Niall seemed to fill himself up quickly, and he leaned forward on the counter and observed Lauren's dazed expression with a smile. "So Lo, when are you gonna propose?"

Lauren's breath stuck in her throat and she cut her gaze up to Niall's. He looked amused mostly, entertained. There was a bit of genuine curiosity.

She was surprised at the surge of emotion, the beat of her heart, and she laughed shortly at herself, picked at the flecks of sand on her palm. "Get lost, Niall."

"No, seriously, you're not planning anything?" Niall's eyes were mirthful.

"What? That's not—it's only been—"

Lauren shut her mouth and felt her cheeks burn.

Niall lifted his eyebrows.

"Just shut it," Lauren mumbled.

"I'm just saying," Niall shrugged, leaning over the counter. He waited until Lauren looked up to continue, and her expression was soft, wary. "I have some ideas if you need help."

Lauren snorted a laugh.

"And I call best man." Niall grinned, reaching for more muffins. "And I'll need to rent a tux and cut my hair, so give me some warning."

Lauren hummed quietly. "Maybe ring bearer."

She was flushed and confused at herself—at permanence and commitment and finality—and she couldn't really look at Niall's knowing eyes, so she got out of her chair and walked across the living room, gesturing for him to follow.

He did—spouting off about sunset proposals and "I have a buddy who can marry you while you're scuba diving sixty feet down,"—and Lauren rubbed at her face and chuckled quietly and showed him Camila's balconies.

She was stuck on the top one, watching Niall carefully to make sure he wouldn't tip over the edge, when she realized that she'd like to get married in the sand. The person she saw standing across from her was faceless, but her dark hair and small hands and pink-painted toenails were familiar, and they made Lauren smile.


Standing in Camila's driveway with her arms crossed, Lauren was sweating through her t-shirt. She dug her fingernails into her skin and frowned at Camila's car from behind her sunglasses, swayed on her feet. Her stomach felt hollow already.

She glanced around uneasily and then dragged her gaze back to the driver's seat, observed the studio parking pass hanging from the rearview mirror, the extra shoes and scarves and sunglasses strewn about the backseat.

She stiffened when Camila's hand landed on the small of her back.

"Ready, baby?" Camila wondered, watching her carefully. She always disliked not being able to see Lauren's eyes.

Lauren blew out a shaky breath and wordlessly climbed into the driver's seat, cursing her trembling hands and California residency in her mind, everything that ever required a driver's license. Camila got in next to her and patiently waited with her hands in her lap while Lauren settled into the seat.

Lauren ran a hand through her hair and plucked at where her shirt was sticking to her body. She glanced at Camila and muttered, "It's so hot."

Camila hummed, even though it was October on the Pacific coast and it was fairly cool outside.

Lauren checked her mirrors and made sure Camila had her seatbelt on. She was growing paler by the second, and Camila watched her with concern, mild alarm. She caught one of Lauren's shaky hands in mid-air—the one twirling her key around—and squeezed supportively.

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