• Published 29th Aug 2018
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Each Small Step - Krickis



If nothing good ever lasts, then is there even a point in trying?

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1 – Little Things

Each Small Step

Chapter One

Little Things

It wasn’t that Sunset didn’t want to go to Aria’s apartment, exactly. She was always happy when they got to spend time together, and she was especially looking forward to it today. It had been a long week, but it was Friday night and Sunset was going to unwind by spending some one on one time with her girlfriend.

It was time to put the worries from the week behind her and spend a relaxing evening having fun with Aria. Hopefully.

Sunset sighed and reminded herself that worrying about what might happen wouldn’t help her. And neither would sitting in her car while staring up at Aria’s apartment complex. Whatever would happen would happen, but only once Sunset actually entered the building.

She finally got out of the car and closed the door, making sure to check it was locked before walking away. It wasn’t the nicest part of town, after all. Satisfied that her car was sufficiently safe, Sunset placed a smile on her face as she walked up to the building.

Aria lived in a studio apartment on the second floor, so Sunset climbed the outside stairwell. She pointedly avoided the handrail, which was covered in rust in the many places that the paint had chipped off.

The guy in the apartment next to Aria’s was sitting outside smoking a cigarette, so Sunset waved to him. He stared at her, but didn’t respond until she knocked on Aria’s door. When he did, his voice was gruff and irritated. “Tell her to keep her damn music down at night.”

“Er, sorry about that,” Sunset said. She doubted she’d actually bring it up, though. He probably did have a good reason to complain, but that just wasn’t high on the list of things she needed to talk with Aria about. Sunset was choosing her battles, and unfortunately for him, that wasn’t one of them.

Even though he didn’t seem interested in saying anything else to her, she was still glad to be saved from having to stand around in awkward and smokey silence by the door opening.

“What are you even knocking for? You have a key.” Aria smirked as she stood aside to let Sunset in.

“I dunno, feels rude to just barge in.” She held out her arms as Aria closed the door, and ignored how Aria rolled her eyes as they hugged. “How was your day?”

They pulled apart and Aria shrugged. “Eh, it was okay. Kinda boring.”

“Least that’s not too bad though, right?”

“I guess.”

It was easy enough to see that Aria had been having a lazy day. She was still in pajamas – men’s pajama pants with an oversized T-shirt – and hadn’t bothered to style her hair.

Sunset followed Aria into the living room. It had been months since they started dating, and at some point along the way, Aria stopped making excuses for the state of her apartment. It was a mess, but Sunset had known it would be. It was always a mess, no matter how many times Aria swore she was going to do something about it.

That was a battle Sunset wasn’t ready to give up on just yet, though. “Get any cleaning done around the apartment?”

There was a notable pause while Aria sat down on the futon, currently folded into a couch. She didn’t meet Sunset’s eyes as she answered. “I started to, but I got caught up in some things.”

Sunset took a seat beside her. The TV was already turned to some cartoon show, but Sunset wasn’t sure if Aria was really watching it or not. “Well, want some help with it since I’m here?”

“No, I got it. I have some free time coming up, I’ll get this place looking better then.”

Sunset wasn’t sure how much she bought that, but she did want to be supportive. “Okay, but let me know if you change your mind. I’d be happy to help you out.”

“Yeah yeah, you got it, Mom.”

Now Sunset was the one rolling her eyes. “Hey, someone’s gotta keep you on your toes. Might as well be me.”

“I guess I can let you have the pleasure.” Aria turned to lie across the futon, resting her head against Sunset’s shoulder. “How’d work go?”

“It was alright.” Sunset ran her fingers through Aria’s long hair as they watched TV. “You should stop by sometime, I could get you a sushi platter on the house.”

“You know I can’t say no to that.”

“I know.”

It seemed that Aria was in a good mood. Maybe there really hadn’t been anything to worry about after all. Sunset felt a little guilty for being so worried in the first place.

As she suspected, Aria didn’t really seem to care about the show they were watching. They talked through the whole thing, and it seemed to be on for background noise more than anything. Still, Sunset waited until it was over before proposing they do something else. “Feel like heading out and doing something?”

“What’d you have in mind?”

“I don’t know, nothing specific.”

Aria thought for a minute then sat up. “I guess we could. I’d have to get dressed though.”

“Oh no, the horror.”

Aria struck a pose with one hand behind her head and the other on her hip. “Hey, it took me all day to get this fabulous just-rolled-out-of-bed look.”

Sunset smirked. “Yeah, sleeping all day.”

Aria folded her arms. “That’s not the point. The point is that it’d be a shame to change it now.”

“Hey, it was just an idea. I don’t mind keeping you all to myself tonight.”

“Yeah, I’ve got you under my –”

“Don’t even think about finishing that line.”

Aria flashed a confident grin despite the interruption.“Fine, but do you deny it?”

“Shut up.”

Sunset grabbed Aria’s arm and pulled her closer. She leaned back, lying across the futon as Aria had done earlier. Meanwhile, Aria kneeled over her, one leg on either side of Sunset, keeping her pinned down while they kissed.

As Sunset’s hands began to move towards Aria’s body, she sat up without getting off Sunset. “Hmm.” Aria ran her hands over her body seductively. “So then, what do you want to do while you’ve got me all to yourself?”

Sunset’s movements were limited with Aria’s body still holding her down, but she didn’t mind. She was more than content to simply enjoy the view. “I could think of a few things.”

Aria bent back down but kept her face hovering out of range of Sunset’s kisses. “Naturally. I am irresistible.”

“Oh, yes,” Sunset said in an exaggerated sensual tone. “You know I just love the way the cheese dust accentuates your pajamas.”

Aria pulled back and frowned at her pajama shirt, then laughed. “Hey, way to kill the mood, Shimmer.”

Sunset laughed as well, then sat up as Aria moved off of her. “Yeah yeah, I’m horrible. Seriously though, how long have you been wearing that thing?”

“I don’t know.” Aria shrugged and took it off, then threw it at Sunset’s face. “Better?”

Sunset ignored her topless girlfriend in favor of examining the shirt close up. It was even dirtier than she thought. “Babe, when was the last time you showered?”

That may have been a little too far, since Aria’s tone became one of legitimate offense. “Are you saying I smell?”

“No no,” Sunset answered quickly. “But these clothes definitely need a wash. You had a few days off from work or something?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

Sunset smiled and shook her head. “And you’ve been lounging in the same clothes since then.”

Aria turned away. “What’s it matter?”

“It doesn’t, I didn’t mean anything by it.” Sunset tossed the shirt aside and leaned in to kiss Aria’s neck. “How about you take a shower while I get some dinner going. Knowing you, you haven’t eaten anything besides those cheese puffs on your shirt.”

Aria still seemed annoyed, and Sunset wasn’t sure if that was because she took the shower thing personally or because Sunset had ruined the mood. But she brushed it off and agreed, even if it was with some reluctance. “Yeah, okay.”

She stood up and started walking towards the bathroom, the only separated room in the apartment, but stopped after only a few steps. She turned back to Sunset with one last hopeful look. “Sure you don’t want to join me?”

“What, and hear you complain about how hungry you are after? We could both use some dinner, and let’s be honest, I’m the only one of us that’s going to cook it.” Sunset stood up and walked over to Aria, pulling her in for a kiss. “Besides, I don’t have anywhere to be tomorrow. There’s no hurry, and a little anticipation will only make things more fun later.”

“Dammit, Shimmer…” Aria placed her hands behind Sunset’s head and kissed her again. “I’m supposed to be the seductive one.”

Sunset laughed. “I learned from the best, babe.”

Once they pulled apart, Aria finally left for her shower. Since the bathroom was small and she kept all her curtains closed anyway, Aria didn’t bother bringing a change of clothes. Instead, she pulled out the clothes she’d change into – another pair of pajamas – then stripped out in the living room, taking only a towel with her.

That suited Sunset’s purposes just fine. She waited until the bathroom door was closed, then gathered up the clothes Aria had been wearing along with others that were scattered about the floor. She brought them to a little closet area near the bathroom, where there was a small washer and dryer.

Sunset filled the washer with dirty clothes and started it, then went back for the clean clothes Aria had pulled out. She threw those in the dryer so that they’d be nice and warm when Aria put them on.

Next she took a look around and wondered what to do. ‘Dinner first.’ She had told Aria that she’d make dinner, and really, she knew Aria probably hadn’t had anything but junk food to eat.

Not that there were a lot of options. Sunset looked through Aria’s fridge and cabinets, and found mostly instant meals and canned goods. What few fresh ingredients she had could no longer be described as ‘fresh’, so making a home cooked meal was out of the question.

Sunset pulled out a big can of beef stew, reasoning that Aria could benefit from a hearty meal. She set the can on the counter and walked into the bathroom. Remembering Aria’s comment about knocking, she decided not to bother this time.

“How’s beef stew sound?” Sunset asked.

“That’s fine,” Aria called back. “Are you doing laundry?”

“Yeah, I figured I’d get a load done while you’re showering.”

“I was gonna do it.” Aria sounded annoyed.

“Hey, it’s no big deal, I don’t mind,” Sunset said, but Aria didn’t respond. “Anyway, food should be done by the time you’re out.”

Again, Aria didn’t answer. Sunset didn’t let it get to her, though. Her grumpy girlfriend was who she was, and Sunset had known she had an attitude right from the first time they met.

Well, met again might be the better way to put it. They had of course met a few years earlier while Sunset was in high school, during the Battle of the Bands. Neither of them could’ve imagined they’d one day be dating back then, though.

It was strange to think about. It was also strange how easily things between them had fallen into place. They’d just sort of happened. They met by chance at a concert sometime after graduation, and Sunset had struck up a conversation to make sure that Aria wasn’t doing anything underhanded.

To her surprise, Aria was just there for the show. The other Dazzlings weren’t even around. And to their mutual surprise, the two got along oddly well. Aria and her sisters had apparently come to terms with everything that had happened on their own, and out of necessity, they had moved on to regular lives.

That had given them the clarity to see that the Rainbooms were only acting in defense, and while none of the Dazzlings had gone so far as to admit they had been in the wrong, all three of them had agreed to put the matter behind them.

None of which helped make dinner, of course. She shook off the reflective thoughts as she returned to the kitchen area. Like most of the apartment, it wasn’t a separate room, just a tiled area with a counter and kitchen appliances to set it aside from the rest of the apartment. She fished around a drawer until she found Aria’s can opener, wondering how a woman who never cooked still managed to make a mess of her kitchen.

Next she found a saucepan and emptied the can into it. While it would make for a simple meal, the single can of beef stew was big enough for them to split. She figured if they were still hungry later they could just make something else.

She put the stew on the stovetop and waited for it to cook. Reconsidering the meal once she saw it out of the can, Sunset checked the freezer and found some frozen peas buried in the back. She opened those and dumped them into the stew to help bulk it up a bit. The only instructions on the can were to heat to a simmer while stirring occasionally, so Sunset decided to make the most of Aria’s shower by tidying up a bit.

Although she knew Aria would tell her not to worry herself with cleaning, Sunset also knew that if she didn’t do it, no one would. And really, after seven months together, doing a few little things here and there for her girlfriend was hardly a big deal.

It was hard to believe it had already been seven months. They were already over half way to their first anniversary. They’d never planned on it. When they first met and decided to hang out again, it hadn’t been a date. When they did decide to take things a step further, it wasn’t because they loved each other. They were both single, looking for someone to change that with, and they enjoyed each other’s company.

That was it. There were no plans to go long term. No decision to spend every weekend together, or to give each other the spare keys to the other’s apartment, they hadn’t even agreed to use the title ‘girlfriends’.

It had all just sort of happened. And now, seven months later, Sunset was in Aria’s apartment cooking and helping to keep it clean.

It was enough to make her laugh out loud. At least until she realized she’d gotten sidetracked in her thoughts and had to run to stir the stew.

At least she managed to get a few bags of trash filled, if not taken out. The apartment was looking a little better already, and maybe that would persuade Aria to do a little more work on it with her after dinner.

And even if they didn’t wind up doing anything productive for the rest of the night, Sunset still felt accomplished. She had made them dinner, cleaned a bit, got a load of laundry going, and had some warm pajamas ready for Aria when she got out of the shower.

Couple with the fact that Aria was in a playful mood, the night was sure to be a well-deserved treat for both of them. And, right on schedule, the door to the bathroom opened as Sunset pulled the stew off the stove.

“Perfect timing, dinner just finished.” Sunset left the pan on the counter and instead turned her attention to the dryer. She pulled out the pajamas and handed them to Aria, who was only covered by a towel.

Aria took the clothes but didn’t seem happy about it. “I could’ve done the laundry myself.”

Sunset just shrugged. “I know, but it’s no big deal, I just wanted to do something nice for you. Now you don’t have to worry about it.”

Aria frowned as she looked around her apartment. Her expression worsened as she noticed the bags of trash. “You cleaned up too?”

“Just a little. I’ll get dinner served while you get dressed.”

“I can get my own.”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Babe, you’re naked. Just relax and get some clothes on.” She grinned and winked. “I’ll need something to take off of you later.”

None of Aria’s playfulness from earlier came back through, but at least she didn’t try to protest anymore. She sighed and set her clothes down on her futon so she could get dressed, while Sunset walked back to the kitchen.

What happened? It wasn’t that Aria’s poor mood was out of place for her, but it had changed so suddenly. Although actually, that wasn’t really out of place for her either… Sunset could only hope that things would go back to normal as the night went on.

Best way to start would be getting them some food. She took out two bowls – paper, since Aria never did the dishes – and divided the stew evenly between them. She carefully carried them over to the futon and set them down on a coffee table, then picked up the towel Aria had left on it.

“What do you want to drink?” Sunset asked as she brought the towel to the bathroom. She would normally remind Aria to do it, but with her mood already being poor, Sunset was choosing her battles.

“I think all I have is soda.”

Sunset hung up the towel and walked back out to the fridge. Looking inside, she saw Aria did indeed only have a two litre bottle of orange soda. “Maybe we can go shopping this weekend.”

Like the bowls, the cups were disposable. Sunset got two plastic cups and filled them with soda, then she got them plastic spoons to eat with. The only things that would need to be washed from this meal were the saucepan and the spoon she’d used to stir.

Back on the futon. Aria was staring grumpily at the TV as she flipped through channels, but at least she muttered a quick “Thanks” when Sunset handed her one of the cups.

“So how was your shower?” Sunset asked, in part to get a conversation going and in part to see if she could figure out why Aria’s mood had swung so far down.

“It was fine.”

Uh oh, fine was never good. But Sunset really doubted the problem was anything to do with the shower, which left her unsure of where to go. She decided to just give it space and started eating as she watched Aria flip through channels.

Eventually Aria settled on an ocean life documentary, although it was hard to tell how much she was actually paying attention to it. She was clearly watching it as she ate, but she did so with a distant expression.

“But she still has quite a ways to go before she’s back home. Leatherback sea turtles are known to travel up to ten thousand miles every year, and many never make it back.”

“You know, the girls found a bunch of baby turtles on the beach once,” Sunset said, hoping Aria actually had some interest in what she was watching. “Maybe we could go this weekend?”

“I doubt there’s gonna be more baby turtles just hanging around.” Aria didn’t sound too interested.

“Maybe not, but it could still be fun.”

“Mmm.”

Well that wasn’t very helpful. But in the interest of pushing some kind of conversation forward, Sunset kept at it. “Do you have to work this weekend? We could always go some other time.”

Maybe talking wasn’t really helping, because Aria went from watching TV to glaring at it. “I don’t know. No. I don’t work this weekend.”

Sunset waited a moment, then just said, “Okay.”

Since talking didn’t seem to be getting them anywhere, Sunset gave up on it. And since Aria didn’t seem to want to pick up the slack, that meant they ate in awkward silence. Sunset was beginning to regret coming over.

Their silence was eventually broken by a click from the washing machine, signifying that the clothes were done. Sunset stood up to get them, but Aria pushed past her. “I got it.”

Sunset held out her arms, but Aria’s back was to her so she didn’t see. While Aria roughly grabbed her clothes and shoved them into the dryer, Sunset sat back down. She leaned back and folded her arms – if Aria was going to be a bitch, she would have to deal with Sunset following suit.

Sunset waited for Aria to sit down before asking, “Did you remember dryer sheets?”

Aria swore, stood up, and walked back over to the dryer. Sunset just rolled her eyes.

She wondered if Aria even knew how many dryer sheets to put in, but she didn’t bother to ask. The only result would be Aria getting grumpier, so she could deal with stiff clothes if she messed it up.

But she also wasn’t in a mood to humor Aria with more silence. “So what’s going on?”

“What do you mean?” Aria asked as she sat down.

“What’s bothering you?”

Aria looked pointedly at the TV. “Who says something’s bothering me?”

“Your tone, for one.”

“What about my tone?”

Sunset gave her a nonplussed look. “You can’t be serious. Look, if you don’t want to tell me then fine, but I’m just trying to help.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t need any help.”

Sunset sighed and stood up. “Alright, fine. Be like that. But since all I seem to be doing is making you miserable, I’m just gonna go.”

Aria stood as well and grabbed Sunset’s wrist. “Hey, woah, I never said you were making me miserable! You’re putting words in my mouth!”

“Well I’m sure as hell not making you happy! All I see is that you’re pissed off at everything I do to try and help you!”

“I just… don’t want to think about work or anything.”

“What?” Sunset pulled her hand back and wore an incredulous look. “You… I barely mentioned work, and you were being a bitch before then.”

“Look, whatever, let’s just… drop it.”

Sunset frowned. She had a question, and she was pretty sure she wasn’t going to like the answer. “What happened at work?”

Aria turned away. It was answer enough.

Sunset ran a hand through her hair. “I don’t fucking believe this.”

“Look, it wasn’t my fault!”

“Yeah, nothing ever is! Just like the last two times you lost your job, it’s never your fault! So what was it this time, huh!? Asshole manager? Lazy coworker who doesn’t pull their own weight?”

“Why are you so quick to side against me!”

“Because you can’t keep doing this! How can you not see that losing your job is just not an option?”

“Oh, right, because I planned on it! Sorry, I forgot to let you know that I’d marked it down on my fucking calender!”

“Alright, fine. So what happened? How isn’t it your fault this time?”

For once, Aria didn’t have a quick reply. Probably because she knew Sunset had her. Eventually she folded her arms and turned away. “What’s it matter, not like you’ll take my side anyway…”

Sunset just shook her head. “You think I don’t want to be on your side? Twice now, I’ve been on your side, even when you didn’t have a good reason. And both times, you only got by because…”

Aria glared at her. “Go on. Say it.”

Sunset couldn’t finish the thought. It was too low, even for an argument. “Never mind. You just –”

“I won’t ask you for shit this time, okay!? I can take care of myself, so don’t fucking worry about me!”

As Aria’s tone rose again, Sunset’s anger did the same. It wasn’t like she didn’t have better things to do than babysit her girlfriend, and she really couldn’t afford to go back to paying both of their bills. She took a step back and gestured around the apartment. “How is this taking care of yourself!? This is bullshit! Yeah, I’m fucking worried about it, because I’m worried about you!”

“I never asked you to worry about me!”

“How can I not worry about my girlfriend?”

“It’s not like I asked for that either.”

She didn’t. She wouldn’t. “What does that mean?”

Aria laughed. “Well, who was the one that wanted to hang out all the time? Who was the one who wanted to try an actual date? Don’t blame me because you decided to catch feelings, babe.”

She would, and she did. That was a line she should never have crossed. “Fine. If that’s how you feel then have fun destroying yourself.”

Aria didn’t call to Sunset as she walked away. She didn’t stop her as she opened the door. She didn’t run after her as she got in the car. Sunset just walked away, and Aria let her.