"If you care about me at all, you will not do it. Because I will kill you," Laura warned through the bedroom door.
"Is that a threat?" Carmilla asked with a mischievous smirk pressed against the door.
"It's more than a threat. It's a promise," she said sternly. Perry was pulling at the back of the dress, while LaFontaine sat on the bed rolling their eyes.
"But I keep hearing how great you look!"
"And you're gonna have to deal with it because it's bad luck to see me in my wedding dress!" Laura yelled back.
"I don't care if you see me in mine though!"
"Stop being superstitious!"
"Stop being nosy!"
"Oh my God, will you two shut up?!" Laf exclaimed finally. They turned to look toward the door. "Karnstein, respect your future wife's wishes."
"Hey! Why are you siding with her?" Carmilla called back.
"Because why jinx it?"
Perry continued to circle Laura and examine the dress. "How's the length?"
Laura started to nod and comment about the hem, while Livie approached Carmilla behind the door.
"We're not allowed in," Carmilla huffed as she ran her fingers through her daughter's hair.
Livie frowned before knocking.
"Carmilla, I swear to God-" Laura began before being interrupted.
"It's me, Mama. Can I come in?" the little girl asked as she twisted her fingers together and stared at the closed door. There was a silence before the door peeked open. Laf nodded for Livie to enter, and after she did, the ginger locked eyes with an astounded mother.
"Don't you have a cafe to run?"
"My cook is currently tailoring my fiancee's dress!"
"You have J.P."
Carmilla glared before turning and stomping away; mumbling incoherently.
Laf exhaled dramatically before sitting back down on the edge of the bed. "You're marrying a moody lady, Hollis."
"Mommy stops being grumpy after hugs and kisses. She'll be fine," Livie said without worry before she stared wide eyed at Laura in the dress. "You're so pretty!" she grinned.
Laura laughed. "Thanks, squirt. Think Mommy will like it?"
Livie nodded eagerly. "She's gonna love it! If she doesn't, we'll buy her a dog house." The three adults turned to stare at her with the same questioning expression. "Tommy told me his daddy was in the dog house because he forgot his mommy's birthday. He said he tried looking for it though, but couldn't find it."
The soldier ran a hand down her face. "Tommy really isn't the brightest kid, is he?"
"That's what Ms. Cochrane says!" Livie cheered.
Perry leaned up to whisper in Laura's ear. "Tommy's father is a painter. I think the boy might be around paint fumes too often."
"What are paint fumes?" Livie asked with a tilt of her head. Perry's eyes widened.
"Perr, we've talked about how your whispering is more like hushed shouting," Laf commented with a sigh.
"And I still don't understand what that means!" the curly ginger admitted exasperatedly.
Laf rolled their eyes before turning and smiling at the little girl. "Paint fumes are volatile organic compounds, which are a byproduct released into the atmosphere in the form of gas. They're substances that can prove to be toxic if experienced in high concentration."
Livie stared back at the ginger blankly. "Okay," she said simply before making her way out of the bedroom without a care in the world.
Laf grinned up at the two women in the room. Laura shook her head with a chuckle. "A bullshitter at their finest."
Livie had exited the room to find Kirsch and Will in the living room with her mother. The little girl hopped onto the couch and snuggled into the woman's side.
"Traitor," Carmilla grumbled as she turned the page of her book. Livie giggled before leaning up to kiss her cheek. The mother kept her eyes glued to the book, but her lips twitched into a smile.
"So I really think you should consider fireworks," Kirsch began again.
The cafe owner rolled her eyes. "I am not letting you set off fireworks, Wilson."
"Why not?!" Will exclaimed in his friend's defense.
Carmilla closed the book and slammed it firmly onto her lap. "Because I don't want my wedding day ending with you two idiots in the hospital!"
"Hey! I've totally done it before! I know what I'm doing!" the cop defended.
"Then I'm gonna go out on a limb and say you were lucky."
"I mean, she has a point, dude," Will said, smiling with sympathy.
Will lifted his hands to show no offense. "Hey! I'm just sayin... You're not the brightest star in the sky."
"Are you around paint fumes a lot?" Livie's innocent voice perked up as she looked at Kirsch. The three of them turned to look at her before Carmilla and Will busted out laughing.
Kirsch frowned. "Not cool, little chick."
"What? People say my friend Tommy isn't bright and Perry said he's around paint fumes a lot," the little girl explained with a furrowed brow.
Will ruffled her hair as he chuckled. "You're my favorite, Liv." She immediately smiled at him. Carmilla kissed the top of her daughter's head before focusing back on the two men in the room.
"Fireworks would also be a pretty bad idea for Laura's PTSD," she stated pointedly. "I'd like to avoid upsetting my wife on our wedding day, thanks."
Livie frowned at Kirsch and Will. "Don't upset Mama."
"Okay, okay," Will held up his hands again. "No fireworks." Livie gave a stern nod before hopping off of the couch and heading toward her room. Will then started to smile softly at his sister. "You know Mom and Mattie are making a lot of calls, right?"
"Oh God. For what?" she groaned.
"They're just trying to make it a great night for you guys," he reassured.
"I don't need it to be some crazy, extravagant event."
"Kitty, they know you. They aren't gonna do anything you hate."
"And where is this coming from exactly? They didn't do anything special for my first marriage."
Will shrugged. "You didn't look half as happy as you are now."
Carmilla felt the words crash into her. Her dark eyes softened. She then let out a single chuckle. "Am I really that transparent?"
Kirsch laughed. "Nah. You're still cool and scary. Laura just has you wrapped around her finger."
The brunette sighed. "Don't I know it..."
Thirteen Years Ago...
" Karnstein, I swear to God-" the blonde spat out ferociously.
"What? Something wrong?" Carmilla asked innocently as she sat across the table from Laura. They were supposed to be doing a team building exercise. They were to complete the tasks given to them, calculate how long it took, analyze what processes worked and what didn't, and then write it up.
"We're supposed to be working together! You're doing the exact opposite!" They were currently trying to complete a puzzle, but Carmilla lazily sat in her chair, picking up puzzle pieces and throwing them at Laura when she wasn't looking.
"I'm totally helping. I'm giving you the pieces," she corrected with an arrogant smile.
"No, you're giving me more work because now I have to find them from wherever they landed," Laura said through gritted teeth. She looked down as she roughly tried to put pieces together. "I swear, if we lose any pieces, I will murder you," she grumbled.
"Murder? Wow, cupcake. That's a bit dramatic, isn't it? Imagine what the judge would say. 'You killed a beautiful young woman because she lost a puzzle piece'?" she said, trying to impersonate someone with authority.
Laura glared. "I doubt they'd say you're beautiful. Maybe hideous."
Carmilla openly laughed. "Even you don't believe that."
"I believe you're an arrogant jerk," she suggested instead.
The brunette smirked. "But you still don't believe I'm hideous," she quipped with a wink.
Laura rolled her eyes as she looked down at the puzzle and frowned. She looked under the table and around them before glaring at her partner. "We're missing a piece." She then looked up at the clock. "And class is almost over!"
Carmilla grinned. "Guess we don't make a good team, cutie."
Laura's back was pressed up against the wall with her head tilted back; exposing her neck. Carmilla's mouth was eagerly kissing and sucking at the exposed skin as her fingertips pressed firmly into the soldier's hips.
The blonde moaned slightly from the contact. "We're getting married tomorrow," she stated with her eyes closed and her mouth slightly ajar.
"Mhm," Carmilla replied as she moved her lips onto her collarbone.
"Are you nervous?"
"Carm," Laura giggled, which caused the brunette to huff and pull back a little.
"I wanna make out," she whined.
The soldier rolled her eyes. "And we will before I have to leave. Just give it a second," she said in amusement.
"I don't see why you can't spend the night here."
"You can last one night, Carm."
The brunette frowned. "But I don't wanna."
"Don't be cute," Laura said with a giggle.
"Hey, I am not cute-" she was cut off with the soldier's pointer finger pressed against the cafe owner's lips.
"So you're not nervous?" the blonde asked curiously.
Carmilla shrugged. "Why would I be? This is my second marriage. Been there, done that." Laura shoved her shoulder lightly, which made the brunette laugh. Carmilla then took Laura's hands in hers. "I'm not nervous because I'm marrying you. It finally feels like everything has fallen into place. I found the last piece to my puzzle. And it's you, Laura," she said with a gentle smile as she let go of one of the soldier's hands to tuck blonde locks behind Laura's ear. "It's always been you."
The soldier's eyes watered as she stared back into Carmilla's dark orbs. Then, she cupped the brunette's face and brought their lips together.
"I can't believe how beautiful you are," Carmilla whispered into her new wife's ear as they had their first dance. Laura's cheeks reddened. She still had that effect on her after all this time.
"Right back at ya, Carmilla Hollis-Karnstein."
Mattie and Lilita surprised them with the entire main square set up for their wedding. They brought in a dance floor. Lanterns and twinkle lights hung around the square. The flowers were placed all around. Food was delicious and plentiful. And the newly summer air was perfect with the clear night sky up above.
The ceremony took place in the large, main gazebo in town. It was simple. They didn't even exchange vows. When Will, who was their officiate, asked if they had anything to say, Laura shook her head. "I've waited long enough. Let's do this."
Carmilla chuckled at that before replying, "You heard the woman."
As the first dance began to end and another started, Jim and Lilita approached. "May we cut in?" Laura's father said with a grin. "I wanna dance with my new daughter." Laura rolled her eyes before he swooped Carmilla away.
"May I have this dance, Mrs. Karnstein-Hollis?" Lilita asked with a kind smile. The soldier stared back in surprise. She knew she would never get used to the tender side of Carmilla's mother. She simply nodded before they began to dance.
"Thank you," Laura began. "For everything you've done tonight. It's beautiful. Everything is perfect."
"Oh, hush, darling. It was my pleasure. But tell your wife that. If she knows you love it, she'll give me less of her stink eye."
She chuckled. "She's definitely annoyed with whatever you spent on it."
Lilita rolled her eyes. "I was going to spend double the amount, but figured she'd be a grump. I minimized and figured I could put that money into Livie's college fund."
"Actually, Carm and I were talking... The money Ell left for Liv? We're gonna let Livie keep it. We figured that could go toward her college."
Lilita smiled gently at her. "Then perhaps you'll let me start another fund for any future Karnstein-Hollises..."
Laura's eyes widened before she laughed loudly. "Whoa! Calm down there, Grandma. I just got hitched."
"Whatever you say, dear," she said with a knowing smile. The blonde's eyes drifted to a few feet away where Carmilla was still dancing with her father. Their eyes suddenly locked in that moment, and the love in the soldier's heart shook her entire world.
The night was brisk. The winter air stung against her skin as she watched her breath leave her mouth in large puffs. It was strange. She remembered coming home from deployment those few years ago. She remembered thinking that Silas winters used to be colder; that her skin had toughened from years of being beaten, cut, and bruised.
But she was wrong.
Nothing had changed. The winters were still cold. She smiled to herself as she pulled her layers tighter around her body, tucking her red scarf deeper into her coat. Her father had told her to take a hat as she was leaving, but she refused. She sighed at her stubbornness.
She was walking the lonely sidewalks with festive decorations overwhelming the main square. Her eyes rested on a spot of land next to the large gazebo in town; the same gazebo she became Carmilla's wife in. She thought back to last Christmas when Livie and her won the contest for best snowman in that very spot.
The blonde passed the old market. LaFontaine had expanded it in the past year. They wanted to try and grow more exotic foods. It was working out for the most part.
A seesaw was added to the park a few months ago, as well as a few shrubs to surround the area. The swings were still visited often. Livie still dragged her parents there. Laura felt her heart warm at the sight of them.
Then, the retired soldier stopped at the only building left with its 'open' sign on the front door. She pulled open the door, hearing the bells jingle from her entrance. She smiled at the shelves of books that still lined half of the building. The furniture had been updated, but it was still the same.
"Laura Karnstein-Hollis," a voice caught her attention. She turned to see her wife coming out from behind the counter and walking toward her. The smirk on the woman in front of her was still as dazzling as ever. "To what do I owe the pleasure of you returning an hour later than expected?" she asked with a lifted brow, hands resting on her hips, and her dark eyes sparkling with playfulness.
The blonde smiled sweetly before stepping closer to her wife. "I know. I'm sorry. My dad was telling me some old army stories and we kinda lost track of time," she explained with an apologetic smile as she pulled one of Carmilla's hands from her hip in favor of holding it.
Carmilla sighed before removing her other hand from her hip and placing it on the swell of Laura's stomach. "It's cold out there. You know I would have come to pick you up. I don't want my son to get frostbite because one of his mothers is stubborn."
Laura rolled her eyes as she placed a hand on top of Carmilla's on her stomach. "How would a baby get frostbite in the womb?"
"From having a stupid mother that thinks she's impervious to the cold."
The blonde smacked her wife's shoulder, who yelped in response. "Don't call a pregnant woman stupid!"
"Okay, okay! Geesh," Carmilla chuckled before leaning in to place a kiss on Laura's cheek.
"Asleep," the brunette admitted with a laugh. "Sledding tired her out." She pulled her wife by the hand as she walked backwards toward the counter. "Cup of hot chocolate?"
Laura grinned. "As if I'd say 'no'."
The brunette began to pour a cup as well as a cup of coffee for herself. Her eyes locked with the two mugs as her thoughts took her away. Her life had really changed over the years. It felt like a whirlwind when she stopped to think of the journey that led her to this moment. So much had happened. So much pain. So much happiness. It was a collection of memories that came together and brought her to this very spot. But she supposed, maybe, that's just what life was. It was as simple as that.
"Boo," Laura whispered from behind her as the blonde slipped her arms around Carmilla from behind. The cafe owner jumped slightly before smirking and placing her own hands over Laura's. She could feel Laura's belly against her back. "Where'd you go? I was trying to talk to you about a Christmas present for Livie and you were completely zoned out."
"Sorry. Got lost in thought. But you scared me, so we're even," she answered in amusement.
"I scared you? With 'boo'?" she asked with a giggle.
Carmilla shook her head before turning in her wife's arms. She tucked blonde locks behind Laura's ear with a smirk ever present on her lips. "What can I say? You're one hell of a ghost."