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The Neighbor

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Aubrey has been back in the United States for just under twenty-four hours and she’s already annoyed because she had to sit in traffic due to construction and the line for the liquor store was unnecessarily long and finally, finally, she’s pulling up to the address that Chloe sent her so she can see her best friend for the first time in months and the brand new house that she just moved into.

It’s a beautiful neighborhood in the French Quarter of Charleston and Aubrey is a little worried about how much money Chloe and Beca sunk into their new house, but she’s just pulled up in front of a gorgeous yellow home with a small porch and a blue door and Aubrey is just completely thrown back to her childhood home by the architecture and the hum of insects in the muggy evening air.

With a double check to her text from Chloe to confirm she’s at the right address, Aubrey steps out of her rental car and smooths down her t-shirt and jeans. She’d opted for as relaxed as possible because she’s only hanging out with Chloe and Beca and she’d spent the past three months in London as a corporate liaison and she’d been wearing nothing but pencil skirts and blouses so it was a nice change of pace to actually be comfortable for once.

Carrying the nice bottle of wine she’d picked up, Aubrey walks up to the front door and once more confirms the correct number on the house, 24, and then she’s knocking loudly. Naturally, she can hear the faint stream of music from inside.

“Come in!” Is called out and Aubrey instantly quirks her head to the side because that didn’t sound like Chloe or Beca and they hadn’t mentioned having anyone else over. Aubrey opens the door slowly and hesitantly pops her head into the entryway of the house. It’s just as beautiful on the inside, all bright colors and natural light streaming through windows and beautiful accent pieces here and there.

And it’s definitely not still filled with boxes and half moved in to but Aubrey doesn’t get to think on that particular observation for long because suddenly she’s got an eyeful of a tall and gorgeous brunette who is just hopping into sight as she struggles to pull on one heel. Her dress has a tantalizingly low cut and the hem is short on her thighs showing off her deliciously long legs and Aubrey is staring a little too intently at a girl whose home she’s certainly just invaded.

“You look beautiful.” Aubrey croaks out and she’s not sure why because what the fuck, she doesn’t even know this woman but her brain is working at limited capacity at the sight in front of her and frankly, she knows that when she vents to Chloe about this later, the redhead will have to sympathize because oh god, did they choose to live next to this goddess on purpose?

The brunette is clearly startled by not who she was expecting, and she freezes in her place with one heel on and the other in her hand but an amused smile blossoms on her face as she registers the blonde’s words. And then she’s furrowing her brows once she’s taken a good look at the other girl and tilting her head slightly but she’s still smiling and it’s a really adorable look and Aubrey can feel a goofy, lop-sided grin growing on her own face and why is she doing this?

“I don’t know you...” Her sentence lilts up at the end in question but she still has a faint smile and Aubrey sucks in a breath because she’s one hundred percent in the wrong house.

“No…no you do not. I’m looking for Chloe?” Aubrey winces as she tries to figure out how to remedy her incredibly awkward self.

“Ahhh, I should have guessed. They’re one house over, Chloe still hasn’t figured out her own address, huh?” The brunette teases. “I almost got their whole furniture delivery the other day.” She says almost conspiratorially as she bends down to slip her other heel on and Aubrey snaps her eyes away because it’s too tempting to look down the neckline of that dress.

“I’m Stacie, by the way. The neighbor.” She says with a small laugh once she’s standing and then she’s beaming a wide smile at Aubrey once more and her eyes are twinkling and Aubrey wonders if she’s trying not to laugh in her face because she feels like it must be very red by now.

“I’m Aubrey… the neighbor’s friend.” Aubrey returns and she takes a moment to wonder if she should offer her hand to shake but Stacie only smiles wider and then gestures towards her front door and Aubrey realizes she should leave now.

“I’ll walk you over, so you don’t go into the wrong house again.” Stacie teases her.

“In my defense, you invited me in.” Aubrey shoots back because she’s not staring head on at Stacie anymore and she can handle banter.

“I did. I guess that teaches me a lesson, hmm?” Stacie hums as she steers Aubrey next door, one house over to number 26, and then they’re knocking on the door of an equally gorgeous light blue colored house with palm trees lining the short driveway.

“What lesson would that be?” Aubrey asks knowingly.

Stacie bites her lip and turns to face the blonde.

“I’m not sure yet.”

The door is flung over by a very excited redhead and then she’s attached herself to Aubrey quite firmly and she nearly drops the bottle of wine she had so carefully picked out.

“Hi Chloe.” Aubrey grits out from beneath Chloe’s arms and then there’s laughter spilling out of them both and Chloe won’t let Aubrey go until Stacie clears her throat.

“Oh! Stacie, hi… oh no. I gave you Stacie’s address, I'm so sorry.” Chloe apologizes but she doesn't even seem that sorry as she extracts herself from Aubrey.

“You did. It’s okay, it was nice to meet your friend.” Stacie smiles.

“Best friend.” Chloe amends quickly and then she’s appraising Stacie’s raunchy dress and nodding approvingly. “Going somewhere?”

“CR and I are checking out Mansion tonight.” Stacie answers back.

“Ooh! You’ll have to let me know how it is! It sounds amazing.” Chloe responds excitedly.

“Of course. And we would have invited you but you still have yet to accept any of my invitations to hang out so I didn’t want to pressure you anymore.” Stacie props her head to the side in a teasing manner and Chloe nearly blushes because Stacie has been a very friendly and inviting neighbor but her and Beca have been so incredibly busy and wrapped up in their first real home together that they’ve turned down her past few invites and they actually do feel really bad.

“I’m sorry! We’re still unpacking, but I promise as soon as this place is in shape I will be banging down your door with homemade cookies and a bottle of wine for girls night.” Chloe answers back and Stacie laughs lightly before she’s walking away from the pair with a wave.

“Okay, I like the sound of that. Well I’ll leave you two to catch up, bye neighbor, bye neighbor’s friend.” She tosses a wink Aubrey’s way and the blonde can’t help but respond.

Best friend.” She corrects with a wide smile and Stacie laughs loudly as she steps across the driveway that separates the houses and disappears into her own home.

Chloe is grinning as they watch her leave until she turns to face Aubrey and sees the absolute glower on her face.

“What?” Chloe whines.

“You gave me the wrong address Chloe! I made a fool of myself.” Aubrey exclaims and then they’re heading inside and this is what Aubrey was expecting because there’s three paint splotches on almost every wall and boxes are clustered in the middle of each room and there’s no decorations yet and just large pieces of furniture haphazardly placed.

“How? Stacie’s such a sweetheart, I’m sure it’s fine.” Chloe laughs back easily but the look on Aubrey’s face darkens and Chloe is very interested now because she did see what Stacie was wearing and she can only imagine the kind of undignified sounds Beca would have made if the first time they’d met Stacie she looked like that (and they had both privately agreed that if they ever wanted a threesome, Stacie was number one on the list) and now Chloe is seeing that Aubrey has been similarly affected.

“What did you do?” Chloe asks goofily and that’s not the right move because it just makes Aubrey pout more and thrust out the hand holding the bottle of wine.

“Take your stupid wine.”

Chloe laughs and grabs the bottle of wine but she keeps wheedling at Aubrey.

“What’d you do?” She asks louder and Aubrey groans but she can’t find a couch to flop onto so she slides down the nearest wall and sits with her head in her hands.

“I knocked. And then she called ‘come in’ because she’s obviously waiting on someone, and I walked in even though I shouldn’t have because it obviously didn’t sound like you, and then I saw… her …” Aubrey gestures wildly in the vague direction of Stacie’s home and takes a deep breath and Chloe is trying not to let the grin on her face get any wider but she absolutely loves this side of Aubrey who is so taken by a pretty girl that she can hardly articulate what happened and it’s the biggest departure from usual Aubrey that it has Chloe giddy.

“And?” Chloe prompted.

“And all I said was ‘you look beautiful.’ I don’t even know her, Chloe! I just broke into a stranger's home and complimented her!” Aubrey buries her face in her hands once more and Chloe breaks out laughing and she can’t even feel bad about this because it’s hilarious and adorable.

“That’s not even that bad Aubrey. It’s cute, it’s a cute story and I can’t wait to tell Beca.”

“Don’t you dare!”

Chloe walks away cackling, leaving Aubrey to stew in her misery and embarrassment until the door is opened and Beca herself is popping her head inside. 

“Oh hey Aubrey, did you have a good flight?” 

Aubrey looks up at Beca and simply nods with a frown on her face. 

Beca nods slowly in response and suddenly she feels awkward in her own brand new home. 

“Okay… Chloe! Can you help with groceries?”

Chloe comes rushing out and places a kiss on Beca’s lips and then she’s holding her hands out to help Aubrey up from the floor so they can make their way to Beca’s car. 

They’re each placing bags on their arms when a car pulls up and the door to Stacie’s home opens as she and her friend exit the house and make their way to the car. 

“Hi again neighbors!” Stacie calls cheerily and Beca waves back without a care in the world. 

“Hey Stacie.” She greets and they watch as the girls climb in the car and take off. 

“Christ, she’s one wrong move from a tit popping out.” Beca murmurs as they shut her trunk and head inside. 

“Speaking of Stacie and her tits…” Chloe starts. 

“Wrong address!” Aubrey yells preemptively and then she drowns out her stupid best friend and her stupid best friends’ stupid girlfriend as much as she can. 

 

 

Aubrey had been awake for maybe an hour and found herself lounging in the minimally furnished guest room (that they had spent twenty minutes looking for sheets and an extra pillow for) trying to figure out if she wants to be lazy and hang out with Chloe and Beca all day, or actually make the drive to visit her grandparents since she was finally back in South Carolina.

A loud giggle broke her thoughts and Aubrey decided she would get the visit over with today and head back to help the couple paint and unpack and arrange furniture so they could finally settle into their new home together.

When Aubrey is eventually ready to make the two hour drive north to her grandparents house, she’s dressed simply and has had breakfast and coffee with Chloe and Beca and she thinks she’s truly prepared for whatever inquisition her father’s lineage has for her. She doesn’t really have anything to hide, not anymore. She’s successful, well enough so that she can take a vacation and request which office she works out of on a whim, and she’s truly proud of herself, and that’s as good as it’s gonna get for this particular Posen.

She steps out of Chloe and Beca’s house with her bag just in case she stays the night, and gives quick hugs to Chloe and even Beca with promises to text as soon as she’s there. It’s when Aubrey is standing in the driveway of her friends’ house that she realizes she didn’t park there the night before, she parked in Stacie’s driveway. And her rental Prius is now parked in by some kind of monstrosity.

Aubrey takes a deep breath and glances to the heavens briefly, as if she retained any of the religion her grandparents had followed so devoutly, before walking to the neighbor’s house once more.

She rings the doorbell this time, and waits for someone to actually come and physically open the door.

It’s a tall brunette once again, just a different tall brunette with a very inviting expression on her face and do these girls just not care for their own safety?

“Hi? Can I help you?” She asks enthusiastically, as if that was possible.

“Hi, I’m sorry, I’m a friend of the neighbor’s and I accidentally parked in your driveway last night.” Aubrey explains, jerking her thumb towards the short driveway that just barely fits their two cars.

The girl nods and her face lights up.

“Oh! A friend of Chloe’s! Yeah totally, wow I was wondering who’s car that was, I thought maybe it was Cynthia Rose’s and she drove over to go out with Stacie but then I thought it was a little weird that it’s an out of state plate because I’m pretty sure CR is from here…” The girl is rambling on and Aubrey doesn’t know how to stop this.

“Em? I think she’s asking you to move your car, sweetie.” A voice chimes from inside the house and ‘Em’ and Aubrey both glance back into the hallway to see Stacie, there she is, wearing a t-shirt and quite possibly nothing else as she leans sleepily against a wall to watch them with a lazy smile.

“Oh! Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry that’s probably totally why you’re here! I didn’t mean to park you in, I just got home so late and I was so tired and like I said I thought it was CR’s and she’s still passed out so I wasn’t really thinking-”

“Emily. It’s still early, just move your car?” Stacie says gently once more and the girl rolls her eyes at herself.

“Sorry. Let me get my keys.” She grins and disappears behind the front door quickly before she appears again and is jogging to her large vehicle.

Aubrey blows out a breath that she was apparently holding during that whole ‘conversation’ as she watches, before she glances back to Stacie which is a mistake because she’s definitely not wearing pants and her shirt barely covers the important bits.

“Heading out so early?” Stacie asks charmingly, as if it’s totally normal to make small talk at an early hour on a Sunday with a girl you just met the night before all whilst not wearing pants.

“Yes, yes I am. I’m visiting my grandparents today.” Aubrey answers as she stares intently at Stacie’s face, but truthfully that’s not that much better because her face is damn near perfect.

“That’s sweet. Are you from here? I thought Chloe and Beca moved from New York?” Stacie ponders.

“Yeah, I am. Well, I was born here but being a military brat we moved around a lot. And they did move from New York, where I also lived, just so happened to be here.” Aubrey explains.

Stacie hums with a soft nod as she stares at Aubrey and the blonde is mildly unnerved because she’s being inspected and it shouldn’t be so invasive because she’s not the one not wearing pants.

“So where do you live now?”

“Oh,” Aubrey starts because, truthfully, she doesn’t actually live anywhere. “Um, nowhere, I guess?” She sort of asks and she can see the amusement paint itself across Stacie’s face and in an effort to not sound like a homeless vagabond, she explains further. “I lived in New York with those two, actually. But then I got sent to London for work for a few months and our lease ended and they ended up buying their house and now that I’m back… I guess I’m not sure where to settle down now.” Aubrey ends with scrunched brows because she really hadn’t put that much thought into it before and had planned on just jetting back to New York once she visited Chloe but now New York seems so… lonely. 

“Wow, quite a journey. Well, I hope you stick around, Aubrey.” Stacie winks at her and then Emily is back and grinning at Aubrey and giving her double thumbs ups and Aubrey finds herself thanking them both for their hospitality (what?) and then she’s shuffling into her Prius and both girls are still in their doorway watching her and Aubrey isn’t really sure what that means and who is Emily? Are they dating? Jesus, Stacie is attractive first thing in the morning.

And then she’s driving.

 

 

A day with her grandparents was surprisingly relaxing and almost exactly what she needed. It was a relief to finally reconcile who she is with where she came from, even if she can’t be exactly who she is where she came from, but it reminded her of those sticky summer nights sitting on the porch swing at her grandparents house and eating a small bowl of ice cream while they spoke with her father via phone from wherever his latest station was. 

Those carefree days spent in the southern sun, running around with the dog through the fields and chasing fireflies at night or watching whatever meteor shower was so talked up on the news that day. Most of those good days, those good memories, were in South Carolina because that’s where her grandparents were. And her mother passed when she was so young, her father was always all Aubrey had but moving so often made it hard for her to even remember when she lived where. 

So South Carolina was always home. And now she’s back but she is a vastly different Aubrey Posen, and Aubrey can’t help but wonder if the new her fits back in?

When Aubrey finally pulls back up to the Chloe-Beca household once more, this time in the correct driveway, she tries to imagine this being her life. Parking her own car in front of her own home instead of jumping off a subway and hurrying through throngs of people to make it to her apartment building. She sighs and steps out of the car into the chilly night air and heads inside quietly, simply climbing into her bed and falling to sleep.

 

 

For the rest of the week, while Beca went to work, Aubrey and Chloe set to cleaning the house, painting the walls, unpacking and organizing and by Friday, they’d actually made great progress. Boxes both full and empty were stored in the basement, furniture was in its approximate location, the house smelled of fresh paint, they could walk through each room without twisting around this box or that haphazardly piled chair.

It felt good to get all that labor out of the way, and Aubrey can see in Chloe’s eyes how excited and happy she is that her house is coming into form. Aubrey wonders if she’ll ever be this excited to buy her own house… or maybe it’s because it’s not Chloe’s house, it’s Chloe and Beca’s house.

“I’m pooped.” Chloe states as she flops onto her newly cleared off and situated couch. The windows in the room let in the bright sun and both girls are sweaty and aching from their day.

“And you stink.” Aubrey grins.

“Well you do too, bitch. And since you’re my guest, I’ll be a gracious host and allow you the shower first.”

Aubrey groans and gets up from the couch as Chloe happily melts further into it. The climb up the stairs hurts her legs and Aubrey’s suddenly not sure why she offered to help with all the house chores at all.

The shower is a blessing though and she’s happy she climbed in. The hot water soothes her sore muscles and she washes her hair and she does feel a lot better once fresh and clean. Once out of the shower and in her room, she yells to Chloe that the shower is free, and then she’s getting dressed in simple shorts and a t-shirt because she’s on vacation so she’s dressing like it.

Aubrey is just smoothing out the tangles in her wet hair when the doorbell rings. She can hear the shower still running and Beca doesn’t seem to be home yet so she exits her room and hops down the stairs until a particular step hurts her hamstring and she groans, but makes her way to the front door in one piece.

She pulls it open and finds Stacie on the other side, wearing scandalously short jean shorts, a personally altered crop top and absolutely nothing else, and an opened bottle of beer in her hand.

“Oh, you’re still here?” Stacie exclaims.

They hadn’t seen each other since the day Aubrey went to visit her grandparents and Aubrey would admit to herself and herself only that she was a little disappointed they didn’t have any more run-ins, but now here she is standing in front of Stacie once again. 

“I am, I’m hanging out for a bit.” Aubrey confirms. 

“Cute.” Stacie grins and then she’s taking a sip of her beer, her lips to the brim of the bottle and her head is tilted back and Aubrey gets a front row seat to the expanse of Stacie’s neck and she bites her lip to stay focused. 

“Anyway-“

“Hey Stacie, did you need something?” Whatever Stacie was going to say is cut off as Beca calls out behind her. They hadn’t noticed her arrival home and now she’s walking up the steps to the porch with as inviting of a smile as Beca Mitchell can achieve. 

“Yeah, hi, sorry I was just here to invite you guys over. We’re grilling tonight and having a few friends over so I thought maybe you could all join? We’re right next door, there’s very little commitment, we’ll feed you.” Stacie sells the night to them both with a charming smile on her face as she steps aside to allow Beca to enter her home. Aubrey doesn’t step aside at all though and merely watches with a quirked eyebrow as Beca shimmies around her, trying her best not to touch the blonde.

Before Beca can open her mouth to respond, Aubrey is already wearing her own dazzling smile and focusing back on Stacie.

“Well I think that sounds great, don’t you Beca?” She doesn’t bother looking at the other girl because she knows better than to disagree with Aubrey.

“Yeah, yeah actually. I could go for a grill out. Are you grilling?” Beca asks suspiciously with a glance at Stacie’s attire.

Stacie laughs airily though. “No, that’s Emily’s job. I’m just the eye candy.” She winks at them and then she’s nodding her head in the direction of her own home. “Just come on over whenever, we’ll be in the back.” She shoots them both one last wide smile and then she’s leaving them, heading around the side of the houses, bare feet padding along the pavement.

“Jeez, eager much?” Beca teases Aubrey once they’ve closed the door. Aubrey has taken the teasing like a champ since Chloe told Beca what happened when she first arrived but now, for whatever reason, she’s got a little bit of fire in her.

“If you’re looking for Chloe, she’s just finishing the shower that we started together.” Aubrey snarks back at Beca and the brunette's jaw drops in shock. 

“Jesus Christ Aubrey what is wrong with you.”

Aubrey laughs as she returns to her room and rummages through the small bag of items she had brought with her. Maybe she needs to look a little nice tonight.

Once they’re all dressed and Chloe has done her best to appease Beca and assure her that she is in fact not having a steamy affair with Aubrey, they’re heading out the front door and between the two houses. There’s a little waist high iron gate that surrounds Stacie’s backyard and they pull open the latch because once again, nothing is locked and Aubrey may fear for these girls just a tiny bit.

Top 40’s music is streaming out of a bluetooth speaker, there’s a picnic table and several lounge chairs littered around the backyard, they can see Emily stationed at her grill wearing a ‘Grill Mistress’ apron and looking entirely adorable, and there’s a few other people that Chloe and Beca haven’t even met yet.

Aubrey is unequivocally glad that she chose a pretty sundress to wear for the evening because she instantly finds Stacie, lounging with her long legs spread out in front of her on one of the chairs, staring her down.

“Hi everyone!” Chloe calls once they’re in range of Stacie and her guests.

“Oh hey you two! Finally left your new love nest to hang out with us?” Chloe and Beca are teased by the girl that was with Stacie on Aubrey’s first night here.

Stacie stands and gestures her arms for attention.

“Everyone, these are my new neighbors Chloe and Beca,” she motions to each girl and they wave at those they haven’t met and both girls get a big hug from Emily. “And their friend Aubrey who is visiting.” Stacie smiles wolfishly at Aubrey, and then she’s rattling off names that Aubrey has a hard time catching. There’s Cynthia Rose, the one Aubrey had seen before, and then Lily, Jesse, Benji, and finally Luke, and Aubrey isn’t sure she caught all the guys' names correctly.

Everyone goes through rounds of hello’s and enquiries into life and discussing Beca and Chloe’s new house and how they’re settling in and what they think of the neighborhood and Aubrey is enjoying the breezy night. It’s strange how much more relaxed she is just by the stickiness of the air when she’s back in the south.

“Hello, Aubrey, was it?” She’s joined by the blonde guy who is either Jesse or Luke, she’s not sure which, but she did learn that Benji is the one with the floppy hair and is actually dating Emily so that’s one mystery solved for her.

“Yes, and you were…?” She trails off to allow him to fill in the blank.

“I’m Luke.” He holds his hand out to shake and they do and then Aubrey is filling the brief silence by taking a sip of her quickly warming beer.

“So, Aubrey, how long are you visiting?” Luke asks.

“I’m not sure, honestly I’ve already been here longer than I intended.” Aubrey laughs lightly.

“Oh? Well, it’s a lovely place, no wonder you can’t leave.” He grins at her and he has a nice smile, but Aubrey instantly compares it to Stacie and then she belatedly wonders why they’re all so attractive.

“It is.” Aubrey agrees and she glances at Luke’s t-shirt, a simple black shirt with a fancy car logo on it that reads ‘Junkyard Muscle’ and for some reason it’s incredibly familiar to her. It takes a minute for Aubrey to realize it’s because Stacie is wearing the same shirt, albeit she has chopped the sleeves off, cropped it, and altered the neckline of hers.

“What’s Junkyard Muscle?” Aubrey asks, pointing at Luke’s shirt with her beer-holding hand. Looking at both Luke and Stacie, she would assume it was a gym but she doesn’t want to say that and embarrass herself.

“Oh this, it’s Emily’s parents' car shop. Stacie and I actually work there.” Luke answers her as he holds out his shirt as if to examine the logo for the first time himself.

“Oh!” Aubrey exclaims, and she’s not sure why it surprises her so much because she really doesn’t know anything about any of these people despite what she may think about Stacie. “So, Stacie sells cars?”

“Oh no no no,” Luke laughs, and it sounds like he’s used to this line of conversation because he takes a breath, “don’t let her looks fool you. Stacie’s one of the mechanics. I am the simple salesman.”

And Aubrey, entirely without meaning to, conjures the mental image of Stacie bent over the hood of a car in the same vein as Megan Fox from the first Transformers movie and she hates herself for it because she shouldn’t be imagining women like that, it’s rude and misogynistic just like Michael Bay and there’s a fine line between being a thirsty lesbian and a bad feminist but oh does Stacie make Aubrey toe that line aggressively. 

Her internal panic must be a little more external than she wants because Luke lets out a loud laugh and she knows he must be able to read her mind.

“Yeah, I recognize that look. Well you’ll have to visit sometime, really see her in her element.” Luke wiggles his eyebrows at her and Aubrey’s cheeks are certainly a scarlet color now and then the object of their conversation is seating herself right alongside Aubrey who is situated sideways on her lounge chair.

“You’re not bothering our newest guest are you Luke?” Stacie asks jovially as she clinks her beer bottle against Luke’s.

“No, no. She was just asking about the garage. Maybe we could interest her in a car.” Luke jokes.

“Luke, you know we don’t sell cars. We sell a lifestyle.” The way Stacie says it makes it sound like a slogan and then she winks at Aubrey and she’s suddenly very glad that Stacie doesn’t sell cars because god that girl could probably sell a wet t-shirt she found in a gutter so Aubrey doesn’t even want to imagine what she could do with an entire car.

Stacie pulls her legs up to cross at her ankles and sit like a first grader at carpet time and her thigh is brushing against Aubrey’s and the blonde is still stuck on the image of a sweaty, greasy Stacie and she’s afraid she’s going to combust.

“Plus, what would you need to buy a car for? You planning on sticking around?” Stacie leans over to bump her shoulder against Aubrey’s and it all feels so friendly and familiar, as if she’s known her for ages.

“I mean, Chloe I get, but Luke and now you too? Is this place so boring that you need to convince some new blood to stay?” Aubrey jokes with them and they both laugh and then Luke is being called away by Jesse who hurls a frisbee his way.

“Why is it called a Junkyard if it’s a garage?” Aubrey asks because she certainly wouldn’t encourage any of her clients to name their company something like that.

Stacie laughs though and points over towards Emily.

“Junk is their last name. It’s just a play on words.” And Aubrey smiles at the goofy and very simple explanation.

“Is that how you met Emily?” Aubrey asks before Stacie can say anything else.

“No, Emily is how I got the job actually. I tutored her my senior year at college and she knew I was looking for a job so she told me to call her mom and now… here I am.” Stacie shrugs and smiles over at Emily who is trying to teach Beca how to hula hoop to everyone else's amusement.

“What did you major in?” Aubrey asks curiously because she isn’t really sure what kind of degree car mechanics have and she kind of always thought of it as more of a trade than an education.

“Mechanical engineering.” Stacie answers resolutely. “So, I’m a little over qualified... but I’ve fallen in love with classic American muscle cars.” She grins sheepishly at Aubrey and the blonde feels her stomach flutter at the sight.

“Wow. That’s very impressive, and a little unexpected.” Aubrey says and she probably shouldn’t have because why is that unexpected?

Stacie is still smiling though, almost teasingly, when she leans closer to Aubrey. “You don’t know me.” She says near Aubrey’s ear and then she’s leaning back again.

Aubrey feels spurred on, like before when Stacie had dropped by and she felt a bit of fire licking at her insides, she feels the pull again and she wants to push Stacie off-kilter as much as the brunette does to her so she leans closer to Stacie before she can get too far.

“I don’t know you… yet .” Aubrey amends and it sounds like a promise but is that the kind of promise Aubrey should be making when she doesn’t even know what she’s doing with her life at the moment?

But it’s worth it because Stacie’s eyes seem to sharpen and she has that wolfish smile once more and Aubrey feels a totally different kind of pull this time and she feels like she’s started something foolish but she can’t bring herself to regret it.

 

 

It’s a drizzly Tuesday morning and Chloe and Aubrey are thinking of decor to fill the house with as Beca rushes around the kitchen readying for work when Chloe brings up the topic of Aubrey’s residence once more. 

“You know, if you go back to New York you’ll be all alone.” She points out as they scroll through an interior designers catalogue for ideas. 

“I won’t be alone. Jess and Ashley are still there. And Amy.” Aubrey points out. 

“Yeah but Jess and Ashley are a boring couple and you never voluntarily hang out with Amy.”

“You and Beca are a boring couple.” 

Chloe gasps and places her hand on her chest. Beca yells a very indignant hey from somewhere in the house. 

“How dare you. We are not boring!”

Aubrey raises her eyebrows but doesn’t comment any further because she knows the truth even if Chloe is too blind to see it. 

“Look, this is where I live now and so that means you have to move here too because I’m your best friend.” Chloe says definitively, as if that’s won her the debate points. 

“Why would I want you and Beca to be the only people I know here? At least in New York I know my coworkers.”

“New York is stale. It’s old news, it’s time to move on, you know? Maybe find yourself a girlfriend here, settle down, buy a house next door.” Chloe grins as she envisions their future.

“Find a girlfriend? Because the gay scene here must be so much better than in New York?” Aubrey deadpans and Chloe was waiting for the set up, practically prepping for it. 

“Well, it has Stacie.”

“And Stacie’s tits!” Beca adds in as she walks by. 

“Don’t be crass!” Aubrey shoots back quickly. “Why are you even encouraging this, she’s your neighbor. What if, just hypothetically, we did get together and then it went like all my past relationships and blew up into a fiery mess? And then she’s still your neighbor!” Aubrey huffs at Chloe. 

“So you’re saying you would be interested in a relationship with her?” Chloe asks because that’s all she gathered from Aubrey’s words. 

“Chloe!” Aubrey would be impressed by Chloe’s dedication if it wasn’t actively being used against her. 

 

 

Aubrey is laying in the hammock that is strung up between two of the palm trees along the driveway when a car door closes and she can hear someone walking closer to her.

“So be honest, should I start calling you neighbor now?” She hears Stacie’s cheeky voice and Aubrey struggles to sit up but she manages to peek up and see the brunette standing near her.

“No thank you. I’ve done my time living with those two and I never will again.” Aubrey answers with her own grin.

“Oh? Too many raucous sex parties or something?” Stacie asks and she looks so serious for a second that Aubrey’s eyes widen but then Stacie laughs and just plops down right on the driveway next to Aubrey.

“Kidding. Seriously, are you staying in South Carolina or what?” 

Aubrey rolls gracelessly out of the hammock and slides to the ground against one of the palm trees so she’s facing Stacie.

“I don’t know.” Aubrey smiles wryly and shrugs at the look that Stacie shoots her.

“I have thought about going back to New York, back to my life as it was before. But I can’t really imagine it now.... And I have really thought about staying here too. But then I’d just be following Chloe and we’re adults now, shouldn’t I find my own path?” Aubrey kind of rambles because these are the thoughts that have been plaguing her and she can’t really talk about it with Chloe because she’s very biased towards Aubrey never leaving South Carolina again so they’ve been bouncing around in her head for weeks and she’s actually really glad that Stacie wandered over after getting home from work.

“Well, if you want my input…” Stacie begins, and Aubrey nods encouragingly. “I told you that I got my job by knowing Emily. Originally I was just looking for something to save up some money for a few years before going to grad school. But I really did fall in love with the cars. It’s definitely not what I expected, and it definitely wasn’t the plan, but I guess that’s alright because I like my life now. Although, trust me I had no intention of winding up in South Carolina of all places.” Stacie explains to Aubrey and the blonde smiles thoughtfully as Stacie recounts the journey she’s taken to wind up where she is now.

“Where are you from?” Aubrey asks, because she doesn’t actually know that yet.

“Pennsylvania. Just west of Pittsburgh.” Stacie answers back and Aubrey laughs because she’s a northern girl and somehow found herself here. “So,” Stacie starts, “to recap. Your options are, go back to New York and your job there, or find a new job here in South Carolina and that’s it?”

Aubrey shakes her head because that’s an oversimplification. 

“No, my options are to go back to my job in New York, or request a transfer to the office here, or request a transfer to any of the offices all over the world, really… or find a new job. I suppose that’s always on the table.”

Stacie’s eyebrows are raised as she takes in what Aubrey is telling her, and Aubrey can only imagine what she’s thinking because she hasn’t talked about what she herself does at all since getting back to the States.

“And what is it that you do?” Stacie asks hesitantly as if Aubrey will reveal that she’s an international hitman.

“Business consulting, for short. I have a number of clients and I tell them how to run their campaigns to maximize profit and whatever else they’re aiming for. And that can be done anywhere.” Aubrey answers her almost drolly because it’s not that exciting to talk about 

Stacie hums her acknowledgement of the new information and they’re sitting in a comfortable silence, facing each other with their legs stretched out and Aubrey knows that if she just points her toe she can poke Stacie’s foot. But she doesn’t.

“So you can keep your exact same job and do it here, where your best friend lives but you think that’s, what… too easy?” Stacie asks and maybe she’s gotten exactly to the root of the problem because it is all a little too easy isn’t it? Isn’t being an adult supposed to be a struggle? But here Aubrey is, back home in South Carolina, feeling the best she’s felt in years with the opportunity to make a grand move but keep the stability of her cushy job and still be near Chloe. And then there’s Stacie, who’s looking at Aubrey with a kind smile as she waits for the girl to work through all the things that are swirling in her head.

“Yeah, Stacie. I think it’s all too easy.” Aubrey finally agrees and maybe that’s the breakthrough she needs because her life wasn’t always easy. She struggled a lot in college, she struggled with the pressure her father heaped on her, she struggled to be the best student, the best daughter, the best whatever she found herself competing in and it was hard until it all just clicked for her once she left school and grew up and stopped bowing down to daddy and doesn’t she deserve a bit of easy now?

“I don’t see anything wrong with that. Who cares as long as you’re happy, right?” Stacie says.

Aubrey looks her in the eyes and she knows that she’s been happy here, hanging out with Chloe and Beca even though she pretends they annoy her, walking along the ocean or staring at the pastel colored homes that line the fancy streets. Her little run-ins with Stacie. She’s happy here.

“You’re pretty smart, you know?” Aubrey asks teasingly. Stacie laughs and leans all the way back, laying on the ground of the driveway and staring up at the stars.

“I’ve been told.”

 

 

It’s a Wednesday morning and the sun is shining and Aubrey and Chloe are packing duffel bags into Aubrey’s rental car. They’ve got plane tickets leaving for New York in a few hours and Aubrey is finally pulling the trigger on the next phase of her life.

Aubrey has just placed her laptop briefcase in the back seat and shut the door when she notices Stacie and Emily leaving their house. Aubrey shouldn’t enjoy the glee that lights up Stacie’s face when they see each other, but she does, and just as quickly as it appears it’s gone and Stacie’s eyes are betraying the reserved smile that has settled there instead.

“You’re leaving?” Stacie asks pleasantly as if she were asking about the weather and Aubrey can already figure out that she’s just trying to hide what she’s really feeling.

“Yeah, we’re flying to New York today to pack up my things and then drive it all back here.” Aubrey answers with a genuine grin because even though she was still having her doubts about whether or not she’s made the right decision, she can’t stop the excitement she feels when telling Stacie.

And the elation on Stacie’s face is so apparent too that it almost settles all of Aubrey’s fears.

“So you’re coming to stay?” Stacie asks just to confirm that she’s heard correctly.

Aubrey nods almost shyly.

“Yep. Just getting my things and then hopefully we’ll get back here on Friday. And then I need to find a place to live but I’ll deal with that later.” Aubrey laughs and Stacie smiles back at her so beautifully that every last doubt in her mind is ushered out and replaced with all the anticipation of what’s to come.

“Stace? We have to get going.” Emily calls from where she’s leaning against the lifted truck that she’s always driving around.

“Okay, I’ve got to get to work, have a safe flight and drive back… and I guess I’ll be seeing you.” Stacie says softly and Aubrey feels the impulse to hug her but they hardly know each other so she settles for a soft wave.

“You will.” She promises, and then Stacie is climbing into the truck and Emily is pulling out of the driveway.

Aubrey watches the truck head off and then Chloe is joining her and they’re ready to get their trip started.

“The last move for a good long while, what do you think?” Chloe asks her as they start backing out the driveway.

Aubrey looks at Chloe in the passenger seat and smiles serenely.

“I think so, Chlo.”

 

 

Aubrey walks into the Chloe-Beca household on a very dark and dreary day, running inside to avoid the downpour that has since started. Chloe has just started work this week and is out for the day, beginning her job as a music teacher bouncing around at some of the local schools so Aubrey is on her own until the couple finish at their jobs for the day.

She had just signed the paperwork for her new apartment located in The Boroughs which would be ready to move into in just under a month. She won’t be too far from the French Quarter where Chloe and Beca are situated, and her new office is nearly just as close. So Aubrey just has to live with the couple a little longer, and then she’s happily moving into her own space here in South Carolina.

She never truly thought she’d pull the trigger and move back here. Although, it’s safe to say that Aubrey never really lived in South Carolina, she just spent her summers with her grandparents when she was younger, but it was the closest thing to home that she had so it feels familiar.

Aubrey busies herself for a moment in the kitchen, putting some water on to boil so she can have a cup of chamomile tea. Aubrey’s father, while not much of a sharer, did tell her that her mother loved storms. She would make herself a cup of tea or a glass of lemonade and sit on the porch if they had one, or a good window if not, and just watch the rain and the lightning until she finished her drink. He said it was always a calming method for her and she got excited when it started to storm. And so Aubrey started doing the same thing when she got overwhelmed back in college.

She pours her hot water in and lets the tea bag steep for a few minutes, staring out the back windows of the kitchen and into the green of the backyard. The rain is roaring outside, coming down in sheets and Aubrey smiles as it pounds against the brick walkway in the back.

Once her tea is ready, she heads to the front door and stands on the porch, just clutching her mug and staring out at the drowning street in front of her. The air is humid and electric as the thunder crashes loudly. 

Aubrey sits down on the wicker sofa on the porch and places her tea on the side table so she can draw her legs up and wrap her arms around them. She just watches as the lightning arcs across the sky and the wind whips the rain a little too close to her, but she doesn’t head inside yet. 

Aubrey enjoys the storm until her tea is low and she’s just about ready to head inside. She stands from her seat, stretching the stiffness out of her legs, and watches as a big black truck comes rumbling up into the driveway next door. The rain is so thick that Aubrey can’t even tell who the driver is, but she leans against the pillar of the porch and watches, uncaring that the rain is spraying her gently. 

The driver must see her at some point in the few minutes that they’re prepping to enter the downpour, because the door flings open and Aubrey watches as she comes hopping through the puddles and swampy grass right over to the porch that Aubrey is on. 

Standing before her is a very wet and very amused Stacie. 

“Howdy, neighbor.” She says casually. 

Aubrey doesn’t even try to stop the laugh that bubbles out of her. 

“Hi there. What brings you over here on such a lovely day?” Aubrey jokes back. 

“Oh well I was just getting home from work and saw my beautiful neighbor enjoying the weather so I thought I’d pop by for a chat.” Stacie grins at Aubrey in that charming way of hers. 

Aubrey shakes her head in amusement. 

“It’s hardly past noon, why are you finishing work already?” She asks instead. 

Stacie shrugs and Aubrey realizes that they’re still just standing on the porch and getting hit with spray from the rain so she inclines her head to the sofa and Stacie plops down, dripping onto the porch boards beneath her. Aubrey sits next to her and shakes her head when she notices Sacie is once again not wearing shoes. 

“I have to work on Saturday so I got a half day today. Hey, you guys should come check out the garage! You’ll all be off work right?” Stacie sits up and grabs onto Aubrey’s arm in excitement. 

Aubrey smiles back because she can’t help it at the enthusiasm Stacie has.

“What’s so exciting about a garage?” Aubrey teases, and even though she’s sure there’s a lot more to it, Stacie’s eyes do light up at the challenge.

“It’s not just a garage, we’re the largest east coast dealer of classic American muscle cars. People travel, sometimes from other countries, just to look at our collection.”  Stacie points out and she runs her hand through her hair but it’s tangled from the rain so she snags it and then spends the next few seconds fighting her hands through her hair to smooth it out a bit. 

Aubrey watches Stacie with a soft expression on her face. 

“Yeah? Well maybe we will check it out, just to see if it’s as impressive as advertised.” Aubrey says and Stacie smiles victoriously.

“Good. You won’t be disappointed.” Stacie assures her. She then looks out at the rain and grimaces, before knocking her head towards her own home. “I had a few errands today so I should get home, I’ll make sure to drop one of my cards off so you can have the address.” Stacie says as she stands from the sofa that she’s left a wet spot on.

Aubrey nods and smiles at her.

“Good luck.” She laughs as Stacie waves goodbye and runs through the rain again, splashing in the grass and across the driveways to get to her own front door. Aubrey can see her vaguely through the wall of rain as she shakes off like a dog before disappearing into her house.

Aubrey sighs and sips the last of her cold tea and heads back into the house as well.

 

 

Saturday morning arrives and Aubrey, Chloe, and Beca are going to pile into Beca’s car and head over to the garage to say hi to Stacie and Emily. Stacie had promised that they’d make the trip worth it because the three weren’t overly interested in cars, but Stacie had said there are some cool cars to look at, and then they could all go grab lunch at a great sandwich shop down the street.

It’s late morning when they are ready to go, sunglasses on and Aubrey is smoothing down her jeans and catches herself because this isn’t anything more than a little outing with her friends. Right?

“Are you going to buy a muscle car, Aubrey?” Beca asks her as they buckle into their seats.

“No, I have no plans to get a muscle car, Beca.” Aubrey snarks back at her and Beca rolls her eyes as she starts to pull out of the driveway.

“I think it’s like twenty minutes away.” Chloe says as she squints at the phone in her hand.

“You’re gonna need glasses soon, Chlo. Just admit it.” Aubrey laughs as she watches Chloe shake her head firmly.

“Come on Aubrey, you know she’s gonna whine to me about this for the rest of the day.” Beca complains and Chloe smacks her arm lightly.

“Shut up. I do not need glasses!” She turns the music up loudly to drown out both Beca and Aubrey laughing.

They arrive at the garage and are quite shocked to learn that ‘garage’ and ‘junkyard’ are in fact terribly inapt names for what looks like in all actuality a car museum. There are people milling around out front, cars are coming and going as the place is filled to the brim.

The three women exchange surprised glances and Aubrey guesses she should have taken Stacie a little more seriously when she said it’s an experience.

Walking inside the building, they pass by replicas of several of the vehicles from the movie Cars, including the eyes on the windshields and everything. The inside is less like a shop and more like a mattress warehouse in the sense that there are rows and rows of vehicles lined up and walkways between them to walk around and peruse the vehicles.

“What have we just walked into?” Beca wonders aloud and Chloe and Aubrey silently nod along because this is some kind of car wonderland.

“Hey guys!” They hear shouted at them and they turn to see Emily situated behind a long counter with a line of people waiting to pay for whatever they’ve purchased.

“Hi Emily! This is crazy!” Chloe calls back just as enthusiastically and Emily is nodding but she’s busy dealing with customers so the girls start making their way around the room on their own. They pass through rows and rows of classic cars, the occasional not so classic car, but each one is unique in its own right and Aubrey actually sees a car or two that she wouldn’t hate to own.

As they’re coming up to another row of cars, Aubrey can hear a particular voice just around the bend.

“It is the most beautiful car ever made, Doug.” She can hear Stacie’s teasing voice as she’s talking to someone about a car. Aubrey can hear the other person laugh hardily in response.

“Don’t you quote Enzo at me, woman.” When they come around the corner, they can see Stacie laughing with an older gentleman as they stand next to a little red two-seater car and Aubrey can’t even recognize the brand of it.

“You know where to find Luke or Katherine when you’re ready to pull the trigger on that Jag, and when you do, I’m going to laugh because you always come back for more.” Stacie pats the man on the back and he shakes his head at her, and then she’s turning and she lights up when she sees the three of them making their way through the cars. 

Stacie’s wearing what Aubrey can only assume is her work outfit which consists of black khaki pants and a gray button up with the Junkyard logo on it. She has her sleeves rolled up and she clearly has grease along her arms and various spots of her clothing and Aubrey sucks in a deep breath before she says anything stupid.

“Hey! You guys are here! What do you think, isn’t it amazing?” Stacie asks excitedly as she walks over to them all.

Beca is nodding enthusiastically even though she has been saying nothing but ‘what is that’ over and over again.

“Are you sure this isn’t a Disney attraction?” Chloe asks because it could pass for one.

Stacie laughs and shakes her head but turns and starts walking ahead of them.

“I know you guys probably don’t care about this floor much, but come check out the second floor, it’s fascinating.” Stacie says, and all three girls glance at each other once more because, second floor?

They ascend a set of carpeted stairs, only pausing each time Stacie needs to briefly greet a repeat customer and she almost gets sucked into a conversation about a car versus a different car but she manages to back out of it under the guise of showing her friends a specific car they’re interested in.

Once at the top, they’re standing in a room full of replica cars. Aubrey can easily see the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo, the tow truck from Cars, a Jurassic Park jeep, and quite possibly the DeLorean from Back to the Future.

“A lot of rich people blow their money on absolute replicas of famous cars, and then when they go bankrupt or die their family sells them off to us.” Stacie explains as she waves her hand around the room.

“The Mystery Machine is my favorite, but I’m also a fan of K.I.T.T.” Stacie says as she walks over to the big green van. Aubrey takes it in with a breathless chuckle and comes to the conclusion that car people are crazy.

“What’s kit?” Chloe asks as she stares into the driver side of the van.

“K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider!” Stacie exclaims. “Did you know that David Hasselhoff had his own personally modified Firebird but he had to sell it off. Ours is better though, it’s a more accurate replication.” Stacie says as she starts walking down more rows of cars and then she’s stopping at an all black car that Aubrey assumes is the one she’s talking about.

“This is nice.” Chloe hums as she runs her hand along the roof. Aubrey grins because none of them know anything about cars, but Stacie’s face is all passion and excitement and she is smiling so widely.

“Sit in it.” Stacie says and Chloe looks at her sharply.

“What?”

“We sell these cars, you can sit in them. This isn’t a museum.” Stacie laughs and opens up the driver door for Chloe. Aubrey peaks inside and is blown away by the retro-futuristic set up of the car and then Chloe is settling in and Beca jumps into the passenger seat. They’re clearly laughing together and pointing out the various features on the dash and Stacie glances at Aubrey with a smile.

“Anything catch your eye?” She asks.

Aubrey shakes her head emphatically.

“No. I am absolutely not purchasing a car here.” She says and Stacie grins as if she’s not sold on that statement just yet.

“Okay… we’ll see.” She just smiles and Chloe climbs out of the car.

Stacie leads them on and they peruse more of the novelty cars before heading back downstairs and into the back where a few more mechanics are working on cars. Stacie points to one of the mechanics.

“That’s Emily’s dad, and her mom is around here somewhere. She’s the big boss, now she can sell a car. You don’t want to negotiate with her.”  Stacie is telling them, and then they’re continuing through the back and Stacie points to one of the stations. 

“This is where I work, I’ve got this Chevelle I need to finish up by Wednesday.” She says of the red car that’s situated above the mechanic pit. “What do you think of this car Aubrey?” She asks cheekily and Beca laughs. 

“I’m not here to buy a car, Stacie!” Aubrey huffs but Stacie starts steering them back to the main showroom anyway. 

“Okay but did you see that 1988 Porsche? I could see you in a car like that.” She says thoughtfully and Aubrey is shaking her head in exasperation while Chloe and Beca continue to laugh at her. 

Stacie has led them to a classic black Porsche and Aubrey sighs because dammit if it isn’t pretty. But she shakes her head. 

“I’m not buying a car from you, Stacie.” She says resolutely.

“Why not?” Stacie whines. 

“Well for one, I’d like my car to have seat belts. And working AC.” She points to the lack of seatbelts in the car in front of them and Stacie laughs sheepishly. 

“I’d put seatbelts in it for you, Aubrey.” Stacie promises.

“Do you get commission for selling a car?” Chloe asks with a laugh. 

“Nope, I would have handed you off to Luke anyway. I just think Aubrey would look hot in a classic.” Stacie winks and Aubrey can feel herself heating up and Chloe is grinning like a goofball as Beca rolls her eyes. 

“Did you guys want to go grab lunch? I can go now.” Stacie asks as she checks her beat up watch to confirm the time. 

Chloe nods happily.

“And if you guys don’t mind coming back here, I can drive? It’s only like five minutes away.” Stacie says hopefully because she really wants to drive them in one of the ‘shop fleet’ cars as Katherine calls them.

“Yes, what kind of car?” Beca says and Chloe looks at her in confusion because, once again, none of them are car people, but she supposes Stacie’s enthusiasm is infectious.

“The Judge.” Stacie says firmly.

“What on Earth is the judge?” Aubrey asks tentatively. She’s seen the car that Emily drives, it’s monstrous, so she’s not sure she wants to see this one.

“It’s a Pontiac GTO that is apparently based on Sammy Davis Jr’s character from some comedy show? I’m not totally sure, but it is gorgeous. We have one here for sale, a white one, and then Katherine owns a yellow one.” Stacie tells them as she heads up to the front counter to pat Emily on the shoulder. “Hey, do you want a sando from Gold’s?” She asks and Emily nods aggressively.

“My usual please.” 

“You got it, kid. I’m taking The Judge!” Stacie calls and leads them all behind the back counter which takes them into the employee lounges and out the back door to the parking lot.

The Judge is a banana peel yellow car with some accents along the side and back, and logos that say ‘The Judge’ in a hippy kind of font. Stacie opens the passenger door and flips the seat all the way up to allow Chloe and Beca to climb into the back, and then she puts the seat back in place and nods for Aubrey to sit. Aubrey climbs in and sighs because this vehicle is a literal death trap. The back seat belts only go across the waist and there probably aren’t even airbags in this thing. Stacie closes the door gently and then hops around to the driver’s side and gets in quickly.

She turns the key and the car roars to life and Stacie is grinning like a madwoman because this is her favorite car that Katherine owns and she absolutely loves taking it out.

“Buckle up, buttercup!” Stacie encourages Aubrey when she sees the blonde is still frozen in her seat.

“Yeah come on Aubrey, you’re the one that cares about seat belts so much.” Beca snips from the back and Aubrey shoots her a dirty look.

“Are these cars considered a lifestyle because you’re likely to die in one?” Aubrey asks drolly and Stacie can’t help but laugh.

“They’re as safe as any other old car. You buy anything that wasn’t made in the last ten years and all its safety features are obsolete, so you might as well do it in style.” Stacie points out and Aubrey can’t really argue because Stacie is literally the expert on the subject.

They take off out of the parking lot and down the road and it is a quick ride. Stacie has the music up loud, the windows down, and it feels like they could just keep driving on and on. But Gold’s BBQ is just up ahead and pulling into the small parking lot, Stacie turns the car off and jumps out to assist Beca and Chloe from the backseat. They’re heading inside and Aubrey is hanging back as the couple go first so Stacie waits for her. 

“It’s a pretty nice car.” Aubrey admits, and she can see the way other people in the parking lot are glancing at the car and craning their necks to view it and the way Stacie covets it, it must be something special. 

Stacie grins and nods in agreement.  

“It is. And I was right.”

“About what?” Aubrey frowns because she has no idea what Stacie is talking about. 

“You do look hot in a classic car.” She steps ahead quickly to hold the door open for Aubrey and the blonde is flushing once again and Stacie’s eyes are sparkling at her and she’s just so overwhelmed. 

 

 

“Alright, well if that’s everything, I have to get going.

“Yeah, that was everything. Bye dad, stay safe.”

“Bye.”

Aubrey ends her phone call with her father and curls deeper into herself on the porch sofa. Her bowl of ice cream is half eaten and just beginning to melt, and Aubrey can remember back when she was a kid that her bowl of ice cream would turn into soup because she got so enthralled in her fathers stories and forgot all about it. 

Now though, they talk once a week, if that, for a solid five minutes before one of them just has to get going. Maybe Aubrey should mind more, but that’s the kind of relationship they’ve had for so long that she can’t really see the issue. They share the important details and then wrack their brains for anything else to say and stave off the silence and when nothing comes, someone has an excuse and they hang up. And that’s good enough for now. 

Aubrey is clinking through her bowl of ice cream when she can see Stacie driving up next door in some kind of light blue convertible. The brunette turns her car off and lets her forehead fall to the steering wheel for a moment and Aubrey decides to call out to her. 

“Hey neighbor, can I entice you over here with a half eaten bowl of ice cream?”

Stacie’s head pops up from the steering wheel and then she’s stepping out of the car and closing the door softly. She leans against the vehicle for a moment and it’s too dark for Aubrey to make out her expression, but then she’s walking over and Aubrey scoots to give her enough room on the sofa too. 

Stacie drops to the sofa and eyes Aubrey’s bowl of ice cream warily. 

“You’d give up your ice cream for me?” Stacie asks tentatively. Aubrey hands over her bowl in silence and Stacie takes it reverently. 

“You look like you need it.” Aubrey answers. 

Stacie exhales and rolls her eyes. “Thank you.” She scoops a spoonful into her mouth and sighs happily. Aubrey laughs quietly and glances back to Stacie’s car. 

“So what car do you have today?” Because Stacie always seems to be driving a different car if she’s not in Emily’s truck. 

“It’s a Ford Thunderbird. 1956. It’s a real beauty.” Stacie rattles off the top of her head. “Hey, what are you doing out here?”

Aubrey shrugs. “I was eating ice cream. And I was on the phone with my dad.” 

“And what’s he up to?” 

“Oh nothing much in some undisclosed location. The usual.” Aubrey responds and Stacie glances at her in confusion for a moment. 

“Oh right, military?” She asks quickly because Aubrey has mentioned it before. 

“Mhmm.” Aubrey confirms. “Can I ask you a question?” Aubrey prompts and once again she’s glancing towards Stacie’s house. 

“Go ahead.” Stacie encourages.  

“What’s in your garage?”

“A body.”

“Okay.” Aubrey nods firmly because she wasn’t expecting that deadpan response from Stacie. She laughs at Aubrey’s reaction and smiles as she looks towards her driveway.

“It’s just a car I’ve been working on. My dream car, actually. Do you want to see it?” Stacie is asking her with a goofy grin and Aubrey wants to tease her, make a joke, but she has this excited look in her eyes like she’s been waiting to show someone whatever she’s been working on and Aubrey really wants to see it. 

Aubrey nods and stands from her seat. 

“Absolutely.”

She holds her hand out to help Stacie up and grips firmly when Stacie grabs it. Aubrey hauls Stacie up who then keeps their hands locked as she tugs Aubrey along to her driveway next door. 

Stacie steps up to punch the code into her garage and then the door is rising and Aubrey is watching in anticipation to see what kind of car Stacie has been hiding away. 

Aubrey isn’t great at cars so she’s not positive what she’s looking at but it’s a soft mint green color and it is beautiful. 

“What is it, exactly?” Aubrey asks softly as Stacie steps up and places her hand on the hood. 

“It’s a 1966 Chevy Corvette. My dad was obsessed with corvettes, that’s why I wanted it. It came into the junkyard as just a body and I’ve been rebuilding it since.”

Aubrey smiles as she watches Stacie revel in the beauty of the car before her. She can see the adoration in the brunette's eyes and it’s so obvious how taken she is. 

“So it really is a body?” Aubrey teases Stacie and she wiggles her eyebrows back.

“Did you know,” Stacie begins as she opens the driver door and gestures Aubrey in. “that astronauts in the sixties were given corvettes when they finished their training. It’s why my dad always wanted one.”

Aubrey slides into the seat as Stacie shuts the door and then walks around to sit in the passenger seat. 

“Did you want to be an astronaut?” Aubrey asks as she settles her hands on the steering wheel. 

Stacie hums and looks thoughtfully at the dash of the car for a moment.

“Not really, I mean I never really thought about it. I thought it would be cool to work for NASA, and maybe build the rockets and space shuttles, but I never thought about exactly what I would do with my degree. I just knew I wanted to do something big.”

Aubrey watches Stacie as she speaks, the brunette’s hands gesturing as she goes on and her eyes are bright.

“Well, you are doing something big.” Aubrey points out.

Stacie snorts and shakes her head.

“Oh I’m just a car mechanic, it’s okay. I mean it when I say I love my job.”

“Stacie, I saw you at work. The amount of rich, old, white men who took your word as law is honestly impressive.” Aubrey teases her and Stacie throws her head back in a laugh.

“Yeah, yeah. You’re sweet.” Stacie laughs once more and stares out the windshield of the car, into the black of night in front of them.

“You’re stunning, Stacie.” Aubrey tells her firmly because maybe Stacie doesn’t get told that enough. “In every way.”

Stacie turns her gaze on Aubrey and the air between them is electric in almost the same way the sky is during a thunderstorm. Aubrey takes a deep breath and holds it in, trying to calm her racing pulse so she doesn’t do anything reckless.

“Stacie?” Aubrey ventures unnecessarily because the brunette is still staring at her.

“Yes?”

“Will you go out on a date with me?” Aubrey takes the leap.

The small smirk on Stacie’s face unfurls into a beautiful smile that causes the corners of her eyes to crinkle just a little and Aubrey smiles back involuntarily because it’s so contagious.

“I was afraid you were never going to ask.” Stacie answers. “Which is a very emphatic yes, by the way.”

Aubrey laughs in relief and shakes her head lightly. “Why did I have to ask?”

Stacie scoffs and gestures around them.

“Because I’m your best friend's neighbor, what if you weren’t interested? I couldn’t make it weird.” She answers like it’s obvious.

“As if I wouldn’t be interested in you.” Aubrey rolls her eyes.

“So you just think I’m hot?” Stacie narrows her eyes at Aubrey but her grin is still firmly planted on her face and Aubrey knows she’s teasing her.

“Actually, I just want you for your car.” Aubrey taps the steering wheel that she’s still holding onto, quite firmly actually as she realizes her knuckles are white so she loosens her grip because her nerves are settling down. Stacie laughs loudly and reaches out to run her hand along Aubrey’s forearm.

“It might be a while until she’s up and running.” Stacie says softly once her laughter is contained.

Aubrey purses her lips, pretending to mull it over.

“That’s okay, I can wait.” She answers.

 

 

It’s a Saturday afternoon and Aubrey is pulling her brand new BMW (that she purchased from a regular dealership) into the driveway. Stepping out of the car, she smooths down her nice blouse and picks up the small collection of flowers she’d chosen.

Aubrey walks to the door and knocks loudly and it only takes a few seconds before a “come in” is being called out and Aubrey opens the door softly.

She steps into the foyer and Stacie is already there, wearing a beautiful summer dress that flows to an end just above her knees. She’s concentrating on herself in the mirror of the hallway, tongue poked out as she places an earring in her ear.

Aubrey smiles and drags her eyes up and down the brunette, taking advantage of the girls’ momentary distraction.

“Hi.” Stacie says with a soft smile as she glances over to Aubrey.

“Hey, you look beautiful.” Aubrey says quietly to Stacie as she steps away from the mirror to come closer to Aubrey and fiddle with the collar of her button down.

“Thank you. I really like this shirt, you look lovely.” 

“I brought you these.” Aubrey smiles and holds up the flowers that she purchased, carefully chosen to match the yellow and blues of Stacie’s house.

Stacie takes them gently and then she’s staring intently at Aubrey and the blonde fights the urge to look down because she really likes the way that Stacie is studying her.

“Thank you.” Stacie leans in to place a quick kiss against Aubrey’s cheek, and then she’s fluttering down the hall. “You can come in.” Stacie calls from her kitchen, and Aubrey has been in her home before, poked around a bit and used her restroom when they were over for the grill out, but she hadn’t been confident enough to really study Stacie’s personal space.

There’s a cluster of cute pictures from what looks to be Stacie’s graduation. She’s in her gown and hugging people in different pictures, one of which has her and Emily with their arms around each other tightly, there’s other people Aubrey hasn’t met, and one she assumes is Stacie’s mother who looks to be teary eyed but wearing a proud, familiar smile.

“Okay, I’m ready to go if you are?” Stacie asks as she walks back into the living room that Aubrey is posted in.

“Yeah. Have you seen my new car?” Aubrey asks as Stacie grabs her purse from a chair and then follows Aubrey out of the room.

“No!” Stacie gasps, “You didn’t buy it from us?”

“No Stacie, I’m sorry.” Aubrey says very unapologetically.

Stacie locks her front door behind them and then turns to take in Aubrey’s new car. It’s a four door BMW SUV and she rolls her eyes at how cliche Aubrey is.

“What do you even need a car this size for? It’s not like you have dogs… or kids.” Stacie grumbles and Aubrey laughs at how adorably put out she is about something as silly as Aubrey’s car.

“There’s plenty of room for activities.” Aubrey teases and Stacie’s eyes light up just a little.

“Activities? As if we’re not both adults with our own homes.” Stacie laughs and Aubrey opens the door for her to get in. “Are you sure I can’t drive us?” Stacie asks, gesturing to a car that looks like it’s straight out of Speed Racer.

“No, mostly because I asked you out so I’m driving, but I don’t think I’d survive in that car.” Aubrey answers and she gently shuts the door on Stacie.

Once Aubrey is seated and buckled, she turns to see Stacie watching her with sharp eyes and one raised eyebrow.

“What?” Aubrey asks.

“You’ll fall for them some day too, everyone does.” Stacie says airily, motioning toward the car that Aubrey had parked behind.

Aubrey laughs and reverses from the driveway, pointing at the rearview camera.

“Not without one of these, I won’t. What is that car, by the way?” Aubrey asks, and she always does because she knows that Stacie likes answering her, but more than that, Aubrey enjoys seeing the way Stacie loses herself in her passion even just for a few minutes.

“It’s a Ford Mustang Mach 1. That one’s a 1971. Did you know, you can tell the difference between sixties and seventies cars because in the sixties, a lot of the hoods were more rounded like what you see with the classic Mustangs and Corvettes, but in the seventies they got really into the angular retro-futuristic styles so there’s a pretty big departure between the decades.” Stacie rambles on as she leans her head against the headrest to watch Aubrey drive.

Aubrey shakes her head in amazement that Stacie just knows all of that.

“Okay, I'll keep that in mind."

"So where are we going?" Stacie asks after they've settled into the relative silence of the drive.

Aubrey glances at the clock on the dashboard, “Well I thought we could walk around Waterfront park, and then we have dinner reservations near there at six. And, did you know, there is a haunted walking tour right here in Charleston?”

Stacie lights up in excitement.

“A haunted walking tour? I’ve never done anything like that.” She laughs out.

“Me neither.” Aubrey responds. The drive is short so she’s already pulling up near the park and looking for a street spot which she locates quickly and then parallel parks into, once again gesturing with a flourish toward her backup camera.

Aubrey parks and walks around to the sidewalk and Stacie is already out of the car.

"Are you coming?" Aubrey asks because Stacie is just leaning against her car watching her.

Stacie bites her lip though, and she really doesn't look like she's about to move anytime soon and Aubrey feels like she's being drawn in so she moves closer to Stacie and the brunette's arms come up to wrap around her shoulders.

"I'm really glad you asked me out." Stacie says. Aubrey blushes under Stacie's words and ministrations at the back of her neck and then Stacie is pulling her closer and Aubrey holds her breath as their lips meet. Aubrey melts against Stacie and opens her mouth to deepen the kiss, pressing against each other insistently.

Stacie pulls away with shining eyes and a smile on her lips.

"I think there's a reason people wait until the end of the date for that." Aubrey breathes out and she watches the grin slowly grow on Stacie's face.

"Because all you want to do is get back in your car and make out all night?" Stacie asks laughingly.

Aubrey nods in a daze and she truthfully does consider sitting in her car until dinner but Stacie places one more quick kiss to her lips and loops their arms together.

"No, I expect you to woo me tonight." Stacie informs her and Aubrey grins widely.

"I wouldn’t dream of anything less for you." Aubrey pulls her arm back enough that she can grab Stacie’s hand in her own, and then they’re walking along the park path hand in hand.