AN: Surprise! An update for anyone still reading this!
AN2: Special shout out and thank you to spell check, apparently during my hiatus my spelling went to shit, so thanks spell check for making this update readable.
Alice awoke in a familiar position, arms wrapped around Claire in her girlfriend's bed. It was a situation she found herself in with increasing regularity. And it wasn't a bad thing either, just different. Alice had never told Claire, but the truth was that normally she wasn't one to cuddle. It had always made her feel suffocated and trapped when girls wanted to cuddle after sex, so it was part of the reason that Alice always made sure to leave after her one night stands. But with Claire it was different. Whenever they were in the same room Alice wanted to be next to her and on the nights she stayed over it was as if she couldn't help herself. She couldn't in good conscience have the redhead lying beside her and not hold her close, it just wouldn't make sense.
However, the reason for her awakening wasn't nearly as pleasant. Alice's phone was ringing loudly, and by the ringtone she knew it was Carlos. She briefly considered ignoring it, but knew her best friend would never call this early in the morning if it wasn't important. Fortunately she'd left it within reach on the night stand.
"This better be good, it's.." Alice checked the time "..5:23 in the morning."
"Don't I fucking know it." She heard him yawn before continuing. "LJ showed up at the house ten minutes ago, he needs a bro breakfast."
"I hate when you call it that."
"Sorry, a BFF breakfast," Carlos corrected sarcastically. "Now get out of bed and meet us at the usual place."
Alice rolled her tired eyes, Carlos was always so cranky in the morning. But their breakfast meetings were reserved for major life decisions and she was curious as to what was up with LJ that he needed to consult them for advice. "15 minutes," she replied then hung up without waiting for a response. Reluctantly rising from the bed she didn't notice the redhead beginning to stir.
"You're leaving?" Claire called, her voice groggy from sleep. "Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, just some funk band business." Alice replied while dressing. "Sorry for waking you."
Claire sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "It's ok. Will I see you later?"
Alice paused, momentarily hesitating. Today was their three month anniversary. Claire hadn't mentioned it thus far, but that didn't mean she wouldn't bring it up tonight. Alice tried her best to shake off her panicky feelings, because spending time with Claire was not something she ever wanted to avoid. "Um, sure. Did you want to go out? Dinner? Movie?"
"I'd like that."
"What about K-Mart?"
Claire shook her head. "She has her last exam today, so she's sleeping over at Angie's to celebrate the end of the school year."
"Oh yeah?" Alice smirked, crawling back onto the bed. "If K-Mart won't be home, maybe we should stay in?" She was about to kiss the redhead who easily dodged the advance.
"Nice try, but you are taking me out on a proper date."
Alice couldn't help but smile. "Yes ma'am."
"Good." Claire grinned. "Now you may kiss me."
Not needing to be told twice, Alice eagerly swooped in claiming her prize. Alice coaxed her to lay back on the bed, never breaking the kiss as she crawled on top of her girlfriend. But the obnoxious ringing of her phone soon interrupted the pair and Alice reluctantly pulled away with an apologetic smile.
"I got to go." She gave Claire a final kiss to the forehead before climbing off the bed and grabbing her phone to stop the ringing. "I will see you tonight for our date" she called as she rushed out the door to meet her impatient friends.
The diner which acted as their usual meeting place was only a few blocks from the Redfield's apartment but Carlos and LJ were already there when the blonde arrived. She dropped into the seat next to Carlos who was half asleep.
"Hey LJ," she greeted as she nudged Carlos in the side forcing him to wake up and pay attention. "What's going on? We haven't had a breakfast meeting since Carlos contemplated..."
"How about we not bring that up?" Carlos interjected, now fully awake and present. He stared expectantly at LJ, waiting for the man to explain what had brought them together at such an ungodly hour.
LJ fidgeted in his seat, fingers tapping on the table top, bottom lip wedged between his teeth as he glanced nervously at his friends. "Well, I've been thinking a lot, about things..."
Alice had never seen him so tied up before. LJ at a loss for words was just something that didn't happen everyday. "LJ, it's okay. We're here for you. Whatever it is, we will support you." She hoped the reassurance would help him feel more at ease.
LJ silently reached into his pocket and pulled out a small velvet box that he wordlessly passed across the table. Carlos took it, opened it and showed Alice the large diamond ring snugly held inside.
"Wow, I'm really flattered LJ but you're not exactly my type." Carlos snickered.
LJ snatched the ring back. "Fuck you man. I'm proposing to Betty. I don't know when yet but I picked up the ring last night and now I'm kind of freaking out about it. I couldn't sleep last night, kept waking up from these nightmares where she turned me down and walked out."
"That's not going to happen." Alice quickly reassured. "Betty loves you. You have nothing to worry about." She reached across the table and patted him gently on the arm. "Plus, I know she's going to love that ring."
"Yeah buddy, you can't really go wrong with diamonds." Carlos added. "So you've been thinking about this for a while?"
"Yeah. I bought the ring a month ago, but I've been sure for a long time."
"Well we are very happy for you LJ. You and Betty are great together." And Alice meant it. She may have been against relationships for herself the last few years but even she couldn't deny how well LJ and Betty worked together as a couple.
"Thanks you guys. It means a lot to me that you don't think I'm making a mistake."
"Of course, that's what bro breakfast is for." Carlos nudged Alice playfully as he stood up. "Order for me if the waitress comes, I'll be in the little boys room."
Alice nodded, glad to have a moment alone with LJ. He stared at the ring for a few moments before carefully returning it to his pocket.
"LJ can I ask you something?"
"Do you believe in soul mates?"
LJ laughed. "No, of course not." He raised an eyebrow at his friend. "Why are you asking? I know Carlos believes in that kind of stuff, but you've never been one to buy into that sappy bullshit."
"You are going to ask Betty to marry you. And you don't... I don't know, believe that maybe you two were meant to be?"
"I'm asking Betty to marry me because I love her. She laughs at my jokes, gets along with my friends, and isn't afraid to call me out on my bullshit. She is sexy and smart, and she cares about people. Betty believes in me and she's proud to be with me. I love her because she makes me happy and I know I make her happy too. I'm glad things worked out so that I was able to meet such an amazing person but what if you hadn't invited her out to your birthday party? I could have easily gone my whole life without meeting her. Does that make it meant to be? I don't believe that anyone's happiness should be decided by chance or circumstance."
Alice couldn't help but stare at her friend when he finished speaking. LJ was such an easy going guy that the number of times she'd seen him this serious could probably be counted on one hand.
"This is about Claire right?"
"Today... it's our three month anniversary and I'm feeling pressured to make our relationship more... definitive. Not pressured by Claire," Alice felt the need to clarify. "At least not yet. I don't know what I'm going to do if she tells me she loves me. I just want to make sure that any feelings I have are not just intensified because this is my first relationship in a long time."
"Alice you don't have to do or say anything you're not ready for. My momma's been bugging me since the day she met Betty to put a ring on her finger. And Carlos asked me not long after Betty and I started dating which of the two of you I would pick to be my best man." Alice merely rolled her eyes, she should have known she wasn't the only one her brother had been bothering about settling down. "But I wasn't ready for anything that serious."
Alice nodded. "You liked the ladies too much." She remembered many nights when the two of them went out to bars and clubs together looking to score.
"So did you." LJ ran his fingers along the edge of the table absently as they spoke. He wasn't looking at Alice and she could tell he was choosing his next words carefully. "You know what Betty and Claire have in common?"
Alice shrugged and it was only through the action she realized how tense she'd become. "What?" She was curious to hear what he was thinking and his demeanour was doing little to make her feel relaxed. The blonde almost sighed with relief when he made eye contact again.
"They make us want to try."
"What are we trying?" Carlos asked, reappearing at the table.
"The breakfast burrito," LJ answered waving the menu. "Waitress hasn't come by yet." He gave Alice a reassuring wink.
Alice was grateful LJ changed the subject. He had given her a lot to think about even though their conversation had been cut short. She had understood what he'd meant about Claire making her want to try. She could have tried relationships with a number of women over the last few years but she hadn't wanted to, not until Claire. Claire had been the one she couldn't deny and that had to mean something.
Dress code for dinner is semi formal. Pick you up at 7.
Claire reread the text she'd received a few hours ago from her girlfriend. She'd asked the blonde where they were going but Alice hadn't replied. It was 6:55 and Claire still needed to find her only good pair of heels. She hoped her simple black cocktail dress was ok, she didn't have many occasions to wear nicer clothes so it was the best she could do.
It was exactly 7pm when there was a knock on the door.
"Whoa." It was the only word that came to mind when she saw Alice on the other side. Her girlfriend was wearing a short red asymmetrical dress and she looked amazing. Claire always thought Alice looked beautiful but this was a whole other level of hotness. It was enough to make Claire rethink her insistence on them going out, because right now all she could think about was how much better Alice's dress would look on her bedroom floor.
"You too, with the whoa." Alice spoke, her eyes raking over Claire making the redhead blush. From behind her back, the blonde produced a small bouquet of flowers. They were purple irises.
Claire eagerly accepted the bundle with a wide grin. "Thank you Alice, these are beautiful." She made quick work of putting them in the usual vase in the kitchen.
"Are you ready to go?" Alice called when she was done, not having moved from the doorway.
"Yes. Are you sure this dress is okay? You look amazing and I don't even know where we're going."
Alice grabbed her hand and looked at her appreciatively. "Trust me Claire, words can't even describe how beautiful you look."
Claire felt her cheeks flush again. "Ok." She closed the door and allowed Alice to lead the way, their hands never separating. "So why the formal dress code for tonight?"
"You said I had to take you out on a proper date." Alice replied, opening the passenger side door once they were outside.
"You know this wasn't what I meant."
"Yeah, but I'm hoping you'll like it anyway."
And Claire did like it. Alice ending up taking her to one of the best restaurants in the city, but something felt off. Alice was different, less relaxed than she normally was, as if something was making her uncomfortable. And she definitely seemed distracted, but anytime Claire asked if anything was bothering her Alice would just shake her head no. Claire tried to ignore it but after a silent ride back to her apartment she couldn't take it anymore.
"Alice I can tell something is bothering you. If you don't want to tell me it's fine, I respect your privacy but I think it might make you feel better to talk to me." She left the ball in the other woman's court, leaving it up to her to decide how this was going to go.
Alice gave her a guilty look. "Sorry. I guess I have been a little preoccupied tonight."
Claire kicked off her heels then led Alice over to the couch so they could sit down. "What have you been thinking about? All night it's been like you're a million miles away."
"I ah, I've been thinking about you," she stammered, flushing bright red.
Claire frowned. "But I'm right here." She didn't understand why Alice would rather worry herself over something rather than talk to her about it. "You're going to have to help me out here Alice, I have many skills but mind reading is not one of them."
It was a moment before she replied. "What were you expecting from our date tonight?" Alice asked, leaving Claire a bit thrown by the question, not understanding what their date had to do with anything.
"I don't know. Our dates are usually pretty casual." Sometimes they went to movies, or dinner and sometimes they stayed in at her apartment. Claire never really cared what they did, she was always most happy to be spending time with Alice regardless of the setting or activity. "I guess the only expectation I had was that we would spend time together." She paused; "okay and maybe I expected us to have sex but you can't really blame me for that because I know you were thinking about it too when you picked me up-"
"Do you know what today is?" Alice interrupted. "In regards to us I mean."
Claire stared at the blonde as all the pieces finally clicked together. "Of course I know what today is. We've officially been dating for three months today. Is that what you were worried about?" They hadn't discussed it at all so Claire had assumed they were going to treat it like any other day but apparently she had been mistaken. "This morning, when I joked about going out on a proper date? You thought I wanted something fancy?" Now it was Claire's turn to feel guilty. "I honestly wasn't even thinking about our anniversary when I said that. I was only teasing you, I'm sorry for making you think otherwise."
Alice looked relieved and she relaxed for the first time all night. "Really?"
"Yes," Claire squeezed Alice's hand trying to convey reassurance. "Alice I know that us dating... having a relationship, has been a big adjustment for you. It was never my intention to put any pressure on you today." Claire wasn't dumb. She liked Alice a lot but never let slip to the blonde just how much. She let Alice dictate the pace of their relationship because she knew that too much too soon could easily scare the other woman away.
"So you didn't like the fancy dinner?"
"No I did, very much. But I would have enjoyed it more if my girlfriend had been a little more relaxed and not worried about things she doesn't need to worry about."
Alice looked sheepish. "Sorry for my mental absence. I just thought you were expecting something special, something romantic and I made myself crazy."
Claire shook her head in disbelief. "Two things Alice; number one, I promise you I wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary today. You know why? Because that's not our relationship. I like that we don't call each other stupid pet names or text eight hundred times a day. We don't need to celebrate a three month anniversary."
Alice nodded in both understanding and agreement. "What is the second thing?"
"Alice you don't need to try so hard to plan something romantic. You are romantic all the time and you don't even seem to realize it."
The redhead rolled her eyes. "Alice you bring me flowers, like all the time, for no reason. You hold my hand no matter where we are and you make me feel smart... beautiful... cared for... But most of all you make me feel wanted, and not just in a sexual way" Claire felt the need to clarify. "Although that part is nice too." She forced herself to stop then. It was a lot more than she had planned to reveal to Alice and hoped it wasn't too much. Currently Alice was blushing in response to everything the redhead had said and Claire mentally had her fingers crossed that it was a good thing.
Finally Alice squeezed her hand back. "You always know what to say to make me feel better Claire. I'm sorry I didn't say something earlier. We might have been able to enjoy our evening more if I hadn't been so wrapped up in my own head."
Claire's grin turned into a devilish smirk. "The evening is not over yet Alice." She stood, pulling Alice to her feet. "I know you've been too preoccupied to notice but I've been staring at your dress all night and I'd really like to see what it'd look like on my bedroom floor."
Alice returned the grin. "Lead the way."
The next day Claire was pleasantly surprised to see Alice waiting for her when she finished work.
"Hey," she offered in greeting. "What are you doing here? Not that I'm not happy to see you because I am, no matter the reason."
"Came to give you a ride home. I also may have brought you a gift." Alice teased with a grin.
Claire's eyes widened, her excitement at seeing Alice building but also her curiosity. "A gift? This isn't about our anniversary right? Because like I said last night, you don't have to do those kinds of things."
"It's not," Alice reassured. "Not really. It was a spur of the moment type thing. I was out picking up some stuff for Carlos when I saw it and thought of you. Last night you were really patient and understanding with me so I guess this is kind of a 'thank you for being an amazing girlfriend' gift."
Claire couldn't keep the smile off her face at the idea of Alice thinking about her. Sure she thought about Alice all the time but the blonde was so hard to read that Claire never knew what her girlfriend was thinking. And to hear that Alice thought she was an amazing girlfriend was worth more than any present.
"Okay, so what is this mystery gift?
Alice reached into the bed of her truck and produced a small tool red tool box. "It's just the basics, adjustable wrench, screw driver that kind of thing. But I heard you complaining about the leaking faucet in the bathroom this morning and thought you could use it."
"Yes, absolutely I could use this! That damn tap has been leaking almost a week. Thank you!" Claire uncharacteristically squealed with delight and darted over to examine its contents. It was the most thoughtful present she had received in years. She loved Chris and K-Mart immensely but her siblings were terrible when it came to buying presents. But what was even more exciting was what it showed about Alice. The fact that Alice had seen it and correctly assumed Claire would like it proved how well she knew Claire.
The mechanic closed the box, placing it carefully back in the truck and smiled at her girlfriend. "I love it. Thank you Alice." She wrapped her arms around the blonde and kissed her, trying to convey her gratitude at Alice's thoughtfulness.
"I'm glad you like it Claire, and I meant what I said. I can't imagine I'm the easiest person to date and I really appreciate how you're letting me take this one day at a time."
Claire was pretty sure Alice was actually the easiest person she's ever dated. Alice was thoughtful, funny, interesting, and easy going. Her calm presence and relaxed demeanour was something Claire enjoyed and wanted to have around all the time. Claire didn't know why Alice seemed to think she was terrible at being in a relationship. Yes Alice kept herself pretty guarded but she was here and she was trying and for now that was more than enough for Claire.
"If being an amazing girlfriend is deserving of a gift, I might have to do some shopping myself because I happen to have an amazing girlfriend too."
"Ah, I've met her. I hear her affection can easily be bought with donuts," Alice joked. "Shall we go get some?"
Claire nodded and gave her girlfriend another kiss before climbing into the truck. At that moment she knew without a doubt she loved Alice. But she also knew she couldn't tell her, at least not yet. If yesterday had proved anything it was that Alice was still very protective of herself and her feelings. But today had shown that the blonde was trying, that she was willing to put herself out there. So for the moment Claire didn't mind waiting. She could keep her feelings under wraps until Alice was more open to sharing hers.