A/N I hope you enjoy my first attempt at Paily, with some Hanna thrown in for good measure :)
As soon as Paige pulled up to Hanna's house, she felt like turning the car around. The drive over had been nerve wracking and now her nerves were giving way to feelings of regret. Paige still didn't know what compelled her to ask Hanna for help on such an important task. It was an impulsive decision that she was sure was going to end in disaster.
Before she could change her mind and leave, Hanna walked out the door. Paige gripped the steering wheel as her whole body tensed up. The big smile on Hanna's face did not calm her down one bit. If anything, it only gave her more anxiety. At least this will be over soon, she thought to herself.
"Hey, Paige!" Hanna was beaming as she got in the car. Unlike the brunette, she was really looking forward to the next few hours. It was nice, for once, to be doing something a little sneaky that presumably wasn't going to lead to something dangerous or harmful. Plus, the fact that Paige had asked for her assistance, made Hanna feel special. She knew that Emily's girlfriend wasn't one to let people in easily and she thrilled that an exception seemed to be made for her. "Right on time!"
Paige inwardly groaned. Was Hanna always this perky? She hoped not, but at the same time the brunette knew that part of her reaction was fueled by her own reserved nature. "Thanks again for coming with me."
Hanna clipped in her seatbelt while the smile on her face never faltered. "You know how much I like to shop," she replied, thankful that Paige didn't seem to know about her past of shoplifting. "This is going to be so much fun."
"Yeah, sure." Paige couldn't figure out why going to the mall would make anyone so excited. She inwardly sighed but tried her best not to show the blonde the feeling of dread that she couldn't shake. "Let's, uh, let's go."
She backed her car out of the Marin driveway and tried her best to relax. It didn't help matters that Hanna was fiddling with her stereo and putting on awful music she didn't recognize. You can do this, McCullers, Paige thought, giving herself a pep talk.
Paige and Hanna had been walking around the mall for just over an hour and neither girl appeared to be having a good time.
"Is everything OK?" the brunette asked in hopes of finding out why Hanna's mood had changed since she had picked her up.
Hanna looked up from her phone, "Of course, everything is fine. Don't be silly."
Paige was confused, clearly something was wrong and for the life of her she couldn't figure what that something was. "Are you sure? I mean, I know I don't know you that well but you've been acting a little off since we got here."
"I'm sorry," Hanna sighed. She hadn't meant to be so obvious and she figured she owed Paige the truth. "Well, it's just that when you said you wanted help shopping for Emily's anniversary present I figured we'd be going somewhere a lot more…" Her voice trailed off when Hanna realized how bad what she was thinking was going to sound. Still she knew she had to finish her thought. "….gay."
Paige stopped walking, she was more confused than ever. "Exactly what kind of gift did you think I was planning to buy today?"
"What?" Hanna frowned and she didn't like to do that because it caused lines to appear on her face. "Oh my god, Paige!" She shrieked when she finally realized what the brunette meant. "That's just…I mean…I can't believe you thought that!"
Hanna swatted at Paige's shoulder and both girls were embarrassed. Even though an awkward moment could have gotten more awkward, the misunderstanding between the two girls actually broke the tension and soon enough they were both laughing pretty hard. When they had calmed down Hanna went to buy each of them a coffee and they made their way over to the mall food court.
"Why did you think I was going to take you somewhere gay?" Paige asked after she accepted a drink from the blonde. Even though a part of her was still horrified at their miscommunication, she was genuinely curious.
Hanna took a sip of her coffee and shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know, I just figured that lesbians shop in a place that sells lesbian things," Hanna explained, it made perfect sense in her mind.
"OK," Paige replied, not quite sure what else to say.
"It's not like I'm close minded or anything," Hanna waved her hand around dramatically. "I just thought there was a special place that sold, like, poetry books or cat accessories, or you know something else that you guys like."
From anyone else, Paige might have been offended, but she knew that Hanna really didn't mean anything bad by what she was saying. In fact, out of all of Emily's friends, she was probably the one that she felt the least intimidated by. Spencer was scary intense and Aria dressed in a way that defied logic to Paige.
Hanna sensed that she wasn't really explaining herself well. "Look, after I followed you a few weeks ago to that bar I just thought that you might be taking me somewhere else where girls like you and Emily hang out."
A sudden realization hit Paige as she looked what Hanna was wearing and how much effort it appeared she had put into how she looked today. "You wanted to get hit on again, didn't you?" Hanna's night at the bar was something she knew the blonde wouldn't stop talking about. Emily had explained how much fun her friend had that night. Then another thought hit Paige that put her on edge again. "Is that why you agreed to help me out? Because that's where you thought I'd take you?"
"What? Paige?" Hanna wanted to make sure that her intentions weren't misconstrued or else the day was definitely going to turn out worse than she had hoped. "Did I maybe dress a little nicer than I normally would to go shopping just in case? Yes I did. I can't help that woman find me irresistible."
In spite of her worries, Paige couldn't help but smile at Hanna's words. She often thought the worst of people and that wasn't the blonde's fault. It was something that Paige was trying to work on.
"But I agreed to help you out because Emily is one of my best friends," Hanna continued without taking a breath. "And you're her girlfriend and she's crazy about you so I figured what better way to spend the day than hanging out with you and helping out as well."
Paige's smile got wider at hearing the blonde's description of Emily's feelings for her. "Sorry for jumping to conclusions."
"Don't even worry about it," Hanna assured the nervous looking girl. "Sometimes even I can't believe what comes out of my mouth."
"Me either," Paige admitted, her demeanour was still a bit tense. "I just…" she wasn't sure if she should be talking so openly to Hanna but she knew that her relationship with Emily meant having the people in her girlfriend's life like her. "I really care about Emily. I hope you know that."
"Of course I do," Hanna replied quickly. She wasn't sure what was going on in Paige's mind. "It's pretty obvious considering how you look at her all googly eyed."
"I do not!" Paige protested, a bit unnerved that her feelings were so obvious.
"Oh, please," Hanna said, not understanding why the brunette was trying to deny her feelings. "Trust me, you really do. It's kind of cute actually."
Paige's face started to turn red, even though she really wasn't one for blushing. "I guess after keeping my feelings bottled like I did, it's weird that I don't do that now."
Hanna nodded in understanding, "It must have been hard for you to hide for so long."
"It was," Paige admitted candidly. She was surprised to be having such an open conversation with Hanna but she knew it was probably good for her in the long run. Paige had spent a lot of time cutting herself off from people. That made letting someone in was difficult. Even with Emily there were times when it was easier to shut down, then say what was going on in her head. "I never thought I'd be able to be honest about who I was, but eventually all the lies took a real toll on me."
"I get that," Hanna replied. She was certainly familiar with having to hide things from the people that she loved. The blonde wanted to say something to Paige but she wasn't sure if she should or even if it was appropriate. This had been on Hanna's mind for a really long time. "I'm really sorry about what happened between you and Alison," she watched as Paige's expression pained. "She said some pretty awful things to me, too, and it was really hurtful."
"Uh, thanks," Paige wasn't sure why Hanna was apologizing for something she didn't do. And it goes without saying that the mere mention of Alison's name made her stomach turn. "Why were you friends with her if she was mean to you?"
Hanna shrugged as she played with her coffee cup. "It seemed better than being ignored and being a nobody." She wasn't surprised by Paige's question, it was one she had asked herself many times. "And even though it sucked at times, it did get me closer to Emily, Spencer and Aria and I don't know what I'd do without them."
Paige nodded thoughtfully. To her surprise she had more in common with Hanna than caring about Emily. And even though they had both reacted differently to Alison's bullying, they both seemed to be in much better places today.
Paige sighed and stood up. "Speaking of Emily, I really wish I could think of what to get her for our anniversary. Everything we've looked at today seems so lame."
"Maybe you're thinking about this the wrong way."
"What do you mean?" Paige asked.
"Well, you know Emily doesn't care about how much money you spend or if you buy her something fancy," Hanna explained as she also rose from her chair. "She's probably wants a gift that's big on thoughtfulness and not expensive. I will never understand that girl."
"That's it!" Paige exclaimed as the perfect gift idea popped into her head. Catching both girls off guard, Paige gave the shocked blonde a big hug. "Hanna, you're a genius!"
Hanna wasn't one to turn down a compliment. "That's what I keep telling people."
Paige laughed nervously when she realized how hard she was hugging the other girl. She stepped back and hoped that things weren't going to turn uncomfortable again.
Hanna didn't seem fazed by what happened and soon enough Paige found herself helping the blonde shop for shoes. Although not an ideal way to spend the rest of the day, she couldn't really say no to the girl that had given her such a good idea.
"You want to get out here and go for a walk?" Emily asked Hanna after her friend has parked her car. "You do realize there are bugs and other types of creatures in the woods, right?"
Hanna rolled her eyes. "You are so funny. Of course I do. I just thought it would be something fun to do, that's all."
Emily thought she knew the other girl well, but she couldn't for the life of her figure out what was going on. "Who are you? And what have you done with the real Hanna?"
"Oh shut up," Hanna replied while trying to not act even more suspicious than she was already. "Just because you don't appreciate my good idea doesn't mean you should insult me."
"Ok, Han, whatever you say."
Hanna smiled and relaxed. It appeared that Emily was clueless about the real reason they were going for a walk and that made her very happy. "Now, stop talking and let's appreciate what a beautiful day it is."
Emily pulled on her friend's arm to and then she started feeling around the blonde's head. "I'm just checking for where you must have bumped your head, because you being concussed has to be the only reason why we're out here."
"Dammit," Hanna whispered under her breath. She was apparently not as a good at lying as she thought she was. "Just follow me."
Emily watched in amusement as her friend stomped off. She knew her friend wasn't really mad, but that didn't mean the way Hanna was acting made any kind of sense. Once the brunette had caught up to her friend, she was about to apologize when she noticed something up ahead.
It was something she was not expecting.
"What's going on?" Emily asked after had stopped in her tracks.
Hanna put her arm around her befuddled friend. "Well, while you were busy insulting me, I was doing my good deed for the day." She was beaming at how shocked Emily was. "This is going to do a lot for my karma."
Paige was beyond nervous. The second she had noticed Emily walking towards her, every bit of confidence about her idea seemed to vanish. She really wanted to show her girlfriend how much she cared about her.
"OK, kiddies, as much fun as this staring contest is, it's time for me leave," Hanna announced as Paige and Emily continued to just look at each other. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" She gave Paige an encouraging smile and then she patted Emily on her back. "Have fun!"
Paige gave Hanna a little wave as she tried to calm herself down. She would always be grateful for the blonde's assistance in pulling her idea off. Paige playfully rolled her eyes when Hanna gave her two thumbs up. It did help calm her down though and once Hanna was out of sight, she turned her attention to Emily.
"Hey," Paige said, her voice was shaking and her throat was dry. It wasn't that she really thought Emily would think what she'd done was stupid, she wasn't that type of girlfriend. She just really wanted everything to go well.
Emily took in the scene in front of her. Her girlfriend was standing in front of a blanket, in the middle of the forest, holding a picnic basket and smiling in that way that made heart flutter. Clearly Hanna had played a part in this and that was surprising to Emily as well. "What's going on?" she repeated.
Paige's heart was racing but she wasn't feeling nearly as nervous as she was only moments ago. The way that Emily was looking at her gave the brunette the confidence to continue with her plan. "Happy Anniversary, Emily."
"But our anniversary isn't for a few more days."
"I know," Paige dipped her head as she smiled at Emily. "But hopefully you don't mind celebrating with me a little bit early." She reached for her girlfriend's hand and when Emily gave it to her, she pulled the other girl towards her. "Surprise."
Emily shook her head, but she couldn't contain her smile. "What have you been up to?"
"That's for me to know and you to find out later." Paige leaned in and gave her girlfriend a soft kiss. "If you're good that it is."
"And if I'm not?" Emily asked with a twinkle in her eye. She never did get an answer from Paige, but she did get another, deeper kiss that left her breathless when it was over.
Although it was easy to get distracted when Emily's lips were on hers, Paige was determined to finish what she'd started. "I said later, now sit down."
"Bossy, bossy," Emily replied but she did as she was told. Her girlfriend had clearly gone to a lot of trouble for her and she was curious as to what she had planned.
Paige placed the picnic basket beside her and then she sat in front of Emily. She reached for the other girl's hands and tried to remember everything she had wanted to say. "The last time we were here, things were very different between us."
"I remember," Emily whispered. It was a painful memory for both of them. Walking away from Paige was one of the hardest things she'd ever done, but lying again about who she was, wasn't an option for Emily anymore.
"That date started so well but it ended badly because I was scared of being honest with people." Paige could feel herself starting to get emotional. "I was terrified all the time back then because I never thought anyone would like the real me if I gave them the chance to see that person."
Emily wanted to interject and tell Paige exactly what she thought of the real her, but she knew now wasn't the time.
"And when you decided you couldn't be with me because I wasn't ready, I took that as another sign that I didn't deserve happiness." Although her words weren't easy to say, Paige knew this was important for her to get out. "I know now of course that wasn't the case, but at the time I was really angry and upset."
Emily watched as her girlfriend's eyes teared up, but she remained silent.
"I was angry for such a long time," Paige continued. "I was angry at Alison, I was angry at you, I was angry at my parents. Really I was just angry at everyone and everything. Do you remember when I said to you, if I say it out loud, if I say -"I'm gay"- the whole world is gonna change?"
Emily nodded, of course she remembered that, and what happened afterwards.
"Well the world did change when I finally admitted the truth." Paige felt a few tears fall but they really were happy tears. "It changed for the better, Em, and I have you to thank for that."
"I didn't do anything," Emily insisted, unable to keep quiet any longer.
"Yes, you did," Paige told her girlfriend. "You pushing me away made me realize that the way I was living, all the stuff that I was carrying around, was not what I wanted. I wasn't who I wanted to be."
Emily reached up to wipe the other girl's tears away. "You're amazing."
"You're biased," Paige joked as she sometimes did in raw moments. "When I came out I didn't do it to try and get you back - I never actually thought that was possible – I did it for me. But there was a part of me that wanted you to know and for you to understand that I wasn't afraid anymore."
"I was so proud when I found out," Emily said as she squeezed Paige's hands. "I know how hard that must have been for you."
"It was, but it was the best thing I ever did." Paige told the other girl. "I'm so grateful that I get to be here with you right now. And I'm so grateful that I got a second chance with you, Emily. You mean so much to me."
Emily didn't know what to say, she was so overwhelmed.
"I wanted to bring you back here today, for our anniversary, so we can finally have that picnic of ours and enjoy being with each other without all that other stuff hanging over us. We can just be." Paige explained. "I hope you like your present."
"I love my present!" Emily exclaimed enthusiastically. She always knew her girlfriend was thoughtful but this moment and this day was going to be something she cherished for a really long time. "Just like I love you."
Paige smiled and she was sure that her heart was going to burst it felt so full. Instead of replying with words, she'd used those already to show how she felt, she pulled Emily towards her and kissed her hard. As nice as saying things was, kissing her girlfriend was so much better.
After some time had passed, both girls were lying on their backs, holding hands and enjoying being together.
"Are you going to explain what Hanna was doing helping you?" Emily asked, breaking the silence. She had been curious about the blonde's involvement but had been too busy enjoying making out with Paige to find out how that had come about.
"Another time," Paige chuckled. "That might take a while."
Emily looked over at her girlfriend and smiled. "You know, although not nearly as thoughtful as what you did, I did get you something for our anniversary too." Paige met Emily's eyes and smiled back at her girlfriend. "And I guess we were sort of thinking along the same lines because that band we were supposed to see together back then is in town again so I got us tickets."
"You did?" Paige inquired as she pulled Emily on top of her.
"I did," Emily leaned down to kiss the other girl. "And I only got us two tickets."
"Good," Paige mumbled against her girlfriends lips.
That sounded pretty damn perfect to her.