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Story Notes:
Disclaimer: Ann Brashares owns the characters.
Warning: non-explicit girl slash and het
Written for: Lix in Yuletide 2008
Autumn

Lena can still taste Greece, can still smell it on her clothes, the sunshine and the water and the sunscreen and, most important of all, her friends, the pepper spice/vanilla sweetness mix of Carmen, the patchouli hint of Tibby, and Bee, who smells like the sun, golden and warm and glorious – sweat and bug spray and Sun-In and chapstick and laundry detergent and whatever soap was closest during her shower.

She presses her nose to her arm and breathes in, but her skin carries no memory.

#

Bridget runs with Eric, races him, and wins. His breath comes short at the end of their run, and he kicks up his speed, pushes both of them until he meets his limit. She finds something deeper, in the warm air and the sun and all the places where she has pounded her feet into the asphalt and the sand and the stone.

She leaves him behind, huffing and blowing and trying to catch up.

When she’s done – when she’s won – she stops and waits for him. She smiles, and pulls the band from her hair, shakes it loose though it is sweaty and matted at the back of her neck.

Bridget smiles at him and laughs at him, and though he does both, there is a hesitation, a moment when he stares at her as if she’s come back to him, back to school, as someone new.

She is the same, she thinks, but doubts the truth of the words.

#

Carmen sends at least an email a day now, sometimes just a line, sometimes just a word and punctuation - Hi! - and the girls write back. Lena takes her time, composes long emails, with carefully chosen words, and discussions of her art which she deletes more times than she sends. Bridget writes fast, quick, like she’s out of breath from laughing, like she’s telling them a story and her words are tumbling over themselves in their hurry to be heard. Tibby uses unnecessarily large words, showing off her vocabulary, and sometimes writes in script format, or – faux – dialogue only.

#

The sun has gone behind the clouds, and Lena feels its loss.

Her heart hurts, and her mind. She closes her eyes, tucks herself into bed, waits for sleep. She doesn’t dream, nor can she create. Her pencil is still, her paint too thick or too thin, too bright or too dull. Her pastels feel wrong against her fingers.

I am sad, she writes to Bridget one sleepless night, and the honesty of it makes her want to cry. Her eyes burn as she stares at the computer screen, and her fingers pound out the words, making the keys click and clack. My heart is broken. I cannot breathe.

Bridget doesn’t reply, but Lena isn’t surprised at all when someone knocks on her door Friday night. She thinks about ignoring it, but there’s something familiar in the pounding, and she knows. She knows.

They spend the whole weekend curled in Lena’s bed, their heads resting close together, bodies twisted so they fit the space. Lena whispers her thoughts about Kostos, the way she misses her dreams of him, the way the hope hurts more than soothes.

Bridget strokes her hair and listens and when Lena can finally sleep, she dreams.

Winter

The snow drowns the bottoms of Carmen’s jeans. It matters less now that they aren’t special, they aren’t the Traveling Pants, but it is still uncomfortable. She starts to tuck the ends into her boots, though she hates the look.

Comfortable is better than fashionable, she promises herself, especially when she must spend so much time at the theater, rehearsing. She flirts with the other actors, and IMs with Tibby frequently, because Tibby, of the other three, understands best the sheer comedy available in the drama department.

Carmabelle: Divas!
Tibberon: Tell me all.
Carmabelle: I did! Divas! You still want to deal with actors?
Tibberon: I am zen. I will find the normalcy within those who perform my scripts.
Carmabelle: Zen? You mean high, don’t you?
Tibberon: I mean zen. You should embrace it. And yoga. Yoga helps.
Carmabelle: Really, Tibs, don’t you remember ‘this is your brain on drugs?’
Tibberon: ZEN DAMNIT!
Carmabelle: Oh, yeah, that’s real zen.

#

The sky is gray. It makes Lena want to create. She thinks, when she sits down with her pastels, she will make a sunset, perhaps Greece and the caldera and the beauty there. She goes so far as to pick up the yellow and set it to the paper, but it isn’t quite right.

None of her mediums capture the glow of Bridget’s hair.

#

Winter means no soccer, and that, Bridget thinks, sucks.

But it also means more time in the weight room, and getting cozy with Eric in her bed. They pile blankets on top, and watch movies, spooning together. His breath is hot on her cheek when he kisses her, and she turns into him, puts her mouth on his.

It’s nice, being with him, the way their bodies work together.

Still, she can’t sleep until she extracts herself a bit, puts space between them.

Spring

Lena sneezes four times in a row, sharp and hard. She’s painting outside, but the pollen is starting to get to her. She digs a tissue out of her pocket, swipes at her nose quickly. She’s almost got the shadows right, but not quite. It’s hard, and she’d rather have a human model.

“Bless you,” Bridget says, and laughs, and startles her. Lena whirls so fast she knocks over part of her equipment, sends brushes and pencils clattering onto the sidewalk. Bridget kneels and helps her pick them up.

Her hair is loose and smells sweet. The breeze stirs it, and Lena finds herself entranced. She wants to slip her hands into it, twirl strands around her fingers. She wants to paint Bridget, just as she is, half in sun and half in shadow, looking up at her, her eyes wide and full of emotion.

“How did you find me?” Lena asks, shaken by her thoughts.

She laughs again, tilts back her head, and the way the light hits her throat is a thing of beauty. “I followed the sneezing,” she teases, and bumps her arm against Lena’s, then sits down, nearly at her feet. “Go on, let me see the great artist at work.”

But Lena feels the pressure of performance and instead sets down her brush. She folds her hands together in her lap and watches Bridget watch the painting, and the other students walking past them, and then she watches Bridget watch her.

Bridget puts her hands over Lena’s, strokes her fingers.

“I’m hungry,” she says. “Lunch?”

Lena can’t help smiling back at her. There’s something so eager about Bridget, so much energy tempered to fit within her skin.

It’s not until later, when they’re eating, and sharing stories, and Lena stresses over the portfolio due at the end of the semester, that Bridget tells her, “Oh, yeah. I broke up with Eric.”

Something blooms in Lena’s chest, something light and warm, and bubbles over into her smile.

#

Carmen sends everyone care packages for the end of the semester, packed full of their favorite treats, and sweet little notes, and a playbill from her final show. Also the picture of the four of them together backstage after it, their arms wrapped around each other, their faces pressed together, their grins so bright and wide.

#

After she finishes the semester, Tibby and Brian lock themselves in her room. Lena, Carmen, and Bridget know better than to call, and Tibby’s family doesn’t expect her for days. They talk a lot, and Brian lets Tibby mock his favorite movies, and they fall asleep twisted together, still murmuring all the words they want the other to hear, all the things they need to know.

Summer

Carmen works at a theater camp for kids, helping them put on a big end of season show, and two smaller ones, and her emails turn to phone calls and letters. She’s happy, and when one of the other counselors flirts with her, curls her hair around his fingers, sits up with her all night talking, she is giddy when she tells her friends about it, and allows herself to feel confident, allows herself to flirt back, and kiss him at the mid-season show strike party.

His name is Dave, and he laughs a lot, and he makes her smile.

Bridget writes back and tells her to go for it. She waits for Lena to caution her not to go too fast, but Lena’s letter says the same thing, and Carmen is struck by the changes, and the hope.

She wonders if Lena has fallen in love, but can get nothing out of her over the phone.

At the end of the summer, then, they will meet face to face and she will know.

#

On the anniversary of Bailey’s death, Tibby and Brian watch the Bailey movie and then sit up all night, watching the stars. They are making sure the world hasn’t ended, the sun will rise. They whisper, tell each other – remind each other – of all the good things in life, all the things for which they should be thankful, and are.

The sun touches the edge of the sky, a hint of a new day. Tibby tucks her head against Brian’s shoulder, and listens to the way their breathing twists together, not quite the same, but close enough.

#

Bridget sinks into the pool like a golden stone. Lena watches as she dives, her body arching, bending, and then sliding easily into the water. She disappears for a minute, and then pops up next to where Lena’s floating.

She puts her hands on Lena’s stomach, and Lena knows, she knows, what is coming next.

It is as simple as breathing, to watch as Bridget comes for her, shifts the water as she moves to Lena’s head, and then bends, putting their mouths together. There’s the bitter taste of chlorine, but it blossoms into something sweet, something purely Bridget.

After, they swim, and then share a lawn chair, their towels wrapped around them, shoulders pressed together, Bridget’s hair dripping everywhere.

Lena takes Bridget’s hand and holds it. Their fingers are pruney, wrinkled from the water, but it’s a sweet touch, comfortable, and Lena is happy.

End


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