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critical rules for not-dating

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1. Proceed with caution

It’s exactly two weeks after the incident when Maki’s phone buzzes. She's working on an assignment that she lost the will to write at least three hours ago, and when she drags her tired eyes away from her laptop to check her messages, she’s completely surprised to find that it's already 10.42pm.

She's way more surprised when she sees Yazawa Nico’s name right there on her screen.

Because it's been two weeks. And despite their casually referenced intentions to maybe see each other again, they haven't contacted each other once since. And all the message says is, hey, i’m outside!

Maki just blinks down at it. There's no denying that the message is from Nico, but surely it's possible that she sent it to the wrong person. Maybe she's standing in the dark outside some bar right now, waiting to meet up with some poor, unsuspecting girl who was fooled by Nico's cute looks too. She does strike Maki as the kind of person who’d be careless enough to send an incorrect message without pausing to check it over first.

And it wouldn't make any sense for her to be messaging Maki now, would it? Two weeks have passed and Nico hasn’t said a word to her, which is completely fine. Maki hasn't messaged Nico either. She was hardly going to be the one to contact her first, because what would she say, anyway? "Thank you for the shameless yet enjoyable sexual encounter. You're still annoying. Regards, Maki”? There's no way. There are no possible circumstances under which she'd ever do something as embarrassing as that.

Admittedly, she had experienced a number of pleasurable sensations that night, and, sure, okay, maybe she demonstrated a startling amount of post-coital warmth towards Nico afterwards, but Maki could hardly help it. It was a biological reaction. There were all kinds of neuropeptides working against her. How else was she supposed to react?

Three whole minutes later and Maki’s screen has long since faded to black. Her phone buzzes again. She jumps up and paces several laps around her apartment, allowing at least another two minutes to pass before she dares to return to her desk and look.

Another message. It just says maki?????

No doubt about it then. It was meant for her.

It takes Maki more time than it should to type, Outside where?

Nico replies back instantly. your place! or at least i think so... can we talk?

Maki takes a breath. Who says I’m home?

just hurry up!!! it’s cold

Maki has an exceptionally long list of questions and concerns, the most immediate being that she's thoroughly unprepared to invite anyone inside. There are books and papers everywhere and she’s definitely not looking her best in a pair of leggings and a comfortable, unflattering shirt. Even her hair is sticking out at weird angles, because she’s been hunched over her desk for hours and she can't shake the habit of dragging her fingers repeatedly through it every time she studies.

She thinks about inviting Nico inside. About sitting next to her on the same couch where they were... intimate and nope. No way. She can't think about that right now. Not when Nico's waiting. Waiting outside. Waiting outside Maki’s apartment. Waiting to talk to Maki.

Maki smoothes down her hair and grabs a jacket and her keys.

She's not inviting Nico inside.

Maki takes a deep breath as she steps out into the brisk autumn air. Nico's waiting, just a few steps away from the entrance, illuminated by the soft glow of the light from the lobby.

The first thing Maki notices is that she looks nice. She's wearing a red dress and a tiny waist length jacket that can't possibly be doing anything to keep her warm. She has ribbons in her hair which shouldn’t look good, but doesn't look bad, and it's annoying that she's had time to prepare a suitable outfit for this occasion (not that this is an occasion, really) because Maki certainly hasn’t. Maki's not even wearing the slightest bit of makeup, though thankfully she's got the kind of face that’s never really needed much.

Maki's heart does a weird lurch when she sees her, which is annoying, and she feels somewhat nervous, which is ridiculous, because it’s Nico, who annoyed the hell out of her both times they met, only… only a lot happened that second time. (But, of course, she's not thinking about that right now. Not thinking about the soft sounds that Nico made, or the terribly embarrassing things that Maki said in the heat of the moment that kind of make her want to die now, just a bit.)

Nico looks up. Their eyes meet. Maki hates the way her cheeks heat up instantly, hates the way that nerves flutter in her stomach. She raises her hand awkwardly in a half-wave.

“Ahhh,” Nico says, taking a step towards her. “So you didn't move then?”

“Move?” Maki blinks, and then she remembers. “Oh. Uh… no. But I'm keeping my options open.”

“Uh huh,” Nico says, grinning.

She’s even closer now, blinking up at Maki with those big eyes, like she’s one hundred percent sweet and not literally the devil. She smells as nice as she looks - aggressively girly in a way that Maki wants to hate. She should hate. Why doesn't she hate it?

“I thought you actually deleted my number,” Nico pouts. “Nico gave you the most amazing night of your life but you never called? Maki’s so cold.”

Maki flushes and glances over her shoulder. Her doorman’s within hearing distance. There are people around.

She takes Nico's arm and tugs her around the corner. Talking by the entrance to the garbage disposal room isn't perfect, she'll admit, but it's better than talking where every single person entering the building can hear them.

“I didn't delete it,” Maki says, at a much more respectable volume, “I just… forgot. I've been busy. It’s not like I’ve had time to sit around thinking about you.”

Nico sighs loudly. “I thought you'd be less of a pain? Stupid, I guess, but you were kinda cute in the morning last time? I thought maybe you were just grouchy because you needed to get laid or something?”

“Why are you here?” Maki asks, sharply. “If I'm so unbearable what are you doing outside my apartment?”

Nico hums. Her lips curl into a smile.

“Wanna take a walk?” she asks.

"A walk," Maki repeats, slowly. She hesitates for a long moment.

Nico nods. “Or you could invite me inside again?”

Maki shakes her head furiously. Outside is good. Outside it's easier to focus on normal things like trees and cars and people. Easier to avoid thinking about what Nico looks like under her clothes and how precisely two weeks ago her mouth was unspeakably soft and outrageously hot and on Maki’s body, not that she's considered either of these things recently, or at all, because it's not like she's some weird sex-obsessed pervert.

“I can walk,” Maki says, quickly. “Obviously I can walk. I meant I have time. To take a walk. Probably.”

She flushes as Nico snickers at her failure to communicate like a calm and collected individual.

“There's a park that way,” Maki says.

She strides ahead.

Just like last time, Nico follows her.



The atmosphere is about as comfortable as those nine minutes and forty five seconds of torture when they walked back to Maki's place last time, only it's much worse, because this time they're painfully sober, and at least last time there was a clear and mutual objective, whereas this time… this time Maki has no idea where things are going.

Nico's humming under her breath but she's not saying anything, and it's frustrating, the way she keeps gazing at her own reflection in shop windows, but avoiding Maki's eyes completely.

Maki takes a breath.

“So,” she says, “You wanted to talk to me?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t put it that way,” Nico says quickly. “It’s not like I wanted to. Nico was just... in the area.”

Maki rolls her eyes, and she's about to make some comment about getting to the point, only it strikes her that behind her smug facade, Nico almost looks nervous too. It's kind of comforting to know she's not the only one who finds this really fucking weird.

So far her interactions with Nico have been nothing short of perplexing. The first time they met, Nico flirted with her aggressively, and then got so angry about a flippant remark regarding the music of idols that she basically flipped a table on Maki. The second time she acted like a total brat, but then she kissed Maki, kissed her a lot, and then acted sort of weirdly sweet towards her after. And now she's here, completely out of the blue, initiating this painfully awkward meet-up and yet failing to actually say anything significant. Is it any wonder that Maki's confused?

They reach the end of the street and Maki points towards a dark path lined with trees. It's creepy and quiet and the moon is bright and eerie, and Maki wonders if maybe she should have chosen somewhere more well-populated to take a late night stroll. At least she can verifiably conclude that if Nico didn't murder her in her sleep last time, she's not going to do that tonight. (Well, probably. Either way, Maki has the size advantage. She'll be fine.)

Maki jumps a little as the wind rustles the trees and makes ominous looking shadows twist across the pavement. She forces herself to take a soothing breath. She's perfectly calm and relaxed. She likes walking at night. It’s just that Nico’s still quiet, which Maki thinks should be a blessing, but it kind of unnerves her. She’d rather listen to the sound of her smug, irritating voice than the sound of her own footsteps and that weird creaking sound - what is that?

“H-How did you know I'd be home?” Maki asks, in a manner that's completely cool and calm.

“Lucky guess,” Nico shrugs, “You don’t strike me as a party person. And Eli’s with Nozomi at my place.”

“I have other friends,” Maki says, defensively. “In fact, I have a very full schedule. You're lucky I was home.”

Nico snorts. “I mean, I’m stuck here with you. I wouldn’t exactly call that lucky.”

Maki glares and she stops walking, just outside the fence around the playground. Her arms are sharp on her hips.

You're the one who turned up out of nowhere and dragged me out of my nice warm apartment. And then you act like I forced you to be here? What's with that? I don’t get you.”

“Um, like I said, it wasn't a special trip or anything! I just-" She glances off to the side, "Happened to be nearby...”

Maki reaches for Nico’s arm. She curls her fingers tight around it so that Nico actually looks at her.

“What do you want, Nico?”

Nico’s teeth skim ever so briefly over her bottom lip. Maki’s stomach flutters. It feels so familiar, looking down on Nico like this, wanting to shake her and tell her to stop being irritating, but also to grab her by the collar of her stupid tiny jacket and - and -

“Look,” Nico chirps, “The swings are free!”

She twists free of Maki’s grip and races into the empty playground.

“Of course they are,” Maki mutters, shaking her head. “There's no one else here.”

Maki takes her time following Nico, partly because she doesn’t want to appear too eager, but also because she’s tired and confused and if Nico’s going to make her wait, then Maki’s going to do the exact same.

Nico's actually swinging when Maki joins her. She leans against the cold metal frame and just watches her whiz past, hair blowing behind her in the wind like she’s an actual child.

“Maki should try too. It's fun!”

“I'm not a kid,” Maki says, watching Nico swing past her. “I didn't come here to mess around.”

“Is it tiring being so boring and serious all the time?” Nico calls out, kicking her legs.

“Is it tiring being so weird and evasive all the time?”

Nico swings past her several more times. Maki sighs loudly. She did not leave her nice, warm apartment for this.

“I don't have time for this," she says. "If you want to play, go get your siblings or something.”

Nico digs her feet into the ground and steadies herself to a stop. She stares at Maki, her red eyes wide.

“You remembered,” Nico says.

Maki feels her face get warmer. “Why wouldn't I?”

Nico pats the swing beside her.

“Let’s talk,” she says.

Maki crosses her arms tighter across her chest.

Sit,” Nico says, forcefully. “Don't be a baby.”

“Fine,” Maki says, “But I'm not going to swing.”

She perches cautiously on the edge of the seat. Nico leans back and looks up at the stars. Maki watches her. She waits.

“I did have a reason for asking you here,” Nico says. “I was thinking about you earlier. N-Not in a weird way - just, like, about how you piss me off more than anyone I've ever met, and how you’re grouchy and impossible and you definitely don’t appreciate what a perfect angel Nico is. We're totally and completely incompatible, right?”

She smiles cheerfully and Maki just looks at her, equal parts confused and offended.

“...What’s your point?” she asks.

“My point is, life is stressful,” Nico says, gazing up at the sky again. “Sometimes you have a really long day of boring classes and then you go straight to drama club and rehearse for a play that you don't even like, and you have to spend forty minutes arguing that obviously the character you're playing would wear lavender, not lilac and you just wanna like,” she glances at Maki. “Blow off some steam?”

Maki nods slowly.

“I get that. I'm only here because studying got boring. You know I'd never agree to willingly spend time with you otherwise.”

Exactly,” Nico says.

“Exactly what?”

“It's ideal, isn't it?”

Maki frowns. “What is?”

“You don't like me. And I definitely don't like you. But we both need to keep on top of that stress thing so we don't die.”

Maki wants to point out that she copes with her university workload perfectly fine by playing piano and taking long baths and exercising regularly. She barely even notices that the expectations of her entire family are piled up on her shoulders, demanding she performs perfectly at all times. 

She wants to say all this, but she gets distracted, because Nico's looking right at her and it's heated and challenging and there's this glimmer of mischief in her eyes, and it kind of feels like maybe she's about to suggest something wild.

Maki's heart beats fast. She feels betrayed by her own body - by the twist of heat in her stomach, the way that her fingers start trembling - because there’s this shameless, carnal part of her that really, really wants Nico to suggest something wild.

“Stress can cause all kinds of health problems,” Maki says, carefully.

“Right? It’s the worst.”

“Is… there anything you’d recommend? As an older student?”

“Well,” Nico says, thoughtfully, “I mean, I guess the last I felt really relaxed was when I left your place?”

Maki swallows thickly. Her heart picks up speed, and Maki didn't think it was possible for it to beat any faster. A cool breeze whips through her hair, but her whole body feels hot.

“I don’t want to date you,” she says, softly.

Nico scoffs. “Oh god, no. I don’t want to date you either. Can you even imagine what a nightmare that'd be?”

“So what then?” Maki asks. “What do you want?

“I’m curious. About last time. Do you think it was just a weird, tense angry one-off thing or… or would it feel that good again?”

She watches Nico twist side to side, making the metal chains of the swing jingle.

Maki’s throat is so dry, her voice croaks a little when she speaks. “It's hard to say. There’s no conclusive evidence either way.”

Nico’s mouth curls into a mischievous smile. She’s trouble. So much trouble. She flutters her long lashes, big eyes bright.

“Wanna find out?” she asks.

It’s a terrible, terrible, terrible idea. There's not a part of Maki that considers saying no.

“Now?” Maki squeaks.

“It doesn't have to be now. Just, like, I dunno... at some point, maybe?”

Maki steps off the swing. She looks at Nico, really looks at her, and it’s hard to deny she has attractive qualities, abrasive personality and irritating mannerisms and carelessness around Italian food aside. Logically, Maki knows that engaging in a purely physical exchange with someone she doesn't particularly like for the second time is dangerous, especially without the weak excuse of having consumed alcohol first. But Nico’s cute. Hot. And though Maki would never admit it, she has thought about it since in the darkness of her room - the way Nico tasted, the tiny noises she made, how smug she felt when she’d made Nico's knees so weak she couldn’t even stand. On a purely physical level, she made Maki feel better than she’d ever thought was possible. And she had worked more productively the next day, so it’s like Nico said, right? Stress relief.

“It’s cold,” Maki says. Her voice is embarrassingly raspy. “Shall we head back?”

Nico stands up and leans close. Her grin is wide. Her eyes are bright. She looks so devious. So pretty.

“I was hoping you'd say that,” she says.

It's not the first time that Nico follows her home.

But it is the first time that Maki pushes someone back against the cool metal wall of an elevator before the doors have even finished sliding closed.

Maki doesn’t understand this, but it occurs to her, as she tugs Nico into her bedroom and they start tugging at each other’s clothes, that maybe right now she doesn’t have to. Maybe it’s okay to want someone just because they’re warm and pretty. It doesn’t mean anything in particular, the way that her whole body reacts to the lightest brush of Nico’s fingertips, the way she wants her so bad she aches, the way she’s touched herself almost every day since it happened, imagining her fingers were Nico’s tongue.

Nico pushes her back onto the bed and prowls over her.

“So," she coos, in that ultra-irritating, ultra-cutesy voice, "Is Maki ready to admit that she's glad Nico dropped by?” 

Maki tugs her closer, because she likes Nico best when her mouth is otherwise occupied. 

It’s been two weeks, but Maki kisses Nico like she’s waited a year.




2. Set clear boundaries.

So, okay, maybe Nico went back. The important thing is she hadn't intended to. She really was nearby (just round the corner! At most twenty minutes away!) and she really had been stressed, and everyone knows that stress can have a dangerous impact on your physical and emotional health, so really she was just looking out for herself, wasn't she?

Nico mostly went over there because Maki hadn't messaged her or accepted her friend request and that seemed rude. Sure, maybe they aren’t actually friends, but having access to Nico's adorable selfies and cute-yet-intellectual world views is a privilege and she hates that someone would dare to even dream of throwing that back in her face.

And she was curious, she'll admit, about the whole one-off thing. She had all kinds of meaningful questions like why the hell was that so hot? and would it be that hot again? but had she planned to wake up for the second time in Maki's stupid rich girl bed? Of course she hadn't.

(But had it been totally and completely worth it? Yes. Hell yes. Yes, it certainly had.)

So, sure, maybe Nico finds herself tangled up in impossibly soft sheets in the early morning light for the second time, but she’d kindly like not to be judged for that, thanks. She's a college student. It’s not a big deal. This sort of thing is totally normal, isn't it? 

Nico may well be an angelic all-rounder in terms of looks, personality and talent, but she still has her weaknesses just like everyone else. Is it a crime that Nico's weak to pretty girls and Nishikino Maki just happens to be really, really pretty?

The worse thing is the way Maki has the nerve to wake up all cute and cosy again. Nico thinks if they’re going to do this, there should definitely be some kind of ban on that kind of behaviour because when Maki squints open her eyes and makes a soft noise and nuzzles close, what’s Nico meant to do? Maki’s naked and soft and hot. Did Nico mention how hot she is? Did she mention that there's no way she'd even be here, but she’s not sure she’s ever met someone as hot as Maki before?

Besides, it’s not like they're cuddling or anything. It's just two people lying facing each other. Just Maki’s face pressed against her neck, with her warm breath and her soft hair that flicks out and tickles Nico’s collarbone. And the way their legs kind of tangle together is just a spacial thing. Sure, it’s a big bed, but Maki’s so overwhelmingly close that there's not really any space for anything else.

It’s at that dangerous moment, when Nico’s lying there contently, that she realises that she could happily do this. Just turn up at Maki’s place sometimes late at night and push her back and kiss her hard without having to worry about what it means or if it’s serious or whatever. 

And as long as she ignores the part where she has to deal with Maki and her giant ego and her painfully grouchy demeanour before they get to the good stuff, it just seems ideal, really.

So she doesn't think. She just kind of blurts it out.

“We should totally do this again.”

Maki yawns. “I'm sleeping,” she murmurs. “Soon?”

Nico stretches lazily and shifts closer without meaning to. Her fingers ghost over Maki's hip. Her skin's so soft and warm.

“Not now,” she says, and Maki makes a soft grunt of disapproval. “I have work. I meant, like... in general?”

Maki shuffles back far enough that she can squint sleepily at Nico, with this perplexed look that's equal parts dumb and adorable.  

“You... want to do this?” she asks.

“I mean,” Nico says, feeling her cheeks heat up, “Aren't we already doing this?”

Maki frowns. “You mean, like,” she flushes too, “I could call you up and say-”

Nico-nii, you're the most beautiful angel I've ever laid eyes upon and I'd die for the pleasure of being close to your perfect body again!”

“Sorry,” Maki says, "I lost your number.”

Nico drags her fingers up Maki’s ribs and back down over the dip of her waist. Maki makes a soft sound and curves closer. Nico really, really likes how easy she is.

“I'd settle for, Nico, you're perfect and I really, really want you,” she murmurs by her ear.

She hears Maki take a breath as much as she feels it.

“But... just this, right? Just-” she flushes harder and lowers her voice, “Just sex?” 

“Um, yeah. Don’t call me and tell what you ate for dinner, because I literally don't care.” 

Maki moves Nico's hair gently out of the way so she can press soft lips against her neck.

"The less you talk, the better,” Maki murmurs.

“You know I feel the same."

Nico makes a startled sound as Maki's teeth scrape against her skin. 

“Message me this time,” Nico says. “We don't have to waste time on all that awkward small talk. Just call me. Fuck me.”

Maki sucks in a sharp breath.

“Maybe," she says, in a weak, raspy voice, "If I find the time.”

Nico growls and drags her nails roughly over Maki's hip. “Why are you such a pain?” 

Maki’s fingers are so soft. Who gave her the right? They trail along the back of Nico’s thigh and she promptly forgets how to breathe.

“Hey,” Nico says, nudging at Maki's shoulder, "I have to shower, you know."

She has to work. A later shift, she’ll admit, but she’s a busy girl. She doesn't have the time to lie around in Maki’s bed all day.

Maki flutters her eyelashes coyly. How are her eyes so pretty without makeup?

“That can wait a minute, can't it?” 

Nico's breath comes out all harsh and shaky as Maki's fingers edge closer and closer to where she needs them. Nico arches closer and she's so wet. So ready for Maki's fingers when they slip inside her.

“You're such a bad influence," Nico hisses.

Maki laughs, short and harsh.

“Trust me,” she says. “You're much, much worse.”



Nico has a nice orgasm and a nice shower and she steps into Maki’s small-but-fancy kitchenette feeling super refreshed.

Maki’s sitting at her table in a silky robe and reading glasses, scrolling on her phone with a thick strand of hair wound tight around her finger. There’s a notepad and a cup of coffee in front of her. When she notices Nico, she puts her phone down quickly. It’s kind of weird how the glasses make her eyes look bigger.

“If we’re gonna do this,” she says, seriously, “There have to be rules.”

“Um,” Nico frowns, “Isn't the fun part where we don't have to worry about that stuff?”

“Boundaries,” Maki says, and she taps her pen against the table for emphasis, “Are important in this kind of arrangement. I was actually just doing some research-”

Nico snorts. She leans over Maki's shoulder. Sees Casual Relationships written out on her notebook paper surrounded by several question marks.

“Oh my god," Nico laughs. "That's, like, next level nerd.”

Maki flushes hard. “M-Maybe you like to charge ahead without thinking first, but I like to make intelligent, informed decisions.”

“Oh yeah?” Nico smiles sweetly, “Did you stop to make a list before you got all drunk and up in my face at the bar last time?”

“S-Shut up,” Maki says. She points at her counter. “There's coffee.”

“Nico would love some, thanks!”

“Pour it yourself.”

“Wow,” Nico says. “So hospitable.”

Maki just huffs. “I let you sleep in my bed twice. I don't see you inviting me to your place.”

“That’s because of rule number one,” Nico says, pouring the coffee into a fancy porcelain cup with a saucer. “Don’t tell Nozomi.”

Maki nods seriously. She picks up her pen and starts to write. Nico sips the coffee and makes a face. It's so bitter.

“I don’t see the need to tell anyone,” Maki says.

Nico slides down into the chair opposite her and nods.

“Fine by me,” she says. “After all, I can't have you ruining my wonderful reputation.”

“I’d enhance it,” Maki says, grumpily. “You’d be lucky to be seen with me.”

"You got me banned from that bar. Poor Nico's never been banned from anywhere."

"That was you! Eli and I used to go there all the time and now I have to make excuses because I'm too embarrassed to go back!"

"Don't pick fights then," Nico sing-songs and sips her coffee.

Maki glares at her and Nico just smiles sweetly.

“So rules, huh...” Nico says, thoughtfully, “Oh, I've got one! Don't fall for Nico.”

Maki almost drops her cup.

“W-Why would I?”

“I'm charming and adorable! Why wouldn't you?”

“Not gonna happen. I'd be more concerned about you.”

“Me? Trust me. You're the last person I'd ever fall for.”

Maki frowns and picks up her pen. There's something weird about seeing it written down. There’s something weird about this whole damn thing.

“There's obvious stuff too,” Maki says, "Like no dates.”

Nico crinkles her nose. “Like we'd ever want to relive that disaster.”

“And research suggested we should, uh... keep our options open.”

“Of course! The universally adored Nico-nii is far too popular to limit herself to just one person! Imagine how cruel and unfair that'd be for the rest of the world?”

“Sure,” Maki says, flatly. “They'd really be missing out.”

“Remind me,” Nico says, “How many times did you come in the last twelve hours?”

Maki flushes such a pretty shade of pink.

“T-That's irrelevant. Stop saying weird stuff.”

“But, you know, Nico is super popular! Wanna see my phone? Or my friends list? Because I'll find you proof-”

“Please,” Maki says, “Don't do that. That won't be necessary.”

Nico leans in close and studies Maki's face intently.

“Do you date a lot? Because I really can't imagine you dating a lot?”

“Of course I date,” Maki says, defensively, “Or I would do if I had the time. Unlike you, I'm pretty busy studying for a real degree.”

Nico gasps. “You take that back, Nishikino.” 

Maki just rudely ignores her. She writes the last two points neatly on her stupid list.

“This can't be long-term,” she says.

Nico nods. Maki writes it out. Temporary.

“I’m graduating next year anyway,” Nico says. 

“That's six months away. There's no way I'll still be interested then.”

“Same here,” Nico says. “I'm barely even interested now. But what can I say? Nico has needs.”

Maki looks down at her list and then back up at Nico. Her teeth worry over her bottom lip.

“Are we really doing this?” she asks.

“Don't overthink it,” Nico says. “And... don't do anything you don't want to, okay?”

“And... if I do want to?” Maki asks, softly.

“Then I guess I wouldn't hate that. As long as we stick to your dumb list we should be fine, right?”

Maki twists a piece of her hair around her finger. “This doesn't mean I like you, you know.”

"Sure," Nico sing-songs.

Nico knocks back as much coffee as she can manage even though it burns her mouth and, frankly, tastes like crap.

“Thanks for the drink,” she says, standing. “Your coffee’s gross.”

“You’re gross,” Maki says, with all the maturity of a six year old, and Nico just rolls her eyes. “I'll type up the list and send it over. Make sure to message me any additions you can think of, okay?”

Nico shakes her head.

“I can't believe we’re doing this.”

“Trust me,” Maki grimaces, “Neither can I.”

They look at each other for a long moment. Nico checks the time on her phone.

“Well,” she says, awkwardly. “Guess I better go.”

“Right,” Maki says. “Yeah. I'll... see you around.”

Nico takes a step towards her and she puts her hand on the back of Maki's chair and leans closer and closer, so her pretty eyes go wide and her face gets all flustered. Maki takes a breath. Her lips part softly. She looks mega-pissed when Nico flicks her directly in the middle of her forehead.

“Accept my friend request,” she says, sharply.

“No,” Maki says. “Why would I do that when we're not even friends?”

But Nico gets the notification when she’s sitting on the train to work. She grins and sits up straighter and taps on Maki’s name immediately and just heads straight for her photos, for purely judgemental purposes. There's disappointingly not that much to see. There’s a couple of pretty-but-pretentious selfies, some of which are with cute girls, even some where Maki's actually smiling. Nico's naturally curious, so she can't help but wonder if they're just friends. It's likely she'd dated at least one of them (because come on. Maki must've learned how to do all that stuff with someone). There are some tagged photos, suspiciously none of which are embarrassing or unflattering. Overall it’s kind of boring. Nico clearly needs to give Maki lessons on marketing herself online and establishing her brand. 

A message flashes up on her screen right when she’s almost finished profile-judging. Nothing but an attached document - Rules (draft one).

Nico sighs so loud that approximately half of the train carriage turns to look at her.

Honestly. What has she got herself into?