Despite Alex’s protests, Steph didn’t allow Alex to help her. Not with this particular part at least. She climbed back onto the ladder, grabbing yet another storage box from the crawl space and lowered herself carefully down the ladder once more. After she placed the storage box on the table to the left, she ascended one last time.
“There,” Steph said with a grunt as she placed the last, smaller box onto the table. “That’s all of it.” When she looked at Alex, she could swear her heart had truly melted. The expression on her girlfriend’s face was one that made Steph emotional, her heart swelling as she admired Alex. The pure amazement and unadulterated excitement in her eyes was infectious, causing warmth to spread throughout Steph’s chest.
“You’ve never been able to celebrate Pride?” Steph looked at Alex with pity, she felt bad that Alex hadn’t experienced any Pride event before. Although it was understandable, Steph still felt like that had to be changed. This offered her the opportunity to introduce Alex to her first Pride parade, which was definitely exciting.
Alex shook her head, “No, I hoped to go last year… But Dr. Lynn advised against it and so I didn’t get to go in the end.” She stared at her shoes as she nervously rubbed her arm, she didn’t need to look up to know Steph felt sorry for her.
“That really sucks… I’m sorry, babe…”
“It’s fine, it’s—”
“Hey, Alex,” Steph interrupted as she gently took hold of Alex’s chin, “it’s not fine and that’s okay.”
Alex wasn’t quite sure what to do with the emotion she sensed on Steph, but before she could dwell on it any longer Steph’s emotion shifted. It caused Alex to look up, though not quite meeting Steph’s eyes.
“If you’re okay with it, I’d love to take you to your first Pride event.” Steph brought Alex’s face closer and pressed her lips against her girlfriend’s forehead. “I’d love to go to a Pride event together.”
A small smile formed on Alex’s lips as her eyes became glassy, the fact that she’d get to go to her first Pride event with her girlfriend was just incredible. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but she was convinced that it would be an amazing experience no matter what. Especially because she’d be with Steph.
“I’d really love that,” she whispered as she let her hands settle on Steph’s lower back.
Steph wrapped her arms a little tighter around Alex’s shoulders, pressing her close as she hugged her girlfriend. “I can’t wait, you’re gonna love it.” She kissed the crown of Alex’s head, then rested her cheek against it as they stood there, embracing each other lovingly.
“Wow…” Alex whispered with amazement as she looked at all the Pride stuff in front of her, “that’s a lot.” She shot Steph a glance, her lips spread into a bright smile. “I love it!”
“I was hoping you’d say that,” Steph replied with a triumphant grin, “you even get to help me with putting it throughout the store.”
Alex looked at the boxes of things, then back at Steph. “Do they have specific places where they should go?”
“Wherever you feel like, up to us.” Steph carefully took out the Pride letters that Izzie had given her and for a moment her smile faltered as memories flooded her mind. Every now and then she’d text with Izzie, it was nice that they could just talk normally again. She still felt kind of bad about how things had ended, but they had talked about it, giving them both closure.
“Steph?” Alex asked, somewhat worried. She put her hand on Steph’s shoulder, unintentionally startling her. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to—are you okay?”
With a small smile Steph turned to face Alex and nodded as she let out a breath. “Yeah, I’m okay. Just some memories resurfacing.” She carried the sign over to the table by the window of the booth and carefully set it down, making sure it was sturdy on the surface. “There, what do you think?”
Alex inspected the sign and nodded with a satisfied grin, “Perfect.”
Almost everything was put down and hung up when a song came on that Steph just couldn’t ignore. She wore a bright smile as she made her way over to Alex, took her hand and spun Alex around. When Alex gave her a slightly confused questioning look, Steph cocked a brow with a smirk. Alex grinned at her in return and nodded, accepting the invitation wordlessly.
They danced through the store, not caring that neither of them really knew how to dance. The fact that anyone could just walk into the store was completely lost on them, like they were in their own little bubble.
“ I asked her what her favorite color lipstick is.
She said, “Anything you put on yourself, miss”
I don’t mind a bit of lipstick smear.
We can test how well it stays if you come on over here.”
The lyrics had not been lost on her, Alex narrowed her eyes as she looked at Steph with a grin. “Is this a subtle hint for me to wear lipstick?”
Alex’s question caused Steph’s brain to imagine Alex with crimson lipstick, which made her eyes go wide and caused her heart to skip. Steph nearly tripped, but was caught by Alex. “I, uh…” There was absolutely no doubt that her cheeks had taken on a deep pink hue as her mind kept showing her images of Alex with lipstick on.
“So that’s a very clear ‘yes’,” Alex said with a chuckle as she brought Steph closer. “I’ll have to make sure to get some, then…” She bit her lip in order to hold back her laughter as she saw Steph’s cheeks getting more and more flustered. It reminded her of the way Steph had looked after her marriage proposal during the LARP with Ethan, melting her heart. “Would you enjoy that, Steph?” she whispered teasingly. Steph merely nodded, unable to form words. “Imagine all the marks and lipstick stains I could leave on you…”
It took Steph a lot of effort to swallow the lump in her throat and get her brain to not stop functioning altogether. As she was still unable to properly form words, Steph resorted to simply nodding in response. When she saw Alex slowly lick her lips, Steph wondered if her heart would stop beating. Luckily, it kept beating, albeit at an extremely rapid pace.
“Anyway,” Alex said with a wicked grin as she stepped away from Steph, “so we just have to hang up these and then we should be done, right?” With a swift movement Alex scooped up the pride flags and held them up, avoiding them touching the floor.
It took way too long for Steph’s brain to do a one-eighty and process Alex’s question, when it finally did, Alex was already at the front door. “Y-yeah,” she stammered, shaking her head in a futile attempt to clear her mind.
“You alright over there?” Alex asked with a smug grin, placing her left hand on her hip as she watched her girlfriend being flustered.
“Yup!” Steph feigned a confident smile, “Peachy!” As expected, Alex did not look very convinced. “I just have a girlfriend who just loves to mess with my head.”
“Oh, really? Intriguing, how does she do that, hmm?”
“Well,” Steph said as she walked over to Alex, “she’s ridiculously attractive.” She looked Alex up and down with crossed arms, a grin tugging at her lips. “Unbelievably cute, very talented, incredibly caring…” Steph circled around Alex as she continued on: “She’s bold, but also really sweet. And she is funny, too. Not to mention sneaky, especially when she messes with my head. Because she knows exactly what she’s doing, even though she’ll act all innocent, she knows. Her smile makes my heart sing and the way she looks at me…” Their eyes met as Steph was once more right in front of Alex, the sunlight making Alex’s eyes seem almost golden. “Honestly makes me melt inside.”
Alex bit her lip as she felt her face get warm in response to Steph’s words, heart buzzing in her chest at the way Steph talked about her. “Sounds like quite the catch,” she whispered.
Steph nodded confirmingly, “She really is.” Steph reached out her hand and tenderly caressed Alex’s cheek, smiling when she saw Alex close her eyes at the contact. “Sometimes it’s still hard for me to believe she likes me back, but I’m really fucking grateful she does.” Her thumb softly brushed over Alex’s cheekbone, flutters going through her abdomen when Alex’s eyes opened again and looked into hers.
With the way Steph looked at her, Alex felt like she was glowing. She’d fallen so hard for Steph in a relatively short amount of time. And for once, she wasn’t sure how to respond or what to say. There were so many things about Steph that were absolutely amazing, but she wasn’t quite able to put them into words.
“Ditto,” she said, causing Steph’s expression to morph into one of confusion.
“Ditto. The same, likewise—”
“Damn it, Chen, you’re so fucking cute,” Steph chuckled as she pulled Alex closer and kissed her.
The flags in her hand fell and dropped onto the floor, but Alex paid them no mind. She kissed Steph back eagerly and allowed herself to get lost in the kiss, let her mind swim and just be in the moment. The tips of Steph’s hair brushed against her face due to the lack of a beanie, which Alex resolved by raking her hand through Steph’s hair; combing it back. Both of them smiled as they kissed, Alex didn’t need to open her eyes and see to know that Steph had a golden aura around her. She felt it so intensely that it seeped into her, the immense joy and happiness was still a bit foreign to her, but she’d decided a while ago that she could definitely get used to it.
With an approving smile Alex hit ‘post’ and watched her screen as the picture processed, after a few moments the page refreshed and showed her post on the MyBlock app. “Posted it!” She tapped the picture and smiled lovingly at seeing her and Steph sharing a kiss in the Pride-decorated record store. “Happy Pride month everyone!” the caption read.
“Looks great, babe!” Steph called from the back.
“Yeah, you do!” Alex snickered when a silence followed and she just knew Steph’s cheeks were flustered. “Especially on my face…”
“… What?” Alex looked up with widened eyes, as she hadn’t heard Steph walking in from the back.
“Oh, I was just saying the plant needs to be watered.”
“Babe.” Steph walked over to Alex and crossed her arms when she stopped right in front of her girlfriend. “I know for a fact that that’s not what you said…” She watched Alex’s cheeks taking on a pink hue and couldn’t help but smirk, it was such an adorable look on her.
“Okay, fine, ” Alex muttered and let out a sigh, “I said: especially on my face. ”
Steph bit her lip while closing her eyes for a moment, brows furrowing. “Damn, if only our shift was almost over…” She looked at Alex again and cursed internally.
“It’s something to look forward to?” Alex proffered, earning a smug grin from her girlfriend in response.
“I like the way you think, Chen.”
“Fuck!” Steph cursed as she looked out of the window and saw the rain. It wasn’t just raining, it was pouring. “You gotta be shitting me…” She let out a frustrated groan as she threw her head back, then let back fall onto the mattress again.
Alex’s sleepy voice was absolutely adorable and elicited an endearing giggle from Steph. “Morning, babe,” she whispered softly as she leaned over to press a kiss on Alex’s forehead. “Did you sleep well?” Steph gently caressed Alex’s hair, brushing some strands out of her face in the process.
With an appreciative sigh, Alex rubbed the remnants of sleep from her eyes and sat up a little bit. “Hmm, all things considered…” She thought for a moment before nodding, opening her mouth to speak but instead yawned.
Steph couldn’t help but chuckle, Alex was simply too cute in the morning, especially right after waking up. “Same.”
“Shut up,” Alex said and playfully kicked Steph’s leg underneath the covers, to which Steph stuck out her tongue. “Not too bad. Woke up a couple of times, but managed to fall asleep again fairly quickly every time.”
“That’s awesome, babe,” Steph replied and pressed her lips on Alex’s for a short kiss. “Just hope the weather clears…” She looked out of the window again and let out a deep sigh. “Pride’s just not the same when it pours like this…”
“Hey!” Alex said as she made herself sit up completely, shaking her head as she crossed her arms. “No, we’re not doing this.” When Steph looked at her with slightly widened eyes, Alex struggled a little to maintain her facial expression. “Rain or not, we’ll make it a great day. It’s my first Pride.”
As Alex went on, Steph’s lips curled up into a smile. She sat up as well and tenderly took Alex’s face with her hands and pulled her closer. “You’re right,” she said and let her lips meet Alex’s.
They made themselves breakfast, along with food to take with them. After all that was done they each took a quick shower and got dressed, although Alex was somewhat uncertain about what to wear. She’d tried on three different outfits when she let out a deep sigh.
“What’s wrong?” Steph asked when she came out of the bathroom and found Alex sitting on the floor with her head in her hands.
“What am I supposed to wear?”
“Oh Alex,” Steph said with a soft chuckle and kneeled down in front of her girlfriend. “I’ve been there, trust me, but honestly; just wear whatever you’re comfortable in.” Alex looked up at her with a look Steph couldn’t quite place.
“But what if I—” Alex let out another deep sigh before throwing her head back in frustration. “Can you…?” She looked at Steph hopefully, though her cheeks were flushed as she felt somewhat embarrassed. “Can you help me pick out an outfit?”
She blinked a few times at the question, a bit taken aback by Alex’s worry. Steph had never seen Alex like this before. Usually Alex came across as pretty confident. “Of course I will, babe. Anything you need.” She got up and looked at the clothes on the bed, scanning all the garments and the array of different colors.
“Thanks, Steph,” Alex muttered as she got up and hugged her girlfriend from behind, wrapping her arms around Steph’s waist. Flutters filled her chest when she felt Steph’s hands on top of her own, thumbs caressing hers.
Steph felt her heart warm when Alex hugged her from behind, cheek resting against the base of her neck. She rested her hands on top of Alex’s and soothingly rubbed her thumbs over those of her girlfriend, a loving smile on her lips. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, basking in the embrace. After what felt like several minutes, Steph opened her eyes again and was reminded of what she was doing, as she saw the clothes on the bed. Right, an outfit for Alex. Let’s see…
When she heard Alex call her name Steph put down her laptop and turned her head to look at Alex. She was grateful she’d put down her laptop safely onto the coffee table, as she was convinced it would’ve dropped otherwise. Her jaw dropped as she admired her girlfriend who was showing off her outfit, turning around to show Steph the entirety of it.
Alex wore light gray ankle-grazing jeans with checkered slip-on sneakers, a black tank top with a red flannel over it and her acid washed denim jacket was tied around her waist. But what caught Steph’s attention the most was the fact that Alex was wearing both a burgundy beanie and make-up, particularly the crimson lipstick was what caught her eye.
“I could see your cheeks from space, Steph,” Alex teased, pulling Steph out of the trance she’d been in. “So, you like it?” Alex rubbed her arm somewhat nervously as she waited for the verdict.
“Like it?” Steph got up and walked over to Alex, taking her hands into her own and pressing soft kisses onto Alex’s knuckles. “Dude… I love it, you look incredible!” She looked at Alex’s eyes and could now see more clearly that Alex had put on a bit of eye make-up, though minimal. A very thin line of eye-liner and mascara, as far as she could tell. Naturally Steph’s eyes lowered and focused on Alex’s dark red lips and subconsciously bit her lip, feeling the strong urge to kiss Alex, passionately.
Alex felt her cheeks flush as she noticed the way Steph looked at her, and at her lips in particular. Back at the beginning of the month when they’d danced in the record store while decorating it for Pride month, it had given Alex an idea.
“Oh, absolutely! I’ll be visiting this upcoming weekend, can I help you then?” Riley said. Alex smiled.
Riley had become a good friend, even though they mostly communicated through texts and the occasional phone call, as Riley had enrolled in university.
“Yeah, my shift on Saturday starts at one. So before that, if that works for you?” Alex grabbed a pen and a sticky note and scribbled down so she wouldn’t forget.
“Works for me, I’ll wait for you downstairs at the Black Lantern around ten.”
“Awesome, see you then. Thanks again, Riley.” Alex smiled and put the sticky note in her journal.
“No need to thank me, Alex. I’m looking forward to it, it’ll be nice to spend some time with you again. Oh, tell Eleanor I said ‘hi’ when you see her?”
“Of course, I will.”
“Okay, see you Saturday!”
It was a quarter to ten when Alex walked downstairs and found Riley already sitting in the booth next to the stairs with what looked like a mug filled with coffee in front of her.
“Good morning, Riley,” Alex greeted as she reached the table.
“Alex!” Riley got up and wrapped Alex into a hug, “You look great,” she said when she let go of Alex and took a good look at her. “You look really good.”
Alex fixed her glasses with a smile and sat down in the booth across from Riley. “Thanks, so do you. So how’s university been so far?”
They talked for a little while, catching up over coffee. Once they finished their drinks they got up and left the Black Lantern, heading onto Main Street.
Alex followed Riley into the drug store, greeted the employee at the register and followed Riley to the back of the store. She was pretty amazed with how much make-up there was, a few different brands, even. She was glad she’d asked Riley, because she had no clue what to look for.
“So, you know what color you’re looking for?” Riley asked and Alex froze. “You want me to pick one out for you?”
At that Alex nodded her head, relief washing over her. Riley nodded in confirmation and looked at one of the displays, finger hovering over the variety of colors.
“Hmm,” she mumbled, “I think this one might suit you.” Riley handed Alex a lipstick that was labeled ‘tester’ and instructed Alex to put it on the back of her hand.
Alex did as she was told and looked at the color, which was very … pink. She looked up at Riley and shook her head, “Sorry, but I’m not feeling it.”
“That’s okay, no worries. Let’s see…” Riley took the lipstick from Alex and returned it to its place while searching the others. “Oh, try this one.”
Again Alex took the lipstick from Riley and put it on the back of her hand, beside the pink one. This one was a dark red color, it wasn’t nearly as glossy as the pink one was. Alex turned her hand a little, inspecting the color closely. She was unable to suppress a grin as she thought of surprising Steph with it.
“I think we got a winner,” Riley said with a knowing look, “am I right?”
Alex nodded with a genuine smile, high fiving Riley’s held out hand. “You’re absolutely right, Riley. I like this one and I think Steph will too.”
“Oh, Alex. Don’t be modest,” Riley said with a smug grin, “she’s gonna be speechless.” Alex felt her cheeks getting warm and looked away in a futile attempt to hide her face. “Seriously, I’m pretty sure she’s gonna forget how to breathe.” Riley chuckled and handed Alex mascara and eyeliner, both labeled ‘jet black’.
“I’ll let you know,” Alex replied with a smug expression and took the make-up from Riley.
“Well,” Alex said with a grin, “you’ll have to thank Riley, she helped me pick it out.” Alex looked at Steph and suddenly realized something. “Wait… Is that…?”
“Huh? What?” Steph responded, somewhat confused.
Alex smirked as she inspected the black and gray flannel Steph was wearing, recognizing it all too well. “You’re wearing one of my flannels, aren’t you?” By the way Steph’s cheeks took on a deep pink hue, Alex knew the answer before Steph even opened her mouth. “It looks good on you, babe.” She got up on her toes and pressed her lips against Steph’s, who all but willingly kissed her back.
“Bet it looks even better on the floor.” Alex looked at Steph for a second before she started laughing. “What?” Steph then asked, visibly confused why it was this amusing to Alex.
“You’re so ridiculous, I love it.” Alex kissed Steph again, then winked as she turned away from her girlfriend. “We should get going, though.”
“Right, yeah. Uh, you got everything you need?”
Alex looked around and checked her bag to make sure she wasn’t forgetting anything, she’d packed an extra set of clothes, toiletries and her journal. She put the food they’d prepared earlier in her bag as well, along with her water bottle. She put her headphones around her neck and her phone in her pocket. When she was looking for her phone charger she noticed Steph standing beside her with a held out hand.
“Here,” Steph said, handing Alex the phone charger she was looking for.
“Thanks,” Alex replied and took the charger from Steph, tossing it into her bag. “Looks like I’m all set. You?” Steph nodded in confirmation. “Let’s get going then.”
With their bags tossed in the back, radio turned on and seatbelts fastened they took off. It wasn’t long before they were out of Haven Springs and on the state highway that would lead them to Denver. It was still really early, so luckily the traffic was light.
When Steph shot Alex a quick glance, Alex smiled and slid her hand under Steph’s thigh. She was unable to suppress a big yawn, despite the coffee she’d had earlier she was still feeling rather sleepy. Apparently her attempt to hide the yawn had been in vain, as Steph chuckled as she shot her a knowing look.
“You know it’s totally okay if you get some more sleep, right?” Steph said, not taking her eyes off the road ahead.
With a shrug Alex let out a sigh, “I’d feel bad, though. I wanna spend time with you,” she replied.
“You will, babe. You’ll just be asleep.”
“Okay, smartass,” Alex shot with a snort. “I wanna spend time with you while being awake. ”
“Babe,” Steph said lovingly, placing the palm of her right hand against Alex’s cheek, her eyes still on the road. “We’ll have all day, and tomorrow too.” She gently rubbed her thumb over the skin besides Alex’s eye, making sure not to disturb Alex’s glasses. “I promise you, it’s okay. I’ll wake you up when I stop to fill up the truck, which will be when we’re about halfway. Does that sound good?”
Alex knew Steph had a point and thought about it for a few moments. With a playful eyeroll Alex gave in and nodded, “Okay, just for a little bit.”
Steph pulled her hand back, only to grab Alex’s and press kisses onto Alex’s knuckles. “Sleep well, cutie.” When Alex stuck out her tongue, Steph responded in kind. “Don’t forget about your glasses.”
“Thanks.” Alex took off her glasses and put them in the breast pocket of her flannel, stifled a yawn and leaned back her head. With her right hand she reached down and blindly found the lever and pulled it up, causing the back of the car seat to lower backwards a bit. With a playful wink at Steph when she looked at her, Alex closed her eyes and allowed herself to doze off.
As Alex closed her eyes Steph shook her head with a grin, you’re so damn cute, Chen. Steph lowered the music’s volume a little bit and rested her left elbow onto the door, resting her head against her hand. She was really looking forward to introducing Alex to her very first Pride event, as her girlfriend no less.
When Steph saw a sign indicating there was a gas station in three miles she looked to the side, finding Alex still soundly asleep. The denim jacket that Steph had put over her earlier during a quick stop, still in the exact same spot. Alex had a serene look on her face, to Steph’s relief. It was rare for the younger woman to have a lot of nightmare-free sleep.
While keeping her eyes on the road, Steph reached out her hand and gently caressed Alex’s cheek after brushing some hair aside. As she tucked some strands behind Alex’s ear, she spoke softly: “Alex, babe. We’re nearly halfway, gonna stop soon.”
It took a bit of effort to keep herself from giggling in response to Alex’s adorable mumbling, but biting down her lip seemed to help a little. “Hey babe, hope it’s okay I took off some clothes, it’s just really warm—”
“What?” Alex’s eyes opened and as she sat up a bit, the denim jacket sagged down.
“Good morning,” Steph mused with a grin before putting both hands on the steering wheel again. When she glanced over to Alex, she saw a somewhat disappointed expression on her girlfriend’s face. “Sorry to disappoint, maybe later.”
Alex rolled her eyes as she straightened her body, put the seat back up and put on her glasses. “Where are we?” she asked as she looked out of the window. The view was pretty, still plenty of mountainous terrain, but the road ahead was pretty flat.
“I believe it’s called Glenwood Springs,” Steph answered as she took a quick glance at her phone that currently served as a GPS. “That’s where the gas station is, at least.”
“Huh, lots of Springs here…” Alex mumbled. She stretched out her arms as she yawned, then put up the music volume a bit. Alex folded her denim jacket onto her lap and turned to look at Steph with an affectionate smile, a soft giggle bubbling up as she saw Steph’s eyes notice her without losing focus from the road in front of them.
“Hmm?” Steph hummed questioningly, her eyes remained focused on the road. Traffic had picked up and she actually needed to pay attention, no matter how tempting it was to look at her girlfriend.
“Just enjoying the view,” Alex answered and placed her left hand on Steph’s upper leg, just to have some form of contact with her girlfriend while driving.
The way Steph’s cheeks flushed was in response to both Alex’s flirtatious words as well as Alex’s hand on her thigh was making it hard for her not to lose focus. Steph wondered if Alex was aware of how much she messed with her head, how easily she distracted her.
Steph was glad when she saw the sign indicating they were very close to the gas station and had to fight the urge to drive faster, the thought of being able to stretch her legs was enticing. But reaching the gas station would also mean that she’d get to properly kiss Alex again, without having to worry about traffic.
“Need anything from the shop?” Steph asked as she was about to get out.
After thinking for a few moments, Alex shook her head. “Can’t think of anything, really. Unless…”
“Unless?” Steph asked with a raised brow, patiently waiting for Alex’s reply. She’d already shut off the engine, the keys still in the ignition. When she looked at Alex, she was met with a smug smirk that caused her to subconsciously hold her breath.
“Unless it’s you.” In one fluid movement Alex leaned over, cupped Steph’s face with her hands and kissed her deeply. She felt Steph freeze in surprise, only to instantly relax and answer the kiss eagerly.
Alex felt Steph’s hand move into her hair and let out a soft, content sigh. But as much as she’d love to make out with Steph, they were at a gas station with probably people behind them waiting to get their car filled up. And so she leaned back, breaking their lips’ contact.
“Guess I should get out and fill up the tank, huh?” Steph whispered with a soft chuckle.
Alex nodded, “Sounds like a plan.”
With another quick kiss, Steph got out of the truck and walked to Alex’s side of the truck to get the tank filled up.
As Steph got back, they shared another quick kiss. Steph started the truck and drove away from the gas station. They stopped to stretch their legs and eat something before resuming their long drive to Denver.
It wasn’t very long until they’d reach the very heart of Denver, Alex found herself at odds with the lack of mountains around. She had gotten used to them being there, so the lack of them was definitely strange, but it warmed her heart to see more and more rainbow flags popping up as they got closer to the city. It caused the excitement to intensify. She had an idea of what to expect, but she was still feeling nervous. Also because they’d be around big amounts of people most of the day, which meant: loads of emotions. Alex could only hope they’d be mostly positive ones.
When she caught a worried expression on Alex’s face from the corner of her eye, Steph reached out her hand invitingly. After a few seconds, Alex took Steph’s hand, feeling her squeeze her hand back. “If you need to get out of there, just say ‘Haven’ and we’ll go somewhere quiet, okay?” Steph shot a quick glance to the side and was met with a small but genuine smile.
The fact that Steph offered an easy way for her to get out of the situation if needed meant a lot to Alex; it made her feel safe and cared for. “Thanks, Steph.” Her voice was merely a whisper, but she could tell Steph had heard it, as Steph nodded with a loving smile.
“Of course, babe.” Steph pulled Alex’s hand towards her lips and pressed gentle kisses onto Alex’s knuckles, one by one, all while keeping her eyes on the road. “I want you to be comfortable and have a good experience. Whatever it takes to give you that, I’ll do my absolute best to provide it.” When they got to a traffic light and stopped, Steph looked at Alex with a soft expression. “I won’t be able to enjoy the event if you’re not comfortable. You’re incredibly important to me, if you hadn’t realized that yet.”
“I do realize, but thank you for emphasizing anyway. You are really important to me too, Steph. I’m super excited, but have to admit I’m also nervous…” When Alex looked up to meet Steph’s gaze, her heart felt warm. The expression on Steph’s face made the flutters in her abdomen spread throughout her entire body, as she could tell Steph’s words were genuine.
I can’t believe I get to call you my girlfriend… Steph ignored the aching in her jaw and cheeks, due to the excessive smiling. She could handle the discomfort of it, rather than trying to fight it. With a quick glance at the traffic light, it was still red, she leaned over and pressed her lips onto Alex’s for a kiss.
“You better believe it, Gingrich. I’m your girlfriend and as far as I know, you’re mine.” The way Steph’s eyes lit up in response elicited an enamored giggle from Alex. “You’re so fucking cute,” Alex said, “you do realize it’s green?”
Steph looked at the traffic light and saw that Alex was right. “Fuck.” As if that wasn’t enough yet, the car behind them honked. “Yeah, yeah! I’m going! Sheesh!” Steph’s cheeks were a bright pink of embarrassment, though she wore a wide smile. Sometimes it was easy to forget about Alex’s empathic abilities, though Steph wasn’t complaining. She knew Alex wasn’t able to control it and didn’t have any bad intentions.
“Wait, are we going to the place we’re staying at, first?” Alex asked as she pulled out her water bottle to drink some water.
“Yes,” Steph confirmed with a nod, “we’re gonna drop off our stuff, park the car and then we’ll walk. It’s not far from where the parade is.” She took the water bottle that Alex handed her and carefully took a couple of sips before handing it back. “Thanks, babe.”
“Gotta make sure you stay hydrated,” Alex replied while putting the bottles back into her bag. “Sounds good.” Alex rolled down the window and was met with music, causing her to close it again. Plenty of that later.
Once they’d arrived at their overnight stay, both of them grabbed their bags and went inside, after Steph fiddled with the lock-pad that held the key to the front door for a good five minutes. They did a quick inspection of the place and decided the pictures had been true to reality. It was small, but cozy — the place was clean and tidy, the bed looked pretty comfortable, and the fridge had some essential items, which was a really nice touch. Alex used the bathroom and made sure to touch up on her lipstick. Once she was done, Steph quickly used the bathroom as well, and then they finally headed out the door.
Steph had been pretty clever to bring an extra backpack, which was slung over one of her shoulders. It held both of their full water bottles and other necessities, as well as Alex’s denim jacket. Luckily the rain hadn’t followed them; it was clear, sunny and warm.
Alex turned her head to look at Steph and smiled when their eyes met, their fingers intertwined. The golden glow of Steph’s aura was especially bright and Alex didn’t mind her abilities all that much at that very moment.
“Again, if it gets too much, don’t hesitate to put on your headphones or say ‘Haven’, okay? I mean it. I’d rather not see the whole parade if it means you’ll be comfortable. This should be a fun experience, after all.”
“I will, Steph.” Alex got onto her toes and pecked her girlfriend on the cheek. “You’re the best.”
“I’m trying to be,” Steph muttered with a flustered smile, rubbing her neck with her free hand.
“You just are, babe. Deal with it.”
“I’d rather deal with you, though.”
“Patience, Gingrich. Patience.” Alex winked and chuckled at the way Steph’s cheeks got even more flustered. You are so cute, Steph, you have no idea…
The further they got into the heart of the city, the busier it got. There was music, different pride flags almost everywhere and so many auras it was kind of overwhelming. But whenever Steph would squeeze her hand every now and then, Alex would relax a little bit. Just to be sure, Alex put on her headphones, though she didn’t have any music playing. It helped with dampening the loudness quite a bit.
Once they arrived where the parade was coming through, it was packed with people. Everything and everyone was colorful and happy, it was absolutely heartwarming. Alex hardly knew where to look, but it was a good problem to have.
Instead of looking at the parade, Steph watched her girlfriend; the pure joy on Alex’s face made her heart leap in her chest. There wasn’t a hint of worry to be found in Alex’s expression, which was a relief. She deserves this so much. The big smile on her face couldn’t get any wider; surely it’d end up hurting her cheeks, but Steph couldn’t possibly care less.
After about an hour and a half they decided to get something to eat. They got food from one of the stalls and sat down in the grass. As they ate their food they looked out on what seemed to be a group of drag performers dancing to the music that came from the parade.
“Goodness,” Alex said after swallowing her last bit of food, “I have so much respect for them.”
Not quite sure what exactly Alex was referring to, Steph cocked her head in confusion. “Huh?”
“Those heels are ridiculously high!”
“Oh, honey.” Alex turned around to face whoever just started talking. “That’s nothing yet.” There was a drag queen standing beside her, looking absolutely fabulous. Her make-up was extravagant, in the colors of the rainbow, just like her dress. The wig was blonde and done up, with a few curls undone. Her heels were impressive to say the least, Alex was absolutely amazed and in awe.
“I don’t think I could walk in heels half that height,” Alex confessed.
“You wanna give it a try? I’ll help you.” Alex looked from the drag queen to Steph, receiving an encouraging nod. “Your girlfriend can come along, too.” At this Alex smirked, took Steph’s hand in her own and gave it a little tug.
Surprisingly, Alex was able to walk in the heels the drag queen, Miss Tique, had given her. The other drag queens applauded and encouraged her excitedly. Unfortunately Steph wasn’t as lucky. After nearly tripping three times she’d given up, not willing to tempt fate and possibly injure her ankles.
“You got this, babe! You’re a natural!” Steph called out to her, causing Alex to blush a little bit.
“If I may,” Miss Tique said as she leaned closer to Alex, “you two are an adorable couple.”
Alex smiled widely and thanked her, not sure what else to say. Especially since she tried to focus on not tripping, as Miss Tique had instructed her to try and walk without looking down constantly.
“How long have you been together?”
“Officially? About a month.”
“Officially, huh?” Miss Tique gave Alex a look that caused her cheeks to darken even more than they had already. “So, have you Uhauled yet?” If it weren’t for Miss Tique’s apparent fast reflexes, Alex would’ve tripped and fallen. Because she couldn’t deny that Miss Tique was right.
“Shit, I think my notes are still at my place… I’ll just go get them and be back in like fifteen minutes, okay?” Steph got up, gave Alex a quick kiss and rushed out the door.
Alex was left behind and she shook her head. As she looked around the apartment, there were things that belonged to Steph scattered around. Some of her clothes, shoes, movies, records, beanies… Alex didn’t mind in the slightest, as a matter of fact, she was kind of glad. It had been extremely comforting to have Steph around most of the time. She’d helped her with putting on shoes, taking off and putting on pants when Alex was still recovering from her injuries. It was nice to not be alone the whole time, even if they didn’t talk and were just in the same space, each doing their own thing. Alex had to admit that it had most likely helped with her recovery.
Steph rarely went back to her own place and actually spent the night there, they both had gotten so used to the routine of getting up together and going to bed together. The more Alex thought about it, the more sense it made for Steph to just move in. Most of her stuff was already here anyway and the apartment was big enough for the both of them, although they’d probably have to replace the bed. But Alex figured that wouldn’t be that big of an issue.
Alex was still deep in thought when Steph returned, startling as she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Shit! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to—”
“No, it’s okay! Was just a bit lost in my thoughts,” Alex interrupted Steph and shot her girlfriend a genuine smile. “Welcome back.”
“Thanks, I practically ran the whole way and back.”
Alex snorted and laughed, receiving an incredulous look from Steph. “Sorry, but… Why exactly? It’s not like I was going anywhere.”
“I— ” Steph stopped herself, index finger held up and slowly lowering, “Dude, I don’t know! Don’t ask me such difficult questions.” With a huff she dropped her notebook on the coffee table, then sat down on the couch with a pout.
“Don’t think you even realize how cute you are, Steph.”
“Pfft, you’re cute.” Steph had her arms crossed and wasn’t really looking at Alex, but her cheeks were as pink as they could possibly get.
“So… What I was thinking about before you got back…” Alex felt herself get a little flustered, as she wondered if she should already bring this up with Steph or not. But as Steph turned to look at her, Alex felt like she couldn’t go back. “Since most of your stuff is already here, I was thinking… You might as well just move in?” When she looked up at Steph again, she was met with a shocked expression. Eyes wide, jaw slacked, crossed arms now uncrossed.
“Wait, did-did you just—?” Steph turned her body a little bit, to properly face Alex. “Alex? Are we seriously Uhauling?”
Alex raised a single brow in confusion, “U-what now?” Steph laughed, genuinely laughed, only confusing her more. “I don’t get it, what does that mean?” she asked, worried she’d taken things too far too quickly.
“Sorry babe, sorry, hold on,” Steph said as she placed her hand on Alex’s, desperately trying to catch her breath. “Okay, so ‘Uhauling’ is… Kind of a lesbian phenomenon? It’s like… Sapphics moving in together pretty quickly after getting into a relationship.”
Alex just stared at Steph, blinking a few times, then it suddenly clicked in her head. “Oh!”
“Yeah,” Steph said with a chuckle, “but to answer your question…” Steph bit her lip as she took both of Alex’s hands into her own, giving them a gentle squeeze. “If you’re really sure about it—” Alex nodded in confirmation. “Then, yeah. I’d love to move in with you, Alex. But we’d need to get a new—”
“Bed,” they said in unison, causing both of them to laugh.
“Yeah, agreed. We’ll do that.”
“In that case, you have yourself a deal, Chen.” Steph pulled Alex along as she leaned back; laying down on the couch, then kissed her deeply. “You better get ready, because you’re not gonna have another boring day in here.”
“Sounds like a pretty spectacular plan.”
“Ah, I see. Good for you, honey. Good for you.” They both turned around as someone called Miss Tique’s name. “Give me a minute, I’ll be right back.”
Alex nodded and turned to face her girlfriend, catching her taking pictures of her. Before she could say anything, Steph beat her to it.
“First a skirt, then lipstick, now heels? What’s next?” Steph called with a grin.
“Oh, wouldn’t you like to know, huh?” When Steph responded with a shrug and insistent nodding, Alex smirked. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”
“I’ll wait as long as it takes!”
As Miss Tique returned to Alex, Steph watched her girlfriend dance with the drag queen, of which she took plenty of pictures. It warmed her heart to see Alex was having such a blast at her very first Pride.
“Steph? Is that you?” Steph turned around and came face to face with a person who didn’t look familiar, but was standing way too close for Steph’s comfort. She took a step backwards as she looked at the person questioningly. Blue-black hair that reached halfway to the person’s neck, a neon green top that hurt to look at and an equally bright colored pink necklace. Steph was pretty sure she’d never seen this person before.
“Who’s asking? Sorry, don’t think I know you?”
“It is you! Ha! I knew it!” Steph let out a sigh and shifted her weight onto her other foot, she wasn’t gonna play riddles. Before she could say anything, the person continued: “It’s me, Tori. From the Smolder app?”
“Yeah, I spoke to a number of people on that app, you’ll have to be more specific.” Steph looked back at Alex and smiled when she saw Alex was seeming to be having a great time.
“Oh, I told you I had an immediate crush on the guitarist of your band after seeing you live in SLC at Atomic Decay?”
Right, how could I possibly forget? Steph thought and had to fight herself to not roll her eyes. “Oh, yeah. I remember now.”
“So, are you here with your band?”
“Pretty sure I told you the band broke up, so no. I’m here with my girlfriend.”
“So you’re back together?”
Steph just stared in disbelief, Tori couldn’t possibly be serious, could she?
Alex felt a sudden shift, quite strong too. Annoyance, frustration and… anger? As she looked to see where it came from, she was met with what she feared. Steph’s aura was a mixture, but the red stood out the most. Alex had no idea who it was Steph was talking to, but it unsettled her.
She handed back the borrowed heels to Miss Tique and excused herself as she put on her own shoes again. With a quick hug she said goodbye to the lovely drag queen and made her way over to Steph.
“—the band isn’t together anymore and neither are me and Izzie.”
“Steph?” Alex asked, “are you okay? What’s going on?” Alex took Steph’s hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
“Hey babe, had fun?” Alex nodded with a smile, confirming that she in fact had fun. “Oh, this is Tori, we met on a dating app a year ago.”
Alex shot Steph a confused look, but didn’t ask about it any further.
“Oh, so that’s your girlfriend?” Tori said condescendingly and Alex felt something inside both herself and Steph snap. It took all her willpower to not lose control, she desperately tried to calm herself.
“What the fuck, Tori?” Steph spat. She wanted to say more, but she felt Alex squeeze her hand hard. When she looked at her girlfriend, she saw an equally mad, but worried look in Alex’s eyes.
“Is she from Haven too?”
Steph gritted her teeth and responded to Alex with a single nod. “No, she’s not. And we should go, we have that show to catch.” Steph wrapped an arm around Alex’s waist and pulled her close. “Bye, Tori.” Without giving Tori another look they walked off, leaving Tori behind.
“I’m really sorry about that, Alex…” Steph said apologetically and pressed a kiss onto Alex’s hair. “I didn’t mean to—I’m sorry. Is there anywhere specific you wanna go, or just somewhere quiet?” When Alex simply nodded, Steph swallowed and squeezed Alex’s side. “Alright, I’m gonna find us somewhere calm.”
Once Alex felt better, they went outside again. Instead of heading into the masses, they strolled along the different stands and stalls that had been set up. There were plenty of vendors who simply slapped some rainbow flags on their products and tried to gain new clients and customers. Luckily there were also a big number of vendors who were trying to spread awareness, educate or celebrate Pride.
Steph bought Alex her own flag, a big one for the record store and one for the apartment. Her heart melted at the way Alex’s eyes lit up in response, even more so when Alex wrapped her arms around Steph and hugged her tightly.
“This is awesome, thank you,” Alex whispered while still hugging Steph tightly. She wasn’t quite sure if Steph understood that she wasn’t simply referring to the flags. Alex was grateful for everything Steph had done for her, and had been there for her, from the very beginning.
“Don’t forget your buttons!” The vendor held out a basket filled with buttons, just as Steph and Alex were about to continue browsing the rest of the stalls. Alex smiled gratefully as she picked one that represented her pride flag, Steph did the same. “Have a great Pride!”
“Thank you, you too,” Alex replied. Once they both had put their buttons on their tank tops, they started walking again.
Alex was absolutely amazed by the amount of things there were to see. There was no way they’d be able to see everything, there was simply too much, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. She learned about the history of Pride, which she was incredibly impressed and moved by. They also joined an open stage discussion for a little bit, though they mostly listened in.
As the sun lowered in the sky, Steph and Alex decided to find a place to eat and wind down a little. Alex had a blast, but felt herself getting a bit tired. Which wasn’t really surprising, as they’d been up for twelve hours, give or take.
“Anything you’d like in particular?” Steph asked as she looked around all the different options the vendors had to offer.
“Are you on the menu?” Alex asked with a sly grin as she placed her index finger against Steph’s chest. She thoroughly enjoyed the way Steph’s cheeks flushed and left her speechless. “Because if so, I’ve made my choice.”
“I—What? Like—Uh, right now?” Steph stammered, struggling to find the right words to say.
“Is that a ‘no’?” Steph’s face got even more flustered, if that were even possible, to Alex’s amusement. “Aww, that’s too bad. In that case; I could go for some pizza or pasta.” Her finger was still pressed against Steph’s chest, their faces close.
Steph felt her heart hammering in her chest, her cheeks burning and her hands had gotten somewhat clammy. It was kind of ridiculous how easily it was for Alex to mess with her head and have this much of an effect on her. Though Steph couldn’t, and wouldn’t complain.
“Y-yeah, sounds good.” Neither of them moved, they just stood there, in between countless other people. “I’m fine with whatever,” Steph managed to say and swallowed with effort.
“‘Fine with whatever’, huh?” Alex mused as she removed her finger from Steph’s chest, only to let her hand move up to rest against Steph’s neck. “Are you sure about that?” With just a little bit of pressure she brought Steph’s face closer to her own, licking her lips slowly.
Her brain was yelling, screaming at her to say something, but Steph found herself unable to actually form any words. And thus she defaulted to nodding in response to Alex’s question.
“Then kiss me, Steph.”
She looked down at Alex’s crimson colored lips, placed her hands gently on Alex’s back and leaned down a little to press her lips on her girlfriend’s. Her mind was void of thoughts, save for the registration of Alex lips against her own. When Alex’s lips parted Steph’s followed suit, their tongues brushing against each other unhurried. The world around them disappeared, the sounds becoming muffled, making it seem like they were the only ones there.
When she felt Steph’s hands rest on her back, Alex let her body lean against Steph’s entirely, wanting to be as close as physically possible. The feeling of pure happiness and joy seeped into her, Steph’s mingling with her own. Her heart felt light in her chest, like it was trying to float away. But Alex found it wasn’t an unpleasant sensation, actually quite the opposite.
The only reason Steph had to break their kiss was to catch her breath, she leaned her forehead against Alex’s and let out a soft chuckle. “Wow…”
“Yeah, that’s one word to describe you.” Steph opened her eyes and snorted, sending both of them into a laughing fit. “What? It’s true.”
“If you say so, Chen.”
“I just did,” Alex replied, causing Steph to laugh even harder. “Glad you find me amusing.”
“Oh, I really do,” Steph said with a wide smile. She moved her hands from Alex’s back to the sides of her neck. “I find you more than just amusing.”
Steph nodded, “Really. I find you exhilarating,” Steph whispered before kissing Alex once more.
Each of them had two beers, which had definitely helped Alex when Steph suddenly dragged her onto a small stage to sing together. Apparently queer karaoke was also a thing, Alex found out. But Alex was glad Steph had dragged her along; it had actually been extremely fun, plus the audience seemed to enjoy it too.
As they walked back to their overnight stay the noise from the Pride event became more and more distant. The sky was now a mixture of purple and dark blue, a few hints of lighter blues lingering on the horizon. It had cooled off quite a bit and Steph had taken out Alex’s denim jacket out of the backpack and draped it over Alex’s shoulders.
“So, you enjoyed your very first Pride?” Steph asked with a small smile, her thumb tenderly rubbing against the back of Alex’s hand.
“Fuck, Steph… I loved it! It was better than I expected, honestly.” She closed her eyes for a few seconds and smiled widely, thinking back to earlier. “It was amazing because you were there with me, I hope you know that.”
“I don’t mind the occasional reminder,” Steph responded with a grin. “I really loved it too, babe.” Steph stopped walking and Alex followed suit. “You really mean the fucking world to me, Alex. I’m so glad I got to share this with you.” Steph looked down at their linked hands and felt herself smile lovingly. “And I’m really excited for all the future things we’ll get to do together, all the places we’ll be visiting together. Being with you just makes me really happy…”
“Steph…” Alex put her index finger underneath Steph’s chin and lifted it up a little, making Steph look at her. “Ditto.” When Steph rolled her eyes playfully, Alex grinned smugly. “You can roll your eyes at me all you want, Gingrich. It’s true. And I know other ways to make you roll your eyes.” Alex finished it off with a playful wink that caused Steph to blush heavily.
“Fuck, Alex… I can’t wait to get back to the place.” Steph bit her lip, then tugged at Alex’s hand and started walking again. Although a bit faster now than before, as she’d been serious; the things she wanted to do to Alex weren’t ones to be done in public.
Once the door closed behind them, Steph asked: “Are you okay with this?”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well,” Steph started, clearing her throat, “we’re both somewhat intoxicated. I just want to make absolutely sure we’re both completely on board with this.” The backpack was put down on the floor and Alex’s denim jacket hung up on the coat hanger on the wall.
Alex felt her heart squeeze in response, the fact that Steph was so incredibly caring meant a lot to her. She’d never been with someone before who would double check with her if she was on board with what was happening, or about to happen. Which only made her even more sure of her decision.
“Yes, a hundred percent.” Alex waited for Steph to confirm as well before removing any clothing. Once Steph insisted she felt the same way, both their flannels fell onto the floor rather quickly, shoes got kicked off and kicked aside. Steph walked backwards and up the stairs, giggling as Alex caught her just in time and saving her from tripping.
They arrived at the bed unscathed, both giggling and only dressed in their underwear. As they laid down on the bed they just looked at each other, drinking each other in as their fingers softly caressed each other’s skin. Alex couldn’t help but giggle softly as she noticed the vaguely purple aura around Steph, it wasn’t very clear, due to the emotion lacking intensity.
“Steph?” she asked, her voice merely a whisper. “Are you… Are you nervous?” Alex brushed some hair away from Steph’s face before resting the palm of her hand against Steph’s cheek.
As soon as Alex asked her, Steph winced. “Crap, I kinda forgot… “ She let out a nervous chuckle and nodded. “A little, yeah. I just… Wanna make sure you enjoy it…”
“You know it isn’t my first time, right?”
“Yeah, but still… It’d be the first time with me,” Steph clarified and bit her lip, avoiding eye contact. She very clearly remembered when Alex told her about the whole Isaac situation, which had absolutely infuriated her. Good thing she had no idea where to find the guy, for his sake.
“Hey,” Alex said softly, “we don’t have to go all the way, you know? There will be plenty of other opportunities.” She smiled as she leaned in and softly pressed her lips against Steph’s forehead, then kissed Steph’s nose and eventually her lips. “Maybe it’d be nice to save our first time together for when we’re at home, where we’re both completely comfortable and… Well, at home.”
“You know what?” Steph smiled and let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding in, “I actually like that idea.” She lifted her leg and draped it over those of Alex, pulling them closer. “If that’s okay with you.”
“Absolutely, babe,” Alex reassured. Her hand traveled down the side of Steph’s neck, following the curve to her shoulder and down her arm until it settled on Steph’s side. “Do you still want to make out, though?”
The way Alex raised her brow made Steph bite her lip as she shot an equally challenging look back at her girlfriend. “Dude, yeah!” Without another word their lips crashed together and they made out as their hands explored each other’s bodies. It was intimate, but also playful. Their night was filled with sounds of laughter, sheets brushing against skin and kisses being shared.
Alex startled awake only to find herself completely disoriented. She looked around and felt relief wash through her when she saw Steph beside her, still fast asleep. Memories from the previous day started to come back up, eliciting a fond sigh from Alex as she remembered.
Her lips curled into a big smile when Steph’s hand blindly searched for Alex’s body, once it came into contact with her skin, it settled down. Alex felt her heart melt in response; the fact that Steph craved her touch even when dead asleep, it was endearing to say the least.
The sun peeked through the curtains, bathing the entire space in a warm golden glow. Alex reached under her pillow and found her phone quickly enough, finding out it was just ten in the morning. She put her phone away again and turned onto her side, facing her girlfriend. With a grin she leaned closer and started to pepper kisses all over Steph’s face.
The way Steph’s nose scrunched was utterly adorable, it only motivated Alex to continue. Until Steph’s eyes fluttered open for a moment and immediately closed again.
“So bright,” Steph muttered in complaint, “but comfy.” She wrapped both arms around Alex’s torso and pulled her closer, pressing their bodies together. “Snuggle.”
Alex couldn’t argue with that and thus gave in, snuggling with her girlfriend quite contently. The golden aura around her girlfriend only brightened the space further, Alex happily allowed herself to touch into the emotion and have it grow even more intense. It made her realize that no matter where she’d wake up, as long as Steph would be there it’d be all good.