It was something of a shame that I wasn't able to spend my actual birthday with my girlfriend.

I mean, I'd made plans to go home to see my parents on my birthday (it'd fallen on a weekend this year) months ago. They'd half-guilted me into it in the first place, since they didn't see me very often throughout the school year, or else I'd've asked to postpone it. But I felt bad doing that, even if I would much rather spend it wrapped up in Rachel's arms than with my parents.

Rachel seemed a little disappointed when I first told her that I couldn't spend my actual birthday with her, but when I explained why, she couldn't help but laugh. "Naw, don't worry about it," she'd said between snickers, "I understand. Go chill with the 'rents, it'll be fine." She reaffirmed before the conversation was over that we would still have a little private celebration at her house when I got back to Valdosta.

"Just make sure our celebration stays between us," Rachel had added with a sly little half-grin. I wasn't sure what entirely her idea of a celebration entailed, but the look on her face coupled with the husky voice she'd used was enough to bring a blush to my face. I assured her that I wouldn't say a word.

I was woken Saturday morning with a Snapchat from Rachel that read "Happy birthday NERD" over a bottle of cake-flavored vodka in her kitchen, and an already-growing list of Facebook notifications. A follow-up Snap informed me that she would be drinking it throughout the day in my honor. The joking messages from Rachel were enough to put a little smile on my face. She was ridiculous.

I'd done most of my packing for this weekend the night before, as my parents had asked that I arrive home in time for us to go out for a nice birthday lunch together. I'd have to get out the door fairly early to get home in time, even if most of the trip was just on I-75.

By the time I got out the door, Rachel had sent me another picture, this time of a line of mismatched shot glasses, with a simple caption of "hell yea." I texted her to ask if her plans for the day just entailed getting progressively more drunk. She sent yet another photo of a large stack of tall cans labeled "Surge." "Nah," she texted back, "I'm staying mostly sober. BUT... I might get kinda buzzed for Reasons."

I shook my head. Ridiculous. I let her know that I was driving now and wouldn't be able to answer further texts for a couple hours. She sent me an OK emoticon, and informed me that she'd spend it getting her buzz on.

The drive passed fairly quietly, with only the radio and the occasional buzz of a new incoming text message to keep me company. That was fine by me; it gave me plenty of free time to think about how I wanted to spend my secondary birthday celebration with Rachel. Hopefully she didn't mean it when she joked that she was going to take me out bar-hopping for my twenty-first. I wanted something a little more... personal, I supposed. Maybe more intimate.

Heat crept back into my face as I considered that turn of phrase. Judging from the way she'd talked around the subject, I suspected that I wasn't far off the mark in what she had planned.

I wasn't entirely sure of my thoughts on that. On the one hand, I'd never had a bad... encounter with her. On the other, I wasn't entirely sure if it'd been an appropriate length of time yet to where it was no longer "moving too quickly," as we'd agreed to try to avoid.

And third, I wasn't sure that I cared much about moving quickly anymore anyway. We were both grown-ass women now, with fewer hormones running rampant and pretty far removed from the suffocating homophobia from our small hometown. So maybe it didn't even matter anymore. Maybe things would turn out just fine whether or not we moved fast or slow.

A little smile played at my lips as I pulled into my parents' driveway. Maybe I was willing to take that risk after all.

I put the car in park and shut it off before reaching for my phone. I spared a quick glance up at the house to make sure my parents weren't about to come out to greet me at my car before opening the messenger app.

The first several were roughly as expected—a play-by-play of Rachel emptying the shot glasses before cracking open a can of Surge and guzzling that down as well. Then there was a space of about an hour where she didn't sent anything else, before a simple one-word message of "Hey."

"Hey," I sent back. "I'm here now."

The typing icon came up for a moment, then disappeared. Then it popped up again and I got a reply of "Are your rents around?" I told her no. Then, "Do u want to see a preview of ur birthday present?" followed by a series of emoticons in sunglasses. I raised a brow.

I asked why she asked about my parents first, and she replied simply with "NSFW."

If I wasn't intrigued before, I sure was now. I typed out my reply, hesitated with my thumb over "send" for a long moment, and then tapped it before I could change my mind.


Though the reply turned up "read" almost instantly, it was nearly three minutes before my phone lit up again, this time with a Snapchat notification.

I tapped the icon. My mouth immediately went dry.

The first thing I noticed was that she had a lot more tattoos on her torso than I'd realized. I caught sight of an anatomical heart burning amidst stylized flames on her sternum, and a black tribal-styled cobra that wove up her side before disappearing under the fabric of her bra. That was the second thing I noticed—this would be the first time I'd ever seen her in lace anything, particularly in that royal blue that complimented her soft skin.

The photo only showed on my screen for five seconds before vanishing. I wasn't sure I even breathed. I felt too warm for my cardigan.

It gave me the option to view it a second time (only once per day) so I did. I took a screen capture that time, though I knew it would send her a notification—and if she was anything like me, she was probably waiting nervously for some sort of reaction. A screenshot would likely stroke her ego.

A text message from her confirmed that. She just sent me a line of grinning devil emoticons.

I put the phone face-down in my lap and let my head fall back against the headrest of my car. My blood pounded hard in my ears. For a moment, my mind was blank but for that image of my girlfriend smirking at me from miles away dressed in little more than lingerie and a leather jacket. Then, all at once, I reached a conclusion.

Fuck going slow.

A/N: BLOWS DUST OFF KEYBOARD hi guys who remembers This Thing (show of hands, who had to go back and reread the last chapter) (i did too no worries) anyway hello i have new links on my profile now to my brand new author site and also my patreon! check both those things out if you like my words and want to see more words!