A/N: This is an Emison story that I wrote as part of a personal challenge that I was doing for International Fanworks Day this year. I decided to write one story for each Liar pairing and post them throughout the day. I've always felt like PLL is a world where the Liars saving each others lives constantly and having to rely entirely on one another to survive the terrifying world of 'A' - it requires so much more trust and love and intimacy than most romantic pairings ever do. It was a very cool series to write, especially because of the way it made me thing about the interactions of the girls in different combinations.
Emily was sitting in her room, frowning at her algebra homework when her phone pinged with a text from Alison. It was Saturday afternoon, and hearing from Ali meant that maybe they’d make plans for tonight, maybe Ali wouldn’t be planning on going to one of those endless parties where all the guys were old enough to drink and have scruffy facial hair and look at Ali in a way that made Emily’s stomach churn. Or maybe they’d even get together sooner, maybe go shopping and Alison would try on lots of outfits and ask for Emily’s opinion like it mattered.
>I’m bored. Wanna hang out?
Emily grinned and texted back, threw her pencil down on her desk and gave up all thoughts of solving for x.
It was only May, sixty degrees and not hot enough for shorts yet, but Ali would never be so conventional as to dress for the weather. She was lounging on her bed in denim cut offs that exposed almost all of her legs and a yellow t-shirt with a picture of the Eiffel Tower on it.
Alison liked talking about France, imagining who she could be there, and sometimes - thrillingly - she seemed to imagine Emily there, too. She never talked about any of the other girls going with her to Paris, even though Aria’s room was covered with pictures from art books and Hanna’s affection for buttery croissants was well known. Not even Spencer, who had the best accent in the freshman class on account of a French au pair who worked for the Hastings one summer, and who probably understood all about customs forms and exchange rates and how to read subway maps in other languages and stuff.
Emily perched on the edge of Alison’s bed, tried not to stare at the exposed skin of Ali’s calves, just inches away. Almost as if she could read Emily’s mind, Alison grinned and stretched a little, basking like a cat in the sunlight of Emily’s covert attention.
“What are we doing today?” Emily asked, her eyes skittering away from the skin of Alison’s stomach, peeking out above the waistband of her shorts.
“Having an adventure,” Alison declared. “What time is your curfew tonight?”
“Nine-thirty,” Emily answered.
“So ten,” Alison nodded, “Ten at least before your mom calls the police.”
“We’re going to get arrested,” Emily protested, as she and Alison stood on the platform.
“If they catch us, we’ll buy a ticket on the train,” Alison said, dismissing Emily’s worry with a breezy wave of her hand. “It’s called a calculated risk, Em.”
Emily allowed herself to be dragged onto the train, maybe because as Alison strutted down the aisle like she owned the whole car, she clutched Emily’s hand tightly to make sure she stayed behind her.
Alison bumped (deliberately, Emily thought) into a businessman in a fancy suit who blatantly stared at her barely there outfit, went a little red in the face as they brushed past him. Alison flashed him one of her biggest fake smiles as she led Emily out of the first train car, back into the second. They didn’t stop until they saw a conductor in the fourth car, at which point Alison back tracked and pulled Emily into the tiny bathroom compartment to hide.
There was hardly enough room for one person in there, much less two, so Emily was squished between Alison and the door in ways that almost made her forget to breathe, made her worry that Alison would be able to feel how hard her heart was pounding. But Alison was busy, grabbing a thick stack of cash out of a leather wallet.
“Ali, where did you get that?” Emily asked, appalled.
“It’s not stealing,” Alison said, unconcerned. “It’s a pervert tax. You saw the way he looked at me. And he’s like, old and nasty.” She tossed the wallet itself into the sink. “Besides, I’m leaving the credit cards.”
Emily felt a thrill run down her spine, even as a spike of guilt shot through her stomach. Being around Alison was always like this, a carnival ride that spun her around until she was dizzy, unsure of which way was up or down. The best part was the knowledge that the ride was a little dangerous, one her mom for sure wouldn’t let her go on if she asked.
Alison stuffed half the money into the pocket of her shorts, the other half she tucked into Emily’s bra, her fingers deftly running over the soft swell of Emily’s breast.
“There,” she said. “Now you’re my accomplice.”
They hopped off the train at the 30th Street station in Philadelphia. Alison was right, of course. They never got asked for their tickets.
Alison hailed a cab and gave the driver an address on Chestnut Street. Emily expected it to be a bar, or an apartment building where some random hipster guy would invite them in. But it was a movie theater.
Emily’s face broke into a smile as she studied the marquee. A foreign film festival.
“What are we seeing?” Emily asked.
“Anything French,” Alison announced.
Emily flipped through a schedule in front of the ticket booth, and found a French film starting in 15 minutes. She paid for two tickets, carefully taking the money out of her purse instead of dipping into Ali’s ill-gotten gains. Alison watched her with an amused expression on her face.
“What?” Emily asked with a shy smile as she handed Ali the small red tickets, hoping they weren’t sweaty from being clutched in her hand.
For a brief moment, Ali looked at her in a way that was softer, warmer, than her usual mocking superiority. It was as if, Emily sometimes thought, there were another Alison inside of the regular one, the Queen B. Interior Ali didn’t surface very often, but whenever she did, flashing unexpected bursts of kindness or generosity or sweetness, Emily’s heart melted a little bit more.
“You bought my ticket,” Alison replied. “Are we on a date?”
Emily blushed and didn’t answer. “Do you want popcorn?”
Ali nodded, ordered popcorn and a diet soda, and let Emily pay for those as well.
They sat in the back row and shared the popcorn. Emily could have sworn Ali was brushing their fingers together on purpose. When she took a sip of the soda after Alison, she tasted Jungle Red lipstick on the straw.
Emily had no idea what was actually happening on screen. Something noir and a little sexy, but she was way too distracted by Alison to give the movie more than a fraction of her attention.
The music got a little ominous, a dark figure stepped out of an alleyway and grabbed the heroine. Alison startled and grabbed Emily’s hand. The heroine kicked him, escaped through the fog. Alison didn’t let go. She interlaced their fingers.
It’s just friendly, Emily told herself sternly. It doesn’t mean anything. Her heart thudding in her chest, she held her breath, and ran her thumb gently over the back of Alison’s hand. In the dim light of the projector beam, she could make out the tiniest hint of a smile flitting across Alison’s face.
After the movie, Alison shoplifted a bottle of wine from a bodega, and Emily bought them tacos from a food truck near the river. They ate sitting on the grass, watching the ducks. Ali drank most of the wine, Emily taking only a few sips here and there, worried her mom would be able to smell the alcohol on her breath.
“Are you having fun?” Alison asked, her shoulder touching Emily’s.
“Are you kidding?” Emily asked. “This is, like, the best day ever. I wish we didn’t have to go home.”
“We can’t go back yet,” Ali said. “I’m tipsy.” As if to emphasize the point, she flopped over dramatically, resting her head on Emily’s lap.
Emily’s eyes met Alison’s half-closed ones. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Alison snapped, then softened. “I just want to lay her for a minute.”
Emily placed a tentative hand on Alison’s head. Because Ali wasn’t feeling well, she told herself. She stroked Alison’s hair gently, the feel of it like satin between her fingers. Ali smiled a lazy smile as her eyelids fluttered closed.
Emily wished she could freeze time and stay in this moment forever, Alison relaxed and happy and acting - like she’d been acting sometimes, ever since that awful Halloween party - like maybe, just maybe, there was the tiniest sliver of possibility that if Emily ever - did anything, she could barely even bring herself to think about what, but she stared at Alison’s lips as she thought it - maybe Alison wouldn’t be totally grossed out. Like, maybe Emily’s feelings were like an outfit that Ali wasn’t quite sure about in a shop window, but one that caught her eye, that she’d pause to consider. One she might have to try on to know for sure.
The sun was setting over the water, and still Emily sat there staring at Alison, playing with her hair. She was trying to store up everything about this moment, every rise and fall of Ali’s chest, every strand of hair beneath her fingers, the weight of Ali’s head resting in her lap, so that she could recreate it later in her imagination. The park wasn’t too crowded, a few people reading on benches, some guys throwing a frisbee in the distance, a couple walking their dog along the water.
As the couple passed, Emily felt a little shock at the realization they were two women, holding hands. One of them, the one with short hair who was holding the leash of the greyhound looked over at Emily and Alison, and smiled. Emily’s hand froze, she felt like a deer seeing headlights with no instinct left but to stay still and brace for the crash. Was her biggest secret that obvious, that a stranger could spot it from a towpath twenty feet away?
“What’s happening?” Alison asked, in a voice that sounded displeased. “Why’d you -” But then Alison caught sight of the women with the dog, how they were looking over their shoulders smiling at Emily as they walked on.
Alison hopped up immediately, a disgusted look on her face. “Come on,” she said, sharply. “We’re going home.”
Emily followed obediently as Alison walked at a quick pace all the way back to the train station. Ali paid for their tickets back without saying another word, and spent most of the ride home staring out the window at the scenery, clearly in a mood.
As the train pulled in for the Rosewood stop, Alison laid a hand on Emily’s arm. “I have to ask you something,” she said. “Why were you staring at those freaks?”
“I wasn’t,” Emily lied, bubbles of shame swirling in her stomach. “I was looking at their dog. The dog was cute.”
Ali stared at her for a moment, like the way Spencer’s dad looked all intent when he played poker with his friends, searching for a tell. Whatever Alison was looking for, she must not have found it. Or maybe she did, it was impossible to know. But it seemed like Emily passed whatever test she’d set up, because Alison nodded and said, “Good girl,” and took her hand again as they disembarked onto the platform.
They walked home slowly, even though Emily was starting to get a little worried about her curfew. Not worried enough to put up a fight when Alison announced that she wanted Emily to buy them both ice cream. They sat outside the Dairy Queen, their legs tangled together beneath the picnic table just long enough so that Emily would definitely be ten minutes late.
Alison was quiet as they walked the rest of the way back to Emily’s house, and Emily was quiet too, trying to think of a good story for her mom, who she knew would be looking out the living room window, or standing on the porch scanning the street for her.
Sure enough, as they turned the corner onto Serenity Lane, Emily’s mom was visible peering through the drapes, her arms folded across her chest.
“Do you want me to come in?” Ali asked. “I could tell her we were working on a French project.”
“It’s okay,” Emily said. “I don’t want her to be mad at you, too.”
“Did you mean what you said before?” Alison asked.
Emily felt panicked, thinking she was asking about the women, the ones who somehow thought Emily was - like them. Her throat went dry, but then Alison, gauging her reaction, saved her from whatever sense of danger she’d created.
“Was it the best day ever?”
“Of course,” Emily sighed, relief seeping through her entire body. “I always have the best time when I’m with you.”
Alison was used to being complimented, by guys who were flirting with her, girls who wanted to be like her - she mostly shrugged them off as meaningless. But her face changed a little at Emily’s words, her smile was a delighted one that crinkled the corners of her eyes, made her look sweeter and less deadly than usual.
She paused at the end of Emily’s driveway, stared at the flick of the curtains that meant Pam had abandoned her post to go wait at the front door. She took both of Emily’s hands in her own and leaned forward, kissing her lightly on both cheeks, as if they were already in France together.
“J’adore,” she whispered, her lips only inches away from Emily’s ear.
Emily didn’t say anything, she stood there stunned, her cheeks tingling. As she watched Alison turn away and flounce down the sidewalk, she felt certain of one thing: she would never, ever, love anyone as much as she loved Alison DiLaurentis.