A/N: You guys, I realise that this update took forver and a day and I'm incredibly sorry! I hope you didn't give up on me and thought I abandoned this story! Unfortunately, real life (aka med school) took over all my time as I was preparing for the biggest exam of my life so far. Thankfully, I have put that exam behind me and finally got around to bringing this story to a finish.
I hope you will forgive the long, long wait - consider the tripled length of this chapter a little thank you for your patience. (So much for writing a short fic ...)
The dark pine trees looked down on them grimly as they made their way through the shadows created by the trees' branches. The darkness beneath the trees was like a curtain that separated the suburban neighbourhood from the small oasis of almost untouched nature they were about to enter. It was so intensively dark that Emily started to see and hear things everywhere around her, just because her eyes could not even grasp the complete lack of visual stimulus anymore. As much as Emily stumbled on their rocky, uneven, invisible path Paige was still following her, quietly and without complaining or questioning Emily's scouting skills.
The last time Emily had walked this path there were rays of sunlight breaking through the ceiling of pine trees. They had illuminated the uneven path before her as she had followed her father; trusting in his lead just like Paige trusted in hers right now. The place she was guiding Paige towards was not very far removed from the road – only the pine tree curtain made it seem like it was a mile away from Rosewood – yet Emily found herself stumbling over dead branches and thick roots protruding from the ground. She had never had any trouble finding her way through the woods until now, so she had not thought twice about leading Paige there at night. With each insecure step she took, she was finding herself more doubtful about this idea of hers. All of a sudden, her mind was creating a very vivid image of Paige taking a wrong step and twisting her ankle, or worse, breaking something.
Should they turn back? Emily wasn't sure if they had already put more or less than half of the way behind them. Would turning back right now even make any sense? And what would that look like to Paige? Emily would appear as completely incompetent and Paige would not have seen the place. Then they'd probably just return to Paige's house and call it a night. What an anti-climactic way to end a night that had showed some potential for rather … interesting developments. No, Emily decided, she would tough it through and find that goddamn path. For Paige's sake.
Paige's quiet presence behind her back was hardly detectable, for Paige seemed to have fewer problems with the terrain and moved much more silently than Emily. Still, Emily could feel Paige following her right on foot and it was an oddly reassuring feeling. She shortly toyed with the idea of moving next to Paige, and walking hand in hand with her – but Emily would probably just drag down Paige with her if she fell, and it was Emily's definite intention to never cause Paige any harm again.
Her mind was still buzzing with the idea of walking hand in hand with Paige when Emily noticed a light. It was a small light, more like a dot, and it was moving around somewhere in the distance. Two steps later, Emily noticed the next light just like that. She followed the pale glow through the darkness, effectively removing every chance she ever had at getting her eyes properly adjusted to her dark surroundings. Then it dawned on Emily – those two dots were the first signs that they were about to reach their goal. Internally, she let out a relieved sigh – her hopes in finding the correct way had been dwindling away, but she had not wanted Paige to notice. Now a new wave of confidence came over Emily like a rush and all her doubts were forgotten in an instant. For the first time in the last ten minutes, Emily broke the silence that had settled between them and whispered, "We're almost there."
Although Paige did not respond, Emily was certain that Paige had heard her – she could not entirely explain where that confidence came from; Paige's silent presence had just changed to give a feeling of understanding. She loved how they had a very unique method of understanding each other – one that did not require spoken words.
The pine trees before them were now more spread out and there was more and more light in front of them; the strip of woods was about to come to an end here. With a few last steps, Emily made it past the last tall pine tree. The path in front of her was now leading slightly downhill and in the tiny valley before them lay an equally tiny lake. Its water was a dark midnight blue, and the pine trees were casting their long shadows even down onto the surface of the lake. But it was not dark in the valley at all – dancing over the lake were what looked like hundreds of fireflies. They were moving gracefully through the night, as if putting on a performance for the reflection of the moon that stood in the centre of the lake surface, glowing big and silvery.
Emily could hear Paige gasp as she came to stand next to her and caught her first view of the scenery. The atmosphere was almost otherworldly, with the moving lights creating a most awe-inspiring play of light and shadow on everything in the forest opening. Emily had only been here with her dad during the daytime, and was very much surprised by how different it looked at night – while it was solemn and beautiful at day, it looked almost magical now. How unexpected it was to find such a gem of beauty in this stretch of woods that promised so very little if you looked at it from the outside stunned her.
She was now extremely glad that she had decided against returning, and she was extremely proud of herself for introducing Paige to this place. She had no idea what Paige's expectations were when she was talking about that elusive place of hers, but Emily was positive that she had blown Paige's expectations out of the water. Next to her, Paige was still staring at the scenery in front of them as if enchanted by its very look. Just like the movie not long before, the reflections of the fireflies were now visible in her eyes and Emily felt herself getting even more drawn to this view now than in the movie theatre before.
Everything was completely perfect right now, Emily thought. The night was still young; she was in the most beautiful place, watching the most beautiful woman – that had come here with her; that had come here to spend time with her. Without removing her eyes from the lake for a single second, Paige moved closer to Emily, searched Emily's hand with her own, and when she had found it, slipped her fingers between Emily's. Emily felt something swell in her chest and she had to squeeze Paige's hand softly and put on a big smile to contain the feeling in her chest. In her mind, she corrected herself, because it was only now that everything was perfect.
Tugging very lightly at Paige's hand, Emily woke Paige from her trance. Paige really looked like she just fallen out of bed when she finally met Emily's look, her eyes all big and full of surprise, full of awe. Emily thought it looked really adorable on her and then motioned with her head for Paige to follow her. She led Paige to a small spot of grass, the ground almost even, only slightly facing downwards and thus perfectly suited to sit and observe the lake from. They both sat down in the grass next to each other. The ground was very cool to the touch but thankfully not very wet.
Emily shivered ever so slightly from the cold when she had settled down and hoped that Paige didn't notice. She was not very cold, not when she was feeling so very much like glowing on the inside; and she didn't want to ever have to leave this place again, especially not for such a trivial reason as being cold. In spite of Emily's hopes, though, Paige had noticed the shiver and ran a hand very slightly over Emily's forearm. When she felt the small goose bumps there, Paige disentangled her hand from Emily's. Before Emily could voice any protest, Paige put her arm around Emily's shoulder and gently pulled her closer to herself.
"Sorry, I totally should have taken a jacket with me. I even have one in the car …" Emily mumbled into Paige's embrace.
"Don't apologise for giving me an excuse to hug you", Paige interrupted her in a playfully scolding tone.
Emily laughed a very clear, honest laugh before settling her head against Paige's shoulder. She could feel the heat the radiating off of Paige warming her before she even realised how cold she really had been. She closed her eyes and simply concentrated on being close to Paige. On being close to Paige and being so incredibly comfortable there. For all Emily cared, they could stay like this all night long.
"Thank you for bring me here. Thank you for showing me this place. It's amazing", Paige said in a very small and quiet voice. Emily was so close to Paige that she could feel the vibrations of her thorax as she spoke.
For a minute, Emily didn't answer, she just let the sound of Paige voice so close to her resonate within her; let Paige's appreciation for something Emily had introduced her to resonate within her. Slowly, she snaked one of her arms around Paige's hip and settled further into Paige, so that they were now more wrapped around each other rather than sitting next to each other. Paige drew in a sharp breath when Emily's hand made contact with the shirt covering her hip, and Emily silently smiled into herself because of the effect that she had on Paige.
"My father showed me this place when I was a kid". When Emily finally raised her voice to answer Paige, it sounded raw, raspy and more uneven than Emily would have liked it to sound. Paige turned her head towards Emily so that not a single word Emily spoke would escape her ears, although they were already so close to each other that they could communicate simply through the rate at which their hearts were beating.
"I was really little when he took me here for the first time. The little stretch of trees that we passed through seemed so big to me back then, it was an adventure to pass through it. The pine trees were so much taller than me, they seemed like giants. And then, when we got here, my dad and I would have a picnic right here, where we are sitting now. My mum made these little sandwiches for us and she gave us juice for the long way we had before us."
Although Emily couldn't see Paige's face, she was sure Paige was smiling. Paige dragged her fingers over Emily's back slowly which made her shiver in the best way possible.
"I'm sure you were adorable as kid, when you were hiking here with your father. Not that you aren't adorable now, but you know … I mean the particular kind of adorable that kids have. Were you afraid of the oh-so-large pine trees?" When Paige spoke, the smile in her voice was evident, as were her nerves – even though they were now much better than they had been by the end of their visit to the movie theatre. They were now at a level where they were simply endearing to Emily.
"Oh shut up, I wasn't scared. I just had … a lot of respect for them." Emily shoved Paige lightly with her shoulder. They both fell into a fit of giggles, and it took them until they both had calmed down from their giggling high until they wrapped their arms around each other again. Emily had actually stopped feeling cold about a second after they had sat down but she did not feel the immediate need to inform Paige of this. Paige slowly brushed loose strands of hair out of Emily's face and fell into a solemn silence. The only sound Emily could hear were the bugs in the woods around them, Paige's slow breath and the steady thudding of her heartbeat in her chest. The rhythm of Emily's own heartbeat matched Paige's very closely and she was sure that she had the same heart rate. They were perfectly synchronized and Paige was what gave rhythm to all her vital functions.
"What was it that actually led you here, Emily?" Paige's voice disrupted the silence. Her tone was not harsh at all but it almost made Emily startle, since she had been so hypnotised by the heart beat and the breath they had shared.
"Huh, I don't … What do you mean, Paige?" The question confused Emily.
"You didn't plan on taking me here. But there's something about this place that drew you here, I'm not sure what … but it kinda shows in the way you act. Don't ask me to explain it in words, I just somehow feel this. Please correct me if I'm totally wrong."
Emily carefully turned over each of Paige's words in her mind. Why exactly did she bring Paige here? She most certainly didn't plan on it – Paige had taken her off guard when she had asked to go someplace, yet this was the first thing that Emily had thought off. It had been many years since the last time she had been here. Why did she remember it just now? Had she been thinking of it lately, speaking of it lately?
The realisation hit Emily suddenly and heavily. She had been thinking of this place. Not exactly recently, long enough ago to have to claw it out of her subconscious memory – but also not long enough ago to make Emily forget it entirely. She had been thinking of this place half a year ago – when she had wanted to show it to Maya. Maya would have loved this place – she would have loved the dense atmosphere, she would have basked in the magic, ethereal setting – Maya was the person that Emily wanted to see this place. This was probably the reason the place had popped into her mind – she had unfinished business here. After all, she never got the chance to show Maya this place in the end …
"Was that too personal? I'm awfully sorry if I upset you, I didn't want to … "; Paige had straightened up her posture and looked at Emily with worried eyes. Emily had difficulty looking Paige in the eye despite the other girl's obvious concern. Would she admit to Paige that the reason she came her was her previous girlfriend? Would she admit to Paige that although Emily was resting in her arms right now, Emily's mind had been sent on a fast trip down memory lane, back to another girl? Slowly, shyly, she raised her eyes to meet Paige's caring gaze. Paige's eyes were so full compassion for Emily that she wondered how they even managed to contain so much emotion all at once without overflowing – all the while Emily had to fight back the tears that she felt slowly building up in her eyes. Emily was fighting a desperate battle with her lacrimal glands and she thought she actually had a decent chance at winning it, at swallowing everything that boiled up within her – had Paige not cupped the side of Emily's face with her hand so very tenderly and looked at her with those eyes so understanding.
Everything about Paige right now begged Emily to let go, to release the entire storm building up inside her to the outside, to confine in Paige. The tears started running down Emily's cheeks like a hot waterfall, they wetted her lips with their salty taste, they made Emily's eyes burn like fire and her nose turn as red as a warning signal. She was vaguely aware of how unattractive she must have been looking in that moment, but frankly, she didn't care. She didn't care because she believed that Paige didn't care – that Paige wouldn't care at all just how ugly looked Emily when crying or how much of her tears and snout she would smear over Paige's shoulder, so long as Paige could be there to comfort Emily while Emily was battling her inner demons.
All the pain, all the rage and all the sorrow that Emily had bottled up within her for the past five months now came crushing down on her like the ceiling of a collapsing building, the many big and small pieces of debris hitting her with force and almost threatening to bury her under them. In continuation of her metaphor, Emily liked to think of Paige as a protective warden, shielding her from the falling debris. But right now, Emily was so wrapped up in watching all the debris fall that she almost didn't notice the protection she received; everything in her ached violently as she kept sobbing into Paige's shoulder.
Emily grew more and more frustrated at herself with each tear that rolled down her face. She was frustrated at never saying goodbye to Maya, she was frustrated at all the things she failed to do with Maya because she had no appreciation of how valuable their short time together would be, she was frustrated because she spent a night together with Paige at this perfectly romantic lake crying over her previous girlfriend. She dug her fingers angrily into Paige's upper arm and glowered at herself. Then she mentally slapped herself because her fingers in Paige's deltoid were probably not very comfortable for Paige. She quickly relaxed her fingers and instead just held on to Paige's arm as if for dear life – after all, she had vowed to never cause Paige any harm again.
The thoughts in her head were spinning at a pace that almost made Emily dizzy; she couldn't see anything through the curtain of tears in her eyes and her mind had lost direction as well. The violent death of her girlfriend had been a traumatic experience for Emily and she had to realise that she was not nearly done in processing it; that it had left her with emotional scars and wounds that would take a lot of time to heal. She almost hated herself for being plagued so much by Maya's death, for always consuming so much of everyone's attention and time when she was going through bad phases of mourning – but she also knew that neither Maya nor Paige would want her to hate herself. Maya had always wanted Emily to be happy, she had always made Emily happy – and now was Paige was trying to do the very same. Emily thought herself extremely lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful people.
Paige was tracing idle pattern on Emily's shoulder blade with her fingers; her other hand was carefully and calmly caressing Emily's hair. She didn't say anything to Emily – no "It'll be okay", no "Stop crying" – she simply let Emily cry without making her feel bad about it. Emily needed that. So often had she reassured those around her that she was fine, that was coping, that they didn't need to worry about her. And that was completely correct, they didn't need to worry about her – but that didn't mean she didn't need to let go all the grip she had on herself sometimes. Maybe she really had needed some catharsis; maybe she needed to cry and cry and cry until she had no more tears left. At least Emily felt as if she was getting lighter by the minute – either because she was crying out so much water, or because she was crying out so many withheld tears that had started to weight her down.
Slowly, very slowly, Emily noticed her sobs turning into little sniffles; the rivers of tears running down her cheeks were starting to run dry and her breathing was calming down. An eerily comfortable emptiness began to spread through Emily's mind, the tears she had shed seemed to have left behind a vacuum. She eased the grip she had on Paige, whom she had clung to as if she was drowning and Paige was her life-saver. Paige seemed to notice that Emily relaxed and leaned back a bit to look at her expectantly. Emily tried to not think about how she probably looked like a zombie after crying for so long and gave her small smile. Paige smiled back in a very pleased way; probably convinced that her job of holding Emily in her arms to let her cry was now done.
The relative emptiness that had settled in Emily's chest was growing more and more comfortable on her. Not that she had been wanted to feel empty but now that she had cried all the negative emotions out of her, she felt like in a blissfully blank state. And she was determined to enjoy that state; for she knew herself well enough to be sure it wouldn't stay for long. Emily moved closer on the ground to Paige, until their thighs were fully touching and Emily was almost sitting in Paige's lap. Being so very close to Paige, Emily could easily spot the deep red blush that had crept onto Paige's cheeks. She leaned forward slightly and wrapped her arm around Paige's waist to draw her closer again.
Emily could hear Paige's heart race close to her ear as she rested her head against Paige's shoulder, nuzzling her nose lightly against Paige's neck. A small shiver ran over Paige's skin whenever Emily's breath hit it, and Emily was mesmerized by the effect she had on Paige. Even though she realised that it might not be entirely fair, she basked in the attention Paige gave her; basked in how wanted she felt right now. With the next breath she exhaled, Emily slowly closed her eyes and simply focused on drinking in Paige around her. She took the emptiness inside her and let it fill with closeness and warmth and the feeling of being cared about.
A warm feeling began to glow deep inside Emily; very small at first but then slowly growing in strength until the first rays of warm feeling began to travel throughout her body and Emily felt as if her entire body was starting to glow with the feeling. The feeling grew so large everything in Emily began to tingle lightly, as if something within her was performing a little dance – perhaps inspired by the dance of fireflies around them. Could Paige feel or see that Emily was glowing, Emily wondered – she couldn't imagine that feeling so very, very content would be undetectable from the outside. Paige seemed to get more comfortable with the position Emily had put them in – she was now resting her hand on Emily's side and melted further into the embrace. The light touch of Paige's hand made Emily's side tingle even more than the rest of her and she wished Paige's other hand was there as well.
Was Paige even aware that Emily was feeling really happy right now thanks to Paige? That if it hadn't been for her, Emily would still carry all those unshed tears around with her? That if it hadn't been for her, there'd be no warm and welcome feeling in Emily now? Hopefully Paige knew, because she really had done Emily a great service and Emily felt the need to thank Paige for that. Emily took one of the arms she was embracing Paige with and slowly lifted it to Paige's face. As soon as she detected the movement, Paige completely froze up and eyed Emily's hand with a cautious yet expectant look. With slightly trembling fingers, Emily cupped Paige's cheek. Paige reacted almost immediately and leaned into Emily's tender touch. Emily lifted her head and brought it up to Paige's other cheek. She halted for a moment, needing a small moment to take in the reality of being so extremely close to Paige again. Paige's eyes had fluttered closed and Emily could hear her uneven, somewhat ragged breathing.
Very carefully, Emily began to touch the soft skin of Paige's cheek with the tip of her nose. When their skins made contact, Emily was sure she felt a current of electricity flow through the both of them. It made Emily shudder and draw in a sharp breath; her heat beat lightning fast. With a steadiness that belied the storm of excitement brewing inside Emily, she began to drag the tip of her nose along Emily's cheek bone in the smallest and slowest of movements. Now that she was so extremely close to Paige and had such direct contact with her, Emily could notice how little goose bumps formed on Paige's skin as Emily let her nose continue its path.
When Emily had traced Paige's cheek bone until she was almost at her ear, she halted for a moment in hesitation. Would going farer be going too far? Her hesitation was very quickly over won by her desire to be close to Paige; to give physical form to her thankfulness to Paige. She tilted her head back, so that her slightly parted lips were now very touching Paige's skin, the contact as light as a feather. Working her way downwards Paige's face and along Paige's jawline, Emily let her lips graze over Paige's skin. Emily had already the thought their previous contact to be electrifying, yet it was nothing in comparison to this. There seemed to be a high voltage tension between the two of them, and it made Emily want to get impossibly close to Paige. It made Emily's head dizzy and her vision blurry. Before she knew it, Emily had her lips pursed and they were moving closer to Paige's cheek.
She stopped in mid-motion. What was she doing? How could she go from crying over Maya to almost kissing Paige in so little time? How could she go from ignoring Paige, to just wanting to be friends, to getting pretty intimate in so little time? Was this all just an impulse that she was following, acting in the spur of the moment without thinking things through? Was she letting herself getting carried away by a dynamic that she may get dragged into, no matter whether she actually wanted to? Although she was not getting dragged in – she had started it. Emily had to admit that to herself; she was the instigator of everything that had happed tonight. She had started talking to Paige again, she had invited Paige to the movies, she had taken Paige here. And she still was not entirely sure what the motivations behind her own actions were.
Earlier, she had asked herself whether Paige maybe was an escape for her – an escape from her life in fear of A, an escape from the tragedy of Maya's death, an escape from being the one with a dead girlfriend among her taken friends. Would it make sense, though, to confront herself with Maya's memory while being with her escape? No, escape probably wasn't it. Maybe Emily had subconsciously had very clear intentions for tonight. If viewed in hindsight, her actions only spoke one clear message: Emily was taking Paige out on a date. The movie theatre might still be seen as ambiguous, if at least suggestive or inviting to be interpreted as a romantic move. But the moment she had decided to take Paige to this place was also the moment she had definitely turned this night into a date. Taking a girl you used to date with you late at night to a lonesome place that has incredibly romantic atmosphere and also holds emotional value to you was nothing to do with someone you only wanted to be friends with. This was something to do with a person that you wanted to give a chance to get close to you, to see your vulnerable side, to share your most intimate thoughts and feelings with.
Emily's actions had showed her own decision clearly, only she had not realised it until now. Now it made sense why she had tried to please Paige with her outfit via the means of the leather jacket, now it made sense why she had touched Paige's scar in the hospital. Emily was mesmerized by the fact that she sometimes had to figure herself out like a riddle even though usually understanding emotions didn't give her a lot of trouble. She ran her tongue over her lips because they had gone dry in the time that she spent pondering. Paige had opened her eyes again and was now staring at Emily in a slightly perplexed manner. Emily probably looked as if she had just had a stroke, frozen in mid-air with her lips pursed and her eyes closed. Quickly she cleared her throat as a sign of embarrassment, and she noticed a blush creeping onto her cheeks. Paige giggled quietly; she probably thought the awkward look Emily wore right now was adorable. She took Emily's hand that had fallen limply between them and stroked the fingers.
"Are you okay?" she asked softly.
"Yeah, I'm okay. Very okay, more than that." Emily felt herself blushing more. "Thanks to you, you know."
"Mhh?" Paige cocked a questioning eyebrow. Emily snorted. She loved how dramatically high Paige would always raise one of her eyebrows. Emily's face wasn't even capable of performing such stunts.
"It's just that …" Emily began yet didn't know where to actually take her explanation. "Thanks for being here with me. You have helped me sort so many things out in my head, you have no idea. Really, you may not think that you've done a whole lot but you have. Thank you, Paige, I mean it."
Much in contrast to her previous hesitation, Emily acted quickly this time. Again, she cupped Paige's cheek with her hand and drew Paige's face close to her own. Paige's eyes were still wide with surprise when Emily had already shut hers and made her way to Paige's other cheek. The kiss she placed there was firm and made Paige's eyes flutter close. Paige's skin was warm and soft and its faint taste was nice on Emily's lips – and what she had intended to be a short kiss on the cheek turned into something different. It lasted at least half a minute before Emily managed to release Paige from her kiss and when she did, Emily discovered that her free hand had found its way to the back of Paige's head and was deeply dug into the hair there.
Paige still had her eyes closed when Emily let go of Paige's hair and sat back onto their grassy bed a bit. A deep pink blush was covering Paige's cheeks and the bridge of her nose. She leaned her head to the side, hoping to be able to catch Emily's lips again. When she didn't find them, she scrunched up her nose in the most adorable of ways. Paige's eyes slowly opened and found Emily's almost instantly. A smile began to curl up the corners of her mouth, and Emily found herself quickly infected by its cheerful energy. She grinned back at Paige and she felt like a rainbow should arch between them because Paige gave her so much joy. This was actually not how she had suspected to react at all; she had expected to be completely awkward about her bold move, to stare at the ground and to chew on her bottom lip. But then there came this girl and completely turned the situation around on her and just made her so goddamned happy.
A rush came over Emily, a rush of thoughts and feelings and memories and desires - the rush was pulling her with its course, pulling her forward, pulling her towards Paige. And Emily, Emily followed. She followed it, leaning into Paige even closer this time. Barely a sheet of paper would have fit between their bodies as Emily had made her way to Paige's face again, hovering over her jaw in waiting. Paige gave her an encouraging nod while her smile turned into an impish smirk.
Emily snorted a little at Paige's dorkish ways before she lowered her lips and pressed a kiss to the angle of Paige's jaw. In a heartbeat, all their grinning stopped and the air around them changed completely. Paige's mouth was now hanging slightly agape and she inhaled sharply when Emily's lips made contact with her skin. Emily noticed how her own breath shook as she pulled back from the kiss. Her heart was racing at a million miles an hour and she snaked her arms around Paige's upper body to keep herself steady. She placed the second kiss just next the first one. While Emily still had her lips on Paige's skin, Paige's hand began searching for something on Emily's back, eventually finding the hem of Emily's shirt and bunching it up between her fingers. With the third, the fourth and the fifth kiss Emily made her way down Paige's jaw. She felt Paige play around with her shirt, she heard her ragged breathing, but apart from that, Paige remained perfectly still while Emily's lips followed their path.
With the faintest popping noise, Emily's lips parted from Paige's skin, ending the fifth kiss. If she were to follow her path, Emily would be placing the next kiss hinge of Paige's chin. For some reason, the thought made her nervous. She was not sure of how to continue after this, where to take this. Would they allow for the situation to get more heated? Emily felt drunk on the kisses she had given Paige; her thinking was slow and incoherent.
Paige stopped playing with the hem of Emily's shirt and her breathing became more relaxed. She slowly started pulling away her head from Emily and was about to turn her head and look at Emily - probably with a puzzled expression; she had to be reacting to the sudden stop in Emily's actions. Although Emily had not yet completed her train of thought, she knew that she didn't want the situation as it was to end. She had to act now, or Paige would ask her to explain her hesitancy and the whole magic of the moment would be gone. Her hands that had been around Paige's upper body released their hold, only to grab on to Paige once again, only a split second later - but this time, it was Paige's face that she framed with her hands, that she pulled close to herself. With one of Emily's hands at the back of her head and the other one firmly cupping her cheek, Paige froze in her motion instantly. But this was not enough for Emily - she may have saved the moment from ending abruptly, but what she actually wanted was for it to continue, to get even better.
She took her sweet time as she leaned in, knowing that Paige could sense her inching closer, getting more and more anxious for what she knew would follow. Emily dragged her finger tenderly over Paige's cheek and felt Paige shudder subtly, as if standing in the middle of a sudden summer rain. When she was less than an inch away from Paige, Emily stopped for a moment to take in the smell of Paige that was so impossibly close by. It was at the same time comfortingly familiar and excitingly new to her.
Emily didn't know whether to entirely trust her ears but she could have sworn she heard the faintest whimper coming from deep within Paige's throat. It was one of the many, little things that Paige did that made her feel so very wanted, so desired. A part of Emily felt guilty for basking so much in that feeling, but most parts of her just relished in it. She lowered her lips down until they were just about to touch Paige's skin. There was not even physical contact between them yet but there was already so much tension between them, Emily expected sparks to start flying from the space in between them any second. She moved forward just the tiniest fraction of an inch and grazed the edge of bottom lip across the hinge of Paige's jaw, following its line from the horizontal part, around the angle, and up until she stopped just below Paige's ear. When she hovered over the spot of soft skin right next to the ear lobe, Paige raised her free hand and ran it up the side of Emily's rib cage, walking her fingers over her shoulder, finding rest at the spot where Emily's shoulder joined her neck.
Although the slow exploration of Paige's fingers on the sensitive skin of her neck made Emily shiver in the best possible way, it also made her nervous. Being so close to Emily's pulse point, Paige was surely able to feel Emily's racing heart beat hammer against her skin. Emily didn't want Paige to think that she was afraid - because she was not afraid. In fact, if she had been afraid before, Paige had taken away all the fear in Emily's heart. In a sudden spell of courage, Emily pressed a kiss under Paige's ear, an open-mouthed, passionate kiss - forgotten was her previous plan to take things slowly. A small moan escaped Paige's throat and the hand that she had previously used to play with Emily's shirt had now found its way under the shirt and was holding on almost desperately to Emily's lower back.
Her head felt completely dizzy when Emily had to break the kiss for air, and she was not sure whether the cause of the dizziness was a lack of oxygen or rather something else. She backed away a few inches from Paige to refocus her blurred vision. Paige moved her head for the first time in what seemed like an eternity and slowly turned to face Emily. She cupped Emily's cheek with her hand and looked Emily in the eye, which she had not done since Emily placed the first kiss on Paige's cheek. Her eyes were as pretty as they always were - but this time, there was something else in them, something that clouded them. Whereas Paige's eyes were usually the colour of dark chocolate, they know looked like orbs made out of black coffee. Emily couldn't name it but there was something about her eyes that said so many things right now that she had not been able to put it into words - yet there was more to them. Paige's eyes were deeply laced with want, accentuated further by the deep pink blush that covered Paige's face. Emily felt heat rise to her ears at the thought and she shot Paige a timid smile. To a certain extent, she was still overwhelmed by the turn this night had taken - even though it had been herself who had initiated it.
Paige steadied her hold on Emily's cheek and started gently pulling Emily towards her. The sound of Emily's beating heart was so loud by now that it started to resonate in her ear drums. Paige was about to kiss her, she was sure of it, but the sheer anticipation of it almost froze Emily solid. If her jaw was already so wonderfully soft, what would her lips be like? Emily stared unabashedly at Paige's lips. That was the last encouragement Paige needed to finally lean in and close the distance between them. Emily's eyes fluttered close, completely subjecting herself to whatever Paige had in store for her, be it a chaste peck or a full French kiss.
What she did not expect was to get something that had nothing to do with lips. Not even with touching. What she got was a sound, an unexpected sound, an annoying sound. Irritated, she opened her eyes. She looked at Paige, who also wore a mixture of anger and confusion on her face. Then Paige realised what the sound actually was - it was the sound of her cell phone. In a daze, she began to dig in her pockets for the offending device and picked up the call.
"Hey mom, I'm ... Uh, sorry. Okay, mom, I'll be just a minute."
Paige let the phone sink into her lap and gave Emily a pained look.
"I'm sorry. That was my mom. You know how they still mistrust me - I've been out longer than I told them I would be and now they want me to get home as fast as possible. I'm so sorry but I gotta go."
It took a few seconds until the message had completely found its way into the part of Emily's brain that was still capable of rational thought.
"I ... I understand. That's not your fault, it's okay. I'll give you a ride back home."
"That would be really awesome of you."
"I'm not gonna lead you to into the dark woods and then leave you there, silly," Emily smirked and scrambled to her feet. Her legs had gone numb while they had been sitting on the ground together, and she almost fell over once she stood up. Paige did not look much more elegant when getting up. Once they were both standing and looking at each other awkwardly, Emily took a second to marvel at how quickly the mood had completely changed within just about three minutes. It was as if both of them had been under a spell but it took only a slight disturbance from the world around them to break the enchantment. A little sadness tugged at Emily's heart, she missed being close to Paige already. She had to admit, though, that the night had gone a million times better than expected, and she was really happy about that.
She gave Paige, who still seemed to be uncomfortable, an encouraging smile and tugged lightly at her wrist to get her to leave with her. Paige cleared her throat and tugged some loose strands of hair behind her ear, then followed Emily into the woods leading to their car. Emily started to feel very cold again - she probably had been too distracted to notice the cold earlier, but now she became increasingly aware of how her arms and feet were practically frozen. Now far less scared of the path before them, Emily almost jogged the way back the car, Paige following her closely. They didn't speak during their trail, and made it out of the woods in less than five minutes – Emily was now fully embarrassed by her awkward stumbling through the forest on their way here.
More silence encompassed them as Emily drove to Paige's house, which thankfully was pretty close by. Emily stopped near Paige's front door, just far away enough to not be seen from the house. They got out of the car and stood on the sidewalk, facing each other, just shyly smiling for a while. Although she knew that Paige really had to go now if she didn't want to be grounded for the next year, Emily wished that Paige wouldn't have to leave her side tonight. She was still a little sad about not being able to stay at the lake with Paige for the rest of the evening, for not being able to continue down the path they had begun to walk together.
A little sad pout replaced the smile on Emily's face as she was thinking of the interrupted date night, and Paige seemed to notice it – she took a step towards Emily and put a finger under Emily's chin to lift it up. Emily met Paige's eyes and had to grin when she saw Paige looking at her with big eyes and an expecting smile.
"That's a lot better," Paige said and ran her hands over Emily's forearms. Her eyes widened in surprise. "Emily, you're cold as ice! Why didn't you tell me? I really would have given you my jacket. Now I'll feel guilty if you end up in bed with a cold tomorrow!"
"I felt stupid for not taking my jacket with me, and I guess I didn't really notice after a while. I just didn't feel cold anymore. Can you hug me until I feel warmer?"
Paige smiled at Emily and mumbled something that sounded a lot like 'sneaky bastard' but still rubbed her hands against Emily's arms. Emily did not actually feel a lot of heat coming from the rubbing, but she was more than content with it anyway. The image of Paige standing in front of her, trying to warm Emily up was more adorable than anything Emily could put into proper words at the moment. Maybe it was then that Paige decided to give up on her attempts to warm Emily's arms, all Emily knew was that Paige took Emily's fingers in her hands and slowly guided them towards herself. She stopped at her hips, depositing Emily's hands there and then continued moving her own hands after giving Emily's fingers one last reassuring squeeze. Emily firmly held onto Paige's hips; now she was actually starting to feel warm.
Paige slowly guided her hands upwards between their bodies, careful not to touch Emily anywhere on her journey - not that Emily would have minded. First, she stopped at Emily's neck, working her thumbs over Emily's collar bones; then she continued until her hands were behind Emily's head and her forearms were resting on Emily's shoulders. Their faces were mere inches apart from each other and Emily could very faintly feel Paige's breath hit her lips. Without taking her eyes off of Paige's face, Emily began to explore Paige's hip bones with her finger tips, dragging them down the curve until they hit the fabric of Paige's jeans. Emily continued to muster Paige's face as if it was the most interesting thing she had ever seen in her life. Her eyes drank in the shape of Paige's lips, wandered over the cute nose, only to get lost again in the dark orbs that were Paige's eyes. Meanwhile, Paige idly played with Emily's hair while her gaze was focused on Emily's lips, practically licking them with looks alone. There was the certain something in her eyes again.
"I just wanted to let you know I had a great time tonight. Thanks for taking me out." Paige's voice broke the silence. The something in her eyes was also in her voice. She locked eyes with Emily, and Emily felt as if her knees would give out any second.
"I had a great time, too. Let me know if you feel like, you know, repeating this. Would you be in on that?" Emily's voice sounded quite different from what Emily expected it to sound like when she answered, much more raw and raspy.
Paige didn't say anything in return, she just looked at Emily even more intensely, to the point where Emily was convinced that Paige was looking right into her soul through her eyes. At the back of Emily's head, Paige's hands tangled more firmly into Emily's hair. Now was the moment, Emily was sure of it. It was time to seal the night with the long-awaited kiss. Emily could feel her heart pounding in her chest - she closed her eyes to calm down and hoped that Paige would take this as form of encouragement and take the initiative. And soon enough, she could feel Paige's arms move on her shoulders and Paige's body pressing more heavily into her own. Emily thought that this was how she could feel Paige leaning in for the kiss and she slightly parted her lips in anticipation.
Only Paige didn't lean in. Her arms kept moving until she disentangled them from Emily's hair and she moved them away from Emily's shoulders to reach into the back pocket of her jeans, out of which she took her vibrating phone. Emily was still standing with her mouth slightly agape, only slowly registering what happened. Paige looked at the screen and apparently decided to neither answer nor deny the call.
"It's my dad ... my parents are gonna go apeshit on me if I don't go in now. I'm so sorry, really, they're killing the mood twice in a row. Anyway, thanks for the evening - and please put on a jacket, you're so going to get a cold!"
Emily laughed weakly and watched as Paige walked away with a cute little wave. This was so hilariously typical of the things that kept happening to her. Something or someone always got in the way, never did anything ever work out as planned for her. Emily walked to her car while still busy pitying herself, and drove the few blocks to her house in an appropriately sour to melancholic mood.
When she had parked her car in the driveway, she collected her things from the passenger's seat, where she had thrown her keys and phone in exasperation. Also on the passenger seat was her leather jacket. Emily took it in her hands and stared at it for a long second. Hadn't Paige sat in the passenger seat just before? Then why was the jacket on there, which Emily had taken off before they had entered the cinema? Emily brought the jacket closer to her face. It clearly smelled like Paige - maybe Paige had held the jacket in her arms during the rides? She didn't have any clue whether this assumption was even close to reality but Emily enjoyed the mental image of Paige sitting in her car, holding her jacket - the jacket that Emily had put on in the first place to impress Paige.
Apparently the technique had been successful; Emily smiled to herself and got out of the car. She locked the doors but did not yet enter the house. It was very silent around her; the big moon above her was practically the only light source in sight. The serenity pleasantly reminded her of the lake the two had visited tonight, and she leaned her back against the door of her car to enjoy but a few more minutes out here that would remind her of the great time she had had tonight. Then she remembered the order that Paige had given her and shrugged the leather jacket, which she still had clenched in her hands, onto her shoulders. It was not like Paige was able to see Emily standing outside without her jacket, but it felt wrong to not do as Paige had told her to because had she sounded genuinely worried.
The calm darkness wrapped itself around Emily like a blanket, soothing her and making her forget the world around her. There was so much turmoil going on inside of her but now she was not concerned with all of it. Now she was just standing there, content with herself and the night she had had. She was actually rather proud of herself for plucking up her courage, for making a decisive move when she could have just as well taken the easier route and continued to play the 'Will they or won't they?'-game with Paige. A little smile settled onto Emily's lips as her eyes stared unfocusedly at a tree in some distance.
Something alarmed Emily. Her body woke from its trance and tensed, her eyes quickly went back into focus as her had turned into direction of the sound that had alarmed her. Now that she was focusing on it, Emily realised that the sound was quick footsteps that were still far away but seemed to be coming closer with considerable speed. Emily's feet felt incredibly numb and only now was she realising how long she had been standing there. She pushed herself off her car and took a few awkward steps on her numb feet. Fear began to rise within her, crawl all over her insides - Rosewood was definitely not a safe place at this time of the night, and she was definitely not the kind of person that was safe in Rosewood.
The footsteps were frighteningly near by now. In her head, Emily debated whether it was better to step out onto the street and face whatever danger was approaching, or to find a place to hide and hope she would go unnoticed. A quick scan of her driveway revealed no appropriate hiding spot for her, and her legs were too numb to carry her away swiftly right now. Emily ruled out the option of flight and took a deep breath as she walked out towards the street, trying to keep her steps steady as she went.
Emily stepped onto the pavement and into the light of a nearby street lantern. She felt exposed. Everything in her readied itself to face another cruel offspring of A's scheming. Was it somebody who was out to beat her up? To intimidate her to get information out of her? Or something worse? She did not particularly look forward to any option.
Because she was in the light herself, Emily had to squint to be able to see anything in the darkness, where the footsteps were coming from. Blurrily, she could make out the shape of a running person. The person looked like they were halting in their movement, as if something startled or confused them.
Another sound joined the footsteps as the person raised their voice and shouted. Emily's blood froze in terror as she heard the sound of her name echo through the neighbourhood. How did that person, whoever they were, know Emily's name? How did they know where she lived? The thoughts in Emily's head were racing but her limbs felt as if they were paralyzed, tying her to the very spot where she was standing, unable to lift a finger. Suddenly she felt extremely vulnerable, and fear began to turn into terror.
Once again the person called Emily's name, having yet again come closer. The sound barely made it through Emily's ears to her mind, so clouded was it. There was something, though - something about the voice made Emily's fear regress a bit. The something tried to make its way through the storm of worries that was fogging Emily's mind, but it didn't quite make it. Painfully slowly, Emily willed her muscles to turn her entire body into the direction that the person and the sound of her name were coming from.
Before Emily had the time to register what was going on, the person had arrived in the cone of light created by the street lamp - and continued charging right towards her. If the person really meant to harm Emily, it was all over now. They could stab Emily in the chest now and she wouldn't even have a clue who it had been. Emily wasn't really afraid of that, though. The something had made its way far enough into Emily's mind to tell her she need not be afraid - and Emily was starting to realise what the something was, too. She began to realise that she had recognised the voice - it was one she had heard earlier today, one that had made her feel secure.
The person had reached Emily. Arms wrapped around her waist and Emily was startled for only a split second - then she put her arms around Paige's shoulders and let out a relieved breath into Paige's neck.
"Emily, are you okay? You looked like a deer in the headlights."
"You really scared me there. I was just standing here, enjoying the quiet and then all of a sudden, I hear footsteps. Then a shadow is charging towards me and screams my name through the neighbourhood. With what has been going on in Rosewood, I admit that I got a little ... paranoid."
"I'm sorry - I didn't mean to scare you. It's just that I really wanted to find you here. Right after my parents were done scolding me, I pretended to go to bed but actually climbed out of my window and jogged the way here."
"That is beyond adorable, so I will forgive you for scaring me like that. The next time, though, you might wanna consider calling me before. What would you have done had I already gone inside? Ring my door bell until my parents wake up and open the door for you?"
"I ... I didn't think that far. Guess I got really lucky that you were still outside, huh? I like that you finally put on your jacket. Better late than never. And leather jackets suit you."
Emily laughed into Paige's hair. She loved how that leather jacket kept coming up. She loved how this dork had literally come running after her. In truth, she loved everything about the situation right now. Emily pulled her head away from Paige's shoulder to look at Paige. The grin she was wearing spread over to Paige's face and for a moment, they were just stood on a dark, silent street, grinning at each other like idiots. Emily loved how she could be an idiot with Paige, and how Paige could be a dork with her. She rested her forehead against Paige's and closed her eyes in content.
Paige drew in an audibly shaky breath and snaked her left arm further around Emily's waist, drawing their bodies closer together until they were flush against each other. The fingertips of Paige's right hand shyly touched Emily's jaw line and carefully traced it until Paige had built up the courage to fully cup Emily's cheek. Emily opened her eyes again and leaned back a bit to be able to look into Paige's eyes - although she was already fairly sure what they were about to do. When Emily's eyes found Paige's, Paige seemed to find in them the reassurance that she had been waiting for.
Paige's lips met Emily's, first with so light a touch that it seemed more like breath that had been blown over their lips - but then with increasing confidence, Paige took Emily's bottom lip between hers and Emily fully melted into the kiss. She closed her eyes and ran one of her hands from Paige's shoulder, over her collar bone, her neck, to her face - to hold on tight to Paige, to keep her from breaking the kiss. It occurred to Emily that Paige never answered her question about whether she wanted to repeat a night like this. Paige let out a little sigh as she parted her lips to deepen the kiss. Emily leaned closer into Paige and considered the question answered.
A/N: And thus, isa manages to finally finish a story! Thank you for all the follows, favourites, and reviews! They make me really happy :)
Artisall - I really should try my hand at little one-shots/ficlets! I can definitely picture myself writing more for these two. If anyone wants to give me any prompts, feel free to drop me a PM here or an ask over on my tumblr ( )!
Once again, thanks for reading and I hope you liked this story :)