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When Nico arrived at Karolina’s house just a few minutes early, being let in by her mom, she had only expected to walk in to her room to see her friend lounging around. It wasn’t that she saw something she wasn’t supposed to – at least, she didn’t think so – it was just that she hadn’t been expecting the blaring music and engrossed Karolina dancing along, eyes shut with arms and hips moving sensually to the music.

Nico doesn’t know why it stunned her so much. It caused her to stop in the doorway to take in the scene properly, raptly watching the way Karolina moved. It wasn’t until Karolina opened her eyes and finally spotted her that she took her first step into the room, the first one in years. The significance of that hit her like a brick, but it wasn’t something she wanted to focus on right now. Not when there was a beautiful girl beckoning her forwards.

“Hey, Nico! Sorry, I thought I had some time before you got here,” Karolina says, “Come dance! We can let off some steam before we have to get serious.”

Nico stayed where she stood, shaking her head, “No way, princess. This isn’t exactly my kind of scene.”

Nicooo,” Karolina dragged out her name, dancing towards her as she did, “Don’t make me dance all by myself.”

“Have you had something to drink?” Nico protested, all the while allowing Karolina to take a hold of her hands and drag her into the middle of the room.

“Only a tiny bit, I promise.”

Nico wasn’t inclined to believe her, but allowed her friend to move her to the music anyway. She even started to get into it, not wanting to kill Karolina’s vibe obviously. It wasn’t until Karolina started absently singing along that it started to feel… weird.

“touch ya, touch ya, touch ya… the way I used to, used to, used to, used to”

Karolina moved closer, placing Nico’s hands around her waist and moving her own to cup Nico’s face, as if she was singing the words directly to her. Swaying along to the beat, the room suddenly felt like it was a thousand degrees and Nico was happily burning. The way Karolina was staring into her eyes and just casually singing these sweet words that were causing some terrible, terrible thoughts to run through her head… she just couldn’t get her head around why it suddenly felt so intimate. Karolina was her friend! There weren’t any secret romantic, or even just lustful, feelings here. All it was was two friends singing and dancing together.

Nico tried so hard to convince herself of that.

It wasn’t because Karolina was a girl – hell, she’d kissed plenty of girls before – it was because Karolina was straight and Nico was maybe kind of into Alex. Or, at least, Alex was definitely kind of into her. But Nico definitely kind of wasn’t into Karolina! Not only would that not bode well for their friendship, it would just never happen. Karolina was so unattainable and beautiful and… straight.

Fuck if she didn’t smell good, though.

The music changed as they stood swaying, and Karolina moved her arms to wrap round Nico’s smaller frame, bringing them closer together still. Nico just breathed in the scent of the girl wrapped around her, content with that for now.

“Hey, Nico?” Karolina started, speaking almost directly into her ear.

Nico held back a shiver at the feeling of her breath caressing her neck, “Yeah?”

“Do you ever feel like you’re holding back your true self? Like there’s a big part of you that just wants to be set free but you’re just not able to take that step.”

“I… I think I used to. Sure, you might think that I’m hiding behind my makeup now, but I’m happy like this, if that’s what you’re getting at. I don’t feel like I’m not being myself.”

“No, no!” Karolina hastened to object, “No, that’s not what I meant. I didn’t mean to sound like that at all. I can see this is who you are now, and I even like it. I just… I’m struggling with some stuff internally at the moment, I guess.”

Skimming over the fact that Karolina said that she liked her aesthetic, Nico thought she understood then what Karolina was trying to get at.

“You know it’s okay that you turn into a flying rainbow fairy, or whatever the hell that is, right? I don’t care about that. None of us do! It’s weird, but the awesome kind of weird. Is that really what you’re worried about?”

Karolina paused.

“Yeah, that was it. Thanks.”

“Anytime. It’s cheesy shit, but you know we’re all here for you. I’m here for you.”

Karolina leaned back and looked into Nico’s eyes, smiling at her. It was just a small smile but it told Nico that she’d at least said the right thing. She so often messed things like this up and she was coming to realise that, while they hadn’t really spoken in years, Karolina was beginning to mean a lot to her. All she wanted to do was make her smile.

Noting that the playlist had ended whilst they had been talking, Karolina quickly moved to restart the music. When she came back she was all grins and bad dancing, again going to Nico and pulling her around the room to the music. It wasn’t to the beat, and Nico was definitely not sure that it should even technically class as dancing, but she found that really she didn’t mind it. The spinning, the twirling, the absolutely abominable yet endearing wave move that Karolina tried to do. It was all so sweet and adorable that she almost threw up.

When they were finally out of breath, they found themselves collapsed side-by-side on the bed. Only inches apart, Nico’s little finger tingled where it was brushing against Karolina’s. She couldn’t help but think that if she only turned her head, she could just kiss her.

Except Karolina was straight! Nico felt ashamed of herself for even thinking of doing something like that when she knew how the other girl felt. She had no idea where this crush had come from but she wanted to smash it into tiny pieces.

She didn’t know how though, and it only got worse when Karolina straight up grabbed her hand and intertwined their fingers. They both turned onto their sides to face each other and, though Nico tried to stop herself, she found herself leaning further in. Her nose was practically grazing Karolina’s cheek before the blonde even seemed to realise that this wasn’t something that was just friendly.

Nico expected a hasty retreat after that, except Karolina just stayed there with a slight blush on her cheeks. Waiting? She didn’t know.

She had almost worked up the courage to actually go for it – after all, Karolina didn’t seem that against it – when the song changed and a soft “ooh, boys!” came out of the speakers. Clearly unhappy with the new song choice, Karolina leaped out of bed within seconds of it even starting and shut it off.

“I think we should start getting ready!” Karolina blurted, looking entirely flustered.

Nico could take a hint.

She reluctantly got up from her position on the bed and went to the bag that she had abandoned at the door when she first arrived and grabbed what she needed. She hadn’t meant to make Karolina uncomfortable, but the atmosphere in the room now felt a whole lot cooler than it had just moments before.

Sighing in resignation, Nico put on a smile for Karolina and pretended that nothing had even happened – as if anything had really happened at all. They got ready together, and even though the laughter and the casual atmosphere seemed fake neither girl wanted to address the elephant in the room. It was only when it Karolina came to Nico and asked her to do her dress up that things started to go back to normal. This is what friends do, she had to remind herself. She dutifully slid the zip up, though more slowly than was strictly necessary, and might have brushed her hands ever so slightly over the vast expanse of Karolina’s smooth skin left still exposed. She swore she imagined Karolina let loose a sharp breath at that. She couldn’t let herself begin to think about that, though. One rejection was enough for the night.

Forcing herself to walk away and put the finishing touches on her makeup too more willpower that she would ever admit. It was when they were both ready that they moved to talking on her bed again. It felt a lot different now, and if Nico didn’t know better it really felt like Karolina had been trying to tell her something. But she’d learnt her lesson earlier and, not wanting to push it, had left it.

It’s okay though. It’s only a few days later when she thinks she found out after she dragged Karolina along with her to find Gert and Chase. It wasn’t too long of a wait for that kiss, after all.