Okay team! I'm reworking this story with the end goal of finishing it!

I'll be posting the chapters as I update them on my Tumblr, username: shilpsum. This one has new stuff right up front and some editing of the rest.

Enjoy. And please do feed me reviews, you spectacular golden-tongued sunflower.

Paige made a bad habit of seeing Emily off on her dates with Samara. If she couldn't bask in happiness, she was determined to wallow in self pity during those hours. So on the night of Emily's fifth date she watched them leave while sitting in her bed pretending to read. In reality she was waiting for the most bittersweet part of all: Emily coming home every night, crawling into bed with Paige and recapping her date. Last week she'd even reenacted a part.

"She moved her fingers up my arm like this," Emily had whispered, running her fingers up Paige's forearm. "And I started laughing," Emily said woefully.

Paige chuckled, "You're ticklish there?" she asked, mocking, although she didn't dare touch Emily to test it.

"You're not?!" Emily asked, incredulous.

"I'm not ticklish anywhere," Paige boasted.

To Emily, that was an invitation. She immediately went for Paige's stomach and Paige pulled back fast grabbing her wrists.

"Whoa whoa," Paige stopped her, laughing, her face flushed.

"Liar," Emily said quietly with a big smile before settling onto her back. Paige stayed propped up on her side and watched the girl as she closed her eyes and sighed. Paige knew that Emily didn't have a clue what she was doing to her. Paige was holding herself together with twine and sticky tack and everyday it seemed she was losing more grip.

Paige's phone started to ring and she was startled out of her day dream.

She looked down and her body felt heavier. She'd changed his contact name to 'Nick McCullers' last December. He was being particularly heavy handed in how he instructed and dealt with her and she was feeling just surly enough. She picked up on the third ring. "Hi, Dad. What's going on?"

Emily had been saying she 'had to go' for at least thirty minutes. She was in Samara's car, parked in front of Brumbaugh. At this point, it was a game in which Emily would start to say "I really have to-" and Samara would start kissing her again. Emily would smile into the kisses and go along with the increasingly lengthy makeouts.

When Samara finally pulled away, both girls seemed breathless. Samara looked her up and down, "You are so sexy," she whispered in Emily's ear. Emily felt herself flush and looked away, embarrassed. The words sent a shiver through Emily's body, but it was different from what Emily hoped to feel. There wasn't a current like when Paige whispered in her ear. Samara was like a nice breeze, while Paige... Emily realized that Paige felt like jumping from the highest diving board, not knowing when you'd hit water.

Emily tried to shake off thoughts of Paige. The whole point of Samara was so that she'd stop lecherously lusting after her roommate. And even that made Emily feel guilty. The point of Samara should be Samara.

Samara was smiling at her, watching as Emily was lost in thought. Samara really liked the pretty shy ones. Emily was probably nervously going over how far they'd gone tonight. Second base under the shirt outside the bra, Samara thought. Even if her hand was just there for a second before Emily moved it, it still counted. And Samara was counting. "Okay, you can go now," she whispered, oh so coolly breaking all contact, wanting to leave her wanting.

Emily smiled, but she didn't move this time. Emily was also counting. They'd been on five dates now, every Sunday since they first met. They texted constantly. "Do you think," Emily bit her lip, nervously. Samara looked at her adoringly, so Emily took a breath, "Am I your girlfriend?" Emily asked.

Samara stiffened, "I don't really ascribe to labels," she scrunched her nose in disgust. Emily looked struck by the abruptness of her declaration, so she softened her tone to explain. "I'm not some guy, Em. I don't assume you can't open doors, I like doing it for you. But, I think you misread my actions. I don't feel the need to own you. I mean... unless we're playing with the power dynamic, of course," she added suggestively.

Emily didn't know what to say or do. She desperately wanted to be out of the car. Somewhere where she could think. Maybe she should do some serious introspection. Was it 'the patriarchy' that made her ask the question in the first place? Emily wished she could be more like Paige. That way she would think of something snarky to say, even just in her head, to make her feel less foolish.

"Em," Samara said softly, "I really don't think you're ready to be in something like that again. I can tell you're still getting over Maya."

Emily's stomach twisted. 'It's been months since Maya!' she wanted to scream. "Yeah," she responded softly instead, "I guess you're right. I was rushing in," she said with a sigh.

"Of course, I'm right," Samara said, rubbing her back and placing a kiss on her cheek. "Maybe we'll talk more about this someday," Samara added wistfully. "You might be the one to convince me," she smirked.

"Yeah, okay," Emily responded, starting to open the car door. "Okay, I've really got to get goi-," she started, but Samara cut her off with another kiss. Emily returned it awkwardly and she they broke away Samara watched her face before letting her go. Emily looked frazzled and tousled as she left the car. Samara felt good about that.

As soon as Emily was out of that confined freaking space, her unease over the night solidified. Gone were the distraction of Samara's wandering hands. Gone were her lips that kept tugging at Emily's, silently asking her to relax, to give more. Emily tried. She tried so hard that it started to feel like pretending. Emily frowned.

She hadn't even reached the door before Samara's car was gone.

By the time Emily was on her floor, the feeling of 'offness' had only deepened. She sped up her steps down the hall. She heard a loud crash and ran the rest of the way, throwing the door open. Paige was on the floor, crouching to pick things up. Her eyes shot to Emily, startled.

There she is, Emily thought. The girl Emily had tried so hard not to think about tonight. The one that was on her mind every moment on the moment. Her eyes were red and puffy and Emily realized that she'd never seen Paige cry before. Paige seemed to notice the same thing because she quickly wiped away her tears and looked away. Emily could see her stiffen.

"Hey," she said simply before ignoring Emily and continuing to pick the mess off the floor. Pencils, books, pens and a couple high school swim trophies and even their small pumpkin from Halloween were spread over the floor. It was as if the surface of Paige's desk had erupted. Emily took it all in, trying to give Paige space, but as soon as she saw a flash of red on Paige's hand and her heart jumped into her throat.

"Paige," Emily whispered, for the first time in the night at loss for breath. She took three quick steps and clumsily dropped to her knees to help. "You're bleeding," she said, reaching out to help.

Paige pulled her hand back, "I didn't mean to," she said, sharply. Emily looked even more concerned and Paige felt a pang of defeat.

"Of course you didn't," Emily said, softly. "Can I please see your hand?" She asked after giving Paige a couple seconds to recover.

Paige was catching her breath in shallow increments. She slowly put out her hand, looking at it for the first time with Emily. She must have punched something, because her knuckles were raw and scratched, the middle one was bleeding.

"Not so bad," Emily said, getting up and grabbing a first aid kit from the bottom drawer of her desk.

"So prepared," Paige mumbled, but her breath seemed a little steadier.

"My dad is in the army, I'm better than a boy scout," Emily replied, opening it. She disinfected the area and put a bandage over the open part of Paige's knuckle.

"I bet you didn't think you'd have to use that," Paige said, still prickly, still looking away.

"Knowing me? I'm surprised I haven't had to break it out already. I'm kind of a klutz." Emily said. Paige smiled, just barely, but Emily saw it. "There. Better."

Paige looked down at her hand and then back up into Emily's eyes. They were warm and deep, full of care and the odd dark and light freckles. Paige wanted to study them through every expression and in every light. Emily was perfect. Paige didn't understand how this girl could be so nice, so caring to Paige who deserved none of it. She could feel a sob building inside and she tried so hard to push it back, but that just made her eyes water more. She shook her head and looked down. "I'm such a fuck up," she muttered.

Emily sat shocked for a few moments. Not because she didn't know what to do or say, but mostly because she couldn't process that Paige felt that way. "You aren't, Paige. You're the farthest thing from that." Paige snorted and Emily rolled her eyes and gave her a little shove. "Look at me," Emily said. Paige didn't look up, so Emily brought a hand to her chin and gently raised it until their eyes met. "You are focused, thoughtful and driven. I admire you. You could never be a fuck up." Emily studied Paige knowing it was true and seeing that Paige didn't believe it. Emily wanted to kiss her. It was the fourth time in as many weeks, but this time it didn't make her feel guilty. "Not even if you tried."

Paige sighed and leaned in and Emily pulled her close for a hug. Paige wasn't used to hugs. Even when Pru forced her into the occasional embrace, Paige always got stiff and weird. But she relaxed into Emily. There were endorphins and I admire you still ricocheting around her head. She felt whole with Emily touching her. She felt as if she could be better and it would make someone proud.

"Let's just get through exams and I'll plan a night on the town for us afterwards," Emily said, encouraging. Paige nodded.

"I don't want to go home," Paige whispered.

Emily's heart was poised to break. She wanted to promise her the world. Instead she offered her a week. "Come visit me in Rosewood. After your important holiday stuff. Tell your dad that you're going to train with your fiercest competition," Emily smiled.

Paige chuckled, "Well, that wouldn't be a lie..." she said, looking at Emily mischievously.

"It's a plan, then," Emily said. "You'll make it?"

"Yes," Paige agreed, feeling better, feeling lighter. Somewhere, somehow she knew this was probably a bad idea, but Paige wanted nothing more than to visit Emily at home, to see where this girl grew up and be around her while she was fully in her element.

"Did you ever read Stoppard's play..." Paige asked Emily, as they were getting ready. Paige was standing in front of her dresser, having just put on the right pair of jeans to go with her tank top and old man sweater,"'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead'?"

"Aren't they in Hamlet?" Emily inquired, shyly, hoping that she didn't get it wrong.

"Exactly!" Paige exclaimed with a bright smile. It made Emily feel good about knowing her Shakespeare, "But Tom Stoppard wrote this absurd play about those two characters," Paige explained, in a way that simply conveyed that she was excited to be able to talk about it. She stopped looking for accessories and walked to her bookshelf, "almost left this one at home," she mumbled to herself, still giddy about some idea. Emily couldn't help but be enthralled by the girl.

As Paige flipped through the book, Emily pulled out the vodka, the cranberry juice, and the Nalgene bottles that they had acquired for the evening.

"You want to mix these, McCullers? Or should I?" Emily asked. She wasn't exactly trained to eyeball a shot. But, between Paige's dad calling and all their finals, Emily knew they needed a release. She was determined to follow through on her party-girl promises.

"Go for it, Em," Paige said casually, still distracted for whatever she wanted in that book. Then she looked up, looked straight at Emily with a smirk "And by that, I mean, do yer worst, Fields," she growled it in a way that made Emily feel the imposing discomfort of wanting to cross the room and bite Paige. In the arm, on her neck, anywhere. Just to see what she'd do.

Emily flushed, and got to work, trying hard to bury that idea in her mind, but finding that spot brimming with other, similarly troublesome thoughts.

Emily added as much vodka as she wanted. She thought she had been generous with the clear liquid, but by the time they actually got out of the room that night, they were both topping off their drinks with more.

"Where are we going?" Emily asked, trying to seem genuinely concerned.

"Do you have a map?" Paige replied with a smirk.

"Does your phone have GPS?" Emily asked back smiling.

"Shouldn't you know how? - oh.." Paige stopped herself because Emily was already laughing.

"Rhetoric! 5, 2," Emily giggled, giving Paige a little push so she stumbled off the walk.

"No-I-" Paige was about to protest. Damn, Emily is way too good at this game already, Paige thought, biting back a smile.

"6, 2," Emily continued to giggle, "Are you angry?" Emily asked with a pout.

Paige took the two gulps she owed. She was surprised that she wasn't; she usually hated losing, and hated being teased. But seeing Emily jump around like a goofball... she was actually very very glad. Or very drunk. Probably both. "Are you drunk?"

"Would that be legal?" Emily asked, faking real concern, so as to not violate the rhetoric rule.

"Are you going to be a lawyer?"

"Uh?" Emily was a little flustered. She wanted to claim non-sequitur, but it did follow. She didn't think Paige would remember that her parents had been pushing her towards law school.

"Yes! 3,6!" Paige did a happy little jump as Emily took her sip. "Are we here?" Paige asked, looking anywhere but the door in confusion. They had, indeed, arrived at Hanna's dorm.

"Is that the right number?" Emily asked. Crap, she knew the answer... to create a diversion from getting caught, she reached over and pinched Paige in the arm.


"7, 3."



"No fair!"


Paige bit down on her tongue and decided to take all the drinks she owed, glaring at Emily the entire time, although she couldn't stop her mouth from smiling when Emily stuck out her tongue.

Emily's heart fluttered, she tried to pretend that it was the alcohol, but, in her guilty depths, she knew it was still just Paige.

There was music pulsing through the door of Hanna's pre-game party, so they let themselves in after a quick knock. Hanna, Lenny and a bunch of other freshmen sorority pledges, were dancing and primping. There were shot glasses strewn through the room, and a half full Bacardi 151 laying on its side.

Paige felt awkward, as if she was in someone else's world. Sorority girl world, she thought. As girly as Pru might be, her nature led them into rooms full of boys.

"You're here!" Hanna exclaimed, embracing them simultaneously, causing their bodies to bump together in a jumble of small sparks. All evening, they'd been walking just apart, the occasional poke or hand brush. This sudden, forced, closeness, thrilled the drunk part of Emily, as the part of her that was still sober chided it. She noticed Paige linger, standing that much closer after Hanna let them go. This small social cue made Emily bold. By her fuzzy logic she had no reason not to treat Paige differently than her other friends. Surely, Paige now understood. Emily was just a cuddly person.

She put her hand on Paige's arm and replied, "Why wouldn't we? You girls ready to party?"

The room erupted in a chorus of woos, and Emily looked over at Paige with a smirk. Paige mouthed 'wooo' and pumped her fist in the air sarcastically, making Emily giggle. Hanna introduced the girls around, pouring shots as she talked.

"So, you coming with us to Andy's frat?" asked Bridget Wu, aka, the girl who brought the booze.

"Actually, we have rounds to make..." Emily explained. Paige was getting this small thrill from being in a 'we' with Em. They had their own schedule for the evening; they had a valid reason to spend the whole time within sight and reach of one another. She wondered if she was taking advantage of Emily's kindness. What if Emily would rather be hanging out with these girls all night? But, she said we, and gently touched her arm... Paige was too happy to over-analyze. She was going to be the most fun possible person, just so Emily wouldn't regret choosing her.

Just then, Hanna got around to teasing Emily, "So, Em, how are your hot dates with Samara going?" She asked with a wink. Hanna seemed to think of Samara as Emily's steamiest girlfriend yet, which was probably true considering the easy, carefree nature of Emily's time with Maya.

Emily really didn't want to talk about this. She'd been wanting to tell Paige about the dates first. She wanted Paige to make a joke. Make it seem small so that Emily could at least feel a semblance of control again. But the past few weeks had been incredibly busy and Paige was dealing with calls and passive aggressive emails from her dad. And Emily and half of campus had left for Thanksgiving. She hadn't processed anything Samara-related until now. And now happened to be the worst setting. But Paige looked encouraging, so she decided to just let it out. "She doesn't want to define our relationship. I'm not used to that kind of thing..." Emily let the words tumble.

"What? That's stupid," Hanna said, bluntly. "Who does she think is out there?"

"Well, she actually said it was because of me. Getting out of the relationship with Maya. Thought I'd need a little time before diving into something else. Like, she wouldn't want to be getting into something with..." damaged goods, was all Emily could think, with a frown.

Paige noticed Emily's sadness; she needed to stop it at all costs. "Whatever. You've got to lock this down," Paige said grabbing Emily's upper arms and moving the girl between herself and Hanna. "Amiright, Hanna?" Paige asked, wrapping her arms around Emily so she was firmly in place against her. Emily had to hold in the shiver that travelled up her body. She was close enough to feel Paige grinning behind her.

"You are Paige," Hanna laughed. Paige was kind of a weirdo, but Hanna was starting to think that she meant well when it came to Emily. "She's probably just intimidated her with your super hotness," Hanna added, patting Emily on the back as Paige released her.

Emily blushed deeply. Luckily it went unnoticed. She wanted to stay pressed up against Paige. She knew it had been a joke. But what it if it wasn't and she could just lean into Paige's body whenever she wanted. She'd push her against Hanna's desk and slip her hands under her shirt and... Paige's moved fully way and Emily realized she'd missed a chunk of their conversation. Maybe getting drunk with Paige wasn't her best idea.

"Emily scared the crap out of me when I first got here," Paige way saying.

"Really?" Hanna asked.

"I mean, yeah. I avoided girls that beautiful in high school," Paige said, still smiling.

Emily seriously doubted all this, but she was ready for them to stop. Paige needed to shut up or Emily would either end up jumping her or running home and locking herself in their room. "Yeah yeah, clearly that's it," she said, finally drinking her shot and looking at Paige to do the same. The girl nodded, downing it.

Stop two was retrieving Pru from Jacob's future Frat house. The scene would be athletes and flip cup. This made Emily nervous. She had not been to a party with jocks since her high school swim parties before she started dating Maya. Maya hated that crowd and it seemed like every swim party would end with them arguing. Emily had enough and lied an admission that they weren't that fun anyway and they stopped going.

Emily tried not to feel bitter over what she must have missed and focused on Paige who was bragging about her supposedly advanced flip cup game.

The music got louder as they went down the dark wood stairs to the basement of the swimmer's fraternity house. It was all patched up furniture, beer and electronic remixes of indie music. In the center of the room was a group of guys playing quarters with a bottle of peppermint schnapps.

Paige felt indescribably compelled towards the pint of schnapps. "What will you give me if I can get that bottle from that bro?" Paige nudged Emily. Emily's eyes grew wide as she followed Paige's to the group. She felt a pinch of jealousy. This guy obviously defined himself by the fact that he was a baseball player. He had his PSU cap on backwards like a major douche. Emily did not want Paige going over there and 'getting' anything from him.

"C'mon, buddy," Paige whispered in her ear before moving to the table. There was that feeling again. Falling. Flying. All Emily could do was follow the girl and look on in horror.

But, instead of god-knows-what Emily was imagining she'd do; Paige walked up, slammed her fist on the table and looked right at him, "You in charge?" She snarled like an old timey gangster.

Emily finally noticed that Collin was also at the table when he burst into laughter. "What's it to ya, McCullers?" the baseball player asked with a toothpick dangling from his smirk. It dawned on Emily that Paige knew all these people. Paige gestured for Emily to join, and she did, still weary, realizing that sharing Paige's attention meant she was predisposed to dislike every one of them.

"I'm going to show Emily how I kick your ass at every single thing," Paige looked up and winked at Emily again. Emily noticed that her cheeks were getting a little red from the booze. You want in, Em? Paige gestured with her cocking her head towards the table. Emily shook her head slightly, nah.

"And after I kick your butt, you're going to give me that schnapps," she growled at him. That growl, thought Emily, and her teeth began to tingle.

"Deal, McCullers," the guy was either too drunk, dumb or pleased to be talking to a hot girl to ask for anything in return if he won.

"You make this too easy, Alex," Paige shook her head as she slipped into the seat. Emily put her hand on Paige's shoulder as a show of support, thinking nothing of felt immediate warmth at the contact, like her drunkenness grew exponentially every time Emily touched her. As she got more intoxicated, she fell more boldly into the nudges and playful pokes. If Paige has been more sober, she would have realized that she had only two goals behind everything she did that night: 1) Make Emily laugh as much as possible and 2) Impress the crap out of Emily by acting as cool as possible. The two weren't mutually exclusive, however, somehow every time she attempted the latter, she ended up accomplishing the former.

The last party on their agenda was the biggest on campus. Emily knew that Hanna and her girls would also end up there. Paige and Emily walked with a group from the fraternity. Pru was all but lost in a haze of Jacob so Emily linked arms with Paige. With her other hand Paige would occasionally hold aloft her easily won peppermint schnapps.

"Question game, buddy?" Paige asked.

"Huh?" Emily asked.

"I asked if you wanted to..."

"12, 4," Emily replied. Paige shook her head and took a proud swig from the bottle, handing it off to Emily, who did the same. It burned pleasantly down her throat.

They got to the off-campus house. It was full of dancing co-eds, packed in like sweaty sardines. The minute they stepped inside Emily felt the temperature rise by at least ten degrees. The air was humid and it all seemed incredibly unsanitary, but she followed along. They lost Pru and Jacob to some corner where they danced against each other recklessly. Emily grabbed Paige's hand to navigate the crowd, avoiding damp passers bys and looking to check in with Hanna.

She lost all thoughts of her friend, however, when Paige redid their grip, twining her fingers with Emily's holding her hand firmly yet comfortably. Emily remembered how well they fit and she grew warmer, wanting squeezing tight and never ever let go. Paige must have noticed the shift Emily's mood because she slowed her pace to a near stop.

Paige was suddenly attached to the party, music and overt lust surrounding them. She tugged Emily's hand and the girl spun around to face her. For a second, Paige thought she'd be drunk enough to say something. Anything to make this girl know.

"Hey Gurl!" Paige heard loudly before Emily was detached from her and pulled into a drunken embrace from Hanna. Lenny came up from behind, looking giddy, but slightly more sober.

"You having fun?" Emily asked with a laugh.

"SO fun!" Hanna exclaimed, talking excitedly. All Emily got was 'Bridget Wu' and something about 'bong on the roof.' They could barely hear each other, over the music, laughter and slurred storytelling happening around them. Emily just nodded.

"We were just heading out," Lenny chimed in. "Before one of us makes a bad boy decision."

"Or a badboy decision!" Hanna and Lenny giggled.

"It's 2 AM, Hanna... What do we do?" Lenny asked, in a teacher tone.

"Get laid or go home!" Hanna replied. Paige laughed and Emily stomach went into a free fall as she realized she wanted to do both those things tonight.

Looking around, Emily began to realize that Lenny was right about 2 AM. 2 AM was extreme, public, foreplay for most co-eds. Emily felt guilty. She wasn't going have fun here. She looked over at Paige who was also looking weary.

Paige had noticed Collin, making his way through the crowd towards her. She needed them to bolt. Paige grabbed Emily's hand again and they followed Hanna and Lenny towards the door.

"You girls going to make it back okay?" Lenny asked them once they were all outside. Hanna danced around to the residual beat beside her.

"Yeah, we're good," Paige assured her, releasing Emily's hands and swinging her own at her her sides. Paige was very poorly feigning sobriety. For whose benefit, Emily couldn't tell.

After saying their goodnights, Paige and Emily began walking. It became clear that they were still giddy, telling jokes, taking swigs. Neither girl wanting to be at a party, but neither one of them wanted to end the evening by going home. The campus was abuzz tonight, it would be impossible to sleep with all the energy around.

The bottle ran out right as they passed the fountain. "Em, it's a sign," Paige exclaimed, pointing to the fountain. "I double dog dare you..." she said with a childish smirk.

"No way," said Emily, even though she was already heading towards it. She took of her shoes and lowered her feet in. She sat with the cold stone against her bare thigh. She was too drunk to regret wearing a skirt on this crisp, yet still unseasonably warm night.

Paige sat next to her, rolling her jeans up and doing the same, seemingly content that they would save the swimming for another night. "You have fun tonight, Em?" Paige asked, a little shy.

Emily was about retort with a question, but noticed that Paige was being serious. As if she thought maybe Emily wasn't having a great time, "So much fun, Paige... You?"

"Way the best ever. Of my life!" Paige exclaimed throwing her hands up so Emily would laugh. Paige could only tell the truth in jokes, she thought to herself a little sadly.

Paige got up, out of the fountain. She dried her feet with her sweater and put her shoes back on. Emily followed suit, not bothering to do it well. On the way to the dorm, Paige made some joke and nudged Emily. Instead of shooting back, Emily caught the side of the sidewalk and fell down in the cold grass, right onto her butt.

"Oh crap, you okay Em?" Paige felt terrible guilt as she stumbled to help the girl. Just then, Emily grabbed the bottom of Paige's jeans and kicked her bare foot into the other girl's heel, causing Paige to fall on top of her. Paige went down fast. Luckily, they were cushioned by the cold grass. Emily laughed. She didn't notice any hurt, she was just happy to take Paige down with her.

Paige caught her bearings, "You are so mean for something so sweet," she said, getting back onto her knees. Emily did the same, starting to stand up and immediately falling back.

Confused, she tried again. "Whoa, there champ," Paige caught Emily as she was about to fall back to the ground.

"Let's take a look at this ankle, shall we?" Before Emily could process what was happening, Paige had eased her onto the grass.

"I'm fine, McPaige Cullers," Emily slurred, her face warming with embarrassment.

"I'm sure you are McFields," Paige replied. She thought about how idiotic that sounded as Emily laughed.

"How did we get this drunk?" Emily asked with some giggles. She was now supporting herself with her hands. She fuzzily noticed the dew and the cold of the water seeping through the butt of her skirt.

"Questions game," responded Paige, smug. Emily's glee settled as she looked up at the stars with a small smile. You can see them well from this part of the Quad, Emily was thinking. She could bet they'd be even better if they got out of the city. She thought of Paige taking her somewhere. She'd go anywhere with Paige, she thought with a smile.

"What's so funny?" Paige was looking at her curiously, thinking that Emily was gorgeous, even when she was being utterly goofy.

Emily didn't respond, enthralled by the stars with that childish drunk-Emily smile that Paige adored.

Maybe she'd persuade Paige to take her camping? Emily had never been camping and found the idea of Paige's inevitable struggle with a tent amusing. Emily's head began reeling with the idea of sleeping in an even closer enclosed space with Paige. She had to stop, Emily told herself. This was exactly the wrong thing to think. Still, be it the booze or the stars, she let her eyes settle on the other girl.

Paige looked very serious now. Brows furrowed, she was trying to focus, even though she was clearly drunk. Almost as drunk as Emily. She was doing something with her hands...

Suddenly there was nothing else but Paige's hands, holding up Emily's bare foot. Oh, was all Emily could think. Paige had taken off Emily's shoe and was pushing Emily's toes up with the ball of her hand. "That hurt, Em?" Emily could only shake her head 'no,' completely incapacitated. Her mouth was hanging open in awe at the gesture. It was so caring, so intimate, it amplified the tingling and stomach-flips that seem to always accompany unexpected contact with Paige.

"How about here?" Emily cringed and let out a tiny 'ow' when Paige rolled her foot to the left.

"Okay, okay, maybe sprained? Not broken. Lets get you home, k, buddy?" Paige replied, shaking her head with a teasing smirk.

"Ugh, stop calling me 'buddy'?" Emily pouted, Paige had been reading Salinger that afternoon, tonight it was all 'buddy this, and buddy that.' Paige laughed.

They were only a block and a half away from their dorm, and Paige was watching intoxicated Emily struggling to get up. "You're hopeless, you know that?" Paige continued to tease, causing Emily to become even more determined to pout and stand. Emily didn't know why being teased by Paige felt so good. Maybe because she knew it came from a place of love. Friend love, that is.

"RhetORIC-" Emily was stopped by the sound of her own voice screeching. Without thinking, Paige had reached one arm under Emily bent legs and the other under her back. Using her knees, Paige hoisted Emily into a carry.

"What the hell, McCullers?!" Emily let out a broad, drunkenly delighted laugh.

"C'mon, Bubba," Paige mumbled. Her Gump impression could have been better, but at least Emily found it funny.

"Worst. Forrest. Ever." Emily teased. Emily was silent for a few beats. In that time Paige's heart started racing. The lull in conversation meant that she'd have to think about what she was doing. How she had touched Emily's foot. How she had wanted to kiss her smooth skin, and kiss her strong calf, the inside of her thigh. Now Emily's skirt was riding up with every step Paige took. Oh crap. Paige focused on not letting her body drop Emily. Finally, Emily let Paige know what had been on her mind.

"Oh God, Paige. Bubba died!" Emily whaled with a sniff, "Why would you bring that up?!"

Paige burst out laughing, having to stop walking for a second and hike Emily up onto a better grip. "I didn't know that would get to you; at least I didn't bring up Wilson," Paige smirked.

Emily's arms were draped around Paige's neck and Paige could feel the air from Emily's chuckle against her cheek. Emily thought for a second.

"I love you more than Tom loved Wilson," she finally whispered into Paige's ear, a bit wistful. Paige tried to tell herself that she heard sarcasm there, but the words took full effect regardless. It started as a tingle on her earlobe that turned into a wave of heat through Paige's body. She felt a bit like her head was going to explode from the joy and agony of it all. Paige's mouth went dry and they both stayed silent as Paige ascended the steps of Brumbaugh. She used her student ID in her butt pocket to unlock the main door and then hit the handicap button so it would swing open.

Emily's thoughts through this process were incredibly simple. Strong arms, she thought. And cute butt. She flashed back to that Halloween night, and that outfit Paige had worn and she remembered all the guilt associated with the thought, but her mind was so fuzzy, that it was as if she were a hovering soul like in the movies, watching her own guilt with a bemused confusion. As they walked towards the dorm door, Emily let herself indulge in every part of being carried by Paige.

Each step Paige took, Emily counted a place where their skin was touching. Each number sent a wave of heat and energy through her body. One, Paige's arm under Emily's knees; Two, a hand resting on Emily's hip, fingertips just barely touching the sliver of exposed skin where Emily's shirt was riding up. Three, Emily's arm around Paige's neck, touching the soft hair under her ponytail; Four, the other arm across her back that Emily adjusted slightly to fall above the dip in Paige's top. Five, Paige's hand against Emily's outer shoulder, Six, the top of Emily's inner shoulder against Paige's chest. Seven, Paige's arm, a bit wet with sweat, against Emily's back.

Wet, oh god Emily realized she was wet. She flushed with what should have been embarrassment, but her mind wasn't done counting. Eight, Emily settled her nose just below Paige's soft earlobe. Paige stopped in front of the door, but before she could put Emily down she felt the girls hand against her cheek.

"Nine," Emily said out loud, her eyes hazy and dreamy. Completely lost and completely drunk. She moved her fingers lightly over Paige's jaw.

"Huh?" Paige's mouth opened as she noticed the dark eyes looking up at her. Emily was no longer wistful or silly. She was dead serious with a gut-flinging intensity. Paige had never seen anything like the raging fire that was sweet Emily Fields. Her knees began to wobble, she couldn't feel her hands.

"Ten." Emily said with resolve. Just like that, Emily leaned in for a kiss. Their lips met, pressed together. Paige could smell the wild raspberry lip gloss, and then she could feel it, sticky, holding them there. It was the sweetest, most life altering thing that ever happened to Paige. Emily's mouth opened, just slightly, against Paige's. With that, Paige's now-sweaty hands began to slip. She caught up to herself before dropping Emily completely and lowered the girl to the ground, breaking every point of contact including their eyes.

Paige, reeling, began fumbling for the dorm keys, not daring to look up at Emily, whose hand was now supporting herself against the dorm wall.

"Crap," Emily whispered, fingers moving to her own warm lips as her consciousness flooded back and her soul plummeted to guilt-ridden body.

"Don't worry, drunk-Fields," Paige tried to answer cockily. Paige knew that kiss was because of the alcohol. She could hear the regret in Emily's voice. She knew that Emily probably thought she was with some knock out like Samara or Maya, or even Allison. Not with ugly, failure Paige. There was no way Emily would have looked at Paige that way sober. She had said it herself, Paige was a friend, not Emily's type.

It made her want to cry. She put the key in the door, not looking up, trying to stop her body from shaking with an overload of desire and hurt.

Had she looked up, she would have seen Emily's face: guilt, pain and pleading. Emily was humiliated. She knew that Paige wasn't interested. The whole night wasn't them getting closer, it was just them getting drunker. She knew that this was going to ruin everything and she needed this friendship so much. Seeing Paige shudder like that after kissing her. The idea that it was disgusting to the girl, was completely crushing. Emily was determined to blink away the oncoming tears.

Whatever disaster was going to happen, it would happen. There was nothing else Emily could do now. Emily knew she should be ashamed, but she didn't realize she'd be heartbroken. Not over a relationship that she never even had with Paige McCullers.

The lock clicked out of place and Paige had composed herself at least well enough to get water and bed. Paige was back to forcing a smile, "Okay, Bubba, lets get you to-" Paige finally looked up at Emily, and saw the tears forming in her eyes. Suddenly the pretense seemed totally out of place. Paige felt like such a fraud around Emily. Emily was going through something tonight, something scary and new, and all Paige could think about was her own, misguided lust.

"Hey," Paige's voice was soft, "what's wrong, buddy?" she asked with worry.

Emily wiped away her tears, "Nothing," she sniffed, "just- just too drunk," she smiled a bit embarrassed, "A shitty week and now this," she indicated her leg, although it was so not about the ankle.

"God, I know, Em. I'm so sorry, this was supposed to be fun. Samara is such an idiot not to want to be your girlfriend. I know she'll come around," Paige consoled her. On one hand, Emily was glad Paige was going to pretend the kiss didn't happen. It was almost convincing enough for Emily to rest easy. Maybe Paige knew that Emily was occasionally attracted to her and she was being cool about it; not letting it ruin their awesome friendship. On the other hand, Emily hadn't thought about Samara once since they'd left the Hanna's.

Emily found herself sitting in the middle of the floor cradling a glass of water. Paige was rifling through her desk. She soon returned with Emily's first aid kit and an ace bandage. "I guess we do need this," Paige said with a smile as she quickly and methodically wrapped Emily's ankle. She was careful not to touch Emily's skin more than necessary. She wasn't cold, but she certainly was not warm.

Emily felt a little door click shut in Paige, it filled her with sadness. It seemed like Paige desperately wanted to get to the safety of her own bed, desperate to be nowhere close. After Emily was wrapped, Paige grabbed the water off the ground and took a couple huge gulps. It was natural, sharing things like that. Intimate in a way that most friends weren't. Emily was glad to have the tiniest hope that these little things that made their friendship so incredible wouldn't change completely.

Both girls decided to sleep immediately upon getting into their respective beds, both dreading the thought process that would inevitably occupy rationalizing This Night.

Emily didn't want to think about how That Kiss was even better when compared to her three previous firsts. The hum, the fire, the electricity, they were all there. Plus, more. There was a safety in that place that Emily hadn't experienced before. Complete trust, a connection that made the whole ordeal painfully sexy. Emily bit into her tongue, trying not to think of what followed, trying not to be crying.

Paige could still smell Emily's lip gloss on her own lips. She barely grazed the corner of her lip with her tongue, just to taste Emily one last time. She could have licked it all off at once, but decided to ration it, just for tonight. She looked over at her alarm clock. Emily's parents would be here in the morning and Paige's had to get Pru and get driving in the morning. She allowed herself just a few silent tears before drifting off.