Work Header

Chasing Ghosts

Chapter Text

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 Silas winters being colder. She remembered bundling up in layers and shivering at the thought of stepping outside. But her skin was tougher now. It had been beaten, cut, and bruised over the years. Even burned. The bitter cold didn't seem to be as bothersome as it used to be.

She had gotten off her bus about twenty minutes ago. It was only a fifteen minute walk to her childhood home. Her only home. But her feet kept pulling her away. Instead, she strolled along the sidewalks of the main square and streets with her large duffle bag slung over her shoulder. She saw some of the looks passersby gave her. She hadn't recognized them though. Regardless, she offered a slight nod and smile when meeting their gaze. But of course, this being the tiny town that Silas was, everyone knew about Laura Hollis. And the military uniform was a dead giveaway.

She stared at old buildings she remembered. Some looking more rundown than others. Some businesses were brand new; or brand new to Laura. The streets and buildings were decorated for the holidays. Wreathes were hanging from doors and light posts, and lights were strung up as well. The holidays were always festive in Silas. Jack-o-lantern contests for Halloween, Christmas caroling, bar crawling between the total of two bars on St. Patrick's Day, and fireworks on New Years and the Fourth of July; it was a town of joy and love. And the soldier suddenly felt out of place.

The old market was still there, and she could easily imagine LaFontaine and their parents tending to their fresh fruits and vegetables. Next to that was still the park. The swings were still there, except for the tire swing. That entire tree it used to hang out wasn't even there anymore. A new yellow slide made out of plastic replaced the metal one she remembered sliding down no matter the weather. 

It was always strange walking around town at night. It was so quiet in comparison. Nothing was ever really open in the evening. And if there were no community events, nights like these existed. Almost desolate until stumbling upon a person or two. The bars were still open, as always; as well as a twenty-four hour mart. But there was also one other building that still had lights on, and the 'open' sign placed on the front door. She stepped in front of the building.

It was a small cafe she didn't recognize. The Black Cat. She stared curiously at the small sign below it. Cafe and Bookstore. Laura's eyebrows furrowed. How did a bookstore exist in Silas? They barely existed in larger cities nowadays. She figured it must have worked primarily as a cafe to remain open.

Hesitating, she pulled open the door, hearing the bells jingle on the door from her entrance. She turned to the right, where shelves and displays of books lined the half of the building. Lounge chairs and small coffee tables scattered the small space. On the left, there was a long counter with stools along it, as well as a few tables with chairs. 

Looking through the books, she saw classics lining the shelves; Dickens, Hemingway, Twain, Austen, Bronte, Shakespeare. She recognized H.G. Wells, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, and J.D. Salinger. There were non-fiction books she never dared to touch; works by Kerouac, Marx, Machiavelli, and Kant. Then, she found the children's section. She smiled to herself at the display of Goodnight Moon, placing her duffle bag down by her feet. Picking up the book, she began flipping through the pages; remembering a younger, more innocent version of herself being tucked into a comfy, warm bed.

"Laura Hollis," a voice interrupted her memories. She turned to look over her shoulder with her mouth slightly falling open. She slowly placed the book down without removing her gaze, and continued to turn fully around. The smirk on the woman in front of her as dazzling as ever. "To what do I owe the pleasure?" she charmed with her hands resting on her hips. Her gorgeous wavy locks held up in a high ponytail; bangs swiping above her eyes. 

The soldier's lips slowly spread into a smile with her arms crossed over her chest and hip cocked to the side. "Since when have you ever thought my presence was anything but annoying?" she teased with a raised brow.

The woman grinned in response. "You'd be surprised." Laura's cheeks turned red and she bowed her head in embarrassment. When she looked back up, her eyes slowly traveled up the familiar woman's body. Her outfit consisted of black leather boots, grey skinny jeans, and a black short sleeve turtleneck. When Laura's eyes finally reached the brunette's again, her blush deepened.

The smirk and glint in the woman's dark eyes left the soldier's heartbeat in disarray. This was the last person Laura thought she'd see. As a child, all this woman wanted to do was leave Silas. Why was she still here?

"Carmilla Karnstein... What are you still doing in Silas?" Laura tried to recover from the obvious effect Carmilla was having on her. You're a soldier, for Christ's sake!  Her back straightened as she tucked a few strands of her hair behind her ear before adjusting her officer visor. Her hands then remained folded behind her back.

Carmilla held her arms out, gesturing toward the store around them. "Living the luxurious life of running a bookstore cafe, obviously," she said in amusement before resting her hands on her hips again. Laura looked around the establishment in more detail, unaware of the brunette's eyes raking up and down Laura's body. "But look at you," Carmilla said, drawing Laura's attention back to her. Her uniform was finely pressed, shoes shined, and ribbons and medals decorated her chest. A large duffle bag rested at her feet. "You've been busy, huh?" Her dark eyes met honey brown again with an intensity that was absent moments ago.

"I don't know if busy is the term I'd use," Laura corrected with a slight smile.

"How long has it been now?" Carmilla asked with a tilt of her head.

"A little over nine years," the blonde said gently. Her eyes betrayed her. She stared at the woman from her innocent days and wondered where exactly life had led them. How different were their paths up to this point? What blessings did she witness? What tragedies?

"That's a long time, cupcake," the brunette commented with the hint of a smile.

Laura rolled her eyes. "Really? It's been almost a decade. Can we let the nicknames rest in peace?"

Carmilla smirked again. "Sorry, Cap. Old habits die hard."

The blonde stared with confusion; her arms falling from their proper position to her sides. "How'd you know I was a Captain?"

"Town's not that big, Captain Cupcake," she explained with amusement as she turned to go behind the counter. The cafe was empty now that Laura had looked around properly. She glanced up at the clock hanging above Carmilla. It was just after nine o'clock. Her father was expecting her home any minute. But she knw what she was doing. She was attempting to prolong the inevitable. The longer she waited, the longer she could avoid the Jim Hollis stare; that look full of pride and regret. After all, she was back for a reason. She was back indefinitely, and not intentionally.

"Cup of coffee?" Carmilla asked gently as she poured a cup for herself. The bell on the door rang suddenly, grabbing both women's attention. Carmilla glared immediately. "William, I know you're aware of our hours, and I also know you can read, college boy. The sign on the door says we close at nine."

Laura's eyes widened. "It's after nine now."

"No need to spell it out for him, cupcake," she said without removing her glare from her brother. 

"Whoa. Hold on. Laura Hollis?" Will said ducking in for a better view of the soldier's face.

"Wow. Will? You're all grown up. What were you like 12 when I last saw you?" the blonde stared at him in wonder. He vaguely looked like his older sister. They had similar eyes. The Karnsteins seemed to share that trait. Even Mattie, who was their adopted older sister.

He grinned. "I heard you were making your big return soon! People have been talking about it like crazy-"

"William," Carmilla growled. Laura had flinched from his statement and Carmilla knew why. Hell, everyone in Silas knew why by now. She remembered how gossipy the small town could be. It had been almost a decade, but it felt like she was here just yesterday.

"I didn't realize you were closed. I should probably-" Laura began as she pointed a thumb toward the door.

"Wait. Hold on," Carmilla said, holding a hand out in her direction to stop her. The brunette then turned back to her brother. "What are you doing here?"

"Mother was driving me crazy. I told her I was gonna spend the night with you," he answered with a shrug.

Carmilla rose a delicate brow. "And did you ask me before you came storming in?"

"No..." he admitted with a sheepish smile. "But I got home yesterday and I still haven't seen my favorite person in the whole wide world!"

Carmilla sighed. "Christmas break just started. You have a month of free time. Why rush it?"

"Oh come on, Kitty! You know she's been asking about me!" he grinned. Carmilla glared as he continued. "It's a Friday!" He pouted as he clasped his hands together in front of him.

"Your point?"

"Ugh! And it just started snowing!" he pleaded even more.

She rolled her eyes finally and leaned down onto the counter. "Fine. But if I wake up to another pancake disaster, you're banned!" she warned with a pointed finger. He grinned as he ran toward the back of the shop. He spun around to address Laura one more time.

"It was nice seeing you, Laura! We'll probably run into each other again soon. I mean, it is Silas," he finished with a wave and went through the back door.

Laura looked back at Carmilla, who rested with her chin propped up by her palm.  "How about that coffee? I recall you liking hot chocolate, but I'm fresh out at the moment."

The blonde opened her mouth in surprise. "But- Aren't you closed now?"

The brunette smirked. "Its not a business transaction, cupcake. Just a cup of coffee between old friends."

Laura raised a brow. "We were friends?"

The shop owner stood up straight. Her dark eyes burned through the soldier; the way Laura remembered from so many years ago. Then, the blonde let out a sigh before pulling off her visor and placing it down on the counter. She took a seat on the stool as Carmilla moved to pour a second cup of coffee and place it in front of Laura; leaning back against the opposite wall when she finished.

"So..." Laura tried to begin as she fiddled with the mug in her hands. She had grown accustomed to drinking it black. "Will goes to college?"

Carmilla took a sip of the hot beverage before nodding. "Yep. Another semester and he'll have a business degree." She let a smile appear on her face. "He thinks he's such a hotshot."

"Didn't you go to college?" Laura asked as she pressed the mug to her lips.

The brunette's brows furrowed as she stared down at her coffee. "I did for two years." She shrugged and met Laura's eyes. "Wasn't really my thing."

Silence took over as they both took sips to fill the awkward gap. "How'd you end up here?" Laura asked, looking around the building in question.

Carmilla let out a long sigh as she rubbed the back of her neck with her free hand. "Its kind of a long story."

Laura raised a brow as the silence fell between them again. "You know, for someone who wanted me to stay after hours, you sure don't have much to say..."

The owner smirked. Laura felt her heart jump from the sight of it. How is it she still had that effect over her? That same irritating effect? "Maybe I just wanted an excuse to stare at you longer."

Laura rolled her eyes and let out a chuckle. "Your lines apparently haven't improved much."

"Ah, but you admit they have improved!" the brunette praised. Laura rolled her eyes again despite her smile. Then, she looked back down at the mug she held in both hands; the smile falling from her face.

"Can I ask you something?" the soldier's voice turning soft.

"You never used to ask permission. Why start now?" Carmilla answered in amusement.

After the incident, and during recovery, Laura had spent many hours in therapy. Nothing ever clicked though. She could never open up; she could never speak of what she saw; what she felt. The sounds, the smells, the taste of the air; it was all so engraved into her brain, but none of it ever bled out. It stayed bottled up. It stayed inside rotting her core.

But here she was now, in her hometown, in this bookstore cafe, in front of someone from her past, and she felt the floodgate inch open.

"When you look at me, do I look broken?" Honey brown eyes glistened in the cafe light. There was a harsh pull in the brunette's chest. How was she supposed to answer that? This woman was practically a stranger now, but she did look vulnerable. She wouldn't say broken, but perhaps lost. Carmilla knew what broken was. This woman wasn't that. 

The lack of response was deafening. The snow outside the front windows was falling steadily, and it felt so quiet that they could almost hear the thud of the snow packing onto the ground.

"Sorry," Laura said urgently as she shook her head with eyes shut tenderly. "That was weird. I'm sorry if that was out of place."

"Hey," Carmilla interrupted.

"Really. Just forget I ever said anyth-"

"Laura," the brunette said firmly. The soldier looked up at her with shining eyes. Of all her years in Silas, with the punk known as Carmilla Karnstein, she had only heard the brunette use her real name twice. 

Carmilla searched the honey eyes again. "You're different," she admitted. She could see that through her eyes. Those honey eyes had been committed to memory long ago. "But I still see you in there."

The blonde forced a swallow and tore her gaze away from the woman of her past. "How do you even remember? That was forever ago."

"Yeah, it was," Carmilla agreed tenderly. "But some things just stick." She offered Laura a simple smile.  The blonde then ran a hand through her hair before sighing heavily. Her eyes slid up to look at the clock again.

"I should probably get going. My dad's probably jumping at every little noise he hears, thinking its me," she explained with a chuckle as she stood from her stool. She reached into her pocket and sifted through bills.

"Put that away."

Laura looked at her with a half smile. "Come on. It's the least I could do since you're not even open."

Carmilla placed down her mug and and stepped toward the counter to get closer. "And since I'm not open, accepting money makes me feel like a prostitute."

Laura looked at her incredulously. "Last time I checked, prostitutes don't pour coffee."

The brunette's eyebrows rose toward her hairline. "You're right. But prostitutes keep people company, which is what I did."

The soldier rolled her eyes. "You've got to be kidding me."

"Good to see you're still as stubborn as ever," Carmilla smirked.

"Right back at ya," Laura frowned as she tucked her money back into her pocket and placed her visor on her head. She watched as Carmilla looked out the window for a few seconds before reaching into a nook in the wall at the end of the counter. She pulled out a red scarf and held it over the counter to the blonde. Laura stared at it in bewilderment as Carmilla avoided eye contact.

"It's cold and snowing. Apparently you forgot about the climate of Silas," she mocked. "Just take it," she order, glancing up into honey eyes. Laura hesitantly took it before staring down at it in her hand.

Carmilla rolled her eyes. "Its a scarf. You're supposed to wrap it around your neck to stay warm. Jesus... You used to be smart, cupcake."

Laura looked up to see her smirking now. She glared before wrapping the article of clothing around her neck. She took a deep breath before reaching down and slinging her bag over her shoulder. Taking a step toward the exit, she stopped and turned her head slightly; refusing eye contact. "Thank you," she whispered before walking away from the brunette once again. 

Carmilla felt a heaviness on her chest after the bells of the door stopped ringing. She thought she was prepared to see the blonde woman again, but she was wrong. The gossip was a good enough warning, or so she thought. But seeing her brought back feelings she hadn't thought about in a long time.

Lifting up the door of the counter, she walked through and locked the entrance. Then, she made her way toward the back of the shop, switching off the lights before going through the door. She headed up the stairs and opened the door to her cozy apartment. The fireplace was lit, and giggling was heard in the distance.

"Mommy! Mommy! Help me!"

Carmilla took a deep breath and smiled at the sound; making her way toward the little girl's bedroom. Stepping into the doorway and leaning on the frame, she watched her brother tickling the six year old ruthlessly. "Mommy! Uncle Will is mean!" she said through fits of laughter.

He gasped dramatically as he leaned away to look at her. "I'm not mean! I told you, Livie. I'm a tickle monster. I feed off of tickles."

"No, you don't! I saw you eat all of Mommy's cookies!" she argued with a smile. Her dark Karnstein eyes twinkling in the dim light.

"Hey!" he exclaimed as he started tickling her again. "Tattletale! You helped me finish them!" She shrieked and giggled in response.

Carmilla sighed. "Will, you realize she's going to be up forever now because of all the sugar?" she asked pointedly. He sent her a sheepish smile, causing her to roll her eyes.

"We're sorry, Mommy," the miniature version of Carmilla said as she sat up on her purple bed. She elbowed her uncle. "Right, Uncle Will?"

"Uh, yeah. Sorry, Kitty."

Carmilla leaned off of the door frame and walked over to her daughter. She smoothed out the dark brown hair that had been ruffled up, and leaned down to kiss her forehead. "You're lucky you're cute."

Will grinned. "I get that all the time." Carmilla shoved his shoulder immediately.

"Now you're being held responsible for the crazy hyper demon child that is about to take over. As well as getting her to bed tonight," she ordered.

He gave her a salute before turning back to his niece, who held up her index fingers against her head as if they were horns. "I'm a demon child!" she exclaimed as she started to growl.

"You're terrifying!" he yelled as he ducked and wrapped his arms over his head in an attempt to hide. "Rawr!" she growled again as she jumped on top of him. Carmilla smiled warmly at the sight before she left the two to go to her bedroom. She sat on the edge of her bed and stared at the end table drawer. Then, she reached forward and opened it; removing a leather bound journal. Pulling off the pen clipped on to the journal, she searched for the next blank page. She placed the tip of the pen against the paper, but hesitated; the ink bleeding onto the fresh page. Then, she wrote.

'I saw a ghost tonight. She walked into the cafe... Even with Will there, I'm still questioning if she was real... The ghost aged since I had last seen it. It looked withered... But there was a warmth coming off her that had never haunted me before. It enchanted me. And I wanted nothing more than to keep this ghost safe and warm. Maybe its because of the mother in me now... Or maybe its the eighteen year old me reaching out for what was lost...'

Laura stood on the front porch taking a deep breath. The air clouding around her when she exhaled. She tightened her grip on her bag, and then knocked three times. She tipped her visor to brush off the snow that had accumulated on her walk. Then, brushed off her shoulders as her father opened the door. Her gaze was brought back in front of her as she stared at a smiling older man; more grey than she remembered. Laura had kept in contact with him throughout the years. She called and Skyped when she could, but seeing him in person was different. His aging was now noticeable. It had been almost ten years since they'd been face to face.

She searched his cloudy blue eyes. There it was; the Jim Hollis stare. The stare he left her with when she first deployed; the stare he always greeted her with when they video chatted, as well as the stare that he always signed off with. It told her how proud he was of her. She had continued the Hollis tradition, after all. Being a part of the military ran in the family. Her father and mother met while they were serving. Growing up, she never wanted the life of a soldier. She saw what it could do to people. It could hurt people in more ways than one. She saw that first hand with her mother. But certain things in life can change a person. It gave her purpose. And she found it in something she rejected for most of her life.

So her father was proud of her decision to enlist. But there was also that fear; that regret he had for letting his daughter, his only child, step into a world that still haunted him some nights. A world that haunted her mother until her dying breath. He saw so much of his wife in Laura. It was too easy to imagine Laura's body on the floor the same way he found his wife. It scared the hell out of him.

"Welcome home, Captain," he said softly with a warm smile. Laura dropped the bag off of her shoulder and wrapped her arms tightly around his waist; resting her head against his heart. His arms instantly engulfed her.

"Dad," she managed to whisper, beginning to get choked up. She slammed her eyes shut to prevent tears. He heard her sniffing against his chest, which made him rub up and down her back.

"It's okay, sweetheart. You're home," he whispered into her hair before planting a kiss there. They stood there for a few moments until he moved to place his hands on her shoulders; pushing her back to see her face.

"Let's get you inside. I'll make you some hot cocoa. Extra marshmallows," he said with a tender smile. Laura chuckled in response before sniffing again.

"I'm twenty-seven years old, dad."

He looked at her as if she had lost her mind. "And your point?"

She chuckled again. "You're right. Extra marshmallows."

He grinned, bending down and picking up her bag before swinging an arm around her shoulders, and pulling her into the house.

For four days, Laura stayed at home; not stepping outside her front door once. The Hollis duo watched holiday movies and baked Christmas cookies. When her father left for his police shifts, she stayed in and rooted through her old room. She found old textbooks, CDs, pictures of friends she hadn't spoken to in awhile, and sketches. She used to sketch all the time when she was younger. While overseas, she did it every so often, but not as much as she used to. She would draw anything. Cartoon characters, her neighbor's dog sleeping on the porch, Danny falling asleep on Kirsch's shoulder when they thought no one was looking; she even found one of Carmilla. In the drawing, the brunette was sitting on the garden wall in the town square, an acoustic guitar on her lap as fingers strummed at the strings. Laura had forgotten all about the drawing, but she instantly remembered the moment she was capturing.

Laura often people watched. She searched for new perspectives to draw; new stories. And when she found Carmilla playing away on her instrument, she felt a rawness to the teenager. She felt a pull. Laura had grown up with Carmilla; they were born in Silas like most of her friends there were. She knew her since they were little. But the moment she drew that picture of her and her guitar, that was the moment she felt like she actually saw Carmilla for the first time. And every second with her after that moment made her heart race.

She sat on her bed and tried to draw anything she could see. There was nothing else to do, and she figured she could brush up on her skills. Before she knew it, it was late into the night. Her father had arrived home from a long shift, and stood in her doorway.

"Hey, kiddo," he greeted her with a kind smile. She looked up at him with graphite smudged all over her hands, some even on her face. "I see you're drawing again," he commented as he stepped forward to see her work. He smiled at the drawings scattered across her bed. "Always said you were a creative genius."

Laura grinned before playfully pushing him away. "You're my father. You wanted to sign me up for Harvard after I won a spelling bee in second grade."

"You beat all the other kids!" 

"Because I was able to spell the word 'diarrhea'. Not exactly an Ivy League prerequisite."

"Hey, I still can't spell it," he defended.

"I know. Your attempt in Scrabble yesterday was terrifying."

He chuckled. "Yeah, yeah." He then looked around her room again. "Have you left the house at all since you've been home?"

"Nope," she answered as she continued with her current sketch.

"Laura," he said in that tone that made Laura cringe.

"I've been preoccupied..."

He shook his head. "You can't hide here for the rest of your life."

"I know."

"Life is going on out there without you. You can't ignore it."

"I know," she answered again without removing her gaze from the drawing.

"I just don't want you to get stuck-"

"Dad," Laura said sternly as her gaze hardened on him. "I know," she said once again. She took a deep breath as she looked back down at her creation, beginning to shade in a section. "I'll head into town tomorrow."

He smiled sadly down at his daughter before leaning down and kissing the top of her had. She froze from the contact at first before relaxing again. "Don't stay up too late," he said softly before heading off to bed. 

Laura leaned back against her headboard and stared up at her ceiling. Tomorrow she was going to go into town. She was going to see people. People that knew her. The old her. The girl that left a decade ago. They wouldn't know this woman that came back. This woman was different. This woman experienced kinds of pain she hoped no one would ever experience. Not even her worst enemy.

She closed her eyes and tried to force the images from flashing in her mind. Her hands clenched into fists, her pencil snapping in her hand. She began to rock herself back and forth, taking slow, deep breaths. She was safe. Nothing could hurt her now. She was safe.

At some point after continuously rocking and focusing on her breathing, she calmed down. Her eyes shifted to the shades of her window. She could barely make out the moon peeking through. Her mind immediately thought of Goodnight Moon again. She smiled at the innocence of the book. The whole point was to help children fall asleep. There was no evil in the story. Nothing to be afraid of. It calmed the reader. It was peaceful. It was a feeling she wasn't often privileged with. That was why it was always so hard for her to open up during therapy. She was never calm; never trusting; never open. Yet there she was a few nights ago, sitting on that stool in front of Carmilla, cracking open the hard, dark shell devouring her heart.

Laura took a deep breath and continued to stare at the small piece of the moon revealed through the shades. And before she knew it, she had fallen asleep.

Carmilla was always busy on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Everybody in town seemed to always eat breakfast at The Back Cat. It wasn't like she was ungrateful. She just wished her staff was a little more helpful, and less destructive. Specifically, Will, who waited tables when she first opened up years ago, and continued to work for her whenever he was home from school. The boy was always a clumsy mess. Four dishes and three mugs in two days. Perry was her delightful cook that kept the customers' taste buds happy. She was the one who kept Carmilla sane, as well. J.P. assisted her in the kitchen.

On this particular Saturday morning, the cafe was still busy. People were piled into the bookstore side with their food, finding any place to sit. Carmilla groaned at the sight from the back of her establishment. This place was too small for this many people. She had known this for a long time. But every weekend she grew more and more frustrated with the fact.

It always reached a point where Carmilla had to literally growl at her customers, who were more than used to Carmilla at this point in their lives, in order for them to leave. They would just sit there for an extended period of time when people were trying to order food and eat still. They usually scurried along after her sudden appearance beside them.

In the front corner of the store, Livie sat at a table for two eating the chocolate chip pancakes Perry made her in the shape of snowflakes. This was a typical occurrence in the cafe. While her daughter stayed busy eating, reading, or anything else to keep her occupied, Carmilla could get to work. She'd sit with her when she could and made she to check up on her here and there. Plus, the staff and townsfolk loved the little girl. Livie was never neglected.

Will came strolling over with a cup of hot chocolate and placed it down in front of the little girl that looked so much like her mother. "One delicious cup of hot cocoa for the short stack eating short stacks." She giggled before taking the mug in both her hands.

The uncle looked at the empty seat in front of her before picking up the empty plate left there to clear the table. "Kirsch left already?" 

She nodded fiercely. "He got a call on his radio thing. Had to go to work," she summarized as she took a sip. She flinched.

"Careful! Its called hot chocolate for a reason," he warned. She frowned before placing the mug back down on the table to wait it out. 

"Will! Food's ready!" J.P. called from the ledge where they slid the ready food from the kitchen. He hurried back to his job as the door signaled another customer.

The blonde stood in the doorway a little claustrophobic. The cafe was the extreme opposite of what she experienced those few nights ago. She considered coming back later. Hell, she didn't even know why she ended up here in the first place. Laura promised her father she'd leave the house and once she did, her feet led her here. So, she stood at the door looking around for any place to sit. Giving up, she began to turn to leave when she saw a little girl grinning at her from a table in the corner. Laura offered her a small smile, and was surprised when the brunette with pigtails pointed aggressively toward the seat in front of her. The blonde's mouth opened to reply with some sort of objection, but the smile the girl gave her was too much. She sighed, and gave a half smile in response as she trudged over to her.

She pulled off an old winter coat she found in her closet, revealing the red scarf around her neck. The blonde left on the accessory, seeing as her hair was in a ponytail and offered her no warmth. Her thermal shirt and faded jeans were an improvement from her pajamas and sweatpants she had been living in all week.

"You're new," the little girl stated cheerfully.

"Uh, kinda," Laura answered in amusement.

"I've never seen you before. And I've lived here my whhooooolleeee life," she exaggerated.

Laura chuckled. "And how long is that?"

"Six years!" she exclaimed holding up her fingers for a visual representation. "I just turned six last month," she added with pride.

"Wow! That's a long time!" Laura encouraged.

"I'm Livie," she introduced holding out her hand across the table.

The blonde grinned at how proper this girl was being. "Laura," she replied as she shook her hand.

"Where are you from?"

Laura leaned back in her chair. "Well, I actually grew up here."

Livie's mouth fell open. "No way! My mommy grew up here too!"

"Oh yeah? Who's-"

"Hey, little monster! Did your uncle leave a check over there somewhere-" Carmilla began and froze once standing beside her daughter and looking at the other woman at the table.

"Mommy! This is Laura! She grew up here too!" Livie announced in excitement as she pulled down eagerly on her mother's arm.

Laura's mouth fell wide open as her eyes danced from the little girl to the woman standing in front of her. They had the same eyes. The same hair color. Laura cursed at herself. How did she not see it earlier? Livie was almost an exact replica of Carmilla when she was younger.

"I know," Carmilla said softly without removing her eyes from the blonde. Then, she tore her gaze away to look down at her daughter. She brushed her fingers through the girl's bangs and smiled sweetly. "Hey, trouble. How about you go back in the kitchen and see what Perry's up to?" The girl frowned before looking back at Laura.

"We'll talk more later," she said as if it were a business deal. Laura could only manage a nod as the girl hopped out of her chair and pushed through the crowded cafe. The brunette took a deep breath before taking the now empty seat.

"So..." the soldier started. "You have a child?!" she exclaimed.

Carmilla let out a chuckle as she relaxed into the chair. She shrugged. "A lot can happen in a decade, cupcake."

"Nine years," Laura corrected, which earned her an eye roll. Suddenly the idea of that much timing having gone by freaked Laura out. "You failed to mention this the other night."

"You didn't ask," Carmilla answered nonchalantly. It was Laura's turn to roll her eyes. 

"Because that's something I should've immediately considered," the blonde mocked. "Are you married?" she asked still in shock, her eyes looking down to her hand for a ring. Carmilla watched her eyes and held up her empty hand for an easier view.

"Super single," she announced. Laura was shaking her head trying to piece everything together.

"How did this- What made you- I'm so thrown off right now," she finally settled on a complete sentence.

Carmilla smirked. "That's pretty clear from the dumbstruck look on your face. I know I've left you speechless before, but this entirely too amusing."

Laura ignored her teasing. "You're a mother."

"Did you always point out the obvious?"

"I didn't even think you liked kids!"

Carmilla scoffed. "You didn't think a lot of things." Laura went to respond, but seeing the look in the brunette's eyes, she decided against it.

Laura's voice was softer now. "I've missed a lot, haven't I?"

Carmilla's expression immediately changed. The woman in front of her was suddenly that ghost from the other night that had begun to bare her soul. The brunette felt an ache in her chest from the pained look in Laura's eyes. She went to reply when Livie came running back to the table, grabbing their attention.

"J.P. slipped on oil! He was sliding all over trying not to fall! It looked like he was dancing!" the little girl giggled.

"Is he okay?" Carmilla groaned out.

"Yeah. He keeps rubbing his butt though," Livie said with more laughter.

Carmilla sighed and looked back up at Laura who had been watching them both intently. The brunette's eyes fell to the soldier's neck. "Nice scarf," she commented with her signature smirk.

Laura looked down at the accessory before registering what she meant. "Oh, here," she replied beginning to take it off.

"No," Carmilla answered gently. "You keep it. You always used to get cold easily," Carmilla finished with a kinder smile as she stood from her seat. Laura felt her cheeks heating up. "I'll have Will bring you over some hot chocolate," she added before patting her daughter on the head and leaving them behind.

Laura watched the woman walk away until Livie's voice pulled her attention back to the table. "So you know my mom?" 

The soldier smiled warmly at the girl, whose eyes sparkled in wonder. "Yeah. I used to."

Chapter Text

Carmilla had been watching the blonde in the corner all morning and afternoon. Livie sat with her until Will's shift ended. He took her to see her grandmother, which would lead to Livie coming home in a completely different outfit because according to Lilita, Carmilla doesn't dress her daughter elegantly enough. The brunette rolled her eyes at the thought. The six year old liked wearing cat apparel. Who was Carmilla to deny her daughter that? The dresses and frills all came from grandma. Livie occasionally liked the outfits her grandmother would dress her up in, but sometimes she returned to the cafe standing like a Barbie doll; all stiff and straight and all kinds of uncomfortable.

But Laura was still sitting in that corner after all the hustle and bustle calmed down. She sat with a notebook and pencil, lost in her own world. Then at one point, Laura had gotten up and grabbed a book from the other side of the building. It was about four o'clock now and the cafe was empty, aside from the soldier. Carmilla didn't get it. Why was she still there? She was surprised Laura didn't jump up and run when the big reveal happened. Carmilla almost yelled surprise when Livie called her 'mommy' in front of Laura. The look on the blonde's face was too priceless. But Laura was still sitting there as if waiting for something.

Perry had come out from the kitchen to sit with Laura for awhile and catch up. They had hugged immediately when they saw each other. Carmilla was shamefully envious. Her relationship with Laura wasn't carefree. It wasn't simple and happy-go-lucky. A hug was too intimate for them. And Carmilla knew if she hugged Laura, she would never let go. So it was best to keep a few feet between them at all times.

The shop owner was doing anything she could think of to stay busy. Talking to Laura meant having to catch her up on Livie, because of course, she's Laura Hollis; she's going to ask almost immediately. And answering that would get her into taboo topics. So she hoped to avoid her by doing mundane tasks until the blonde left. She actually dusted the bookshelves. She remembers doing that maybe once before? Perry usually does it; Carmilla knowing the ginger gets off on it. But even after dusting, Laura never left.

So finally, after taking a long, deep breath, Carmilla made her way over to the occupied table. She crossed her arms over her chest as her eyes roamed over the book cover. "Out of all the books, you had to choose the trashy romance novel?"

Laura looked up from the paperback. "It's weirdly entertaining," Laura admitted with a chuckle. "But I'm more curious as to how you ended up getting it," she said as she waved the book in the air. "I didn't think this was your type," she teased. The soldier remembered Carmilla's reading habits. She basically brought a book everywhere she went, and never once did she see one of those scandalous, obnoxious book covers held in the brunette's hands.

"And what exactly is my type?" she asked with an arched brow and mischievous smirk. 

"The boring philosophical type."

"Okay, implying that Nietzsche is anything but genius is breaking the number one rule of this cafe."

"Not 'No shirt. No shoes. No Service'?"

Carmilla's smirk stayed strong. "Who am I to deny gorgeous topless women service?"

"Who said anything about gorgeous topless women?"

"Oh... Were you not aware that in order to read a book here, you're supposed take your shirt off?"

Laura let out a laugh. "I wasn't aware Hooters sponsored bookstores now."

Carmilla brought her index finger up to her lips. "Shh! Don't give them any ideas! I'm copyrighting this right now."

Laura shook her head with a chuckle. "So what made you order this smutty beach book?"

The brunette shrugged. "Some people actually enjoy reading that genre. I acknowledge that, but it doesn't mean I'm not going to judge them."

"So you're judging me?" the blonde asked with amusement.

"Always, cupcake." Their eyes danced back and forth between the other's as a silence fell between them. Carmilla was the first to break eye contact, clearing her throat in the process. "So, uh, how's it feel being back?"

Laura let out a breath; puffing her cheeks as she did. She placed the book completely down on the table. "Its... complicated," she answered with a single chuckle.

Carmilla raised a brow. "How so?"

Laura leaned back completely in her chair, her shoulders sagging. "The best way for me to describe it is... Its like deja vu. Like I've lived this life before, which I mean, I have, but its... different. Its almost dream-like. I've walked these streets before. In my head, I could walk home from here wearing a blindfold and get there just fine; avoiding all the tree stumps and potholes. But everything just feels... foggy. Like maybe I'm wrong about remembering every sidewalk and lamp post. Maybe the sidewalk will turn right and not left like I thought."

Laura leaned forward again and rested her jaw in her palms, propped up by her elbows. She stared absently in front of her with furrowed brows. "I used to belong here. This place was a part of me."

"Oh come on. This place is your childhood. It'll always be a part of you," Carmilla debated, but Laura shook her head; her honey eyes meeting dark brown again. 

"I lost that part of me somewhere along the way." Her voice was soft and forlorn. Carmilla couldn't argue that. She already knew something was missing from the soldier's eyes. She saw it that first night Laura returned. 

"Is that why you haven't left your house?"

Laura's eyes grew wide. "How'd you know?"

Carmilla let a small smile appear on her lips as she rolled her eyes. "I didn't. People have been saying they haven't seen you around town. Which means you holed yourself up in that house because that's what you used to do when you wanted to avoid a problem."

"Did not!"

"Um, how about the time Danny found out you had a crush on her and you pretended to be sick for a week?"

"The flu was going around that week!"

"Or that time your bikini top embarrassingly fell off in the lake?"

"It was like fifty degrees out. The water was freezing and I almost got pneumonia!"

"Or that time you drunkenly stole the baby Jesus from the manger?"

Laura glared. "That wasn't even me. I just happened to be there when a certain broody brunette thought it would be hilarious to make the sheep look like they were having sex."

"Innocent bystander and you still hid in your house for a few days," Carmilla grinned. 

"My dad still brings up the Mysterious Manger Meddler."

"Ah, Sheriff Hollis keeps close watch on the display every year. We definitely left him paranoid," Carmilla chuckled.

"You left him paranoid," Laura corrected. The brunette rolled her eyes. 

"Laura Hollis; always a stickler for rules and regulations."

The blonde sighed. "Guess its a good thing I became a soldier then, huh?" 

Carmilla frowned. Was it a good thing? The brunette clenched a fist without Laura noticing. After everything? After your mother? And now that you have that lost look in your eyes? Laura began to stand, reaching into her pocket to leave money. 

"I swear to God, cupcake, if you leave money on that table, I will tell your father you're the Magical Manger Monster."

"Mysterious Manger Meddler-"

"Put it away," she said pointedly.

Laura frowned. "I have to start paying for my meals at some point. And if you're gonna keep refusing to give me a bill, I'm leaving a ridiculous tip."

"A tip?" Carmilla mocked. "This is that prostitute conversation all over again."

"You didn't keep me company the entire time. In fact, I think you were avoiding me," Laura stated with a gentle smile.

The brunette's eyes widened, her mouth falling open for half a second before recovering quickly. "Wow. Someone's full of herself... Why would I want to avoid you? Believe it or not, I run a business, Cap."

Laura ignored her snark. "I'm aware. But the cafe has been empty for two hours, you keep letting out one of those bored, heavy sighs, and I've watched you dust the bookshelves twice."

Carmilla's eyebrow rose. Ever the observant detective. "You've been watching me, huh? Then maybe I should charge you for the show," she finished with her smirk.

"I didn't see any gorgeous topless women, so I'd say the show could have been better," Laura retorted with a sly smile. Carmilla felt her heart pick up the pace. Her grin took over.

"All you had to do was ask, cupcake." Laura stared into those dark, curious eyes and felt that familiar heat build within her. She remembered this feeling. It was specifically only for Carmilla. But again, the heat felt more like deja vu. Foggy. 

She needed to change the subject. "So... Livie, huh?"

And bingo. There it was. Carmilla was surprised it took Laura this long to get to it. "Sorry if she was bothering you earlier. She's too friendly for her own good," the brunette apologized with a smile, thinking about her little monster.

"No, its fine. She's adorable. If she didn't look like your clone, I would have never thought she was your daughter. She's so happy."

Carmilla frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Laura looked at her incredulously. "Seriously? You've been a broody, grumpy teenager since you were five years old."

"That's because you always followed me around."

The blonde rolled her eyes. "Yeah, thank goodness I grew out of that. Trying to be your friend was like pulling teeth."

The brunette stared evenly at Laura. She was searching those lost eyes again. "You seriously never thought we were friends?"

Laura laughed. "Carm, I don't know what we were," the blonde started. The shop owner felt those familiar butterflies in her stomach from the nickname. Family called her that occasionally, but for however long she could remember, Laura used it as well. "But it was way too complicated to be classified as friends."

The soldier was being honest. Her relationship with Carmilla was always so unique. It wasn't like any of the women she had been with romantically. It wasn't like her friendships with the others; Kirsch, LaFontaine, fellow soldiers, etc. This woman was always different. Her attitude, her looks, her gravity; it was unlike anyone else. Always pulling her in.

No. The brunette wasn't her friend. She was her Carmilla. Indescribable and irreplaceable. 

"So I guess 'friends' is never in the cards for us, huh?" the brunette asked with a tilt of her head. She didn't really know how to feel about the topic.

"Would you want it to be?" Laura asked innocently.

Carmilla let a small smile hint on her lips. "You've always been a cupcake. Why change it now?" Making a big deal out of this wouldn't be worth it. Keep it calm and playful.

The brunette's body relaxed when the blonde's honey eyes shined back at her in response. Her cheeks pinked slightly. Carmilla didn't know why she asked if they were ever friends. Maybe it was because she questioned whether Laura ever cared for her. She questioned if Laura hated her. But seeing her eyes light up when Carmilla spoke, it didn't matter what the answer was.

"So are you gonna tell me about Livie or..."

The brunette raised a brow. "Her favorite color is purple. She loves panthers. She can eat an obnoxious amount of sweets; probably enough to give you a run for your money-"

"Carmilla, that's not what I mea-"

"I know what you meant," she interrupted. She took an incredibly long, deep breath. "Long story short, I fell in love, she got cancer, she beat the cancer, we got married, we wanted a kid, her cancer came back when I was three months pregnant, the cancer took her when I was at eight months."

Laura's mouth hung ajar. Her eyes had somehow managed to water in that short amount of time. Carmilla didn't even understand how the woman registered it all so fast. Her jaw clenched at the inevitable pity and tears. But Laura just closed her eyes tightly, brows furrowed as she took a few quiet breaths. Then, when she opened her eyes again, the water was gone. It was a remarkably steady gaze. A stare that looked almost engraved into her. It wasn't pity. Carmilla thought perhaps it was understanding.

"What was her name?" she asked gently.

The weight on her chest grew heavier. She rarely ever said her name. "Ell," she whispered.

Laura nodded a few times silently. The blonde didn't have any words to give her. Laura knew what loss felt like too well. Apologies meant nothing to her. She preferred silence as a response. So that's all she gave her.

"Do you still play the guitar?" Laura asked suddenly, surprising Carmilla at the change of subject. The brunette appreciated the shift though.

"Occasionally. Not as much as I used to. Why?"

Laura shrugged. She was thinking of the sketch she found in her room; the one of Carmilla playing in the middle of town. "I've been drawing a bit since I've been back and I remembered you playing nearby a lot whenever I was doodling away."

Carmilla let a slight smile appear. "You never let me see anything you drew. Could have been stick figures for all I know."

"I never showed you because I knew you'd make fun of me."

The brunette suddenly frowned. She sighed heavily before reaching over the counter with an extended stretch, grabbing her coat. "You know," Carmilla began as she pulled on her coat. "For someone always so smart, you never really understood me," she finished with eyes so powerful, Laura felt the wind get knocked out of her. Before the blonde could question her, she spoke again. 

"J.P.! I'm leaving! You're running the show now!" Laura heard a muffled response, which Carmilla didn't wait to decipher. She walked toward the door and turned back to the solider.

"Take it easy, Cap," she said stoically before leaving the building.

Laura stood there bewildered. She didn't understand what happened. All of a sudden, Carmilla was upset. And apparently it was because of what Laura said. How didn't she understand Carmilla? What exactly was she missing? She thought she knew her pretty damn well. Carmilla knew more about Laura than Danny or Laf ever did. There was a rawness she only ever showed to the brunette. Was that rawness only one-sided? That didn't seem right. Carmilla had come to her during dark times. Dealing with her father's death when she was a young teen was hard. She broke down and Laura was there to help pick her up. Through the yelling, tears, insults, and constant rejection, Laura was there for Carmilla. Because she knew the brunette needed someone; and for Carmilla to feel anything at all was better than her sitting alone and wasting away as numb as multiple medications could make you.

They were each other's safety net. Only there for the other, one hundred percent, when they failed to pull the parachute cord. Their connection hidden under the surface; like how the safety net for action scenes are invisible for the audience.

Laura left the cafe shortly after Carmilla. She bundled up and started heading home; staring at the sidewalk as she journeyed.

"Laura?" a voice caught her off guard, bringing her gaze back up.


The ginger grinned before rushing forward and enveloping her into a hug. "I've been wanting to see you so badly! But Perr told me to give you some space and let you settle in." They pulled away to get a better look at the soldier. They didn't notice how stiff Laura was from the sudden contact. It was instinct now. Her reflex was to resist when people got to close to her. Being that close reminded her of the scars on her body; the scars that rip open in her dreams. 

"Yeah," Laura managed to pull herself together. "Just trying to take things one step at a time," she offered the ginger a slight smile. "Where are you off to?"

"Ah, picking up the missus."

Laura let her smile bloom. "Yeah, Perry told me about it all earlier. Congratulations. I'm so happy for you guys."

Laf grinned. "Thanks. Wish you could have been there, but I understand. Duty called."

Laura felt a heaviness on her heart. She was vaguely away of the wedding. She didn't keep up with the news though. After hearing about their announcement, the soldier immediately knew she wouldn't be there. Visiting Silas was never part of her plans. Laura had meant to leave the town forever. It was too much of a reminder of what could have been. Her life could have been so different. If it wasn't for the military; if it wasn't for her mother experiencing hell on foreign soil; if it wasn't for her mother's inability to maintain the gruesome nightmares; maybe Laura's life could have turned out differently. Instead, Laura went out into that world her mother left behind. And she came back with the gruesome nightmares that her mother was never able to escape.

Duty didn't call to Laura like Laf thought. Laura ran to it without a single invitation. She didn't want to come back to Silas to see how different she had become. She didn't want to see the beaten woman that remained after years of loss and sacrifice. So she stayed distant. Only talking to her father here and there.

But now she was back. And she had to face those faces of her past and deal with the expressions that danced across their features. Some showed disappointment. Some showed pity. Some showed bitterness. Laura Hollis, the girl that ran away to prove something, never planning to return. But she did return, and she ended up proving nothing.

"Hey, I really gotta go. We're gonna be late for dinner with my folks, but I really wanna catch up soon. Yeah?"

Laura gave a single nod and a forced smile. "Yeah. I'll let you know."

The ginger grinned once again. "Its great to have you back, Hollis," they said placing a hand on her shoulder as they passed her on the sidewalk toward the cafe.

The soldier let her breathing take control. She had been trying to keep her composure, but she felt a panic attack coming on. She was beginning to hyperventilate. Quickly, she walked around the corner of the street and leaned against the building. Her head tilted up toward the sky as her eyes shut and she focused on taking slow deep breaths.

Blood. Screaming. Choking. Gurgling.

The blonde shook her head to rid herself from the images and sounds.

The taste of copper. Coughing and spitting.

Her hands rose to hold her head harshly as she shook it back and forth.

"Captain! Please!"


The calls from fellow soldiers echoing in her skull were pushing her over the edge.


Her eyes immediately shot open. She forced a swallow before raising her head to stare at whoever had spotted her.

"You okay?" he added with worry painting his face.

Laura's breathing was erratic. "Uh, yeah. Just taking a breather. What are you doin' here, Kirsch?"

He was leaning over the passenger seat of the police cruiser to talk to her through the window. "Picking up burgers for me and the other officers."

"My dad still working?"

"Yep. You want a ride home? I just gotta pick up the food first."

Laura let an unconvincing smile appear on her lips. "No thanks, Kirsch. I could use the walk. I gotta get going, but I'll see you soon. Laf wants to catch up, so I'll let you know when that's happening."

Her grinned that same goofy smile she remembered. "Sounds great, little hottie."

Laura scoffed. "Does anyone ever let nicknames go?"

He laughed. "Don't worry. Can't be calling you that anymore. Danny would fillet me."

The blonde's eyebrows rose toward her hairline. "And why is that?"

She thought she could see his cheeks turning red. "Uh, we're kinda together now."

Laura wanted to laugh. "Wait, is this recent?"


"Jesus. It took you guys over ten years to get over yourselves?" She shook her head in disbelief. The two were bound to get together during the last two years of high school. She couldn't believe it was apparently only recently that they did something about it.

"Hey, you're one to talk!" he argued, feeling self-conscious.

"What is that supposed to me?" she asked with furrowed brows, finally leaning away from the building and finding her strength again.

He rolled his eyes and shook his head with a laugh. "Nevermind, Hollis. Nevermind. I'll see you later," he finished with a wave before driving off.

As poor timing as that reunion was, it helped distract her from her memories. With a roll of her neck along her shoulders, she started walking home again. When she got there, it was quiet. Too quiet. She knew no one was home, but the lack of noise made her uneasy. She played music loudly and tried to sketch. But she was anxious. She couldn't sit still for long.

The house was growing cold, so she went to go start a fire, but stopped. Staring at the remaining firewood available, a thought came to her. Maybe doing something more active would help calm her.

Laura went out back, trudging through the snow toward the shed. When she entered, she picked up the ax hung up on the wall, and headed toward the pile of logs. The best way to get out aggression and stress was to get your heart pumping. So Laura decided to get ahead and chop enough firewood to last the winter.

The more she chopped, the more rage built up. Her teeth clenched together, her eyes watering as she began to let out grunts when the blade made contact. The crack of the logs resonated through her body. She hacked away harder, and harder, until she was left completely out of breath and whimpering. The ax fell limply from her hand as she stepped backwards from the pile of firewood. She wiped at the sweat on her forehead with the back of her hand, weakly pulling herself away from the shed.

The rush of adrenaline helped, but it wasn't enough. It was too aggressive. Too much of a trigger. So instead, she decided to change her clothes to go for a run. The adrenaline rush would still be there, but the dangerous thoughts would be less likely to penetrate through her mind. She kept her thermal shirt on, but changed into pants that allowed for easier movement.

She stepped out of the front door, put her headphones in, and started running. She had been inactive for a few days now. It wasn't normal. For over a decade, she was always in shape. Her body was slim, but sturdy. Her muscles could easily be seen sliding beneath skin when the view was not obstructed by clothing. Her life always consisted of the idea of never stopping; to keep moving. And now she was stopped completely. She was made immobile in Silas. A whole different kind of nightmare.

Laura ran through the outskirts of town. Her hot breath escaping her mouth at a constant rate. The cold air burned her lungs, but she welcomed it. It was bitter and yet filled her with a strange satisfaction. The prickling of the harsh breeze against her skin increased the sensation.

Her mind was clearer the longer she ran. Dark thoughts were drifting toward the back of her mind again. But then other thoughts were making themselves more present.

"For someone always so smart, you never really understood me."

Carmilla's voice repeated in her head. The rage that was building earlier was returning. That couldn't be true. Carmilla was always a mystery, but she was never a stranger. She was never someone unfamiliar. It infuriated her. She did everything she could to understand the brunette. And she thought she had a pretty good handle on that. But now Carmilla says she knew nothing? That was bullshit; a slap in the face.

And without realizing it, she had run back into town, and was approaching the cafe. She noticed a little girl and two women about to enter the now dark cafe. As she got closer, and the lights turned out, she saw Livie dragging a familiar dark skinned woman into the building. Recognition hit her. The oldest Karnstein sibling; Mattie. Livie had apparently rushed ahead of her mother, pulling her aunt along with her.

But Laura was now running without slowing down, and was too close for any reconsidering to take place. She came to a hard stop as Carmilla reached for the door handle to enter her establishment.

"Screw you!" she breathed out heavily. Her chest rose up and down urgently.

Carmilla's eyebrows rose dramatically as she stared at the stressed state of the soldier. "Excuse me?"

"I said," she began taking a deep breath to try and steady her breathing. "Screw you."

Carmilla scoffed. "Wow," she shook her head to try to wrap her head around the very confusing situation. "Um, why?"

Laura straightened her posture; her shoulders pulled back and chin raised up into the air. She learned it made her seem taller than usual. "I'm the only one who understood you!"

The was a fire in her honey eyes that Carmilla felt deep in her chest. Laura's words were coarse and grating and it took restraint to avoid flinching.

"Did you run here to tell me that?" the brunette asked, still lost in confusion. She tried to figure out what exactly was going on. Carmilla had just come back from her mother's, with her daughter and sister, after having to sit through gossip regarding the entire town of Silas. She was beyond annoyed and her patience was gone before the soldier made her appearance.

"No!" Laura defended. She shook her head instead of trying to explain why she was there because she honestly didn't know. "You walked out on me all pissy earlier because I apparently upset you, which is ridiculous because I've done nothing but be civil with you since I got back! And of course I can't talk to you for more than five minutes without one of us annoying the other, so why the hell did I even bother?"

Carmilla was standing with her arms crossed over her chest with a lazy expression across her face. "I don't know. Why did you bother?" she asked carelessly.

"Because you're the only thing left that makes sense to me!" she said without fully realizing what she admitted. The fire in her eyes flickered out. Her mouth hung open; not knowing what to say or do next. The worst part was that Carmilla barely reacted to what she said. She just continued to stare at her; reading her like the many books that have passed through her hands.

The brunette took a step closer; her brows furrowed. "You leave for almost ten years, and you think my life makes sense?" She searched honey eyes desperately before shaking her head. "Nothing about my life should make sense to you. You know nothing of what I've been through. Nobody knows what I felt throughout the years. No one."

Laura stared back evenly, refusing to be intimidated. "Yeah... I can see that... Because I see that same exact look in your eyes whenever I look in the mirror."

The air was sucked out of the brunette's lungs immediately. She leaned back to gain some sort of distance. The blonde was looking deep into her; staring almost through her. "I'm not like you," she practically whispered. "Our lives aren't remotely similar."

"Why? Because bullets, blades, and fire can take lives, and cancer can't?"

Carmilla's nostrils flared as the darkness spread through her eyes. "Don't."

"Because you obviously don't go everyday without being reminded of her."

"Laura!" the brunette warned again.

"Or reminded of whatever scars were left in her wake."

"Enough!" Carmilla's hands were shaking, and she clenched her fists to steady herself. "What right... What right do you have... to try and tell me anything about how I feel?" Her voice was slow and restrained before continuing fiercely. "You take off for a decade! Never writing. Never calling. You left after I begged you not to!" Her voice suddenly weakened. "I begged you, Laura!" she exclaimed in disbelief.

"I told you it was something I had to do!"

"And I told you," Carmilla started calmly, her eyes filling with water. "That joining wouldn't bring back your mother."

Laura felt the lump in her throat making it difficult for her to breathe. She closed her eyes tightly and bowed her head. She refused to cry. She shook her head to rid herself of the feeling before looking back up at Carmilla. The brunette took note of how frail the soldier was now.

"I wasn't trying to bring her back. I was going to protect others- To try and prevent the horrors of war from taking lives way after the battle ended. I wanted to keep my comrades safe for their loved ones," she explained feebly.

"Yeah? Well what about yourself? Did you not care about keeping yourself safe?" Carmilla questioned with a clenched jaw.

"It wasn't about me."

"Bullshit! It was all about you! You didn't want anyone else to go through what you went through when you were younger. So you sacrificed yourself."

"You say that like its a bad thing!"

"I'm saying it because you didn't give a shit about what that did to the people that cared about you!" Carmilla was fuming. She broke eye contact after a few seconds and paced a few steps before running her hand through her hair roughly. "Jesus, Laura," she said, turning back to stare at her. "You're right. We were never friends," she agreed bitterly. "Because a real friend wouldn't have completely vanished. A real friend would have still been there, even if it wasn't in person. You were selfish. And cruel."

Laura couldn't hold back anymore. Tears slid down her cheeks. She sniffed and swallowed in order to speak. "You saw me, Carm. You saw what state I was in... What kind of friend could I have been for you?" she asked without daring to wipe away her tears. She refused to acknowledge them. "I was toxic. I was a bomb counting down to zero. A match hovering over gasoline. A finger on a trigger." She shook her head as she stared into those dark eyes. The lamp posts only lit up half of the brunette's face, casting a shadow on the rest.

"And you think because of that, I shouldn't have cared?" Carmilla asked incredulously. "Why don't you get that that only makes someone care more?"

"It was easier to run."

"And possibly get killed? You joined for the wrong reasons," the cafe owner said confidently. "You made a reckless decision, which ended up bringing you to exactly where you didn't want to be. Doing exactly what you were setting out to prevent."

"If you're trying to tell me I'm even more fucked up than before then you're wasting your time. I already know that!"

"Then what do you want from me?" Carmilla exclaimed desperately. Her heart was aching. Digging up history wasn't her intention, but Laura crossed a boundary. It opened up the gates that the brunette had tried to keep locked for years.

Laura breathed in deeply through her mouth; the cold air carrying away warm breath. "I don't know," she answered softly.

The door suddenly opened as Mattie stuck her head out. "Everything okay out here?" she asked knowingly as her eyes fluttered between the two women.

Carmilla bowed her head, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath before looking at her sister. "Everything's peachy."

"Livie and I are about to start the movie. Do you want us to wait, or...?"

"Go ahead. I'll be up in a minute." Mattie stared at her sister for a moment longer before accepting that it was fine to leave her. 

The silence filled the sidewalk as they stood avoiding eye contact. Laura started again, but calmly. "I'm sorry for bringing up your wife-"

"It's fine," Carmilla cut her off bluntly. Talking about that subject was definitely not what this confrontation was about.

The blonde frowned. The words she was preparing to say were fighting against her. She made fists by her sides for encouragement. "I never meant to hurt you."

The brunette scoffed. "Which time?"

Laura cringed before clenching her fists harder. "Every time."

"We were never friends, cupcake. I feel like caring about whether you hurt me or not goes against protocol."

"Stop it!" Laura yelled in defeat. "Just stop," she begged with a shaky voice. Carmilla watched her with curious eyes. "You were more important to me than any friend," she admitted weakly. "And you know that."

The shiver that ran up Carmilla's spine spread goosebumps across her skin. That kind of admission was something she craved for years. Vague, yes, but more meaningful than anything the blonde had ever said. But it didn't matter as much as she dreamt it would. It was different now. "Apparently I wasn't important enough," she whispered back as water filled her eyes again. Carmilla turned and walked to the door.

She bowed her head, staring at the handle in her grasp. "Its freezing out. Go home," she said gently before opening the door and leaving Laura alone on the empty sidewalk.

Carmilla turned to lock the door before she made her way toward the back of the cafe, turning off the lights from there. She slowly made her way up the stairs to her apartment, hearing the beginning of the movie starting through the walls as she approached. Opening the door and closing it behind her quietly, she stood and watched her daughter curled up against her older sibling. Her eyes shined at the screen. The innocence was so intoxicating. Carmilla wanted that. She wanted to be able to believe so easily; to hope without cause of doubt; to love without fear of pain. How long could she shield her little girl from the world? 

"Mommy!" Livie yelled when she noticed her lurking. She waved her over to the couch and patted the cushion on the other side of her. Carmilla made her way over and sat down beside her; letting her dark eyes continue to stare at the cheerful child, who was focused on the movie again.

How long could she protect her daughter from ever feeling an ache like the one in her chest?

Chapter Text

Nine years earlier...

When Carmilla opened the front door, she felt her chest fall into her stomach. There, stood Laura Hollis, dressed in her uniform. Carmilla found it bitterly amusing as she looked the blonde up and down. Laura never wanted to be a soldier. Her family was made up of soldiers of all kinds. She respected them all for their service, but Laura never felt like one of them. She didn't want to go off and fight. As much as she loved her parents, she didn't want to risk walking around with the pain they forever carried.

But here she was in perfect attire, ready to go. Carmilla noted that she did in fact look like a soldier. She wasn't masquerading. Perhaps it was just in her blood. But it didn't matter. None of it mattered anymore.

"What're you doing here?" the brunette asked exasperated. She was tired; worn out from caring and trying.

"I'm leaving."

Carmilla scoffed. "I gathered," she replied as she looked her up and down again.

"I just wanted-"

"Wanted 'what'? We said all we needed to say," she interrupted curtly.


"I can only do so much unless you let me in. And since you don't plan on doing that, then there's nothing left to talk about."

"Seriously? You're not even going to talk to me?"

"What's the point? You're not going to listen."

Laura bowed her head toward the ground to try and hide her frown. When her eyes met Carmilla's again, the strong soldier facade had dropped. Her honey eyes pleading. "Why are you being so cruel?"

"Don't turn this on me. Don't make me the bad guy here-"

"I'm not!"

"I'm sorry I don't want you to die. I'm sorry that you think you have to do this for horrible reasons." Carmilla felt her voice weakening. "I'm sorry that there's nothing I could have said to change your mind." The brunette frowned as tears pooled on her eye lids. She couldn't hold it back and it made her angrier. The tears fell freely down her cheeks.

Laura instantly stepped forward, cupping her face in her hands, wiping away the fallen tears with her thumbs. Carmilla tried to pull away, but Laura had her firmly in her grasp. The brunette had no more strength to resist.

"I know you don't understand. I don't expect you to. But regardless of whatever you think about yourself, you deserve a life full of so much happiness. And with me gone, you'll be able to focus on that."

"But you make me happy," she admitted as another tear fell.

Laura forced a smile, her thumbs brushing against soft pale skin. "And you deserve better."

"Laura, I'm going out for some drinks with the guys from the station tonight. You wanna come?" Jim Hollis asked with a gentle smile as he stood in the kitchen threshold. Laura was heating up oatmeal for dinner, her back facing her father.

"Nah. I'm good. Thanks though."


The blonde let out a heavy sigh and rolled her eyes before turning around to face her dad. "What, dad?"

"You've barely talked for the past few days. You've been in your room most of the time, and if you left the house, it was for a run. Are you doing alright?"

Laura gave him a forced smile. "I'm fine. Go enjoy yourself. Don't worry about me."

He gave her a sloppy smile in return. "Like I could ever not worry about you." 

She rolled her eyes despite the genuine grin that took over. "Get out of here before I call Kirsch and have him drag you out." He chuckled before giving her a playful salute and exiting.

She let out a large breath before the microwave signaled her oatmeal was done. It had been a few days since she went for that run that led her to Carmilla. And it was agonizing to think about. How it ended up that way, she still didn't understand. Laura was frustrated at the time. She knew that. And apparently her subconscious led her to the cafe. But what she didn't expect was Carmilla having the defense of an extremely well-trained fortress. The blonde was completely rejected. There were no crevices to slip through; no cracked barriers to breakdown. She had run full force into battle, and lost.

The soldier didn't even fully understand what she was charging into battle for. The brunette annoyed her. That was the only conclusion she could come up with, which she knew was obnoxious. The amount of times Carmilla Karnstein had annoyed her throughout her life was beyond measurable. So why did she decide to pick a fight with her? Their relationship was built on testing the other's limits. They drove the other crazy, but it was never drastic. It never made Laura want to run across town and explode on the brunette before.

And yet, Carmilla didn't ask her to leave. She didn't turn her away. She listened, and spoke more than Laura expected. And even when she did decide to walk away, she seemed too concerned about preventing Laura from freezing to death.

Honestly, the soldier didn't know what she wanted. She was so incredibly drawn to the girl from her past, but was that entirely fair? The blonde was a mess. Her body and mind were in shambles. And here was the woman she left behind, who haunted her thoughts for years, and Laura wanted nothing more than to lose herself in her. Carmilla was an igloo with that surprising warmth inside. No one expected it, and Laura was more than fine with that. She wanted that private comfort all to herself.

But Carmilla wasn't just Carmilla anymore. She had her own life. Laura couldn't blame her for that. The soldier never intended on returning in the first place. But now that she did, seeing that the brunette had moved on in full force stung. It was a selfish thought to think anyone would revolve around her, but that's what Laura imagined when she left. To even consider Carmilla having a complete life of her own wasn't in her abilities. 

Laura had been lost in thought in the kitchen and didn't notice the microwave continuing to beep from the finished oatmeal. With the relentless beeping, the blonde felt a dark wave crash over her.

The screen beeped rapidly as she pulled against the restraints with all her might. A scream escaped her mouth as she watched the troops' location get taken over by multiple explosions. Tears built behind her eyes as she continued to stare at the screen. Her comrades were gone. 

"The location?" one of the captors said as shock ran through her body. He gave a nod to another man beside him, who landed a swift, hard punch into Laura's gut. She gasped for air with her body hung forward as much as the restraints would let her.

"Tell me," the soldier in charge spoke again.

"Fuck. You," she spat out with venom.

The leader didn't flinch. Instead, he nodded to both the man who punched her and the woman standing back toward the screen where Laura's squad members laid dead and burning. The man walked around Laura, wrapping his strong arm around her neck and restraining her firmly so she was unable to budge in the slightest. The woman approached with a long combat knife. The blonde's eyes widened at the sight as she tried to shake out of the man's grasp.

The woman placed the knife between her teeth before reaching out her hands and ripping open Laura's uniform jacket. Her tank top was revealed underneath. Her skin soaked with sweat dripping down her cleavage. Then, the woman removed the knife from her clenched teeth and lightly slid the blade along the bare skin on Laura's chest. She traced the outline of her tank top with the sharp metal slowly pressing harder into her flesh.

"Location?" the leader questioned again.

Laura continued to try and break free until finally the knife broke through skin, allowing warm blood to spill from the wound. A muffled cry escaped the blonde's mouth as the woman slowly, but forcefully pulled the blade across her chest toward her left shoulder.

The blonde hissed and slammed her eyes shut to try and compose herself. But a moment later, her eyes shot open. The woman was shoving salt into her open cut. Pushing and smearing as if marinating it.


"I don't have much patience," the leader said with a sigh.

Laura refused to look at him. She was trying to control her breathing. This pain was maintainable. She was fine. She was going to be fine.

"Tell me or I'm shooting your comrade in the head." Laura's head shot up to lock eyes with the man. Disgust ran through her. He looked bored; like nothing in this room was affecting him. "3... 2..." The gun fired.


"Laura!" a voice broke through her thoughts. Laura slowly blinked watery eyes as they began to focus on her surroundings. She was on her knees, her hands resting against the kitchen cabinets in front of her as she leaned onto them. A hand rested firmly on her shoulder, and once she registered the foreign contact, Laura flung herself away from the person. She was now sitting back on the floor with her legs sprawled out in front of her and her palms face down on the tiles beneath her. Her frightened honey eyes searched the stranger as her heart sped up dramatically.

"Laura," her voice was soft and careful as she remained on one knee. "It's me," she began. "Carm."

The blonde's eyes ran all over the brunette. She didn't know where she was and wasn't getting answers fast enough to calm her down.

"Everything's okay," Carmilla urged without moving. "I heard the microwave beeping out of control and I came in after I started hearing banging. You were punching the cabinet."

Laura looked down to see bloody knuckles on her hand.

"You're safe. You're home and safe."

Laura felt a wave of emotion rise to her chest. A sob broke lose causing her to sit up straight and bury her face into her hands; leaning over her crossed legs. The blonde her the scuffing of boots and jerked her head up instantly.

"Don't!" she yelled with a cracked voice. She watched Carmilla freeze mid-step. "Just... stay there," she begged before burying her face into her hands again. The brunette didn't move an inch. After a few minutes, Laura's breathing began to even out. When she lifted her head, she saw Carmilla staring down at her with those dark piercing eyes. Her coat was no longer on.

"Are you okay?" Carmilla asked softly.

Laura scoffed as she pushed herself off of the floor and moved toward the kitchen sink. Carmilla watched as she started to run her knuckles under the faucet. "Why are you here?" the blonde's voice came out harshly.

"We didn't end things well the other night."

"We've never ended things well," Laura replied with the same harshness.

"So maybe its time for a change of pace," Carmilla suggested simply.

Laura turned to look at her in disbelief. She then reached up into a cabinet and pulled out a box of band-aids. "Why are you here, Carmilla?" she asked again with her eyes meeting hers intensely. "We got into how many fights when we were kids? And you never once came to me first."

"We're not kids anymore," Carmilla answered without hesitation.

The blonde managed to awkwardly put on two bandages before sighing and looking back at the brunette. "Then what are we then?"


Laura felt her chest cave in. Her stubbornness and defense system were faulting. She let out a disgusted chuckle as she gestured toward her newly hurt hand. "Clearly." Laura frowned as she stared down at the floor. Blood from her knuckles had smeared on to the tiles. The cabinet held red remnants as well. "You didn't have to come running in," she commented without removing her eyes from her bloodstains. 

"Seriously? I heard some suspicious noises from outside and knew you were the only one in here. I saw your dad driving into town."


"I wasn't going to ignore it."

Laura's eyes raised to meet burning eyes. "I could have hurt you."

Carmilla stared back without reacting. She continued to search honey eyes. "Well I'm fine." She gave Laura a once over. "And you're fine... For the most part."

The soldier let out a sigh and shook her head as she began to clean up her mess. Carmilla kept her distance, but waited silently. When Laura finished, she peeked up at the brunette who was staring holes into her. "I'm not talking about it."

"I wasn't gonna ask," Carmilla answered with a shrug of her shoulders.

"Where's Livie," Laura asked with a sniff.

"Laf and Perry are watching her." The blonde nodded slowly.

"Can we talk about the other night though?" Carmilla finally asked hesitantly.

The soldier felt the weight of her body pulling her down even more. She almost groaned. "What's the point?"

"The point," the brunette began with a bite, "is that I wanted to say that I'm sorry. I feel like one thing led to another and everything just went crazy." Laura didn't reply, so Carmilla continued. "What do you want from me?" she asked exasperated. Laura wanted something. She wouldn't have run into town the other night to blow up on her, otherwise.

The soldier shrugged. "What do you want from me?" Carmilla wouldn't be there now if she didn't want something.

The brunette stared curiously at the blonde before smirking. "Dinner."

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me." Carmilla nodded toward the microwave. "You clearly haven't eaten. And I'm starving."


"Cupcake," she interrupted with a pointed look. "You know how grumpy I get when I'm hungry."

Laura rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. "When are you never grumpy?"

"When I'm around gorgeous women," she smirked brilliantly. The soldier scoffed.

"Then how come you were always so broody around me?"

The brunette raised a brow. "Did I not say gorgeous women?"

Laura grabbed a dishtowel nearby and chucked it at the cafe owner, who was laughing in response. The blonde pouted.

Carmilla took out her phone and rolled her eyes despite the smile on her face. "Oh, stop. Like you've ever been anything but beautiful," she said as she dialed a number. Laura's eyes widened as she watched the brunette get lost in the phone call.

"Hey, Elsie. Yeah, delivery. A large extra cheese pizza? Bottle of Coke, and two of those huge chocolate chip cookies." There was a pause. "No, actually, the Hollis residence." Another pause. "Shut up and make my food," Carmilla said as she hung up bitterly.

"What was that?"

The brunette smirked. "Dinner, obviously."

Laura let out a heavy sigh. "You are such a pain."

"Oh, so you can sit and have a lovely meal with my daughter, but eating with me is like torture?"

Torture. The soldier flinched at the word. Carmilla immediately sensed the change of mood. She watched as the blonde slammed her eyes shut and clenched her fists tightly by her sides. The band-aids had popped off slightly and blood was slipping down her skin and onto her pants. 

"Laura," Carmilla said gently. Laura's eyes snapped open and met her dark concerned gaze.

"You keep calling me 'Laura'," she stated weakly. Her shoulders lacked the tension from moments ago.

"Well, it is your name, isn't it?" the brunette jested. "Besides, I recall you disliking my many nicknames for you."

Laura frowned slightly before bowing her head toward the floor. "I don't want you to treat me differently. Everybody else already does that," she replied so weakly that Carmilla felt a sharp tug in her chest. 

The soldier looked and sounded so frail. Carmilla instinctively wanted to lunge forward and scoop her up into her arms. It was a natural feeling to her now. It reminded her of whenever Livie awoke terrified from a nightmare. She would pull the little girl into a tight embrace. She would hold her; protecting her from the fantasy.

But Carmilla didn't let herself wrap her arms around Laura. Aside from it being out of character, she wasn't sure Laura would feel comfortable with any contact at the moment. So instead, she slowly stepped forward and lifted the soldier's injured hand into her own. The blonde raised her head to look at the new mess on her hand and frowned. Silently, Carmilla gently pulled her toward the sink again to rinse off the blood yet again. They stood without ushering a word as the brunette reached up into the cabinet she saw Laura go into earlier and pull out the bandages.

Laura watched the woman in front of her intensely; her eyes never leaving her face. The brunette was too preoccupied in redressing the wounds to notice. 

Then, Carmilla let out a chuckle. "You were always capable of doing the most complicated things, but when it came to something as simple as putting on band-aids, you failed miserably."

The blonde frowned. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means you could cook up a five course meal; no sweat. But you would burn pre-made cookie dough."

"Okay, I don't understand how anyone can make those stupid things! It makes no sense!"

"I don't understand how anyone could mess it up. You literally cut it up, put it on a tray, and wait for the timer to go off." Carmilla shook her head with a smile before finally finishing with the bandages. "My six year old can make them." Her eyes looked up to meet honey ones. Her smile widened when she saw the blonde pouting. Then, she nodded her head down to her clothes. "You might want to go change. You've got some blood on you."

The soldier looked down at herself. "Oh, yeah." She started to step away before pausing and turning back slightly. "Um, thanks," she said awkwardly before darting toward her room.

Carmilla smirked at the retreating form of the soldier before shaking her head. She stepped toward the microwave and opened it up to see the dinner that was no doubt ruined. The brunette grimaced at the sight of the lumpy, poor excuse of oatmeal. Regardless of the flashback, she doubted Laura made it edible to begin with. She chuckled to herself. Couldn't even make a bowl of oatmeal from a packet.


The cafe owner's head shot up in the direction of the shout before immediately running to Laura's room. She froze in the doorway with wide eyes. "Are you okay?"

Laura looked up in alarm before huffing. Her gaze went back to the floor where she was kneeling. "Yeah, I just knocked over a folder and everything just went...everywhere."

Carmilla let out a relieved breath. Papers were scattered all over the floor, and the brunette moved closer to kneel down and help the blonde clean up. When she began to pick up the pieces of paper, she paused. "Did you-" she let her eyes wander over another paper in front of her. "Did you draw all of these?" Her dark eyes moved to lock on to Laura's. The blonde's body suddenly stiffened.

"Um, yeah," she answered with her head ducked down in an attempt to avoid Carmilla's stare.

The brunette let her eyes fall back to the sketches. "These are amazing." Laura didn't respond, but continued to pick up more drawings and put them in her folder. "Why would you think I would ever make fun of you for this?" Her eyes burned into Laura who was still trying to avoid her gaze. The blonde simply shrugged.

Carmilla frowned. "Show me more."

"What?" the blonde asked in shock as she finally looked at the brunette again.

"Show me more," she repeated.

"I- These are old- They aren't-" Laura tried to communicate, but was too busy trying to put away the sketches faster.

"I swear to God, if you don't stop putting them away, I will grab them and make a run for it."

Laura glared. "As if you could ever outrun me. I always caught up and tackled you."

Carmilla smirked. "I know. It was the easiest way to get you on top of me," she finished with a wink. The blonde rolled her eyes as she tried to suppress a smile. Then, Carmilla tilted her head to the side, giving her a gentle smile. "Come on. Show me."

Laura let out a heavy sigh. "Fine," she gave in, letting the folder drop to the floor between them. She watched quietly as Carmilla began to pull the sketches out one by one.

The brunette let her eyes scan across each drawing in detail. Each mark made by the graphite on the faded white paper looked as if it were strategically placed. It wasn't simple. It wasn't lazy. It was raw. It spoke more than the actual image it created. She took in each sketch. Her eyes danced across the portrait of a younger Laf, who stood within the old market attending to a fruit stand. There was another of an old woman sitting on a bench in town with her cane resting on her lap. There was one of Kirsch's dog sleeping in its bed. Each picture was captured beautifully. There was a depth that made Carmilla feel the frustration Laf was having with the toppling fruit; she felt the longing in the old woman's sad eyes, and imagined the peaceful, carefree dreams of the puppy.

She picked up another, seeing an empty swing set with puddles beneath each seat. It was dreary. Lonely. Leaves were scattered upon the ground. Carmilla recognized the elementary school swings. She had been on them a number of times when she was younger. They were replaced with newer ones a few years ago though.

Then, she picked up another and felt her heart pound harder in her chest. She hesitated before letting her fingers delicately run across the surface of the drawing. Carmilla stared down at her younger self. Her guitar resting on her knee, her hand in mid-strum. Her eyes were cast down toward the instrument as she sat on the brick garden wall still located in the middle of town.

Staring at the portrait, Carmilla felt the depth like the previous sketches. But it was a depth so much more prominent than the others. There was so much more detail. Each curl of her hair seemed accounted for. Her bangs hung messily in front of one eye. The sharpness of her jaw was exquisitely defined. Her tight jeans only creased around the knees. Her black nail polish was chipped on most fingers. Her lips were parted slightly, assuming she was singing quietly to herself. There was a desire to know more. She felt the pull of the drawing. And the longer she stared, the stronger the pull. But this depth didn't feel like it was coming from the teenage version of Carmilla. It felt like it was coming from the artist; from Laura.

Dark eyes left the sketch to meet powerful honey eyes. "Why would you hide these?" Carmilla asked softly in disbelief. "They're beautiful."

Laura shrugged yet again. "Its nice to keep some things for yourself."

Carmilla looked down at the portrait of herself again. She then smirked. "I look amazing."

The blonde scoffed and rolled her eyes. "Obviously I was having an off day then."

That only made Carmilla grin more. "Or maybe you just find me irresistible."

Laura furrowed her brows. "How does that make any sense?"

"You draw what you see, cupcake," Carmilla said with her signature smirk.

"Then apparently I was blind that day."

"Ouch." The doorbell rang. Carmilla pulled herself up from the floor after placing the sketches back into the folder. "I'm assuming that's our five star meal. Try not to drool at the view of me leaving, Cap," she said with a wink, earning her a glare.

Laura mentally slapped herself though. Her eyes instinctively watched the brunette's hips sway out of the room. She followed her out moments later and found her settling their food down in the living room. She flung her body down on the couch next to her.

"How much do I owe you?"

Carmilla raised a brow at her after pouring them drinks. "Why are you constantly trying to throw money at me?"

"Carm. How much do I owe you?"

"Just take this as my way of apologizing for the other night," she said before opening the pizza box to grab a slice.

"Then how the hell am I supposed to apologize for it?" Laura frowned in annoyance.

Carmilla took a bite, but smirked at the blonde. She swallowed the pizza in her mouth. "I can think of a few acceptable ways," she drawled in that husky tone that always made the blonde lightheaded. Laura's eyes widened; her cheeks turning red, which elicited a laugh from the brunette. 

"And you're supposed to be a mother," the soldier mumbled in disbelief as she reached for a slice.

The brunette laughed again. "I'm still a woman, cutie."

"Yeah. With the hormones of a teenager."

She smirked. "Only with the right company." A shiver ran up Laura's spine. She cleared her throat in an attempt to control her body's reaction.

"So, um, Livie. She's great," the blonde tried to change subjects as she tucked some hair behind her ear.

Carmilla's smile widened incredibly. She saw the discomfort in Laura's posture. There was a deep satisfaction in seeing how easily she could affect the soldier. "Yeah, she is great," she agreed in amusement.

"Everyone seems to adore her. But I mean, she is adorable, so..."

Carmilla let out a sigh. "Yeah. She's gonna end up breaking a lot of hearts."

Laura chuckled. "Like mother, like daughter."

"Hey. The Karnstein charm can be a curse sometimes."

Laura rolled her eyes despite smiling. "I'm sure its life threatening."

"It is! I've ruined a lot of lives with my rejections!"

Laura shook her head as she chuckled. "You're still so full of yourself." She then picked up the television remote. "As much as I enjoy talking about your romantic wiles, let's put a movie on."

"Ooo... Dinner and a movie? You better not try to get handsy with me, Captain Hollis," Carmilla teased with a glint in her dark, mischievous eyes.

"And risk the curse of the Karnstein charm? No, thank you," Laura said in amusement as she settled on a movie and hit play.

"Aw, cupcake!" She leaned closer to Laura's ear as the blonde stared at the screen. "I could never reject you."

The soldier felt her warm breath hit her skin and decided that, yes, her charm is very much life threatening. Her heart just might explode. She forced a swallow. "Of course you couldn't. I'm way out of your league. You'd be an idiot to pass this up."

She chuckled as she leaned back into the couch. "An idiot, indeed." 

Laura ignored her comment and focused on the screen. They sat in comfortable silence as they watched the movie, but at some point, Laura had fallen asleep.

Carmilla smiled at the sight of the sleeping blonde breathing through slightly parted lips. She decided to let her sleep as she brought her eyes back to the screen. But a few minutes later, she felt Laura shift. She was now curled up into Carmilla's side, making the brunette's heart race. She stared down at her in a trance.

So much time had gone by, but this felt so normal. It felt like just another day. Laura was in her life again like she never left. The stiff, strong soldier that came back was now the tiny, endearing woman snuggling up to her. The brunette gently wrapped an arm around her before smiling back up at the movie. Forty minutes later, the credits started rolling. Carmilla looked at the time and let out a sigh. She should get going. She needed to pick up Livie and get her to bed. Looking back down at the sleeping woman in her embrace, a sad smile spread on her lips.

"Hey, cupcake," she said sweetly as she shook her. "Time to get up." The blonde groaned cutely before letting her eyes flutter open.

She looked up into Carmilla's eyes blankly before feeling the warmth of their bodies together. "I fell asleep," she pointed out. Carmilla smirked. 

"Yep. Spectacular company, you are." Laura poked her in the side before leaning away; missing the warmth instantly. She stretched her back with her arms raised in the air as a yawn took over. The brunette began to stand up. "Gotta head home and get the kid to bed," she explained simply.

Laura nodded slowly as she rose to her feet and followed Carmilla to the door.

"So," Carmilla began hesitantly as she spun around to face the blonde. "I was wondering what you had planned for Thursday."

Laura raised a brow. Thursday was Christmas Eve. It was a day she planned on trying to ignore like every other year. She planned on isolating herself with a bottle of whiskey. "Probably going to the bar."

"With your dad?" she asked with caring eyes as she grabbed her coat and slipped it on.

"Planning on going to the one he isn't going to." Every year, her father got obliterated. It was understandable. That's what she did. It was the only way they knew how to deal with it. Laura normally didn't like to be somewhere so public, but staying in the house where it all happened was out of the question.

"You know," Carmilla began as she started rubbing the back of her neck. "You could always come over to our place. We make an unhealthy amount of cookies and Livie makes me dance and sing Christmas songs with her. We even wear gross Christmas sweaters." Laura's eyes had grown wide. Seeing this, Carmilla began to backtrack; stuffing her hands into her coat pockets. "I mean, its not a big deal. I get it if you don't want to. I just thought I'd throw it out there-"

"I'll think about it," Laura interrupted with a kind smile. The Karnstein charm was deadly, she admitted that. But it was moments like this when Carmilla was cute and vulnerable that always filled her stomach with butterflies.

Carmilla smiled in return with a single nod. "Okay."

"Tonight was nice," the blonde added as she tucked hair behind her ear.

The brunette smirked. "Yeah. It was." She then turned and opened the front door before taking a step through it. Turning back slightly to stare at the blonde, she gave a soft smile. "Thanks."

Laura chuckled as a shiver ran through her from the open door. "For what? You did everything. I should be thanking you."

"For finally letting me see your sketches." Her dark eyes burned through the blonde. Another shiver ran up her spine, but it wasn't weather induced. She smiled back at the brunette.

"Maybe you can play me a song sometime."

She smirked. "You got it, cupcake." She then waved before making her exit. Laura watched her leave with a sigh. Her breath was seen in the cold air. She shivered again before closing the door. Then, she walked back into the living room and fell back onto the couch.

Christmas Eve was in two days. It had been approaching quickly. The decorations in town were becoming more apparent. The songs were blasting on every radio station. Holiday movies took over the television. And every bit of it reminded her of her mother. 

Chapter Text

Nine Years Ago... Christmas Eve...

"Carm, you know your mom scares me!" Laura whined as they entered the brunette's bedroom, closing the door behind her.

Carmilla laughed. "Excuse me for having to use the bathroom," she replied sarcastically. When the blonde arrived, she was forced to wait for Carmilla; left in the company of Ms. Karnstein.

"Ugh! I feel like she is sizing me up when she looks at me. Like she's seeing how much meat she can get out of me," the blonde explained as she flopped down onto the bed.

"Well she probably is," Carmilla replied in amusement. "But she was in a particularly cheerful mood today. Her and Mattie made an important deal at work or something," she continued taking a seat next to Laura.

"That was her in a cheerful mood?" Laura stared in disbelief.

Carmilla smirked. "Gotta love her."

Laura shook her head before pulling her bag onto her lap and removing a small wrapped present. She then shoved it onto the brunette's lap as the excitement in her began to overflow. She let out a squeak. 

"You couldn't make it five minutes," Carmilla chuckled before taking the gift into her hands.

"It's Christmas presents! How could you possibly wait?" she defended with a squeal.

The brunette cringed. "I hope it comes with earplugs because if you keep making those high pitched noises, I'm gonna go deaf."

"Carm!" she complained with furrowed brows.

"Okay, okay," Carmilla said as she tore away the wrapping paper. She stared down at it, a smile slowly growing on her lips. She looked back up to see Laura holding her breath in anticipation. "You bought me a star?"

The full grin of the blonde was unleashed. She nodded eagerly and squealed again. "Now you have your own piece of the night sky!"

Carmilla looked back down at the plaque in front of her. With it was a certificate and a map explaining where it was located. She let out a chuckle and shook her head. "This is amazing," she said before locking eyes with Laura again. "If I get that telescope I've been asking for, this is the first thing I'll be looking for. Thank you."

Laura felt her heart melt from the words. She knew the brunette was a night owl. She always has been. Carmilla was always the stargazer; always somewhere billions of miles away. Somehow always out of reach.

Carmilla reached under her bed and felt around before pulling out a box with a single bow on top of it. She handed it to the blonde, rubbing the back of her neck as Laura took it with a grin. She tore off the lid and froze. Inside was a bracelet. And on it, was a cupcake charm. She grinned back at Carmilla, who seemed to be trying to avoid eye contact.

"You got me a bracelet," Laura announced still grinning.

"Uh, yeah," she replied as she started rubbing her neck again.

"You got me a cupcake bracelet."

"Yeah, I know," Carmilla said with slight annoyance as she finally looked at her. She felt her cheeks turning red from the look Laura was giving her. Her eyes were shining, and her smile went soft. Carmilla was getting lost in the sight. She was beautiful. She already knew that. Maybe she always knew that. But seeing and feeling the adoration the young woman had for the brunette; it was time stopping.

Laura broke the eye contact and took out the bracelet; holding her wrist out to Carmilla. "Can you help me?" she asked sweetly. The brunette still was unable to form words, so she nodded instead. Her fingers lightly touched Laura's soft, smooth skin. She forced a swallow after missing the clasp a few times before finally succeeding. 

The blonde let her eyes fall down to the piece of jewelry. She ran her fingers over it and smiled sweetly at it. Through most of her life, she hated all the nicknames Carmilla would throw at her. Cutie, sunshine, sundance, freckles, shorty, short stack, pop-tart, buttercup, creampuff, and most prominently, cupcake. The names irritated her, and she knew that was the reason why Carmilla continued to use them. But as time went by, and she felt herself drawn into Carmilla's gravity more and more, the names took a new meaning. They were no longer strictly teasing. They were practically endearing now. And the bracelet only drove her emotions wild. How was she supposed to suppress her feelings for the brunette after receiving a gift like that? It made her fall for her even more. 

She finally met Carmilla's dark eyes again. "Thank you." The brunette, again, could only nod. Laura's smile grew wider before she flung herself onto Carmilla, wrapping her arms around her neck.

The force almost knocked Carmilla over, and after huffing from the physical contact, she wrapped her arms around Laura as well. Subconsciously, her fingers began tracing designs along the blonde's back. She was too intoxicated by Laura's scent to register what she was doing. She was so warm, and fit so wonderfully in her arms. Then, she felt Laura shiver against her. Her eyes opened in alarm, her fingers freezing. Laura slowly pulled back until their faces were inches away from each other. Their eyes met with a fire and Carmilla felt her body begin to crumble until Laura lunged forward and captured her lips. Carmilla's breath caught in her chest at the sudden action, and she had forgotten to kiss Laura back.

The blonde noticed this and pulled away; embarrassment taking over. But Carmilla quickly grabbed her face and pulled her back in. Their lips met with a passion; their bodies screaming from the electric charge. They could hear the blood rushing in their veins. The brunette pushed Laura back gently to lay flat on the bed; moving to hover over her. Hands slid along the curves of their bodies; pulling and grasping urgently. Laura's tongue stroked Carmilla's lip before entering her mouth, which triggered a moan from the brunette. 

Laura needed more contact. She wanted to feel Carmilla pressed tightly against her. She wanted to slide her fingers along her perfect pale skin. And as her hand slipped under Carmilla's shirt, the brunette began to suck on her neck. A moan escaped Laura, and she swore she heard a growl from the young woman on top of her.

"Carm," she managed to say through a gasp. Her nails dug into the brunette's back. Carmilla made no response. "Carm," she said again with her eyes closed from the sensation of lips on her collarbone. 

"Hm?" she heard, but the brunette didn't stop planting kisses and nipping along her neck.

"My mom's expecting me back," she announced in disappointment. She felt Carmilla groan against her skin, which made her giggle despite empathizing with her.

The two sat up on the bed and tried to catch their breath, peeking at one another with small smiles. Then, they stood up; Carmilla intending on walking her out. But as Laura reached for the doorknob of the bedroom, she stopped. She turned back to Carmilla and met dark, beautiful eyes. They were all-conquering. Her body felt all of its strength being zapped from her. And in an instant, Carmilla had her slammed up against the door; kissing and touching as much as they could. The brunette pressed her hips against the blonde, and rocked them slightly, earning a moan from the young woman pinned against the door.

Carmilla bit down on Laura's lower lip as Laura's hands slid down to grab her ass. As Carmilla continued to grind against her, the blonde was losing all restraint. She roughly pushed the brunette back; slamming her down on the mattress. Laura quickly straddled her waist, and Carmilla began sitting up to nip at the skin revealed on her chest. Before the brunette could register anything, Laura had leaned back and tore off her sweater; leaving her in her sky blue bra. Their lips met again in a frenzy as Carmilla's hands ran up and down Laura's bare torso. The blonde had her hands buried in dark, curly locks.

Laura began to rock her hips down onto the brunette, who quickly moved her lips to the more revealed chest. A hand rose to cup a bra-covered breast, and Laura pressed her center against Carmilla urgently. 

Their bodies tingled. There was so much more they wanted. They wanted to feel every inch of the other; taste every inch of the other. It had been such an unspoken desire for so long that nothing was enough. They needed more.

Laura shifted slightly on top of Carmilla, reaching down to the brunette's pants and unbuttoning them. Carmilla stopped sucking on her chest to capture Laura's lips again. She felt the blonde undo her pants, and she felt her underwear getting wetter in anticipation. Then, Laura's hand slipped into her pants, and under her underwear. Fingers slid into wet folds, and both women moaned at the feeling.

"God, Carm," Laura whispered against the brunette's lips. Her fingers stroked slowly. Carmilla slammed their lips together; her tongue exploring Laura's mouth. Her nails scratched down the blonde's back and she shifted herself so she could press her thigh in between Laura's legs. Laura's moan was caught in Carmilla's mouth and as their movements began to quicken, Laura's phone rang.

"You've got to be kidding me," Carmilla breathed out after Laura sat up and scrambled off of her. The blonde reached down to the floor beside the bed and searched her bag for the phone. She answered it immediately after finding it.

"Hey, mom! Um, yeah! I'm heading out now!" There was a pause. "Huh? No! Everything's fine!" Another pause. "Yeah, I'll be there soon! Don't start without me!" She hung up and turned back to Carmilla with a sad smile.

"I have to get home," she said with regret dripping off of each word.

The brunette let out a heavy sigh as she stood up from the bed. She grabbed Laura's shirt and handed it to her. The two readjusted their clothes before finally looking back at one another.

Carmilla searched the blonde's eyes for something. She wasn't sure what. Maybe it was reassurance? Maybe it was regret? She couldn't tell, but Laura felt the need to say something; anything. But every time she opened her mouth to speak, nothing came out. Finally, after three attempts, something did.

"I have to go home and pop stupid popcorn so we can string it on the stupid tree," she said with a huff.

This made Carmilla smirk. "Laura Hollis referring to anything that has to do with Christmas as stupid? Wow. I think I broke you."

Laura felt her cheeks turn red. "Shut up."

Carmilla then smiled gently at her, placing her hands in her pockets. "Go home to your mom, cupcake. I'll be here tomorrow, the next day, and so on." She gave a shrug. "I'm never too far."

Laura felt like her chest was going to explode. The girl that she had been crushing on for years; the girl that had always occupied a special place in her heart, she would wait for her. Perhaps she was always waiting for her...

The blonde bent down to pick up her bag before taking a step toward Carmilla. She grabbed her face and slowly kissed her lips. It was less hurried than the other kisses. It wasn't filled with hunger. It was gentle and intoxicating. When their lips parted, a sigh left her lips as Carmilla rested her forehead against hers.

"Merry Christmas, cupcake."

Laura giggled against her lips. "Merry Christmas." She then gave her another peck before pulling away and opening the door. 

It was Christmas Eve now. Laura woke up and her father was already gone. He was probably already at the Angler. It was the one bar out of the two that he visited the most. She walked around the house tidying up where she could. She cleaned the kitchen, emptied out the fridge of leftovers and things that had gone bad. She took a long run, letting the harsh cold air burn her lungs. When she got back, she took a long, hot shower. She made sure to keep her eyes trained away from the door to the room that was always kept shut. She got dressed quickly and left as soon as she could.

She sat in the bar in the far corner playing with the glass of whiskey on the table in front of her. Only a sip or two was taken from it. She just sat there and stared at it for an unspeakable amount of time. The blonde had also forgotten to eat today. It wasn't too shocking. She didn't think she could stomach food anyway.

The bad thing about living in a small town is that everyone knows your business. But that's also the good thing about living in a small town. They knew to keep their distance from the soldier. A sad smile here and there or a nod of recognition. But no words were offered, and that was more than okay for Laura.

Eventually, her silence was broken by her phone buzzing in her pocket. She pulled it out and opened the new message. It was a picture of Carmilla looking as broody as ever with what looked like flour all in her hair and on her face. To her surprise, a chuckle fell from Laura's lips from the sight. She saved the number in her contacts before replying.

Laura: You're a vision in white... How did you get my number?

The brunette replied seconds later.

Carmilla: You gave it to Perry the other day. I asked her for it. 

Another message came through from her before Laura could respond.

Carmilla: I love my brother, but when he's around Livie, it's like having TWO six year olds.

The soldier gave a chuckle as she took a small sip of her barely touched liquor. 

Laura: Where are Mattie and your mom?

Carmilla: Paris. Company business. Its better this way. My mother likes to make things too extravagant. Mattie isn't much better. So its just us three being silly. Yeah, I know. I'm not the silly type. Don't remind me.

The blonde smiled before sighing.

Laura: Sounds nice.

Carmilla: The door's always open.

Laura: Well that's dangerous. You have a young child! Keep your door locked!

The blonde smiled in anticipation. She could imagine the brunette rolling her eyes.

Carmilla: First of all, this is Silas. If anyone is gonna break in in this God forsaken town, its gonna be to return a pie pan or some bullshit. Secondly, it was just an expression, cupcake.

Laura sat back in her chair and took a deep breath. Her eyes fell down to the half empty whiskey glass. She didn't know what it was, but something was different. Maybe it was being back at Silas. Maybe it was everything she went through in the past year. But she wasn't trashed like every other Christmas Eve. She would be beyond blackout drunk at this point, typically. But she didn't even have a buzz. Then, she looked back down at her phone on the table in front of her. She must have stared at it for a good five minutes before finally picking it up.

Laura: You sure its okay if I come over?

It took barely a minute for a reply.

Carmilla: I wouldn't have invited you if it wasn't. Unless you're wasted and are looking for a booty call. If that's the case, your invitation is postponed until midnight. ;) 

The blonde rolled her eyes, taking a deep breath before rising to her feet.

Laura: Ha. Ha. I'll be there in a minute.

The bar was practically across the street from The Black Cat. She wrapped the red scarf around her neck and pulled on her coat before heading out. Her heart was beating at a faster pace. Was she nervous? Why would she be nervous? It was just Carmilla. She was going to hang out with Carmilla, her brother and her daughter. There was nothing to be nervous about.

But her mind kept going back to waking up on the couch cuddling into Carmilla's side; the brunette's arm wrapped around her securely. She could almost feel the warm buzz of her body against hers as she remembered it. Carmilla still had that electric effect on her. 

"Yay! Laura's coming!" Livie cheered excitedly; throwing her arms in the air and knocking over a bowl of sugar. Her eyes went wide before she gave her mother a sheepish smile. "Oops."

Carmilla gave her a pointed look. "Yeah, oops."

Will then ran over, picked up the little girl, and flung her over his shoulder. "How's it feel to get flipped over, huh? Not so fun, is it? The sugar's sad now!" he teased as he let her body dip further down his back; her legs firmly in his grasp.

The girl giggled as she knocked her little fists against his back. "Sugar can't feel anything, Uncle Will! Don't you know anything?"

"Hey!" he exclaimed as he pulled her back over his shoulder and sat her on the counter.

"Yeah, Uncle Will, don't you know anything?" Carmilla repeated in amusement.

"You two are mean!" he pouted in front of Livie.

The little brunette grinned. "Its okay. I still love you."

He couldn't hide the smile on his face. He leaned in and kissed the top of her head. "Shh. You're my favorite," he whispered loudly, causing the little girl to giggle again. Carmilla smiled at the interaction before shaking her head. "Now let's clean up your mess!" he pretended to scold her. Livie laughed at him as he helped her off of the counter so they could clean the floor, but in the process he knocked over the carton of eggs.

Carmilla's eyes widened and Will stared back at his sister, mirroring Livie from earlier. "Oops."

"We're not gonna have enough ingredients left if you two don't stop knocking things over," the brunette groaned, exasperated.

"Sorry, mommy."

Carmilla sighed and smiled at the little girl. "No, its fine. It was an accident. Just... try to be more careful, okay?"

Livie nodded excitedly with a grin as Will grimaced cleaning up broken eggs.

"They're not all broken, so its not that bad!" he announced with relief. Carmilla rolled her eyes. 

Then, the buzzer went off at the front door of the apartment, signaling someone outside the cafe. Carmilla suddenly felt anxious. Her nerves hit her with full force. Will saw the unanticipated panic across her face when she had yet to move from her spot and toward the door.

"Hey, Kitty, gonna get that?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Obviously," she tried to sound nonchalant. She moved toward the door and hesitated with her hand on the doorknob. 

"Deep breath. Everything's gonna be fine!" he chuckled behind her.

She nodded to herself without turning around and then left the apartment. Carmilla made her way through the dark cafe toward the entrance. She kept taking deep breaths. Why was she so nervous? After they hung out the other day, something altered. It was no longer awkward or uneasy being around the other. It was that familiar comfortableness again. But the thought of having Laura pulled against her on the couch made her heart flutter. 

She shook her head quickly. Her mind was going off on itself and that was definitely not a good idea. Take it easy, Karnstein.

When she finally got to the door, she could see Laura standing patiently; her hands buried in her pockets and the red scarf Carmilla gave her wrapped around her neck. The brunette opened the door with a gentle smile. She held it open enough for the blonde to walk in.

"Hey," Laura said without moving. She shyly smiled in return. 

Carmilla raised a brow and smirked. "Are you not coming in, or are you Christmas caroling?"

Laura opened her mouth to reply, but froze. "No- I"

"Do you take requests? Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas' is a guilty pleasure of mine," the brunette smirked even more.

Laura was flustered. "You- You know I suck at singing."

"It would still be incredibly entertaining." The soldier glared. Then, Carmilla rolled her eyes. "Its freezing out, cupcake. Can you make up your mind before my brother and daughter turn my kitchen floor into the mixing bowl?"

"Oh, yeah. Sorry," Laura replied slightly embarrassed as she took a step inside. Now closer to the brunette, she took in her appearance. She was wearing a Grumpy Cat Christmas sweater with a pair of black skinny jeans. "Nice sweater." Carmilla rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest as Laura took in the rest of her. Her hair was pinned up into a messy bun, but something caught her eye. Laura squinted at the brunette and then chuckled.


"You, uh, you've got a little... You missed some flour," Laura pointed out as she hesitantly reached up and brushed her fingers through Carmilla's hair above her temple.

The cafe owner froze at the contact. She could feel her heartbeat pounding in her ears. She was so close. The scent of the whiskey Laura had been drinking lingered. Her eyes were distant though. Something clouded her mind. Carmilla wasn't an idiot. She knew what it was. This was the day Laura's mother died. Silas knew of the awful event. It took a toll on the remaining Hollis family. And remembering how Laura was after it happened, Carmilla couldn't bear the idea of the soldier spending this day alone in the very town it all went down.

Laura's hand fell away from Carmilla's face and back to her side. "There."

"Um, thanks," the brunette managed to form words as she rubbed the back of her neck. She gave a nod in the direction of her apartment, signaling the soldier to follow.

"I'm kind of excited to see you making Christmas cookies. Or being at all festive, actually."

Carmilla looked over her shoulder as she led her through the dark cafe and up the stairs to her home. "You might want to get a puke bag. It gets pretty gross. There's red and green everywhere, and we have the Christmas music station on."

When they entered, Laura's eyes almost fell out of their sockets. The music was loud. The smell of cookies filled the air. Streamers were all over. The tree was full of ornaments of all kinds with a large bright star on top. There was a toy train running in circles underneath it. Stringed lights wrapped around the tree, as well as the mantle, where stockings were hung. Paper snowflakes hung from the ceiling. Elf and snowman figurines were placed sporadically. There was a large Rudolph that had an actual red light glowing from his nose. And Will was sporting a Santa hat as he helped Livie mix a bowl. The two were also wearing Christmas sweaters.

"Oh my God," Laura finally commented as they stood near the entrance.

"Yeah," Carmilla agreed.

"Who are you?" she said as she pulled off her coat and scarf.

She groaned as she took the apparel from Laura. "My worst nightmare."

The blonde chuckled. "What happened to the Grinch I used to know?" she teased. 

Carmilla's eyes rested on her little girl that giggled as Will tickled her. A smile took over the brunette's lips. "I guess my heart grew three sizes."

"Laura!" Livie yelled with a grin as she ran over to the soldier and hugged her waist.

"Hey! Merry Christmas!" the blonde said cheerfully as she bent down to be at eye level. "I hear you're making cookies. Can I help?"

Livie nodded energetically before taking Laura's hand and dragging her into the kitchen. Carmilla watched from a distance as Will greeted the soldier with a hug and they started baking again. The brunette didn't understand it. Livie was an incredibly friendly child, but she seemed so fond of Laura. The day her daughter met the soldier and sat with her for a couple of hours must have left a great impression on the little girl. Livie brought her up multiple times. And when Carmilla told her she was spending time with Laura the other day, she was jealous. She wanted to spend time with Laura. It made Carmilla laugh. Not only was Carmilla under the blonde's spell, but now her daughter was too. And asking Livie if Laura could come over to help bake and celebrate melted her heart. The way her daughter's eyes shined in excitement was so beautiful it almost got her choked up. 

"Mommy! Laura and I are gonna have a cookie eating contest!"

Carmilla began to walk into the kitchen to join them. "That sounds like a horrible idea," she answered with a chuckle. "The last thing you both need is that much sugar."

"Don't be such a party pooper, Carm," Laura teased with a smile and sticking out her tongue.

"Yeah, don't be such a party pooper, Carm!" Livie mimicked, which made Carmilla's eyebrows fly up toward her hairline.

Will laughed and ruffled up the little girl's hair before going to take a tray out of the oven. The brunette walked closer to her daughter and placed her hands on her hips.

"What did you just call me, you little monster?"

Livie quickly pointed her index finger to Laura. "She said it first!"

Carmilla began to smirk as she bent down and pulled her daughter into her embrace before mercilessly tickling her. The cute giggles filled the apartment and Laura watched the scene with every little piece of her distorted heart turning into goop. Carmilla was truly a mother. A beautiful, caring, playful mother. And her daughter loved her to the moon and back.

Carmilla finally took pity on her daughter, who was now out of breath. The little girl flung her arms around Carmilla's neck and kissed her cheek before pulling away and going back to help Laura. The brunette looked up to see Laura staring back intensely; a genuine smile spreading across both of their faces as they locked eyes.

Will cleared his throat to get their attention, in which Carmilla sent him a glare. "What's the temperature of the oven supposed to be for these?" 

The brunette got up and went over to the oven with Will following her. "So what was with that little staring contest?" he whispered.

"What are you talking about?" she replied in annoyance as she set the timer and put the next tray of cookies in the oven.

"I could have baked these cookies off the heat between you two alone," he replied in the same tone as her.

"Shut it, William."

"Damn, Kitty. You've got it bad," he chuckled.

She glared before going back toward the other two. Two hours later and their were cookies everywhere. And to Carmilla's great disappointment, there was a cookie eating contest. There wasn't a winner though. Laura and Livie settled on a tie. And Carmilla and Will were left to deal with their sugar highs. So really, Will and Carmilla were the losers. At some point, they were all dancing with one another in the living room; laughing and singing.

Will and Livie went off to go make hot chocolate for everyone, while Laura and Carmilla sat in the living room on the couch next to each other.

"So Mattie still works with your mom?" Laura asked with a tilt of her head.

"Yeah. Basically runs it with her now. They tried roping me into it, but there was no way in hell that was going to happen."

"So you opened a cafe/bookshop instead?" Laura asked with a curious smile.

Carmilla chuckled. "Its basically a cafe/library. Most people just read while they're here. I think I sold three books this year."

"Wow. What a profit," the blonde teased.

"Yeah, if you need a sugar momma just let me know," she replied with a smirk and a wink. Laura rolled her eyes as she smiled.

"Laura! Mommy! Look!" Livie exclaimed as she ran behind the couch and held her arm up over them.

The two women looked up and saw her holding a small grape vine with only three or four grapes still on it. A pink post-it was flimsily stuck on to it as well.

"What exactly am I looking at, Liv?" Carmilla asked with a raised brow. She pulled her daughter's arm down to get a better look. "William," she began with stern voice. "Why is my daughter holding an old grape vine over my head with a post-it note attached to it saying 'mistletoe'?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he replied unconvincingly as he placed two hot chocolate mugs down on the coffee table in front of them before retreating back into the kitchen with a grin.

Carmilla sighed and locked eyes with Livie. "Hey, sweetie. Do you know what mistletoe is?"

"Uncle Will said it helps get the ladies." Carmilla slammed her palm against her face before dragging it down back to her lap. Livie then continued. "He also said mommy could use some help." Carmilla groaned and dropped her face into her hands. She heard Laura stifling her laughter next to her. "Why do you need help to get ladies? What do you need them for?" 

Will was heard openly laughing in the kitchen and Laura couldn't hide her amusement any longer. Carmilla took a deep breath. "I don't need them. But maybe Uncle Will does, seeing how he has so much time to meddle in my life," she practically growled toward her brother. Her attention was brought back to her daughter, who seemed genuinely confused.

"Here," Carmilla began as she moved Livie's arm to hold the 'mistletoe' over them. "Another thing about mistletoe is that if its hanging above two people, they're supposed to kiss." The tiny brunette's eyes grew wide. Then, Carmilla leaned over and kissed her daughter on the cheek. "See?"

"Oh!" she replied in excitement. She then turned to Laura, and held the grapes over herself and the blonde. Laura was taken by surprise, but then chuckled and placed a kiss on the opposite cheek Carmilla kissed. The girl giggled and ran off to receive a kiss from her uncle. The two women on the couch smiled in amusement before locking eyes and getting lost for a moment.

"Your turn!" Livie announced as she held the grapes over Laura and Carmilla again. The two looked at her and back at each other in alarm.

"Uh, Livie-" Carmilla started.

"Laura's a lady. Maybe she can help you with what you need," Livie explained innocently. Carmilla opened her mouth to respond, but was speechless. And before she knew it, she felt soft, warm lips press against the corner of her mouth. Her heart leaped into her throat and her face began to flush. When Laura pulled away, Carmilla turned and saw the kind smile across those lips that had just been on her skin. The blonde bowed her head slightly in embarrassment as a slow grin grew on the brunette's face.

Livie giggled as Will clapped in applause. They then sat in the living room, drinking hot chocolate, telling stories of when they were younger, and Carmilla let Livie open one present before having to go to bed so Santa could come. It was a black panther stuffed animal that Carmilla had gotten from the World Wildlife Federation. The girl loved cats, but really loved panthers. She squealed when she opened it and jumped onto her mother in gratitude.

"Okay, kiddo. Time for bed," Carmilla announced, which caused the girl to pout.

"I can put her to bed if you want," Will suggested with a subtle nod toward Laura. Carmilla turned back to her daughter.

"Is it okay if Uncle Will puts you to bed?"

Livie thought about it for a moment. "Can he read me a story?"

The brunette looked back at her brother who smiled in return. "Absolutely," he answered before jumping up from his seat and picking up Livie. The girl giggled in his arms.

"Night, mommy! Night, Laura!" she called after them as Will carried her to her room.

Laura was smiling at Carmilla when the brunette finally looked back at her.


"If the old Carmilla Karnstein could see you now..."

"She'd probably kick my ass."

Laura laughed. "You were never as rough and tough as you pretended to be."

Carmilla raised a brow. "Oh really? And what makes you say that?"

The blonde shrugged. "Because I knew you," she answered nonchalantly. There eyes locked for a moment and the soft Christmas music took over their senses. The fire burned beautifully in the dim room; accenting each other's facial features.

Then, a slow piano piece began to play. Carmilla looked at the speakers before smirking. She tilted her head back to the blonde. "Care to dance?" she asked, holding her hand out for the soldier to take.

Laura's honey eyes sparkled in the firelight as she gazed into Carmilla's dark orbs. Then, she gently placed her hand in hers.

Carmilla rested her other hand on the blonde's waist and led them to the leisurely beat. They swayed without exchanging words. Slowly, their bodies came closer together until finally pressing against one another. They were getting lost in each other's scent; each other's warmth; each other's touch. It was all so familiar, but somehow new. Then, the song ended. 'Silent Night' immediately playing afterwards.

They both separated from each other reluctantly before Laura took a deep breath. "I should probably head home."

Carmilla nodded slowly as Laura turned to head toward the door. She watched the blonde bundle up before they made their way out of the apartment toward the entrance of the cafe. Laura turned around once she reached the door to face Carmilla again.

"Thank you," she said quietly. Carmilla could see the remnants of pain in her eyes as she said those words. "This was the first time in a long time I... I didn't... I didn't feel-"

"My pleasure," the brunette interrupted softly with a gentle smile.

Laura let out a breath of relief knowing she didn't have to explain herself. She bowed her head and then furrowed her brows when she saw something stuck to Carmilla's foot. She started to smile as she bent down and picked it up. She held the pink post-it note up over them, Carmilla seeing the 'mistletoe' in surprise.

Then, Laura leaned in and placed a tender kiss against her lips. Electric. Just as she remembered. And it felt so right. It felt like life was starting to make sense. Maybe she came back to Silas for a different reason that she wasn't aware of. Maybe she came back for her.

When she pulled away, she smiled seeing Carmilla's eyes still shut. When they fluttered open, the soldier readjusted her coat. "Merry Christmas."

The brunette smirked. "Merry Christmas, cupcake," she said in return before watching the soldier open the door, and disappear into the night.

Carmilla's heart swelled. She could still taste Laura's lips. And she was so happy that she could help Laura forget for at least a little while. But having Laura around was so much better than she anticipated. She felt full; whole. She hadn't felt that way in a long time.

Then, Livie's words came back to her from earlier. 'Maybe she can help you with what you need.'  Maybe her daughter was right.

Chapter Text

Almost a week went by without a single word ushered between the two. They didn't really know how to approach the situation. Laura had a moment of bravery and went in for the kiss. She was embarrassed and afraid of what she might have done. Carmilla was just terrified of reaching out and being rejected once again. It was all too familiar. Christmas Eve and kissing was not a good mix when it came to Laura. It broke Carmilla's heart last time.

So they avoided each other like children. 

"Okay, let me get this straight. Laura spent Christmas Eve with you. You guys had a bunch of fluffy moments together. She's great with your kid. And then she kissed you goodnight," Laf tried to clarify as they sorted through vegetables at their family's market. Carmilla gave a nod. "And you haven't talked to her since." Another nod was given. "You're an idiot."

"What? Why?" the brunette exclaimed. She peeked over at her daughter who was talking with Laf's mother. The older woman was giving her a cookie.

"She's the one that kissed you! What the hell are you waiting for? The ball is technically in your court," the ginger explained with a shake of their head.

"But-" Carmilla stopped herself. She ran a hand through her wavy locks. "What if it didn't mean anything?"

Laf rolled their eyes. "This is you and Laura we're talking about here, remember?"

"She's dealing with a lot right now."

"Yeah... And?"

"I don't need to make things more complicated for her."

"Sounds like an excuse."

"Sounds like I'm being considerate," Carmilla bit back. She glared at her friend, who was far beyond immune to her attitude.

"Let's be honest for a second," Laf began as they put down a bundle of asparagus. They looked up to lock eyes with the brunette. "You're shitting your pants."

"I am not shitting my pants!"

"You're totally staining them up right now."

Carmilla frowned. "I have a daughter to consider. Liv is already getting ridiculously attached to her. I can't just jump in. And Laura doesn't need anymore stress than she already has."

"Why do you automatically assume having you in her life causes her stress?"

"Because our relationship with each other was never easy. It was complicated and all over the place."

"Yeah, but at the end of the day, you always wanted to be with her," Laf commented simply. They sighed seeing the frustrated expression on the brunette's face.

"Mommy! Mommy!"

"Give me a sec, kiddo," Carmilla said as the little girl tried to pull on her arm for her attention. The brunette brought her gaze back to the ginger. "She's lost right now, Laf." 

"Then help her find herself. I feel like you're the best person for the job," they answered with a shrug of their shoulders. They made it sound so simple. So easy. 

Carmilla then looked down to find that Livie had disappeared. She looked around the market with furrowed brows. "Livie!" she yelled in search of her child. She walked down a different aisle. "Livie!" Laf stopped to help search.

Then, a car horn was blaring outside. The brunette's eyes widened as her head shot toward the door; her feet already running to the exit and stopping to stare into the middle of the street.

The truck was a foot or two from hitting someone. As Carmilla stepped closer, she noticed a woman crouched down with her back to the truck. Clutched in her arms was Livie.

"Livie!" Carmilla screamed as she ran into the street.

"Mommy!" she heard back as the woman slowly let go and the little girl ran into her mother's arms. Carmilla had bent down and held her daughter as close as possible. Her eyes filled with tears.

"Are you okay? Oh God," she pulled back to look at her daughter who nodded sadly. "What were you doing in the middle of the street? Why did you leave the market? I told you to never leave my sight! What if something happened to you? Do you know how scared I was?"

"I'm sorry... I just-" she sniffed as her eyes began to fill with water as well. "I saw Laura across the street and wanted to see her." Carmilla finally looked away from her daughter; her eyes landing on the soldier still knelt down on the ground in the middle of the road. Her head was bowed and eyes slammed shut. Carmilla could see her hands clenched into fists against the asphalt.

LaFontaine had somehow slipped past everyone and was in the street hashing out an argument with the driver.

"The stupid kid should know not to run into the street!" the old trucker growled back at the ginger.

"And you should know not to go above fifty while passing through this zone! And if I'm not mistaken, you smell like the bottom of a whiskey bottle. So you should probably shut the hell up right now," they stood their ground with furrowed brows. Their hard stare brought the heavier man to his senses. He stared at the grocer evenly before looking over to where Livie was still hugging Carmilla; the mother watching the scene over her daughter's shoulder.

"Is she oka-"

"What's going on here?" Kirsch pulled up in his squad car and jumped out.

Laf gestured lazily toward the driver. "Man almost hit Laura and Liv. Smells like booze."

Kirsch frowned before approaching the man. He could smell the alcohol on him. "Sir, I'm gonna have to ask you to come to the station." He pulled out his cuffs and watched the man shrink in posture.

Laf turned their attention to Carmilla as many townsfolk stood outside watching the whole ordeal. Carmilla finally stood up, her hand squeezing her daughter's shoulder before speaking to her ginger friend. "Laf. Can you take Livie inside?" The grocer tore their eyes away from the crumbled soldier still in the street. They nodded before walking up and gently pushing Livie toward the market.

"Come on, Liv. I need your help with the fruit!" they announced with faux cheer. The little girl's sad eyes glanced back at Laura before obeying. Carmilla slowly approached the woman in the street.


The blonde heard her voice, but it was muffled. She could hear it, but it was like she was under water. Then, she heard the voice again, but it wasn't as clear. It was being blocked by the sounds of grenades going off in the distance, yelling and screaming for help or direction, gunshots missing and hitting their targets. She heard it all; everything that was no longer there.

"Laura," the voice broke through as the soldier felt a hand on her bicep. She quickly smacked the hand away; her body going into defense mode from the contact. 

"Hey," the voice soothed. Dark eyes came into focus through the blurry haze. Laura's chest expanded and contracted erratically as she tried to steady her breathing. "It's just me, Laura," the voice continued. It was calming her. "You're okay. You're safe. You're home."

The soldier finally blinked her way out of her distorted reality. Honey eyes clung to the woman knelt before her. The solider was shaking. She pulled her eyes away from the brunette and took in her surroundings. People stood on the sidewalks gaping at the scene. A truck was stopped close behind her. Why was she in the street? She couldn't remember.

Her weakened gaze met the dark caring eyes in front of her again. "Carm?" she whispered with a shaky voice. She forced a swallow with watery eyes.

"Come on. Let's get you out of the cold," the brunette suggested sweetly as she stood up and held a hand out for Laura to take. The blonde stared at it hesitantly before finally taking it. She let Carmilla pull her to the sidewalk, and within thirty seconds, they were entering The Black Cat

"What are you doing back so soon-" Will began as he set down an order of food on a table.

"Let Laf know to bring Liv here when they have the chance. But keep her down here. Got it?" Carmilla said sternly as she continued to usher the soldier toward her apartment in the back. Will nodded urgently.

Carmilla led the blonde up the stairs to her home, swinging the door open and gently pulling Laura in before closing the door behind them. The blonde was still shaking. The brunette stepped around the soldier to face her.

"Laura, what can I do?"

The blonde heard the yelling and gunfire get louder in the silence of the apartment. Her hands shot up to cradle her head. "I want it to stop," she begged through a whimper. She stumbled backwards until her back pressed against the apartment door. She then slid down to the floor; her knees bent up in front of her as she rocked her body back and forth. Her body tingled. "Please, just stop," she begged out loud.

Carmilla found herself kneeling in front of her. She stared helplessly. What was she supposed to do? Carmilla wasn't a doctor. She didn't know how to save Laura from herself. How do you protect someone when the threat is deep down in the pit of their mind? It was a place she would never be able to see; a darkness unimaginable.

"Distract me," Laura whispered as she continued to rock herself. Her head was still bowed down into her hands.

"With what?" Carmilla breathed out eagerly.


The brunette stared at the blonde fiercely. Maybe this wasn't the right time to bring it up, but she did ask for a distraction. Maybe it was just the thing. "Why did you kiss me the other night?"

Laura's swarming thoughts came to a standstill. Her rocking body froze. She lifted her head slowly, revealing the tears that had been falling down her cheeks. Her honey eyes glistened in the soft lighting. "What?" her voice cracked softly.

"Why did you do it?" Carmilla asked with furrowed brows. 

Laura sniffed and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Ignoring mistletoe on Christmas is a sin," she tried to joke. The screaming in her mind was muffled, but still there. She could almost taste blood in her mouth.

"I'm pretty sure the mistletoe has to be hanging over them in order for kissing to occur. Not sticking to their foot," Carmilla tried to tease.

A second of silence passed between them. "Should I not have?" Laura asked quietly. Her eyes were locked with Carmilla's. The brunette could still see that a part of the soldier was distracted.

"I was just curious," Carmilla answered with a kind smile. "I'd never say no to a kiss from a pretty lady," she added with a wink.

That managed to bring a chuckle out of Laura. "I bet I'm quite the pretty picture right now." The tingling in her body was dissolving.

Carmilla took in her appearance yet again. The soldier was wrong. Everything about Laura was beautiful. In this moment, it was tragically beautiful. It didn't make her want to run for the hills. She wanted to hold her close and make it all go away. The blonde was in pain, but still so obviously strong. She truly was a hero whether the soldier believed it or not. 

"You jumped in front of a truck for my daughter," Carmilla finally addressed.

Laura let out another chuckle. Her honey eyes so much more gentle than before. "Close call, huh?"

The brunette didn't find the humor in it. Her stare was serious and determined. "You saved her."

"The truck stopped before anything happened."

"But it might not have."

"But it did," Laura answered harshly.

Carmilla sat back on her heels, watching the blonde take a deep breath and shake her head. Laura ran a hand through her hair.

She didn't save Livie. No one got a scratch. Her instincts ran her out into the street without a second thought. It was a reaction engraved into her. 

"Is Livie okay?" Laura asked softly as she stared down at the floor.

"Yeah," Carmilla answered in the same tone. "And whether you want to hear it or not, thank you."

Laura didn't respond. Her gaze was still settled on the floor in front of her.

"Where have you been for the past week?" Carmilla asked suddenly. Her eyes widened as the words left her mouth. She wasn't sure where the question came from. She took herself off guard; frowning at herself before the blonde lifted her head to meet her gaze.

"Home," she answered with a shrug.

"Were you avoiding me?"

Laura opened her mouth in alarm before shutting it firmly and glaring. "Always so full of yourself..."

"What? You kissed me and ran. I haven't heard from you since." Plus, Carmilla knew how Laura reacted to things. She hid away from embarrassment. Still predictable.

"Ever think you're reading too much into it?"

"Am I?"

Laura's stare mirrored Carmilla's. It was intense and challenging. They remained like that for a few seconds before Laura exhaled in defeat.

"Its not like you tried to talk to me or anything," she finally replied crossing her arms over her chest and slouching against the door.

"We sound like we're in high school," Carmilla said in amusement.

"Your face sounds like its in high school..." Laura mumbled with a frown.


Laura roughly pushed herself up off of the floor, which made Carmilla rise to her feet as well. "You have a kid, Carmilla."

"So? She apparently loves you."

"And I'm an insane person!"

"You're not insane," Carmilla corrected evenly as she crossed her arms over her chest and watched the blonde begin to get hysterical.

"Well I'm not sane!" She started to pace in the small space in front of the door. Carmilla's dark eyes watched calmly. "I barely sleep. I get triggered off into one of my super-fun-tastic-flashes more often than I'd like. And I'm just generally miserable about everything! I have nothing going on for me in my life. I'm a mess!" She flung her arms into the air before huffing and turning to face the brunette again. "You don't need this," she gestured toward herself, "messing up the life you've created."

Carmilla stared at her silently with her head tilted to the side.

"Can you say something?" Laura exclaimed with wide eyes.

"Are you done throwing your pity party?"

"Ugh!" Laura groaned as she buried her face into her hands. Dropping her hands back to her sides, she took a deep breath as she glared back at the brunette. "You are so annoying!" she said through clenched teeth.

"I get it. You're not happy. You've got a lot to work on to get better. But you've got to realize that if you're staying in Silas, I'm not going anywhere. You can try to avoid me all you want, but I'm sure you can recall, this town is pretty damn small." 

"How am I supposed to focus on myself when every time I see your stupid face, all I want to do is make out with it?" she exclaimed with annoyance.

Carmilla raised a brow as a smirk slowly spread across her face. "I'm sorry. Can you repeat that? I think I just heard a confession of sorts, but was kind of distracted by the insult that came with it."

Laura frowned at her. "I hate you."

Carmilla's signature smirk grew even more as she took a seductive step closer. "Not buying it."

"Don't care," Laura answered with a steady glare.

"Oh really?" brunette asked with a playful glint in her eyes as she took another step closer.

The soldier stepped backwards; her back now pressed against the door completely. "You're a jerk," she answered with a forced swallow following it.

Carmilla brought her hand up to tilt Laura's chin up toward her. "I'm aware." Laura's heart was beating out of control. Carmilla's body was practically touching hers and Laura felt like the heat between them increased the temperature of the room dramatically.

The brunette leaned even closer and stopped. Her forehead then pressed against Laura's. "Tell me to stop and I will," she whispered, her warm breath dancing across Laura's skin. The soldier breathed in her scent. It was like a distant dream. She remembered it so well from years ago, but it had been so long since she was able to bathe in it again.


Carmilla felt the electric charge in her body diffuse instantly. She pulled herself away quickly and tried to restrain the pain echoing through her chest.

Laura's deep honey eyes met hers. "No," she said softly, taking a step toward her. "Don't stop," she corrected, grabbing Carmilla's face and slamming their lips together.  

The sparks ran throughout their bodies at contact. They met each other feverishly. Carmilla's hands pulling Laura closer by her hips as the blonde moved a hand to the back of the brunette's neck; the other hand buried in dark locks. The soldier's nails dug into the skin of Carmilla's neck, triggering a moan before the brunette pushed Laura back against the door.

Carmilla pulled on Laura's bottom lip with her teeth before kissing her again and running her tongue along it. The soldier moaned in approval, the brunette sliding her tongue into her mouth and tasting her eagerly. Laura tried pulling her even closer. She felt her body pressed against hers, but it wasn't enough. 

A loud knock on the door behind them startled them, causing them to break their trance on each other.

"Mircalla Karnstein! Open this door right now!"

Carmilla rolled her eyes and sighed heavily. She slid her hand down Laura's arm until reaching her hand. She pulled her away from the door gently before moving to open it.

"Hello, mother," she said completely lacking enthusiasm.

"Don't give me that tone! If you answered your phone for once, I wouldn't have to come knocking down your door!" The older blonde woman finally caught sight of the soldier standing a few feet behind her daughter. The woman's eyes widened for half a second before her posture straightened. "Miss Hollis. I've heard of your return to Silas."

Laura felt that same intimidating stare from her childhood run through her. Then, she straightened her posture as well before stepping forward and offering her hand to the woman. "Ms. Karnstein."

The older woman looked down at the hand with a raised brow before looking back at the soldier with a small curve of the corner of her mouth. "Lilita," she corrected before taking the hand and shaking it firmly.

Carmilla watched the interacting with wide eyes and complete confusion. "Uh," the brunette brought their attention back to her; their hands dropping back to their sides. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your presence, mother?"

"I had to hear from that buffoon of a cop that my granddaughter almost got hit by a drunkard!"

Carmilla rolled her eyes. "Okay, relax. She's fine."

"Wilson sees me at the bank and asks me how Livie is doing after the accident, and I'm left looking at him like he has donkey ears coming out of his head!"

Carmilla takes a deep breath and runs a hand through her wavy hair. Kirsch was probably just being his friendly, innocent self. "It wasn't even an accident. No one got hurt."

"But it was enough of an accident for a cop to bring it up to me! Why didn't you call me?"

"It happened like thirty minutes ago! I've been a little busy dealing with it myself!" Carmilla yelled back.

"Why was she in the street to begin with?" Lilita continued the yelling match.

"She saw Laura and ran to her!"

"And you just let her run into traffic?!"

"Yes, mother. I told her to run in front of a moving truck. We ran out of fun things to do and it was the only thing I could think of at the time. Do you honestly think I'm an idiot?!" 

"Don't get sassy with me! I just want to know what you could have possibly been doing to allow something like this to happen!"

Laura felt incredibly uncomfortable at the very unexpected turn of events and figured it was about time to make her exit. "Um, I think I'm just gonna-"

"No!" the Karnstein women yelled at the same time toward the soldier before focusing on each other again.

"I was in the market and talking to Laf! Livie was right next to me and all of a sudden she wasn't! Stop trying to make me feel worse than I already do about it!" Carmilla shouted back. 

"I'm not trying to make you feel bad! I'm trying to understand what happened!"

"Then how about you ask like a normal person instead of coming in here guns a blazin'!"

The two women stared at each other before taking deep breaths. Laura watched with wide eyes at the two. They didn't look very much alike. They never did. And usually, you would never be able to compare the two personality-wise. But in moments like these, the relation was irrefutable.

"I'm sorry," Lilita said firmly, which surprised not only Laura, but Carmilla as well. "I shouldn't have immediately blamed you." Carmilla just gave a nod and bowed her head. "Can you tell me what happened now?" she asked in a tone Laura had never heard before. It was... caring.

The brunette sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "Livie was trying to get my attention, but I told her to hold on because I was in the middle of a conversation." Carmilla looked up at Laura for half a second before realizing what she was doing. She had remembered the conversation with LaFontaine being about the soldier and her eyes instantly were drawn to her. She cleared her throat before looking back at her mother. "Then when I tried to find her, I heard a car horn go off outside and found Laura in the street holding on to Liv with her back to the truck." 

Lilita was taken by surprise. She turned to meet Laura's gaze. "You jumped in front of a truck for a girl you barely know?"

"I wouldn't say I barely know her," Laura began to reply, slightly self-conscious. Lilita's stare grew more intense as the seconds ticked by. "But, uh, yeah. I guess I did," she answered as she tried to avoid the woman's gaze.

The older Karnstein let out a single chuckle. "Little Laura Hollis..." she stated as she looked over the woman in front of her. "I never could quite figure you out."

"Um, I'm sorry?" Laura commented sheepishly.

Carmilla rolled her eyes. "Why are you apologizing?"

"I don't-" the soldier began.

"Mom, is there anything else you need?" the cafe owner asked in annoyance as she stared at her mother with her hands on her hips.

The woman finally tore her eyes away from Laura and met her daughter's eyes. "Are you alright?" she asked in a softer tone than Laura thought was humanly possible for Lilita Karnstein.

The brunette stared back with furrowed brows and gave a nod. "Was scared, but nothing happened."

Her mother nodded in response. "I'll be downstairs waiting for Livie then." She turned toward the door and opened it before turning back to Laura. "Thank you," she said sternly, and then left without giving Laura a chance to react.

"Um," the blonde started as Carmilla let out a heavy sigh. "So your mom is... kinda how I remember..."

The brunette scoffed as she turned her attention to Laura. "What's different?"

"She seems... softer."

Carmilla's eyebrows shot up toward her hairline. "I'm sorry, what? Did you miss the majority of this interaction when we were yelling in each other's face?"

Laura rolled her eyes. "That was the part I recognized. Her... caring... That was new for me."

The brunette took in a deep breath, puffing out her cheeks before slowly letting the air leak out through her lips. "Some things change," she answered with a shrug. "Kinda," she added with a chuckle. "Sooooo..." Carmilla began as she took a step toward Laura. "My mom almost walked in on us making out," she started, which caused Laura to blush. "It really is like we're in high school."

The two of them laughed. "Yeah, it definitely feels like it by how intimidated I still am by her," Laura commented.

"Well I think you gained some sort of approval. Which is seriously blowing my mind right now," the brunette admitted with a smirk.

"Approval for what?"

"For existing," Carmilla answered with a chuckle.

"Gee, whatever will I do with this new development," Laura replied sarcastically.

"Go around gloating because no one gets that kind of approval from Lilita Karnstein," Carmilla answered in amusement.

"Is that what you want me to do?" the blonde asked in the same manner, but her eyes flitted toward Carmilla's lips. The brunette was now stepping in her space.

"No, what I want you to do is stop using your mouth for talking."

Laura raised a brow as her lips turned into a smile. "Getting your mother's approval turns you on?"

"Ugh!" Carmilla leaned back slightly. "Stop talking about my mother," she groaned.

"Lilita! Lilita! Lilita!"

The brunette frowned. "You're gross."

Laura giggled before placing her hand against Carmilla's chest and pushing her away. "I'm going home."

"Wait, what?"

Laura stepped toward the door and turned back with a small smile. "Its been a weird day. I need to get back and do some things. Feel free to text or call me. Considering the ball was technically in your court after Christmas..."


"It was," Laura defended firmly with a slight smile as she opened the door. "I'll see ya, Karnstein," she finished with a wink before exiting. 


"Hey, mommy?" Livie said as she looked up from the cafe counter that she was coloring at. 

"What's up, munchkin?" the brunette replied as she stood on the other side of the counter, wiping it down around her daughter's workstation. It was hours after the eventful and extremely stressful afternoon and Carmilla refused to let her daughter out of her sight since Laura left the apartment earlier. 

"Is Laura okay?" she asked innocently.

Carmilla stopped cleaning the counter and looked up at her little girl. "You saw her, kiddo. She wasn't hurt at all." She then poked Livie's nose. "You're both super lucky."

Livie scrunched up her nose from the contact with a giggle. "I know, but... She looked sad when she was in the street."

The older brunette stared at her daughter thoughtfully. "Well, she was. She was reminded of something and it made her sad for a bit. But she's okay now," she explained with a reassuring smile before picking up her coffee mug nearby and taking a sip.

Livie took in her response with furrowed brows. "I didn't mean to make her sad," she finally replied with guilt lacing her words.

Carmilla smiled sweetly as she leaned her elbows onto the counter before brushing the little girl's hair behind her ear. "I know, sweetheart. But she's fine now." Livie stared down at her coloring book pensively before looking back up at her mother and holding out her hand. 


Carmilla lifted an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"

"I need your phone, mommy."

"And may I ask why?"

"I wanna call Laura."


"To say sorry."

"Liv, you don't-"

"Mommy. You always tell me to say sorry when I do something wrong."

"Yeah, but-"

The little brunette held her hand out more forcefully. "I don't want her to hate me."

Carmilla sighed with a sad smile. "She doesn't hate you."

"She might if I don't say sorry!"

The mother rolled her eyes before letting her coffee mug sit on the counter, and pulling her phone out of her pocket. She searched through her contacts, and when she found 'Cupcake', she held the phone to her daughter and dialed the number.

Livie straightened her posture on the stool as she looked down at her coloring book, her hand holding the phone to her ear. It rang three times before picking up.

"Ah! Hi? Hello?" Laura's voice came through the other line in a rush.

"Hi, Laura," Livie greeted bashfully into the device.

There was a slight pause before the blonde replied. "Livie?"

"Yeah... I wanted to tell you... I wanted to say, that, um, I'm... I'm sorry for making you sad today." Carmilla's heart ached at the melancholy tone of her daughter's voice. 

"Hey, I wasn't sad," Laura sweetly tried to correct her.

"You looked it though," Livie replied in the same saddened tone.

There was a hesitance from the soldier before she answered. "That had nothing to do with you, Livie. The only thing you did was scare me."

"I scared you?" Livie asked in confusion.

"Yeah," Laura chuckled. "I was all excited to see you and then you ran into the street, silly. You scared me."

Carmilla watched her daughter's cheeks redden before picking up her coffee and taking a sip.

"You were excited to see me?"

Laura laughed again. "Duh! I hadn't seen you since Christmas Eve! Of course I was excited to see you!"

Livie was grinning into the phone before pouting. "But I didn't end up getting to spend time with you today."

"I know," Laura replied in disappointment. "I'm bummed out."

The little brunette brought her finger to her lips and squinted her eyes in thought before settling her gaze back on her coloring book. "Do you like to color?"

Laura chuckled. "I love to color!"

"Do you wanna come over and color with me?" Livie asked in excitement.

Carmilla's eyes widened. "Uh, Liv. I don't think-" Livie held her hand up to stop her mother.

"I'd love to," Laura answered in amusement. "How about I come over in a little bit?"

"Yeah!" Livie cheered. Her eyes met her mother's. "But my mom is gonna be here. Can she color with us too?" Carmilla raised a brow, holding back the laughter ready to spill from her mouth.

"Absolutely. But only if she makes hot chocolate."

Livie giggled. "Okay. She's good at that."

"With extra marshmallows."

"Duh!" the little girl replied with giggle.

"Good. I'll see you soon," Laura finished with a chuckle. "Can you put your mom on for a second for me?"

"Okay. Bye!" Livie answered with a grin before handing back the phone to her mother. "She wants to talk to you."

Carmilla raised a brow again before smiling and shaking her head. She brought the phone to her ear. "I thought you had things to do today."

"I did. I finished. Do you not want me to come over?" the blonde teased.

The brunette held her coffee in her hand as she walked a bit away from her daughter, who was now engrossed in her coloring book again. "I don't like it when you put words in my mouth, cupcake," she smirked into the phone as she took a sip from her beverage.

"I'm sure you'd like me to put other things in your mouth." Carmilla started coughing as the hot liquid went down the wrong pipe from the sudden turn of the conversation. She heard the blonde laughing as she tried to clear her throat. "You alright there, Carm?" she asked innocently.

"I-" she tried to speak as she continued to clear her throat. "You're horrible."

A burst of laughter came from Laura. "Am I wrong?"

Carmilla's jaw fell open. She was trying to wrap her mind around this conversation. "Are you toying with me right now?"

"Maybe," Laura answered playfully. "Guess you'll just have to find out."

The brunette felt a shiver run up her spine. "You're coming over for a play date with my daughter," Carmilla explained bluntly as she tried to calm her pounding heart.

"I know. Which I'm very excited about. I love coloring!"

The cafe owner rolled her eyes as a smile came to her lips. "You're killing me, Hollis."

"Don't be jealous."

"You're making it difficult."

"Then maybe next time you'll be brave enough to ask for a play date with me," she teased. 

Despite her mind drifting away at the idea of an adult play date with Laura, Carmilla frowned at the jab. "Shut up and get your tiny ass over here."

"Hey! Don't take that tone with me! I will rescind your invitation to our coloring session!"

Carmilla rolled her eyes. "Just get over here, Captain Cupcake."

"Ask nicely."

"Excuse me?" the brunette responded with an arched brow.

"You heard me."

The brunette paused before frowning. "You're serious."

"As a Slytherin."

"Oh my God."


"Okay, okay! Fine. Can you please come over?" she asked somewhat harshly.

"I don't know. It doesn't really sound like you want me there..."

"You're kidding me, right?"

"No. Livie is the one that invited me. Not you."

"I don't have to try and convince you I want you here. You either believe it or you don't."

"Fine. Then I don't."

Carmilla groaned. "You're so damn irritating, you know that?"

"Just admit it and we can both move on."

"Admit that you're irritating? Done."

"Carmilla Karnstein-"

"I want you here, okay?" the brunette interrupted in annoyance. "Jesus, you're a pain in the ass," she grumbled as she rubbed the back of her neck in embarrassment.

The door suddenly opened to the cafe revealing a grinning Laura, who pulled the phone from her ear and hung up. Livie spun around on her stool and jumped down before running to the blonde and hugging her.

"Hey, you! What are we coloring?" Laura asked with cheer as she pulled off her coat and let Livie pull her by her hand toward the counter.

"Dinosaurs playing sports!" Livie announced with a grin. "Mommy! We need hot chocolate!" she yelled at the frozen brunette toward the back of the cafe. Laura sent her a smirk, which brought Carmilla back to reality. She walked back behind the counter.

"And by 'Mommy! We need hot chocolate,' you really mean...?" Carmilla gave her daughter a pointed look.

The little girl shrunk in her seat slightly with a sheepish smile. "Can you make us hot chocolate, please?"

Carmilla smiled back at her. "Much better."

"With extra marshmallows," Laura added. Carmilla then gave her the same pointed look. The soldier rolled her eyes. "Please." Livie giggled at the interaction.


After multiple sporty dinosaur pictures, Carmilla closed up the cafe. They then went upstairs and watched a Disney movie before Livie asked Laura to read her a bedtime story. When the little girl was passed out, the soldier stealthily left her room and closed the door behind her. She entered the living room again to see Carmilla relaxing lazily on the couch with a book held in her hand.

Seeing the blonde from the corner of her eye, she closed the book and placed it on the coffee table. "Everything go smoothly, Cap?"

Laura took a seat next to the brunette on the couch and sighed in approval when she leaned back into the cushions. "Mini Carmilla is fast asleep."

Carmilla scoffed at the nickname. "My daughter is starting to have you wrapped around her little finger."

"She's so cute though!" she defended with a chuckle.

"If she's Mini Carmilla, how come I never had you wrapped around my finger?"

Laura couldn't hold back her smile. "You were never as cute as her."

"Ouch!" the brunette responded as she threw a pillow at the blonde. "You apparently don't remember how much of a lady killer I used to be."

Laura rolled her eyes as she placed the thrown pillow to her side. "Oh, I remember." She then turned to look back at Carmilla, who was smirking. "For the majority of our childhood, you were either broody and disaffected by the world, or flirting with every walking vagina."

The brunette let out a hearty laugh. "Like you were never one of those walking vaginas."

"Which obviously makes a girl feel oh so special," she answered with a glare.

Carmilla shrugged. "Not my fault you didn't think you were special."

Laura looked at her in disbelief. "Its actually entirely your fault."

Carmilla scoffed. "I always treated you differently."

"Because I never gave in to your disgusting idea of game."

Carmilla barked out a laugh. "Disgusting?" She looked at Laura with wide eyes and a slight smile. "Cupcake, you're confused. My game has never been anything but smooth."

"Yeah, getting caught half naked with the foreign exchange student in the janitor's closet was entirely smooth."

The brunette rolled her eyes. "Now who's jealous?"

Laura opened her mouth to argue, but found the words stuck in her throat at first. "I am not jealous."

"Mhm. Totally believable."

The soldier glared. "I called you Carmy Cold Sore, remember? Why would I be jealous of that?"

Carmilla smirked as she leaned closer to the blonde. "Denial is a strong emotion, cupcake."

Laura groaned. "You're so full of yourself."

The brunette smirked. "I'd rather be full of you."

The soldier let out a disgusted laugh. "That's gross." 

"Doesn't make it any less true," Carmilla commented with a shrug.

"Come on. How did you ever get so many girls when you use lines like that?" Laura argued in disbelief.

"Laura," her raspy voice began, surprising the blonde when shivers ran down her spine. "If all I wanted to do was fuck you, you would have seen firsthand how... disgusting my game truly is," she finished with a smirk; explaining in such a husky voice that the soldier felt her mouth go dry. Her dark eyes stared deep into her and suddenly Carmilla's presence was the only thing in the room. 

The blonde forced a swallow. "So you never wanted to sleep with me?" she asked weakly as her cheeks remained red.

Carmilla's smirk grew even more. "Oh, cupcake," she began with a single chuckle as she tucked a few strands of Laura's hair behind her ear. She then let her index finger slide slowly and gently along the blonde's jaw. "The amount of things I wanted to do to you is almost embarrassing."

Goosebumps spread along the soldier's skin. Her eyes had flashed down to Carmilla's inviting lips, and Laura had subconsciously started to lick her own. The brunette smirked again at the reaction.

"Wanted?" Laura squeaked out.

Carmilla then grinned as she leaned back. "Yeah, but now I've seen you get all old and crusty, and its a complete turnoff."

Laura opened her mouth in offense before punching the brunette in the arm.

"Ow!" Carmilla yelled through her laughter as she rubbed her bicep. "See? You're so old and grouchy now!"

Laura crossed her arms over her chest and slouched back into the couch. She let her hard stare settle on the coffee table in front of her. 

"Hey," the brunette said in amusement, trying to get her attention again. The blonde refused to acknowledge her. Carmilla scooted closer so that they were practically on top of each other. "Come on," she added with a chuckle.

Laura turned her head and directed her frown toward Carmilla. "You're a jerk."

She smiled sweetly in response. "I know," she agreed softly.

"You really are," Laura pushed her point.

"Yeah, I got it," Carmilla chuckled lightly as she stared into deep honey eyes. "I'd be an idiot not to want to sleep with you," she stated simply. Laura's frown fell slowly from her face. "But you were never like the other girls." She shrugged. "You're Laura."

"Is that bad?" the blonde asked quietly.

Carmilla smirked. "Anything but."

"So... You want to sleep with me?" Laura tried to clarify.

The brunette started to laugh as she shook her head. "You're impossible," she replied before leaning in and capturing the soldier's lips. The familiar electric shock pulsed through them as their lips moved together patiently. Each shock was leaving a burning sensation through their veins; urging them closer. Carmilla's hands moved to cup Laura's face; the blonde shivering from her touch. The pads of her fingertips slid against her skin, and down her neck before cupping it and pulling Laura in to deepen the kiss.

Gently, Carmilla pushed Laura backwards onto the couch as their lips continued to reconnect. Beginning to hover on top of her and run a hand down the curve of the soldier's body, a voice called out.


The brunette groaned as she pulled her lips away from Laura and rested her forehead against the blonde's shoulder. Laura giggled at her reaction.

"The world hates me," Carmilla mumbled against her shoulder before pushing herself up off of the couch and heading toward her daughter's room.

Laura sat up and straightened her clothes as she tried to calm her breathing while Carmilla was gone. When she returned a minute or two later, the brunette flopped down on the couch beside her; running a hand through dark wavy locks. She let out a heavy sigh. "She heard a noise in her closet and needed me to make sure there wasn't a dinosaur in there."

The soldier laughed. "A dinosaur?"

"I'm gonna have to hide those coloring books," Carmilla announced with a sigh. She then turned to face Laura. They stared at one another for a moment; soft smiles gracing their lips.

The brunette then looked at a clock before groaning. "I have to open the cafe tomorrow." She practically whimpered.

"And what time is that at?"


Laura grimaced. "Yikes."

Carmilla groaned again as she let her head fall onto the back of the couch.

"Its getting late," Laura said as she looked at the same clock. "I should probably let you get some sleep," she added with a small smile as she rose to her feet.

Carmilla groaned yet again. "I want to go back to five minutes ago when life was being kind to me."

Laura giggled. "Now who's old and grouchy?"

The brunette glared before standing up and following the soldier out of her apartment door and through the cafe. Laura pulled on her coat and the familiar red scarf that Carmilla smiled at. Then, they locked eyes.

"Thank you again," Carmilla said softly.

The soldier lifted a brow. "For what?"

"You ran into the street to protect my daughter." 

Laura rolled her eyes. "I just did what I thought was right. She would have been safe regardless."

"You don't know that," Carmilla argued gently. "Thank you." She watched the soldier take a deep breath and give a single nod.

"Thank you for having me," the blonde returned with a kind smile.

The brunette let out an irritated growl. "I didn't get the chance to have you."

"Is your mind constantly in the gutter?" Laura asked in alarm.

Carmilla gave her an even stare. "Yes."

The blonde held back a laugh as she rolled her eyes. She leaned up and kissed Carmilla's cheek. "Goodnight, Carm."

"Wait," the brunette stopped her as Laura held the door open. The cold air slamming bitterly against skin. Laura looked back at her curiously. "I, uh, was wondering what you were doing tomorrow night."

The soldier's eyebrow rose. "For New Year's Eve? I was invited to Laf and Perry's party."

"So you're gonna be there?" Carmilla asked hopefully.

Laura began to smile. "I was planning on it."

"Oh, okay," the brunette replied bashfully. "Cool."

The soldier's smile turned into a grin. "Does that mean you're going to be there?"

"Oh. Yeah," she answered quickly; unaware that she hadn't made that clear.

"Then I guess I'll see you there," she said with a wink.

"Count on it," Carmilla called after her with a smirk as the woman left the cafe.


Chapter Text

The almost car accident that happened the day before had shaken Laura up more than she'd like to admit. Carmilla had managed to calm her down enough to gain some control over herself, but she knew it wouldn't last long. She felt it. It was a hard flash; a soft flash took her in and out of the moment in only a few minutes. The hard ones resonated with her for longer. And the sign that the memories played as background noise during the argument between Carmilla and her mother was a dead give away of what she was dealing with. As much as she wanted to slam Carmilla up against the door and have her way with her, Laura's head wasn't completely there. And she didn't want Carmilla to have to deal with it any more than she already had.

So Laura pulled herself away from the brunette in order to retreat for further recovery; despite her body's horny protests. After getting home, she proceeded to the shower. It was therapeutic and relaxing. A therapist once told her that showering not only cleanses the body, but calms the mind, and lightens the spirit. Laura laughed at the thought as she scrubbed shampoo into her hair. The thought was something Carmilla would probably read in one of her boring books. 

After letting the hot stream hit her skin for far too long, she slammed her body down on her bed and stared up at the ceiling; her arms and legs spread out across the comforter. She closed her eyes and took a long, deep breath. She could still hear buzzing and crackling in the back of her mind. With a groan, she leaned up and grabbed her phone off of the nightstand and dialed a number; resuming her position on the bed.

She talked with her therapist for an hour on the phone. Laura was told to use the number if she ever needed to after leaving. This was the first time she took her up on that offer. It was good though. Laura told her about the few flashes she experienced while being back in Silas, and they tried to analyze meanings and reasons behind the triggers and if there were any further connections. Nothing groundbreaking was accomplished, but it was enough to ease the soldier's mind.

Then, Laura decided to do some drawing. She let the pencil flow along the paper without thinking. It was relieving to just stop thinking and let herself get lost in the activity. But then she used her last piece of paper. She got up and searched the house for more, but luck wasn't on her side. In case she missed something, she called her father.

"Hey, dad? Do you know of any place we keep paper in the house?" Laura asked as he answered his cell phone.

"You grabbed the last bit we had two nights ago," he chuckled. "Wait," he thought for a moment. "There's probably some in the study."

Laura's heart fell immediately. "Oh."

There was a silence between them. "Do you want me to bring some home?" he asked softly.

The soldier swallowed deeply. "Could you?" she answered weakly.

"You got it, kiddo," he replied. She could imagine his soft smile.

After hanging up, the soldier trudged back toward her room, but stopped before entering. Standing in the hall, she let her gaze fall on the closed door at the end of the hallway. There probably was paper in the study. 

Furrowing her brows and clenching her hands into fists, she stomped over to the closed door. Her hand hovered over the doorknob, shaking. The soldier frowned even more before forcing her hand down and opening the door harshly. The smell engulfed her; dust mixed with antique wood. The windows had been covered and she was sure the room hadn't seen the light of day in years. Nothing was different. It all looked the same, but aged. Except for the wooden floor. That needed to be replaced. The blood had soaked into it too much.

The desk to the far left was her destination, but her feet were having trouble moving. The last time she entered this room, her life turned upside down. Everything changed. She lost so much; her mother and herself. Her life was no longer what it used to be, and that caused so many emotions to run through the older soldier. She used to have such an innocent, loving life. And then it all went to shit. She was angry and upset with the world. She felt like she needed to change it. That if she changed it, she could get her life back somehow. But the only thing she managed to change was the smooth complexion on her skin. She was marked now. Damaged goods.

And the more she stared into the room, the more she pictured her mother standing there with the gun in her hand. Then, she closed her eyes, and slammed the door shut again. She shook her head to try and rid her mind of the image. With heavy breathing, she headed toward the front door. She needed air. She needed to get out.

So she went for a walk. Her hands covered in gloves, her neck sporting the red scarf she had grown very fond of, and a beanie placed on her head. She let her eyes travel along the road into town. The snow did make everything look beautiful despite the pain in the ass it could be. With the moonlight shining down on it, it sparkled like mini crystals were buried within its mounds. The air was crisp, and that distinct winter scent flowed through her nostrils. 

Then, her phone began to ring. The soldier struggled searching through her pockets for the device, and once she pulled it out, she had difficulty taking off a glove to actually answer the phone. Finally succeeding, she hurriedly answered.

Livie was on the phone. The girl made her heart melt. She was calling to apologize for the potential accident. It was breaking her into a million pieces. After reassuring her everything was fine, she was invited over to the cafe to color. And since she was already in town, it was going to take her no time to get there.

But after leaving Carmilla's apartment that night, the uneasiness from earlier returned. She didn't understand how Carmilla seemed to make everything go away whenever she was with her. But once out of sight, Laura's alternate reality came crashing in.

She barely slept that night. She tossed and turned trying to ignore the mental images in the dark. When morning came, she did her morning workout. Push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, step-ups, lunges, free weight exercises, etc. Then she went for her run. It started off at a steady pace, but her thoughts from last night took a hold of her. Holding her last remaining squad mate in her arms, the camp in flames despite never revealing its location, the smell of burning bodies and taste of blood in her mouth; the memories consumed her. Her brows furrowed the more she thought of the massacre. She had finally managed to escape her captors, killing them in the process. She should have known someone else was watching. She should have known she was being followed. But she didn't. And she led the enemy right to them.

Her pace picked up tremendously. She was running harshly now. Her feet slammed against asphalt as her teeth clenched together. Laura murdered every last enemy soldier that attacked the camp. She wasn't defending herself. She wasn't thinking about justice. All she felt was hatred. So she recklessly attacked the group that burnt down the last of her sanity. She slaughtered them. Continued to shoot, stab, and beat them well after they took their last breath. The blonde saw red; anger and blood.

The soldier suddenly came to a hard stop. She hissed in pain, crouching down to hold her leg. "Fuck!" she yelled. Was she so lost in her thoughts that she didn't feel the beginning of an injury? "You've got to be kidding me." She closed her eyes and focused on her breathing as she remained crouched on the side of the road. The pain was always manageable. She'd had worse. But shin splints were never pretty. She shook her head at herself. Of course she had to push herself too hard.

Taking a deep breath, she stood up and began to walk her way back home; putting less pressure on her left leg. When she arrived home, her father was watching television in the living room. She walked past him without a word and began to head toward the shower.

"Hey, kiddo. I'm leaving for the station in a bit. I probably won't see you for the rest of the night. You gonna be okay?" her father said over the back of the couch.

She stopped in her tracks and barely turned to speak to him. "I'm going to Laf and Perry's tonight. I'll be fine."

"Okay," he answered hesitantly. His brows were furrowed as he stared at his daughter. "You'll call me if you need anything, right?" he asked sweetly. She heard the care in his voice. It made her even more frustrated.

"I'll be fine, dad," she said bitterly before walking the rest of the way to the bathroom and slamming the door. She stood under the shower head for an unknown amount of time. Her leg ached. Her head pounded. The workout was supposed to ease the tension in her body, yet somehow she felt worse.

By the time she left the bathroom, her father was gone. She sighed in relief. She didn't need to feel his lingering stare on her. All it did was make her feel even more pathetic. Entering her room, she approached her desk that held the stack of paper her father brought home the night before. Then she began to open drawers in search of a pencil. She flared her nostrils at the difficulty in finding a stupid writing utensil. Laura also lost pencils despite how many she had and how often she used them. Bending down on one knee to reach the bottom drawer of the desk, she opened it with a frown still on her face. She shifted through random papers and fliers that had been there since high school. Then, her fingers brushed against two pencils and she sighed in relief. Until her eyes rested on another long forgotten item in the drawer. Her hand hesitated as it hovered over the bracelet. Then, she picked it up.

A simple stainless steel chain bracelet with a single charm on it; a cupcake. Laura swallowed the lump forming in her throat. Slowly, she put the piece of jewelry on her wrist. Her chest grew heavy. It was Carmilla's gift to her. The stupid, irritating nickname in tangible form. And Laura remembered the way her heart swelled when she opened it. It was a beautiful time in her life completely overshadowed by horrible events.

The soldier's thoughts carried her from Carmilla's bedroom, to the streets of Silas, and back home to her mother having her last episode. She was in the study with one of the guns they kept in their safe. She was crying hysterically. And as Laura tried to enter the room, her mother let bullets slam into the door frame beside her daughter.

The blonde's recollection of that night brought her crumbling to the floor.

"Mommy, stop asking me! I'll be fine!" Livie yelled in annoyance as she finished her peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the cafe counter.

Carmilla frowned. "But if you change your mind, its okay-"

"Grandma said I can stay up as late as I want and eat whatever I want," the small brunette explained as if her mother was insane for thinking she'd change her mind.

"You make it sound like I never let you have candy and put you to bed by seven," the cafe owner mumbled as she wiped the counter with a rag.

"Grandma said you were invited to an adult party. Be an adult, mom! Leave the fun kid stuff to us kids."

Carmilla glared at her daughter despite the smile on her face. "Your mother is very much an adult, young lady."

Livie rolled her eyes. "You make me cuddle with you when you have a bad dream."

"Hey!" the brunette exclaimed before realization set in. "Not... every time."

Her daughter smiled sweetly before placing her small hand on her mother's. "Its okay, mommy. You're a good cuddler."

Carmilla frowned with a sigh. "Fine. I'll go to the stupid adult party." Livie grinned in response.

Despite Carmilla having accepted the invitation, her doubts began to eat away at her. She had spent every New Year's Eve with her daughter. It felt wrong not to be with her as the party grew closer. As much as a pain in the ass her dear mother could be, Lilita understood some things. She knew Livie was Carmilla's life. And as wonderful as that was, she felt like Carmilla needed more. So in reality, Lilita practically forced Carmilla into accepting the invitation.

It wasn't like Carmilla didn't want to go. It was actually kind of exciting to be able to have a few drinks and not have to worry too much about her daughter's well being. And the fact that Laura was going to be present made quite an addition.

Carmilla just really loved her daughter.

"Carmilla Karnstein. Gracing us with your presence this year, huh?" Laf grinned as they let the brunette into their humble abode. The music was playing, people were already drinking, and the smell of Perry's cooking took over her senses.

Carmilla held up a bottle to her ginger friend, who took it in their hand.

"Gentleman Jack. You're my hero," Laf announced as they placed a firm hand on the brunette's shoulder. "This isn't being shared with everyone," the ginger clarified.

Carmilla scoffed. "Of course not."

"Let's go pour us a glass. Start the night out right," they smiled widely as they wrapped an arm around Carmilla's shoulder and led her to the kitchen.

"Carmilla! Oh, I'm so glad you made it!" Perry said as she moved away from the oven and pulled the brunette into an embrace. The cafe owner sighed before finally giving in and hugging her in return.

"You make it sound like you never see me," Carmilla mumbled as Laf finished pouring their glasses.

"Its more like we're glad you're doing something for yourself for once," Laf corrected as they handed over a glass to her. "You do everything for Livie, and its precious as shit, but the girl even needs breathing room sometimes, ya know?"

Carmilla sighed as she clinked her glass against Laf. She raised a brow at Perry. "Not drinking?"

"Uh, no. Not tonight."

The brunette's eyebrows rose higher. "Not tonight? It's New Year's Eve."


"She wasn't feeling too well earlier and-"

Carmilla looked between the two gingers suspiciously. "What's going on?"

The couple's facial expressions matched each other. Wide eyed and trapped. Then, the brunette's eyes widened as well.

"You're pregnant."

The ginger's both deflated, but soft smiles came to their lips. "We weren't telling anyone yet-"

"Oh my God!" Carmilla exclaimed as she wrapped her arms around both of them. "Guys!" she began pulling back to look at them. "This is great! I'm so happy for you!" Laf grinned as Perry sighed in contentment. "You guys are gonna kill it at being parents."

"Thanks, Carmilla," Perry answered as they pulled apart from each other.

The brunette smirked as she raised her glass. "Congratulations," she said as Laf cheersed and they took a drink. "And don't worry. I won't say anything."

"Good. 'Cause if you do, I'm telling everyone you have herpes," Laf replied before taking another sip.

"Oh yeah. That'll mess up my super active sex life," Carmilla drawled before drinking more from her glass.

"Well what about Laura?" Perry teased as she pulled a tray out of the oven.

Carmilla rolled her eyes. "What about her?"

"You totally want to bang her," Laf answered.

The brunette stared at the ginger in disbelief. "What are you? Twelve?" Laf shrugged in response.

"Carmilla, sweetie, if you don't make a move soon someone else might," Perry tried to encourage.

The cafe owner brought the glass to her lips and avoided eye contact. "Who says I haven't already made a move?" she mumbled.

"Oh really?" Laf asked as a grin grew across their face.

Carmilla sighed. "Things are... happening. Just... slowly."

Laf furrowed their brows at her. "I'm surprised you have that kind of restraint."

Carmilla sighed yet again. "Yeah. Me too."

Kirsch suddenly appeared in the kitchen. "Uh, hey. So, Laura just showed up... She's a little drunk."

Laf raised a brow. "Okay?" It was New Year's Eve. It wasn't that weird to pregame a party.

"Okay. Maybe she's more than a little drunk. Like totally wasted," Kirsch clarified with a grimace.

"Fuck," Carmilla growled as she placed the glass down and stormed passed the cop. She scanned the room and noticed Danny trying to hold up a stumbling Laura. She made a beeline for them.

"Cheers, Danny!" Laura grinned as she held a flask up at her tall ginger friend, who was holding her up with an arm around her shoulders. The blonde took a swig as Carmilla stood in front of them.

"Carm!" Laura cheered.

"How ya doin' there, cupcake?" Carmilla asked hesitantly. The soldier suddenly flung her arms around Carmilla's neck and slammed her lips into hers. The brunette's eyes went wide as she stumbled to keep her balance. When Laura pulled away, she grinned. 

"Happy New Year!" she exclaimed without removing her arms from around Carmilla's neck.

"Uh," the brunette began as she met Danny's gaze, who was staring with eyebrows shot up to her hairline. Carmilla looked back at the blonde in front of her. "You're five hours too early, creampuff."

"Boo!" Laura exclaimed as she pulled away from the brunette. 

"Have a lot to drink?" Carmilla knowingly asked before reaching out to place hands on the blonde's shoulders to steady her.

"Its a holiday, Carm," Laura drawled. She opened the flask and took another drink.

"You think you've had enough?"

Laura frowned. "No. Why?"

Carmilla tried to smile and tease. "You're just having a little trouble standing on your own two feet, Cap."

"I'm not a Captain anymore," she hissed, which made Carmilla flinch. Danny took this moment to sneak away, leaving the two women in the corner of the room.

"Okayyyyy," Carmilla answered after taking a deep breath. "How about we drink some water for a bit?"

"I don't want water," Laura replied bitterly through her teeth.


"Carmilla," she said in the same warning tone.

Suddenly, a loud pop came from the other side of the room. Carmilla spun around to see Kirsch trying to stop the champagne bottle from overflowing as Will laughed beside him. When she turned back around, Laura stared in the direction of Kirsch; her eyes wide.

But the longer Carmilla stared into the soldier's honey brown eyes, she knew Laura wasn't looking at Kirsch. She wasn't even in this room.

The blonde felt her body freeze from the pop. It was as if all the blood in her veins turned to ice; unable to move without cracking and breaking her body into a million pieces. Gunfire. Grenades. The changing of clips. Pop. Pop. Pop.


From hearing her name, all she wanted to do was run. So she did. But tripped over her own feet due to lack of coordination and fell to the floor; her arm slicing on the iron coffee table on her way down. The party came to stop as everyone turned to the soldier on the ground. Carmilla was knelt next to her instantly. Her hands reaching out to help her.

"Stop!" Laura yelled as she curled up, holding her injured arm close to her chest. The brunette froze mid-reach. Then, the silent tears began.

"Laura," Carmilla whispered. "You're hurt."

"No shit," she spat out as tears ran down her cheek.

The brunette frowned. "I'm going to touch you now. We're leaving," Carmilla said firmly. As her hand rested on the soldier's bicep, Laura flinched away. Then, Carmilla reached out again. This time, Laura didn't pull away. So Carmilla began to pull her up, holding her close when they rose to their feet. Laura gripped onto Carmilla's shirt with all her might as she cried into the crook of her neck.

"Come on, cupcake," the brunette whispered softly into her hair. She pulled Laura away from herself, wrapping an arm around her waist and taking Laura's arm to drape over her shoulders. Carmilla looked back into the house and saw Laf and Perry staring with concern. The rest of the party still silent. The brunette gave them a reassuring nod before exiting. 

The cold air hit them harder than anticipated. Carmilla only had one glass, but if what just happened with Laura didn't sober her up, the shocking cold definitely would have. She hoped the weather was having that kind of effect on the drunk blonde.

They stumbled long the sidewalk until they reached The Black Cat. The crying had stopped, leaving only silence in its absence. They made their way up to the apartment, and as they entered it, Laura tripped, causing Carmilla to reach out and grab her arm. The blonde yanked her arm away.

"I don't need you to baby me!" she exclaimed as she stomped over to the living room and slammed down onto the couch. She pulled out the flask and took another drink.

Carmila's nostrils flared at the sight, but she took a deep breath to calm herself. She walked into the kitchen to get a wet cloth and a band aid. She knelt down in front of Laura and went to grab the blonde's bleeding forearm, but the soldier pulled it away.

"I need to clean it up," the brunette said forcefully.

"Its fine."

Carmilla took another deep breath. "Please?" she asked harshly through gritted teeth. Her patience was quickly disappearing.

Laura then turned her head away and roughly held out her arm. The brunette rolled her eyes before cleaning the wound and putting a band aid on as much of the cut as she could. The blonde then pulled her arm away just as roughly as she offered it. She picked up the flask to her side and began to open it.

Carmilla abruptly stood to her feet with flared nostrils and ripped the flask out of her hands.

"What the fuck-"

"You've had enough," Carmilla said sternly.

"You're not my fucking mother."

"You're right! I'm not! So stop acting like a God damn child!" Silence settled between them. Carmilla sighed and ran a hand down her face.

"I didn't ask you to take care of me," Laura finally spat out as she crossed her arms over her chest.

The brunette huffed and ran her hand through her hair. "No, but I'm doing it anyway."

"Why?" she exclaimed in annoyance.

"You want me to just send you packing?"

The soldier rose to her feet. "I want you to leave me alone!"

Carmilla stared back into her burning honey eyes. She felt her heart ache. She felt herself losing this fight.

Laura then turned and made her way toward the door. "I don't need anyone," she said, a few feet away from the door.

The image of Laura walking away from her was branded into her mind a decade ago. And seeing it again now triggered something inside of Carmilla. Without even realizing it, Carmilla was moving. She was behind her in an instant, grabbing her wrist and turning her back around. 

"Let go of me!" Laura exclaimed with the same fiery rage. 


"Get off!" the soldier tried to pull away.

"No," Carmilla said with more determination. 

Then, Laura shoved her free hand against Carmilla's chest. The brunette cringed at the contact, but refused to let go of the soldier's wrist. "Let me go!" the blonde yelled as she banged her fist against Carmilla's chest. The brunette cringed again before feeling the emotions inside her getting ready to erupt. She then forced Laura back against the apartment door; her hands gripping both of the blonde's wrists and slamming them to the side's of the soldier's head.

"Enough!" Carmilla yelled as she pinned the woman against the door. The soldier tried to break free, but after a few seconds, she stopped resisting. "Enough," Carmilla breathed out as Laura started to cry softly.

Slowly, the brunette let her forehead rest against the weakened soldier's. "I don't care if you think you don't need anyone," she began gently. "I'm not leaving you alone."

Laura felt her warm breath against her skin and felt any resistance she might have had left dissipate. Tears continued down her cheeks. "Why?" she whimpered with their foreheads still pressed together.

Carmilla's dark eyes remained shut as she took a deep breath; breathing in everything that was Laura. The scent of hard liquor made her brows furrow. "I-" she forced a swallow. "I can't... handle watching you walk away again." The brunette pulled back to look into the blonde's face. Her honey eyes were so weak, but so pure.

Carmilla loosened her grip on Laura's wrists; feeling the metal beneath her palm. She moved her grip further down her arm. Her heart stopped at the sight. Her mouth falling open slightly. "You're wearing the bracelet," she barely whispered as her eyes took in the cupcake charm.

Laura turned her head to look at it. She sniffed and let her head fall back against the door. Her gaze settled up at the ceiling. "I forgot I was still wearing it."

The brunette's eyes remained on the charm. "I didn't think you still had it."

"I found it earlier when I was looking through my desk," she answered with another sniff. Her gaze fell back down to Carmilla. The cafe owner only nodded. "I started thinking of that night. You. And me. And then after... with my mom. My thoughts kept going and... I just wanted it to all go away," Laura tried to explain, her throat tightening as she felt tears building in her eyes. 

Carmilla let the woman's arms fall to her sides. She cupped the soldier's face in her hands, wiping away tears on her cheeks with her thumbs.

"I just want everything to go away," Laura whimpered before throwing herself onto Carmilla; her arms wrapped around her neck tightly. The brunette began rubbing her hands along the soldier's back. 

"Its okay," she whispered against her hair as the blonde sobbed. "I've got you." 

They stood there for awhile. Carmilla wasn't really sure how long. The sobbing had stopped, but she was pretty sure the blonde was crying quietly still. The girl's entire weight must have been on her. She felt so weak in her arms. Then, she took a deep breath. "Hey," she said softly. "Don't freak out. I'm gonna take you to lie down." After a slight nod from the soldier who had yet to move, Carmilla bent down slightly, gripping onto the back of Laura's thighs before lifting them up and quickly pulling them around her waist.

Laura quickly tightened her legs as Carmilla stumbled to keep her balance. Once her footing was found, she let out a breath in relief. Then, she carried Laura to her bedroom and gently placed her on her bed. The blonde curled up immediately into a ball with another sniff. 

"Try to get some rest. You'll feel better," the brunette suggested sweetly. She then began to back away out of her room when Laura's sheepish voice stopped her.

"Carm... Can you stay?"

Her heart was already in disarray. How could she deny her?

"Of course," she answered with a gentle smile before settling on the bed next to her. Laura quickly curled up into the brunette; her head resting on her chest. Carmilla felt every movement the blonde made against her. How could she ever have left this woman alone when her entire existence keeps blood pumping through her veins? The arm she wrapped around Laura held on tighter.

Carmilla's eyes fluttered up in the dark. She immediately frowned. The warmth she remembered having when she fell asleep was gone. Laura was gone. Then, the smell of coffee passed through the air.

"Morning," Laura said as she stood in the doorway with a mug in her hand. "Well, I guess... Evening," she said with a chuckle. Her voice was raspy. She cleared her throat.

"Hey," Carmilla said as she sat up instantly. The blonde approached holding out the mug. 

"I made you coffee."

"Thanks," she said taking the beverage into her hand. "How long have you been up?"

"Not long. My head's pounding," she said with a sigh, crossing her arms over her chest. "I hope you don't mind... I kinda searched your bathroom for aspirin."

Carmilla waved her off. "That's fine." She took a sip of the coffee and sighed in contentment. "What time is it?"

"Five to twelve."

The brunette's eyebrows shot up. "We almost slept through it?"

"Close call," Laura said with a giggle.

Carmilla took another sip before locking eyes with the blonde. "Are you okay?"

Laura felt the dark stare even in the dimly lit room. It was lighting her on fire. She felt it blaze its way along her skin, seeping through, and engulfing her. It was clear how much she cared. But why? Why would someone care that much? How?

"Yeah. I feel like an idiot... But I'm good. Dehydrated, but good." She took a step forward and sat on the edge of the bed in front of Carmilla. "I'm sorry."

"You don't have to-"

"Yes," Laura interrupted firmly. "I do." She shook her head before bowing it toward her lap. "I got sloppy. And I was rude. And aggressive. And mean," she started and then looked up to lock her powerful honey brown eyes with the beautiful dark eyes of the woman next to her. "You didn't deserve that. You shouldn't have had to deal with it to begin with."


"Thank you." Her words were soft, but meaningful. Her hand reached over and held Carmilla's. Her thumb stroking the back of her hand. 

The brunette stared down at their hands and saw the bracelet on her wrist again. She started to smirk. "You know, not everything you did while intoxicated was horrible."

"Oh really?" she asked skeptically. "All I can think of is shoving you and telling you to get away from me."

"Well yeah, but you did give me a great greeting," Carmilla clarified with a wink.

Laura opened her mouth, remembering kissing Carmilla without hesitation when first seeing her at the party. She quickly buried her face in her hands. "Oh God..."

Carmilla chuckled. "Oh come on," she nudged her. "I'm pretty sure I was drunk off just that kiss."

Laura sighed as her hands fell to her lap. "With the amount of alcohol I drank, that makes sense."

"I wasn't talking about the alcohol."

The soldier quickly looked up and saw the smirk on the brunette's face. She felt her cheeks burning at the sight. Then, they heard cheering coming from outside the window. They looked in its direction before seeing the time. There gazes met once again.

"Happy New Year, cupcake," Carmilla said sweetly with a genuine smile.

Laura returned the smile before leaning in and kissing the brunette's cheek. "Happy New Year." When she pulled away, she saw a grinning Carmilla.

"How about I make us something to eat and we watch some horrible documentary you're bound to find on Netflix and force me into watching?" 

Laura let out an appreciative sigh. "Yes, please. I'm starving!" She watched as Carmilla gave her a nod and left the room. She slowly followed but lingered in the doorway as she watched Carmilla move around in the kitchen.

"For once, it might actually be a happy new year," she whispered to herself before joining the brunette in the kitchen.

Chapter Text

"Laura! You're getting frosting everywhere!" Livie exclaimed through giggles.

"I don't know how! Every time I touch something its like it turns into frosting!" Laura replied slightly hysterical. She looked around the apartment's kitchen and deflated at the mess before them; a hand running down her face in stress. "You're mother is gonna kill us."

The little brunette giggled again. "Mommy's a big softy. She calms down after you say sorry and give her a kiss. Works every time," she explained with a grin.

The soldier chuckled as she tried to wipe off the frosting on her hands with a paper towel. "That actually doesn't surprise me."

"Can I have a cupcake now?" the little girl asked with wide eyes directed toward one of the newly frosted desserts.

"Only if I can have one too," Laura answered as she pulled off the paper wrapper and took a huge bite.

Livie hurriedly copied the blonde with a large smile.

"Oh my God."

Laura's back immediately straightened before spinning around to see the woman who entered the apartment. "Hey, Carm..." 

The brunette slowly approached the kitchen, running a hand through her hair with her mouth hung ajar. "What- How-"

"Its really not as bad as it looks!" Laura blurted out with a forced smile.

"Really? Because it looks pretty bad..." Carmilla replied, still in shock. Her finger wiped across a smudge of frosting off of the refrigerator. 

"We were just trying to surprise you," Livie said sheepishly as she played with her fingers in front of her; her head bowed to the floor.

"With a food fight? That I missed?" she looked down and groaned after seeing she had stepped in raw batter that had fell to the floor during prep.

"But we made cupcakes!" Livie pleaded with worried eyes.

Carmilla's eyes locked with her daughter's before sighing.

Laura then began to grin next to the little girl, catching Carmilla's attention.

"I asked Livie here if she wanted to bake some cookies, and she said she wanted to make something for you instead. So we made cupcakes. Apparently they're your favorite," she explained with a mischievous glint in her honey eyes.

The brunette forced a swallow as she felt her cheeks turn red. She quickly crossed her arms over her chest and placed her gaze on anything but the two in front of her. "I have more than one favorite, you know." Laura's grin grew even more. She wasn't convinced.

"We're sorry we made a mess, Mommy," Livie interrupted.

Carmilla looked back at her daughter, sighed and rolled her eyes before crouching down and holding her arms open. The little girl smiled sweetly before diving in for the hug. She leaned back and kissed her mom on the cheek.

When Livie pulled away, she took a step back beside Laura again. She elbowed the blonde and nodded toward her mother. The soldier raised a brow before understanding. She looked back up at Carmilla.

"Sorry, Carm. Don't worry. We'll clean it up," she said with a sincere smile before stepping forward. She leaned up and let her soft lips hit the porcelain skin on Carmilla's cheek. She lingered a second too long before pulling back with that same mischievous glint from moments ago.

The shivers running up and down Carmilla's spine were slowly tearing her apart. Laura was ever present in their lives as of late. It was becoming a constant. And Carmilla absolutely loved how easily Laura fit into her life. She loved how well she got along with Livie. She loved how everything suddenly became brighter now that she was around. What she didn't love? How little time she's had to be alone with the blonde without passing out on the couch from exhaustion from having to run the cafe and keep up with her six year old all day. Laura had woken her up a few times after falling asleep mid-sentence, in order for Carmilla to go sleep in her bed.

So every little flirt; every little suggestive look made her body ache. 

"You've got a little... on your nose," Carmilla pointed out, clearing her throat from the sexual frustration.

Laura's eyes widened before taking the edge of her t-shirt, pulling it up as she bent her head down to wipe her nose on the fabric.

The brunette's eyes wandered over the reveal of the toned stomach of the soldier. The skin was marked by a few scars, but it didn't matter. Carmilla's insides twisted and turned at the sight. She licked her lips before being pulled out of her gaze by the shirt falling back in place. The cafe owner then frowned. "Why the hell didn't you use a napkin?"

"Language!" Livie yelled as she took another bite of her cupcake.

Carmilla rubbed her temple in annoyance while Laura responded. "My shirt's already dirty. Why waste a napkin?" The brunette wanted to growl. 'For my sanity,' her thoughts answered shamefully.

"Hey. Is the little squirt ready-" a voice came from the door. Mattie froze before taking a step further. "I'm going to assume that's a 'no'."

"Aunt Mattie!" Livie cheered and started to make her way toward the woman, but Carmille held her arm out to block her.

"...Is wearing something most likely incredibly expensive and doesn't need your mess to get all over her," Carmilla said pointedly. "Go change and wash up. Then you can go."

"But I have to help Laura clean."

"You're off the hook this one time. Now go on," Carmilla answered with a nudge toward her bedroom. The little girl scurried off leaving Carmilla to look around the kitchen again. She frowned.

"I probably shouldn't try for a bakery job, huh?" Laura said sheepishly.

"Aside from the fact that you'd eat every pastry in the building? I'm gonna say you shouldn't be allowed to even apply," Carmilla quipped as she looked around at the mess in her kitchen.

"Hey!" Laura exclaimed as she backhanded the brunette's bicep.

"Looking for a job, Hollis?" Mattie interrupted as she cocked a hip and crossed her arms over her chest.

The soldier let out a sigh. "Yeah. Not many openings in Silas."

"You could always work at the cafe," Carmilla suggested casually.

Laura gave her an incredulous look. "After this," she gestured toward the kitchen, "you feel safe letting me have responsibility in your fine establishment?" 

Carmilla deadpanned. "You're right. You'd be worse than Will."

"Plus, I'm sure customers wouldn't appreciate all the undressing you two would be doing with your eyes," Mattie added with a roll of her eyes.


"We do not-"

"Oh, save it. This room is filled with so much sexual tension, its suffocating. Thank God I'm taking Livie out for the day. Fix that," Mattie said as she pointed her index between the two of them.

"Mattie!" the brunette exclaimed with wide eyes as Laura bowed her head, trying to hide her blush.

"I'll call you when we are on our way back, just to give you some warning."

"I swear to God, I will suffocate you if you don't shut. Up," Carmilla finished through a clenched jaw. 

The older sibling grinned as Livie came running back into the room. "Ready, darling?" The little girl returned the smile and nodded eagerly. She grabbed her aunt by the hand and pulled her toward the door.

"Bye, Mommy! Bye, Laura!" she called out before they were suddenly gone from the apartment.

The two remaining women stood frozen in place. Silence took over for a few moments before the soldier finally spoke.

"Did your sister just tell us to have sex?"

Carmilla instantly groaned, letting her head hang toward the ground in defeat. "I swear I used to have better game than this."

"You know, I'm not sure I believe that," Laura teased.

Carmilla took a step backwards toward the messy counter and leaned against it; her hands gripping on the edge behind her. "Like I need Mattie's seal of approval to rock your world," the brunette scoffed.

The blonde rose an eyebrow. "So if you don't need your sister to give you permission, what's the hold up?"

Carmilla let out an annoyed sigh. "Life."

The soldier stepped toward her slowly. "Life is stopping you," she repeated in disbelief.

"I've got the cafe. I've got a ball of energy for a daughter-"

Laura continued to step closer. "That's really only two things, Carm."

"Hey! Its a lot of work!"

The soldier began to smirk as she now stood right in front of the brunette. "Oh, I'm not saying it isn't. Its just that you don't have to deal with those two things all the time."

"No, but then things like this happen and now I have to clean up your mess," Carmilla threw back as she gestured toward the cupcake fiasco.

Laura then reached out and played with a tendril of the brunette's dark wavy hair. "Or," she began. "You can kiss me." Her honey eyes blazed and Carmilla felt the force behind those clear windows. For the first time in a long time, she really didn't have any doubts. Everything in Laura's eyes reassured her. It was such a powerful declaration that Carmilla wasn't sure how she was able to still be standing. She cleared her throat to try and contain some composure. 

"And you expect me to just ignore that my kitchen exploded?"

The soldier leaned closer without Carmilla protesting. "No," Laura began; her lips hovered over the brunette's. "I'll help you forget." Carmilla visibly shivered.

"Oh really?" the brunette breathed out, which made Laura smile even more. The blonde let her fingers run down the length of Carmilla's torso ever so slightly.

"How much more convincing do you need?"

"A lot," the brunette breathed out against her lips once again. She had yet to feel their contact and it felt like her entire body was vibrating from anticipation.

"You're such a pain," Laura teased before capturing Carmilla in a searing kiss. The blonde's hands immediately planted themselves on Carmilla's hips; pushing her back into the counter. She smiled into another kiss as she felt the brunette's body melt from her touch; Carmilla's hands coming up to cup Laura's face. The brunette tried to press herself even more into the blonde, only making the soldier's smile broaden. Carmilla continued to try and kiss her; placing her lips on teeth, and corners of the soldier's mouth.

"Why are you grinning like an idiot?"

Laura tried to stifle the smile by biting her lip as she met those dark dangerous eyes in front of her. "Its nothing."

Carmilla lifted an elegant brow. "Its clearly something since its preventing me from properly kissing you."

"No, its just- Its stupid," she giggled as she shook her head.

Carmilla sighed as her arms fell to her sides. "By not telling me, you're making it more dramatic than it needs to be."

The blonde bit her lip again before shrugging her shoulders. Her fingers drummed carelessly on Carmilla's hips. "I just can't believe I'm kissing you."

Both of the brunette's eyebrows rose this time. "This isn't the first time, cupcake."

"I know, but- It isn't as frustrating as the other times. I'm not worried about whether or not you want to kiss me, and I don't have to hesitate if I want to kiss you. Its different," she smiled sheepishly.

The cafe owner stared into Laura's eyes for a moment before furrowing her brows. "You're making this weird."

Laura began to chuckle before squeezing tightly on Carmilla's hips, making the brunette jump slightly. Carmilla smirked as she wrapped her arms around the blonde's neck.

"Come on. You can't honestly say you saw us being here, like this now, ten years ago," the soldier asked with her smile still plastered to her lips.

Carmilla looked deeply into honey eyes and felt herself fall into them yet again. She never imagined she'd ever see those warm eyes again after Laura left. And here they were taking over her soul like so many times before. "You're right," she agreed. "Me a mom and you a soldier. Who would have guessed?"

"No, I mean, did you ever think we would be here making out freely in a kitchen with batter everywhere?"

"Yes. That exact scenario has been on my mind for years," Carmilla deadpanned.

"Carm! I'm serious!"

"I can see that, Cap, and its cute, but now really isn't the time," the brunette explained before leaning in to kiss her.

Their lips met for a second before Laura pulled away to exclaim, "But don't you think this is a big deal?" 

Carmilla huffed and gave Laura a frustrated glare. "I think you think too much." The blonde pouted, which made the brunette roll her eyes. "Fine. No, I would have never guessed our lives would lead us here. Now can you shut up and kiss me?" Carmilla answered in annoyance.

Laura frowned. "Is it so wrong to stop and appreciate a moment?"

"When the moment is leading up to you getting laid, yes."

The soldier's mouth fell open slightly. "You're right," she replied before pressing back into Carmilla eagerly. Their lips crashing together once again. The brunette bit down on Laura's bottom lip, causing the blonde to suck in a sharp breath. She began to slowly rock her hips against Carmilla's; her hands guiding the brunette's hips to her rhythm.

Carmilla hummed in approval as she let her tongue stroke Laura's lips, granting her entry. She let her fingertips slide down Laura's neck, eliciting shivers from the blonde. She smirked into their kisses as their tongues massaged against each other. She continued to drag her fingertips down the length of the soldier's arms. When she reached her wrists, she pulled the blonde's hands away from her hips.

Laura frowned at the action before seeing Carmilla smirking back at her. She pulled the soldier's wrists up to wrap around her neck before bending slightly and hiking Laura's body up into the air and against her. The soldier's legs instinctively wrapped around the brunette's waist as a giggle escaped her lips. Carmilla held her close, smiling up at the woman in her arms as she slowly walked out of the kitchen.

"This isn't the first time you've picked me up like this and brought me to your bed," Laura teased. 

"But you were drunk when that happened and I don't take advantage of drunk ladies. Regardless of how attractive she might be," Carmilla replied as she stepped through her bedroom door and fell swiftly onto her bed with Laura now underneath her.

A mischievous smile came to the blonde's lips as she looked up at the woman hovering above her. "How respectable."

"Plus, there's always the chance you'd regret it," she said self consciously, avoiding eye contact.

The blonde's heart swelled in her chest. She reached up and caressed the brunette's cheek. "Carm, when it comes to us, there are a lot of things I regret." Her eyes searched the cafe owner's face. Sudden sadness flashed through her features. "This," Laura started. "I'll never regret this." The soldier let a sad smile come to her lips as her index finger ran along the brunette's jaw. She stared at the woman above her in utter adoration. "For once, I feel like I'm finally doing something right." 

Carmilla's eyes softened. She then smirked. "Well, technically you aren't doing anything yet..."

Laura shook her head with a giggle. "Then let's fix that," she answered before pulling the brunette down to connect their lips. It was slow. They let the pressure build between their lips. Laura breathed in the woman on top of her. She felt like she was being engulfed by everything that was Carmilla. And she welcomed it wholeheartedly.

Their bodies moved together at a slow pace. Hands ran along each other's clothed bodies. Everything was so gentle. Soft touches and quiet breaths. They were lost in their own world. Discovering everything they should have learned years ago.

As Laura's hand began to slip under Carmilla's shirt, the brunette leaned up with a small smile and pulled the piece of clothing off swiftly. Her hair fell back onto her pale shoulders and Laura stared up in wonder. Then, Carmilla slipped the straps of her bra off her shoulders, never removing her gaze from the blonde beneath her. And in an instant, she removed the undergarment. The look of awe that took over the soldier made the brunette smirk until awe was replaced by something entirely different. Carmilla couldn't quite place it. It was serious; determined; powerful.

Then, Laura sat up and cupped Carmilla's face; searching her eyes for something Carmilla didn't understand. And then suddenly, they were kissing again. Laura led the kiss; it almost knocked the wind out of Carmilla. It was forceful and there was no doubt of desire. It heightened the ache that had been slowly growing.

The brunette reached up without pulling her lips away from the soldier's and yanked up on the fabric of Laura's shirt. The blonde eagerly moved to remove it before reattaching her lips to Carmilla. The brunette had managed to get Laura's bra off in record time.

Once topless, the soldier flipped them around; pushing Carmilla into the mattress with her thigh pressed between her legs. When their bare chests pressed together, the moans that escaped between kisses shot electric charges down to their cores. Laura's hand slid up Carmilla's torso slowly, gliding past her breasts and beginning to trace her collarbone. The brunette groaned in annoyance, biting down on Laura's lip. The blonde then slid her hand back down and palmed her breast while pressing her thigh against her center at the same time. A whimper came from the brunette's soft lips.

"Pants," the brunette urged through haggard breath. The blonde hopped up, yanking Carmilla's jeans and underwear down in one go. She relieved herself from the rest of her clothes before settling back down between the brunette's legs. She placed kisses along Carmilla's hips, making a trail up her stomach. As she slid herself up Carmilla's body, she felt the brunette's arousal against her skin. Slowly, she began to grind her hips against the brunette's center as she sucked and nipped at Carmilla's chest. Scrapping her teeth along her nipple, she looked up to see Carmilla's head fall back and deliver a moan.

She wanted to hear more.

The blonde took Carmilla by surprise and ran a finger up the slit of her folds. The brunette hissed before moaning again. Laura let her mouth fall back down to her nipple, and closed her eyes as she took in how easily her fingers ran through her. She was so wet and Laura could feel her own arousal pooling between her legs. Her fingers continued to slowly run up and down Carmilla's center, teasing her entrance here and there before having enough.

Laura wanted to taste her. She needed to.

So despite the whimper that left the brunette's mouth at the loss of her hand, Carmilla quickly understood what was happening as the blonde planted kisses down her body. Her dark eyes watched every move Laura made. And as Laura's head positioned itself between her legs, their eyes locked for a moment. That familiar electric current ran between them. Then, the blonde ran her tongue up her wet folds. A sharp moan left Carmilla's mouth as she flung her head back. High voltage.

Laura's fingers gripped onto the brunette's hips tighter as she circled her clit with her tongue, causing a shudder to run through Carmilla's body. Laura moaned from the taste. She wanted to lap up every inch. The vibration of Laura's moan against Carmilla made the brunette groan for more. "Laura..."

"Patience," the blonde said with a chuckle as she placed kisses along her center. Another groan came from the brunette.  

Carmilla practically growled as she leaned down and pulled Laura up for deep kiss. They moaned from the contact, Carmilla able to taste herself against Laura's lips. The brunette pulled her head back before locking her lust-filled eyes with Laura's.

"Ten years, cupcake. I think we've waited long enough," she said before flipping them over and straddling the soldier's thigh. She rubbed her wet center up and down Laura's bent leg, which made the blonde grip onto her hips to hold her closer. Carmilla got lost in the feeling of Laura between her legs; her head falling back toward the ceiling. When she looked back down, her motions stopped.

Laura stared up in confusion, while trying to catch her breath.

Carmilla's dark eyes traced over the soldier's toned body. She could easily see the lean muscles beneath her skin, but that wasn't what caused her to stop. The brunette stared down at the marks on her body. A deep scar stretched across her chest toward her left shoulder. Her ribs held a mark that looked like she had been branded. Two scars an inch apart rested on her right shoulder; bullet wounds.  

Then, the brunette met honey eyes. The blonde's brows were furrowed. She knew what the cafe owner was staring at. Rage was beginning to grow within her. These were her battle scars. They showed her weakness. They were proof of how messed up she felt. She suddenly felt hollow.

"There's more on my back if you want to see that too," she spat out bitterly. 

Carmilla's eyes widened for only a second before fixing a penetrating gaze on honey brown eyes. Laura didn't understand what that look meant. It wasn't a look she expected. It wasn't fear or pity. It was almost... admirable.

The brunette then lifted her hand and brushed a few strands of hair behind the soldier's ear. She then cupped her face, running her thumb over her cheek before ever so gently running her hand down across the large scar traveling across her chest. Laura took a surprising breath from the contact, slamming her eyes shut and forcing a swallow. Then, she felt gentle lips placing kisses where fingertips used to be. Her eyes opened to see Carmilla moving along her skin and kissing every imperfection on her body. Tears formed in her eyes and she felt her body begin to tremble.

Carmilla finally pulled herself back up and rested her forehead against Laura's for a moment. Her thumb traced along the slight indent of the scar on her chest. Then, Carmilla leaned her head back enough to look into watery eyes. "You're still nothing short of beautiful." 

Laura let out a single chuckle and sniffed before shaking her head. The genuine smile on Carmilla's face filling up the hollowness that had overtook her. Laura cupped the back of the brunette's neck and pulled her into a gentle kiss. They paused against each other; feeling the other's hot breath against their skin. And then, Laura couldn't take it anymore. She needed her.  

Their kissing picked up immediately. Tongues tussled as hands groped feverishly at every inch of skin. "Carm," the soldier breathed out as she got a hold of one of the brunette's hands. She guided it slowly down her body toward where she needed her most.

Carmilla moaned at the feeling of Laura's hot center. Her thumb traced her clit as her fingers lightly teased her entrance, hearing the whimpers from the blonde beneath her. The soldier bent her leg once again, pressing her thigh in between Carmilla's legs. The brunette began to ride her leg; her fingers slipping through the blonde's silky folds. 

"Carm, please," Laura begged. She was desperate. She knew what she wanted. And she wanted Carmilla.

"Tell me what you want."

"You," Laura breathed out as her grip on Carmilla's skin grew fierce. "I need you inside me."

Then, the brunette met Laura's lips again, and as she bit down on the blonde's bottom lip, she slid her fingers inside of her. The loud moan that was created caused Carmilla to grind down on her thigh in response. She pumped her fingers in and out with ease, the blonde thrusting her hips into her hand with purpose.

"More!" Laura called out. She wanted more. She wasn't sure what; she just wanted it. Carmilla picked up the pace and pressed harder, curling her fingers as she thrusted.

Laura felt Carmilla's wet core against her thigh and removed her hand from the brunette's hip. She slid it down Carmilla's torso and in between her own thigh and the brunette's center. She then slid her fingers inside her.

"Fuck!" Carmilla exclaimed before she started to grind down onto Laura's hand. She moved her own hand faster for Laura, hearing the blonde's breathing picking up. 

"Don't stop," Laura whined beneath her. "Please, don't stop." She wanted to feel every part of Carmilla on her; to soak her up completely. She wanted to be filled to the brim. Every touch was never enough. Carmilla was a sensation she had never experienced; a craving she could never satisfy in the past. But after feeling the sensation, Laura knew her craving would be never-ending.

"Oh God... Come for me," the brunette moaned as she pinched the blonde's nipple between her fingers. The soldier hissed from the action before Carmilla curled her fingers just right for the blonde to gasp. The woman on top leaned down to kiss her lips before resting her forehead against Laura's. Both their eyes closed, Carmilla repeatedly curled her fingers against the sensitive spot she just found.

Carmilla could hear Laura on the edge; she felt the blonde's attention drift away from the brunette grinding down on her hand. The blonde's other hand was now lost in wavy locks, pulling Carmilla down to her. She was gasping for air against Carmilla's lips.

"Let go, Laura," the brunette whispered against her parted lips. "I've got you."

And with a final curl of her fingers, Laura felt the rush flood through her entire body. Sparks flew through her veins in every direction, leaving her body tingling. Then, soft lips against her mouth brought her back down to Earth. Carmilla was gently kissing her; her fingers still resting inside her. Laura opened her eyes and pulled on Carmilla; forcing her to switch positions. The blonde's hand immediately fell to swipe through Carmilla's folds.

The brunette was almost embarrassed by the moan that left her lips, but was too distracted by Laura pumping her fingers in and out of her. She was already close to begin with, and as her head flung back to get lost in the feeling of Laura, she felt lips sucking on her clit. She cried out in shock and approval, and it didn't take long for her to unravel completely under Laura.

The soldier flopped down on top of Carmilla; both breathing heavily. The cafe owner began to run her fingers through blonde hair as Laura's head rested against her chest. And within seconds, they had fallen asleep.

Laura woke up with a jolt only a half hour later. Her heart was racing. She looked down to see Carmilla still sleeping and tried to settle down beside her. She rested her head back against her chest and tried to calm her thoughts.

Blood. Screaming. Choking. Gurgling.

She closed her eyes tightly to force the memories away. It made her skin crawl. It made the marks on her skin ache. Then, her honey eyes slowly opened. She remembered how Carmilla stared at her body. She remembered how she traced each mark with a gentle touch and tender kiss. Her heart blossomed from the thought.

Laura leaned up to stare down at the brunette. Her lips were slightly parted, her brows furrowed. The soldier tucked a few strands of wavy hair behind the woman's ear with a soft smile.   

She could have had this. She could have had Carmilla. But then everything in her life changed. She had lost so much, and by losing her mother and herself, she had ultimately lost Carmilla. 

Laura lost her mother. There was no getting her back. But she was finding herself now. She was getting back to who she really was.

And she knew it all started after she found Carmilla that first night back. Losing her again was not an option; not when her heart was finally beating again.

The soldier then leaned over and kissed the sleeping beauty's lips, earning a hum from the newly awakened bed mate. An arm pulled Laura closer so their bodies were pressed firmly together.

"Hey," Carmilla greeted with a smirk.

"Hey," the blonde returned with a simple smile. "We should probably put some clothes on. I feel like people just kinda walk into your apartment. We didn't even shut the bedroom door."

Carmilla grumbled. "I don't wanna move."

Laura lifted her eyebrows and sat up to stare at the brunette. "You ready to explain to your daughter why her mother is naked in bed with her friend Laura?"

"I'll just tell her that I got cupcake all over me. And then whatever was on me got all over you, which obviously meant we had to take our clothes off." She wiggled her eyebrows with a smirk.

"You're gross. How are you a mother?"

"I'd say by doing what we were just doing, but that's not scientifically accurate."

Laura rolled her eyes before throwing the sheets off of them. "Up and at 'em!" She then hopped off of the bed and began to put her clothes on.

"Listen, Captain Cupcake. I'm sure you're used to having all your little soldiers pop right out of bed in the morning with that simple command, but this is one chick you won't be able to order around."

The blonde zipped up her fly after pulling her sweater over her head. She walked over to Carmilla's side of the bed and leaned down to kiss her slowly. "If you get up, I'll buy dinner," she whispered with a smile.

The brunette smirked. "Deal."

"Now I'm gonna go clean your kitchen," she said, pulling away from her and leaving the room.

"Yeah! That's right, woman! Clean my kitchen!" Carmilla yelled after her, chuckling to herself as she got off the bed. An unfrosted cupcake came flying into the room and hit her in the head.


"Get dressed and get out here and help me!"

The brunette growled as she went in search for her clothes. 

Laura started cleaning the obnoxious disaster they left behind earlier. She began putting away ingredients, trying to remember which cabinets they were originally pulled out of. Searching quickly, she remembered the sprinkles went on the top shelf of the closest cabinet to the refrigerator. She stood on the tips of her toes to reach it, but in an attempt to shove it on the shelf, she knocked a few things off of it. Birthday cake candles and different kinds of sprinkles came tumbling down to the counter underneath the cabinet. But along with that, were a few envelopes.

Laura frowned, picking up an envelope and spinning it around to see the front. The return address read 'Ell Fanu'. Her mouth fell slightly open. Wasn't Ell her deceased wife? Laura looked at the other envelopes and it showed the same return address. 

The brunette came strolling into the kitchen and then suddenly froze when she saw what was in Laura's hands. 

The soldier looked up, holding up the envelopes. "What are these?"

Carmilla let out a heavy sigh as she ran a hand through her hair. "Letters from my ex."

"I don't understand. Why are you keeping old letters on the sprinkle shelf?"

"They're not old."

Laura looked at her in complete bewilderment. "So you're receiving new letters from your dead wife?"

Carmilla let out another heavy sigh before slouching in defeat. "She's not dead, cupcake."


Chapter Text

Thirteen Years Ago...

Laura left the office building and turned onto the sidewalk in the center of town. She had her annual physical that day and was missing the first half of a school day. The blonde continued in the direction of her high school before hearing soft music playing somewhere off the road. Looking ahead, she saw the stone path that led to a small pond. She used to go there a lot when she was younger to feed the ducks bread.

Slowly making her way through the slightly overgrown hedges, she eventually came across the music maker. 

"Seriously? It's the first week of school and you're already skipping?" Laura commented with her arms crossed over her chest. Laura was excited to finally be in high school. She didn't understand how the brunette could already want to ditch school.

The girl stopped mid song and looked up from an old wooden bench that had started to deteriorate over the years. "Well clearly I'm not the only one. Didn't think you had it in ya, blondie," she smirked.

Laura lifted a brow. "Blondie? No 'cupcake' or 'creampuff' today?"

"Is a blondie not a dessert?" the brunette commented, her attention back on the instrument in her lap as she plucked the strings.

The blonde's cheeks turned red. "Um, right... Well, I'm not skipping. I had a doctor's appointment. Yearly physical. I'm on my way to school now."

Carmilla chuckled and shook her head as she continued to hit the strings. It was a soft, but attentive rhythm. "I should've known you'd never skip for the hell of it." Her dark eyes looked back up at Laura. "Let me guess... You are the epitome of perfect health."

The blonde's cheeks remained red. She didn't understand how Carmilla could make her feel so self-conscious sometimes. "Why does it feel like you're judging me for something that's a good thing?"

"Not judging," she corrected as she continued to watch her fingers pluck at her guitar strings. "It's just predictable. You probably brush your teeth five times a day. I know for a fact that you actually wait thirty minutes after eating before swimming. You're the best on the track team and you're only a sophomore. And you help old ladies bring home their groceries."

Laura frowned. "First of all, I only brush my teeth three times a day. Secondly, I didn't wait thirty minutes once and my stomach ended up getting all wonky! Thirdly, I think you just complimented me, but I'm too shocked over the fact that you actually know I'm on the track team. And finally, what the hell does helping Ms. Zeta with groceries have to do with my health?"

"You're predictable, cupcake. You do all the good deeds and earn all the gold stars. You follow a set of rules and stay inside the lines. Don't look so surprised. Of course you're perfect."

The blonde's mouth fell ajar. "I'm- I'm not perfect!"

"Miss Tightly Wound Hollis whining about being perfect... It's probably killing you that the longer you waste here, the less learning you'll be doing in that big brick prison." The brunette scoffed.

Laura rolled her eyes. "You're so dramatic. Stop brooding and trying to analyze me. You don't know enough about me to even begin to say I'm perfect."

"Oh, but I do. You're Laura Hollis, daughter of Sheriff James Hollis and mechanic, Suzanne Hollis. You've had the whole town watching over you since the day you learned to walk. The cute, clumsy girl next door. And I swear smiles are your personal form of currency."

Laura frowned. "Why do you always have to give me a hard time? What did I ever do to you?"

Carmilla stopped playing and lifted her head to stare evenly at the now pissed off girl in front of her. "You haven't done anything."

The blonde's mouth fell open. "Then why are you so damn infuriating?" she exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air in frustration.

"Wow. Big word, cupcake. But I don't think you know what it means. How am I infuriating? You're the one who just interrupted my little jam session to start a debate."

"This! This is exactly why you're infuriating! You turn everything around and always make me feel like the idiot!"

Carmilla rose a delicate brow. "If you feel like an idiot, it's your own doing. As for thinking I'm out to make your life miserable? Please. I have better things to do."

"Why are you so- so mean?!" Laura yelled with clenched fists by her sides.

The brunette removed the instrument from her lap and sat straight up. Her brows were furrowed and her jaw set. "What did I say that offended you exactly? Which part of this conversation was me being mean?"

Laura opened her mouth, eager to respond, but hesitated. "You- You called me perfect!"

Carmilla's brows shot up unimpressed. "Sounds more like a compliment to me."

The blonde glared. "You didn't mean it as a compliment, Carmilla."

The brunette shrugged and rose to her feet, strapping the guitar over her shoulder and hanging it down her back. "Compliment or not, why does it bother you so much?"

"Because- Because you're so- so-"

"Infuriating?" she smirked.

"Ugh! Yes!" Laura agreed through gritted teeth.

"Why don't you run off to school now, cupcake. You might miss something super important," she chuckled as she brushed past the blonde.

Laura spun around with her hands on her hips. "And where are you going?"

Carmilla turned around but continued to walk backwards down the small path. "Wouldn't you like to know," she smirked yet again before turning back around to leave.

The blonde huffed before marching after her. "I would like to know."

"Well aren't you feisty today!" Carmilla said over her shoulder. "For someone so infuriated with me, you're having trouble letting me walk away."

"Can you answer a question once in your life without being so difficult?" 

Carmilla stopped after reaching the sidewalk and turned to stare at Laura who approached. "Why would I do that when it's so satisfying seeing you all worked up?"

"Ugh! That's it! I'm done. I'm leaving!" Laura yelled, her being the one to brush past Carmilla this time. She walked a few steps down the sidewalk, Carmilla watching with a smirk, before she spun back around and stomped toward the brunette with a pointed finger. "No! I'm not letting you win this one! Tell me where you're going!"

Carmilla raised a brow with her smirk still ever present. "Demanding, huh? Cute." She watched as the blonde's nostrils flared before continuing. "Ever think about asking nicely?"

Laura's eyes widened for a second before she took a deep breath. "Fine. Will you please tell me where you're going?"

The brunette grinned. "Why don't you follow and find out?" She started walking backwards down the sidewalk. "That is, if you aren't too scared to miss a little more school..."

"I'm not scared!"

"Prove it."

Laura stared back into her amused eyes, taking the challenge. "Fine. Let's go."

Present Day...

"What do you mean she's not dead?" Laura barely managed to speak her thoughts; too stunned and confused to be completely coherent. Carmilla ran a hand through her hair and took a step further into the kitchen to approach the soldier, but Laura held her hand out and took a step back. "I need you to explain this."

"There's not much to explain," the brunette said in irritation. "She's alive and feeling guilty. The woman's cancer came back when my belly was about to pop and she told me how it would have been too hard for me; that I had a child to take care of now. I told her it didn't matter; that it was our child; that I would take care of both of them. And then she told me she didn't want to be here anymore. So she packed up and left." She took a deep breath. "She left me to go die somewhere else. And then a year ago, I started getting these fucking letters. She's sorry. Can you believe that? She's sorry she left me and Livie. You know what she should really be sorry about? Not fucking dying in the first place!"

The fire in Carmilla's dark eyes was off-putting. Laura forced a swallow to calm her nerves. "You wish she was dead?" Laura asked softly.

"No, cupcake. She's been fucking dead to me for years. After everything we'd been through? All the appointments, all the life long plans, Livie... God, she couldn't even stay for Livie. She was supposed to be her mother too." She shook her head rapidly. "She told me she wanted a kid... And then before she left, she told me how it was all a mistake." Her dark watery gaze locked with Laura's concerned honey eyes. "Livie was never a mistake to me. And for her to say that? For her to attack the one constant that was in my life? I didn't block the front door. Hell, I would have opened it if it didn't seem like I was rolling out the red carpet for her."

"But she was sick, Carm. Maybe she thought it was easier to leave that way..."

Carmilla's stare grew fierce and her words came out with venom. "Don't you fucking dare defend her. Don't pull a Laura Hollis and try to see the good in her. Sometimes people are just shitty, Laura. Full stop. Cancer or not, she left us. She left us and never came back."

"But she's writing you-"

"I don't give a fuck!"

Laura flinched at the outburst. "People make mistakes, Carm," she said gently.

"Oh, you'd fucking know, wouldn't you?" Carmilla spat out before her mind could catch it. Laura felt the wind knocked out of her. A straight punch to the gut.


Carmilla's face fell completely. She took a step forward. "Laura, I didn't-"

"Yes," the soldier interrupted firmly. "Yes, you did." Her posture immediately straightened. That gentle woman from seconds ago was replaced by the disciplined Captain. "You know, when we were younger, I always heard people saying things about you. They'd say these horrible things that were completely not true. And every time, I'd jump in there and tell them to shut up because none of them even knew you. God, for a long time, I barely knew you. And maybe that's it. Maybe I still barely know you. Because believe it or not, you were never this mean."

The brunette then scoffed. "What'd you expect? I lost my dad. I lost Ell. And I lost you. I'm fucking bitter for a reason."

"You didn't lose me!"

"Then where the fuck have you been for the past nine years?!" Silence fell between them. Carmilla's rage flowed freely now. "And let's be honest: you had no intention of ever coming back."

Laura's mouth was dry. She tried to clear her throat to help her speak, but it was proving difficult. Her body shaking as well. "You're right. I didn't. But if you think for one second that I never thought about you, you'd be dead wrong," she spat out with a trembling jaw.

"Great. So I was yet another ghost to haunt you. Fan-tastic."

"You were the one that kept me alive!" This time, it was Carmilla's expression that faltered. Laura took a deep breath to steady herself. She brought her hands up to run them through her hair in aggravation. "There were so many nights when I had to sleep while others were fighting in the distance. I heard the bombs, the gunfire; death was all over the damn place! I'd close my eyes and I'd still see death. I'd see fallen comrades. I'd see my mom motionless on the floor of my study. Sometimes I'd even see myself... But somehow, when I kept my eyes closed long enough, there you were." She let a weak chuckle fall from her mouth. "Smirking at me and telling me how I'm too stubborn to give up."

The soldier swallowed the blockage forming in her throat. "I was tortured for hours and lost consciousness multiple times. And every time I passed out, my mind brought me straight to you. You were just a teenager, sitting on that old rickety bench by the duck pond. You played softly on the guitar and would look up at me with such a tender smile; a smile I knew you never gave out freely. But you sat there... smiling right at me. As if there was no one else in the world."

"To me, there never was anyone else," Carmilla whispered.

Laura's heart throbbed in her chest. They were words she always wanted to hear...

But why did it hurt so much?

"You're right, Carm. I've made mistakes. And I'm paying for them. I didn't choose to come back here. It wasn't my plan. But things happen. And now I'm here despite trying to stay away. Yes, Ell left too. But she reached out to you. She went out of her way to find you. I never did that. I ran away and was forced to look back. Hell, sometimes I still feel like I'm running! How can you give me a chance and not her?"

"Because you're the one that got away! Not her!" Carmilla admitted with a slight crack in her voice. She took a breath to calm herself as she ran a hand down her face. "I loved Ell. I was going to spend the rest of my life with her. But when it comes to you? There's no fucking contest."

The soldier felt her sturdy shoulders fall. "Why?" she barely whispered.

"Because," Carmilla started with a shrug and a sad smile across her lips. "You're perfect."

Laura's eyes began to water. She let out a single chuckle. "But I thought I made mistakes..."

"You have... But to me, you've always been perfect."

"I don't think you understand the definition, Carm. Perfection doesn't have flaws. There aren't mistakes."

The brunette took a step closer with her hands in her pockets. "I've always felt that perfection went hand-in-hand with perspective." She tilted her head to the side with a gentle smile. "Your so-called flaws make you different from everyone else." She gave another lazy shrug. "You're my definition of perfect."  

The soldier closed her eyes tightly and furrowed her brows. She began to shake her head. "You can't just say things like that."

"Why not?" Carmilla asked softly as she took another step closer.

"Because we're fighting, and I can't focus when you start saying things like- like-" she opened her eyes and saw Carmilla standing directly in front of her. Those dark eyes pierced right through her. 

"I don't want to fight," the brunette breathed out.

"We've always done this, Carm. We fight. This isn't really something out of our norm."

"Yeah, and kissing you was never our norm, but I've been doing a lot of that."

Laura frowned. "Don't you at least want closure with Ell?"

"Damn it, Laura. Can you just drop it?" Carmilla countered in exhausted annoyance.

"At least think about it. It clearly still bothers you. Don't you want to be able to live without all that weight?" the soldier asked with hope. If Laura had an opportunity like this, she would gladly take it. The burdens she's held on her shoulders have been strategically balanced for so long. Her shoulders were never big enough to begin with.

The brunette matched her stare for a few seconds before huffing out a breath. "I'll think about it." Laura gave a few nods before Carmilla lifted her hand to hold the blonde's chin between her fingers. "I'm sorry."

"You don't have to-"

"No, I do," she said sternly. "I was angry and I was taking it out on you."

"You only said the truth."

"It was mean," she replied. She shook her head. "I don't want to be mean."

Laura placed her hands on the brunette's hips. "I know I said that, but you're not mean. You're hurt. There's a difference."

Carmilla's hand fell to Laura's shoulder as the other came up to tuck strands of blonde hair behind the soldier's ear. "I don't want to be hurt either."

The blonde gave her a sad smile and a gentle squeeze on her hips. "Neither do I."

Carmilla leaned in to rest her forehead against Laura's. 

"I used to hate it when you called me perfect," the soldier admitted. Carmilla's lips curved upward as they continued to lean against one another.

"I know. You used to hate a lot of things about me."

"I still do."

"Hey!" the brunette exclaimed, pulling away to stare at the giggling woman in front of her. Her honey eyes watched as Carmilla's expression softened.

"You know, you didn't have to lie to me. You could have told me the truth about Ell. I wouldn't have judged you," Laura began as she let her fingertips trace the skin above the waistband of Carmilla's pants.

The cafe owner sighed. "It wasn't about that. No one brings up Ell. Everyone pretends like she never existed because of how angry I get about her. I didn't lie for you. I did it for me. Sometimes it's easier to pretend. Sometimes it allows you to keep going when you don't think you can."

Laura let her words soak in. Was that true? Was that an option? She never believed in 'ignorance is bliss'. It was never in her nature to live in the dark. Laura needed truths. She needed facts and reasons. They always led her back to somewhere safe and secure. But the way she's felt throughout everything? She already knew the facts and justifications. And that wasn't fixing anything. Remembering those facts, remembering those reasons; it pushed her further into the path of the scorching sun, burning her more and more as time went by.

Maybe she was allowed to live in the dark for once; to ignore the glaringly obvious reasons for her distress. Maybe getting lost on purpose was the only way for her to find her way back again. Maybe she needed to forget for a bit in order to let go; in order to forgive herself and live again.

The soldier's eyes stared absently into the distance. "Pretending... Does it really work?" she asked quietly.

"For some things. I wouldn't say it's the best solution," Carmilla answered before reaching up and holding Laura's chin again. Their eyes locked. "But having you around has made everything a lot easier."

"How?" she asked weakly with furrowed brows.

"Well for one, I've got another babysitter out of this," she grinned, earning a playful shove from the soldier. Carmilla then pulled the blonde in, wrapping her arms around her.

"Am I Livie's babysitter, or yours?" Laura jabbed.

"Ha ha. Funny, Hollis. Although I do like the idea of you looking after me," she smirked.

"As if I don't already."

Carmilla gave a single chuckle. "I suppose you're right." She let out a sigh. "Despite how much of a pain in the ass you are, you actually make me happy," she confessed in a monotone.

"Oh really?" Laura asked with a smile growing across her lips.

"I know, right? It's insane."

The soldier glared with her smile still present. "You're an asshole," she commented before pulling the brunette into a kiss. Carmilla couldn't contain her smirk against Laura's lips. They pulled apart. "You kinda make me happy too," the blonde admitted.

"That's it? Only 'kinda'?"

She shrugged. "Could be better."

Carmilla's mouth fell open as if she was actually offended. "And how exactly?"

"You could be my girlfriend."

The brunette stared back into playful honey eyes. Then, Carmilla released her signature smirk. "You wanna date a mom?"

Laura raised an eyebrow before grinning. "Yep. I only like you for your kid anyway."

The cafe owner let out a sigh before tightening her grip around the blonde. "Makes sense. She's much cooler than me."

"Wow. Did you just admit to someone being cooler than you?"

Carmilla chuckled as she leaned in to peck Laura on the lips. "Yeah. I did."

"The world's ending."

"Oh shush!" she demanded as she locked lips with her again. The door knocked before it slowly pushed open. 

"Kitty?" a hesitant voice came from the door. The two women turned to look at the intruder without moving. Mattie's head peeked in, sighing when she saw them fully clothed. "I called you five times!" she exclaimed as she pushed the door open. Livie came flying through the door toward her mother. Carmilla pulled away from Laura to kneel down for her daughter's embrace.

"Mommy! Look what Aunt Mattie got me!" She pulled out of her mother's arms and twirled around; showing off her new pea coat.

"Well wasn't that nice of her," Carmilla said with a warning tone as she locked eyes with her sister.

"I've seen some of the things mother has bought her. I can't have my niece being anything but stylish," she defended nonchalantly. The brunette rolled her eyes before looking back down at Livie. "You look great, kiddo."

The little girl beamed. Then, she turned to look at the kitchen. "Uh, you guys didn't really get much cleaning done, huh?" 

"Uh," Carmilla began before looking up at Laura, whose cheeks were turning red. The brunette's eyes then moved back to Livie, only to find Mattie grinning in the background. "Laura and I ended up falling asleep."

"I'm sure you were both so tired," Mattie commented with a chuckle. Carmilla glared. "Well, I should be going," she announced as she turned toward the door. "Oh, Hollis," she added, turning back toward them. "You're looking for a job, correct?"

"Uh, yeah?"

"The newspaper is hiring. Wasn't that your thing back in the day?" Mattie questioned with a raised brow.

The surprise was evident on Laura's face. Mattie was actually being considerate to her. "Yeah, it was."

"I know some people. I'll put in a good word for you," she said with a smirk before raising her hand to wiggle her fingers in a wave. "Ta!" 

They watched as she closed the door behind her. Laura stared at the door with wide eyes. "Did she just-"

"She did something nice for you," the brunette finished with just as much shock.

Livie was in the kitchen now eating a cupcake. Carmilla was standing next to Laura, who looked at her expectantly. "You never answered my question."

Carmilla held back a smile. "You never actually asked me anything."

The blonde rolled her eyes. "Seriously?"

"Hey, Liv," Carmilla called over her shoulder. "Laura wants me to be her girlfriend. What do you think about that?"

Livie's mouth was stuffed with the dessert. Frosting was smeared across her cheek. "I thought you already were. I told my friends, Tommy and Lindsey, you were."

Carmilla looked at her in amusement before turning back to the soldier. "Well if Tommy and Lindsey already think so, we can't make Liv a liar," she smirked.

Laura grinned. "It's settled then," she said matter-of-factly. She leaned in and kissed Carmilla's cheek, leaving her lips to slide toward her ear. "You're mine," she whispered; her warm breath hitting Carmilla's skin.

The brunette felt a shiver run straight up her spine as she watched the soldier strut into the kitchen and begin peeling a sleeve off of a cupcake. She locked eyes with Carmilla. "You might wanna get started on this mess, Carm," she gestured toward the kitchen as she took a bite.

Livie giggled. "Yeah, Carm. It's not gonna clean itself," she added; frosting somehow on her forehead as well now. Laura turned with a grin, and wiped off most of the frosting on her forehead with her thumb.

The brunette took a deep breath before walking toward them. She ignored the way her heart melted from the sight of Laura trying to clean her daughter's messy face. "You two are evil." She bent down to pick up baking utensils that were thrown on the floor.

"Carmilla Karnstein is actually cleaning up a mess when told to. My mind is blown right now," Laura teased as she held half a cupcake. 

She placed the utensils in the sink and turned to glare at the blonde. "It's not like I have much of a choice. You two are just standing around stuffing your faces."

Laura stepped in front of the brunette with a mischievous grin. "I think you do have another choice." Livie looked between them both with wide eyes. She held the half eaten cupcake up in front of Carmilla's face. The brunette raised a brow at her. And then, the frosted cupcake came crashing into her face.

Livie giggled wildly as Laura took a step backwards wearing a satisfied smile. Carmilla stood too shocked to move. The cupcake fell from her face to the floor; frosting smeared across nose and cheek.

"What's wrong? Afraid things will get too messy?" Laura mocked as she crossed her arms over her chest.

"I'm not scared," Carmilla answered back as she wiped some frosting off of her face. 

"Prove it," Laura challenged.

A moment passed without movement. And then, Carmilla lunged for her; Laura making a run for it. Carmilla scooped Livie up in one arm, who shrieked in response, as she continued to chase after her girlfriend.

Chapter Text

Carmilla hurriedly dragged Laura through the busy cafe and up the stairs to her apartment. The blonde stumbled a few times trying to keep up.

"Carm! What the hell?!"

The cafe owner swung open the door, pulled Laura in, and slammed the door shut; pressing the soldier's back against it. Her mouth immediately found the blonde's. Her lips moved urgently as her hands slid into Laura's coat, pulling it off and dropping it to the floor. She rocked her hips against Laura's and bit down on her bottom lip at the same time, causing the blonde to gasp for air. The soldier quickly grabbed Carmilla's ass and pulled her in tighter.

"I only have fifteen minutes," the brunette breathed out as her lips moved to Laura's jaw and then to her neck.

Laura began to laugh. "This was why I needed to come to the cafe immediately?" Her eyes rolled back slightly when Carmilla sucked on her collarbone. 

The brunette pulled away and yanked Laura's sweater up and over her head. She pressed her lips against hers again, hands unbuttoning Laura's jeans as the blonde tasted Carmilla's tongue in her mouth. 

Laura's hands gripped Carmilla's ass and kept them grinding in rhythm. The brunette then pulled back slightly, letting her fingertips start to slowly slide down Laura's chest. Her scars no longer held shock value. They were a part of the soldier now. They made her even more beautiful.

"You sent me a picture at the crack of dawn..." Carmilla's voice started huskily. Her fingers brushed down Laura's still covered breasts, slowing down and circling where she could feel nipples hardening beneath the cup of the bra.

"Of you laying in bed without covers..." she continued with her fingers sliding down Laura's toned abdomen as she stared into honey eyes. The blonde was breathing heavy; her eyes staring at Carmilla's moving lips.

"Only wearing a bra and underwear," Carmilla finished as she slid her hand into the front of Laura's underwear, feeling the wetness that was pooling from the soldier's center. They both moaned at the sensation.

"Fuck, Laura," the brunette breathed out as their foreheads rested together. She slid her fingers up and down silk folds, and Laura hungrily leaned in and captured her lips. Carmilla pulled away, licking and nipping at her neck as the blonde let out a throaty moan. The brunette traced her index finger around her clit, and the more she circled it, the more Laura's hips would press into her.

"Carm," the soldier managed to say coherently. Carmilla hummed against her skin as her hand palmed a covered breast. "Couch." The brunette's palms immediately met the back of the door, having to physically push herself away from Laura in order to change location.

Laura reached down and locked the door before pushing the brunette backwards the few steps, and then down onto the couch. The blonde's eyes scanned the woman below her.

"You're running a cafe right now and you thought leather pants was a good choice?"

Carmilla raised a brow. "Leather pants is always a good choice. It's not a crime to look good, creampuff."

"It is when you're giving the elderly a heart attack."

The brunette rolled her eyes. "Well if it bothers you so much, take them off already!"

Laura let out a chuckle before bending down and unbuttoning them. She pulled them off and then leaned down to hover over Carmilla. There lips brushed together, feeding the electric charge.

"We've only got about nine minutes left," Carmilla breathed out against her lips. Laura pulled back slightly and let a grin take over her features.

"I don't need that long," she said before giving a searing kiss and crawling down to the brunette's waist.

"Pretty cocky, Hollis," Carmilla teased as she watched Laura immediately drag her tongue through her center. The brunette's head shot backwards, and she prayed the cafe was busy enough to block out the sounds that were sure to come from her mouth.

The blonde sat down at the counter in the cafe with a grin on her face. Perry walked past her on her way back into the kitchen, but paused. "You're looking exceptionally happy today, Laura..."

Carmilla draped an apron over herself as she passed Perry to get a cup of coffee behind the counter.

The soldier shrugged. "I finished everything I needed to on time," her eyes caught Carmilla's, and Laura's grin grew even more as the brunette ducked out of there.

"Oh, you mean your article at the paper?"

"Uh, yeah," the soldier answered, which was actually true. Mattie kept her word about contacting the local newspaper, and Laura was writing little pieces every few days.

A cell phone started buzzing on the counter by the coffee machine. Perry called over to Carmilla quickly. "Carmilla! Your mother is calling!"

Even with all the hustle and bustle of people coming in and out for coffee and the like, Laura could clearly hear her girlfriend's groan from the announcement. Suddenly, the brunette was pushed in between Laura and the trucker beside her, leaning over the counter with her hand held out to Perry.

The chef handed her the device before heading back into the kitchen.


Laura leaned her head against the heel of her palm, which was propped up by her elbow on the counter. She watched Carmilla, letting her fingers draw light patterns on the forearm holding the phone to her ear. A small smile came to the brunette's lips from the sensation.

Then, she frowned. "She gets out of school in five minutes, mother! JP just finished his shift. I can't just leave!" She closed her eyes as her free hand came up and began rubbing her forehead. "No, I get it. I just wish I had at least a ten minute warning," she growled into the phone. "Yeah, have a safe trip," she grumbled, and then hung up.

"Trouble?" Laura piped up.

"My mother has to immediately get on a plane to China for business. She can't pick up Livie today," she explained as she started to take off her apron.

"That's the problem?" the blonde asked with a chuckle. "Put your apron back on," she said as she got up from her seat. Carmilla's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "I'll get her. Besides," Laura started as she took the apron from her girlfriend's hands and put it back over her head. "I didn't do a complete workout today. I could use the run," she finished with a peck on Carmilla's lips.

"You can take my car, ya know."

"Where's the fun in that?" she teased as she fixed the apron around the cafe owner's neck.

"You've got..." Carmilla said before looking at the time and then back at Laura, "Three minutes."

The soldier grinned before shrugging off her coat. "I don't think you fully grasp how quickly I can get thinks done." She winked and then spun out of the cafe and started running.

Carmilla's mouth twisted into a smirk before she let out a chuckle. "Ya killin' me, Hollis," she whispered to herself as she picked up the jacket that Laura had shed before departing.

"Lauraaaaaaa!" Livie yelled and ran to the blonde immediately after spotting her. The soldier was out of breath, but she bent down and lifted the little girl; swinging her in a circle before placing her down.

Livie shrieked before her feet hit the solid ground. "What are you doing here?" she asked giddily.

"I'm your escort today, m'lady," Laura announced before bowing dramatically.

The little girl's eyes lit up. "Really?"

"Yep!" Laura answered with a grin. "Let's get you home," she said, offering out her hand for Livie to hold. The girl took it instantly.

They began walking back to the cafe, Laura listening to Livie talk animatedly about her day at school. 

"And that's how Tommy said babies are made!"

"Uh," Laura tried to stall; thinking of what a proper response would be. "I'm not sure Tommy has his facts right... Bumping two ugly people together doesn't get you a baby..."

Livie frowned. "Then what does?"

"Um," Laura saw the cafe in sight. "Why don't you wait and ask your mom that, okay?"

The little girl took a second to think it over, and then smiled. "Okay."

They pulled open the door to the cafe, and walked inside. They went straight to the counter and took two seats. After a few seconds, Carmilla came from behind the counter filling up two mugs. She smiled up at the sight of them. "One second," she said to them as she finished with the drinks. Then, she walked over and set the two mugs in front of them.

"Two hot chocolates with extra marshmallows," she smirked. Then, she leaned over slightly and kissed Livie's forehead. "Hey, monster. How was school?"

"Good! I painted a cat in art," she grinned, pulling the mug into her hands.

"What a surprise," Carmilla commented in amusement, shaking her head. She turned to look at the soldier. 

"So where's my kiss?" Laura asked, leaning her chin onto her fists; propped up by her elbows on the counter. 

Carmilla raised her brow, holding back a smile. She leaned in and kissed her gently on the lips, Laura not moving from her position. She smiled at Carmilla when she pulled away.

"Mommy, how do you make a baby?"

Carmilla's head seemed to turn faster than humanly possible. Her eyes widened as she stared at her daughter. "What?"

"Tommy said you have to take two people that are ugly and then hit them together, but Laura said that wasn't right," she asked curiously with furrowed brows.

The brunette looked over at Laura, who was holding a hand over her mouth to hide her laughter. She pulled it down and bit her lip for final restraint. "Tommy told her babies are made by bumping uglies," she tried to hold back her grin, but failed.

Carmilla's brows shot up toward her hairline. She looked back at Livie before exhaling a breath she had unknowingly held. She let out a nervous laugh. "Uh, well, kiddo, you know how they grow in a mommy's belly?" The girl nodded eagerly. "Well the mommy gets a seed and plants it."

"Where do the seeds come from?"

"Uh, well you know how the baby grows in a girl? The seeds come from boys."

Livie took a moment to think it over before hopping out of her seat. "Okay." She then smiled. "Gotta go to the bathroom." She ran off quickly.

Carmilla immediately leaned her elbows onto the counter and buried her face into her hands. Laura finally released her laughter.

"It's not funny," the brunette mumbled. Laura pulled one of her hands down to reveal part of her face.

"You actually handled that pretty well," she encouraged with a sincere smile. Carmilla let her other hand fall away from her face. She took a breath, puffing her cheeks and letting the air escape slowly.

"Jesus... Bumping uglies..." she let herself chuckle at it now. She locked eyes with her girlfriend. "Would letting her believe Tommy have been a bad thing?"

Laura held her hands up in defense. "Hey, don't look at me. I'm not a mom."

Carmilla scoffed. "Well it's not like I've ever done this before."

The soldier reached her hand out and held the brunette's on the counter. "Your vague gardening description is better than the blatant lie," she reassured.

The cafe owner sighed. Her eyes searched Laura's honey browns and smiled. "Thanks."

Laura grinned. "I'm just incredibly helpful today, aren't I?"

The brunette rolled her eyes before pulling away to go back to work. "Okay, Captain Cupcake. At ease."

The soldier had just finished dinner with her father at home. It was nothing special; just quality time. He talked about work and a joke Kirsch told him at the station earlier in the day. She told him about the article she was working on and how Carmilla and Livie were doing. It was nice. Everything in her life felt simple for once.

She walked back to The Black Cat just after closing. Perry, who was cleaning up, let her in with a smile and nodded toward the apartment.

As she ascended the stairs, she heard the faint sound of music. Opening the door hesitantly, she saw Carmilla sitting on the couch; her back to Laura. The brunette was hunched over, and Laura's lips immediately curved into a smile. She quietly stepped closer as to not disturb her.

The strings on the guitar vibrated with ease and Carmilla's soothing voice gave the soldier goosebumps.

"Yeah nothin' could change what you mean to me. Ohhh there's lots that I could say," she sang as Laura came around the couch and stood before her with sparkling eyes. Carmilla looked up with a smirk growing across her lips. "But just hold me now. 'Cause our love will light the way," she sang before tilting her head to the side and staring lovingly at the blonde in front of her.

"And baby, you're all that I want, when you're lyin' here in my arms. I'm findin' it hard to believe, we're in heaven," she finished with a single strum and pulled the instrument off of her lap.

"No! Why'd you stop?" Laura whined as Carmilla reached forward, grabbing the soldier's wrist and pulling her closer.

"Why sing about you being in my arms when I could literally have you in them?" the brunette answered with a yank; pulling the blonde down onto her lap. She wrapped her arms around her waist as the blonde wrapped her own arms around the singer's neck.

"Oh, so you were singing about me, huh?" Laura teased. 

"What do I get if I say 'yes'?" Carmilla smirked back at her.

"A restraining order."

"Hey!" the brunette yelled before tickling the blonde's sides. Laura yelped and pulled Carmilla tighter toward her. The tickling ceased. Laura then leaned in and kissed the brunette's nose, who scrunched up her face in response. "A girl serenades you and all she gets is a peck on the nose?"

Laura rolled her eyes despite grinning. She leaned in a gave her a slow and tender kiss on the lips. Carmilla sighed into it; her eyes still closed when Laura pulled away. Then, her dark eyes opened.  

"I'm gonna respond to Ell. I'm not sure what I'm gonna say yet. But I decided it would probably be good for me regardless." 

The soldier smiled back sweetly; removing a hand from around Carmilla's neck to brush a few wavy locks behind the brunette's ear. "I think that's great, Carm."

The cafe owner smiled back. "Thank you."

"For what?"


Laura's heart was pounding in her chest. "You give me too much credit."

"And you don't give yourself enough." Carmilla shrugged. "Deal with it." Laura rolled her eyes before leaning in and kissing her again.

"Mommy! I just beat your high score!" Livie came yelling down the hallway. She then stopped and smiled even more. "Hi, Laura." The blonde pulled herself up off of the mother and walked over to rustle the little girl's hair.

"Well aren't you a hotshot!" Carmilla commented as she rose to her feet. "But now it's bedtime. And while you're sleeping, mommy's gonna beat your new high score," she answered before sticking out her tongue.

"No! Laura, don't let her!" Livie said as she pulled on the blonde's arm.

The soldier chuckled. "I don't think you have anything to worry about, Liv. Your mom isn't that great with video games."

"Hey!" Carmilla yelled in offense. 

"Let's get you in bed," Laura ignored her girlfriend and pushed Livie back toward her room. After tucking her in and turning on her cat nightlight, Laura began to exit the room. Carmilla was right behind her though and trying to enter.

"What are you doing?" the blonde asked in alarm.

"Getting the video game."


"It's the only game I'm actually good at! She kicks my ass in everything else!" Carmilla argued in a whisper.

Laura pushed the brunette back against the wall; her hands trailing down Carmilla's sides until they were planted on her hips. "You really rather play video games right now?" she whispered with a heated stare.

"So not fair," Carmilla answered in a raspy voice. Her eyes were glued to Laura's lips. "You're totally playing dirty to help out my kid."

The blonde chuckled before leaning in and resting her mouth against Carmilla's ear. "You have no idea how dirty I can get."

A shiver ran up the brunette's spine. "Bed. Now."  

Chapter Text

Eight Years Earlier...

"Ugh! That woman is relentless!" Carmilla groaned as she came bursting through the door of her tiny apartment. She had told her girlfriend to make herself at home knowing her meeting with her mother would probably last longer than desired.

"I'm assuming it didn't go well?" Ell replied in amusement as she pushed herself up off of the couch. She had been reading one of Carmilla's million novels that were scattered throughout the apartment. The books needed an entire apartment of their own if Ell had anything to say about it.

The brunette's shoulders sagged in defeat as she waited for her girlfriend to approach her. The blonde wrapped her arms around her neck and gave her a peck on the lips. Carmilla sighed from the contact; a small smile gracing her lips.

"What happened?"

The small smile that was on her face was now gone. "She keeps pushing it!" Carmilla exclaimed as she pulled herself away from Ell and toward the kitchen. She reached into the cupboard and started to fill a glass of water.

The blonde followed her into the kitchen. "She just wants what's best for you."

Carmilla spun around and stared incredulously at her significant other. "Are you seriously defending her right now?"

"No- Well, maybe," Carmilla let out a laugh in disbelief before Ell continued. "It doesn't mean it actually is what's best for you though!"

"I am not going into the family business! I didn't even finish college! I'm not qualified for that bullshit! Besides, I'm like five seconds away from leaving Silas behind all together."

Ell frowned. "Really?" her voice came out softer than Carmilla expected. "You hate it here that much?"

The brunette's eyes widened; her mouth hanging ajar. She then took a deep breath, placed the glass of water on the counter and walked over to the blonde. She placed her hands gingerly on the woman's hips. "That's not what I meant," she answered gently. 

"I like it here," Ell defended sadly.

Carmilla chuckled. "Yeah, well, you didn't grow up here."

"If I did, maybe you'd like it here more," Ell suggested with a kind smile.

"I don't know about that. You'd probably hate me. I was kind of a huge dick growing up," Carmilla answered in amusement.

Ell grinned. "You didn't really grow out of that."


The blonde leaned in and kissed her slowly before pulling only an inch or two away. "Move in with me."

Carmilla leaned back with wide eyes. "What?"

Ell looked around the apartment quickly before settling her eyes back on Carmilla. "Your apartment is way too tiny. Your books need a bedroom of their own. And I want to wake up next to you every day."

Carmilla smirked. "Like you don't already do that."

The blonde glared slightly before smiling again. "Move in with me."

"That's pretty demanding, Miss Fanu," Carmilla grinned as her eyes watched the blonde's lips.

"I know you hate Silas, but maybe I can help you see the good here," Ell urged.

The brunette's smile softened. Her eyes locked with her girlfriend's sincere blues. "You've already been doing that."

Ell then began to smile. "Sooooo...?"

"I'd love to live with you."

The blonde squealed before crashing their lips together. Carmilla then pulled away, grabbed her hand, and led them to the bedroom. Ell laughed as she was being dragged behind.

"If we're celebrating, please refrain from biting. I know you love it, but I have a doctor's appointment early tomorrow morning."

"Boo!" Carmilla said as she pulled the woman closer and began nibbling on her neck.

Ell closed her eyes from the sensation. "It's too hot for turtlenecks, Carmilla."

She felt the brunette huff against her skin. "Blood work results came back?"

"Mhm. It'll be nice to finally get some answers."

Carmilla nodded before leaning in and hovering over her lips. "And then we can go apartment hunting," she smirked. 

"You read my mind," Ell answered happily before closing the gap between their lips.

"Will! You're here for three days! Three days! Your shift started ten minutes ago and you already dropped a customer's food and knocked over another's drink!" Carmilla exclaimed from behind the counter of the cafe. The customers looked on without surprise. They were actually quite used to this behavior.

"The floor is slippery! Perry must have waxed it too much!"

"Don't blame the floor!" a shout came from within the kitchen. Will rolled his eyes.

Carmilla began wiping down the counter roughly. "I don't even know why I keep letting you work here!"

The bells on the door jingled, signaling a new guest. Will looked up and his chest immediately deflated. "Good. We need damage control. She's extra grumpy," he announced as the soldier came strolling over to the counter.

"You're destroying my business!" Carmilla defended with wide eyes directed at her brother.

Laura rolled her eyes as she took a seat in front of her. "I highly doubt he's ruining your business, Carm."

"Oh yeah?" the cafe owner argued. She turned to the rest of the cafe. "Show of hands: how many people think Will is the worst server they've ever seen?"

Practically everyone raised their hands.

"Kirsch!" Will yelled at his friend, who sheepishly lowered his arm.

"You've got spirit, so it's fine!" the cop answered as he raised his cup of coffee toward him and then took a sip; turning and hiding behind his phone.

"See?" Carmilla said as she brought her attention back to the already clean counter.

Laura then reached up and grabbed Carmilla's hand that was aggressively scrubbing the surface. The brunette looked up at her in alarm.

"I'm getting the impression that you're upset about something," Laura said before giggling. Carmilla exhaled greatly as she ran a hand through her hair.

"Had a shitty dream last night."

The soldier's brow rose as she lifted Carmilla's hand, removed the rag from her palm and replaced it with her own hand. Their fingers interlocked immediately. "Wanna talk about it?"

"Not particularly," she answered with a sigh as she stared at their connected hands. She then looked back up at the blonde; her eyes sparkling. "I'd much rather ask you what your plans are for this weekend."

"Oh really? Why is that?" Laura asked playfully.

"Because my brother will be watching Livie and they're spending the night at my mother's. So that leaves a very empty apartment upstairs..."

"How romantic."

Carmilla rolled her eyes at the tone. "You want romantic, Cap? I can give you romantic."

Laura laughed. "Oh, I'm sure you could. You'd probably overload it with candles, and rose petals, and some sort of orchestral music in the background."

"Don't forget the poetry reading where I compare you to the setting sun and watermelon."

The soldier's face scrunched up in confusion. "Watermelon?"

"It's sweet and refreshing," she answered with a wink. "But you've definitely got some seeds."

Laura's mouth fell open before she picked up the dirty rag and threw it at Carmilla. The brunette laughed in response. "I don't even know what that means, but I'm offended!"

"Oh baby, but I'd spit those seeds out all day!" 

The soldier grabbed a napkin nearby and balled it up before throwing it at her girlfriend. "Stop it! It sounds weird!"

Carmilla was laughing openly still when Will walked by. He leaned closer to Laura. "You're magical, Hollis. Not even here for five minutes and you turned the grumpy cat into a playful kitten."

The brunette glared before tossing the dirty rag at her brother. "Get back to work!"

He scurried off in annoyance.

Laura cleared her throat nervously as she stared down at the counter, catching the brunette's immediate attention. "I was actually going to ask you if you could do me a favor."

The blonde peeked up to look at Carmilla's piercing stare. The cafe owner remained quiet; waiting for the soldier to continue. Laura took a deep breath.

"Could you go into my study with me?"

Realization hit the brunette fast. The vulnerable look in Laura's honey eyes made her heart ache. She was asking Carmilla to go into the room her mother died in. Her father avoided the room almost as much as Laura. She assumed no one had really spent any time in that room since the floorboards needed to be replaced; the blood had soaked through them too much.

"Is there something you want me to take out of there?" she asked softly.

"No," Laura answered urgently. She stared at Carmilla's confused expression before taking another deep breath. "I just... I need to face it." Carmilla wanted nothing more than to pull the woman into a tight embrace, but the counter was in her way. And she doubted the soldier wanted all of the customers' attention on her.

"I can't do it alone," Laura added with a weak smile and glistening eyes. "I want you with me."

Carmilla's heart pulled even more. Then, her nostrils flared. "Fuck this counter," she growled before jumping up on the counter, spinning her legs over to the other side and hopping down next to the blonde. Laura watched with furrowed brows.

"Carm, what the hell-" Lips suddenly cut her off; melting her in her place. When the brunette pulled away, hands cupping the soldier's face, Laura slowly opened her eyes.

"Of course I'll do it," Carmilla answered with her dark eyes penetrating through her.

Claps and whistles from the cafe occupants pulled them out of their own little world, as well as Kirsch yelling, "Woo! Get it, Hollis!"

Carmilla sent him a middle finger without removing her gaze from Laura.

The blonde began to smile. "What was the urgent kiss for?"

The brunette smirked. "To be honest, I always want to drop everything I'm doing to make out with you. I just couldn't resist this time."

"How romantic," Laura replied with a grin growing across her lips.

"Isn't that what you wanted, Captain?" Carmilla teased as Laura reached up and pulled on the brunette's black apron, bringing her closer.

"Good to know you can take orders, Miss Karnstein," Laura commented as she stared at her girlfriend's smirking lips. Then, she gave the apron a final tug and captured Carmilla's lips again.

"Gross!" Will yelled as he passed by again.

Carmilla pulled away to glare at his retreating back. "I'm not paying you to watch!"

"I haven't seen a paycheck in forever!" he yelled over his shoulder.

"That's because I have to use the money to replace all the dishes you break!"

Laura rolled her eyes at the siblings before placing her hand on the back of Carmilla's neck and pulling her back in for another kiss. The tension in the brunette's body quickly dissipated. 

After a moment, Carmilla hesitantly pulled a hair's width away. She sighed sweetly onto Laura's lips. "I need to stop now, otherwise I'll never get back to work," her raspy voice breathed out.

"You're so responsible," Laura teased with a giggle.

"Why is that still so shocking to you?" Carmilla chuckled. "I'm a mother, remember?"

"Yeah. I also remember you skipping school numerous times and sneaking over to my house, only to spend the day making fun of me because I had laryngitis and couldn't talk." 

Carmilla looked at her with a raised eyebrow; a silent pause as they searched each other's eyes. "How did you not know I had a crush on you?"

Laura opened her mouth to respond, but then paused; her eyes drifting to open space as she got lost in thought. "Huh." Her honey eyes moved back to lock with dark ones. The grin on her face causing Carmilla to deflate. "You did like me!"

The cafe owner rolled her eyes.

"You always brought me a candy bar!" Laura playfully hit Carmilla's chest. "How did you manage to make that seem like a jerk thing to do?"

"You hated the nicknames, cupcake. Throwing chocolate at you and calling you sweet pissed you off. Though I can't say I hated seeing you get all riled up. I lived for that."

Laura then frowned. "You don't throw chocolate at me anymore."

Carmilla rolled her eyes and stepped back. "I can't win with you!"

"Go to work!" Laura yelled despite the smile creeping over her face.

"Fine!" Carmilla responded, trying to hide her smile as well. She then leaned in quickly and kissed the soldier's cheek.

"I expect a chocolate bar later," Laura grumbled when Carmilla's lips pecked her cheek. The brunette scoffed and Laura turned to watch the woman walk off as she shook her head.

They had been standing in the hallway for about fifteen minutes. Five feet in front of them stood the door to the study. They had been holding hands since they entered the house. Carmilla let the blonde lead her. They remained in the kitchen at first, preparing a cup of coffee and hot chocolate. Then, they moved to the living room to sit on the couch and watch mindless television. Eventually, Laura pulled Carmilla up off of the couch and silently led her down the hallway. 

And that's where they stood now. 

Carmilla remained quiet as she tried to watch Laura through the corner of her eye. The grip the soldier had on her hand was impressive, and she was sure she would have to rub circulation back into it later.

Five more minutes passed. Carmilla then took a deep breath and turned her head to finally stare directly at Laura. The blonde's eyebrows were deeply furrowed. Her honey eyes burning a hole through the door. Her jaw set firmly; teeth clenched.

"So... what are we thinking about right now?" Carmilla risked speaking.

Laura exhaled before holding her eyes shut. "I don't know if I can do it."

"You know you don't have to do this, right?" the brunette asked gently. "No one would ever hold this against you."

"I don't want to be afraid anymore," she admitted with her eyes still tightly shut.

Carmilla stared at her silently. The soldier was fighting PTSD everyday. The past is painful to everyone at some point, but this woman was living in fear of it. She was always being reminded; where she lived, or the scars on her body. Laura wanted to be free of at least some reminders. Or at least lessen the pain of them.

"I don't want to have to run away every time another memory gets brought up," the blonde added.

"So what are you trying not to run from right now?"

Laura's eyes finally opened. Her stare remained on the closed study door. "My mother killed herself in that room." Carmilla remained quiet. "I watched it happen," Laura added after a few seconds of silence passed. "She was the first person I ever saw die right in front of me. And she was for damn sure not the last," she continued with a forced swallow. "She was the first person to fire at me too," she added in morbid amusement.

Carmilla watched the woman with rapt attention. 

"Most little girls grow up thinking their mom is the strongest woman in the world." Laura cleared her throat as emotions continued to hammer down on her. "She was my role model."

The brunette gave Laura's hand a firm squeeze.

"I wanted to be like her." The soldier tore her gaze away from the door and focused on Carmilla's dark eyes. "But now after everything I've been through," her gaze slid back to the study, "when I see that door," she then locked eyes with Carmilla again. "I can't help thinking that maybe I really will end up exactly like my mother."


"I can't predict when a flash comes. They've been pretty scarce as of late, but what if something big happens? What if I can't control myself?" Her words were coming out desperately; her anxious voice hoping the brunette would understand. "What if it happens when I'm around someone I care about? What if I try to hurt someone?"

"Laura!" Carmilla interrupted sternly as her hands came up to hold the blonde's face. Tears were falling freely down the soldier's cheeks. Laura took a stuttering breath.

"You are not your mother." Laura sniffed as Carmilla made sure they kept eye contact. "Just because you've gone through similar things, doesn't mean you're going to handle it like she did. And you're right; triggers happen. You can't really predict that. But you can try to heal enough so that they hurt less. Until they finally stop."

Laura smiled sadly. "And in order to heal, I have to go through that door." Carmilla wiped a falling tear away with her thumb. "So, you see? I do have to do this."

"Well I know you can do this. I never questioned that," the brunette added softly with a reassuring smile.

Then, Laura pulled one of Carmilla's hands from her cheek and led her down the rest of the hallway. Her free hand gripped the doorknob firmly, stalling for more courage. When she felt Carmilla squeeze her hand, she took a deep breath and opened the door.

They could see dust go flying as the door opened. The blonde reached for the switch on the wall and hit it; a light flickering on. They walked only two feet in; Laura's gaze glued to the floor a few feet in front of her. Carmilla's eyes swept along the room. Nothing remained of the events that took place in this room. It simply looked like a study that had been long forgotten.

Laura let go of Carmilla's hand and spun slowly to take in the surroundings. She stepped hesitantly toward the door frame they had just walked in through. Her fingers raised and slid along the cracked wood. A hole had split the wood a few inches. Another hole mimicked the first a few inches lower on the frame.

"I never told you what she said to me when I tried to get closer to her," Laura started quietly as she kept her hand against the damaged portion of the frame. "She yelled, 'Leave me alone! Please! I have a family!'" The blonde shook her head with furrowed brows. "She didn't even recognize me. I have no idea what she saw." She spun around to look at the floor again. "And as I begged for her to listen to me, she shot at me."

The first shot her mother had fired hit the door frame. So did the second one. Laura wasn't quite as lucky with the following two shots. Her hand subconsciously raised to hover over the two scars right beneath her shoulder. 

"I remember the shock. It was a mix of physical and emotional pain. My mother had just shot me. I couldn't believe it. How is someone supposed to process that?" Laura asked, still in obvious bewilderment. "I crumbled to the floor and looked up at my mother's face. It was full of complete horror. She was terrified. I heard her whimper my name and before I could manage a coherent thought, she held the gun to her head and pulled the trigger."

Carmilla could see the soldier's jaw clenched; her honey eyes glaring at the floorboards. Laura turned to face her girlfriend; her eyes pleading. "How do you protect people from yourself?" She then let out a disgusted chuckle as tears began to well up again. "How do you protect yourself from yourself?"

The brunette closed the distance between them and pulled Laura into a strong embrace. She felt the blonde shake in her arms. The soldier had buried her face into Carmilla's shoulder as the cafe owner held her tightly. 

They stood there for a bit. Carmilla running her hands up and down the blonde's back as Laura's breathing evened out with Carmilla's. The soldier eventually pulled back enough to stare up at Carmilla weakly. The brunette ran her thumb across wet cheeks before giving a small smile.

"I think the best way to protect yourself is knowing that you don't have to do it alone."

Laura let out a single chuckle and then sniffed.

Carmilla continued. "You've got a bunch of people that care about you. That's a good thing. Don't make it out to be some sort of burden." The brunette hesitated before speaking. "Don't you wish your mom asked for more help?" she asked delicately.

Laura felt that question slam into her chest. She closed her eyes to prevent more tears and took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes, Carmilla was staring lovingly at her. Every ache she had been feeling within her chest instantly numbed. Instead, her heart pounded eagerly from the sight of Carmilla's shining eyes. 

"Does that mean you're gonna protect me?" Laura asked playfully with another sniff.

Carmilla smirked as she tucked a few loose strands of blonde hair behind the soldier's ear. "If you decide to not be stubborn and let me."

The blonde chuckled. "That's fair." She frowned again suddenly. "I just- I don't know how I'd be able to live with myself if something ever happened to my dad, or Livie, or you, because of me."

"Nothing's going to happen," the brunette said confidently.

"You don't know that!"

"Well you don't know something will happen." Carmilla sighed, seeing the soldier's shoulders sag in defeat. "One day at a time, Laura," Carmilla instructed gently. The brunette then smiled sincerely at her. "You might not be able to see it, but I see a huge difference between the woman that walked into my cafe back in December, and the woman standing in front of me right now."

"Yeah, you've seen me naked."

Carmilla chuckled. "True. But you don't look as lost anymore. You've gone through a lot, cupcake. I'm impressed with how far you've come. And it takes a lot to impress me," she added a wink.

"I don't feel like I've come very far."

The brunette shrugged. "You've never been a patient person. You've always looked for quick fixes." Carmilla then chuckled and gestured toward the entirety of the room. "Do you see where we are? And you're gonna tell me you haven't improved?"

Laura took in a deep breath. That was true. She was standing in this room that plagued her for years. But the immediate fright was no longer there. It was just a room. A room holding her saddest memory. But that memory has never only existed in that room. It follows her wherever she goes. The room wasn't the problem. And that revelation was a good first step.

Her eyes landed back on Carmilla and gave her a sad smile. "Thank you."

The brunette smiled back. "Of course."

Laura reached and grabbed her girlfriend's hand. "Let's get back to your place. My dad will probably be home soon." The blonde led them out of the house without another word. They walked silently in the chill of the spring night air.

The soldier continued to look at Carmilla as they walked their way back into town to the cafe. The brunette was lost in serious thought. Her brows were furrowed and the grip she held on Laura's hand gave that away. Finally, the cafe owner spoke.

"After you left, all I wanted to do was run away." 

Laura felt a sudden weight fall on her chest. She began to slow down, but Carmilla pulled her along.

"I sat in your hospital room the night your mother..." Her words drifted for a moment. "Your dad was a wreck. I told him I'd watch you while he went to deal with all the formalities." She took deep breath, still not looking at the woman next to her. "I stared at your bandages for hours." She let out a disgusted chuckle. "And it was that moment in the hospital room that I kept thinking of when you told me you enlisted. It was you in that hospital bed that I thought of when you showed up to my house and said good bye."

"Carm..." the soldier said quietly.

"Even after you were long gone, I saw you," Carmilla said simply. "I saw your ten year old self on the playground swings whenever I walked by them. I saw your sixteen year old self in the center of town on a bench with your sketchbook. Your ghosts haunted me everywhere I went in this damn town."

They continued walking. Carmilla didn't think she could admit any of this if she was forced to look at the blonde. "And every time I saw one, I was afraid that maybe that was it; maybe something happened and that's all you were now. Just... a ghost."

The brunette took a deep breath through her nose and then exhaled. "I always wanted out of Silas. You knew that more than anyone." She then let out another chuckle and shook her head. "Yet I couldn't leave. Seeing your ghosts was better than not seeing you at all."

Laura finally pulled hard on Carmilla's hand, causing them to stop. The brunette locked dark eyes with her.

"I didn't even know you came to the hospital that night," Laura said meekly. 

"I left before you woke up." She swallowed her nerves. "I'm not gonna run from you, Laura. No matter what, I'm gonna be here for you. I'm not going anywhere."

Laura then pulled Carmilla in and cupped her face, kissing her deeply. The brunette gripped the soldier's hips firmly, pulling them flush together. Then, Laura leaned back to rest their foreheads together. With her eyes shut tightly, she breathed out against Carmilla's lips.

"I love you," the soldier whispered.

In that instant, Carmilla felt her world stand still. Her own heartbeat thumped in her ears. The familiar scent that was so distinctly Laura consumed her nostrils. The warmth of her body set fire to the blood pumping through the brunette's veins. 

And when Carmilla recaptured her lips, she held her closer than she had ever held her before.

"I love you too."

Laura's grip on the woman grew tighter from those words. If Carmilla wasn't going anywhere, then Laura wasn't letting go.

When they finally did pull apart, Carmilla reached into her pocket and held something out to Laura; avoiding the blonde's gaze. The soldier looked down and grinned at what rested in the palm of the brunette's hand; a chocolate bar.

"Don't say I never get you anything," the cafe owner grumbled before Laura giggled and threw her arms around Carmilla's neck. She kissed her harder than the brunette expected, knocking her off balance before Carmilla found her footing and grinned back into the kiss.

Chapter Text

It was mid-afternoon on a Friday. The cafe was slower than usual, but Carmilla wasn't complaining. She had been distracted all week. Laura left Monday morning for a conference. The Army wanted her to speak about loss and overcoming it. Carmilla had to admit, she was relatively worried. Sending Laura back into that kind of environment was a risk for a trigger, but she had to hope for the best. She had to believe in her girlfriend. 

She still worried.

The cafe owner was placing a cup of coffee down in front of a customer when the bell on the door jingled. 

"Laura!" Livie exclaimed as she hopped off of her seat at the counter and ran toward the soldier. Carmilla's gaze shot up to see Livie throwing herself at Laura, who was dressed head to toe in her uniform. The blonde bent down on one knee and grinned as she held the little girl close. 

Livie pulled back slightly, her hands still wrapped around Laura's neck. "You took too long," she pouted.

The soldier gave her a sad smile. "I know. How can I make it up to you?"

The little girl squinted as she thought for a few seconds. She then smiled broadly. "Take me to the park!"

Laura giggled at her excitement before reaching up and removing her officer visor; placing it on the little girl's head instead. It was too big and hung over her eyes for a moment before Laura adjusted it. "Yes, ma'am!" she said playfully with a salute. "Just let me say hello to your mom first, okay, Captain?"

Livie nodded eagerly, running past her mother and yelling, "We're going to the park, mommy!" as she headed for the apartment.

Carmilla watched her daughter disappear through the back door before turning to see the soldier walking toward her. The brunette's eyes raked over the woman in uniform and her heart sped up exponentially. She smirked and rested her hands on her own hips, cocking them to the side as she watched Laura get closer.

"You really did take your sweet time, huh?" Carmilla teased.

"Does that mean you missed me?" Laura grinned back, almost at arms length.

"As if I'd miss a pain in the ass like y-" her words were swallowed by Laura's mouth against hers. The soldier pulled her against her body fiercely, earning a whistle from Kirsch in the background. They chose to ignore him.

When the blonde pulled away, Carmilla was left breathless.

"I missed you too," Laura giggled. 

The brunette sighed and reached up to tuck stray hairs behind the soldier's ear. "You're such a pain in the ass," she restated softly. Her eyes betrayed her words and Laura leaned in to kiss her gently.

Carmilla then looked down at the uniform and pulled slightly on the lapels. "You really did take too long though..."

Laura reached up and tilted the cafe owner's chin to look at her. "How can I make it up to you?" she said in a tone that sent shivers running up Carmilla's spine. The brunette swallowed down the effect Laura had on her.

"Don't do it again," she whispered back weakly.

The soldier's honey eyes widened. Her heart felt as if it grew and took over her entire chest. "If I have to go again, I'm taking you with me," she said gently.

Those words meant more to Carmilla than Laura would ever know. The brunette knew what it felt like to have Laura leave her. It was engraved into her bones from over a decade ago. But the idea of Laura not wanting to leave her again was shocking despite how far they've come. They had been dating for months now. They had confessed their love for one another. But the reassurance that Laura didn't want to leave her behind was such an inexplicable feeling; it was healing.

Livie came running back into the cafe and yanked on Laura's arm. In her other hand, she held a notebook to her side. The blonde chuckled at the little girl's enthusiasm. She bent down and threw Livie over her shoulder, earning a squeal from the little brunette.

"And of course we'll be taking this punk with us too," she grinned back at Carmilla before spinning around and heading toward the door.

Carmilla shook her head fondly as she watched them depart. "Be back in an hour!" she yelled after them.

Without turning around, Laura sent her a thumbs up over her head as Livie waved, still hanging over the soldier's shoulder. "Okay, mommy!"

The cafe owner sighed before getting back to work.

Laura continued to push Livie on the swing in the park for awhile. The girl still wearing the soldier's hat with pride. After listening to Livie prattle on about her week at school and how Tommy stole her favorite pencil, Laura glanced down at the notebook in the grass beside them.

"What's up with the notebook, squirt?" she asked as she continued to push the girl into the air.

"I brought it to draw!" she answered cheerfully. "You told me you liked to draw. And then mommy told me the other day that you're really good at it! So I thought you could teach me!"

Laura pulled the chains on the swing to stop it. Livie looked over her shoulder in question.

"She said I was good?" the blonde asked sheepishly.

The tiny Karnstein giggled. "Duh! Don't tell her I told you," she said with a mischievous grin.

Laura mirrored her smile. "What else does your mom say about me?"

"That you're a pain in the butt, but I don't think she means it."

The soldier scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest. "She can be such a grump."

Livie giggled. "Yeah, but that's not really her. She has to look tough."

Laura raised a brow at her as she watched her leave the swing and pick up the notebook. "Why does she have to look tough?"

The little girl looked up at her with a tilt of her head. "She doesn't like people to see her sad."

The blonde frowned. "She's sad?"

Livie shook her head rapidly. "No, no! Not anymore! She smiles all the time now!"

"That's good," Laura said with a sigh and soft smile of her own. She then furrowed her brows. "Did you used to see her sad?"

Livie nodded as she sat herself on the grass cross-legged. Laura followed suit. "She wouldn't do it on purpose. I saw her when she thought no one was looking." She then smiled. "I always went and gave her a big hug! And she'd squeeze me like a pancake! But it didn't hurt though. Did you know she's the best hugger?"

Laura chuckled. "She's a great hugger."

"She didn't like that you were gone all week. I missed you more though!" Livie exclaimed as she fixed the visor on her head.

"Well I missed you guys even more!" Laura argued with a smile as she picked a few blades of grass and threw them at the little girl in front of her.

Livie plucked some grass as well and threw them back at the soldier. "Nuh-uh!"

"Uh-huh!" the blonde answered in amusement as she continued the grass war.

"Fine," Livie caved quicker than expected. "But you have to have dinner with us tonight."

The soldier began to laugh. "Well if I have to..." That was her plan anyway. "How about we try to draw some things?" she asked, changing subjects.

They spent awhile trying to draw one another; the two facing each other and giggling as they tried to get noses and mouths right. Laura did huff a few times though. She had to try and draw while pressing the piece of paper, torn from the notebook, against her thigh. And the pencil Livie gave her lacked an eraser. She occasionally snatched the pencil Livie was using from her hand, earning a "Hey!" despite the giggle that followed.

"So, did you tell Laura yet?" LaFontaine asked, leaning against the cafe counter as they waited for Perry to end her workday. 

"She's been back for a total of five seconds," Carmilla replied sharply.

The ginger ignored the tone in their friend's voice. "What do you think she's gonna say?"

The cafe owner sighed. "I know exactly what she's going to say."

"And that's why you sound like you wanna slam your face into the counter," Laf observed.

"Can't I make out with her first before I tell her?" the brunette whined.

"I guess you could, but Laura will probably be pissed you didn't tell her earlier than that."

Carmilla groaned and bowed her head onto the counter. "Go into the kitchen and pull your wife away from whatever appliance she's cleaning," she grumbled against the polished surface.

Laf chuckled and obeyed orders. They returned with a hand on Perry's arm as they pulled her from the kitchen. The cook was still holding a sponge in one hand. "Honey! JP won't clean it properly!"

"I'm sure he'll do his job just fine without you," Laf answered with a sigh.

Carmilla lifted her head to stare at the couple. She held out her hand for Perry to surrender the sponge. With a huff, Perry gave it to her.

"You're pregnant, Curly Sue. Can you take it easy for once in your life?" Carmilla asked in annoyance with a shake of her head. Perry was showing now and Carmilla couldn't understand why every time she entered the kitchen, she'd see her on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor or ducked halfway into the oven with some sort of cleaning agent.

"Fine. If you want your cafe to turn into a dirty pigsty, then I'll leave," she answered with her chin raised defiantly into the air.

"Sounds good to me," Carmilla replied carelessly. Perry frowned in response.

"Come on, Perr. We promised your folks we'd be there in ten minutes," Laf said with another gentle tug on their wife's arm.

"Okay, okay. Let's go."

"Later," Carmilla called after them as they waved back at her and left the building. Livie and Laura came through the door seconds later.

"Mommy! I drew Laura!" Livie exclaimed, running toward her mother as she held the notebook open.

"Oh really? Let me see," Carmilla answered as she leaned over the counter and took the notebook. "Wow! Look at that! It looks exactly like her!"

Livie giggled. "No it doesn't! I gave Laura a mustache!"

"I stand by my statement."

"Hey!" Laura interjected as Carmilla leaned over the counter to kiss her daughter on the forehead. She had to tilt the officer visor slightly before her lips made contact with skin. The brunette then smirked at the soldier and began to lean over to kiss her as well until Laura pulled back. 

"I don't kiss mean people," the blonde said with a lift of her chin and arms crossed over her chest.

"That's surprising since you've definitely kissed me before," Carmilla answered with a raised brow and her smirk still on her lips.

Livie giggled. "You guys are gross." She then spotted her uncle across the cafe having a conversation with Danny. Livie quickly grabbed her notebook. "Uncle Will! I drew Laura with a mustache!" she yelled as she ran toward him. 

Laura chuckled as she watched the little girl talk animatedly to Will and Danny. She then looked back at Carmilla, who was still smirking.

"She asked me to draw with her," Laura explained.

"And did you?"

The soldier reached into her uniform pants pocket and pulled out a folded piece of lined paper. She placed it on the counter. Carmilla looked down at it with a cocked brow before picking it up and unfolding it. Her mouth fell open slightly.

On the paper was her little girl. Gentle and innocent. It was beautiful.

Her eyes danced over the image. "This is..."

"Had to use my thigh as a surface, so..."

Carmilla shook her head, looking up to meet her eyes. "Laura, this is beautiful." She looked back down at the drawing. "I'm keeping this."

Laura rolled her eyes. "It's just a sketch, Carm."

"An amazing sketch," she defended. "Of my daughter. Drawn by my girlfriend." Her stare was piercing, and Laura forced a swallow. "I'm keeping it."

The soldier bowed her head. "Okay," she said softly. A blush took over her cheeks. She cleared her throat before looking back at the brunette. "So, Livie told me I have to have dinner with you guys tonight."

Carmilla smirked. "My daughter is the best wing woman, I swear."

Laura chuckled. "As if I wasn't already going to spend the rest of the day with you anyway."

Carmilla lifted an elegant brow. "The day? What about the night?"

The soldier grinned. "Well I didn't want to be presumptuous."

The cafe owner leaned further onto the counter, which made Laura do the same. "By all means, be presumptuous," she answered, their eyes fixed on the other's lips.

"Okay, enough with that! People are trying to eat here," Will called out as he came around the counter to fill up a cup of coffee. Carmilla glared at him, while Laura just giggled.

"Congratulations, by the way," the soldier said to him. He looked at her as if she had two heads.

Carmilla rolled her eyes. "On graduating, numb nuts."

"Oh!" he said with a grin. "Yeah! Thanks! Although I'm apparently still working at this fine establishment," he gestured at the cafe.

"Hey! There's nothing wrong with this fine establishment!" Carmilla barked at him. "You have a meeting with mother in a half hour anyway. Quit whining."

"Going into the family business?" Laura asked as she rested her chin on the heel of her palm.

Will nodded. "Mattie's supposedly taking me with her tomorrow for a conference meeting."

"Sounds thrilling," Carmilla said in a monotone.

Laura swatted at Carmilla's arm. "I think you're gonna do great, Will."

He smiled genuinely; that affectionate Karnstein smile. "Thanks, Hollis. Can you be my sister instead of this cranky lady?" he gestured his thumb toward the brunette. Carmilla simply rolled her eyes as Laura chuckled. "Although seeing how gross you two are, you'll probably be my sister soon enough," he added as he took off his apron. The cafe owner picked it up immediately and pegged it at his back as he left behind the counter with the cup of coffee. He only laughed in response. 

Laura was still resting her chin on her hand when Carmilla turned back to her. Only now she was grinning. "Is your brother suggesting we're getting married soon?" The brunette rolled her eyes yet again, but Laura continued. "I wasn't aware you were so desperate to tie me down."

"Cupcake, we're no strangers to bondage," Carmilla replied with a devilish smirk.

The soldier shook her head despite smiling at the woman in front of her. "You really have no shame."

Carmilla leaned further over the counter and lowered her voice. "If you only knew the things that uniform is making me want to do to you..."

A shiver ran up Laura's spine. She cleared her throat and looked around to see if anyone could hear them. She leaned closer to Carmilla. "Care to fill me in?"

The brunette bit her bottom lip to try and prevent the smile from growing across her lips. "Let's just say I'm very grateful for your service."

Laura began to laugh. "So you're only attracted to me because of the uniform. I see how it is."

"Trust me, Cap," Carmilla's eyes trailed up and down Laura's body before locking eyes, "I like what's under the uniform a lot more."

Laura took a very deep breath. "Okay, I'm gonna need you to tone it down a bit if I have to wait a few hours before I can touch you." 

Carmilla chuckled. "Flustered?"

"I've been flustered all week since you decided to torture me with a picture every night."

The brunette shrugged. "Just making sure you knew what you were missing."

The soldier scoffed. "Your body is the last thing I'd forget." Carmilla grinned before JP came out of the kitchen to talk about food shipments. Danny walked up to the counter to greet Laura. 

"Hey, Hollis. I see you decided to shave the 'stache." Laura began to smile before Carmilla interrupted. JP returned to the kitchen.

"Wow. Topnotch comedy, Pepper Ann."

Danny glared at Carmilla. "Not everyone finds being an asshole as humorous as you do."

She smirked. "You've always been jealous. Not my fault chicks dig assholes."

Danny rolled her eyes. "The universe's cruel joke."

"See? Even the universe has better jokes than you."

"Eat a dick, Karnstein."

"Only if it's Laura's."

Suddenly, Kirsch's hand was on Laura's shoulder. She looked over at him in surprise.

"Isn't it impressive how far they've come in ten years?" he grinned as his eyes moved from his girlfriend to Carmilla.

Laura let out a chuckle. "Actually, yeah." The insults remained, but at least it was playful now. "And for the record, I have female parts," the soldier felt the need to reassure the tall redhead.

"Don't I know it," Carmilla grinned.

"You're a mother!" Laura exclaimed incredulously, earning an eye roll from her girlfriend.

"She's still a pervy asshole," Danny added, crossing her arms over her chest. "That's not gonna change."

"Well as much fun as this is, I came to steal my girl," Kirsch spoke up.

Danny lifted a brow. "Am I your property?"

His eyes widened and mouth hung open. "No- I just meant- You're no one's property-"

"Kirsch," she cut him off. "Let's go," she smiled before leaning in, kissing his cheek and walking toward the exit.

He blinked a few times before a goofy smile took over his face. "See ya, guys," he said before following her out.

Carmilla scoffed. "He's so whipped." 

"So are you." The cafe owner locked eyes with Laura; her brows raised toward her hairline. Laura grinned at the reaction. "I've got you right where I want you."

"Oh really? And where's that?"

Laura leaned very far over the counter. Her voice dropped after licking her lips. Carmilla watched her tongue too desperately. "Ten seconds from proposing, and five seconds from screaming my name with my mouth between your legs."

Carmilla bowed her head immediately, releasing a loud groan. She shot her head back up and stared at the soldier with wide eyes. "How am I not supposed to be a perv when you say shit like that?!" The blonde began to giggle as she sat back down in her seat comfortably. "Also," Carmilla continued. "This is the second time marriage has come up in the past ten minutes."

"I was kidding, Karnstein. Don't have a coronary," the soldier continued to giggle.

Carmilla sat on the couch, her arm wrapped around Laura as the blonde tucked herself into the brunette's side. Livie was put to bed awhile ago. Carmilla knew this was the perfect moment to tell Laura about what happened with Ell. Carmilla had finally replied with an email. She sent it three days ago and got a response in the same day. But she never replied to that email. Ell asked if she could meet in person. And Carmilla was terrified of the thought.

Laura should know. She had become an important part of her and Livie's life. But there was something holding Carmilla back. Maybe she was scared. Part of her wanted to pretend Ell's email didn't exist. And telling Laura made it real. And knowing Laura, she would encourage them to meet.

But Carmilla was still so angry. Ell left. She left them. And she wasn't sure if she was ready to let go of that anger.

So Carmilla kissed her girlfriend. She got lost in her. She was forced to live a week without Laura and making up for that seemed more of a priority. She cared more about Laura anyway. God, she cared more about Laura.

It was embarrassing how much she loved her. Marriage was brought up twice that day, but Carmilla wasn't as paranoid as she had led on. It wasn't as if she hadn't imagined the three of them being a family together. They acted as one already. Carmilla couldn't even imagine being with anyone else now that she had Laura. She was everything Carmilla ever wanted.

She always was.

"I love you," Carmilla whispered after pulling her lips apart from the soldier's.

Laura slowly smiled at her; surprised by the sudden interruption. "I love you too," she returned with a small giggle.

"Thanks for coming back." Her eyes glistened with an intensity that made the blonde's heart ache.

"Carm..." she began, her hand raising to cup the brunette's cheek.

"Please," Carmilla said with furrowed brows before Laura could add anything. "Just kiss me."

Laura frowned before a sense of determination took over her features. And then, she kissed her. It was deep and passionate. She needed to ease Carmilla's worries and fears. She had to. She had to protect her from that pain. She didn't deserve to hurt anymore.

So the soldier laid the brunette down onto the couch; determined to help her forget. 

Chapter Text

Almost ten years ago...

"What do you want, ginger nerd?" Carmilla growled without making eye contact. She kept watching her fingers plucking the guitar strings. 

LaFontaine had seen her across the street in the center of town. They were finishing their shift at the market and noticed the girl had been playing there for hours. "Your fingers must be torn to pieces," they commented lightheartedly.

The brunette shrugged without looking up. "Could be worse. I was using a pick for a bit."

The ginger rested their hands in their back pockets while shifting their weight back and forth from their heels to their toes. "You know... If you need someone to talk to-"

Carmilla finally looked up at them with dark eyes. "Save it. Don't pretend like you know anything about me."

"We've grown up in the same town, Carmilla. Believe it or not, I know more than you think. Plus, you've actually spent a lot of time around me."

The brunette glared. "It wasn't on purpose."

Laf rolled their eyes. "You're not the only one upset. I'm sad too."

"You don't know what I'm feeling."

"I know you love her."

Carmilla's eyes widened, her throat tightening as well. Then, she frowned. "No one in their right mind would ever love Laura Hollis."

Laf shrugged. "Never thought you were a sane person."

"Fuck you."

"No, fuck you," the ginger shot back, catching the guitarist by surprise. "She thinks the world of you."

Carmilla scoffed. "Yeah, I'm sure."

"Did you even say goodbye to her?"

"She came to my house earlier."


Carmilla roughly pulled the guitar off of her lap, standing it up on the ground as her hand gripped tightly on the neck. "And then she left. What else matters?" she replied more aggressively.

"It matters if you sent her off without any kind of support. To her, you matter."

"If I mattered, she wouldn't have run off like an idiot to get herself killed!"

"Who said she's gonna die?"

Carmilla paused and really searched LaFontaine's eyes. "She's not well, LaFontaine." The ginger felt the heaviness of the girl's words. The nicknames were ditched. "She witnessed her mother kill herself. Right after her mother shot her." Carmilla got to her feet and stood firmly in front of Laf. "A mother shot her own daughter. And now that daughter is an emotional mess, who is going off to do the last thing she ever wanted to do; she's joining the army. That's dangerous. And her father is in no place to see the danger because he's stuck in his own emotional bubble."

Carmilla shook her head and strapped her guitar onto her back before locking eyes with Laf again. "Excuse me for trying to be the voice of reason." She brushed past the ginger, who turned and spoke after her.

"Since when has anyone ever been able to stop Laura?" The brunette froze. "Did you really think you could have?"

Taking a deep breath, the guitarist turned halfway around. "I had to try," she answered with exhaustion.

"And she probably loves you even more for that."

"How are you so okay with this?!" Carmilla turned fully around and felt tears threatening to build.

LaFontaine calmly looked at the girl in front of them with a sad half-smile. "I have faith in her," they answered with a shrug.

The brunette scoffed. "Faith isn't good enough," she said before spinning around and walking off. She headed down the sidewalk, away from the center of town. She paid no attention to where she was headed until recognizing her high school in the distance. She rolled her eyes at the building. She had recently graduated. That was the last place she wanted to head back to. 

But then, she spotted the familiar stone path. Her heart warmed at the sight of it as she began making her way toward it.

"Carmilla Karnstein, if you don't kiss me right now, there's gonna be hell to pay," Laura warned from the cafe owner's bed. The brunette was currently hunched over a desk in her bedroom. She was trying to organize order forms.

"One second, I'm almost done," she answered as she straightened the piles of paper that she was going to have to fax tomorrow morning. When she turned around, she found Laura sitting cross legged, her arms crossed over her chest and a pout on her face. Carmilla smirked as she slowly approached the bed. "You're so needy."

The soldier frowned even more. "I was busy all day writing articles, and then my dad made me help him with his truck, right before helping him paint almost the entire house. Excuse me for wanting to do something enjoyable at the end of the day."

Carmilla still smirked as she stood at the foot of the bed, arms crossing over her chest. "And what is this enjoyable thing you want to do?" 

"You had your chance to find out. Time limit is up. That ship has sailed, Karnstein."

The brunette raised a delicate brow as a fire began to burn behind her eyes. "Oh really?" She then bent down onto the bed and began to slowly crawl toward the soldier. Laura's breathing became ragged as her girlfriend crept closer. A ratty t-shirt and cotton shorts that had seen the washer machine way too many times was apparently good enough for the blonde. Carmilla never had trouble getting her hot and bothered.

The brunette was on her hands and knees, hovering over Laura's lap. Her palms pressed into the mattress on either side of Laura. The soldier had the strength to keep her arms crossed as if she was unaffected by the woman on top of her. Laura clenched her jaw before speaking. "I know what you're trying to do. It's not gonna work."

Carmilla grinned before leaning forward and positioning her mouth right next to Laura's ear. "Oh it's definitely working, cupcake." She placed a kiss right under the soldier's ear and noticed a shiver run through Laura's body. Carmilla grinned even more as she began to kiss along her girlfriend's jaw.

"You missed your chance, Carm. Sorry. Your loss," the blonde breathed out with her eyes slammed shut. The feeling of Carmilla's lips trailing down her jaw was making her brain lose focus. 

The brunette hummed against smooth skin before finally hovering over Laura's lips. She then lifted a palm from the bed and began tracing the blonde's collarbone. Her fingertips grazed down Laura's chest; falling into cleavage before the tank top started. But Carmilla continued to drag her fingers down Laura's crossed arms, then down her torso, before making the slightest contact with the now aching area between Laura's legs. Her palm was placed against the mattress again, right in the middle of the soldier's crossed legs. 

Laura breathed out heavily against Carmilla's lips. She forced a swallow; her eyes still tightly shut. "What are you... waiting for exactly?" she managed to articulate. The scent of Carmilla was beginning to paralyze her.

"My orders, Cap," the brunette answered, unable to hold back a chuckle.

Laura let out a laugh, leaning back slightly to stare at the brunette. "You already pursued your superior officer after being told the mission was aborted."

"Sooooo... punishment?" Carmilla smirked as she wiggled her eyebrows up and down.

"Yeah," Laura agreed with a smirk of her own playing on her lips. "One hundred push-ups and sit-ups."

Carmilla frowned before rubbing her index and middle finger up along Laura's center. The blonde hissed in response, earning another smirk from the brunette. "Do me a favor, Cap," she started as she leaned back in to hover over lips. "Shut up." She then kissed her. It was forceful and heady. She grabbed Laura's waist and pulled her further down on the bed; pushing her shoulders back down to the mattress.

"Is that anyway to talk to your superior officer?" Laura questioned with a raised brow as she stared up at her girlfriend swiftly removing her t-shirt. Black bra against sleek pale skin. Her mouth began to salivate.

"I think you've been given too much power over the years," Carmilla replied before lifting the blonde's hips slightly and yanking down on the soldier's pajama shorts.

Laura let her girlfriend throw her shorts across the room as she watched with a grin. "Feeling a need to prove yourself?"

The brunette scoffed as she began to pull Laura's legs over her shoulders. "As if you don't already know how this is going to end."

"You're so cocky," the blonde commented as she shook her head.

Carmilla looked up from in between legs. "Actually, there is an extreme lack of cock happening right now."

"Oh my God."

"What? It's the truth!" the cafe owner chuckled.

Laura glared despite her slight smile. "Just get to work."

That infamous smirk appeared suddenly. "Yes, ma'am," she answered with a wink before ducking down and running her tongue along Laura's center.

"Jesus," Laura breathed out.

"Nope. Not Jesus," Carmilla corrected as she began to place kisses against her clit.

"Carm," the soldier whined at her girlfriend's humor.

"Much better," the brunette answered before putting her tongue to work.

"Ugh!" Laura groaned from both annoyance and pleasure.

After a few rounds, the two ended up cuddling in bed. Carmilla spooned Laura, peppering light kisses against a visible scar on the blonde's shoulder. Laura sighed in contentment from the small signs of affection.

The feeling of Laura safely in her arms made Carmilla's heart swell. This was how things were supposed to be. This felt right. Livie had always made her life complete. There was no argument there. But having Laura as well seemed unreal. How was it allowed for someone to be this happy?

"Move in with us," Carmilla breathed out against her shoulder blade.

Laura's eyes opened immediately. She blinked a few times before turning around slowly in Carmilla's arms. "Did I hear you-"

"Move in with us."

The soldier opened her mouth to respond. She was having a hard time thinking. It wasn't fair to have just gotten multiple orgasms and then be asked something as important as this. Her brain wasn't functioning at an appropriate level.

"Did- Did you even ask Livie if-"

"I brought it up a week or so ago. She started jumping up and down."

Laura's blank expression made Carmilla chuckle.

"Don't hurt yourself, cupcake. You don't have to answer now. Just think about it. And if you're not ready for it, then fine. I'm just letting you know where Liv and I stand," she pulled Laura in to hold her close; kissing her forehead.

Laura wrapped her arms around Carmilla tightly. "I don't know if I'm ready..." she whispered into the brunette's chest. "Aren't you scared I'll flash in front of Livie?"

"You've done it before. Back when you jumped into the street to save her. And you managed to keep it together until I got you alone." Carmilla then chuckled. "Jesus, you threw yourself in front of a truck to protect my daughter. You made it impossible not to fall in love with you."

The soldier found herself grinning against her girlfriend's bare skin.

"You're doing your therapy. You're doing everything you can do. I leave you alone with my child. I think that says a lot."

"Maybe you shouldn't be leaving her alone with me."

"Are you questioning my parenting skills? Should I be offended right now?" Carmilla began, jokingly.

Laura pinched her side, earning a yip. "I don't want to ruin anything," she admitted with a sigh. Her grip on Carmilla grew tight again.

"You don't have enough faith in yourself."

"Maybe you have too much faith in me."Carmilla sighed before Laura continued. "I don't think I'm ready."

The cafe owner kissed the top of her head. "Then we'll wait."

The soldier furrowed her brows as she pressed her forehead into Carmilla's chest. She hated it. She hated living in fear that she was going to mess everything up. But it wasn't wrong to be cautious. It's better to be safe than sorry. She loved this tiny family, which is why she needed to be sure. She couldn't risk hurting them. She wouldn't forgive herself.

Not yet. That's what she told herself.

Not yet.

Two weeks later, Laura sat in the cafe watching Carmilla go from table to table. Then, she'd start wiping down the counter. Then, she'd check in on the kitchen. After that, she'd start fixing the books. And then, she'd do it all over again. The blonde was trying to write an article, but her girlfriend's behavior was distracting. Obviously something was bothering her. The brunette wouldn't stop moving. Carmilla was trying to distract herself.

The cafe owner began to pass Laura's table on her way to do some other unnecessary task when the soldier reached out and grabbed her arm. Carmilla looked down at her hand on her forearm and frowned.

"What is going on with you?" the blonde said with the hint of a smile.

"What do you mean? Nothing's-"

"Oh please. You're running around here like everything keeps catching on fire. What's got you spooked?" she asked leaning her chin on the heel of her palm.

Carmilla took a deep breath and forced a smile down to her girlfriend. "I'm trying to get everything done on time today. I'm just stressed. Don't worry about it, beautiful."

"Whoa. Beautiful? Now I know something's up," Laura jested.

The brunette rolled her eyes. "Fine. Everything's great, you grotesque human being."

The soldier glared. "Seriously, Carm. What's wrong?"

"Nothing, Laura. Just let it go," she urged in annoyance before walking away. Laura frowned at the retreating woman.

The blonde finally managed to focus on her article some time later. As she finished reading it over, the seat in front of her was pulled out.

"Hey, L. How's it hangin'?" Laf greeted.

Laura looked up at them and then at the clock on the wall. It was close to the end of Perry's shift. "Hey, Laf. It's been a relatively long day," she answered with a deep breath.

"Boring article?"

"Eh, kinda. Mostly just distracted."

They lifted a brow. "By...?"

Laura furrowed her brows and considered opening up or not. "Carm's a bit off today."

"'Off' as in weirdly cheerful?"


"Grumpier than usual?"



"I don't think so-"



"Wait, what day is it?" Laf asked before taking out their phone and checking the date. They mouthed a silent 'oh'. "Um, don't think too much into it," they said with a smile.

Laura frowned. "Why?"

"Just stay out of her way until she comes to you. That's my advice."

"But why?"

"You're dating a complicated lady, Laura. Just take my advice."

"I will if you give me a little more to work with here."

"Trust me, Hollis."

"Honey, I'm five seconds away from collapsing," Perry's voice came from a few feet away. Laf jumped up from their seat and ran over to wrap an arm around their pregnant wife.

"Then stop pushing yourself so hard!" Laf argued with a sigh. "Our baby needs you to stop stressing yourself out. Carmilla has told you a million times to take it easy."

"Yes, but-"

"No, 'buts'!"


"No! None!" Laf interrupted. "We're going home, and you're sitting down and not moving for the rest of the night."

"But you've worked all day too!" Perry debated.

"I said no 'buts'!" Laf replied as they began to guide her out of the cafe.

"Ugh! Bye, Laura," Perry grumbled as Laf sent a wave and continued to push their wife out of the door.

Carmilla then walked up to Laura, rubbing the back of her neck in discomfort. "Hey, uh, I'm gonna go pick up Liv from my mother's. I'll be back in a bit, okay?"

The blonde's brows furrowed as she gave a single nod in response. Carmilla took a deep breath before leaning down and pressing her lips to Laura's temple. Her lips remained pressed against her skin a few seconds longer than expected. Then, she walked out of the cafe... in the opposite direction of her mother's house.

Laura immediately frowned. What was going on? Was her girlfriend lying to her now? That didn't make any sense. Why? Everything was going great. Was it because she didn't agree to move in with them? Carmilla seemed understanding in that regard, but Laura felt like the question still loomed overhead. Maybe she was just looking too much into everything. 

Or maybe not.

So Laura, being the journalist that she always had been, stuffed her belongings into her bag, approached the counter and threw it on the other side of it. Then, she rushed out of the cafe in pursuit of Carmilla.

Ten years ago...

"You know we love you, right?" Laf asked Laura as the soldier stood in full uniform in front of them and Perry.

The blonde gave a sly smile. "Yeah. Of course. I love you guys too."

Perry reached forward and grabbed Laura's forearm; an expression of worry etched on her face. "We do, Laura."

Laura forced a swallow. She felt her emotions bubbling up, and she was desperate to get through this without breaking. She placed her hand on Perry's and smiled sweetly; her eyes glistening with potential tears. "I know," she replied softly. Her eyes moved back and forth between the two gingers before finally clearing her throat. Perry dropped her hand.

"Who's left?" Laf asked with a sniff. Perry had tears freely falling down her cheeks. 

"Uh, just one..." Laura answered, looking down at the ground. "I've kinda been avoiding it."

A moment of silence settled between them. "Weren't things sort of... bad the last time you spoke?" Perry asked hesitantly.

Laura let out an exhausted chuckle. "Incredibly."

"You know she's only being like this because she cares," Laf explained. "We all do."

"Then why is she making this so much harder than you guys are?" Laura urged.

Perry reached down and interlocked her fingers with LaFontaine's without removing her gaze from Laura. "I think you know why," she answered with a sad smile.

Laura stared at their joined hands and felt her tears building up again. She forced a swallow and slammed her eyes shut for a moment. After taking a deep breath, she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around them both.

They held each other for a few seconds before Laura spoke again. "I know it might be a lot to ask, but... Can you maybe keep an eye on her for me?" The blonde pulled away to look back and forth between the couple's eyes. "I want her to be okay."

Perry smiled sweetly, another tear falling down her cheek. "Of course."

Laf nodded slowly with furrowed brows. "Yeah, sure... But let's be honest, L. She isn't a huge fan of us..."

Laura's watery eyes shined back at them. "Do you trust me?"

The two gingers nodded in sync.

"Then have some faith in her." The soldier sniffed and smiled. "The best people I know deserve to know each other." She then chuckled to herself. "Carm will definitely make you work for it though."

Laura followed Carmilla down the sidewalk at a safe distance. There were a few people passing them by, but Carmilla seemed deep in thought. She didn't look around unless she was crossing the street. Her head was tilted downward; hands pressed firmly into her pockets.

As time passed, Laura's thoughts raced. She didn't understand what Carmilla was doing. Maybe she was just going for a walk? Maybe she just wanted to clear her head?

But why lie about that?

Then, Carmilla made a significant turn. She was headed for the stone path that led toward the small pond. Laura's brows furrowed as she followed her, hanging back just enough. She stopped for a moment when she spotted her on the old bench beside the water. She remembered countless number of times she stumbled upon the brunette, sitting in that exact same spot, strumming on her guitar.

But now, the cafe owner sat bent over on the edge of the bench; her elbows rested on her knees as her hands clasped together. Her head then bowed down. 

"You probably didn't expect to see me here," Carmilla started. She let out a chuckle. "I didn't think I needed to do this anymore." She shook her head with a bitter smile before looking up toward the sky. "Ten years... I've been talking to you for ten years now." She looked back down at her folded hands. "She's safe." A genuine smile spread across her lips. "I'm honestly still not sure if you even exist," she said, looking back up at the sky. "But after a decade of begging," she paused. A small smile was now aimed toward her lap. "She's finally safe."

Laura clenched her hands into fists at her sides as she watched Carmilla take a deep breath.

"I guess I didn't want to jinx anything by not showing up," she said with an annoyed chuckle. "Now that she's back..." that small smile came back to her lips. "I don't need you to keep her safe anymore." She bit her bottom lip quickly. "I've got that covered."

The soldier watched with her heart pounding heavily in her chest.

Carmilla took a deep breath through her nose, and exhaled slowly through her mouth. Her brows furrowed. "Please, just-" she forced a swallow. "I just want her to be happy."

Laura frowned. She stepped forward to make her presence known. The brunette's head shot up in alarm after hearing the rustling behind her.

"Laura! What are you doing here?" she asked with wide eyes. "Were you following me?" she added in disbelief.

"Yeah," the blonde admitted sheepishly as she stepped closer. "I'm sorry, but you were acting weird, and you know I'm nosy!" she tried to defend. "What were you doing?" she asked softly.

"Talking to myself," Carmilla answered monotonously.


"I'm writing a play. It's helpful to say the lines out loud."


"This kind of judgment is not very supportive-"

"Carm, stop."

"You're preventing art from happening."

Laura rolled her eyes, crossing her arms over her chest. "And you're preventing this conversation from happening."

"Says you."

"Okay, now you're just being childish."

"Am not!"

Laura's brows rose to her hairline. Carmilla scoffed and turned her head to look away. "How much did you even hear?" she asked in annoyance.

The blonde bit her lip. "Um, all of it?"

Carmilla groaned as she leaned forward to bury her face into her hands. "You can be such a pain in the ass," she mumbled into her hands.

"Why? Because I care?" Laura asked incredulously as she stepped closer. She shook her head at the brunette, who was still avoiding eye contact. "Do you think I'm not happy?"

Silence fell between them. Carmilla bowed her head toward her lap once again. "I..." The cafe owner paused and took a deep breath. Her shoulders sagged. "I don't know."

Laura then stepped in front of her girlfriend and knelt down on one knee. She placed her hand under the brunette's chin and tilted her head for their eyes to meet.

"How could you think I'm anything but happy? I have you," she explained simply with a small smile.

Carmilla swallowed back her emotions with a shrug. "I wasn't enough before," she argued weakly. Her eyes glistened.

The soldier's eyes widened. "That's- That wasn't-"

The brunette pulled away from Laura and looked down toward her lap again. The blonde's nostrils flared. She then cupped Carmilla's face with both hands, forcing her to look at her. Her honey eyes searched dark abysses.

The soldier shook her head with furrowed brows. Carmilla looked so vulnerable. It was such a rare sight, and it took everything Laura had not to scoop her up into her arms. But right now, she needed to make sure Carmilla heard her.

"Me leaving had nothing to do with you." The cafe owner began to turn her head, but the soldier pulled her back to look at her. "You tried, Carm. Fuck, you tried so hard." Laura felt her eyes start to water. "But I wasn't good for you then," she tried to explain; her voice cracking. "I would have destroyed any chance for us."

Laura caressed Carmilla's cheek with her thumb. The soldier then smiled softly. "After everything I've been though," she began, tucking wavy locks of hair behind Carmilla's ear. "It's safe to say this is the happiest I've ever been."

The brunette's brows furrowed, but Laura smoothed them out with gentle fingers. She then dropped her hands to Carmilla's lap, taking her girlfriend's hands in hers. She lifted them up to her lips, kissing Carmilla's knuckles before resting them back down onto her lap. "Now, can you tell me what you were doing here?"

Carmilla took a deep breath and then exhaled in defeat. Her eyes met Laura's weakly. "Ten years ago, you left Silas. Ten years to the day." A new weight settled on the soldier's chest. "I came here the day you left. Asked whatever possible omniscient being there was to keep you safe." She took a deep breath. "And I continued to every year after."

Laura felt her heart throb. She didn't understand how it was possible to love someone so deeply. How was it possible for Carmilla to make her feel like this? She was so overwhelmed. And before she could process anything further, she was surging forward and capturing Carmilla's lips.

Their lips moved together in rhythm. It was natural. Kissing Carmilla was like breathing. After experiencing it once, it seemed necessary to continue living. And after a decade of not kissing her, Laura was oxygen deprived; gasping for that breath of fresh air.

Then, Laura pulled away. She stood up, and took a seat beside Carmilla on the bench. She grabbed the brunette's hand and smiled sweetly at her before looking up at the sky.

Carmilla stared down at the blonde's wrist for a moment. She smiled at the old bracelet her girlfriend refused to take off; the cupcake pendant in clear sight.

"I've never been a big believer. I won't pretend to be," Laura searched the sky, bringing Carmilla's attention back to her. "But whether or not you exist, Carmilla and Livie deserve a lifetime of happiness." She then looked down to see Carmilla staring intently at her. She smiled back at the brunette. "And I intend to make sure that happens."



The little girl threw herself against the blonde; clutching onto her waist. "But you promised to read to me!" she whined with a pout.

"I know I did, squirt. But I forgot my computer at home and I need to send in work," she tried to explain. She got an email from her editor that her article needed to be in by midnight, instead of nine in the morning. The look in Livie's eyes was tearing her apart though.

"Why didn't you bring your computer?" she asked in the same sad tone; her grip on her waist not letting up.

"I was planning on going home early in the morning," Laura continued to try to explain despite knowing Livie would still not be happy with the outcome.

"You should just live here," the little girl grumbled into her.

Laura's eyes widened; her head shot up to stare at Carmilla. The brunette raised her hands up as if to say, 'I had nothing to do with this.' The soldier then looked back down at the little girl and then crouched down to be at eye level. She rested her hands on her tiny shoulders.

"If I lived here, it wouldn't just be you and your mom anymore," she explained gently.

"I know," Livie reassured with wide innocent eyes. "But I'm always happy when you're here! Mommy is too, she just tries to hide it," she said with a giggle.

Laura attempted to hold back her smile. "But if I live here, you might get sick of me."

Livie shook her head rapidly. "Mommy says if you love something, you shouldn't let it go." The little girl then launched herself onto Laura; wrapping her arms around her neck. The soldier's eyes widened in surprise. "I'm not letting go," Livie finished proudly.

Laura stared over the tiny Karnstein's shoulder at Carmilla. The mother's mouth hung open from the exchange. Her hand raising to lazily cover her gaping mouth.

Then, the blonde wrapped her arms tightly around the little girl. "I guess I better start moving in then, huh?" she replied with a smile as her eyes stared back at Carmilla. The brunette was grinning in response.

Chapter Text

Livie came running into the bedroom, while Carmilla was bent over unpacking a suitcase of Laura's clothes. "Mommy, look!"

The woman straightened up before turning to look at her daughter. Her eyebrows shot toward her hairline. "What the-"

"I'm Box Girl!" she grinned. Slots were cut out of a box for Livie's head and arms to fit through. It covered her torso, but sat lopsided on her shoulders. Her pigtails brushed lightly against the cardboard, while her hands donned mismatching socks.

Carmilla started to laugh before running a hand through her hair. "Is that some sort of superhero?" she asked as sweat dripped down her back. She then put her hair up in a quick ponytail. Apparently the summer finally finished its walkabout because the temperature spiked instantaneously. Carrying around heavy boxes probably wasn't helping either.

Livie nodded eagerly. 'Box Girl' was written on the front of her 'costume' in black lettering.

"And what exactly can Box Girl do?"

"She leads an army of rocks with hand socks!"

Carmilla began to chuckle at the ridiculousness of it all. Box, rocks, socks... She was seeing the pattern. "Anything else?"

"She can turn people into foxes!"

Her mother then squinted curiously. "What?" There was only so much she could pretend to understand.

Laura came through the bedroom door with a box in her hands. "'Scuse me, Liv."

"Box Girl!" Livie corrected with a frown as she stepped aside. She tried to cross her arms over her chest, but failed due to her box-torso.

"Yikes! Sorry, Box Girl!" The blonde giggled as she placed the box down on the bed. She then stood up straight, meeting Carmilla's stare. The brunette cocked an eyebrow as she took in Laura's appearance.

She wore a headband possessing cat ears, and had a black nose drawn on the tip of her nose.

"And you're a cat?"

"No! I'm a fox!" Laura grinned. She shielded her mouth from Livie with her hand. "The cat ears were the best we could do," she whispered.

Will peeked his head into the room. "Hey, Laura? So... I kind of dropped one of your mugs." He gave a sheepish smile. His forehead read 'FOX'. 

Laura narrowed her honey eyes in his direction. "Which one?"

"The one with Cookie Monster poking the Pillsbury Dough Boy's stomach."

She frowned before sighing. "At least it wasn't my TARDIS mug..."

Carmilla's eyes still rested on Will's forehead, disregarding the conversation. Only one mug mattered to Laura Hollis, and Carmilla personally made sure of its safety an hour ago. Any other mug didn't warrant the brunette's attention. In other words, she didn't hesitate to change the subject. "Not enough cat ears to go around?"

Will grinned at his sister. "We can't all be so lucky."

Kirsch then joined him in the doorway as he started pumping free weights into the air. "Where do you want these weights?" His forehead read 'CHICKEN'.

"Okay, why the hell is Kirsch a chicken?" Carmilla frowned in confusion.

"Mommy! Language!" Livie frowned at her mother; trying to put her sock covered hands on her hips, but the box got in her way once again.

"Sorry," the woman grumbled.

"The chicken is for the foxes to eat!" Livie exclaimed happily.

"That's... a bit morbid, kiddo," Carmilla laughed hesitantly as she rubbed the back of her neck.

"That's the food chain, babe!" Kirsch cheered as he continued to lift the weights.

"Am I the only one actually doing anything productive right now?" Carmilla asked in irritation.

"Hey! I just brought the last box up!" Laura argued, placing her hands on her hips.

"And who helped Liv-"

"Box Girl!" Livie whined.

"Sorry," the mother said to her daughter before looking back at her girlfriend. "Who helped Box Girl with that costume?" the brunette pointed out knowingly.

Laura's hands on her hips fell to her sides as she let out a sheepish smile. Will then spoke up. "Hey, we're helping!" he gestured toward himself and Kirsch.

"William, breaking things is the opposite of productive. And Richard Simmons over there just keeps picking things up and moving them around the apartment."

Livie then walked up to her mother and took her hand. She started to pull her out of the room. "Come on, mommy. You can be my sidekick! Crocodile Lady! Croc Lady!"

"Uh, 'Croc' doesn't really rhyme with 'box', kiddo," Carmilla replied, letting her daughter pull her into the living room.

"That's okay! It's close enough!" she cheered. She then leaned closer to her in order to whisper. "Kirsch is about to get chicken pox." She then raised her hands in the air in alarm; eyes widening as well. "The foxes are in danger of going hungry!"

"Oh no..."

"We have to get our army of rocks!" she yelled running across the living room.

"Where are we- Oh Jesus..." Carmilla stopped herself after seeing Livie run back to her with a box full of rocks.

"Hey, Box Girl! Wanna go for a ride with me and Kirsch? We gotta take the truck back to the station," Will asked as the two men walked toward the apartment door.

The little girl turned to her mother with puppy eyes. "Can I, mommy?"

"Sure," she said with a small smile. Livie quickly put the box of rocks on the couch before running after Kirsch out the door. "Make sure she puts on her seat belt," she instructed her brother before he gave a thumbs up and exited.

Laura came out of the bedroom and walked toward Carmilla. The mother sighed and chuckled. She turned to look at her girlfriend. "My daughter is a box."

The blonde grinned. "And I'm a fox."

"You sure are," the cafe owner smirked before pulling Laura closer using her belt loops. She kissed her slowly; Laura sighing in contentment when she pulled away. Carmilla then tapped the soldier on her nose. "Is that permanent marker?"

"Oh God, no! Eyeliner pencil." She then grinned. "You want one too?"

Carmilla chuckled. "No thanks. I'm good."

"You sure? I bet you'd look cute as a fox- Well, a cat, I guess," Laura corrected with a slight giggle.

"I'm not the cute-type."

"Yeah, sure," Laura mocked, rolling her eyes. "You don't want to be a fox with me?" she pouted.

Carmilla smirked again. "Nah. I much rather be a crocodile." She leaned in and pecked Laura's lips before biting down on the blonde's bottom lip and pulling lightly. "I like the idea of eating you." She winked.

Laura pushed playfully at Carmilla's shoulder. "You're such a perv!" she exclaimed, turning and making her way toward a box sitting outside the bedroom. 

"What?! That's the food chain, babe!"

Eleven Years Ago...

It was a Friday night. The last day of school before winter break. Kirsch was throwing one of his many parties in celebration. Most of their grade was there, along with half of the senior class, but to be fair, the school wasn't that big to begin with. Laura was having fun, but it got to the point in the night when everyone was beyond buzzed and heading into vomit territory. She had been stuck one too many times with cleanup duty since she was always the sober one. Tonight she was bailing before it reached that point.

She pulled her coat around her tighter, rubbing her gloved hands together as she stepped out into the frosty air. She let out a deep breath and watched the warm air from her mouth float away in the wind.

As she walked down the steps of Kirsch's porch, she noticed two people standing by the picket fence. When she got closer, her eyebrow rose. Carmilla was smirking at some blonde who kept touching the brunette's arm. Then, Laura apparently caught Carmilla's eye because the smirk the brunette was wearing somehow turned brighter.

"Hey, cupcake," she winked, causing Laura to scoff.

She continued to walk past them, shaking her head. "Have a good night, Carmilla," she said lazily, turning and walking down the sidewalk. 

Carmilla rolled her eyes, but her gaze remained on the departing party guest.

"Let's go back inside. It's freezing," the girl that Carmilla had been making out with earlier complained.

"You go on ahead."


"I'm gonna head out," the brunette explained, her eyes still glued to Laura's back.

"Then I'll leave with you," the girl said in a sultry voice, stepping into Carmilla's space and placing her hands on leather covered hips.

"Uh," Carmilla began as she looked down to see the girl getting handsy. She grabbed the girl's wrists and removed her hands from her hips. "I'm good. Thanks though," she said before brushing past the girl and hurrying after Laura.

"Yo! Cupcake! Slow it down!" Carmilla yelled as she jogged up next to her.

Laura rolled her eyes, turning to see the brunette falling in step with her. "I'm surprised you ended your date so early."

Carmilla chuckled. "Don't be jealous. I've given you all the chances in the world, Hollis."


"Like I've never seen you checking me out..."

The blonde's mouth fell open, her steps halted for a moment. "I have never checked you out!" Carmilla hadn't stopped walking, spinning around and continuing down the sidewalk backwards. She smirked, and Laura felt her blood boiling at the sight of it.


Laura started walking again, Carmilla still walking backwards. "You're disgusting. There's nothing remotely attractive about you."

The brunette openly laughed. "You're the worst liar in the world," she commented before reaching into her leather jacket and pulling out a flask. She took a long swig. 

Laura's honey eyes raked over the girl's body. Obviously she was lying. Carmilla's attractiveness was always one hundred percent present. The girl just generally pissed her off to no end though. She couldn't deny Carmilla was looking hot in her current outfit; leather pants, a leather jacket, a band t-shirt underneath, and a beanie on her head. She frowned after realizing she was actually checking her out at the moment.

"How are you not freezing?" she asked in irritation at both the girl and herself.

"Alcohol," Carmilla explained, waving the flask in the air before tucking it back in her coat. "Plus, I'm just naturally hot." She winked. "But you already knew that, huh?" she added with a grin.

"Ugh! Alcohol makes you even more unbearable!" Laura exclaimed, picking up her pace and passing the brunette.

Carmilla laughed loudly again, falling into step with her once more. They were now in the center of town. It was quiet, as expected for two in the morning. "And I'm sure you're as sober as can be."


"You're adorable," the brunette tried to say mockingly, but it came out much more genuine than desired. She tripped over a crack in the sidewalk, causing Laura to reach out and steady her.

"And you're drunk."

Carmilla scoffed, wagging her arm to get Laura off her. "We can't all be Little Miss Perfect."

"You know what? Go ahead and trip again. I'd love to see you fall on your face," Laura replied bitterly.

"I'm sure you'd love to see me do a lot of things," Carmilla challenged with that stupid smirk. Laura's gloved hands curled into fists.

"You're the most vile person I've ever met."

Carmilla froze with a grin on her face. "Wow! Vile? That's one hell of a SAT word. Someone's been studying..."

Laura spun around to face her. "Would you prefer wicked or sinful?" she deadpanned.

Somehow the brunette's smile turned even more devilish. A shiver ran up Laura's spine. 

"What I wouldn't give to corrupt the righteous Laura Hollis." Her words dripped with desire and the blonde found it even harder to breathe in the harsh winter air.

Laura cleared her throat to compose herself. "I'm not righteous."

Carmilla lifted a brow before smirking. "Would you prefer noble or pure?" She took a step closer. "Or how about chaste?" 

"I'm not as innocent as you think!"

"By all means, prove me wrong, cupcake."


Carmilla looked around. They were standing next to the Christmas Manger that Silas sets up every year. She turned back to look at the blonde with a mischievous stare. "Take the baby."

Laura's brows furrowed. "What?"

The brunette nodded toward the manger. "Steal the baby Jesus," she said nonchalantly.

"I can't do that!" Laura started to yell, but quickly looked around to see if anyone was near them. "That's so wrong!" she hissed.

Carmilla rolled her eyes. "You know what's wrong? Having Jesus in the manger when it isn't even Christmas Day yet." She pointed toward the manger without breaking eye contact. "This baby hasn't technically been born yet!"

"And that bothers you?" Laura asked as she crossed her arms over her chest.

"It just seems stupid! If you're gonna do it, don't half-ass it!"

"I didn't know you were religious..."

Carmilla laughed at that harder than Laura expected. "I'm not. That's not the point! The point is that this baby doesn't even wanna be in this manger anyway."

"And why not?"

The brunette was taking another sip from her flask. "His birthday presents consisted of gold, Frankenstein, and manure! What's a baby gonna do with any of that?!"

"Uh, I've been to church like five times in my life, but I'm pretty sure that's not right-"

"Save Jesus, cupcake," Carmilla encouraged confidently. The wind blew past them and Laura could smell the liquor coming off of the brunette.

"How drunk are you?" 

Carmilla rolled her eyes before stepping into the Christmas scene and picking up the plastic baby.

"What the hell are you doing?!" Laura hissed at her, whipping her head around to see if anyone was watching. 

"Cursing is a sin," Carmilla commented lightheartedly.

"So is stealing the baby Jesus!"

"I'm saving a life here!"

"Not agreeing with what a kid gets for his birthday isn't reason enough to kidnap!"

"His mother cheated on her husband and gave birth to a bastard son!"

"He's the son of God!"

"And what did God get his son for his birthday?" she looked at Laura pointedly.

"I am not continuing this conversation. We're about to get smited- smote- smoted... Whatever the term is!"

Carmilla then stared at the manger for a moment, placing the baby on the ground before lifting up one of the sheep. Laura's eyes widened.

"Okay, this is definitely blasphemous!" The plastic sheep were having sex.

Carmilla bent down and picked up the baby Jesus before quickly grabbing Laura's gloved hand and running.

"Why are we running?!"

"We just stole a baby!"

"You stole a baby!"

"You didn't stop me!"

"I wasn't encouraging you!"

"Either way, Papa Hollis has the late shift tonight. Can't have Daddy finding out his daughter's a thief."

"I hate you."

The cafe was pretty empty aside from a customer or two. Laura was unpacking the rest of her clothes. Everything else was basically done. Will brought Livie over to her grandmother's after returning Kirsch to the police station with the truck. Less people in the apartment seemed like a more efficient approach.

Carmilla was looking through her phone's picture gallery as she stood, leaning onto the counter. She smiled to herself as she went from picture to picture. Most of them consisted of Livie. The rest were of Livie and Laura together. God, she was pathetic. She was a fool for those two girls. She knew it and she had accepted it.

The bell of the door rang, signaling a customer. When she looked up, her entire body tensed. She watched with wide eyes as the woman shyly walked closer.

"What the hell are you doing here?" the cafe owner growled, flaring her nostrils.

The platinum blonde cringed slightly before sending her a sad smile. "You never answered my emails."

"So you took that as a sign to come visit?!"

The two truckers sitting at a table watched in alarm. Carmilla saw them staring from the corner of her eye. She turned to them roughly. "What are you looking at?! Get out of here!" she demanded, pointing toward the exit.

"Wh-What about the bill?" one of them asked hesitantly as they both jumped to their feet.

"Merry fucking Christmas! Get the fuck out!" They raced out of the door.

"Carmilla-" the woman started.

"What are you doing here, Ell?" she asked again. Her hands gripped the edge of the counter fiercely.

"I needed to talk to you," she answered calmly.

"Well isn't that precious?"

"Carmilla, please try to calm down-"

"Calm down?! Don't tell me to calm down!"

Suddenly, Perry appeared from the kitchen door. "Hey, what's going-" Her eyes widened.

"Perry," Carmilla warned through gritted teeth without turning around. Her eyes were shut tightly, brows furrowed.

"JP and I will be going on break," she said hurriedly, backing up through the kitchen door.

With Carmilla's eyes still shut, she took a deep breath.

"So I guess you're still angry..."

The brunette's eyes shot open, sending a heated glare toward Ell. "I want you to leave."

"Carmilla, let me apologize," she urged weakly.

"No thanks," she answered bitterly.

"It's been seven years! I'm not the same person anymore. I just want to give us some closure. You obviously need it," she said softly without a hint of malice. 

"Don't tell me what I need," she replied through gritted teeth.

"Carm?" a voice came hesitantly from the back of the cafe. Carmilla's eyes widened before turning to see Laura approaching them slowly. The soldier was cautious.

"Laura..." the brunette breathed out.

"So this is her?" Ell's voice broke through Carmilla's state of shock. The cafe owner turned back to stare at her ex wife. She was smiling fondly at Laura. The woman then stepped forward, holding her hand out to the soldier. "It's nice to meet you, Laura. I used to hear a lot about you," she greeted warmly.

Laura searched blue eyes in confusion before hesitantly reaching out and shaking her hand. "Um, hi."


"Leaving," Carmilla interrupted sharply.

Ell turned back to the brunette with a sigh. "I'm sorry, Carmilla. I know you don't want to hear it, but I'm sorry."

"You're right. I don't want to hear it. Leave."

Laura's eyes moved between the two women in front of her before understanding. "Ell..."

The blue eyed woman smiled sadly at the soldier before Carmilla brought her attention back to her. "I need you to leave before my daughter gets back. I don't need you fucking up my life again."

"I'm dying, Carmilla."

"Surprise, surprise. You're always dying!"

"Carm!" Laura exclaimed at her behavior.

"I stopped getting treatment. It could be any day now."

"Then you might want to get a move on. Time's tickin'!"

"Carmilla!" the soldier chastised again.

Ell nodded slowly, her gaze locked on the counter. Then, she locked eyes with Carmilla. Her blue eyes were filled with tears. "I'm truly, truly, sorry."

Dark eyes pierced back at her. "It's time for you to go. I'm sure you remember how to leave. You were good at that."

Ell flinched slightly before taking a step back, giving a single nod, and then walking out of the cafe without another word.

Carmilla bowed down over the counter, her heart pounding in her chest. Laura stepped behind the counter. "Was that really necessary?" she asked softly.


"She didn't want anything but to apologize."

Carmilla peeked up at her with flared nostrils. "Don't try to lecture me about something you know nothing about!" she spat back at her.

"I know what it's like to lose people, Carmilla!"

The brunette stood up straight. "I didn't lose her, Laura. She left!" She brushed past the soldier and started walking back toward the apartment.

"It's the same thing!" the blonde chased after her, but jolted to a stop when the cafe owner spun around roughly.

"No, it's not! The soldiers you saw die aren't gonna come walking through that door! Your mother isn't gonna come walking through that door!" she pointed harshly at the entrance of the cafe.

Laura's eyes closed firmly. Images raced through her mind. She breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth. She then opened her eyes to look at her girlfriend, who was also holding her eyes closed. Regret had filled the brunette's chest once those words left her mouth.

"I'm sorry," Carmilla said softly before revealing vulnerable eyes. "I didn't mean to say that."

The soldier took another deep breath. "Yes, you did," she replied gently. "Maybe you didn't mean to say it like that, but you meant it." The blonde shook her head. "Maybe I don't understand," she shrugged her shoulders. "I mean, I'm a leaver," she admitted sadly. "I don't know how that feels."

Carmilla broke eye contact to stare down at the floor. Laura stepped closer to her; her hand reaching out and grabbing Carmilla's.

The brunette then looked up at her with watery eyes. "She left Livie, Laura," she practically whispered. "How do I forgive her for that?"

The soldier's brows furrowed as she tightened her grip on her girlfriend's hand. Her mind thought of the little girl that had come to mean so much to her in the past year. Ell left right before Livie was born, but Carmilla was right. Ell still left Livie. And the idea of anyone ever choosing a life without that little girl was incomprehensible. The girl that lived off sugary treats. The girl that loved anything and everything to do with cats. The girl whose eyes shined more often than not in wonder. Box Girl.

"I don't know," Laura answered softly. She then stepped into Carmilla's space and wrapped her arms around her back; holding her tightly. The brunette instantly held her back; burying her face into the crook of the soldier's neck. 

They stood there for some time until Will brought Livie back to the cafe. Livie, who noticed the two women hugging, grinned and ran to join in. They chuckled at the little girl, welcoming her into the embrace.

"Um, why's the cafe so dead?" Will asked hesitantly. Laura gave him a warning look and slightly shook her head, while Carmilla knelt down and pulled her daughter into a separate hug; kissing her head as she slammed her eyes shut and clung to the little girl.

"Okayyyy..." Will answered in confusion.

"You staying for dinner?" Laura asked, changing subjects quickly. "My dad should be here any minute." The door then jingled opened, revealing the sheriff himself. "Speak of the devil."

"Hey, everybody!" Jim Hollis announced with a grin. "All moved in? Sorry I couldn't help. My shift was hectic this morning."

Carmilla let go of her daughter and stood back up. Livie turned toward the man and started running. "Jimbo!"

He bent down and opened his arms, pulling the little girl into a hug. "Livbug!" He pulled back to look at her. "Did you get taller?"

The little girl gigged. "I just saw you the other day!"

"You're like a beanstalk, kid! Slow down! You're makin' me feel old," he then ruffled her bangs before they both made their way toward the couple. He kissed his daughter on the cheek and then pulled Carmilla in for a hug.

"How's it goin', kid?" he asked the brunette.

"Could be better, Mr. Hollis," she forced a small smile.

"Carmilla," he said with a hard stare. "I've been telling you for years now... Jim. My name is Jim. You were actually starting to use my name for a bit until this one showed back up," he gestured toward his daughter. 

The cafe owner gave him a shy smile. "Sorry, sir. Dating your daughter has scared me backwards."

He started laughing. "If you ended up hurting my daughter, it's her you should be afraid of. Not me." Laura rolled her eyes. Jim then turned and held his hand out to the other man in the room.

"Will, always a pleasure." Will smiled and shook his hand.

"So are you joining us for dinner?" Laura asked the Karnstein male again.

"I'm gonna have to pass. Thanks though. I've got a hot date," he gave the blonde a wink.

Carmilla's eyebrows rose in curiosity. "A date? I'm surprised you kept it secret until now. You're usually bragging about this kind of thing."

"Well I just got the date," he grinned, his chest puffed with pride.

"At the grocery store!" Livie cheered. "She's really pretty."

Carmilla frowned and then glared at her brother. "Tell me you did not use my daughter as chick bait."

He then began to creep toward the exit. "I... did not... not... use your daughter as chick bait." He gripped onto the door handle and pulled it open. "Gotta go! Bye!" he yelled eagerly before running down the sidewalk.

"Smart man," the sheriff commented.

Carmilla and Laura looked at him incredulously. "Dad!"

"What? I meant he was smart because he ran." He then looked down at Livie. "Let's go see what's for dinner!" The little girl nodded in excitement before taking his hand and dragging him toward the apartment.

Carmilla rubbed her temple before Laura stepped in front of her and reached out to hold her hands.

The brunette sighed and then forced herself to lock eyes with the soldier. "I replied to Ell with an email the week you went away for that conference."

Laura's brows furrowed. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I wanted to ignore it. And if I told you, you would have made me think about it and probably push for me to contact her again."

The blonde squeezed her hands. "Carm, I'd never force you to do anything you didn't want to. You can tell me 'no', ya know."

"But I didn't want to disappoint you."

Laura shook her head in confusion. "How would you have disappointed me?"

Carmilla hesitated. "She wanted to meet with me. I wasn't ready. I wasn't sure if I'd ever be. I don't know if I have that kind of strength in me. I don't know if I ever want to forgive her."

"Why would any of that disappoint me?"

Dark eyes stared vulnerably back at the soldier. She gave Laura a small, sad smile. "You're so good," she admitted softly. "I've made a lot of decisions in the past that you didn't approve of. I'm no saint."

"Carm," Laura began in disbelief. She brought her hands up and held her girlfriend's face. She stared back and forth between dark eyes. "I'm not a saint either. I've made some decisions that I know aren't right. Some I regret. Some I don't. I don't want you to feel like you can't talk to me. I'll never judge you like that. If I push, it's because I'm trying to help you make sure of what you want." She shrugged lightly with a sad smile. "I just want you to be happy."

"What if I'm happy never seeing her again?"

Laura paused before smoothing out Carmilla's bangs with one hand; cupping her face again after. "It doesn't mean you're bad. It means you're human." Laura then giggled. "Anyone that's seen you with Livie couldn't possibly think you're anything but good."

Carmilla's brows furrowed. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you."

The blonde smiled, her thumb rubbing against the cafe owner's cheek. "It's okay." They searched each other's eyes before Laura spoke again. "Now kiss me."

Carmilla chuckled, leaning in and capturing her lips. Laura then pulled away, but grabbed one of her girlfriend's hands. She started pulling her toward the apartment. "Come on, Croc Lady. Let's go eat some dinner."

The brunette gasped. "Laura! Livie and your father are upstairs!" 

Laura turned to look at her in confusion before she recognized that lecherous look in her eyes. "Stop being gross!" she yelled before yanking her in the direction of their shared apartment.

"What about later?"


Chapter Text

She wasn't an idiot. She knew Laura was struggling. They've been living together for over three months now, and for the last week, the soldier had been distant. Conversations and the world around them could be happening, but Laura's thoughts were elsewhere.

Carmilla's problem was that Laura was stubborn; that was a fundamental fact. She could have asked the blonde what was wrong. She could have tiptoed around her. But she didn't. Because she knew Laura. And Laura wanted to feel normal.

The cute, rambling woman that Carmilla had fallen head over heels for was quiet as of late. Livie noticed. She ran up to her mother and tugged on her arm, asking what was wrong with Laura. Carmilla just ran her fingers through the little girl's bangs and smiled sweetly down at her. 

"Just make sure you show Laura how much you love her. Can you do that, kiddo?"

Livie nodded eagerly before running off and slamming into the blonde's waist; wrapping her arms around her and squeezing tightly. The soldier's eyes widened in alarm before they settled tenderly on the little brunette attached to her. 

The nights seemed to get progressively worse. The couple typically cuddled as they slept, and Laura's dreams seemed to become more vivid. She was restless, and at times, her grip on Carmilla grew tighter. 

Last night, Carmilla awoke to stifled crying. Laura was sitting on the edge of the bed, hunched over with her back facing the brunette. Carmilla sat up slowly, observing the blonde's shoulders gently shake.

"Laura?" she whispered, but received no reaction. She scooted across the bed and sat herself next to the soldier; their legs dangling to the floor. Carmilla dipped her head slightly to try and see her girlfriend's bowed face. Then, she brought her hand to Laura's chin and lifted it up gently. Wide honey eyes stared back at her. The room was dark, but there was enough light to see the tear trails glistening on her cheeks.

"What's wrong?" Carmilla asked in a hopeful tone. She wanted to help. She wanted to take all the pain away. But when it came down to it, there was no real way for her to do that. At least, she didn't know how to.

"I'm sorry," Laura whispered back as another tear fell down her cheek.

The cafe owner smiled sadly before wiping the tear away. "What are you apologizing for?"

The soldier shrugged. "For being... this," she gestured toward herself.

Carmilla chuckled. "I don't know what you're talking about. I happen to adore all of this," she answered, gesturing toward Laura's whole body in the same manner.

Laura scoffed before running her hand under her nose and sniffing. "Yeah, I'm a real trophy wife."

The brunette lifted an eyebrow. "Wife? We're married now? How'd I miss that? How'd I miss the honeymoon?" 

The blonde shoved her girlfriend playfully. "You're quite possibly a sex addict."

Carmilla smirked before grabbing Laura's hand and interlocking their fingers. "Nah. Just a cupcake addict." A small smile played on the soldier's lips before Carmilla gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "You know you can talk to me, right?"

Laura sniffed again as she started nodding; her eyes glued to their joined hands.

"You don't have to do everything on your own."

The soldier scoffed. "So what? I should just run to you whenever I start to have a little breakdown?"

Carmilla stared back at her for a moment in confusion. "I honestly don't see anything wrong with that."

"I'm not just some pathetic person that needs protection all the time-"

"I never said that-"

"I don't need to be babied-"

"Whoa! Again, I did not say that-"

"Do you think I'm just some constant mess? Is that what you think?"

Carmilla shook her head to try and wrap her mind around the situation. She then pulled Laura's hand into her lap and held it in both of hers. "Laura," she said sternly. The brunette saw the rage in the woman's eyes. She saw how tense her body had become. 

"I love you," Carmilla said firmly. Laura's posture began to deflate; her eyes drifted down before Carmilla tugged gently on her hand, bringing her eyes back to her. "You know that, right?" She watched another tear fall down Laura's face before continuing.

"You're hurting," the brunette started before clearing her throat. Now wasn't the time to get choked up. "And I hate it. I hate it so much because I want to be able to stop it. I want to help you so much and I just don't know how to do that." She squeezed Laura's hand again. "So if you need to lash out, do it. I can take it. If you need to be angry, I can take it. Just please don't shut me out. And don't you dare for one second think I am anything but madly in love with you. Seriously, it's disgusting."

Laura let out a surprising chuckle despite the tears still claiming her face. Her eyebrows furrowed as her grip on Carmilla's hand grew tighter. "I've been having some really bad nightmares," she admitted weakly.

The brunette tilted her head slightly. "Do you wanna talk about them?"

She shrugged. "Gory torture, and watching people die over and over again."

Carmilla nodded slowly without responding.

"Can you just..." Laura started hesitantly. "Can you just hold me?"

The brunette felt her heart swell at the innocence of the question. She smiled before scooting back onto the bed and waiting for Laura to follow. When she did, Carmilla pulled her in close, placing kisses on the top of her head. She hummed quietly into the soldier's hair until Laura's breathing evened out. Her warm breath hitting Carmilla's neck and serving as the brunette's form of lullaby. 

11 Years Ago...

Carmilla was sneaking over to Laura's as usual after dinner. For most of her teenage years, Carmilla was grounded for a number of things that she definitely deserved it for. But she was never one for listening to any rules. Groundings included.

She hopped into the blonde's bedroom, and almost instantly fell right back through the window. Her heart was beating out of her chest. "Jesus Christ!" she exclaimed, holding her hand to her heart.

"Carmilla!" Suzanne Hollis jumped in alarm. She then smiled softly after taking a deep breath to calm herself. "We have a door, Carmilla."

She started rubbing the back of her neck. "Uh, yeah. Sorry. I should probably just-" she motioned her thumb back toward the window as she began to leave.

"Don't be silly. She's in the shower. Should be almost done," she explained as she placed some clean laundry down on her daughter's bed.

"Um, okay," Carmilla said hesitantly as she walked toward the middle of the room with her hands tucked deep into her leather jacket's pockets.

The older Hollis looked at Carmilla with a tilt of her head. "I'm glad you two are finally friends. I mean, I think you always were. But now Laura's actually acting like one to you." She started chuckling.

"Hey, to be fair, I'm sure I deserved all those years of Laura Hollis' wrath," she said in amusement. 

"Hm, maybe," she said in a curious tone. "But maybe not the past year or two..."

Carmilla frowned in confusion, which only made Suzanne smile even more. 

"You know how to handle my daughter. That's admirable. And I see the way you look at her," she grinned. Carmilla felt her cheeks burning. 

"Mrs. Hollis, I have no idea-"

She picked up the empty laundry basket and began to leave the room. "If someone's gonna marry her, it better be you," she called over her shoulder and disappeared down the hallway.

Carmilla's dark eyes widened. "Wait, what?!"

Laura walked in with a towel wrapped tightly around her. "Oh, hey," she greeted in slight surprise. She started to rummage through drawers. "You must've eaten dinner earlier than usual. Unless you didn't eat. If you're hungry, we had meatloaf for dinner. There's still plenty. Oh, and I forgot to tell you at school today that you have to help me study French. For some reason nothing is processing through this big hunk of meat called my brain and when I try to speak it, I sound like a whale call being fast forwarded." She then turned to see Carmilla still wide eyed and perfectly still.

"Are you okay?"

The blonde's mother had basically just given her blessing to marry Laura. And now said girl was in a towel, water dripping down her neck and onto her shoulders.

This world was evidently a cruel one.

Carmilla then cleared her throat. "Uh, yeah. Totally. Your mom was just-" She shook her head. "Nevermind."

Laura lifted a single brow. "What'd my mom say?"

"Nothing. I'm just now getting a joke she said," she forced a few chuckles and ran a hand through her hair. Was she really so obvious about her feelings? She wish she knew that sooner.

"Okay, weirdo." 

"Later, mommy! Later, Jimbo!" Livie yelled as she followed Mattie out of the cafe.

Carmilla rolled her eyes with a chuckle. "Get out of here, ya little monster," she called after her daughter.

Jim Hollis was sitting at the counter drinking a cup of coffee as he read one of the paperbacks he picked out from the other side of the cafe.

"Will taught her to say 'later' as a form of farewell. He told her that's what cool people say," Carmilla explained to the older man. "She says it even when she's leaving the room to go to the bathroom." 

"She's a hip happening girl. Didn't you used to care about being a cool kid?" he teased with a grin.

"I was a cool kid. It was part of my DNA," she defended as she refilled his coffee cup.

"Okay, so what are you now?" he asked before taking a sip.

"A cool mom," she grinned.

He chuckled. "Let's hope it stays that way. You never know what'll happen during those teenage years."

"Ugh, please don't jinx it. My nightmare is Livie hitting puberty and turning into an actual monster." 

"Hate to break it to ya, kid, but every parent has that nightmare." He took another sip from his coffee.


"And as time goes by, you're only gonna get a bunch more."

Carmilla glared. "Well aren't you full of good news today?"

He grinned.

The cafe owner's phone went off in her pocket. She urgently pulled it out and let out a sigh of relief. Laura had left the apartment to go for a run, but she still wasn't back yet. This was longer than usual. Carmilla began to worry, especially after seeing how worked up her girlfriend was the previous night. So when she texted her and didn't get a response after awhile, she started getting anxious.

"You look like you just found out your STD test came back negative."

Carmilla's face scrunched up in response. "Jim, you do remember I'm dating your daughter, right?"

He shrugged. "Then I guess it's a double relief."

"I don't even know how to respond to that."

"What's the real relief?" he asked with a chuckle.

Carmilla furrowed her brows, debating her response. "Laura's been having a rough week."

His eyes widened in surprise before he fully lowered the book onto the counter. "She pullin' away?"

"No... Not really. She's just- She's trying to deal with it on her own. And I get that. I do. I just... wish she didn't."

He gave her a sad smile. "Stubborn. Just like her mother."

Carmilla's body tensed at the statement. "Maybe avoid telling Laura that."

He quirked an eyebrow. "Laura's always idolized her mother."

The cafe owner stared at him in confusion. She hesitated before replying. "I'm sorry if I'm overstepping my boundaries, sir, but-"

He scoffed. "Sir? Really?" He gave her a pointed look with the hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth.

She let out a puff of air, her shoulders sagging. "Do you ever... talk to her... about Suzanne?"

Jim took a deep breath and began fiddling with the coffee cup in front of him. His eyes staring down into the dark beverage. "My wife was the kindest woman in the world," he said softly without removing his gaze. Carmilla's brows furrowed, but she remained quiet.

"And she was clever, and elegant, and funny. And she was so strong." He let out a chuckle as his mind got lost in a memory. He looked back up at the cafe owner. She saw the vulnerability in his glistening eyes. "I met Suzie on base. I hadn't been enlisted long, but I managed to have a few good friends at that point." He took a sip of his coffee with a fond smile still settled on his lips.

"So one day, we walk up to where a crowd of soldiers are gathered 'round. There's a bunch of cheering going on. I heard some people placing bets. But when my eyes settled on the people in the center of the circle, there was Suzie; jumping onto this huge guy's back and putting him in a choke hold." He started laughing.

"I couldn't believe it. She was such a small creature and she was manhandling this mountain of a man!" He shook his head with a grin. "So she managed to take him down, and remain undefeated. But apparently I was so dumbstruck, well, my buddies might say I was drooling, that when they asked who was next, I screamed out 'Me!'; my voice cracking like a boy in puberty." 

Carmilla chuckled as she leaned her elbows on the counter to continue listening.

"So now my face was completely red as people made a path for me to get through. When I stood in front of her," he paused, letting his eyes drift to the side as a sincere smile took over his features. "I think that's when my heart actually started beating for the first time. Everything before her was just... goin' through the motions. Just seeing her standing there, wiping the sweat from her forehead, nothing felt more real than that moment. And I knew I couldn't mess this up."

The brunette smiled at Jim. "So you wrestled your future wife? That was your first interaction?"

He let out a cackle. "No. My first interaction was her resting her hands on her hips and knocking me out of my daydream. 'Are you seriously gawking at me right now?' she said to me with the tiniest smile. 'Ya know, I figured if I keep winning I'd get a little more respect...' " he mocked her voice.

Carmilla shook her head. "That definitely sounds like your daughter."

He nodded in agreement, but continued his story. "I tried to urgently correct the situation by complimenting her skills and whatever, but I kept stammering on words and 'impressed' came out as 'breasts' and I think I said something about her being flexible and how that must be useful."

"Jesus, Jim."

"I wasn't trying to sound like a creep. Believe me."

"So what'd she do?"

"She said to me,'I'm not really sure what kind of respect you actually have for me, but you're definitely losing all of mine for you.' She then started to turn away and pick up her stuff, so I quickly made a step toward her. I apologized and told her how she was making me nervous, and I started rambling, and yes, Laura gets it from me."

Carmilla smirked at that.

"Suzie glared at me for a few seconds before I finally said, 'Let me fight for it. Let me fight for your respect.' She then studied me for a bit before turning back toward the center of the crowd. I did a fist pump when her back was turned." 

"So she gave you a shot."

"Yep. And I happily got my ass kicked."

"Really?" Carmilla asked in amusement.

"She was so agile! I still don't understand!" He shook his head in disbelief.

"But anyway, she destroyed me. Every time they had the brawling ring set up, she would be undefeated. And every time, I willfully challenged her. She didn't understand why. Only a few people kept coming back to try and beat her, but those people were actually close. I never lasted as long as them. She probably thought I was trying to cop a feel," he said in realization.

"Then, after this one time sparing with her, my back hit the mat with a loud thwak! I didn't move because, well, she beat the shit out of me," he explained with a jest.

"So she sat down on the mat next to me and stared down at my face, asking me if I was some sort of masochist. I remember coughing out a laugh and saying, 'Just fightin' for your respect.' I saw her face soften, and I swear, my heart left my chest. God, she was beautiful." He sighed.

"Anyway, she said, 'I don't want to keep beating you up.' So I answered with, 'I don't want you to either, but I don't really know how to talk to you without digging myself into an early grave.' She giggled, which took me entirely by surprise. I probably grinned like an idiot at her. She then said,'How about we just start with introductions? I'm Suzie.' And so the moral of this story is that if you continue to get your ass handed to you by a woman, she will eventually get tired." 

"That's not really a moral. That's more like the definition of endurance."

He ran a hand through his hair and started scratching his head a little. "Yeah... And I guess I made her feel bad for me. Maybe the moral is to be persistent. Better?"

"More like if you look pathetic enough, someone will eventually pity you."

He stared back evenly before giving a single nod. "I'll accept that," he finished by picking up his coffee and taking a drink.

"So... not to sound disinterested or anything, but... where'd that come from?" Carmilla asked. He never answered her original question.

Jim kept a hand around his cup. "Laura loved hearing about how we met. She'd ask us to tell her the story all the time when she was a little girl. Obviously I had to tone it down for her because she was young, but she loved it. Whenever I talked about how badass her mother was, Suzie would get embarrassed and try to deny it. That only made Laura want to be like her more."

He then took a deep breath. "Laura and I don't talk about her. We're alike in that way. I wish we weren't, but we are. It's painful," he admitted weakly. He gave Carmilla a sad smile and a shrug. "I see so much of Suzie when I look at Laura. It's heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time."

"I hear what you're saying, but if you want that pain to go away, you need to face it head on. Otherwise, you're gonna keep breaking your heart every time you see your daughter."

He nodded slowly. "I wasn't the one who talked about feelings with Laura. That was always Suzie." He paused. "She would be so proud of her little girl," he said quietly toward his now empty coffee. 

"Don't you think that's something Laura should hear?" Carmilla suggested gently. "With everything she's gone through, she's afraid of ending up like her mother."

His head shot up to stare at the cafe owner. "She thinks that?"

Carmilla simply shrugged. "Talk to your daughter. Do it for her and for you."

His brows furrowed. "But what if she won't talk to me about her?"

Then, the brunette smirked. "It seems you're pretty good at fighting for things."

He scoffed and began to grin. "Were you not listening to the story? I lost every time!"

Carmilla rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. "The moral was persistence, no?"

"I thought the moral was that I was pathetic enough to get pitied."

The cafe owner sighed. "Perspective."

He nodded with a kind smile before his brows furrowed. "But you said she was having a tough week?"

"Yeah. Nightmares and zoning out a lot."

"Did she flash?"

She shook her head. "As far as I know." She looked back down at her phone. "She went for a run awhile ago, and I was worried so I called and then texted her. She only just got back to me. I'm not normally a stickler for this kind of thing, but I feel like I need to be doing something. I feel... useless."

"Carmilla," he chastised gently. "You love her, right?" She nodded earnestly. "Then that's all she needs."

The brunette sighed. "How is that enough?"

He gave her a sad smile. "I don't know what is or isn't enough. I just know that I hope Suzie knew how much I loved her. Even if I couldn't change anything that happened, I'd go back and love her harder."

"Jim, anyone that looked at you two knew how much you loved each other."

He chuckled. "That's what Suzie used to say about you two."

Carmilla's eyes widened for a moment before she laughed as well. "I'm pretty sure there was a point in time when your daughter actually hated me."

He rolled his eyes. "I love my daughter, but she can be so blind sometimes." He then gazed at the cafe owner with squinted eyes. "I don't think you were nearly as blind as her though."

Carmilla smirked. "Gotta fight for it, right?"

Jim grinned before getting up from his seat and pulling out his wallet. "Absolutely." 

The door to the cafe opened; the jingling signaling the blonde's return.

Her run lasted longer than she expected. She just kept going. She didn't look at the time or stop to take in her surroundings; she just ran. She ran until her legs felt weak and her lungs burned in that beautiful way she loved. It helped as much as it could, but her head still felt foggy. She was still on edge; only physically exhausted now.

So as she walked her way back into town, she stopped to buy herself a water. And as she took that first long sip, her eyes landed on the bouquets of flowers in buckets by the door. She froze and thought.

And then she decided.

Her chest felt heavier after making her decision. The weight of the white roses somehow cumbersome in her hand. Each step she made toward her destination made her anxiety explode. But eventually, she arrived. And after the short search, she placed the roses on the headstone.

"Hey, mom."

One hand still full, it fell to her side, while the other rested in her pocket. "I'm sorry I-" she stopped herself and took a deep breath. "I've been thinking about coming for awhile, it's just... difficult." She bit her lip with furrowed brows. She had only been to her grave once. And that was the day of the funeral.

"I'm scared, mom," she whispered with a shaky voice. She felt her emotions boiling up to the surface. "Every time I close my eyes, I see friends' faces; soldiers that died in front of me. It went away for awhile, but these past few days have been so hard." Tears began falling down her cheeks. She tried to wipe some away.

"I wish I knew what you saw..." she said with a sniff. "I feel like I could understand now. Even if it's just a little bit." Her brows furrowed again as she swallowed the lump in her throat.

"So, um, I'm working for the newspaper now. Mattie helped me get the job. Yeah, I know. I thought she hated me too," she said with a sad chuckle as she wiped the rest of her tears away. 

"Dad's still taking care of the town as best he can. He hangs out with the guys from the station a lot, so I don't think he's lonely. I see him all the time too. You don't have to worry about him." Her eyes danced over the engraved stone.

"Oh, and um, I'm dating Carmilla," she admitted with a laugh. "I'm sure you'd be thrilled. You loved her. And you used to always tell me to be nicer to her." She rolled her eyes. "Well, I'm trying not to always be a jerk to her. But to be honest, she deserves it sometimes." She shook her head with a smile.

"She has a daughter; Livie. And no, she's not mine, mom," she said with a giggle. She could imagine her mother pulling that joke. "Although, I kinda wish she was. I love that little girl," she said tenderly. "I mean, I'm living with them now too. Jesus, has it already been that long?" Laura stopped to think. It was September now. Time was moving by quickly.

The soldier then looked down at the bouquet of red roses in her other hand. "I should probably propose soon, huh?" She smiled gently toward the flowers, and then looked back up at the headstone. "You'd probably say that I should have done it awhile ago," she chuckled. "And you're probably right." Laura sighed and then pulled out her phone to look at the time. 

1 Missed Call.

2 Messages.


"Well, well, well. Bringing your old man some flowers, huh? How thoughtful," Jim chimed with a chuckle. Laura rolled her eyes before leaning in to kiss his cheek. He tucked his wallet into his back pocket before turning back to salute Carmilla, who gave a nod in return.

"Gotta get back to work," he announced as Laura watched her father exit. She turned back around and saw Carmilla smirking back at her.

"You got a hot date tonight or something?" she asked innocently as she nodded toward the bouquet.

The soldier decided to play along. "Or something."

"Care to elaborate?"

"Well... There's this girl know..."


"She's funny."

"Go on," Carmilla leaned forward onto the counter, resting her chin in her palm as she smirked.

"Caring." The brunette nodded. "Lovable." Carmilla's smile continued to grow and Laura felt her knees going weak at the sight. "Cute."

"Whoa, cute? We've been over this, cupcake."

The soldier stared at her with playful confusion. "What do you mean? I'm talking about Liv. Who'd you think I was talking about?" She started to grin as Carmilla's face went from shock to mild irritation.


Laura giggled before holding them out to her. "These are for my hot roommate."

Carmilla hesitantly took them. "You better not be talking about my daughter still."

"What? No!"

The brunette started laughing as she smelled them. "Thanks, Cap," she said with a wink. 

Laura eyed her thoughtfully. "Thanks for being you," the soldier answered sweetly. The look in her honey eyes spoke volumes. Carmilla felt the sincerity.

The cafe owner leaned over the counter and gently kissed the blonde on soft lips. "When I've got the two most amazing girls in my life, I don't wanna be anyone else," she whispered back. 

Chapter Text

"Laura?" Livie began as she held the soldier's hand on their walk home from school.

"What's up, squirt?"

"Do you know what tomorrow is?"

The blonde furrowed her brows in thought. "Um, Friday?"

Livie nodded. "Yeah, but do you know what tomorrow night is?"

Laura started to laugh. "Of course, I do! It's Friday night!"

The little girl pushed Laura playfully as she giggled. "No! Laura, I'm being cereal!"

"Oooh! What kind of cereal? I like Chokoa Crunch."


Laura chuckled. "I think you meant to say you were being serious, Liv."

"Oh," she replied slightly confused. "Okay, so do you know, or are you just being a butt?"

"Hey! I'm not a butt!"


"I swear, I have no idea what you're talking about," Laura finally explained as she held the cafe door open for her. 

Livie walked in and took a seat at the counter as usual; pulling her backpack off and sitting it on the floor next to her. The soldier took the seat next to her and waved at Carmilla, who was rushing around the establishment.

The little girl continued the conversation. "It's Open House tomorrow night."

"Oh yeah! I think Mom mentioned that the other day," the blonde said in realization. 

"You're both going, right?"

Laura's eyes widened. She spun to stare down at the girl, whose big brown eyes stared back with hope. "Wait- You want me to go too?"

Livie tilted her head slightly. "You take care of me."

The soldier was at a loss for words. "I- I'm- Really?" Her voice squeaked.

"Uncle Will keeps saying you're gonna be my mom soon. Moms go to Open House," she explained simply.

The blonde was taken aback. This wasn't a decision she was ready to make alone. She looked around the cafe and noticed Carmilla still racing around. Of course, there had to be more customers than usual.

The soldier's honey eyes landed back on Livie's hopeful ones. "That wouldn't bother you?" she asked hesitantly. "If I... married your mom?"

Livie immediately grinned. "Do you wanna marry my mom?"

For some reason, Laura's cheeks began to turn red. "Well, I mean, is it that much of a surprise?"

Livie giggled. "No. It's just funny when you get embarrassed."

The soldier glared. She was just like her mother; always teasing. "You're evil." 

The little girl grinned even more. "Mommy called me that yesterday. She said I'm getting it from you."

Laura scoffed despite the smile taking over her face. "Your mom is rude."

"Yeah, but we love her," she answered with a giggled.

The blonde sighed. "We sure do."

"So you're gonna go tomorrow? Please?"

Carmilla came strolling up behind the counter. "Go where?" she asked innocently.

"Uh," Laura began with wide eyes.

"You and Laura are going to my Open House tomorrow, right?" Livie answered sweetly.

The brunette's reaction reflected Laura's. Her eyes stared intently at her daughter before looking at her girlfriend. Seeing Laura's anxious expression, she felt herself relax. She began to smirk. "Well, what did Laura say?"

Laura immediately glared at her.

"She didn't answer. She asked me if it was okay if you two got marr-" the blonde's hand was instantly over the little girl's mouth. She forced a few chuckles as she looked up at Carmilla, who had a brow arched at her. Livie pulled Laura's hand away from her mouth with a giggle.

"You want her to go?" Carmilla asked in a soft tone, ignoring the previous exchange.

"It's Parents Night. She has to," she said with a worried expression taking over.

The cafe owner had to clench her jaw to prevent herself from bursting into tears. She didn't understand how she had gotten so lucky. Not only was she with the woman she loved, but her daughter loved that woman too. The feeling was unreal.

"Hey," Laura said warmly, catching both Karnsteins' attention. The blonde stared down at Livie. "I'd love to go." She peeked up at her girlfriend with a questioning smile. "If that's okay?"

Carmilla wanted to throw a parade, bust open some champagne, even get down on one knee right then and there. But she had an image to uphold. She was a cool mom after all. "It's never been fun going to these things alone," she replied with a shrug.

Laura grinned. "Lucky for you, you have me now."

If only the blonde knew how much more Carmilla was falling for her. "Lucky me," she replied with a smirk.

"Yes!" Livie exclaimed with a fist pump. "I can't wait to tell Lindsey and Tommy!" she jumped off of her seat, grabbed her bag, and ran toward the apartment.

Laura cleared her throat, trying to suppress her smile. "So, um..." She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

Carmilla leaned forward onto the counter. She smirked at the soldier's hesitance. "How's it feel being a parent?"

The blonde's eyes widened for the millionth time. "I-" She registered her girlfriend's amusement before releasing pent up air. "Are you okay with this?" she asked wearily.

"Cupcake... You help tuck her into bed, make her breakfast, pick her up from school, go to her soccer games... If I wasn't okay with it, there would be a problem," she chuckled.

"But like- Nannies do those kinda things!" 

Carmilla stared back at her incredulously. "I'm doing a lot of inappropriate things with the nanny then..."

Laura rolled her eyes. "Do you know how many people have had affairs with their nannies?"

"I feel like you're gonna say-"

"A lot."

Carmilla sighed. "Do I pay you to do any of those things with Livie?"


"Okay. So you're not a nanny. End of discussion," Carmilla said exasperated as she turned to go pick up a check.

"But she called me her parent!" Laura yelled after her, which caused the brunette to come to a halt and swirl back around. 

Carmilla took a deep breath as she walked back over to the blonde. "I think the more important question right now, is if this whole thing bothers you."

"No!" Laura replied louder than intended. A few customers turned to stare at her. "No," she reiterated more calmly. She watched as her fingers fiddled with each other on the counter. "I just don't want to overstep-"

"Laura," Carmilla interrupted with a hand placed gently over the blonde's hands. She looked up at the cafe owner with her bright honey eyes. "We both know where this relationship is going." The statement made Laura's heart beat faster. Carmilla began to smile, which made the blonde melt even further. "I'm kinda pissed I didn't think of asking you first if you wanted to come."

Laura giggled. "Your daughter has a tendency to beat you to a lot of things. Our first date was technically initiated by your daughter asking me to come over and color." 

"Okay, hold on. That's not fair. That was a rough day. You guys were almost in a car accident! I was giving you space!"

"We first kissed because Livie held mistletoe over us," Laura continued as she crossed her arms over her chest.

"Mistletoe? It was a post-it note on a vine of dying grapes! Plus, I'd hardly count that as a kiss."

"And I moved in because she asked me to."

"Whoa! I totally asked you first! You told me to wait," she defended with a pointed stare.

Laura continued to ignore her arguments. "At this rate, Livie's gonna end up being the one to propose."

Carmilla scoffed. She crossed her arms over her chest as well. "You're irritating."

The blonde stuck her tongue out as a smile began to break free. "Then dump me."

The cafe owner glared. "You wish," she replied before walking off, in order to go back to work.

23 Years Ago...

"That stupid know-it-all. She gets special treatment 'cause she's such a kiss up," Missy Henderson complained next to the slide. Carmilla sat in the tunnel of the playground set, reading a book. She could hear the girl talking with her little posse. 

"And look who it is," Missy began with more bite in her tone. Carmilla's brows furrowed as she tried to focus on her book. "Little Miss Know-It-All."

"What do you want, Missy?" the small blonde girl replied weakly.

"Whatever you got in that bag. Hand it over," she ordered. Carmilla heard rustling. "Cookies again? You're such a baby. Get out of my sight!" The thumping of feet passed by and Carmilla felt herself boiling. She crawled out of the tunnel, and stood up on the platform of the jungle gym. Looking down on Missy and her minions, she felt herself growing angrier.

That bitch was eating Laura's cookies.

The brunette scanned the playground and noticed the little blonde hunched over on a swing with her ginger friends trying to console her. Carmilla's free hand clenched into a fist, while she slammed her book onto the ledge.

"Hey!" she growled, catching the bully's attention. She hopped down onto the ground. "Those cookies aren't yours."

"They are now, bookworm," she chuckled after popping another into her mouth. 

"What did she do to you?"

"Her face is annoying and she kisses up to Mrs. Cochrane," she answered snottily.

"You're a bully," Carmilla said with a frown.

Surprise came over Missy's face. "Are you sticking up for Little Miss Know-It-All?"

"Leave Laura alone."

"Or what?"

"You don't wanna find out."

Missy didn't seem to take the threat seriously. She started to laugh. "You can't do anything to me. You and Little Miss Know-It-All are losers. Her parents aren't even around all the time. They don't even like her-"

And that's when Carmilla punched Missy Henderson in the face.

"You don't know anything about Laura," the brunette hissed as she rubbed her hand. "Leave her alone, or you'll be seeing me again," she growled before turning, grabbing her book and walking back toward the school; leaving Missy crying on the ground.

"Thanks for the help, Laur. Perry really wanted to check in on the cafe, and of course everything exploded once she left," Laf said with a sigh, running a hand through their hair.

"Explosions are usually your thing," Laura commented with a chuckle as she leaned into the crib and poked their baby boy on the nose. 

"Yeah, but don't throw a baby into it," the ginger sighed. "He's cute, but the shits this kid takes are horrifying. It's like someone massacred an alien."



"Oh, did I tell you I'm going to Livie's Open House with Carm?"

LaFontaine grinned. "No. That's adorable!"

The blonde ran a hand through her hair with a shy smile. "Yeah... She has Mrs. Cochrane as a teacher."

"Aw! That's even more adorable!" Laf cheered. "Who would have thought the girl that punched out Missy Henderson for you would be your one true love."

The soldier lifted a brow at her friend. "One true love? Really? And wait... What do you mean 'the girl that punched out Missy Henderson'?"

Laf tilted their head. "Why do you think Missy stopped bullying you? Carmilla punched her in the face," they explained with a chuckle.


"Yeah," the ginger laughed. "You didn't know that?"

"Why would I know that?" Laura exclaimed.

Laf shrugged, "I don't know. Figured it came up at some point during your long and dramatic wooing process."

"But- But Carm didn't even like me!"

They rolled their eyes. "Okay, you're an idiot. Miss Broody has always liked you. She just had a funny way of showing it, I guess."

Laura was still in shock. Carmilla actually stuck up for her all those years ago. Her heart began to swell.

The ginger suddenly cringed. "Okay, crushes-on-moody-ladies. Stop swooning. I just got a whiff of something that I'm pretty sure came from my baby boy's butthole, and I'm making you help."

"Ugh! I hate these things," Carmilla growled as they walked hand in hand down the sidewalk. The brunette was never one for attending social events and having to be cordial. Meeting teachers and other parents was that kind of event. She huffed in annoyance.

Laura smiled and shook her head. They were almost at the school. They could have driven, but it was such a nice night out. The cold weather would be taking over soon anyway.

"You're such a whiner," the soldier chuckled as she squeezed Carmilla's hand.

"And the odds were clearly against me since Liv ended up getting Cochrane this year." She groaned.

"Mrs. Cochrane is the sweetest woman in the world," Laura defended.

"You were the teacher's pet."

"I was not!"

Carmilla stopped walking to stare at her incredulously, pulling Laura's hand to stop with her. "You raised your hand for every question and volunteered to pass out papers. You actually gave her an apple every day. You were the textbook definition of teacher's pet."

Laura frowned. "Not all of us hated school," she grumbled.

The brunette rolled her eyes and pulled on the soldier's hand to bring her closer. She wrapped her arm around her shoulder and got them to start walking again.

"I was talking to Laf earlier," Laura started. "They brought something up that I thought was kind of interesting," she started to smile. Carmilla peeked down at her with an arched brow.

"And what did the struggling parent have to say?" Perry had given birth about a month ago. Her and Laf were both desperate for proper sleep, and Carmilla remembered that pain all too well. 

"They told me you punched Missy Henderson in the face." Laura felt Carmilla tense around her. The blonde looked over at her girlfriend with a grin. "I always thought it was odd she suddenly stopped taking my cookies."

"I don't know what you're talking about," she answered stoically as they climbed the steps of the school.

"Secretly being my own personal hero all the way back then," Laura continued to tease.

Carmilla rolled her eyes as she held the door open for the blonde. "She was a spoiled brat. Someone needed to put her in her place."

"Aww! My little badass," Laura cooed as she pinched the cafe owner's cheek before passing through the door.

"I hate you."

The soldier giggled as she looked back at her over her shoulder. "I'm sure you do, grumpy pants. Now put on your big girl smile."

The loud speaker suddenly came on as they made their way to Livie's classroom. "Good evening, parents. We just wanted to let you know that we're currently trying to fix the fire alarms. If at any point they go off, do not worry. We're sorry for any inconvenience. Enjoy your night."

"Great. So this place could go up in flames and the alarms will go off, but no one will move a God damn muscle. We're all gonna die in here; in school, which has been a reoccurring nightmare of mine since forever," Carmilla groaned.

"Really?" Laura asked curiously. "I still have dreams of hitting a home run in gym class, only to find out I'm in my underwear." 

"I wish I had dreams of you in your underwear..." 

Laura elbowed her in the stomach.

"Carmilla Karnstein and Laura Hollis," Mrs. Cochrane smiled from outside the classroom. "You two are making me feel very old," she chuckled.

Laura grinned and leaned in for a hug. Carmilla offered a lazy wave.

"Trust me, the feeling is mutual," Laura laughed.

"Before I get started with the lecture, there are a few activities for you to complete. Just inside is jar of Hershey Kisses-"

"You're still doing that?" the blonde interrupted in amusement.

Mrs. Cochrane laughed. "Don't change the system if it works, Miss Hollis." She then glanced between Carmilla and Laura. "Once you've finished that, you can find Livie's seat by the self portrait she drew. I'll be inside shortly."

The couple nodded as they stepped inside. Carmilla rested her hands in her pockets as Laura crouched down to examine the large jar of chocolates. "What's your guess, Carm?"

The brunette sighed. "Fifty."

Laura looked back at her incredulously. "Fifty? Seriously? This jar has at least a hundred and fifty in here! Also, there is no way it has an even number like that. You're not even trying!" 

Carmilla rolled her eyes. "Then you figure it out."

The soldier stood up straight, but kept looking at the jar. "The parents that guess the closest, win the jar for the kid." She turned back to look at her girlfriend. "Don't you want Livie to win? She'd be so happy!"

"I bet she would. But she also doesn't need that much sugar," Carmilla pointed out.

It was Laura's turn to roll her eyes. "My parents won this for me when we were this age." Her eyes went back to the jar. "I was so happy when I won," she said softly as she let herself get lost in the memory. She looked at Carmilla again. "Don't you wanna try and give your little girl a nice memory?"

The brunette sighed. She knew she couldn't say 'no' to Laura, but adding Livie into the equation was just rude. "One sixty-eight."

Laura's brows lifted in surprise. "Really? You think there's that-"

"Write it down, cupcake."

"Okay, Rain Man." 

The soldier slipped the small piece of paper into the box and then spun around, taking Carmilla's hand in hers. They started zigzagging through the desks, glancing at all the self portraits as they tried to locate Livie's desk.

"What if we can't figure out which one is hers? I've already seen seven pictures with cats on them. And five of them had a bunch of purple all over," Carmilla grumbled as her eyes flitted from desk to desk. Laura gave her hand a light squeeze and grinned.

"I've been drawing with Liv for awhile now. I know her style."

Carmilla's eyebrows shot up toward her hairline. "Oh really? Well excuse me, Miss Van Gogh. I didn't know my six year old had already established a style..."

Laura rolled her eyes. "Van Gogh painted," she corrected. "And you wouldn't know. Art isn't your forte, cutie," she finished with a wink.

"Hey! Music is totally art!"

The blonde giggled at the pout on the cafe owner's face. "You're right. I'm sorry," she said before leaning up and quickly planting a kiss on her cheek. "And this is definitely Livie's desk," she said motioning toward the one in front of them.

Carmilla let her eyes fall on the drawing. Purple? Check. Cats? Check. The dead giveaway? She was wearing a box that said 'Box Girl' on it. The brunette couldn't hold back the grin on her face. She then realized Livie drew herself wearing Laura's officer visor as well. "I don't know why I doubted our ability to find hers."

"Scared that if you couldn't find it, that would mean you're a bad parent?" Laura asked with a soft smile.

Carmilla glared. "Don't analyze me."

"Can't help it. Plus, you're cute when you're worried."

"Ugh, stop with the cute thing!"

Laura smiled wide. She looked back down at the drawing. "She's wearing my visor," she stated quietly.

Carmilla stared at the soldier lovingly before wrapping her arm around the woman's shoulders and pulling her closer. She kissed her temple, and then stared down at the drawing with Laura again.

"She asked me if we could get a cat again today," the blonde said with a chuckle. "A black one."

"She's relentless."

"Her birthday is next month..."

Carmilla pulled back slightly to stare at Laura in alarm. "Are you serious? You want to get a cat?"

"Oh come on! Like you wouldn't fall in love with the furry creature!"

"I'm going to end up being the one taking care of it!" 

"Wah, wah. My name is Carmilla and I hate anything that brings joy into the world," Laura mumbled and crossed her arms over her chest.

"You're absolutely right. That's why I'm planning on being with you for the rest of my life. I love misery."

Laura glared. "That's good. I'm glad you love it. By the way, 'misery' is what I named the couch."

Carmilla's mouth fell open before she started laughing. She poked Laura's side playfully, causing the woman to twitch. "I am not spending a single night anywhere but next to your whiney ass. So you're gonna have to deal."

The soldier was fighting a smile. "Fine." She looked back down at the drawing. "You suck," she added, which made the brunette laugh again.

"Good evening, parents!" Mrs. Cochrane began as she stood in the front of the classroom. "Let's talk about what your kids will be learning this year! I've got a lot of projects planned...-"

Carmilla immediately began to lose focus. She loved her daughter, but being in a classroom was always the same; she got bored too easily. Back in the day, she usually pulled out a book and did her own thing. Her work was always completely before everyone else though.

The brunette peeked over at Laura, who was completely involved with whatever curriculum Mrs. Cochrane was explaining. She smiled at the sight. This woman was so intertwined in her life now. She never wanted that to change.

After some time passed, parents began asking questions. Laura asked a few, which gave Carmilla deja vu. Seeing the perky blonde raising her hand in a classroom was like traveling back in time.

"We'll be studying caterpillars and how they transform!" the teacher cheered. "Each student will get their own-"

Then, the fire alarm went off. It was louder than expected, and many of the parents groaned at the sound. Laura felt her heartbeat pick up though. The ringing was a little too familiar for her liking. So she closed her eyes, began taking slow, deep breaths, and counted in her head. She felt Carmilla's grip on her hand tighten.

The brunette leaned up in concern when she saw Laura begin to dissolve. "Hey," she whispered. Laura didn't respond.

"Sorry, everyone. We're trying to fix it," the loud speaker came through. Some people were outside in the hallway and yelling to each other. The yells were muffled by the alarm, and Laura began to hear a different kind of shouting.

"Laura?" Carmilla tried again. She reached out to place her hand on the blonde's shoulder, but just as she was about to, the soldier shot up from her seat, elbowing Carmilla in the mouth by accident, and sprinting toward the door. 

The brunette cursed, throwing a hand up to cup her lip before chasing after her. The parents in the room watched in confusion. When Carmilla entered the hallway, she saw Laura staggering, and then bracing herself with a hand against the wall. 

The soldier's eyes were slammed shut. The fire alarm was still ringing, and all she heard were explosions, gunshots and the ringing left in her ears from a grenade that went off too close to her.

"Laura!" Carmilla yelled as she ran up to her. She stared at her, hands hesitant in midair as she tried to think of what to do. She saw maintenance people further down the hallway. "Can you turn the fucking alarm off?!" She barely acknowledged their apology.

Taking a deep breath, she placed her hands on Laura's shoulders. The blonde flinched and tried to fight her off. Then, Carmilla grabbed Laura's face in her hands. "Laura, it's Carmilla. Listen to me. Open your eyes. Come on, cupcake. Look at me. You're safe. Can you hear me? You're home. You're safe. I'm not gonna let anything happen to you."

A tear fell down the blonde's cheek as she opened her eyes wide and her honey orbs darted around to stare at her surroundings.

No guns. No fire. No death.

Suddenly she felt like she could breathe again, and she gasped for air. "Carm," she whimpered as the brunette continued to hold her face. 

"It's okay. I've got you," she answered with a sad smile. The fire alarm finally turned off.

"I'm sorry-"

"Stop. You didn't do anything wrong," Carmilla interrupted.

"Your lip is bleeding," Laura insisted as another tear fell down her cheek.

The cafe owner had forgotten the throbbing of her lip until that moment. "It was an accident. I got too close when you jumped up."

The soldier started to shake her head rapidly. "I hurt you!"

"No. Stop whatever it is you're about to do," Carmilla warned. "I'm fine. This isn't your fault."

"But what if-"

"I swear to God, Laura Hollis, if you start saying some bullshit about putting me or anyone in danger, I'm going to throw out every single cookie in our apartment."

"Carm," she whimpered. "I could have seriously hurt you-"

"Laura!" Carmilla exclaimed, which caused the blonde to jump slightly. Wide honey eyes stared back at dark ones. "Don't make this about me," she said gently. "Are you okay?" She brushed her fingers through the soldier's hair, tucking it behind her ears.

"I'm a freak," she admitted with a squeaky voice. She sniffed as her eyes started to water again.

"No," her girlfriend argued softly. "You're not. You've been through so much. No one blames you for any of this. You're strong. You might not think so, but I don't think a lot of people could do what you've done. You've moved on with your life. You have a job, and people that love you. You're dealing with everything the best you can. So what if this happened? It's a bump in the road. You can't always avoid it. But I'm gonna be there for you no matter what. Don't you get that by now?"

Laura began to give her a sad smile.

"Everything okay out here?" Mrs. Cochrane asked hesitantly from the classroom door a bit down the hallway.

"Everything's great, Mrs. C," Carmilla called down to her. "I'm gonna take this one home though."

The older woman nodded with a kind smile. "One moment," she ran back into the classroom before reappearing with Livie's drawing. "I figured you'd want this."

Carmilla smiled genuinely at the woman. "Thank you."

The teacher tilted her head slightly as she stared at the mother curiously. "You've grown into a wonderful woman, Miss Karnstein."

The brunette scoffed. "Yikes. And this is my cue to leave... Later, teach." She spun around with the drawing in hand and wrapped an arm around Laura's shoulders; exiting the school.

They walked in silence down the sidewalk, Carmilla holding Laura close.

"You've always taken care of me," the soldier suddenly said.


"Even when we were just kids, you've always had my back."

"I wouldn't say always had your-"

"But you basically did." 

Carmilla sighed in defeat. "Well it's not changing now, so you're gonna have to live with it."

Laura snuggled closer into her girlfriend. "I plan on it."

A small smile grew on Carmilla's lips. 

Later that night, after Livie begged to be read to for a ridiculous amount of time, Laura pulled Carmilla into a hug after closing the little girl's bedroom door. The brunette leaned down to kiss the soldier, but Laura pulled back hastily.

"What was that for?" Carmilla asked with a frown.

"I don't want to hurt you," Laura admitted weakly.

"Cupcake, my lip is seriously not that bad."

"It's got a cut on it and it's swollen!"

"If you don't kiss me right now, I am eating that entire package of cookies you have hidden in the bottom drawer of the dresser."

Laura's eyes widened. "How did you-"

"Not the correct response," Carmilla pushed her away and quickly made her way into the bedroom.

The soldier chased after her. "Carm! Don't! I had to order those online!"

The brunette was beginning to pull the drawer open when Laura slammed into her; forcing her against the wall. She immediately met the cafe owner's lips. After a moment, she pulled back slightly.


Laura's eyes widened.

"I'm just kidding!" Carmilla chuckled.

"You're horrible!" Laura whined.

"Yeah, yeah. I know," the brunette smirked as she wrapped her arms around her girlfriend's waist.

"And we're totally getting a cat for Livie's birthday," the blonde added in spite. Carmilla simply groaned in response. She really did have issues saying 'no'.

Chapter Text

Ten Years Ago...

A knock came from Carmilla's bedroom door. She had been strumming along on her guitar for awhile as she waited for Laura to finally show up.

"Come in."

"Hey..." Laura said after peeking into the room. She slowly made her way inside and hesitantly sat on the bed next to the brunette. Carmilla pulled the instrument off of her lap and sat it down next to her.

"What's up?" 

"I kinda needed to talk to you," Laura continued with hesitation.

Carmilla rolled her eyes. "I figured since you called saying you wanted to talk to me." She watched as the blonde's eyebrows furrowed, and she stared down at her lap. "Hey, you okay?" the brunette's voice came out softer.

Laura swallowed and took a deep breath before locking her gaze with piercing black eyes. "I enlisted."

Carmilla was suddenly aware of the silence in her house. She never knew silence could be so loud. It throbbed in her ears. "What?" she barely whispered.

"I'm leaving in a week."

She heard the blonde's words, but that silence around them muffled them. "What?" she repeated, a bit louder this time.

"I know I should have told you I was gonna do this."

Carmilla began to shake her head. "I'm sorry. I don't think I'm understanding."

"Carm, I joined the army."

"No," the brunette began in denial. "No, that doesn't make any sense. Because the girl I've grown up with never wanted to join the army!" her voice was turning bitter. She shoved herself up from the bed and started to pace.

"Things change-"

"No!" Carmilla yelled, coming to a halt in from of Laura. "That is something you've always known! What the hell, Laura? Did you even talk to anyone about this before selling your soul away?!"

Laura frowned. "Stop making it seem like enlisting is a horrible thing. It's honorable! It gives people purpose."

"You're right. Fine. But you never wanted to do this! You made this big decision without even thinking about it!"

"I did think about it!" Laura argued, her hands forming fists in her lap. "There's a lot of good I can do. I know it."

"What good can you do when people start shooting at you?"

"I can shoot back."

"And then what? You're talking about killing people, Laura!"

"If it protects others, then fine."

"Your mother ended up killing herself because she tried to protect others! She almost killed you!"

"And maybe if someone else wasn't bullied into not enlisting, my mother wouldn't have ended up alone and in that horrible situation!"

Carmilla stared incredulously at her. "You think I'm bullying you?" She started to shake her head. "You've barely talked to anyone for months. You've been going through the motions. You're not well. Anyone can see that. Regardless of the fact that you've sworn against ever enlisting, I'm trying to tell you how this is a stupid decision because you're not stable enough for this!"

"Great. So I'm crazy now?"

"No. I'm not saying you're crazy. I'm just looking out for you."

"So you're trying to protect me. Well guess what, Carm? You can't. Things are going to happen to me whether you're there to protect me or not." She was fuming now. "You're right. My mother almost killed me. And you couldn't protect me then either."

Those words hit Carmilla harder than she expected. 

The blonde continued. "I know what I'm doing. I need to do this."

The brunette found herself struggling to speak now. "This isn't you."

"Then who am I? Tell me, Carm, since you obviously know me better than myself!"

"You're the girl that eats sugar for three meals a day! You go for runs all around town, but during the fall, you run through the trails to see all the leaves changing color! You dance and sing to yourself in the mirror in your room when you think no one is looking. You sit and draw the world around you, but never let anyone see how talented you probably are. I know you, Laura. You wouldn't do this. Your mother wouldn't want you to do this."

Laura was crying. Her jaw clenched. "Don't you dare tell me what my mother would want. You don't know what she'd want!"

"She wouldn't want you throwing away your future just so you can prove something to yourself!"

"Well she's dead now. Her vote doesn't count," the blonde said with ease, shocking Carmilla by her callousness.

"And your dad?" Carmilla asked in a whisper. She felt herself losing this battle. "What does he think?"

Laura squared her shoulders. "He told me he's proud." A tear slipped down her cheek.

Carmilla bowed her head toward the floor. Her father was a recluse now. He went to work and went home. He rarely spoke to anyone. He rarely spoke to his daughter.

"I need you to support me, Carm." The brunette lifted her head and stared back at the girl on her bed. Her honey eyes were pleading with her. "Please."

"I can't," Carmilla's voice cracked. She watched as her words caused the girl's hope to crumble. The blonde nodded slowly as another tear fell; her hand quickly wiping it away. She rose to her feet and walked passed Carmilla toward the door of the bedroom.

The brunette quickly spun around and grabbed her forearm. "Don't do this," she begged. Laura turned back with wide watery eyes. She had never heard the broody girl's voice so weak. "Please don't."

Carmilla was crying now. Her grip on Laura's arm was firm. The contact burned; scorching throughout her body and resonating in her chest. "Stay," she added. "Stay with me."

Laura pulled Carmilla's hand off of her arm and held it. She gave it a gentle squeeze. "I'm sorry." And then, she pulled away; letting the brunette's hand slip out of her own as she left the girl crying silently behind her.

The soldier walked into the bedroom after returning from her morning run. It was Christmas Eve and Carmilla was dealing with the usual breakfast crowd at the cafe. Livie was down there at the counter cutting out paper snowflakes. Mr. Fox, the kitten that became part of the family a month ago, was pawing at the decorations when Laura returned. She kissed Livie on top of her head as she passed through to get to the apartment.  

She began to strip out of her sweat clothes when she paused and stared at Carmilla's work desk in the corner of the room. A journal sat on the surprisingly clean surface of the desk. Laura walked over and picked it up. She examined it curiously before opening it. She flipped through the pages, noticing dates at the top of each entry. She had no idea Carmilla kept a diary.

Going by the dates, she didn't seem to write in it often. Laura read a random entry from last March. 

I told Laura about Ell yesterday. I told her the truth. She didn't judge me. She didn't run for the hills. I don't know what I did to deserve Laura Hollis, but I swear I'm never letting her go. Never again.

I'm in love with her.

Laura's heart exploded in her chest. Goosebumps covered her sweat-soaked skin. A goofy grin took over her face as she flipped to the most recent entry. It was from this morning.

I had a dream about Laura leaving. It was one of those dreams that feel so real while you're having it, but when you wake up, you know how illogical it all was.

She was dressed in her uniform, but as her present day self.

It was just like the day she told me she enlisted. We were in my childhood bedroom. My guitar was laying on my bed. Her cheeks were stained with tears. 

And there I was... Begging her to stay. Begging her to not leave me again. I told her I was tired of people leaving me. 

She kissed my forehead and said, "I'm sorry." And then she walked out of my room.

But this time, I raced after her. I swung the door open, but all that was there was blinding light. It swallowed her whole. There was nothing left of her.

I woke up after that. Laura was curled up against me. Her head nuzzling into my chest as she mumbled something in her sleep. I don't know why I had the dream. Am I seriously still scared of her disappearing on me? Am I not over that yet? It's fucking aggravating. I have her. She's in my arms every night. I never want that to change.

The entry ended there. The blonde closed the journal completely and placed it back on the desk. Her brows furrowed. She couldn't blame Carmilla for that fear. Her father had died when she had just become a teenager; leaving her in a sense. Then, Laura left. And then Ell. 

The soldier still felt the guilt.

"Hey, Will? Can you do me a favor?" Carmilla asked as she came from the cafe's kitchen.

He looked up expectantly. 

"Can you throw this damn cat out a window?"

"Carm!" Laura chastised from a cafe table. She was trying to write an article and failing.

"He won't stop following me!" she argued with her arms thrown in the air. The little fur ball was constantly at her feet.

"He loves you!" the blonde explained.

"I don't know why! I didn't even want him to begin with!" she tried shooing the black kitten away, but he just meowed in response as he avoided her hand.

"Don't be mean! He just wants you to love him back," Laura frowned as she got up and cradled him in her arms. She started to nuzzle her nose into his fur. "It's okay, Mr. Fox. She'll eventually see how great you are."

"He's not even a damn fox!" Carmilla shrieked.

The soldier pretended to cover the kitten's ears. "Shh! You'll hurt his feelings!" she whispered harshly.

The cafe owner stared in disbelief, mouth hanging ajar. Then, she turned roughly to go back into the kitchen, mumbling until she was out of earshot. "How did my life end up like this? I seriously don't understand anything anymore..." 

Mr. Fox was just a couple months old. He ended up being Livie's main birthday present a month ago. Whenever the now seven year old was home, he followed her everywhere. When she wasn't, he was Carmilla's shadow.

Usually, after Livie had gone to bed and the couple decided to catch up on some shows, Mr. Fox would jump up onto the brunette's lap, who groaned in response. And after about five minutes, she'd move him onto Laura's lap. 

Mattie came into the cafe at this moment, Livie running in toward Laura. The blonde smiled before holding out the kitten to the little girl. "Come on, Mr. Fox! We've gotta save the world! I've got new socks for my Box Girl costume!" Mattie and Laura watched as the little girl ran to the back of the cafe toward the apartment.

"Hollis," Mattie regarded with a single nod.

"How's it goin', Mattie?"

"It's the holiday season. It's incredibly stressful. Plus, anyone out trying to do Christmas shopping right now is a fool."

"Isn't that what you guys were just doing?" Laura asked hesitantly.

Mattie sighed. "Yes, and this is the only time I will admit to my failings." The soldier chuckled. "Is William here?"

"Uh, yeah. I think he just went in the back." Then, Will came out from around the corner.

"Hey, sis," he grinned.

"You should be bowing to me."

"Wow. That's a bit-"

"You're off the hook for the Germany trip."

"Wait, what?" His eyes widened.

"Merry Christmas."

He grinned even more before rushing forward and wrapping his eldest sister into a tight embrace. She cringed at first before finally relaxing into it. A single pat of her hand on his back.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

"How did Mother agree to this?"

"I told her we needed someone to manage the home front while we're away."

He then leaned in and gave her an obnoxious kiss on the cheek. "You're my favorite!"

"Hey! I heard that!" Carmilla said from behind the counter as she wiped her hands with a rag. Everyone turned in surprise. No one saw her come back in from the kitchen. 

"Aw, Kitty! Don't be jealous!" Will started as he turned and held his arms wide open, slowly making his way to get around the counter.

"Don't even try," she warned with a glare. He laughed and rolled his eyes. 

"Now I get to stay home for Christmas!" His bag was packed and he was supposed to catch a flight in a couple of hours.

"Hurray..." the cafe owner said in a monotone.

"Oh, stop acting so grumpy. You're totally happy, Carm," Laura called out.

Carmilla glared at her this time. "Don't you have an article to write?" 

The blonde took a deep breath and sighed. "Yeah, but it's not working out. I can't focus."

"Oh? So now I'm blessed with your attention?" she asked with a raised brow. 

Laura scoffed. "As if the very idea upsets you."

"Okay, love birds. It's time for me to make my exit. I have a flight to catch. Your presents are already under your tree," Mattie waved as she spun around to leave the cafe.

"Mother has yours," Carmilla called after her. Mattie turned, smirked and blew a kiss. "Merry Christmas, darlings." And then she was gone.

Carmilla turned to see Will taking off his apron. "And where do you think you're going?"

"I'm gonna start making cookies with Liv," he grinned.

"So you're ditching me?"

"There's two tables!"

"Ugh. Just leave." He ran off into the apartment. Carmilla began to grumble to herself as she started wiping down the counter. So Laura slipped around the counter and wrapped her arms around her from behind.

"Want me to help?"

Carmilla sighed into her embrace. "No, it's fine. You can go up and help them if you want."

"Nah. I rather watch you strut around all grumpy and whatnot," she giggled.

"I'm not grumpy," she mumbled.

"Oh please!" Laura laughed as she let go of the brunette and walked over to the two tables. Carmilla watched with furrowed brows, and then, all of the customers stood up from their seats, threw some money on the table, and left. Laura came walking over with the dirty dishes piled in her arms; a grin plastered on her face. She tripped slightly, giving Carmilla a tiny heart attack.

"Careful!" she exclaimed, leaping forward to steady the blonde. "What did you just do?"

"I told them my girlfriend was sad she wasn't upstairs with her family making Christmas cookies, and they got the hint."

"They left that easily?"

"Um, I may have told them they get free coffee next time they come in," she answered sheepishly. Carmilla began to glare, so she quickly spoke up. "I'll pay for it! Don't worry!"

"No, no," Carmilla stopped her. "That's fine." She looked down at the counter and then back up at the soldier with a soft smile. "Thank you."

Laura stepped into her space, wrapping her arms around the brunette's neck. "As cute as you are when you're a grump, I like it much better when you're happy."

Carmilla immediately kissed her, pulling her closer with her hands on Laura's hips. The blonde hummed into the kiss.

"Now let's clean up and send JP home," Laura ordered before kissing Carmilla's nose and getting to work.

Cookies were being eaten. Awful Christmas sweaters were being worn. Silly dancing had occurred. The night was going as predicted. A few gifts were allowed to be opened; the ones from family. Santa still hadn't come yet, obviously.

Laura knew what she was going to give Carmilla for awhile now. She had it all planned out. Livie was in on it. Will knew, but since he wasn't going to Germany anymore, he was going to be there to see it.

Carmilla and Laura were slowly swaying to the music, while Livie and Will made hot chocolate in the kitchen. 

"So Ms. Karnstein," the soldier began playfully. "What is it that you'd like for Christmas?"

The cafe owner smirked. "A little late for that question, isn't it?"

"I've learned it's never too late to get something you really want," Laura answered with a gentle smile. Carmilla stared at the woman in her arms in awe. Everything felt like a dream. Laura was here in her arms. After all the time they spent apart, they were finally together. It finally felt right. 

"God, you're beautiful," she whispered. Pink tinged the soldier's cheeks.

"Mommy, Mommy!" Livie yelled as she ran over holding something high above her head. Carmilla turned and stared down at her little girl. A grape vine with only two grapes was held in the girl's hand. A post-it note was stuck to it with 'Mistletoe' written on it. Carmilla slowly began to grin.

"Is this the same post-it from last year?" she asked, turning to Laura.

The blonde shrugged, trying to look nonchalant. "It was a good memory for me." The brunette was beaming at her and Laura felt her cheeks get redder. Then, Carmilla turned back to her daughter and kissed her forehead. The little girl giggled and held the vine toward Laura, who bent down and kissed her as well. 

"I'll take that," the soldier said as she took the grape vine from Livie and held it over Carmilla. Then, they leaned in and kissed. It was slow, soft, and innocent. But it meant the world to them. When the kiss broke, Carmilla rested her forehead against the blonde's.

"I don't need anything else. I've already got everything I want," she whispered; her warm breath hitting Laura's lips and sending shivers up her spine. 

Carmilla then felt a tap on her lower back. She pulled away from Laura and turned around, seeing Livie standing there bashfully with her hands behind her back.

"What's up, kid?" Carmilla asked curiously; turning completely toward her

Then, Livie pulled her hands out from behind her back. She held another post-it note.

'Marry her.'

Carmilla furrowed her brows before looking up at her daughter's grinning face. She felt another tap on her lower back, and turned back around.

Laura was down on one knee, an open ring box in hand. Honey eyes shined up at her.



Laura started to laugh. "Wait, I didn't say my speech yet!"

"Speech? Why do I feel like that translates to you nervously rambling on for five minutes?" Carmilla smirked as she crossed her arms over her chest.


"I'm kidding, cupcake. Go ahead," Carmilla chuckled as she leaned forward slightly to tuck some loose strands of hair behind Laura's ear.

Laura took a deep breath. "Okay. So..." she stopped to think. Her mind was going blank. "Crap." She rehearsed this in the bathroom mirror so many times. Why was her mind failing her now?!

"Screw the speech," Laura mumbled. She locked eyes with Carmilla. "I love you. I think I loved you before I even knew what love was. I made the mistake of leaving you once. I'm never doing that again. I'm here as long as you'll have me. So..." She took a deep breath as the vulnerability soaked in. "Will you marry me?"

Carmilla felt her throat restricting. Tears were welling up in her eyes. 

"Say 'yes', Mommy!" Livie cheered, jumping up and down next to Will.

The brunette started laughing. "Yes!" she said through her laughter, causing Laura to jump up and pull her into a lip crushing kiss. 

Laura pulled back slightly after a moment, smiling at the woman she loved. "I told you Livie was gonna end up being the one that proposed."

Carmilla rolled her eyes. "You're already an annoying fiancee," she smirked and captured the soldier's lips before she could respond.

Chapter Text

"I'm on my way back from the airport now," Carmilla said with her phone on speaker in the car. Will had asked her to pick him up after his business trip.

"Hey, sis!" Will called out with a grin. The brunette rolled her eyes. Ever since they got engaged, he had continued to call Laura 'sis'.

"Hey, Will! How was your flight?" the soldier answered perkily.

"Long. Had a baby crying behind me the whole time."


"So I'll be back probably in a half hour," Carmilla interrupted.

"Yay! Date night!" Laura cheered. Carmilla shook her head despite the smile on her face.

Will scoffed. "Date night? More like bang night."

"Really, Will?" Carmilla glared at her passenger. 

"Well he's not wrong," Laura answered nonchalantly.

The cafe owner stared incredulously at her phone. "You used to get embarrassed about this kind of thing. What happened?" 

"I started dating you. You're a horn dog."

"Gross," Will chuckled.

Carmilla lifted a brow at her brother. "You started this conversation, ya know."

"And now I'm finishing it. Bye, Laura!" he called out, hearing her laughter through the speaker before he reached over and ended the call.

"Hey," Carmilla yelled out as closed the front door behind her. She pulled off her leather jacket and started looking around the apartment. "Cupcake?" she continued as she started her search. When she peeked into the bedroom, she froze.

"You're late, Private."

Laura was dressed head to toe in her old uniform. Carmilla began to smirk as her eyes sparkled with mischief. Her heartbeat jumped up in speed. "My apologies, Captain."

"Are you smiling at me?" she asked in a warning tone.

Carmilla immediately tried to hide her smile. She failed miserably. She shook her head in response. Laura began to strut over to her; posture pristine. Her presence was commanding. Carmilla was doing flips and cartwheels inside her head right then. She loved Laura in uniform, despite what it represented in their past. The blonde was sexy as hell and Laura was no fool to the fact that Carmilla drooled endlessly over it.

Laura stepped to Carmilla's side, who began to turn and face her. "Face forward!" The brunette jumped back to her previous position. A smile played on her lips still.

"Something funny, Karnstein?" she asked, leaning in close to the cafe owner's ear. Carmilla felt her warm breath dance across her skin. That, plus Laura's authoritative voice, made shivers run up her spine.

"No, ma'am."

"No, ma'am what?"

"No, ma'am... sorry?" Carmilla really didn't know what response the blonde was looking for. She cringed at her own attempt.

Laura bit her lip to hide a smile. She rolled her eyes. "No, ma'am. Nothing is funny."

"Ohhh..." the brunette whispered in understanding. She straightened her back and furrowed her brows. "No, ma'am. Nothing's funny, ma'am!" she restated assertively.

"Hm," Laura let out as she walked around her fiancee. Her eyes landed on her ass and she smirked. Carmilla always wore the perfect fitting pants. Laura then leaned up on her toes and positioned her mouth near the brunette's ear. Carmilla could feel the heat of Laura's body close to her back. "There's still the matter of you being late."

Laura then placed her hand on Carmilla's lower back and pushed her forward. The cafe owner stumbled toward the bed. She spun around to stare questioningly at Laura.


And so Carmilla did. Without question or hesitation, she sat down on the edge of the bed.

Laura stared with obvious contemplation. "Actually, down to your undergarments, Private." The brunette rose to her feet and began taking off her shirt. "Speed it up, Karnstein! I don't have all day!"

Carmilla then rushed to remove her clothes. She almost tripped pulling off her pants and her arm got stuck in her shirt. The soldier had to hold back her laughter. Seeing a less than graceful Carmilla was a rarity. The brunette sat back down on the bed after completing her task.

"Failing to abide by the guidelines means you must be punished," Laura said as she stepped toward her. "And since you caused me to lose my patience, it seems only fair for you to lose something." Carmilla was completely captivated. Laura wanted something? She could have it.

Then, Captain Hollis began to remove her hat. She placed it on the endtable before removing her jacket. Then, she reached for her tie and slowly loosened it, pulling it over her head and tossing it beside Carmilla on the bed. She unbuttoned her shirt, never taking her eyes off of the brunette. Laura watched Carmilla's chest rise and fall faster the more she undressed. Her pupils were blown and lips slightly parted. Her obvious attraction paired with her lack of clothing was doing it's own number on Laura.

By the time Laura had stripped down to her underwear and bra, Carmilla forced a swallow; her eyes roaming all over Laura's body. "Permission to speak, Captain?"

"Speak," the soldier replied as she stepped between the brunette's legs.

"How is this punishment?" her hands began to reach out for the soldier's hips. Laura quickly grabbed her wrists, causing Carmilla to look up in surprise.

"Because you're not allowed to touch," Laura answered simply, pulling Carmilla's wrists together and reaching for her discarded necktie on the bed. She tied her hands together and shoved Carmilla onto her back. Crawling slowly onto the brunette, she took in her expression. Carmilla was panting as she stared up at her. Her dark eyes burned with desire and she took in Laura's presence greedily. She licked her lips and Laura immediately grabbed her elbows, pulling them up so her hands were above her head on the mattress.

The blonde bent down and nipped and sucked at Carmilla's neck. "Fuck," the cafe owner breathed out.

"Language, Private," Laura growled as she let her hips grind down hard into Carmilla.

The brunette groaned. "Fuck, shit, crap- I don't care! Just do that again!"

Laura fell out of character and started laughing. "Carm," she chastised lightly.

"I'm late because of traffic! I didn't even wanna pick him up!" the brunette whined, which made the soldier laugh even more. "You can top me all you want, just please let me touch you. This is torture!"

Laura rolled her eyes despite her smile as she reached up and untied her hands. "You're such a baby," she teased as Carmilla's hands got free. They immediately slid up the soldier's muscled thighs and gripped onto her hips.

She smirked. "Yeah, but I'm your baby," she winked, knowing full well Laura would get annoyed.

"You're lucky I'm horny," the blonde huffed as she leaned down and began placing open mouth kisses down Carmilla's chest. 

The cafe owner took a deep breath as she got lost in the sensation from Laura's lips. "Why do you say that?"

Suddenly, the soldier hooked her fingers into Carmilla's underwear and yanked them down. "Because my patience is gone and I would really like to be having sex right now," she answered as her hand slipped through Carmilla's wet folds.

The brunette hissed in response. "Don't let me stop you," she managed to joke as her hands moved to remove the straps of Laura's bra.

"As if you'd want me to stop," she answered slyly before pulling down a cup of Carmilla's bra and releasing her breast. Her fingers played with her clit as her other hand now palmed and massaged her breast. The brunette leaned up just enough to cup the back of Laura's neck with her hand, forcing her down to crash their lips together. 

Their bodies began to move as one. Carmilla's nails scraped down Laura's back, but when the blonde began to shift her weight onto her knee, she gasped and crumbled down on top of her fiancee.

The cafe owner's eyes widened as she held the soldier. "Laura, you okay? Did I hurt you?"

The blonde shook her head, her forehead pressed to the center of Carmilla's chest. "I think I messed up my knee today when running. I put too much weight on it just now." Her warm breath hit the brunette's skin, and Carmilla's brows furrowed in concern. She gently flipped their positions. She could see Laura's face now, which still grimaced in pain.

Carmilla tucked hair out of her lover's face with a worried smile. "You want me to get you ice or something?"

Laura pouted. "You better not leave me alone in this bed, Carmilla Karnstein."

The brunette rolled her eyes. "You're hurt, cupcake."

"It's fine now."

"I doubt it."

"Can't you just kiss me and touch me inappropriately? You're always trying to do that!"

Carmilla couldn't help but chuckle. "Yeah, but if there's a risk I could injure you, no thanks."

"You've left me with bruises before!"

"Those were love bruises!"

"Then this can be a love knee injury!"

"That's stupid."

"You're stupid."

Carmilla glared.


"Oh my God! Fine!" Carmilla yelled in annoyance as she kissed Laura fiercely. Their tongues collided and Laura's hands gripped firmly onto Carmilla's ass.

And then the phone rang.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," the cafe owner groaned with her lips hovering over the soldier's. Laura leaned up and gently sucked on Carmilla's bottom lip. When she released it, she let out a loud sigh.

"Go get it."

Carmilla leaned back slightly to stare at her incredulously.

"It might be about Livie," she explained, which made Carmilla groan again. She pulled herself off of the blonde and stumbled toward the phone. 

"What?" she growled. She quickly cringed after realizing she had just snapped at her future father-in-law. "It's your dad," she whispered with her hand covering the phone.

"We're outside the door. She said she couldn't sleep without her stuffed cat," the older Hollis explained.

"You're here?" Carmilla asked with wide eyes. Laura had jumped up from the bed, limping slightly over to pile of laundry and grabbing a pair of lounge shorts. Then, she bent down to the floor and grabbed the shirt Carmilla had been wearing. She threw the clothes on quickly.

"I got this," Laura said as she leaned up and kissed Carmilla's cheek before exiting the bedroom.

She limped toward the door and when she opened it, Livie came plowing through, slamming into her waist; her arms wrapped tightly around the soldier. 

"Hey," Laura greeted softly with wide eyes. She ran her fingers through the tiny brunette's hair before looking up at her father. "What happened?"

"She tried to sleep without her stuffed animal and got a nightmare. She asked me to bring her home," he said with an apologetic smile.

Mr. Fox had come out of nowhere and began rubbing his small furry body against the girl's leg.

"Liv," the blonde said softly as she placed her hands on the little girl's shoulders. "You didn't have to try to sleep without it. We would have brought it over for you."

Livie sniffed. "But I wanted to be brave like you."

Laura felt her chest explode. The wide vulnerable eyes of this little girl made her want to cradle her in her arms for eternity. "What makes you think I'm brave?"

"Mommy says it all the time. She says you're brave and strong. And I wanna be like you someday!"

The soldier then knelt down hesitantly, cringing from her knee. "Come here," she said as she pulled Livie into her arms and held her close. The little girl happily clung onto her. Laura looked up at her father. 

"Thanks for watching her, Dad. We've got it from here." He gave a small smile and nodded. He placed the girl's overnight bag down on the floor and made his exit.

The blonde pulled back from the little girl and stared into those dark eyes that looked so much like her mother's. "You know I love you, right?"

Livie grinned. "I love you too, Mama!"

Laura felt like her entire body was ready to fall to pieces in the most wonderful way possible. She had to force a swallow before tears built in her eyes. She stood up wobbly, and then held her hand out to Livie. 

"Come on, squirt. Let's go read a bedtime story." Livie grinned and grabbed her hand.

After seeing the little girl had fallen asleep during her reading, Laura quietly turned off the lights and placed a kiss on her head. When she got back to her own bedroom, she could hear Carmilla's even breaths. Laura slowly slipped under the covers and curled up against the brunette as carefully as possible.

Unfortunately, Carmilla was a light sleeper. She wrapped her arm around the blonde and pulled her closer, kissing her temple. "How'd it go?" her raspy, sleep-filled voice filled the silence in the room. Her hand gently rubbed up and down the soldier's back.

"She's sleeping," Laura answered simply. Then, after a moment, she spoke. "She called me 'Mama'."

Carmilla's hand froze on Laura's back. Then, she flipped them over; Laura was laying down looking up at the brunette hovering over her. "Does that bother you?" she asked hesitantly.

"Absolutely not," she replied with a laugh. She was still in shock.

"So... you're okay with it?"

Laura's hand came up to Carmilla's cheek; her thumb brushing it softly. "I couldn't be happier."

The grin that appeared on the brunette's face was blinding. She launched down and kissed Laura with as much love as she could conjure up. "God, I love you," she whispered into another kiss.

"Less talking. More kissing."

Chapter Text

"Mama! Stop! I can't breathe!" Livie giggled on the couch as Laura tickled her ruthlessly.

"Are you gonna do your homework?"

"Okay! Okay! Stop! I'll do it!" the little girl laughed as tears filled her eyes. Laura grinned, stopping her attack. She kissed the top of her messy brown hair.

"What are you two doing?" Carmilla addressed with a raised brow, but her tone playful. She had walked through the apartment door and stopped at the sight of her family in a wrestling match.

"Mama yelled at me!"

"Did not!"

"She said I had to do my homework!"

Carmilla held back a smile. "And you think I would have told you differently?"

Livie shrunk in on herself. "No... But Mama is my friend."

Carmilla openly laughed at that. Laura frowned. And when Carmilla saw her fiancee's reaction, she cleared her throat and put on a frown. "Mama loves you just as much as I do. We both know what's best for you. You have to listen to us equally."

Livie bowed her head sadly. "Sorry." She turned to Laura and wrapped her arms around the soldier. "Please don't hate me."

Laura's eyes grew wide before she wrapped her arms around Livie. "I could never hate you, squirt," she said with a chuckle and kissed the top of her head. "How about you do that homework and we're all good?"

Livie pulled back and nodded rapidly before running off to her room. Laura looked up at Carmilla, who was smirking at her.

"You're such a mom," the brunette teased.

"You love it," Laura threw back with a knowing smile. Carmilla closed in on her fiancee with a grin.

"I might love it too much," she answered as her arms wrapped around the soldier's waist. She kissed her slowly and sighed against her lips.

"Mmm. That's nice. But I've gotta go."

Carmilla frowned as Laura pulled away and walked toward the door. She pulled on her coat with a smile. The blonde found her fiancee's confusion too amusing.

"Where the hell are you going?"

"I told my dad I'd have coffee with him."

Carmilla groaned. "You frustrate me."

Laura giggled as she zipped up her coat. "Only because I'm marrying the horniest person alive."

"I don't always want you for your body, ya know."

"Oh, of course! My sharp tongue gives you enough of a challenge on its own."

"You're sexiest when you're quiet."

Laura's jaw dropped. "Carm!"

"I'm kidding! I'm kidding!" she added urgently with a desperate smile. "I want you no matter what! You're beautiful, smart, sexy, adorable- please don't make me continue..." she groaned with regret lacing her words.

"You should continue until I tell you to stop, to be honest," Laura threw back bitterly despite her amusement.

"But I love you! And you know I'm an asshole!" Carmilla pouted to her surprise.

The soldier frowned. "I hate that you're so cute when you feel guilty."

Carmilla then grinned. "I'm the worst and I don't know why you love me, but I swear I'll keep trying to make you happy."

Laura shook her head with a smile as she stepped forward into the brunette's space. She wrapped her arms around her waist and rested her forehead against her fiancee's. "I am happy, you goof." She kissed her quickly on the lips before pulling away and opening the door. "I expect dinner to be ready by the time I get back."


"Get to it, woman," Laura added with a grin, shutting the door before Carmilla could reply.

6 Years Ago...

"I don't know if I can do this," Carmilla admitted with eyes slammed shut. Livie was crying in the crib next to her. She was one of the unlucky babies to get colic, and no matter what Carmilla tried, she couldn't get Livie to calm down. The poor baby was constantly in distress, and as much as she had friends and family around to help her, she was still alone.

It was the early morning hours now. The brunette stared down at her little girl with a sad smile. A tear fell down her cheek as she watched her daughter's red face scream from suffering. She then bent down and picked her up, rocking her slightly and trying to shush her tenderly.

"Mommy's here. I got ya, kiddo. It's okay. Shhh..." She still cried, so Carmilla began to sing softly. Her voice cracked a few times as she sniffed away oncoming tears. She kissed Livie's soft head, mumbling into her skin.

"I'm sorry," she started. "I'm so sorry." She held her a little tighter. "I wish I could offer you more. I wish you had someone else to kiss you goodnight and tell you how beautiful you are." She sniffed. "But I'm all you got now. It's just you and me." She kissed the little girl's head again as the crying began to die down. "I'm sorry if I make mistakes," her voice cracked again. "I'm sorry if you grow up feeling like you missed out on a family." Livie was barely whining at all now. "But I swear I'll never stop trying to make you happy."

Present Day...

"Do you think I'm gonna be a good mom?" Laura asked as they sat on the couch one night after Livie was tucked into bed. Mr. Fox was purring on her lap as her hand subconsciously ran through his fur.

"What?" Carmilla replied in alarm. She looked away from the television screen and shifted her weight to face her fiancee. She let a hand rest on the soldier's thigh. "Where did that come from?"

Laura shrugged. "I've just been thinking about it a lot lately. I don't want to let her down."

"Cupcake," the brunette began with a tiny smile. "You're already a mom to her. And you're doing just fine."

"A week or so ago, she barely listened to me when I told her to do her homework," she stated in frustration.

The cafe owner let out a tiny chuckle before squeezing Laura's thigh. "It's all new territory. You're not just her friend anymore. She's starting to get that more and more."

"So now I'm going from being the fun loving friend to the rule making mom. She's gonna start to resent me!"

Carmilla openly laughed as she shifted her position even more and grabbed one of Laura's hands, pulling it into her lap. "She's going to respect you more. Stop freaking out. You're scared of a seven year old right now."

"She's scary! I don't want her to get upset with me, and I don't want to ruin her life!"

"She's bound to get upset with you. It's in the job description. It's inevitable. But how would you ruin her life?"

"I don't know!" Laura flung her arms up in the air, pulling her hand out of Carmilla's grip in the process. She jumped to her feet, scaring Mr. Fox, and started pacing in front of Carmilla. The brunette was trying hard not to smile at the love of her life.

"What if she tries cutting an apple with a knife and I'm not watching and she loses a finger? What if I develop a drug problem and start treating her badly and stealing her piggy bank money for my next dose? What if you realize marrying me is a colossal mistake and we fight all the time and she grows up in a broken home?"


"What if I forget she's allergic to shellfish and feed her crab cake?"

"What seven year old would even want to eat crab cake-" The blonde was still pacing, and ignoring Carmilla's input as her mind raced.

"What if I disapprove of her first boyfriend, or girlfriend, or significant other, and she hates me forever?" 

"That's hopefully a long fucking time from now-"

"What if she finds out about my past and it scares her?"


"What if I become my mother?" The soldier had stopped in her tracks, facing Carmilla; worry etched in her face.

There it was. The constant fear that Laura had lived with.

"You think your mother ruined your life?" Carmilla asked softly with sad eyes.

"Yes!" Laura answered harshly. "No," she corrected before huffing. "I don't know!" She flung herself down on the couch again, hunching over with her face buried in her hands. Carmilla's hand came up and began rubbing up and down her back. She saw Laura's stiff posture deflate from her touch.

"What if I'm destined to mess it up?" she asked with her words slightly muffled from her hands. She sat up a little. "Isn't that like some self-fulling prophecy kind of thing?"

"Have you been reading one of my books?"

"Carm," she said in a tone telling her to stay focused.

"Your mother loved you, Laura," she said gently. The soldier bowed her head down toward her lap as Carmilla continued. "There were only two things that woman was guilty of: not asking for help, and loving you too much."

"It still screwed me up, didn't it?" she asked as her gaze remained in her lap.

"She was sick," Carmilla tried to point out easily. "But she still loved you," she added, ducking down to try and see the blonde's face.

Laura clenched her jaw to try and stifle her emotions. She looked up into dark, caring eyes. "Then maybe I don't want to end up giving Livie so much love that it burns her if it get's ripped away." She shook her head with watery eyes. "I don't want her to feel what I felt losing my mom. That kind of power... It's-" she shook her head again as a tear fell down her cheek. "It's terrifying."

Carmilla smiled warmly, bringing a hand to the soldier's face and wiping away the tear with her thumb. "You're afraid to love someone?"

"I was afraid to love you," she admitted, her voice weak.

"So what changed?"

She shrugged. "I was too afraid not to."

Carmilla sighed. "Being a mom is terrifying. I'm scared all the time." The brunette reached down and grabbed Laura's hand; the blonde interlocked their fingers immediately. "But that fear doesn't matter when I see her smiling at me every day. Loving her has made my life fuller." She squeezed Laura's hand a little with a kind smile. "You can't predict what's gonna happen. And you're gonna end up making a shit ton of mistakes," she chuckled. "But you've never been one to give up, cupcake."

Laura bowed her head, but Carmilla lifted it back up with a hand beneath her chin. 

"You are flawed," she said with lifted brows and a slight curve of her lips. "And struggling, and uncertain." Honey eyes stared back with a vulnerability that made Carmilla's heart ache. "But it is so beautiful the way you try," she smiled a little more. "Don't stop trying on me now."

Then, Laura flung her arms around Carmilla, burying her face into her shoulder. The brunette held her in a tight embrace for a moment until Laura pulled back. Their eyes met with understanding. The blonde leaned in and captured the cafe owner's lips. It was gentle and slow.

They pulled away only to rest their foreheads together. "Thank you," Laura whispered onto warm lips.

"I think becoming a parent gives you the right to have a mini freak out." Laura let out a single chuckle. "It's all gonna be okay," Carmilla reassured, earning another kiss from the soldier.

Laura took a deep breath as she walked back into the cafe after her run. She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand as she greeted Perry. After a bit of small talk, she made her way back into the apartment. She went straight for the kitchen to grab a glass of water, but came to a stop when she saw Carmilla standing there. She was leaning back onto the kitchen counter, gaze settled somewhere on the floor, drinking a beer.

"Carm? You're drinking? It's like ten in the morning."

Carmilla's brows furrowed, but her eyes didn't move from their spot on the floor. "Needed it," she said with an edge to her voice.

Laura hesitated as she walked further into the room. "Is... everything okay?"

The brunette took another swig from the beer before taking a long, deep breath. "Ell's dead."

The soldier's eyes widened. "Oh... Carm-"

"Don't start," she grumbled as she took another sip.

"But you're obviously pretty upset," Laura pushed as she took a step closer.

"I'm upset because even when she's dead, she still just does whatever the fuck she wants!" she growled before slamming the bottle down on the counter.

The blonde narrowed her eyes in confusion. "I'm not following."

Carmilla turned harshly toward her fiancee. "She left Livie a shit ton of money."

Laura's brows rose in surprise. "Oh. Well that's... nice?"

"No, it's not nice, Laura," she spit back. "It's her trying to buy forgiveness! I don't want her fucking money!"

"Carmilla, she's not giving it to you."

"Well I don't want Livie to have anything to do with her!"

"Even if it helps Liv in the future? Don't let your pride get in the way. This isn't about you. Shouldn't you be thinking about your daughter's best interest?"

"Our daughter," she corrected sharply. "Do you want to be the one to tell our daughter where this handful of money came from? 'Oh, this is from the woman that ran out on you when she was supposed to help raise you. She died with a guilty conscience. Go buy yourself a convertible, kiddo!'"

"Well since she's my daughter, fine! I'll be the one to tell her one day."

"Are you fucking kidding me right now?" Carmilla stared at her incredulously.

"That could be her college money, Carm! She won't ever have to worry about those soul sucking student loans! Is it so wrong to let a dying woman have her last wish?"


Laura rolled her eyes. "Why are you still so angry?"

"I don't know!" she yelled as she gripped the edge of the counter. She took a deep breath and sighed; shaking her head. "I don't know." She locked her eyes with Laura. "I don't want Liv to know she exists. I don't want her to think that someone didn't want her in their life."  

The soldier walked up to stand right in from of her. She smiled sadly before pulling Carmilla into her arms and holding her close. The brunette sighed into the embrace.

"Do you really not want her to have it?" Laura asked softly into Carmilla's shoulder.

The cafe owner sighed. "I don't know anymore." She turned her head to kiss Laura's hair. "You stink."

The blonde pulled back instantly. "Hey! I was just exercising! What do you want from me?" She pouted.

"How 'bout a kiss?"

Laura smiled sweetly before stepping close and kissing her. She pulled back and searched dark eyes. "Are we okay?"

Carmilla smirked. "Yeah, cupcake. This whole thing isn't something we need to worry about right now."

The soldier nodded in response. "Are you okay?" 

"I'm not really sure how I feel, but I'll let you know when I figure it out."

The blonde gave a nod before kissing Carmilla on the cheek. "I'm gonna go take a shower."

"Need company?"

Laura furrowed her brows. "Well this took a sudden turn."

"I need a distraction and I'm all tense," the brunette explained with a shrug.

She rolled her eyes before walking off toward the bathroom. When she didn't see Carmilla following, she lifted a brow. "Coming?" The brunette grinned as she started removing her shirt and making her way toward the bathroom.

Yeah, they were pretty okay.

Chapter Text

"Ugh, Carm!" Laura moaned loudly as she rode on top of her.

"Shh!" the brunette started to laugh. The soldier let out another moan. "Okay, seriously. Am I gonna have to gag you?" she asked in amusement.

"Stop laughing," Laura groaned as she continued her movements. "I'm busy."

Carmilla scoffed as she lifted her hands off of the woman on top of her and placed them behind her head. "Well then don't let me get in your way," she threw back with heavy sarcasm.

The blonde glared down at her. "Don't challenge me, Karnstein."

The cafe owner rolled her eyes. "The only challenge I'm giving you is to not wake up the whole neighborhood. Specifically, our daughter down the hall."

"Hey! Last time was definitely your fault!" They've had many occasions when their extracurricular activities caused a knock on the bedroom door from a concerned little girl.

"And majority of the time, it's yours," Carmilla replied calmly.

Laura groaned. "I'm sorry for enjoying myself," she bit back.

"Well enjoy yourself quietly."

"I would, but you're too busy being a jerk."

"I'm the jerk? You were five seconds away from shrieking like a banshee!"

"And you're five seconds away from not getting lucky tonight!"

Their eyes met in the dimly lit room; a glare daring each other to make the next move. Then, Carmilla removed her hands from behind her head and cupped Laura's breasts. The blonde looked down before locking eyes with her again.


"I didn't know what to say and your boobs were distracting me," the brunette explained simply as she gave them a quick squeeze. Laura swatted at her hands, which made Carmilla smirk and rest them on the soldier's thighs instead.

"So you're gonna be a tool now?"

The smirk grew even more. "I'll be whatever tool you want me to be." Laura rolled her eyes before Carmilla continued. "Get over here." The blonde leaned down and kissed Carmilla slowly. The brunette bit down on her bottom lip with a hum. "That was nice," she whispered. "But those aren't the lips I'm looking for."

Laura's mouth opened slightly. "You expect me to be quiet for that?"

Carmilla chuckled. "Cover your mouth," she suggested.

Despite the soldier's huff, she was actually quite eager. She crawled up Carmilla's body, her knees placed on either side of her head. The cafe owner smirked up at her before placing her hands on Laura's hips and ushering her down.

She started by placing gentle kisses along her slit. Laura sighed at the contact as one of her hands held on to the headboard and the other pulled through Carmilla's wavy hair. 

Soft lips hummed against Laura's center. And then her tongue began dragging through her at an agonizing pace. The solder breathed in sharply, earning a grin from the woman beneath her. 

Carmilla swirled her tongue around her clit, flicking it gently after hearing the blonde's breathing hitch. Her fingers massaged her hips as she continued to drag her tongue along her length. Laura bit down on her lip to suppress a moan. She started to rock herself into Carmilla's actions.

Then, Carmilla dove in deeper; Laura's wetness driving her on. She licked, and kissed, and sucked. Tasting her was a turn on of its own; she moaned into her center. Laura's whimpering from above caused her to dig her fingertips into her hips, dragging her nails down her ass and squeezing firmly. Laura threw her head back and started grinding down into Carmilla.

Her nose rubbed against her clit as her tongue slipped in and out of her entrance. Laura's hand left Carmilla's hair in favor of biting down on her forearm to prevent any rogue moans from escaping. Her other hand had a death grip on the headboard as she continued to ride Carmilla's face; arching her back in the process.

Knock, knock, knock.

Laura flung herself off of Carmilla, stumbling off of the bed and onto the floor. She managed to bang her knee into Carmilla's nose in the process, causing the brunette to yelp at the impact. She rubbed her nose as she tried to sit up in bed.

"Mommy? Mama?" the muffled voice came from beyond the door.

Carmilla cleared her throat. "One sec," she said with a raspy voice as she swung her legs off the edge of the bed. She picked up a discarded shirt and shorts, not bothering to check whose it was, and put them on hastily.

Laura grabbed Carmilla's robe hanging off the bathroom door and threw it on right before the brunette opened the door.

"What's up, kid?" She had to clear her throat again.

"I thought I heard something in my room," she said quietly, staring down at the floor sheepishly.

Laura came stomping over. "Oh yeah?" she asked with too much determination that made Carmilla's eyebrows shoot up toward her hairline. "Let's go kill it," Laura added as she passed between the two standing in the doorway and marching down the hall.

Yeah, she might have been a little frustrated.

After investigating the entire room, tucking Livie back into bed, and placing Mr. Fox next to her, they managed to sneak out of the room without waking her.

The soldier slammed her body back onto the bed with a groan. "I was quiet!"

Carmilla started laughing. "Surprisingly, you were. Guess we just have shitty luck." She crawled onto the bed and laid down on top of Laura; her chin resting of the blonde's breastbone. 

"I can't even be mad at her," Laura grumbled as she started playing with tendrils of Carmilla's dark hair.

The brunette lifted a brow with a slight smile. "This is you not being mad at her?" she asked in disbelief.

"I'm sexually frustrated. It's different," the soldier answered with a sigh. "She was just a scared little girl. How can I hold that against her?"

"That's awfully mature of you, Hollis."

"Yay, me."

"I'd be pissed if I was two seconds from an orgasm and had to stop," Carmilla admitted with a chuckle. Laura groaned once again. The cafe owner shook her head before leaning up and untying the robe around Laura. She opened it up as the blonde watched her curiously.

"How 'bout I help with that frustration?"

Twelve Years Ago...

Carmilla was walking the streets of Silas that Friday night with the most bored expression on her face. It was junior prom night, and there was no way in hell she would be caught dead at that particular school function. She started the night playing her guitar, but quickly lost interest. Then, she tried to watch some mindless television, but that didn't entertain her for long either. So, she went for a walk. The stars were out and the weather was nice; it didn't seem like a bad idea.

But then she saw Laura Hollis laying down on a bench on the sidewalk. Her hands were placed behind her head as she stared up at the sky.

"What are you doing here?" Carmilla asked suddenly, which made the blonde jump in surprise.

"Jesus! Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" she replied as she sat up.

"Shouldn't you be all dressed up and dancing to some mediocre music right now?"

Laura shrugged. "Didn't feel like it."

The brunette stared at her incredulously. "I'm pretty sure I've heard you ramble on about this stupid dance for the past month."

"Well, things changed."

Carmilla took a deep breath before letting it out in frustration. Laura's girlfriend broke up with her last week. The girl told her she had feelings for someone else. It took everything in Carmilla not to go punch her in the face. Especially after witnessing a crying Laura.

She might have keyed her car a little.

"Cupcake, you had your dress and everything. You have plenty of friends. You didn't need a date to go."

"And see her dancing with someone else while I'm miserable and alone? No thanks."

Carmilla clenched her jaw before sitting down next to her on the bench. Her gaze rested on the street in front of them. "I would have taken you."

Laura's head whipped toward the brunette. "What?"

She sighed. "If I knew this was your plan tonight, I would have taken you."

The blonde shook her head with furrowed brows. She was trying to wrap her mind around the situation. "But you hate anything to do with school. You laughed in my face when I asked if you were going."

Carmilla finally turned to look at her. Their eyes locked and Laura felt the air in her lungs disappear. 

"This isn't about me."

The blonde's heart was pounding in her chest as Carmilla's dark eyes stared back at her. This was new for her. Whatever she was feeling was surprising, but not entirely unwelcome. Yes, she always knew she was attracted to the broody brunette, but something felt different. Something made her stomach twist and turn and her cheeks turn red.

Ever since the night she watched Carmilla drunkenly steal the baby Jesus, she found herself willingly engaging in conversation with her. Spending time with her was actually something she looked forward to. Sure, the brunette was still a pain in her ass, but it was more endearing now.

"Why?" was all Laura managed to say.

"Because seeing you sad is more annoying than your regular perky self."

A tiny smile appeared on the blonde's lips. Carmilla frowned.

"Don't look at me like that," she said grumpily. Laura began to grin.

"Like what?" she teased.

"Like that." She broke eye contact and fidgeted in her seat.

"Like you're a secret softy and don't like seeing me sad?" Laura continued to tease.

Carmilla rolled her eyes. "You know what? Nevermind. Stay sad."

The blonde's smile was still beaming. "Nope. I'm too busy enjoying the fact that Carmilla Karnstein actually cares about me."

She scoffed. As if that was news... Anyone with eyes would have known that by now. "Why are you out here anyway?"

Laura sighed. "My parents kept looking at me with this... look of pity. I didn't need to see that." 

Carmilla stayed quiet for a moment before standing up suddenly. "Alright. Let's go."

The blonde stared back with wide eyes. "What? Where?"

"To the stupid dance. Get up."

"Carm, it's already halfway done. It's fine."

"It's funny that you think I'm asking." Her stare was challenging and Laura felt a shiver go up her spine. 

"But- We're not even dressed."

Carmilla shrugged. "You know how I like to be a rebel."

"Why are you pushing this?"

The brunette crouched down slightly to be at eye level with her. "Because I know you want to go. And I'm not gonna let your idiotic ex ruin this for you."

Laura forced a swallow at her proximity. "But she's still gonna be there with her."

A smirk appeared across Carmilla's lips, catching Laura's full attention. "And you'll be there with me. I'd say you got the better deal." She stood back up and held her hand down to the blonde. "Let's go turn some heads, cupcake."

Present Day...

"Do you think I'm stupid?" Carmilla asked innocently as she sat across the table from Laf.

"Yes." They smiled. "But not about this."

The brunette glared. "So you agree with me?"

"No. Laura makes a good point. The money is for Livie. It'd be nice for her to have when college comes around. I know you don't like where it came from, or the reason behind it, but it's kind of unfair to take that away from her."

"So I'm wrong?"

"No. What you feel makes sense. You're allowed to feel that way."

Carmilla huffed. "Okay, gingerbread. You're giving me zero help right now."

They shrugged. "It's a tough situation."

"Why am I even talking to you?"

"Because you love my company."

Carmilla scoffed.

Laura then came running out of the apartment and through the cafe. "Hi, love you, bye!" she yelled to her fiancee as she ran out of the door.

"Uh, what?" Carmilla asked in confusion well after the blonde had exited the building. 

Laf shrugged with raised brows. "She's your future wife. You'd know more than I would."

"I'll never fully understand Laura Hollis."

The ginger hummed. "Get a girl that keeps you on your toes," they smiled.

"So you gonna tell me where you ran off to this morning?" Carmilla asked as she sat on a bench in the park with Laura. Livie was on the swings with her friends from school. "Sale at the bakery or something?" she smirked.

The soldier glared. "No, there was a sale on couches. I bought one for you."

Carmilla rolled her eyes as she rested an arm behind the blonde on the bench. "You always threaten me with a couch, but you never follow through with it. You're all talk, cupcake."

"Try testing it. See what happens."

The brunette let out a surprised whistle. "Wow. Okay, what's wrong?"

Laura crossed her arms over her chest. "Why does there have to be something wrong?"

"Um, because your tone is lacking the playful quality I'm used to."

She frowned. "I've just- I've got a lot on my mind."

Carmilla looked at her with anticipation before giving her a gentle nudge. "Care to share with the class?"


The brunette let a beat of silence pass before letting out a heavy sigh.

"And what was that for?" Laura asked in irritation.


"That big huff you just did."

Carmilla leaned up more, removing her arm from behind Laura. "Why are you looking for a fight right now?"

"You started this."

"All I did was ask you a question!"

"And you didn't like my answer!"

"Yeah, because something is obviously bothering you!"

"Well maybe you can't fix everything!"

"Oh my God," Carmilla said as she rose to her feet.

"Where are you going?"

"Away from whatever this is," she gestured toward the blonde.

"Is that how you deal with problems? You run away?"

"No, sweetheart. That's all you." And once the words left her mouth, she immediately wanted to rip out her tongue.

The soldier's mouth hung open; honey eyes wide. "Really?" she whispered in disbelief. Carmilla opened her mouth to try to form words, but failed. "How long are you going to shove that in my face?"

"That's not- Damn it! That's not why I-" Carmilla frowned and massaged her forehead for a moment. "It's not about that! You're still avoiding your problems! You do this every time! Something goes wrong and your first instinct is to push people away. Whether it's for their safety, or your own. Either way, I think it's selfish."

"Wait, how would pushing someone away for their safety be selfish?"

"Because you don't even give them a choice! You do what you think is right, and nothing else seems to get through!"

"You get through!"


They stared at each other for a moment. A few of the parents nearby were eyeing them. Livie was watching with a frown before she cautiously made her way over. Noticing the little girl coming, the two women took a few deep breaths and tried to find their composure.

"Why are you fighting?" Livie asked sheepishly. Her big brown eyes shined up at them with worry.

Laura smiled sadly at her and reached out to smooth out her dark hair. "We're not fighting, squirt." Carmilla scoffed, which earned a glare from the blonde.

"But you guys were yelling..." the little girl added.

Carmilla sighed before placing her hand on her daughter's shoulder. "Mama and I were just disagreeing about something. You know how you argue with Timmy about what the best candy is? It's like that."

Livie furrowed her brows in thought. "Which candies were you guys arguing about?"

Laura and Carmilla met each other's gaze for a second with wide eyes before chuckling. "Twizzlers, of course," Carmilla answered.

The blonde scoffed and crossed her arms over her chest. "Obviously Reese's."

Livie shook her head rapidly. "You're both wrong! It's Kisses!" She really did love Hershey's Kisses.

Carmilla smirked before placing a kiss on the top of her head. "Of course it is."

Laura stood up from the bench. "Come on. Let's head back," she said as she placed a hand against the little girl's shoulder blade. The soldier looked up to meet Carmilla's eyes. They knew things were unfinished.

Later that night, after tucking Livie into bed, Carmilla came back out into the living room and slammed down on the couch next to Laura. "Alright. Let's do this."

The blonde turned toward her harshly. "Why does it always come back to me leaving you?"

"I was only saying that you have issues facing your problems head on. It wasn't about you leaving."

"It really didn't come out that way, Carm."

She ran a hand through her hair. "I know. I just- When you shut me out- It pisses me off!"

"And it pisses me off when you push for me to talk."

Carmilla shook her head before placing her hand on Laura's knee. "Laura, we're getting married. We're spending the rest of our lives together. I shouldn't have to push you to talk. You should just be able to talk to me. I'm here for you. I'm always here."

Laura took a deep breath before putting her hand on top of the brunette's. "I know you are." She squeezed her hand. "I'm sorry."

"So can you please tell me what's going on?"

"One of my superior officers- Well, former superior officer, I guess- He was in town. He wanted to meet with me. They got wind that I was doing work for the newspaper and such. He knows some people looking for journalists and asked me if I was interested."

"That's great!" Carmilla smiled proudly at her.

Laura shook her head. "It's overseas, Carm. For six months."

The brunette felt her chest immediately deflate. She slid her hand out from under the soldier's. "And you're considering this?"

"No! I mean- Not really."

"What'd you tell him?"

The blonde hesitated. "That I'd think about it."

Carmilla let out a disgusted laugh before rising to her feet. "Well, shit."

"I didn't say 'yes'!"

"You didn't say 'no'!" Carmilla paced a little before looking back at her incredulously. "Jesus, Laura. We're getting fucking married. You have a daughter now!"

"I know!"

"Do you? Because I feel like that's not really something permanently in your brain," she emphasized as she tapped her index finger against her temple.

"It is! I want you. I want Livie."

"Then fucking act like it!" They came to a standstill then. Both looking at each other and slightly breathless. "For someone wanting me to get over you leaving, you sure know how to make me question it again."

Laura looked down to her lap. "I didn't say 'yes'," she whispered.

Carmilla let out a single chuckle with her jaw clenching. "Don't bother getting up. You can stay on the couch tonight. Ironic, huh?" She then stormed off into the bedroom.

The soldier hunched over and buried her face into her hands. She honestly didn't know what she was thinking. That was mostly why she didn't want to tell Carmilla about the offer yet. She didn't understand why she didn't say 'no'. Maybe she was still scared of being a wife; being a mother. But was that really scarier than going back into territory where bombs and guns existed?

Maybe it wasn't as scary because she knew what to expect. And she had already experienced the worst.

She shook her head before curling up into herself on the couch. She laid there tossing and turning; only falling asleep for short periods of time before waking up again. Then, she heard a door creaking open. 

Laura opened her eyes to see Carmilla crouched down in front of her. "Let's go," she said softly.

The blonde leaned up on her elbow. "Carm, I deserve to be here. It's fine."

"I'm doing this for me," the brunette said with dark piercing eyes. Laura had to force a swallow at how powerful the woman seemed. Carmilla then stood up and held her hand down to the soldier. "I don't like sleeping without you next to me."

The blonde felt her eyes begin to water. She forced another swallow before accepting her outstretched hand and being led to the bedroom. They crawled into bed; Laura hesitant to get close. But then, Carmilla reached out and pulled her into her arms; the blonde resting her head against her chest. Laura listened to the soft drumming of Carmilla's heart. 

How could that sound be scarier than gunfire? 

Chapter Text

 Nine Years Ago...


Laura jumped in alarm as she sat at the end of her cot. "Sergeant," she addressed urgently, rising to her feet and saluting. 

"At ease, soldier. What are you doing all cooped up in here?" the older man asked as he looked around the quarters.

"Needed some alone time, sir."

"It's Christmas Eve, Hollis. Shouldn't you be acting like a hooligan like the rest of your fellow soldiers?" he asked gruffly as he scratched the facial hair on his cheek.

She shrugged. "Not really my favorite holiday, Sergeant."

The man sighed before pulling out a flask from his chest pocket. He took a seat on her cot, causing the soldier to look on in shock. He glared up at her and smacked the cot next to him to signal her to sit. She quickly followed orders, watching him take a swig of whatever liquor was in the metal container.

"Being away from home is hard for some on the holidays," he said, holding the flask out to her. She stared for a moment before hesitantly taking it.

"To be honest, sir, home is kinda the last place I'd want to be today," she responded as she took a drink from the flask. The burn down her throat caused a coughing fit. Her superior began patting her back as he took back the flask. She never really drank. She never felt the need to. But whatever she just drank tasted like regret.

"Well, you're not the first soldier to enlist because you were running away from something," he commented, taking another sip. He started to pull out a pack of cigarettes.

Laura furrowed her brows. "I wasn't running away from anything," she corrected in a tone much too inappropriate for her superior officer. Her eyes widened when he stared at her with a lifted brow and a cigarette hanging in between his lips. "I'm- I'm sorry, sir. I didn't mean-"

"You're a hell of a soldier, Hollis," he interrupted as he lit his cigarette and took a long drag. He offered her one, but she simply shook her head. "You've been here for about six months. It's obvious how much you put into it. It's respectable," he took a drink from his flask before handing it off to Laura again. His eyes then locked with hers.

"I've seen a lot of men and women come through here. They all have their own reasons for wearin' the uniform. And those reasons can either fuel 'em or break 'em." He took a drag from his cigarette as Laura forced herself through another drink. "Denial is strong thing. Hell, it's what prolonged my much needed divorce," he joked.

"Sir, I'm not in denial-"

"Your eyes and posture give you away," he cut in. He sighed and adjusted his hat. "My job has been to maintain structure, to build it up nice and strong, and fix the weak spots when I see 'em." He nodded toward the flask and motioned for her to take another drink. "I see what you're made of. You've got strong bones. Your senses are always ready when necessary. You can think creatively on your feet. You're a God damn legend in the making," he said in amusement. "But I can see where the joints are weak. That fire behind your eyes... Most see that as determination. I see it as something dangerous that's waiting to combust." 

Laura felt her chest caving in. She took a longer drink from the flask.

"Two days ago, you ran into that burning building without a second thought. A bomb had just gone off in an attempt to kill our entire squad, and you ran in without fear of another detonation," he explained firmly. Laura's jaw clenched. They were doing a training exercise outside the nearby village and went into town to speak to some of the locals. As they were exiting the building, it went up in flames. None of the soldiers were hurt, but villagers had been. And she heard the little boy, that had smiled at her only moments ago, screaming.

"We're trained and taught to be ready to sacrifice ourselves for our country; for the greater good. But we still need self-worth, Hollis. We still need to know we're worth something. Only then can a sacrifice mean anything."  

"Was that boy's life worth less than mine?" she asked softly.

"I'm not telling you this because it was wrong. Fuck, it was God damn heroic! But I'd hate to see a soldier like you throw your life away before you can do us any real good."

Laura sat staring at her lap. She didn't know what to say. She understood him. But what was she supposed to do about it? She didn't know how to fix anything. This was who she was now.

"Ugh!" he groaned as he pushed himself up to his feet. "I gotta take a piss," he said as he stretched. He looked back down at the blonde who held the flask out to him. "Nah. Keep it. I've got three more," he chuckled as he strolled off.

The soldier looked down at the flask with a heavy sigh before bringing it back to her lips.

Present Day...


The older Hollis stopped chopping wood to turn and look at his daughter. She was sitting on a stump with a cup of hot chocolate in her hands. 

"Why don't you ever talk about the military anymore?" He stared at her in confusion. "You used to tell me stories all the time."

He looked back down to the log he was about to cut and shrugged. "Guess I told you all my stories," he answered as he swung down the ax and split the log in two.

Laura scoffed. "You used to repeat stories all the time. I'm calling bullshit."

He let out a sigh before letting the head of the ax rest against the ground. "What is there to talk about?" he asked in annoyance.

"I don't know. I just figured you'd want to bond over it more or something. We're both kind of veterans now..."

"Laura, honey, we've never had trouble bonding. We don't need to talk about that in order to have something to talk about."

"But what if I want to talk about it?"

His brows furrowed. "Why?"

"Dad, if I take this job, I have to be willing to talk about it. It'd be unavoidable."

"So you're still considering it," he stated more than asked.

"I- I'm trying to figure things out," she answered with her gaze falling to her lap. She heard him take a deep breath.

"I know I haven't always been there for you." Her head snapped up with wide eyes as he continued. "I didn't handle your mother's death properly. I didn't look after you-"

"Dad, no," she interrupted. "You did fine. How is someone supposed to deal with something like that properly?"

"By making sure their daughter doesn't doing anything rash like enlist," he said firmly. His eyes burned. He sighed as Laura frowned back at him. "You were such a happy girl," he said with a sad laugh. "Happiest girl I ever saw." His grip on the ax tightened for a moment. "And then when your mother-... Something happened to that girl."

"Yeah, she grew up," Laura answered bitterly.

Her tone didn't bother him. He smiled sadly at his daughter. "You never wanted to be a soldier, kiddo."

"Why does that matter?!"

"Because you were looking for a way out. That's what you wanted. I wanted an out too. And I was kind of jealous of you. I didn't see the whole picture. I didn't see the part where you were grieving. I didn't see the life changing decisions you were making. I didn't protect you."

The younger Hollis groaned loudly. "I didn't need your protection!"

"Can you really say that? After everything that's happened to you?" he asked gently.

She clenched her jaw. "Nothing is your fault."

"I'm sorry, regardless. I should have done better." Laura let her head drop back down to her lap. "You've always been one to run away from your problems. When things got too intense or scary, you'd take off like a jack rabbit," he chuckled. When she lifted her head, their eyes locked. "Aren't you tired of running yet?"

Her brows furrowed. "Why does taking this job mean I'm running? It's only six months."

"Do you even want the job?"

"Of course! Why wouldn't I?"

"Enough to go back there?"

"I've already lived through the worst. What else could happen to me?"

He frowned. "Fine. Trying to talk about your fears clearly isn't working, so I'm gonna cross a line now. If you choose this job and walk away from Carmilla, she won't be here when you get back. Or at least she shouldn't be."


"I've seen that girl look at you like you were the only person in the world for far too long. You're lucky to be with a woman like that. Especially after everything she has been through. If she has to deal with another person leaving her, I can't even imagine..."

"I'm not leaving her!"

"It doesn't matter how long you go away, Laura! This is you choosing something over her- over her and Livie. You don't care about this job. I can see it in your eyes. You're afraid of marrying the woman you love. You're afraid of raising a wonderful little girl. You're afraid of disappointing them. And this job is the perfect chance for you to distance yourself. Even if it could set you back with your PTSD."   

"She knows I love her, Dad. We'll be fine."

"Yet you'd still put her through this? You love her, but you'd walk away from her again? When you should be starting your lives together? Laura..."

She rose harshly to her feet. "That's enough. Thanks for the input, but I'll take it from here." She stormed off despite her father calling her back.

She didn't have long to decide. The pressure was on, and she was avoiding her fiancee like the plague. And after that conversation with her father, Laura was even more confused. So now she was out walking the nature trails around town to try and clear her head.

This was an incredible opportunity for her. And it was only for a few months. That was nothing in the grand scheme of things. Many families deal with this kind of occupational flaw.

But they were supposed to he getting married. She was supposed to be there for Livie. It was important for her to be present in her life now. 

And Carmilla... She'd be leaving her once again. Despite Laura's inevitable return, it was such a raw subject for them. She could only imagine the deja vu the brunette would experience; the fear and abandonment.

Was she being selfish?

She kicked at some rocks along the trail, her hands tucked into her pockets. The sun was beginning to set and a sigh left her mouth as she stared at the mix of colors in the sky. Sunsets; the sign of the end of a day. Her chest ached suddenly. 

"I guess all things come to an end at some point," she whispered out loud to herself. But she took note: nothing ever ended as beautiful as a setting sun.

Eight Years Ago...

"Mattie, I'm not in the mood."

"You're never in the mood."

"Well I'm really not in the mood."

"That girl is the brightest out of all the ones you've hit and ditched."

Carmilla scoffed. "You spent like two seconds talking to her."

"That was enough to tell that she could actually form intellectual sentences. Ditsy is definitely not a quality of hers, and that's a welcome surprise."

"I get it. You actually like someone I'm sleeping with. Hurray," she replied with fake enthusiasm.

"She's not a piece of meat, Carmilla."

She lifted a brow. "Excuse me? This coming from the woman that doesn't even think about sleeping with the same person twice?"

"We're completely different people. I'm disconnected because that's who I've always been. You're disconnected because the only person you've ever felt anything for left you all messed up inside. Ell cares about you, whether you want to see it or not. You can't waste your life waiting for Laura Hollis."

Carmilla cringed at the name. "I'm not waiting for anyone!" she threw back through clenched teeth. 

"She packed up her bags and left, Carmilla. You told me you asked her to stay, and she didn't. You can't punish yourself for that. You can't let her problems hold you back-"

"Laura isn't a problem!"

"Then why are you being so aggressive?"

"I don't know!" she yelled before realizing she was the only one ready for a fight. She took a deep breath and ran her hands through her hair roughly. She then met her sister's eyes with purpose. "She's engraved in me, Mattie," she admitted, her voice cracking. That all too familiar ache filled her chest. "I don't know how to get her out."

Her older sister frowned before approaching Carmilla. Her hands settled gently on the younger woman's shoulders, causing the girl to meet her eyes. A sense of desperation and pain came through those dark orbs.

"Do you remember what I told you when Dad died?" Mattie's voice came out softly. She didn't wait for a response. "I told you that it only hurts because we wouldn't be able to see him anymore. But we would always be able to remember him. Because he was a part of us. All those memories of Saturday morning pancakes, snowball fights, the music he would play us..." she offered a sad smile as Carmilla's eyes watered. "Just by fiddling around on your guitar, you're keeping him with us."

Carmilla bowed her head, but Mattie continued. "People leave, Carmilla. That's life; whether it's forever, or just a moment in time. And you can't erase that. You can't make it go away. But if you're lucky to feel something good before it's gone, cherish it. Take what she's given you and keep living."

"And what if she gave me nothing?" she answered with burning eyes and flared nostrils.

Mattie took a deep breath as her arms fell back to her sides. "We both know that's not true."

A tear fell down the brunette's cheek. "And that's supposed to make me feel better?"

"It's supposed to make you appreciate things. It's supposed to open your eyes to that kind of affection."

Carmilla's head bent down as she stared at the ground. "But what if no one can ever come close to her?" 

Mattie felt her own chest tighten from her sister's words. "How will you ever know if you never try?"

Present Day... 

Carmilla stood in the kitchen, leaning back against the counter. She held a cup of coffee in her hand and stared absentmindedly ahead of her. Laura had been out all day. She was gone whenever the brunette woke up in the morning. She figured the soldier had gone for a run, but hours passed and she hadn't seen or heard from her. 

But the cafe owner didn't reach out either. She was afraid to. Whatever was happening was something big; that much she knew. And the image of Laura walking away kept replaying through her mind. That familiar ache coursed through her.

But maybe she was being too harsh... Maybe she was letting her own issues get in the way of something Laura truly wanted...

Maybe it was time for her to let go of the ghosts that continued to haunt her. 

Then, the door opened. Laura hesitated after spotting her in the kitchen. She debated moving closer, but then cowardly turned to head toward the bedroom.

"Take the job."

Laura froze mid step, and then spun around to stare at the brunette with questioning honey eyes. "What?"

Carmilla sighed as she slumped back against the kitchen counter more. "It's only six months."


"It'll be a good experience for you."

"You don't have to do this," Laura said softly as she walked closer to her fiancee.

"What? Let you live your life? I don't want to be something that got in your way. Who am I to stop you?"

The blonde stared at her incredulously, her mouth ajar. "Who are you to stop me?" she repeated in alarm. She started shaking her head. "No." 

"No, what?"

Her father's words echoed in her head. 'Aren't you tired of running yet?'

Honey eyes met Carmilla's vulnerable black. That powerful electric charge was still there. It was always there. It was always going to be there. And as terrifying as it was, the soldier was tired. Her stamina had been zapped ages ago, but she had been pushing herself as if she were on the last leg of a race.

"No," Laura repeated firmly. Her eyes studied Carmilla's face as if taking her presence in for the very first time. This woman... This beautiful woman was her never ending sunset; stretching across the soldier's world and painting the sky into more colorful and exquisite patterns as time ticked by. She couldn't run from it. She finally realized she never could. She would never outrun that wonderful setting sun.

"I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying right here. I'm staying with you, and Livie, and I'm going to marry you. Because all I ever do is run. I've been running for so long. And once I started to slow down, I almost sprinted right back into it. I don't wanna report on what's going on over there. I lived enough of that. It's time for me to stop being scared; especially of things that are so good."

The soldier watched as Carmilla's eyes began to water. "So... you're... not gonna take it?"

Laura let out a weak laugh. "I'm sorry I'm such an idiot." 

Carmilla let out a sigh before stepping into the blonde's space, cupping her face and bringing their lips together. A tear or two fell down the brunette's cheeks, which brushed against Laura's skin. The soldier pulled away slightly, wiping away her love's tears with a sad smile. "You're stuck with me now."

The cafe owner smiled softly with a sniff. "Yikes. Suddenly I wanna make a run for it." Laura scoffed and playfully shoved her laughing fiancee. Carmilla then pulled her back in for Laura to get lost in another kiss.

Chapter Text

"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!"

"You should!"

"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.

"Where's Liv?"

"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."