It starts simply enough, Nadiya is quiet, sitting with her partner, quietly still enough that most people wouldn’t have noticed her. Erin notices, watching Nadiya with interest when the girl talks, feeling her heart begin to hurt for the girl, she’s quietly broken and Erin knows how it feels, she knows it too well. She still doesn’t make a move, watches quietly until it’s her turn to talk.
Nadiya is still there when Erin finishes, finding herself watching still. Erin’s judgement is light and fair. She nods, taking the notes. It’s too late this time but she can use them next time. She leaves the room quietly, moving to join her girls, glad they had come to support her even now. She didn’t notice Michelle slip away, focused on her conversation with Alex.
They arrange for Nadiya to say her last goodbyes. She is silent as she agrees, walks away. Erin finds herself watching Nadiya and David talk, her focus switching back to Michelle at her next words.
“How can you say no? Look at her…”
“Broken. She needs more than us Erin, you know that… I know that, so does Alex. Talk to her… see if she doesn’t at least talk to you.”
“Stop it. I know you’re worried about her… we all are. Help her.”
Michelle walks away then, joining Alex and heading out. They have arranged a second car for Nadiya, all they can do now is wait and hope.
Nadiya watches David leave with sad eyes, walking away towards the changing rooms, changing from her show outfit into something simpler, a pair of loose sweatpants and a jacket, all they do is highlight how pale and slim she is.
Erin had hesitated to approach Nadiya, her breath catching slightly when Nadiya emerged in her new outfit, her worry leading her closer before she can think too much. She’s used to this. She reaches out for Nadiya, hates the flinch and speaks lightly.
“Are you alright?”
“No… but I will be… Excuse me.”
Erin makes her choice easily, catching Nadiya’s arm turning her to look at her, instinct leading her to brush hair out of Nadiya’s eyes, the shiver that Nadiya shows is enough. She needs to see the girl safe.
“I’m coming with you.”
Nadiya makes to pull away, giving in when Erin’s grip tightens a little. She can’t fight it, truth be told she doesn’t even want to.
“Look at you… you’re… perfect.”
Nadiya scoffs lightly, her voice light but still pained.
“No… that perfect girl is gone. I’m just…”
Erin repeats the word, her voice warm and stubborn at the same time.
“I’ll prove it.”
Nadiya is about to protest when Erin moves, pulling her closer and kissing her with such lightness and care that she can’t help but melt slightly into Erin, relaxing and responding before Erin pulls away.
None of them expects anything from each other, but now Nadiya knows she can’t let Erin go, not when Erin is so sure of herself and warmly supportive. It’s new, it’s a new dynamic, but it suits her. It’s what she’s been missing.