Karolina’s not even sure why she let Chase talk her into getting tinder. It wasn’t really something she’d usually find herself doing. She was more kind of hoping that she’d accidentally bump into the love of her life in a coffee shop and she’d brave the coffee burns because her smile was just so pretty that nothing else mattered. Or they’d have competing stores on the same street. Or she’d be the cute girl who worked at the bookshop she always had to go to for overpriced academic textbooks and they’d hit it off over their inability to function as adults.
Not the whole swipe, swipe, goose thing.
But, after finally being honest with herself enough to say the words I’m gay out loud she had kinda been on cloud nine, and her friends had been incredibly supportive - Gert gave some speech about how she was proud of Karolina for overcoming society’s heteronormative programming and Chase had fist bumped her with his signature jock grin and then he played on her good faith, and seeming inability to put her foot down around her friends, and forced her onto tinder.
Maybe forced wasn’t quite the right word. Gently coerced. Slightly nudged her at the edge of a cliff and let gravity do its job. No that was infinitely more sinister. He convinced her it was a good idea.
Chase actually made it sound kind of amazing but then he’d left her to her own devices and she couldn’t figure out why she kept using it, couldn’t figure out why she even opened the app considering it gave her extreme anxiety every time she saw that tiny flame. Extreme anxiety that only quadrupled when she came across a profile that sent her into a complete tailspin.
Genuine, actual Nico.
She doesn’t like it at first, or heart it or swipe it or whatever the hell it is that she’s supposed to do with it because she’s too busy freaking out that it’s even a thing, like she’s been oddly obsessed with staring at the back of Nico’s head since elementary school freak-out, like Nico discovering her true Goth self just happened to completely coincidentally coincide with her discovering she was a massive lesbian freak-out, like she’s had a crush on her for as long as she really knew what a crush is but squashed it down because she was sure she was dating Alex Wilder freak-out.
She was good at squashing. So good. But how was she supposed to squash when her most valid reasons for squashing had been thrown so thoroughly out of the window because Nico was on tinder. Nico was single, and on tinder, and Karolina had seen her profile which meant her preferences were set to girls and Karolina was a girl and why on earth did she open tinder in a public place? Who opened tinder in a public place? Who opened tinder in a public place and then starting having a semi-asthma attack because their crush was on tinder? Karolina. Karolina did.
And, because the universe seemed to have it out for her for some reason, the library also happened to be exactly where said crush was. Two tables away, actually doing her own work instead of freaking out on dating apps. And Karolina couldn’t stop staring. Seriously she’d tried twice. Three times. And every time her eyes flicked straight back over to the otherwise empty table.
The otherwise empty table that housed Nico. Nico who was on tinder and oh my god Nico was on tinder and what if she’d seen Karolina’s profile too? Why had she let Chase do her bio? ‘I’m trash, help the environment and pick me up at seven?’ She was going to kill him, and then herself, and then go to hell just to somehow kill him another time because Nico had probably seen it and thought she was a weirdo and swiped whatever way means no and laughed about it with her friends and looked up and noticed that Karolina was just staring at her from across the room and spacing out-
She was looking at Karolina.
And she was... waving? It’s small and unsure of itself and there’s a look on Nico’s face that says she has no idea why she’s actually waving that has her immediately returning to her book like the whole thing hadn’t happened before Karolina can talk herself into waving too.
So Nico was hot and apparently also incredibly cute in spite of herself and Karolina was absolutely, one hundred and ten percent doomed.
So that was going to be fun.
Or, you know, the total opposite of that.
She still hasn’t swiped past Nico and she can’t seem to stop looking at it. She’s somehow managed to limit herself to staring at it only three times a day, and she’s stopped opening the app in the abandoned girls bathroom during lunch so that was good. That was something.
What wasn’t so good was that Chase kept asking if she’d matched with anyone and she doesn’t know how to tell him how useless she is and how caught up she’s become on one single profile. She’s not ready for all the jokes she’ll have to endure. And there will be many.
What also wasn’t so good was that Karolina was an idiot. A huge, monumental idiot. So massively stupid that she thinks the best thing to do to clear her head would be to go get coffee in the place she always hides out. Only she doesn’t consider the fact that the only reason she ever went there in the first place is because she knew she could expect to find a certain goth behind the counter.
Objectively the coffee across the street was way nicer and cheaper and Karolina stood out way less amongst its patrons than she did here - she wasn’t sure she could seem any less Wiccan if she tried – but Karolina had ignored all those things in her decision to pay for overpriced lattes because it meant that she could stare at Nico some more. Not in a creepy way. Just an I’m trying to build up the courage to talk to you and I thought if I desensitised myself to your face that might help way.
Only she’d been staring at Nico’s profile for about a week and she still wasn’t desensitised and she was still a completely useless gay mess. A completely useless gay mess that had made it to the counter and was not talking for some reason like a complete idiot considering she ordered the exact same thing every time. Except this time, in the quiet lull of a Sunday afternoon, Nico was actually manning both the till and the machine instead of frantically making coffees and quietly bemoaning how slow the machine was and Karolina thinks her tongue no longer fits quite right in her mouth.
Thick. Heavy. Unable to form actual words.
“Soy milk latte, right?” Nico asks in the silence and suddenly everything in Karolina’s head seems so loud because Nico knows her order. Nico has paid enough attention in her hectic moments to remember that that’s the drink order that matches Karolina’s face. Was it hot in there? Karolina was sure that it was hot. Nico probably just remembered because she was the only person in there who had ever dared to wear a bright yellow shirt but she was still hot. Really hot. Too hot.
“Yep! To go please!” Karolina says, or shouts really. It’s definitely classified as a shout and she didn’t mean for it to come out so loud but she practically had to force the words out of her mouth and this seemed to be their last act of protest against her.
A few meandering customers turn at the outburst and on a normal day Karolina might actually notice. If she didn’t have such insane tunnel vision she might actually notice. Instead, she’s too busy blushing and nodding frantically to back up her words, thrusting the exact amount of cash across the counter that she’s incredibly glad she’d counted before she got here. Here being both the counter and right on the edge of a quarter life crisis.
“You must be really excited about the coffee,” Nico offers, oddly shy and somehow still slightly indifferent in spite of the way she’s chuckling a little but god it’s musical and this is it. This is how Karolina will die. And honestly, she can’t even be mad. It would be a pretty sweet way to go: falling prey to the warmth spreading through her entire body.
But maybe instead of just crumbling in front of the counter she should actually talk. Chase would be telling her to talk. Chase would practically be moulding her mouth into a smile and telling her to work that classic Dean charm that seemed so easy in all other circumstances. Heck, even Gert would be better than this and her idea of flirting was telling Chase he was a Neanderthal.
“It’s the only thing getting me through the bio project.” That wasn’t the worst thing to say. Common ground. A half joke. It could’ve been worse and it wasn’t a total lie, it was how Karolina was managing to stay up half the night because she left her work until the last possible minute, even if coffee did also happen to make her extremely jittery.
“Tell me about it. I’ve drank so much red bull, I thought I might genuinely end up flying,” Nico jokes back, her brow furrowing before she immediately turns towards the machine and mutters something Karolina can’t even begin to comprehend under her breath.
Karolina waits patiently until Nico turns back with a once again unreadable face and a to go cup with her name perfectly scribbled on the side and, despite there being a thousand reasons that Nico should really know her name - she was relatively popular, their parents had some weird friendship, they had been at the same schools for literally all of their lives, this was like the fiftieth coffee she’d made Karolina in this very store - it still managed to startle Karolina into a suspiciously bright smile. Logic couldn’t bring her down today. Logic couldn’t stop her heart racing.
“Bye, Nico. Don’t drink too much red bull.” God that was a stupid parting but Nico counters it with an awkward kind of parting salute and Karolina naturally takes that as an excuse to act like she’s walking on sunshine for the rest of the day.
She spoke to Nico and she didn’t pass out.
She didn’t pass out!
Karolina thinks she does a lot for her friends.
Maybe even too much.
Case in point, she’s let herself be dragged to watch lacrosse tryouts despite the fact that Chase was already on the team just so that Gert could pretend it was a friend thing and not an I have a crush on Chase thing. Humouring Gert mostly came off the back of Karolina hoping they would eventually figure it all out and because she’s acutely aware that it would be highly hypocritical of her to force someone to be honest about their feelings when she could barely do it herself (especially not out loud to other people).
A fact that becomes incredibly apparent when she’s startled from her daydreaming by the sound of someone dropping onto the bench behind them with an obvious sigh.
“Nico,” she says before she can stop herself, before she can think about how much of a mistake it might be, before she thinks about the fact that the name will obviously bring Nico’s attention to her. Nico who looks equal parts uncomfortable and beautiful under the beating sun. Nico who actually takes the time to offer her a small smile when she realises who it is.
“Karolina,” she mimics and Karolina vaguely notes the way Gert mutters her own name under her breath, chooses to ignore it in favour of focusing on more important things. Like Nico’s face, and the new way she’s braided her hair today, and the way Karolina can just glimpse the brown of her eyes beneath the sunglasses firmly perched on the bridge of her nose.
“What’re you doing here?”
“Same thing as you I suppose.” Right, obviously. Nico didn’t just come to sit in this insane heat and watch a bunch of people run around with long netted sticks. Karolina wished she hadn’t come to sit in the insane heat and watch people run around with long netted sticks - especially not boys. Thankfully Nico seems to take pity on whatever disaster is written on Karolina’s face. “Alex’s dad is forcing him to try out for a sport and we both figured he was pretty much dead if he tried football, hence lacrosse. I’m the moral support.”
“Like a cheerleader.” Karolina grins, her smile only widening when Nico rolls her eyes and groans a little, seemingly aware that she has no real comeback for that. That’s exactly what she was - Alex’s cheerleader for however long he managed to be on the field without getting injured (Karolina was currently betting herself on just how long that would take).
“You should sit with us,” Gert inserts herself suddenly and it seems like it’s the first time Nico even acknowledges Karolina isn’t sitting alone before her attention returns back to her like she’s asking if she’s allowed to accept Gert’s offer. Karolina nods, patting the seat beside her with, what she hopes is, a casual smile and not like an insanely manic, panicked one.
Nico moves without question, picking up her bag and dropping onto the seat beside Karolina with far more grace than the first time she sat on the bench, and Karolina? Well Karolina spends the rest of the time trying not to think about the way Nico’s leg is pressed against hers or the way Gert won’t stop looking at her out the corner of her eye like she can’t wait until they’re alone so she can make comments about this. She’s literally never going to stop making comments about this.
Karolina kinda wishes tryouts would never end. Usually she’s begging to be let off friend duties on these days but she’d quite happily sit here forever. She thinks she’s been a good enough person in this life thus far to have earned the right to never have to move from this seat. #
Except apparently not because it all ends rather abruptly with Nico disappearing to help Alex ice his shoulder in the nurse’s office and Gert dragging Karolina into the girls’ bathroom and practically cornering her against the sink, as though she wasn’t already blocking literally the only exit out.
“You have a thing for Nico Minoru.”
“You don’t have to say her whole name like she’s some kind of celebrity, Gert.”
“And you don’t have to deflect but here we are.”
“She’s nice,” Karolina defends and it was true. Despite outward appearances, and the stories that floated around the school, Nico had been nothing but nice to her, which was saying something because Karolina had been nothing but incredibly awkward. It wasn’t the whole truth though. Nico had also been incredibly cute, and attractive, and nice-smelling (and yes Karolina knows that’s an odd thing to comment on which is exactly why she didn’t say it aloud).
“Nice? That’s what you’re going with,” Gert asks incredulously and yes, yes it was.
“I don’t have a crush on her. We were just being friendly; I’m allowed to be friendly. Friendly is basically my middle name.”
“We’re friendly; you don’t spend forty minutes staring at the side of my face for no good reason.” Karolina had good reason. The reason being that the side of Nico’s face was incredibly attractive and she was trying to commit it to memory in case she didn’t get another chance.
“Because you’re... you.”
Gert cocks her brow, “and what’s the difference between me and Nico?”
“Well, Nico’s...” Nico. Nico was Nico. Nico was oddly cute and strangely quite funny and Karolina has had a crush on her since before she really knew what a crush is. A crush that was getting increasingly more annoying the more they actually spoke to one another because apparently Nico just had to be as nice as she was-
“Oh my god, fine, Nico is hot and I have a huge, raging crush on her! Are you happy now?” Karolina asks and Gert does look incredibly happy. For all of about five seconds. Until they hear the creak of a bathroom stall hinge and they both look like they’re about to have a heart attack. A feeling that thankfully subsides when the door opens enough to reveal Molly, well, a feeling that subsides for Karolina, Gert is too busy screaming at first to realise its Molly laughing at them both.
“Sorry, I was going to tell you I was in here but then you started talking and I couldn’t figure out the best time to come out. It probably wasn’t now but it was getting a little awkward.” Karolina had just screamed that she thought Nico was hot in an apparently not empty bathroom. Awkward was probably the best word to describe that. Thank God it was Molly - smiling, happy, pink-hat wearing Molly and not someone who actually had a nefarious bone in their body.
“It’s fine, Molly.” Or maybe it wasn’t. And maybe Karolina shouldn’t have counted her blessings so early because she doesn’t think she’d ever seen a grin on Molly’s face so big before.
“So, Nico Minoru, huh?”
Karolina groans, throwing her hands up, “I’m leaving and we’re never talking about this again.”
They talk about it again.
Karolina knew they would, even as she said the words, she knew she would. There was no way out of these things once Gert set her mind to them. Especially since Gert setting her mind to something meant telling Chase of her plans and the two of them ganging up on Karolina and, considering Chase was the man of action to Gert’s woman of words persona, that made everything a whole lot more dangerous.
So much more dangerous.
So dangerous that Karolina finds herself pushed, literally pushed, into inviting Nico to his party, and into Nico in general because of course that was what Chase took away from Gert telling him Karolina needed a ‘push in the right direction’ and of course Karolina would suddenly have exactly zero coordination and completely fall into Nico.
Thank God for Nico’s apparently amazing centre of gravity for keeping them on their feet and also the locker that Karolina’s body was holding Nico against.
That her body was holding Nico against.
She was pressing Nico into a locker with her entire body, as in her entire body was pressed into Nico. Her entire body was pressed into Nico’s and she doesn’t think she’d ever truly thought about how different they were in height until this moment. This moment when she practically had to crane her neck down to see Nico’s face. Nico’s face that, if she were to look straight instead of back at Karolina, would’ve been pressed straight into her chest.
(Karolina finds herself both incredibly thankful and incredibly annoyed that she didn’t choose to wear a lower cut top that day).
She feels frozen. Like legitimately frozen. Like she’s just staring at Nico and cannot seem to will her legs to move even a single inch level frozen. Although, in her defence, Nico doesn’t seem to make any moves to pull away either and also she’s feeling more than a little frazzled because Nico’s hand is on her hip where she obviously steadied herself and Karolina can feel the unsure squeeze of her fingers against her skin and she thinks she might actually be lighting up like a beacon screaming I’m gay and I have a crush on this girl!
She doesn’t snap out of it until she hears someone clearing their throat besides them and she finally pulls sharply away to find Alex watching the two of them strangely. Karolina takes a few extra steps back for good measure, only just avoiding being caught in the stream of students passing through the hallways.
“Sorry, I was, err, I tripped. Sorry. God, I really just crashed right into you. Totally sorry.” She just knows that Chase had disappeared off somewhere to laugh about this whole thing. Probably having the time of his life thinking about Karolina’s fish impression as she stared at the crush she never should’ve admitted to anyone other than herself.
“It’s fine, Karolina,” Nico says softly and Alex looks at them even more oddly then, especially when it’s followed by Karolina’s gentle smile in return (a smile arguably too gentle to be weaponised in the middle of a hallway small enough that whispering was basically shouting).
“I actually came over to ask you something.” Nico looks at her patiently and Karolina takes her cue to continue. “Right, so, Chase is having a party after the game on Friday and I was wondering if you wanted to come?” She clears her throat, mini-Chase urges her on in her mind. “I would like it if you came,” she says, steadfast and strong, until she catches sight of Alex in the corner of her eye and immediately chickens out again like she knew she would. “Both of you.”
“Both of us?” Nico repeats slowly and Karolina finds herself nodding even if she doesn’t really bother to spare Alex a glance. “I don’t know-“
“We’d love too,” Alex cuts in and Karolina finally looks away from a shocked looking Nico to spare him a glance and a smile. A smile that she hopes doesn’t fully show how grateful she is - she thinks about fifty-percent grateful would probably be the correct amount for a situation like this, she also thinks that she misjudges her grin completely because he’s looking at her like he knows exactly how Karolina had wished for this situation to go.
“Great, I’ll be there at eight. Come find me. And sorry again about...” Karolina vaguely gestures between them awkwardly, feeling slightly less alone in it all when Nico’s cheeks colour with a subtle redness.
She blames the blush for the fact that she can’t seem to stop herself from reaching forward and brushing a piece of stray hair behind Nico’s ear from where it fell. Though it’s sheer panic that then has her snapping her hand back when she realises what she did and practically sprinting away from the two of them with a parting wave and a half-mumbled goodbye.
So maybe the whole thing wasn’t so bad.
It definitely could’ve been worse.
She let Molly pick her outfit. That’s the first thing that Karolina thinks should be put out into the universe. Not that she really had the best of options out there. She herself had stared at her wardrobe for at least an hour before calling in reinforcements - which really meant she called Gert in sheer panic and was also rewarded with an excited looking Molly and a uniform clad Chase who apparently had time to drop in.
Gert had tried to help first but that had been a whole disaster of its own including a pair of boots Karolina didn’t even remember owning and an old t-shirt from the back of her drawer. Then Chase decided to shoot his shot and Karolina decided the best way to deem how short the skirt was, was not how many times she had to pull it down, but by how much Gert’s eyebrows raised every time it rose up her legs even the slightest bit.
And then Molly had sat up from her place on Karolina’s bed where Gert had told her to sit because adult things were happening, and yes, maybe Karolina shouldn’t have decided it was a good idea to take fashion advice from Gert’s little sister but honestly her résumé of having watched every episode of Project Runway was actually really convincing, and she felt like she looked good.
In her opinion, she looked good.
She just didn’t know what it was that Nico thought looked good.
What if Karolina, even in the worlds tightest jeans that made Gert utters the words ‘look I’m against objectifying women but your ass looks next level amazing in those jeans’, wasn’t what Nico thought looked good.
And, what if, god forbid, Nico didn’t even turn up to the party because it was an hour after she strongly suggested Nico to arrive and she still wasn’t there yet, and maybe she shouldn’t have let Molly convince her to leave so many of the buttons of her blouse undone, and what if Nico decided not to come at all in the end and oh crap-
“I’m so sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going and I just spilled my whole drink on you and-“ You was Nico. She’d finally managed to find her and it was only to manage to spill her whole drink on her. She kinda expects Nico to look at least a little bit angry - the time Karolina spilled her drink on Eiffel had been two whole minutes of being sworn at and a night full of murderous glares - but Nico doesn’t look at all like she wants to kill her, in fact, she’s actually kind of... smiling?
“You apologise a lot,” Nico points out, looking down at herself with a nonchalant shrug. “Benefits of wearing all black, I guess.” She punctuates the point by gesturing to her outfit and suddenly Karolina doesn’t feel very nonchalant herself because she looks good, like really really good.
“You look hot.” Did she actually just say that out loud? Like with actual words and her voice into the universe? Nico is wide-eyed so she imagines the answer is definitely a yes. Coincidentally yes was also the answer to the question of if she should be saying something else right now to cut the tension she created. “Would you like a drink? I promise to put this one in a cup and not on you.”
“That would be nice.”
“Awesome,” Karolina says, leading Nico the short distance to the thankfully not too packed kitchen. “So you can see there’s a really hard choice to make here between lukewarm beer or a concoction made by Chase that he calls the Super Bowl, which I’m fairly sure is actually just every drink he could find mixed in one punchbowl.” It was a pretty lethal concoction. Karolina knew not to believe the rumours that some kid went blind drinking it but honestly it wasn’t that farfetched.
“I’m getting the feeling you don’t recommend either and yet your cup was half full when you spilled it on me, so what’s the secret third choice?”
“Water. It’s a pretty overlooked drink, but they have it on tap here.”
“Sounds exclusive, I’ll take that.”
“Fantastic choice, milady.” Karolina cringes the second the words are out of her mouth. She should’ve known she couldn’t be normal for more than five seconds. “Err, I mean, I’m just gonna get you that drink.” Nico does nothing but smile for the moment, mumbling her thanks when Karolina hands her the coloured cup (she learned the hard way to never let people see the water, being made to ‘catch up’ literally never ended in anything other than a full-day hangover).
After a moment of wordlessly watching the idle group in the kitchen, cringing at every sound that for sure was another thing broken, Nico turns to her with an almost imploring look, “So how do you suffer through these things sober?”
“Do you trust me?” It’s a cryptic question but Karolina takes Nico’s slight nod despite her beginning look of scepticism as enough of a yes to offer her hand to the shorter girl, which is taken without much thought. Karolina refuses to look down at where they’re clasped, refuses to acknowledge just how nice Nico’s cool hand feels in her heated one, refuses to think about the fact that offering her hand was really completely unnecessary.
“Just so I don’t lose you in the crowd and find you three games deep in beer pong,” Karolina reasons and Nico doesn’t seem to question it at all or pull her hand free so Karolina takes the opportunity to lead her through the throngs of people.
The questioning does come eventually however, when they reach the basement door and Karolina unlocks it with a key hidden in a nearby cupboard and Nico just comes to a complete standstill at the top of the stairs Karolina attempts to descend.
“I know I said I trusted you but I’ve watched enough horror movies to be at least a little apprehensive about a creepy basement,” Nico mumbles, blushing almost unnoticeably as Karolina laughs before dropping her hand to flick the light switch beside her head, revealing what Karolina really came here to show Nico: a handful of retro arcade machines. Nico steps inside. “Okay, I apologise for momentarily thinking you were a serial killer. This is pretty cool.”
“I know right. This is where I hide when everyone gets a little too drunk and start to think seven minutes in heaven is a good idea.”
“Not a fan?”
“No one at these parties has ever really seemed that heavenly to me before.” BN. Before Nico. Now she thinks she maybe wouldn’t mind being locked in a closet with like ten people pressing their ears against the door, so long as that person was Nico (she just got out of the closet but that’s one she wouldn’t hate to be in). Nico nods like it makes perfect sense and Karolina feels herself grin, somehow validated.
“So which of these is your favourite?”
“I don’t wanna make you feel bad when you realise you can’t beat the score of a true champion but I did get kind of obsessed with Wreck it Ralph after that movie to the point that the entire leader board is me.” Kind of obsessed was maybe a slight understatement but it was also the height of her denying that she was into girls so she needed something to hyper-fixate on. The thing she chose just so happened to be an orange clad man who liked to smash things. Completely standard.
“It’s founded,” Nico says with a smirk, stepping over to the machine and pulling out a coin attached to a string from her pocket that makes Karolina feel like that statement really was no joke.
After a while Karolina finds herself cheering Nico on from her side as she plays, sharing hints and laughing when Nico tells her off for being distracting and hip-checks her playfully. She doesn’t really think about how long they spend down there. All she really knows is that it’s the most fun she’s ever had at one of these things – even if it does end with Nico typing her name into second place.
Nico rolls her eyes when she catches sight of the, even brighter than usual, smile on Karolina’s face, “Don’t look so smug, I still beat out eight of you.”
“No, it was a good attempt. I just... our names look nice together.” And maybe that’s a stupid thing to say. Nope. It was definitely a stupid thing to say but it was what she was thinking and she really couldn’t stop thinking it and she doesn’t feel stupid when Nico pins her with some kind of indecipherable look because suddenly it feels like something could be happening.
She feels like they’re walking towards something. Something that Karolina wants more than anything. And something that she apparently isn’t allowed to have today because the moment is quickly shattered by the slamming open of the basement door followed by fumbled footsteps down the stairs that reveal Gert and Chase.
Gert and Chase kissing to be precise. Gert and Chase who only stop kissing when they seem to realise they’re not quite alone in the room, letting out a simultaneous “shit” when they spot a mildly amused Nico and Karolina who was sporting what could only be described as a shit-eating grin.
“I knew it!” She shouts into the stunned silence filling the room, grabbing Nico’s hand and tugging her away before Gert can get out whatever words are forming on the tip of her tongue. “Use protection, lovebirds.”
Karolina drops Nico’s hand quickly this time as they emerge back into the kitchen, making note of the lessening crowd and the clock on the wall. “I can take you home if you’d like? It’s on my way.”
“Thank you but I actually lost Alex somewhere in here and he drove so I should...” she trails off, pointing over her shoulder into the people still milling about, too drunk to stand or too handsy to realise that they were no longer surrounded by their drunk friends.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s cool. See you at school?”
“You seem to have a bit of a habit of literally bumping into me, so sure.” Nico smiles as Karolina blushes, turning away to find Alex with one last wave. “Bye, Karolina.”
“Bye, Nico,” she calls to Nico’s back, a little louder than she means to but no one pays her any mind, not even as she pumps her fist in the air. Karolina watches her leave for a moment before she decides to quit while she’s ahead, disappearing to drive home with the biggest grin on her face.
She got to spend the whole evening with Nico.
And god she was gonna have so much fun teasing Gert.
“Wait, you didn’t tell her you like her? But you guys looked so obsessed with each other when we walked in on you. I half figured I’d see black lipstick spread all over your mouth.” Karolina wished. She also wished she wasn’t so weak that suddenly that was all she could think about. Kissing Nico. Being kissed by Nico. Nico leaving trails of black lipstick along her body, stray breadcrumbs along the paths her lips follow across Karolina’s skin.
She was so weak.
“No, we just played games.”
“You’re playing games with my patience.” Gert says, immediately punctuating her words with a sigh and opening her mouth again. “I’m sorry, that was too much. I just mean that you guys obviously have some kind of thing. Just woman up and say something.”
“Why do I have to be the one to say something?” That seemed kind of unfair. Given her current track record with Nico that just didn’t seem realistic - she still hadn’t swiped past her on tinder for Pete’s sake and she was honestly pretty surprised any time actual words came out of her mouth around Nico instead of unintelligible sounds or some verbal attempt at ajksdjkss.
“Because you’re Karolina Dean and she’s Nico Minoru. There’s like social hierarchies or whatever.” Well that just sounded stupid. Nico wasn’t unpopular and Karolina had never been at cheerleader level. It was more like Nico wasn’t afraid to tell people to shove it and Karolina was white enough and blonde enough to fit the western stereotype of beautiful everyone hyped over (or so she was told by Gert). They weren’t two ends of some invisible high school spectrum. Karolina wasn’t some kind of weird teenaged messiah.
“That’s stupid and this whole full-naming thing needs to stop. It’s weird.” And also art class was not the place to be using full names in secret conversations, even if most people were too occupied throwing paint at each other to actually pay enough attention to eavesdrop.
“What’s weird is that you’ve been drawing a picture of Nico this entire conversation.”
“What, no I haven’t, it’s just-“ Karolina looks down at her sketchbook and yeah, okay, so it’s Nico. It wasn’t Nico. Not before. At the beginning of class it had been a pretty good estimation of the picture in front of her that she was told to copy and now, now it was Nico. It was definitely Nico. There was absolutely no way she could tell herself that she hadn’t just sketched a perfect likeness of Nico from memory in the middle of class.“How do you tell a girl you like her?” She pleads helplessly.
“I don’t know.”
“Well how did you tell Chase you like him?”
“I didn’t. I’m Gertrude Yorkes and he’s Chase Stein. I just waited until he kissed me and then, well you were there for the and then. Now we’re figuring out what the next ‘and then’ is.”
“You’re no help.” Why did she ever think that Gert was going to be helpful? Probably because the other choice was Chase and his advice presumably would be just kiss her out of the blue and lead her into your quasi-arcade room to have horny sex. She needed more emotionally stable friends.
“Well maybe you’re helpless. I’m sorry that was also way too mean. Just, be yourself. I don’t know. Ask Molly, her recent binge is One Tree Hill, that’s full of teen angst.”
So once again her hopes were pinned on Gert’s little sister?
She was screwed.
She doesn’t ask Molly. She doesn’t do much of anything actually other than panic and revert back to stage one of her Nico crush, also known as the, pine after her dating app pictures in her room without doing anything about it stage. Apparently the five stages of a crush were just denial four times and then maybe perishing, Karolina hadn’t got that far yet.
Except maybe she had. Maybe she had finally reached the point of no return and decided that, instead of staring silently at Nico’s pictures accepting her failure; she should just do something rash and actually swipe her finger to the right.
It’s a Match!
Karolina lobs her phone across the room in panic. Match? It’s a Match? That can’t have been right. Her and Nico can’t have actually matched. Nico can’t actually have matched her. Except that’s exactly what it said and there was that whole almost kiss thing and Nico actually smiled at her in hallways instead of staring dead ahead and pretending she didn’t exist.
She picks it back up timidly, holds it away from her like it’s contagious as she sets her thumb on the button and watches the screen light up with the apparently heart-stopping phrase... and a message?
I won’t lie and say I haven’t been hoping this would happen.
But in the mean time I’d actually thought of another plan.
A knock sounds only seconds after the message comes through and Karolina rushes towards the sound in spite of the complete sense of confusion that washes over her. She doesn’t know what she expects to see when she opens the door but whatever it might’ve been it definitely wasn’t to find Nico, standing with a bouquet of flowers, fidgety hands and an unsure smile.
She starts speaking before Karolina can even think to pose her many questions. “So this is totally a dork move but my dad suggested it, which I realise also sounds totally uncool, but this is how he got my mom to go out with him and she’s honestly a stone-cold bitch most of the time so I figured it had to be pretty effective.” Effective was one word for it. Stomach-whirlingly good was the one Karolina would make up for it if she was asked.
“They’re beautiful,” Karolina says reverently, taking them with her own shaky hands and lifting them to her face to smell them.
“Yeah?” Nico asks self consciously. Karolina nods reassuringly. “Cool.”
“I should put these in water or something, right? That’s what people do.” She knew people did. She’d seen flowers before. She’d watched people get flowers on TV. They’d literally been in her house in vases in the past. But maybe her brain was a little melted, or like, completely melted, because Nico actually matched with her on tinder and showed up to her house all nervous with flowers to tell Karolina that she liked her and it was the sweetest thing ever. She wasn’t even going to debate that with anyone.
Sweetest. Thing. Ever.
(And also for the rest of eternity).
“So I’ve been told,” Nico chuckles.
“Would you want to, maybe, come in? We could watch a movie?”
“I’d like that.” Karolina nods, exhaling all the sudden tension that gathered with her question, and shifting out of the doorway to allow Nico to enter her house. She directs her to the couch as she all but sprints to the kitchen to put the flowers in water. She almost drops the vase like three times she feels so on edge and it takes her a while to realise that it isn’t nerves.
Or it is, but it really isn’t at the same time. She feels like she’s been struck by lightning and she knows it doesn’t strike twice and this is really her only shot to do the thing that she really wants to do before this whole thing gets even more awkward or Nico thinks that she doesn’t really like her that much, and she just need to woman up and throw caution to the fucking wind.
She can do that.
Caution, meet Wind.
She makes her way to Nico in large strides on sure feet, with a sudden display of courage that she’s not sure she really feels. In fact, she definitely does not feel it. She pushes through anyway, though far slower in her movements as she sits besides Nico and leans in.
She closes her eyes the second she starts to shift, too afraid to watch the look on Nico’s face as she puts herself out there, as it dawns on Nico what Karolina is offering now and maybe that was a dangerous move because the second she feels Nico’s lips press to hers, the shock brings her heart to a complete stop, and then jolts it back to life a second later.
The kiss isn’t long or intense; it’s more of an acknowledgment. A greeting. A hello to the feelings that they both knew existed between them. And it really, really makes Karolina want to kiss Nico again. It makes her want Nico to paint her mouth black with kisses. It makes her want to lose herself in soft lips and almost daring-to-touch hands and holy shit does Karolina finally understand why everyone is so obsessed with kissing because frankly she could die right now and she wouldn’t even complain.
“Thank God you did that because I really didn’t have the nerve,” Nico whispers and Karolina has no idea why she does but she kinda feels like she needs to too.
Karolina smiles, her own whisper coming to light. “I didn’t think I did either, but I’ve wanted to do that for a really long time and I didn’t want to miss my chance.” And then she’s kissing Nico again. And again. And another time for good measure because she can and she can’t think of anything she could manage to say in words that would make more sense than their lips together.
Eventually some kind of film finds its way onto the screen, and if Karolina’s mom comes home and smirks knowingly at the blatant smudge of black lipstick on her face? Well she can’t even bring herself to care. Nor can she do anything but smile when she waves Nico off on her way home and turns towards the faces of two parents ready to interrogate their child because she just kissed Nico Minoru. Multiple times.
Nico Freakin’ Minoru
God damn Gert and this stupid full name thing.