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They sat in silence for a while. Neither of them knowing what to say, where to look. How to feel. It was all so new. New and different and not something they were generally used to. It was time for 'the talk'. They had put it off long enough and now was the time. Do it, or lose her. That one thought was running though both of their minds simutaniously.
"I love you." Laurel stated simply.
"Why?" Ash looked at her with imploring eyes.
Laurel shook her head. "Ugh, why not?" She rose to walk away. This just wasn't going to work. Not now.
Ash grabbed her by the arm. "Come back here."
They sat in silence again for a few moments. Laurel looked over at her. "I'm here. I love you, just because."
Ash shook her head. That wasn't good enough. "But why?"
"Because of who you are and what you've meant to me."
"Who is that?"
Laurel sighed. She knew this was going to be a long conversation. "Someone who's taken up residence in an important place in my life."
"And that is?" Ash persisted.
"That is what? Do you doubt me?"
Ash shook her head. "No, I just want to know."
Laurel sighed. She screwed up some courage and figured it was now or never. "You really want an honest answer?"
Ash nodded. "Yes, of course. Why would I want you to lie to me?"
"See, it's not that you love me, it's that you mean it when you say it and you say it without trepdation or fear and you believe in me. You make me want to be a better person."
"That's a place?" Ash smirked.
Laurel continued despite the attempt at humor. She had to get this out. Had to say it all. "You make me want to believe in me. Cause I don't sometimes, you know, believe in myself." She shrugged. "Most times actually. And that's as honest as it gets."
Ash thought this over for a bit. If she was going to get anywhere, she'd have to persist. "So, what am I to you?"
Laurel blinked. "What kind of a question is that?"
"It's just. . .you make me feel like I'm the only good thing in your life, and I know that's not true."
"I don't know, Ash. I mean, I wish I knew sometimes. I wish it was a definable thing, ya know? But it's not really and maybe that's not so bad."
"I guess I want you to define this, us." She gestured with her hands. "You know, put a title on it."
Laurel looked at her seriously. "What kind of title would you put on it? Come on, take a stab at it."
Ash's head dropped. This was so hard. Why did something that brought her so much joy have to be so goddamn hard? "I don't know." She finally whispered. "I don't know and I feel bad because of that. Because I feel like you deserve so much more."
"That's fair." Laurel nodded. "So then what do you want it to be defined as?"
"I don't know, Lau. I kinda wanted you to do it."
Laurel smiled. "It's a two way street, hon."
"I know." Ash smirked. "Friends? Really good friends? Sometimes I feel like I'm married to you."
"Do you feel like that's a bad thing? Or wrong? Or like, not how it's supposed to be? Cause you know, I'll back off. I'll back off and give you room. If it's too intense." Laurel took to studying her sneakers. "I mean, if that's what you want. If this is too much then,"
"No. Seriously, Laurel." Ash placed her hand on the other girls arm. "Look at me." It took a moment or two, but Laurel finally lifted her head and regarded the girl next to her. "I don't want that. Ever. I just want to define it. I want to understand what it is."
Laurel nodded her head. "I get that, I really do but, I don't know. Perhaps I'm adding to your confusion or giving you unnecessary worries and I don't want that. You know? I mean, ugh, I dunno. Maybe backing off might be a good idea right about now."
"No, you don't add to it, to the confusion I mean. You add to the happy, the good, the amazing. Lau, please. We go through this every time. I so don't want you to back off." To emphasis the point, she reached over with an unsure hand and lifted Laurel's chin so their eyes could meet. "I don't want you to back off." She whispered. "I just want to know what I am to you. What I mean." Laurel dropped her head even lower. Ash paniced. "Please, please don't give up on me, on what we've built so far. Please."
Finally Laurel whispered in a small voice. "What am I to you?" She had to know. She had to push the other girl to say the words because she feared that she was the only one. . .the only one out of the the two of them who felt so strongly for the other.
Ash screwed up her courage. "Laurel, don't you know by now?" She smiled despite the tension that hung palpable in the air. "You're my friend, my confidant, and my ally. You're my mentor, my teacher and my psychotherapist." She reached over tentativly and took Laurel's hand in her own. "You're my own personal drama queen, my buddy, my Laurel and my partner in crime."
Laurel tried to supress a chuckle but was a bit unsuccessful. "You're drama queen?"
Ash smiled and continued. "You're my fellow mishchief maker, my yoda even."
"Now I wouldn't go that far. I'm not three feet tall with hair growing out of my ears." Laurel smirked.
Ash's grin faded a bit. "Hey, I was being sincere."
"I know, and I'm sorry. I don't want you to feel like you have to say these things. I want you to because you want to. Know what I mean? What ever we are to each other, it's special and different and, we'll be okay. I mean, I don't want to go anywhere. I'd like to stick around as long as you'll have me. And the hard stuff? Well, we'll get through it as long as we keep talking and being honest."
Ash nodded her head and smiled at the girl next to her. The girl that had suddenly come to mean so much to her as of late. "Can you define us now?"
"I don't know." Laurel frowned.
"Lau, come on. You can't get out of it that easily you know. I just spilled my guts, now it's your turn."
"That's fair. I guess." She smirked and turned to face Ash. "I guess I can't really. You're undefinable, but that's not such a bad thing though I have to agree that I do feel like I'm married to you sometimes. When I do something wrong I feel like. . .like you're gonna make me spend the night on the couch or something." She laughed, then continued. "You're just, you. You're my friend, my sounding board my comic relief, my outlet. And you're my teacher in so many ways, too. You make me look at me differently and that's a really hard thing to do with such a stubborn ass like myself." Laurel shrugged. "Serously though, you're someone that I've grown to love very much in a short period of time which can be scary, but good in a way."
"I scare you?" Ash furrowed her brow.
"No, no. It's a good scared. I mean how I feel – it scares me sometimes. It's sort of like, wow, can I really be sincere about this in such a short period of time? And the answer is a resounding yes. And that scares me because I'm generally a very difficult person to get to open up and I have a really hard time trusting people."
"Well, do you ever have trouble opening up to me?"
"Yes, but not for the reasons you may think. It's not because of you, it's because of me and my trust issues, because I've been screwed over so many times and I just keep putting myself in the same position to get get screwed over in the same way."
"How so? I mean, you're not attracted to me. You're not in love with me. I mean, right? You're not, are you?" There was a trepitation there in her voice that scared her. She wondered silently if she was pleading secretly that it was true.
"See, I know you're not the same as everyone else that's screwed me over, but our situation is interesting to say the least. Love or attraction or whatever, it doesn't matter. I'm still wide open to get hurt, and it doesn't hav to be you. I could potentially hurt myself just by – feeling. Allowing myself to feel."
"So is it worth it? I mean, in the end, is the risk worth the outcome?"
"See, everyone's attracted to everyone in one way or another. It doesn't have to be sexual, it can be totally different and mean twice as much because it's substantial." Laurel smiled. "Is it worth the rist to continue to be friends with you? Totally. Everything I've been through tells me not to open myself up to get hurt again. But the one thing that keeps me from running is that I believe you won't hurt me or treat me badly. And I'm beginning to believe that more each day. You're just – special – there's really no other way to put it." She paused for a moment. "Hey, was this really bothering you?"
Ash shrugged. "Sort of, yeah. I mean, I guess I just wanted to know how much you liked me."
Laurel regarded her cautiously. "Were you worried that I felt more than, um, friendship?"
"No, not really." She paused a beat. "Well, sort of. I mean," Ash shook her head. This was starting to come out all wrong.
Laurel sighed. "Everything I've said. All of it can be dealt with, and overcome except," She looked at Ash seriously for a moment. "Except for the fact that you're probably straight and always will be. That's one thing that's unchangeable. No matter how much I love you." Laurel waited a few moments then began to get up. "Look, I should go. It's getting late and,"
"Wait." Ash stood up in front of her. "You know, how straight can I be?" She shrugged. "I'm just sayin."
"I guess the only person who can answer that question is you. You're the only one who knows what's in your heart. And sometimes when asked that question, people don't like the answer. Especially when it comes from within themselves."
Ash nodded. "I get that." She sighed. "Does that mean? I mean, do you, um?"
"I can't control who I love anymore than I can control the tides. I love who I love, sometimes with question, sometimes without. But I can't stop myself because that's the worst think you can do – deny how you feel. It's not being true to yourself or anyone else."
"You're saying that like you love me. Like you love love me." Ash looked up at her.
Laurel knew she had fear written across her face. "Ash, I. . ." She knew that what she said now could be the start, or end, of everything. "Am I in love with you? Is that what you're asking?"
"Nevermind, I'm being dumb." She turn away from Laurel suddenly feeling incredibly small. "I mean, how could you be in love with me? That's just. . .I feel really stupid now."
"Ash, no. You shouldn't feel dumb. Am I in love with you? No, I'm not. Do I feel like I love you too deeply? Yes. It's confusing sometimes, the way I feel for you." Laurel placed her hand on the other girls shoulder and slowly turned her around so they were facing each other again. She lifted her hand and caught Ash's chin within her fingers and lifted it up so that they were eye to eye. She stroked her cheek softly and Ash closed her eyes, glad finally for the physical contact. "I could fall in love with you." Laurel whispered. "You'd be so easy to fall in love with." She smiled. "So yeah, sometimes I wonder. You're not that far off base."
As Laurel's hand began to fall away, Ash grabbed it and held it to her cheek. She closed her eyes and smiled bringing Laurel's hand to her mouth and kissing it softly. "I wonder too sometimes. I wonder what it would be like, if I'd be able to. . .I mean, if I was capable of," She shrugged at a loss for words. "Sorry. Me and my big mouth. Maybe I'm the one who should be going now." Her inability to move from the spot she was frozen in betrayed her words.
"I understand." Laurel smiled. "And you don't have a big mouth. We needed to talk about this, you know that."
"Lau?" Ash looked up at her as if suddenly seeing her for the first time.
"I want to kiss you." She blushed a deep crimson as the words she couldn't believe she was saying suddenly escaped her lips and fell on the ears of a girl she felt so much for. So much, that there weren't enough words.
Laurel's eyes went wide. "I'm, wow." She let out the breath she wasn't aware she'd been holding. "Well, at least I know it's not just me then." She smiled impishly hoping to ease the palpable tension with an injection of humor.
"I have the courage to say that now." Ash shrugged, still holding Laurel's hand to her cheek. "I didn't before."
"Were you waiting to see if I felt the same way?"
"No, I knew you wanted to, I just, I dunno. I just feel okay to say it now I guess."
"There's no need to do anything, you know? I just want you to be you." Laurel stroked her cheek lightly. "Without fear. And I know you knew it but, it's not like it's this big looming importance now that changes anything. I know two things for a fact. I love you and It feels good to say and feel that. Everything else will come in time. All the other answers I mean."
Ash nodded in agreement. "Yeah. Time. We have plenty of time." She closed her eyes and enjoyed the closeness of the moment.
Laurel slowly moved closer to her. She smiled slightly when Ash didn't move at all when the space between them decreased significantly. She cradled Ash's face in the palm of her hand just a breath away. "Hey,"
Ash opened her eyes slightly and her heart leapt when she saw just how close Laurel was. "Hmm?"
"I love you." She whispered. "So much."
Ash leaned in a bit and pressed her forhead against Laurels. "Never stop saying that to me." She raised her eyes slightly to meet the ones just inches away. "Promise?"
Laurel nodded almost imperceptivly. "Promise."