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it started out with a kiss (how did it end up like this)

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Karolina Dean stares intently at herself in the mirror. She is clad in an off-white dress that is elegant with lace sleeves and crisscrossed fabric on the chest. With her skin tone, blonde hair, and blue eyes, the dress is arguably perfect for her but she groans, something just isn’t right. She reaches behind her neck to unzip the dress, but her arm can’t fully reach the zipper, and she grunts in frustration.

“That is like the fifth dress you’ve tried on. All were fine, and you look great. Stop changing,” her best friend and roommate, Nico Minoru, complains as she barely looks up from her phone as she lays on Karolina’s bed.

“No, it just isn’t right. I know I have a blue one in my closet somewhere, hold on,” Karolina speaks quickly and races into her closet. She paces back and forth in the walk-in as she examines all the shelves, but she can’t find the dress in mind. The whole closet is in disarray, shoes are flung everywhere, clothes are off hangers and thrown wildly on the floor and shelf. It looks like a tornado tore through the closet, not an anxious twenty-year-old girl.

“Ironic that you’re freaking out in the closet about coming out of it,” Nico jokes.

Karolina turns around and gives the girl a dirty look. “I’m not freaking out; my outfit just looks horrible. And dinner with my parents is important to me.”

Nico leans a hip against the wall with her arms crossed as she looks Karolina up and down with concentrated deep-set brown eyes. “So, all this panic,” she states and makes a gesture with her left hand at Karolina and her messy closet, “has nothing to do with you coming out to your parents tonight?”

Nico has been Karolina’s best friend for as long as she can remember. The pair met when they were seven years old, their parents are family friends along with some of LA’s other wealthiest families. The parents are all part of a charity organization called Pride. They took multiple family vacations, spent holidays together, and went to galas together; it was inevitable for the kids to become inseparable. The Pride kids are very close today, out of all of them, four of them go to the same college in California. Karolina and Nico are two of the four, they’re very close, they even rent an apartment together off-campus. Their friends Gert and Chase also go to the same school as them. Gert is the social justice advocate with quick wit and purple hair, and Chase is her genius athletic boyfriend. The other group of Pride kids are Amy, Nico’s sister, Alex, and Molly. Alex and Amy both go to different schools across the states and Molly, Gert’s adoptive sister, is still in high school.

Out of all the Pride families, about 95% of the people know about Karolina being gay. Essentially the only people that don’t know are Karolina’s parents. She had known she was gay since she was 16, to this day she claims she has probably known her whole life, but the whole thing didn’t really snap into place until her sixteenth birthday when Chase Stein kissed her, and she felt nothing. Instead of feeling any attraction, she spent the whole time wishing it was Julie Power kissing her instead. It didn’t take long after that until everything set into place and Chase was the first person she came out to less than a week later. He accepted her with open arms, his only question was why she didn’t tell Nico first. She remembers telling him through tears that it was easier to tell him, because they weren’t as close as her and Nico and she couldn’t risk losing her. Chase eventually talked her through and she told Nico a few days later. To which Nico responded that she’d always known and didn’t care, because she herself was bisexual.

Most of the other parents know, because either she told them, or her friends told them. She didn’t mind as long as her own parents didn’t know. Karolina has put off telling her parents until now, she plans on telling them now at the age of twenty after holding in the secret for four years. She just can’t hide it anymore, she feels like she’s keeping a piece of herself from her family.

Both of Karolina’s parents are actors. Frank and Leslie Dean are common household names. They both would be considered A-listers, so Karolina spent her childhood in the spotlight as famous people’s child. Leslie Dean is an actress know for being uber religious and because of that, uber conservative. Leslie’s career can be controversial at times because of this, as most actors are liberal. Karolina remembers the shit storm Leslie’s publicist dealt with during the election when Leslie made it very clear that she agreed on the views of Trump much more than that of Hillary Clinton. It was stuff like that that terrified Karolina of ever telling her parents about herself.

“Fine, I’m completely freaking out,” Karolina sighs. Nico looks at her with a sympathetic expression and Karolina shakes her head when Nico steps forward to hug her, “No, if you hug me I’ll cry.”

“Karo, I promise, it will be fine. They’re your parents, they love you unconditionally. Yes, your mom is a bit problematic, but you know Frank will support you no matter what,” Nico states as she empathetically grabs the blonde’s hand. “If dinner goes crazy after you tell her, just text me and I’ll get you out of there ASAP. And if Leslie is a mega-bitch, we can set Tina loose on her,” Nico jokes and it makes Karolina let out a small laugh.

“Okay, I’ll make sure to text you the whole time,” Karolina says.

“Good, now please stop changing dresses. You look fantastic, stop stressing about it,” Nico says sincerely, causing Karolina to calm down significantly.


 

Karolina anxiously fiddles with the napkin on her lap as her entrée is set down in front of her. She pokes around at the food, she can barely even think about eating it, her stomach is too busy freaking out at the prospect of bringing this topic up. Frank and Leslie both chat with each other about their current movie projects, but all Karolina hears is white noise. She thinks about backing out about eight times in the next five minutes, until her thoughts are interrupted when her father says her name several times to get her attention.

“Karolina, what’s wrong? You haven’t touched your food,” Frank asks.

The blonde sighs and looks up at her parents who are staring at her in deep concern. She figures they just gave her the perfect segue, so she lets out a deep sigh and swallows her fear and speaks, “Something has been on my mind and I needed to tell you guys.”

“Of course, honey. Don’t be so anxious, you’re fine,” Franks smiles at her and grabs her hand that is still shoving food around on the plate with the fork clutched tightly in her grip.

The action causes Karolina to relax slightly and with an exhalation she finally is honest with her parents, “Mom, Dad, I’m gay.” Saying the words causes a wave of relief to rush over her and a small smile covers her mouth. The smile slowly fades away when all she is met with is silence and she can see a slight frown on her mother’s mouth. “I’m sorry, I haven’t told you guys before, I just have been scared you guys wouldn’t accept me. Please remember I’m the same person as I was before.”

“That’s great sweetie, whatever makes you happy,” Frank states with a soft smile.

“Mhm, I’m sure you are,” Leslie hums halfheartedly. Her tone comes off condescending and causes Karolina to stiffen her posture in concern.

“What does that mean?” Karolina bites defensively.

“I mean most girls your age like to throw labels around about themselves. You’re young and probably experimenting, but that doesn’t mean this phase will last. You’ll eventually get back to the right side of things,” her mother states offhandedly as she glances at her nails.

It feels like a bucket of ice has been dumped over Karolina. She feels breathless with shock and dismay. The words of her mother sting her to the core and she feels hot tears pinprick at the corners of her eyes. She swallows the worlds largest lump in her throat and turns to her father, he gives her a sympathetic look as she asks, “She’s kidding, right?”

“No, I’m not,” Leslie states evenly. “It’s okay, honey, in a few years it will be like this conversation doesn’t even matter.”

The screeching of wood on wood echoes boomingly in the restaurant causing a few other patrons to turn their heads in Karolina’s direction as she shoves her chair out from the table. The fork that is still in her hand clatters to the floor as she rushes to scoop up her purse, keys, and phone. Her heartbeat is echoing in her ears and the sorrow and anger she feels has her moving quickly and unfocused trying to get away from her mother. She doesn’t want to give Leslie the satisfaction of seeing her cry or getting a reaction out of her by yelling at her. The blonde nearly runs into a waitress and is so out of it she can’t even apologize. All she cares about is getting out of here. The blonde hears her dad calling out her name and she can feel several dozen sets of eyes following her dramatic exit, but she doesn’t care, she just needs to leave.

When the brisk April air hits her face as she exits the restaurant, it feels like her lungs fully open again and she can actually breathe. As she heaves in the air, that is when she feels her legs start to wobble and all the emotions she’s feeling fully engulf her. She leans against the wall and slides down to cement that feels rough on her bare legs. She pulls out her phone and dials the only number she can think of.

“Hello?” Nico’s raspy voice answers on the first ring.

“It went awful, please come get me,” she whispers in a strangled voice as she tries to push away any tears threatening to fall.

She can hear keys clattering in the background and doors slamming, “Send me your location, I’m leaving now.”

When she hangs up the phone, she waits a total of five minutes before Nico comes to a screeching halt in front of Karolina curled up on the sidewalk. Nico steps out of Karolina’s Mini Cooper she was driving and rushes to the blonde on the sidewalk. Karolina feels warm arms embrace her. The blonde can hear Nico speaking to her in a soothing voice, but she can’t comprehend any of the words coming out of her mouth. All she feels is the comfort her best friend is providing her about such an important aspect of her life that her mother won’t recognize. That is the straw on the camel’s back that finally causes Karolina to break down in tears.

It feels like an eternity before her hot tears stop shedding onto Nico’s shoulder, but in all reality, it is probably a few moments, as Karolina has never been fond of crying in public. Nico helps her up to her feet and into the passenger seat of the car. The pair ride in comfortable silence for the duration of the car ride back to their apartment. When Nico puts the car in park, she gives Karolina a cautious glance, but the blonde finds herself too exhausted and upset with her mother to even talk to her best friend.

She storms into the apartment, leaving the door wide open behind her. She makes a beeline for the kitchen and opens the freezer; her hands clasp a bottle of Grey Goose when she hears the front door to the apartment close. Karolina screws off the top of the fifth and brings the brim to her lips. With a deep chug, she feels the burning sensation set a fire in her stomach. Before the fire can expand she takes an even deeper drink out of the bottle.

When she pulls the bottle away from her lips, she can feel a presence standing in the entryway of the kitchen. Karolina doesn’t bother to look at Nico who is probably staring at her with incredible concern. All Karolina knows is she is miserable, and she wants to forget this whole night ever happened. She takes another pull of the bottle and when she stops drinking the liquid all of her insides burn, her teary eyes wander to the bottle to see over a fourth of the liquid is already missing. Karolina is quite the lightweight, so the effects of the alcohol have already managed to dull some of the pain that her mother has caused. After taking another swig, all she can focus on is how badly she needs to get this dress off. The lace on the arms is annoying and the white shade reminds her of fucking Leslie who is always wearing white for some reason.

Her long arms struggle behind her neck to clasp the zipper and she grunts, “Off. I need this off.”

“Let me help,” Nico states softly. She walks up gingerly behind the girl and unzips the dress slowly. Once Karolina feels Nico step away, she slides out of the dress, leaving her only in a bra and underwear. Her hands find their way back to the bottle and before she can get it to her lips, Nico is pulling the bottle from her hands. She fixes the shorter girl with an angry glare, which she’s sure looks ridiculous as she likely has makeup smudged all under her bloodshot eyes, but the raven-haired girl isn’t even looking at her, she is pointedly staring at the ceiling and that’s when Karolina remembers she’s half naked in the middle of her kitchen. “Let’s slow down the drinking, maybe get you into some clothes.”

Karolina’s blue eyes glance her best friend up and down, “Good idea, it’s cold in here.”

Nico starts to lead the taller girl out of the kitchen, and Karolina reaches forward to grab her hand. Her heart speeds up and a comfortable smile covers her face when Nico gives her hand a comforting squeeze.

Upon entering her bedroom, she sits on the edge of her bed while Nico searches through the warzone disaster of Karolina’s closet. She ends up emerging with a tank top and sweatpants for the blonde to sleep in. Once the blonde finishes changing she holds her hand out expectedly, “Can I have my alcohol now?”

“Not until you tell me what happened,” Nico states. Karolina can feel her eyes watering and Nico wraps her up in a comforting hug, “Hey, it’s me, you can tell me anything. I’m here to help, that’s my job.”

The blonde heaves a sigh and lays supine on her bed. Nico joins her, laying right beside her, causing the tipsy Karolina to seek contact and snuggle into her best friend’s side. When Nico rubs a comforting hand on her bicep, it calms Karolina enough to speak.

“She completely wrote it off. Called it a phase, said I was jumping to conclusions about myself and in a few years, I would go back to the ‘right side of things’ and none of this would matter, Karolina rambles. The words become more fumbled as she begins to sob upon recalling the details of her disaster coming out story. “I’m her daughter, shouldn’t she just love me for me?” The blonde covers her face with her hands when the sobs become body wrecking and violent, it doesn’t help that the alcohol in her system makes crying much easier than when sober.

“She should love you for you, because you’re wonderful, Karolina. Any parent would be lucky to have you as a child. Your mom is just a bit too narrow-minded to see it. She’s on the wrong side of history with this, I’m sure with time she will become more understanding of this,” Nico states evenly when Karolina’s sobs turn less violent. “What did Frank do?”

“He was nice about it but didn’t stand up to my mom when she said all that. He didn’t even follow me out of the restaurant,” the blonde shudders as she recounts her father taking a backseat to her mother’s cruel actions. Thinking about the night’s events make her hurt immensely and talking about the issue at hand with her best friend just feels like rubbing salt into a gaping, festering wound. “Now can we please get blackout drunk? I can’t talk about this anymore.”

“Of course, Karolina. Anything that will help.”


 

Ever since the dinner with her parents, Karolina has been secluding herself. Her dad has tried calling her every day, but she’s ignored it every time. Nico has been keeping a close eye on her, constantly getting Karolina food from her favorite place down the street, offering to watch rom-coms with her, and get wine drunk. But despite all this, she’s just needed to be alone. It’s easiest to push people away when hurting, and that’s the motto she’s been living by lately. Luckily her finals for the semester occupied most of her time in the last two weeks. By throwing herself in her studies, she doesn’t have to think about her mother’s harsh disapproval and disbelief or bother talking to anybody else about it.

Karolina walks out of her last final on Friday afternoon and she has the full intention of returning to her apartment and sleeping for the next twenty-four hours straight. It’s a short walk back and within minutes of her arrival, she’s flopping face down on her mattress, clad in an oversized shirt and running shorts. The blonde gets comfortable under the white and gold duvet and once she feels herself start to fall asleep, the bright lights of the hallway shine harshly into her room causing her to open her eyes.

Nico is standing in the doorway, the cause of opening the door and preventing Karolina’s nap. Her roommate is clad in a usual black outfit, surprisingly the Wiccan’s outfit is much more toned down than usual. She is wearing a cute dark gray tank top beneath a black leather jacket, accompanied by a black skirt with prominent zippers and tights. Her hair and makeup are as extravagant and unique as usual. Her dark black lips standout most out of Nico’s makeup as she fixes Karolina with a smirk, “I have a surprise for you.”

“I was about to nap, you know,” she says kindly.

Nico flips the light switch to the room on and sits next to Karolina on her bed, “I know these last few weeks have been rough for you with your parents. And I’ve been giving you your own space, because that’s clearly what you want. But I was talking to Tina-”

“Ugh, you told your mom about the dinner. Why? She’s just going to go running back telling everything to my mom,” Karolina groans.

Nico raises her eyebrows amusedly at the blonde, “Wow, you’ve got a Nico attitude on you today, I’m proud.” Karolina laughs and Nico sighs, “But no, it came up yesterday when I went and got lunch with my mom. You know, she’s been so much nicer to Amy and me ever since the divorce, but she like kicked it into ultra-nice mode when my dad and Janet Stein released their wedding invitations. It’s hard not to finally be close with her when she’s being like this.”

Karolina thinks on Nico’s words for a moment. Out of the pair, Karolina had always been very close with her mom and Nico had a strained relationship with her strict, cold mother. It had only been in the past few years that those mother-daughter relationships switch roles between the Dean and Minoru families. Tina suddenly became the kind mother of the year, and Leslie’s faults kept becoming apparent to Karolina, making her distance herself from her mother. She can understand why Nico would tell her mom, she’s finally having a good relationship with her mother and its so easy to tell your mom everything when she’s being your friend.

“She won’t talk to Leslie about it. She likes me more than Leslie, so by default she likes you better too. I actually had to hold her off, she wanted to chew your mom out,” Nico continues.

“That’s really nice of your mom, but if we’re gonna hang out right now can we do like anything but talk about the dinner with my mom. It just hurts to talk about,” the blonde sullenly states.

“Wait, there’s a point to this story,” Nico interrupts. “So, when I was talking to Tina, after I calmed her down from verbally attacking Leslie, I asked her to use her gigantic bank account as a favor for us – something to make you feel better.”

Karolina watches as Nico pulls out two tickets out of her leather jacket. The shorter girl hands them over to Karolina and the blonde’s eyes scan the papers and she lets out a shrill shriek of excitement, “Lakers tickets!”

“Courtside,” Nico nods. “I figured I could take you to see your favorite NBA team and that would manage to cheer you up.”

Her blue eyes scan the ticket, “Oh my God! It’s tonight, I need to go get ready.” She scrambles out of her bed and into her walk-in closet. While searching through the hangers, she shouts to Nico, “I can pay your mom back for the tickets tomorrow.”

Nico scoffs, “Don’t bother, she said it’s on her. Besides, these tickets cost next to nothing to her.”

“Okay, then I’ll call and thank her tomorrow,” Karolina states as she stumbles across the perfect outfit. She holds up the navy romper and pink sweater combo to Nico upon stepping out of the closet, “This with heels?”

Her roommate nods in approval, “Perfect.” Karolina shrugs out of her clothes and starts to change, and Nico looks down at her phone for a few moments. The girl sitting on the bed speaks up when Karolina is pulling the sweater over her shoulders, “Oh, I almost forgot to mention, Gert and Chase are coming too.”

“How did you manage to rope Gert into that?” Karolina chuckles.

“I may’ve just given Chase the tickets and once he saw the seats he couldn’t resist,” Nico laughs.

“So, you and Gert will both be complaining the whole time?”

Nico shrugs with a smirk, “Probably.”

Karolina fixes her roommate with a genuine smile, one of the firsts in weeks. Her heart flutters with warmth and comfort for this girl, she knows Nico hates sporting events and she’s grateful her best friend would go to such lengths to help her feel better. She’s more thankful than words can describe for Nico, and it has become more and more apparent in the last few weeks how great of a friend she is. “Thanks, Nico. I really appreciate this.”

The tiny goth girl smiles shyly with a shrug, “It’s not a big deal.” A comfortable silence encompasses them for a moment where Nico stares at the blonde fondly, “Well the game starts at seven, so we should leave soon. Go finish getting ready.”

Karolina fixes her with a mocking salute, “Yes, sir. I’ll be ready to leave in twenty.”


 

The blonde sits down in the cushy seat in the booming arena with a smiling look of awe on her face. Being so close to the court with its distinct purple and yellow logo at the half court line is a feeling of astonishment and content. The obscenely tall basketball players are warming up and Karolina feels giddy at the prospect of being so close to the game. She stares directly up at the jumbotron that is zooming in on Lakers players and for the first time in weeks, she feels happy.

A grumbling Nico sits to her left and a giddy Chase is sitting to her right. Gert sits closest to the stairs with a frown and large beer in her hand. Karolina and Chase discuss the prospects for the game, comparing favorite players and possible outcomes. The conversation causes Gert to butt in with a complaint.

“The NBA industry is a load of capitalistic garbage. People that can shoot a ball into a hoop well make more money than a doctor could ever dream of. There are kids starving in the streets but everybody on this court makes millions of dollars,” the purple-haired girl complains.

“Okay, justice warrior, whatever you say,” Chase laughs and grabs her hand. Karolina can see the visible blush taking over Gert’s cheeks, causing Karolina to smile at her favorite couple. The two start to share cutesy whispers, and the blonde decides to give them a moment to themselves and turns to Nico.

“Thanks, so much for these tickets, this is fantastic!” She exclaims. “I know you hate sporting events, so it means a ton that you’re willing to go through all this for me.”

Nico tries to shrug coolly, “It’s no biggie.”

The blonde gives her a genuine smile, “Don’t brush it off. I really appreciate all this.”

“I’m just happy to help make you feel better,” the gothic girl shrugs shyly.

The buzzer goes off, indicating the end of warmups and Karolina scooches to the edge of her seat in excitement. When all the players are announced, and the game begins with the tip off, Karolina is screaming and engaging in the game. She’s chanting and cheering for her favorite players and when the Lakers score. Chase joins in readily, but not as intensely as the blonde. Nico has to yank Karolina back down to sit when the blonde stands and yells. “Get off your knees, ref, you’re blowing the game.” Overall, she’s having an absolute blast and the first half goes by exponentially fast. The break allows Nico and Gert to excitedly escape. The pair claim they’re going to the bathroom and getting drinks, but Karolina knows they’re just looking for an excuse to get out of the crowded arena for a few moments.

The pair stand at the edge of the steps, taking concessions orders from Karolina and Chase who have opted out of leaving their seats. Gert counts on her fingers, “Okay so two beers and a popcorn.” She repeats. Gert then stares at the jumbotron showing audience members for a moment, “Ugh, I hope I miss the kiss cam, they are so heteronormative.”

“Thanks, babe. Love you,” Chase jokes and Gert sticks her tongue out at him before her and Nico leave up the steps.

“So,” Chases draws out the words once the duo makes it out of sight, “that was really nice of Nico to get you these tickets.”

Karolina raises an eyebrow questioningly; Chase’s tone is suggestive and she’s clearly missing the punchline. She’s incredibly thankful for her best friend giving her this gift after an awful few weeks, but Chase’s tone is implying that Nico’s kindness means something else, “Yeah, what about it?”

Chase shrugs mischievously, “I’m just saying, no matter how bad things have ever been in my life, none of my good pals have bought me courtside tickets to see my favorite basketball team.”

Karolina, still oblivious, states, “Well technically Tina bought them. So, it’s the thought that counts on Nico’s part, just comes to show she’s a great friend.”

“Sure,” Chase says slowly and shakes his head to himself, which Karolina decides to ignore.

The pair sit in comfortable silence for a few moments. They watch the jumbotron in unison, the cameras keep flashing to people dancing in the stands. Suddenly, loud, romantic music plays on the speakers and the jumbotrons shows the words Kiss Cam in frilly writing as a shot of a couple comes on the screen. People are giving courtesy applauses and coos as a few couples show up on the screen and give each other loving kisses. Karolina thinks to herself that Gert will be happy to have missed the kissing cam. Her thoughts are interrupted when she suddenly sees herself on the screen.

She is sitting with a happy upward glance and Chase is sitting at her side looking at his phone. All the people around her start whispering and smiling and the blonde suddenly feels very awkward and cringey. She’s rather uncomfortable that the camera man is just assuming her and Chase are dating, because they’re a girl and guy sitting next to each other. Gert would have a fit about the heteronormativity of this moment, and because they want someone else to kiss her man. She notices Chase also looks at the screen after a moment and a blush of embarrassment covers his cheeks. The pair both shake their heads frantically in mortification, Karolina even mouths “Not my boyfriend.” People around them apparently don’t get the hint and they start chanting the word kiss. Karolina and Chase both look away from the screen, getting some boos until the frame changes to a different couple on the screen.

“God that was awful,” Karolina complains. “The irony of that situation is not lost on me.”

“At least they took the cameras off us after a bit,” Chase states. “I’m sorry they’d just assume that.”

Karolina shrugs and her eyes follow as another couple kisses on the screen. The frame changes again and she sees herself and Chase on the screen again. She audibly groans and frantically shakes her head. Chase and her both make several hand gestures indicating they are not together and luckily the camera changes again after a couple of boos. Irritation sets in for Karolina, the situation is being made uncomfortable and embarrassing. The first shot was clearly an accident, but the fact that the cameras came back to them wanting them to kiss again is just irritating and annoying. It’s like she needed a flashing sign that says she’s gay, because the camera guy didn’t get the hint and neither did her mom.

Chase chuckles awkwardly and the pair sit in silence for a few seconds that feels like years until Nico comes down the steps with popcorn in her hands. With a smile she sits next to Karolina and hands the popcorn over to Chase, “Gert’s still in line for beers. Did I just see you guys on the kiss cam?”

“Yep, they’ve done it twice now,” Karolina groans.

Nico scowls slightly, “That’s annoying, but they’ve probably gotten the hint by now.”

“I hope so,” Karolina rolls her eyes and watches the screen again.

An old married couple gives each other a loving kiss, dulling some of the irritation she feels. That is until she sees her, Chase, and Nico on the screen again and she is absolutely seething. It pisses her off that these people think they can pester them into getting their way of cheap entertainment. She is gay, and Chase has a girlfriend, clearly, they have no intention of kissing and they’ve made that abundantly clear, but they think they can just keep filming them and pressuring them to get what they want.

With a mixture of this whole kiss cam thing and her absolute distaste and anger for what has happened with her mother, it all causes Karolina to snap. She needs to do something to get these cameras off of her so people will stop chanting the word kiss at her and she can just get the attention off of her. She needs to adhere to their logic, which is to give the people what they want: a kiss.

So, she does the only thing that makes sense to her in that moment, which is turn to her left and grab Nico’s unsuspecting face in her hands. She leans forward and connects their lips in a kiss, and holy shit she is kissing Nico. The sounds of the loudest cheers filling the stadium all night heavily sink into her ears. The loud cheers dull down in her head as she finds herself focusing all her attention on the girl she’s kissing. Karolina doesn’t know what to expect when her lips connect with Nico’s soft ones, but she didn’t expect her best friend to return the kiss immediately with a gasp that sends tingles down Karolina’s spine and all the way to her fingertips that are holding Nico’s cheeks.

They separate, but barely. Lips only millimeters apart, sharing gentle yet unsteady breaths. Her thoughts are racing, terrified she overstepped, but then Nico is leaning forward and connecting their lips again before Karolina has too much time to think. This time the kiss is much more intense, lips are slanted against one another and Nico is putting all her focus on Karolina’s bottom lip like her life depends on it, and the action almost causes her to melt on the spot. She’s hyperaware of every skin cell of Nico’s touching her; her lips and skin are almost vibrating, and this is not what she at all expected. 

She never would’ve fathomed that kissing her lifelong best friend would feel intense, so much so that she didn’t want to stop. Karolina is sure that she cannot stop, that kissing Nico is a new physical discovery, they’re like magnets they are attracted and stuck together, but unable to ever separate.

It’s all too much, and Karolina feels like she’s about to sink through the hardwood floor.

“Oh my God! Nico and Karolina are making out, I fucking called it, Chase!” Gert’s exclamation causes the pair to finally break apart. Karolina’s cheeks are practically glowing red, she can’t bring herself to look at Nico or the couple sitting to her right. She gives a cursory glance to the jumbotron and sees that the kiss cam has stopped, and she wonders how long she kissed Nico for that she didn’t even notice that the segment ended. The blonde looks over at Chase who has a look of shock and Gert with a smile on her face resembling a young child on Christmas morning. “I win, Chase. You owe me twenty bucks!”

“Wait, what?” Nico interrupts Gert’s giddiness and Karolina’s overwhelmed thoughts.

“We had a bet about if you guys were together, or when you’d get together,” Gert explains off-handedly.

Karolina opens her mouth to deny the fact while Chase fishes a bill out of his wallet. Nico places a soft hand on Karolina’s elbow, causing the girl to nearly gasp at the contact, “We’ll explain it to them later.”

“Uh huh,” Karolina splutters out and nods exaggeratedly. She cannot trust herself to form words after being kissed into oblivion by her best friend. The blonde stares at the court as players come running back on to shoot around, she focuses too hard on the players, because she physically can’t bring herself to look at Nico. She can’t risk it, she cannot predict what her gay little heart will do when she looks at her best friend.

“Hey Karolina,” Gert sounds with a teasing voice, “You’ve got a little – a lot – of black lipstick,” the purple-haired girl gestures wildly at her own mouth to indicate the smearing on Karolina’s. She feels her cheeks turn a deeper shade of crimson and all the blood rushing to her face could seriously make her pass out. Her hands move quickly to wipe at her lips and her heart nearly beats out of her chest when she sees all the black lipstick remnants that appear on her index finger.

For the first time, she risks a side glance at Nico who is too calm. She stares at the court and is wiping at her own smeared lipstick without a thought. Karolina feels her heart drop down to her feet, how is she being so calm and acting like nothing happened?

“I’m going to need details, ladies,” Gert says after moments of silence that feel like suffocating years of quiet for Karolina.

The buzzer sounds for the third quarter to start and Karolina heaves a sigh of relief, “Sorry, the game is starting.”

Gert groans and Nico and Chase both laugh. Karolina feels on edge and can’t look at anyone. She doesn’t want to think about the kiss, so she throws herself into focusing on the game. She isn’t nearly as enthusiastic as she was the first half, but she assumes she’s passing as acting normal. Chase and her discuss plays, but she’s speaking halfheartedly. She can feel Nico staring at her several times during the second half of the game, but she doesn’t dare look at her, she can’t trust herself to act normal and not like that kiss just turned her world upside down.

When the buzzer sounds, ending the game. Karolina should feel giddy, because her favorite team won, but all she feels is total dread. Dread, because her best friend she has sworn off ever having feelings for is suddenly occupying her mind to no end. Sure, when Karolina was a baby gay, she thought she had a crush on Nico, but she suppressed it and ignored it, she couldn’t ever risk that. Until today, she never looked at Nico in any other light than as a best friend, but now she’s too afraid to look at her or think about her, because now that she’s kissed her, she’s terrified of having feelings for someone unobtainable.

Gert and Chase walk ahead of them, hand in hand and Karolina awkwardly walks beside Nico. She can feel the girl staring very hard at her, probably in concern for her odd behavior, but she stares straight forward and shoves her hands deep in her pockets. She stays completely silent and Nico doesn’t prod her.

Upon reaching the outside of the Staples Center, Gert turns on her heel, staring at the pair as they wait for their Lyfts. “The four of us should get lunch together tomorrow,” she announces.

“Yeah, that sounds good,” Nico agrees, and Karolina continues to stare at the ground.

“Are you okay, Kar?” Chase asks, concerned.

“Sorry, just kind of out of it,” she shrugs vaguely. She notices that Chase opens his mouth again to speak when her and Nico’s Lyft pulls up. She lets out a sigh of relief and gives the couple a final wave, “Bye, guys.” She spins around quickly before they can respond and climbs into the backseat.

Nico slides in and sits directly next to her. The blonde feels those brown eyes on her again and she pulls out her phone as a distraction, well she tries to at least, Nico snatches the thing out of Karolina’s hand and shakes her head. “Seriously, are you okay?”

Karolina’s blue eyes glance up at the driver who isn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to them and she shakes her head, “Just thinking of my mom’s disapproval,” she evades the question.

“I’m sorry, I hoped the game would help cheer you up,” Nico says sincerely.

“It did,” the blonde says. It all helped her immensely, that is until she kissed Nico and now nothing made sense anymore. She stares out the window and Nico takes the hint that she doesn’t want to talk right now. The rest of the car ride is silent, which Karolina is thankful for.

When they get to their apartment, Karolina barely has her heels off before Nico says the words that terrify her, “Should we talk about how you kissed me?”

All the blood in Karolina’s body rushes up to her face and she feels like she needs to lean against the wall in order not to pass out. For the first time since the kiss, she makes eye contact with the girl and she feels a tiny bit of relief that Nico doesn’t look pissed or disgusted, she just looks concerned. Karolina feels as if there is another emotion being portrayed on Nico’s face, but she can’t read it, making the blonde think that she is overthinking this. Staring at the girl makes her heart echo against her ribcage and it causes the blonde to feel pure fear, fear that she is going to catch feelings after one stupid kiss that was for show and she’s terrified that those unrequited feelings will tear her apart. So, Karolina deflects and looks away, “It was to get that stupid kiss cam off of Chase and me, I’m sorry. I should’ve checked with you first.”

Nico chuckles and shrugs, “I kissed you back, didn’t I?”

Karolina feels herself blush again, she’s thankful the lighting in their foyer doesn’t give her rosy cheeks away. She fakes a yawn, “Tonight’s been a lot of excitement, I’m going to head to bed.”

“Yeah, of course,” Nico nods, and Karolina is thankful Nico isn’t questioning her behavior even further.

The blonde rushes to her bedroom and nearly slams the door shut behind her. She strips out of her romper and slides into an oversized t-shirt. In the darkness of her bedroom underneath her soft duvet, her right hand floats up to her lips where she still feels the faint touch of Nico’s kiss.

Karolina tosses and turns, she can’t sleep. Between attempting to force herself to not think about her kiss with Nico, replaying the kiss in her head, and her phone vibrating every few seconds it feels impossible to get any rest. Once she turns her phone off without looking at the racking notifications, she manages to get some uneasy rest, but keeps being awoken by dreams about the kiss.

She doesn’t know when she manages to soundly fall asleep, but when she does the next thing she knows is the blinding sunlight is being shined in her eyes as Nico rips open Karolina’s curtains. The tired looking raven-haired girl on Karolina’s mind is in oversized sweats and a t-shirt. For once her face is bare of makeup and her hair is in a messy bun. She is grumbling, and frustrated Nico first thing in the morning looks cute. Karolina stiffens at the intrusive thought and covers up her head with her duvet to cover her blush.

Nico rips aside her duvet and hands her the cellphone she shut off a few hours ago, “You really need to look at your phone.”

Karolina cocks her head in confusion and scrambles to turn her phone on. Once it does, she sees that its only six in the morning and she’s confused why Nico is up so early. Her confusion dissipates when she sees the long stream of notifications rolling in. Her eyes can’t even read all the headlines in time to process what’s going on. She unlocks her phone and sees she has seven missed calls and a voicemail from her mom, two texts from her dad, three calls missed calls and a text from Leslie’s publicist, two texts from Tina Minoru, three texts from Amy Minoru, and the list goes on and on. She opens up social media and sees she’s gained almost five thousand Instagram followers and probably even more Twitter followers.

She’s way too exhausted to even comprehend what is going on in her phone and she looks up at Nico in confusion. “What’s going on and why did you wake me up so early?”

“Because your mom and my mom both blew up my phone. Just check Twitter,” she groans as she sits down on the edge of the bed.

Karolina opens the app and sees she has 20+ notifications. The first notification is a mention by some random fan account. When she reads the status, her breath stops cold in her chest and she can feel all the blood drain out of her face. The post is a picture of Karolina and Nico kissing on the jumbotron and the words above it are: just found out that the blonde girl on the kiss cam is Karolina Dean and she has a hot goth girlfriend. dying of laughter at how homophobic actress leslie dean feels lmaooo.

“They think we’re together?” Karolina numbly spits out.

“We blew up on Twitter,” Nico mumbles.

Karolina is thoroughly panicked. She opens up her texts and feels the dread sink even deeper into her veins.

Dad: Hey honey, just heard the news about you and Nico. So happy for you, wish you were able to tell me about it. Call me when you get the chance.

Tina Minoru: Karolina, you better be treating my daughter well. I hope the three of us could grab dinner sometime together this week.

Amy Minoru: Gotta say I called it lol.

Vaughn (Mom’s Publicist): Hello, Karolina, I’ve heard the news about your girlfriend. Please give me a call.

The blonde is nearly drowning in panic and she can’t even bring herself to listen to her mom’s voicemail. She is too terrified. Karolina throws her vibrating phone to the end of her bed and reaches a shaky hand out to take a gulp out of the water bottle by her bed.

“I guess a bunch of people were recording the kiss cam segment and when it showed you and me a bunch of people put it on Twitter. They didn’t even know your mom is famous, it just got a following because two girls were kissing on a kiss cam, which is unheard of. But then when they found out you’re a child of two A-listers, one of which is not very open-minded, we blew up. From what I’ve seen, we have a huge LGBT following.” Nico explains.

Karolina gasps. “Oh god this is all my fault. We need to explain this all was a coincidence. Maybe I can post a video on Instagram explaining it was a prank or something. I can’t handle my mom disapproving me anymore, and I don’t want to drag you into this. Let me post something really quick.”

Karolina leans down to grab her phone and Nico grabs her wrist, stopping her. When Karolina’s movements halt, Nico’s hand stays on her wrist and her eyes are fixated on the contact. She tries to ignore the speeding in her heartbeat, but instead focuses on Nico’s words.

Nico drops her wrist and awkwardly clears her throat, “I may have another idea for you. One that would be less embarrassing and something that could really piss you mom off – payback for her lack of acceptance perhaps.”

Karolina straightens up with an eyebrow raised, the feeling of dread draining out of her. “I’m listening.”

Chapter Text

“So, let me just repeat what you’re suggesting. You think we should go along with this and pretend to date, just to piss off my mom?” Karolina questions.

Nico nods with a small blush, “More or less. And you can avoid awkwardly explaining to the public and your mom that the kiss was fake.”

Karolina sits silently for a moment, thinking. The pause in conversation worries Nico, she fears that she’s overstepped with her suggestion. Karolina speaks after what feels like an eternity, “And if I told her the kiss was fake, she would think she’s even more right in assuming this is a phase.” She shrugs, “Okay, I’m down. But we need to set some rules.”

Nico watches as Karolina pulls out a piece of paper and a pen from her bedside and she stifles a laugh that the girl is actually writing up a contract. Karolina frowns and points her pen at Nico, “Wait, but what are you benefitting out of this?”

Nico pauses, she feels like a deer caught in the headlights. She doesn’t quite know what possessed her to come up with this fake dating idea. It occurred to her this morning when she saw the twentieth tweet regarding her and Karolina being “girlfriends,” that the idea to just go along with it occurred. Maybe she’s just being selfish, by doing this she’ll get more time with Karolina which always makes her happy, but only a small part of her thinks that. A large part of her is screeching that it’s something more, she doesn’t exactly know what it is, but she didn’t realize it until last night when the blonde laid one on her and everything she thought about her best friend shifted.

The panicked goth shrugs herself out of her thoughts and puts on a cool façade, “I mean pissing off Leslie is enough for me. But if you need more reasoning, Tina won’t let up about my love life ever since I broke up with Alex two year ago. This will prevent her from ever getting the atrocious idea of setting me up with a colleague’s kid.” Her words aren’t a stretch, ever since her mom started being nice to her, she has been a little too intrusive about Nico’s love life.

“Alright, so now we can set some ground rules,” the blonde uncaps her pen. “Rule number one, no dating anybody else. We are in the public eye after all.”

“Well you don’t have to worry about that with me,” Nico chuckles. “Oh, rule number two, we need to still be together by Pride vacation to Aruba next month. I really need to drive the point to my mom that I’m not alone.”

Karolina jots the words down, “Rule number three, we can’t let this affect our friendship.”

The shorter girl agrees with a quiet nod but feels her stomach plummet to her feet. She decides she needs to continue ignoring any out of the ordinary feelings for the girl to let their friendship remain intact. When the girls agree that they can’t think of any other rules, they decide to set some boundaries on their PDA.

“Clearly you’re fine with kissing,” Nico jokes and she tries to ignore how cute Karolina looks when her cheeks light up a bright red. “I’m fine with most things, as long as we aren’t like dry humping in public.”

Karolina barks out an awkward laugh, “Yeah, okay, me too. So, what should our backstory be?”

Nico ponders it for a moment, thinking of a solid number to say how long they’d been dating, “Maybe say we’ve been dating three months. That would mean we started dating at the end of January, which is good because its after the holidays when we last saw all of the Pride, so then they can’t question us.”

“Yeah that works, so it’s settled?”

Nico nods, “You’re officially my fake girlfriend. Now should we let our parents know?”

The blonde’s face darkens and Nico frowns sympathetically, “I don’t want to listen to my mom’s voicemail she left me, I’m worried.”

“Hey, let’s just go back to sleep for a little bit. We can ignore the problem for a little longer, it is like the middle of the night,” she reasons, and Karolina’s frown dissipating brings a smile to Nico’s face.

“Yeah, it is pretty early.” The blonde shrugs and pulls her duvet up to her shoulders as she starts to lay back down.

Nico scrambles up to her feet, muttering a goodbye as she closes the blinds to Karolina’s room and exits. She makes her way down the hallway to her room. The dark maroon walls covered in gothic decorations are a complete contrast to Karolina’s room. That could be said about a lot of things for the pair, they are complete opposites in so many ways, but it’s what makes them them. She closes her door and crawls into her bed, her iPhone is face up on the bedside table, and the constant lighting up of its screen disturbs the total darkness Nico needs in the room.

She ignores her vibrating phone that is full of notifications all likely from her mom. The girl tosses and turns for hours, her mind won’t stop whirring at all the events of last night and how the two girls are now going to fake being in a relationship. She doesn’t quite know how to feel about having to hold Karolina’s hand, kiss her in public, or any other pretend couple tasks. She doesn’t know how she feels, all she knows is she has to repress any thoughts about that kiss that keeps resurfacing in her brain. The memory burns intensely behind her eyelids as she tries to sleep.

When her phone obnoxiously vibrates for what feels like the thousandth time, she angrily picks it up without looking at the caller ID. She’s more willing to face her exploding phone rather than think about that kiss one more time.

“What?” She answers irately.

“Good morning to you too, Nico,” her mom states evenly. “That’s no way to answer the phone after ignoring my last ten phone calls. You do know that a phone is for communicating with other people, not ignoring them, right?”

“It’s the morning, forgive me if I was sleeping,” she grumbles. “Why are you blowing up my phone?” Nico decides to play dumb, pretend as if her mom just woke her up rather than bring up her fake girlfriend on her own.

“Leslie Dean has been calling me since four this morning,” Tina states. “Imagine my surprise when she asked if I knew our daughters were dating.”

“Yeah, so?” Nico challenges.

“Is it true?”

“Yes, we’ve been together for a few months,” she states nonchalantly, or at least attempts to sound carefree. She hopes that her voice doesn’t sound as tense as she feels.

“You never thought to tell me?” Her mom states in a quieter tone. Tina’s voice doesn’t sound as strong as usual, and she almost sounds hurt. But that’s impossible, Nico has only ever seen her mother be hurt once and that is when she found out that her husband was cheating on her. Her mom was stone cold and never let anything touch her, but her wavering voice makes it sound like she’s upset. Upset that her daughter hasn’t been telling her about her life after they’ve been getting closer. It delivers a twinge of guilt in Nico’s gut, so deep that she stays silent until her mother speaks again. “You know I’ve always accepted you for who you are. Why couldn’t you tell me?”

Nico actually flinches at her mother’s words; she feels like a total ass, especially because all her mother’s hurt is stemming from a lie. She pinches the bridge of her nose, formulating another lie, “I was waiting until Karolina came out to her parents, then we were going to tell people. But then they took it poorly, so we pushed it off.”

“But I’m your mom, you could’ve told me. I wouldn’t have said anything to Leslie,” Tina speaks again in a clear and confident tone, almost as if her earlier hurt tone disappeared.

“Yes, I could’ve, but I wanted to respect my girlfriend’s decision. Dealing with this and her parents has always been tough for her, you know that,” she defends.

“Why last night then? Why did Karolina suddenly want the whole world to know?” Tina asks, causing Nico to tense up. The main inquisition that questions the whole foundation of their fake relationship is presenting itself to Nico.

She knows she must be precise to help strengthen the validity of their lie. Nico decides to attempt to be as honest as possible as to what happened last night, “Honestly, she did it out of instinct and frustration. If you’ve watched the kiss cam video, the camera kept showing Karolina and Chase while I was at concessions. They did it twice, and Karolina was upset about it, so when I got back she kissed me. She said she was done hiding it all.”

The other side of the phone is silent. Nico hopes that her lie is convincing, she came up with it all on the spot. Sure, it’s flimsy, but she hopes it sells. Both Karolina and Nico’s moms are the biggest concern about people buying the lie. Tina has some creepy intuition that she always catches Nico in a lie and she just hopes that Tina has missed her mark here.

“Okay,” Tina sighs and Nico’s shoulders droop in relief. “Since the world knows about you two now, maybe you could tell me more about you and your girlfriend?”

Tina’s hopeful suggestion causes a smile and a sense of happiness to fall over her.


 

“Um, Karolina,” Nico sounds as she looks out the window to their apartment. She hears the blonde girl hum in response from her bedroom, presumably looking for shoes to go with her outfit. Her brown eyes are wide and horrified at all the people crowded outside with flashing cameras: paparazzi. She knows Karolina has very famous parents, so Karolina is slightly famous as a byproduct, but the blonde is rarely ever followed by paparazzi, let alone in this capacity. There is easily twenty people outside and the volume of their yelling piercing through the window causes her to close the shades. “There’s a swarm of paparazzi outside. They’re camped out in front of our door.”

The blonde comes out of her room and into the living room. She reaches over Nico and pulls the blinds aside. Her eyebrows raise in surprise, “Oh wow, I’ve only ever seen this when I’m with my parents or at their premieres, never like this.”

“Well you blew up on the internet last night and your mom still hasn’t responded. You are front page news,” she says. She looks over at Karolina who is staring with a look of horror. She places a comforting hand on the paler girl’s forearm, “Hey it will be okay.”

“Sorry, I’m just not used to it and it can be overwhelming,” she states softly.

“At least you never seem overwhelmed in pictures when they follow you,” Nico offers.

“I guess I inherited some acting genes,” the blonde states. Her phone buzzes and she looks down at it, “Looks like Gert and Chase are ready for lunch. Are you ready to leave?”

Nico nods and they both take a deep breath before opening the door to their apartment and leaving. Nico is barely able to lock the door before the swarm rushes up to them loudly yelling questions while flashing photos nonstop.

“Karolina, over here! Is this your girlfriend?”

“Is it true you two are engaged?”

“Is it true that you’re just doing this to rebel against your mother?”

Karolina ignores all the questions and tries to lead Nico to her car. When one of the bulky camera bumps into Nico and the flash accompanying it nearly blinds her, she reacts immediately without thinking. She starts to flash a middle finger at the camera, but Karolina interlocks their fingers before the camera can capture the movement, “Be nice.”

The cameras flash even faster as the couple makes physical contact. With some slight shoving and shuffling, they make it to Karolina’s car, where the blonde runs to open up the passenger door for Nico. The shorter girl tries not to blush as she mumbles a thanks and sits down. Karolina slams the door shut behind her and runs to the driver’s seat. She climbs in and gives Nico an exasperated look, “That was intense.”

Nico heaves a sigh, “You’re telling me. How do your parents deal with this all the time?”

Karolina shrugs as she puts the car in reverse, “I don’t know, it’s so exhausting.”

Nico looks through the window as a camera less than ten feet away from her nearly blinds her from the flash. She blinks quickly, “It seems like we’re going to have to deal with it for a while.”

The blonde switches gears to put the car in drive and the tires squeal as she rips out of the parking lot. Blue eyes glance anxiously in the rear-view mirror, a look of relief passes over Karolina’s face before she speaks, “And this all had to happen a week before my mom’s big movie premiere. The press will be all over my parents and us.”

“Too late to back out?” Nico jokes.

Karolina chuckles weakly, “Trust me, all of this paired with my mom is exhausting.”

“Have you listened to her voicemail yet?”

All Nico gets in return is a tiny shake of the head. She reaches into the center console and grabs Karolina’s iPhone. “Hey!” The blonde exclaims.

“Hear me out,” she says as she types in the blonde’s passcode, “I’ll just listen to it myself and if its bad I won’t tell you what she says and if it’s good I won’t tell you either.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” she scrunches her brows.

“That way you won’t know if it’s good or bad. So, can I?” Nico asks holding the phone up. The blonde gives her a hesitant nod and she puts her phone to her ear as Leslie’s voice begins speaking.

“Karolina, hi. I just saw what happened with you and Nico. My publicist will be contacting you to deal with the social media following this has gathered. Call me back.”

Nico places the phone back in the cupholder and ignores the inquisitive look that Karolina is giving her. She feels the eyes on her and anxiously picks at her black nail polish. Her heart hurts for Karolina, the indifference in voicemail is almost worse than a nasty tone. It’s like her own mother doesn’t even care.

“Nico tell me what she said,” Karolina demands as she takes a sharp right turn.

“I won’t be able to say anything if you crash the car,” she tries to joke. She’s fixed with a dirty look and she shakes her head, “I said I wouldn’t tell you what she said, bad or good. It’s up to you to listen if you really want to know.”

“Put it on speaker,” the blonde states.

“No,” she rebuttals.

“Nico, please,” Karolina asks.

Nico heaves a sigh and presses the speaker button. She watches Karolina’s face as the short voicemail plays again. Her face is scrunched up and when the voicemail ends, Karolina calmly pulls the car over to the side of the road. She doesn’t say anything as she unbuckles her seatbelt and steps out of the car. “Karolina?” Nico asks as she follows the girl out of the car. The blonde is walking away quickly, and Nico is fearful, she has no idea what she is thinking.

Karolina suddenly turns around, rushing past Nico at the car. She watches with scared brown eyes as the blonde takes all her anger out by kicking the back tire of her car. The taller girl grunts out in frustration as she kicks the tire like she’s trying to flatten it. Nico waits silently until the kicking stops, she slowly approaches Karolina who is staring down at her dirtied shoes.

“Kar are you okay?”

“No,” she says evenly, shaking her head. “This is bullshit, I’m pissed.”

Nico tries to hide that she’s taken aback. She would’ve guessed Karolina would’ve been upset from her mother’s indifference, but the usually happy girl is seething with anger. Karolina continues to shake her head in disgust as she walks back to the driver’s side door and climbs into the car. Nico scrambles inside. When she shuts the door behind her, Karolina wipes away a few angry tears. She begins driving the car, the pair sit in silence for several minutes. Nico sneaks looks at the other girl whose face is unreadable as she stares intently at the road. After several long minutes, Karolina breaks the silence.

“We’re definitely going all in with this fake dating thing. Let’s piss Leslie off as much as we possibly can. I want to rub this all in her face,” the blonde says evenly.

“If that’s what you want,” Nico begins. She tries to speak evenly, trying not to upset the other girl in any way.

“Don’t feel like you need to walk on eggshells around me, Nico,” Karolina says.

“I won’t.” She pauses, “So what should we do next to piss off your mom?”

Karolina sighs as she thinks heavily, “I’ll announce our relationship tonight on social media and I’m just going to continue ignoring her and her publicist.”

“How do you want to announce it?”

“Instagram. We can go out to the bars, get a really good gay picture so they’ll put it in magazines next to my mom’s name,” Karolina nods angrily.

Nico doesn’t know how to feel. She knows the blonde is likely repressing her feelings about her mom with a plan for anger and revenge. Nico isn’t too fond of Leslie Dean either, which is partly the reason she jumps on board so easily. But a tiny part of Nico, the part that truly felt something during that kiss, feels used. She knows she shouldn’t, she offered up the idea to fake date, but the blonde’s angry declare to essentially use Nico as ammunition against her mom hurts a bit.

“I’m sorry if I’m making you feel used. You can still back out,” the blonde offers after several minutes of silence. Nico can tell the girl has probably been stewing in thought about her mom and the outburst she just had. It doesn’t help that Karolina can read Nico like a book, even while sitting in silence for a few moments while the blonde stares at the road.

She knows her best friend is hurting, and she shouldn’t let her own emotions get in the way of this awful experience for Karolina. So, she decides to deflect being upset and doubles down on being supportive. “I’m the one who suggested this,” Nico laughs. “You’re my best friend, I’ve got your back.”

The blonde exhales and taps her fingers anxiously on the steering wheel as she slows down for a red light. “Do you think everyone is gonna buy this?”

“Gert definitely did last night,” Nico states. “We are going to have to do damage control for why we never would’ve told them.”

“Well, we’ll just stick to the story that its newish and were just waiting for the right time after I came out to my parents. They’re going to be the easy ones to convince, it’s my mom I’m worried about.”

“We’ll just have to smother her with PDA then,” Nico jokes. “But I say we focus on convincing the media first, and then she’ll have no choice but to recognize it.”

“Yeah, that’s why you should post something on Instagram too,” Karolina suggests.

Nico nods, “Yeah, I’ll post something now.” She opens the app on her phone, scrolling through her own profile. She doesn’t use the app much, only about twice a month. When glancing at most of her photos she sees that Karolina is in most of them as well, she even has a few posts of polaroid’s that are just Karolina, which will likely help selling their cause. Her followers have doubled overnight, and she is shocked at how most of her photos with Karolina have climbed in likes, even if they’re from several months ago. She scrolls through her photos and finds a picture that Gert took of the pair last night before the game and sent to Nico. She has her arms wrapped around Karolina’s shoulders and they’re both smiling widely. She does some mild editing on the shot and posts it with the caption of just a black heart emoji. Within seconds, likes come rolling in from random account names she doesn’t recognize.

“Done,” she announces. “This thing already almost has one hundred likes, I think you’ve made me Insta famous. Maybe I can exploit your fame to become a beauty guru.” She jokes.

Nico’s joke causes Karolina to calm down significantly. Her shoulders drop from their stiff posture and she bursts out in body wrecking laughter. Nico feels a sense of warm content spill over her. Karolina hasn’t laughed like this since she came out to her parents, the content laughter emitting from Karolina causes Nico to join in as well. It’s nice to see her best friend happy. It’s also nice to see her best friend as the golden sunlight hits her gorgeous hair that is curled, falling effortlessly over her shoulders. Her blue eyes look crystal clear as the sunlight hits them, and they squint with laughter. Nico realizes she’s stopped laughing and she is ogling the girl that has been her best friend for thirteen years. She feels her stomach drop in dread and shakes herself out of her thoughts, she can’t ruin her friendship with thoughts like that.

When the blonde stops laughing Nico forces herself to stare at the dashboard instead of her friend. “Thanks, Nico. I needed that laugh,” she smiles and wipes at the tears of laughter on her cheeks.

Nico smiles in earnest, pushing her feelings down. “I only captioned with a heart, I hope that’s okay. I figured I’d let you announce the whole thing.”

Karolina nods in agreement as she slows the vehicle outside of the restaurant that they’re meeting Gert and Chase at for lunch. The blonde attempts to parallel park several times to no avail, causing Nico to bust out in laughter. It takes several cars honking at her for her to continue driving, “I’m just going to take it around the block to a parking lot,” she announces.

Nico laughs to the point of tears. Karolina’s poor driving has always been a joke at all the Pride’s kids’ expense. It was typically Gert who poked the most fun at her. Karolina’s driving in the busy LA traffic could always make Nico break down in laughter. The car slows to a stop as Karolina pulls into a parking spot and Nico’s laughter begins to finally slow up and she glances over at the blonde who is staring at her with an unreadable expression. She sobers up and meets those blue eyes with confusion, but Karolina quickly shakes her head, turns the car off, and climbs out. Nico follows, and the pair begin walking towards the restaurant.

She feels Karolina slip her hand in hers, causing tingles to travel up her arm and blood to rush up to her cheeks. “Paparazzi,” Karolina leans into Nico’s ear and whispers.

Nico quietly nods, she can’t trust herself to speak when the blonde is leaning in so close to her. The single paparazzi with a video camera labelled with TMZ on the side, gets closer as the fake couple nears the restaurant. It is a young girl, probably not much older than Nico and Karolina. She lowers the camera from her eyes, “Karolina Dean, could I please ask you a few questions?”

Nico looks over at Karolina who looks from Nico to the girl and shrugs to herself as if to say fuck it. She drops Nico’s hand, wrapping an arm around the shorter girl’s shoulder. A small smile covers her face at the contact.

“Sure.”

“This is the girl from the kiss cam last night, is she your girlfriend?”

Karolina nods, “Yes, this is Nico Minoru.” The woman’s eyes widen and Karolina nods, “Yes, as in the daughter to Wizards’ CEO. Our families have been friends most of our lives and we’ve always been close, we just started dating about three months ago.”

“Does your mom know about this and how did she take it?”

Nico risks a glance up at the girl who’s face hardens for a split second. Karolina pauses and then a fake smile, that only Nico can tell is fake, covers her mouth. “I came out to both my parents a little bit ago.”

“Came out? Are you gay, bisexual, experimenting?” The woman pesters.

“I’m a lesbian,” Karolina nods. “That is not a new fact about me, I always have been, always will be. The only new thing is now the world knows about my fantastic girlfriend.”

Nico can tell that Karolina is upset from the experimenting question. It’s inconsiderate and a reminder of what her mom said. She can feel that the blonde is stiff, her face is masked, but she knows the blonde is hurting. Before the paparazzi can ask another question, Nico interrupts. She places an arm around the blonde’s waist, “I’m very proud of her and how far she’s come. Now we are meeting some friends for a double date, so if you have enough footage, we’re going to head in.”

The woman nods, “Yes, thank you for stopping, ladies.”

Nico can feel the camera following them as they walk to the door and Nico holds it open for Karolina. The pair make their way inside in silence, making their way to a hostess, telling them they have a table for four. As they wait for her to gather menus, Nico whispers to Karolina, “Nice power move stopping to talk to the press.”

“Yeah, Leslie’s publicist is gonna have an even bigger shit storm on his hands in the next half hour,” Karolina announces with a nonchalant shrug, causing Nico to laugh. “It was a spur of the moment decision I’m proud of,” the blonde says with a laugh.

“I have a table for you two if you’ll follow me,” the young hostess says. The pair follow the girl, hand in hand. It feels casual and nice to be holding Karolina’s hand while walking to the back of the restaurant. The hostess stops at the back-corner table, “A waiter will be with you soon.” The young girl is about to walk away when she stops and stares at the seated pair, “Do I recognize you guys from somewhere?”

“Oh, uh, maybe,” Karolina says meekly.

“We are officially Twitter famous, Kar,” Nico jokes as she nudges the blonde girl’s arm. “We were those girls on the kiss cam at the Lakers game.”

“Oh yeah! Karolina Dean,” the hostess says excitedly with recognition. “I saw the video on Twitter this morning, that was awesome. I’m happy for you guys; you make a great couple! Have a nice meal,” she says with a genuine smile and walks away.

Karolina sighs when the girl is out of ear shot and Nico shoots the worried girl a comforting smile, “See that girl bought it without thought.”

The blonde nods to herself, “You’re right, I’m just in my own head too much.”

“It’s okay, this is a lot for you to handle right now,” she says as she places a comforting hand on Karolina’s who is fidgeting with the menu. The blonde shoots her a panicked look but calms down. “It’s just me, think about this like it’s no different than usual. Only difference is you’ll have to kiss me sometimes, which from past reviewers I can say you are quite lucky.”

The other girl bursts out in laughter at the sarcastic humor, “Wow, you’re so humble.”

“Well if it isn’t my favorite couple in the world!” Gert’s booming voice exclaims as her and Chase near the table.

“That’s crazy, I was about to say the same thing,” Nico jokes while turning away from the blonde and looking at the approaching couple.

The purple-haired girl sits across from Nico, and Chase across from Karolina. Gert’s eyes trace both of them intensely and they move to the pair’s hands on the table, it seems like Nico still hasn’t let go of Karolina’s hand.

“I feel like I’m dining with royalty,” Chase jokes. “How does it feel to be famous?”

“Well Karolina’s used to this whole thing, but I was followed by paparazzi today, and in case you were wondering it’s awful,” Nico jokes.

“Yeah, we saw a couple waiting outside the restaurant when we just came in. Looks like they found out you’re here,” Chase nods.

“That may be because I stopped and talked to someone with TMZ,” Karolina shrugs.

“Ugh, TMZ? Really, Karolina? That’s literally the worst platform,” Gert groans.

“They’ve been badgering us all morning, I figured I’d give them some details.”

“Speaking of, why don’t you two give us the details of this secret relationship you hadn’t told us about,” she asks inquisitively.

Karolina and Nico share a look and Nico casually shrugs, “We’ve been together about three months, we just held off on telling anyone because it’s so new and we’ve been best friends so long.”

“Fuck,” Gert groans and pulls out her wallet as Chase gets a wicked grin on his face. She pulls out a fifty-dollar bill and hands it to the boy. “You’re buying us lunch with that.”

“Did you two seriously bet on us again?” Karolina exclaims.

Chase smiles, “Last night we bet on when you got together. I said it was probably new, under the span of four months, and Gert said you two had been together since at least freshman year of college, if not before.”

“I was dating Alex freshman year of college, and Karolina was with Julie,” Nico looks at Gert with a confused glare.

“You dumped Alex very early on and then Karolina and Julie broke up not long after, it seemed very fishy to me,” she reasons.

Karolina laughs, and Nico’s mind wanders about the pair’s friendship. She wonders how many people always thought the girls were dating. It makes her heart pound wildly against her ribs at the thought.

“And I’m not blind, I saw the way Karolina looked at you in high school,” Gert adds.

The blonde’s laughing abruptly stops, and Nico feels her cheeks heat up. She wishes they weren’t under the impression of dating currently, because she wants to question Gert about what she means. Nico needs to know what Gert means, but she forces herself to brush it off and give a kind smile. “Sorry to disappoint, Gert.”

“Yeah, sorry Gert,” Karolina smiles. “Anything else you two wanna ask?”

“Ooh, who made the first move?” Chase asks excitedly, resting his chin on his hands.

“I did,” both Karolina and Nico say at the same time. Nico’s head whips to her right to make eye contact, both of them have wide concerned eyes. She is absolutely astounded by Karolina’s acting skills, because in the span of a second Karolina turns her shocked look into a mocking dirty look. “Nico, you did not. Saying, ‘hey we should get dinner sometime,’ is not making a move,” Karolina chuckles and Nico relaxes, surprised at how good Karolina is at lying.

“That was my way of asking you on a date, dude,” Nico counters, after taking a moment to come up with the lie.

The blonde turns her attention to the couple across the table, “Nico claims she asked me out on a ‘date’ but before that even happened, I kissed her. So, technically it was me.”

“If you two had bet on that, I swear to god- “Nico threatens, but is cut off when the waiter walks up to the table. Her threatening expression turns to one of friendliness as the waiter lists off specials and the group order their lunch.

“We didn’t bet on it, hopeless romantic Chase was just curious,” Gert says when the waiter walks away.

“You can’t call me a hopeless romantic, you’ve been rooting for them for so long,” Chase counters.

The couple starts bickering, and Nico looks at Karolina with a comforting smile. The blonde seems much calmer and happier. Nico knows her best friend is starting to realize they will be able to pull this off, it makes her glad to know that this is going to help Karolina.


 

Chase acts as a makeshift security guard for Karolina and Nico when they all leave the restaurant. Paparazzi clearly had gotten word that the girls were there and flooded outside waiting for the couple to leave. The numbers are even bigger than they were at the apartment. Nico clasps Karolina’s hand tightly and uses her other hand to shield her eyes from the blinding flashes on cameras. Chase manages to clear a path for them and Gert grumbles to herself about how vain entertainment news is. With the help of the other couple, Karolina and Nico make it to the car rather quickly. The couples wave goodbye to each other, promising to meet up later tonight to go to the bars.

The fake couple climbs into Karolina’s vehicle and start heading home. The blonde groans when her phone vibrates in the center console again, “My mom called me in the middle of lunch, I ignored it, but it looks like they’ve already posted the video of my statement,” Karolina frowns. “My dad just texted me telling me to call one of them back.”

Nico looks down at her phone, seeing Frank Dean has texted her too. “Your mom called me twice this morning and I ignored it too. Looks like your dad wants to get ahold of me too.”

“Sucks to be them, I’m not calling either of them back. They can wait,” the blonde shrugs.

She looks over at Karolina with a prideful expression. She is proud of her best friend for standing up to her parents. “I forgot to tell you, I talked to my mom this morning,” Nico mentions.

The blonde’s eyebrows nearly shoot up to her hairline, “And you just thought of this now to tell me. Did she buy it?”

“Yes, and she was like weirdly supportive. She even suggested we all go to dinner together,” Nico says in disbelief. “She’s never had a problem with me being bi, I’m just surprised she isn’t more suspicious. She questioned it a little bit, but I just had to lie once, and she completely bought it.”

“It’s good she’s being supportive. I wish I had that,” Karolina mumbles as she stares intently at the road.

“Kar, I’m sorry- “Nico quickly states.

“Don’t apologize, I’m happy at least one of us has supporting parents. Who would’ve guessed it would be Tina Minoru,” Karolina states jokingly. The phone in the center console vibrates again and the blonde groans, “I’m seriously about to throw that thing out the window.”

“When do you plan on talking them?”

Karolina sighs heavily in response. Nico takes the hint and gives her friend some silence to herself. She turns up the radio and looks down at her vibrating phone. She sees several text notifications from her sister and opens them with a huff.

Amy: Hey, I’m back in Cali for the summer if you want to properly introduce me to your girlfriend (even tho I’ve known her most of my life).

Amy: I’m taking the silence as a yes.

Amy: Why didn’t you tell me? I understand not telling the ‘rents, but not even your sister?

Amy: Btw you should let me stay at your apartment tonight, sharing the house with just mom is hella weird.

Amy: Nicoooooo? I hacked your phone and Karo’s, it looks like you two are together and travelling. Is she kidnapping you? Is that why you’re ignoring me?

Nico rolls her eyes at her sister’s commonly annoying texting antics and responds to her with a sigh.

Nico: What have I told you about hacking people’s phones?

Amy: Ha, I knew I could get you to respond eventually! So, tonight?

Nico: Yeah, sure. We are going out to the bars if you wanna join.

Amy responds immediately, agreeing to the plan. Nico shuts her phone off and looks over at Karolina who is focusing intently on the road. She lets the blonde have her needed silence until they pull back into the parking lot of their apartment. Nico fumbles with the locks on the door as she breaks the long silence.

“Amy is coming out with us tonight.”

“That’ll be nice, you haven’t seen her since Christmas,” Karolina notes offhandedly.

Nico walks past the girl and into the living room. She plops down onto the couch and turns on Netflix. “Yeah, she’s already on her way over. It’s fine if she stays for the night, right?”

“Of course, we can have a sleepover,” Karolina smiles and sits down next to the shorter girl.

“Something tells me she’s probably almost here. She said staying in the house alone with our mom is weird,” she shrugs.

“They never have gotten along,” the blonde responds while taking the remote from Nico to search for movies on Netflix. Karolina ends up clicking on a random Netflix original and looks over to Nico, giving the girl a teasing glare, “But not you. You’re a big mama’s girl now.”

“Ew, don’t say that,” Nico scowls but eventually breaks into a spell of laughter which Karolina joins in readily. It feels good to laugh with Karolina again. Karolina wipes at her blue eyes as she heaves out her last few laughs, and Nico watches her contently. She realizes she has stopped laughing and is just staring at her best friend for the second time today. For some unknown reason, she doesn’t look away when Karolina’s laughs subside, and she makes eye contact with her. The blonde tips her head slightly but doesn’t break it, and the feelings bubbling in Nico’s chest are becoming too much when the door to their apartment opens. Amy yells out her hellos and drops a duffle bag on the floor, rushing over to join the pair on the couch.

Nico heaves a sigh of relief, saved by the interruption.


 

The stoic bouncer hands Nico her fake ID after not taking much of a look. She steps forward towards the entrance of the bar, looking over her shoulder at Karolina who is smiling and chatting with the bouncer as he glances at the ID. The blonde look stunning, even under the awful lighting. Karolina is clad in a black, short high waisted skirt accompanied by a crop top. Nico forces her eyes not to wander by staring down at her own black combat boots. The now smiling bouncer hands Karolina her ID back and the blonde crosses the threshold giving Nico a smile. Nico returns and holds her hand out for Karolina to take.

Their group of friend, Gert, Chase, and Amy, finish showing the bouncer their ID’s and the whole group makes their way inside the bar. The music is too loud and there are way too many people crowding the place. It stinks of spilled beer and sweat. Gert groans at the overcrowding of the bar and Chase murmurs that he will go get her a drink.

“I’ll join you,” Nico says. She looks to Karolina, “Want anything?”

“Whatever you’re having,” the blonde smiles.

Nico nods and hesitates, toying with an idea as her friends all watch the interaction. She ignores the deafening pounding in her heart and leans up to leave a chaste kiss on Karolina’s cheek. “Be back in a minute,” Nico squeaks.

Nico and Chase make their way up to the bustling bar. Nico grabs a small menu resting at the end of the counter. It has a list of drink specials, and her eye is immediately drawn to the top drink that looks like it is incredibly fruity and infused with a shit-ton of vodka. It’s a drink that seems to have been made for Karolina. The bartender comes by and she points at the menu, ordering two of the sickly-sweet drink, and Chase gives his and Gert’s order as well.

“Since when do you like fruity drinks?” Chase asks, “You’ve always been a whiskey gal.”

Nico shrugs, “Karolina said she’d have what I was having, so I got what she liked.”

Chase smirks, “Aw, so cute.”

Nico scowls and hits his shoulder, “Ew, don’t make it weird.”

“I’m just happy you two have finally found your way to each other,” he says.

She ignores that warm feeling that the statement gives her, knowing that it’s all a lie. She tries to formulate a coherent response, but luckily that bartender sets down the drinks in front of them, saving her from having to answer. Nico gives a hefty tip and grabs hers and Karolina’s drinks. The girl makes a beeline across the bar where her friends are sitting at a semi-circular booth in the corner. She slides into the seat next to Karolina, handing the girl the drink.

“Thanks, babe,” the blonde yells over the music.

The term of endearment is new, and it makes her heart echo against her ribs. She nods at the girl and takes a heavy swig of the overly fruity drink. Chase sits down across from her, handing Gert her drink. The group of five talks for a while, the whole time Karolina has a casual arm draped over the backseat of the booth, her forearm just barely brushing Nico’s shoulders. It causes Nico to take large gulps of her drinks and get continuous refills to try and numb all her emotions and thoughts. Karolina is a chivalrous fake girlfriend and takes this as a cue to match pace with Nico’s binge drinking.

“Okay, I’m liquored up, let’s dance,” Gert announces to Chase, grabbing his hand. He readily follows her to the dance floor with a grin on his face.

“We should dance too, Nico,” Karolina looks at Nico like an excited puppy. “Wait, before that, we need a picture,” she thrusts her phone out to Amy.

Amy slides out of the booth, holding up the phone, “How are you posing?”

Nico finds herself being ushered out of the booth by Karolina. She stumbles to her feet and Karolina scoots so she’s sitting at the edge of the booth facing Amy. The raven-haired girl gets yanked abruptly into the taller girl’s lap. Nico’s eyes widen, but Karolina just meets her with an easygoing smile. It relaxes her and she’s already kind of drunk, so it’s easy to wrap her arm around Karolina’s shoulder and relax into her. She presses her cheek up against the side of Karolina’s forehead and gives too cheesy of a smile to the flashing phone camera. She knows she likely has drunk eyes.

“Take lots of pictures,” Karolina holds up a finger at Amy who holds the phone impatiently.

“I’m just going to hold down the camera button,” Amy shrugs.

When the camera’s blinding flash shines in her eyes, she feels the touch of Karolina’s soft hand turning her face. She turns her head and finds herself inches from the blonde, for once she is taller than the girl, causing her to look down and she finds herself looking down at the blonde girl’s lips. She forces her eyes up and finds blue eyes glaring at her own lips. It’s probably the alcohol that causes her to lean forward and capture Karolina’s lips in a soft kiss. It only lasts a few moments before Nico pulls away, but she finds her head spinning and her heart pounding when she sees Karolina’s infectious smile.

Amy shoves the phone on the table, “Did not want to just see my little sister making out,” she shakes her head. “I’ll be at the bar, erasing the memories.”

Amy’s joking tone snaps Nico out of her trance of staring at Karolina, causing her to jump up to her feet. She stares down at her black nails and tries to focus on the pounding music in her eardrums instead of thinking of the kiss she just gave her best friend.

“Good idea on the kiss, Nico. There are some great pictures,” Karolina says as she stares intently at her phone.

A few moments later, her phone vibrates, and she sees she has an Instagram notification. She clicks on it and sees the picture that Karolina tagged her in. It’s a single picture of Nico sitting comfortably on Karolina’s lap, the pair are smiling at each other with their lips millimeters apart, clearly moments after their kiss. The picture is very selling, it looks like a couple deeply in love staring at each other meaningfully. After several seconds too long of staring at the photo, she scrolls down to read the caption. It is a simple black heart emoji, just like Nico’s post, with an additional hashtag underneath it saying: #YouCaughtUs.

“Pretty good, right?” Karolina says, suddenly right over Nico’s shoulder causing the shorter girl to jump. The blonde giggles and reaches to double tap on Nico’s phone screen, liking the post.

“Yeah,” she clears her throat and puts her phone away. “It will really draw in some press and piss Leslie off.”

“That’s the goal,” Karolina states.

For some reason those words make a sick feeling come over Nico. She shakes her head and continues to push the feelings aside. She grabs the blonde’s hand, “Let’s go dance now.”

Karolina follows Nico eagerly to the dance floor. They find themselves situated at the edge of the center of the dancing bodies where Gert and Chase are dancing. Nico is not a dancer, but the alcohol coursing through her veins and all the weird thoughts she’s had about her best friend in the past twenty-four hours fuels her to dance like a drunken idiot.

To no surprise, she isn’t a great dancer and she can feel Karolina’s eyes on her. The blonde looks at her with a fond smile, reaching forward to grab her hand and spin Nico in a circle. It makes her head even dizzier, but she giggles at the prospect of the blonde spinning her to a fast, upbeat song. The pair continue to dance like idiots for several songs, until Karolina grabs Nico’s swaying hips and pulls her in close. The sudden movement and sensation causes a sudden jolt in Nico’s stomach and she looks at Karolina with surprised eyes.

“Do you want to really sell this? Maybe we should dance like couples usually do,” Karolina drunkenly breathes in her ear.

Nico pulls back slightly to look Karolina fully in the eyes, the girl fixes her with an innocent pleading expression and who has she ever been to deny Karolina what she wants. She nods, and Karolina eagerly smiles. She continues to stare at Karolina and feels a sense of awkwardness come over her. Nico’s never been a huge dancer, let alone a grinder. She only has ever danced like that with a few guys at college parties when she was way too drunk. The idea of dancing in such a sexual way with her friend causes a sense of anxiety to overcome her. “So, who should, um,” Nico starts to ask and makes a spinning motion with her finger too afraid to verbalize her question.

Karolina smiles kindly, reaching out to grab Nico’s hand. She spins the girl but stops when Nico’s back is to Karolina. Nico lets out a shaky breath when her back is pressed against the blonde. The tiny hairs on her neck stand when Karolina leans even closer and whispers in her ear, “Nico, don’t worry it’s just me. Let’s just dance.”

Nico nods nervously and closes her eyes. She lets the alcohol running through her veins give her a sense of confidence and she finds herself swaying her hips to the music. It doesn’t take long for the shorter girl to find herself getting lost in the song and the feeling of Karolina’s hands on her hips as they dance in tandem. The song progresses, and their dancing continues in intensity.

The shorter girl finds herself so lost in the intoxicating music, the alcohol roaring through her veins, and Karolina’s touch that her dance moves become bold. Much bolder than they ever were when she had been with Alex or when she danced with those guys at parties. She knows this must mean, something but she doesn’t care. She can’t think, all she can do is get lost in this intoxicating moment. She nearly halts when she hears a tiny moan break through Karolina’s lips that are pressed up next to her ear. The sudden noise doesn’t stop her though, it makes a hunger fill her gut and she continues to dance on the girl behind her. Karolina’s hands are beginning to wander up Nico’s sides and the raven-haired girl glances over her shoulder to see Karolina’s eyes squeezed tightly shut and her mouth is closed tightly. She can tell the blonde is trying to control herself and she almost looks pained.

“Kar,” Nico breathes out and her voice sound so much breathier than usual. Karolina’s eyes fly open and she finds herself staring into blue eyes with blown out pupils. She’s never seen Karolina look like this, but the blonde is staring Nico up and down with a hungry glare. Nico finds herself entranced, and she’s struck with the revelation that she needs to kiss her best friend. She spins in the girl’s grip and the two girl’s lips meet in the middle in a ravenous kiss.

Her hands grip at the sides of the blonde’s face as she feels the blonde’s tongue slide over her bottom lip. She readily opens her mouth in response and she feels Karolina’s shaky breath down to her core making her knees wobble. Enthusiastic hands tug on Nico’s hips, pulling her in even closer to the tall blonde. She pulls back a millimeter to take an uneven, needed breath and Karolina follows her forward to continue kissing her into oblivion. Teeth graze her bottom lip and the noise that escapes her mouth would make her embarrassed if Karolina wasn’t so eager from hearing it. She feels the hands, now on her lower ribs, give a squeeze and Nico pulls away to feel some semblance of control. She thanks any higher power that she decided to wear combat boots that make her tall enough to press her searing lips against Karolina’s neck. She sucks a mark onto Karolina’s slender neck, making the taller girl moan loudly above the music.

The noise breaks Nico out of her stupor and she steps away from the blonde. Her body feels too hot and her lips are on fire. She stares at Karolina who has her eyes closed and her chest is heaving. Her brown eyes trace the girl’s frame, appreciating the skin on display. She shakes her head at herself when she realizes this is Karolina, her best friend. And holy shit she just made out with her best friend in the middle of the bar. She pinches the bridge of her nose and tries to take a steadying breath, trying to push away the thoughts that that was one of the hottest kisses she’s ever experienced.

“We have an audience,” Karolina whispers unevenly.

Nico looks up at the blonde who is looking anywhere but her. She follows the blonde’s eyeline to see that some people in the crowd have phones pointed on them. It probably didn’t take long for bystanders to realize who they are. It’s enough to snap Nico back into reality and she just enjoyed making out with Karolina way too much to be friendly. She needs to get out of here.

“Yeah, looks like it. I’m going to go get a drink and hang with Amy for a bit,” she points a thumb at the bar and Karolina nods.

“Yeah, I’ll just go hang with Gert and Chase,” the blonde’s words fall on deaf ears as Nico nearly runs away to the bar.

The girl sits down on a stool next to her sister with a huff. She flags down the bartender and orders a strong drink to try and push away what she just felt for her best friend. Amy glances at Nico, “Needed to rehydrate after dry humping your girlfriend on the dance floor.”

“We weren’t,” she sighs, “we were dancing.”

“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” Amy jokes.

“Shut up,” she grumbles and downs her drink, gesturing for another to the bartender. Her eyes trace Karolina who is dancing alongside Chase and Gert. Her heart speeds up at the sight of the blonde smiling widely and dancing badly. It brings a smile to Nico’s face and then the realization hits her like bus. Holy shit, she likes Karolina.


 

The trio of girls stumble into the apartment. Nico struggles to kick her boots off. She throws her arms up in victory when she manages to pull both shoes off. She may have gotten incredibly drunk with Amy at the bar to try and push aside what she felt from kissing Karolina. The blonde is also incredibly drunk, seeming to have snuck drinks throughout the rest of the night. Karolina wraps an arm around Nico’s waist when she sways a bit too much.

“We should all head to bed,” Karolina announces.

“I agree. Now, which bed do you two spend the least amount of time in together?” Amy asks suggestively.

Nico shudders at the awkwardness that the question presents itself with. It’s especially awkward after she’s come to revelation that she likes her best friend that she’s fake dating. Now she has to lie to her sister to answer a question about the two having sex and it makes Nico’s mind wander. She shakes her head and looks up at Karolina whose mouth is gaping like a fish. “Take my room, Amy.”

“Thanks!” her sister yells to her over her shoulder and heads down the hallway. The door to Nico’s room slams and she lets out an exhale.

“Leave it to Amy to make things awkward,” Nico sighs. She is met with silence and she looks up at Karolina who is staring at the ground. Her lungs tighten with anxiety when she realizes this is the first time she’s been alone since they kissed at the bar and they have to share a bed. The girls have shared beds plenty of times in the past, but now this just seems uncomfortable. Nico sighs and walks towards Karolina’s room with the blonde following her. She sits on the edge of the comfortable bed as Karolina walks into her closet. “Can I borrow some clothes?”

“Yeah,” Karolina yells from the closet and leans out to throw a pair of shorts and an oversized t-shirt at her. Nico makes a point to quickly change and crawl under the covers to avoid any conversation about what side of the bed they should take. The blonde comes out dressed in pajamas and flips the light switch off.

Nico’s breathing increases when she feels the slight dip in the bed when Karolina climbs under the covers. The silence between the pair is deafening, she knows the other girl is still awake and it feels suffocating to not address the elephant in the room. She blames it on being drunk that causes her to break the silence, “Should we talk about tonight?”

She tries not to stiffen when her drunk friend snuggles up to her side and exhales against her neck causing her to shiver. “No, let’s just sleep.”

For some reason, Karolina’s words sting. They keep Nico wide awake staring at the ceiling for hours. The blonde’s nonchalant attitude towards the whole situation makes her chest bubble up with pain. In her drunken stupor, she made a mistake and kissed her fake girlfriend with way too much enthusiasm that the lines blurred for her. It made her believe she likes her best friend, but that can’t be possible, she can’t ruin what she has with Karolina, not when the blonde is brushing everything off like it never happened. She must continue avoiding all the emotions, she can’t afford to get confused and ruin the best thing she has. She promises to herself as the early morning rolls around that she will not fall for her best friend, she can’t.


 

Nico is awakened by a cell phone ringing. She grumbles and squints an eye open and the sunlight bursting through the window nearly blinds her. It causes her head to pound and her stomach to rumble with nausea at her nasty hangover. She blinks a few times and realizes Karolina is still cuddling into her side and then she is hit with a bunch of memories from the night before. It causes the girl to scramble quickly out of the bed; she needs out of this room. She stumbles out of the bedroom and rushes to the kitchen to chug a glass of water. She rubs her hands on her face and tries to push away the memory of Karolina’s lips on hers.

“Good morning,” her freak out is interrupted by the girl on her mind walking into the kitchen. “Were you woken up by my ringing phone too?”

“Uh yeah, I guess,” Nico stutters and looks away from the blonde with adorable bedhead.

“Sorry about that,” Karolina moves past her and into the refrigerator. “I’ll make you a hangover breakfast to make up for it?”

Nico ignores the content feeling that rushes over her, “Are you not even hungover?” She grumbles.

Karolina shrugs, “It must just be my great genetics. Now go sit, I’ll help you feel better.”

The shorter girl forces herself to leave the kitchen, so Karolina will stop making her feel emotions she is forcing herself not to feel. Nico plops face down on the couch to try and take a nap until her breakfast is ready. She is finally on the verge of falling asleep again when a sharp knock on the door wakes her.

“Can you get that Nico?” Karolina’s voice yells from the kitchen.

She grumbles and pulls herself up from the couch. Dragging her feet all the way to the door, she unlocks the deadbolt and swings the door open to see who could be disturbing her at such an early hour. When she sees the other women standing outside with a frown on her freckled face, Nico straightens her posture. The strawberry blonde looks her up and down, and Nico is rendered silent in shock at who is in her doorway.

“Nico, who is it?” Karolina’s voice grows louder as she comes closer. She hears the girl step out of the kitchen and let out a small gasp when she sees whose standing in their doorway. “Mom, what are you doing here?”

Chapter Text

Karolina’s feet are glued to the floor, frozen in place. She stares at her mother blankly. Seeing the woman after actively avoiding her feels like jumping in a pool of ice-cold water. Leslie Dean steps over the threshold and Nico closes the door after her with a dumbfounded expression on her face. The beeping of a timer in the kitchen breaks Karolina out of her trance.

“I have something on the stove, give me a minute,” she mutters and races into the kitchen. Her body is on autopilot as she scrapes the food onto the plate and pours a mug of black coffee. She steps out of the kitchen and sees that her mother has made herself comfortable on the couch and Nico is standing protectively by the kitchen doorway.  

“Nico, if you don’t mind, could you give Karolina and me a moment alone?” Her mother breaks the silence after an intense staring match.

Nico looks at Karolina as if asking if she is okay with being left alone with her mother. The blonde takes a deep breath and nods at the girl. Nico nods back then steps up to Karolina, grabbing the plate of food and coffee mug out of her hands. She stretches up on her toes and presses a chaste kiss to the taller girl’s cheek. Nico pulls away and gives Leslie a smug smirk as she watches the interaction. “Thanks for the breakfast, babe. I’ll eat in our room.”

The blonde watches her exit the room in awe. She doesn’t look away from Nico’s retreating figure until her mother clears her throat. Karolina shakes her head and sits on the opposite end of the couch; her posture is ramrod straight and she uncomfortably chances a glance at her mom. Her mother is staring at her with an unreadable expression until Karolina looks down at her lap.

“You’ve been ignoring me,” Leslie states. Karolina continues to stare down at her lap and gives a meek nod. Her mother continues, “And your father and my publicist. We just want to talk to you, Karolina.”

The blonde rolls her eyes nearly out of her head, “I’m sure you do. Your voicemail sounded like you were quite interested and happy for me,” Karolina shocks herself at the snarky sarcasm that she spews out in anger.

“Why would I be happy for a relationship that’s fake?”

When those words hit her ears, her heart stops in her chest and all the blood drains out of her face. Karolina feels caught and embarrassed, only for a moment before her genetics coding for acting kicks in. She looks at her mother with a facial expression that hopefully appears confused, “What are you talking about? Nico’s my girlfriend, mom. There’s nothing fake about it.”

“It’s all very convenient. You guys come out about your relationship after you stormed out of that dinner angry. And I’ve seen the video, anyone with eyes can tell you kissed her just to get the cameras off you, not because you are dating,” Leslie states easily. “And if Tina Minoru wasn’t so dead set on suddenly trying to be a cool and relatable mom lately, she would be able to see this too.”

The blonde feels her heart sink deeper and deeper into her chest as her mother speaks. Her mom hit the nail right on the head, but she will fight trying to make it seem as if her mother is totally off the mark. Karolina decides to have an angry, passionate response, as it seems to be appropriate for the scenario if Nico was really her girlfriend.

“How dare you?” She spits out in disgust. “She is my girlfriend; don’t you dare spew lies about my relationship just because you’re unsupportive that I’m dating a girl.”

Leslie waves a dismissive hand, “Don’t turn it into that.”

“No, that’s exactly it, mom. You are sick at the thought of your only child being a lesbian. And now you’re in denial, saying my relationship is a lie, to try and discredit my happiness.” Her face is crimson, and she lets out an angry breath. Perhaps, it isn’t all acting skills that’s making her argument so passionate, but she’s finally releasing all her anger that she has about her mother.

“I’m not a homophobe, Karolina. I’m saying this relationship of yours is fake because of the facts that are as clear as day.”

Karolina scoffs, “You’re in denial, because you don’t approve of this.” She stands and starts walking towards the front door, “Now please get the hell out of me and my girlfriend’s apartment.”

“Karolina Lucy Dean, I don’t know where you suddenly have this notion that you’re allowed to speak to your mother like this, but this is not your apartment. It is mine and your father’s money that pays your part of the rent. This is mine, not yours, and you cannot kick me out,” Leslie evenly states. “Now sit back down.”

The blonde slouches defeatedly back to her seat on the couch. She stares down at her hands waiting for her mother to speak again.

“Fake or whatever,” Leslie begins, “my publicist thinks its best if you and Nico come to my movie premiere this Friday. It will show I support this and give us good publicity.”

“Why would I go when you don’t even believe my relationship or support it?” Karolina shakes her head. It hurts, her mother truly doesn’t even care about this, she’s only worrying about her self-image.

“A limo will be here at five on Friday to pick you both up.”

Karolina opens her mouth to speak and angrily tell her mother off, when Nico’s voice pipes up form the mouth of the hallway, “We will be there, Mrs. Dean.”

“Excuse me, Nico, this is a private conversation,” Leslie interrupts, but then stops herself when she realizes that Nico agreed with the plan. “Wait, you will come?”

Karolina looks at Nico with a deep frown, anger boiling in her gut at her best friend for taking her mother’s side. The brunette holds a hand up to Karolina when she notices the blonde’s angry expression. Her fake girlfriend leans coolly against the wall with her arms crossed, “I couldn’t help but overhear your arguing from the bedroom, thin walls and all. And I don’t appreciate your disbelief of my relationship, Mrs. Dean, but we will come to your premiere on one condition.”

“Which is?” Leslie challenges.

“You and Mr. Dean have dinner with Karolina, my mom, and me. Maybe then you will see that I truly care about your daughter and this relationship could never be fake. My mom has already agreed to this, because like a good mother she supports my relationship, maybe having dinner with all of us you can take a page out of her book,” Nico smirks smugly at Leslie. A small, prideful smile covers Karolina’s mouth at Nico’s snark.

“That’s the only way I’ll go to this premiere. It’s this plan or I’ll go to press saying you don’t support my relationship,” Karolina pipes in and she smiles proudly at Nico who shoots her a small wink.

Leslie sighs angrily, “Fine, if that’s what it takes. Just let me know of what day you plan for this dinner and I will check my schedule.” Leslie stands up from the couch and starts walking towards the door, “Remember, the limo will be here at five on Friday. Try to coordinate outfits.”

Karolina’s mother nods at her and exits the apartment. The blonde stares at the wooden door for several seconds, shocked at the interaction that just occurred. Her heart sinks at the disapproval of her mom. The pain makes tears sting at the corners of her eyes, and she looks away from the door blinking rapidly to shoo away any tears. Nico sits next to her on the couch, putting a comforting arm around her shoulder. Her blue eyes look over at her best friend who is staring at her with deep concern and the grief that was festering in her gut dissipates at the sight of looking into Nico’s eyes. Nico’s brown eyes light up and something in her expression changes to something unreadable. Her heart flutters in her chest at the proximity to the other girl.

A large yawn interrupts the moment and Karolina whips her head around to look at Amy exiting Nico’s bedroom with her arms stretched above her head as she continues to yawn, “Good morning ladies, what have I missed?”


 

On Friday afternoon, Karolina puts the final touch on her hair by putting a bobby pin in place, securing her updo. She spins around in her body length mirror to appreciate her outfit. Her long sleeve burgundy gown looks fantastic. She sits down at the edge of her bed to slip her heels on. She is thankful she’s sitting because Nico walks into the room unannounced and the sight of the girl could knock her off her feet.

Nico’s hair is half-up, half-down. It falls in elegant curls that rest comfortably beyond her shoulders. Her burgundy lipstick matches Karolina’s dress and the tiny detail makes the blonde’s heartrate pick up. Her blue eyes trace down to Nico’s outfit that leaves her breathless. She is in a black lace, sleeveless jumpsuit and burgundy heels that match Karolina’s dress. The lace doesn’t do much to cover skin and the blonde has to force her mouth shut so she doesn’t drool.

“You look great,” Nico’s words cut through Karolina’s staring and she barely even notices it.

When the compliment manages to fall on her ears a deep flush covers her foundation covered cheeks. She motions towards Nico and opens and closes her mouth several times before stuttering a semi-coherent response, “You look, wow. Wow, you’re one to talk. You look,” she pauses and takes a deep breath, “wow.”

Wow, thanks,” Nico mockingly chuckles. Karolina is so focused on looking at the other girl, she swears she can see a tiny flush covers Nico’s cheeks, but it’s too hard to tell because of her makeup. “I came in to ask if you were almost ready. The limo is gonna be here soon.”

The blonde forces herself to finally look away from Nico. She looks back at her feet and focuses on finishing putting her heels on. “Now I’m ready.”

The pair make their way out to the living room. They sit on their phones and idly chat with one another until a honking horn blares through the front door. Karolina walks over to door and peaks out to see a black stretch limo waiting in the parking lot. She reaches to the table by the door to grab her clutch and keys.

“Nico, limo’s here,” she announces over her shoulder.

She opens the door when the shorter girl makes it to her side and they exit the apartment hand in hand. The driver is waiting at the door and gives them a warm smile and greeting. He opens the door for them and Karolina motions for Nico to go before her with a smile. The other girl smiles softly and shuffles into the seat and the blonde quickly follows. She lets out an audible groan when she sees who else is sitting in the limo.

Frank and Leslie Dean are sitting with champagne flutes in hand. Her mother is in an overly extravagant white gown, and she tries not to roll her eyes at how typical the outfit is of her. Her mother’s blue eyes trace the fake couple and Karolina attempts to subtly wrap an arm around Nico’s shoulder.

“Hello, girls,” Leslie breaks the silence when the limo begins moving.

“Why are we riding in the same limo? Can we not afford two for the night?” Karolina snarks. The girl sitting under her arm chuckles and looks up at her proudly with a fond smile. Karolina side glances at Nico and fights off the blush covering her cheeks.

“It shows a united front,” Leslie states. “It will look best to do this.”

“And we haven’t seen you in so long, it’s nice to spend some quality time together,” her father pipes in and Karolina fights an eyeroll. It seems her mom didn’t tell her dad about the threatening visit she made to Karolina earlier in the week.

“Thanks dad,” the blonde plasters on a fake smile.

“I figured that this would also convince the public of your fake relationship and my support of it, since you two haven’t bothered to go out in public since you were seen at that bar,” Leslie pipes up.

Seething anger fills deep in Karolina’s gut and she grinds down on her teeth to avoid arguing back. Arguing with her mother has proved to be quite useless over the years. The blonde focuses on her breathing to try and calm her anger. It doesn’t help that the dig her mom made is a blatant reminder of that night at the bar when Karolina and Nico went way too far. A moment that they still haven’t talked about, and the sole reason Karolina hasn’t left the apartment in nearly a week. She couldn’t risk leaving and having to be affectionate with Nico in public. She doesn’t trust herself around Nico and she’s scared of the emotions she could develop.

“Stop saying my relationship is fake,” Karolina eventually settles on responding with.

“I’m just stating fact,” Leslie shrugs and challenges her daughter with a glare. The younger woman meets her mother’s glare and matches her with a frown on her face.

“I’m gonna need this,” Nico mutters as she leans forward and grabs a bottle of champagne, breaking the silence. She pours two generous glasses for them both. Karolina swallows the contents of the flute in two gulps. She takes the bottle from Nico and pours another generous glass and swallows it just as quickly as before.

Her dad’s eyes follow her movements intently, then look over at his wife and he lets out a sigh, “Well this is going to be fun.”


 

The nearly silent, awkward limo ride is filled with Karolina drinking most of the alcohol on board and Nico and Frank attempting to make small talk. The blonde finally feels like she is no longer suffocating when she steps out of the stuffy limo. She is met with a barrage of flashing lights that quickly sober her up. She turns to hold a hand out to Nico, who gratefully accepts it as she climbs out of the limo. Leslie and Frank quickly follow suit and the flashes grow more aggressive to get a picture of the Deans with their gay daughter and her girlfriend.

Karolina follows her parents lead as they stand and pose at the beginning of the red carpet. The overlapping noises of photographers and interviewers yelling combined with the flashes makes the girl woozy. She feels frozen and her lungs are like straws desperately trying to suck any oxygen out of the air. She feels her hand being squeezed and drawn out of her panicked trance she looks down to see Nico looking at her with concern and squeezing her hand a second time. The shorter girl leans up on her tiptoes and delivers a kiss to Karolina’s cheek, leaving the blonde breathless for a whole different reason.

Nico uses the kiss as a cover to lean and whisper into Karolina’s ear, “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, I just hate these things. And it just seems so much more intense now,” she mumbles and Nico nods sympathetically.

“I’ve got you,” the other girl smiles at her sweetly and pulls the blonde towards the carpet, helping most of the anxiety fade away.

They stop and pose at several spots in front of cameras as people typically do at red carpets. The pair take the typical pose of Nico standing to Karolina’s left, turning slightly into the blonde and wrapping an arm around Karolina’s waist. The blonde fully faces the camera with her left arm wrapped snuggly around Nico, resting casually on the border of her lower back, using her height as the determining factor for taking the typical “male” pose of the red carpet. She hopes they look completely natural, and not like they rehearsed this in their living room last night. She tries to radiate her usual sunny, smiley demeanor that she usually has in front of cameras, but the anxiety in her veins make the smiles feel forced. The blonde tries to focus on Nico’s comforting presence and constant reassuring squeezes to make her smile bigger and more genuine. She feels that it works for the most part.

When they’re in the middle of the red carpet, the anxiety creeps even further up on Karolina. She knows that they need to kiss, most couples usually do on red carpets. Her and Nico never discussed it, they wouldn’t dare, not after that night at the bar. She’s terrified to kiss Nico again, it will be the first time since the bar where she was sucked in and any semblance of control she had with the girl began crumbling beneath her feet. Over the last week, she has tried desperately to regain the control on her emotions by concealing them and pushing them away. She’s just trying to place all her emotions in a tiny box and store it away, never to be seen again. She is worried what kissing the other girl will do to that tiny box.

The blonde takes a steadying breath and prepares herself to lay one on Nico when she notices the logos of a few news sources she likes. She figures since this is fake, she might as well give the sources she likes some good material. The blonde lightly taps the shorter girl’s lower back and Nico looks up at her.

The raven-haired beauty has a giant smile on her face, clearly doing well in front of the cameras. Her smile softens when her brown eyes land on Karolina. The blonde feels her anxious exterior soften and a soft, genuine smile covers her face. The constant flashes illuminate the left side of Nico’s face and Karolina appreciates all her true beauty, focusing on her gorgeous cheekbones and her beautiful eyes. Her eyes are torn away to Nico’s burgundy lips when she sees white incisors bite down on a full lower lip. Then all her attention is on those lips, which is the whole point of getting Nico to look at her. It feels like every atom in her body is pulling her towards Nico and even though her mind is screaming at the damage this will do to her, she allows herself to be pulled in.

Their lips meet in the middle. Karolina feels lighter and giddy at the feeling that overcomes her at finally kissing Nico again. Not kissing her for almost a week made her feel like she was going through withdrawal. She pushes away the worrying thought that she enjoys kissing Nico a bit too much to the back of her mind and focuses on those burgundy lips that match her own gown so well. She pulls away after likely kissing the girl for too long, and she forgets she’s on the red carpet for a moment until the blinding flashes sends spots into her eyes. Nico gives the taller girl a shy smile and wipes at her lipstick with her index finger as she grabs Karolina’s hand and pulls them to the next spot.

As they near the end of the carpet, Leslie Dean runs up to girls, seemingly out of nowhere. She has a giant fake smile plastered on her face. She inches in between Nico and Karolina, the latter giving her a dirty glare. The blonde feels her mom wrap an arm around her shoulder and she notices the other arm wraps around Nico.

“Smile for the cameras, sweetie,” her mother says to her through a clenched smile.

The blonde meets Nico’s brown eyes that are looking at her in confusion. Karolina sighs in defeat when she realizes all the eyes on her; she can’t start a scene with her mother, which is probably Leslie’s whole reasoning for jumping in to pose with them. She shrugs at Nico and turns to the camera to give a fake smile, “You’re trying way too hard,” she smiles to her mother.

“I just figured we should have a picture together before the night is over,” her mother says and steps away from the couple who are both looking dumbfounded.

The blonde fights the urge to roll her eyes. Of course, that statement is a lie, her mother’s whole point of getting a picture with the couple is to try and show her “support” for her gay daughter. Karolina tries to ignore the sting resonating through her chest as her mother walks away from them and towards a reporter.

Nico must notice her defeated expression, because she squeezes her elbow sympathetically, “We can ditch this premiere now, right? We only had to come for the red carpet, so let’s just get out of here.”

A smile at her friend’s concern covers her face, “I like your idea.”

“Maybe we should sell it as a little more,” Nico suggests, and Karolina tips her head at her in confusion. “Follow me, we’ll make it look like we’re leaving to go hook up, it’ll mess with Leslie’s good press she gets tonight.”

The blonde blushes and dumbly follows the girl holding her hand to a slightly secluded spot but is still in the eyes of several people and cameras. Nico leans up and whispers into Karolina’s ear, “I’m not really saying anything, just trying to make this look suggestive.” The blonde really should laugh at the other girl’s humorous display, but she can’t, all she can focus on is Nico’s breath tickling her neck as she whispers to her. She can barely focus on the words as Nico whispers utter nonsense into her ear, “Not gonna lie, I saw the trailer to this movie and it looked awful.” She continues to say random things in her ear and the blonde desperately tries to focus on her words and not how she feels at their proximity and the feeling of Nico’s breath ghosting her ear. “Okay, I’ve probably whispered long enough for cameras to catch a glimpse of us. Kiss me when I pull away, really sell it.”

Nico doesn’t have to tell her twice. The shorter girl has barely backed away when Karolina wraps an arm around her waist and swoops her lips up in a kiss. The kiss is much more thorough than the one on the red carpet. She is intent on kissing off every last bit of Nico’s expensive lipstick and she does so by focusing on her lower lip. Her teeth graze the other girl’s lip and Nico groans into her mouth and hands squeeze firmly at her ribcage. Karolina can feel herself spiraling out of control when Nico pulls away slightly to take a shaky breath and then captures Karolina’s lips in a kiss so thorough and filthy that she feels like she needs a cold shower immediately. It’s electric and her hands start drifting lower and lower on the rough lace of the jumpsuit that has been frustrating her since the beginning of the night.

Somehow, the blonde begins to realize how into this kiss she’s getting, and it feels like a bucket of ice has been dumped over her. She forces herself away and her lips make an awkward smacking noise at the suddenness. Nico’s eyes are cloudy and staring intently at Karolina’s face for a split second before the other girl smiles at her and shoots her a sly wink.

“Good job,” she whispers and grabs Karolina’s hand, pulling her away from the event. Karolina’s body is on autopilot as she follows her best friend who is confidently leading them. She can see camera flashes pointed in her direction and she fights a blush off her face. She is dumbfounded by that moment with Nico, it felt too real and it was way too much.

They stop at the corner of the sidewalk and wait for their Lyft, which only takes a few moments to arrive. Karolina follows Nico into the backseat, wiping at the smeared lipstick on her mouth as her best friend acts as if nothing ever happened.


 

Karolina barely sleeps, which isn’t a rare occurrence as of lately. She tosses and turns, pushing intruding thoughts out of her mind until she passes out from exhaustion. When she awakes from a dreamless sleep, she checks her phone to see it’s just after 11 A.M. She can’t quite bring herself to get out of bed, not when she can hear Nico rummaging around in the kitchen. That red carpet and all the kissing last night had messed with her neatly stowed away box in her mind that held her feelings for Nico. Those said feelings are threatening to topple over and take control at any moment and the blonde is terrified. She’s convinced herself that avoiding Nico will help file away her emotions and she plans to do so for as long as humanly possible.

She groans to herself when she remembers that the dreaded parent dinner is this evening. So much for avoiding Nico, she has to go out in public and try to convince her mom of this relationship.

For hours, she is lost in thought until she forces herself out of bed to get ready. When Karolina is shampooing her hair in the shower she is sure she can push aside any feelings for Nico. It’s Nico, she tries to remind herself, she can’t have a crush on someone who has always been a constant in her life. When she is blow drying her hair, she thinks about how stubborn Nico is, she surely couldn’t be falling for that. When she places the finishing touches on her makeup, she thinks about how Nico is way too sarcastic and she won’t fall for that. When she finishes getting dressed in a casual dress, the blonde realizes everything that she’s been telling herself today about why she shouldn’t like Nico, is what she likes about Nico. 

And later when Nico gives her a small smile when they get in Karolina’s car to attend dinner and it makes her heart race, all Karolina can think is that she is completely fucked.


 

It doesn’t surprise Karolina that both her parents and Tina Minoru beat them to dinner. All the parents in the Pride are strangely punctual. When the fake couple walks up the table hand in hand, they can see Tina and Leslie having their typical best friend conversations and Frank is looking at his phone.

“Hey,” Nico announces their presence to their unaware parents as she pulls out a seat and motions for Karolina to sit. The blonde gives her a shy smile and sits down in the chair. “What’s the extra chair for? Is dad coming?”

The older Minoru’s already perfect posture straightens, and her face hardens with a frown. She shakes her head, “No, he isn’t. That is not funny, Nico.”

“I wasn’t joking, I was just asking,” the girl defends.

Tina visibly sighs as if to collect her anger and her exterior toughens, “Since you are so curious, it is for your sister.”

“Oh, I didn’t know Amy was coming,” Nico comments with a shrug. She then mutters to herself, “God forbid I’m ever allowed to see my dad.”

Karolina looks at Nico sympathetically and places a comforting hand on top of hers. It’s not a gesture used to sell the point of their fake relationship, but an actual gesture of comfort. Nico’s parents divorce didn’t take an awful toll on her, she always spoke of how unhappy their marriage was, but it’s still hard at times for her. And she can tell Nico is now in a crabby mood, it’s tiny things like that interaction that set her off about the whole ordeal.

It doesn’t take long after that for Amy to show up, and a semi-normal dinner conversation occurs, although Nico is tense most of the time. Karolina’s mom even manages to be civil towards the fake couple. It isn’t until a worker takes away dirtied dinner plates and recognizes Karolina and Nico from a magazine cover that their relationship is even brought up.

When the worker walks away, Karolina looks at her dad and tips her head, “I was on a magazine cover?”

“Yes,” Leslie speaks before Frank can answer, “it was the picture of you, me, and Nico.”

“Ah, you’re welcome for the good publicity,” Nico comments sarcastically. “You know even though you think this is all fake.”

“Nico,” Tina scolds. “Don’t be rude.”

“What? I’m just speaking the truth, ask your bestie, mom she’ll tell you that she doesn’t believe this. She doesn’t even believe Karolina is gay,” the younger Minoru’s voice raises in anger and they catch a few glances from bystanders. The blonde feels the need to sink into her seat at the attention being set on her, especially by Tina Minoru.

“Karolina is this true?” Tina asks, and shushes Leslie when she tries to speak. Karolina gives the woman a tiny nod and she can feel the glares from her mother. “Leslie, I can assure you your daughter is gay, I’ve known for over three years. And our daughters clearly make each other happy, don’t try to diminish that.”

Both Karolina and Nico’s eyebrows nearly shoot into their hairline at Tina disagreeing with Leslie. It has been historic that Leslie and Tina were a dynamic duo that were never to be messed with. They always agreed and were problem solvers, that is until this very moment, which is becoming increasingly awkward. Frank breaks the silence by mumbling about going to the bathroom. Not long after he leaves, and the silence and glares persist, Amy pretends to answer a phone call and rushes outside. With the two buffers of the evening removed, it leaves for Tina leveling Leslie’s glare with a confident smirk and Karolina feeling scrutinized. Something snaps in both of the moms after that, causing them to go into a full-blown argument. An argument that is becoming way too loud and they’re talking about Karolina and Nico like they aren’t even there. Eventually the argument becomes too much for Karolina to watch, so she decides she’s the only one who can stop it.

“She’s never going to change her mind on this. If she’s so set in her values that she doesn’t understand my happiness, then there’s nothing we can do,” Karolina ends up breaking the tension. “I appreciate your support, Mrs. Minoru, and your daughter does make me very happy,” the blonde pauses to look at Nico with a genuine smile. She feels all the tension leave her body when Nico smiles back and squeezes her hand. Karolina can’t wipe the smile off her face for a moment until she speaks again, “When I wake up in the morning, I’m immediately happy, because I know Nico is going to be in my day. She’s the person who is always there for me, she experiences my highs and lows with me. She makes me laugh and she makes me feel important. We balance each other in a way other people don’t understand, and she makes me such a better person because of that. I’m so happy Nico and I have found our way to each other like this. And in the end, that’s all the matters; she’s the girl I’ve been falling for since the day we met.”

Karolina feels her eyes drift back to Nico again after her statement. In the back of her mind, she is screaming at herself that there is way too much truth to her statements. Nico hums and smiles at her, while brushing a finger over her knuckles.

“Shit,” Leslie breathes out and Karolina tears her eyes away from Nico. Her mother is vehemently shaking her head and a look of distress is clearly on her face. Her blue eyes look at Karolina and the younger girl notices how teary they are. The strawberry blonde opens and closes her mouth several times before speaking, “Karolina, I was wrong.”

“What?” The shocked statement falls out of Nico and Karolina’s mouths at the same time.

“You two are dating, I never should’ve thought you weren’t,” Leslie states while shaking her head at herself. “I couldn’t see the truth until now, how you spoke of her, I see how genuine your feelings are.”

It’s her mother’s statements that causes the emergency sirens in Karolina’s head to start blaring. She comes to the body shocking revelation that she wasn’t just acting out this scenario very well, but was speaking from the heart. These feelings for Nico are much deeper and genuine than she thought. They aren’t emotions she can just shove in a tiny box and forget, but something that need to prevalent in the forefront of her mind. She doesn’t just have a crush on Nico, she’s falling in love with her.


 

The rest of the dinner after that seems like it would be much less painfully awkward, but for Karolina she is internally dying at the revelation that just hit her. She realizes her feelings are never something she can act on and its something that would never work. It’s something that would require for Nico to return the sentiment, which she doesn’t. So, when she is forced to sit there, holding Nico’s hand while Tina and Leslie ask questions about their relationship, it’s like rubbing salt into a deep, deadly wound.

Eventually Frank and Amy return around the same time, the blonde wouldn’t be surprised if the pair were hiding together and waiting for the situation to diffuse. She can’t focus on anything happening, she’s too busy freaking out internally while trying to pretend she is completely fine. When the families decide on ordering dessert, Karolina quietly excuses herself to the bathroom.

While wobbling on shaky legs towards the front of the restaurant, she finds herself continuing to walk towards the door instead of turning to use the bathroom. Before she knows it, she is out in the parking lot and unlocking her car. Her body is on autopilot as she slams the door shut behind her and presses her forehead against the steering wheel.

She’s falling in love with her best friend. Her best friend that is unobtainable and has never showed interest in Karolina.

Her chest heaves and tears form at the corners of her eyes. She can’t handle this suffocating truth while in the presence of family and the girl who is unintentionally causing all this heartache. Karolina is panicked and there’s only one thing she can do: she needs to get out of here. So, she turns on her car and does exactly that.

Chapter Text

She doesn’t even remember driving away from the restaurant. It’s like she blacks out and suddenly comes to in the parking lot of Gert’s apartment complex with rap music blaring from her car speakers. Karolina should be concerned for the safety of the road if she doesn’t remember her panicked driving, but her car seems to be in one piece which is all that matters. She didn’t even check to see if Gert was home or if she could come over, the blonde just knew she had nowhere else to go. Going back to her apartment means Nico will eventually be there and reminders of Nico are everywhere, it’s truly the last place she needs to be right now.

The blonde is about to text Gert, when she notices the purple-haired girl walking her pit bull mix named Old Lace that Gert rescued a year ago. The music reverberating through her car must be so loud that Gert can hear it outside the car, because her friend whips her head towards the car and raises a surprised eyebrow when she makes eye contact with Karolina.

Her hands shake as she turns the key and pulls it out of the ignition. The car door beeps as she opens it and her ears ring at the loss of sound of the blaring music. She stands, frozen with her hands resting on the open car door as Gert approaches her.

“What’s up with the surprise visit?” Gert asks when she is within range of the blonde.

Honestly, Karolina doesn’t know what to answer. She doesn’t know why she ended up here, why her brain subconsciously decided to visit Gert. She knows she can’t be honest, she can’t tell Gert she came here in a gay panic about her not-so-surprise feelings for Nico. Karolina sighs and decides to give an answer somewhere in the middle, “Parent dinner was exhausting, I needed to get away.”

“Oh yeah, how’s everything with your mom?” the purple-haired girl asks when Old Lace sits at Karolina’s feet asking for pets.

She rubs the dog’s head and sighs, “Still weird, in the middle of dinner she suddenly decided to be somewhat supportive of my relationship. It was really odd and overwhelming, so I ditched.”

“You can come in,” Gert thumbs over her shoulder. The blonde closes her car door and falls into step with the other girl. “But why didn’t you just go back to your own apartment?”

She exhales and sifts through acceptable responses to give the girl, “Because I may have left Nico at the dinner alone with our parents. And that’s a lot of wrath I’ll be dealing with.” She’s not lying at all, another reason she’s terrified to go home is to face Nico who will likely be pissed.

“Yikes, rookie girlfriend mistake,” Gert chuckles and unlocks the door to the building. “Why did you leave her though, you guys could’ve just ditched the dinner together?”

Karolina knows Gert isn’t intending to make this feel like an interrogation, but her friend is asking all the questions that are intensifying her panic and she’s about to break down. Lying to all her friends and family was hard, but now she is lying to Nico and herself about her feelings, and she feels like she’s bursting at the seams with secrets. Gert gives her a questioning look at her silence when they enter the first-floor apartment. Karolina inhales shakily and her lungs suddenly feel unbearably tight. Her legs are wobbly, and she has to rest against the arm of the couch not to fall over, “To be completely honest, I’m overwhelmed with my feelings for Nico.”

The blonde feels a load of pressure being lifted off her chest at saying the truth. It’s a truth that won’t give away her fake relationship, but still seems legitimate to her friends who believe said lie. Gert unclips Old Lace’s leash and sits on the opposite end of the couch, “Why are you overwhelmed? You two are perfect for each other and have always lowkey had a thing for another.”

The words that are supposed to be comforting cause a tidal wave of anxiety to rush over the blonde. She can’t hear about how Nico is the one for her and always has been, because it makes her heartbeat pick up in false hope. An ugly sob unintentionally rips out of her throat when she desperately tries to inhale. And it’s like the dam holding all her tears in breaks and the floodgates are open. Her mascara begins to stain below her blue eyes as she sobs; Gert moves quickly across the couch to give the blonde a comforting hug. She doesn’t know how long she sobs onto the other girl’s shoulder, but when the tears finally slow and her eyes are exceptionally dry, making her feel tired, she readies herself to respond to Gert.

“I think I’m falling in love with her and I’m terrified of how its going to effect our relationship,” she whispers, and her dry throat causes her voice to crack. She’s being completely honest, and it feels great, even if she’s technically lying by omission.

“I get it, I was terrified when I realized how intense my feelings were for Chase at the beginning of our relationship. It’s something you have to come to terms with by yourself, but that fear you have is completely valid. Love is very scary, because it can make or break you. But you’ve known Nico your whole life, you two better each other, and in one way or another you two have always been in love. Even if it had been platonic love for years, it’s still love and it made you two flourish.” Gert gives her an easy smile and a comforting squeeze on the bicep. “Besides, I see the way she looks at you, and I think she loves you too.”

The blonde nods her head, letting the words sink in. She finds some comfort in Gert’s words and she tries to ignore the pang of hope that shoots through her at Gert’s last statement. She settles on sinking back into the couch and staring at the TV that has the news running. She sighs, “You’re right. Do you care if I stay here for a little bit? Nico is going to be pissed at me, and I want to avoid it for as long as possible.”

Her friend shrugs, “Sure, I’ll just text her now and tell her you’re here and alright so she doesn’t go on a wild goose hunt.” Gert states as she heads into the kitchen.

Karolina nods thankfully and pulls out her iPhone and steadies herself as she presses the home button. She feels a cold sweat form on the back of her neck when she sees six texts from Nico and one text from Amy.

Nico: You’ve been in the bathroom awhile, are you okay?

Nico: Okay getting concerned, I’ll come check in five minutes if you’re still not out.

Nico: You aren’t in the stalls, I checked the parking lot, your car is gone. I’m freaking out, text me so I know you aren’t kidnapped.

Nico: Lied to the parents and said you had to go back to the apartment b/c the food gave you the shits, if you don’t like the lie that’s what you get for ditching.

Nico: Leaving dinner now, and you’re still ignoring me, so I’m asking Amy to track your phone.

Amy Minoru: Nico asked me to track your phone, she told me you’re MIA. I told her you’re at an apartment complex, she said that it’s Gert’s, but please just text her, she’s worried and upset.

Nico: You’re an ass.

Karolina shakes her head at herself for not looking at her phone. Nico was just being a concerned friend and then that concern clearly turned into anger since Karolina ditched her. The blonde is pissed at herself, she can’t blame Nico for being mad. Instead of responding to the messages, she would rather continue avoiding the conflict, so she turns her phone off and throws it onto the coffee table. At that exact moment, Gert walks out from the kitchen with two mugs in hand.

She hands a mug off to Karolina with a soft smile, “In trouble with the missus?”

“That’s an understatement,” she sighs.

Gert chuckles and grabs the remote off the coffee table. She pulls up the Netflix menu and begins scrolling through movies. Karolina snuggles into her seat in the couch, focusing on the movie that begins playing on the screen. She tries to focus on the events happening in the film to avoid her thoughts of Nico. She focuses so hard on the screen that it begins to exhaust her, and she feels herself blinking slower and slower, until her eyes don’t open anymore, and she passes out on Gert’s couch.


 

Karolina startles awake at the sound of a car horn. She sits up quickly and looks around panicked at her unknown surroundings. It takes a moment before she realizes she’s in Gert’s apartment and the horn she heard was from outside the apartment. She looks over and see’s Gert is passed out in her respective corner of the couch. She feels a sense of dread overcome her when she realizes that the sky outside is pitch black and she must’ve slept way longer than intended.

She pulls out her phone and checks the time to see it’s past two in the morning. The several notifications from Nico also catches her eye when she glances at the phone. She jumps to her feet and somehow manages to knock several contents of the coffee table onto the ground.

“Shit, shit, shit,” she mutters as she jumps around with half a shoe on searching for her car keys.

Gert grumbles and sits up, bleary eyed, “What’s going on?”

“I overslept, and Nico is going to kill me,” she spits out as she manages to slip her second shoe on. She uses her phone as a flashlight and finds her car keys underneath the coffee table. “I’m so sorry, I gotta go!”

She races out of the apartment and hears Gert yell good luck after her. When she sees another notification from Nico appear on her screen as she climbs into her car, she knows she needs all the luck she can get.


 

Karolina pulls into her usual parking spot after reaching her apartment in record time. She turns the key in the ignition but doesn’t yet pull the keys out. Her eyes are fixated on the windows of her apartment and she heaves a worried sigh when she sees that the lights are on. She knew the whole ride that Nico was going to be up and angry when she arrived. Nico has always been a night owl and can never fall asleep before 3 AM, Karolina really wishes that Nico broke that routine tonight. With a final sigh, she pulls her keys out and steps out of the car. Her footsteps are slow, and her strides are shortened, she has no desire for this confrontation that she is about to endure.

She creaks open the front door and tries to step in silently, maybe if she is sneaky enough Nico won’t notice her arrival. Karolina barely takes two steps into the foyer when Nico, who is sitting stiffly on the couch, turns to stare at her with a pissed expression.

“Uh, hi,” Karolina chuckles awkwardly.

Nico rolls her eyes so hard Karolina is concerned they’ll fall out of her head, “Hi? Really that’s all you have to say to me?”

The blonde toes off her shoes and cringes when she says, “How are you?”

Her best friend shoots up off the couch and wildly gesticulates with her arms, “Seriously? Fuck off, Karolina.”

Karolina is taken aback, nobody has ever told her to ‘fuck off’ in an angry manner. She would never expect something like her best friend to say that to her. A spark of anger lights deep in her gut, “Okay, I know I’m in the wrong here, but you have no right to tell me to fuck off.”

“I think when you ditch me at dinner with both of our parents and have me worried you’ve been kidnapped because you’re unreachable is a good enough reason to tell you to fuck off.” Nico seethes. The shorter girl frowns and starts stalking towards Karolina and the blonde has never seen her so angry, “So, fuck off.”

Karolina rolls her eyes at that and brushes past the girl who is approaching her, “Real mature, Nico.”

“You’re just going to walk away from me,” Nico yells at her back.

The blonde ignores the girl and keeps heading for her bedroom. She just wants to change out of this dress and she is feeling both pissed off and incredibly guilty at the same time. She only makes into the mouth of the hallway before Nico intercepts her by lightly grabbing her shoulder. She huffs and turns around the face the other girl. She notices that the girl’s face is clear of makeup and behind her seething frown she can see the worry in her eyes. She must’ve freaked her out so much.

“I’m sorry I left, I just needed to get out of there,” Karolina apologizes.

“If you wanted to leave, why didn’t you just tell me? You didn’t have to ditch me,” Nico responds staring down on her feet. Her posture is slouched, and her soft tone emanates hurt and Karolina feels guilt settle deep into her bones. She didn’t only piss off Nico, she did something much worse; she hurt her, which she never has wanted to do.

Karolina knows she’s been an awful friend tonight, but she can’t be honest with Nico. She can’t tell her that she left the dinner because she was overwhelmed by her feelings for the girl. Karolina will make sure Nico never discovers her feelings for her. So, she does the only thing that makes sense, she lies, “I just needed to be alone. It’s my mom, she’s just too much to handle.”

“If you needed to be alone, that’s valid, I guess,” Nico scowls. “But that doesn’t give you any excuse to ditch me there, I had to get a Lyft back and lie to our parents about it. And it definitely doesn’t give you an excuse to ignore me all night and show up in the butt fuck middle of the night.”

Karolina feels her body shrink in on itself as Nico’s voice elevates throughout her sentence, tone laced with anger. The guilt she feels resonates deeply in her core and she frowns at herself, “Nico, I’m sorry.”

“No, Karolina if you were actually sorry you would’ve been back like four hours ago, not trying to sneak back in the middle of the night. You’re being a fucking coward, Karolina,” Nico yells.

The blonde’s jaw drops at the insult. All the guilt in her body dissipates and turns into full fledged anger. Sure, her and Nico have had arguments in the past, but they were tiny tiffs, nothing like this. Nothing that made all the blood rush into Karolina’s face and maker her feel like she is going to boil over in anger and steam will come out of her ears if she doesn’t scream. No matter how in the wrong Karolina was, Nico has no right to call her a coward.

“A coward?” Karolina exclaims, her voice echoing against the high ceilings.

“You heard me,” Nico crosses her arms and gives her a smug dirty look.

Karolina stares down at the girl, using her height to make her feel bigger and meaner. Nico’s words sting and ignite a fire in her, “You know what, you’re a cruel, bitter person, Nico. And your words hurt.” She shoulders past Nico, racing towards the front door. Her heartbeat is echoing in her ears and she needs to scream she is so angry. She needs to get away from Nico.

“Oh, did I hurt your feelings?” Nico mocks. “Too bad I don’t give a shit.”

Karolina chuckles to herself as she nears the foyer, “Of course you don’t, you only care about yourself. You don’t give a shit about anyone. I ditched you at dinner and you’re making it all about yourself.”

“Who is it supposed to be about? You? I’m just not supposed to be angry at you being a shitty friend?” Nico continues to mock and follows her footsteps closely. Karolina grits her teeth and slides her shoes on, searching for her keys that she just set down a few moments ago. Nico is being a stubborn ass, and she knows her friend won’t let up until they are both hurt beyond recognition. And she’s letting Nico’s words get to her, she is on the verge of completely losing it, and the usually smiley girl needs to get out of here before she becomes someone she doesn’t recognize. “Oh nice, Karolina, you’re just going to run away again.”

“I’m leaving because you’re being mean, Nico,” Karolina says through clenched teeth, keeping her back to the girl. Nico chuckles mockingly and the blonde can tell the other girl is barely standing a foot behind from how the laugh travels to her ears. She can’t turn around, she can’t trust herself for what she’ll say.

“No, Karolina you run away from all your problems. You ran away at dinner tonight, because you were overwhelmed by your mom. And let’s not forget how you ran out of your dinner with your parents when you came out. That’s what you do Karolina, you run away like a coward,” the lilt to Nico’s voice is so teasing and cruel.

She spins around on her heel, finding the shorter girl standing incredibly close that it disarms her for a moment. Only a tiny moment though, because she’s yelling her response in a matter of milliseconds, “Don’t you dare bring my parents into this. You know how much my mom has hurt me.”

“You can’t hide behind the shitty things that happen to you and use it as a defense for being a shitty person,” Nico stares up at her red in the face.

Karolina takes a breath, she feels like she’s on fire. She swallows, “Nico, stop! Shut up!”

“Why don’t you make me?” Nico challenges.

The blonde continues to stare down at her and she realizes her chest is heaving. So is Nico’s. With the angry fire boiling over in her gut, she realizes how close in proximity Nico is to her. The heat from the other girl’s body is radiating to her and she can see just how dilated Nico’s pupils are right now. Karolina looks at her best friend’s face, the angriest she’s ever been at her. She stares into the face of the girl that is causing her so much anger and the girl that she is falling in love with. Their angry breaths and glares are charged, and Karolina needs to shut Nico up.

She grabs onto Nico’s sides, spinning her smoothly and pressing the shorter girl against the wall and quickly following to press her lips against hers. For a moment, behind the haze of the anger, she worries Nico will shove her off, disgusted. That moment is quickly over with Nico’s response of eagerly kissing the blonde back.

The other girl’s kisses are fierce, she’s all tongue and teeth. Nico kisses her as if she’s marking her mouth as her own. She’s angry, Karolina can taste that. And despite the blonde having Nico pinned to the wall, she feels completely out of control as the other girl kisses her aggressively. She feels Nico’s hands everywhere, her entire body coming to life. Those hands are moving all over her dress like a second set of skin, and every inch of her body burns in its wake. She barely even notices that Nico is backing her up until she stumbles slightly. Luckily the wall that meets Karolina’s back steadies her.

Nico pulls back, and their shaky breaths mingle for a moment, before their lips crash back together again. She feels like she’s in the fight for her life, as her and Nico kiss each other, fighting for control. Her chest is heaving against the other girl’s, her lower back arched off the wall. Her head feels dizzy, her lungs aching and depleted of oxygen, but she refuses to ever stop this.

The shorter girl pulls back again and Karolina gulps in air like someone came up from drowning. Drowning is a good analogy for how she feels, because in a moment all the oxygen is sucked from her lungs again when Nico’s lips attach onto her neck. She hears a thud and after a moment realizes it was her own head falling back and hitting the wall. As Nico’s scorching lips drag their way down her neck, toeing at the edge of the neckline of the blonde’s dress, she grips onto the other girl’s oversized t-shirt for purchase.

When she feels like she’s absolutely going to melt into a puddle from the line of bruises Nico likely left on her neck, the other girl finally pulls away and their eyes meet for the first time since the kiss. Brown eyes are darkened with pupils so dilated they’re almost completely erasing the iris. Nico’s bun is disheveled, random hairs falling out making her look like a full course meal. Their chests continue to bump into each other from their heaving. When Nico’s hand comes up to touch Karolina’s face and her eyes flutter close at the contact she comes to the realization that she must have this girl in front of her.

Her hands that are holding the fabric of Nico’s shirt in her fists begin to tug upwards, and the shorter girl quickly catches on, stepping back to pull the sleep shirt off. Blue eyes bounce around, focusing on the new display of skin in front of her, trying to not stare to much, bouncing to looking down at her feet, then back up to Nico’s brown eyes.

In a second, lips are on hers again and the hunger in her gut spreads. She feels a hand tracing her side, along her ribcage until the zipper on her dress is grabbed and pulled down. Nico steps back, giving her a seductive look, that makes Karolina’s lungs collapse and her stomach clench. Her dress pools at her ankles and she steps out of it, feeling scrutinized as Nico eyes her. She should be freezing, half naked in this apartment that always has AC running, but she feels overheated as eyes trace over every inch of her skin on display.

Nico’s mouth is hanging open and a sense of smugness overcomes the blonde. She chuckles and uses it as an advantage to get the upper hand. She backs Nico up, with a leading hand placed on the girl’s sternum. Heading into the direction that she thinks is near the closest bedroom. Karolina is so intently focused on Nico, they only manage to make it into the hallway leading to the bedrooms before they bump into a wall and fall into one another again.

Nico’s back is pressed against a decorating table and Karolina is taking her turn marking the girl’s neck. In the silence of their apartment, besides the intermingling of uneven breaths, Nico lets out a loud groan that echoes in the hallway. The noise only motivates Karolina more, as her hands begin to get a mind of their own, traveling over Nico’s body, as she pushes in even closer to the girl.

Her mind is a whirlwind, all her senses engulfed by Nico. The girl has singlehandedly lit all of Karolina’s nerve endings on fire. She is so caught up in the moment that when she hears a nearby crash, it scares the living shit out of her. She jumps away from Nico, rebounding off the parallel wall. Her eyes are focused on Nico who is panting with wide eyes, looking a bit ridiculous in a bra and sweats. The blonde then notices, shards of a vase, that used to reside on the table they were against, broken all over the floor.

It’s that loud crash that tears Karolina out of the moment and it feels like a bucket of ice-cold water has been poured over her head. Her mouth is gaping, and she tries hiding her bare stomach with her arms when she realizes the situation she’s in. She was about to have sex with her best friend that she’s falling in love with. They’re both stone cold sober and would’ve gone through with it if it weren’t for the shattered vase on the floor.

The same thought must cross Nico’s mind, because the other girl is soon blushing and covering herself the same as Karolina. The blonde doesn’t trust her voice or herself, so she stumbles into her bedroom and slams the door shut behind her. In a panicked state, she tears through her closet and throws on a pair of shorts and a tank top. Emerging from the closet, she presses her ear against her door, listening for sounds of Nico. When she hears nothing, she heads out, ready to clean up the crushed vase that just saved her from making a grave mistake.


 

Nico Minoru lays supine on her mattress staring at the ceiling. Her mind reels with memories of whatever the fuck just happened with Karolina out in the hallway. She tries to suppress the thought of what would’ve happened if they didn’t break that vase. It leaves little to imagine what would’ve happened, she was going to sleep with her best friend. Her best friend that is the most important person in her life that she refuses to lose, especially over making a stupid mistake like sleeping with her. They already crossed the lines that were blurred to hell and she doesn’t know how they’ll recover.

The pair have no reasoning for that kiss. It was not in a public setting, so they didn’t need to do it to show affection for their fake relationship. And neither of them has the excuse of being drunk. They have no excuses for that kiss, and Nico has herself to blame. Sure, she was pissed at Karolina for ditching her at dinner, but she shouldn’t have started a screaming match, because that anger mixed with the electric feeling she gets when she’s near Karolina turned into something explosive. A kiss so explosive it led to a point of no return. Nico doesn’t know how they can come back from this. Nico doesn’t know how she can cover up her feelings and think of a valid excuse for why she was pinning Karolina up against a wall and taking her dress off.

The tiniest part of Nico hopes that Karolina meant it when she kissed her. She hopes that it means Karolina has feelings burning as deep as hers do. But Nico quickly suppresses that thought, there is no way that’s the case.

Nico likes to call herself a realist, most others would call her a pessimist. In Nico’s mind the two are the same thing, the world is such a bad place and bad things happen all the time, pessimistic ideals tend to be the reality. So, Nico hones in on her realist mentality to remind herself that the kiss with Karolina meant nothing. Karolina probably kissed her because she egged her on to do it by telling her to make her shut up. She’s sure the only reason it got so far was because they were both so mad.

She’s seen what love can do to people. She thought her dad loved her mom, then he cheated on her with a family friend and is now marrying his mistress. Love leads to inevitable heartbreak and will burn everything good to ashes. Karolina is her best friend and because of that she’s the best thing in her life. She refuses to let her developing feelings and inability to keep it in her pants ruin that. Nico will do whatever it takes so her friendship with Karolina isn’t ruined, even if it means causing herself endless emotional harm.


 

She doesn’t sleep at all. Nico eventually climbs out of bed at eight AM. She knows Karolina Dean like the back of her hand, and the girl is likely awake right now and won’t come out of her bedroom until noon to try to avoid Nico. She is going to make sure that Karolina doesn’t avoid her, she needs to talk with the girl and set everything straight.

She passes time by brushing her teeth, showering, and doing her make up. When the blonde still isn’t out of her room after that hour and a half routine, Nico takes to cleaning the apartment. The shattered vase that Nico is sincerely thankful for, is gone. The floor is pristine, and she knows Karolina went back out and cleaned it last night.

Her heart beat quickens when she is vacuuming, and she sees her shirt and Karolina’s dress scattered and wrinkled in the foyer. All the blood rushes to her face at the memories and flashes of half-naked Karolina Dean flash behind her eyes and she can’t move for a minute. She eventually shakes herself out of her thoughts and calls herself a perv. She picks up the clothes and crosses the apartment to throw them in the hamper in the laundry room. She reminds herself that she’s seen Karolina in bikinis before, so last night is no different and she really needs to stop perving on her best friend in her mind.

Deep cleaning the apartment helps clear her mind of her repetitive thoughts. It also manages to kill a good two hours. When she’s done cleaning, she sits on the couch in the living room, giving her a good vantage point of Karolina’s doorway in case the other girl tries to sneak out. She only has to wait a half hour until the blonde emerges from the bedroom with a messy side braid and a giant yawn erupting from her.

Nico feels a tiny smile form on her mouth at how cute tired Karolina looks. Then she forces herself out of her thoughts and focuses on the mission ahead. The blonde stops in her tracks when she makes eye contact with Nico.

“Oh, hello,” Karolina awkwardly mutters.

Nico takes a breath, steadying herself. She tries to channel her inner Tina Minoru. She has half of the woman’s DNA and she is the most calculated person she’s ever met. And that’s how she has to be right now.

“We need to talk about last night,” she speaks evenly with her eyes pointed on the ground.

“Yeah,” Karolina drags the word out. The taller girl crosses her arms in front of her stomach, giving Nico a flashback of the night before when Karolina did the exact same action to try and cover herself.

“We took it too far,” Nico starts. She focuses on remembering the speech she’s been planning out for the last eight hours. “When we started this thing, you made a little contract and one of our rules is this can’t affect our friendship. I fear that we’ve affected it greatly. We fought last night, we never fight Karolina. I screamed at you and was cruel and I think it’s because this whole fake dating thing is putting a lot of stress on us.”

She stops to chance eye contact with Karolina. Nico thinks it’s in her head, but those blue eyes look watery and Karolina is just standing there frozen. She ignores the pang in her chest and persists.

“And then we both know what happened after the fight,” she gestures to the foyer.

“What are you saying then?” Karolina’s shaky voice interrupts her.

Nico can’t bring herself to look into the blonde’s eyes because she can feel her own heart breaking. She stares at the wooden floor and speaks slowly, “I would say we should end the fake relationship, but with your mom and the media it wouldn’t go well. I’m willing to keep doing this but we need to set strong boundaries.

“No more kissing, that’s what got us into this whole mess. PDA can just be hand holding and arm around the shoulder stuff. I say we ride this out until after the family vacation and we can amicably fake break up.”

The room is silent, so silent she can hear the shakiness to Karolina’s inhales. She eventually looks over at Karolina who has an unreadable expression. She waits patiently until the other girl nods her head slowly, “Um, I agree. Good plan. I am sorry about last night by the way. I’m sorry for all of it.”

“Me too,” Nico sighs out.

It’s suffocating in the room. Karolina’s eyes are anywhere but Nico, and Nico can feel herself dying on the inside. Her words and this plan sting, she’s hurting herself. She’s breaking her own heart before Karolina Dean can do it herself. After a few more seconds that feel like years, Nico mutters a shitty excuse and races out of the apartment. She keeps walking until she’s crossing to the other side of the road and it finally feels like she can breathe. The oxygen rushes back into her lungs and a sob breaks through. She sinks down to the ground with her head in her hands as her heart is smashed to pieces by her own actions.