Summary: Lauren's music was spilling out past the door and into the hallway, like usual, and the door was unlocked, like usual, but when Normani walked in Lauren had Camila pressed into her mattress, hand tangled in her hair. Not at all like usual. College AU.
Word Count: 3,900
Disclaimer: I don't own anything and am not profiting off of this in any way. This was written for this prompt at Better Together: A Fifth Harmony ficathon, but it got a little bit long. Whoops. Title comes from "Talk!" by The 1975.
In Normani's defense -- not that she needs one, but she likes to be prepared -- their first night in the dorms Camila had shimmied into her room, singing along loudly to the music across the suite, and had gotten orange cheese powder all over Normani's pillow. And that would make anyone skeptical of the person living across the bathroom.
Well, not Lauren. Lauren had laughed and danced along, only telling Camila to be careful when she tried to jump on Normani's bed. But Camila seems to be Lauren's exception to a lot of rules, and Normani doesn't question it too much.
Especially because Lauren's cool. She's chill. She helps Normani study for her statistic tests, lets Normani curl her hair before they go to house parties, and always offers her some easy mac when she's up late writing a paper. A lot of people have apparently complained to their RA, Ally, about their roommate situations, so much so that Ally had a meeting about writing up roommate contracts, but Lauren had just reached out and squeezed Normani's wrist, a smile glittering in her eyes.
So, you could say Normani hit the roommate jackpot -- it was decided by random lottery, so the analogy holds.
And in Normani's defense -- again, she wants to emphasize that she is not to blame here, so technically she doesn't need one -- it was four in the afternoon and her English 101 class had gotten out early and she just wanted to take a nap before dinner.
That's all. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Lauren's music was spilling out past the door and into the hallway, like usual, and the door was unlocked, like usual, but when Normani walked in Lauren had Camila pressed into her mattress, hand tangled in her hair. Not at all like usual.
"Oh." And, because this was unusual, Normani stood there.
Camila's face flushed a deeper red and she bit her bottom lip. "Sorry," Lauren said. And then she giggled, resting her forehead against Camila's collarbone, the sound snuffing out against skin.
Normani blinked and finally pointed her hand over her shoulder, "Should I . . ."
"No, no, sorry." And Lauren got off of Camila, and they had played solitaire on Lauren's laptop while Normani tried and failed to focus on her French homework until Dinah got back from class and they trudged to the cafeteria for boxed mash potatoes and burnt pizza.
Lauren and Normani never talked about it.
Lauren and Normani never talked about it, and they still haven't talked about it.
But Normani's never walked in on them again, and Lauren's brought boys back to the room -- after pulling Normani into a corner and asking if it was okay, of course. Because Lauren's a good roommate, and that's the polite thing to do.
Lauren's head is on Normani's shoulder, her hair soft against Normani's neck and jaw, their arms linked. The room is dark except for the glow of the laptop screen illuminating their faces, and the thermostat is set to double snowflake, so they're both bundled up in sweats and hoodies. Sam is singing "As Time Goes By" for Ilsa on the screen, and Lauren hums along, her voice low and raspy.
"Do you sing?" Normani asks.
"Used to," Lauren says, lifting her head.
"Why'd you stop?"
Lauren shrugs. "I don't know. Wanted to settle in first, I guess. Maybe I'll take voice lessons next semester."
"You should." Normani smiles, and there's something about Lauren's thumb brushing steadily against her forearm that makes her heart beat in her throat.
"You don't even know if I'm good," Lauren says, and it sounds like she aborts a laugh in the back of her throat.
Normani usually doesn't like being laughed at -- or almost laughed at, whatever, semantics -- but she doesn't mind it so much when Lauren's mouth upturns like that, small and private. "Doubt you're terrible."
Lauren's smile blooms and she rolls her eyes. "Thanks, I guess."
The room dips quiet after that. There's noise in the hallway, someone yelling "Love you! Fucking love you!" between bouts of raucous laughter. "Now I know why we always go out on Fridays."
Lauren throws a leg over Normani's. "There are other things to do besides get wasted."
Normani cocks an eyebrow. "Yeah, obviously."
"It's bad for your liver," Lauren continues, but her voice is low and quiet against Normani's ear, a light and airy quality to it that makes Normani's pulse race.
"I took the alcohol education survey, too."
"I know," Lauren says. And then she presses her mouth to Normani's cheek.
Which is not weird, really. They cuddle sometimes, pull the covers over their heads and talk in hushed whispers even though the room is all theirs. No parent is going to walk in and tell them to go to sleep because it's 1 in the morning and they have an 8 am class the next day -- later that day. The weird part is when Lauren maneuvers her foot under Normani's other leg and wiggles her toes against her thigh, laughing wet and open-mouthed against Normani's cheek, sliding her lips down the bone until she hits Normani's nose, and then pressing gently at the corner of Normani's mouth.
The thing is Normani knows that Lauren is not opposed to making out with a girl. The thing is Lauren and Camila are still friends, but Normani assumes that whatever it is she walked in on two weeks ago was a one time thing. The thing is Normani hasn't been kissed since she came to school -- she has standards, okay? And she's not going to make out with the loud, drunk, snapback-wearing frat boy just because he won a game of beer pong -- and Lauren is pretty and nice.
Normani doesn't move. But when Lauren says "We don't have to," a puff of breath against Normani's mouth, Normani kisses her back.
Normani starts making out regularly with her roommate.
And it's nice. Nothing really changes. Most nights they still sleep in their own beds, and Lauren still offers her easy mac and granola bars. It's just that when Normani curls Lauren's hair for a party she brushes her fingers, maybe too much, against Lauren's neck. But really, it's not a big deal.
They haven't talked about it, but they've always been on the same page, and it's just. It's really nice.
They're at a party, and Normani's sipping beer out of a red Solo cup because despite all the lies television tells about college, red Solo cups are real. Well, of course they were real before, like -- Normani's a little drunk, okay.
"Come on, girl," Dinah pulls on Normani's wrist, dragging her out of the kitchen and into the living room where music is shaking everything like an earthquake. "Beyonce!"
Normani blinks and processes. Yes, "Single Ladies" is pounding out of the speakers. Dinah grabs her by the hips and moves with her, throwing her head back and laughing. Normani grins and lets her hips sway to the beat, vodka and coke sloshing over the side of her cup when someone accidentally runs into her and apologizes. Normani doesn't mind because they're gone before she can respond and because everything is fuzzy and soft around the edges.
She shakes her head back and forth, hair swinging around her, and her body is buzzing, her blood is buzzing, and she thinks Lauren likes a song about blood buzzing, and then she thinks about Lauren, and then she sees Lauren. She sees Lauren standing by a wall -- or, no. Normani stops dancing and shakes her head to clear it, blinking. Lauren is by the wall, fingers gripping the hips of a shorter girl, whispering in her ear. Normani stares, heart pounding in her ears, and okay, the shorter girl turns her head and it's, well, it's Camila. And suddenly it's very clear, her vision is clear and her head is clear and Lauren is sucking a lovebite into Camila's jaw.
"Oh," she breaths, but the sound is absorbed by the music and the crowd.
"You okay?" Dinah asks, hips still swiveling.
"No," Normani says. "No, yeah. I'm. I need some air."
Dinah raises an eyebrow. "Want me to come with?"
"No. I'm fine."
She spends the night with her cheek pressed against the bathroom tiles, trying not to throw up.
Communication is a complicated process. Normani learned that in her speech class. The meaning of the message is interpreted by the receiver, but it's affected by the medium and there's noise that can disrupt it, noise that is sometimes actual noise and sometimes just a distraction.
Miscommunication happens. In a court of law it'd just be a he-said, she-said story, or, in this case, she-said, she-said story. If they had talked about it, at all, maybe. But communication is not just verbal, and Normani clearly misinterpreted something, because Camila's the one with the purple bruise behind her ear.
"Do you want to see the play this weekend?" Camila asks, toothbrush hanging out of her mouth as she holds her hair back with one hand.
Normani has warmed up to Camila. Camila's loud, ridiculous, clumsy, nice. Camila is nice. Normani wonders if Camila knows Lauren has been leaving scratch marks up and down her back. Probably. Normani feels the counter dig into her hip. "Sure," she says, because nothing is wrong and everything is fine.
"Cool." Camila smiles wide, foaming around the mouth like a rabid dog.
Normani smiles despite herself.
The entire suite goes to see the play, and Ally's in it, which is just another bonus, really. Ally's a good RA, knows all their names and has programs that include ice cream and sprinkles and watching romcoms on the big television in the lounge. Her door decks are always really cute, too -- the jack-o-lanterns, black cats and little witches' hats for October are all smiling and the witches hats have googly eyes.
Camila grabs Lauren's hand as they're walking by the library toward the theater, swinging their arms back and forth obnoxiously. Normani's shoulders tense. "Your hand is freezing Lolo," Camila says, pulling it across her body and failing to hit Dinah with their interlocking fingers.
"It's not my fault you're practically a space heater," Lauren says, rolling her eyes. But there's fondness in her voice, and Normani swallows.
Everything is fine. And if she wouldn't say it under oath, well, she's not under oath, is she?
"Maybe I'll go as a space heater for Halloween." Camila waggles her eyebrows. "A sexy space heater."
"You're so dumb," Dinah says on a laugh, elbowing Camila in the ribs.
Normani twists the lanyard with her ID and room key around her hand. No one else is acting weird, and she shouldn't either. She was in pageants as a child -- correction: she won pageants as a child -- so she can grin and get through this. Fake it until you make it. That's a thing that works, Normani is pretty sure.
"Mani bear," Lauren says, "We're going to do matching roommate costumes one night, right?"
Normani blinks and smiles too wide. "Sure."
"We could go as Frankenstein and the Monster. Or no, Thelma and Louise." Lauren bumps her hip against Normani's and her eyes sparkle.
"Dumb and dumber," Camila offers.
"Wouldn't want to steal your and Dinah's costume," Normani says. When Lauren's laugh bubbles out of her throat, head tilting back, Normani feels her entire body soften. She doesn't even mind when Dinah runs around Lauren and Camila and their still intertwined hands to give her a noogie -- well, okay, she minds a little. She did spend an hour straightening her hair this morning.
Normani's not dumb, so she's pretty sure Camila is trying to be her friend. The past week alone she's offered to share her popcorn and chips and half her brownie, and Camila's usually very protective of her food. She also keeps telling horrible jokes, looking at Normani and waiting for the laugh, which, to Normani's surprise, usually comes, even as she tries to stifle it.
Lauren's at a psychology club meeting and Normani's finished all her homework for tomorrow, so she's stalking her ex-boyfriend's Facebook page instead of studying for her statistics test -- Lauren's not around to help, anyway -- when Camila knocks on the already-open door to their connecting bathroom, tilting her head and smiling shyly. "What'cha doing?" she asks.
"Nothing. Should be studying for stats, but." Normani shrugs, leaning back in her chair.
"I like math." Camila walks into the room, taking too long strides that make it look like she's doing really bad lunges.
Normani smiles despite herself, rolling her eyes. "You and Lauren are freaks."
"I can help, if you want." Camila kicks at the leg of Normani's chair, worrying her lip between her teeth and tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. She's got a hickey in the same spot as before, and Normani presses her thumb into her hip where there's a bruise Lauren sucked last night.
"I don't know."
"Pwease." Camila pouts, sticking her lip out comically far.
Normani sighs, but she agrees.
Sometimes Camila has to read through parts of the chapter to help, chewing on the edge of her pencil and tapping her foot as she concentrates, but she is good at math. She uses ridiculous examples about otters and McDonalds' chicken nuggets and boybands to explain things, but they're memorable examples, and Normani thinks she's really starting to get the concepts that completely flew over her head in class.
"You're so good at this, Mani," Camila says, grinning with her entire mouth, eyes wide and sincere.
Normani's about to disagree when the door slams open and Lauren calls, "Honey, I'm home!"
"Ricky!" Camila hollars, rolling her tongue.
"Oh, it's you." Lauren drops her key on her desk and walks over, wrapping her arms around Normani's shoulders, leaning her chin on Normani's head. "Helping with statistics?"
"Yeah. She's really good," Camila repeats proudly, as though she has anything to do with Normani's mathematics abilities.
Normani feels Lauren nod, and she reaches up in an attempt to push Lauren off her. It feels weird, all three of them here like this with Lauren touching her instead of Camila. Normani's not sure why, exactly. But it does, and she can feel her face getting warm with it.
"Wanna get Taco Bell?" Lauren asks.
"Duh," Camila says, jumping out of Lauren's desk chair so fast she trips and stumbles. Lauren's laugh echoes against the crown of Normani's head and Normani chuckles under her breath.
When Camila is bouncing on the balls of her feet in the doorway, Lauren swinging her car keys around her finger, Lauren asks, "You ready?"
"Me?" Normani asks, confused. She shakes her head. Of course Taco Bell isn't their code for I want to eat you out, it's Camila.
"Yeah you," Camila says, voice slow and exasperated and little bit warm.
"Coming." Normani pulls her coat off the back of her chair, picks up her lanyard and follows them out of the room as Camila groans, "Finally."
Camila orders enough food to feed the entire floor, and Normani is exaggerating, but not as much you'd think. Camila pays for Lauren's nachos but not for Normani's taco. And Normani thinks that's about right, but she wonders if she should pay for Lauren's drinks whenever Lauren drives her to Starbucks.
"This is so good," Camila moans around a mouthful of cheesy potatoes. She's sitting cross-legged next to Lauren on Lauren's bed, their knees pressed together. Normani's sitting across from them in her desk chair, and this is probably about right, too.
Stabbing another potato with her plastic spork, Camila shoves it in Normani's face. "Have one."
"I'm good," Normani says, eyes crossing when she attempts to look at it. "Thanks, though."
"Eat it." Camila waves it around.
"Don't get any cheese on the carpet or I'll kill you," Lauren says. Then: "Eat it."
Normani sighs, but she picks the potato off the spork and pops it in her mouth. "Thanks."
"You've very welcome, your highness." Camila attempts to bow, but her hair gets in the cheese and sour cream. "Oops." She shrugs, sticking her hair in her mouth and sucking it off.
"Ew." Normani scrunches her face up and Lauren laughs quietly, shaking her head.
"Can't waste Taco Bell," Camila says, completely serious.
Lauren shoots Normani a look and rolls her eyes before kicking out and resting her feet on Normani's lap. Normani doesn't miss the way Camila frowns briefly, glancing down at Lauren's feet, at Normani's hand which has moved to wrap around it, finger tapping against the knob of bone.
Normani files that away for future reference like any good future lawyer would.
Lauren's mouth is hot against her pulse point, teeth scraping over skin to match the nails dancing over her stomach, just above her jeans. It tickles a little and Normani huffs out a laugh that's more air than anything else. Thanksgiving break was too long and not long enough, and finals are just around the corner, and Normani missed Lauren and Lauren's hands and Lauren's mouth. But mostly just Lauren.
That's the part that scares Normani. Lauren had tackled her to the ground after she'd dropped her bag just inside the door, her dad laughing in the doorway with a huge box of Ramen noodles. Lauren had said, "I missed you so much." But Normani doesn't know if it was the same. She hopes that maybe it was, but she fears that it wasn't.
She should ask. She knows the logical thing is to ask. But Lauren's her roommate, and she doesn't want to make things awkward and weird.
Lauren whimpers against Normani's neck when Normani gets a leg between her thighs, grinding up for more friction. Everything feels so good, her heart already beating between her legs when she hears an intake of breath that is too loud, not Lauren's and not her own. Normani's eyes flutter open and standing in the light of the bathroom is Camila.
"Hi," Normani says.
"What?" Lauren asks, and then she follows Normani's eyeline.
Normani expects Lauren to jump off her, for a string of sorry's to fall from her mouth as she laces her fingers through Camila's and says that it was nothing, no big deal. Normani expects Lauren to laugh and say, "Oops," not bothering to move like she didn't bother when Normani walked in on her and Camila. Normani does not expect Lauren to sit back and nod Camila closer.
Camila hesitates, face bright red and hands shaking by her sides, but she walks over until her knees hit the edge of the bed. Normani watches from under Lauren, whose knees are still bracketed around her hips, as Lauren pulls Camila in with a hand around her neck, pulls Camila in and kisses her square on the mouth.
"Hi," Lauren smiles.
"Hi," Camila says. But Camila isn't smiling. "I think I should go?" She glances to Normani and Normani looks away, embarrassed.
Lauren doesn't say anything, doesn't protest or move. And Normani waits -- waits and waits an agonizingly long time -- staring at the Marilyn Monroe poster hanging perfectly straight on the wall because she had insisted Lauren use the level her dad brought with on move in day. She waits until she feels like she can't breathe and then she turns to see Lauren looking at her expectantly, Camila's eyes nervous, their hands intertwined.
"What?" Normani chokes out, furrowing her eyebrows together.
"Can Camila stay?" Lauren asks.
"Um," Normani bites her lip and tries to scoot out from under Lauren, but Lauren just locks her knees tighter around Normani's hips. "What?"
"Can I stay?" Camila's voice shakes like her hands and Lauren tugs her in, kissing the corner of her mouth. "I'd like to stay."
They don't teach you this in college.
Normani swallows, glancing between Lauren and Camila. She likes that Lauren groans whenever she mentions Beyonce but listens intently anyway, she likes that Lauren reads a book a week for fun, she likes that Lauren mocks the football player who keeps calling Normani "baby" and "darling" and "honey." She likes Lauren.
"Okay," she says.
"Are you sure?" Lauren asks, voice almost too calm.
Normani nods, watches the matching smiles bloom on both their faces.
Camila edges up on the bed, leans over Normani and kisses her nose and then her chin before hesitating, biting her own lip as she looks at Normani for confirmation. Normani likes Camila, too. She really does. But she's never thought about kissing her before. Her eyes are so dark and her skin is pale and her lips look chapped and bitten dry. She's really pretty. She's ridiculous and nice and pretty. "Okay," Normani repeats, her voice cracking.
Camila doesn't kiss like Lauren. Where Lauren is all pressure and confidence and sticky lipstick, Camila is hesitant and soft and chocolate. Normani can feel the pads of Lauren's fingers walking over her skin, sure and warm. It's not bad. Not at all.
"Calm down, y'all," Ally says, shaking her head in amusement as the entire floor attacks the bowl of peppermints in the middle of the lounge table. "There's enough for everybody."
The Year Without A Santa Claus is starting and Ally has laid out stacks of scissors and white paper to make snowflakes they can hang around their rooms and the hallway. Normani grabs a peppermint and feels Camila stumble against her side, bringing the handful of candies she's scooped up against her chest carefully. "Camila," Normani sighs, palm splayed against the small of her back.
"What?" Camila smiles sheepishly, grabbing a few and offering them to Dinah. "They're not all for me."
"Likely story," Dinah says, rolling her eyes and snatching them before plopping down on Lauren's feet. Lauren's lying on the sofa, keeping the other girls from stealing their seats. They didn't show up fifteen minutes to sit on the floor. Lauren shifts up when Camila and Normani pick their way through the girls sprawled on the floor.
Camila falls down next to Dinah, throwing her legs over Dinah's lap and leaning her head against Normani's shoulder. Lauren's reaching over and snatching a peppermint from Camila's hand, rolling it absently between her fingers. She's linked her ankle with Normani's, arm resting against the back of the couch, her other hand playing with Camila's hair.
"I really love you guys," Normani says, because it's almost winter break, because Ally's lit a cinnamon candle and turned down the lights, the movie starting. Because she's happy.
"Aww," Camila coos, pressing a kiss to Normani's neck. "Love you too, Mani."
"Me too," Lauren says, "Love all three of you."
"Love you all even though you're gross," Dinah says, tickling Camila and causing her to bark out a laugh that makes a few girls glare at them. Normani sees Ally smiling at them as she folds a piece of paper, so she smiles back.
"Quiet," Lauren whispers, and they finally settle in, watching as Santa, sick and in bed, decides it's best to take a holiday.
Normani goes home for winter break with a "B" in stats, three friendship bracelets around her wrist, and the taste of peppermint kisses still in her mouth.
In her defense -- well, you know how it goes, she doesn't really need one.