Nico Minoru will never admit it, but she loves living in the hostel.
And yeah, the circumstances that got them there are crappy, but she loves being the third one up in the early mornings, even if she isn’t exactly the happiest person after she wakes up. It’s always just her and Molly and Chase in the kitchen. Chase makes coffee because he’s the first one up, and Molly is always excitedly chattering away about something too fast for Nico to follow. (Karolina’s the next one to arise, but she’s too busy meditating to come downstairs. And that’s something else Nico loves: the way the early morning sun streaming in through their skylight falls on Karolina next to her, setting her hair on fire as she sleeps.)
She loves Wednesday nights, when it’s Chase’s turn to cook, and something inevitably goes wrong. He sets the kitchen on fire, and she has to use a spell to put it out. (She’s memorized the word ‘extinguish’ in two dozen languages for this sole purpose.) Other times, he’ll overlook the dish, leaving nothing but charred remains behind.
After a while, he wises up and stops using the stove, and Wednesday night becomes Salad Night. “Best to leave that to the professionals,” he jokes when asks, nodding towards Alex and Karolina, who make the best meals out of all of them.
Nico teases him relentlessly.
She loves playing video games with Alex.
It’s Rainbow Road in Mario Kart, Nico’s in first, and she’s almost to the finish line. Alex, a bit further behind, sends a shell towards her and zooms past her.
“Jackass.” Nico flips her middle finger towards him.
“Child,” he retorts.
“Look who’s talking,” she says, glaring at him as Alex wins for the sixth time that day.
Another favorite of theirs is Stardew Valley. They have a pretty successful farm set up, and are working their way through the mines. Nico loves it because it lets her live a life she’d always secretly dreamed of: being a farmer on a small remote farm somewhere.
She loves lessons with Molly. After a few weeks, the group decides that Molly still needs to be educated. They all pick a topic and a day to teach her, effectively homeschooling her. Nico’s day is Thursday and her subject is Latin. She loves how eager Molly always is to learn, listening to every word she says and trying the best she possibly can to understand.
One day, Gert comes downstairs reading a book. Nico asks her a few questions about it. A few days later, the book is on her bed.
And so a pattern begins. Every week, Gert leaves a new book on her bed. They have a standing appointment every Friday while Chase teaches Molly science, discussing the book for the hour.
Somehow the conversation at dinner one night turns into a discussion about vampires. “Everything I know about vampires comes from Twilight,” Karolina says, taking a bite of her spaghetti. “I must have seen it like six times as a kid.”
“I refuse to ever watch that,” Gert declares.
“What about reading the book?” asks Molly.
And so Nico forms a plan. She decides it’s her turn to pick their book, and leaves one on Gert and Chase’s bed. It’s called Dawn.
Gert reads it, walking into Nico and Karolina’s room that Friday waving the book. She declares that the book is “Honestly, the most amazing thing I’ve read in a while,” and asks Nico, “Where did you even find this anyway?”
“Right,” Nico says. “Here’s the thing: that book is Twilight.” She explains that she had magicked a new title and cover, and changed the names of the characters. Gert stands there looking at her, wide-eyed and shocked. And so yeah, Nico loves book club.
But more than anything she loves Karolina. Every night, just before bed, Nico turns on the old radio on in their bedroom. And sometimes it’s a faced paced pop song, and the two of them just jump around together until they collapse, laughing and breathless. But other times the song is slow, and Nico loves the way Karolina pulls her close and holds her there. It makes her feel safe, like no matter what else happens, she will always have Karolina, and it will always be the two of them. And as she leans up to kiss Karolina, Nico is happy. All she knows is that moment, and nothing else. Not their parents, not Amy, nothing.
And the next day, they’re all sitting around the table eating breakfast together, and Nico’s in her usual spot with her usual bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, and it hits her. Listening to the three completely different conversations going on around her, Nico knows only one thing. She loves these people. And she loves this place.
But she’ll never admit it.