"Go Paige! Whooo!" Paige McCullers grimaced as she leant against the edge of the pool and pushed her swimming goggles up on top of her head. She tossed a half-hearted wave at Hanna, who had started coming to practises and meets to keep Emily company while she sat on the bench. The blonde had seemingly become her one woman fan club. Paige diverted her attention to the spot beside the blonde, where her girlfriend was sitting holding a stopwatch and giving her a thumbs up to indicate she'd beaten her personal best. A grin spread across her lips as she hoisted herself up out of the pool and made her way over to the bleachers to join her friends.
It had been almost a month since Emily had collapsed with her ulcer at their last meet and the other girl still wasn't allowed back in the water for practise. It was killing her to sit on the side lines and watch her team training, but Paige always tried to include her by getting her to time her or asking for a critique of her performance. "How'd I look?" She asked as she flopped down on the bench beside Emily, deliberately flicking her wet hair towards the other girl and earning a shove.
"Gorgeous…the swimming wasn't too bad either." Emily laughed as she leant in against the other girl, not caring that her skin was still damp from the pool; or that the entire swim team was present as she went in for a kiss. Paige happily obliged, kissing her back until Hanna awkwardly cleared her throat.
"Hey, third wheel over here."
"Sorry Han." Paige apologised but didn't it sound like she even remotely meant it. Since coming out to her parents she had been free to kiss Emily anywhere and anytime she wanted and no one could make her feel bad about that. The blonde's nickname rolled off her tongue with ease after having spent weeks with Emily and her friends. Paige had always been a little dubious about Allison's little group, but surprisingly the other three girls had been nothing but nice to her; even Hastings. They had all rallied around Emily in her time of need and Paige had found herself included in the fold for once. It felt nice. To have friends who cared about her. Hanna in particular had taken a shine to her. She spent so much time with the pair of them that it was like Emily was still living with her. She was in fact living in her own house again, going to bed in her own room and not having to share her space with anyone; save for Paige since her girlfriend had practically spent every day with her since she'd gotten out of the hospital.
"Nice timings there Paige." Coach Fulton grinned as she walked over to greet her star swimmers, a clipboard in hand with all of Paige's timings for the day. Emily had been helping her keep scores for all of the girls and it was a running joke that she was assistant coach. "I hope you're nearly ready to come back Emily, your girl's on your heels with her times." She teased, making Paige blush as she ducked her head. After her parents she had been most worried about what the coach and the team would think of her and Emily, but the other girls had been nothing but nice. Everyone wanted to see Emily back in the water and the star couple working as starter and anchor again.
"It shouldn't be too much longer Coach. Paige's tutor is going to give me a few hydrotherapy sessions." Emily squeezed Paige's hand with a smile, but in reality Paige had had nothing to do with the arrangement. It had been her dad who'd suggested using her private swim coach to help get Emily back on the team. He had made out like it was all because getting Emily back in the water would help Paige's performance as well as attract potential scouts; but Paige saw right through his front. He had a soft spot for the girl and Emily had become a welcome addition in their house.
"Great. We can't wait to have you back. We need someone to keep McCullers on form." The other woman winked before leaving them to it as Paige began protesting that her performance had improved, not slipped.
"She's only teasing sweetie." Emily soothed Paige's wounded pride, not wanting her to sulk for the rest of the night. "Now go get changed or we'll be late."
"Yes ma'am." Paige gave her a mock salute and a quick kiss to the cheek before scampering off to join the rest of the team in the changing rooms.
"Oh yeah, it's the big family dinner tonight, isn't it?" Hanna grinned, knowing Emily had been stressing about it all week. Her parents had been busy settling back in to the house, but Lauren McCullers had finally managed to get them over for dinner so the girls would be spending their Friday night sharing a dinner table with their parents.
"Is it too late to back out?" Emily groaned in to her hands. The last time her mom and Paige's dad had had any kind of extended conversation it had been when Pam had been calling him out in the middle of the school hallway. They'd spoken briefly since Emily and Paige's relationship had come to light and they were on civil enough terms, but Emily was still worrying over what the night would hold.
"It could be worse." Hanna tried to cheer her up. "You could be dating Toby, and then you'd have to have family dinner with his dad and Jenna." Emily smiled at that. Despite Nick McCullers' obvious flaws he had been nothing but kind to her since she'd fallen ill. He'd been a little frosty when he'd first found out that Emily was dating his daughter, and he'd adopted a similar open door policy to Pam, but he was warming up to Emily; and Paige's mom was just plain awesome. Hanna was right, it could definitely be worse. Spencer had lucked out in the in-laws department.
"Poor Spencer." She agreed absently.
All thoughts of Spencer were forgotten though as Paige walked back out on deck, her still growing bangs hanging loose from her wet ponytail and framing her adorable smile. Emily often caught her looking at her wearing that goofy smile, like Emily was some big prize in the grand scheme of things and Paige had hit the jackpot. It made her feel warm inside, to know that someone cared about her so much. Things with Paige were far different to how they had been with Allison or Maya; she didn't tease her or play hot and cold with her. She looked at her with such wide eyed adoration that Emily didn't need to hear her say that she loved her; one look at Paige when she was wearing that smile and her feelings were clear for the whole world to see.
Emily wore a wide smile of her own as she got to her feet and went to sling her bag over her shoulder. Paige intercepted though, taking it from her and carrying it on her shoulder along with her backpack. "Paige, you don't have to carry my stuff anymore." Emily rolled her eyes at just how chivalrous the other girl always had to be. When Emily had first gone back to school she hadn't been allowed to lift anything or overdo it, so Paige had insisted on carrying everything for her; a habit she was reluctant to let go of.
"I know. I want to." She insisted, lacing the fingers of her free hand through Emily's. "Come on then Superstar, we've got a dinner to get to. See you Han."
"Have fun you two!
"Hi girls, how was practise?" Lauren greeted the pair of them as they walked in to the kitchen. Emily could already smell dinner cooking and her stomach was grumbling. Knowing her all too well, Paige tossed her an apple from the fruit bowl on the table to keep her sugar levels up.
"It was great. We're definitely ready for the meet next month, and hopefully Em will be too." Paige beamed, optimistic that Emily would be back in training in time to take part in the next meet.
"Maybe." Emily agreed. She was certainly feeling a lot better in herself, though she still had the occasional twinge in her side. It would take a few sessions with Paige's coach before her body was back to peak performance.
"Well don't overdo it." Lauren warned, slipping from mom-mode to doctor-mode in the blink of an eye.
"I won't." Emily promised. The other woman was like a second mother to her and she'd gone out of her way to help Emily when she'd fallen ill. "Can we help with anything?" She offered, but Lauren brushed her off.
"Thanks, but it's all taken care of. I'll give you girls a shout when your parents get here Emily."
Paige was relieved when they were able to slip away and head upstairs. The second her door was shut behind them she dropped their bags to the floor and pulled Emily in for a long linger kiss. "What was that for?" Emily laughed as they finally pulled apart and she took a seat on Paige's bed. The other girl shrugged as she stood in front of her, holding her hands in her own.
"Does there have to be a reason?"
"No. I guess not." Emily's grin widened as she tugged on the front of Paige's shirt, pulling her down on to her lap to kiss her some more. "Do you know this is the first time we've been alone since…Tuesday?" Emily sighed against Paige's lips as her arms wrapped around her waist.
"Yeah." Paige replied breathlessly, reluctant to stop kissing the other girl long enough to answer her. She still hadn't gotten used to being able to kiss Emily when she wanted, to take her in the middle of the street, to run her fingers along the other girl's spine from under her t-shirt. Emily shuddered and arched in to her touch. They had both been growing more confident in their caresses and they had definitely been heading somewhere new Tuesday night; until Nick had knocked on the door to remind them that it was a school night and Emily couldn't stay over. They hadn't had a minute alone since then, between swim practise and Hanna shadowing them everywhere. "You could stay tonight? It's not a school night."
"Hmm, but who gets the camp-bed?" Emily teased. Nick still insisted on bringing up the little fold out camping bed and a sleeping bag, even though he knew full well neither girl slept in it. Ignorance was bliss in a father's eyes.
"It's definitely your turn." Paige mumbled, preoccupied with pressing her lips to the column of Emily's throat. The other girl pouted as she let Paige push her back down against her bed.
"But my side hurts. I think I should get the bed."
"Me too." Paige agreed, her lips reaching Emily's collarbone as her hands trailed along her sides. "Want me to look at it?" She offered, her skilful fingers already kneading at the knot of muscles in Emily's side.
"Paige…" Emily groaned as the other girl unexpectedly dropped her head to kiss at her side, pushing her t-shirt up out of her way to expose Emily's tanned flesh to her lips. The tension in her side dropped a lot lower. "My parents are due over any minute." If Paige didn't stop doing what she was doing there was no way they were going to make it down for dinner; and both Nick and Pam would probably be implementing something stricter than an open door policy if they caught them.
Paige let out a frustrated growl as she forced herself to pull back. "You are staying over tonight though?" There was more to her question than simply wanting to confirm Emily was spending the night. Her girlfriend nodded without hesitation as she sat up to kiss her again. "Dinner had better be over quickly." She grumbled, wanting nothing more than to lock her door and forget all about Friday night dinner with their parents.
When Mr and Mrs Fields finally turned up, Wayne carrying a bottle of expensive wine and Pam wearing her best dress, the girls had no choice but to join the adults in the living room. The six of them made small talk as they waited for dinner to finish cooking. It wasn't quite as painstaking as Emily had thought it would be. Their parents, though more acquaintances than friends, managed to get on pretty well and there were no awkward silences to fill. Nick was busy singing the praises of the coach he'd hired for Paige, when Lauren finally announced that dinner was ready and they all headed in to the dining room.
They bowed their heads as Nick said grace, though Emily used this as an excuse to peek over at Paige while nobody was looking. She looked ready to jump out of her seat at any moment and it didn't help matters much as Emily ran her foot up her ankle. She shot her girlfriend a sideways glare that promised her a world of trouble if she didn't quit it. It just encouraged Emily all the more and by the time the desert bowls were being cleared away Paige was about ready to crack. Patience was not the other girl's strong point and she had been waiting a very long time for Emily. She barely bit back a groan as her mother suggested coffee and they all made their way back to the living room.
There weren't enough seats for them all, so Paige ended up sitting at Emily's feet on the floor in front of the couch, hyperaware of the other girl's hand resting on her shoulder; the pad of her thumb idly tracing circles against the back of her neck. The night seemed to stretch on forever, like some cruel form of punishment. Eventually Pam stifled a small yawn and looked at her watch. "We should be getting home. Emily are you coming home tonight?"
"Is it ok if I stay over?" She directed her question towards the McCullers, who thankfully didn't put up any objection. Emily had spent most weekends over at Paige's house since they'd started dating and that hadn't changed much, even when her parents had moved back to Rosewood. "Of course you can dear." Lauren tended to be a lot more relaxed with the girls than Pam was and she even managed to stop Nick from checking in on them every five minutes.
They said goodbye to Emily's parents and then goodnight to Paige's before both girls scrambled upstairs. Paige left her door open slightly, knowing that if it was closed over with her dad around it would only serve to attract him to interrupt them. She'd need to leave it open a bit, at least until her parents went to bed. The pair of them changed for bed, Emily getting her pyjamas out of the drawer that Paige had cleared for her one weekend without really thinking about it, before climbing under the covers and curling up together to watch a movie.
Paige's impatient hands began running up and down Emily's back and sides, massaging the taught muscles just beneath her skin. The dark haired girl let out a contented sigh as she rolled on to her front and craned her neck, giving Paige better access to her shoulders. She loved it when Paige touched her like that. Sometimes she wouldn't even have to massage Emily's aching muscles, she would just have to lie there rubbing her back all night and she would have Emily purring like a cat lying out in the sunshine.
"It's snowing again." Emily smiled as she caught sight of the white flakes falling outside of Paige's window. Paige followed her gaze, watching as the snowfall picked up and the flakes settled on the ground, beginning to dust the world outside in a fresh blanket of crisp white snow. She had never been very keen on the snow, or the cold weather at all, but as Emily shuffled back to lean further in to her for warmth she couldn't help but think about the night that had led them to where they were. Her lips curled up in to a smile as she heard her parents climbing the stairs to go to bed and she leant over to press a kiss to Emily's shoulder blade. Winter was definitely her new favourite time of year.
A/N: So that's it folks! Once again many thanks to everyone who has been reading and for all the great feedback! I'm definitely going to be getting more active in this fandom and hope to have some more Paily fics up as soon as I finish a few other ones off. In the meantime I'm still working on 'My Soul to Keep', which will be my new priority now this is finished.