twists her body, chest nuzzling into Brooke’s side.

“Hot”. Vanessa states.

She’s blunt, and Brooke appreciates that it’s a recurring thing.

Vanessa doesn’t filter her words much like she doesn’t filter her movements. She leans most of her weight against Brooke as she continues smoking, reaches three-quarters of the way down the blunt before she puts it out. She uses the wall to do so, stores the unsmoked end in the pocket of her denim dress.

And maybe Brooke had been wrong when she’d assumed that it wasn’t flattering.

Because it is, on her.

It barely grazes the tops of her thighs, and she’s rolled the sleeves up so that her forearms are exposed. Brooke’s able to make out a handful of miscellaneous tattoos that litter the skin there, even in the murkiness of night. There are swirls of writing and florals that might not be florals, but they suit her.

Unquestionably.

Vanessa fists her hand into the front of Brooke’s shirt and it’s then that the tension snaps.

“I’ve got maybe ten minutes before Yvie starts thinkin’ you’re a fuckin’ serial killer or some shit and stars looking for me”. Vanessa admits.

She does so with a chuckle but Brooke barely acknowledges it. She’s switching their positions, backing Vanessa against the wall. She shudders on impact, eyes wide and frantic. Brooke hushes her, first with a mumbled easy and then with her lips.

Vanessa becomes pliant beneath her, has her hands slipped beneath the hem of Brooke’s shirt. She grazes her nails across the planes of her stomach, the small of her back that Brooke arches on instinct. She kisses with fervour and Brooke allows her to do so; she encourages it with each drag of her lips.

“Ten minutes is enough”. Brooke nods.

It’s plenty, is more than enough.

Brooke’s confident in her ability to make any woman come apart beneath her in minutes, but especially a woman like Vanessa. She’s bucking her hips up against Brooke’s thigh that’s slotted between her legs, is mewling in pants between their kisses that become deeper, more languid.

Vanessa pulls away to whine into the crook of Brooke’s neck, and Brooke feels herself grow wet against the cotton of her underwear. She wants Vanessa on her knees, mouth lapping at her like she knows that she could, supple and open and eager.

But Brooke also knows where they are, and isn’t about to make Vanessa kneel amongst a combination of gravel, shattered beer bottles that would wreck her bare skin. Brooke has more sense and compassion than that, she likes to think, and settles for hiking Vanessa’s shirt-dress up around her waist.

“This ok?”. Brooke checks.

Vanessa merely nods.

“Clocks tickin’”. Vanessa husks.

“Shut up, I’m getting to it”.

Brooke chuckles through sloppy kisses that she presses to Vanessa’s jaw. Their height difference ensures that she has to slouch her back, slump her shoulders in order to trail said kisses to her neck. Vanessa pushes herself up onto her toes like she senses Brooke’s lack of comfort; Brooke coaxes her back down because this isn’t about her.

It’s about Vanessa, for now.

For this time.

Brooke’s eyes follow the movement of her hand that she snakes between Vanessa’s legs, and her nipples harden against the cotton of her shirt. Vanessa’s underwear is sheer, lacy, may as well not be there at all. It has her drooling down her chin, across Vanessa’s collarbones. She grazes her teeth across the skin and grunts, groans.

“Hurry up”. Vanessa encourages.

Brooke’s eyes roll instinctively, and she cups Vanessa over her underwear.

Vanessa’s legs clamp down around her hand and Brooke has to fight to spread them again. She bites at Vanessa’s earlobe in warning, manoeuvres her free hand to Vanessa’s mouth. Two fingers trail across the swell of her bottom lip and Brooke doesn’t have to utter a word to encourage Vanessa to take them in.

Her tongue laves across the tips of both of them, works between them and around them. Brooke pushes them deeper, further, and slips her other hand below the hem of Vanessa’s panties as she does so.

And both of Brooke’s hands are soaked.

Vanessa’s eyes snap shut at the first touch to her clit. It’s barely there but is more pressure than she’s gotten thus far, Brooke knows. She twists her fingers up to the roof of Vanessa’s mouth at the same time that two curl into the warmth that’s smearing down her thighs, and Vanessa’s movements become sluggish.

Brooke drags her fingers from the lax clutch of Vanessa’s tongue. She trails them down to her shoulder and a string of spit breaks off on her chin. Vanessa licks it away with a dazed smirk and Brooke grins.

She’s got Vanessa where she’s wanted her for the majority of the night. Without her hold Vanessa would be in shards on the floor and Brooke would be sinking back a third, a fourth beer. But Brooke’s hand is secure on her shoulder, and Vanessa’s clenching hot around two of her fingers, dripping down to her wrist.

“You ‘gonna tell me what you want?”. Brooke tries.

Vanessa nods without a second though.

“Need you to - oh”. Vanessa cuts herself off.

It’s with a mewl that catches in her throat, a moan that bounces to the end of the alley and back. Brooke wonders briefly if Yvie is already listening, but Vanessa has her head thrown back in ecstasy and that’s all that matters, she decides.

Vanessa lifts a hand from Brooke’s back, whines when the palm of Brooke’s hand brushes up against her clit. She brings her fingers to Brooke’s line of sight, curls two of them into a hook so that Brooke knows, understands what she needs.

Brooke chuckles darkly. she could have guessed from the strain in Vanessa’s abdomen, the obscene noises that the motions of her fucking are drawing from Vanessa, loud and vulgar and -

- Brooke wants more.

Her fingers curl like Vanessa had asked for, and the reaction is instantaneous. She presses her lips to Vanessa’s, too, like she had requested in the tilt of her head and the pucker of her lips. Brooke pumps her fingers harder, with renewed vigour, and Vanessa’s dress is slipping from its bunched up position around her waist.

“You’re ‘gonna make me come-“. Vanessa gasps.

“-You’re ‘gonna make me come, fuck”. She wails.

Brooke tells herself that she’s not one to deny herself of pleasure for the second time that night, and nods her head reassuringly. She tells Vanessa to come with a kiss to her cheek, a shove to her shoulder and a curl of her fingers, and Vanessa’s arms form steel barriers around her waist.

Fuck”.

Then Vanessa’s coming, is squirting down her arm and onto the ground beneath them, and Brooke has to quash down the pride that threatens to rise in her chest. Everything is wet, tight, and Vanessa’s squirming against her in oversensitivity. Brooke continues to circle two fingers against her clit, because she can, determined to draw out Vanessa’s high.

And it works.

Vanessa doesn’t peal her eyes open until Brooke’s readjusted her panties for her, has stroked a delicate touch across Vanessa’s forehead. Her breathing is uneven, comes in laboured pants, but she manages to stand on her own to feet as she regains her senses. Minutes pass in headlight blurs and Brooke takes a step backwards.

She keeps Vanessa at arms length, watches as the woman straightens her shirt.

There’s an obvious wet patch staining the side and Brooke has to laugh.

“Of course you’re a squirter”. Brooke winks.

Shit-“. Vanessa giggles.

“-My fucking dress”.

Brooke keeps a hand on her elbow, and laughs along with her.

The sight is, something, admittedly, but she can’t shake the memory of Vanessa shuddering against her, because of her. The wet patches on her own pants tell her that she hadn’t imagined the feeling, and she wipes her fingers on the already sweat soaked fabric of her shirt.

“Yvie’ll kill me”. Vanessa adds.

“No she won’t, here“. Brooke shrugs.

Her hands reach for the leather jacket around her own waist. She unties it tactfully, tugs at each arm until the loops unravel. She takes a step closer to Vanessa once more, until they’re pressed chest to chest. Vanessa’s eyes are blown as she blinks up at her, but then Brooke’s tying the jacket around her waist, and Vanessa gets it.

“Hey, no, I can’t take your jacket”. Vanessa protests.

But Brooke already has it worked out.

“Sure you can, then I have to come back some other time for it, don’t I?”.

Chapter Text

Asia.

Kameron tells Brooke about her once they’ve left the bar, have gathered in the courtyard next to their bikes. Brooke lets Kameron know that they’re going to need to stay, to stick around. Kameron rolls her eyes like she already knows why and asks Brooke for how long through a smirk that doesn’t quit.

“You really want to hang around here? Of all places?”.

The tone that Kameron uses is exasperated, disbelieving, and Brooke finds herself unable to blame her. Brooke shrugs her shoulders in a futile attempt at feigning nonchalance, and Kameron’s jaw gapes; there’s a glimmer in her eyes that Brooke wants to dull but isn’t able to, no matter how hard she tries.

“Gave that bitch my jacket, didn’t I?-”. Brooke snorts.

“-Have to get it back”.

Kameron swoops her gaze across Brooke’s body and grins.

“Oh-“. She realises.

“-Oh, Jesus Christ, are you being serious?”.

Kameron laughs, obnoxious and arrogant and loud. Brooke slumps onto the seat of her bike, back slouched and shoulders tense. The air is stale between them and Brooke’s arms in goosebumps. It’s not because of the cold, she tells herself.

It’s not because of the cold, and not because of her lack of jacket.

The cotton breezes against her chest and Kameron scowls at her because she knows otherwise.

“Deadly”. Brooke monotones.

Straddling her own bike, Kameron scoffs. She zips up her respective jacket, tugs on her helmet. She keeps the shield lifted, eyes Brooke cautiously. Brooke shrinks beneath her gaze like she’s been caught out and she begins to think that maybe she has when Kameron’s face softens noticeably.

“Unbelievable-“. She smiles gently.

“-Un-fucking-believable”.

Brooke huffs, kick starts her engine. Her exhaust revs to life and the aroma of diesel encapsulates them. Kameron follows suit and Brooke has to bite back the list of retorts that she keeps at the ready. They’re on the tip of her tongue but don’t jump off of the spring board.

She won’t allow them to.

“Whatever-“. Brooke sighs.

“-Where’re we heading?”. She settles.

“Asia’s”. Kameron responds.

Asia’s.

Brooke wants to ask who but doesn’t expect to receive a legible answer. Kameron repeats the name, albeit to herself, mumbles about her home being just down the freeway, off of the interstate. Brooke nods along and fixes her grip to the handles of her bike, turns towards Kameron expectantly.

“We go way back-“. Kameron establishes.

“-You’re cool with crashing on her couch, right?”.

“Right”.

And Brooke doesn’t have an issue with it, she doesn’t. Sleeping on a comfortable couch that belongs to somebody instead of the irritable springs of motel beds is never anything to complain about. Brooke will take something over nothing but Kameron’s still looking at her sceptically, and it does nothing to quell her rising suspicions.

Brooke reiterates Asia’s name right back to her.

A blush flares upwards from Kameron’s cheeks, and she’s obvious.

“You don’t get to say a word to me about Vanessa whilst you’ve got your head that far up Asia’s ass”. Brooke chuckles.

Kameron has the look of a dear caught in the headlights, but Brooke doesn’t need to see it.

The visor of her helmet comes down, closes with a snap. Kameron groans audibly, and then drives, tells Brooke to follow her with a tilt of her head. Brooke does so, accelerates as rapidly as the adrenaline in her bloodstream.

Brooke shivers for the entire journey.

And that’s ok.

Vanessa has her jacket, and that’s fine.

It has to be.

*****

Two days pass.

Brooke spends them day drinking in Asia’s living room, boots kicked off and television switched on.

She isn’t graced with Kameron’s presence, but finds herself not batting an eyelid when she strolls home as Brooke’s half dragged under by sleep on the couch. Kameron has her arm slung over Asia’s shoulder and Brooke smirks because -

- She told her so.

Asia drifts up the staircase wordlessly but Kameron makes a detour. She perches herself on the armrest of the couch, nudges Brooke in order to garner her attention. But Kameron already has it and Brooke has already been disturbed; she’s sitting up against the backrest, tugging her blanket up to her chin.

“What time is it?”. Brooke grunts.

There aren’t any clocks in the room that she’s able to see.

It’s dark, and the nearest one sits ticking away aggravatingly on the mantlepiece. Her phone battery is looking worse for wear on the coffee table, too, and she knows that it’s going to run flat before she even so much as attempts to locate her charger.

Kameron’s eyes are rolling but Brooke’s too out of it to care.

“Not that late, like nine?-“.

The light of Kameron’s phone screen is being shoved in her face, a violation of the calm that she had thought she’d swaddled herself in. It’s bright, overwhelming, and Brooke scrunches her eyes up against it. Kameron’s laughing regardless, is dropping it into her lap with a grin.

“-How long’ve you been sleeping for?”. Kameron smirks.

Brooke doesn’t think she could answer her if she wanted to.

She doesn’t know.

Seconds.

Minutes.

Hours.

Brooke does what Brooke does best and deflects. She kicks the blanket off of her body, stretches out her limbs. Kameron watches her do it but stays quiet, looks on inquisitively. Brooke cracks her knuckles and the crunching echoes, becomes prominent over Kameron’s heavy breathing.

“What’ve you two been up to?”.

“Me and Asia?”.

Brooke snickers because who else.

“Just went for a drive, there’s a lake that’s pretty damn cute a couple of miles out, you should-“. Kameron cuts off when Brooke checks out.

She’s not there, mentally.

Her eyes glaze over and stare aimlessly ahead of her. Kameron has to clear her throat to draw her out of it but Brooke still remains disorientated. Her mind is loudly from sleep and her body feels immovable; Kameron begins chucking to herself and Brooke joins in.

Hopelessly.

“There’s a lake here?”. Brooke blinks.

“A lake, a beach, a bar called Roberta’s that you should probably go back to at some point-“. Kameron smirks.

“-Maybe tonight?”.

squinting up towards Kameron, Brooke tilts her head.

Kameron has her lips pursed and her eyebrows raised, arms crossed defensively over her chest. Brooke deciphers the impatience in her bones and the eagerness in her cheeks with a chuckle, nods towards the staircase.

“You ‘wanna fuck her?”. Brooke beams.

She knows that Kameron does. Kameron is a bad liar and Brooke had known from the get go that herself and Asia were more than friendly. Their touches are intimate and their shared glances even more so. Kameron nods her head sheepishly and Brooke has to fight the eye roll that flourishes in her temples.

“And what if I do?”. Kameron tests.

It’s not something that Brooke cares to imagine.

“None of my business”.

“Exactly-“. Kameron drawls.

“-I ‘wanna fuck Asia, you ‘wanna fuck that girl from the bar-“.

Brooke interjects sooner than she knows she should have.

“Vanessa-“. She corrects.

“-Her names Vanessa”.

Vanessa.

The same Vanessa who had leant across the bar so easily, had infiltrated Brooke’s space like she’d always been there. Vanessa, who had met her in the grimy back alley of the bar and had kissed her with more intensity, more passion than Brooke’s known in -

- A long time.

Because Vanessa had laughed and smiled and blushed, and Brooke had known then that she had to see her again. Brooke had given her her jacket because she had needed it, but she also wanted Vanessa to have it.

She’d tied it around her waist with delicate hands and Vanessa had thanked her, kissed her again.

Kameron had known the minute that Brooke had strolled back out front, slumped onto her bike, and she knows now.

“You just made my point for me”. Kameron cackles.

“There isn’t a point”.

Brooke knows that it isn’t true but the words leave her lips, irregardless of the whirring in her gut and the tightness of her throat. Kameron raises a challenging eyebrow and Brooke shrinks beneath her gaze. Kameron knows her like the back of her hand, if not better, and scowls knowingly.

“Are you sure about that? ‘Cause I think there is”.

Kameron is adamant, and probably right, but the realisation doesn’t startle Brooke any less.

“Would you be sayin’ this if you didn’t want me out of here so you could rail that bitch into next week?”.

Brooke deflects deflects deflects.

“Probably not, but my point-“. Kameron starts.

And Brooke doesn’t have the energy for it.

“Your point sucks dick”. Brooke huffs.

It does, maybe. Or perhaps it doesn’t. Brooke’s as stubborn as she’s ever been, even with her closest friend throwing hints both left and right as well as centre. Brooke should take one, she thinks, should leave and let Kameron have her fun.

Because she’s asking for it, and Brooke could have her own, too.

“No it doesn’t”.

So she does.

Kameron chastises her for the entirety of the time it takes her to get ready, tug on her boots and reach for the keys of her motorcycle. Kameron stands in the kitchen sipping slowly at a glass of water as she does so, lets Brooke know with smirks and grins that she’s making a good decision.

“Brooke? Taking my advice? We’re in a different fucking timeline”. Kameron snorts.

Brooke allows it, acknowledges that she’s right.

“You want me out until morning?”. Brooke checks.

And Kameron keeps smirking.

Because she’s right.

“Ask Vanessa that”.

*****

It’s almost ten by the time that Brooke arrives at Roberta’s.

The joint is already packed to the brim by then and Brooke has to fight to so much as reach the bar. She’s grateful for her height that makes her able to do so, her square shoulders that ensure she could never be invisible.

She’s taller than all of the women and on par with most of the men; they allow her to pass with furrowed brows and annoyed grunts.

And she’s ordering a shot of tequila before Vanessa’s able to even become a fleeting thought.

She needs it.

The burn, the relief, the taste. She throws down said shot and then orders another, feels her mind focusing even through the haze of the alcohol. It’s sharp and bitter on her tongue but it’s not enough to make her stop.

Brooke’s surveying the bar for the first time, though it’s not the last when Vanessa is there, expertly flipping open beer bottles and pouring mixers.

She blinks once, swallows - It’s all that it takes for Vanessa to be stood in front of her with a lime wedge in hand.

It’s dripping down her wrist, and Brooke’s first instinct is to lick at it. There’s a droplet running to her elbow but Vanessa catches it, holds Brooke’s gaze with a persistent grin. Brooke has tunnel vision and her destination is Vanessa Vanessa Vanessa.

Vanessa is talking and Brooke thinks she’s already there.

“Hey, blondie”. She beams.

Brooke scrunches up her nose, laughs.

“Thought we covered names last time”.

Brooke is self assured, cocky. Kameron’s voice rings in the back of her mind, tells her to tone it down. But Vanessa is still looking at her as intently as she had before Brooke had kisses her two nights ago, had pressed her into the cold brick wall. She’d made Vanessa come against her fingers but Vanessa had wanted it.

The look in her eyes and the hand on Brooke’s forearm tells her that it still stands.

“I got your jacket at home-“. Vanessa squeezes.

“-You ‘wanna come get it?”.

She tilts her head and Brooke is all yeses.

“You get off soon?”. Brooke checks.

Despite Vanessa’s reassurance, she still seeks out the go-ahead. It’s given to her in promises that Yvie won’t kill Vanessa if she leaves half an hour early, guarantees that she doesn’t live more than twenty minutes away.

It’s handed to her in pledges of want, too; Vanessa tells her that she’s good to go and they leave the bar with their hands interlinked.

“Damn, B, this yours?”. Vanessa nods towards her bike.

“If you were expecting a car, sorry to disappoint”. Brooke laughs.

But Vanessa sits behind Brooke wordlessly, clumsily pulls on the helmet that Brooke hands her. Brooke goes without and Vanessa looks concerned until she doesn’t.

Brooke ignites the engine, tells Vanessa to hold on. She wraps her arms securely around Brooke’s waist, and if Brooke notices her thighs clenching harder as they pick up speed -

- She keeps it quieter than Vanessa’s whispers in her ear.

*****

Vanessa gives Brooke directions, and they’re pulling up in Vanessa’s driveway within fifteen minutes.

Her apartment is small.

Though Brooke would be lying through her teeth if she said she noticed much apart from the hardwood floors beneath her feet.

Vanessa’s lips are on hers from the moment that she keys open the door, and she walks Brooke backwards towards the bedroom with her hands fisted in her shirt.

The headlights of Brooke’s bike switch off outside, but indoors Vanessa leaves on a dim lamp in the corner of the room. It bathes them in warmth, and Brooke has to centre herself when she takes in Vanessa’s small frame crossing the room.

She’s clad only in an oversized green t-shirt and a pair of ankle socks. She’d toed off her chunky black sneakers upon entering the room, and the extra inch of height that they’d given her had disappeared with them. Brooke works herself down to her underwear and Vanessa scrapes half of her hair off of her face into a makeshift bun.

The sight has Brooke gripping the sheets until she’s white knuckled.

Vanessa smirks and it’s all that she’s able to focus on.

“C’mere”. Brooke coaxes.

She holds out a hand, and Vanessa takes it. She takes Brooke underwear, too, peals it off of her in petals that don’t love her, yet. Brooke dares to think that they could when Vanessa’s straddling her, skimming her lips across her jaw

Her teeth graze across the shell of Brooke’s ear, and Brooke lets out a whine that’s so high pitched that she doesn’t recognise it as coming from herself. Vanessa grins, satisfied, continues to pepper kisses down the length of Brooke’s body that arches akin to a bow beneath her.

“V’nessa-”. Brooke stutters.

“-What’re you-“.

“Sit on my face-”. Vanessa gasps.

She pulls her mouth off of Brooke’s nipple, drags her teeth lightly across it and watches Brooke’s chest bloom with shivers. She sinks in to the mattress, encourages Brooke to reposition herself atop of her, and Brooke doesn’t hold in the breath that she chokes on as Vanessa does so.

“-Come on, didn’t get to touch you last time, ‘wanna make you come”. Vanessa pouts.

She pouts, and Brooke loses it.

Her hands gather both of Vanessa’s up in her own, and rest them on each of her hips. She brackets Vanessa’s head with both of her knees and tenses her thighs; Vanessa’s gripping at them like they’re her only vices and Brooke can already picture the constellations of bruises that will form.

In purples and yellows and greens.

“Slowly”. Brooke soothes.

Vanessa doesn’t listen, is too caught up in latching her lips to Brooke, gliding her tongue aimlessly as Brooke shudders above her. She doesn’t listen, but Brooke doesn’t care. She had told Vanessa to go slow, though she doesn’t know why with the electricity that’s vibrating in shockwaves through to her bones.

Her lips wrap around her clit, suck in gentle yet certain pulses that have Brooke clinging to the edge with the tips of her fingers. She tightens her hold on Vanessa’s and nods her head. Vanessa looks up at her with blown pupils and it’s all Brooke can do to not come as she stares down into them.

They’re whirlpools, and Brooke is drowning.

She’s unable to breathe, but Vanessa suffocates her further.

Her thighs tighten around Vanessa’s cheeks and she’s coming, moaning and clenching and groaning out Vanessa’s name.

“Shit, fuck, ok, that’s enough-“. Brooke mewls.

“-Oh my god”.

She exhales blissfully, chest heaving and skin prickled with sweat. She moves her body in order to lay next to Vanessa who looks back at her expectantly. She glides her tongue across her lips, though it does little for the wetness that’s smeared across her chin, pooling in her clavicles.

Brooke kisses herself off of Vanessa’s mouth.

And then doesn’t stop.

She makes Vanessa come three times with her mouth, and once with her fingers. She tells herself that she’s making up for all of the wants and wishes that have clung to her like glue since their night in the alley; she’d barely scratched the surface of Vanessa and she needs more.

Vanessa comes down with her head on Brooke’s chest and a smirk on her lips.

It’s why when she frowns, simpers seriously, Brooke’s unable to control herself. She shifts uncomfortably, twists beneath the humid heat of the bed sheets. They’re silky and irritating and Brooke wants them gone. Vanessa kicks them away for her without asking and maybe -

- Maybe there’s something there.

“Take me on a date”. Vanessa suggests.

Excuse me?”.

“Take me on a date next time”.

The confidence radiates off of her brighter than the lamp in the corner of the room. It’s startling, almost. Vanessa looks certain and Brooke knows that she looks scared. She tells herself that she’s not but the thudding of her heart and her hands that grow clammy claim otherwise.

“Who says there’s ‘gonna be a next time?”.

“Me, I do”.

And of course she does.

Brooke looks pensive, and then grins knowingly. She puts the terror in her chest aside, squashes it beneath the soles of her feet. She forgets that it exists, for now, compartmentalises it like all that she’s ever known. It’s there and it’ll stay, but Vanessa needn’t know.

Not now.

“Where?”. She asks.

Vanessa kisses once at her shoulder.

“Wherever you ‘wanna take me”.

Chapter Text

There’s a lake.

And there’s also a beach. 

But there’s a lake, and Brooke wants to take Vanessa there. 

It’s a thought that had appeared in the forefront of her mind the instant Kameron had mentioned it. 

Vanessa herself had asked, told Brooke to take her on a date later that night and it’s stuck with a startling permanence. Brooke thinks about it on her drive back to Asia’s and for the entirety of the day that drags on exasperatingly. 

It’s only been a week since then; Vanessa had keyed her number into Brooke’s phone the morning after the night before and they’ve been texting back and forth since with an eagerness, an openness. 

Like it’s normal.

Vanessa sends her updates and questions that Brooke shouldn’t care about but does

Vanessa: B I got a question for you 

Brooke: ???

Vanessa: You believe in aliens?

Brooke: Really?

Vanessa: Answer the question!!

She barely has to think about it.

Brooke: What if we are the aliens???

Vanessa: Oh shit 

She’ll text Brooke in the middle of a shift at work just to tell her about an irritating customer, and Brooke will respond with her best attempt at humour, compassion. 

Vanessa will send pictures of herself, too. She sends one at midnight on a menial Monday and Brooke’s eyes drop from her skull. 

Vanessa: Bought something today, you wanna see?

Brooke: Only if I’ll like it 

Vanessa: Oh trust me, I think you’ll love this one 

With trembling fingers she calls Vanessa and tells her as much. Vanessa talks her off over the phone and Brooke comes mutely against her own fingers. Vanessa’s moans are clear in her ears and Asia’s couch creaks beneath her spine. 

Brooke promises Vanessa there and then that she’ll pick her up on Saturday -

- If she still wants it.

Vanessa reassures her that she wants nothing more, and gives her a time. 

Gives her something to hold on to.

*****

They drive up to the lake an hour before sunset. 

The sky is a marble of pale pinks and oranges and lilacs.

Vanessa sits herself on the back of Brooke’s bike like she’s been doing it for years, and Brooke has to remind herself that this is new for her, new for the both of them. 

Her arms wrap around Brooke’s waist like a worn in leather belt and it feels too comfortable. Brooke wants her to tighten it a notch or two so that she feels something other than pleasant.

Anything but comfortable. 

Brooke’s filled with unease at the thought.

Her shoulders stiffen and Vanessa notices, she thinks. She nuzzles her head into Brooke’s shoulder, kisses at the sliver of skin that the neckline of her shirt exposes. 

She keeps kissing kissing kissing, humming. 

Neither of them are wearing a helmet, this time; Brooke’s irresponsible and Vanessa’s new to the thrill of uncertainty.

It’ll wear off.

Brooke’s grip on the handlebars goes from weak to heated. She’s seething that Vanessa has known her for barely two weeks, is annoyed that it feels like longer. She’s furious that Vanessa is making her acknowledge a want to stay, somewhere, for the first time that she’s able to remember. 

She’s screaming silently within at god herself, the magnetised pull of the universe that had drawn her back to Vanessa once, twice. She’s seeing red, the red of Vanessa’s lipstick, the red of Vanessa’s panties, because she’s still barely scratched the surface, wants to delve beneath each layer. 

And she’s incensed, livid at herself.

Because she likes it. 

Though she shouldn’t.

*****

Vanessa’s head is in her lap, and Brooke’s fingers are drifting through her hair. 

Her fingernails drag against Vanessa’s scalp and the lake stands still.

Time stands still. 

Vanessa turns to gaze at her from her position on the picnic blanket, looks up towards her with soft eyes and a softer smile. She outstretches a hand, ghosts the pads of her fingers across Brooke’s cheeks. Brooke smiles back, and her cheeks pucker beneath the touch. 

There are birds chirping in the background but Brooke’s unable to hear them. Vanessa’s lips move in time with a handful of words that leave them but Brooke doesn’t here those, either. 

She’s seeing Vanessa in daylight for the first time and it feels like jumping headfirst into the lake that spreads out serenely in front of them. 

There’s not a ripple to be seen but Vanessa’s eyes skim stoned across it and disrupt Brooke’s surface so effortlessly, so nonchalantly. 

Brooke leans down to kiss her once in hopes of a distraction.

But Vanessa curls a hand behind her neck and doesn’t let her go. Brooke melts in to it like the sun that trickles from the sky, lets her vision go dark and her thoughts wander below the horizon. Her eyelids fluter closed and Vanessa sits up; she straddles Brooke, stops kissing her. 

It’s dark, and Brooke’s barely able to make out the outlines of Vanessa’s features, the curl of her smile. They’re bathed in the silvery blue of the moonlight but Brooke feels like she’s floating on Vanessa’s skin that brushes up against her own. 

Vanessa reaches for her phone, switches on the screen so that they’re able to see better. She tosses it to the corner of the picnic blanket and now Brooke’s able to see, really see. Vanessa’s eyes are wide, honest. There are flecks of mascara transferring beneath the creases of her eyes and her eyebrows twitch with every flicker of her gaze. 

Brooke releases a breath, drums her fingers across the small fo Vanessa’s back.

“Hey, ‘Ness?”.

Hm?”. 

“You grew up here, right?-”. Brooke voice is uncharacteristically soft.

Vanessa nods her head and Brooke smiles encouragingly.

“-Tell me about it?”.

So Vanessa does. 

She tells Brooke about her older brothers, as well as her mom. Brooke learns that they’re three and five years older than herself, respectively, and finds out that they’d go camping in the valleys every summer. 

Vanessa recalls a memory of getting stuck up a tree that she thought she could climb, though upon reaching the top realised she despised the height of it. 

Brooke listens intently, to all of it. Vanessa’s aura gleams with every mention of her mom, and Brooke knows that she adores her. 

It’s nice to hear, but it also makes her heart clench. Brooke doesn’t have that, will never have that, but Vanessa does, and Brooke should be happy for her. 

She is happy for her. 

Brooke holds her just a little tighter, and Vanessa starts speaking quieter, lower. There’s nobody around for miles, but she whispers at a volume that’s just for Brooke. 

She rests her arms around Brooke’s shoulders, tugs on the strands of hair that fall from her ponytail, and tilts her head quizzically. 

“You’re not from here”. Vanessa states. 

Brooke shakes her head because she’s not. 

“What gave that away?”. She asks. 

“Don’t think I don’t notice your funny ‘lil accent”.

“It’s Canadian, you asshole”. Brooke snorts. 

She laughs into Vanessa’s chest, pulls her closer by her palm that still rests on her back. 

Vanessa chuckles along, tugs on Brooke’s hair again so that her neck cranes and their eyes lock. It’s then that the screen of Vanessa’s phone goes black and they’re plunged into darkness once more; Brooke has to squint to make out the smirk on Vanessa’s face that transforms into intrigue with each passing second.

“Shit, why you out here in the middle of nowhere?”. 

There’s not an answer that feels good enough. 

Brooke wants to indulge Vanessa in anecdotes of a path that have never existed. She imagines a world where she could tell Vanessa differently, could talk about ways that she’s paved and decisions that she’s made that have lead her to destination unknown in the middle of nowhere. 

But Brooke’s unable to do that.

So she smiles, falsely, shrugs her shoulders. 

“Just passing through”. Brooke offers. 

There’s not an answer that feels good enough, and Vanessa makes her aware of that.

“Where you live normally?”. 

Vanessa wants answers that Brooke doesn’t have. 

Brooke busies herself with scuffing the rubber heels of her boots against the edge of the picnic blanket. She digs her nails unwittingly into the skin of Vanessa’s back and inhales deeply. Her nostrils are flooded with Vanessa’s perfume that’s all heady and musky, vaguely smokey. 

Vanessa blinks serenely, but Brooke’s tongue is like a deadweight in her mouth. 

“Here, there, everywhere”. Brooke chuckles nervously. 

Vanessa’s eyes roll and Brooke lets her hold slacken. 

“I ain’t asking to steal your identity, Mami-“. She giggles. 

“-Where you live?”.

She nuzzles down into Brooke’s shoulder, and Brooke lets her.

Brooke is weak. Unconvincing, she thinks. She’s so readily wrapped around Vanessa’s finger that Vanessa could pull back an inch and she’d snap, break. They’re both china plates but Brooke is already chipped; Vanessa is new, untainted, and Brooke’s ruining that. 

She’s tossing Vanessa to the ground and hacking her into shards like she means nothing. 

Yet Vanessa keeps trying.

Brooke is put back in her place on the shelf by Vanessa’s own hands. 

Oh, no, I mean - I don’t have an apartment or anything”. She stutters.

“Oh, you livin’ with family?”. 

Brooke feels herself shatter once more. 

“God no-“. She laughs. 

“I crash in motels, sleep on friends couches, that kind of thing, y’know? Kameron comes with me most of the time and we just, travel together”.

Her response is flimsy at best, utterly implausible at its worst. She watches the lake billow in front of them, moonlight reflecting off of it. 

It ripples uneasily in the faint breeze that’s gathered and Vanessa shivers atop of her. Brooke rubs the heat of her palms across her skin subconsciously, but Vanessa’s looking at her with nothing but warmth.

A fire.

Vanessa’s eyes are glazed over. 

They’re deep, indisputably authentic. 

Brooke is consumed by them in a single blink and has to scrunch her own closed. She only does so briefly, but then Vanessa’s talking, is mumbling out Brooke’s name so fondly and delicately that Brooke feels every tendon in her body grow tranquil. 

“You’re a free spirit”. She smiles.

Brooke can only shrug.

“Sometimes”.

Vanessa nods, leaves it at that. Brooke is grateful until their conversation progresses further, and each muscle in her body convulses unpleasantly. Brooke drops her hands from Vanessa’s back, rests them on the ground either side of her. She reclines against them, huffs out a breath that’s weighing her down.

“What about brothers? Sisters?”. Vanessa prods.

“Sister-“. Brooke confirms. 

“-But, yeah, sister”. She grits. 

And if Vanessa sees the hurt in her eyes, she makes it known. 

She doesn’t push Brooke further, settles for nodding empathetically, understandingly. Her eyes say it’s ok, and then so does her smile, as well as her lips. She tells Brooke not in words but in all of the ways that Vanessa simply is. 

Brooke gets it, and Vanessa doesn’t have to say a word. 

“C’mere”. Vanessa soothes. 

She pulls Brooke’s hands back to her, but this time they travel to her shoulders. 

They’re pressed so flush against one and other that Brooke’s unable to determine where she ends and where Vanessa begins; she thinks that it’s maybe somewhere between the lips that skim her jaw and her teeth that clench inadvertently. 

It’s something that she can’t be certain about, doubts she ever will. Vanessa is pushing her down down down and Brooke fights it, because she doesn’t want this to be about her. Vanessa is there, and Brooke thinks that she deserves all that she’s able to give her. 

Because it might not be much. But Brooke thinks she’s got more within her than a quick fuck on a picnic blanket next to a lake, even if the setting is every bit as romantic as Vanessa had described. 

She’s capable of more than a fleeting fling, despite having never attempted such before; there’s love in her bones but she hasn’t found a place to send it.

Yet.

So she wants to give Vanessa more, more than she’s ever given anybody. 

Vanessa’s looking down at her with a smirk that won’t quit, and when she tells Brooke to take her home, her lips against Brooke’s ear and affection in her eyes -

- Brooke says yes. 

*****

“On the bed-”. Brooke coaxes. 

“-Lie on your front”. 

Brooke has been in Vanessa’s home once before. Once that had felt like a dream but now feels like a haunting sense of deja vu. 

The room looks the same, all bed sheets that become rumpled with movements and a dimming lamp that douses them in amber, citrine. 

Vanessa’s clothed in nothing but her panties, spread out ethereally across the mattress. Brooke draws the curtains and pads on cold feet across the hardwood floors, kneels hesitantly on the bed behind Vanessa. 

Twisting her neck to see her, Vanessa nods her head, smiles closed mouthed. 

It’s in encouragement and recognition. 

Yearning and comfort. 

Brooke plants her hands on Vanessa’s calves and works them upwards slowly, deliberately. 

They curl into the muscles behind her knees, thumbs digging in to the barely there dimples of her thighs. When they reach the swells of her ass Vanessa pushes back against her, and Brooke scalds her with a halfhearted pinch.

Vanessa squeals, giggles through her pursed lips.

“That tickles”. She breathes. 

Brooke continues with her ministrations, walks her fingers up to Vanessa’s waist. She slips the tips of them beneath the waistband of Vanessa’s panties, and works them down the lengths of Vanessa’s legs with her permission. 

Vanessa kicks them to the ground when they gather at her ankles, pulls Brooke back to her with a hand wrapped in the curls at the base of her neck. 

“What about this?”. Brooke grins. 

Her fingers skate across Vanessa’s ribs, so lightly that Vanessa doesn’t notice them, at first. Brooke increases the pressure and it’s then that she trembles, squirms and nods her head. 

Vanessa turns away from her once more, buries her face into the pillows that are built in walls around her head. 

Brooke kisses the juncture of her shoulder, straddles her hips.

“Brooke”. 

“Hm?”.

Brooke”. Vanessa repeats herself.

“What, baby?”. 

Vanessa props herself up onto her elbows, and Brooke lifts her hips, gives her the space that she needs to flip beneath her. Vanessa moves to lie on her back and Brooke lets her do so. She drapes herself across Vanessa’s body, slots a thigh between her legs and braces an arm each side of Vanessa’s head. 

Both of Vanessa’s arms loop around her waist and pull her closer, closer.

“I-“. Vanessa starts.

She searches Brooke’s eyes, but Brooke’s unable to explore hers. They’re unreadable, glazed over, and Vanessa blinks, dazed. 

Brooke strokes a thumb across her cheek but it doesn’t settle the indecipherable sentiment that stares back at her through glassy umber eyes. 

“Ness?”.

Sorry-“. She shakes her head. 

“-It don’t matter, m’sorry, carry on, please”. 

But Brooke can’t. 

“No-“. She shakes her head. 

“-No”. 

Her voice is defiant, strong and unwavering. Vanessa’s jaw gapes and Brooke watches in real time as it closes, becomes a smile that’s so peaceful, so adoring, that Brooke has to mirror it. 

They’re beaming into each others faces, light and assured and wanting; Brooke kisses Vanessa and Vanessa kisses her back without restraint. 

“Tell me“. Brooke soothes.

“Later-“. Vanessa promises.

And Brooke thinks later, that’s ok. 

“-Not now”. 

So they leave it, for now. 

Brooke kisses Vanessa again and doesn’t stop, not yet. She works her way down the length of Vanessa’s body before Vanessa shakes her head, tells her that’s not what she wants. She pulls Brooke back up towards her mouth and connects their lips as Brooke works a hand between their bodies. 

Fingers skim across her outer and inner thighs, and then Brooke cups her with her whole palm. Vanessa mewls into her mouth, bucks her hips. Brooke knows that she’s not getting enough friction but wants to keep drawing it out like elastic. 

Vanessa’s body springs like a band when Brooke relents and the room becomes a chorus of moans. 

Brooke uses two fingers, maintains consistent circular motions against Vanessa’s clit that build her orgasm steadily. Vanessa holds her close and kisses her throughout, keeps her fingers locked behind Brooke’s neck. She tugs on Brooke’s hair whenever Brooke presses harder, with more intent -

- And she comes with Brooke’s name on her lips.

“Brooke”.

“There you go”.

“Brooke”. 

Easy”. Brooke comforts.

Vanessa’s chest rises and falls with an unevenness that matches that of Brooke’s own lungs. Brooke lets Vanessa roll her to her back, lets Vanessa rest her head against her collarbones. She lets Vanessa kiss the delicate skin of her neck and lets their legs entangle.

Lets Vanessa cry. 

“I’m scared”. She whispers. 

It resonates with Brooke, and she swallows it down.

I know”. 

Maybe she knows why, or maybe she doesn’t, but Brooke takes on an air of indifference that isn’t entirely believable, she knows. Vanessa sobs and holds her close, and Brooke has to fight down the tears that threaten to escape the prisons of her eyes. She barricades them in, because not now. 

Not now.

Not yet. 

Not ever. 

Chapter Text

Brooke thinks that it’s just her luck. 

Just her luck that the one time she does stick around anywhere for longer than a heartbeat, it turns out to be accidental. 

The days pass, and suddenly she’s been living between Asia’s couch and Vanessa’s bed for over three months. Autumn has made itself present in the form of auburn trees and thicker clothes. Brooke layers up her sweaters and lets Vanessa keep her leather jacket, still.

Because it works. 

Kameron doesn’t complain, either. 

She maintains that herself and Asia are just friends, says that they go back years. And it might be true, Brooke thinks, but she also hears the bed creek above her in the middle of the nights, is able to make out Asia and Kameron’s moans that they try to stifle. 

Whispers of oh my god and please, mumbles of Asia and grunts of Kameron.

Brooke presses her face into the back of the couch that she’s come to tolerate, her spine slumping to the shape, and laughs to herself as she reaches for her phone. Her screen tells her that it’s reached the early hours of a rainy Sunday, and the depth of darkness of the room surrounding her confirms it. 

Her eyes squint against the light and lashes flutter. 

She navigates her way to her messages with ease and pulls up the only contact that she could ever disturb at this hour. 

Vanessa. 

Typing out a noncommittal text has become second nature to her, thumbs tapping against the glass before they hit send. Brooke has half a mind to kick herself for the vague nature of her two words, but then Vanessa’s name illuminates her face; the understanding goes unspoken between them.

Brooke: You awake?

Vanessa: Yeah

And then Vanessa texts again before Brooke’s able to respond. 

Vanessa: Can’t sleep?

And understanding doesn’t feel like an adequate word. Because Vanessa gets it, Brooke thinks, gets her. They get each other, not in so many words but in the ways that they are, on a fundamental level. 

Vanessa is everything that Brooke is not and she thinks that it’s a balance that has potential, hope. Vanessa is warm, comfortable. Vanessa is a sense of family and an illusion of care that Brooke doesn’t have within herself. 

She’s a hometown honesty yet an otherworldly force. 

Brooke marvels at it each time she enters Roberta’s, perches on a bar stool for the night and watches Vanessa work. She pours drinks and pops bottles like she’s always done it, kisses Brooke’s lips when they meet in the parking lot like she’s never known another. 

Her thumbs hit at her phone once more and type out a response that feels empty. It’s as hollow as a plasterboard wall and Brooke builds them around herself in shields that are futile. They do nothing, protect her from nothing, but she keeps them there regardless. 

Brooke: Something like that 

She doesn’t have to wait for the clock that sits on the mantle to tick tick tick over into the next minute before Vanessa is replying. The room is dark but brook squints against her screen. It’s a ray of sunlight in the pitch black night and Brooke has to press her fingers to her lips to quell her grin. 

Vanessa: Wanna come over?

And yes, Brooke does. 

Kameron and Asia are going to tell her that she’s crazy. They’ll roll their eyes at her when she arrives back on her bike the following day, or the day after that. Kameron will tell Brooke that she’s falling, digging herself a hole that she’s not going to be able to crawl out of, this time. 

Only Brooke won’t disagree. 

Because she knows what she’s doing, understands that when she sits up off of the couch, pulls on her boots that she’s not helping herself. There’s a tremble in her hands at the thought of what she’s about to do, what she’s doing; she scrapes her hair back into an easy pony tail, abandons her helmet and picks up her keys. 

The keyrings on them clank together, and when she twists them into the ignition, gets her engine revving, she slips her phone out of her pocket. There are no other messages, but she sends off a confirmation to Vanessa because she’s going to do it.

Is doing it.

Brooke: Be there in 15 

And she will.

Even if Vanessa lives half an hour away. 

*****

It’s damp, and raining. 

But Brooke goes from cold to scalding the instant that Vanessa answers the door. 

Brooke feels her heart threatening to melt in her chest and has to swallow down the adoration that rises. Vanessa’s looking at her like that, all welcoming smiles and encouraging eyes, and Brooke feels herself willing to bow at her feet. 

She leads the both of them inside the apartment, takes Brooke’s soaked sweater and nudges her towards her closet. Brooke follows her with downcast eyes, keeps them trained on Vanessa’s sock clad toes. Her gaze travels up the lengths of her bare legs and to the hem of her oversized sleep shirt, remains there as she kicks off her boots.

Vanessa tuts, albeit jokingly, picks them back up by the slackened laces. Brooke offers an apologetic shrug, because she should know better but doesn’t, and mumbles a sorry that isn’t needed when Vanessa’s ushering her towards the bathroom, a stack of clothing shoved hastily into her arms. 

“Change out of those fuckin’ pants, Mami, you’re soaked to the bone-“. Vanessa snorts. 

“-I’ll be in the living room”. She nods. 

Brooke stares after her wordlessly, as if something, anything is going to happen. She knows that it’s not, really, but it’s worth the longing sigh that escapes her lips, fogs up the bathroom mirror. She etches Vanessa’s name into it in her mind, adds a heart for good measure; it feels no different than when Vanessa takes up her usual space in her thoughts. 

Shuffling through the options that Vanessa has handed her, Brooke chuckles faintly. There’re a pair of sweatpants that Brooke had forgotten in her laundry basket one morning, in addition to two mismatched socks that she’s certain that Vanessa has had tucked away in her drawers for years. Minuscule, cartoon dogs adorn the the pink fabric, and Brooke pulls them onto her feet with a heady giggle. 

It’s the shirt that Vanessa has provided her with that makes her stop in her tracks. 

Worn in, black, smaller and tighter than what Brooke would normally wear. 

White lettering that spells out Roberta’s on the front. 

Vanessa’s name on the back. 

Vanjie. 

It feels like staking a claim. To what, Brooke doesn’t know. But she pulls the supple cotton over her body, watches it drape across her shoulder in the mirror and embraces the shiver that curls around the notches of her spine. 

The metal of her body is tarnished in all things Vanessa, and she likes it. 

Dares to think that she might love it. 

*****

Vanessa has two mugs of coffee prepared for the both of them, piping hot on the coffee table. 

Brooke picks one up, cradles it in her hands. 

It burns at her skin and she winces audibly, but Vanessa coaxes her under a fleece blanket, wraps it around them in ribbons of warmth and reassurance. Vanessa’s head is on her chest before Brooke is able to blink or protest, and the heat that radiates off of her frame rivals that of the mug in her palm. 

Brooke clenches it with white knuckles, allows Vanessa’s thumb to stroke at her wrist. 

“Why you tense for?”. Vanessa frowns. 

And Brooke would answer.

If she knew. 

“Don’t know”. She tells Vanessa as much. 

“It’s three in the mornin’-”. Vanessa confirms. 

Her free hand reaches for the television remote, presses mute. The room is silent and the tip of Vanessa’s finger circles the omnipresent tan line from where Brooke’s watch should be on her right wrist. Brooke doesn’t have to utter a thanks for Vanessa to get it; she’s burrowing further into Brooke’s side and Brooke thinks that she’d be a fool not to let her. 

“-So tell me, because ain’t nobody be this tense at three in the morning unless somethings up. What’s goin’ on, B?”. She pleads. 

Brooke wants to tell her.

She wants to tell Vanessa of all her woes and wants, her worries and wishes. She wants to inform the woman looking up at her with wide, doe eyes of the thoughts circulating on a loop in her mind. Vanessa wants answers and lord if she doesn’t deserve them, too. 

But Brooke would be lying.

To the both of them. 

She’s still processes the churning in her gut that intensifies whenever she’s in close proximity to Vanessa, or whenever her name is mentioned. Kameron has made a habit of throwing her into conversations merely to watch the blush rise on Brooke’s cheeks, and Brooke thinks it would be endearing if it wasn’t for the nausea in her chest that comes along with it. 

Her feelings are at odds with one and other. 

Conflicting emotions that make no sense, no matter how hard she tries. She’s sought to piece them together akin to rogue jigsaw edges, keyboard letters that together could, might, should make legible sentences. Brooke has paragraphs on the tip of her tongue that Vanessa needs to hear.

As soon as Brooke lets them fall.

Not yet. 

“Coffee-“. Brooke mumbles.

“-Let me drink”. She chuckles. 

“Alright, caveman-“. Vanessa rolls her eyes. 

“-Drink your damn coffee”. 

Brooke sips it down, singes her tongue and scalds her gums. It settles in her stomach until she’s full and the cup is empty, and she sets it back down onto the coffee table with a thud. Vanessa nudges her with her elbow, and the world seems calm. 

Until it doesn’t. 

Forward thinking has never been Brooke’s forte. She prides herself of many things - intuition, strength, ambition - but planning has never entered her equation in the years that she’s had to calculate and account for only herself. 

She doesn’t consider consequences, barely glosses over what if’s and what could be when she’s thinking of the future, as illusive as it always remains. There’s near and then there’s distant, and Brooke likes to think that she aims for somewhere in between on the best of days. 

Or did, until Vanessa. 

Because Brooke remains conflicted, even with Vanessa’s even breath against her neck, tethering her to reality. She wants to leave, she wants to stay, she wants to leave, she wants to stay. 

She wants both.

Wants Vanessa. 

Even if she can’t have her. 

“I ‘wanna go”.

forward thinking has never been Brookes forte. 

“You what?”. 

She doesn’t consider consequences. 

“Come with me?”. 

Because Brooke remains conflicted, even as Vanessa shatters the world that she’s offered up to her. 

It’s rash and messy, improper and weak. 

If Brooke is serious then even she doesn’t know it herself, and Vanessa blinks up at her dumbly. She shakes her head slowly, as if in a daze, and Brooke can do nothing apart from let her go, watch Vanessa spring up off of the couch like an elastic band and away from Brooke as if she’s a poison dart.

Brooke seizes the corner of the blanket feebly in her fist, feels the flimsy fabric willing to tear beneath her deathly grip. Vanessa is pacing, watching from the centre of the living room, and Brooke doesn’t know what to do with herself. She shrinks under Vanessa’s glare that turns icy, frigid, and stiffens her shoulders. 

Because it’s happening. 

The fall. 

And Brooke’s unable to stop it. 

She catches sight of Vanessa’s cartoon dog socks still on her feet, and the vision itself brings tears to her eyes before Vanessa’s words have even left her mouth, met her ears. Brooke curls her toes into the fabric of the couch and braces herself, strengthens her armour. 

It’s paper, she can’t, her tears are already dissolving it. 

Vanessa turns to her, eyes powerless. 

“Why would you ask that?”. Vanessa whispers. 

“I-“. 

Don’t-”. Vanessa hiccups. 

“-Don’t try it”. 

An apology hangs silently in the air. 

and Brooke knows then that she couldn’t have expected differently. 

Vanessa is, Vanessa

She is home, she is her family, she is her town. There’s too much of her in the one place that Brooke wants to whisk her away from, bundle her up in her leather jacket, hoist her onto the back of her bike and run. Run like Brooke has always done, sprint like all she has ever known, away from home, away from family, away from love. 

Love. 

“It’s too soon”. Vanessa breathes. 

There’s a pain in her voice that Brooke wishes would vanish, disappear into thin air. Only Brooke knows that she’s the cause of it, this time, is the cause of the anguish that decorates Vanessa’s delicate features and causes them to scrunch in torment. 

She stands staunch in front of Brooke, hands on her hips, and shakes her head no.

No. 

Brooke understands quicker than she thought possible. 

“Ok, I get it”. Brooke’s voice comes out timid. 

She doesn’t recognise it. 

It’s her own, but sounds foreign to her own ears. It’s too uncertain, uncomfortable and quiet. Brooke relies on being loud, boisterous and demanding, but Vanessa has her cowering under her steely scrutiny that burns in lasers through Brooke’s skull, through the couch that’s pressed against her spine. 

“Get what?”. Vanessa snaps. 

She’s seething, visibly, and Brooke is unable to blame her. She’s angry, gritting her teeth, and Brooke’s remaining shred of dignity grows irrational. Her heart has been chewed up and spat out in shreds, is bleeding into her palm and down to her wrist. She wipes them off on the knees of her sweatpants, stands abruptly; she’s a head taller than Vanessa and Brooke almost takes it back when Vanessa flinches. 

Almost. 

“You want the thrill of it-“. Brooke bites. 

“-But none of the commitment”.

“Brooke-“.

“No-”. Brooke turns her head. 

Hypocrisy flows in the blood that still stains her hands. She watches it drip out onto the floor, kicks her heart to the corner of Vanessa’s existence with her boots that she tugs on haphazardly. Black leather covers up pink and cartoon dogs, and Brooke doesn’t think anything has ever felt as inherently wrong. 

“-I get it, really”. 

And Brooke does, though she doesn’t admit it. 

Vanessa’s looking at her like she’s just diminished the stars that she once hung by hand in her skies, and Brooke avoids her gaze as if it’ll reduce her to nothingness. She ignores the tremor in her lungs that tell her it already has it already has it already has. 

“You know what?-“. Vanessa snarls. 

“-Just ‘cause you have nothing to stick around anywhere long enough for, don’t mean some of us don’t”. 

It hurts. 

Brooke had expected it to burn but it stabs, shoots, pierces her chest and dislodges her bones from their sockets. Her eyes are rivers and she’s unable to see a foot ahead of herself as she reaches for her leather jacket that’s sat on the back of Vanessa’s couch for days, weeks, months. 

Slowly becoming a permanent fixture that isn’t meant to be. 

Only Brooke thinks that it is. 

Because she’d found something to stick around for and it didn’t want her back.

Vanessa

“Get fucked, Brooke-“. Vanessa sobs.

And then harsher. 

“-Get out of here”.

So Brooke runs, and doesn’t look back. 

Chapter Text

When Brooke leaves, Vanessa shuts down.

She takes her will, her patience and motivation, too, leaves behind a whirl of smoke in her wake that mixes with the salt of Vanessa’s tears.

Vanessa sits on her couch for two hours afterwards, stares into space, to the empty spot where Brooke’s leather jacket had hung for months. She wonders briefly if it had ever been there in the first place; her imagination fails her because she could only wish that was the case.

Could only wish for Brooke to have never appeared at Roberta’s, longed for her to never have whisked Vanessa off of her feet and onto the back of her motorbike. Prayed for Brooke to not have wrapped Vanessa’s heart so effortlessly around her little finger.

Her soul weeps the further away that she knows that Brooke is.

Because after ten minutes, Vanessa is sobbing. The string that’s wrapped around her heart tugging and twisting, threatening to snap.

In an hour, she’s aching. Her chest feels like it’s caving in, crumbling into her bones. Her head pounds to the rhythm of Brooke’s engine that’s miles away, barrelling down a highway, somewhere.

And tears fall from her eyes in drops of acid, collect in the palms of her hands and the hole in her lungs. They choke her, suffocate her until she’s gasping for breaths that don’t come, at first.

She hiccups, gulps.

Is silent.

Her eyes glaze over, but stop pouring. Her jaw goes slack, yet her forehead furrows with the tension that trickles out of the rest of her body. It attempts to follow Brooke out of the door but doesn’t get past the terror lurking in her hallway.

Because if Vanessa recognises any of the emotions tying her down, it’s regret.

Vanessa knows that she’s scared of change.

She likes routine, likes her routine, and rarely alters it. She’s grown used to night’s at Roberta’s and early mornings in her small apartment. She’s become accustomed to her comfortable friendship with Yvie at the bar and the ease of having her mom live essentially down the road.

Her brothers too.

She likes drinking hot chocolate and watching mind soothing re runs of old tv shows in her living room. Vanessa finds enjoyment even in the small ding that her door bell makes when the mail man delivers care packages that she gets from her one aunt Mabel. There was even happiness when Brooke had shaken all of that up, turned it on its head.

And it’s why she’s regretful.

Vanessa drops her head to her hands, braces her elbows on her tense knees. She digs them in for good measure, rubs the sore spots of her temples. Her ears are buzzing, her palms vibrating. There’s a signal that’s disconnecting and Vanessa wishes she hadn’t gotten any wires crossed.

She attempts to untangle them as she forces air into her lungs, but her trying trying trying does little.

Brooke is a free spirit. Not in the ways that she carries herself but in the sheer form of her existence. Vanessa knows that she doesn’t look back, never turns her head around for anything. Not family, not opportunities, not gut instincts.

Not Vanessa.

Though Vanessa also knows that she’s stubborn.

They’re both stubborn.

Vanessa will be the first to admit it when she awakens later in the afternoon, her head still pounding along to the rhythm of Brooke’s heart.

She’d fallen asleep on the couch, neck aching and shoulders pressed into the foam of the back rest. Her hands are fisted into the fabric of a woven blanket and she has to resist the urge not to shred it into as many pieces as her crumpled soul.

A grunt echoes around the otherwise quiet room, and she reaches for her phone that’s sat on the coffee table. It’s half way to running a flat battery, and Vanessa decides that the gods would have wiped it already if she was meant to not do it.

Meant to not text Brooke.

Because Vanessa is stubborn, and she’ll be the first to admit it.

Until she isn’t.

*****

Vanessa: I fucked up

Vanessa: I know I fucked up real bad

Vanessa: I’m sorry

Vanessa: I shouldn’t have said what I did

Vanessa: You were right

Vanessa: I’m fucking scared B

Vanessa: I want you

Vanessa: I want all that comes with you and your dumb fucking leather biker ass

Vanessa: Sorry

Vanessa: I know you don’t want to talk to me

Vanessa: I’m an idiot

Vanessa: Please can we just try to talk?

Vanessa: It doesn’t have to be right now

Vanessa: Just please

*****

It takes Vanessa another three hours to peel herself off of the couch, and in that time she receives four texts.

None of them coming from Brooke.

Vanessa holds onto the last remaining dregs of hope that are dwindling by the second, and gnaws on the inside of her cheek when her phone screen lights up for the fifth time.

Only for it not to be Brooke once more.

Vanessa’s eyes are glassy and she knows as much. There are unshed tears gathering in the corners of her eyes, burning and singeing. She scrunches them closed, her forehead furrowing in the process. Her nails bury themselves in the fabric of her couch, and it’s then that she stands.

She leaves her phone where it is, almost certainly dead and still without a response from Brooke.

Vanessa’s sock clad feet pad across the wooden floors - it’s cold, frigid - and her flyaway strands of hair brush against her cheeks. It tickles irritatingly, and she bats them away. The sensation is annoying; Vanessa’s mind dares to imagine Brooke’s fingertips there instead and her jaw sets in place.

If she was capable, Vanessa thinks, she would hate Brooke.

Everything inside her want to forget, cast aside what has been the better part of six months. Because six months is nothing, in the grand scheme of things. Vanessa has been alive for twenty eight years and six months doesn’t compare.

She keeps telling herself six months.

But Brooke is Brooke and Vanessa is far from capable.

Brooke occupies segments of her thoughts that she didn’t know existed until they were filled. The clock that she keeps on her kitchen counter top flashes in an obnoxious display of five o’clock. Vanessa recognises that she has three hours to get to work and she’s still thinking of Brooke.

Roberta’s is Brooke.

Showering and washing her hair with cinnamon shampoo is Brooke.

Dragging the nub of a nude lipstick across her lips in the vague attempt at making herself feel like a human being is Brooke.

Vanessa feels her earth shifting at the realisation and has to hold back the sob that slips into her throat.

And Vanessa is still scared, is terrified.

But terrified is Brooke, and Vanessa wants her.

*****

Vanessa: Brooke it’s been a week

Vanessa: I don’t blame you for going off grid or whatever

Vanessa: Just please for the sake of my fragile fucking nerves

Vanessa: Let me know you’re ok?

Vanessa: You know how I get Mami

Vanessa: Over thinking and saying the wrong things and shit

Vanessa: It’s one of my talents

Vanessa: Yeah

Vanessa: Anyway

Vanessa: Just let me know you ain’t fallen off that bike into a ditch somewhere

*****

So-“. Yvie laughs.

“-You’re telling me that you refused to go with her, got butt hurt when she called you out for being scared, and then insulted her for liking to live a little?”.

“Yes-”. Vanessa sighs.

It sounds even more ludicrous when Yvie voices the situation for her.

“-Dumb ain’t it?”.

Vanessa pushes herself off of the bar top by her hands, turns to Yvie with a pout. It’s after midnight on a Wednesday, and Roberta’s is quiet, quieter than it should be. Yvie puts it down to the horrific weather outside but for Vanessa it’s the distinct lack of a blonde nursing a beer in front of her.

She scuffs the toes of her sneakers against the floor and huffs out a whine. Yvie’s looking at her cautiously out of the corner of her eye, her hands focused on pulling a pint into a glass. She places it in front of the customer who’d ordered it once it’s full to the brim, waves him off when he attempts to slide a ten dollar bill her way.

Vanessa notes that he’s a regular and says nothing.

His plaid shirt fades into the crowds sat in booths and on stools and suddenly her phone feels heavy in her pocket.

“How many times have you text this bitch?”. Yvie laughs.

“I don’t know”.

And Vanessa doesn’t.

More than she should have but not as much as she’s wanted to.

“Vanjie”. Yvie speaks pointedly.

Vanessa grimaces and braces her back against the surface behind her. She crosses her legs at the ankles and glances up to see Yvie casting a nervous hand across her head; it’s shaved short and Vanessa chooses to focus on the way the short bleached strands bounce back.

“Um-“. Vanessa chuckles.

“-More than ten less than a hundred?”.

Vanessa!”.

Yvie’s tone is scalding, and Vanessa recoils. It’s loud even in the bar that’s got some life left to it, patrons snickering and cackling along. Vanessa sighs aloud, mumbles unintelligibly. Yvie looks at her like she’s lost her mind and Vanessa is beginning to think that maybe she has.

Maybe.

“I know-”. Vanessa relents.

“-I know”.

Yvie is silent while Vanessa contemplates.

“Look-“. Yvie begins.

“-I’m not saying miss motorcycle is completely in the right here, ‘cause she’s not. But have you thought that maybe she had a point?”.

And yes, Vanessa has thought that. She’s thought about it so much that she knows it to be true. Brooke had a point. Brooke still has a point by not responding to her strings of incoherent messages. Vanessa thinks that she’ll continue to have a point for as long as her chest remains aflame.

“That’s the thing-“. Vanessa groans.

“-She definitely had a fuckin’ point and I just-“.

Vanessa is cut off by Yvie’s wide eyes.

“Oh”. Yvie realises.

“Oh?”. Vanessa arches an eyebrow.

She’s able to see Yvie’s eyes scanning her face, her hand raising limply to point an accusatory finger at Vanessa. Vanessa lifts her hands in mock surrender and laughs uncomfortably. Yvie still scrutinises her thoroughly and Vanessa thinks she’s a single once over away from crumbling to dust.

“You-“. Yvie points again.

“-You’re in love with her”. She grins.

“No”. Vanessa shakes her head.

Only she is, and she knows it.

Yvie knows it.

“Yes you are-“. Yvie squeals.

“-You’re fucking in love with some dyke on a bike that you met at a bar”.

“The bar we work at”. Vanessa corrects.

Though she can’t help but laugh at the absurdity. Because yes she’s in love. And yes that happens to be with Brooke. Happens to be with the woman who had walked out of her apartment a week ago and had taken Vanessa’s heart with her. The woman who has ignored all twenty four and counting of Vanessa’s texts.

“Technicalities-”. Yvie shrugs.

“-Point is, you’re in love. Vanjie is in love”. She drawls.

Vanessa chooses to simply smirk.

“Coulda’ told ‘ya that when I let her fuck me in the alley outside on the first night we met”.

*****

Vanessa decides that it’s rational to get increasingly worried when her texts have stayed unanswered for upwards of a week and a half.

So she talks to Yvie about it, again.

And then once more.

Yvie slides a shot of tequila across the bar for her and Vanessa pours herself a further three within the next ten minutes. Yvie watches her, seemingly perplexed, but Vanessa maintains her excuse; her heart is falling out of her chest and the warmth of the alcohol is nice.

Soothing.

“Would you jump in a pool of gasoline if you were already on fire?”. Yvie questions.

Vanessa averts the question.

“What a way to go”. She laughs.

She’s sure it would be.

“You’re doing it again”. Yvie notes.

Vanessa knows what she’s talking about but tells herself that she doesn’t. Yvie is wise, wiser than Vanessa likes to admit to herself and to Yvie, too. She talks sense in to Vanessa’s thoughts that don’t align, sometimes, makes her see past the wooden doors of Roberta’s and the drunken men that crowd the entrance.

So Vanessa relents, tries not to make a habit of it.

“You ‘gonna state the obvious again?”. Vanessa prods.

Yvie shrugs, but continues regardless.

“I know you’re worried-“. Yvie empathises.

“-And you have every right to be, but don’t ‘ya think if the good old universe has a plan then you should just let it do its thing?”. Yvie sings.

Vanessa sighs, because she wishes. She longs for an attitude that’s as care free as Yvie’s, as Brooke’s, one that’s as optimistic and one that’s as hopeful. She prays for the ability to have faith in the universe and it’s ways that work so mysteriously.

But that’s not who Vanessa is.

That’s not how Vanessa works.

She exhales deeply through her nose, prepares her words. They’re swirling in her mouth but Vanessa doesn’t want to pull the plug. Not yet, she tells herself. Yvie is still looking at her quizzically as Vanessa pours herself another shot, wobbles noticeably on her feet.

“Listen-“. Vanessa rolls her eyes.

“-All this hippy bullshit might work for you but for some of us we just ‘gotta-“.

Vanessa halts.

Her phone sits forgotten in the pocket of her pants.

She hasn’t dared touch it for fear of rediscovering what she already knows. Brooke doesn’t want her, doesn’t want to respond to her. It’s a sinking feeling that’s too much, too intense, and so she lets it sit like a coffee stain on a white shirt; she washes and washes though the mark doesn’t fade.

But this time it’s ringing.

Her phone is ringing and it’s Brooke’s name that’s on the screen.

“Is that-“. Yvie tries.

Yes”. Vanessa hisses.

“Madam universe”. Yvie smirks.

But Vanessa doesn’t care.

Brooke is calling her and it’s been a week and a half and Vanessa is pressing the green button. She’s accepting the call and plastering a grin across her lips, babbling about how she’s made a mistake and how she’s so happy to hear from Brooke because it’s been a week and a half and she’s in love and -

- Her smile falters.

“Vanessa?”. The voice isn’t Brooke’s.

“Hello?-”. Vanessa stutters.

“-Who’s this? Where’s Brooke?”.

Her voice is shaking shaking shaking.

“It’s Kameron, I-“.

Kameron.

“Why do you have her phone?”.

Panic settles in Vanessa’s gut. It rises quickly, ignites lighters in her chest and she knows that something isn’t right, is wrong. Kameron’s breath hitches down the phone line and the tequila shot in Vanessa’s hand lands back on the bar with a hollow thud.

Because Vanessa might not believe in fate, might not believe in the power of the universe and the law of attraction that Yvie so often speaks of. But she believes in instincts and trusts her intuition when it tells her that this isn’t how it should be.

It should be Brooke’s voice. Brooke’s voice and not kameron’s.

Not strained.

“Vanessa I, I should have called sooner but we only just got her damn phone working again and it’s-“. Kameron sniffles.

“Cut to it bitch”. Vanessa aims for cold but it still comes out untethered.

There’s another ragged breath from Kameron, and then Yvie is there, holding her up, preventing Vanessa from falling, crashing, falling. The words are out there, in the open, and Vanessa has heard them but she hasn’t, really. They don’t settle even as Yvie comforts her while she sobs, tells Vanessa that it’ll be ok, it’ll be ok, it’ll be ok.

Because Vanessa doesn’t know.

The universe doesn’t know.

“She’s in the hospital, and I think you better get here now”

 

Chapter Text

Vanessa doesn’t ask what happened.

She wants to, she really wants to, but the question doesn’t leave her mouth before she’s hanging up the phone, turning to Yvie with a gulp. Yvie looks at her with an arched eyebrow and Vanessa lets out a sob that’s guttural, heart wrenching.

Vanessa shakes her head and thinks that Yvie understands, then. Yvie’s ringing the bell behind the bar to garner the attention of the other staff on duty and is ushering Vanessa into the back room before she’s able to blink.

Tears cloud Vanessa’s vision and she knows it’s a miracle that she’s still stood on two feet. Yvie presses a hand to her back and calls out her name because all she’s able to focus on is Brooke Brooke Brooke.

Vanessa.

It’s grounding, somewhat. Vanessa’s head is whiting with what ifs and why’s and possibilities that aren’t logical. Her phone is burning a hole through the skin of her hand, to her bones; Yvie coaxes it from her with a gentle smile and a gentler concern.

“Vanjie-“. Yvie tries.

“-Vanessa”. She corrects.

Vanjie doesn’t get through to her but Vanessa does.

Vanessa always does.

She’s able to picture Brooke saying it, Brooke whispering it, and it draws another sob from within her chest. Her lungs feel like they’re caving in and even the bricks that Yvie’s propping her up with aren’t enough to stop them.

There are hands pressing themselves down onto her shoulders, keeping her stable and keeping her there. Yvie squeezes, tight, and Vanessa has to grapple for the air that’s not finding its way to her. She breathes deeply, shudders was tears continue streaming down her cheeks; Yvie wipes at one of them with the pad of her thumb but they merely keep flowing.

Falling.

“Hospital-”. Vanessa croaks.

“-She’s at the hospital”. She winces.

“Ok-“. Yvie exhales.

“-Where? You need a ride?”.

“City general. Yeah”. Vanessa deadpans.

And she’s never been more grateful for anything. Yvie nods her head shortly in understanding, and Vanessa follows her out of the back entrance of Roberta’s, to Yvie’s truck that’s parked out front. The engine raffles to life as Vanessa’s hope dwindles, burns in the fumes of the exhaust.

Yvie says nothing and puts her foot to the gas, grips the steering wheel with white knuckles.

“I’ll have us there in ten”.

*****

Yvie makes the journey in less than the ten she had promised, and Vanessa remains grateful.

She keeps her eyes trained on the clock that ticks by like dripping blood on Yvie’s dash, has her leg shaking to the rhythm of the pot holes in the highway. Yvie remains silent and Vanessa is grateful, still; she doubts she could stomach the pitiful small talk that she knows is brewing beneath the surface.

Her teeth dig into her bottom lip. The taste is metallic and she licks it away with her tongue. There’s a pain that’s numbed by the adrenaline that’s taken over every cell in her body, a pain that’s washed away by the tears that are still coming.

Yvie pulls into the hospital parking lot and it’s then that Vanessa has time to think.

Really think.

They’re queuing for a parking spot that Vanessa is beginning to think will never appear. Yvie locks the doors from the inside of the truck to stop Vanessa from breaching security, and Vanessa knows that she’ll be thankful in the long run but curses out Yvie’s name in the moment.

There’re nervous goosebumps forming on her arms and visions in her mind of Brooke. In every scenario. Vanessa’s mother has always told her she thinks the worst of everything and the tendencies prevail even as she glances towards the hospital, hopes and prays that this time she’s wrong.

Wrong that Brooke might be seriously hurt.

Wrong that Brooke might not want to see her, still.

And wrong that Brooke might be gone.

The minutes that it takes them to pull into a bay slugs past like a torrid winter and Vanessa almost claws her way through the glass of the vehicles windows. She’s certain that she could do it; Yvie gives her a look that’s reminiscent of a warning as she removes the keys from the ignition and Vanessa knows that it’s best to not have tried.

“You need to stay calm”. Yvie soothes.

Vanessa thinks that she’s delusional.

“Calm?!-”. Vanessa screeches.

Yvie recoils at the volume but Vanessa grits her teeth.

“-How the fuck do you expect me to be calm when you ain’t letting me out of this god damn tin can?! I swear to god Yvie you better let me get in there or I’ll fuckin’-“. Vanessa is cut off by a sob.

Yvie’s hand is on her knee, gripping, and Vanessa lets the touch ground her once more. Yvie’s muttering her name and it summons Vanessa’s attention enough to get her to loosen her jaw, drop her shoulders. Vanessa licks her tongue across her lips and draws in a heavy breath.

“Calm-“. Vanessa hiccups.

“-Gotta’ be calm”. She tells herself.

Nodding her head, Yvie sighs. There’s an ambulance siren whirring in the background, blue lights looming in the distance. Vanessa wishes that they wouldn’t but knows that they have to. The main entrance to the hospital is illuminated in reds and yellows in front of them; it’s eerily peaceful and Vanessa shudders.

“There you go”. Yvie simpers.

“Calm-“. Vanessa responds.

“-For Brooke”. She establishes.

Worry flashes across Yvie’s face but Vanessa’s not going to mention it. There’s not enough time left in the day for the amount of concern that’s running freely around her mind, tying itself in knots. Yvie shrugs her shoulders and Vanessa’s eyebrows furrow.

“And yourself. Don’t forget about yourself”. Yvie notes.

And Vanessa knows, of course she does. She has to stay calm for herself. Collected for herself. She lets Yvie know as much through a nod of her head and a tight lipped smile that doesn’t go a miss. She’s not calm, is far from it, and telling herself to do so, simply for herself, does little to assist.

Vanessa isn’t important right now. She knows so.

So she tells herself for Brooke.

And that helps.

A little.

“Not the time?”. Yvie chuckles.

Vanessa lets herself laugh too, because no, it’s not the time.

“Not the fuckin’ time at all, bitch”.

*****

They’re stood at reception, and Vanessa’s still crying.

Albeit silently, this time.

There’re still sobs wracking her body but Yvie has an arm slung around her as they wait, wait some more as the receptionist on duty flags down a nurse, runs Brooke’s name through their database.

Vanessa casts her eyes down the length of her own body and has to stop herself from rolling her eyes at the sight of herself. Her oversized shirt is littered in splotches of spilt beer and her shoes are a neon that reflects against the clinical white of the linoleum flooring at her feet.

She scuffs them against the edge of the reception desk and waits waits waits.

Impatiently.

“Was that Hytes that you said? May I ask how you’re spelling that, ma’am?”. The nurse checks.

Vanessa digs her teeth into her cheek as Yvie responds for her.

Hytes.

The nurse takes note and the receptionist says nothing. There’s a silence that’s poignant in the bustle of the room and Vanessa can feel bile rising in the back of her throat. Her stomach is churning and she’s still grateful for Yvie; she spits out a lie about them being sisters and Vanessa doesn’t know if it’s believable but it’ll do.

It’s good.

And it gets them to the seventh floor.

To outside Brooke’s room.

There’re doctors and nurses and family members with faces etched with permanent anguish. Vanessa imagines that her own face only succeeds in mirroring them and walks ahead of Yvie. Her legs are shorter but there’s a determination within them that gets her there quicker, more efficiently.

She’s stood outside of room nine within a handful of steps and it’s then that she stops.

Because Brooke is inside of the room, is in room nine, and Vanessa doesn’t know in what state that may be. The thoughts that she’d managed to quell in the parking lot return with a vengeance and from then they don’t stop.

They grow.

The what ifs become plausible and the possibilities seem endless. Vanessa’s running a hand through her hair and sobbing as Yvie catches up to her in a half jog. She allows herself to rest her back against the wall of the corridor, lets the smell of disinfectant and stale canteen food become a vicious reminder of where she is.

Yvie nudges her as she scrunches her eyes shut, clumps of mascara sticking to her cheeks. She snaps them back open with a flinch and there’s a woman stood in front of her when she does so. She’s tall and tattooed and has red hair that glints under the strip lights and -

- It’s Kameron.

Vanessa’s able to recognise her from the nights that she’s spent accompanying Brooke at Roberta’s, from the countless pictures that Brooke has shown her on her phone. Evidence of states travelled and towns explored, experiences gained and lives lived.

It’s enough to calm her heart rate more than it should.

Because being there means seeing Kameron. And seeing Kameron means being one wall away from Brooke. Her Brooke that she’s almost lost, still might be losing. She forces herself away from the thoughts that continue to dominate her subconscious and clears her throat with a cough.

“Kameron”. She sighs.

Vanessa is embraced in a hold that’s crushing. 

Kameron’s arms are strong around her and she allows herself to melt into them. Yvie’s still at her side and there’s a safety net surrounding her. She feels comforted even as the sound of a far off heart monitor fluctuating fills her ears.

“Thank god you’re here”. Kameron breathes.

“Is she ok? What’s going on?”. Vanessa answers.

She doesn’t miss a beat.

There’s not enough energy left in her body to continue explaining to Yvie, to nurses, to receptionists and now to Kameron that this isn’t the time. There’re words that are unneeded and long winded explanations that could be over within the first breath.

And Vanessa doesn’t care for them.

Will never care for them for as long as she’s still being kept in the dark.

Kameron catches on quickly and nods, grants her the light that she’s been seeking.

“She’s ok”.

She’s ok.

Brooke is ok and Vanessa is still sobbing.

Relief encompasses her body and Yvie is there, hand on her back to stop her from evaporating, floating off with all of the logic and sense and reason that’s long gone. There’s a gap in her heart that’s quickly being filled because she knows Kameron isn’t deceiving her, isn’t exaggerating.

Because Brooke is ok, and it only hits Vanessa in that moment that this is what it’s like.

To love someone unconditionally.

Someone who isn’t a family member and isn’t just a friend but is someone who she adores so selfishly.

For the fear of almost losing them is too much to bear.

Kameron points toward the room behind them, room nine, and Vanessa lets herself relax, become calm for the first time since -

- She’s unable to remember.

“What happened?”. Vanessa’s voice is soft.

Kameron centres herself and her arms drop from Vanessa’s frame. Yvie steps aside and makes room for a nurse barrelling down the corridor, a trolley firmly in her grip. Vanessa watches it go past and sends out a silent thank you; for what she isn’t sure but it doesn’t matter.

Brooke is ok.

“The fucking idiot-“. Kameron snorts.

“-So you know what she’s like when she puts that jacket on, thinks she’s made of steel when really she’s a wet paper towel-“. She laughs.

Vanessa cuts her off with a chuckle that’s laced with frustration, because It’s still happening. She knows that Brooke is ok, knows that she doesn’t have to worry, really, but she still doesn’t know why they are where they are, doing what they’re doing; the walls of the hospital remind her with each blink of her eyes of the situation at hand.

“Kameron”. Vanessa sighs.

She counts herself lucky that Kameron understands once more.

Yet with each word that leaves Kameron’s lips, Vanessa wishes that they hadn’t.

“There was a fight at a bar”.

“These two guys were going at it”.

“One of them had a knife”.

“She lost a lot of blood”.

“She was just trying to help”.

Vanessa feels the colour drain from her face quicker than the next nurse that speeds past them.

She knows without a shred of uncertainty that she’d be crumbling once more, tears continuing to prickle in her tear ducts if it wasn’t for Yvie’s continuous whispers of she’s ok.

Brooke is ok.

Only she isn’t, not really.

“Where?”. Vanessa whimpers.

Kameron regards her carefully, crosses her arms protectively over her chest. Vanessa knows that her eyes are like daggers and Kameron shrinks under her scrutiny. Yvie’s looking back and forth between the both of them but Vanessa is itching, fidgeting, breathing through flared nostrils.

“She’s fine, I promise“. Kameron swallows.

Kameron”. Vanessa’s voice is a warning.

There’s a further beat, and then Kameron’s relenting.

“Below the ribs”.

There’s a part of Vanessa that sobers instantly. She places all of the facts together like a mismatched jigsaw and presses her hand to her forehead. She squeezes the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger and lets the pressure drain.

“She’s still pretty out of it-“. Kameron adds.

“-But she’s awake, if you wanna’ see her”.

Kameron looks optimistic, and Vanessa doesn’t think she’s ever uttered a yes as quickly.

*****

Brooke doesn’t look like Brooke.

She’s paler than Vanessa’s ever seen her, the tan that normally kisses at her skin being blown out by the harsh hospital lighting. Her hair is scraped back messily and there’s a gash above her eyebrow that’s been stitched meticulously.

Vanessa enters the room with caution, feels her heart sink in her chest at the sight of Brooke with her eyes fluttering open and closed, open and closed, her throat bobbing as she swallows. She has one hand fisted in the powder blue blanket thrown across her legs and Vanessa clears her throat to make her presence known.

Brooke turns to her with a gasp.

B?”. Vanessa stands stationary.

Her feet are like anchors in the middle of the room, refusing to let her move. Her shoes are still too bright against the clinical linoleum and Brooke chuckles at them with a snort. Vanessa says nothing but takes a minuscule step forward, let’s herself be drawn closer closer closer.

Finally.

“Oh my god-“. Brooke shuffles in her bed.

“-Ah, shit”. She curses.

Her wince is audible and Vanessa severs off her anchors, strides until she’s at Brooke’s bedside. Brooke looks up at her with wide eyes and Vanessa is speechless. There’s not a word that she can think of that feels adequate; their situation is bizarre but Brooke is there and Vanessa’s confused but she’s in love.

“Hey-“. Vanessa soothes.

“-Hey, easy does it”.

“What the hell-“. Brooke begins.

She’s cut off by a groan that makes Vanessa’s heart seize. It feels like it’s pumping in her throat but she gulps it down, perches uncomfortably, awkwardly on the edge of Brooke’s bed. There are wires flowing like veins out of Brooke’s body, machinery that’s beeping steadily.

Vanessa feels one of them brush up against her knee and flinches.

Brooke simply looks at her.

Because Vanessa doesn’t know what to say, still.

She’s thought about what she’d say if she was given the chance to see Brooke again, has mulled it over for days, weeks. She’s pondered what Brooke would say back to her in her conjured up fantasies, but the reality of the situation pales in comparison; Brooke is twiddling her thumbs and Vanessa doesn’t think starting at the beginning is going to work, this time.

The opportunity to speak to Brooke again has been handed to her on a gold plated platter and she’s clueless. It had almost been lost, Brooke had almost been lost, but she has her, she has her right in front of her yet -

- Not a single idea.

Until there is.

“You’re such an idiot”.

Vanessa wants to kick herself.

She’s sent Brooke more messages than she’s able to count over the span of who knows how long. She’s explained each and every feeling that she’s had circulating, each reason and each regret; her mouth has other ideas and the most important is calling Brooke an idiot.

There’s a look in Brooke’s eyes that disagree, but then she’s stating otherwise, and Vanessa gets to laugh with her.

“I know”.

Brooke smirks at her, despite the evident pain clouding her features. She raises a limp hand, stares at Vanessa as if she’s seeing her for the first time. It’s jarring, almost. Vanessa nearly averts her eyes to the curtained window on the opposite side of the room, but Brooke is mumbling her name, a faint Vanessa that speaks volumes.

“God-“. Vanessa huffs.

“-When I told you to get fucked I didn’t mean go get-“.

“‘Ness”. Brooke interjects.

“Sorry”.

“Easy, my head hurts”. Brooke cowers.

The hand that she’d previously raised comes to rest atop of Vanessa’s. They sit intertwined, resting on Vanessa’s thigh, and Brooke squeezes with an energy that Vanessa knows is taking too much effort out of her. Vanessa squeezes back, and Brooke appears embarrassed, almost.

Vanessa thinks that she gets it in some ways.

Vulnerability.

“God, I’m sorry-“. Brooke proceeds.

There’s a pause.

“-I’m really sorry”. She spills.

She emphasises her words with a delicacy, a tenderness that’s so Brooke that Vanessa doesn’t know how to respond. She laughs at herself because it’s becoming a running theme. Vanessa doesn’t know what to say and Brooke’s looking like the handful of words that she’s spoken have drained her body for all it’s worth.

Vanessa shakes her head empathetically, because no.

No.

“Ain’t no need for apologies, Mami“. Vanessa sighs.

“I fucked up”. Brooke shrinks.

Vanessa doesn’t think that she did.

“But you didn’t-”. Vanessa reasons.

Because in her eyes, Brooke didn’t. She’s not going to let her think otherwise when Brooke is laying there defenceless, one hand pressed to her side. Vanessa has questions that she wants to ask but doesn’t; she reassures herself that she has time this time around, and crooks her eyebrow instead.

Brooke shrugs, mumbles an it’s fine.

Vanessa doesn’t think that she is.

“-You were right. I fell for the idea of a new city every day, new possibilities and seeing them with you god damn it. There’s nothing here for me, I know that and you know that. Hell, you knew before I did. But god I’m scared B. This has been all I’ve known for so long”. Vanessa’s lip trembles.

Brooke merely smiles softly.

“You know what’s funny?”. Brooke croaks.

Vanessa’s not going to push her, knows that Brooke needs her rest.

“What?”. She settles.

And then they’re both grinning.

“I think I finally found something worth sticking around for”.

 

Chapter Text

Brooke spends a week in hospital. 

But then Vanessa takes her back to her apartment afterwards, and it’s like she never left.

Brooke hangs her leather jacket in the hallway and Vanessa isn’t able to stop the smile that grows when it continues to be there the next day, the day after. 

The day after that, too. 

And it’s nice.

Brooke occupies Vanessa’s couch for the first four days. 

Vanessa orders them takeout that Brooke nibbles on, at first, before she’s sneaking an extra slice of pizza and leaves Vanessa snickering. She picks off the vegetables but Vanessa doesn’t point it out; Brooke is there, with greasy fingertips and it’s more than Vanessa thought she would have again. 

“Can I have another slice?”. Brooke murmurs. 

Vanessa’s eyes crinkle at the corners with a smile. She continues to say nothing, only nudges a slice closer to Brooke’s side of the open box. Brooke mumbles her thanks and takes a bite. She shimmies her shoulders in content, though winces at the ache in her side. 

A warning glance is thrown her way and Brooke can’t help but huff. 

It’s only been five days, but she’s exhausted. 

Tired of being unable to do anything, fed up of the consistent twinge that’s settled below her ribs. Her stitches tug with each breath, every movement, and Brooke just wishes that she would heal. 

There’s a sense of Groundhog Day that comes with waking each morning, propped up on what feels like a million pillows in Vanessa’s bed, a leg slung loosely across her lap. To have Vanessa there too is comforting, admittedly, but Brooke thinks she would have already lost her mind if it wasn’t for their daily commute to the couch. 

She wants to do things, longs to feel human once more. She almost believes she never will -

- Until it’s been almost a week and a half, and Vanessa is taking a shower.

And Brooke is hungry. 

She’s sat on the couch, the pain in her side having faded noticeably. Granted, it’s still there, doesn’t show any signs of vanishing entirely any time soon, but it’s progress. The stitches and dressing that she has to change less regularly yet still can’t get wet in the bath or shower come as an everlasting reminder of such. 

Her foot taps nonchalantly as her mind travels to the left over pizza that she knows Vanessa has stored in the kitchen. It’s pepperoni this time, and she feels her mouth beginning to salivate at the thought. 

She could, she thinks. 

Could pull herself up off of the couch, wander cautiously to the kitchen. It’s not far, she knows. In good health it would take her five seconds or less to make the trip, though she knows that good health comes few and far between in her state of recovery. 

Her mind however screams pizza, and her rumbling stomach sounds in agreement. 

And Brooke has never been one to sit by idly. 

It takes her a minute to gather herself, another minute to push her body towards the edge of the couch, and a further grunt until she’s standing for the first time unaided in over a week and a half. It feels good; she takes small steps, her sock clad feet padding across the floor until she’s stood at the kitchen countertop. 

Her hands outstretch to steady herself, and Brooke doesn’t think she’s ever been happier to see a greasy, cold, tattered pizza takeout box in her life. She has to stop herself from fist bumping the air because she did it. 

It feels like a start. 

She props herself up against the kitchen cupboards, and triumphantly works her way through half a slice of pizza before Vanessa is there, scowling at her. 

Brooke knows that she’s been caught red handed.

“Brooke Lynn! What the hell do you think your ass is doing off the couch?”. 

Vanessa crosses the room in the blink of an eye and has a hand resting on Brooke’s hip. Brooke wants to roll her eyes but understands the concern; Vanessa’s eyes are wide and bleary and worried, and her hair is still damp from the shower and Brooke is in love.

“I wanted pizza”. She admits. 

She does so shyly, and Vanessa shakes her head with a soft simper. Brooke can tell that she wants to be mad, wants to be angry. Vanessa’s brows are still furrowed and it’s a tell tale sign that she’s holding back. Brooke pouts her lips and Vanessa sighs, places a gentle peck upon them. Brooke tastes like pepperoni but Vanessa is bursting with pride.

They both lean back against the counter and it’s then that Vanessa laughs. 

“Of course you fucking did”. 

Brooke snorts, and hands Vanessa a slice. 

It feels like another beginning. 

*****

In a month, Brooke is leaving the apartment, running errands with Vanessa. 

She joins Vanessa at the grocery store, the mall. 

Even ventures to Roberta’s where she stays in the staff room with Yvie, as well as Kameron and Asia when they come in for drinks on the weekend. 

Kameron makes a point of mocking Brooke for the sheer domesticity that she’s landed herself in, despite having Asia curled up next to her. Brooke chuckles at her audacity but can’t deny that she’s right, undeniably so. Vanessa checks up on Brooke during one of her breaks and departs with a kiss that makes her heart clench. 

Asia smiles sweetly but Kameron smirks, leans back in her seat. Brooke glances at her warningly, narrows her eyes. Kameron shrugs when Brooke utters a faint what, but doesn’t start speaking until Brooke sighs, readjusts her position on the worn in couch. 

“If you’re going to make a joke can you at least make it quick so none of us have to suffer any longer?”. Brooke bites, albeit lightheartedly. 

Asia laughs, buries her face in Kameron’s shoulder. Kameron chuckles too, allows Brooke the comment because she’s Brooke, and Kameron hasn’t had Brooke making bitter passes at her in too long. Brooke knows that she’s missed it even as she tosses a throw cushion across the room in her direction. 

“What makes you think Kam is capable of making a joke?”. Asia interjects. 

Kameron’s shock is instant. 

Ouch-“. Brooke drawls, giggles lightly. 

“-She’s got a point”. 

Kameron’s eyebrows shoot upwards, and Asia places an apologetic kiss to her cheek. Brooke shrugs her shoulders despite Kameron’s persistent scowl, and rakes her fingers through her hair. 

“Hey!-“. Kameron dramatises.

“-I can be funny!”. She states. 

Asia pulls away, detangles herself from Kameron’s hold. She sits up straight, points an accusatory finger towards Kameron. She maintains a grin upon her face and it’s how Brooke knows that she’s merely teasing. Kameron takes ahold of her finger and tugs, causes Asia to bark out a laugh, 

“The funniest thing about you is the fact that you think you’re funny”. Asia points. 

“The girlfriend has spoken”. Brooke notes.

She beams arrogantly and Asia nods her head in approval. Kameron is left slack jawed and doe eyed, pouting yet frowning. Brooke takes it upon herself to return the pillow that Kameron had thrown towards her, and tosses it back with ease; the pain in her side has all but dissipated completely. 

“Unfair-“. Kameron argues.

“-So unfair”. 

“Well-“. Brooke smiles. 

“-At least it saved us from your joke”. 

*****

In three months, Brooke rides her bike again for the first time, and it’s like she never stopped. 

Kameron had parked it outside of Vanessa’s apartment for her all of those weeks ago, had handed Brooke the keys with the promise that it would be no time at all before they would be able to travel together again. 

Brooke had been doubtful at the time, but now with her leather jacket on her back, and Vanessa warm against her back as they drift down the open road, she knows that Kameron had been right. 

Vanessa tightens her grip around Brooke’s waist, nuzzles her head into Brooke’s hair that escapes her helmet. Brooke’s own hands tighten on the handlebars of her bike reflexively and she slows the acceleration as Vanessa’s apartment comes into view once more. She steers effortlessly; Vanessa is cheering quietly in her ear and Brooke’s unable to stop the smile from growing on her face. 

The engine shuts off, and Brooke removes her helmet. 

Vanessa is one step ahead of her, and dismounts the seat, rounds Brooke’s side. her helmet is already tucked under her arm and she stands in front of Brooke with a proud grin. 

“What did I tell ‘ya, huh?”. She beams. 

And Brooke has to admit that she had been right, too. 

Kameron had reassured her but Vanessa had reinforced that. She’d spent the majority of the morning convincing Brooke that she would be ok, would be more than fine. Brooke had listened intently as Vanessa had told her that it was impossible for somebody to forget how to ride, especially when that person is Brooke. 

Brooke hadn’t believed her until Vanessa had encouraged her, had even told Brooke that she’d come with her. 

The nerves in Brooke’s chest had faded to a light thrum at the promise. She doesn’t know, doesn’t understand when she’d become so reliant on Vanessa, as dependant and as in love as she is; Vanessa leans down to kiss her then and Brooke decides that it doesn’t matter. 

“Thank you-“. Brooke mumbles.

“-For, y’know, getting me to do things”. She blushes. 

“Ain’t no trouble, Mami-“. Vanessa cups Brooke cheek with her free hand. 

“-Can’t let your ass get too comfortable on my couch, can we?”. 

Brooke shakes her head, because no, she doesn’t want to. Brooke enjoys life on the move and is glad to be herself again, is happy to be up and about and moving and doing things with her, with Vanessa. Vanessa takes her hand, encourages Brooke to stand. Brooke does so, and loops an arm around Vanessa’s shoulders. 

“Come on-“. Brooke sighs. 

“-Celebratory cuddles?”.

*****

Somewhere along the lines, they start having sex again. 

Vanessa kisses at Brooke’s scar because she can, and she wants to. It’s a part of Brooke and she loves her, wants her to know it even if Brooke’s unable to recognise it sometimes. 

She traces her lips from Brooke’s neck, down towards her collarbones. 

Her teeth graze across them lightly, traipse across each spot that she knows from experience make Brooke quiver with need. Brooke’s hands tangle in her hair, and tug with each mewl that escapes her lips. Vanessa blinks up at her from beneath hooded eyes, dark eyelashes, and finds Brooke’s head craned backwards in pleasure. 

Vanessa hums, ghosts her fingertips across the path which her lips have already travelled. 

“Ok baby?”. Vanessa checks. 

Brooke doesn’t respond verbally. 

She nods her head, barely visible, and so Vanessa tries again. There’s an air surrounding them that’s tense, different, something that Vanessa’s unable to put her finger on. Brooke’s laying there, beneath her, hips bucking into her touch and yet -

- Something’s off. 

“Brooke?”. She coaxes. 

Brooke’s eyes flutter back open, slowly but surely. Vanessa greets her with a smile that she reciprocates with ease. Her fingers are still woven in Vanessa’s hair, and she frees them in order to wrap her arms around Vanessa’s shoulders. She presses her fingertips in the notches of Vanessa’s spine, and Vanessa squirms in her lap. 

“Why did you stop?”. Brooke whines. 

There’s a pout adorning her features, and Vanessa wants to kiss it away. She chooses to do so, and the pout is replaced with a grin, a blush that Vanessa places a further kiss upon. 

“‘Nessa”. Brooke whines once more. 

“Hm?”. 

“You stopped”. She complains. 

“Yeah“. Vanessa clears her throat. 

Brooke frowns, and pushes herself up onto her elbows. 

Vanessa watches from the corner of her eye as the pink scar beneath Brooke’s ribs creases as she moves, and reaches her hands out feebly. Brooke props herself up against the headboard, and Vanessa follows suit, straddles Brooke’s thighs. 

She rakes her fingers through the front strands of Brooke’s hair that are framing her face, delicately, and pushes them out of her eyes. 

Brooke hums along, one hand on the small of Vanessa’s back, the other on her hip. She doesn’t speak, yet, is able to see Vanessa toying with the idea of doing so first. 

Vanessa has her bottom lip tucked between her teeth. 

It’s a sight that Brooke adores, despite knowing that she shouldn’t. The worry upon her her face is evident, yet the angelic slope of her nose, the dusting of rose across her cheeks and the arch of one of her eyebrows is a combination that has Brooke’s heart settling in her throat. 

“You’re pretty”. Brooke gives in. 

Vanessa snickers lovingly.

“You’re pretty, Mami”. She counters. 

“Not really”. Brooke doesn’t agree.

“You are-“. Vanessa huffs. 

“-You’re pretty, beautiful, so beautiful and-“. Vanessa cuts herself off. 

“And?”. Brooke encourages. 

I love you. 

I love you.

I’m in love with you. 

They’re all thoughts that cross Vanessa’s mind. 

She keeps them to herself for a second longer, imagines Brooke saying them back. She doesn’t understand how she hasn’t managed for it to spill before. 

There have been opportunities to tell her, tell Brooke how she feels. Vanessa thinks back to all of the times where it almost happened; beside Brooke’s beside in the hospital, during one of their many evenings spent on the couch, when Brooke rode her bike again for the first time.

Even before. 

“You know I love you, right?”. Vanessa checks. 

It catches Brooke off guard. 

“I-“.

“-I had a feeling”. Brooke nods. 

“Ok-“. Vanessa laughs uncomfortably. 

“-Just wanted to tell you”. She notes. 

But Brooke is grinning, smiling so wide that Vanessa has to brace herself. Vanessa’s palms are clammy, sweating. She brushes them off on her own thighs but then Brooke is taking ahold of them, fulling them towards her face and placing soft, comforting kisses upon her knuckles. 

“Why you smilin’ like that?”. Vanessa beams. 

“No reason-“. Brooke shrugs nonchalantly. 

“-Just that I love you too”. She purses her lips. 

And then they’re laughing, together. 

Vanessa kisses at Brooke’s lips, and kisses, kisses, kisses. 

She whispers out I love you after I love you, peppers barely there kisses that grow, flourish, down the length of Brooke’s neck once more. Brooke’s reactions are instantaneous, and she gives Vanessa the go ahead in pleases and yeses and moans that have Vanessa clenching her thighs together. 

Brooke comes with Vanessa’s name on her lips and her hands in her hair, and the I love you’s continue to pour. 

*****

In six months, they compromise. 

Vanessa’s lease on her apartment comes to an end, and she knows without second thought that renewing it isn’t in her interests. She tells Yvie over a dinner of nachos and beer that she’s going to be leaving Roberta’s, and does so a month later, true to her word. 

Brooke remains at her side, and reminds Vanessa with each day that passes that they don’t have to do this, don’t have to leave.

Only Vanessa wants to, this time.

And so Brooke listens. 

She helps Vanessa pack up her belongings, into boxes that she labels with smiley face stickers that Kameron had given to Brooke. Brooke had insisted that they had been a joke, but Vanessa laughs, finds them amusing, and sticks three onto her box of kitchen utensils. 

They get the boxes shipped to the opposite coast, a choice which had come to the both of them easier than they’d thought it would. 

It’s an area which Brooke knows well, relatively, and one which is entirely new to Vanessa. Vanessa’s mom reassures her that change is good through a series of teary conversations and goodbyes that Vanessa knows will be far from permanent. There are promises of frequent visits, because Vanessa’s mom grows to love Brooke as much as Vanessa herself.

And Vanessa dares to believe that she’s right. 

That change is good. 

Because this time they aren’t running away. Brooke isn’t running away. They’re running towards something, together. A something which Vanessa, nor Brooke understand, yet. Vanessa decides that they don’t have to understand when Brooke kisses her, loads up the trunk of the run about car that she’d traded her bike in for. 

“Ready?”. Brooke grins. 

And yes, Vanessa thinks, she is.

Ready”.