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Author's Chapter Notes:
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Ann Brashares.
Dedication: Written for present_pathos in the femslash_today Sadie Hawkins Dance ficathon.
Spoilers: Vague spoilers for book one and book two.
Setting: The summer before university.
Lena knew very little about love.

She did know it hurt, and that it lingered when she tried to purge it. She did not know how she fell in love, which was probably part of the reason she was so unable to get rid of it. She knew it was like a drug, it filled her body, glided through her veins, and corroded her brain until she could think of little else.

Lena knew very little about love, but she knew how to love the Septembers, who were closer to her than her parents, than her sister, than her own self. She couldn’t tell where they ended and she began, and the older she became, the more like them she grew.

That was why she wasn’t surprised to find herself holding a long stick over her head. It had a microphone attached to the end, and Tibby called it a fishpole. Though it didn’t weigh much, it took just a few minutes before her arms started to hurt. The pain spread quickly, and soon she was shaking. She bent her elbows a little to try to ease the cramp, and dropped the mic too low, into the shot.

“Cut,” Tibby cried, and Carmen pushed buttons on the camera, things Tibby taught her weeks ago before they started the project. “Lena, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just…,” Lena lowered the mic and rubbed one bicep and then the other. “Sorry about that, my arms cramped.”

Tibby nodded. “We’ve been working awhile,” she said. “Take a break.”

“Sure, boss.” Bridget flashed a snappy salute, and collapsed onto the ground. “Thanks for not working us until we passed out. Wait—” she pinched her arm “—I don’t feel anything, maybe you did!”

Lena laughed, set down the pole, and wandered over to the steps. The sun was warm and bright, and they had been standing around in it for hours. There was more shade next to the house, and it was a welcome relief to sit down and relax.

The glass of water Carmen brought her was even more welcome. She handed another one to Tibby, and then sat down on the grass next to Bee, the last two glasses balanced on her knees awkwardly, each hand curved around one.

“You sound good, Bee,” Carmen said.

“She does,” Tibby agreed, and then walked over to Lena. This put the sun at her back, and Lena had to shade her eyes when she looked up at her. “Are you sure you don’t want a turn?”

“I’m sure,” Lena said. She was absolutely positive she didn’t want to be in front of the camera, which was why she spent so much time straining her arms so she, too, could be of some help.

Tibby was making a film about love.

When she told them her plan, Lena had stared at her, too surprised to keep it off her face. The other two had looked the same, and Tibby had smiled as she hurried to assure them she didn’t mean sappy, romantic love, she meant found love.

Lena thought about that while Tibby ended their break and they got back to work. Somehow Tibby had convinced Bridget to talk about her family, not her mother, who remained the invisible elephant in any room Bridget entered, but her grandmother, her brother, and even, a little, her father.

Found love, Tibby explained, was the love you found when you weren’t looking for it, the love which hid in corners, skulked down the street, bashed you over the head when you tried to ignore it. It was the love you had when your family didn’t give you what you needed, or—she looked around at them when she added the or—when they did, but it wasn’t enough.

Tibby wanted people to talk about their families, their friends, their passions. Love wasn’t just about a man and a woman, or even a person and a person, people loved things and places just as much as other people.

So far they had collected hours of footage and the whole thing was sweet, sad—even a little melancholy—and far less cynical than what Lena still expected from a Tibby production.

That was Bailey in Tibby, and Lena felt strange things whenever she thought about it. She thought she might even be jealous, except there was no way to truly be jealous of one of the others. She could wish she was more like them, she could want their time to go to the group instead of outsiders, but she could not be jealous, not when they shared so much.

Bailey was Tibby’s alone.

That was why Lena felt strange when she thought of her, because no matter how much Tibby told them, or how many times they mourned with her, Bailey belonged to Tibby, who had no one with whom she could fully share the memories, the emotions.

Tibby knew about love. She didn’t understand it, necessarily, and maybe that was why she wanted to do a documentary on the subject, to parse it down to its skeletal frame, to strip away the flesh until she could see meaning, but she knew about love.


“I think I’m almost done,” Tibby said. She sat hunched over her computer, her face bathed in different colors as she watched the film they had shot that day. Lena lay on her bed, hands folded neatly together beneath her chin, and allowed herself the luxury of staring.

She schooled her actions around Carmen and Bridget. She was not worried worried about their reactions, but she liked having a secret, liked the way thoughts of Tibby made her feel warm, and the way she could cherish the memory of it, and almost recreate it with her own private mind.

“Is it cutting together well?” Lena asked, not because she was interested in the filmmaking process but because Tibby was, and anything important to Tibby was something Lena would try to understand.

“Yeah.” Tibby stuck a pen in the corner of her mouth and chewed on it.

Very suave, Lena thought, and laughed to herself. Tibby didn’t even need the pen, she hadn’t made any notes in over a week, she just cropped and cut and moved scenes around and played various songs in the background, looking to build the soundtrack.

Lena rolled onto her back and looked up at the ceiling, but she didn’t really see it. She was exhausted, she had been up early for work and then went straight to Bridget’s after to help film. Her arms still throbbed, and she wanted a nap, but not as much as she wanted to be with Tibby.

As if summoned, Tibby’s face filled her vision.

“I need a break,” she said, and crawled into bed right next to Lena. “You don’t mind, do you?”

There was nothing to say to that, really. Lena scooted over and stretched out an arm, even though the movement made her bicep ache worse. Tibby lay down, put her head on Lena’s shoulder, and slid her arm across Lena’s stomach.

That was unusual, even for Tibby. Out of all of them, she was the least physical. Even Lena, who feared love in ways she still did not understand, would cuddle, and hug, and reach out when she thought she was needed.

“There’s a lot of love in the world,” Lena said absentmindedly, and stroked Tibby’s hair. “I didn’t think you’d find so much.”

“I knew I would.” Tibby turned her head into Lena’s neck and snuggled closer. She slipped one hand under her shirt, but then the movement stilled and she went no further. “It’s not always good, it hurts a lot, but I knew it was there.”

“You’re very optimistic all of a sudden.” What Lena didn’t say was, considering the summer is almost over. What Lena didn’t say was, can you teach me to be optimistic too. What Lena didn’t say was, did I do this to you, or is it all Bailey.

“I like to call it open-minded. I don’t think everything I believed before is true.” Tibby laughed, and Lena could feel the vibration of it roll down her body, the heat of her breath warm her skin. “Most things, but not everything.”

“You’re very weird, Tibs.”

“Maybe.” Tibby was silent for a moment, probably thinking about which parts would be weird, possibly thinking about whether she was so strange compared to Bee, or Carmen, or Lena herself. She could have even been thinking about Bailey. At last she continued. “Probably. You love me anyway.”

“Maybe,” Lena echoed. “Probably that’s why I love you, not in spite of it.”

Tibby shrugged and Lena could feel the movement as if her shoulders rose and fell too.

After awhile, Tibby got up and stood next to the edge of the bed. She watched Lena for awhile, the light behind her and Lena couldn’t see her face. When Tibby bent down, Lena pushed herself up on her elbows. The pain in her arms was almost gone, and then she forgot about it when Tibby kissed her, tiny little kisses across her mouth and then Tibby’s teeth scraped her lower lip, tugged.

“Come see what I’ve done,” Tibby said, and took Lena’s hand. She led her to the computer, and they sat down in the chair together, Lena first, and then Tibby, who was so light and compact it was a little like trying to hold warm air.

There was a lot of love in Tibby’s footage, in Tibby’s world. Lena was pleased to be a part of it.


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