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Miss Perfectly Fine

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6 months prior

 

"Have you ever even considered how it made me feel?!" the brunette snapped. Her stomach coiled with hot, white chains of fury. She couldn't care less about the looks that surrounded them, her eyes were locked on the shorter girl and only her.

 

"Jo," she started, then quickly closed her parted lips. Her eyes moved back and forth on the floor tiles. "Just let me explain-"

 

Josie cut her off with a hand, frustration driving her actions. Hope moved her head back an inch, raising her chin slightly.

 

"I want you to choose," she demanded sternly. Her eyes were fixed directly on Hope's eyes, but Hope was looking anywhere but Josie's face. When Josie breathed in harshly, the auburn-haired girl looked up.

 

Hope's eyes darted across Josie's face. She shook her head slightly and her eyebrows furrowed - though they furrowed with annoyance. She scoffed.

 

"I'm not going to choose," she snarled, as if the answer was already obvious. With every millisecond, Josie's stomach wrenched more and more. Hope's soft, pink lips and rosy cheeks almost made her want to give up. 

 

"Hope," she croaked out, wincing at the cracked tone in her voice. "Me or him." Her voice faltered as the sentence went on. Hope's facial expression—wrinkled and annoyed— decreased her hope and confidence that maybe, just maybe she would choose her best friend over the boy. 

 

Hope eyes finally met hers. Even if Josie squinted, she could still see no sign of emotion. It was practically impossible to read whatever Hope was feeling. She was just blank. Blank and irritated.

 

The shorter girl averted her gaze to Josie's torso, pupils imperceptibly moving back and forth, examining the patterns on Josie's sweater. And that's when Josie took her in. Her breath got caught in her chest when she noticed the familiar fabric—the trench coat. The one Josie had given her last week.

 

They were walking home from school in the rain. Hope had gotten her driving privileges taken away so Josie didn't drive to make the other girl feel better. They walked home during the thunderstorm, soaking wet. Josie loves the rain. Hope, on the other hand, was the total opposite. And so Josie slid off her coat and draped it over the shorter girl with no hesitation.

 

But now, Hope hesitated. Heavily. Josie's eyes moved where Hope's hand reached up, grabbing the coat, soft and dainty fingers prying it off.

 

Josie's heart curled up with each movement, each passing, over-played advantage hurtling towards her ability to even hold her stance. She bit her bottom lip to prevent the pregnant sob from embarrassing her.

 

Without one last look, Hope shoved the coat into Josie's chest, lingering it there for a while, before letting go and turning around and walking off.

 

And that's when Josie knew for sure, that she had lost.

 


 

Present time

 

"And hell strikes again. Look who's here, Jo," Lizzie scoffed. She nudged Josie's shoulder, grunting when the brunette kept her eyes on her book. Josie hummed in annoyance.

 

She wasn't actually paying any attention to what she was reading, she just didn't want to look out the window with Lizzie.

 

Whoever was outside could see straight through the window, and every single person Lizzie has spied on caught a horrifying glimpse of her through the window. Lizzie, of course, knew that—she couldn't care less. Josie on the other hand did not want to be associated with the spy cult Lizzie seemed to have been making.

 

"Get your ass up right now, Josie! Landon fucking Kirby is outside!" she yelled.

 

Josie's bones shot straight up. She stumbled over to the window and stood behind her sister, who had her eyes directly on the glass of the window. Josie didn't know how Lizzie hasn't been filed a restraining order on her yet. She was not slick in the slightest.

 

She looked out. There was the far too familiar curly black hair. Landon was still wearing his football uniform—his jersey covered in grass stains and mud. He had his duffel bag thrown over his shoulder and his mouth cracked in a huge grin. Josie internally and visibly rolled her eyes.

 

"Glad to see that he's jolly," she muttered under her breath. Lizzie shoved her shoulder lightly and clicked her tongue.

 

"Worry not, my dear sister. Tomorrow when his football team loses against the Salvatore school—which they will because they're obviously undefeated and better than us.” She ironically grinned, pleased, at the thought. “Landon will break out crying. And all of his teammates will blame their strong, precious and brave captain for their pathetic loss, and you can bathe in the sweet glory and bliss of the sight of him crying," she sighed happily.

 

Lizzie stared off into space, a hand on her heart, like she was fantasizing about Sebastian, which Josie knew far too well; Lizzie cannot keep her mouth shut and spilled more fantasies than Josie would have liked- no. Been able to manage. She did not like a single one.

 

Josie visibly gagged before huffing. "Lizzie, I don't want to see him crying. I just hate seeing him so damn happy all the time, with," she paused. "With her.” Josie shuddered at the implication.

 

Landon and She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named were driving her crazy, with their gleeful smiles everyday, hugging and holding hands in class, kissing during passing periods. Landon even stole Josie's spot, forcing the girl to sit in the back of her first three classes. Josie became far too familiar with the disgusted green ball of envy that always built up in her chest that made her want to go out in the street and scream her guts out.

 

Lizzie sighed. She shut the curtains aggressively, and the room lost the majority of its light. "See Jo, that's the problem. You care too much about what Ho- the she-devil, does."

 

Josie snorted at her correction, then quickly scoffed in defense after she registered what Lizzie had said.

 

But who was she kidding?

 

"I couldn't care less about her," she grumbled. Lizzie raised an eyebrow, and that made Josie want to jump forward and slap her face. Of course, she wouldn't. But it was so tempting.

 

She missed Hope, and it was no secret. She missed Hope's warmth, her smile, her voice, hugs, laughs, presence, and even just the thought of her. She missed Hope so badly that her heart ached whenever she viewed old photos or thought of any memories they had together. Life was so perfect when Hope was around. She and Landon were happily dating, and whenever he had made her upset, Hope came over with two pints of ice cream and they would have a week long sleepover. Sure, it was a little too much. But was there ever a limit for too much in Hope’s eyes?

 

And now she was gone, showing no regret for leaving Josie. They made occasional eye contact, sometimes Hope would even steal a smile. Small talks were there too, but no real conversation. No "How are you doing?" or "Are you okay?" It was like they were never even friends. They became strangers.

 

Josie swallowed the sob ball that was building up. Stupid sob ball.

 

Lizzie huffed. She turned around on a heel and paced around the room. "What you need, dear sister, are new friends. Forget about her. You deserve a friend who wouldn't leave you for dick." She paused and looked around the room, her eyes setting on Josie. She glared. "Besides. You're lonely. I'm your only friend at school, and to be honest, it's quite depressing."

 

Josie pouted.

 

Yet, no matter how much she tried denying it, she was miserably a loser at school now. She'd lost all her friends, which were really only Hope's friends that she was forced to talk to, when Hope chose Landon. None of them cared, only Maya did. She would text Josie occasionally and asked if she wanted to go out and have lunch some day, but Josie ignored it.

 

She only wanted to talk to Hope.

 

But Lizzie was right. Maybe it was time for a change—Hope shouldn't have been the center of her world anymore. And she's probably not going to make a good second impression based on her behavior for the past six months.

 

What a better way to get past a breakup more than complete isolation?

 

Lizzie remarked that she looked like a ‘loser’ who was bathing in the misery of her boyfriend cheating on her with her best friend—

 

Former best friend.

 

Ex best friend.

 

With a dramatic groan, Josie threw her hands up in the air. "Fine," she spat. Lizzie smiled smugly, and this time Josie marched over and slapped her face without hesitation.

 


 

"Alright, Jo. Don't panic. There's theater club, or you could talk to those girls in your soccer team again. They probably won't like you though, well, y’know, since you're so bad and can't kick a damn ball for the love of your life-"

 

"Okay, Lizzie," Josie chuckled between gritted teeth. "I'll be fine. What do you think I am, a bum who can't make friends?"

 

Lizzie wavered her head as if she was contemplating whether or not to crush Josie’s soul. Josie stomped on her foot.

 

"GAH-" Lizzie grunted. "Okay, okay. Just don't befriend one of Hope's new petty bitches." She sneered.

 

Josie chuckled and rolled her eyes. "Never in a million years. Bye, Lizzie," she said and turned around before her sister could protest. 

 

It wasn't until this morning that Josie had realized she was practically invisible without Hope. No one bothered to glance at her when she approached. She even said a few "Hi" 's but only received a hum or glare. Not even the theater kids wanted to talk to her, which Josie took heavy offense to, even though she was once a theater kid. 

 

By the time it was lunch, Josie looked around to find her sister's table and her obnoxiously large friend group. Jed was throwing an apple around with Kaleb across the table, Lizzie and Sebastian were talking - well, only Sebastian was talking. Lizzie was staring at him with actual sparkles in her eyes. Cleo and Rafael were the only normal ones there, peacefully eating their lunches. Ethan was, of course, checking himself out with a little hand mirror that he carried with him wherever he went.

 

Josie was about to walk forward, when in the corner of her eye, she spotted a curly haired boy sitting alone. She recognized him—a seemingly reticent boy who was in her first period class and sat in the back on the other side of the room Josie was at.

 

He was chewing on a pencil, his lunch on his side untouched, and heavily examining a notebook in front of him. He was incredibly focused on whatever assignment he had pulled up. It looked like if someone even walked next to him, he would yell at them.

 

So Josie smiled and approached him. He didn't bother to look up until Josie sat down at the table. His focus was all gone, but he didn't look annoyed. Not even mad. Just neutral. He cocked an eyebrow.

 

"Can I help you?" he asked. His voice was soft and had satisfying tone.

 

"Um," Josie started. She fiddled with her fingers under the table and brought them out. She placed her palms on the surface and smiled. "I'm Josie."

 

"Milton, but you can call me MG.” He smiled back. Josie internally sighed with relief. He seemed more nicer than whatever show he had put on a minute ago.

 

Her eyes darted to the notebook, which MG was drumming his pencil on. "What's that?" she asked.

 

MG raised his eyebrows and looked back down at the notebook. It was completely blank. 

 

"Oh," he mumbled. "You have Mrs. Bennett, right?" he asked. Josie nodded and squinted her eyes. Mrs. Bennett hasn't assigned any assignments the past two weeks. "I'm working on the nature essay," he whispered. Josie could see his pupils look down, and she assumed it was from either shame or embarrassment.

 

The nature essay? That was due a whole month ago. Josie shook her head slightly and chuckled lightly. "What?" she breathed. Her voice was coated in amusement, but her heart sank when MG looked up and pursed his lips.

 

"I couldn't pick myself up to do it. I don't understand why, though. I always turn in my work on time, but this," he scoffed. "This damn essay is holding me back."

 

The brunette felt pity for him. MG was a well advanced student. Her, on the other hand, had gotten a 104% on the essay. Mrs. Bennett was her best friend, and so was extra credit.

 

She eyed MG up and down. He was clearly frustrated and overwhelmed. She leaned in and put a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, don't worry," she assured. MG looked up at her, his mouth hidden behind his clenched up palms that were intertwined with each other. 

 

She thought for a moment. It was extremely weird how she had her hand pried on his shoulder, but he didn't seem to mind. Josie was glad he wasn't Jed; he would've thrown a punch at Josie's fist from his natural reflex. Then he would began crying and telling Josie how sorry she was. But this was MG. And Josie actually wanted to be friends with him.

 

"Maybe I could help," she offered. MG's expression stayed the same for a few seconds. Then he broke out into a chuckle.

 

"Yeah, right," he smiled. "Thanks for the offer, Josie, but I'm sure you have better things to do."

 

Josie blinked. He was... laughing? She hadn't even done anything funny.

 

"What? What makes you think I have things to do?" she admitted. There was no shame in telling him how much of a loser she was. She was sure he was one too. He shook his head and closed his eyes.

 

"You're one of the Saltzman twins. Of course you have things to do." 

 

Josie in fact, did not have anything to do. But what made her a little surprised was how he knew who Josie was already beforehand. Lizzie wasn't even the most popular girl in the school. 

 

"Wait, you know my sister?"

 

MG groaned. "Of course I do. How could I not?"

 

Josie bit her bottom lip. MG was now beaming. "Does she know you?" 

 

MG laughed. "No."

 

The brunette snorted at his straightforward answer. Then she broke out into a laugh along with MG. His teeth were pearly white and enveloped with a wide grin. His eyes disappeared. Josie felt her stomach ache at how hard she was laughing. She felt mildly bad for laughing at him, but he didn't seem to mind. His laugh was genuine and sweet. She saw a pair of eyes staring at her, and when she averted her gaze to see who it was from, her heart dropped.

 

Hope was staring at her, a fry in her hand. Her shoulder was occupied with Landon's strong and buff arm. She made eye contact with Josie for a few seconds. The world had froze. Pigs were flying. Hope was making eye contact with Josie.

 

Was this a dream?

 

Hope then flinched and pried her eyes off of Josie. She felt a surge of disappointment. Then she looked back at MG, who was still laughing uncontrollably. Josie noticed her laughing had stopped. 

 

Usually after she made the small interaction with Hope, she would leave feeling miserable and her stomach curled up. But this time was different. As she looked at MG, laughing his guts out, she felt hope - hope that she would finally get over Hope (no pun intended).

 

"Hey," she said and put a hand on MG's arm to calm him down. He bit his lips and snorted when he tried to suppress his laughter. Josie smiled at the dorkiness. "Give me your phone."

 

MG cocked his head to the side. He reluctantly reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone and handed it to Josie. She unlocked it with ease. He didn't have a password.

 

She clicked on the contacts app and punched in her number, creating a contact for herself and naming it Josie. She handed him back the phone with the screen faced up.

 

"Text me what time you want me to help you."

 

MG looked down at the phone and back at Josie. He opened his mouth to say something, and if anything came out, it was interrupted by the piercing sound of the old bell. Josie hated the sound of it. It was like someone went into her ears and scraped a chalkboard.

 

Josie stood up and picked up her lunch that she hadn't eaten. MG stood up as well, still looking at the phone. 

 

"See you after the game, Josie," he smiled and turned around, taking his lunch in one hand and grabbing the grilled cheese, throwing away the empty tray. Josie's stomach rose in an unfamiliar feeling. It wasn't jealousy, anger, or misery. It was hope. She had actually made a friend on her own. Josie smiled to herself and jumped a little, before turning around and almost running into a shorter figure. She backed up and took in what, or who, it was. 

 

Her heart dropped all the way down to the pit of her stomach when she saw those familiar blue eyes that she hated, only because she loved them too much. She gulped and examined the rest of Hope's face. She had her mouth opened as if she were to say something but nothing came out. She just stared at Josie, who was now darting her eyes around the cafeteria.

 

Hope breathed in, and before she could say anything, Josie found the strength to walk around her. She saw the other girl spin around as Josie stumbled to the side and walked the opposite direction. She felt the other girl's eyes attached on her. She knew those eyes were beautiful. She didn't even have to look.

 

After she went to her locker, she huffed. She'd actually done it. She avoided Hope Mikaelson. And she didn't even feel remorse. 

 

Josie smiled to herself. Maybe today would be a good day. For once in the past six months.

 

----

 

The final bell indicated that students were free to leave the hellhole, obviously. Josie darted out of the classroom as soon as she heard the first millisecond of the ugly sound. If she wasn't quick enough to get to her locker, she would get trampled by the erupting wave of students.

 

Thus, having to see Hope leaving her classroom gracefully. She was painfully inefficient, so Josie didn't know which days she would bump into her or which days they wouldn't even breathe the same air.

 

When she arrived at her locker, Josie punched in the number combination on the number pad that she had bought, only because it was on a BOGO sale and Lizzie had forced her to buy one so she wouldn't be the only one with a high tech number pad. Josie didn't really care - it was better than spinning the dial that always got stuck because the student with the locker before her had spilled juice all over it and never bothered to clean it up.

 

Josie grabbed her books and shoved it into her backpack. She slammed the door shut and her soul jumped out of her body when Lizzie was there, right in front of her.

 

"AH!" she gasped, stumbling backwards. She would have fell, if there wasn't a pair of arms that caught her. She looked up, expecting to see Lizzie, but instead saw MG. He was grinning.

 

"Woah, be careful," he chuckled and helped Josie stand upright. He looked between Josie and Lizzie, his eyes focusing on Lizzie longer than they did on Josie. 

 

"Thanks," she mumbled and smiled. MG just shook his head and waved it off.

 

"Are you coming to the game, Josie?" he asked. 

 

"I was actually going to ask the same thing." Josie turned around and saw Lizzie, who was smirking at her. "My dear sister, you finally made a friend!" she said and engulfed Josie in a hug, suffocating her.

 

Josie felt her cheeks heat up, especially when she looked at MG and saw his pursed lips that prevented him from laughing. She groaned and pushed Lizzie off.

 

"Don't embarrass me," she muttered quietly. MG's laughter erupted, and Lizzie looked at him. Josie did too. There was something about him that made Josie feel safe. He wasn't judgmental, he made mistakes just like any other human, and he didn't have any friends; just like Josie.

 

"So what is he like? Theater kid, band kid? Nerd," she squinted her eyes at MG with the last word. Josie punched her lightly. There was no way that Lizzie was talking about MG in third person when he was right there. Especially about social status that no one except for her gave a damn about.

 

MG only snorted. "I'm just MG," he grinned. Lizzie looked over at him for a second, her eyes running up and down him. She hummed and put a finger under her chin.

 

"Wait a second..." she faltered. "I know you."

 

There was no way that anyone could miss how MG's face lit up. He pursed his lips inward but Josie could still see the faint smile.

 

"He's on the football team, Jo. You're friends with a football player," Lizzie whispered aggressively loud, still not taking her eyes off of MG. The brunette shook her head. Although she would believe MG was a football player - due to his arms and tall figure - he looked like a wallflower. And she wanted him to be one, only because she was one herself. There was no way she wanted to befriend someone like Lizzie's hectic friends.

 

But that didn't mean a wallflower couldn't play sports. Wallflowers were not losers. Wallflowers could make friends, Josie could make friends. They could attend games, Josie could attend games. She smiled. "Yeah, sure."

 

When he cocked an eyebrow up, Josie rolled her eyes playfully. "I'll come to the game."

 

Lizzie's cheer pierced her ears. She jumped up and down excitedly and engulfed Josie into another suffocating hug. The brunette grumbled.

 

"Yay! You're finally breaking out of your shell!" she squeaked, jumping up and down again, forcing Josie to join in. She wanted to die at that moment when she glanced at MG, who was suppressing yet another laughter.

 

"See you there," he smiled, stealing a glance at Lizzie before walking off.

 


 

Lizzie had declined Josie's offer to walk with her, blabbering on about how Sebastian wanted to hang out with her behind the bleachers. If Sebastian was actually good at Football, he wouldn't be wasting any time. But that was not true, he was shit at football and everyone knew it, even Lizzie. Still, she went on about how she and him would grow up and have football babies.

 

Josie shuddered at the thought of a future family reunion that consisted of football. She decided if that happened, she would not marry anybody for the sake of keeping her sane from the possibility of them turning on her and becoming a legitimate football.

 

Josie sat at the very top of the bleachers alone, opposite from the field where she could see Sebastian and Lizzie talking. She was observing MG warming up. He was surprisingly good, but Landon would not let him do anything. So he was on the sidelines, patting the backs of his teammates. Josie audibly grumbled. She wanted to walk over and scream at Landon to let MG play, tell him that they would lose. She's never seen MG play before. Maybe that's why they haven't been a good team.

 

Now she regretted even coming. She just wanted to make a good impression on MG. Goosebumps were forming on her arms from the chilly, sharp fall air. She took in the rest of the students, who were all laughing, fighting, making out, or doing whatever. She felt like the odd one out.

 

"Is this seat taken?" Josie turned around and internally threw up. Hope was standing above her. She nodded to the empty spot right next to Josie. Her eyes darted across Josie's face, begging for Josie to answer her. The brunette didn't want to give her the pleasure of answering. Hope had avoided her for a whole half year. She had the right to ignore Hope right there on the spot. 

 

But Josie is Josie. And she just couldn't bring herself to do that, especially with Hope's ocean blue eyes. A blue so perfectly sculpted, Josie felt like she was stuck in an ocean whenever she gazed at them. She flinched when she realized she was staying silent, only staring at Hope with bewildered eyes.

 

"Um- Uh, no. No, it's not," she stammered. Josie cursed herself for letting her voice crack. She sounded so pathetic and desperate for Hope to come sit with her. Of course, that is what she wanted, not like she could deny it.

 

Hope smiled softly and carefully sat down, making sure there was a good distance between them. She rubbed her jacket and took a deep breath. She looked over at Josie, who was frozen in place awkwardly, her back straight up.

 

"How are you feeling?" she whispered ever so quietly.

 

Was Josie dreaming, or had Hope actually asked her how she was feeling? She was definitely dreaming. She pried her arms off of the bleachers and hovered it over her wrist, pinching herself.

 

Then Hope slapped her hand away. "Josie-" she grunted. The brunette flinched when Hope had said her name. She hadn't heard the shorter girl refer to her at all in forever. She grabbed Josie's hand, making the brunette feel a spark run down her bones when Hope's soft hand rubbed against hers. She quickly retracted her arm and put it to her side.

 

"Fine," she muttered back. Hope nodded, looking at Josie's cheek. The brunette felt a ball of irritation build up in her. Even after Hope initiated the conversation, she still wouldn't look at Josie's eyes. She so badly wanted the auburn-haired girl to, to let her know that she could get lost in Josie's eyes just like she could get lost in hers. But that was asking for too much. Hope didn't care about her anymore and Josie was beginning to think she never did.

 

The awkward tension was way too unbearable. Josie cleared her throat and adjusted her position so she was facing straight ahead. She could see Hope in her peripheral vision, so she put a hand on her chin and covered her figure with her fingers. The game was beginning soon, and Josie wanted to focus on MG and MG only.

 

The goal for today was not to interact with Hope, - as it is everyday - and she failed miserably. 

 

"Look," she heard in a raspy voice. She used all her might to not look at Hope. She just hummed and stared straight ahead, focusing on MG who was still waiting on the sideline. Landon was stupid for wasting so much potential. "I know things are awkward between us, but-"

 

Josie scoffed. This time she looked at Hope, and didn't bother to hide the fury in her eyes. "Oh, really?" she snarled and smiled in amusement. She saw Hope blink and winced. "I couldn't have noticed," she laughed sarcastically.

 

Hope was blinking abnormally fast now. She looked like an idiot, trying to look for the words to say to Josie, which the girl knew she wouldn't find.

 

The brunette scoffed dramatically. "What made you decide today you were going to talk to me?" 

 

"Josie, I want to talk to you," Hope commanded sternly. She was confident in her words, she always was. She was brave and straightforward, unlike Josie, who would coward behind Hope while she was being made fun of. The shorter girl had protected her the past four years. And now she was left with herself, not even bullying was there for her. She became invisible, but she knew damn well it wasn't Hope's fault; it was her own, and she felt stupid for depending on that snake for years.

 

But she still missed her. Deadly.

 

Josie remained silent for a while. The other girl rolled her eyes. "Can't I just talk with my- you?" she corrected. "Can't I just talk with you?" she repeated.

 

My best friend.

 

Josie flinched. Her heart was curling up again and she felt her bones begin to grow weak. She looked away from Hope's blue eyes to avoid breaking out into a painful sob, but it didn't work. She couldn't help the first, fresh tear that rolled down her cheek before she could stop it. She knew that Hope could see the tear, and she was probably judging Josie inside.

 

Without saying anything, or exchanging a final glance, Josie stood up, her legs and arms shaking. She quickly made her way down the bleachers and ignored Hope's voice yelling out her name.

 

That stupid feeling made Josie sick to her stomach. She couldn't take it anymore. 

 

She adjusted her backpack over her shoulder and ran to the parking lot, the wind slapping her face and pointing out the tears that were streaming down her cheeks.

 

Fucking Hope Mikaelson.

 

 

Chapter Text

DING!

 

Josie cracked an eyelid open through her wet eyelashes. She rubbed off the mascara that was blocking her view and reached for her phone on her side. MG was probably texting her.  Her crying session in the dark was very much needed, but of course, she had to return to her duties that she had initiated. 

 

What a shitty day.

 

Josie pushed a strand of her brown, tear-drenched hair behind her ear and unlocked her phone. She had to shut her eyes tight for a second when the bright light flashed in her eyes in comparison to the extremely dark room she was sitting in.

 

where did u go? u ok? this is mg btw

 

Josie barely cracked a smile. She wiped her mascara covered hand on her shirt - bad idea - and quickly typed a reply.

 

Sorry, MG. My mom called me to come and babysit my cousin.

 

She lied straight through the screen. As shocking as it sounds, Josie was absolutely terrible with children. Every time she's ever talked to one, they would always burst out in tears (which was not good for her self-esteem) and ear-piercing cries. Josie dreaded the sound of children screaming. It was hell to her ears.

 

She heard another ding and averted her attention back to the screen. She rested her phone on her knees that were wet from her tears and read the text.

 

oh ok thats alr. r u still available for the help?

 

Yes. 

 

Josie smiled and texted him her address. It was a good thing he hadn't asked Lizzie - she couldn't even remember what Josie's or their parents' phone numbers were when she was stuck on the road from running out of gas. She ended up calling 911 instead of a tow company, because, again, she couldn't remember the number and didn't think of searching it up.

 

cool thx josie

 

Josie reacted to the message with a thumbs up and shut off her phone, allowing herself to rest in the dark once again. She leaned her head back against the hardwood door and breathed in heavily. Her chest still ached from her encounter with Hope. Of course it did. If one conversation with Hope sent Josie spiraling into an ugly breakdown, there was no doubt that the shorter girl had full control over her. 

 

Her thoughts were cut short when she heard a soft knock on the door. Josie closed her eyes and scrunched her eyebrows. She internally begged that Lizzie hadn't invited Sebastian over. He always ate all their ice cream, and Josie was planning on running to the freezer and snatching it all for herself. 

 

She heard Lizzie knock again, this time with slightly more force. She rolled her eyes. Lizzie usually knocked with aggression - if she even did knock. Most of the time Lizzie would just barge into Josie's room without any warning.

 

Josie assumed she was trying to play nice with her because Sebastian was right behind her. She always seemed pressured to act different around him.

 

The brunette groaned loudly. "Lizzie, if you want Sebastian to talk to me, it's not going to happen," she grumbled. Then she heard the doorknob turn and her stomach immediately churned. She choked on air when the door flew open, causing her head to drop down. Her whole upper body fell to the ground and made her land with an "OOF."

 

She stayed in that awkward position for a while, expecting Lizzie to kick her head and tell her to get up. But that didn't happen.

 

"I'm not Lizzie." 

 

Josie's heart ripped. If panic and heartbreak was combined into an emotion, Josie was feeling that. The voice was far too familiar. Hope Mikaelson. Her voice was soft yet stern, quiet yet... loud?

 

The brunette kept her eyes shut. She did not want to look at Hope just as her breakdown was on its way to calming down. She tugged her bottom lip between her teeth to stop any noise from erupting from her mouth, whether it be a sob or a beg for Hope to leave.

 

She couldn't stand her heart wrenching anymore or her curling stomach choking her breaths. She probably looked like a mess in comparison to Hope, who was always presenting a stunning look. 

 

"Get. Out," she murmured between gritted teeth. "Now."

 

Josie's voice trembled with each word. It clearly wasn't frightening at all, and definitely wasn't enough to make Hope leave. She still felt the presence of the shorter girl hovering above her, not moving a single muscle.

 

"Hope!" she yelled, her voice hardening. She cracked both of her eyes open and furrowed her brows. Hope was staring back down at her, her face built up with confusion, and, if Josie was reading her right, worry. "I said get out!" she spat. Her voice gradually erupted into a sob; a loud, ugly sob. She bit her lip with more force that was enough for her to taste the thick metallic liquid.

 

Josie felt her chest shrivel up again. She was tired of feeling this way. It's been going on for way too long, and it wasn't fair that Hope never experienced the pain she was put through.

 

"Josie, stop. You're hurting yourself," the other girl whispered, her voice shaky. The brunette wanted to laugh hysterically at how the brave, amazing, charming Hope Mikaelson wasn't so confident right now. She wanted to point at her face and cackle straight at her, but in reality, Josie was the clown. The idiot who was still obsessed with someone who had already moved on.

 

Why the hell was she even here? She cursed herself for not hiding the spare key from its hiding spot that Hope was well aware of. If anything, she would rather have someone break in and stab her than to have Hope next to her right now, observing her while she tragically bathed in her own ache and misery.

 

All she gave Hope was a grumble. She shut her eyes tight and imagined she was anywhere but here. Even the janitor's closet seemed more comforting. 

 

In the middle of fantasizing herself jumping into a volcano, Josie's thoughts were cut when she felt a soft hand make its way to the back of her neck. A strike of electricity ran down her body when Hope's gentle fingers rested on her skin, letting themselves get tangled in her baby hairs.

 

The brunette could feel her heart freeze. Her arms grew weak, and when she tried to pick them up to push Hope away, they only fell helplessly to her side. Hope delicately forced Josie upright. With her other hand, the shorter girl put her fingers to Josie's lips, tugging them away. And Josie made the stupid move of letting go of her bite.

 

She fluttered her eyes opened, flinching at the fresh tears that covered her vision. Though it was blurry, she could see Hope looked at her, and using the hand that was on her lip, she brought it up to Josie's face. She caressed her cheek with the back of her hand and moved a wet strand of hair out of Josie's face. The brunette shuddered at the physical contact that she had missed so deadly.

 

Hope was warm when she was engulfed into a hug. She rubbed big stars on the back of Josie's back - Hope said circles were overrated, so she only rubbed stars whenever she comforted Josie - and rested her chin on the brunette's shoulder. Josie couldn't move. She couldn't control her rigid breathing or her rapid heart beat. She missed this feeling too much, and wanted to close her eyes and savor the moment.

 

Then a pang of anger struck her. No, Hope could not win her over again. She threw her hands onto the auburn-haired girl's chest and shoved her off with enough force that made Hope stumble back, having to catch herself with her palms behind her.

 

Josie ruffled down her clothes and stood up. With a hand, she wiped her tears from her eyes and breathed in. "Damnit Hope, I said get the hell out!" she yelled. Her voice was hoarse and crooked, but Josie couldn't care less. What she really cared about was that she had gotten Hope to look at her, and agree. A wave of pride washed over her. She had stood up to Hope. She actually yelled at Hope without backing out or quickly apologizing.

 

Hope laid there on the floor, her elbows positioned behind to keep her sitting up. Her mouth was agape. She was examining Josie from head to toe and shook her head in the slightest.

 

"Josie-" she began, until a clatter of loud and aggressive footsteps appeared behind her. Josie looked up and saw Lizzie, slowly clapping her hands, walking up the stairs with MG trailing behind her. He was clearly winded and was still wearing his football jersey. There was no mud or grass stains, indicating that he was either very clean and delicate when he played, or Landon just told him to stay on the bench. Josie assumed the second idea.

 

"What the hell is she doing here?" Lizzie snarled. She looked down at Hope, who was picking herself up. Her eyes darted between Lizzie and MG, then back to Josie, then back to MG before finally setting them back on Lizzie. MG had on hand on the railing of the staircase. He leaned back and examined the tension between the three girls.

 

"Uh, Lizzie! He-Hey," she stammered. Lizzie only rolled her eyes and approached the shorter girl. She eyed the girl up and down and crossed her arms. Josie saw Hope gulp and lean her head back and point her chin up to face the blonde girl.

 

"Get. Out," she gritted. Hope quickly nodded and stood still. She was frozen in place while Lizzie towered above her. Josie glanced at MG, who was staring at Lizzie in astonishment. She would've laughed if she wasn't in tears right now.

 

Then Lizzie slowly stepped back, allowing the girl to release a held breath. She stole a look to Josie one last time, before running down the stairs and disappearing. Josie could hear the door open and slam right after.

 

Tension in the hallway built up. No one bothered to look at each other. 

 

Josie huffed and leaned her back against the wall and looked down. The brunette could feel two sets of eyes sticking to her, but she decided to avoid it. 

 

"MG," she muttered without looking up. "Let's go," she forced a smile and looked up at MG, who was bewildered. He jumped back to reality and looked at Josie, shaking his head.

 

"Ah, no it's really okay, Josie. I can just come another day-"

 

"No. it's fine," she insisted. The presence of Hope was not going to ruin her day. Not anymore. No matter how much her heart ached, she needed to get over her. It was long overdue. She glanced over at Lizzie, who was frowning. She smiled on one side of her mouth.

 

"You missed it. Landon was crying," she sobbed sarcastically, one hand on her heart. Josie erupted into a snort and then broke out into a small chuckle. Her cold insides were beginning to warm up again. The thought of Landon crying and Lizzie scaring Hope away made her feel euphoric, even though it probably shouldn't have.

 

Damn, I'm toxic, she thought.

 

"Come on, MG," she sighed and waved for the taller dude to follow her into her room. He quickly bounced off from his position on the wall and followed Josie, but not without stealing a glance at Lizzie one more time. 

 

Josie shut the door right after MG walked in, but then jumped up when she immediately heard a crash beside her. She rapidly flicked the light switch and looked down to see MG, laying on the floor. She looked to his right and saw her forty inch stuffed bear beaming back up at her. She suppressed a laugh before turning back to MG and offering him a hand. 

 

"You okay?" she snorted. MG grunted and turned back around, grabbing Josie's hand and helping himself up. He stood up with a bounce, then rested his hands on his hips and buffed out his chest. 

 

"Couldn't have been better," he retorted. He dropped his stance and looked back down at Josie, who was trying hard not to laugh. 

 

"Uh huh," she grinned and clapped her hands together. "Well, let's get started, shall we?" 

 

-

 

Josie had helped MG with his claim and thesis. He already seemed to have put it together on his own, and Josie barely had to do any work. She reached into his bag to find the grading rubric, but instead pulled out a notebook. It was already opened. She turned it around, and the sight made her heart drop and her cheeks suck in.

 

It was a drawing of Lizzie. A really good drawing. Josie recognized the outfit Lizzie was wearing, only because it was actually from Josie's closet, and Lizzie had snatched it when the brunette wasn't looking. She opened her mouth and clicked her tongue before turning to MG and showing him the notebook.

 

The look he gave her was something she couldn't make up. His eyes widened, then softened, then widened again and he swiped the notebook from Josie's grasp. "That's not who you think it is-"

 

"You like Lizzie!" she gasped. A smile crept up to her lips. Her heart bounced up and down with glee at the thought of a nice guy having a liking for her twin. Lizzie deserved someone who was nice, unlike her other boyfriends and love interests; all of them were total dicks. Even Sebastian.

 

MG hid himself behind the notebook. He shut his eyes tightly and gave in. "Yeah, I like Lizzie," he admitted, a hint of shame in his voice. Josie licked her lips and raised her chin up, pursing her lips in a thin line.

 

"Is that why you agreed to let me help you?" she asked. Even her own words made her heart sink when she hadn't planned for it to. MG looked up at her and shook his head in defense.

 

"No!" he breathed. "It's just a happy coincidence." He shrugged and set the notebook down on the table. Josie's eyes darted from the notebook and back up to MG, who was clearly flustered. It was so cute how he was crushing on her twin like this.

 

"Look, MG," she began. She set a hand on the table under his eyes. "I know we only met each other today, but I'll help you win over my sister," she raised her eyebrows in hope that it would convince him. He only squinted his eyes and leaned back.

 

"For what price?" he faltered, tapping his chin with the pencil in his hand.

 

Josie shrugged. "Just be my friend," she heaved. Her eyes darted down to avoid feeling embarrassment when she heard MG's pencil stop its tapping. MG shifted in his chair and cleared his throat.

 

"That will be easy," he smiled. Josie looked up at him, his warm face and his toothy smile enveloping her. The smile was so beautiful that it reminded her of something. Something that made her heart melt, but shatter at the time time.

 

His smile reminded her of Hope.

 

--

 

"Hurry the hell up, Jo! We don't have all day." 

 

Josie heard the sound of the ratty, broken-wheeled cart approach behind her. She kept her eyes glued on the display of alcohol. Her stomach sank deeper and deeper with every glance that she was given. She turned around to face Lizzie, who was standing on the cart like a child. She was about to push off with her foot before Josie grabbed the cart.

 

Her sister looked at her and rolled her eyes, which she returned.

 

"Are you sure he wants this for his birthday?" she scoffed. "And are you sure we're even going to be able to buy it?"

 

Lizzie clicked her tongue and shook her head. "Of course he will, my dear sister. I know him best," she sighed and did that hand to heart thing again. Josie grumbled.

 

"You don't even have an ID," she whispered fiercely, glancing around to see if anyone was looking at them.

 

Lizzie just chuckled, reaching into her purse and pulling out a shiny card. She shoved it in Josie's face. She took it in. The name read Caroline Forbes, and there was their mom, smiling blankly with her bright blonde hair.

 

Josie groaned. "Really? You stole mom's ID?" Lizzie retracted the ID and rolled her eyes.

 

"Just shut up and choose something before I do."

 

Lizzie had to restrain herself sometimes from buying pricey or valuable things. She was known for her shopping addiction, and whenever she got her hands on something, she couldn't stop picking out more.

 

The brunette shook her head and reached for whatever bottle was in front of her. It read "Brother's Bond Bourbon." Promising enough. She walked over to the cart and gently placed it in, grabbing the bag of avocados and covering it with it. She looked up and was about to scold Lizzie for bringing her into this situation on a casual grocery shopping trip, until she saw the she-devil herself outside of the aisle.

 

She heaved in a heavy breath and gazed at Hope, who was happily pointing to a box of saltine crackers. Hope and Josie hadn't talked since a few days ago, which was painfully normal.  Josie squinted her eyes to see who she was smiling to, then she saw none other than Landon Kirby himself appear.

 

He grinned his toothy smile and enveloped Hope in a hug, picking her up and spinning her around. Josie rolled her eyes at her squeals and laughs. It was a beautiful sound, a sound so mesmerizing that Josie knew for a fact Hope's voice was her weakness.

 

It always has been.

 

Her green fumes were overtaking her soul, and before she could stomp off in the other direction, Lizzie loudly said, 

 

"What the hell is bourbon?"

 

She spun around and saw Lizzie holding the bottle, not even trying to be slick about it. She was examining it up and down, lifting it up and looking through the bottom, then looking through the cork for some apparent reason. Josie's heart began racing when she heard a walkie talkie sound in the aisle next to them. Without thinking, she quickly slapped Lizzie's arm, and in slow motion, the bottle flew from her grip.

 

Josie winced and shut her eyes tightly as the bottle crashed to the floor and shattered. She felt shards of glass hit her shin and heard them bounce all over the floor. She heard Lizzie gasp and groan dramatically.

 

"Really, Jo?!" she snarled. Josie opened her eyes and looked down at the damage she caused. The bottle of bourbon was completely busted. The golden beverage was spread out across the entire aisle, and glass ran for more than twenty steps ahead of her. Her shoulders froze. 

 

"Oh, shit..." she muttered and slowly looked around. They had caught everyone's eyes - Hope, Landon, the store employees, and a bunch of passing customers. Josie wanted to sink into the ground and never come back. One lady to her right was gritting her teeth. Josie wanted to scoff and slap the expression off her face. She didn't have the weight of about a dozen people staring at her as she stood next to a broken bottle of bourbon on the ground. Especially when they were both-

 

Oh. Shit.

 

Especially when they were both teens. Underage. Josie noticed an employee approach them, and before she could think of anything to do, Lizzie punched her arm. 

 

"Jo... run!" she screamed, and darted out of the aisle. Her grip on Josie's arm was extremely weak, leaving the tall brunette standing awkwardly in the middle of the glass shards by herself. She smiled forcefully at the employee approaching her, cracking a nervous smile. The employee - her nametag read Jade - froze right in front of her. She looked around the same age as Josie.

 

Jade gestured her to lean forward, before whispering in her ear.

 

"I don't know what to do, it's my first day here..." she mumbled. Josie pulled back and her eyes darted from Jade to the couple in the back, then back to Jade.

 

"Listen, uh," she stumbled over finding what words to use. Then she clicked her tongue. "Me and my sister were just joking around, and suddenly the shelf leaned over. We tried to stop it, but," she huffed. "Unfortunately, the glorious Brother's Bond Bourbon didn't make it." She pursed her lips to one side. Jade did not seem convinced. Not even in the slightest.

 

She sighed and reached into her pocket, pulling out a walkie talkie. Josie's heart sank to the pit of her stomach when he put his finger on the button and opened her mouth. She shut her eyes tight. Something about that habit that made Josie feel like she could teleport somewhere else. It was truly stupid.

 

When she was preparing herself to be grounded for life - and possibly be fined for underage drinking, Josie bit her lip. 

 

"Um- we need, uh..." Josie opened her eyes. Jade was looking at her from her side. "Alcoholic beverage shelf is tipping over. It needs to be checked."

 

There was a few seconds of silence before the walkie talkie said a "thank you." Josie blinked. The girl didn't rat her out, even though she worked here.

 

Josie and the employee made small eye contact for a millisecond, before the girl shrugged and walked off, leaving a bewildered tall brunette standing in the middle of the aisle. She contemplated whether she should tell someone and they’d come with a mop or whatever was used to clean spilled bourbon, or just make a run for it like Lizzie did.

 

Josie chose the second option.

 

With one swift move, Josie grabbed the cart and darted out of the aisle. She went for another aisle that she knew no one else would be; the household cleaning items. 

 

The refreshing scent of bleach and dryer sheets hit her nose as soon as she arrived in the aisle. Her and Lizzie would come to this aisle and hide when they were younger, and their parents wouldn’t be able to find them. No one bothered to look in here, mainly because no one expected to find two little children jumping around next to mops and bleach.

 

Josie stopped the cart and pulled out her phone with a huff. She quickly texted Lizzie a “Where are you?” and tapped the sides of her phone as she waited for an answer. The aisle was cold and empty, just the way Josie liked it. 

 

It was almost as if she was projecting her thoughts on a movie screen, as she heard footsteps behind her. She didn’t even bother to look, but part of her was hoping it was just a passerby.

 

”Purchasing alcoholic beverages, while underage, is not really a move I’d expect from you, Josie,” a voice chuckled.

 

Josie’s bones cracked when she heard that poison. She clenched her jaw tight and slowly turned around, allowing herself to take a deep breath and exhale dramatically.

 

Hope was standing there with a smug smile. Josie wanted to march over and erase it off with a big eraser. But obviously that wasn’t possible.

 

”Why did you follow me?” she sneered. Hope cocked an eyebrow and slowly smiled. She dropped her hands to her side and began walking towards Josie. The brunette backed up before she could get too close.

 

”This isn’t like you, Jo,” Hope breathed. She furrowed her eyebrows with strong hints of concern, but it could have also been mockery. Josie didn’t want it to be either one.

 

She scoffed. “Like you would know,” she mumbled. Although Hope was right, she didn’t want to admit it. Stupid Hope Mikaelson was always right, and for once Josie wanted to be the one who could prove her wrong. Even though she knew that Hope was in fact right, the shorter girl didn’t need to know that.

 

She took herself away from the defense of the cart and walked over to Hope, crossing her arms. “I guess we’re both wrong,” she chastised. Josie watched as a confused - and quite frankly, irritated - expression took over the shorter girl’s face. She looked like she was on the verge of fumes. 

 

“Josie,” she snapped. “I’m just worried about you!” 

 

The brunette was taken aback by the audacity Hope had. Why was she yelling at Josie? The last time she checked, she hadn’t done anything that tore that auburn-haired girl to shreds.

 

All she returned was a scoff. Hope rolled her eyes and pursed her lips together until they turned into a thin white line. She looked up as if the ceiling had suggestions of what she should have said next.

 

Then the realization hit like an arrow. Hope had suddenly decided she wanted to talk to Josie out of nowhere. She didn’t get to win that easily; not after Josie had to suffer for six months. And especially after She decided to get her life back together and snap back to her senses. 

 

“Look,” she started, earning the attention from the shorter girl. “I don’t know why you had this sudden desire to remember who I am, but  I would rather you just leave me alone. Haven’t you done enough?” she snarled.

 

Hope breathed out whatever breath she was holding in. “See, that’s why I’m trying to make things better-“

 

Josie laughed sarcastically. “Better? Better? I’m finally getting my life back together, and here you are, barging in whenever you want.”

 

Josie could feel the back of her neck heat up. Her chest caved in, burning with fiery, and Josie swore she could have mistaken it for a heart attack. 

 

Hope, on the other hand, was standing in front of Josie, just shell shocked. Josie internally yelled. Hope never regretted leaving Josie, it was obvious by the way she was surprised. She never felt remorse, and didn’t even consider how the taller girl felt. 

 

Josie rolled her eyes at the lack of response. She turned around, grabbed the cart, and pushed it past the shorter girl, who didn’t even bother to steal her a look as she left.

 

——

 

“Your friend is really weird,” Lizzie said in the car. Her hands were on the wheel carelessly, and her eyes weren’t even on the road. Josie cursed herself for letting Lizzie be the one to drive. “He texted me this morning and asked how I was. I didn’t even give him my number.”

 

Josie suppressed a snort. She had given MG Lizzie’s phone number, but he said he would tell her when he initiated the first text. He obviously didn’t live up to that.

 

Josie remained silent, staring out of the window at the passing trees. The leaves were all over the ground - dead. Winter was approaching soon; Josie’s most hated season.

 

When the silence dragged on for too long, Lizzie groaned. “What did Hope say,” she faltered, almost as if she was scolding Josie.

 

The brunette pried her gaze away from the window and clicked her tongue, rolling her eyes. “Nothing,” she mumbled. She could feel Lizzie’s eyes pierce through her soul.

 

Lizzie asked more questions, such as if they cleaned the mess, if she got arrested (which was clearly a wrong take), and more useless questions that Josie just ignored. The rest of the car ride was silent, except for the loud as hell music that Lizzie blared through the speakers.

 

——

 

Josie’s mouth dropped when she opened the door. MG was sitting on the couch, sitting across from Stefan. Her step-dad seemed to be interrogating the poor boy, as he was stiff in his spot, while Stefan had a hand rubbing his chin.



She decided to leave it. Josie walked over to the kitchen and set down the grocery bags, which she immediately began unloading. She could hear Stefan asking the weirdest questions, like: What kind of board games are the most appropriate for a New Year’s party? and MG responding in the shakiest voice.

 

Josie walked over to the room and rolled her eyes. “Don’t interrogate him,” she mumbled. 

 

Stefan looked at her and shook his head. “A boy comes uninvited into my house. A few questions must be answered.”

 

Josie was certain that board game questions were not necessary. She didn’t even know how long MG was sitting there, or why he came over in the first place. 



She chuckled when she saw MG’s stiff posture again, and walked over. She helped him up and rested an elbow on his shoulder. The physical contact was not normal for two people who only knew each other for about a few days, but Josie was so lonely. And MG seemed to be too, so they picked up quick.

 

“MG’s fine,” she laughed. Stefan looked at her for a few seconds before averting his gaze to MG, who he squinted to. His glare stayed glued on the guy, who was still frozen, until he finally gave up and sighed.

 

”Fine, I suppose,” he huffed.

 

Josie could feel MG’s shoulder relax. She snorted at the response, before removing her elbow off his shoulder and waving him to follow her into the kitchen.

 

When they arrived, Josie hummed. “What made you come here?” she asked. MG looked at her for a few seconds, then looked in the distance. 

 

“Lizzie told me to come,” he shrugged. His face slowly started to build up into a smirk, a giddy smirk, and Josie wanted to roll her eyes playfully. But she was genuinely happy that MG was able to be invited over by his crush.

 

”To do what?” she asked. MG huffed and leaned his back against the island. 

 

“No clue,” he muttered. Josie chuckled and leaned on the island next to him. 

 

When she was about to bathe in the relaxation she felt, a wave of memories came flooding in. Hope and her in the cleaning aisle while arguing was not the ideal thought that Josie wanted to process in that moment. 

 

But she felt pleasure wash over her. She walked away from Hope, again. That was, what? Four times now? That’s more times in a week than she’s done in a whole six months.

 

Josie smiled softly to herself. Even though she still felt that sticky feeling in her chest after each encounter, she was still getting over the girl. 

 

“MG, you’re here early,” a voice said.

 

Josie looked over and saw Lizzie, a single tomato in her hand. She picked herself up and decided to cherish this moment she had with her sister and her friend, a moment that didn’t involve her aching pathetically over Hope.

 

Chapter Text

Each time she swiped her finger across the screen of her phone, more and more guilt built up inside Hope. She and Josie had taken at least a hundred pictures at their homecoming during sophomore year. She carelessly swiped through each one, trying hard not to focus on the brunette's smile that pierced her heart.

 

She hadn't seen Josie smile ever since they broke off, not until a week ago when she was laughing extremely loud at the small lunch table. But what was worse was that she was to blame for the death of Josie's bubbly soul.

 

When she was about to swipe again, her finger stopped. It hovered over the screen, and when she removed it, her breath got caught in her throat. She choked. 

 

In front of her was a selfie taken by Josie. She was holding the phone because she was much taller than Hope, and her smile was toothy and went from ear to ear. The shorter girl was underneath her arm, one hand resting on Josie's shoulder. She chuckled, her heart tingling when her voice erupted.

 

But what really caught Hope's eye was the pendant she was wearing around her neck. A gift from Landon. He had given it to Josie on Valentine's Day in the middle of the hallways, while Hope stood to the side and clapped for her best friend.

 

Her reaction was priceless - Josie jumped up and down, her cheeks growing a dark pink color and her whole body completely flustered. She had ran into Landon's arms and he caught her, spinning her around. Her giggle echoed through the hallway, and when she was set down, her eyes darted to Hope, who quickly regained her posture.

 

The brunette walked over to the taller girl, grabbing her hand, and putting the necklace in it. Josie's soft, cold palm brushed against her fingers, and when she pulled her hands away, Hope could see the necklace.

 

"What?" she whispered, looking down at the necklace. Josie just smiled at her and bit her lip. 

 

"Can you put it on me?" she whispered softly, and turned around and pushed her hair to the side. Hope froze in place for a second. She knew Josie would look beautiful in the necklace. She always looked beautiful in anything. 

 

Hesitantly, Hope walked over and wrapped the necklace around Josie's neck, feeling her soft, warm skin under the back of her fingers. She clicked the two chains in place, but didn't walk away. She just stood in place and admired the back of Josie's figure.

 

There was the slightest mole just underneath her collar, and Hope loved to poke it, only because when she did, the taller girl would turn around in a millisecond and slap her hand away.

 

"Hope," she heard, and quickly snapped back to reality. Josie was still in the same position. "Is it on yet?"

 

:"Yeah," the auburn-haired girl croaked. Josie let her hair fall back down, covering the mole. Hope looked up as the brunette turned around. Her eyes darted from Hope's torso to her face. 

 

"How does it look?" she chuckled, modeling for Hope. The shorter girl couldn't help but smile.

 

"Beautiful."

 

She looked beautiful.

 

Now Hope's fingers wrapped around the pendant around her own neck. It didn't look as good on her as it did on Josie, but Landon had insisted she wore it.

 

To be honest, it was kind of weird, and gave off possessive vibes. But she shrugged it off because it was sweet, and because she loved Landon.

 

Her stomach tied and her heart throbbed. The necklace burned on her skin, like it was cursed, begging to be ripped off and thrown as far away from Hope as it could.

 

She didn't deserve to wear it; Josie did. 

 

Hope pried her fingers off the pendant and picked her phone back up, immediately scrolling through a few more pictures. The photos were almost all the same, as Josie loved to spam Hope's phone and waste her storage. A smile crept up to Hope's lips at the fond memory.

 

These photos were now a blessing. A cherished treasure.

 

Sophomore prom was Hope's favorite time of the entire school year. She was able to go with her best friend, Josie, who went along with her boyfriend. Hope's stomach curled up whenever she saw Josie and Landon kiss, or share smiles in the middle of their hangouts.

 

She was truly the third wheel, and she didn't know what made her more irritated. Josie enjoying spending her time with someone else, or Landon being in love with a different girl. She never bothered to figure it out.

 

She felt a nudge at her shoulder. She turned around, and met Josie's tall figure. She looked up so that she could make eye contact with the brunette. The other girl was wearing a smile plastered all over her face. She was carrying two red solo cups in each hand.

 

"Punch?" she said, and handed a cup to Hope, who accepted it. She looked down at the red liquid and sloshed it around.

 

The beverage had a questionable smell, and Hope could tell it was laced with vodka. She rolled her eyes internally and grabbed the other cup that was about to be downed by the brunette.

 

She whined. "Hope," she said. Hope just rolled her eyes and chuckled, setting the drinks on the table behind her.

 

She took in the girl's appearance; Josie had been wearing a light pink dress that stopped just above her ankles. Her hair was curled lightly, and she had been wearing an excessive amount of jewelry compared to what she wore on the daily. But what topped off her look was the necklace, wrapped gently around her neck and rested still just above her collarbone.

 

Josie clicked her tongue. "Follow me," she wavered. Hope saw a gleam of light glow in her eyes. She nodded her head for Hope to follow her, and turned around headed towards the exit door.

 

Josie had led both of them outside. The fresh, cool air hit Hope like a slap to the face. She could see her own breath. Josie wouldn't stop walking. She led them through the bridge, the empty field, up the hill, and finally stood still when they reached the small ledge. By now, they were far from the rest of the students, the music booming quietly in the distance.

 

She saw Josie sit down. The brunette turned around her body fully, cocked her head to the side and furrowed her eyebrows. "You coming?" she chuckled and patted the spot next to her. Hope stumbled over and bended down, sitting dangerously close to Josie. Her elbow bumped into Josie's side, but neither of them cared enough to adjust their positions. 

 

Hope felt the damp grass underneath the back of her kneecaps. Her feet wavered in the air, and she kicked it around. Below them was a breathtaking sight - the yellow, glowing town of the small street, the trees that were planted below them. Even the moonlight was shining directly on the two girls in the dark of the night.

 

The wind was brushing against her skin softly and her belly through the fabric of her dress, running a chill down Hope's body.

 

The shorter girl let out a heavy breath and leaned back, placing her hands behind her to keep her up. Josie did the same, except when she placed her hands down, one of them landed directly atop of Hope's. She flinched at the sudden contact, but bathed in the warmth of Josie's touch.

 

With a little hesitation, Hope wrapped her pinky finger upward, interlocking itself with Josie's. The other girl had no hesitation to close her fingers in and intertwine them with Hope's.

 

Chills ran down her arms. Her hand that was underneath's Josie's was burning immensely, especially when the brunette rubbed her thumb along Hope's hand. But it hand wasn't burning in a bad way - it was a nice way.

 

She felt safe, and everything inside her was warm. There was no weight on her shoulders, no tense bones, nothing. She was at full peace, staring out at the town lights with Josie by her side. 

 

She heard Josie exhale a light breath. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" she said softly. Hope could sense Josie's head turned to face her, so she reflected the same. The brunette's brown, chocolate eyes glowed above the lights. They glimmered so ravishingly, that Hope couldn't take her eyes off. Even if the world to be ending right then and there, she would still be stuck in Josie's eyes.

 

"Ye-yeah," she stammered, immediately cursing herself right after. Josie glanced down for a second. Hope felt a surge of disappointment when their eye contact ended. "Much better than standing in the back of the gym watching a bunch of sweaty students," she chuckled. Josie looked at her and pursed her lips, snorting.

 

"Tell me about it," she huffed, widening her eyes. She turned her head towards the city, looking down. Hope followed her gaze. There was a couple walking down the street. Hope recognized them from her second period class that she shared with Josie. She and the brunette sat behind the couple, who would always lean on each other's shoulder during class. Josie just scoffed and rolled her eyes, but Hope was wishing that it were them who was doing that kind of affection. 

 

Hope didn't know how to explain it, but to put it in short, she always wanted to lean o n Josie's shoulder. It made sense - Josie was tall, and she had a stiff and petite upper body. 

 

Reluctantly, Hope scooted closer to the other girl, even though they were already more close than possible. She earned a glance from the brunette, but she ignored it. Keeping her hand under Josie's she tilted her head, slowly lowering down until her cheek pressed against her bare shoulder. 

 

She felt Josie freeze in place. Her gaze on Hope was still locked, but the shorter girl kept her eyes on the lights below them. Her stomach was too busy erupting in bliss and her chest was warm. She was so warm despite the chilling air surrounding them. 

 

Then a strike of jealousy hit her. Landon was still in the picture, and Hope didn't know what role he held in her life.

 

"Promise me you'd never leave me for him," she muttered softly. Part of her hoped that Josie hadn't heard her, but the other part was begging that the girl would agree.

 

"I promise," she heard a soft whisper back, before the taller girl's head rested on her own.

 

Now Hope's chest wrenched. Josie had given her so many signs that she was the person Hope needed in her life. She had kept a promise that Hope wasn't even willing to keep herself. 

 

But now, that was all over. She was with Landon now. But she couldn't ignore the flooding ocean of guilt she felt when the brunette had yelled at her in the grocery store. Josie was already trying to forget her.

 

Hope leaned her back against the cushion bedframe. She grabbed one of her pillows and brought it up to her chest, resting her chin on the top of the fluffy fabric. She felt her throat sink in and sting awfully when an image of Josie's teary eyes barged into her mind.

 

"Jo" Hope breathed with a hint of surprise in her voice. She retracted her hands from Landon's shoulder and took a large step away from him. The brunette was standing there, her eyes wider than Hope could imagine they could get. She was fiddling with her fingers, shaking her head. Hope assumed she was in denial.

 

"No," she muttered, and turned around sharply. Hope's eyes followed her retreating figure, each step making her heart sting worse and worse. She heard Landon calling her name, and something else but his voice was too muffled for Hope to understand. Her mind was occupied with Josie. She felt her chest closing in, suffocating her, and her heart throb. She couldn't even consider if that was a sign of a heart attack. 

 

"Josie!" she yelled, pushed Landon to the side when he tried stepping in front of her, and ran in the direction the brunette went. She could see Josie running ahead of her, her long, dark brown hair flying in the air. She arrived in the driveway, where she stopped.

 

"Get. Away," she gritted without turning around. Hope planted her feet a few meters behind the girl, panting quietly.

 

"Jo, I can explain," she started, but was quickly cut off when Josie spun around sharply.

 

Hope's heart dropped and wrinkled when she was met with Josie's eyes. They were covered in tears and some were running down her cheek. Her eyes were incredibly red. Hope had to stop herself from the gasp that almost left her lips. 

 

"So you're that girl," she scoffed, crossing her arms. "The girl he told me was just his friend?" she spat, now beginning to walk closer. "The girl you told me to not worry about?" Josie's voice was raised, practically yelling. She was hovering over Hope, towering down while she tried to find the correct words. But of course, she failed. 

 

There was a small silence before Josie chuckled harshly. She uncrossed her arms and wiped her tears with one hand, her mascara leaving a stain under her eyes. "Fuck off, Hope," she choked. She was still glaring at Hope, who was still stunned in silence, but she didn't move.

 

Not until she exhaled a heavy breath and turned around. Hope watched as she walked over to her car, unlocking it, sitting in the driver's seat, and slamming the door with so much force that Hope physically flinched.

 

Her eyes followed the bright yellow car, slowly backing out of the drive way and immediately going what looked like 25 MPH. Hope took a small step back when the car was out of sight. Her heart was curled up, and before she knew it, a tear of her own fell on her cheek.

 

Hope hadn't even realized her tears were drenching the fluffy pillow under her chin. She pulled it away and placed her hands on the mattress to help her get off the bed. Her feet landed to the floor lightly, and she walked over to her bathroom.

 

When she flicked the light switch on, the reflection in the mirror absolutely terrified her. She almost screamed out loud when she saw her own reflection, her eyes red and tear stains planted on her cheeks. She looked like a hideous mess, and there was no way she was going to present herself like this at school today.

 

Hope quickly took a shower and cleaned any evidence of crying off of her before she headed off.

 

--

 

The morning was unbearable. Landon had walked with her to each of their classes they had with each other, but he was too busy blabbering on about football. Perks of dating the captain of the football team, right? 

 

Hope internally rolled her eyes. Each class they had in their first three periods consisted of Josie, who wouldn't even offer a glance at her. She even smiled when their eyes met each other in second period, but the brunette quickly moved to gaze to the front of the classroom, and Mr. Machado had yelled at her to turn around.

 

Lunch was exactly the same. The same frustrating, suffocating feeling of Josie not even acknowledging her existence. Her stomach twisted whenever she saw the girl with that curly haired guy, sitting alone at the lunch table and laughing at whatever was on that stupid notebook.

 

Her subconscious was yelling at her to go over and talk to Josie and to make things right. But judging on their past encounters last week, their relationship status didn't seem to be going anywhere.

 

To be quite honest, though, Hope felt relief wash over her whenever Josie yelled her down. The brunette was always the weaker one with her emotions and it was no secret.

 

Damn, Hope thought. How long has it been?

 

"Cheer up, babe. You look like you just watched a baby get thrown off a roof," she heard a snort. Hope turned her head to her side, where Landon had sat down. She felt a rush of relief wash over her when he rested his arm around her shoulders. "What's wrong?" he asked.

 

Hope waved him off. "Nothing," she mumbled. She turned back to find Josie's figure again, but it was gone. So was the guy that was with her.

 

She faced Landon again, giving him a smile. "How was detention?" she said in a forced coo, suppressing the pregnant snort. Landon had been goofing around in Mr. Machado's class - launching a spitball right at the student in front of them. He was given lunch detention for five minutes. Five fucking minutes.

 

Even though it wasn't something a normal girlfriend would've thought, Hope didn't agree with the short punishment.

 

"Boring," he huffed, removing his arm from Hope's shoulder as he turned around and rested his legs on the table behind them. "Machado was just praising me for my performance during the Salvatore game," he remarked, a hint of cockiness in his voice. A big hint, actually.

 

Hope rolled her eyes. Landon was Mr. Machado's favorite. He was every teacher's favorite, and Hope was just his girlfriend that had to hold him back from causing any trouble. He needed the approval of those teachers since his grades- well, his grades were highly credit deficient. She cared about her boyfriend and his future, but damn - he was a pain in the ass around his friends. She wondered how Josie was ever able to manage him.

 

Then her throat became occupied with a ball that stung the sides of her throat as she swallowed. The first reflex she had made her quickly turned to Landon, grab the back of his neck, and pull him in for a peck on his lips, earning a wave of "ohhs" and "really?" 's that Hope decided to ignore. She felt his curly strands tangle with her fingers and she pulled away and ran them through his hair. He opened his eyes and grinned widely.

 

----

 

The first time Hope saw Josie after the encounter was not in a way she would have wanted. About a week later the basketball game took place at their school. Hope always attended home games - she and Josie were part of the concession stand volunteer committee. Obviously, Josie did not come today.

 

The brunette was walking through the hallways during the basketball game, running her hands along the row of lockers. Hope had to push Landon away from her so that she could follow the girl.

 

She peeked behind a row of lockers, watching as the taller girl slumped miserably along the hallways, reaching the end, then turning around and walking back down. Hope wondered how long she had been doing that.

 

She forced herself to push down the wind in her bones and stand up straight. She moved away from her hiding spot behind the wall and walked over to Josie.

 

The girl didn't exchange her a look until she cleared her throat. She froze, and Hope could see her fists clench up. 

 

"What?" she spat, turning around. There was a clearly irritated expression on her face, but the presence of pain overpowered it. She looked weak and vulnerable. Hope felt a sting to her heart.

 

"Please, just let me explain," she started. That was a bold push. She had practiced what she was going to say to Josie, but none of the reasons made her seem right. She had absolutely fucked up and there was no way that Josie could ever forgive her. "I'm . . . sorry."

 

Josie stared at her. Blankly. Her lips were pulled out in their natural pouty shape that made Hope want to lean over and squish them. But now was not the time. She leaned her side on the lockers, crossing her arms.

 

Hope shuffled her feat to plant them to the ground so that she wouldn't run off. She adjusted Josie's trench coat that was on her, making sure that the girl got the hint that she was wearing it. It was warm and heavily comfortable. Josie's lavender and vanilla perfume lingered on it allowed Hope to smell it whenever she tilted her head to the side.

 

She hadn't even planned to initiate a conversation with Josie while wearing it; it was just a coincidence. But Hope used that to her advantage to let the girl know she cared about her (which was a terrible idea). 

 

"That's it?" Josie scoffed. Hope felt her confidence sink. She was definitely going to lose.

 

The girl didn't bother to look when a wave of students roamed through the hallways. The other team and their viewers were obnoxiously loud and wore those annoying bright green and yellow colors.

 

A sudden image popped into her mind of Landon. He was still in the picture. Her heart fluttered when she thought of him, and in this moment, he was the center of her world. She loved Landon. But she could lose Josie. 

 

And so she erupted in defense for what she felt was what she wanted more. She wanted Landon.

 

----

 

"Five, six, seven, eight! We love Josie, Josie is great! Serve her a. . . plate in the name of. . .-" Lizzie choked off. "Grace?"

 

Josie rolled her eyes playfully. She picked herself up from the grass and walked over to Lizzie, who was standing next to MG. He was holding a glove puppet, while Lizzie, on the other hand, had a dramatically large sign that read "Go Josie!" with a bunch of cheesy hearts around it. 

 

"You guys know that the game hasn't started yet, right?" she chuckled. MG lowered his glove puppet and huffed. 

 

"I know, but Lizzie said we should support you now, since, you know, you're always ben- CHED," his voice abruptly cut off when Lizzie kicked his shin. She exchanged a glare at MG, who quickly stammered. Josie just rolled her eyes and waved it off.

 

"It's true, though. I'm just glad you guys are the only people from school who are going to watch me," she huffed. Her eyes averted to MG, who was frowning a bit. "Thank you for coming," she added. The boy cocked a head to the side, furrowing his eyebrows in genuine confusion. Josie looked away for a second to test if he was just looking behind her, but when she looked back he was still gazing at her.

 

"What?"

 

MG clicked a tongue. "We're not the only ones from Mystic Falls," he murmured and nodded behind her. Josie slowly turned around.

 

Oh, for crying out loud. 

 

Landon was there, Sebastian was there, Rafael, Penelope, Kaleb, and Hope. They were all there, standing on the opposite side of the field and began occupying the entire back row of the bleachers to themselves.

 

"What the hell are they doing here?" Josie muttered. First of all, this was Josie's slightly secretive club soccer game. How the hell did they figure out about the time and location of the game? And second of all, why were they wearing the colors of Josie's team? 

 

Her jaw clenched when she saw Landon holding up a huge sign that simply read "Josie" with the letter "J" backwards. Hope was leaning against him, just holding a small blue pom pom. 

 

And that's when the realization hit Josie - Hope. It all leads back to Hope. It always fucking does. Was this her way of torturing her into finally letting her talk to her? She had been avoiding the girl all day and now look at what she did; bringing in all these people to watch her play miserably, if she even did play. This was a shitty boulder.

 

Without thinking, she dropped whatever dignity she had and stormed across the field to where Hope and her group were. She received a few looks and greetings but ignored them completely as she marched up the bleachers and stood right in front of the auburn-haired bitch.

 

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" she spat. The shorter girl looked at her innocently and frowned.

 

"What?"

 

"You heard me." Josie could no longer stand the look of confusion on Hope's face. Her neck heated up and her stomach turned bitterly, and before she could stop herself, she grabbed Hope's arm and yanked her a little too hard. Her mouth slightly opened as she watched Hope stumble down the bleachers, landing on the turf with a groan.

 

Josie jumped down the bleachers after her and ignored the urge to apologize and check to see if she was okay. As soon as she landed on the ground she immediately picked up Hope by the collar of her shirt and turned her to face her.

 

"I know what kind of game you're playing, bitch," she snarled, and dropped the poor girl down. She fell to the ground again, but this time, she immediately stood up. Josie felt her heart sink when the shorter girl approached her, her face irritated. 

 

"I'm not playing any games, Josie," she muttered. Josie scoffed.

 

"Please," she huffed. "I asked you to leave me alone," she murmured through gritted teeth. The other girl didn't seem phased by it. 

 

Hope rolled her eyes. "And I won't until I talk to you and have a real conversation," she grumbled as if the answer was already obvious. 

 

Her face was full of confidence. Hope was confident that she was right, confident that she would win her over again, and confident that Josie would fall. She wanted to wipe that expression off her face. So badly.

 

Without thinking twice, Josie stomped over and shoved the girl, hard. She watched as Hope stumbled back, her eyes wide in offense. 

 

"Oh, you did not just do that," she sneered. Josie couldn't even register what she said before the girl ran over and pushed Josie down, falling with her to the hard and soggy grass.

 

She landed with a thud and choked when Hope's smaller body landed right on top of her. Her elbow dug into the side of Josie's stomach, causing the brunette's natural reflex to kick her off with her foot.

 

Hope flew back and landed facing up. Josie could hear her groan in pain, but she couldn't back away now.

 

She had to push down the worry she felt when she saw Hope vulnerable on the ground, clearly in pain. This was obviously not a good time to turn off her sympathy, but she could not lose to Hope again.

 

Josie helped herself up and stormed towards Hope, who was already back on her feet. 

 

"Why won't you let me talk to you?" she yelled. Her voice was beginning to grow demanding, so Josie answered with the same energy.

 

"I don't want to fucking talk to you!" she screamed. That seemed to have triggered something in Hope. Josie watched as the other girl's eyebrows furrow, her jaw clenching. She ran at Josie and knocked her down.

 

Stars and sparkles floated everywhere when Josie opened her eyes. She could see Hope hovering above her. 

 

She jumped to her feet, and before she was able to punch the girl, she felt a pair of hands yank her away. That didn't snap her out of the moment, as she still threw the punch. Hope frowned.

 

Josie grumbled and turned around, meeting eyes with her coach.

 

Oh, shit.

 

"Saltzman!" she yelled in her face. "On the field. NOW!

 

The brunette stole one more glare at Hope, who was panting angrily.

 

With a hard shove, Josie was pushed to the field, where the rest of her starting teammates were scattered. She gulped and cursed herself for letting herself get in a fight with Hope. Usually, when players got in trouble, they would receive a red card or be benched.

 

Josie was the opposite - she was forced to play. It was a fair punishment; Josie was absolutely horrendous at soccer. Stefan forced her to do it because she had spent too much time at home brooding in her room.

 

The brunette gazed at the comforting bench that had the rest of her trash teammates. They gave her a look of pity and one girl whispered a good luck.

 

As she turned back to the field, Josie felt a sudden determination. Her heart was still racing from Hope, but most importantly, she was still angry.

 

She was going to play well today, and show Hope that she was doing more than well on her own. She saw the ball raise up high in the air, landing right in front of her.

 

 

Chapter Text

Josie looked down at the ball below her. 

Do I kick it?

Fortunately, she wasn't frozen in place as she usually would have been. Without a second thought, the brunette took the ball in with her foot and ran off in the direction of the other team's goal. From the corner of her eye she could see a big, tall girl storming in her direction. She planted one foot down and twisted her body to spin around the other girl, kicking the ball between her legs and continuing her run.

What the hell?  she thought. She's never avoided coming in contact with a person before. Moments like those always resulted in Josie just giving up and running away. 

The brunette didn't know where this sudden "skill" came from, but she didn't bother to figure it out. She was nearing the sideline, next to where Hope and her group were sitting. She stole a glance at them and immediately locked eyes with Hope for a split second. She turned around and smirked to herself. 

Then a sudden blow to her side caused her to stumble over. She stopped herself from falling to the turf and sharply turned around to see who had attempted to push her. It was a girl from the other team; the store employee. A small crumb of excitement grew in her stomach. She had to stop herself from thanking the girl for not ratting her out because now was not the time.

"Hey, bourbon girl," she smirked. Josie cursed herself for letting herself get distracted, and before she knew it, the other girl had kicked the ball away from her foot and ran off with it opposite to the direction Josie was going for. She snarled. 

"Damn it," she muttered. Josie looked ahead and locked eyes with one of her taller teammates that she never learned the name of. The girl was nodding at Josie and embarrassingly enough, Josie had no idea what she was trying to tell her. She watched in shame as the girl let out an exasperated sigh. Josie's eyes stayed glued on her as the girl barged in front of Jade and stole the ball before the girl could even process what was happening.

Her teammate passed the ball to another teammate, who began kicking it towards the enemy team's goal. Josie ran ahead to catch up, waving her arms around when the girl was beginning to get surrounded by green and black uniforms. She exchanged eye contact with the girl and immediately after, she was met with a ball zooming towards her feet. 

Don't fuck this up.

Josie looked down at her feet, carefully making sure she wouldn't trip over the ball and land face first on the grass. She looked up and noticed the goal was a quarter of the field away. If she was good at soccer, she could've kicked a grand kick and score an easy first point of the game. But this is Josie. She was horrendous at scoring.

So instead, she looked to her left to find a promising teammate to pass it to. A shorter opponent ran at Josie, but she did the plant foot spin around move again and watched the girl tumble over into the grass. A smirk grew on her lips.

Ha.

The brunette went back to her search and immediately spotted the captain. She was waving her arms at Josie, a huge hint of irritation on her face. Josie didn't care. She just rolled her eyes but passed the ball to her anyways. 

She watched as a swarm of enemies charged after her at the same time she performed a perfect kick towards the goal. It seemed to happen in slow motion - Josie's eyes stayed glued to the ball as it flew magnificently in the air, landing gracefully past the goalkeeper's right ear.

Josie looked around and saw her teammates all run towards her. They all enveloped her in a tight group hug. Even though Josie was confused why they were hugging her instead of the captain who actually scored the point, she kept her sense of pride and pleasure that washed over her. That was the most she contributed to a game this whole season.

She felt multiple slaps on her shoulders, and she decided to slap the captain's shoulder as well. She always watched her teammates do that but never got to do it herself. She smiled softly.

"Saltzman!" she heard a voice yell behind her. She turned around and wasn't surprised at all to see her coach standing near the sideline with a clipboard in her hands. She waved for her to come over. The brunette slid past the group and ran towards her coach.

Her heart began beating faster than it was when she was running. With a gulp, she croaked out a "Yes?"

Coach Gilbert only grinned, patting Josie on the shoulder. "What a great play from you, Josette!" she exclaimed, and motioned for Josie to sit down - which thank goodness for. She was incredibly and embarrassingly tired already.

 -

Josie didn't play for the rest of the game, which was more than fine for her. She enjoyed sitting on the comfortable bench, watching her teammates sweat and groan in frustration as they lost miserably.  She still kept her pride from more than half an hour ago.

When Coach Gilbert's huddle ended - which consisted of highlights and shout outs (including Josie) and encouraging words to play better at their next game - Josie walked towards the side of the field where Lizzie and MG were laying down on the grass. MG was sitting up with his legs out in front of him, and Lizzie beached with her head on his shins. She chuckled.

"Looks like you two got comfy, huh?" she teased. MG stole her a glare while Lizzie dramatically sat up, stretching her arms out with an overexaggerated yawn. She smacked her lips together and looked over at Josie. She looked like she had just waken up from an afternoon nap. Lucky. 

"Dear sister," she groggily mumbled. "Is the game over yet?"

Josie replied with a nod. She watched as Lizzie perked up and put a hand to her heart, mouthing a small finally to herself. Josie rolled her eyes and bit her lip. She was glad that Lizzie and MG came to watch her. Especially today when she actually played.

"You played well, Josie," MG smiled. Lizzie suddenly shot up and snapped her head to look at MG. His face immediately dropped from his warm smile to a stiff, scared frown.

"Was I...?" she faltered off. Josie could see MG grow flustered. He chuckled shortly and shook his head. Nah he mouthed.

Lizzie turned around, clearly unconvinced, but shrugged her shoulders and turned back to Josie.

"You played," she pointed out. Josie snorted and nodded. 

Then she felt her shoulder get tapped. The brunette turned around and choked on her own breath when she met eyes with Coach Gilbert. Her proud face was worn off, being replaced with a stern and scolding manner.

"Come with me," she demanded. Josie gulped the heavy ball that was forming in her throat and dragged her feet to trail behind her coach. The lady was marching over to a taller man with black hair and a leather jacket.

"She's here, Damon," Coach sighed dramatically. Josie crossed her arms in offense, but her mind was more occupied on whoever the stranger was. Damon? Who was this "oh so mysterious" man that Josie had never seen before?

She watched as Damon cracked a smiled before he leaned in and pecked her coach on the forehead. Josie visibly choked. So Coach Gilbert wasn't a lonely middle-aged woman like she thought she was. 

Josie pushed down the smug smile that was threatening to take over her face and cleared her throat. "Uh, Coach, why am I needed?" her voice came off more insisting than genuine curiosity. Her jaw clenched when Coach Gilbert glared at her ever so slightly. 

"Josette, my husband is here to give you a lecture about your little fight today," she poised up. Josie furrowed her eyebrows and let her eyes dart over to Damon, who was crossing his arms.

"I thought my punishment was playing?" she faltered off after catching how embarrassing her words were. Damon shook his head, clicking his tongue.

"Well, that was part of it." Coach Gilbert walked towards Josie and put a hand on her shoulder. Josie wanted to slap it off. There was no need for kindness when she was practically being forced to face another penalty. She sighed and continued. "Unfortunately, it is in our company's board of principles to make sure that," she emphasized the last word, before raising her eyebrows at Josie, "will never happen again," she finished. 

This time Josie slapped her hand off. Coach Gilbert looked like she was considering making Josie run two laps just for that, but the brunette couldn't care less. "It won't, don't worry." Her voice was full of promise. There was no way Josie was planning to get into another fight again.

Her shoulders deflated when Damon took a step forward, shaking his head. "Nope."

Josie sputtered but was quickly cut off when she heard a quiet hiss saying OW OW OW and a following Be quiet, damn.

Her head snapped around, and for fucking sake.

Hope was being dragged by the ear by Miss Katherine; Coach Gilbert's assistance. She never clarified why the both of them looked exactly alike, and to be honest, it really freaked Josie out. Especially when Miss Katherine would come to their practice pretending to be Coach Gilbert and made them run until they bled. It was never a pretty sight.

"Got the shorter one," she huffed, and dropped Hope to the grass. Josie let out a small gasp as she watched Hope fall to the ground, landing with a thud.

That was really funny.

Damon cleared his throat. "Thank you, Katherine," he muttered.

Miss Katherine only winked at him, before turning around and strutting off. 

Josie looked down at Hope, who was picking herself up. They made short eye contact, and the brunette could feel her heart freeze. She quickly looked away and set her eyes on Coach Gilbert, who was already scolding them.

"This was highly unlike you, Josette. Both you and me know that." Josie looked down in shame. She felt her cheeks began to heat up when Hope's eyes pried to the side of her skull. "I mean," she scoffed. "Getting in a fight with Hope? I know you're both good friends. What went wrong?" 

Josie looked up. She glanced over at Hope, who was still staring at her. Then she averted her gaze back to Coach Gilbert and opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. What was she supposed to say? Oh, my boyfriend cheated on me with her and she decided she loves him more than me so now I am mad at her!

Yeah, no. Instead, the brunette just stayed silent. And so did Hope.

"As a part of the rules, you two are required to clean the community center stage. No exceptions," Damon said. He pursed his lips and glared right through Josie's soul, to which she just gulped.

Josie physically flinched when Hope stomped her foot on the ground. "Are you serious? I'm not even on this team!" she defended. Her head was surrounded in fumes, and Josie knew she had enough anger to kill someone.

"You are known enough!" Coach Gilbert scowled. Hope opened her mouth to protest, but closed it and clenched her jaw. 

"Go. Now," Damon said. He waved them off to the parking lot.

"Now?" Josie croaked out. Damon nodded,

Josie furrowed her eyebrows. Go where? The community center? Are they just going to show up and began cleaning out their stage?

She didn't feel like asking. Instead, she just threw down her arms and sharply turned towards the parking lot where she had parked her yellow car, but not without grabbing her duffel bag from behind the bleachers. She passed by Lizzie, who was talking with Sebastian, and MG, who was standing there awkwardly. He glanced Josie a look, but the brunette could only manage to nod back before heading to her car.

It was bright and could not be missed. Lizzie had came with MG, so she didn't bother telling her that she was forced to drive to the community center.

Josie had to inhale and exhale sharply to suppress the coiling magma that was building up in her stomach. If Hope hadn't showed up unexpected, she would've been able to go get ice cream with Lizzie and MG. But no. Hope had to ruin everything, just like she always has.

She approached her car and unlocked it, immediately slamming the door after she got in. She started the car and was about to back up, when she saw a figure in the rear view mirror. She groaned and looked more closely. She wasn't surprised to see Hope standing there, but she was still annoyed and angry.

She honked the horn super loud. The girl flinched but didn't move from her spot. She was even staring right at Josie.

Saltzman let out an exasperated huff and pushed the door opened. She stormed towards the shorter girl and planted her feet down on the smooth asphalt concrete as soon as she saw her shadow hover over Hope's.

"What?" she spat out. Hope licked her lips and raised her chin.

"I came with Landon," she muttered.

Josie examined her. She examined Hope's blue, gorgeous eyes, her auburn hair that laid delicately over her shoulders. She examined how the other girl pursed her lips together so thinly and tight that they began turning white. Her cheeks were rosy pink and-

SHUT UP JOSIE.

Josie had to physically shake her head to get the thoughts out. She cleared her throat and scoffed. "And?" she sneered.

Hope just rolled her eyes. Josie felt the fumes around her grow heavier and hotter. Hope, on the other hand, was just calm. 

"I don't have a ride to get there," she faltered off. Josie knew she was gesturing for her to give her a ride. But no, she did not want to be stuck in a car with that she-devil for, what? Three minutes? That was basically a year based on their relationship status.

Josie snorted. "Find one," she muttered, rolling her eyes before she spun around. She couldn't even take one step back to her car before she felt a hand wrap around her wrist, yanking her backwards. Josie stumbled backwards and turned around. Hope's grasp on her wrist grew tighter, with each movement making Josie's chest boil. She retracted her arm from Hope but failed. The auburn-haired girl's grip was stronger than a baby and their Cheeto.

"Could you give me a ride?" she asked, then paused. "Please?"

Josie examined her expression for a moment. She was basically begging on her knees metaphorically. Josie found it amusing, how Hope had no ride and was asking Josie for one, even though they both knew that Josie would always beg Hope to drive her when Lizzie took the car to go to hang out with their friends or Sebastian.

Her eyes darted to Hope's lips, which were pointing out in a pout. Josie slowly brought her hand to her cheek and pinched herself to prevent the chance of her cheeks turning a dark red color.

She stayed with her gaze fixed on Hope, contemplating whether it was worth it or not. 

"No," she said straightforwardly. Hope blinked and scrunched her eyebrows.

"What?" she asked again, this time stepping towards Josie.

"I said no," Josie replied and shrugged, before snatching her wrist back from Hope's grasp and making her way to her car.

"The one time I ask you for a ride, you decline it?" she heard a scoff from the shorter girl. "I always, and I mean always drove you whenever you needed me to."

The brunette inhaled softly. Hope was right. There was never a time where she rejected Josie's request for a taxi.

Josie turned around and saw Hope was crossing her arms. A wave of excitement washed over her as she observed Hope's clearly angry expression. She was getting on the girl's nerves. 

"This is different," she faltered. She meant for her statement to come off strong and confident, but she ended up receiving a pang to the heart instead. Hope seemed to have felt it too. Josie inhaled deeply to get rid of it before taking one more glance at Hope's fallen expression and turning back around and marching to her car. The other girl didn't say anything after that.

-

The community center was practically empty except for a few staff, who were pushing chairs around from the event last night. She walked past them and entered the auditorium.

Josie huffed and set her phone down on a table next to the stage. She took in the view of what she was supposed to clean, and a groan escaped her lips. The whole stage was a fucking mess. The costumes were all over the ground, set pieces scattered backstage, questionable smells that lingered around the whole place. 

Josie mentally barfed. The theater group that had performed did not follow any theater etiquettes at all. They didn't even take care of the expensive as hell costumes. She rolled her eyes at the obvious carelessness. As someone who did theater when she was younger, Josie could not handle the sight any longer.

She grabbed a pair of disposable gloves that were on the shelf next to her and entered the backstage. She immediately headed for the costumes and put them back on their hangers.

Josie continued until all the costumes were set back on the rack. She grinned in pride. After ruffling the costumes down to make them straight, Josie pushed the rack towards the corner. Then a slam  behind her caused her ears to perk up.

She spun around. Of course, the short auburn-haired bitch was there.

So Hope had found a way to get here after all.

She was out of breath, panting. Her hair was all over the place and her face was deep red. Josie snorted.

"What happened to you?" she chuckled, walking closer to the girl.

Hope looked up and rolled her eyes. "Thanks for the ride, Josie. I really didn't feel like running all the way over here." All Josie returned was shaking her head, but deep down her stomach wrenched in guilt. Was she a bitch for leaving Hope to run here? This wasn't being petty - it was being mean.

"Sorry," she muttered sheepishly. That seemed to catch Hope's attention as she snapped her head up and looked at Josie. A small smile crept to her lips.

"It's okay," she smiled. Her smile was so soft and genuine, Josie could hear and feel sparkles exploding from her mouth. Could you even hear sparkles? Or feel them? To Josie, it was possible.

The brunette hadn't even noticed she was staring at Hope. The moment was so tight, with a warm and enclosed atmosphere. She cleared her throat and pried herself away from the other girl.

"There's uh, some props that need to be put back in a box," she mumbled, still not looking at Hope. Her heart was sprinting lightly in her chest, not a loud heartbeat.

She heard Hope hum before a pattern of footsteps gradually became quieter. Josie sighed and rubbed her sweaty palms on her grass-stained uniform shirt. The fight with Hope had sent her ruining her uniform and getting it messy, which was unusual; her uniform was always clean since she never played, like MG. Josie smiled. She and MG both had that in common.

Josie walked over to the dressing rooms, where she began cleaning up the wigs that were on the vanities. She rolled her eyes. How could one theater group be so messy? How good could they have been? 

She grabbed all the colorful bunches of plastic hair and put them in a box where the rest of the wigs laid. Then she grabbed a paper towel roll and some sanitizing spray before cleaning the makeup stains off the surfaces.

CRASH

Josie spun around at the same time a high-pitched scream sounded. Her natural reflexes caused her to drop everything and run towards where the source of sound came from. She pushed the thick, heavy red curtain to the side and saw Hope stuck in a hole. She audibly snorted.

Her face was frightened. When she spotted Josie, she was still frightened, and Josie didn't blame her. It was reasonable to assume she wouldn't help Hope out of the hole when she didn't even drive her.

"Help," she demanded, her teeth gritting. Josie had to close the curtain quickly so that she could turn around and take a deep breath. Her stomach began churning again. She wanted to help Hope, but something was telling her to continue acting cold. 

But was it worth being mean for? Hope was clearly going to be stuck in the hole if Josie didn't help her right then and there. It was a Friday night. No one would be coming here this weekend, and she would be stuck in there until she died. This wasn't moving on. It was just being mean. 

Her mind won over her heart. Her broken, pathetically miserable heart that begged for her to stay away from Hope, but at the same time longed deadly for her.

She ignored the stinging sensation in her heart and pushed the curtain to the side as she immediately leaned down, extending a hand to Hope. The shorter girl, if anything, looked shocked. She hesitated for a short second, before reluctantly grabbing Josie's hand. The brunette felt a chill run up her arm as soon as Hope's soft palm came in contact with the back of her hand. She used all her might to pull Hope up - which wasn't a lot, but Hope was tiny and easy to pick up.

Hope put her feet on the ground and stood up. She heaved a heavy breath, before looking up at Josie in the eyes. "Thank you," she smiled softly.

Josie nodded. She wanted to stay there and just stare at Hope to cherish their eye contact, but she couldn't. Helping Hope was the nicest thing she allowed herself to do. "Don't take it to heart," she grumbled bitterly, earning a few blinks from Hope. She watched as the other girl's shoulders deflate.

She let go of Hope's arm and turned around, but was stopped. 

"You played great today," Hope softly murmured. Her voice sounded so delicate and poisonous. "I've never seen you on the field."

Josie chuckled unintentionally. Then she quickly dropped her expression and replaced it with a blank face.

"Thanks," she said. 

"I never wanted to hurt you."

 Every bone in Josie's body froze. The silence was painfully unbearable, the only thing she could hear being Hope inhaling and her own heart beating.

Without turning around, she replied with a simple, "Same for you. I shouldn't have pulled you down the bleachers." 

Hope began sputtering, but Josie ignored it, pried Hope's grip off her arm again, and walked away.

Each step felt like a mile apart from each other by how heavy her legs felt. She felt Hope's presence stay in the same spot, which wasn't a good thing because that meant she had taken ten seconds and only walked away halfway across the room.

She broke out into an embarrassing skip back to the dressing room, where she picked up the spray bottle and the towels and continued her task she had started.

Even though wiping down the stains didn't require much brain power, it was still awfully hard for Josie to focus. Hope's words kept lingering in her head, haunting her, taunting her, torturing her. She pictured the words being the pink and blue lipstick stains so that she could wipe it off.

It didn't work.

The task was done. Josie proudly examined the shiny vanities. She took the paper towels and threw them in a nearby trash bin and placed the spray bottle on the cleaning shelf. She grabbed the broom that was leaning against it and began sweeping the backstage. 

The pile of junk and debris ended up being larger than Josie. There was no way she could have fit this all in the dustpan. A trash bag was the only thing that could pick this all up.

A crooked grunt took all her focus away. A loud thud followed right after. Josie carefully set the broom against the wall and immediately headed through the small and compacted hallway to see if Hope was okay. Not that it mattered.

She gently pulled back the curtain and peeked her head through. The sight of Hope almost made her gasp, forcing her to slap a hand to her mouth to prevent any noise from coming out.

The Mikaelson girl was laying on the ground, her hands keeping her sitting up. She was groaning in pain. Josie's eyes moved down to her legs, which were covered by a gigantic set piece - it was a big couch.

"Holy, shit, Hope," Josie muttered and ran through the curtains. She approached Hope, who didn't acknowledge her arrival. She assumed the girl was already basking in too much pain to notice.

 The brunette took off her gloves and set them aside to push the heavy couch off Hope's legs. It wasn't too heavy to the point where Josie wasn't able to remove it, but it was heavy enough to break someone's leg, that's for sure.

Hope looked up and locked eyes with Josie. They were filled with pregnant tears that made Josie's heart fall all the way down to the pits of hell.

"What happened?" she gasped and kneeled down next to the other girl. Hope gritted her teeth, groaning one more time in pain, before trying to sit up until  Josie pushed her back down.

"I tried pushing the couch into the storage room. Then it fell on me," she said, following another groan. Josie quickly moved to where her legs were and put her hands on Hope's shins.

"Where does it hurt?" she asked. Hope nodded to where Josie was already placing her hands.

"There," she croaked.

Josie squeezed the leg awkwardly. She had been a first aid volunteer a few summers back during summer camp. Her and Hope had attended it together, and whenever Hope fell down a hill or a tree, Josie was always there to check if she had broken any bones. Stefan signed her up for medical school, anyways. It was a part time thing.

Luckily for Hope, there were no broken bones. Unluckily for Hope, her knee seemed to be sprained. 

"No broken bones," she muttered before wrapping an arm under Hope's arms and helping her up. "Can you walk?"

She let go of Hope and immediately the girl fell down. She landed on the hard floor with a loud thud, similar to the one Josie heard earlier when Hope fell.

"No," she mumbled.

-

Josie had forced Hope to sit in the audience while she cleaned the rest of the stage. It was a hassle, especially since Hope had been putting all the stage props in the wrong room, thus having Josie have to move them all back to the other room right next to it.

When she moved the last set piece, which was a coat hanger, she clapped her hands and rubbed her palms together before wiping off the sweat on her forehead with the back of her hand. She probably smelled like shit.

She grabbed her phone and walked out of the stage, entering the auditorium and finding Hope. The girl was sleeping. Josie scoffed. How could she be sleeping right now?

Cause she's not doing anything, idiot.

Josie rolled her eyes, but decided to cut her some slack. She gave a gentle shove on Hope's shoulder, causing her make a small, delicate sound and shifting her head to the other side. Josie couldn't hide the fact that it was painfully cute. Hope's face was soft and perfect when she was asleep. She could be a model for a mattress company.

And that's why Josie shoved Hope hard. 

"HOPE!" she yelled. That's when the girl finally woke up like she had just been stabbed.

"WHAT?" she yelled back, sitting up and rubbing her shoulder where the brunette had shoved her. She fluttered her eyes, looked at Josie, closed her eyes, looked back at Josie, then groaned. She pulled out her phone and checked it.

"Landon didn't reply," she mumbled and shut off her phone. She leaned back into the chair and raised an eyebrow at Josie. "You know what this means."

"Yeah, I've kind of been preparing it anyways," Josie bitterly said. Hope smiled smugly.

She extended her arms for a hug, and Josie rolled her eyes. She avoided the hug and wrapped her arms under Hope's arms and helped her stand up. The other girl refused at first, but quickly gave in and stood up. 

With Josie's arm holding up Hope, the two of them walked carefully out of the place, walking through the lobby, and finally exiting outside. Josie took a deep breath of the fresh air. The air inside the stage was thick and warm. It was terrible compared to the crisp air of early winter.

Josie took out her keys and pointed it towards her car, earning a loud beep from it. Josie carried Hope to the car in silence.

"I am not sitting in the back," Hope scoffed as the brunette attempted to sit the other girl down in the back seat. Josie rolled her eyes.

"Well, you're not sitting up in the front with me," she murmured, this time forcing Hope into the back. She slammed the door and walked to the drivers seat, where she started the car and backed up all in one move.

Neither Hope nor Josie talked during the ride. Josie didn't even bother to turn on the radio. It was silent for around ten minutes as Josie pulled into the Mikaelson Manor's property. Hope's house was probably four times the size of Josie's; the whole property was larger than the school. Josie sometimes wondered why Hope went to Mystic Falls and not some faraway fancy boarding school.

She drove through the gate, to which she knew the password to, before parking her car in front of a bush. Josie hasn't been to her house ever since she saw Hope and Landon kissing in the backyard. The thought of it stabbed Josie's heart and ruined any happiness that was in her.

"We're here," she pointed out defeatedly. She unbuckled her seatbelt and left the car so that she could grab Hope and throw her into the house. Josie opened the door right as Hope unbuckled. 

"Josie," she whispered, holding her arms out for a hug. Josie, again, did not want to carry her that way. She slapped Hope's arms down and picked her up like she did before and slammed the door shut.

Bringing Hope to the front door was a pain. One, she kept whining about how her legs hurts, and two, she kept begging Josie to hug her - that made her blush tremendously, and she threatened to throw Hope on the ground before she could catch her blushing.

Josie ringed the doorbell and immediately after, the door opened. She was met with Hayley at the door.

She almost looked surprised. No, she did look surprise. Not at Hope, but at Josie.

"Josette, it's surprising to see you here," she smiled. Then her eyes moved to where Hope was, who was leaning against Josie miserably.

"Hi, mom," she grumbled. Hayley clicked her tongue and inhaled through gritted teeth. Not in a disappointed manner, but a concerned manner.

"What happened?" she asked. Josie answered for Hope.

"She sprained her knee. A couch fell on her."

Hayley furrowed her eyebrows. "Huh?"

"Let me in," Hope groaned. Josie rolled her eyes before looking back at Hayley, who was stepping aside. Josie paused.

"Oh, no I can't come in," she forced a chuckle. Hayley scrunched her forehead.

"How come?"

Because I hate Hope, she wanted to answer. 

Josie looked for an answer, but couldn't find one.  "I don't know," she blurted. She mentally facepalmed right after the words left her mouth. But she wanted to slap the hell out of Hope when she heard her chuckle.

Hayley shook her head. "Come in, Josette, I insist. After all, you did help bring my daughter back," she smiled. "And you haven't been over for a while."

Josie could feel Hope's shoulder stiffen. She looked over at Josie, her eyes pleading for her to answer.

-

And there Josie was, carrying Hope up to her room as Hayley fished through the freezer for an ice pack. The shorter girl was being extremely obnoxious, and when Josie finally walked for what seemed like a mile through the long hallways to Hope's room, she kicked the door open with a foot.

Hope grumbled but didn't say anything as Josie threw her on her bed.

"Goodbye," she huffed. She ignored Hope's glared eyes that looked she was about to murder her, and turned around, where Hayley was right in front of her.

"Here's an ice pack," she smiled, and grabbed Josie's hand to give her the ice pack. She sputtered, but Hayley didn't pay attention since Hope began talking for her.

"Thank you, goodbye!" she said. Hayley smiled at both of them, and before Josie could protest, she closed the door. 

Great. She couldn't leave now; that would be considered disrespectful. And Josie was strong on manners.

She slowly turned around to face Hope, who was laying on her bed, smirking. She raised a hand, pointed to the ice pack, and waved her over. 

Josie threw the ice pack at her. "Do it yourself," she murmured and crossed her arms. Hope caught it with one hand and sighed.

"Josie..." she frowned and dropped her smug expression and replaced it with genuine defeat. Her shoulders slumped, and for a second, Josie felt her heart close in.

"Hope, we went over this already," she muttered bitterly. Hope only remained looking at her, her lips pursing together, before she finally gave a soft nod.

"I know."

"Then why can't you just drop it? Clearly it shouldn't be that hard after doing it for six months," she snapped. She watched as Hope's face became bombarded with a series of emotions - anger to sadness, to anger again, then back to sadness, before her face grew blank.

"I didn't mean to," she croaked out ever so quietly.

Josie scoffed. "Then why did you do it?" her voice was more than raised. She didn't give a shit about how Hope's face fell, or how she began pushing her hair behind her ear while trying to find the words to say. She didn't give a shit about anything Hope did. Or at least she wished she could.

"I just want to start over," she whispered. And that, that drove Josie mad. Her back erupted in fumes that traveled to her stomach, boiling every organ inside of her. She felt her head get heavy, but most importantly, her heart began to burn.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," she scowled, chuckling with no amusement present. "You do not get to leave me for six months then one day decide to change your mind. You don't get to play me around like a toy," she fumed. By the way Hope slowly leaned back, she could tell that her anger was working. But she didn't want the anger there, she just wanted to leave. "I needed you," she spat.

Her heart pained, so badly. She had to get out of there before Hope saw her crying.

After glancing at her furrowed, blue eyes, Josie turned around and flew the door open, slamming it shut behind her.

 

Chapter Text

"Josie, sweetie, where are you going?" a steady voice stopped the brunette from turning the knob under her palms. There was no doubt that Hayley was eyeing the side of her head with snake-like eyes. 

"Oh," she started. Josie turned around while keeping her hand on the knob. Just in case. "My mom called me to come back."

Hayley cocked an eyebrow, perched her chin down, and pursed her lips. That was the face she made whenever she knew Hope was lying - Josie would know. Hope would always try being slick, failing almost every single time. 

"That's interesting, because I was just in a call with Caroline..." she clicked her tongue. Each word decreasing the volume of her voice, yet increasing her stern tone. Josie had to gulp to push down some sort of air to stop her stomach from curling.

"Oh," was all she managed to croak out. Hayley dropped her expression and replaced it with a warm smile immediately. She stepped forward, causing Josie to step back - even though there was no where to go - and pried her hand off the door. 

"Join us for dinner, Josie. It's been a while," she smiled. The brunette felt a hand pat her back and push her away from the door. She tried to protest, but her body was still frozen from the death glare Hayley had pierced into her head.

"Besides" she continued. "Hope would want you to stay."

Josie scoffed internally. In fact, she scoffed so hard, she could imagine her throat exploding from the power of her scoff. That's how unbelievable Hayley's claim sounded. Hope couldn't care less if she was staying or not. She never cared in those six months, and she certainly didn't care now.

Her eyes unconsciously laid on Hayley's back as the woman walked off into the kitchen. Josie hadn't even noticed she was still standing awkwardly in the grand entrance room alone. What made it even worse was that she was in Hope's fancy as hell mansion, while wearing her bright blue and yellow soccer uniform.

Perhaps Hope had some extra clothes? Maybe if Josie ran up and just-

No.

She was not going to ask Hope for clothes. Not because Hope was practically a foot shorter than her, and she would end up walking around with her leggings up to her knees, but because she was still mad at Hope. Obviously.

But Josie felt so stupid. And severely out of place. Hope wouldn't mind, right?

Her eyes darted to the staircase, and her feet moved before she could even finalize the decision. She headed straight for Hope's room and kicked the door open - or closed. It stayed closed. Josie swallowed and shook her head out of her mission mindset and turned the knob.

Hope was sitting up on her bed with her phone in her hand. She was wearing the same worried expression she had when Josie had broken her leg a a year ago. Josie inhaled sharply and closed the door behind her softly. She approached the bed where Hope's expression had softened slightly, but still had that worried tone in it.

"Josie," she breathed and set down her phone. Her voice was hoarse and surprised. Or annoyed. She was probably annoyed that Josie had kicked her door opened and her very presence made her want to jump out the window. "Wha- Why are-" she cleared her throat. "Are you okay?"

Okay, so Hope wasn't annoyed at her and didn't want to jump out of her window because of her. That was a good thing.

Are you okay? She wanted to ask. Hope's leg was hanging from the bed. Josie knew that it was probably going to hurt worse that way with the blood flow and pressure.

Without saying anything, the brunette sat at the edge of the bed and rested her palm on the comforter. She ignored the way her chest grew cold - she couldn't ignore the way her hands were trembling tremendously, though.

Hope scooted over to where Josie was, causing the brunette to visibly flinch. The latter had moved so quickly that Josie didn't even have time to decide if she should've regretted sitting down in the first place.

"What's wrong?" she spoke softly. Josie watched as Hope brought a hand up to her face and pushed a strand of hair out of the way. She clenched her jaw to prevent her teeth from chattering from the sudden, yet warm, touch. She wanted to slap the hand away, but that way, Hope would not let her wear anything in her closet.

"Could I borrow some clothes?" she whispered. Hope's expression stayed the same; her eyes on Josie's cheek, before they made their way up to meet the brunette's.

"Of course," she cracked a smile and removed her hand. Josie couldn't help but feel a surge of disappointment and immediate cursing right after. Hope, without looking away from Josie, nodded her head towards the closet. 

Josie had to force herself to pry her eyes away from Hope's ocean gaze to get up and walk towards the closet. She carefully opened it - there was still that haunting memory of her breaking the closet door open - and examined through the hangers of clothes. 

The gray sweater right in front of her caught her eye, though. She took it out and turned around to where Hope was staring at her.

"Can I-"

"Yes."

Okay, straightforward much. Josie liked it like that. That way, she wouldn't have to talk as much.

"Okay," she muttered, and made her way to Hope's bathroom. There was no way she would borrow any of Hope's leggings. She'd rather wear her uniform shorts than tight jeans that stopped just below her knee.

Josie closed the door behind her and flicked the light switch on. Hope's bathroom was always pristine clean, so she wasn't surprised to be met with the nice linen scent of a candle on top of the counter. 

Josie observed her own face in the mirror. She looked like a fucking mess. Without wasting another second, she threw off the uniform and shimmied into the sweater. Her nose flared in delight when the smell of strawberry candies and coconut exploded in her face. 

The brunette forced herself to hold her breath so she wouldn't spend the night smelling Hope's scent that was engraved into the fabric. Hope smelled really good. She always had that aura that attracted almost every boy in their sophomore year. Including Landon.

Josie gulped the lump that was threatening to choke her, and opened the door. She flicked the light switch off and headed towards where Hope was still sitting in the same position. The auburn-haired girl looked up and smiled, before her eyes looked Josie up and down. She choked.

"Josie," she chuckled. She shut her eyes and grinned dangerously hard. 

What the hell was she laughing at? Her shorts? Did she look ugly in the sweater? Or perhaps it was the way she was standing. 

Josie walked over and slapped Hope across the face accidentally (it wasn't an accident), earning a muffled groan as she fell back. 

Was that necessary? No. 

Josie's chest filled with immediate gray regret. "Oh my gosh, I am so sorry," she said and slapped a hand to her own mouth, as if it made up for slapping Hope.

Hope rolled to the side and sat up, her head bobbing above her shoulder. She brought a hand up to her cheek and rubbed it. "Ow," she gritted out. Josie clicked her tongue and sat down next to Hope, ignoring the spike of air that shot through her stomach. 

The shorter girl glanced over at her and sucked in her cheeks. Her mouth slightly drew open in a pattern that was so consistent and slow, Josie wouldn't be surprised if it ended up being a string pulling down her bottom lip.

Then the door barged. Josie's head shot towards it and saw Klaus. Klaus, Hope's dad. He was the scariest, yet shortest, dad she's ever seen. She couldn't think like that, though, Stefan was shorter, and her biological dad was even shorter. Not like it mattered though; he was still scary as hell.

"Hope, and Josette, dinner is ready," he said in his lightly chiseled British accent. Josie could feel Hope's eyes glance over to her, but she didn't return it. Instead, she got up and walked to the door.

"Thank you, Mr. Mikaelson," she smiled, and waited for Klaus to move so she could leave the room as fast as she could. Klaus wouldn't move, wouldn't even bother to acknowledge Josie's presence.

"Josie is having dinner with us?" she heard. Klaus's head twitched to the side as he chomped on air. 

"I suppose so," he said, this time averting his gaze to Josie, who was frozen in place. It was like her entire body gave up on her mind. Klaus was probably a vampire who could compel her to stay still.

Josie heard a slight shuffle behind her. She turned her head and saw Hope limping over. 

She bit her lip as her heart pained seeing the other girl like this. Hope wasn't even using the ice pack. She was stubborn and wouldn't let herself get better.

The three of them walked down to the dining room, Klaus glaring through Josie's soul behind her, while her arm was underneath Hope's as she helped her get around without putting too much pressure on her leg. Hope constantly thanked her, and still wouldn't give up her request of a hug, even though Klaus was right behind them and sure as hell listening. Josie wondered if Hope had ever felt embarrassment, or if she was just overreacting.

"Oh, girls, you're here!" Hayley beamed. Josie attempted to remove her arm from Hope's back, but the shorter girl pulled it back towards her. 

Josie sat down at the large table in the middle, Hope on the other side, yet directly in front of her, Klaus on one end, and Hayley on another. There was so much empty chairs, empty fancy chairs, that Josie wondered about all the events they had that made them own so much.

The Mikaelsons were serving some sort of steak and roasted vegetables. Hayley had taken Josie's vegetarianism into consideration, and served up the extra dish of cucumber rolls - Josie's favorite. Her heart warmed severely at the hospitality they were offering, and how at home she felt despite her absence for half a year.

"So, Josie," Hayley started in the middle of the dinner. "How is school going for you?"

Josie thought for a minute. Hayley had always been curious in the girl's studies, especially since she was studying the same major that Hayley had studied, which was marine biology. Of course, she barely knew anything about it yet, but Hope's mom was excited nonetheless. 

"It's going good," she shrugged and shoved the fork of a roasted bell pepper in her mouth. Hope's eyes darted to her. She returned the gaze and cocked her head to the side, which made the latter snap her head back down to her plate.

"Well to hear," Klaus replied. He looked over at Hope, who was poking the table cloth with a fork. "Hope here, has sparked an interest in marine biology, as well."

Hope's head shot up. She glared at her dad with wide eyes, sputtering something that Josie couldn't understand. She snorted.

"She's inspired by you, Josie," Hayley smiled. Josie glanced over to Hope, who was clenching her jaw and forcing a small smile. 

The brunette turned back to her plate to hide that blush growing hot on her cheeks. The plate, actually, looked very interesting at that moment. 

-

The dinner was awfully awkward. Hayley and Klaus asked about her life and how its been going, and Josie answered, and sometimes lied. Hope remained silent the entire dinner. But Josie could feel her eyes engraving into her soul.

"Thank you for joining us, Josette. Have a pleasant evening," Klaus nodded and motioned Josie to the door. A breath of relief escaped her lips involuntarily as she escaped Klaus's death aura. There was no second in this night where she felt like Hope wasn't silently watching her. That included now.

Josie turned around and saw Hope, sitting on the staircase with her hands curled together on her lap. She noticed Josie's stare and cracked a small smile. 

Should she help Hope up the stairs? Her family did feed her tonight. That would be considered rude if she just straight up left. Plus, she wanted to be near Hope again, no matter how much it pained her newfound pride.

With an overdramatic sigh, Josie walked over to the staircase and hovered above Hope. The latter's eyes followed her figure before smiling. Her eyes were wide and glowing, her bottom lip tucked lightly between her teeth, and her lips crooked upwards.

"Here," Josie whispered and extended an arm. Hope eyed the arm, then Josie, the arm, then back to Josie before reaching up and evolving her in a hug. The brunette nearly choked her guts out when her stomach brushed along Hope's body.

So Hope had eventually gotten what she wanted. Great.

Too tired to even argue, Josie slumped up the stairs, struggling to carry Hope with the latter breathing into her neck. The walk to Hope's room was absolutely dreading, and by the time she kicked the door open (for real this time), she dropped Hope on the bed and collapsed to the floor. 

Hope snorted. "You okay?" she laughed and extended a hand out. Josie pushed it away, but continued to lay on the floor. Hope was perching down from the side of the bed, her hair falling from her face as she hovered over Josie.

"Fine," she muttered, and closed her eyes to erase Hope's peachy smile from her eyes.

There was a stiff silence, before she heard more shuffling, and then a thud next to her that made her eyes bolt open and crack her head to the side. Hope was laying there, right next to her, propped up on her side. Her lips were crooked upward, not in a smile, but a warming gesture nonetheless.

The brunette groaned, yet stayed still, her eyes planted on Hope's. The shorter girl adjusted her position and propped an elbow underneath her and rested her head in her palm. 

"Want to stay over for a while?" she asked. Boldly. As if everything was perfectly fine. Which they weren't, but to Hope, everything was fine.

Josie scoffed and sat up, staring straight ahead at the wall with polaroid pictures and regular prints of friends. She felt pleased when she noticed there were more pictures of Josie and Hope then there were Hope and Landon, but the thought of Landon even being on there made her feel sick.

"Why do you do this?" she muttered, still not looking at Hope. Her voice cracked beneath her words. 

"Do what?" she heard a faint murmur. 

This time, Josie turned around. She propped her palms underneath her and moved her body to face Hope. The auburn-haired girl's face was dropped with furrowed eyebrows. She was clearly confused, which only infuriated Josie more.

"You act like nothing is wrong. Like we're still friends," she choked out. Hope blinked profusely. She sat up and leaned forward to wipe a tear off Josie's cheek that she hadn't even noticed. Was she crying? She wasn't even sad, but you could cry from anger, and that's what Josie was feeling.

She wanted to slap Hope's hand away, but she liked the physical touch. Unfortunately, she retracted her hand and rubbed it against her other palm.

"I'm sorry," she muttered. Her eyes bounced up and locked with Josie's. "Truly sorry."  

The brunette could only inhale shortly. There was no difficulty in saying sorry, but by the way Hope's eyes glistened, maybe she wasn't just saying it.

"I," she begun. Her voice was hoarse and thick, alike Josie's, but worse. "I should've chosen you."

What?

Was Josie hearing this right? Or were her ears messing with her. No, her ears were definitely messing with her.

"Wha-At," her voice cracked embarrassingly rough. Hope didn't notice, but if she did, she didn't react to it. Her eyes moved down to the floor.

"You heard what I said," she chuckled. It was sticky and thick. 

No, I didn't. Please repeat, Josie wanted to say. But Hope was already tensed up enough and she didn't want to pressure her more. 

Instead, Josie huffed and stood up. She threw herself on Hope's humongous bed and made herself comfortable. "It's really nice up here," she yelled. "You should join me."

Not even a second later, Hope popped up and jumped next to Josie, laying down in her personal bubble space. Josie didn't mind, though. This was Hope. Not some stranger. No matter how much she had hurt the brunette, she could never be a stranger. 

She heard a small sniffle, before a sudden voice. "Wanna watch a movie?" 

No. Hope's taste in movies was always cheesy. She was a sucker for corny romance movies, while Josie could only sit through action packed ones. 

"Sure," she said anyways. Hope cracked a smile before reaching downward and pulling up a laptop that was propped on a pillow. Josie sat up as Hope did, while she surfed through Netflix. 

Josie watched as Hope clicked the box for The Kissing Booth.

No.

God, no. 

Hope snorted and propped the laptop on a fluffy pillow that was surprisingly dry. Had Hope been crying on this pillow?

The intro to the movie started, and Josie laid back. Hope slumped down next to her, bringing the pillow laptop with her and resting it on her stomach.

Was it awkward? Yes. 

It didn't take long for Josie to fall asleep. Hope, on the other hand, was reacting loudly to each part of the movie, causing Josie to flinch and stay awake.

Finally, the latter looked over and observed Josie, who was barely twitching her eyes open. She swear she could see Hope hold in a laugh. That didn't matter, though, because the shorter girl had closed her laptop. The room grew silent. It was a comfortable silence, the kind of silence that Josie always wished she could bathe in whenever Lizzie had been a pain in the ass.

Speaking of Lizzie, she was probably worried sick where Josie was. MG, too. She hadn't shown up to the ice cream parlor like they had planned. But as Josie looked over at Hope, who was facing up, her face illuminating perfectly in the dim, yellow light of the lamp, there was no wanting to leave.

Her eyes fluttered shut without her permission. She basked in the feeling. Hope's warm presence made it even better. She so badly wanted to hate Hope, and she did. She thought. 

Today could be a break. She could lay here with Hope without a care in the world, and when she woke up, everything would go back to normal. She would ignore Hope and move on with her life.

A sudden contact on her shoulder interrupted her thoughts that felt suspiciously like Hope's sharp chin. She peeked one eye open and saw Hope move towards her, resting a palm above Josie's heart, and laid her head in the crook of her neck. That's where she felt her chin.

Oh, how her breath betrayed her. It was all sucked out of her body, leaving her stomach to create a hurricane. She really hoped that Hope couldn't feel how fast her heart was beating. There was no way she couldn't, though, with how aggressive and loud it was.

It was only 8 o' clock and she was already on the brink of falling asleep. She probably stunk, too, considering she didn't even take a shower after the game. Hope probably was dying in her fumes. 

That wasn't the case. Hope inhaled sharply, exhaling about three seconds later. "You smell like me," she mumbled. Josie's arms formed goosebumps while a chill ran down her body at how Hope's lips brushed softly against her neck.

She didn't reply. She couldn't even move. She wanted to ask Hope if she could take a shower. She didn't even sweat at the game, though, but she still probably smelled like shit from the community center. Even though Hope could only smell her sweater.

She found the strength to move. She sat up, feeling Hope's hand drop down from her chest, and her head falling off her shoulder. 

"Josie," she whined groggily, her voice muffled in a pillow.

"Can I use your shower?" she asked. Hope turned over, facing the ceiling.

"Yeah," she murmured. "There's towels in the bathroom. Find something in my closet to wear."

Josie muttered a quick thanks and left the bed. Any sense of fatigue left her body, and she felt like she could run a mile again. She chose a pair of shorts and a T-Shirt from Hope's closet and headed towards the bathroom. 

The shower was short, but warm. 

After she shimmied the shorts on, Josie looked at the mirror. The T-Shirt she was wearing was Hope's old camp counselor T-Shirt. The camp that they had attended together last year. Josie had the exact same shirt, just without the word Mikaelson engraved in the back.

She left the bathroom. Hope was nowhere to be seen. Josie assumed she was showering somewhere else, as well.

The brunette took this time to grab her phone to text Lizzie. She realized she hadn't even used her phone when she saw the rampage of texts flooding her notification. 

300 texts, and 27 missed calls. 

Shit.

She quickly texted a genuine, Sorry, at Hope's house. Spending the night. Don't ask questions and set her phone on the nightstand. There was Hope's phone right there, though, beeping lightly. 

Josie would say she never invaded Hope's privacy, but that was a lie. Especially now, it was so tempting. Reluctatntly, she flipped over the phone, and her heart crushed right then and there.

Landon

Are you ok?

Landon

Did you get home safe

Landon

Call me when you can

Landon

Are you still coming over?

Coming over? Coming over?! Hope had made plans with Landon? And not to mention, Landon never checked up on Josie liked this. That one time she fell down the stairs at school and was sent home, Landon only asked if she was still going to give him her pre-calculus notes.

She scoffed and was about to throw the phone at the wall, before she realized this was not her phone, and Hope had walked in.

"Josie?" she asked. The brunette turned around, the phone still in her hand. Shit. Hope was probably going to hate her for this. "What's wrong?" 

Her hair was thrown into a high ponytail and she was wearing a pair of black sweatpants and a gray tank top.

"U-uh," she stammered. She held the phone up, earning Hope's gaze to glance down at it. She furrowed her eyebrows, but kept her soft face. Landon she mouthed. Hope flinched. 

She walked over and accepted the phone. Josie watched as her eyes moved up and down, side to side. 

"You were going to go over?" she whispered. Hope glanced up at Josie. Her eyes were completely unreadable.

The room was silent for what seemed like forever, until Hope shut off the phone and threw it on the nightstand. "Forget it," she smiled. She sat on the bed and motioned for Josie to join her, which she did. 

Hope reached over and turned off the lamp, causing the room to grow dark and silent. There wasn't even a second to spare before Hope regained her position from earlier, earning a small gasp from Josie. It was so sudden and unexpected, but of course, Hope was always an unexpecting person anyways.

Only then, Hope moved her head down to Josie's chest, drawing little circles above her heart. Hope's warmth was enough to make her not need a blanket, and enough to bring her to fatigue.

"How's your knee?" Josie whispered. Hope's finger stayed drawing circles, but she looked up and met eyes with the brunette, her nose colliding softly with Josie's chin. The soft skin brought Josie into a spiral of cheering for some reason. All Hope's nose did was brush against her chin, yet she was acting like they just got married.

Which, the thought Josie was not familiar with, by the way. Totally not.

"Better," Hope murmured, her chin touching town to Josie's collarbone with each syllable. Her head plopped back onto the brunette's chest. 

Josie didn't allow her anger to overpower her again. Not right now. Now was not the time to ruin. 

Before she knew it, her thoughts drifted away in front of her, pushing Josie back into a light slumber.

 

 

Chapter Text

Josie's eyes barged open. The weight of her chest made it hard to breathe, and she had to force her arms up to push whatever was on it. Her fingers tangled in auburn hair. Familiar auburn hair...

She jumped up. Why the hell was she with Hope Mikaelson? A sudden wave of memories came flooding back to Josie. Memories that calmed her down, yet somehow caused her to panic even more. She pushed Hope to the side - surprisingly not waking her up - and jumped off the bed. 

Her brain slowly started bringing everything back together - why she and Hope were cuddling in bed, why she was still at the Mikaelson Manor. Josie wanted to slap her face so hard. How could she let herself be this stupid? How could she let the warmth and poisonous presence of Hope ruin her silent treatment streak?

Without wasting another second, Josie grabbed her phone and uniform before running out the door. The house was fairly dark, and she had tripped down a few steps before making it to the bottom. None of that mattered, though; she needed to get out ASAP. 

Lizzie would scold her for coming home so late, and for staying at Hope's. She audibly groaned. 

It's okay, Jo, she told herself. You were just tired and too exhausted to object.

Had Hope hypnotized her to forgive her? 

No, that's stupid.

She scurried to the door and unlocked it quietly, making sure to not wake up the three residents of the mansion. She shut it even more softly behind her, and ran down the cobblestone bricks to where her car was parked. It was pitch black outside, the only source of light being from some dim street lamps. Josie unlocked the car and sat inside.

Holy shit. The car was colder than she could ever imagine. The seatbelt was like ice. If Josie put her hand on it for too long, she could've gotten it stuck to there. There was no time to care about that at all. She needed to get as far from the Mikaelson Manor as possible. 

-

"Where the hell have you been?" 

Josie jumped. Lizzie was standing there, arms crossed, in front of the door. The lights weren't even on. She was just standing there in the dark for however long. 

"Lizzie!" she breathed. "You scared me!"

The blonde didn't acknowledge Josie's gesture to keep her voice low. "You ditched your friend and I to spend time with Hope? I thought you hated her," she gritted.

Josie huffed. She shut the door softly behind her and locked it with a small click. "I'm sorry," she murmured. Lizzie only raised an eyebrow. 

"Do you know what time it is, anyways? Two AM, Jo. Two! AM!!" she leaned forward, emphasizing each word. The brunette had to push her away. 

"I know, I know..." she scoffed. A silent pause made its way into the room, with Lizzie's glaring and Josie's gulping. "Don't tell mom. Or Stefan."

"Puh-Lease," the blonde huffed. Her arms fell to her side, quickly coming back up and wrapping around Josie. 

The brunette slumped into the hug. Hopefully Lizzie wouldn't tell them. Otherwise, Josie would have to go back to Hope and apologize for her absurd manners of leaving in the middle of the night.

Josie pulled back and sighed. "Can I go to sleep, now?" she asked. Lizzie frowned, but it wasn't an empathetic frown. It was almost as if she was going to burst out laughing.

"Your friend, MJ, or whatever his name was," she huffed. "Still wants to go out for ice cream." 

Josie's jaw dropped. Why would MG want to get ice cream when it was about as cold as the arctic outside? Not to mention it was also two a.m.

"What?" she sputtered. She couldn't even finish her sentence when she heard a pair of footsteps come down the stairs.

"Why are all the light off?" MG. MG was here? Was he sleeping over? Was he... hanging out with Lizzie? 

The lights flicked on, and Josie caught a glimpse of MG walking towards her, rubbing his eyes. He removed a hand and blinked, finally noticing Josie.

"Finally," he breathed. He walked towards the sisters and rested an arm on Josie's shoulder. "Let's go, shall we?"

Josie stepped to the side, allowing MG's arm to drop. 

"Are you guys seriously in the mood for ice cream at two in the morning?" she hissed. MG cocked his head to the side and painted a confused expression. 

"I thought you said she agreed," he whispered loud enough for Josie to hear. Lizzie chuckled nervously and stepped back closer towards the dark kitchen.

"Goodnight," she yelped, and darted up the stairs, leaving MG sputtering after her. 

"She's spent too much time with me, I think she's gonna explode," he muttered and turned back to Josie. The brunette wanted to laugh, but it was probably not an appropriate time. Instead she gave him a smile.

"That means she likes you," she whispered. That was a lie. But the way MG's face brightened up, she couldn't take it back. She still wanted to get ice cream if it meant MG was coming along with her. Even if it was two in the morning. 

The two made their way to Josie's car, which was still warm from earlier, thank goodness. MG sat in the passenger seat and connected his phone to the car as Josie backed out. He shuffled through a few songs before finally settling on one. Getaway Car by Taylor Swift.

Josie snorted. "I didn't know you were a Taylor Swift fan," she smirked. MG only bobbed his head to the music, humming the lyrics loudly. Josie eventually gave in and hummed as well, before the both of them broke out in singing the song at the top of their lungs. They only had to get through that one song and repeat it once before they arrived at the parlor.

The bell dinged louder than Josie would have liked as they entered through the door. There was only one other person there, of course. Josie hadn't even expected the place to be open, and she certainly didn't expect to see someone here.

The girl seemed to be hunched over the table dramatically with headphones in her ears. She had four empty cups of ice cream next to her. Josie assumed she had her heart broken.

She and MG exchanged looks and internally communicated on whether they should approach her or not. That was all interrupted when a high pitched voice said "Hello!" behind them.

"May I take your order?" a short woman chirped. She seemed pretty enthusiastic for someone who had to work at two in the morning. Kudos to her.

"Yes, please." Josie stepped forward and let her tongue recite her favorite order with no hesitation or mistakes. "Could I have a small waffle cone with peanut butter pecan and heavily sprinkled java chips?" The ice cream was always overwhelming, just the way she liked it. The girl nodded and smiled at MG, who was stroking his chin.

"Can I have four scoops of rocky road and a handful of gummy bears all in a big cup?" 

Josie's jaw dropped. He really had a sweet tooth, huh.

"Alright, is that all for you two today?" Josie nodded and handed the lady her credit card, which she swiped in half a second. She gave it back to Josie and began scooping out their ice creams. 

She turned to MG, who was looking at the girl hunched over the table. She was now sobbing loudly. Josie gulped and approached her and pat her back. That was probably a bad idea. 

The girl only grunted. She looked up and Josie could see her mascara was running down her face all ugly. Her eyes were extremely red. But what caught her attention the most was that this was Jade - the store employee and soccer player. She seemed to be just as surprised to see Josie as Josie was to see her.

"Bourbon girl," she croaked out. Josie nodded slowly and reached into her purse to grab her portable case of tissues. Don't ask why she carried them around. 

She handed it over to Jade, who accepted it quickly. She took one out and blew her nose dramatically, making Josie and MG flinch. He nodded back, and Josie took the sign. She probably wanted to be left alone. She was acting the exact same way Josie did when Landon cheated on her with Hope.

The thought made her inhale a sharp breath to ease out the pain growing in her chest. She walked with MG to the other side of the parlor and sat down in a small booth. 

"What's your problem with Mikaelson?" he asked. Josie looked up at him and was surprised to see that he was genuinely waiting for an answer.

She shook her head and forced out a chuckle. "We're just on a rough road right now," she faltered. Pause. "I don't know if the road is ever going to smooth out."

MG nodded slowly. "Want to talk about it?" he whispered, leaning forward as if he wanted Josie to tell him right then and there. She only smiled at the offer, but shook her head. 

Ding!

The lady at the counter had both their ice creams in her hand. MG and her stumbled over and rushed to the lady quite greedily. She was just excited to eat the ice cream, anyways. They gave a quick thank you and rushed out the parlor. The cold wind slapped at Josie's arms and legs. She really should have just changed, especially after MG offered they eat outside.

"Are you crazy?" she chuckled. MG only shrugged. 

"It'll help you get your mind off whatever happened," he smiled. Aw. That was sweet.

The two of them decided to walk around Mystic Falls. It was practically empty except for the two of them. MG offered to share some of the gummy bears that overflowed his ice cream, but Josie declined his offer with a smile. 

"Hey," she said and nudged his shoulder. "How was the day with my sister?" she asked. MG's head perked up and began nodding aggressively before he could even turn around. 

"Oh my gosh," he started with gummy bears in his mouth. He took a second to chew them and swallow them before continuing. "I think she thinks I'm funny."

Josie raised her brows. "That's great," she said. Sebastian was never funny. His jokes made Josie want to rip her ears out. "What else?"

MG hummed. "She asked me to hang out with her today, you know, when it's not the middle of the night." 

That was more than great. Sunday, or today, was Sebastian's birthday.

"But," MG continued, his shoulders dropping. "It was at Sebastian's party."

Okay. That was not great. Lizzie had invited him to Seb's party? What a bold move. What was even more unbelievable was that MG agreed. Wouldn't that make him jealous?

"Oh," she nodded. They continued walking around the town, conversing about how weird Sebastian was and how weirder it was that Lizzie was all over him.

-

Sunday morning hit Josie like a truck. Her head ached from all the sugar and lack of sleep. Lizzie had snuck into her room earlier and opened her curtains so that she wouldn't sleep in. 

Josie groaned and reached for her phone. She blinked to wet her dry eyes before looking through her notifications. Lizzie, MG, Stefan... Hope. 

She-Devil-Bitch-Snake

where did u go?

Josie snorted. She forgot that she had named her contact name that after they broke apart. 

She-Devil-Bitch-Snake

hello??

She-Devil-Bitch-Snake

are u ok?

She-Devil-Bitch-Snake

call me plz

No. 

Josie cleared the messages and the ten missed calls from Hope. She found pleasure in the idea of Hope worrying about her. She had the power to ignore her, and she intended to keep it that way. Last night was a failure to her "mission."

Suddenly the door slammed open and Lizzie barged in. Josie put her phone down on the sheets and sat up. The blonde was clearly very angry and out of breath.

"We don't have any alcohol," she breathed exasperated, like it was the end of the world. To Lizzie, though, it was. The last time she came empty handed to a party with Sebastian, they didn't even let her in. Josie attempted to tell Lizzie how they weren't real friends, but was only hit with the comeback of you wouldn't know, you don't even have friends.

Josie sighed. "Just find some in Stefan's cabinet. It's never locked," she murmured. She saw Stefan reach there whenever they had guests over.

Lizzie grunted. "Why haven't we ever thought of that," she huffed and sprinted out. She heard a rampage of footsteps going down the stairs.

Dang, Lizzie was really that desperate. 

-

MG paced around the bathroom, checking to see if his hair was alright every five seconds. It wasn't like Lizzie was going to notice, anyways. Sebastian was going to be there. But he wanted to look good for her nonetheless.

With one last look at the mirror and a deep breath, he opened the door.

He headed towards his car, which he sprayed with a scent that Josie said was the blonde's favorite - Pears. Why was it her favorite? That was a question that he was planning to ask her one day. Not today, though. He would sound like a stalker.

He rode over to Josie and Lizzie's house. Maybe he'd come to early, or maybe he was just to jittery about this night. Sweat broke through his black turtle neck sweater. He parked his car on the street and took out his phone. 

are u here yet

He tapped the sides of his phone as he waited for an answer, then immediately gasped. Of course she was here! This was her house!

i mean done*

Shit. Shit shit shit. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit-

Lizzie

Yes

He sighed in relief. There was, of course, no relief, though. She was probably judging him on the inside. 

He pushed down the blush and sensation building up in his stomach and forced himself to get out of his car. His eyes darted to the figure standing at the door. Lizzie.

She was even more breathtaking than he could have imagined. She was wearing a simple white translucent blouse with a black tank top underneath. She was also wearing a black skirt with panty-hose underneath. Her outfit was completed with slightly wavy hair and a small black beret. There was also a bottle of alcohol in her hands.

He waved his hand up, catching the girl's attention. She smiled and walked down the driveway to MG. He opened the door and motioned for her to enter, which she did, but not without rolling her eyes playfully. MG smirked to himself.

He made his way to the driver's seat. Lizzie was already turning the knob on the radio, switching between stations until she found the music station. He watched as she laid her head back and turn her head straight ahead of her. 

How could she be so cool by simply doing nothing?

They listened to the music in silence. Sebastian's house wasn't too far, thankfully. Not that he didn't want to leave Lizzie, but because he didn't want the blonde to think he was lame and boring. He knew for a fact he wasn't. But damn, he was shy as hell when he was around Lizzie.

When they arrived to the large house, he parked away from the rest of the cars. He had heard from his teammates that the front cars were always egged, and MG didn't want anything to happen to his baby. The car. Not Lizzie. 

He opened the door and allowed Lizzie to exit. She swung the bottle of alcohol and huffed. "Let's go in, friend," she murmured, looking at the house, which was booming with music and chatter.

This was the first time MG had been invited to a high school party. An actual party. Not just a hangout.

He walked side by side with Lizzie, who had kept her shoulders high. She looked mildly uncomfortable, but MG decided not to comment on it. She opened the door and immediately, Rafael popped out.

"Lizzie!" he grinned at the blonde, which she returned. Next came Penelope, who engulfed the blonde into a tight hug, squeezing the guts out of her. Meanwhile, MG stood there awkwardly. They probably didn't even know his name. 

They both walked in, and immediately were met with the booming music that shook his heart. The air was thick, smelly, and sweaty. A tall figure walked their direction. MG didn't pay much attention to them, until Lizzie slightly yelped and adjusted her posture. He looked more carefully, and kid you not, it was Sebastian.

MG knew he was going to be here. This was his fucking party, after all. But he was still disappointed at his presence.

"Hi, Seb-"

"Sweeeeet," he interrupted. Not even glancing at Lizzie, he grabbed the bottle of alcohol. "Thanks, Elizabeth," he smirked, winking at the blonde before turning around and heading off. MG scoffed. What a douche. He didn't even acknowledge Lizzie.

The blonde didn't seem to mind, though. She was jumping up and down slightly, squealing in the highest voice possible. Her grin looked like it could break her face from how wide it was.

MG's heart sank. A dick like Sebastian could win her like this? He didn't even care. He didn't even know how lucky he was.

His thoughts were cut short when Lizzie turned around, still flustered. "I'm gonna go talk to Sebby," she swooned. MG internally puked at the nickname. What the hell was Sebby? What nickname could she make from MG? M? G? MG was already a nickname, a nickname that consisted of two fucking letters. Two.

He watched as the girl walked off, strutting slightly. He huffed and tried to ignore the disappointment building up in his chest. He allowed his eyes to look around. There was Landon Kirby, who he despised so much. He was Josie's ex, too, which made it even worse.

To his left was a group of people who he recognized as Cleo and Penelope. They were leaning against a wall, both holding red solo cups. He approached them without thinking first. He was just desperate to stop looking like a weirdo in the middle of the house alone.

"Oh," Cleo said and shifted her body to turn towards MG. "Hello," she smiled warmly.

"Hey," Penelope said. Even though Cleo's expression was welcoming, Penelope's was suspicious.

MG adjusted his turtleneck and cleared his throat. "What are you two up to?" he asked.

Cleo clicked her tongue, before glancing at Penelope. The latter was glaring at her, but she seemed to ignore it. "Well, we're waiting for whatever surprise Seb has for Lizzie," she giggled, taking a sip from her cup. "I heard he's going to ask her out."

MG's heart sank down, deep down. So deep that he felt like the rest of his body would give in and let him tunnel through the floor. 

"I heard he's going to give her a necklace," Penelope shrugged. She eyed MG up and down, before squinting her eyes. "Who are you, again?"

"MG," he croaked out. Penelope nodded slowly, moving the side of her lips up to her cheek. 

"I'm Penelope. And this is Cleo," she said and nodded towards Cleo, who waved slightly.

Of course, MG already knew that. But he nodded anyways and forced out a smile. His stomach was full of white and green. 

Suddenly, there was a shriek behind them, and a loud splash. The three whipped their heads around, and MG's fists clenched up at the sight.

Lizzie was standing at the bottom of the stairs, drenched in red punch. Her beautiful outfit was drenched and stained. MG looked up, and wasn't surprised to see Sebastian and Roman standing at the top with the empty punch bowl. His chest filled with hot, white anger. 

What the hell was wrong with them? 

Sebastian slid down the railing of the stairs, throwing the punch bowl into the crowd. He made his way down to Lizzie, who was still frozen in shock.

"Elizabeth Saltzman, I'd punch any lad who dares to claim your love before I," he smirked, walking over to Lizzie and grabbing her hand. He pulled it up her his mouth, and almost kissed it until Lizzie slapped him across the face.

"You're a dick!" she sobbed, and ran past the crowd, bumping into the shoulder's of everyone who was staring. The crowd's eyes moved as she swiftly made her way out the door. Without hesitation, MG ran and followed her out. 

The cool night air slapped his face. He looked around, and couldn't see any sign of Lizzie until he heard a slight pant ahead of him. He squinted his eyes and saw Lizzie walking towards the neighborhood exit. He ran after her, yelling "Lizzie!"

She stopped and turned around, before collapsing onto the street. MG was too slow to fully catch her, but he managed to grab her head before it hit the ground. 

"Come on, let's get you home," he said, moving his hands around her punch covered hair to her back. She wouldn't move though, only choking out a sob.

"How could he?" she croaked. MG felt his chest tighten. It hurt to see Lizzie like this. He's only ever seen her happy.

MG picked her up bridal style anyways. That was the only way he was able to transport the blonde with how she had glued herself to the ground.

He hurried over to his car and sat her in the passengers seat. He entered his own seat and started the car immediately. Lizzie was sniffling loudly, which made MG almost crash into a pole.

"I'm being overdramatic," she sobbed out. This time, MG almost drove off into a ditch. How could Lizzie say that? She had every right to react like that.

"No, you're not. I promise you," he said and glanced over at Lizzie, who was looking back at him with puffy eyes and a pout on her lips. She shook her head.

"I am," she croaked. "I probably offended him."

"Who cares about that?!" MG fumed. How could she be victimizing Sebastian? How could Lizzie not see? Was she really that blind? "Who cares what that asshole thinks? He hurt you!"

MG had to turn his eyes back to the road, but he could still see Lizzie sitting up straight, rubbing an eye. 

"You deserve more than that," he added sheepishly. 

Lizzie stayed silent, and MG wanted to regret saying that, but he couldn't. Lizzie deserved to know the truth. She was obviously blind to Sebastian's behavior.

"You think so?" she whispered. MG turned his head over, giving Lizzie a promising look.

"With my whole heart."

--

"He did what?" Josie fumed. How could Sebastian do such a thing to her sister? MG clicked his tongue and sighed. 

"Yeah," he said, teeth gritted. Josie scoffed and shook her head. 

"I swear," she muttered, closing her locker. "I am going to kill him."

The two of them walked through the hallways. She had avoided Hope all day. It was painful. Extremely painful. Especially since all those near encounters involved Landon with his arm around the shorter girl. It was like a 2-in-1. Only worse.

They sat down at their lunch table in the middle of the cafeteria. Lizzie was still at her own, only this time, Sebastian wasn't there. Good for her. 

She took out her lunch that she had packed, which was only a simple salad. MG, on the other hand, had a bag of pretzels. He grabbed out his notebook and pushed it towards Josie.

"I finished the essay last night, after the party," he said and grabbed a pretzel, snapping it between his teeth. Josie took the notebook and the sheets of paper that fell out. She read the whole thing quickly.

"Damn, MG," she said. "This is really good."

MG only smiled smugly. "I had some help from the best."

She snorted. 

Then a sudden hand yanked her away from her seat before she could even open her container of salad. She yelped before being thrown away from the table, tripping over her feet.

She turned around and met eyes with Hope. Her jaw clenched up. Of course.

"You're avoiding me," she pointed out.

Duh.

"Huh, am I?" she shrugged. "Oh."

Hope scoffed and grabbed Josie's wrist. "You left without telling me. I was worried sick this whole weekend if you were okay." 

Aww. That's so sweet-

No. It's the bare minimum. 

She mouthed a sarcastic thank you and turned around. MG was staring at her, a pretzel stuffed in his mouth. She pried her wrist from Hope's tight grip and walked back to MG. She sat back down in her seat, huffing an exaggerated sigh.

"Figures," she muttered, grabbing a pretzel from the bag and shoving it in her mouth.

 

Chapter Text

The day dragged on for eternity. When the final bell rang, Josie remained in her seat. MG was one brave soul for offering to walk with her to her locker. Of course, she objected, not wanting to put him through the trouble of joining the tycoon of students. 

For the time being, she just examined the doodles on the surface of her desk. There was a little cute drawing of a ladybug holding an umbrella that Josie had been staring for the majority of the class period. It wasn't there Friday, and looked awfully new. Perhaps whoever sat here last period had been a little bored during this lecture; which wasn't even a lecture. The pre-calculus teacher had gotten a sub, who obviously never touched a math textbook in his life. Thankfully, though, he let them catch up on missing assignments. 

Knock knock

The brunette whipped her head up and met eyes with MG. He was leaning against the doorframe, bookbag in one arm, and a big smile plastered across his face. Josie returned the expression and picked up her neatly packed pile of books. As soon as she came within one yard from MG, he got up from his position and they walked out of the classroom.

"No football on Mondays," he muttered quietly. The hallways were not empty at all, yet Josie could somehow hear him. Sophomore year, her and Landon would always hang out on Mondays after school. They would go to the Mystic Grill or just watch a movie at his house. His room was painfully screaming "high school f-boy" so loud it physically hurt, yet no one else knew about his secret DnD shrine in his closet. Not even Hope. Maybe.

"We should hang out, then," Josie shrugged, arriving at her locker and punching in the number code. It dinged with a small click. 

"That sounds great," MG said as the brunette grabbed her backpack and slammed the locker door shut. She slung it over her shoulder and faced MG, crossing her arms across her chest. 

"Where to?"

He hummed. Then his face brightened up as if a lightbulb just went off in his head. He snapped his fingers. "The Mystic Grill."

It wasn't that creative of an answer, but it wasn't one she could object. Josie hadn't been to the Mystic Grill since a month ago when she saw Landon and Hope making out in the parking lot. Puke.

"Okay," she nodded. He smiled proudly to himself.

"Would Lizzie be interesting in joining us?"

No. She was slouching around the hallways the entire day. She didn't even talk to anyone as far as Josie knew. Penelope had to come and ask Josie to deliver a message, but she'd already forgotten.

"I," she started, squinting her eyes slightly. "Don't think that's a good idea."

MG got the sign. He nodded with a disappointed huff.

They settled on taking MG's car, since Lizzie had been driven by Josie. Lizzie never had her own car. She always said she didn't trust herself with owning one, and it made sense. She was terrible at driving, so what's better than using her sister's car to crash into walls?

MG turned on the radio station with crappy rock music that Stefan would've liked. It didn't seem like MG enjoyed it either, yet they both chose to ignore it and deal with it for the two minute drive to the Mystic Grill. 

She caught herself drumming on the car door unconsciously. 

"Guess what," MG smiled smugly. His eyes were still on the road when Josie glanced over to him.

"What?"

"Guess."

"What?"

"Guess."

Josie rolled her eyes. "Let me guess, you got an A on your essay?"

She only meant it as a joke; Mrs. Bennett did not accept late work too well. Who's to think she would grade it in one day? Apparently she was wrong, though. MG turned his head slowly, a smile creeping up to his lips.

"A ninety-four," he corrected with a squeal, pulling his way into the parking lot. 

The brunette's eyes widened. She beamed in excitement. "Oh my gosh, MG! That's great!" she exclaimed. It was really great. And it made her feel even better that she had helped him, even though most of the work and effort was put in by him himself.

"Thanks," he huffed proudly and puffed his chest out. He quickly dropped that though as he pulled into a parking space on the side of the Grill. He turned off the car and got out of the car. Josie followed behind him, slightly jogging to catch up. She nearly crashed into his back when he suddenly stood still. 

"What's-"

Her question was cut off when MG pulled her to the side. He leaned his back against the brick wall and put a finger up to his lips. 

What's wrong? she wanted to ask. MG looked like he was on some super secret spy mission. With his other hand, he pointed behind him, then brought it up to his ear.

Josie held back the urge to roll her eyes, and instead listened. 

"At least we got wasted off the bottle she brought," a voice said, numerous chuckles following right after. Josie's bones stiffened. That was Sebastian. That was so obviously Sebastian.

"Ha! She's so lame. I would drop a girl if she was that big of a mood-killer." Roman.

"Don't worry, she will forgive you. Listen, those Saltzman twins are easy to play around with. They're like... puppets." Landon.

Josie's jaw clenched. A wave of nasty laughter rose among the group, which made her stomach coil in those hot, red chains.

Without thinking twice, she stormed away from the wall and MG, slapping his hand away when he tried to stop her. The group of boys all turned to look at her, but she didn't stop until she came up to Sebastian and used all the anger she had built up to slap him across the face. Hard.

He stumbled back and a hand darted up to his cheek. He rubbed it, but still stayed bent over the sidewalk.

"You are fucking sick!" she screamed, walking forward and kicking him in the stomach. This time, he fell backwards, landing on his back. A loud gah escaped his mouth. She was going to kick him one more time, until she felt a push against her shoulder. 

The brunette stumbled forward. A cloud of surprise hovered over her head, and she turned around. Roman was right behind her, his hand up. What an obvious scene.

"What do you think you're doing?" he smirked, walking forward and punching Josie straight in the stomach. She recoiled and bent over, grasping her abdomen in pain. It was a pretty weak punch. Josie had been expecting more, since he was on the football team, but she didn't think much of it. 

She straightened up almost immediately, though. Roman's eyebrows furrowed. He was in surprise. Surprise. Ha. He really thought that was strong enough to make her stop? No. She wasn't going to stop until all her anger left, or until she died. Hopefully it wasn't the latter.

He ran over and punched her stomach again. She recoiled, but the reaction was still the same.

She brought one arm up and swung it towards his stomach, right where he punched her. She hit a more sensitive spot in his abdomen, though, and that made him bend over and groan quietly. 

Damn, these guys are weaker than she thought.

"Josie! Watch out!" she heard. She couldn't register who said that, or what that even meant, until she looked up and saw Landon approach her. He was wearing a fuming expression on his face.

"Petty ex girlfriend, right?" he snarled and punched her straight in the face. 

Oh, she took that back.

The brunette fell over to the ground, her face hitting the cement hard. She had her teeth above her lip, and when she landed, her skin was dug and she could taste thick, metallic blood. Her nose was throbbing in pain. Josie rolled over.

Were there butterflies? Or was that a firework?

In the corner of her eye, she spotted MG sneaking up behind Landon. She wanted to yell "Don't!" He would lose any chance he had to play football, and it would all be Josie's fault.

But she couldn't talk. Her head was still spinning from the collision with the cement. She saw MG strangle his arms around the guy, earning a sound that came out from his throat. Then he brought up his leg and kicked Landon's shins, causing him to fall forward on the cement. He was too close to Josie.

And he smelled.

Somehow, that gave her the strength to get up. MG and her exchanged the same glance - we need to get the hell out of here. 

Josie took one more look at the boys scattered on the floor, and followed MG back to the car. His fingers shook as he took out his keys, but once he got it in, he backed out, immediately going around twenty-five MPH. 

The car filled with their heavy, shaky breathing. Neither of them said a word until MG pulled out of the parking lot. 

Josie's head was still spinning. She was winded. There was no way she had actually gotten in a fight with three football players, and made it out alive.

Almost as if their souls had connected for a second, they both erupted out in a crunchy and loud laugh.

"I can't believe we got away!" MG laughed. Josie shrieked in amusement. That was the ugliest way she laughed, but it also meant she found something dangerously funny. This was funny. It was so funny.

"Oh, that felt so good," she wiped a tear from her eyelids, then immediately flinched. The area pained underneath her touch. She pulled out the mirror and adjusted it so she could see, and-

Shit.

She had a black eye. 

"Holy..." MG faltered. "That looks bad."

--

Hope scrolled through her messages with Maya one more time, trying to find any sign of lie. She knew Maya was lying. She knew. There was no way the principal caught them ditching class. He never said anything. 

The auburn-haired girl groaned, but held back the urge to throw her phone against the window and shatter it. She opened the door and left the car, swinging her purse over her shoulder and rustling down her outfit. 

Her eyes darted from her outfit to the front of the Grill. She furrowed her eyebrows down, squinting her eyes to make sure she was seeing what she was seeing right. 

Oh.

A brick hit her straight through her head. 

Why the hell was Landon, Roman, and Sebastian sprawled all over the ground? They were supposed to be finding them a seat. Monday afternoons were always busy with football and volleyball players. 

Yet, here they were slacking off, sleeping on the cement.

She rolled her eyes and huffed, ultimately deciding to just walk inside and find the seats herself. She approached the three guys. Her breath got caught in her throat.

Oh, they weren't sleeping.

Landon was curled in a ball, rubbing his head. Roman was attempting to get up, but kept stumbling over himself. Sebastian had managed to pick himself up, yet he was limping his way over to Hope.

"Seb, what went on over here?" she breathed, looking down at her boyfriend. When she glanced back up to Sebastian, he was wrinkling up his face, closing his eyes shut. His cheek was slightly scraped and revealed a bit of flesh.

He remained silent, now putting his hands on his lips and huffing. Hope rolled her eyes and looked down at Landon, who was actually picking himself up. His lip was busted.

She grunted in confusion. The boys were all groaning in pain, yet she had no idea what was going on.

Hope walked forward and cupped Landon's cheek, rubbing her thumb over his busted, bloody lip. "What happened, baby?" she cooed.

He fluttered his eyes open, his pupils darting around Hope's face. He broke out in a small smile. "Nothing, love." 

Lie. Lie. Lie.

Why was everyone lying to her today?

Hope pecked his lips slightly. "Tell me the truth," she murmured, stroking his cheek.

Landon opened his mouth, yet no words came out. Roman had interrupted whatever he was going to say with a loud, "I'm still hungry!"

She cursed him under her breath. The rest of the boys agreed, though, a wave of "mhm" following right after. Unbelievable. 

Hope clenched her jaw and released a sharp breath as the three all stumbled behind her, like she was their mom. 

They all followed her into the Grill. Her senses were smacked when she entered the restaurant bustling with chatter. It was warm and thick, though it smelled good. A greasy good.

Thankfully there was one more empty booth that could fit the four of them. They got themselves seated, Hope sitting on the edge with Landon snug in near the wall. Roman and Sebastian sat on the other side. 

She observed as Roman laid his head down, groaning in pain. Sebastian saw him, and joined in. Then Landon.

This was fucking embarrassing.

It looked like she was at a table surrounded by zombies. It even caught the attention from a few people around them. She glared at the group of girls that giggled at her friends sprawled out dramatically across the table. They shot back a snarl, before turning back and minding their own businesses.

"Okay," she huffed, breaking the silence. She didn't bother to hide the stern tone in her voice. They were driving her insane. "What the hell happened?"

Roman perked his head up, his eyes still closed. "The Almighty Two struck," he chuckled, immediately wincing in pain right after. She couldn't care less about that, though. All she could think about at that moment was why they were with The Almighty Two, and what he meant by "struck."

That's the name they had given Josie and MG ever since they saw them together. It was a mockery; a cruel, sick, and unnecessary joke.

"I'm sorry," she blinked. "Can you elaborate more, instead of fucking drooling all over the table?" she spat. Roman grunted and turned his head down. She scoffed.

"Roman, if you don't-"

"Saltzman got offended, Saltzman got feisty, Saltzman go boom!" Sebastian popped up, pointing aggressively to the scratch on his face. "Boom!" he mocked.

Hope can not make up the way a stick stabbed through her stomach. No, that couldn't be possible, right? Josie didn't get in fights - well, that soccer game she did, but it was just soft shoving. By the looks of it, this wasn't any soft shoving. 

"Wha-"

Sebastian scoffed. "Good thing Landon was the only one who was able to knock her down," he chuckled, wincing in pain once more. Hope would roll her eyes at him, but her mind was more occupied by whatever the hell he meant. What the fuck did Landon do?

She turned slowly to face him, his head already up and his eyes shooting glares at Sebastian. He noticed Hope and turned to face her quickly, his mouth sputtering.

"Wait- No, Hope- I-It's not-"

He couldn't even finish before she grabbed his ear and dragged him out of the booth the same way Katherine did at the soccer game.

"Ah- Ow! Hope!" he groaned. She only rolled her eyes and proceeded to drag him out of the Grill. The auburn-haired girl kicked the door open and yanked Landon's body forward, causing him to stumble over himself.

"What the hell did you do to Josie?" she fumed. She watched as her boyfriend straightened up, rubbing his ear. He panted.

"I didn't do shit," he trembled. Well, that was an obvious lie. She snarled and walked forward, crossing her arms across her chest. 

"Tell me the fucking truth, Kirby." 

He should've gotten the hint. She always called him Landon, or baby. Kirby always horrified him.

He did get the hint, thankfully.

"Fine," he spat. He walked towards Hope, towering over her. She gulped.  "You want the truth? I'll give you the truth. My petty ex girlfriend decided she wanted to destroy our asses."

Oh. Good for Josie.

Yet, that didn't convince her. "Then what did Sebastian mean about you 'knocking her down?'"

That seemed to hit a sensitive spot. Landon froze, and that made Hope freeze as well. Not in the same way, though. Her stomach clenched up in hopes that Josie didn't actually get hurt, but Landon was in shame.

"I did what I had to do, Hope," he gritted out. Oh, how Hope's chest tightened.

"What did you fucking do..." she faltered, her voice growing harder with each word. Landon only scoffed, rolling his eyes and looking away. 

"I just punched her, okay?" he seethed, throwing his hands up in exasperation. 

His words stabbed Hope right in the heart. Her mind grew foggy, unable to register what he just said. 

"You did what?" she scowled. Landon laughed, but there was no sign of amusement in his voice.

"What else was I supposed to do, Hope? Huh? Just let her beat up my friends?" 

"Josie wouldn't beat someone up for no reason, Landon," she gritted out. 

Her boyfriend scoffed. 

This was unbelievable. This was so fucking unbelievable. "You could've just let Roman or Seb handle it themselves, or, even better, just end the fight altogether! You know you're stronger than them! You could've seriously hurt her!"

Hope didn't care if she was in the right or the wrong. She didn't even know, but she did know that Landon was stronger than the rest of them. Sebastian and Roman were pretty weak. But what else do you expect from high school football boys? They love fights, at least these three did.

"Okay, okay! I get it Hope! I fucking get it, okay? Now can you just calm down and let us enjoy this afternoon for once?" he yelled. "You always have to ruin everything, with your, your," he hesitated. "Need to make everything better!"

Hope's insides boiled. She could feel the back of her neck heat up. "You are so fucking unbelievable!" she yelled back, forcing herself to un-plant her feet from the ground and walk past Landon, but not without shoving his shoulder hard.

"Where are you going?" he yelled from behind.

She didn't bother to stop, didn't even bother to give a verbal response. She just stuck up a middle finger above her head, keeping it up until she made her way to her car, getting in and driving off in the fastest manner she could manage, her knuckles turning white from her grip on the wheel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Hope inhaled through her nose, and exhaled through her mouth to ease out the sparks of fury glued to her chest. This was a technique Josie had taught her when she fell off the hill last year at summer camp to ease out her pain. Josie was her favorite medical helper there. She was gentle, kind, and never stopped helping until she got better. Maybe her opinion was biased, but everything else was true.

She pulled into Josie's neighborhood. The place was far too familiar. Landon always brought her here so that hey could hang out with Roman. And Josie and her would walk around the neighborhood at night, gossiping about whatever it is that high school girls gossip about. Then they would sneak back into the house. Lizzie would catch them every single time, of course, but she wasn't a snitch. Or, maybe she was just too tired to think. 

Hope drove up the Saltzman driveway, parking her car. She lingered there for a while, drumming her thumbs on the wheel. Josie's car was parked right next to her, in front of a random gray car that Hope had never seen in her life. The pastel yellow color always blinded her, but it was Josie's favorite color, therefore she couldn't complain.

Should she go in? If anything, Josie would probably just kick her out. Maybe throw her out the window. 

With one deep inhale, Hope opened the door and stumbled out of the car. She tip toed over to the front door, as if she was forbidden to even set foot on this driveway. It was unspoken, though it was loud; Hope clearly was not allowed here.

Whatever. She arrived at the front door. Hesitantly, she pulled her trembling hand to the doorbell. It lingered there for a while, before Hope's body reacted before she could even think.

Ding Dong

She waited. Her finger was still glued on the doorbell, but she couldn't bring herself to pull it back. Her heart was thundering in her chest so hard that Hope wouldn't be surprised if it just jumped out.

After a good ten seconds of waiting, she heard a small click and found the strength to bring her finger back and straighten herself up. The door opened, revealing Caroline. She was holding a bottle of beer in her hand, clearly hoping to get a little bit tipsy. 

Josie's house was usually quiet, calm, and overall comforting. Right now was quite the opposite. Loud music played in the back, bundles of chatter floated around, and the smell hinted strongly of beer. 

"Yes, dear?" Caroline smiled. She opened the door wider, and her mouth immediately opened. "Oh, Hope." She said that as if it were a question, yet her tone didn't indicate that. Was it a question? Or was she just annoyed that Hope had came?

Damn it. This was a bad idea. Maybe if she was fast enough, she could just run back to her car and drive as fast-

"Come in."

Hope visibly blinked. Caroline had regained her smile and the door was now opening wider. 

"Oh," she croaked out, her voice embarrassingly rough. Caroline remained smiling, motioning Hope to come inside. The auburn-haired girl took one last glance at the woman before bringing her feet to take a step inside. 

Oh, the inside of the house was not a very relaxing environment. She could see Stefan talking with Coach Elena's husband. Damon. Huh, that's odd to have your daughter's soccer coach's husband at your house.

Then Katherine - bleh - strutted towards the two men, clearly drunk. She rested one arm on Damon's shoulder and wrapped her other around Stefan's neck. She pecked the two of them on the cheek, making Hope internally throw up her entire system of organs.

"Will you quit it, Katherine?" a clearly annoyed voice sneered. Hope's eyes darted towards the source of the sound. Elena was leaning against the island in the kitchen, a bottle of water - not beer - in her hand.

Katherine looked over, smirking. "Oopsies," she shrugged and let go of the two men. Damon's eyes rolled to the back of his head.

"Why did you invite her, brother?" he asked Stefan.

Brother? As far as Hope had known Josie's immediate family, she didn't know Stefan had a brother. They didn't even look alike. Damon had slick black hair, while Stefan had some shade of brown.

It's none of your business, she thought. 

The auburn-haired girl turned around to where Caroline had shut the door. 

"Josie isn't home," she said. Hope's eyebrows furrowed. Josie's car was here, was it not? No, it was. No one in the world could miss the sight of that blinding yellow vehicle.

Her chest filled with disappointment. "Oh," was all she could manage to get out.

Caroline looked at her with reassuring eyes. She grabbed both of Hope's hands in her own and pulled them up. "Stay for dinner, Hope."

"Oh, no, it's okay," Hope blurted out. Yeah, there was no way she was going to stay for dinner. Josie would kill her with her glares, Stefan would roast the hell out of her, and Caroline would poison her food. "It's okay," she repeated.

The woman only raised an eyebrow, then sighed. "Hayley fed my daughter that one night. It would hurt my etiquette to not return the favor," she smiled, letting go of Hope's hands and patting her on the back. "No escape," she finished and walked off.

Hope huffed. Damn it.

Maybe she could sit in Josie's room for the time being and wait for her to arrive. Then she could see if Josie was okay, and the worry in her stomach would finally go away - or get worse. Hopefully it wasn't the latter, and Josie was strong enough to not end up dead.

Oh, no. What if she was dead? What if that's the reason she wasn't at home right now? 

Without wasting one more second, Hope ran to the staircase and dashed up the stairs. She headed down the hall to where Josie's room was and kicked the door, attempting to open it. Of course it didn't open. Stefan had to install a new, stronger door for Josie after the two friends had repeatedly kicked it open during their freshman and sophomore year, eventually kicking it down. May that beautiful warrior door rest in peace.

So she just turned the knob and opened the door. The room was empty, making Hope's heart fall quickly and lightly. Josie couldn't have been dead. It was just one punch, right? Right? 

Her hand trembled on the doorknob. She tightened her grip before walking in and closing the door behind her and prying her hand off the knob. She looked at her palm, examining her callouses turning white. 

"Hope?" 

The auburn-haired girl let out a yelp. Was the ghost of Josie haunting her? 

Her thoughts were interrupted, thankfully, when a brown haired-head peeked up from behind Josie's bed. Her heart regained its position and a rush of nice, warm relief washed through her body.

Josie was alive, thank goodness.

--

"What are you doing here?" Josie asked. Hope was standing awkwardly at the entrance to her room. Her hands were super white, like she had been climbing a mountain on her way here. 

"Uh," the other girl sputtered out. Josie stood up fully and walked towards Hope, crossing her arms across her chest. "I wanted to see if you were okay. I heard about your, you know," she chuckled. "Fight."

Josie's chest curled up. The idea of Hope coming here to check if she was fine made her feel all sorts of ways. Distress, comfort, annoyance. Just being in her presence caused Josie's arms to tremble. She was so close, so warm, and her strawberry candy and coconut scent seemed like it would linger in her room forever.

Josie had to clear her throat to snap out of her own thoughts. Hope was waiting for an answer, quite awkwardly. Her fingers fiddled with each other and she was avoiding eye contact.

"I'm okay," she mumbled. That was a lie. Her stomach felt like it was made out of rocks, her lip was ugly and stung whenever she closed her mouth, and her eye was hideous. And it hurt. 

Hope looked up, her pupils immediately shrinking. They darted across Josie's face.

Did she think Josie was ugly? Well, according to locker room chatter, your pupils are supposed to dilate when you see something that attracts you. Does that mean Hope is the opposite? Well, Josie did have a busted up face at the moment. Damn it. Hope probably thought she was the ugliest person in the world considering how small her pupils shrunk-

"Your eye," Hope breathed. 

Josie felt soft skin wrap into the crevices of her fingers. She looked down. Hope's hand was intertwined with hers, the shorter girl's thumb rubbing along Josie's knuckles. 

She pulled away, ignoring the painfully loud urge to stay in that position. The brunette hated so badly how Hope could just look at her, and she'd feel the world falling down. It made it impossible to avoid her. 

"Can you please go?" she muttered quietly. "I'm fine. Everything is fine."

Hope scoffed. "No it's not, Josie. It's clearly not," she said, as if Josie should have already known. Her eyebrows were scrunched down. Her expression seemed offended, but why? It wasn't like Josie made fun of her.

The brunette just sighed dramatically. "How did you even know about the fight? Did your little boyfriend tell you?" she choked out the word boyfriend. Josie didn't mean to sound petty, but she also didn't mind if it came off that way.

Hope glared at her for a second, before dropping it and replacing it with a sad smile. "Why are you doing this to yourself?" she whispered. Her voice was hoarse and thin. 

When Josie stayed silent, Hope continued. "You're constantly putting yourself in trouble. First the underage alcohol purchases, sneaking out of my house in the middle of the night, and now this?" her hands gestured towards Josie's face. "You're acting careless."

Josie grumbled. She was right. Of course she was right. Hope Mikaelson was always right and she hated it. She hated it so much.

"What do you want me to do then, huh?" she sneered. That seemed to knock Hope off guard. She opened her mouth, hesitating before finally speaking.

"Just let me help you, please," she whispered, nodding towards Josie's eye. 

The brunette shook her head and shrugged. "It's just a black eye. Besides. MG is already helping me."

The shorter girl flinched, her eye twitching.

That was sort of a lie. MG had only gotten an ice pack for her stomach, but Josie forced him to go talk to Lizzie. She was brooding in her room and was hogging all the ice cream in the freezer. She even hissed at Josie when she opened the door. It was a mystery how MG had even gotten in.

Josie's eyes darted down to the knee brace on Hope's leg. Thankfully she seemed to be okay. Her knee, that is.

"Well, I don't see him here," Hope shrugged. Josie looked back up, meeting the shorter girl's smug smile. Her insides filled with light rage.

"Well, I clearly don't want you here. So why don't you go strut back to your little boyfriend and his jerk cult before-"

"Sit down."

Excuse me? Josie thought. 

"What?"

Hope rolled her eyes, slightly pushing Josie backwards to her bed. She had no choice but to do so, otherwise her body will crash into Hope's and she wouldn't be able to breathe properly.

The back of her knees hit the comforter, and she rested her body on the top of the bed. Hope retracted her hands and pointed one finger up. "Lay down, I'll be right back," she commanded, and darted out of Josie's room.

The audacity she had to tell Josie to lay down! No, Josie was not going to comply. She was going to be stubborn and continue sitting up. Yeah. That'll show her.

Her nightstand vibrated. She grabbed her phone and flipped it over. 

Unknown Number

hey

Josie blinked. She quickly texted back.

Who is this?

She tapped the sides of her phone as she waited for the speech bubbles to answer.

Unknown Number

hint, bourbon girl ;)

The brunette choked on air. How did Jade get her number? 

She shook off any negative thoughts and what ifs. Jade could be plotting something so that they win their next soccer game. Josie added her as a contact named "Jade" and texted a quick,

Oh. Hi :) How did you get my number?

Waiting. Damn, Jade typed slow.

Jade

a friend of mine gave it. ur pretty cute

Josie's cheeks flushed bright red. Her lips curled up without permission. No one's ever gotten her number, and called her cute without being forced to. 

Thank you. You are too.

The door suddenly opened, causing Josie to flinch and whip her head up. Hope was winded, panting, and holding a towel in her hand with a bunch of other medical supplies. Josie raised a brow.

"What are-"

"I said to lay down," Hope huffed, marching over and pushing Josie gently back. Her body complied, not her mind. She was still trying to be stubborn, but her body had other plans.

Now she was laying her head back on her linen pillow. Hope took the phone out of Josie's hand and set it down on the nightstand table, before pressing the towel down on her eyelid. The brunette winced at the sudden, warm cloth hitting her skin. It felt good.

With her other eye opened, she glanced up at Hope, who was wearing a heavily focused expression. Josie's chest fluttered lightly at how close she was. She smelled good. And her hair looked so, so soft. She wanted to slap Hope's hand away, but the towel felt good on her eyelid. So instead, she pushed Hope away and kept her hand on the towel.

"He-Ey!" Hope tumbled backwards, having to catch herself with her feet. "What was that for?"

"Get out," Josie shrugged. Hope's fallen expression made her gulp. "Thanks for the towel," she added, as if that would make her demand come off nicer.

Hope grumbled. She picked herself back to a standing position and walked back over, prying Josie's hand off softly and applying her own. She shuddered at the contact and rubbed off the area where Hope had touched her hand. The shorter girl seemed to notice that, as she blinked two times and tucked her top lip between her lip.

"Please just let me help. Just this once," she whispered. "I'll leave you alone if you really want me to. But not today." Her voice was pleading and hoarse. Maybe on the edge of tears. Her eyes darted down to Hope's blouse, which was a nice maroon color. 

"Please don't tell my mom or Stefan," she muttered, looking back up at Hope, who was already looking at her in the eyes- or eye. "MG and I had to sneak in through the window so they wouldn't see. My mom is already on my tail."

Hope chuckled.

"Don't worry," she said softly and added a smile. A warm, genuine smile, with the edges of her lips moving sideways instead of up.

Josie closed her other eye and allowed her body to relax. If she just pretended Hope wasn't here, then everything would be great. 

Her cheek twitched when she felt a cold wipe smear across her cheek. She fluttered her eye open. Hope was smothering a wipe across her face.

"To clean the wounds," she mumbled as if she could read Josie's mind. Her fingers brushed softly across the bridge of Josie's nose. A chill ran down her spinal cord.

Hope stiffened. She paused her smothering movement and rested her wrist against Josie's cheek. "Why did you leave Saturday night?" she whispered, sounding almost ashamed. 

Josie stiffened as well. Even she didn't have an exact reason why. "I don't know," she choked.

Hope's eyes darted across Josie's face, making the brunette gulp down a threatening ball in her throat. The two stayed silent, with Hope's eyes on Josie's cheek and the towel, with Josie's on the door.

Please, MG, save me, she thought.

"Oh," she heard. She looked back at Hope. The auburn-haired girl looked puzzled, but she continued whatever she was doing. 

Hope set the wipe on the nightstand and took out a roll of bandages. She rolled it out and ripped a small portion, removing it from it's sheet and placing it on Josie's cheek. 

"Are you okay?" she asked. Josie's chest tightened at the sudden change of tone. Just ten seconds ago, it sounded like Hope was taking a math test, but now she sounded almost glad. Her voice was stable and certain. Maybe even happy.

"Yeah," Josie replied. Hope smiled widely, her eyes shrinking. She grabbed another bandage and leaned over to the other side of Josie's face. Once she rested her hand on Josie's stomach, the brunette felt like she was going to throw up. Maybe it was the contact, or maybe she really was going to throw up.

Her abdomen screamed in agony. 

"GAH!" she let out and flinched dramatically, her legs curling up and her head snapping to the other side.

Hope immediately flinched and removed her hand off Josie's stomach. 

"Jo-" Hope choked out. "What happened? Are you okay?" Josie flinched at the nickname, but not as aggressive as she just did. Hope hadn't called her that in forever. And it sounded beautiful as it rolled off her tongue.

Josie forced herself to roll over and force a smile. The towel had fell off her face, so Hope leaned over and put it back to Josie's eyelid before asking again, "Are you okay?"

"Yes," Josie squeaked. 

Damn it, how embarrassing.

Hope furrowed her eyebrows and shook her head slightly. Her eyes darted down to Josie's stomach, then to Josie's eyes, then to her stomach, then back to her eyes, then back to her stomach. She immediately lifted the hem of Josie's blouse and pulled it up. Josie's body flinched sideways at the sudden cold air hitting the skin of her stomach.

"Holy shit-" Hope gasped. 

Josie looked down as well. 

Her breath got caught in her throat. Her stomach was so incredibly ugly, with purple and gray blotches around her abdomen. Maybe that's why it hurt so much. She quickly pulled down her shirt and shut her eye tight.

"Josie, what happened? Did you get punched here as well?" Hope said and lifted the shirt back up, to which Josie immediately pulled back down. There was no doubt that she was blushing madly.

Josie," Hope scolded. She brought one hand up and cupped the brunette's cheek. She wanted to swat it off, but if she moved her arms, Hope would probably look at her ugly stomach again and decide to tell Stefan.

The brunette fluttered her eye open. Hope's expression was almost miserable. Maybe "miserable" was an over exaggeration, but she did seem pretty unhappy.

"Do you have an ice pack?" she whispered, stroking her thumb along Josie's cheek. Her body filled with chills and tingles, to which she didn't necessarily hate, but caused her to actually slap Hope's hand away this time.

"Yeah," she cleared her throat. "Right behind you. On the nightstand."

Hope swallowed and nodded. She turned her head and grabbed the icepack, squishing it before turning back around. She stared at Josie's stomach. The brunette knew exactly what she was thinking.

"Just let me do it," Josie mumbled, taking the icepack from Hope's hand and applying it to her stomach herself, wincing slightly at the cold contact.

Hope cleared her throat. "Okay," she whispered, pursing her lips tightly together and leaning over to place the bandage on Josie's face. She pulled back and clapped her hands together, rubbing her palms against each other. "I assume the towel's gone cold by now. I'll uh," she un-pursed her lips with a pop. "Go warm it up again." She removed the towel off of Josie's eye, taking it in her own and turning around and leaving the room without glancing at Josie.

The brunette let out a breath. She awkwardly fiddled with the ice pack on her stomach, wondering that if she had let Hope do it, the shorter girl wouldn't be as disappointed. That didn't matter, right? Hope could have her heart ripped out for all Josie cared. No, that was dramatic and very unrealistic.

She let out a loud sigh and grabbed her phone. 

Jade

how r u today cutie?

Josie snorted.

Not good. Lol.

She didn't expect Jade to reply quickly, considering she replied about ten minutes late. But to her surprise, she did.

Jade

what happened? 

Josie huffed. She wasn't going to just tell a stranger that she'd gotten in a fight. That would not make a good impression. Or maybe it would. 

My ice cream dropped on the floor. What about you?

She pulled a finger in between her teeth, waiting for an answer and hoping that she wouldn't ask anymore questions.

Jade

high as hell rn! xoxo

Josie let out a loud laugh. She didn't know the girl almost at all, yet she seemed like the type to get high on a late Monday afternoon.

Well then. Have fun :)

The door creaked open, causing Josie to whip her head up from the screen. Hope was slumping inside quite miserably. She had a towel in her hand, but her face was drooping all the way to the floor.

"You alright?" Josie asked, setting her phone down on the nightstand. Hope flinched. She'd been spacing off while looking at Josie, but she seemed to be back in her senses.

"Oh, yeah," Hope stammered, closing her eyes softly and laughing. She walked over to Josie and set the towel back on her eyelid. 

The room was awfully silent. Hope kept her eyes on the towel, while Josie kept her eyes on Hope's. They were beautiful. The blue color was luring her in, and she was trying so hard not to fall.

"I'm sorry," she suddenly choked out. Her eyes moved to Josie's, locking them in place. The brunette sucked in a breath.

"For what?"

The shorter girl cleared her throat and adjusted her posture. She stood up, bringing one of Josie's hand to hold onto the towel above her eyelid, and walked over to sit on the edge of the bed.

"For leaving you," she whispered, smiling then quickly dropping it. "For being such a shitty friend, for not considering how you felt. I've been awful," she croaked. Josie stayed silent, only staring at Hope blankly. She couldn't process anything right now. She didn't even know what she was feeling at the moment.

She was just blank.

Hope didn't seem to be wanting a response right now, though. She continued. "What I did was terrible. It was so horribly cruel, and, I know that it would be impossible to have you forgive me." She was now scooching forward towards Josie. The brunette sat up, keeping the towel on her eyelid and the icepack on her abdomen. "But I wanted you to know that I have always noticed you. I never forgot about you, and I never stopped caring about you."

Josie was beginning to register her apology. Before she knew it, a tear had rolled down her cheek. She swiped it off quickly before Hope could see, but the shorter girl was only looking at her lap. 

She looked up, and Josie could see her watery eyes. She cracked a small, sad smile, before leaning in and placing her soft lips above Josie's eyelid. 

The brunette froze. She couldn't move, breathe, or even think. She felt like an inanimate object -  like a rock. Josie felt like a rock that was allowing the person who tore her heart apart to kiss her eyelid.

Josie's finally reconnected to her senses. She pushed Hope away from her, though she was gentle with it. "Hope," she spoke sternly. The shorter girl was only blinking profusely. "Please, leave."

"Uh, sorry," she mumbled, standing up. She ruffled down her outfit and said, "Take care of yourself, Josie. Please." 

And with that, Hope turned around, stumbled over to the door, and left. Just like that. The room grew in this awful, awkward, stiff and dense silence. She could feel the touch of Hope's lips against her eyelid sting even more with every second passing by.

After a good minute, she huffed and moved towards the foot of the bed before standing up. The brunette walked over to the window and opened the curtains a little more so that she could stare out the window like a girl in a movie who just got her heart broken. But really, her heart wasn't broken. Just irritated and sour.

A voice from below caught her attention. Her ears perked up.

"I'm just so sick of you, Landon."

"Oh, you're sick of me? You're sick of me?"

There was no doubt that these two were definitely Hope and Landon. She looked down. The girl was standing at the door of her car, while Landon was standing on the street with Roman.

"I've put up with your bullshit for far too long!" Hope snapped.

"What kind of bullshit, Hope? Huh? Not taking you to the Halloween party?" 

Hope scoffed. "You fucking hurt Josie!" she stormed over to the two boys. "You too," she gritted out to Roman, who put his hands up in defense. 

"Josie? Josie? This is about Josie?" Landon hummed humorously. "You're the one who dated your best friend's boyfriend, and now you're defending her?" he scoffed. "You're just as bad as I am."

"Yeah, well, that was clearly the worst choice I've ever made in my life," she sneered. Landon opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, the auburn-haired girl brought a hand up and slapped him across the face. 

Josie put a hand over her mouth to muffle her gasp. Roman decided to part ways. He ran in the other direction towards the comfort of his own home. Josie scoffed. Why did he run from Hope, yet punch Josie? Not cool.

"You've turned into the worst person I can possibly be with. It's becoming more and more impossible each day to even be around you!" she yelled. Landon huffed sarcastically.

"I could say the same to you!"

"Say it, then."

Landon shook his head. "You can't be serious, Hope," he scoffed. 

Hope didn't do anything. She remained still. Josie opened the window to hear better, if she was even saying anything. She wasn't.

"Well?" Landon sneered.

"I think we should separate," she choked out. "For good."

Josie's heart thundered. She was witnessing the breakup of the couple she hated the most. What a blissful feeling.

Landon's mouth was wide. He was in shock, obviously. With one movement, he shook his head, gritted his teeth, and walked off in the direction of Roman's house.

Hope was left alone in the middle of the street. She remained, an expression plastered on her face that Josie couldn't quite read. Then, in a split second, she broke out into tears. Her legs trembled before giving up and causing her to fall on the street. She didn't seem to care, though. She stayed on the ground, curled up into a ball.

Meanwhile, Josie grew panicked. Her chest tightened, not corresponding well to how weak her arms became. She opened the window wider. 

No, she couldn't jump out. It was easy to climb up, but jumping down was not a good choice. Her room was at the front of the house, so there were no bushes she could land on.

So she decided to yell, "Hope!" and wave her arms out the window like a maniac. Thankfully it was loud enough to catch the girl's attention. She looked up and her eyes instantly widened. Josie motioned her to come towards her.

The auburn-haired girl stayed frozen. Only for like, two seconds, though. Then she reluctantly stood up and stumbled over to the driveway. "What?" she croaked out.

Josie pointed towards the ladder her and MG had left. Hope furrowed her eyes, but walked towards it anyways. The brunette stared awkwardly as Hope made her way up the ladder. 

"Come in," she whispered. The shorter girl crawled across the roof and crouched near the window Josie was hiding behind. Josie wrapped an arm around Hope's back and forced her inside. Maybe she pushed Hope a little too hard, causing her to fall inside the room head-first.

"Sorry," Josie mumbled and reached a hand out. Hope rolled over and stared at her with her teary, red eyes. A pout was drawn on her lips so delicately. But she eventually accepted the hand and helped herself up.

As soon as Hope was standing in front of the brunette, Josie engulfed her into a hug. She felt the latter's back stiffen until she melted into Josie's embrace. Her scent overpowered the brunette's senses, and her body was warm.

Later she could throw Hope out of a window. But not now. She had just broke up with Landon, for goodness sake, because he punched Josie. Now was not the time to act petty.

She tightened her arms around Hope. The shorter girl let out a breath onto her neck, before snuggling her nose in the crook of it.

 

Chapter Text

The Salvatore brothers stood on one side of the patio deck, while Elena, Katherine, and Caroline scattered around on the other. Elena made sure to keep a good distance from Katherine, resulting in her gluing herself by Caroline's side.

"Relax, Elena. She does the same with Stefan," the blonde shrugged, taking a small sip her beer. Elena only scoffed and crossed her arms.

"Well, you clearly don't look the exact same as her," she mumbled. Caroline choked on her own laughter, earning a side glare from the brunette. 

The sound of the backyard door opening brought the blonde's attention. Her lips drew a smile as her eyes set on her best friend.

"Bonnie!" Damon cheered, setting his beer down on the railing of the patio deck and walking over towards the woman. He wrapped his arms around her. 

"Hello, everyone," she smiled, then quickly dropped it and pulled away. "I thought you guys said Josette wasn't home?"

Caroline's eyes darted towards Stefan, who was already looking at her. They exchanged confused looks.

Slowly, he turned his head back towards Bonnie, furrowing his eyebrows. "She isn't," he claimed, though his tone hinted major drops of unsureness. 

Suddenly Katherine let out a loud, exasperated groan. "I can't do this anymore," she huffed, throwing her hands up like all the stress in the world fell on her. "Can we just get this over with? I have important things to do," she snarled, wiping her teeth with the tips of her fingers.

"Like what, tell my team to run suicides until their legs fall off?" Elena spat. Katherine looked over and sneered, smiling sarcastically.

"Oh, cheer up. No one likes a buzzkill." She walked over and reached her hand out, offering the bottle of beer right under Elena's lips. She pushed it away and scoffed.

"Guys," Bonnie scolded. "Josette failed her test last week, yet she hasn't reached out for a retake or to see what she did wrong."

Josie never failed a test. If she even got as low as a B, Mrs. Bennett would hold on for her life while the brunette frantically interrogated her about what questions she missed. Hell, an F would usually give her a heart attack.

"So what? The girl's failed one test," Damon shrugged. Stefan slapped him on the head.

"What I'm trying to say is, Josette is going through something. Remember her fight?" she asked and nodded towards Elena. 

"It's her breakup with Hayley's daughter, I'm sure," Elena replied. "Ever since that, she's told her teammates to hit her in the stomach with soccer balls everyday until a few weeks ago."

"They parted, sure. But they never dated," Caroline blurted. "Also, why haven't you ever told me that?!"

The brothers snickered, causing them to earn a glare from the blonde.

"Care," Bonnie faltered off. She approached her and grabbed her hands in her own. "I think you should keep Josette away from Hope for a while. This has all started ever since they started talking again."

Caroline huffed and shook her head in denial. "No, I thought that this was because they separated? If we just bring them together again-"

"Care," Bonnie scolded. The blonde's words froze abruptly. "Hope isn't doing any good for you daughter like she used to."

"But," Caroline sputtered. She looked around and observed everyone's eyes looking back at her sadly. Even Stefan, who always agreed with her.

She let out a long exhale, tugging her bottom lip between her teeth. "You're right," she looked in Bonnie's eyes, tightening her hands. "I'll call Hayley and ask her to hold Hope back."

A sudden shuffle behind the group perked Caroline's ears up. She whipped her head around, only catching a glimpse of auburn hair in the window before the figure ran off.

--

Josie slow exhaled, careful to not breathe on Hope's neck as she pulled away. The latter didn't seem to agree, though, tugging at Josie's shoulder and pulling herself closer. 

In all honesty, despite how awkward it was, Josie enjoyed hugging Hope. She'd always rest her chin above the brunette's shoulder and wrap her arms underneath Josie's and across her torso. 

Still, she managed to whisper a small, yet stern "Hope." 

She felt Hope's shoulders stiffen under her touch. The shorter girl slowly pulled back her arms from Josie's torso and stepped back, staring at a wall behind Josie. Her body grew cold, and she had to fight the urge to pull Hope's hands back up to her.

What now? Josie never had to comfort someone after a breakup. Sure, she went through one herself, so that means she could relate, right? Wrong. Josie's breakdown was the ugliest thing she's ever had. Hope didn't seem to be as affected by Landon as she was. 

Hesitantly, she brought a hand up and placed it on Hope's shoulder, patting her. The latter looked at her like she was crazy, but she didn't notice. She was too busy cursing herself for treating Hope like she was a dog.

God, this was so embarrassing. It was like her body had stopped working with her mind and was now making choices on its own. She continued patting Hope until the shorter girl eventually grabbed her hand and gently set it down.

A blush spread to her cheeks. Thankfully Hope was still looking at Josie's hand that was previously patting her like a house pet to notice.

"I think I'm going to go," Hope muttered. "My mom wants me home."

"Okay," Josie nodded. It was hard to ignore the pang of disappointment that ate her up. She shouldn't have felt disappointed. If anything, she should have felt happy that Hope was finally leaving. Damn it, why did she have to make Josie feel this way?

Confused, miserable, and a loser. Everything Josie was could never compare to Hope's perfectly fine, charismatic personality. She was jealous.

Josie was jealous.

Jealous how Hope could even be a little bit happier with Landon than she was with Josie. Jealous how Hope never felt any sort of heartbreak when they parted. Yet, here she was, crying over Landon. 

Then it hit Josie. So hard, straight through the chest and right in the heart. How could she be so stupid to never realize it? Hope never loved her. Not the way Josie loved her. She never cried over Josie like she did right now over Landon.

All sorts of colors filled Josie's stomach. The color of anger, envy, and heartbreak. Her heart wrenched up, removing any source of joy she's felt this entire week.

God, she was such a loser. 

"Okay," Hope echoed. Josie's eyes glued to her back, watching as she walked away in slow motion, her body slumped, all the way out of Josie's door. She shut it gently behind her.

There were a few seconds of tense silence, before Josie erupted into a pathetic sob. Her legs gave up on her and sent her falling to the floor. 

She didn't care how her stomach hurt, or if her ankle had twisted under her falling weight. She so badly wanted to. She so badly wanted to think about anything, anything other than Hope.

Through her blurry eyes, she spotted her phone on the nightstand. Her heart jumped. 

The brunette stumbled quickly over to it and grabbed her phone.

Jade

dammit

Josie wiped her tear-filled eyes to type back her answer.

Actually, let's do it. Mystic Grill after school Friday?

Jade's speech bubbles immediately popped up.

Jade

omg yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Josie chuckled. She inhaled deeply, setting her phone on the floor beside her, and curling her knees up to rest her chin upon them.

She could cry all she wanted, but nothing would change. Nothing can erase the fact that Hope never loved Josie. She never did.

--

Josie ended up wearing a pair of sunglasses for the remainder of the week to hide her eye. She managed to avoid Hope the entire week, though it was easy. Hope didn't seem to want to talk to her.

It was pathetic how Josie wished Hope would at least attempt to talk to her like she had done. Even though she found it irritating, at least she did something. It would let Josie know that Hope cared, even if it was just a little bit. But another part of her was happy. She couldn't even imagine Hope's face without feeling a prickly ball grow in her throat.

Tuesday, the three boys stayed away from Josie, thankfully. No one else in the school seemed to know about the fight, maybe because they didn't want anyone to know that someone like Josie managed to even slightly end them. Lizzie, Caroline, and Stefan have yet to find out about her eye, and she intended to keep it that way.

Wednesday, Coach Gilbert forced Josie to play an entire game. Thankfully they lost severely, so it wasn't Josie's fault. Not entirely.

Thursday, Stefan forced Josie to go to the recreational center's field with him to practice soccer. Apparently everyone in her family thought she sucked, and she couldn't blame them. He made her kick the ball repeatedly, taught her game strategies, and explained game sense. They left with Josie somewhat better.

And now Friday approached. Her eye regained its true color back, and she was able to take off the sunglasses. Good timing. Yet, she still kept it in her pocket just in case it flared up.

Josie made sure to put on a cute outfit for her date with Jade after school. Her stomach repeatedly dropped and churned.

What if Jade didn't like her, and ended up leaving the date after five minutes? What does she even do on a date, eat and flirt? That seemed about right. 

Josie looked at herself in the mirror, smirked, and winked to herself in the worst attempt for a sexy way ever. "You know what's on the menu? Me-n-u."

That was the worst thing possible. Josie immediately recoiled that she had just said such a cheesy thing. Her phone was on and rested on the counter, showing Josie a website titled "Restaurant Pick up Lines."

This was all so incredibly stupid. Josie smacked down her phone and ran a hand through her hair.

"Jo hurry the hell up!" Lizzie screamed, banging on the bathroom door. "We're going to be late!" 

Josie groaned. "Coming!" she said, deleting the tab with the website and unlocking the door, which Lizzie immediately opened. She grabbed Josie's wrist and pulled her out of the bathroom, dragging her down the stairs so fast, Josie tripped and was almost sent tumbling forward.

Lizzie pushed Josie in the drivers seat and threw her keys and ran to the other side to sit in the passengers seat.

"Let's go, sister!" Lizzie yelled, buckling up her seatbelt like she was on a mission. Josie scoffed and shook her head playfully.

Her sister had been quite happy this week. Sebastian wouldn't leave her alone, so she resorted with sitting with MG and Josie at lunch. It was fine at first, until she brought all her friends with her, who were so incredibly loud that MG and Josie had to sit at the very edge to hear each other.

During the drive, Lizzie randomly blurted, "MG is fun."

Josie turned over and cocked an eyebrow.

Lizzie continued. "We're going to go to the Christmas Lights Fair."

Josie felt slightly offended that she wasn't invited, until Lizzie said, "But we didn't make any further plans until we invited you, so Jo, you better come with us."

"I'm coming," she said almost immediately. She pulled into the school's parking lot and found her favorite spot. It was close to the school, but far from everyone.

She exited the car and walked with Lizzie towards the entrance of the school, carrying her books in her hand. Stefan had made her practice as a goalie, and now her arms and shoulders felt like jelly. She decided to not wear a backpack today for the sake of her shoulder.

MG was sitting on a stone wall. 

"MG!" Josie yelled. The boy looked up and Josie waved her arm. His blank face was quickly replaced with a smile as he jumped off the wall and walked towards the sisters.

"Hello," he beamed. 

"Josie is coming," Lizzie said, nudging the brunette's shoulder slightly.

MG smiled. "Awesome," he said. The three of them headed inside the school to, of course, start their day.

Josie headed towards her first period class with Mrs. Bennett quite early. She set down her stuff on her desk in the front and sat down. This had been her old spot the year before, and when Hope took it this year, Josie had no choice than to sit in the back. So she went in almost everyday early just to feel a sense of normality 

"Good morning, Josette," Mrs. Bennett smiled.

"Good morning."

 To her surprise, a bundle of students walked in. More specifically, Hope and her new petty, popular, and cocky friends. Even her old friends, Maya and Penelope, followed her into the group.

"Good morning, Mrs. Bennett!" Dana piped in a high pitched voice. Damn, her voice was so annoying. 

"Good morning, ladies," Mrs. Bennett replied. Josie could tell when Mrs. Bennett was annoyed, and she was right now. Months of observing her in the front row really paid off sometimes.

"We brought you something," Maya said. She nudged Cassie's shoulder, and the girl pulled out a bag from her backpack. It was a small and simple, yet cute, paper bag. She handed it to Maya and the girl took it, walking over to Mrs. Bennett's desk.

"Open it," she said. Mrs. Bennett's eyes darted from each girl, before taking the bag in with a smile. She hesitantly pried it open and stuck her hand in, immediately screaming and pulling it back out, a small mouse biting her finger and flying through the room.

"Happy April Fools!" Dana squeaked.

Mrs. Bennett looked at her with a face that yelled "Are you crazy?" 

The girls broke into a light laughter, all but Hope and Penelope joining in.

The pit of Josie's stomach rose. Her chest tightened, heating up rapidly.

"It's December tenth. Maybe if you actually paid attention to more important things than your social status, then you would know," Josie snarled, slowly standing up. She could feel Hope's eyes dart to look at her, but she didn't take her eyes off Dana's face.

The girl smiled smugly. 

"Josette," Mrs. Bennett scolded. Though, it seemed like she wanted to watch whatever Dana was going to do.

Why didn't she scold the girls who literally just pranked her with a mouse? 

Unfair.

"Who even are you?" she gasped sarcastically, walking towards Josie. She remained, planting her feet in the ground to prevent her from running off like a coward. She did feel like running away right now. "Oh, right," she clicked her tongue. "Hope's ex best-friend! Isn't that right, Hope?"

The girl turned her head to face Hope, who jumped slightly. She exchanged eye contact with Josie, before the brunette cleared her throat and looked away.

"Just leave it, Dana," she heard Hope scowl.

"I heard he cheated on you with your best friend," Dana continued. That punched Josie straight in the stomach, harder than how Roman did.

Had Hope told them all? She told people?

Any sense of confidence she had built up was now washing away. Her heart repeatedly squeezed with every second passing by. 

"Now, isn't that just sad?" Dana fake cooed, bringing a hand up to her eye and motioning a baby cry with an annoying pout on her lips. "And how pathetic it is!"

"Dana, stop..." Maya whispered, attempting to grab Dana's hand but ended up only swiping the air when the girl stepped forward.

Josie gulped. She didn't know what to say.

"Girls," Mrs. Bennett scolded. She was now standing up, holding a sheet of detention slips in her hand. None of them seemed to care though, only Josie. "We don't torment each other in this classroom."

Dana ignored her and walked closer. "You're pathetic," she spat, now walking around Josie. "It's a wonder how you're even related to Lizzie. You're nothing but a pathetic, miserable, weak-"

"Dana, quit it!" Hope erupted. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

Weak.

Josie was weak.

Before she knew it, her hand was drawn up. In one second, it landed across her chest, resting on the other side of her body.

She had slapped Dana.

Oh, shit.

Her heart dropped all the way down, plummeting through the Earth, falling through its core.

"Josette!" Mrs. Bennett yelled.

Shit. Now Mrs. Bennett was going to think poorly of her. All those months of sitting in the front before class started, trying to get her to like her, were all going to waste.

Suddenly she couldn't think anymore. The first instinct she had was to run. Like always. Pathetic, miserable, weak Josie would always run.

And so she did. Out of the classroom, and into the hurricane of students in the hallways.

Her head spun in such a nauseating way that Josie felt like she could just fall over. She eventually found her way to the bathroom, locking the door behind her and running into a stall.

She didn't even have a second to think before her body lurched forward. Her throat filled with sour, disgusting vomit, all falling out helplessly into the toilet bowl.

Weak.

The words haunted her head. 

Josie was weak.

Was that why she couldn't handle Hope leaving her? Was that why Hope, someone who couldn't ever be weak, wasn't miserable like she was? 

More vomit erupted through her mouth, causing her legs to give in and drop her on her knees. Her mouth filled with the sour, bitter, and acidic taste.

She leaned her back on the wall of the stall, lurching forward every few seconds to throw up even more.

Her heart was soaked with tears and thorns. Every bone in her body fell limp. Pretty soon, her face would be drenched in her own tears. Miserable, pathetic, weak tears.

She leaned back, hitting her head on the stall. She bit her lips to prevent the pregnant sob threatening to leave her lips, hard enough to taste blood. Now she could feel them, the tears. They were rolling freely down her cheek.

Her chest ached. It ached so horribly.

Her teeth let go of her lip, allowing her to cry an ugly sob out loud.

There was a slight jingle on the doorknob that caused Josie's ears to perk up. She put her sleeve over her mouth to muffle her crying. 

The jingle stopped. Everything was silent for a few seconds until she heard whoever's footsteps slowly getting quieter.

Great. So someone had been listening to her crying. Or maybe they needed to take a shit.

Either way, it slapped Josie's senses - like she did to Dana - and forced her to pick herself up. She cleaned up her mess and left the stall.

The horrifying reflection of a monster in the mirror made the brunette scream before she realized that the reflection, was in fact, her.

God, the way mascara ran down her face and how her hair stuck to her cheeks was driving Josie mad. She was hideous. The only good thing she saw was that her cute outfit was still in tact, untouched.

She could just fix herself up before her date without having to run back home.

Josie grabbed a bunch of paper towels and patted her tears dry. She had nothing to fix herself up and the mascara wouldn't budge off of her cheeks.

Josie would've named this a "bad day," but she was too busy thanking her past self for keeping the pair of sunglasses in her pocket.

She put it on and observed herself. She looked like an idiot. And a goblin. But, like, in a cool way. She was a cool goblin.

Just as the bell rung, Josie unlocked the bathroom door and ran out into the hallway like she could reach the classroom before the bell stopped ringing.

Her mouth was still sour by the time she panted in front of Mrs. Bennett's room. Thankfully the class was still settling down to notice her.

What surprised her, though, was that her stuff was still in the front row. Usually she would get sent back to the back row by Landon, but Landon was sitting on the other side of the classroom. Either that, or she would leave to avoid Hope, who decided to still sit in the spot next to hers.

Hope wasn't here, though. She was in the back row, sandwiched between Maya and Penelope, and sitting in front of Dana and Cassie.

Josie pried her eyes away from the monster and headed towards the front row seat she loved. The whole time doing so, she avoided looking at Mrs. Bennett and forced her eyes to stay glued to the desk.

What she didn't notice at first was the folded up piece of paper resting neatly on her notebooks.

Josie sat down and picked up the piece of paper immediately. She quickly unfolded it and almost threw up the rest of her organs at the words plastered in neat, beautiful handwriting.

You're not weak.

You never were, and you never will be.

- H

Josie sucked in a breath. Hope had written this? How did she know that this was the exact thing that Dana had killed her with?

Slowly, she turned around to look at the auburn-haired girl. She already had her eyes on the note, and when she noticed Josie, her eyes darted up. Her mouth curled in a warm, genuine smile, so sweet that Josie had to turn back around.

Her lips slowly arched up without her permission, her eyes darting across the words over and over again.

You're not weak.

 

Chapter Text

“Girls, please stay after class. Thank you,” Mrs. Bennett nodded towards the back row. Josie didn’t need to look back like everyone else did. The image of the monster who goes by Dana and her friends still stayed stuck in her head.

While she was waiting for Mrs. Bennett to tell her to stay back, the bell rung. She listened for the voice, but none came.

”Have a good day, everyone.” Mrs. Bennett smiled. Josie blinked. She waited for the walkway of students to clear up before walking to the teacher’s desk.

Mrs. Bennett looked up. “Yes, Josette?”

Josie cleared her throat. “Don’t you want me to stay back?” she asked sheepishly. Obviously  the answer would be yes, considering she did slap a girl across the face right in front of Mrs. Bennett.

The lady only clicked her tongue. “No, Josette. I have something else planned for you.”

”Oh,” was all Josie could say. She looked back to steal a quick glance at the girls in the back row. All but Hope were paying attention to something else. The auburn-haired girl’s eyes were glued directly onto Josie. She quickly spun back around. 

Mrs. Bennett smiled warmly. “Now go on. Mr. Donovan won’t be happy I’m holding you back,” she chuckled.

Josie giggled lightly. “Okay,” she said. Her feet stayed planted to the ground for a good few seconds. All she could think about the entire class was the note. Part of her wanted to burn it, but another part of her wanted to keep it.

The brunette shook her head to rid anymore thoughts. She didn’t need this extra stress on a Friday. 

Josie spun around and held her head down as she walked to her desk. She grabbed her stuff and left the classroom, managing to keep her mind clear of everything and only focusing on horrible plant-based lunches they served at the school.

-

“Why are you wearing sunglasses again?” MG whispered, nudging Josie’s shoulder. He repeatedly looked back to check if Lizzie was paying them any attention. “Is your eye flaring up?”

Josie swallowed her bite of her veggie wrap. “No,” she whispered back. “I just ruined my makeup.”

MG shot her a confused look, but she pretended like she didn’t notice.

”Hey,” she put a hand on MG’s shoulder and inhaled. “Can you drive Lizzie home today after football? I have a date.”

Images of Jade in the grocery store popped into her mind. And more from the soccer game, and one more from when she was slumping over the table at the ice cream parlor.

The boy whistled. “A date, huh?” he smirked, shoving a pretzel in his mouth out of the bag he brought.

MG seems like he loves pretzels. Maybe.

“With who?”

Josie’s lips curled up slightly. “The girl from the ice cream parlor.”

MG spit out a whole pretzel. Literally. It went flying from his mouth and landed in Josie’s hair.

Bleh, she thought and picked the pretzel out, touching it slightly and throwing it in the garbage can right next to them.

“No way,” MG muttered. His tone indicated more of a question. “How did you even contact her?”

Josie shrugged. “She just texted me. Said a friend gave her my number...” she faltered off. First of all, Josie didn’t have that much friends, let alone having people to text. Second of all, she didn’t even know what school Jade went to. Where did she get her number from? Coach Gilbert?

MG furrowed his eyebrows. “What’s wrong?”

The idea that maybe Jade actually was planning something seemed pretty convincing right now. What if she interrogated the hell out of Josie and forced her to expose all her team’s plans? Not like Josie would know, anyway, but the idea is still the same.

”Nothing,” the brunette whispered, ending her reply with a smile. MG looked unconvinced, but decided to leave it at that.

“I’m sure you’ll be just fine,” he shrugged and reached for another pretzel, before his head was smacked down straight into the bag. 

A light gasp escaped Josie’s mouth at the sudden blow MG’s face had with the table. She looked up, and wasn’t thrilled to see Dana standing right above them.

“Thanks to you, I won’t be able to attend my boyfriend’s football game,” she snarled at Josie. The brunette swallowed.

”It’s not my fault you and your friends decided to play a sick joke,” she sneered back. A crowd of “oohs” up-roared, making Josie’s stomach churn.

She did not need this unnecessary attention. 

“Oh, is that so?” Dana laughed. Her voice filled with no amusement whatsoever. She began hovering over Josie.

”Yes,” she spat with everything inside of her. She managed to force her body to stand up and make eye contact with the bitch.

”What the hell is going on, Jo?” she heard Lizzie question with a mouthful of food. It has now came to her attention that the entire lunchroom was staring at the two of them.

Damn it.

Josie’s heart picked up its pace as Dana’s lips curved into a smirk. “Mighty, aren’t you?” Her voice was filled with mockery. Cruel, cold mockery. “Let’s not forget you had to run out of the classroom because your little emotions couldn’t handle themselves. Look at you. You’re wearing those sunglasses to hide the fact that you were crying.” She pouted.

Josie gulped. She looked around the room, observing each pair of eyes that rested on hers. 

“Quit it,” MG snarled. He was now standing up behind Josie. 

There was a cloud of snickers that floated by. Dana blinked. “Excuse me? Who even are you?” 

MG squinted his eyes and pursed his lips. Josie realized she’s never seen MG get involved in anything, except for holding Landon in a chokehold. Other than that, he seemed pretty calm most of the time.

Josie felt a tap at her shoulder. She slowly and discreetly turned around, only to find Lizzie sliding a cup in front of her. Josie tilted her head to the side. The blonde was giving her no sign whatsoever, it seemed like she was saying ‘Do you like this cup?'

Lizzie rolled her eyes. “Chili. Dump it,” she whispered and nodded towards Dana. Josie looked back down at the cup. It was full of red-brown chili.

Oh. Oh!

She turned back to face MG and Dana’s glaring battle, reaching for the cup with her hand. 

“Honestly, why do I even bother coming to this pathetic table? Your sister had to occupy it just so that- AH!”

Her sentence cut off abruptly when her mouth filled with the chili. Josie was holding the empty cup in her hand, eyes wide, observing the girl’s chili-drenched clothing.

Dana wiped off some of the food from her eyes. “What the hell!” she yelled. The cafeteria filled with loud snickers. One person even yelled an “Ooh! Right in the face!”

Josie dropped the empty cup unintentionally. She was quite shocked that she’d actually just poured it all over the girl. Dana was looking around frantically.

”Everyone shut up!” she yelled. That somehow did nothing. The students continued their cackles.

With one last disgusted, angry look at Josie, the girl clenched her fists and stormed off.

Josie remained standing. The eyes of the students slowly pried away from her, each second relieving more and more tension. Yet, she was still frozen in place.

”Nice one, Jo. Jo?” Lizzie tapped Josie’s shoulder. “You alright?”

The brunette snapped back to her senses. She looked at her sister and sat down. “Yeah. Perfectly fine, actually...” she mumbled. Usually she’d feel guilty or even embarrassed, but right now she was feeling quite satisfied.

She felt MG plop down back in his own seat. “What’s her problem?” he huffed. Josie shook her head.

“No idea.”

-

The final bell rung. Josie hurriedly packed up her stuff. The ladybug drawing was still on the desk, though it was washing away. Josie even added a few rain drops above the umbrella. Today, she drew a little top hat on the ladybug’s head.

A random hand shoved her shoulder lightly. “That was a cool move at lunch today,” a deep voice said. She looked up. A boy who she’s never seen before in her life was smiling at her, before he turned around and made his way out of the door.

Josie’s chest filled with pleasure. She stood up and picked up her stuff before exiting the room as well. She couldn’t stay back today. She needed to find Lizzie and ask for her makeup bag to fix herself up. The mascara has probably dried into her skin and engraved a mark already.

She headed through the packed hallways. Lizzie had chosen to wear a bright blue blouse today. It couldn’t have been hard to miss with her blonde hair, so Josie spotted her quite quickly. She was leaning against a locker, right next to MG. 

Josie smirked to herself. If she hadn’t looked like a mess under her glasses, then she would’ve left them alone. 

She painfully forced herself to approach the two. Lizzie had begun laughing while MG was defending himself for whatever reason.

”Lizzie,” Josie popped in. Her sister averted her eyes to Josie, and she stood straight up.

”Yes?” she asked.

”Can I use your makeup bag for a little? I’ll return it as soon as I can.”

Lizzie looked at her with hints of confusion, but reached into her purse anyways. She pulled out her makeup pouch and handed it to Josie.

”Thanks,” she said, taking the bag in her own hands. “Also, I can’t drive you today. Can you go with MG?”

Lizzie blinked. Her eyes darted between Josie and MG, who was smiling awkwardly.

”Okay,” she said easily, pulling her purse back.

Well, that was quite easy. 

“I guess that means I’ll be watching you play?” Lizzie chuckled, turning back to face MG. The boy shut his locker door and threw his bag over his shoulder.

”More like sit on the bench. Kirby’s an asshole,” he huffed. Lizzie clicked her tongue.

“Mhm,” she hummed. Josie laughed and put the makeup pouch on top of her books. She so badly regretted that she hadn’t brought her bag with her.

”See you,” she muttered and turned around, heading towards the bathroom. The hall was beginning to clear even more with each step she took. Eventually, she shuffled her way to the bathroom.

She set her stuff down on the counter and took off her sunglasses. Yeah, she still looked pretty bad. She reached into the bag and pulled out the makeup wipes and immediately began cleaning the ink off.

It removed smoothly. Josie threw the wipes into the garbage. 

On the counter, her books were slightly tilted, the note from earlier poking out. Josie rubbed her hands together and walked towards it. She pulled it out and unfolded it.

You’re not weak.

You never were, and you never will be.

-H

Josie’s lips curved up, her heart warming annoyingly. She shouldn’t have been feeling this way towards Hope just because of this one note. There was no way in hell she would forgive that she-devil.

Josie reached into the makeup back and pulled out a red lipliner. She uncapped it and placed it on the note, drawing big, fat lines across the words. Her heart squeezed with each line, begging her to stop.

You’re not weak.

You never were, and you never will be.

-H

The brunette exhaled heavily and leaned her head back, observing the red ink plastered all over the paper. She then leaned forward again and added the finishing touch.

You’re not weak.

You never were, and you never will be.

-H

I HATE YOU

Her chest fell. Any tension that had been built up was now released. Now, she felt oddly calm. 

The next thing that happened proved her horribly wrong. A single tear rolled down her cheek and landed on her lips, allowing her to taste the salty liquid. She brought a sleeve up and wiped it away, cursing herself for crying over something so stupid.

”Damn it,” she mumbled to herself and wiped her eyes. More tears were now flowing down.

It started coming to Josie’s attention that her heart was wrenching. Terribly.

No. She was not going to breakdown again.

The brunette tugged her bottom lip between her teeth and chomped down on them.

“Josie?” 

Josie quickly folded the note back up and tucked it between her books. She spun around and her heart crushed even harder.

Hope was standing there with a pile of paper towel rolls in her arms, her face plastered with confusion.

“You okay?” she spoke ever so softly, approaching the brunette. Josie slowly stepped back and wiped her eyes.

“Yes,” she choked. Hope was getting too close, way too close. She even placed the piles of paper towels on the counter and crossed her arms.

Her eyes darted across Josie’s face. “It doesn’t look like it.”

Josie rolled her eyes. “Well I feel fine, okay?”

Hope bit her top lip, before continuing. “Dana’s a bitch,” she whispered.

Josie blinked. Whatever she was expecting Hope to say definitely wasn’t that. “But-“ she croaked. “You’re friends with her. Aren’t you?”

Hope looked at her for a while before breaking out into a light chuckle. “I wouldn’t say that,” she replied, her voice cracking towards the end. Her eyebrows furrowed down, and she opened her mouth, keeping it open until she said, “She’s a complete asshole.”

The bathroom was filling with silence. The two only stared at each other, neither one looking like they were going to say anything anytime soon.

Finally, Josie decided to break it. “That was nice of you,” she said. “The note, I mean.”

Hope blinked. She straightened her posture slightly and smiled. “It’s true.”

The brunette shook her head. It wasn’t true, Josie knew that. This could’ve been a plot Hope was planning to get her to forgive her. 

“I know you don’t like being the bad guy, but you don’t have to do this,” Josie scoffed. “What’s so hard with having one person hate you?”

Her own words sent a tornado of knifes to her heart. Hope flinched, sputtering with no words coming out.

”What?” she finally breathed out. Her eyes moved from Josie’s chest back to her face repeatedly, blink profusely. “Are you seriously asking that?” she said, her voice quickly filling with anger.

Josie rolled her eyes. She didn’t actually know what Hope meant, her calling the shorter girl the bad guy, or saying she hated her. Maybe it was both.

“We both know it’s true.”

Hope opened her mouth, about to say something, but then froze. She stayed like that for a moment before closing it again.

The silence was unbearable. And so, so terribly awkward. Her heart stung horribly when the auburn-haired girl bit her bottom lip, tears welling in her eyes. 

“You hate me,” she said, more like she was coming to terms with it than anything.

Josie bit her lip, fresh, salty tears of her own entering her mouth. “You know that,” she scoffed.

Hope rolled her eyes, a few tears dropping freely. “I don’t want you to hate me,” she gritted out. “Everyone in the world could wish death upon me and I wouldn’t give a shit. But...” she faltered off, now moving her eyes towards the ground for a long second before bringing them back up. “I just miss you.”

Josie exhaled whatever breath she was holding in.

I miss you too.

She missed Hope so badly. She’s missed her for half a year and she’s even missed her ten minutes after their argument during the basketball game. But none of those things could change the fact that she chose Landon. Not her.

“I should get going,” Josie blurted, beginning to pack up her stuff and zip up the makeup pouch. Hope shuffled.

“Oh, yeah. Of course,” she closed her eyes and chuckled. It was a pretty ugly chuckle. A chuckle full of bitterness instead of her usually beautiful voice. “Where are you headed?”

Josie adjusted the books in her arms and picked up the bag. “I’ve got a date.”

Hope blinked. Once. Twice. Three times. Four. Her eyebrows raised. “A date?” she breathed, her voice filling with slight surprise.

Josie’s stomach curled. Was it that much of a surprise that she was going on a date?

“Yes,” she cleared her throat. “You should get going too and finish,” she glanced at the paper towel rolls. “Whatever it is you’re doing.”

Hope flinched. “Oh,” she mumbled. “It’s for detention.”

Josie nodded. Now they’re back to the same killing silence that she knew way too well.

”Well,” Josie huffed. “Bye,” she said, speed walking out of the bathroom before Hope could reply. All she heard was a faint “bye” as she made her way into the hallway.

-

Josie was fumbling aggressively with her keys, trying to lock her car. Her hands were far too shaky to even do anything. She’d applied mascara in the car, but that was the farthest she could go with how much her hands were trembling.

Her finger finally landed on the button. She clicked it once, twice, hearing its beep and then shoving her keys into her purse. 

Calm down, Jo, she told herself. Her heart was racing so fast and lightly, Josie’s body began growing cold. The entrance of the Grill had a small droplet of blood underneath the roof. Josie felt a small spark of amusement at how the rain didn’t wash it off.

She managed to enter the Mystic Grill without fainting and immediately spotted Jade. The girl was sitting in a booth, using her phone.

Josie put on a smile and approached. “Hey,” she said and sat down. “Sorry I’m late.”

The girl looked up and instantly grinned. “Oh, no worries,” she said.

Josie settled down and set her purse on the spot next to her, near the wall of the booth. Just in case she had to make a run for it, she decided to sit down on the edge.

”How are you?” she breathed once she finally got comfortable. Jade moved her lips to one side of her face.

”Honestly, quite nervous,” she smirked. Josie blinked. Her words and facial expression did not match in the slightest.

When Josie didn’t say anything, Jade continued. “I feel like this when I’m around pretty girls.”

Oh.

The brunette could feel her cheeks heat up at the speed of light.

“Oh,” Josie squeaked out and immediately recoiled at her voice crack. 

Jade only smiled in a severely flirtatious way. This sent Josie spiraling into insecurities about her own flirting, which was the pick up lines she had been planning on using.

She decided she would not be using that today.

”Um,” Josie chuckled. “I could say the same.”

Please work. Please work.

Thankfully it worked. Jade attempted to suppress a smile, but Josie could see it quite well.

”Well, then,” she laughed. Josie’s shoulder relaxed. 

A man appeared at their table and pulled out a notepad. “What can I get you guys started for today? Any drinks? I’m ready to take your meals, as well.”

Josie looked down at the menu. Her usual order was already on her mind, but she didn’t want to seem like she was a Mystic Grills fan girl, even though no one would probably assume that.

”Could I just get an iced sweet tea and a medium tray of fries?” Jade asked. The waiter nodded and wrote it down before looking over at Josie.

”A small cucumber salad, lightly salted, two avocado slices on the left side, and four roasted tomato slices with sesame seeds sprinkled on top, please.”

Jade looked at her in astonishment, but the waiter wrote it down like it was no surprise.

“Alright, I’ll be with you two shortly,” he said, clicking his pen and shoving it in his pocket before walking off.

Once he was gone, Jade turned over to Josie. She broke out into a light laughter. “I love your order,” she giggled.

Josie chuckled back. “So,” she said, remembering about the website she read that told her what to do on a date; ask questions. Good questions. “What is your favorite color?”

Shit. Terrible question.

”Orange.”

”Cool. Mines yellow.”

Anyone could tell by looking at her car.

Jade smiled softly, scrunching her eyebrows slightly.

Josie erupted into a panic. Oh, she’s expecting more. Okay. Josie could do more. Maybe.

”Someone's favorite color says a lot about them,” she said.

”Really,” Jade raised her eyebrows. Josie hummed.

”Like you liking a color as bold as orange shows how spontaneous and brave you are.”

”Brave?” Jade cocked an eyebrow.

”For admitting your liking of that atrocious color,” she smirked. Jade opened her mouth and acted offended. 

“Wow. Funny and deep. I like you,” she laughed and leaned back.

Josie honestly had no idea what she was saying, but she appreciated the compliment anyways.

Jade asked her a question about her favorite game she played when she was younger, the brunette replying with a simple answer of freeze tag.

”It’s a thrill when you try to tag everyone before their teammates can unfreeze them,” she laughed.

The waiter approached their table and Josie sat up. Jade took her phone off the table as he set down her tray of fries and iced sweet tea before he placed down Josie’s ravishing plate of cucumbers.

”Thank you,” they said at the same time. The waiter smiled and walked off. 

Josie pulled out her phone and took a picture of her plate. One of the reasons she was so specific about her order was because it made the perfect picture.

Jade took a bite out of her fry before asking, “Do you have an Instagram?”

Josie looked over. “Yeah,” she said. “It’s Jo dot Saltzman.”

She watched as Jade pulled out her phone and type something in. A few seconds later, Josie’s phone buzzed with the notification, ‘@jade.is.cool has started following you.’ Her profile had over four-thousand followers. 

Josie snorted. “Nice username.” Jade grinned, before pulling her phone out and pointing it towards Josie. The brunette froze.

“Here. Let me take a picture of you, you’re too pretty to not post it,” she said, still looking at her phone. 

Josie felt a blush rising to the back of her neck. “Okay,” she mumbled, posing for the picture.

She heard the quiet click of the camera. Jade pulled the phone back, examined the picture with a smile, and showed it towards Josie.

It was a nice picture. She leaned back as Jade pulled the phone towards her. 

“I’ll send it to you,” she said, shoving a fry in her mouth. 

The two continued their date quite easily. They even stayed for a good half hour after they both finished their meals. Talking to Jade was easy, and Josie was comfortable.

”Well, I should get going,” Josie said and stood up, grabbing her purse. Jade nodded and stood up as well, reaching into her wallet before Josie set a hand on hers.

”I’ll tip,” she said. Jade had already paid for the both of their meals even though Josie objected. It was the least she could do.

Jade seemed to have the same idea, putting down her wallet and shoving it in the pocket of her cargo jeans.

She walked Josie to her car, even though it was right in front of the grill. It was a coincidence that the blonde had parked right next to her. 

With a quick “Bye,” Josie sat in the drivers seat of her car and began driving home. Her cheeks ached from how hard she smiled in those ninety minutes, and she couldn’t stop on the drive home. Not because Jade was sexy, which she was, but because she managed to have a date without freaking out and breaking down.

-

“Pack your bags tonight. We’re leaving bright and early tomorrow morning,” Lizzie said right as she barged into Josie’s room. The brunette jumped and her phone went flying to the end of her bed.

”Holy shit,” she breathed, catching her breath. Lizzie grunted.

“Really, Jo? You’re sleeping right now?” she huffed.

”No, it’s only eight. I have plenty of time to pack.” That was a lie. Josie hadn’t packed a single thing, and it usually took her five hours to pick two outfits to wear.

“Well, MG is already ready,” she said and crossed her arms after throwing a duffel bag on Josie’s floor. “Hurry up!”

MG is already ready,” Josie mocked, then quickly recoiled. “Sorry,” she mumbled and stood up, stretching her arms over her head and walking over to the duffel bag on the ground.

“Ugh,” Lizzie rolled her eyes. “Hurry up!” she said and walked out of the room, leaving the door wide open. Josie grumbled and slumped over to shut it. 

Ding!

Her bed vibrated. Josie turned around and spotted the illuminated screen of her phone. She walked over and picked it up. 

‘@jade.is.cool has tagged you in a post.’

Josie scrunched her nose and clicked on the notification.

@jade.is.cool me and bourbon girl @jo.saltzman

Josie snorted at the caption. Immediately after, her phone buzzed again.

She-Devil-Bitch-Snake

you went out with jade montgomery??

Chapter Text

 

"I don't think I could ever stop thinking about you," the auburn-haired girl whispered, her fingers stroking Josie's face, fingernails scratching slightly along her flushed skin.

Josie's breath grew heavy. "Are you trying to tell me something?" she attempted to laugh, only choking on her own words.

Hope's hand stopped. She inhaled, placing one hand on one side of Josie and pulling herself to hover above. She rested her body against Josie's, making the brunette's senses flood with Hope's warmth and scent.

"Only if you think of it that way," she murmured, now cupping Josie's cheek and placing a soft kiss against her skin. The brunette froze, her gut cheering in bliss. Hope's lips were so soft, so warm. And they lingered on Josie's cheek so delicately, they could be worth millions. 

And then, she pulled away, her lips leaving Josie's skin with a soft 'plop.' 

"But," she breathed out, now looking right into Josie's eyes. She rested her elbows atop Josie's shoulders. "If we're not keeping anymore secrets..." she faltered, pushing a stray strand of hair away from Josie's face. "I would say I am."

The brunette's heart rose and burst into something that Josie couldn't quite recognize. It was a warm, beautiful thing that began filling her chest.

Hope's eyes darted down to Josie's lips, quickly resting there for a second before looking back up. Josie's bliss-filled chest controlled her next movements for her.

She wrapped one arm behind Hope's neck, resting the other on her shoulder. With one last warm, understanding gaze between the two, Josie pulled Hope down and connected their lips.

She heard the latter muffle into her lips from the sudden contact. Then she kissed back, moving her hand behind the brunette's ear.

Everything Josie had been wishing for was finally coming true. Right now, at this moment. Nothing else mattered, nothing else even existed besides the auburn-haired girl's soft lips moving gently against her own.

Then, everything twitched. Josie opened her eyes, and she was no longer on the bed, Hope's lips no longer on hers. What she saw instead in front of her was a turned nightmare.

Instead of kissing Josie, Hope was kissing Landon. In the exact same position they were in. Only now, Hope was much more passionate. 

"I love you," she whispered to him. And that was when Josie's heart shattered. She was wearing Landon's football sweatshirt instead of Josie's blue sweater. She was kissing Landon, she was cuddling with Landon, she loves Landon.

Suddenly a hand grabbed her, covering her mouth. She muffled out a quiet groan, trying to grab the hand, but then another grabbed the back of her shirt and yanked her back. She was now pushed against the wall, trying to remove the hand off her mouth but it was much too strong.

"Hope!" she cried out. Her body was glued to the wall, and now she couldn't move a muscle. Not a single bone. "Hope!" she cried out again, this time even louder. 

Though she couldn't be heard. Every voice came out like a muffled whimper. She was helpless, forced to watch Hope lean into Landon, kissing him passionately.

Tears trickled down her cheeks. She couldn't move a hand to wipe them away.

And when the walls began closing in, Josie moved her eyes around frantically. Hope and Landon were still kissing, only now she was beginning to remove her top.

"Hope!" Josie yelled one more time in a useless attempt. Her chest was heaving up and down heavily, panic arising everywhere in her body. 

Then vines wrapped around her chest, their prickly, sharp thorns stabbing into her heart before pulling her back. She slowly disappeared in the wall, only catching a glimpse of Hope's bare back before dissolving into darkness.

"Josie?" she heard. Her head jerked up and looked around frantically. Everything was pitch black. Josie couldn't tell if she was even alive.

Every hand suddenly let go of Josie. She gasped out, breathing in as much thick, warm air as she could. The vines were still wrapped around her chest, dragging her further into eternal darkness.

"Hope?" she croaked out. And with that, the auburn-haired girl's body appeared. She was visibly crying. 

"Jo!" she yelled and broke into a run. Josie attempted to break free from the vines to run for Hope, but every move she made pierced her heart more excruciatingly.

The latter finally arrived in front of her. Josie could see her teary eyes and wet face, hair sticking to the side of her head.

"Help me," Josie choked out. The thorns dug deeper into her heart, pulling her further away from Hope.

Hope ran forward and grabbed the vines, tugging on them. Josie's heart was only stabbed more viciously with each tug.

"You're hurting me!" she cried out. Hope suddenly froze and let go of the vines, allowing them to continue dragging Josie away.

The thorns were pulled out of Josie's heart. She choked out a gasp.

Now breathing heavily, she looked back up. Hope's figure was far in front of her, resting on her knees, watching Josie be pulled away even further.

Then she suddenly broke out into a run towards Josie. The vines began closing in on her again, the thorns stabbing into her heart further with each step Hope made.

"Jo!" she yelled, now reaching for the brunette as she was dragged back.

Josie couldn't move. Not because something was holding her back, but because she was weak. Every bone in her body went limp as Hope attempted to run faster.

"Jo!" she yelled again. Only now her voice was fading away. Josie couldn't see her figure anymore. "Jo!"

"Jo, wake your ass up!" 

With a hard slap to her face, Josie's eyes fluttered open. She gasped, catching her breath.

Her eyes darted up only to see Lizzie's very angry maroon face glaring at her. 

"Oh my God," she muttered under her breath. Lizzie clicked her tongue and shook her head aggressively. It wasn't unusual for her twin to wake her up like this. It happened quite frequently, actually. It's just that she's never woken Josie up from a nightmare before, let alone a dream about Hope.

Oh.

Hope.

She had just dreamt of Hope.

"Come on! Mom and Stefan are wondering where the hell you are, and if you don't come out quick enough..."

Lizzie voice faltered off and drowned in Josie's thoughts. She had a dream about Hope. She had a dream where she kissed Hope, where Hope kissed her back.

And Josie liked it.

"Ew," she whispered out loud, unaware that she had been spacing off into her own thoughts.

”Excuse me?” Lizzie’s sudden change of tone snapped her out of her trance. “Does my breath stink? I swear, I didn’t even eat anything-“

”No!” Josie sat up. Lizzie’s morning breath did in fact produce a horrible odor, but she couldn’t say that. “I was just...” she faltered off. There was no way she would tell Lizzie her dream about Hope. Never in a million years. She herself didn’t even want to admit she had one.

And she definitely didn’t want to admit she liked it.

Lizzie grunted. It was like the universe was saving her ass right now. “Just get ready in two minutes!” she said and darted out of Josie’s room.

”Two?” Josie choked out, but the blonde was already long gone. She groaned and rubbed her eyes, capturing how dark her room really was. The winter mornings were Josie’s least favorite part of the day, only because they were cold and dark.

She forced herself to get out of bed, the cold, sharp air slapping her senses. She stretched before grabbing her duffel bag.

As she went to grab her phone, her mind suddenly flew to the memory. She picked it up and scrolled through her notifications that consisted of Hope’s missed calls and about a dozen ‘answer me plz’ messages.

She chuckled slyly to herself and texted back a quick response.

Hehe.

That was good. Josie smiled proudly and set her phone in the pocket of her sweatpants. She didn’t even bother to change out of her comfy nightwear if the drive to Richmond was about five hours away.

The capital of Virginia was Josie’s favorite place to go during Christmas. It was beautifully decorated in ravishing lights that shined so bright. And not to mention the snow there was predicted to be heavy this winter.

-

The car ride was a nightmare. Caroline was asleep in the front and snoring profusely, Stefan was loudly cursing under his breath as they got lost for the hundredth time, Lizzie was using MG as a stand for her pillow, and Josie was forced to cramp in the back with everyone’s bags.

It was a good thing that the bags were soft and only consisted of clothes, but Josie’s tall legs didn’t cooperate well.

Their original plan was for the three of them, but Caroline didn’t like the idea of her two babies - she referred to the twins as babies when Josie told her - five hours away from home with no parent supervision.

Suddenly Lizzie shot straight up. “Are we there yet?” she groaned, the pillow falling off of MG’s shoulder. She picked it back up and slammed it right into him, resting her head back down. Josie smirked at the boy’s flustered face.

”Not yet, sweetheart,” Stefan hummed.

Lizzie groaned again.

Josie’s phone buzzed in her hands. She darted her eyes down and looked at it, her heart dropping when the familiar contact name appeared on her screen.

She-Devil-Bitch-Snake

now is not the time for you to hehe

Josie snorted. She quickly texted back a “:P” before shutting off her phone and resting her head back.

Her chest was strangely warming up, similar to the way it felt during her dream.

Perhaps the early morning was messing up the way she reacted to the dream. She’s had countless dreams of kissing Landon after they broke up, the reaction slightly the same. The feeling always managed to go away anyways.

But right now, she couldn’t control the urge to text Hope and have a full on conversation.

As if the universe could hear her thoughts, her phone buzzed again. Josie knew it was Hope right away.

She-Devil-Bitch-Snake

can i call u

Josie’s tongue dried. She sucked in a breath before typing in her response.

No.

A scary need to reply with a ‘yes’ intruded Josie’s mind, making her snarl. She hated how the dream was all she could think of right now. Part of her wanted to decode it, and another part of her just wanted to ignore it and wait for the feeling in her chest to pass.

She was tired. Maybe if she slept for the remainder of the ride, the feeling could pass.

And so she did, waking up a few hours later to a clear mind. The giddy feeling was long gone, though the thought of kissing Hope still hasn’t left her mind.

-

“MG, can I trust you to room with my daughters?” Stefan scowled, towering over the poor, trembling boy.

”Yes,” he mumbled, straightening his posture. The two stayed in that position, only releasing when Josie walked over and pulled MG away by the arm.

“I’m sorry about that,” she mumbled as they settled in the hallway of the hotel. MG shook his head.

”All good,” he chuckled, though Josie could tell he was still slightly frightened.

She rolled her eyes playfully and used the key card to unlock the door. It flashed a green light before she heard a click, allowing her to open the door and walk inside.

The room smelled fresh and clean, like it had just been sprayed with a laundry detergent perfume.

The only problem she found with the room was that there was one bed. One bed in the middle of the large room.

”The hell?” she mumbled. Lizzie walked in behind her, immediately gasping dramatically.

”This can’t be happening!” she yelled, putting a hand to her heart and sighing heavily. “Now I can’t sleep!”

Lizzie hated, absolutely hated, sleeping with other people. It didn’t matter if those people were her family, friends, or even a boyfriend. Something about the sound of close up snoring that drove her insane.

Josie rolled her eyes. “Relax, it’s not the end of the world.”

Lizzie whipped her head around. “To you it’s not! To me, well,” she huffed. “It might as well be my punishment for slapping you awake.”

Josie cocked an eyebrow. As she was thinking of a reply to Lizzie’s claim, MG’s voice joined in.

“Come on, let’s just change. We have four hours until the sun sets,” he said, looking at his watch. The sun was supposed to set at 5 o’ clock P.M., and that was when the lights would be at its finest.

”Fine,” Lizzie mumbled, pushing her way into the hotel room like a child. MG snorted.

Due to their original request to go out as the three of them, Stefan and Caroline allowed them to wander around the town on their own, giving them some money to purchase lunch and dinner for later. Josie, of course, kept hold of the money and didn’t mention it to her sister. Lizzie would snatch it and treat herself to her own shopping spree.

“I heard there’s a really good steakhouse around that corner,” MG said and pointed to a cluster of buildings. Josie looked over, but already knew what she was going to say.

”I’m vegetarian,” she reminded him sheepishly, almost ashamed at how his face dropped.

”Oh, right. My bad,” he mumbled, clearing his throat. Lizzie groaned. Josie couldn’t remember a single conversation they had without the blonde letting out a sudden groan.

”I’m so hungry,” she mumbled, clenching a hand over her stomach.

Josie huffed. Lizzie’s hunger was always painful, the girl being irritated with everything around her until she got her food.

Suddenly a lightbulb appeared in her head. She snapped her fingers. “We could go to this bakery. Here,” she said, fishing out her phone and searching up the name of the bakery. “It serves coffee as well as pastries.” She pointed the phone towards the two.

MG’s lips curled up into a smile. “That sounds good,” he nodded. Lizzie rolled her eyes, but let Josie lead the way.

Feeling content, the brunette lead them two blocks away to the bakery. They entered, the door opening with a small ‘ding.’ 

A cloud of fresh, warm fumes filled her nose. The smell of roasted coffee beans, pastries, and cream sent Josie’s heart to skip.

”This place is heavenly,” MG whispered, admiring the Christmas lights decorated around the wooden log planked-walls. 

Josie looked up at the counter. There was a girl with auburn hair, similar to Hope, that made Josie flinch. She was so similar, the same height and all.

She watched as the girl received a cup of coffee, muttered a thank you, and turned around. And that’s when Josie nearly threw up all her guts.

”Josie?” Hope said, holding the cup of coffee in front of her.

”Hope,” Josie blinked. Any idea of a Hope-free weekend came crashing down. The girl was standing in front of her, looking as if she couldn’t believe her eyes.

”Wha- uh, what are you doing here?” she asked, her eyes darting from Josie to MG and Lizzie behind her.

“Oh, dear God,” Lizzie huffed. She shoved past Hope aggressively to stand in the line. 

The shorter girl was taken aback, but continued to stare at Josie when she collected herself. 

Josie couldn’t stop admiring at how Hope’s nose was tinted slightly red from the cold, the soft, long coat hugging her body. 

When she didn’t reply, MG did.

”We came to see the lights fair,” he said.

Hope glanced over at him. “Really,” she challenged, though her voice was more curious than anything.

MG hummed. The girl went back to staring at Josie, but the brunette kept her eyes glued to the buttons on Hope’s coat.

”Me and my mom were planning on doing that too,” she said, still looking at Josie. She could feel the other girl’s eyes shooting straight through her skull, forcing her to pry her own eyes away and look at her.

”Cool,” she shrugged. Before she could make a petty move of shoving past her, Hayley appeared out of no where.

”Hope, remember what Caroline said?” she whispered, though it was loud enough for Josie to hear.

She furrowed her brows. What had her mom said that caused Hope to blink and dart her eyes to the ground and nod her head shortly?

She opened her mouth and before she could say anything, the Mikaelsons walked away, out of the bakery and into the street.

Weird.

Josie turned back to MG, who was squinting at the menu. 

“Oh, soup!” he squealed, jumping in line behind Lizzie. The blonde flinched, but didn’t lash out on him.

Josie huffed, but walked in line behind them. She decided she was going to just get a blueberry muffin and a coffee.

They got their items and left the bakery, now meeting the sharp, cold air. She sipped her sweet coffee, enjoying how the liquid was warm as it made its way down her body.

Little puffs of white smoke appeared with each breath she took as they walked around, pointing at historical landmarks and people who slipped on ice - Lizzie.

Josie cursed herself for not being able to spend this time with MG and Lizzie without the thought of Hope haunting her brain, and whatever it was that her mom had told the Mikaelsons to make them stray away from her.

-

By the time the sun had set, the town was glowing with the breathtaking lights. The three of them had wandered around town, using the dinner money and extra lunch money to buy little trinkets from the gift shop. MG picked out a keychain, Lizzie snatched four cheesy captioned mugs, and Josie bought an alligator plush with a shirt that said ‘I’m a bird!’

She hugged the plush to her chest as they made their way to the entrance of the Christmas Lights Fair.

Lizzie squealed in delight. “My Instagram feed is going to be amazing!” she said and jumped up and down.

”It’s pretty beautiful, isn’t it?” MG inhaled and closed his eyes. Josie decided not to question on how his words and him closing his eyes made no sense.

A sudden hand wrapped around her wrist, and Josie whipped around, ready to punch someone in the face. When she did throw the punch, however, she only ended up hitting air.

The accusation of a tall man trying to kill her drowned as she looked down and saw Hope’s confused face glimmer from the lights.

”Its just me,” she chuckled. Josie didn’t know how she found that funny. They both knew that Josie would’ve punched her anyways.

“Sorry,” she cleared her throat,” putting her fist down. She turned back around, only to not find MG and Lizzie standing there. They were long gone. Oh, so they had betrayed her! Fake friends. 

She grunted, clutching the alligator in her arms before gulping and turning back to Hope. “What do you want?” she muttered. Hope shrugged.

”Well, my mom decided to hang out with your parents, leaving me alone.” She paused. “To be fair, I volunteered to be here,” she muttered sheepishly.

Josie furrowed her eyebrows. “Well, you’re not hanging out with me,” she snarled, though she didn’t turn around dramatically due to the lack of her group’s presence.

She inhaled and observed Hope’s soft face and pink lips. Her cheeks were now tinted with a light red color from the cold, and she had a scarf wrapped around her neck.

”Want to walk with me?” Hope whispered, unsure of her own words. It was almost as if she was deciding on something that mattered more than her life.

Josie, in fact, did not want to walk with her. But MG and Lizzie had already left, leaving her stranded with a bitch. But the thought of her or Hope being alone was unsettling to her.

“I’m not going to walk with you,” she turned around. “But I won’t kill you if you were to trail behind me, or whatever,” she added with a mutter. Hope somehow heard it, chuckling and following Josie as the brunette began walking.

Neither of them dared to say a word. Josie’s mind repeated the word bitch bitch bitch over and over again, so many times that she was on the cusp of saying it out loud.

When they arrived at a curtain of lights, Josie couldn’t turn the corner when she felt a hand grab her forearm. She was yanked back with a yelp.

”Hey-“ she choked out, catching herself. Hope was grabbing her arm, nodding towards the curtain.

Josie groaned. “What?” she spat. 

Hope’s face fell, looking almost disappointed. She had on hand on Josie’s shoulder, her other loosening her grip on the brunette’s arm.

”I was just-,” she paused. “I was just wondering if you wanted to.” Hope chuckled bitterly and fished out her phone, giving Josie a pitiful smile before shoving it back into her pocket.

Oh.

The pit of Josie’s stomach filled with guilt. The curtain was a perfect spot for a picture, and it was clear that Hope wanted to take one.

She sucked in a breath, closing her eyes before muttering a bitter “Fine.”

Hope’s grip on her arm tightened again as she pulled Josie closer to the curtain. The brunette opened her eyes and watched Hope grab her phone and attempt to position it to fit the two of them.

”Here,” Josie said, grabbing the phone and holding it above the two of them. The whole picture would have been useless if Josie wasn’t even in it due to Hope’s height.

She grinned widely and clicked the shutter. The quiet sound of the phone indicated that the picture was taken, and she clicked it a few more times just in case she looked bad in the first one before handing it back to Hope.

”So cute,” Hope mumbled, taking the phone from Josie’s hands and throwing it in her pocket. The two of them were back to awkwardly standing, staring at each other.

Josie was the first to break the tension. She forced herself to pry her eyes away from Hope’s soft facial features and turn around and walk to the next bundle of lights.

Hope trailed behind her, letting go of her arm and pulling it to her side. They arrived at what seemed like a tunnel, but Josie couldn’t tell with her mind boggled on how Hope had compelled her to take a picture.

”OH MY GOD!” Hope suddenly screamed. Josie jumped and immediately cowered down, covering her head.

So this was the day she died. Josie hadn’t even had sex yet, she hadn’t even gone to a high school party or drank an ounce of alcohol. Now she was going to die in the presence of a bitch.

She suddenly felt a hand pull her arm up, and was met with Hope’s smug smile.

”What are you doing?” she chuckled lightly.

Josie blinked, looking around frantically for any sign of a serial killer. “Why did you scream?” she breathed out.

Hope only gazed at her, eyes widening in astonishment before she broke out into a light laughter. “There’s an ice skating rink,” she smiled.

”Oh,” was all Josie could say. Her cheeks began overflowing with a red, heated color. She had to whip her head around so the shorter girl wouldn’t notice.

“Let’s go,” Hope said, tugging on Josie’s arm and beginning to pull her towards the rink.

”What? No,” Josie sputtered out, planting her feet childishly as Hope dragged her to the skating rink.

With one forceful yank, Josie flew off the ground, now being forced to walk along with Hope’s hand gripping her arm tightly.

”I’m not your pet!” Josie spat, standing up straight and aggressively retracting her arm to herself. She crossed her arms across her chest and scoffed at Hope, who turned around slowly.

”Fine,” she groaned, pulling her hands into her pockets and staring at the ground.

That same, killing awkward tension built up between them again, crushing Josie’s soul.

She watched as Hope sucked in a breath, grow a disheartening look, and bit her lip. “I’m trying to make things better, why can’t you see that?” she scoffed, frustration seeping into her voice.

Josie stepped back. It felt like Hope had grown into this giant and slapped her across the face. In her mind, she was falling down, but in reality, she was still standing up.

”You’re the only one who wants that!” Josie defended. She watched as Hope furrowed her brows, opening her mouth.

Nothing came out, though her facial expressions already told her everything Hope wanted to say. She was clearly frustrated with the brunette.

“My God,” she laughed with no amusement. “Do you know how much it kills me whenever you turn your back?”

”Do you know how much it killed me when you turned your back?” Josie slapped back. “I couldn’t give a shit about what hurts you,” she seethed, the lie burning her lips as they slipped through her teeth. The thought of Hope getting hurt pained Josie too much to even think about.

The shorter girl didn’t say anything, didn’t even open her mouth. She was still clearly frustrated, but it didn’t seem like she was going to make any advances on Josie.

“Josie,” she sighed. Her voice hinted strongly of disappointment and tiredness, but most importantly, irritation. “I’m really sorry,” she spoke softly. “I never meant to hurt you.”

”See, that’s the problem,” Josie sneered. “You always find a way to be alone with me and it always ends up in us fighting like this.”

Hope opened her mouth to say something, but Josie didn’t allow her. She continued. “And you apologize. Every single time. But it doesn’t work,” she pointed out. Her mind flashed with images of the dream, where the vines were piercing into her heart with each move Hope made towards her. “I think you’re hurting me even more each time this happens.”

Hope blinked. She sucked in a breath, keeping her mouth open for a few seconds before slowly closing it.

Josie honestly wasn’t waiting for an answer, only a reaction. Hope’s face was completely unreadable, even when it was illuminated from the Christmas lights.

She gave a glance at Josie, and with that, she turned around and walked off.

Josie stayed put. Her bones had betrayed her, her guts turning cold as she watched Hope’s coat shuffle with each step she took.

So Hope had left. Just like that. It was really that easy.

Josie should’ve felt happy, accomplished even, that she had done that so easily. But she didn’t. All she could feel was regret and sorrow. 

Had she been too harsh? 

Her thoughts weren’t even able to continue when a shriek called out her name.

”Josette Olivia Saltzman!”

Her head whipped around and spotted Lizzie and MG, the blonde marching very angrily towards her.

”Pick up your damn calls! Where the hell were you?”

Josie peaked into her pocket and viewed the twenty missed calls on her phone. She gulped and shoved it back in before clearing her throat and looking up at her sister.

”Sorry, I was just taking pictures of myself.” She cringed at how her tone sounded. 

Lizzie cocked an eyebrow up. She sighed. “Me and MG were running around looking for you. We thought you got kidnapped!”

Josie rolled her eyes playfully, linking arms with her sister and MG.

They wandered around the lights fair, observing the beautiful display of lights. Josie enjoyed watching the animations by herself. She might as well have been alone, with MG and Lizzie laughing and giggling with each other. She didn’t mind, though. It was nice seeing the two of them so happy.

About an hour of walking around and looking at the lights later, MG and Lizzie were swinging on the slides. There were four spots, but the other two were occupied by little children. Josie tried asking a little boy if she could swing for a while, but with her terrible bond with children, he started crying and ran to his mom. Josie suddenly did not want to swing anymore. What was even more embarrassing was that she was given looks, definitely judging her for asking a child to let her, a whole 17 year old, have a turn to play on the swings.

She walked away, throwing all her attention onto the lights above the lake shaped like a swan. She headed towards it, then froze in her tracks when she spotted the familiar auburn hair.

She was leaning her body against the railing, peering down into the lake.

Josie inhaled heavily, watching Hope stand alone miserably.

The brunette stepped forward, approaching Hope slowly.

”It’s dangerous to be alone at night,” Josie said, leaning her elbows on the railing. Hope whipped her chin up, but didn’t turn her head. At least that told Josie she knew she was there.

”What are you doing here?” Hope croaked out. Josie flinched at her tone. It was hitched and uneven compared to her usually steady voice.

”Well, I just wanted to help you remember,” Josie said, rubbing her hands against the stuffed alligator.

The Hope turned around, and Josie choked on air at the sight. Her eyes were red, tears falling down from them. Her cheeks were wet and tear stained, so similar to the way Josie looked when she had thrown up in the school bathroom.

Well,” she mocked. “You should get going before I hurt you again,” she scoffed, her eyes darting down to Josie’s stuffed alligator plush. Her eyebrows furrowed slightly, but she rolled her eyes and turned back to face the swan.

Josie saw her fiddling aggressively with her fingers, snapping them so hard, they looked like they were screaming for mercy.

She looked back down at the alligator in her hands. A lightbulb flickered in her head.

Using one hand, she held the alligator, moving it like it was walking and sliding it towards Hope. The auburn-haired girl flinched and looked at it. Josie shook it, motioning for her to pick it up.

”Here,” she nodded.

The latter gave her a look of judgement, but knowing Hope, Josie could tell she was wanted to grab it. And she did.

Hope took the alligator, slowly moving it between her hands to hug it. Hesitantly, she leaned her chin above it, rubbing it against the soft material.

Josie couldn’t stop the smile that crept to her lips.

”I’m sorry,” she croaked out. Hope flinched so hard, Josie was scared she would drop the alligator into the water.

”What?” she sputtered, shaking her head in disbelief.

Josie inhaled. It would kill her new found ego to do this, but she didn’t appreciate the guilt at all. “For saying you’re hurting me.”

Hope blinked. She turned her eyes down to the alligator, stroking it gently.

”Don’t apologize.”

Then grew a silence, once again, killing Josie.

“I came here for you,” Hope muttered timidly, like she was ashamed. That perked Josie’s ears up. “We came here to see my aunt, not this light thing,” she chuckled, her voice full of melancholy.

Right. Rebekah lived in Richmond.

”Are you staying over at her house?” Josie asked in an attempt to have a normal conversation. She knew how obsessed Hope was with Rebekah’s house; it had an elevator.

Hope only shook her head, surprising Josie a bit.

”I booked a hotel room.”

Josie blinked. “Why?”

If she was in Hope’s situation, she would definitely choose to stay in Rebekah’s house. She’s never even been inside, but an elevator? That has got to be a nice house.

Hope inhaled heavily. “Landon’s there.”

”Huh?” Josie said, so fast that it was embarrassing.

It was a good thing Hope was too focused on the water below them to notice.

”His parents needed to speak with her. Aunt Rebekah, she thought we were still dating,” Hope chuckled, looking miserably at the water. “I told her, of course. But now he’s stuck here, so she had no choice than to let him stay over.”

“Oh,” Josie said. Their breakup must have been really shitty afterwards if Hope declined Rebekah’s house for him.

“I heard you went out with Jade Montgomery.” Her voice was sly and filled with a pregnant laughter. Josie wanted to burst out laughing as she remembered about Hope’s texts.

But instead, she chuckled lightly. “Yeah,” she smiled.

The conversation felt suspiciously normal, alike the ones they had before the whole ‘Landon Thing’ happened.

Hope tilted her head to the side and turned to face Josie. “How was it?” she said softly.

”Good, it was good,” Josie said, then froze. “Wait,” she said. “How did you know her?”

Hope tensed up, her smile slightly fading. “She’s one of Landon’s ex’s,” she said straightforwardly, not an ounce of sugarcoating.

”Oh,” Josie nodded. “Aren’t we all?” she chuckled. It meant to come off as a joke, but Josie’s chest grew heavy. She could tell that Hope was thinking the same.

”Josie,” she whispered, putting one hand on the brunette’s shoulder. Josie’s eyes darted up to meet Hope’s, being invited to remain looking in them forever.

”Yes?” she whispered back.

Hope’s eyes gleamed. “Can we agree to something?”

Josie tilted her head to the side. “Like what?”

”Today, we both promise to act like everything is normal. And then when the day’s over, you can decide if I get to bother you anymore.”

Josie blinked. The deal sounded quite reasonable, and far too easy. One day with Hope would equal no more days with her. Maybe it was a good investment?

“Okay,” she said almost immediately, without a second thought. “But three rules,” she said and held up three fingers. “No arguing.”  She set one finger down. “No poking.” Another. “And no mentioning Landon,” she finished and held out a pinkie.

”Deal,” Hope said, not hesitating to intertwined her pinkie finger with her own, locking their thumbs together before pulling away.

”Let’s go check out the tunnel,” Josie said, backing away from the railing and nodding for Hope to follow her. The latter trailed behind her, hugging the alligator close to her and softly hitting Josie with it every now and then.

Everything felt normal. Too normal. They had gotten hot chocolate and arrived into the tunnel by the time the first wave of snow started falling.

They wandered through the tunnel filled with white, yellow, and blue lights, slowly ascending into a combination of pink, blue, green, and purple. The whole time Josie was sipping on the hot chocolate, while Hope was stopping every now and then to take pictures of the alligator with the lights.

“You’ve got to give it a name,” she chuckled, walking towards Josie and shoving her phone into her pocket.

Josie hummed. “Gertrude?”

Hope laughed, her voice producing a sweet sound. “No.”

”Josie,” the brunette smiled proudly. Hope shook her head and snorted. Josie has actually been hoping she’d agree.

“How does Timothy sound?” Hope said, stroking the alligator with her nails.

”Timmy,” Josie nodded. “Timmy is his name.”

”Timmy,” Hope repeated. She smiled. “Alright.”

Pretending like Hope hadn’t done anything was tiring. Though, she did like how she felt like she had a best friend again. It felt comforting, lovely, almost.

They walked out of the tunnel, meeting the snow falling gracefully on Josie’s head. Her boot crunched in the snow underneath her, and without a second thought, she bended down and scooped a handful of the cold snow.

Hope was walking ahead of her, throwing her empty cup of hot chocolate into a trash can. Josie pulled her arm back and threw the snowball straight into Hope’s back.

The auburn-haired girl gasped, slowly turning around. Her mouth was wide open, eyes as big as the street lamp behind her.

”You didn’t...” she murmured, picking up a handful of snow and hauling it towards the brunette.

It hit Josie straight in the face. She gasped dramatically and wiped it off her face, before setting down her cup of hot chocolate and grabbing two handfuls of snow from a nearby bench. She walked over and dumped it over the shorter girl.

Hope flinched, but bent down immediately and grabbed an arm full of snow before throwing it straight into Josie’s stomach, ruining her coat.

Josie giggled, using her cold fingertips to press them against Hope’s cheeks. The shorter girl leaned back, erupting into a light laughter.

“Josie,” a voice said, clearing their throat.

She whipped her head around, finding Lizzie and MG staring in shock at the two of them, both their eyes bouncing from each girl.

”It’s nine...” Lizzie faltered. If anything, she seemed more confused on why Josie was laughing with Hope. MG nodded next to her, looking just as confused, but only because he was wondering why Lizzie was.

”Oh,” Josie blinked. She turned back over to look at Hope, who was smiling at her sadly. 

“You have to go,” she pointed out, no hint of question in her voice. She already knew.

Josie nodded. If she left now, their definition of normal would wash away, and the reality of normal would come back.

Hope watched awkwardly as Josie turned around and walked to Lizzie and MG. The two were staring at her, not saying a word.

“Well?” Josie said, crossing her arms and smiling tensely. “Sorry for-“

”Are you two friends again?” Lizzie said softly, nodding behind Josie. The brunette turned around, finding Hope grabbing the hot chocolate Josie left on the bench and sipping it.

”No,” she said simply, turning back to face Lizzie. She didn’t seem disappointed, only puzzled.

“Let’s go,” MG said, sensing Josie’s stiff posture. They all smiled, following each other towards the exit of the fair, but not leaving without grabbing a half dozen pack of candy apples.

-

“Mm! Taste this one!” Lizzie said, shoving her candy apple into MG’s mouth. The boy took a small bite out of it, chewing it slowly. His face switched from blank to blissful in one second.

Lizzie turned and handed the candy apple towards Josie, but the brunette kindly declined. Sugar at night was not a good choice for her. 

She shifted on the bed to grab her phone that she had been sitting on. There were now twenty-four missed calls from Lizzie. She chuckled.

The three of them were sitting on the queen sized bed, the box of candied apples in front of them along with a bag of fudge they’d picked up. Josie asked them to save some for her the next day, but she knew deep down they’d all be gone the next hour.

“I’m gonna go check if the vending machine has any herbal tea,” she lied, setting her phone in the pocket of her sweatpants and sliding off the bed.

She needed to do something, anything, to allow her mind to think of the hour she’d spent with Hope.

Her sister nodded and the boy hummed. She slipped on MG’s large shoes and headed out of the hotel room.

Her fingers slid along the wall as she slumped through the hallways of the hotel. It was cold, the air conditioning hitting Josie’s arms through her sweatshirt.

She finally reached the glow of the vending machine, slumping over and leaning her head against the thin glass. She stared at a bag of skittles before noticing the ice machine was right next to her.

Josie has never used an ice machine from a hotel. Not once in her life. So the sight caused her to squeal.

She stumbled over to it and examined the mechanics. With a huff, she pulled down the lever. One single ice cube came out. One. She grunted, pulling the lever down again. Yay! Now came two!

Josie huffed and kicked the machine, causing four ice cubes to drop. A light bulb flickered in her head.

She pulled the lever down and simultaneously kicked the machine. Two more ice cubes dropped. Josie groaned and kicked the machine repeatedly, watching it drop ice by the ones.

The sudden sound of a door opening slapped Josie across the face. She quickly stopped and spun around. The door was still opening, and when it finally revealed enough, Josie’s heart picked up its pace.

Hope was standing there, her hair let down messily, wearing a tank top and sweatpants. Josie was surprised that she wasn’t cold, but was even more surprised that she was staying at the same hotel as her.

”Hope,” she breathed out.

The girl rubbed her eyes and squinted at Josie, slowly breaking out into a small smile. “Oh,” she said, but not in a disappointed way. Either she was happy or still half asleep. “You’re making noise,” she pointed out.

“Uh,” Josie stammered, looking from the ice machine to Hope. “Yeah.”

Hope only yawned. “The day is not over,” she said.

”Mhm.” Josie didn’t know what Hope meant by that, and when she was about to push her to go back to sleep, the girl grabbed her wrist.

”We still have two hours.”

Oh, right. Josie had forgotten their pact lasted the entire day, meaning it would end at midnight.

Hope stayed standing there, groggily looking at Josie. “You’re supposed to push the lever, by the way,” she said, and slid her grip on Josie’s wrist, down to her finger tips. Josie shuddered at the soft contact as Hope wrapped her hands around her fingers, pulling her into her hotel room.

Josie wanted to object, but it was much too late to start yelling in the hallways. So she allowed Hope to bring her into the room, making sure to shut the door behind them.

The room was exactly the same as hers, only inverted. It was lit up by the lamp on the nightstand. She quickly fished out her phone and texted Lizzie.

I’m laying down in Mom and Stefan’s room. They have two beds.

She shoved her phone back into the pocket and continued walking further into the room.

The bed was slightly undone, Timmy laying on top of the pillows. Josie smiled.

Hope let go of her grip on Josie’s fingers, leaving the brunette’s hand grow cold at the loss of contact. Hope slid in the bed, patting Josie to sit on the spot next to her.

”I might fall asleep,” Josie muttered, her eyes glued to the way Hope’s hand froze.

”So?” she groggily mumbled, now patting the spot more aggressively.

Josie sighed. There was no backing out of it. She walked over and laid on top of the comforter, awkwardly facing up.

“You’re so tense,” Hope mumbled, her eyes barely opened. She reached out and grabbed Josie’s arm, squeezing it slightly. “Relax.”

Somehow that made Josie even more tense. Hope noticed, releasing her grip on Josie’s arm. She sat up, resting her body on an arm.

“Is everything okay?” she whispered, her eyes darting across Josie’s face.

Josie’s eyes slightly peeked to the side, catching a glimpse of Hope slightly hovering over her side before quickly looking back at the ceiling. She inhaled deeply.

“Yeah,” she whispered back, not daring to look at her.

Hope didn’t seem convinced. “Am I too close? If you want, I,” she paused, now beginning to slide off the bed. “I can just sit at the edge-“

”No!” Josie blurted, her hand jolting down to grab Hope’s arm. She froze, looking at Josie before slowly sliding back into the bed.

”Okay,” Hope breathed. Her voice was more steady now, so Josie assumed she was beginning to fully wake up. A part of her was guilty that she’d disturbed her slumber, but the other part was glad she had wanted to use every last minute of the pact.

“Why don’t you come under the covers?” Hope asked. “It’s warm.”

Josie shook her head. “It’s fine, really.”

“Josie,” Hope said, this time more sternly. She lifted the covers slightly, nodding for Josie to get off.

The brunette huffed and obliged. She slid off the bed, allowed Hope to lift the sheets up, slide back into the bed, and cover herself. It was warm, that was the first thing Josie’s felt herself melting into. The second thing was Hope immediately pushing her body closer to Josie’s.

The brunette could feel Hope’s cold shoulder brush along her chin as she scooted towards her. There was no direct contact, only intimate, with the two of them facing the ceiling.

“Do you remember freshman year,” Hope suddenly blurted out, still facing up. “You thought it was spirit week,” she snorted.

Josie felt a blush rise to her cheeks. Freshman year, she had mistaken the date of Halloween spirit week and ended up wearing an Alexander Hamilton costume, with the wig and all. It was safe to say that Josie never participated in spirit week after that.

She pursed her lips, trying to think of an embarrassing thing Hope had done in her life. Josie was the one who always managed to find a way to be embarrassed, while Hope somehow remained ‘cool.’

Then she found it.

”Well, remember when you flooded the dishwasher at camp and everyone had to leave the dining hall?”

Hope huffed. “Don’t remind me,” she giggled.

Josie could see from the corner of her eye how Hope reached up behind her blindly, pulling her arm down. She glanced at whatever Hope was resting on her stomach, and was pleased to see Timmy.

Josie chest began weighing down, as if someone had come and placed ten dumbbells against her.

Hope made him dance around, moving him side to side as she continued talking.

Now Josie’s breath was growing heavy, and her stomach bounced lightly.

”Remember when-“

”I had a dream about you last night,” Josie blurted. She immediately recoiled and shut her eyes tight. God, she was such an idiot.

Hope paused. Josie could sense the way her shoulders froze, and how her breath stopped abruptly. Josie sucked in a breath.

”What was it about?” Hope said softly, her hand slowly caressing Timmy’s fur.

Josie exhaled shakily. She couldn’t tell Hope how she was kissing her, and she especially couldn’t tell Hope how she was almost dying watching her and Landon kiss.

“There were vines around me,” she started, almost unsure of her words. “And their thorns were digging into my heart.”

Hope twitched her head slightly, turning to face Josie a little better. She was still staring at the ceiling, though Josie assumed she would now be able to see a glimpse of the brunette’s hair.

”And you were trying to help me.”

Hope hummed at the mention of her. Josie continued.

”But it was only hurting me more,” she breathed.

Hope froze. Her hand on Timmy’s fur suddenly stopped its stroking motion, as she slowly sat up.

The spot where Hope’s top originally was grew cold, as the latter was now sitting up, looking down at Josie.

”Do you think it means something?” she whispered. Her voice was disappointed, almost miserable.

“I,” Josie started. The way Hope was looking down at her, staring right through her soul, messed up Josie’s thought process. “It’s just a stupid dream,” she chuckled forcefully.

Hope didn’t find that amusing. She inhaled deeply. “You don’t think that,” she claimed, sounding unsure with her words.

Josie wasn’t sure what to make of that. When she didn’t reply, Hope continued.

”You, you told me earlier, tha-that I was only hurting you every time I tried to make things better.”

How had Hope picked up on it that fast? It took Josie a bundle of hours to make the connection.

Josie sucked in a thick breath, now sitting up to face Hope better. “I should probably go,” she muttered, slipping away from the bed, sliding into MG’s large shoes, and making a run for the door. Just as she was about to grab the doorknob, a hand wrapped around her wrist, pulling her back.

”Josie please,” Hope gritted out, tugging Josie’s arm towards her. The brunette whipped around by the force, her eyes immediately setting on Hope’s teary eyes and puffy face.

”Hope, we agreed for no arguing,” Josie shut her eyes tight to erase the sight of Hope’s misery-filled figure.

”And we’re not,” she spat, tears falling from her eyes as she shook her head. “I’m begging you to stay!” Josie could hear her pants grow heavy, becoming more and more detached. “We still have two hours.”

“Hope,” the brunette spat out sternly.

”I’m being serious, Josie!” Hope yelled. “Tomorrow you can hate me all you want, hell, I’ll leave you alone,” she gritted out, frustration and melancholy seeping into her voice. “But please, just stay, just this one night.”

And that’s when Josie’s eyes fluttered open. Hope’s face was now drenched in her own years, eyes puffy and red. But what caught her attention the most was how wide Hope’s eyes were, holding desperation in them.

It threw her off at how vulnerable Hope was being right now, and even caused her throat to close in, stinging the flesh.

“Fine,” she muttered at last. Hope’s face lifted, almost as if she couldn’t believe her ears.

And then her lips curled up into a sickly smile. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Josie didn’t say anything, only staring at Hope’s breaths calm down. A sudden whimper choked out from her lips, causing the brunette to jolt forward and grab her hand.

Hope looked down at it, smiling fondly, before dragging Josie back to the bed. The taller girl obliged because one, she was scared Hope would end up sobbing, and two, she just wanted to rest.

The latter slid into the bed, but didn’t lay down. She remained sitting up, watching Josie sit down next to her.

”We don’t have to talk,” Hope muttered under her breath, her thumb rubbing along Josie’s knuckles. “I’ll leave in the morning before you wake up, I promise.”

Josie’s throat caved in, causing her to embarrassingly sputter out a series of noises. She cleared her throat and nodded, despite the way she just sounded like a rusty car engine.

Hope kept her gaze on Josie’s cheek. With an exhale, she laid down, her back facing Josie.

”Turn the lights off,” she mumbled.

Josie turned around and grabbed the string of the lamp, pulling it down. The room grew dark blue, the only source of light coming from the Christmas lights behind the curtained window.

She slowly turned back and laid down next to Hope, only she was facing her back. A bone below Hope’s shoulder repeatedly tensed up.

Hesitantly, Josie placed her palm against it. She heard Hope exhale shakily.

Then she spun around and immediately wrapped her arms around Josie’s neck and under her arm. She snuck her nose in the crook of the brunette’s neck, letting out shaky breaths that left Josie’s neck warm.

”I miss you,” she choked out, her words ascending into a sob.

Hope’s voice was deadly enough to send Josie spiraling. She wrapped her arms around the latter’s torso and pulled her closer without thinking.

”I miss you, too,” she croaked out. Josie had now been made well aware that she was on the verge of stupid tears.

She had finally admitted it. Josie missed Hope so badly. Saying those words out loud released any tension in her shoulders.

Hope didn’t say anything, only dug her nose deeper into Josie’s neck. The brunette shuddered at how her lips brushed slightly against her skin.

They stayed in that position, the only sound being their heavy breaths. After a while, Hope’s grip on Josie loosened. She grunted groggily and whipped around, hitting Josie’s chin aggressively with the sudden movement.

Any chance of falling asleep was now gone. She watched Hope turn around, resting her head under her arm and exhale, now back to sleeping.

Josie huffed. She was unaware at how much time had passed. Her eyes darted down to Hope’s bare shoulder.

She walked her fingers up to it, beginning to draw circles on the cold skin. She used her fingers to gently scratch out the shape of an alligator.

”You okay?” Hope mumbled so suddenly that Josie almost yelped.

”Ye-yeah,” she stammered. “Sorry, do you want me to stop?” she said and pulled her hand back.

”No,” Hope said simply. Her arm reached back blindly and searched for Josie’s hand. The brunette placed it in her grasp, and allowed Hope to move her fingers back to her shoulder.

”You know I’m going to hate you tomorrow, right?” Josie spoke softly.

Hope chuckled. “I know.”

Josie shakily exhaled. She repeated the tracing pattern, until she eventually fell into a light slumber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

A slight shuffle to Josie’s left sent her eyes to flutter open. It took a while for her sight to adjust to the new setting, but once it did, she could see how dark the room was.

It was dark blue, to be exact, with that same glow from the curtained window, to the different feel of the room. It was deadly cold, and so, so quiet, the only sound being a pattern of breaths.

Josie turned her head to her right and immediately saw Hope’s sleeping figure. Her eyes were slightly shut, though it was done in such a delicate matter that Josie was beginning to think she slept with her eyes opened.

She slowly reached her hand over and allowed her fingers to rest against Hope’s cheek. They lingered there for a while, with Josie feeling the soft, warm skin under her cold fingertips. She gently slid them along her cheek, over her nose bridge, and up to her eyes. Using her index finger and thumb, she gently brought the latter’s eyelids down.

Hope suddenly mumbled a series of noises. Josie sucked in a breath, drawing her hand away immediately. If she’d woken up Hope, she would’ve said something stupid with how fatigued she was feeling right now.

Thankfully, though, the auburn just grunted and turned around, her back now facing Josie. She cursed herself for the wave of disappointment that washed over her from not being able to see Hope’s face anymore.

Though, Josie could see the spot where she was drawing the alligator against Hope’s shoulder. Only now, the scratches were gone, Hope’s soft, smooth skin replacing it.

Her senses slowly begun to wash over her. She sat up and ran a hand through her hair while her eyes searched for a clock, instantly landing on the one placed on the nightstand. In bright, neon red letters, it read 3:21 A.M. 

Josie groaned softly. She voluntarily passed on sugar last night, yet her body still decided to wake her up in the middle of the night? Rude.

She forced herself to throw her legs to the side and drag her out of bed. The cold air slapped her body once she left the warmth of the sheets and Hope’s presence.

Her legs carried her to the curtained window that was slightly emitting a ray of light. She opened it, and the sight in front of her stole her breath and filled her chest with warmth.

The city was still alive. Cars and busses were bustling in the streets, a group of adults were laughing with wine glasses in their hands, and Josie could even see a family throwing snowballs at each other.

But what caught her eye the most was how the Christmas lights lit up the city. They glowed perfectly with the way the snow was gently falling to the ground and added to its two-inch height.

”It’s breathtaking, isn’t it?” a soft voice suddenly whispered. Josie’s heart shot straight out of her chest as she spun around.

Hope was standing there, arms crossed over her chest, with her eyes fluttering shut over and over again. Josie assumed she had just woken up and could barely keep her eyes open.

”Hey,” she breathed out and motioned a “go on” gesture with her head. “Go back to sleep.”

Hope completely ignored her and stepped even closer, now leaning against the opposite side of the window’s wall.

“December’s my favorite month,” she muttered, a slight smile drawing on her lips. “I love it.”

Josie kept her eyes glued on Hope, who was staring out the window, her eyes reflecting the glow of the lights. The latter remained smiling for a while, before dropping it slowly a few seconds later. “Remember last year?”

Josie remained silent. She remembered so many things, many ups and downs that she had gone through with Hope by her side. Then by the time summer started, Hope was gone.

The thought pierced her heart, but when Hope continued whatever she was saying, Josie’s attention turned back around.

”Lizzie screamed at us because we stepped on the lights and shattered them.”

Josie chuckled. “You were so scared.”

”Tell me about it,” Hope huffed playfully. “I was convinced that was my last day.”

Josie burst into a light laughter, Hope eventually joining in.

-

1 year prior, December 15th

Hope and Josie both decided they wanted to spent the first day of their winter break together. Once the final bell rung, they rushed out of their classrooms, met each other in the halls, and ran to Josie’s house.

The air was chilly, the ground covered in a few inches of snow. Once they arrived, Josie was sweating underneath her coat. But she decided to keep it on due to how her body was terrible at heating up.

She threw her hat off carelessly on the driveway, Hope doing the same with her coat. 

Josie opened the garage and headed straight for their Christmas lights. She grabbed out the box and opened it to pull out Lizzie’s  favorite string of lights to wrap around the bushes.

“Grab the other end,” she said to Hope. The latter cocked an eyebrow.

”Don’t tell me what to do,” she scoffed playfully, crossing her arms across her chest.

Josie slowly dragged out the lights. “Hope,” she scolded, walking closer. “Andrea.” Closer. “Mikaelson.” Their bodies were so close, that Josie could feel Hope’s puffs of white breaths touch her face. “Grab the other end,” she said.

Hope mimicked a biting motion with her mouth. Josie leaned closer and breathed out, making sure the latter got a taste of her atrocious, cookie-filled breath.

Hope instantly leaned back and slapped Josie’s shoulder, gagging. “You’re so gross!” she yelled.

Josie stuck out a tongue. It wasn’t long before her mouth was filled with snow.

She immediately spat it out. Hope was looking at her with a mischievous grin on her face, snow present on her palms.

The brunette didn’t waste a second to bend down, scoop some of the snow on the ground, and wipe it across Hope’s face. There wasn’t much snow, thus causing Josie to bend down, grab more, and wipe it on Hope’s face again.

Before she could do it a third time, the latter shoved snow straight into Josie’s mouth. She could feel the cold ice against her teeth before she spit it out.

”That’s for your smelly cookie breath,” Hope chuckled. Her face was covered in snow, making her cheeks and the tip of her nose turn pink.

Josie bent down and picked up more snow, about to throw it at Hope until she realized how close they were.

Her face was so beautiful and soft. Josie wanted to lean in and bop the tip of her nose, but couldn’t think of it anymore when a bundle of snow went straight into her eyes.

”AH!” she flinched, stepping back and rubbing her eyes. The cold ice seeped through, melting into water, and flowed down her cheeks like tears.

”Jo!” the auburn breathed. “I’m so sorry, are you okay?”

Josie faked a frown, pretending to sob. The look on Hope’s face was priceless, with genuine concern and regret.

“You hurt me,” she frowned and pouted. Hope’s eyes immediately filled with guilt.

”I’m so sorry, Jo,” she whispered, leaning in closer and cupping Josie’s cheek, wiping away her tears - which were really droplets of melted snow.

Josie smiled slyly. Hope pulled her in for a hug, but the brunette didn’t allow herself to get caught in the warmth. She used the snow in her hand and wiped it across Hope’s face.

The auburn gasped and pulled away. She looked at Josie with betrayal as the taller girl laughed.

”Wha- what? Were you-?”

Josie nodded, bending down again to scoop up more snow. Before she could even stand up fully, the auburn charged towards her, pushing a handful of snow against Josie’s face.

Hope didn’t smear it across her face, though, only shoving it against her skin. The force caused Josie to stumble backwards, and she felt and heard a small crunch underneath her boots.

She didn’t bother to think much of it. Instead, Josie pulled Hope’s arm and yanked her forward, forcing her to fall down with her. There was a series of more crunching sounds until the two landed on the driveway, with Hope on top of Josie.

The auburn was panting, her eyes darting across Josie’s face. “Are you okay?” she giggled, a hand finding it’s way to push a strand of Josie’s hair away from her face while her elbows rested on her shoulders.

Josie pouted. “M’lady, you seem to be finding your way to scratch my nerves a tad bit!” she bellowed in a Scottish-like accent.

Hope rolled her eyes playfully. “You’re such a dork,” she laughed, grinning widely from ear to ear. Josie swore she could see her cheeks turn into an even darker shade of pink, but it was probably from how cold it was.

Josie only grinned. She used her hand with the snow to clench the ice a little bit before letting go. The snow dropped freely from her grasp.

All she could focus on was Hope’s sweet laughter. The sound echoed through her ears gracefully, massaging her eardrums.

”Please, sister, bring your little lesbian movie someplace else,” a sudden voice groaned.

Hope stumbled away from her body, standing up almost immediately. Josie huffed and looked to find the source of the voice, really only looking for Lizzie.

The blonde was slumping over to them, a blanket across her shoulders and a cup of tea in her hands. She had caught a cold and was being extremely miserable the whole day.

”Sorry, Lizzie,” Hope chuckled at her irritated figure.

”Yeah,” Josie grunted and forced herself to sit up, resting her hands behind her.

Lizzie was only spacing off at the driveway ground, not saying anything. Josie assumed she was about to fall asleep, but was proven horribly wrong when she squinted her eyebrows and gasped dramatically.

”Hope Mikaelson, get the hell off!” she yelled, setting down her cup on the floor of the garage and charging towards Hope.

The auburn gulped and tilted her head to the side. “Off what?”

Lizzie fumed. Josie didn’t know what she was mad about at first as well, until her eyes darted down to where Lizzie had been staring. Right underneath Hope’s boots were the Christmas lights, shattered pathetically.

Lizzie kicked Hope’s feet, causing the shorter girl to grunt and step back. And that was when she realized what Lizzie was so mad about.

Josie snorted as Hope’s confused expression quickly turned scared. She glanced up at Lizzie and sputtered.

”Oh- oh, oh my gosh, Lizzie I am so sorry-“

”You ruined my bush lights!” Lizzie cried out dramatically, bending down and hugging the broken lights to her chest. “Bitch!”

”Relax, Lizzie, we’ll just buy you a new set,” Josie chuckled.

The blonde fumed even more. She quickly stood up straight and hovered over Hope, making the shorter girl suck in a breath and hold it.

“I will crush you,” she gritted out. “After you buy me a new set.”

Hope nodded quickly. “I promise, how much do you want? One? Two? Hell, I’ll give you five hundred please don’t crush me,” Hope sputtered out quickly, shutting her eyes tight. Josie laughed quietly to herself. Everyone knew Lizzie’s definition of ‘I will crush you’ meant forcing someone to watch Grey’s Anatomy with her for twenty-four hours straight.

“Daddy’s money,” Lizzie grunted under her breath. She deeply inhaled, holding her breath for so long that the anticipation was killing Josie, before quickly exhaling. “Okay,” she said at last in an awfully calm manner.

Hope opened her eyes in bewilderment. She blinked. “Oh.”

Then Lizzie suddenly gasped, hiding behind Hope’s figure, but giving up and pushing her away when she remembered how short she was.

”Sebby is here!” she whispered loudly to Josie. The blonde turned back to face Hope. “If he asks where I am, tell him I’m in my room being super hot, okay?” she said and darted away, picking up her cup of tea and entering the house.

Josie turned around. On the street was a group of boys, more specifically Landon, Roman, and, of course, Sebastian. They all walked over.

”Where is lady Elizabeth?” Sebastian asked in an awfully chiseled voice.

”In her room being super hot,” Hope muttered, turning around to face the boys. Josie stood up, immediately feeling Hope walk closer to her and stand by her side.

The brunette looked at Landon. His cute face and curly hair made her heart swoon and a blush rise to her cheeks. “Hi, Landon,” she said, giving him a small wave.

He looked at her, smirked, and nodded back. “Hey.”

Josie could hear Hope grumble under her breath before she felt a hand wrap around her arm, gripping her so tightly that the brunette was convinced Hope was trying to cut off her blood flow.

”What are you two doing?” Landon asked, his deep, husky voice sending chills through Josie’s spine.

”We’re decorating, wanna help?” she beamed.

Landon smiled in a severely cocky and flirtatious way, opening his mouth to answer, until Hope interrupted him.

”Oh, silly Jo! We actually don’t need help, as a matter of fact! Thank you! Now leave.” She ended her sentence with a hardened voice, frightening enough to make Landon flinch.

Josie’s head whipped around to look at the auburn. “Hol-.”

She couldn’t finish her question when Hope pulled her arm, dragging her to the garage door and throwing her into the house.

”Hope, what was that about?” she scowled once the shorter girl aggressively slammed the garage door shut.

She snapped her head around to face the brunette. “It’s girl’s night. No boys, remember?”

Josie huffed. “But did you see him? He’s totally into me!”

Hope rolled her eyes. “He is, Jo. He’ll ask you out one day, okay? But can today be just for us, please?”

Josie looked at her for a long five seconds. Her eyes were pleading, her grip on Josie’s arm tightening.

She breathed in deeply, letting the image of Hope’s eyes run through her head. “Okay,” she smiled, placing a hand of her own on Hope’s grip.

The auburn smiled, letting go of Josie and retracting her arm, allowing Josie’s blood to start flowing again.

”Okay,” she echoed, giving Josie a small nod.

-

The brunette smiled at the fond memory. She could still remember how cold the snow felt on her cheeks, how tight Hope’s grip on her arm was, and even what flavor tea Lizzie was drinking; Twinings Peppermint.

Then the memory of Landon barged into her mind without permission. His smile, smirk, and the duffel bag slung over his shoulder.

She let out a shaky exhale, turning her head slightly to face the latter, who was already staring at her with sad eyes.

”I miss it,” Hope whispered, her voice cracking heavily.

Josie had to tear her eyes away to stop the tears that were threatening to slip from her eyes. That didn’t do anything, though, and now Josie’s cheeks began soaking up.

It took her heart to pierce thickly to force her to turn around. “I should head to Lizzie, she doesn’t know I’m here,” Josie mumbled, the lie seething right through her teeth. She didn’t care to look back to see if Hope believed her, because before she knew it, she’d already slipped on MG’s shoes and left the room.

It took her to walk in the hallway for the tears to began streaming down her cheeks. She repeatedly clenched her eyes shut, allowing them to fall, but didn’t allow herself to give in.

How could she be so emotional right after waking up?

The room Lizzie and MG were in came into sight. She groaned when the knob wouldn’t budge.

She’d forgotten about the key card. She hadn’t even thought about bringing it with her when she left to wander the halls.

”Ugh!” she fumed, kicking the door harshly. She leaned her back against it and slid her back down, burying her face into her knees.

She couldn’t wake them up. They’d only end up getting more frustrated with her, and Josie couldn’t handle one more person having a problem with her right now.

Her heart wrenched up. Don’t, don’t don’t. She repeated to herself. She couldn’t cry and let her emotions get the best of her again.

So instead, Josie sat there, her hands clenching her hair as tears fell down. She kept her lip tugged between her teeth, biting it hard enough to taste blood.

When she wakes up the next morning, Hope would be gone. Hope would never bother her again. Her world would be Hope-free, and she could finally continue to get her life back together.

But was that what she wanted? For Hope to shut her out completely again?

Josie shook her head. No, she couldn’t deal with this. Not right now.

She slowly stood up, ruffling down her clothes and staring straight ahead. Her feet dragged her back to the direction she came from.

She arrived at the door, and her heart sunk. God, she was such an idiot. She didn’t even consider the key card situation here, either.

As soon as she was about to kick the door, her eyes landed on a tiny pencil. The door was cracked open, barely closing in on the pencil.

Josie couldn’t believe it. Had Hope done this? Or perhaps it was just luck.

She pushed the door open, meeting the cold hotel room again, before closing it behind her. She slowly walked forward, crossing her arms across her chest.

Hope was sitting on the bed, her legs dangling down the side with her hands gripping the mattress. Her back was facing the door, though once Josie approached closer, she said,

”You’re back,” as if it were a fact. The brunette stayed silent. She approached the bed, about to rest a hand on Hope’s shoulder, until the auburn slapped it away.

”Don’t,” she gritted out. Josie was taken aback at how harsh her voice was. It hinted frustration, irritation, and especially disappointment.

Guilt filled her chest. She attempted to reach forward again, and once her fingers brushed softly against the latter’s skin, her hand was slapped even harder.

I said don’t,” she gritted out again. This time, her head snapped around slightly, and Josie could see her glossy, red eyes.

”Hope-“

”I get it, okay? I fucked up!” she laughed, no amusement present in her voice. Josie gulped. “I,” she rolled her eyes. “I just didn’t think you’d turn away three fucking hours after the day ended!”

Now Hope stood up, looking straight ahead at Josie’s chest. The brunette was hoping she couldn’t hear how fast her heart was beating with how close she was standing.

”I,” Josie breathed. She didn’t know what to say. “You kept the door open for me.”

God, that was not what she wanted to say.

Hope scoffed. “I knew you weren’t going to be able to get in your other room.” She inhaled deeply, shutting her eyes shut. “You know, after your little ‘Hope Mikaelson Escape’.” 

Josie hated the way the latter used her fingers to mock the name she didn’t even create.

”I knew you would only come back because you didn’t have a place to stay-“

”That’s not true!” Josie yelled in defense. She was only halfway lying. Hope was right on the first half, but the second half, no. She did want to see Hope. Just a tiny part of her did, the part she didn’t want to admit.

Hope only scoffed. “We both know it’s true!”

”Well, what did you expect! For me to automatically forgive you because of one day?” she raised her voice.

Hope flinched. Her frustrated face dropped for a second before quickly regaining itself. “I thought you’d at least hate me when the sun rose!” she yelled in an even louder voice than Josie’s, as if she was competing against her volume.

Josie opened her mouth, about to comeback with more useless yelling that would not do anything, but a thundering sound in the ceiling stopped her.

”Shut the hell up!” a muffled voice screamed through.

The auburn flinched. The two stayed silent, their pants being the only sound in the room. Then, in one, fast motion, Hope shoved Josie’s shoulder aggressively and walked past her.

”Hope...” Josie faltered, her voice quieting. She spun around.

”No,” the latter mumbled. “I don’t want to talk to you right now,” she gritted out, walking back to the window and leaning her side against it. “Just go to fucking sleep, then you can wake up and hate me again.”

Josie furrowed her brows. “You know what? I will,” she replied in a petty tone.

Hope only scoffed.

Josie waited for her to say something, but nothing came. She sighed softly and threw herself on the bed, facing up. She laid above the covers, knowing that if she went under them, Hope’s lingering warmth would flood her senses.

Hope rigged, loud breathing clouded around the room. Josie turned around to face the window.

She watched as the auburn ran her fingers along the window, blowing breaths on the glass and drawing shapes.

It was too dark, and Josie was too tired to see, but when she squinted, the faint outline of a ladybug laid on the window before Hope wiped it away, huffing another breath on the window and drawing more shapes.

Hope remained doing that. Josie groggily watched her, memorizing the same routine - huff, draw, erase, repeat. The auburn continued that for way longer than Josie would have expected.

She couldn’t fall asleep herself, not with Hope frustrated enough to not want to sleep in the same bed as Josie. Frustrated enough to slide her back along the wall and sit down on the floor, fiddling with her fingers.

It hadn’t occurred to Josie that she and Hope were staring directly at each other. The latter’s eyes kept fluttering shut, and she kept shaking her head, trying to keep herself awake. Every minute. The same thing.

Josie shoved down her pettiness that was already fading and slid off the bed. Hope flinched at the movement, but remained still.

The brunette approached Hope, sitting down next to her. She felt the latter freeze and tense up once she appeared.

A killing silence built up between them. Jose was beginning to regret doing this, until Hope finally spoke.

”I’m sorry,” she croaked out in a whisper. The brunette turned her head over to look at her, but Hope remained looking straight ahead.

”I shouldn’t have lashed out on you like that,” she mumbled, looking down at her fingers that she was fiddling with aggressively. “I just didn’t want to accept that...” she paused, inhaling a deep breath. “I wasn’t ready to lose you.”

Josie’s heart tingled at her words, but she ignored it. “I’m sorry, as well,” she said.

Hope whipped her head around, her eyes wide.

Josie continued. “It was selfish of me to do that,” she whispered.

Hope shook her head. “No, no you had every right to-“

”But I shouldn’t have.” She grabbed Hope’s hand. “Come on. Let’s go,” she whispered, standing up. The latter looked at her funny, but obliged, standing up as well and tilting her head to the side.

Josie pulled her to the bed. Hope hesitated, but laid down, covering herself with the comforter. Josie slid next to her, this time being under the covers.

Hope’s shaky breath landed on Josie’s cheek, and that’s when she realized how close they were.

The auburnette gazed at her for a second before slowly scooting back. Josie almost frowned, but stopped herself when she realized she was almost disappointed.

She wasn’t supposed to feel this way.

”Thank you,” Hope whispered. “For giving me another chance.”

Josie hummed. “I,” she started, then quickly stopped herself. Hope raised a brow, but Josie just cleared her throat. “Yeah,” she said.

Hope kept her gaze for a while before nodding.

”Goodnight, Josie,” she mumbled, giving the brunette a sad smile before turning over.

Josie inhaled deeply, making sure every spot in her lungs could carry some air before slowly exhaling. Her eyes darted to Hope’s shoulder, and she reached forward-

No.

Josie retracted her arm quickly. She shut her eyes tight to rid the image of Hope’s shoulder and turned around as well, facing the wall.

-

The next time Josie spotted Hope was on Monday morning, the day right after they came back from their little getaway. She'd waken up Sunday to an empty bed in an empty hotel room. Empty would be an over exaggeration; Hope had replaced her spot with Timmy. When she opened her eyes, expecting to see Hope, all she saw was the stuffed alligator staring right back at her underneath the sheets.

The auburn had kept her promise. No advances were made, no texts, calls, or even eye contact. Nothing.

But now, as she leaned against her locker with MG leaning on the other, she caught a glimpse of the familiar figure. Hope was walking alone in comparison to how she hung out with her usual, obnoxious group. Her arms were occupied with empty buckets that looked as if they would topple down in any second.

"She forced me to sleep on the floor. I couldn't even get a pillow!"

MG's exasperated voice snapped her back to reality. Josie realized she's been staring too long, and that Hope was already long gone.

"Uh," she muttered, looking at him for a split second before turning her attention to find Hope. "I'll be right back."

"Wh- uh, okay?" he chuckled, but Josie was already gone to hear.

She surfed through the hallways in search of Hope. She couldn't have gotten far with how slow she was walking with the several buckets in her arms, so Josie found her quite easily, only she was kneeling on the floor and the buckets were scattered across from her.

Haha, Josie snorted to herself.

The brunette shuffled forward and immediately bent down, picking up a bucket that had slid about ten feet away from Hope. She went back over and handed it towards her.

"Here," she whispered. Hope flinched. 

"Oh," she stammered, looking up at Josie with bewildered eyes. Though, they did hold a hint of relief. "I-I wasn't aware we were talking?”

Josie shook her head. “We’re not,” she said dumbly. They were so obviously talking.

Hope nodded, shutting her eyes for a second and smiling awkwardly. “Right,” she chuckled forcefully. “Thanks,” she said and grabbed the bucket, stacking it on another one.

”What are these for?” Josie asked.

Hope blinked. “Detention.”

”Oh.”

Hope clicked her tongue. “Mhm.”

Now they’re back to awkward silence, with Hope shuffling around to pick up the buckets. She finished stacking them atop each other and gave Josie one last look, pursing her lips.

”Well,” she breathed out, standing up. “I’ll, um, uh...” she huffed. “Bye.”

And with that, the auburn left, leaving Josie kneeling on the floor in the middle of the hallway. She blinked.

Bye? Bye? That’s it?

“Hm,” Josie hummed. She picked herself up and brushed her hands down her outfit, turning around and walking back to MG. He was already looking at her curiously.

”Are you friends with her again?” he asked. Josie smiled and shook her head.

”No-“

”Oh, yeah! Josie I need to tell you something,” MG dropped his face, causing Josie’s heart to sink.

He continued. “Lizzie knows you went to sleep in Hope Mikaelson’s room.”

Oh, shit.

”Wh- I, I.. no- what? Ho-how?” she sputtered out embarrassingly. MG sighed.

”When you were asleep in the car ride home, Lizzie was complaining how she wanted to sleep in your parents room as well, and, well... you know how it goes.” He clicked his tongue.

Josie groaned. “Was she mad?” she whispered. Lizzie didn’t show any signs of being mad towards Josie this morning, but she could’ve been good at hiding it.

MG shrugged. “I think she’s more confused, if anything.” He took his math textbook out of his locker and shut it. “What happened between you and her, anyways?”

A memory of the ice cream parlor flashed into Josie’s mind. It had come to her realization that he was the only one who didn’t know what happened, yet he never complained about him.

Aw, Josie could cry happy tears.

”She was my best friend and stole my boyfriend,” she said simply.

The way MG’s face dropped made her insides laugh.

”Oh,” he said, nodding slowly. “That’s...”

”Shitty,” Josie continued for him.

”Right. Shitty. And cruel,” he added. Josie chuckled.

“Mrs. Bennett asked me to come to class early, I’ll see you at lunch?” she asked. MG nodded.

”See you,” he nodded, before walking off in the opposite direction as the brunette.

-

“Due to the commotion you stirred up at lunch, your punishment will be extended,” Mrs. Bennett frowned. “I’m sorry for doing this to you, Josette. But I must.”

Josie shook her head. “No, it’s fine,” she smiled and clapped her hands together. “So? What’s my task? Cleaning? Extra homework?”

Josie wasn’t too upset. She usually did voluntarily helped the teachers clean or even asked for extra homework when she was bored, so this couldn’t be too bad, right?

”I’ve already contacted your parents.”

Wrong.

Josie blinked profusely. “I’m sorry, what?”

“I can’t punish you with stuff you already want to do,” she said. Josie sputtered.

”But-“

”No buts.”

Josie bit her top lip to stifle a groan. She forced a sick smile, before returning to her seat in the front row, slumping down in it and throwing her head in her palms.

It was safe to say that Josie did not talk to Mrs. Bennett the entire class period. She figured if she shunned her teacher, somehow she could undo her phone call to her parents. Of course, it didn’t make any sense. But Josie’s mind was foggy enough from the weekend.

When Hope had walked into the classroom a minute before class started, she exchanged a glance with Josie. That was all. Then she walked to the very back row of the classroom to sit down.

Josie turned around to face her once the final bell rung, but the girl was already packing up, leaving the classroom in a second.

-

The entire day dragged on for eternity. Somehow, Hope avoiding her was even worse than Hope bothering her. Josie used the excuse, ‘you just need to adjust after sleeping next to her’ to justify her idea that this was better.

Or, maybe she’d been thinking too much, which is exactly why she decided to hang out with MG on his football-less day.

“Caramel.”

”Carmel.”

”Cara. Mel,” Josie groaned.

”Carmel!”

”Caramel!”

”CARMEL!”

”CARAMEL!”

”IT’S CARMEL!”

”WHY WOULD THERE BE AN ‘A’, THEN?!”

”IT’S...” MG paused, pursing his lips. “Silent?”

A sudden groan caused both of their heads to whip around. Lizzie was stumbling into the kitchen, a book on her head.

”Will you two shut up? I’m trying to practice,” she mumbled. As she took another step forward, the book on her head went falling down. She attempted to catch it but only ended up falling to the floor.

MG immediately went over and helped her up.

”For what?” Josie asked, bending down to pick up the book and handing it to her sister.

The blonde rubbed her head. “The Mikaelson Christmas party. Duh,” she rolled her eyes as if it was already obvious.

Josie would’ve scoffed, but her mind was already crashing down with what the hell Lizzie had just said.

“The-the Mikaelson-?” her words choked off.

Lizzie only looked at her like she was crazy. “Why do you sound so surprised? We go every year.”

Josie huffed. “Yeah, but not this year!”

How could Lizzie be so dense right now? It was almost as if she forgot what Hope had done!

”Why?” she asked dumbly.

Josie’s eyes grew wide. She began sputtering. “Wh- what? Wh- oh- oh my gosh, are you being serious right now?” she fumed.

MG looked between the two sisters, wearing an expression that read ‘oh dear.’

Then he flinched. “Oh, Lizzie,” he cleared his throat. “Josie told me they didn’t make up.”

The blonde was already in the middle of raising her index finger, about to cuss Josie out, before she registered what MG said. She slowly froze, her eyes wide in horror.

”Oh,” she mumbled, slowly setting down her finger. “Well,” she chuckled quickly before clearing her throat. “This is awkward.”

”Lizzie...” Josie scolded, clenching her eyes shut. “What did you do...?”

She heard a forceful chuckle from her sister. “I  RSVP’d on the invitation card... under both of our names.”

The brunette choked on her own spit. “You- what?”

”I'm so sorry, Jo! Please don’t tell anyone I forged your signature, I am not planning on getting arrested!” her breaths became quick and detached, lightly filling up the room.

Josie walked over and comforted her, despite having the urge to slap her across the face.

”MG, comfort her before she starts spiraling. I have to make a call,” she muttered to the boy, slowly backing away from Lizzie. He nodded.

Josie stepped away from the kitchen, running up the stairs and fishing her phone out of her pocket as she made her way into her room. She slammed the door shut behind her and walked to the middle of the room, dialing Hope’s number.

The phone ran a few times before she immediately heard a voice.

“Hello?” Hope asked.

”Did you send my sister an invite to your party?” Josie fumed.

”No- Oh, dear God,” she groaned over the phone. “I’m so sorry! I told my dad not to send you guys any this year,” she muttered.

Josie honestly took heavy offense to that, but scoffed it off.

”Well, we’re not coming. Just so you know,” Josie huffed. “You know, just in case you see our signatures on the card.”

”Right.” She could hear Hope gulp. “Right, of course,” she chuckled.

A snake found its way inside Josie’s stomach, curling around her organs and biting her heart.

”Could you... not do this?” she mumbled.

There was a brief silence over the phone before the latter replied. “What do you mean?”

Josie scoffed. “You’re doing everything I say. It’s making me feel like a controlling bitch.”

”Well, what do you want me to do, then?”

”Just don’t do anything!” Josie breathed out.

”Excuse me?” Hope fumed. “I didn’t do anything!”

The brunette grumbled. Hope was right, but in an annoying way. A way that reminded Josie how childish she was acting.

”Just-,” she inhaled deeply. “Just pretend I don’t exist, okay? Like you did before. Stop it with the.. overly nice act that you’re putting on.”

Hope scoffed over the phone. “You’re so fucking unbelievable.”

And with that, Josie heard the ‘beep’ from her phone. She removed it from her ear and watched the phone call screen fade away.

Shit,” she groaned to herself, throwing her phone across the room.

-

1 year prior, December 23rd

”Okay, Jo! That’s enough!” Hope giggled, pulling the tub of ice cream away from the brunette.

Josie whined, attempting to pull it back and snatch it from her grip.

“One more scoop,” she breathed, reaching her spoon into the tub. Hope slapped her hand away.

”You don’t even like peanut butter!” she complained, yanking the tub away. Josie’s spoon dropped on the bed.

The brunette groaned. “I only like it when you buy it,” she shrugged simply. Hope only rolled her eyes playfully, using her own spoon to scoop out some ice cream and shoving it in her mouth.

”Hmm,” she squinted her eyes, swallowing the ice cream in her mouth. “I wonder why you only like peanut butter ice cream when I’m almost out.”

”I love making things inconvenient for you,” Josie smiled warmly, only earning a smack from Hope.

The door clicked, slowly opening. Josie whipped her head around to find Hayley at the entrance of Hope’s room.

”Hope, sweetie,” she said. Her eyes met Josie, smiling for a split second, before moving them back to Hope.

”Yeah?” Hope said with a mouth full of ice cream.

Hayley slowly walked in, rubbing her palms together. “Could you and Josie head outside and help your dad shovel snow out of the driveway for tomorrow?”

The auburn groaned loudly. Josie did feel a sudden pinch of laziness, but smiled anyways.

”Sure,” she replied for both of them. The auburnette snapped her head and gazed at Josie with wide eyes.

”Thank you, honey,” Hayley smiled, now walking towards the exit. “Hope, help your friend.”

”Are you kidding me,” she grumbled under her breath, leaning back and smacking the back of her head against the pillows.

Once Hayley left the room, Josie leaned her head back as well, facing Hope.

”I guess-“

”Don’t talk to me. I’m ignoring you,” Hope muttered, crossing her arms across her chest and staring up.

Josie huffed. “Come on, Hope,” she chuckled, bringing a hand to her friend’s cheek and poking it.

The auburn only grunted, slapping Josie’s hand away. “You’re so unbelievable,” she huffed, turning her head to face her. Josie could see her not-so-well hidden smile underneath her furrowed brows.

”You have to help your parents, Hope. Come on,” she laughed, pulling her friend up, but she decided to be stubborn. Hope yanked her arms away and continued crossing them against her chest.

”I’m still ignoring you!” she mumbled.

Josie scoffed and shook her head. “I guess I’ll just help your dad myself,” she hummed pettily, sliding off the bed and making her way towards the door.

”I don’t care, I’m ignoring you!” she heard Hope yell behind her. Josie only rolled her eyes playfully before leaving the room, making sure to slam the door behind her for extra effect.

-

Josie grumbled. She decided to leave her phone wherever it was for two reasons; to prevent her from calling Hope, and because she didn’t know where it went.

Her eyes set on Timmy. He was laying on Josie’s bed. Her fists clenched up without Josie knowing, and before she could calm herself down, she marched over and snatched it.

”I hate you,” she mumbled repeatedly under her breath, clenching the stuffed alligator until she made her way to the fireplace. She turned it on and waited for it to heat up.

Her eyes flickered with the glow of the fire, tears beginning to build up within them. She shakily held the stuffed alligator in front of her, gripping it above the fireplace. 

Knives stabbed her heart watching Timmy in front of the fire. Timmy, the stuffed alligator that Hope had left next to her when she woke up. The same stuffed alligator that Hope had been hugging close to her chest.

-

It didn’t take long for Hope to join Josie. In the middle of shoveling her first row of snow on the large driveway, the front door opened and out came the auburnette, running with a thin jacket on.

Josie smirked once she arrived. “Still ignoring me?” she teased. Hope panted, catching her breath.

”Give me that,” she spat, snatching the shovel from Josie’s grip.

”Hey, get your own!” she complained and attempted to swipe for it, only to have Hope run away.

Josie groaned. She slumped over to Klaus, using every bit of courage she had left. The man absolutely scared her, but he was the one who gave her the shovel in the first place.

”Uh, Mr. Mikaelson?” Josie said. The man abruptly stopped his shoveling, slowly turning around to face Josie. She gulped.

”What is it?” he asked in a rich accent.

”Could I have another shovel, please?”

Klaus furrowed her brows, making Josie’s heart sink. His eyes darted above her head, finding Hope. His stern, blank face slowly softened.

”She never does this,” he muttered, nodding behind her. Josie spun around and found Hope shoveling the driveway, huffing and throwing snow to the sides.

Josie turned back around. “Oh,” she said.

Klaus’s smile warmed up. His eyes lingered behind her for a while before turning back to Josie.

”Perhaps we all have a weak spot for someone special,” he said, raising his brows.

Josie’s heart picked up its pace. “What do you mean?” she asked.

Klaus only looked at her, shaking his head with a small chuckle. “We all have a special someone who we’re weak for.”

Josie blinked. She turned back around to look at the auburn, who had fallen to the ground. She picked herself up, grunted, and kicked the snow.

How could Hope be weak for Josie? Hope wasn’t weak. She could never be.

”That’s not true,” she chuckled forcefully, turning back to face Klaus.

He raised a chin, squinting his eyes. “I suppose you still don’t understand.”

Josie paused. “What do you mean?” she questioned.

”One day, when you find yourself unable to hate someone, no matter what they’ve done. When you become vulnerable for them, in front of them, and with them. Then, you will understand what it means to have a weak spot.”

Josie blinked. “Is that a bad thing?”

It did sound pretty bad. Weak, that is.

Klaus shrugged. “That’s debatable.”

Josie waited for him to say more, but he didn’t continue.

”But,” she sputtered out. “Hope is just shoveling the driveway.”

Klaus bellowed out a loud laugh, though Josie was being dead serious. She forced out an awkward chuckle.

“Go help your friend, Josette,” he said, handing Josie the shovel in his hands. “Finish the front. I have called a company to shovel the rest of the driveway.”

Josie would’ve sighed into relief as she grabbed the shovel, but she was too busy contemplating on what she should think about a weak spot.

She turned around and found Hope leaning over the shovel, panting. She perked up once she saw Josie, giving her a small wave to come towards her.

-

And as Josie gripped the stuffed animal, her heart curled. She released a breath, releasing the alligator in her hands as well. She backed away from the fireplace.

”Damn it,” she mumbled to herself, collapsing onto the floor.

How could she be so blind to not realize it? She had a weak spot, a weak spot for Hope. That’s why she couldn’t bring herself to leave her, or bring herself to burn the stuffed alligator in front of her.

She brought her knees to her face and allowed her tears to flow freely down her cheeks. She had a weak spot for Hope. A pathetic, miserable, weak spot.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Josie turned off the fireplace and picked herself up. Timmy was staring at her with those big, black and shiny eyes, filled with so much betrayal.

“Sorry,” she muttered under her breath. The stuffed alligator’s eyes shot straight through her soul.

”Jo?” a voice called out. The brunette quickly wiped her tears from her face and turned to face Lizzie.

”Yes?”

If Lizzie even noticed her puffy face, she didn’t say anything. Thank God.

”Mom just called me,” she gritted her teeth and sucked in a breath. “You’re in trouble.”

Josie’s eyes flew open. “What?”

”Mrs. Bennett snitched on you, apparently.” Lizzie rolled her eyes. “Snitch.”

Her sister’s hatred for Mrs. Bennett offended Josie at times only because she was her favorite teacher, but she couldn’t think about that now.

”A lot of trouble?” she asked.

Lizzie shrugged. “I dunno.”

The brunette groaned. She’d obviously expected it, but it was still unfortunate.

”She’s probably going to make Stefan enroll me in another season of soccer,” she huffed.

Lizzie suddenly erupted into a loud, piercing laughter that almost caused Josie to cover her ears.

”Ah, good one, Jo,” she chuckled, shaking her head. Josie was being serious, but whatever holds her off from more embarrassment.

A slight click at the door caused both of the girls to whip their heads around. The front door opened, and out came a blonde figure.

”Hi, mom!” Lizzie beamed to Caroline. She smiled at the two girls and continued coming inside.

”Josette,” she scolded suddenly as soon as she closed to door. “We need to have a talk.”

The brunette gulped, exchanging one last glance at Lizzie before walking towards her mom. “Yes?” she squeaked.

”Well! I’m going to go talk to MG. Good luck,” she whispered, darting away to the kitchen as fast as she could.

Caroline sighed, resting two hands on Josie’s shoulder. “You realize that what you’ve done is completely unacceptable, right?” she said.

Josie nodded. “Yes, and it won’t happen again,” she spoke quickly.

That didn’t seem to satisfy the blonde. Josie gulped another ball that began building up.

”I’m sorry,” she choked out. Caroline shook her head.

”I know you didn’t do anything wrong, Josie. Mrs. Bennett is on your side, and so am I.”

Oh.

Josie couldn’t believe her ears. Half of her body washed in relief and gratefulness. Her love and appreciation for Mrs. Bennett was growing. But the other half was still confused.

When Josie didn’t say anything, Caroline continued. “I’m so happy you’re standing up for yourself now. It makes me so happy.” Her voice gradually began building up into a sob, and before Josie knew it, her mom began crying after pulling her daughter into a tight hug.

And there she was, awkwardly standing in front of a crying blonde. She forced out a chuckle.

”Thank you, mom,” she smiled, gently patting Caroline’s back. “But I slapped her.”

Caroline let out a light laugh. “I know, that, that wasn’t what I was hoping you’d do,” she smiled. “But...” she faltered off, pulling away and taking both of Josie’s hands in her own. “You were brave enough to defend yourself.”

Josie shoved down the cockiness that was beginning to rise. She smirked involuntarily, then shook her head to remove it. God, she was being so prideful.

An image of her beating up the three guys in front of the Mystic Grill invaded Josie’s mind. It was probably a good idea to not tell Caroline about that.

A good minute passed until Caroline finally calmed down. “My girls are growing up so fast,” she sobbed dramatically. And again, Josie, standing awkwardly in front of her mom, chuckled.

The brunette darted her eyes around the room and set them on the alligator. Timmy was laying helplessly near the fireplace, screaming at Josie to take him back to his mother. His real mother. Not Josie, who literally almost burned him.

Her chest filled with guilt. Poor Timmy.

”I’m going to start dinner,” Caroline suddenly said. She began walking towards the kitchen, allowing Josie to finally breathe as soon as the thick atmosphere released. “Oh, also, Jo!” she called out. “Your punishment will be playing a full game on Wednesday. I’ve already talked to  Elena!”

Oh, dear God. Josie inhaled deeply. She would rather never leave her room than play that horrific sport some called soccer.

“AH! MG, what are you doing here?” Caroline screamed. Josie chuckled under her breath.

Timmy was still laying there. No matter how hard she squinted her eyes, the alligator remained looking helpless. With its beady black eyes that began shooting lasers through Josie's organs and slicing them apart.

She groaned and ran over to grab it. Once it was in her tight grip, she ran up to her room and searched her closet for box. There was a variety of shoe boxes that she had used to hide important things from Lizzie, such as love letters from Landon that she was planning to burn one day, though never had the courage to. Lizzie would've grabbed them and burned it for her, and it would ruin the whole point of burning them in the first place.

Josie pulled out an empty shoe box for her Birkenstock’s and shoved Timmy in there, closing the box and using a nearby roll of duck tape to keep it shut, but not without stabbing a plastic knife that she used to eat a bagel yesterday in his chest.

She exhaled and wiped her forehead of sweat before leaning back and examining Timmy’s imprisonment. The box was tightly wrapped in duct tape.

Hmm. It would be fairly easy to throw Timmy into the fire now. Very easy, now that she couldn't see his face.

Although the thought was super convincing, Josie pushed it down and threw the box under her bed. She stood up and rubbed her palms together before sitting down on the mattress and resting her head back against the pillows. She could still feel the presence of Timmy underneath her.

"My God," she mumbled under her breath. That was when she shot up from the bed, grabbed the shoe box, and threw it out of the window.

Tuesday was almost a direct clone of Monday, only without the dramatic crying, phone call, encounters with Hope, and ‘talk’ with Caroline. By the time Wednesday had arrived, Josie’s bones turned into mud from the thought of the soccer game.

Coach Gilbert had even emailed her prior to Wednesday to tell her that she’d be playing the entire game. Stefan literally forced Josie to call Coach Gilbert and tell her a ‘Thank you!’ or else she’d have to play another year of the horrid sport.

”Sebby- or... my God...” Lizzie muttered under her breath. She slammed her locker door with such force that Josie would’ve been sent flying back if she wasn’t the strong independent woman she was.

”It’s okay, we all make slip-ups,” Josie whispered. It was like she was walking on thin ice every time Lizzie accidentally mentioned Sebastian. No one mentioned him. Only Lizzie, which made it fairly worse.

“Well, Sebastian,” she spat out sickly. “Would not stop calling me this morning!”

Josie could sense her twin’s anger. Severe anger, that is.

“Have you not blocked him?” she asked. Lizzie shook her head aggressively.

”What if I have a breakdown one day and need to call someone to make out?” Lizzie grunted.

Josie frowned. First of all, gross, and second of all, MG was a perfect person for Lizzie to make out with, if she disregarded how weird Lizzie’s statement sounded.

”Then, unblock him?” she suggested.

Lizzie snorted. “You say that like it’s so easy,” she said.

”How is it not?”

”Look, Jo,” Lizzie sighed. She stepped forward and put one hand on the brunette’s shoulder. “Just pretend Sebby- GRR,” she suddenly growled, clenching her other fist and banging the lockers. “I mean, Sebastian,” she said sweetly, “is Hope. Would you block him then?”

Suddenly Josie couldn’t think. How the hell had Lizzie even made that connection?

”Hope isn’t Sebastian,” Josie chuckled, though her voice was more confused than anything. Lizzie shrugged.

”Then what’s holding you back from blocking her?” Lizzie asked.

Josie pursed her lips. She knew Lizzie wasn’t trying to interrogate her, but the question still threatened her. That was because she didn’t know. She didn’t know why she couldn’t stop thinking about Hope or why she still loves spending time with her. It was exhausting.

Josie hadn’t even realized she was still silent until Lizzie sighed. “Let’s go, Jo. That tall man scares me. Best if you don’t get on his bad side,” she mumbled.

Josie snorted at the mention of Damon.

When the brunette turned around, her pathway was blocked by none other than MG. He was smiling widely. Josie expected to see a duffel bag in his arms, maybe even shorts and a t-shirt. That was his normal attire after school during football, but today he was still wearing the jeans and sweatshirt he had on the whole day.

”MG,” Josie smiled.

"Hello, twins," he said.

"Shouldn't you be at practice?" Lizzie chirped, unfazed by the way he had just come out of nowhere.

The boy clicked his tongue and shook his head. "Skipping," he said simply.

Josie nearly choked out her own spit. "Wh-what? Why?” she shook her head. “Are you trying to make your chance of ever playing in a game go down below zero?”

MG just shrugged. “It’s not like I’m even on the team, anyways,” he grumbled, rolling his eyes slightly. “Landon is such a dick!”

”Mhm,” Lizzie hummed, walking closer, so close that Josie had to step back so her sister could stand in front of the boy. “You should come watch Jo’s game with me.”

“Oh?” MG shifted. “You have a game today?” Josie nodded. That made MG grin.

”We could have a movie night afterwards.”

The twins hummed in agreement. Josie could use a little something to look forward to after playing that nightmare of a sport.

”We can watch Grey’s Anatomy,” Lizzie gasped. She squealed and began clapping her hands. “A marathon! Wouldn’t that be-“

”No,” Josie interrupted. MG only chuckled.

”I agree with your sister, Lizzie,” he smirked. Josie exchanged a sly smile with the boy.

Lizzie’s face dropped. She began furrowing her eyebrows slowly. “Traitor,” she muttered under her breath. The only response she received was an accidental snort from Josie.

”I’ll head to that film store in the town square after the game. You two can go along before me,” Josie said.

After exchanging a series of agreements, they scattered off, MG taking his own car and arriving first, while Lizzie forced Josie to stop driving because she forgot an eyelash extension on the bathroom counter.

“Wow, that’s... something,” MG said, his voice obviously faking enthusiasm. They watched as Josie miserably tripped over the ball, right as she was about to steal it from another girl.

”My sister really is a beast,” Lizzie sighed. Whatever she expected MG to do, he didn’t. The boy only laughed, which, by the way, very much caught her off guard.

There were some days where she wanted to slap him across the face, but because of her amazing, large, and compassionate heart, she decided to do the bare minimum.

The ear-piercing sound of Coach Gilbert’s whistle burst her eardrum. It annoyed the hell of out Lizzie each time it rung. Not only did it scratch her eardrums, but it also only blew when Josie had done a foul.

She was terrible at soccer.

“Well,” MG said, rubbing his hands on his thighs. “Maybe she’s cold.”

Lizzie scoffed. “Pshh, Jo is always cold.”

That made MG laugh. Lizzie didn’t know what was so funny, but she did feel a little twinge of pleasure whenever the boy laughed at her. Real, genuine laughs. Unlike Sebastian’s, which were loud and unnecessary bellows that echoed around the room he was in.

The whistle blew again, and this time Josie said, “I’m not even on the field!”

”Well, get on the field and stop making us lose!” Coach Gilbert yelled. The brunette groaned and stumbled away from the bench and almost collapsed onto the field.

Lizzie watched as her sister, again, failed miserably at kicking the ball. The cold wind repeatedly stung her skin through her mere sweater and thin black jeans. She used every ounce inside of her to not shiver.

But of course, her body failed her, and she let out an embarrassing, “Wooh! Brrrrrrr.

Oh, God. MG definitely heard that mom sound she just let out. She really was a duplicate of Caroline.

”Are you cold?” was all he asked. Hmm. Lizzie waited for him to ask more, maybe insult her, but he only looked at her with genuine concern.

”Yes,” she said straightforwardly. Again, she waited for MG to insult her. After all, Sebastian literally made Lizzie give him her jacket when she was cold. Something about building a stronger cold tolerance?

MG inhaled. He then began taking off his sweatshirt, and Lizzie snapped her head to the side. Good goblin! Was he seriously going to undress right in front of her?

”Here,” she heard. Lizzie was still to hesitant to turn back around, but she did anyways. MG had his arm outstretched in front of him, the sweatshirt he had been originally wearing in his hands. Thankfully he wasn’t naked; still wearing a t-shirt that simply read ‘Pretzel’ with a picture of a pretzel on it.

“Oh,” she blinked. The blonde accepted the sweatshirt and attempted to put it on over her sweater. “Thank you,” she mumbled out once the sweater was fully on. It was warm. Though it smelled strongly of MG - which Lizzie had no idea what that was supposed to be, yet - she could also pick out strong hints of pears.

”Mm. Pear perfume?” she asked. MG wavered his head.

”Not necessarily perfume, more like those little tree things. You know, the ones you put in your car.”

Ah! Right, right.

“It’s my favorite scent,” Lizzie blurted out, remembering how it was the first thing she smelled when she rode with MG to Sebastian’s party.

The boy hummed. That was when another shrieking whistle blew up her ears (along with her sanity).

”Saltzman! Off the field, now!

”I didn’t even do anything!”

”Now!”

Josie groaned, now trudging back to the bench.

Lizzie sighed. “My sister, she’s such a... she’s such a warrior,” she huffed. “I’ve never seen someone this bad at a sport.”

Almost as if she could hear the presence of her name, Josie glared at them.

”She seems like one,” MG smiled. “She was my first friend at this school. I was surprised she talked to me. Some people said I look creepy when I draw to myself.”

Lizzie frowned unintentionally. “How long have you been at that school?”

MG looked down as if he was ashamed to even hear that question. Lizzie shuffled her bottom on the cold, metal bench of the bleachers. Maybe she’d hit a barrier that she shouldn’t have even considered asking.

”Freshman year,” he smiled.

Lizzie’s chest twinged with pity. She’d never had trouble finding friends in her life, unlike Josie. And apparently, unlike MG as well.

She didn’t have a clue on how to handle a situation like this. With Josie it was easy; she’d whine about missing a certain type of someone in her life and Lizzie would force someone to be there for her. They didn’t work for the majority of the times, but Lizzie liked to think positive and pretend they did.

But MG was a guy, not her twin sister Josie, who’d she grown up with her whole life. Then a lightbulb went off in her head.

“You’re my friend, MG,” she smiled. Her hand lurched forward and grabbed the boy’s hand to squeeze it. It took only a millisecond for her to realize how cheesy she sounded, but by the time she was going to pull her hand back, MG smiled back.

”You are too, Lizzie Saltzman.”

“Katherine! What the hell are you doing?” a voice screamed. Lizzie rolled her eyes. She was trying to have a fond moment with the boy, yet here Miss Gilbert was, screaming at Miss Gilbert-

Oh.

The blonde watched in horror as Miss Gilbert stormed over to the exact clone of her, Katherine. The woman smirked and shrugged innocently.

“Well, who was going to be here for your girls while you did... whatever it is that Elena Gilbert does?” she huffed.

The real Coach Gilbert snatched the whistle from the fake Coach Gilbert and stormed to the field.

”Saltzman, get on the field!” she yelled. Lizzie watched as Josie stomped her feet on the ground and let out a miserable groan, before slumping back to the field.

Every second of that game was the equivalent to hell in Josie’s book. She even left with a large scrape on her knee, not to mention the dark green grass stain engraved into her cheek. And to top it all off, they lost.

Josie slumped over to her car. MG and Lizzie had already left without her. She didn’t mind - that way, they couldn’t see how awful she looked at the moment.

Once the brunette made her way to her trusty yellow vehicle, she drove to the film store that was about seven minutes from her house.

The door dinged as she opened it, and the old man at the counter gave her a warm smile. She returned it, though her eyes were really only searching for one section in particular - Fantasy Films.

She headed straight for that aisle. They could watch Twilight, perhaps. Josie grabbed the first two movies and held them close to her chest. Or they could watch all the Harry Potter movies, though that would have them waking up and going to school with a migraine. Josie grabbed the first three movies anyways.

Hmm. They could watch Avenger’s Endgame and have Lizzie burst into tears again. Oh, that would make for a perfect, romantic hugging session between her and MG. Josie grabbed that one.

By the time Josie approached the man at the counter, her arms were full of Harry Potter, Marvel, Twilight, Ghostbusters, Cinderella, Pirates of the Caribbean, and a random, sketchy CD she found underneath the shelves.

She dropped them on the counter. The man immediately began scanning them.

”This doesn’t have a barcode,” he said and held up the single CD. Josie nodded and waved it off.

”Oh, that’s okay. I don’t really need it, then.”

The man shook his head. “I’ll give it to you for free,” he smiled and placed it in an empty case before throwing it in the bag.

”Oh,” Josie blinked. “Thank you.”

The total ended up being over seventy dollars, after counting the coupon the man randomly gave her. She fished through.. nothing. Josie had forgotten her purse in her car.

”I’m so sorry,” she murmured. Damn, this really was her worst nightmare. Her heart pounded in her chest as she stared at the man. “I’ll go get my purse.”

Right as she was going to make a run for the door, a voice said,

”Let it be on me.”

That voice belonged to none other than Hope Mikaelson. Somehow, that made Josie’s heart warm up in relief rather than cause her body to burst into flames.

The brunette turned around and watched as Hope gave the man her credit card. She glanced at Josie and smiled innocently.

”Hi, Josie. Don’t pay me back,” she beamed.

Josie opened her mouth but was only able to sputter out a croak. Hope was wearing a beautiful, maroon sweater while Josie was standing above her in her soccer uniform and grass stains.

The man gave the auburn her credit card and handed Josie the bag full of movies. She thanked the man before immediately turning back to face Hope.

“Were you stalking me?” was the first thing she said.

Hope rolled her eyes and smiled. “Not even a thank you?”

Josie grumbled. “Oh. Thank you,” she gritted out. That sent Hope’s lips to curl up even higher.

”You’re welcome.” The auburn shoved her credit card back into her wallet and slammed the wallet into her tote bag with such force. “And yes, I was stalking you a little bit.” She nodded towards the bag in Josie’s hand. “You seem to be planning something.”

”Oh, uh,” Josie looked at the bag. “Yeah. MG and Lizzie and I are having a movie night.”

Hope furrowed her brows and cocked her head to the side. “On a Wednesday?”

The question made Josie’s insides boil. So what? What should stop them if they were having a movie night on a Wednesday?

Then again, it was a stupid thing to get mad over. Especially since Hope was genuinely curious.

Josie cleared her throat. “Yes.”

Hope hummed. “Well,” she clicked her tongue. “Have fun.”

Hope nearly bumped into Josie’s shoulder as she headed for the door behind the brunette. The ding let Josie know she had left without looking back.

Her insides grew empty. Before she knew it, Josie had darted out the door and stood behind Hope. She tapped the shorter girl on the shoulder.

”Do you want to join us?” she blurted out without thinking. “I mean, you did pay for the movies.”

She could see Hope perk up before turning around. “I’d.. I’d love to,” she said, almost as if she couldn’t believe her ears.

“Okay...” Josie mumbled. “But there are going to be three rules.” She held up three fingers. “You still don’t get to talk to me, sit next to me, or look at me.”

Hope blinked. “Uh,” she stammered out. “Well what if-“

”No,” Josie answered.

There was a silence between the two before Hope finally said something.

”Okay,” she murmured. She quickly replaced her dumb expression with a smile. “When should I come over?”

”Right now,” Josie said, and before Hope could ask anymore questions, she turned around and darted to her car to drive off.

It wasn’t a surprise when Josie was done with her shower and began walking down the stairs, Lizzie was screaming at Hope. The shorter girl was standing at the door while Lizzie towered over her.

”For the last time, Lizzie! Josie invited me!”

“Lies!” the blonde snarled.

Josie snorted to herself and approached the two. “She’s right, Lizzie.”

The look her sister gave her was full of absolute terror, and maybe even a little bit of betrayal. “What!?” she yelled.

Josie, too, was beginning to think she was crazy herself for inviting Hope over. But it wouldn’t affect anything, right? If she followed those three rules, nothing bad would happen.

“Let her in, Lizzie,” Josie called out before heading for the kitchen. MG was already preparing a large bowl of popcorn along with a charcuterie board that she had no idea where it came from.

The boy looked up once she approached him.

”I know that you won’t eat the meats on here, so I bought more grapes.”

Josie snorted. “I love your heart, MG, but I’m not a child,” she smiled, popping a block of cheese into her mouth.

She helped MG carry the food to the living room and decided on a movie. Josie offered Avenger’s Endgame and even told him her plan of a romantic night, but he declined.

”How will I comfort her if I’m crying louder?” was all he said.

They decided on watching those three Harry Potter movies. As soon as MG threw the first disk in, Hope and Lizzie appeared behind them.

Josie nearly choked when Hope glanced at her, jumped, then slapped a hand to cover her eyes. If she hadn’t remembered the rules, she definitely would’ve died of insecurities at that very moment.

The movie began rolling in, and Josie plopped down on the couch next to Lizzie, with MG on the other side of the blonde. That left Hope standing in the middle of the room, her eyes glued to the floor.

In all honesty, Hope had no idea why she agreed to come, other than seeing Josie. But Josie didn’t even allow her to look at her, which was quite frustrating.

It was even more embarrassing as she stood in the middle of the room, stiff as a board. The three of them looked so happy, and were such good friends. And there was Hope, the odd one out, standing in the middle of the fucking room.

She had begun considering making a run for the door before she heard,

”Hope,” from a familiar voice. Oh, thank goodness. It was Josie.

The rules still stuck. She couldn’t talk to her, look at her, or sit with her. So Hope reached behind her and stuck her thumb out to show she was listening.

”Sit down.”

Yeah, where? Where, Josie? Where?

Hope wanted to slap herself when her eyes darted over to the couch on her left. She cleared her throat, shook her thumb, and slumped to the couch and sat down.

It didn’t take long into the movie for Hope to realize she was hated by practically every single person in this room. There was no doubt that the MG kid hated her guts as well.

The three of them were chattering behind her, following the sound of crunching popcorn and crackers. Hope really regretted coming at this point. She just wanted to see Josie, talk to her maybe. But she seemed to be doing just fine without her.

A light laughter that rose from the group made Hope want to rip her ears out. It sounded too genuine, and way too happy.

Stop being toxic, she thought.

They managed to get through the first two movies without Hope smashing the TV whenever the three laughed. 

Behind her, she could hear a door open and footsteps walk into the room. After a short minute, the footsteps got closer. She turned around and saw Stefan and Caroline walk in, a paper bag in each of their hands.

Hope was able to snatch a glance at Josie as the brunette turned around.

“Mom, Stefan!” she breathed out. “I thought you guys were coming back tomorrow?”

Stefan shook his head. “We decided to come early. We love you guys and decided to sacrifice our time for you,” he smiled proudly. Caroline slapped him on the shoulder.

“The meeting was cancelled,” she rolled her eyes.

Hope’s heart froze and shattered into tiny pieces of ice when the woman’s eyes landed on her. She blinked. Blinked again. And again, before whispering something to her husband. Stefan glanced over at her, furrowing his eyebrows in confusion.

Hope wanted to die at this very moment. There was no doubt they were going to call Hayley and tell her how Hope was breaking her promise.

She pursed her lips, her gaze on Hope burning the auburn. Then, in one, simple motion, she clicked her tongue and dropped her stern face.

“Well, uh, I hope you kids have fun,” she grinned, linking her arm with Stefan and aggressively pulling him into the other room. Hope exhaled a long, shaky breath, before turning back around to face the TV.

They had gone through the third movie. Hope tried to enjoy that one, but she couldn’t even pay attention to what was happening with Caroline’s glare stuck in her head.

The ending credits rolled in. Hope checked her phone and read the time; 9:29 P.M.

She turned around and found MG leaning on Lizzie’s shoulder, his snores singing along with hers. While the two of them were dead asleep, Josie was awake and on her phone.

She carefully admired the brunette, making sure to not let her know she was breaking one of the rules.

Her hair was let down, slightly damp from earlier, falling on the fabric of her navy blue sweater with the words ‘Mystic Falls HS ASB club’ plastered over it. 

Hope rested her chin on her knuckles. Her eyes darted down to Josie’s knees, which were occupied with one hand resting atop it, fingers drumming on the fabric of her grey sweatpants.

“You’re breaking rule number three,” the brunette mumbled, so sudden that Hope physically jumped back.

”Oh- uh, my bad,” she stammered and slapped a hand over her eyes. Her fingers slightly parted, allowing her to peek through and look at Josie. The brunette seemed to notice.

She rolled her eyes, set down her phone, and stood up. Hope watched as she began stretching, her arms reaching up and lifting her sweater up slightly. She could see the spot where it had been bruised earlier, and Hope was glad to know it was gone.

But what Josie did next surprised her - she walked over to Hope and sat down in the spot next to her. The auburn’s chest tightened.

She did not dare to remove her hand from her face, even though she could still see as Josie grabbed her knees and pulled them up to rest her chin above.

”I can still see your eyes, Hope,” she whispered, looking straight ahead at the floor. Hope hummed in denial, and that’s when Josie sighed.

”I officially declare the end of these rules,” she slightly bellowed in a British accent, similar to her dad’s. Hope had to bite her top lip to stop herself from smiling.

Josie was such a dork.

”I’m sorry,” she suddenly croaked out. Hope slowly removed the hand from her eyes and looked at Josie’s cheek.

”For what?”

Josie inhaled deeply. “For.. inviting you here and leaving you out like that. That was bitchy.”

Well, that was quite embarrassing. Josie had noticed how much of a loser Hope had looked as she sat on the couch alone, going on her phone every now and then, and sitting in the exact same position for seven hours.

“It’s alright,” she muttered out. Thankfully, Josie knew she was lying. There was no way Hope wanted to go through that weird movie marathon again without someone acknowledging her suffering.

”No, it’s not, Hope. I acted out of pettiness, and... and fear.”

Hope’s organs itched. Fear? Of what? Of Hope stealing another one of Josie’s boyfriends?

Stop. Being. Toxic, she had to remind herself. The auburn shook her head to rid of her fatigued, muggy brained thoughts and cleared her throat. “What are you scared of?”

Josie pursed her lips to one side and darted her eyes up to the ceiling. “I don’t know, I just think...” she faltered off. Hope couldn’t handle the anticipation, fiddling with her fingers as Josie took forever to find the words for whatever she was going to say. “I just don’t want to be vulnerable again,” she said at last.

Hope’s insides curled inward. The statement was so obviously talking about her, yet she didn’t want to admit it. “What do you mean?” she asked, more like pleaded, hoping that she would be wrong and Josie was talking about someone other than her.

The brunette cleared her throat. “You know what I mean,” she whispered, turning her head to look at the auburn. Hope’s stomach churned as she looked at Josie’s glossy eyes. “I don’t want to put this on you, but...” she inhaled, exhaling every pinch of air slowly. “I just can’t have you in my life anymore.”

Josie’s words quite literally killed Hope. Her muffled brain processed the words right away, yet she couldn’t form any sort of thoughts or even emotions. The words just lingered in the air, in front of Hope, laughing at her with their evil faces.

And she imagined the expected of what was going to come next - the stabbing to her heart, the tears flooding down and staining her skin. Maybe even Josie walking away from her again, forcing the auburn to watch her back as the brunette left her to break down again. Because it would happened. It would always happen until the day Hope died.

Josie would never let her back into her life. Not after she fucked up so badly. And with this pace, she would never have a second chance.

“What?” was all she could manage to choke out. Great. Now her throat closed in, forming that heavy, thick ball again. Her heart pained, so badly that Hope physically winced.

She blinked tightly in an attempt to stop the tears from flooding down, but that only caused them to fall from her eyelids and land on her cheek.

“Why would you say that?” she croaked.

Josie shut her eyes tight, tugging her bottom lip in between her teeth. “I don’t really think it deserves an explanation.”

”No. I need one,” Hope demanded. “Now,” she gritted out.

Josie kept her eyes shut tight. “Fine,” she spat. And with that, she stood up, motioning for Hope to follow her out of the door and to the front porch.

The cold air was sharp in comparison to the warm, thick air inside of the house.

She shut the door behind them and immediately whipped around to face the auburn. “I’m trying so hard, so hard, to get myself together, yet here you are!” she laughed with no amusement present.

Hope scoffed. She couldn’t believe her ears at what Josie was trying to tell her. “And that is my fault, how?”

“Because every time I’m with you, I feel like giving in!”

”To what, Josie? What are you supposedly ‘giving in’ to?” she spat out bitterly.

Josie sucked in a breath. “I... can’t... think of it right now, but it’s your fault!” she yelled. Hope groaned.

”What is that even supposed to mean?” she yelled back. Josie clenched her jaw, gritting her teeth and averting her gaze to the side.

”I don’t know!” she huffed, exasperated enough to throw her hands up.

Hope couldn’t take it anymore. She couldn’t deal with Josie’s horrible explanations that only ended up in either confusing Hope, or breaking her apart.

“I can’t have this right now,” she gritted out. Without giving Josie a last glance, she turned around and headed down the stairs of the porch and onto the driveway. That was when a shiny box glimmered in the side of her eyes, hidden in the bushes.

Josie gulped as she watched Hope rip the box apart, pulling out Timmy. She’d honestly thought the stuffed alligator would’ve gotten ran over by now.

But that wasn’t the case. Hope’s grip tightened around the alligator, each second making Josie’s insides tighten as well.

In half a second, she whipped around. “What the hell, Josie?” she choked out, her eyes growing watery. “Am I really that bad to the point where you have to perform... whatever this shit is?”

Josie’s eyes darted down to the alligator, then down to the empty duct-taped wrapped box on the ground, then to the plastic knife inside of Timmy. There really was no good explanation for this.

“I...” she began anyways, not knowing where that first word would take her.

Hope wasn’t listening anyways, only storming forward. “We can’t keep doing this,” she scoffed out.

Josie scrunched her eyebrows. “You’re going to have to be more specific on-“

“Every time we have some sort of moment, it always ends up in us fighting again! Every. Single. Time!” she breathed out. “For example, that time I hurt my knee and we spent time together? You left in the middle of the fucking night! Or, or that time in the hotel room, remember? I don’t even have to explain on that one. And now this?” she held up Timmy. “What the hell even is this?”

Josie’s chest sucked in. “Well, we shouldn’t even be having those moments in the first place!” she gritted out. The way Hope’s eyebrows furrowed even deeper made Josie want to take back everything she just said.

”You wanna know why I’m trying to make things better? Do you?” she asked. Or more like demanded, it seemed.

Josie scoffed, but didn’t deny nor agree, only keeping her eyes on the dark blue sky behind Hope.

”It’s because I love you, Josie, and I want you back in my life!”

Josie’s heart ripped apart. I love you lingered in her head, floating around and touching every single place in her mind. 

Then it turned from its warm, soothing effect to a piercing ringing, so loud that Josie had to grit her teeth.

”No,” she muttered out. “No, no you don’t get to do that, Hope!” she yelled, her voice louder than it’s been all night.

Hope flinched. “Are you serious right now?” She raised her voice as well, almost as if she was competing with Josie.

“You don’t get to say that!” Josie cried out. “It’s not true!”

Hope scoffed. “I’m pretty sure I know what-“

”Just shut up! Shut. up!”

Nothing in Josie’s messed up, muffled brain could work. Her heart pumped aggressively, yelling at her to collapse and curl herself in a ball miserably.

Hope bit her bottom lip harshly. Her eyes moved down to Josie’s chest and stayed there, all while she took a few slow steps forward.

”You want me to leave you alone?” she gritted out. “Stop fucking leading me on.”

And with that, Hope held up Timmy, pulled the knife out and dropped it carelessly, grabbed both of his arms, and pulled him apart. Josie’s eyes moved down to watch the stuffing slowly fall out of the stuffed alligator and drop on the ground.

She shoved the remaining parts into Josie’s chest with force. Hope kept her hands there for a while, breathing heavily. Josie looked down and grabbed Timmy’s remains, looking down at Hope’s chest heave up and down quickly.

She felt guilty. There was no need to deny it. She felt guilty that she had caused Hope to murder Timmy like that.

Then Hope shoved Josie’s chest slightly before she wiped her eyes and whipped around, storming off to her car in the driveway and driving off without wasting a single second.

-

The cold wind pierced through Josie’s skin. Through her sweatpants and sweater, the brunette’s cold intolerance still won. She fiddled with the remains of Timmy in her hands.

About thirty minutes have passed, maybe even an hour? It was probably a hour, but Josie couldn’t tell. Her mind was still foggy from what just happened.

I love you haunted her mind. It wasn’t in a horrible way, nor was it enjoyable. It was just there.

Her chest had earlier exploded and was now picking up its own remains. Hope had somehow planted a bomb in her heart that blew up once she left. Her car was still there, only it was parked a little bit out of the neighborhood, but still there for Josie to stare at as it stayed on the side of the road.

Her eyes darted to the bush where Timmy had been, when he was in tact, that is. Pretty soon, it would be decorated in Lizzie’s replacement lights that Hope had bought.

Suddenly, a light bulb flickered in her head. She jumped up and darted towards the street, running fast out of the neighborhood and towards Hope’s black car. She would’ve missed the emo, dark shade if her eyes hadn’t of adjusted to the night setting.

She walked over and knocked on the window, immediately earning a loud honk from Hope.

She knocked again.

Hope honked even louder, keeping her hand on the horn until Josie stepped back about a meter away.

”Okay, okay!” she seethed out.

She peered into the car. Hope had her head leaning back against the seat, a hand on the horn, ready to honk again and wake up the entire town of Mystic Falls.

Josie inhaled, stepping forward and cupping her hands on the window to bring her mouth to it. Hope gave the loudest, most obnoxious honk possible, but Josie tried to ignore it as she yelled,

”Let me talk to you!”

Hope stopped the honking - thank goodness - and slowly turned to face Josie. The brunette swallowed the guilt rising in her throat as she laid her eyes upon Hope’s tear-drenched face and puffy red eyes. Her lips were drawn out in a small pout, similar to the way she looked when Josie hugged her after her breakup with Landon a few weeks ago.

“I said don’t lead me on!” she snarled.

Josie shook her head. “Just... can you please get out first?” she asked.

Hope glared at her. But she obliged anyways, kicking the car door open - and kicking Josie with it - and slamming it shut behind her.

”What?” she seethed and crossed her arms against her chest.

Josie cleared her throat. She probably was leading Hope on, but it wasn’t as bad, right? She wasn’t planning on arguing after they put the lights up - if they even did.

Josie shuddered at the pure toxicity in her own thoughts. “Uh,” she said anyways. “We could use a hand with some Christmas lights,” she murmured.

Hope scoffed. “Oh, so now you’re asking me to be your maid? You are just-“

”No!” Josie interrupted. “I mean, well, I was planning on doing it with along with you.”

Hope looked at her with an expression that Josie couldn’t quite read.

“Why is it so hard to understand? I’m asking you to stop leading-“

”No!” Josie blurted out, once again, rudely interrupting Hope. “We won’t argue afterward. If... that makes anything better?”

No, it doesn’t.

Josie bit her top lip while Hope glared at her. She wasn’t expecting Hope to say yes, really. The request sounded stupid once it left her mouth.

As soon as Josie was about to apologize and walk back, Hope said,

”Fine. But only for a few minutes.”

-

They did not only go for a few minutes. It had been a good half hour, with the two of them shuffling around in silence, bumping into each other every now and then.

Hope had begun to calm down, no longer looking like she was going to kill Josie any second.

It was probably sometime around twelve o’ clock A.M. Josie’s eyes couldn’t stay open without effort, and Hope seemed to be having the same issue.

”Can I sleep in your house,” she groggily mumbled, rubbing her eye and trudging towards Josie.

”Yeah,” Josie yawned back, resting her arm around Hope’s neck and dragging her with the brunette into the house. She was far too out of it to even consider that she was voluntarily touching Hope.

“There. Sleep,” she said, pointing towards the couch in the living room. MG and Lizzie were probably dead asleep in the other living room.

”No,” Hope muttered. She pried Josie’s arm off of her and headed straight towards the staircase. Josie followed her, up the stairs, through the hallway, and into her room.

Hope slid into Josie’s bed, covering herself with the sheets and closing her eyes. “Goodnight,” she mumbled out.

That was somehow the thing that snapped Josie back awake. “What? No, get out,” she groaned, walking over and pushing Hope out. The shorter girl grunted as she fell to the floor.

”You don’t have to sleep with me, Josie,” Hope rolled her eyes, standing up and crossing her arms. “You can sleep on the floor.”

Josie sputtered. “Wh- no, Hope. Don’t you tell me to sleep on the floor in my own room.”

Hope didn’t reply, only sliding into the bed again and covering herself. “Okay,” she finally mumbled.

Josie stood next to her in shock. She groaned, collapsing on the floor and bringing an arm behind her to prop her head. This was stupid.

After a few minutes, she could see Hope’s head pop up from the bed. “Sorry, Josie,” she said. Her voice was much more steady and sure. She was definitely awake now.

Josie shut her eyes quickly and pretended to be asleep. She even added in a light snore for extra effect.

That seemed to make things worse, because when Hope noticed, she rolled off and fell on Josie, making her choke out as the weight landed on her stomach.

”AGUHH,” she choked out. Hope rolled off her body and laid next to her, facing the brunette. Josie fluttered her eyes open and groaned, bringing her hands up to her face and sliding her fingers down her cheeks.

“Ow,” she grumbled.

Hope snorted. “Sorry,” she whispered.

Josie was still much too tired to argue, or to even consider that they were just fighting not so long ago. She turned to face the bed, closing her eyes and falling into a nice, long sleep. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

There was probably a bird that flew into the window. Maybe someone was mowing their lawn. But it was pitch black outside.

It didn’t matter to Hope whatever the sound was; all that mattered was that she woke up. Her eyes fluttered open and instantly set on a figure in front of her. She would’ve screamed and kicked whoever was there, but a gut instinct told her she was safe.

And she was.

Josie was sitting upright, knees under her chin, drawing patterns into the floor. Hope sat up too, involuntarily letting out a small grunt as she did so. Josie whipped her head around.

”You’re awake,” she breathed, as if she wasn’t expecting her to wake up anytime soon. Hope blinked to wet her dry eyes before resting her body on her elbows.

Josie’s face was barely visible in the dark room. Though, Hope could still see when she turned the rest of her body around and leaned in near Hope, placing her shoulders on the floor next to the auburn’s shoulder and resting her chin in her palms.

”Are...” Hope tried to speak. It was like every breath was being absorbed into her cotton-filled mouth. It came to realization that Hope had no idea why she was here, nor did she know if she was even fully awake.

Then everything from last night came into place - the movies, the fight, Timmy, decorating a few bushes in silence... Her heart squeezed inward at the remembrance.

Her legs were tightened from falling asleep in skinny black jeans, and she probably smelled horrible.

But Josie, who was now sliding her fingers along Hope’s ribcage underneath her sweater, didn’t seem to care.

”Hey,” she mumbled out, eyes setting on Hope’s chest. “Follow me.”

The brunette stumbled up, her touch leaving Hope’s skin and making the auburn frown unintentionally. She got up anyways, groggily following Josie out of her room. The dark setting was not doing her justice with how fatigued she was feeling at that moment.

Josie slid her hand along the railing as she stepped down the stairs delicately. Hope, on the other hand, went all in and stormed down the stairs. Somehow her feet got tangled in each other and she was sent flying down the stairs, crashing her head against the wall.

”Hope!” Josie snapped in a whisper. Hope opened her eyes and groaned, watching Josie tiptoe down the stairs quickly before leaning down next to her.

She slid her arms under Hope’s and rubbed her back with her palms slightly before pulling her up. “You’re going to get us caught!” she whispered again. Hope grumbled. She was far too out of it to know what Josie was talking about, only placing her head against the brunette’s chest and catching a faint pattern of quick heartbeats.

Hope’s legs slid against the hardwood floor as Josie pulled her down the rest of the stairs and into the first living room, stopping once they made it to the front door.

She slowly let go of Hope, forcing the auburn to stand up herself. She grunted.

”What are you doing?” she croaked out, looking at Josie straight in the eyes. Now that they were downstairs, she could see a little better from the lights they left on in the room with Lizzie and MG.

Josie’s eyes glimmered from the small sources of light. “I...” she muttered out, her mouth staying open as she searched for whatever she wanted to say. Hope raised a brow.

Josie ended up not saying anything. Instead, she grabbed Hope’s arm and grabbed a coat on a nearby rack. She handed it to Hope, shoving it into her chest before grabbing one and putting it on herself.

Hope sputtered out a weird noise; a noise mixed with confusion and, again, tiredness.

“Put it on. You’ll be cold,” Josie nodded towards the coat she shoved aggressively into Hope’s chest. It seemed to be Caroline’s, with its sexy deep red color and richly embroidered dark brown buttons.

Hope looked down at it and shook her head. “Why?” she whispered.

Josie rolled her eyes. “Just put on the damn coat,” she groaned and opened the front door, the cold air instantly slapping Hope awake.

She quickly put the coat on and nodded at Josie, who had her hand on the knob, staring down at the floor.

Without saying anything, she opened the door further, allowing Hope to step outside first before herself.

”So...” Hope muttered, watching Josie close the door and walk over to stand by her side. “Why are we out here?”

She was awake enough to know that this was definitely weird, especially since Josie wasn’t saying anything. She only looked at the ground, bringing her hands into the pocket of her dark gray coat before taking a few more steps further.

Hope stumbled after her. “Josie,” she said. Each passing second where Josie wasn’t talking brought Hope into more worry.

Then she ignored her again, beginning to walk further out of the driveway and along the sidewalk, bringing her hand back blindly to motion Hope to follow her. The auburn rolled her eyes and chased after.

Josie brought them out of the neighborhood in silence, walking with her hands in her pocket and completely avoiding the way Hope was trying to make her speak.

The auburn grew irritated. Once they made it to a four way intersection, she wrapped her hand around Josie’s arm and harshly pulled her back. The taller girl let out a yelp before turning to face Hope.

”Josie,” Hope gritted out, her grip on Josie’s arm tightening as her breaths became more heavy. “I’m not playing anymore games. Where the hell are you taking me?”

Josie’s face remained neutral, in an annoying way that made Hope want to scream at her just to find any sense of emotion. Then again, that would probably be worse.

“Josie,” she seethed. Suddenly, a car passed by, it’s bright headlights blinding Hope’s vision. When she could see again, Josie had her back turned. She somehow managed to pry her arm away from Hope’s grip.

God damn.

They walked in silence again, Hope scoffing every now and then at Josie’s turned back and how she was walking peacefully.

Finally Josie completely stopped in front of the school. It’s big letters yelling, ‘Mystic Falls HS’ gave Hope a headache from its overkill.

She frowned. “Seriously? You made us walk all this way only to end up here?” she scowled.

This time Josie turned around herself. Her face carried another dull expression. “Just come with me,” she whispered, extending an arm out.

Hope eyes darted down to her inviting palm. She sucked in a breath. Something about the way Josie’s eyes shot through Hope’s bones made her feel weird. Not a bad weird, nor was it good. Just weird. And suspicious.

Hesitantly, she placed her palm against Josie’s, allowing the brunette to wrap her fingers around it and caress her knuckles with her soft skin.

Hope smiled. Not to Josie, but to herself. This kind of physical contact was not usually voluntarily anymore. Josie made it seem either forced or sick.

The brunette pulled her towards the entrance, through the front doors - which were surprisingly unlocked - and stopped in a hallway of lockers. Hope scanned the area. Of course, it was simply just a hallway of lockers,  dimly lit up by the flickering overhead lights.

Josie let go, making Hope flinch shortly, before standing in front of her. The auburn tilted her head to the side. She was using every ounce of strength she had to remain patient.

”MG has a rotting sandwich in his locker,” she said.

Hope blinked.

“Wh- huh?” she sputtered. Josie smiled lightly, and that was the first sense of emotion she’s shown all night.

Josie only pursed her lips inward. She turned around and spun the dial against a locker before it opened. It was definitely not her locker, and it also wasn’t Josie’s.

A horrendous stench exploded in Hope’s face. She scrunched up her nose and snapped her head to the side to gag.

”Holy shit, what the hell is that?” she choked out. The smell lingered in her nose and boggled around in her head. Was Josie trying to poison her with that horrible smell? Figures.

The brunette only chuckled. The sound of the locker slamming shut caused Hope to turn back around. Josie was waving a ziplock bag in her hand, which was obviously growing an ecosystem inside of it.

“Follow me,” she said and nodded before turning around. Before she could protest, the brunette was already long gone. Hope rolled her eyes and chased after her.

She picked up her pace and grabbed Josie’s shoulder, yanking her around.

”Just tell me,” she grumbled out. “What are you doing?”

Josie opened her mouth and sucked in a breath, raising her eyebrows slightly. “If I tell you, you’ll wanna go back.”

Hope cocked her head to the side. “I wouldn’t.” She paused and looked up. “Maybe.” If Josie was going to commit first degree murder, she was not going to be any part of it.

The brunette bit the side of her bottom lip. “Landon deserves a little treat.”

Hope caught her small smirk right as she put it away. Oh, dear God. She was definitely going to kill Landon. And Hope was going to witness it.

She swore she could see Josie wink just as she was turning around. The burning sensation in her heart was not important right now, because this was the day she would get arrested. Great.

-

This was all a stupid and bad idea. Hope was going to be disappointed. Josie knew it.

As she held the molding sandwich in her hand, Josie kept her posture straight and petite. This was so, so dumb. Landon would probably just eat the sandwich, if anything. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d eat something moldy.

But the auburn standing behind her kept her in tact. Even though Hope was probably suspicious of Josie, the brunette couldn’t help but be thankful that she was there. Especially at two A.M in the morning in the hallways with flickering lights.

Josie inhaled deeply before setting her hand on the dial. She twisted it. Nothing.

“Damn it,” she muttered under her breath. Josie didn’t know Landon’s locker combination.

She turned to the shorter girl, who was furrowing her eyebrows deeply. “Do you know his combo?” she asked.

Hope was hesitant to shake her head. “No. Wh-, why? Is it, is it important?” she stammered out.

Josie frowned. She was definitely coming off as suspicious.

But again, Hope would think her plan of ‘revenge’ was stupid if she told her all she wanted to do was put a smelly sandwich in Landon’s locker.

So she replied with, “Uh, yes.”

Hope only looked at her, with those big, blue and annoyingly beautiful eyes. After a long second, she dropped her guarded face and sighed.

”Forty, twenty-two, nine,” she whispered.

Josie thanked her and dialed the combination. Landon’s locker opened with a click. Inside were pictures of him in his football jersey, smiling with his cocky and malicious smile. Josie scoffed.

There was nothing special about his locker. It was just terribly messy, with papers laying around and ripped up textbooks hanging from the hooks, which Josie had no idea how that could work.

She carefully took the sandwich out of the bag and threw it in, making sure to not touch it.

“What are you doing?” Hope suddenly said.

Josie turned to look at her. “Uh,” she started. Well, if Hope thought this was lame, she didn’t care. Still, Josie was hesitant to answer. “This is the treat I was referring to,” she added timidly.

Hope flinched. Her eyes ran from Josie’s torso down to her legs, then back up to her face. Then, she erupted into a chuckle, startling Josie.

”Oh, I thought,” she said between laughs, “I thought... you know what, never mind.”

Josie frowned. She decided it was probably best for her self-confidence to not ask.

”Well,” she muttered, shutting the locker shut and putting her hands in the pockets of her coat. “That’s it.”

Hope hummed. “Why’d you bring me all the way here for you to do that?”

Josie froze. She knew the answer damn well. Hope didn’t deserve to hear it yet, though.

”I,” she started, not expecting to finish her answer. Hopefully Hope would change the subject. But she didn’t. “You see...”

The shorter girl perked up. Oh, dear God. This was embarrassing.

”This is my way of showing you,” she choked out. Her mouth began filling with cotton. Every ounce of her stomach grew light. “That I’m letting go,” she finally let out forcefully.

What happened to guarded-up-Josie? What happened to shunning Hope? Hello? She was growing vulnerable again, Josie could sense it.

But the way Hope’s lips curved into a small smile let her breath release. She cleared her throat and averted her attention to the floor.

”I’ll be right back,” the latter whispered. Josie snapped her head up, but could only see Hope’s running figure.

She exhaled a shaky breath and leaned her body against the lockers, shutting her eyes tight.

You said too much. You said too much. You said too much, she repeated to herself. Hope probably didn’t give a shit. Especially after she ripped up Timmy right in front of Josie. That was not a good sign.

A couple minutes passed before Hope returned. Josie could hear a light clanking of metal sound.

”Back,” Hope panted out. Josie opened her eyes and immediately choked. The auburn was holding cans of spray paint in her arms, probably about four different colors.

”What’s this?” she stumbled out. Hope only smiled warmly.

”It’s my way of saying I’ll always be there for you,” she said.

Josie’s chest tightened. She watched as Hope dialed the combination and open the locker again before setting down the cans of spray paint and picking up a blue one.

”I got these from the art classroom,” she mumbled. “She won’t mind. She loves me.”

Josie hummed. The art teacher was in fact obsessed with Hope’s work. She even tried sending Hope off to a prestigious art school, but she declined the offer for the sake of being with Josie.

Josie didn’t realize how much Hope had done to be with her. She’s skipped her own birthday party in eighth grade to comfort Josie after her public meltdown at the school assembly, she’d passed on going to Maya’s sixteenth birthday in sophomore year to come to Josie’s awards ceremony when her parents and Lizzie couldn’t attend.

Her train of thought was cut off when a loud sound of gas ripped through her ear. She snapped out of her trance and looked at Hope, who was spraying the inside of Landon’s locker with the blue spray paint.

”Hope,” she gasped. “We’re not allowed to do that.”

Hope only rolled her eyes and continued spraying the locker. “It’s allowed if we don’t get caught, right?”

Josie frowned at the false claim. “I mean-“

”Josie,” Hope gritted out, nodding down to the cans of paint. “Do you want to do this or not?”

The brunette looked at the cans, then back to Hope, who was back to spraying the locker.

She inhaled deeply, before finally leaning down and picking up a red can of paint and joining Hope. The shorter girl smiled softly and nudged Josie’s shoulder.

”Red and blue make purple,” she whispered.

Josie pursed her lips inward before spraying paint above Hope’s blue wall that wasn’t close to drying yet. She watched as the color turned into a light purple, though it wasn’t enough to satisfy her.

”Go for the books,” Josie muttered out, pointing the nozzle towards the textbooks hanging from the hooks. Hope nodded, and simultaneously, the two of them sprayed together and watched as the purple color covered the poor textbooks.

Hope let out a snort. “The pictures,” she said.

Josie turned towards the pictures, and again, watched as they turned into a slimy, dark purple color.

She leaned down and picked up an orange can, standing back up and immediately being slapped in the face with blue paint. She let out a gasp.

”Hope,” she gritted out, sliding her fingers along her eyes to allow herself to open them.

”Oh. My. Gosh, Josie. I’m so sorry,” Hope breathed out.

Josie didn’t listen, only holding up the orange can and pressing down on the nozzle with no hesitation.

Hope gasped, the orange paint splattering her face, dangerously close to Caroline’s expensive coat.

Oh, shit.

”Wait!” Josie muttered. Hope glanced up to look at her like she was crazy. “Take off your coat.”

”What-“

Josie rolled her eyes and grabbed Hope’s coat, unbuttoning it and throwing it off. The auburn opened her mouth to say something, but closed it when Josie sprayed a handful of paint in her face.

“Josie!” she breathed out, opening her mouth and stepping back in shock. Then, she snapped her head up, tilting it to the side before holding up the bottle in her hand and spraying Josie straight in the chest, moving up to her face and keeping it there until the brunette ducked her head down.

The cold texture of the paint lingered on Josie’s skin. She got up and sprayed Hope’s hair with the orange color.

”Orange looks good on you,” she smirked. That only drove Hope into more irritation.

”Well,” she chuckled darkly, leaning down and picking up the yellow can. “I know yellow’s your favorite color.”

And with that, Josie’s vision was blocked with the freezing, yellow paint.

She wiped the goo off her face with her hands and opened her eyes, spotting Hope’s sly smirk plastered over her face.

A small click turned her attention away. She spun around to the source of the sound and looked up. The cameras were turning on. She could see the little red dot of light, and how the glossy black ball turned towards her.

”Hope,” Josie mumbled out. “Go. Let’s go.”

Hope didn’t waste a second to drop the can and make a run for the exit. Josie did the same, grabbing Caroline’s coat and following the auburn.

They crashed out of the school, running away from the campus and onto the sidewalk. It took them a few minutes to finally settle down, turning from their frantic running to a somewhat calm, though still panicked, walk.

They stayed silent for a good minute, until Hope broke out into a laugh, Josie quickly joining in.

No words were exchanged, just the sound of their laughters filling up the void of the dark streets.

The sounds eventually died down, though Josie’s smile would not leave her face. That is, until Hope let out a chatter.

She turned to face her. Hope had her palms rubbing her arms, her upper body shaking.

”Are you cold?” she asked softly. Hope snapped her head to look at her and instantly shook her head.

”You’re cold,” Josie pointed out anyways. Hope had paint splattered all over her body, so she definitely couldn’t give Caroline’s expensive as hell coat to her. She thought for a minute. Then, a lightbulb went off in her head.

She unbuttoned her own coat and draped it over Hope’s shoulder, similar to the way Landon did. Josie shook the horrendous thought out of her head.

“Oh,” Hope let out. “It’s really fine, Josie. I’m not that cold.” She attempted to take the coat off, but the brunette placed a hand on her and shook her head.

“Just take it,” she insisted.

Hope opened her mouth but immediately closed it. She pursed her lips inward to the side before dropping her shoulders. Josie watched with a small smirk as Hope continued putting the coat on.

That made her feel like a bigger person. Not the way she usually was, where everyone would try to cater to Josie’s needs. She didn’t feel weak at this moment.

-

The rest of the walk home was silent, with Josie stealing a few glances at Hope while she wasn’t looking, and Hope catching her eyes. It was similar to the way they would walk together in the middle of the night during freshman year, only this time they weren’t venting about useless stuff that would never have an impact on their lives.

Josie allowed Hope to shower while she only washed her face. After all, Hope was nicer than she was, only spraying paint in her face. Meanwhile, Josie splattered her hair in that bright orange, hideous color.

She walked back to her room and went straight for her desk, sitting down and turning on the lamp. Josie took out the book she’d just recently started reading, ‘Every Last Word,’ and opened it.

Maybe ten minutes of silently reading passed before the door clicked open. Josie snapped her head to find Hope, wearing Josie’s athletic shorts that almost looked like basketball shorts on the latter, and a T-shirt that seemed to fit her perfectly. Well, if she ignored how far it dropped down.

Hope walked over to Josie with a small smile, resting her palms on the wood of the desk and leaning over Josie’s shoulder, so close that the brunette had to suck in a breath to keep her heart steady.

”What are you reading?” she spoke softly. Josie gently closed the book shut and showed the cover to Hope. The auburn nodded. “What’s it about?”

Josie remained looking down at the desk, avoiding eye contact. She could still feel Hope’s light breathing hit against the side of her face. “A girl named Samantha who has Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder. She goes to a secret poetry club,” she managed to get out.

Hope hummed. She drummed her fingers along the cover of the book before leaning back, her breaths leaving the side of Josie’s face and making the brunette sigh from the change of contact.

“Well,” she huffed. “I’m going to fall asleep in your bed. Right now. Goodnight.”

Josie nodded, still looking down at the desk.

”Alone,” she added in a sing-song voice.

“Goodnight, Hope,” Josie whispered, her attention still on the desk. She was now examining the ridges of wood.

The brunette felt the presence of the latter stay there for a while, her eyes staring Josie down. Josie had said that nicely, had she not? The urge to ask what she did wrong rung in her head.

Then, after releasing a crooked breath, Hope whispered, “Night,” in a sad, raspy voice. Josie could feel her walk away and could hear her lay down on the bed.

Josie turned around. She watched Hope as she laid on the bed peacefully, her back facing the brunette.

She took a deep breath. Josie turned off the lamp and stood up from the chair, walking slowly over to the bed. The room was dark, but she could still see Hope’s figure next to her as she laid down, facing the ceiling.

Hope didn’t make any indication that she was aware of Josie’s presence. So the brunette blurted out, “Landon’s going to have a pay a ton for those damaged books,” in a soft voice.

Hope didn’t move. Josie bit her lip, almost regretting saying anything, until the auburn let out a sweet, light laugh.

Now there was silence. Josie inhaled deeply and blinked at the ceiling.

“Thank you,” Hope suddenly mumbled out.

Josie scrunched her brows, but still remained facing the ceiling. “For what?”

”For not completely removing me from your life.”

Josie sucked in a breath. Guilt filled her chest. She had tried, so many times, to remove Hope from her life. But every single time, she failed.

”You wanna know why?” she whispered. Hope hummed. “You’re my weak spot.”

It was almost as if Hope stopped breathing. Maybe it was just the room filling with tension, or Hope had legitimately stopped breathing.

From the corner of her eye, Josie saw Hope slowly turn around, her eyes setting on the side of Josie’s face.

”You’re not weak, Josie,” she said. Her voice was more stern, if anything.

The brunette didn’t say anything. She couldn’t even bring herself to face Hope, who was glaring her down with her eyes.

After a few seconds of silence, the auburn continued. “You’re allowing me to be here, right next to you, even after I hurt you. I’ve hurt you so badly,” she croaked out.

Josie felt her heart giving in. Her chest began filling with sticky goo, causing her breathing to grow more heavy.

”You’re the strongest person I know, Jo,” she whispered. Josie flinched at the nickname. It sounded beautiful when it rolled off of Hope’s tongue. “Don’t ever think of yourself as weak.”

“But,” Josie began to protest, but the way Hope cut her off with a breath scared her enough to shut up.

She decided to not say anything. Hope turned back around, her back now glaring at Josie.

The brunette bit her bottom lip. She turned her body on her side to face Hope’s back. Without thinking, she scooted closer, resting her chin above the latter’s head.

The void she didn’t know was inside of her filled up. That’s when she snuck a hand forward, sliding it under Hope’s shirt, and resting it against her stomach. Josie pulled her closer to her body, allowing herself to bask in Hope’s warmth combining with her own.

The auburn let out a shaky breath.

”Sorry, is this okay?” Josie mumbled out. It hadn’t occurred to her that Hope probably felt uncomfortable with this. It was just two friends cuddling, after all, but it was probably too non-platonic for her liking.

As soon as she was about to pull her hand back, she felt soft skin rest above it. Hope’s hand was now on top of Josie’s, sneaking her fingers in between the brunette’s. She expected Hope to pull it away, but she didn’t, only keeping her hand there, keeping Josie’s hand on her stomach.

So much for platonic.

Josie’s chest spiraled into a nice, warm feeling. She traced her fingernails along Hope’s skin. The auburn didn’t seem to care how cold her fingertips were, but she did try to warm them up. Josie felt Hope squeeze her hand, rubbing the cold areas of her fingers.

”I’m sorry for leading you on,” she suddenly blurted out. Hope’s hand stopped its squeezing.

”It’s okay,” she croaked in a raspy voice that didn’t sound convincing. Josie was about to add on to that until she spoke again. “I’m sorry for saying I love you.”

Oh, well fuck the shit of the damn world.

Josie blinked. The warm, blissful feeling in her chest was now long gone, filling up with cold, sticky thorns instead.

Before she knew it, a single tear had made its way down her cheek, falling into Hope’s hair.

So she was right; Hope didn’t love her. She would never love Josie. At least not the way Josie wanted her to.

All of this was a bad idea, a waste of time.

“So you didn’t mean it? You only said it because you wanted to win our fight?” she snarled, her voice coming off a lot more harsh than she had intended to. And to make things worse, her tone was rigged and cracked, obviously exposing how hurt she felt.

Then Hope chuckled lightly. More anger, hurt, and disappointment filled her chest. She tried to pull her hand away, but was only met with Hope tightening her grip and placing it back on her stomach.

”Of course I did,” she whispered. “I love you, Josie. I do.”

”Oh,” Josie choked out. Maybe she was too greedy, but Josie still had a weird feeling from those words.

She could never, ever, forgive Hope. But she couldn’t ignore the way Hope made her feel. Comfort, joy, and love. Her life was better once the auburn came in, and it was absolute hell when she left.

Then it hit her. Hope wasn’t just her weak spot.

She was deeply, dangerously, in love with Hope. In a way that she knew Hope would never return.

-

Josie cracked her eyelids open. It was still dark in the room, but a dark blue was now seeping through the windows. She grunted and forced herself to get up and check her phone for the time.

6:21 A.M.

She glanced over at Hope, who had somehow managed to end up at the very edge of the bed. Her beautiful, delicate sleeping figure was too much for Josie to handle, especially after the emotional flood she experienced just a few hours ago.

She set her phone down and slid her feet off the bed, stretching her arms up and feeling her bones slowly turn from stiff to slump.

She blindly did her regular routine. It was in fact not regular, with Hope still sleeping in her bed and having only a few hours pass where they were vandalizing Landon’s locker.

She headed down the stairs and went straight for the kitchen. To her surprise, the lights were already on, Lizzie and MG sitting at the table with cups of coffee in her hands.

”Morning, Jo.”

”Good morning, Josie.”

Josie smiled and said a good morning back before heading to the counter. She whipped herself a cup of coffee and went to sit down next to the two.

“How was the cuddling?” she smirked. Lizzie’s eyes grew wide and MG spit out the coffee in his mouth.

”Oh, gross,” Lizzie gagged at the small puddle of coffee in front of her.

Josie rolled her eyes playfully and stood up to get some napkins. She threw it at Lizzie before sitting back down.

”Where’s Hope?” Lizzie said as she began wiping down the puddle.

Josie’s heart thumped loudly and aggressively. “She’s-“

“I’m right here,” a voice behind her said. She turned around and saw Hope walking into the kitchen, her hands crossed against her chest. 

“Well, Mikaelson,” Lizzie growled. Josie heard the chair squeak against the floor and before she knew it, the blonde was already walking towards Hope, ready to attack her.

”Wait,” Josie said. She stood up and ran over, stepping in front of Hope. “It’s okay, Lizzie,” she chuckled nervously.

The blonde squinted her eyes. She stayed like that for a while before finally releasing a breath. “Okay,” she mumbled and walked back to the table.

Josie was left with Hope. She turned around and looked at her. “Hey,” she muttered.

Hope smiled back, though it didn’t seem genuine. If anything, it seemed more sad.

“I just wanted to say goodbye,” she whispered, looking up at Josie in the eyes. She didn’t seem to actually be looking in them, more like through them.

“Oh,” Josie said. “Bye.”

”Bye,” Hope muttered. She instantly spun around and headed straight for the front door. It took a good ten seconds before she heard the click of the door and a following shutting noise.

Chapter Text

Josie’s brain swirled. She spun around to check the reactions of her friend and sister. They were only staring back at her with the same type of confusion she was feeling.

And then came the thoughts. She surfed through reasons for why the girl had left. Maybe she had been too close? Or it was probably her hand on Hope’s bare stomach - that was not subtle. God, Hope could’ve had psychic powers and sensed the way Josie secretly hugged her closer.

”Jo, you alright?” Lizzie’s voice crashed through her moment.

Josie didn’t bother to reply immediately. She didn’t even know what Lizzie had said, only hearing her voice mumble something that flew off over her head and up to the sky.

Finally, she snapped out of it again. “Yeah,” she smiled, lips pursed. MG, still sitting at the table, opened his mouth to say something.

”You know,” he started, standing up and walking over to Lizzie. She shuffled a bit to the side to stay a good, though not far, distance from him. “Lizzie and I were planning on holiday shopping.”

Josie cocked a brow. Lizzie nodded by him. The two of them exchanged telling eye contact that Josie couldn’t read. Her FOMO began erupting.

”And you tell me this, because...?” she faltered. Lizzie would obviously bring Josie with her, it was a thing she’d done all their life. She had even dragged Josie to come with her to spy on Sebastian while he was with his family at the park four years back.

Still, she wanted to come.

”Since we’re all tired from yesterday, would you care to join us in a school-less day?” Lizzie continued for him.

Josie nodded right as Lizzie let out a breath after her sentence. “When are we going?” she asked.

They left the house a good fifteen minutes later. It was still mildly dark outside. Josie liked the color of the sky; it was dark blue, like the hotel room with Hope, a parenting shade of Hope’s eyes, the same color Hope had chose first to ruin Landon’s locker with - yeah, she was obsessed.

Josie swallowed the acid that bubbled up her throat that gave her a sour taste in her mouth.

She felt pathetic.

MG drove his pear-scented car, Lizzie in the passengers, and Josie in the middle back. She liked the satisfaction she felt of how MG actually took her advice to use pear scents for winning Lizzie over, regardless of how stupid she sounded.

“Now that mom isn’t here to boss us around,” Lizzie spat, “we can finally get that snowman inflatable!”

Josie shot up in her seat. “Yes!” she said, eyes wide and hands gripping the headrests in front of her.

MG pulled into the parking lot of a random warehouse that only opened during the holidays. They sold decorations and random shit that Josie and Lizzie would spend hours looking at.

More specifically - the fifteen-foot tall snowman inflatable.

”Out!” Lizzie demanded. She kicked the door open and headed straight for the entrance, leaving Josie and MG still in the car.

The boy tapped his thumbs against the steering wheel. Josie scooted forward.

”I see you two got close last night,” she teased. MG rolled his eyes in a playful manner.

”I wasn’t even awake to witness it. I only woke up to her smacking me with a pillow.”

Josie chuckled. She leaned back and unbuckled her seatbelt before stepping out of the car. MG followed behind her.

The place was large. It was cold, though, as the day was still on its way to starting, and there was no electrical circuits in there. Only Christmas lights lighting up the place, causing the warehouse to emit a dark tone.

Josie found Lizzie at the snowman. She was already talking to a man with a scruffy beard.

The brunette decided to let MG deal with whatever Lizzie was bickering with the man about. She let herself wander around the warehouse, looking at the fake snow and boxes of wrapping paper.

In the corner of her eye she saw hair. It wasn’t an obsession with hair she had that made her look over, it was more of the fact that the hair was far too familiar. Josie took a few steps closer.

”Jade?” she whispered cautiously.

The girl turned around. It was Jade, thank goodness.

Her expression was dull and tired at first, but once she set eyes on Josie, she turned to a more surprised kind of look.

”Oh, bourbon girl,” she breathed. The blonde fixed her posture. She was wearing a fluffy green robe and some bunny slippers. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m with my friend and sister,” she clicked her tongue, moving her eyes back up to Jade’s. It wasn’t like her outfit was any better; the same clothes she had worn to bed.

Jade hummed. “Do you wanna go out with me today?” she asked.

Josie’s mouth dropped slightly at the boldness. Still, she nodded quickly. “Uh, yeah. Sur- I’d love to, I mean,” she chuckled.

Josie couldn’t say no to Jade. She looked sexy, even when looking like she just had a breakup.

Or maybe it was because she couldn’t keep obsessing over Hope. Hmm. Jade looked like Hope, in some sense.

Not really.

”Alright, cutie,” Jade winked, and Josie could feel her breath hitch. “I assume you wouldn’t want a pajama date so early. I’ll pick you up at one?”

Josie curved her lips up. “See you then,” she smirked. Jade leaned back, eyeing Josie up and down before nodding and turning around. Josie let out a huge breath.


“She doesn’t care about that! I always, and I mean always,” Maya slammed the table, “turn in everything before the due date!”

“That doesn’t excuse the fact that you full-on copied my paper,” Penelope chuckled.

”I...” Maya started, raising her finger up before slowly putting it down. “Well what abo-“

“What did you expect?” Dana interrupted. “Bonnie. Bennett. Is. A. Bitch!” she sang, licking a spoonful of soup. Hope shuddered.

“Oh, don’t call Mrs. Bennett that,” Cassie scrunched her face. “That’s weird.”

Hope picked at her salad. She wasn’t feeling hungry at all, let alone an appetite to eat those leaves. It was a wonder how Josie was obsessed with them.

Her mind was more occupied with worry. The brunette hadn’t shown up to school today. She could still feel Josie’s cold fingertips scratch softly against her abdomen every time she fished out her phone. She had to put it back every time the thought came up.

She liked the feeling. Hope doubted it at first, trying to remember Landon kissing her, but that didn’t change anything. Hope liked Josie being that close to her, and how her breath landed softly against her neck as the brunette fell asleep.

Josie fell asleep before Hope. Every now and then, the taller girl would mumble something that strayed Hope further from any chance of falling asleep.

She remembered how Josie hugged Hope tighter, allowing her to feel her slow and steady heartbeat. Meanwhile, Hope’s was running through her chest.

“Damn it, Mikaelson. Are you in there?” Dana’s voice cut through her train of thought. Hope snapped her head up to find all of her friends staring her down.

”Uh, yeah,” she muttered, stabbing the metal fork into the crunchy lettuce. She brought it up to her mouth and chewed aggressively.

”I said,” Dana rolled her eyes. “Why didn’t you defend me in front of Saltzman? I mean, I was clearly winning, but my question still stands.”

Hope scoffed as if it were a natural reflex. “She has a name. And weren’t you the one who was showered with chili?”

A wave of ooh’s erupted, though it wasn’t from her table. More like the one behind them. Hope already knew Landon and his cult-y friend group were snickering behind her.

“Well,” Dana snarled. “You’re so funny, you know that?” Her voice had changed into a sweet, yet sickly tone.

Hope swallowed. “I appreciate the compliment,” she gritted out, giving the blonde her own sick smile before stabbing the lettuce again.

Maya tapped her shoulder, but she shook it off.

“You’re pretty bold for someone who betrayed her best friend,” Dana cooed, wiping a fake tear from her cheek. “Don’t act like we don’t see you begging her for forgiveness every single day.”

Hope inhaled thickly through her nose. Still, she cleared her throat, pursed her lips out, and leaned closer across the table to the point where she could feel Dana’s breath on her nose.

”You just wish you could have someone care for you that way,” she snarled. Dana furrowed her brows. She brought one arm up and pushed Hope across her forehead. The auburn was sent back slightly.

”And why would I be jealous of that pathetic-“

”Because no one loves you, Dana. Deep down you know that,” Hope empathized sarcastically.

That sent the blonde into an ugly rage. “Oh, and you think Saltzman loves you? Let alone Landon? Please,” she scoffed. “You’re a mess, the villain, I should say.” Dana was now the one to lean in closer. “You’ve fucked up so badly that you lost two people in your life.”

Hope blocked the words from registering in her brain. She knew it would send her spiraling, and she couldn’t have that right now. “Well,” she seethed, reaching blindly below her for Penelope’s smoothie cup. “I’m about to lose three.”

The gasp that left Dana’s mouth as soon as the thick, purple smoothie flew all over her caused Hope’s lips to move to a smirk. She threw the empty cup at the blonde before topping her off with the barely-eaten salad.

She wiped her hands together before leaving the lunch table. Hope felt dozens of pairs of eyes glue to her. Still, she kept her confidence on a show.

-

Of course, Hope’s terrible luck got the best of her. Again.

She was already almost out the door when Principal Lockwood called her into his office. He showed her the security footage from last night, crystal clear that it was her and Josie.

”Now, I haven’t found Josette yet, but-“

”No,” Hope interrupted, not caring how disrespectful she was sounding. “None of this is Josie’s fault. It’s mine. I dragged her into this.”

That was an obvious lie by the way Josie had led them to the locker.

Still. Hope was the one who had instigated the spray paint.

Principal Lockwood cocked a brow at her. He tapped his ballpoint pen against the stack of papers in front of him. “Find the janitor’s closet and grab the supplies yourself. One of you, or both, will be responsible for Kirby’s fines.”

Hope nodded. She left the office, got the supplies, and headed to Landon’s locker. She opened it and began spraying.

It wasn’t like it got any dirtier. Hope thought it looked better, actually. Landon’s locker smelled like the moldy sandwich Josie threw in. Hope smiled.

The locker was fairly easy to clean. The worst part was having to stare at the ecosystem growing on the sandwich. Hope decided to let that stay in for the sake of two reasons - gross, and Landon.

It already speaks for itself.

Hope didn’t see any point in this. Landon should’ve cleaned it himself. And the books? God, they were barely holding on anyways.

”I knew you were the one who did this,” a deep voice haunted behind her. Hope didn’t turn around, didn’t want to face Landon, didn’t even want to be touching his locker.

“You don’t know that,” she sung out in a sing-song voice, mocking his ambitious tone that he was faking. Landon just laughed.

”So you’re just cleaning my locker for the thrill of it? Ah, I knew you would miss me,” he smirked. Hope rolled her eyes, still not looking back.

”You dream of it.”

She felt the boy’s presence appear next to her. He leaned his side against the locker behind her, staring her down. That’s when Hope clenched her jaw before spinning around.

”You smell so bad, Landon, I think I’m going to faint,” she gritted.

The boy huffed dramatically. He was wearing his football jersey. There was a game today, yet no one in the school bothered to talk about it. Hope didn’t even see that MG kid show up to school either.

“Really?” Landon’s broke out of character. He brought his arm up and sniffed it. He gagged.

Hope turned back around and continued cleaning the locker, this time with more aggression. She couldn’t stand the thought of Landon behind her.

”It’s still hard to wrap my mind around you breaking up with me. Honestly, I thought I’d be the one to do so.”

Hope grumbled. “I guess life is full of surprises, don’t you think?”

“Well,” Landon chuckled. “I’ll be the first to say it. I miss you.”

Hope choked on air. Or maybe the chemicals of the spray had gotten stuck in her windpipe.

Landon’s words didn’t sound genuine, though Hope knew he wasn’t lying. She so badly wanted him to be, though.

“Well, I don’t,” she sung. “I’m happier as ever. You know, now that I’m back with my best friend?”

Landon bellowed out a laugh. “You can’t be serious.” He shook his head, shutting his eyes right as if that was the funniest thing ever.

Hope frowned. She set her eyes on the purple smudges against the locker. “What’s with everyone suddenly knowing everything about my life?” she huffed. “Josie and I are friends again, and that’s final.”

Landon clicked his tongue. “Well,” he sighed. “I wouldn’t be surprised she forgave you that easily.”

Hope’s stomach began building up its walls of fire. “It’s none of your business,” she gritted out, wiping the paint so roughly, it gave off an annoying squeaking sound. “And don’t create these expectations for us.”

Landon just laughed in a mockery tone. “You’re the one doing that, Hope.” Hope could hear the metal of the locker being tapped by a pair of fingers. “Why try? There’s no point. I mean, I’d be willing to stop our break and be your boyfriend again.”

“There’s no break,” Hope snapped, shutting the locker shut. She spun around, her eyes setting on Landon’s chest almost immediately. She wrinkled her face and looked at him in the eyes to stand her ground. “We’re done. Forever.” She sneered. “Choosing you was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.”

Landon’s body stilled. His eyebrows slowly caved down. After a long ten seconds, he said, “You’re really good at messing things up, you know that?”

Hope’s breath grew heavy. Every bit inside her burst into white, hot anger that snakes through her organs. “You make me sick.

She shoved the bottle and rag into his chest and spun around before storming off. Hope ignored his callings of her name and left the school.

The steering wheel trembled under her grip as she drove out of the parking lot and onto the road. It wasn’t a good idea for Hope to be driving like this, and she knew it. So she pulled over to the side almost immediately.

Hope sat there for a while, her chest heaving thickly and tears straying from her eyes. Then, she loosened her grip on the wheel, bringing them down to rest in her lap. She fished out her phone and texted Josie.

can we talk?

Hope leaned her forehead against the wheel, staring down at the screen. Tears fell from her eyes and landed on the glass, but she didn’t bother to wipe them off.

A good minute passed before Josie texted back.

J o

Sorry, Hope. I’m busy right now. Let’s talk later.

Hope rolled her eyes. She shut her phone off and threw it somewhere in the back.

Now the car was even more silent, if that was possible. The underlying tension between Hope and her own anger drove Hope crazy. Crazy to the point where she had to continue driving to ease her mind off things.

Somehow she ended up at a bakery. Hope parked her car far away from the place and slammed the door as she exited her car. A slice of peanut butter toast sounded good at that moment. She could’ve made it herself, save some time and money, but Hope needed it now.

She entered the bakery and fought the urge to  punch the bell as it screamed a ‘ding!’

There was no line. She headed to the counter and didn’t let the cashier talk before saying, “Peanut butter toast.”

”Oh,” the man at the counter said. He punched in a few buttons before turning back. “Anything else?”

”Peanut butter toast.”

The man titled his head. “Are you ordering-“

”Give me two. Now.”

”Well, the order comes with two, just to clarify. Do you want four of the same thing?”

”I don’t care,” Hope scoffed.

The man sighed. “Ma’am, do you want four toasts or two?”

”You know what!” Hope laughed dryly. “I don’t want anything, how about that, huh? Huh?!”

The man sighed again, this time adding the classic temple rub. “Are you sure?”

Hope thought for a minute. She shamefully shook her head. “I’d like two orders, please,” she whispered.

He took a deep breath, widening his eyes as he punched in the buttons. Hope gave him her credit card and he gave her back her receipt and order number.

Hope snatched the receipt rather rudely from the man. He didn’t seem surprised, only letting her take it with his hands up in defense. Hope whipped her head around and looked for somewhere to sit and cry dramatically.

Or maybe cry on the spot.

In front of her were Josie and that bitch, who some call Jade, sitting in a booth, both having pastries and cups of coffee. Hot coffee. Not iced, the way Josie liked it. She was drinking hot coffee.

Rage filled Hope’s senses. Josie said she was busy! This certainly didn’t look like busy. Jade was just a person, not a priority!

Hope stormed over.

”Liar!” she yelled. The brunette flinched and looked at her surprised.

”H-Hope?”

Jade looked at Josie before turning to face Hope.

“Do you know her?”

Josie nodded.

Hope glared at Jade, while the blonde glared back. She cracked the tension and slammed the table in front of Josie.

”You said you were busy!”

”I am...?” Josie said.

Hope rolled her eyes. “Bullshit! I can see, you know?”

”Well, clearly you can’t,” Jade murmured.

Hope grumbled. She definitely didn’t find it fair how Josie could just be on a date right now, and choosing that over her.

She was too infuriated to consider her toxic levels.

“I had to clean up Landon’s locker alone, thanks to you,” she snarled. Josie’s face showered with guilt. Hope wanted to take back what she said; she didn’t even care about that, she just wanted to yell.

“Sorry, Hope. How can I make it up to you?” Josie fished through the bag in front of her, pulling out a lump of bread. “Muffin?”

It was obvious that Josie regretted the offer, as she slowly, but not fully, retracted her arm. Hope scoffed.

”I don’t want a muffin,” she sneered. Josie brought the muffin back and threw it in the bag.

”Sorry,” she mumbled.

Jade groaned. “We really can’t have world peace while you exist,” she said. “Go kiss Landon, or any boy with the way you look. Pretty privilege seems to be the only thing keeping you sane.”

Hope felt Josie’s eyes whip to the side of her head before quickly leaving. The insult clearly made her uncomfortable. But not Hope, nuh uh.

”You’re such a pickle in a cucumber jar!”

Oh, God no.

The insult made more sense in her head. But maybe her head wasn’t working with all the irritation building up.

“Okay!” Josie blurted. “I get you two have some rivalry, but please don’t ruin our date.”

Hope flinched back. She didn’t know who Josie was referring to, but the sentence was definitely not good looks for the both of them. She glared at Jade, sent a warm, though angry gaze at Josie, and marched off, leaving the bakery without her toast.

-

Hayley immediately welcomed Hope with big arms, but she swerved away out of reach.

”I don’t want to be hugged right now, mom,” she mumbled. Tear stains streaked across her cheeks like a map of rivers, falling down to her neck.

She headed straight for the staircase, but felt herself being pulled back.

”Hope, honey, what’s the matter?” she asked softly. Hope instantly exploded.

”I’m the villain,” she sobbed out. “I’m the villain.”

She didn’t let her mom speak, only continuing. “Today was shit. Why didn’t you just let me stay over?” she choked out. Hayley only looked at her with pitiful eyes.

”You know it’s not up to me,” she whispered. Hope scoffed.

”This damn rule shouldn’t even exist in the first place!” she screamed. Images of the meeting in Josie’s backyard flashed into mind. It was like some secret agency meeting, only she was the subject.

The villain.

“They all hate me,” she breathed. “Every single one of them.”

Hayley shook her head. “They don’t hate you, Hope. They’re only doing what they think is best for their daughter.”

”That’s even worse!” Hope blurted. “All those adults see me as a distraction! They think- no, they know,” Hope inhaled through her nose. “That I’m the one responsible for Josie acting up.”

Hayley shook her head. “Landon is a part of th-“

”No one gives a shit about Landon,” Hope scoffed. She looked at her mom, finding her stern expression, ready to scold her. “Sorry,” she mumbled.

She didn’t wait for her mom to reply. Hope turned around and ran up the stairs. She entered her room and immediately took a shower.

She changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, throwing her hair up into a high ponytail so she could begin studying while listening to music that sounded like it would be an elementary empowerment assembly.

Pretty soon her bed was scattered with papers and textbooks. She leaned back and rested her head on the pillow, looking up. The tall ceiling drove her crazy ever since Josie threw Hope’s sticky egg toy up there three years ago and never got it back.

Hope allowed her eyes to flutter shut. She could calm down with a nice nap, skip school tomorrow, and have a good winter break.

That wasn’t the case.

A light knock at Hope’s door drove her eyes open. She grunted, rolling over and covering her ears with a pillow. The door opened.

“I want to be alone,” she said, her voice muffling through the pillow. Her ribcage was sore from all the contained breaths she wanted to scream out.

”Oh, okay.”

Josie.

”Wait!” Hope shot straight up. Josie stopped in her tracks and slowly turned around. She looked like a little kid alone at the store cashier while their mom went to grab something. Or awkward.

In the brunette’s hands were a small, brown paper bag from the bakery. In her other was a cup.

Hope patted the spot next to her. Josie sucked in a breath before walking over.


It was a good thing Jade was understanding. Josie left the date early, took Hope’s order, and stopped by the Mystic Grill for a shake before heading to Hope’s house.

She ordered four slices of peanut butter toast, so Josie got her a peanut butter blast with whipped cream on the bottom to top it off.

She rang the doorbell. Hayley opened it. She looked very pleased to see Josie.

”Go to her room, go,” the lady ordered, pushing her towards the staircase. “I won’t tell your mom if you don’t tell her.”

Josie snorted. She sounded a lot like Hope, just...older.

And so here she was, sitting next to Hope on her homework filled bed. The shorter girl nibbled on a piece of toast while looking down, all while Josie corrected her homework. She had somehow managed to turn her pre-calculus homework into an English debate.

She decided to shut up. Hope was still choking out small sobs every now and then, only resulting in her taking a bigger bite of her toast.

Josie finally finished correcting all of Hope’s wasted work. She turned to face the shorter girl and brought a hand to her back. She wasn’t comforting her, not really. More like resting her hand there, because Josie couldn’t seem to get enough of Hope Mikaelson.

”What did you want to talk to me about?” she whispered.

Hope sucked in a breath. She slowly took the piece of toast away from her mouth and pursed her lips together. Then she shrugged.

”I don’t know.”

Josie sighed. She scooted a tad bit closer, making sure their shoulders didn’t brush against each other.

“Just know that I’m ready to talk whenever you are,” she said.

Hope remained silent. Josie clicked her tongue. She couldn’t go on her phone. That wouldn’t be appropriate for this matter. She couldn’t eat Hope’s toast - she would probably get scratched. Josie decided to start Hope’s missing homework assignments.

After about five minutes, Hope finished her second piece of toast. She turned to Josie. “I’m not allowed be with you.”

Josie paused. The pencil in her hand dropped as she turned her neck to face Hope in the eyes. Hope was dead serious.

”What?” she croaked, her voice sounding a lot more cracked than she wanted.

Hope inhaled deeply. “I really hope you didn’t take my escape personally this morning.”

Oh, awkward. That was the only reason Josie didn’t feel like going to school.

She scratched the back of her neck to play with a few of her baby hairs. “Nope,” she chuckled.

”Okay, that’s good.”

Josie cleared her throat. She watched as Hope grabbed the shake and took a sip. She offered it over to Josie, but the brunette kindly declined.

”I bought it for you,” she said. Hope rolled her eyes and placed the straw into Josie’s mouth. It was gentle, though. She wasn’t trying to kill Josie.

The brunette took a sip.

Hope watched her with a smile, holding the cup while Josie awkwardly drank it. Josie pushed it away at last.

”Thanks,” she croaked.

“You know I broke up with Landon because of you, right?” Hope suddenly blurted.

Josie couldn’t answer right away. The question was way too sudden and threw her off guard.

She was aware her name was mentioned during their fight. After all, Josie watched the entire thing. But that doesn’t mean she was the reason, right?

Josie shook her head.

“Well,” Hope huffed. She took a sip of her shake. “I did.”

Josie sucked in a breath. She looked down, bringing her hands down to fiddle with the piece of paper on her lap.

”Why?” she whispered.

Hope sighed dramatically. “I,” she leaned her head against the headboard. “Choose,” she put a hand on Josie’s shoulder, pulling it down “You.”

Josie’s heart tingled. From the core of her heart beating up thickly, moving up through her chest and leaving sparks, then traveling up her neck, tickling the flesh.

“Thanks,” she replied, breathless.

Hope blinked. She frowned and let go of Josie’s shoulder.

”Sorry, I mean...” Josie panicked. “That is highly considerate of you, Miss Mikaelson.”

Josie absolutely hated her attempt at a joke, but Hope only smiled a cheesy smile, breaking out into a small chuckle.

”What the hell,” she snorted.

Josie groaned and brought her face into her hands, hiding the red color  that was growing.

Hope continued laughing for around fifteen seconds while Josie stared down. She was still thinking about what Hope had said, cherishing the fuzzy feeling in her chest.

She shook it off. ”Why can’t you be with me?” Josie blurted once Hope was done laughing. The shorter girl didn’t look over, didn’t even change the way she was breathing. She only shrugged.

”Your mom said so.”

Josie frowned. “She did?” Hope nodded slowly.

“Yes.”

Silence filled the room. Though, Josie seemed to be the only one affected by it. Hope grabbed another piece of toast and munched on it.

”Why?” Josie blurted again. “Why would she do that?”

Hope swallowed and shrugged. “Her friends think I’m holding you back.”

Josie’s breath got caught in her throat. Hope had said that so simply, like it wouldn’t affect Josie. It didn’t just affect her. It offended her.

”I’m not a child,” she muttered. Hope nodded.

”Tell me about it.”

Josie scoffed. “That’s so fucking stupid,” she gritted out, reaching for her phone. Hope grabbed her wrist.

”No, Josie don’t,” she said. Josie looked over at Hope, who was staring at her with eyes full of worry. The brunette nodded and slowly put her phone back down.

Silence, again. Hope’s fingers slowly moved up Josie’s wrist, entangling themselves in her bracelets. She tickled Josie’s pinkie with a finger, but the brunette was too infuriated to care.

Then she let go. Hope shifted around and placed the peanut butter meal on her nightstand. She fully turned her body and sat criss-crossed to face Josie.

The brunette, on the other hand, remained with her legs out in front of her, looking down at how she fiddled with her fingers.

”Hey,” Hope whispered. Josie tilted her chin up, but didn’t look over. Hope sighed. “That doesn’t mean they think you’re a child, Josie.”

Josie shook her head. “That’s exactly what it means,” she scoffed. “I’m pretty sure I can handle this myself.”

Hope mumbled a sound of agreement. Josie was glad to know she was on the same page as she was. It was embarrassing, and degrading, that she had to have her mom butt into her relationship with Hope because she couldn’t handle it on her own.

Josie’s phone went off. She picked it up, but not without exchanging a look with Hope. Lizzie sent her a picture of the snowman inflatable on their lawn. She gasped.

”Yes!” Josie squealed. Hope practically jumped up. The brunette showed Hope the screen, only earning a look of confusion from the girl.

Josie didn’t notice. She only admired the beautiful inflatable penguin on the lawn. It was at least the height of two MG’s plus half a Josie.

An incoming call buzzed her phone. Josie watched her mom’s picture appear. Her blonde hair, red lipstick and wide smile took over her screen. The pit of Josie’s stomach grew with fury. She aggressively smashed the answer button.

”Hello?” she gritted out.

”Josie, sweetie, please come home right now. Something happened.”

Josie’s breath hitched. Suddenly she couldn’t breathe. What did that mean? She couldn’t tell what ‘something happened’ meant in Caroline’s book. It was either Lizzie found a boyfriend or someone passed out.

”I gotta go,” Josie breathed. She stumbled out of Hope’s bed, about to run for the door until a hand wrapped around her wrist, pulling her back.

”Josie, calm down. Let me drive you,” she said. Josie shook her head frantically.

”No I-“ she choked. “I need to know if everything’s okay.”

Hope stood up anyways. ”Let’s go,” she said and brought Josie with her to her car.

Josie’s leg bounced the entire ride. Hope didn’t say anything about it, even though it literally made her seat bounce up and down slightly too.

When they arrived, Hope didn’t unlock the doors yet. Josie looked over and shook her head slightly. Before she could say anything, Hope spoke first.

”I hope everything’s okay,” she said. And with that, she unlocked the car. But Josie didn’t exit yet. Her eyes darted to Hope’s face, to her hands on the wheel, and to her lips. She quickly stopped looking at her lips and instead looked at her cheek.

Before she knew it, she had already leaned in to place a kiss on that area. Hope let out a sound of something Josie couldn’t quite depict. Shock? Disgust? She didn’t care, anyways.

Because Hope’s skin was so soft under her lips. Her lips remained on her cheek for longer than they needed, confirming that this wasn’t a peck on the cheek. It was just a one-sided romantically coded kiss.

Josie pulled back. She held her breath so Hope couldn’t think she was weird for finding so much euphoria in kissing her cheek. Meanwhile, Hope was only looking at her speechless, eyes wide and mouth slightly agape.

”Thanks for the ride,” Josie breathed out in an exhale and left the car. She ran for the door and didn’t hear Hope’s car drive away.

Chapter Text

Josie opened the door without thinking once about the phone call, the one that dragged her here in the first place. All that was on her mind was how giddy she was feeling. Hope would probably avoid her or think the kiss was weird, but Josie didn’t want to think about that right now.

When she entered, the house was actually dark. No lights were turned on, not even the kitchen lights.

So the lights were off in a super creepy way. Great. But Josie could still see a tall silhouette of a man in the kitchen, basking in the dark.

”Stefan?” she called out, confused and a bit worried. The man didn’t turn around, so Josie walked closer.

”Stefan, what’s going on?” she asked and tapped the figure. Only that was when she realized this wasn’t Stefan. The man was too smelly to be Stefan.

Josie let out an audibly loud gasp and slapped a hand over her mouth.

”Dad?” she choked out.

Alaric turned around. A wide grin appeared on his mouth.

”JoJo!” he bellowed, reaching forward for a hug. He absolutely reeked of whiskey and sewage water. Josie visibly gagged and took a step back.

”What are you doing here?” she whispered. Disbelief seeped into her tone, and Alaric noticed.

”I came to spend Christmas with my family!” he smiled cheerfully.

“Wh-“ Josie choked out, tilting her head forward with growing eyes. “What?”

Alaric only grinned wider. “What did you and Lizzie want for Christmas? Wasn’t it. . . a sparkly pink bike, right?”

Josie stayed stunned. Even if she had thought of an answer, she wouldn’t be able to say it. Her dad was standing right in front of her. Her biological dad. Not her stepdad, but her dad who left her four years ago without any explanation.

”No,” she muttered out. “No, dad! I was twelve!”

Alaric was taken aback by Josie’s sudden outburst. The brunette still felt numb and in complete shock.

”Oh, right, heh. Sorry,” he cleared his throat. “What is it that thirteen year olds like these days?”

Josie’s jaw closed down, clenching together tightly. “I’m seventeen,” she gritted out.

And now the tears were coming. Josie expected it anytime soon. They would seep down her face, dig into her skin, and stay with her for the rest of the day, reminding her that she was just so prone to negative emotions too damn easily.

”Oh!” Alaric chuckled awkwardly. “Well, heh. . it’s been a while, hasn’t it?” He glanced over at the brunette, who was now in barely visible tears. “We could-“

”Where is mom?” Josie said through a heavy breath. Her chest heaved up and down with each slow, passing second.

Alaric shrugged. “She went to your sister’s room, I think,” he said.

Josie shoved past him and headed straight for the staircase, ignoring the way he sputtered out her name. She headed down the hallways and barged into Lizzie’s room at the very end of the second hall.

Stefan was sitting on the bed of Lizzie’s bed while Caroline was on the other side of the room. Lizzie, of course, was standing in the middle of the room in tears.

“Jo!” she whispered loudly when Josie appeared at the door. “Did you know they’re letting dad stay with us for winter break?”

”No, we’re not,” Stefan sighed, rubbing his temples with his thumb and middle finger. “We went over this, Elizabeth.”

”Yeah, and I’m summarizing.” The blonde walked over to Josie and slammed her hand against the wall. “He’s staying in the basement, but it’s still the same!”

”I,” Josie breathed. Her brain was too muddled away in shock to think right now. “Why is he here?”

Apparently the choice was up to Caroline. All eyes went on her, Josie’s included. She glanced at each of them before stepping forward and crossing her arms.

”We can’t let him be homeless in the winter. He’ll freeze.”

”Dad’s homeless?” Josie blurted. Lizzie nodded aggressively.

”We can just let him die!” the blonde laughed in disbelief.

”Elizabeth!” Stefan scolded.

Lizzie didn’t apologize, only muttering something under her breath that sounded a lot like ‘I know we all want that.’

Josie stared at the ground. Stefan was bickering with Caroline, while Lizzie occasionally interrupted with more remarks about kicking Alaric out.

She didn’t know what to think. He did cheat on Caroline and moved away with his new lover once he was caught. Caroline was heartbroken for a year, with only Stefan being able to get through to her. They ended up getting married.

And here they were, four years later, with the same man in their house, standing in the kitchen.

Josie turned around and headed straight for her room in silence. She shut her door and locked it before sitting at the edge of her bed and pulling her phone out.

It happened so naturally - finding Hope’s contact and calling her. Her phone rung a few times before Hope picked up.

”Hello?”

“Hey,” Josie breathed. “How are you feeling?”

”Better.”

Josie could hear Hope smile over the phone. The edges of her lips curved up at the thought of the shorter girl smiling.

”Do you wanna do something together?”

”Now?”

”Yeah, why not?”

There was a brief silence before Josie heard a shuffling noise. The noise went on for a while, following the sound of a door shutting and the harsh December wind.

Then Hope said, “I’m on my way.”

”Great.”

Josie hung up first accidentally and cut off Hope’s short “see you.” It wasn’t like she could drive over to Hope’s house; her car was literally there.

She dressed up in a better outfit than before. Not prettier - her outfit she chose for Jade was cute - but only a tad bit more comfortable. Josie chose a pair of black ripped jeans and a black sweater, pairing it with a golden belt.

Hope texted her to come outside. Josie fumbled around for her phone and ran down the stairs, her heart picking up its pace from the thought of spending more time with Hope. It was a feeling so missed so badly. To be hanging out with her best friend and nothing else would’ve mattered.

She shoved past Alaric’s smelly figure and headed out the door. Josie went in Hope’s car and straightened her hair down. It was awkward the moment she stepped foot in Hope’s car for the mere reason being: she literally kissed Hope on the cheek for like, five whole seconds not so long ago.

”Sorry for making you drive back here,” she mumbled. Hope shook her head and snorted.

”I have your car at my house, Josie. It’s fine.”

The brunette blushed. “Oh, right,” she said with a forced chuckle. “I’m still sorry.”

Hope didn’t say anything, only shaking her head and sighing. “Where did you want to go?” she asked, pushing the gear and backing out of the driveway.

”Wherever you want,” she smiled back.

Hope nodded.

The car drive was silent. Josie tapped on the necklaces hanging from her car mirror. One of them had the letter ‘M’ deeply engraved into it. It must’ve been a family heirloom.

Hope stopped in front of the ice cream parlor. The same ice cream parlor Josie had went with MG to. The same ice cream parlor she went to while escaping Hope’s house in the middle of the night.

The shorter girl got out first. Josie followed after and entered the parlor with her.

”Ice cream?” she whispered. Hope nodded and grinned.

”It’s perfect for a winter night.”

”I mean-“ Josie started, but was quickly cut off by Hope.

”Bup bup bup!” she said and held a finger up.

Josie stared at her with an eyebrow raised before lowering it and chuckling. “Okay,” she smiled.

Hope pursed her lips in a playfully cocky manner before spinning around and heading towards the counter.

-

One year prior - Homecoming

Josie’s breath slowly calmed down. It wasn’t like Hope was going to notice anyways. She wouldn’t notice the way Josie squeezed her hand tighter each time Hope adjusted her head on her shoulder.

It was a feeling that meant more to her than Hope could know. Even Landon wasn’t this affectionate.

Then she felt Hope’s head disappear from her shoulder. Panic rose in her chest and she whipped her head around to find the latter standing up and wiping down her dress.

“Are you okay?” she asked. Hope looked down at her and tilted her head to the side.

”Why wouldn’t I be?”

Josie nodded. She watched as Hope walked over, slowly smiling. Before she knew it, Hope had grabbed both of her arms and pulled her up.

”Wanna ditch this thing completely?” she smirked.

”Um,” Josie started, but Hope was already pulling her back down the trail. They ended up on the sidewalks of the Mystic Falls town square, not too far from the ledge or the gym.

“Wait,” Josie blurted and pulled her arm way. Hope stopped abruptly and slowly turned around.

”What’s wrong?” she asked. Her eyes darted up and down Josie’s body, searching for any sign that would tell her why Josie suddenly stopped.

“I. . .” The brunette rubbed her arms. “Landon might be waiting for me.”

Hope’s face instantly dropped into something that was more on the side of disappointment. Maybe even jealousy.

”But,” Hope shook her head, shutting her eyes. “You’re the one who brought us out here in the first place,” she gritted.

Josie erupted into panic. “I-I know! And, and I know that it was so incredibly bitchy of me, of me to do that, but-“

”But you want to see Landon,” Hope finished for her. She opened her eyes. Josie could see her tears, though Hope wouldn’t admit it. So she kept silent. “You don’t even know if he likes you.”

Josie took a deep breath. She stepped closer to Hope, but the shorter girl pushed her away.

”Wait,” Josie said desperately. “I just wanted to spend some time with you before I danced with Landon.”

Hope scoffed. “You don’t have to dance with him,” she murmured.

”Yes I do, Hope! I promised him!”

Hope bit her bottom lip and averted her gaze to the ground. She kicked the cement and crossed her arms. “Fine,” she muttered at last. “Do whatever you want. I don’t care.”

She turned around sharply and began walking away. Josie groaned and chased after her.

”Hope wait!” she yelled. Josie wrapped a hand around Hope’s wrist and pulled her back. The shorter girl tumbled and nearly fell right into Josie.

”What?” she spat out, now facing Josie with big, watery eyes.

”I don’t want you to think that I’m choosing a boy over you, because I’m not!” Josie defended. “I really wish I could spend tonight with just you, I do! But I promised Landon I would-“

Hope rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Then prove it!” she seethed, grabbing Josie’s unoccupied hand in her own and gripping it slightly.

”Hope,” Josie breathed out. “I can’t. I promised-“

Hope’s grip tightened before she sharply threw Josie’s hand down and pried Josie’s other arm away. “I don’t give a shit about your stupid promises!” she yelled. “You promised me that you’d never leave me for him!”

Josie was quick to open her mouth, but she didn’t say anything. “I,” she started.

Hope gazed at her. Instead of hopeful, her eyes held more disappointment. Like she already knew what Josie was going to do.

Then Hope's patient ended. She scoffed, spun around sharply, and walked down the sidewalk towards the direction of the town.

-

“Josie,” Hope repeated. Josie didn’t hear the first time, but she knew Hope was already calling for her. The shorter girl was at the counter, looking back and motioning her to come forward.

”Oh,” Josie said. She stepped forward and approached the counter. The lady there raised her brows, waiting for Josie to order.

"Could I have a small waffle cone with peanut butter pecan and java chips?” she asked.

Heavily, sprinkled java chips,” Hope corrected.

Josie looked over. Hope was shrugging innocently at her.

”How did-“

”What? You think I forgot your order?” she gasped, putting a hand to her chest. “I’m offended!”

Josie rolled her eyes playfully and slammed her palm against Hope’s cheek, pushing her head to the side. Hope gasped again and smacked her hand away before rubbing her hand over Josie’s face.

The brunette opened her mouth and licked Hope’s hand, immediately making the latter retract her hand.

”Josie!” she yelped. The brunette only smirked. That made Hope huff and wipe her hand on Josie’s sweater.

”Ladies,” the woman at the counter scolded. “If you’re going to play around, do it outside.”

”Sorry,” Josie mumbled. Hope nodded and echoed Josie with her own quiet apology.

The girls walked over to a booth and sat down, both on one side. Josie didn’t expect Hope to actually scoot in right next to her rather than across from her.

They sat in awkward silence. Things weren’t good enough for them to act comfortable enough with each other to initiate soft physical contact. Hope knew that.

The woman called their orders out and they walked over to get it. Hope smiled at her peanut butter ice cream. Her plain peanut butter ice cream, simply in a small cup. Josie frowned and looked at her own cup that was screaming for attention compared to Hope’s.

They tipped the woman and went back to Hope’s car in silence.

”The sky’s really beautiful,” Hope whispered, settling into the driver’s seat and setting her cup of ice cream in the cup holder.

Josie hugged her ice cream to herself and stared at the sky. “Yeah, it is,” she whispered back.

The sunset was Josie’s favorite part of the day during winter. During summer, it was both the sunrise and sunset.

But the sky was a purple kind of color, Josie’s favorite type of sunset. Clouds were only covering part of the sky, allowing the sun to make a show.

“Are you cold?” Hope asked. Josie looked over to find Hope with her hand hovering over the heater.

”Uh,” she said. Hope’s car was pretty cold. “Just a little bit. . ?”

Hope chuckled. “Okay,” she said with a smile and turned on the heater.

More silence.

Josie was beginning to think this was their new routine, now that they were somewhat friends again. Things would possibly never be the same as they used to be.

“I don’t like this view,” Hope mumbled. Josie looked ahead and saw a couple making out through the glass of the ice cream parlor.

“Ew,” she gagged.

”Let’s go somewhere else,” Hope said and drove out of the parking lot. Josie ate her ice cream silently as she watched Hope’s hand grip the wheel softly. She looked at Hope’s rings cuddling around her fingers. Then she looked at the bracelets around her wrist, one of which was a bracelet she knew she had given Hope.

Josie smiled.

”You still have that?” she whispered. Hope hummed in confusion.

Josie reached over and twiddled with the silver bracelet. It read ‘We are the pizzas to each other’s heart.’ Josie got a matching one, but she threw it away after their parting.

It was the cheesiest thing she’d ever purchased, but at the time, she and Hope both found it hilarious. They were only clueless freshmen at the time.

“Yeah,” Hope croaked out with a smile, looking down at her bracelet. Josie let go and leaned back into the seat, facing the window so that she could smile to herself secretly.

Hope drove up a hill and parked in the small empty parking lot. There was only one other car there, but other than that, the grassy hill was practically empty. Josie got out the same time as Hope did and brought her ice cream with her.

”Oh my God,” she mumbled. The view was absolutely stunning. It was almost as if the universe was saving this moment for Josie and Hope to experience, bottling it up and exploding once it became blissful enough to share.

“I know right,” Hope whispered. She opened her trunk and pulled out a small blanket. “Let’s go.”

Josie blindly followed Hope to the grassy hill as she ate her ice cream. The air was chilly, but not windy. It would’ve been perfect if Josie didn’t have such a shitty cold tolerance, but it was still good.

Hope laid the blanket down and sat on the top of it, patting the spot next to her. Josie sat by her side and brought her knees up to her chest and she ate her ice cream. Hope hadn’t even taken a bite of her own yet.

-

“Thank you,” Hope said to the man at the counter. He was like a zombie as he gave Hope her lemon sorbet. She paid him and left the parlor to sit on the curb right in front of it.

She looked down at the cup in front of her. She didn’t even like lemon sorbet, or any kind of sorbet. But it was yellow. And yellow was a happy color. Hope needed something to distract her from the fact that her best friend just ditched her on their homecoming date thing.

She stabbed the spoon into the sorbet and watched as it was dissolved sadly. She bit the side of her bottom lip.

A few minutes of Hope staring at the sorbet passed before she heard a light clatter of footsteps. More specifically heels. She looked up.

Josie was walking towards her. Then she stopped. “What are you eating?” she asked with a twinge of confusion in her voice.

”Lemon sorbet,” Hope spat out harshly. Josie backed away slightly and nodded, chuckling softly and sighing.

”You don’t like that flavor,” she pointed out.

Hope ignored her and took a spoonful of the sorbet and shoved it in her mouth. “How was your dance with Landon?” she muttered and rolled her eyes.

Josie inhaled through her nose. “It was. . .” she faltered off, walking closer. Hope wasn’t able to react before Josie had sat down on the curb next to her. “I didn’t go.”

Hope glanced straight ahead. She didn’t say anything.

Josie pursed her lips together and let them go with a ‘pop’ sound. She stood up and walked into the ice cream parlor, leaving Hope alone with the sad lemon sorbet.

A few minutes later, she returned and sat back down next to Hope. The shorter girl was about to rudely ask her to fuck off until she noticed Josie was holding a cup out. More specifically, a cup of peanut butter ice cream.

Josie gently took the lemon sorbet out of Hope’s hands and replaced it with the peanut butter one.

Hope looked down at the cup in her hands. She smiled unintentionally before taking a small bite out of it. That was much better.

”I’m sorry for trying to ditch you, Hope,” Josie blurted.

Hope shook her head. “Forget it,” she mumbled.

”No,” Josie insisted. “I promised you, and I broke that promise.”

Hope scoffed. “And you promised Landon too.”

”But I promised you, Hope.”

The shorter girl cocked an eyebrow and turned to face Josie.

The brunette took a deep breath before grabbing Hope’s spare hand and squeezing it in her own.

”You’re my best friend. You will always come before him.”

Hope bit her bottom lip. She averted her gaze to her fingers and fiddled with the pizza bracelet on her wrist. She turned back over and held her wrist out to Josie.

”Am I a pizza your heart?” she joked. The pun sounded absolutely stupid, but Josie just chuckled. She held out her own wrist and placed it above Hope’s.

“You’re a big pizza my heart,” she replied. Hope snorted and shoved Josie’s shoulder lightly, earning a small giggle from the taller girl.

Then she stood up. She set down her and Josie’s ice cream before bringing the brunette’s hands in her own and pulling her up.

Josie didn’t hesitate before pulling her into a hug, wrapping her arms around her neck and allowing Hope to bring her arms underneath Josie’s, hugging her torso and using her fingers to draw stars along Josie’s neck.

She allowed herself to melt her head in Josie’s chest, listening to her heartbeat.

Josie hugged her tighter and sneaked her chin on top of Hope's shoulder. The auburn smiled mostly to herself, yet she still hoped that Josie could feel how her lips curled up.

-

The two had finished their ice cream and threw the cups in a nearby trash can. Hope laid down first, observing the sunset above her.

”It’s much better if you stand up to watch it,” Josie called out. She was standing on the grassy hill while Hope stayed behind her, laying down on her back, staring up at the sky above her.

“I think it’s much better to relax and watch it,” Hope argued. Josie rolled her eyes playfully to herself before turning around and walking back to Hope and the blanket. She laid down next to the auburn and placed her head on her stomach.

Hope seemed to be taken by surprise, because she literally flinched and sent Josie’s head to fly off her stomach.

”Oh, my bad,” she mumbled.

Josie huffed and leaned her head back on Hope’s stomach. Only now, Hope was sitting up instead of looking at the sky. She was looking at Josie now.

Josie titled her head slightly to watch her. “What are you looking at?” she teased.

Hope just smiled. She brought one hand to comb Josie’s hair. The brunette hummed.

”That feels nice,” she mumbled.

Hope continued massaging her scalp as Josie stared at the sunset. It was almost gone by now, but she didn’t care. Hope had laid down again to watch the remainder of the sunset with her, keeping her hand in Josie’s hair.

By now the sunset was completely gone. The sky was dark blue, revealing a few stars in the areas the clouds weren’t in.

Hope’s stroking slowed down. Her hand now stayed in Josie’s hair, her fingers running along her scalp with the slightest amount of force. Josie assumed she was tired.

So she sat up for a brief second to adjust her position and lay down next to Hope, making sure their faces were at the same level. She rolled over on her side to face Hope. To her surprise, Hope did the same.

”Not to ruin this,” Hope suddenly whispered. “But I’m so glad to have you back.”

Josie hummed immediately before she processed what Hope had said. Then it melted in her brain. “I’m glad too.”

Hope smiled. She brought a hand forward and ran a finger down Josie’s nose.

”I remember how we used to lay down like this when we hid from my dad,” she giggled. “He would always end up finding us.”

Josie laughed softly. Klaus would strictly forbid them from touching his stuff. One time, they snuck into his office to steal his signature because Hope had gotten a detention slip. She needed to excuse it to attend Josie’s cooking club meeting. She was the only other member, anyway, so it was required that she showed up.

Unfortunately, Klaus barged in and they had to result in hiding under his large desk. In the exact same position they were in now.

Josie smiled and nodded. “Mhm,” she hummed.

Hope pursed her lips together before pulling her hand back. “Is everything okay at home?” she whispered, her voice now more gentle, if it wasn’t gentle enough before.

Josie sucked in a breath. “My dad is back,” she mumbled.

Hope’s brows flew up. “Oh my God,” she sputtered.

”Yeah,” Josie muttered.

”What are you going to do?”

The brunette looked up as if that would help her find an answer. “I don’t know. Just deal with it, I guess.”

Hope exhaled a heavy breath before scooting even closer and putting her hand on the back of Josie’s neck, leaning her elbow on the space between them.

”You can always stay at my house if it ever gets too much,” she whispered.

Josie smiled and nodded.

Hope just stared at her with her own small smile. They stay like that for a while, smiling at each other in silence.

Then Hope moved closer. Josie closed her eyes as a natural reflex when she felt a pair of soft lips fall against her forehead.

Chapter Text

Hope fumbled around the trunk for a poncho, or anything that could’ve protected the two of them from the rain.

”Hope, let’s just go home,” Josie murmured behind her. Hope ignored her and continued fishing through her emergency compartment.

”I swear, I do have emergency ponchos in here. . .” she faltered off. Josie sighed and rubbed her arms, looking around before leaning in towards Hope’s ear.

”We can just talk in the car. Or have a sleepover, or whatever. Let’s just go, please,” she said. Somehow the brunette had figured out the reason why Hope didn’t want to leave his yet; to spend more time with Josie.

That made Hope automatically lean her head back out and shut the trunk closed. She whipped around, clapped her hands together, and smiled at Josie.

”Really?” she whispered. The brunette smiled and nodded.

The two of them walked back to the front of the car and entered, both heavily soaked and groggy. Hope was miserable.

Sure, the night was fun, but the universe really didn’t like to see Hope with Josie apparently.

Hope sighed as she sat down. She reached over and started the car as soon as Josie slumped down next to her.

Hope waited. She tapped her fingers along the steering wheel awkwardly, waiting for the car to warm up. In the corner of her eye, she saw Josie fiddle with her fingers.

”We’re having a backyard thing tomorrow night,” she blurted. “If you wanna come. . . I don’t know, you could if you- I mean, I do want you to come. But, you know-“

”Josie,” Hope cut her off. Her heart bounced with excitement at the small invitation, but still, she played dumb.

”Sorry,” the brunette muttered, clicking her tongue lightly and looking away. “I mean, you can come. I don’t know if you can, but if you can. . .” she took a deep breath. Hope pursed her lips to stop herself from smiling. “I’d like you there.”

“I’d love to,” Hope smiled. Josie’s mouth stayed open, as if she wasn’t expecting Hope to answer so quickly.

“Oh,” she blinked. Josie leaned back into the seat and nodded, blinking even more. “Okay.”

Sticky guilt swarmed in Hope’s belly. Who’s to say she was even aloud to go? No one. Caroline wouldn’t approve of Hope’s evil back-stabbing and raw flesh-eating persona in her house.

Silence again. Hope bit her bottom lip and turned her head to stare out the window. Rain was pattering harshly on the glass.

After a few minutes of listening to the rain and Josie’s light breathing, Hope started driving. Josie hummed a tune of a song that Hope didn’t know for the majority of the ride so far.

Then Josie's phone dinged. Hope resisted the urge to turn her head and peak over. Though she couldn't actually resist.

Josie's phone was bright when she fished it out of her pocket. Hope's eyes darted from the road to the phone, barely subtle. The repeating matter didn’t help her at all; she couldn’t see what Josie was doing, or what is was that made her suck in a breath in a weary way.

She eventually picked up enough of her guts to speak. “What’s the matter?” she asked.

Josie blew out a puff of air. “Stefan and my mom want me back home,” she said.

Hope swallowed. “Oh,” was all she could manage to say.

Damn it.

Her giddy mood instantly deflated. All she wanted to do tonight was spend time with Josie, but apparently the universe didn't want that. Again.

Josie’s breath grew louder all while she stayed silent. Then she whispered a small, “I’m sorry, Hope.”

”It’s fine.”

She kept her eyes on the road now. It was embarrassing - how she was on the brink of crying over something so stupid. Maybe it was just the deprived amounts of affection since the breakup. Or maybe she was just alone.

But she could just go to Maya or Penelope’s house if that was really the case.

The thought made Hope frown. She didn’t want to be anywhere else if it didn’t involve Josie.

Impulsively, Hope lowered her MPH. Josie didn’t notice the first three digits decreasing, so she brought her foot up a little higher and didn’t stop until the speed was merely fifteen MPH.

Josie’s head craned over, hair gently poking Hope’s cheek as she checked the dashboard. Then she hummed in confusion.

“Hope,” she said skeptically. “Why are you going so slow?”

The auburn played dumb. “What do you mean?” she mumbled under her breath. Josie leaned back and Hope let out a heavy breath that somehow built itself up without her permission.

”You’re far from the speed limit,” Josie pointed out.

Hope only hummed. Every second was going to be cherished, savored, and appreciated, Hope promised herself. Even if that meant cheating a little and adding a few extra minutes.

Josie groaned at her silence. “Do you want me to get in trouble?” she hissed.

”Yes.”

Josie sputtered a croak.

”Wait-“ Hope quickly backtracked. “I mean, no, not necessarily, but I. . .” She glanced over to find Josie raising an eyebrow at her. Hope gulped and snapped her head back around before slamming her foot down and turning the wheel to the side.

”AH!” Josie yelped. “Oh my God, Hope, be careful!”

Hope ignored her and drove right into a ditch, but softly. And delicately, like it was her grand entrance to an elegant ball.

The car rattled before diving into the small crevice. Hope leaned her head back, gasping slightly, and gripping her hands on the wheel. Why did she do that? Because she’s an idiot.

Josie shot up in her seat. “What the hell?” she breathed out. Hope cracked her eyes opened and slowly turned to face a very angry Josie. She smiled.

”Oops,” she said.

Josie looked at her like she was crazy. Hope smiled even wider.

You almost got us killed!” she seethed. Hope shrugged.

”We’re still alive.” Again, she widened her smile.

Josie’s jaw clenched, her lips pursing roughly until they turned white. Then she let out an exasperated huff and unbuckled her seatbelt before kicking the car door open and jumping out.

”Wait!” Hope’s smile dropped. She watched Josie’s figure move through the window. She groaned and left the car, chasing after the brunette. She was on the road, walking towards the direction of the town.

Josie wasn’t going very fast, but she definitely wasn’t walking slow. Hope caught up to her with a light jog. The rain slapped her skin roughly.

”Josie,” she panted.

Josie spun around and crossed her arms against her chest. “Yes, Hope?” she gritted out, annoyed and probably irritated with how Hope literally just drove them into a ditch.

“Where are you going?” she said.

Josie rolled her eyes. “To find help.”

”Help will come on its own. We can wait,” Hope said desperately.

That made Josie twitch her head up slightly, blinking profusely. Then, as if she just solved a case, Josie leaned her head back and let her mouth drop open.

”Oh,” she breathed.

Hope blinked. “What?”

Josie just smiled warmly. “I get it now,” she laughed.

The brunette walked over closer to Hope and put one hand on her arm. She slid her hand up gently, taking her time to caress her arm, and held Hope’s hand in her own.

The auburn sucked in a breath, her eyes darting to their hands for a brief second before meeting Josie’s eyes.

”What are you talking about?” she choked out. Hope hated how nervous and small her voice sounded. It made the conversation even more embarrassing after just driving into a ditch.

Josie just chuckled before using her other hand to playfully shove Hope’s shoulder. “You.” She leaned closer. “Hope Mikaelson.” She gripped Hope’s hand tighter. “Don’t want me to leave,” she teased.

Hope choked on air. The heavy rain fell right in her eyes, making her flinch and tilt her head down momentarily. If she wasn’t already blushing from Josie’s assumption, she was now.

Hope didn’t lift her head back up. That only made Josie laugh again.

Hope turned her head to face the empty road. A car passing by honked loudly as the headlights blinded her. It splashed a small amount of rainwater towards the two, but Hope was too flustered to care.

Then Josie cleared her throat. “Let’s have that sleepover,” she said softly, using her other hand to join their already connected ones. “I promise, we will.”

Hope’s head flew up almost immediately. She nodded desperately. “Yeah,” she murmured. “Okay, yeah.”

Josie smiled. She let go of her hands. Hope whined for a short second before Josie wrapped an arm around her shoulder, pulling her with her as she turned around.

”Let’s just call a tow company tomorrow. I’m too tired,” she said. Hope nodded and leaned her body closer to Josie’s. Their drenched clothes colliding sparked something inside of Hope’s chest. It felt lively and thrilling, how it was just the two of them, soaked in the rain at night.

Hope was about to smile until a loud crack in the sky sent Josie flying away.

”AH! OH MY GOD!” she shrieked. Hope flinched and turned her head to find Josie cowering close to the ground, hands above her head. “Lightning,” she hissed.

Hope looked at the sky, bringing a hand to cover her eyes from the rainwater. Then a flash in the clouds sent Josie to scream again.

Hope felt her hands being pulled and her body being yanked. Josie was running, and she was running fast.

”Wait, Jo,” she chuckled. The nickname slipped off her tongue, but Josie didn’t seem to mind.

Josie stopped abruptly and whipped her body around to face Hope. Her face held worry, panic, and fear. Hope thought she looked suspiciously similar to freshman year Josie.

-

Two years prior - Freshman year

Hope and Josie were sitting up on Hope’s bed. It was a cold winter night, yet the two of them thought it was perfect for a sleepover.

Hayley walked in and told them they had to complete their homework if they wanted to hang out on a school night. But of course, Josie was the one doing the work while Hope went on about her day, occasionally chipping in a few of her own efforts to complete their work a little bit faster.

Josie didn’t find it useful at all.

Still, Hope began screaming in anger as she ranted about how unfair it was that the vegetarian options in the school cafeteria were stereotypical and that salad wasn’t the only meat-less thing to exist.

That made Josie turn her head slightly. “You’re not even vegetarian,” she chuckled.

Hope shrugged. “You are,” was the simple answer she gave.

Josie nodded her head to the side. “Hm. True.”

The auburn watched as Josie closed her gigantic textbook and stack the papers into a neat pile. She stretched her arms out and grunted before standing up and placing the papers on the nightstand near Hope’s bed.

”We finished!” Hope cheered, clapping her hands. Josie looked over and rolled her eyes playfully.

”Can we watch Sherlock Holmes now?” she said.

Hope frowned. “I thought we were watching The Kissing Booth?”

Josie gagged. “Oh my God, Hope! What is with your obsession with that horrid movie?” she laughed, walking over and grabbing a pillow to smack Hope across the face.

The auburn gasped dramatically and stood up, grabbing a pillow in her own hands. “I still don’t see how you don’t like it,” she murmured before throwing a huge blow at Josie’s head, sending the brunette to tumble backwards.

Josie grunted and picked herself up before walking closer and readying the pillow up, about to smack Hope. “How can you bear watching all that lip smacking and kisses?” she said before throwing the pillow straight at Hope’s face.

The auburn laughed loudly. She took a few steps back and held the pillow in front of her, protecting her upper body like a piece of armor. “The storyline is amazing,” she huffed. That was when she charged forward, throwing herself at Josie and making her fall to the floor, facing up.

She grunted while Hope stood hovering over her, dropping the pillow on her stomach. “I win,” she sang playfully.

Josie rolled her eyes with a smile. “Right,” she smirked. “The cliché and cheesy storyline that wins your heart every single time?”

Hope frowned and picked up the pillow off of Josie’s stomach, only to smack her again.

”Don’t you dare disrespect it!” she gasped dramatically. Josie snorted and barked out laughing.

A loud boom startled both of them. Though Josie was more affected.

Hope flinched when Josie suddenly shrieked. She examined the brunette, who was now stumbling up and running over towards Hope’s bathroom. Hope heard a small ‘click.’

She frowned and walked over. “Jo? You okay?” she said gently, leaning her head against the door to search for any sign of expression. All she heard was quiet, though frantic gasps for breaths.

“Jo?” she repeated.

No answer.

Hope clicked her tongue and sighed. She’s been locked out of her own bathroom before, so the response came easily and naturally. She walked over to grab a bobby pin from her vanity before placing it in the little hole.

The door opened.

Hope let out a quiet gasp when she saw Josie sitting on the floor, hugging her knees close to her chest all while tears streamed down her face like rivers.

”Oh my God, Jo. What’s wrong?” she said softly, her voice barely above a whisper. It would’ve been hard to tell that she literally just charged at Josie and sent her tumbling down with how gentle she was being right now.

Hope crouched down and sat by Josie before immediately bringing an arm around her shoulder, hugging her close to her body.

”Lightning,” Josie choked out in sobs.

Hope hummed. She rubbed big stars against Josie’s back before scooting her body to face the brunette. She was sitting cross-legged while Josie still buried her head in her knees.

”It’s okay,” she whispered, bringing her other hand to cup Josie’s cheek. The brunette tilted her head up. Hope watched as a fresh teardrop rolled down her tear-stained face.

Josie had an irrational fear of lightning. It wasn’t really irrational, though. Hope had to admit that she was startled by lightning occasionally. But Josie feared that everyone she loved would get struck and she wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. And that always made Hope’s heart ache whenever she thought about it.

Josie shook her head and let out a shaky sob. “It was so loud,” she murmured.

Hope couldn’t stop herself from frowning. She thought for a moment.

”Hey,” she whispered, rubbing her thumb along Josie’s cheek. Josie read the Percy Jackson series. And so did Hope. The irony of the brunette’s favorite Olympus god being Zeus always made Hope chuckle.

Josie blinked a few times and held in a sob.

”Zeus is just a little bit cranky,” Hope smiled.

The brunette opened her mouth, and instead of a sob, she let out a heavy breath.

Hope continued. “He won’t hurt anyone,” she said. “I promise.”

With that, Hope took her hands away and pried Josie’s hands away from her legs. She squeezed them in her own before hugging them close to her chest.

”Can you feel my heartbeat?” she whispered. Josie tilted her head, her breath shaky. Then she nodded. Hope smiled. “I’m still alive,” she said. “Zeus wouldn’t kill anyone you love, because you love me, and I’m the most powerful demigod he’s ever seen.”

Josie snorted. Her lips curled up into a small smile. Hope’s heart bounced lightly at the effect she had on Josie’s mood.

Then Josie adjusted her position to sit the same way as Hope was. She pursed her lips in a side smile before leaning in and wrapping her arms around Hope’s neck. Hope rubbed stars against Josie’s back, just like she always did.

Another loud crack in the sky made Josie flinch slightly, but Hope just rubbed her back with more force.

A few minutes passed. Or maybe an hour. Hope lost track.

But all that mattered was that Josie wasn’t crying anymore. Hope pulled away first and pushed a few dried up strands of hair away from Josie’s face.

“Let’s watch the movie now, yeah?” she said. Josie smiled and nodded.

Hope pulled Josie over to her bed and whipped out her laptop. She opened it and surfed through the movies.

Josie laid down flat on her side. Hope clicked on the movie with a smirk before laying next to Josie and resting the laptop on her stomach.

“The Kissing Booth!?” Josie fumed.

”Oh no! That was an accident! Oh well,” Hope said sarcastically in a monotone voice. The next thing she knew, she was being smacked in the face with a pillow.

-

“We could get struck, Hope! Hurry your ass up!” Josie yelled, turning back around and dragging Hope with her.

The auburn only yanked her hand away. Josie stopped and spun around, about to yell again until Hope took a few steps back.

She spread her arms out. “The rain is amazing!” she yelled through the loud sounds of the rain and thunder. “It’s truly-“

A loud crack of lightning struck so loud, both Josie and Hope screamed.

Hope brought her hands back down and grabbed one of Josie’s, now being the one to drag her.

”Screw that, let’s go!” she yelled.


Josie threw her hair in a low ponytail before settling down on the bed next to Hope. The auburn was wearing Josie’s sweatpants and a mere black tank-top while Josie covered herself in a heavy sweatshirt.

Hope smelled like Josie. She used Josie’s shampoo and conditioner in the shower. Again, she smelled like Josie.

She didn’t necessarily hate it, but Josie wished she could still smell Hope’s original scent. She already spent enough time with herself to smell even more of her on Hope.

She faced the ceiling and rested her hands flat against her stomach. Hope was nearing her slumber already, as she had showered before Josie and laid on the bed while the brunette did her nightly routine.

Hope, who was originally facing her back towards Josie, rolled over and faced the ceiling as well, copying Josie’s exact body frame.

“I really had fun today,” Hope suddenly mumbled. Her head turned lazily to face Josie. Her eyes were barely opened, though it fluttered in a way that let Josie know she was trying to stay awake.

“Mm,” Josie hummed.

Hope continued almost immediately. “This was the most normal things have been in a. . . in a while, you know?” she whispered groggily.

Josie tilted her head down slightly, keeping it down for a while before bringing it back up. “Yeah,” she croaked.

Hope’s lips curled up in a smile, and Josie swore her heart exploded on the spot.

Everything inside her melted. At the way Hope’s smile was so generous to the rest of her face, and how graceful her eyelids landed above her eyes. And at the way her barely-awake figure still managed to crack a smile for her. And just for her.

And now Josie was reminded, for the second time, of the fact that she was in love.

She didn’t notice how much time has passed, or when Hope had actually fallen asleep. She tipped her head to the side and fumbled around for her phone, reaching it up and turning it on.

The bright light blinded her before her eyes settled on the time. 1:25 A.M.

Dammit Jo, she thought to herself. Three hours have passed. Three hours of staring, actually.

Josie threw her phone back, ignoring how loud it sounded as it crashed into something; probably something fragile.

She turned back to face Hope. The auburn was as peaceful as ever, breathing gently through her nose. Her face was bright, even though the room was a deep, black/blue color that made it hard to see anything else.

Josie swallowed thickly. She scooted closer. 

Hope’s soft breaths landed delicately on her skin. She sucked in a breath before bringing a hand up and placing it flat against Hope’s cheek. It was warm. In comparison to Josie’s icy fingers, Hope’s skin was like a warm fireplace.

Josie’s fingers wandered around her face, reaching behind her ear and pulling a few strands of hair out. Then they moved to her eyebrows, where she gently scratched the small hairs with her fingernails.

Josie smiled. She let go and scooted away all in one motion. If she stared too much, she would probably dissolve into dust.

She turned around and stared at the plain window. It was boring compared to Hope’s face. Like, really boring. And dull. And offensive to her eyes. Josie grumbled under her breath, but closed her eyes anyways.

Maybe she was dreaming, but Josie swore she could feel Hope’s hand wrap gently around her stomach, fingers gripping her shirt, and pulling her back.


It turns out it wasn’t a dream. Josie was the first to wake up.

Hope’s hand was still wrapped around her stomach, pressing their bodies close together. Josie gently pried off Hope’s hand from her bare stomach (that she had somehow accessed) and forced herself to get out of bed. It was hard, and she missed being that close to Hope.

Then a heavy pain in the head sent Josie tumbling her ass back on the bed. That was when she realized her nose was completely blocked, and why she was breathing through her mouth.

Her throat was completely sore, as was the rest of her body. Every bone felt limp.

“Damn it,” she muttered under her breath. She’d caught a cold. Josie stumbled away from Hope just in case she could’ve spread it. Josie tried clenching her fists too soothe off the frustration, but she was much too weak to do that.

She turned around and watched Hope. Her eyes were opened now, and she was staring right at Josie, not saying anything. Just staring with no readable expression.

Josie clapped her hands together. “Well,” she said. Her voice was scratchy and rough, like sandpaper. It felt a lot like sandpaper. “You should go before my parents wake up.”

Hope continued staring.

Josie gulped. Okay, she could just ask her parents to let her hang out with Hope again. Then everything would be good again.

Josie smiled to herself smugly. “Hope,” she called out. The auburn continued staring, but cocked an eyebrow up anyways. The brunette walked a step closer. “I’ll talk to my mom about you, or whatever it was.”

Hope perked up. “Okay,” she said, nodding rapidly. She sat up and crossed her arms, walking towards Josie. Josie’s sweatpants wrapped around Hope’s legs lazily, the bottom hems falling to the floor. At least the tank-top fit her (and made her look hot).

Josie hadn’t even realized she was staring. She cleared her throat and snapped her head, only finding more pain scratch the flesh of her neck.

”Wait,” Josie barked out, looking at the floor and careful to not let Hope hear how cracked her voice was. “Actually I’ll tell her when you’re not here, go.” She waved Hope a ‘carry on’ motion with her hand. “I’ll see you tonight.”

Hope frowned. “Oh,” she shifted on her feet. “Oh. . . Kay?”

Josie nodded. “Yup!” she beamed, walking over and pushing Hope to the door, opening it and shoving Hope out.

”Bye!” she said.

”Wait-“

Josie slammed the door shut.

She breathed out a breath and brought her hand to her forehead again. The skin temperature was normal, but it felt like she was carrying a dozen bowling balls in her head. Josie groaned and walked over to her bed and slumped her body back onto it.

Chapter Text

There were three things that Lizzie told herself to figure out that night. One - why Josie stayed cooped up in her room for the majority of the day. Two - why Elena, Damon, and Mrs. Bennett were in their fucking backyard. And three - why Hope Mikaelson was standing right in front of her.

She could cross out number three quite easily.

”Lizzie, I said let me in,” Hope huffed.

The blonde shook her head and crossed her arms against her chest, shifting her weight on one leg and pursing her lips out.

”What brings you here, Mikaelson?” she spat in a sickly and sour voice. Hope rolled her eyes and shoved Lizzie to the side. She gasped.

Did you just push me?” she snarled.

”Oh my God, Lizzie,” Hope groaned. “Do I need to repeat myself for the fifth time?”

“Yes,” was Lizzie’s simple answer. Mikaelson looked at her like she was driving her insane, but Lizzie didn’t care. She was already very aware of that.

Hope took a deep breath, closing her eyes as she did so, and grasped her hands together. She clicked her tongue. “Like I said,” she gritted out. “Josie invited me.”

Lizzie barked out laughing. “Yeah, right,” she chuckled.

Hope groaned again. “Can you just let me see her?” She closed the door behind her and shoved Lizzie again, but the taller girl kept her stance and stood like a knight dressed in heavy armor.

“For the love of God. . .” Hope mumbled under her breath.

”Let me see your ID,” Lizzie said.

Hope furrowed her brows, shaking her head as if she misheard Lizzie. “Ex-, excuse me?” she said, tilting her head down and raising her brows.

”You heard me.”

“Lizzie!” she hissed. “Why the hell do you even need my ID?”

”Aha! So you don’t have one!” Lizzie stuck out her tongue. “Minors cannot enter.”

Hope frowned. ”You’re a minor.”

”And?” Lizzie rolled her eyes.

Hope’s mouth dropped slack. “You are so. . .” she pursed her lips together and grasped her hands once again, humming a little tune to herself before continuing. “You’ve always given me gray hairs, Lizzie.”

”Thank you,” Lizzie smiled sweetly. Hope looked at her, ran her tongue along her cheek, and let out an exasperated breath.

”Josie and I are friends again,” she said calmly.

”I don’t doubt that,” Lizzie shrugged, keeping her glare set on the shorter girl. “But I still don’t like you.”

Hope opened her mouth, about to scream out in argument, but a loud bellowed voice dragged both of their attention away.

”Ah, is that Josie’s BFF?” Alaric yelled out, walking towards them. Lizzie snarled under her breath and stepped closer to Hope to whisper in her ear.

”Do not speak to the second devil,” she hissed.

”Who’s the first devil?” Hope hissed back, not looking away from the hideous man.

”You.”

Hope gave her a side glare and rolled her eyes. Lizzie smiled smugly to herself.

“No, she is not, you gorilla,” Lizzie yelled back to Alaric. The man stopped in his tracks and frowned.

”Do you hate me, Elizabeth?” he asked. Lizzie was quick to nod.

Alaric gave another over exaggerated frown. “I would love to mend our family back-“

”’Our’ family?” Hope suddenly hissed. Lizzie brought a leg back and kicked her shin with the heel of her boot. Hope only flinched momentarily before stepping forward.

”You can’t just leave your daughters like that, come back and expect them to forgive you?”

Alaric raised his eyebrows. His eyes darted between the two girls before he stroked his beard with his fingers. “Hm,” was all he said.

”It’s okay, Mikaelson,” Lizzie chuckled nervously. “Pipe down, it’s going to-“

”You do realize how much damage you’ve caused, right?” Hope interrupted. She took a short, but mighty step forward. “And you’re making things even worse.”

Lizzie gulped when Hope breathed out fumes. “I know a thing or two about abandonment, and I know for a fact that your daughters will not forgive you that easily.”

That seemed to come from Hope’s gut. Or heart. Maybe she just said it without thinking, but Lizzie swore she could hear some sort of significance in her tone. She licked her lips along her teeth and stepped forward.

”Hope,” she whispered. The shorter girl ignored her.

”You’re not even trying,” she seethed towards Alaric. The man sighed and rubbed his temples before speaking.

”You know nothing about my family, so I suggest you-“

”I know enough,” Hope scoffed.

Alaric pursed his lips. Lizzie could see a glint of anger build up in his pupil, but forgot about it when Alaric turned around and walked back to the other room.

The two girls were left in silence.

”Sorry,” Hope mumbled. “I shouldn’t have barged into your family’s business like that.”

Lizzie shook her head. She gave Hope a small, but genuine smile before walking forward and nodding a ‘follow me’ motion.

”You may come in,” she said.

Hope grinned widely and followed Lizzie all the way to the backyard.

-

“Does that contain alcohol?” Josie whispered. MG slowly removed his lips from the can and turned to face Josie, his face reading ‘Huh?’

”Uh,” he blinked. “No, this is Coke.”

”Then why does it seem like everyone is getting drunk off of it?” She looked over at Jed and Kaleb wrestling each other on the grass while Rafael cheered.

MG looked at her for a few seconds before laughing.

”They’re just full of energy,” he chuckled. “You, on the other hand, look like you barely got any sleep last night.” He rubbed Josie’s shoulder and sighed. “Are you okay?” he asked, nodding towards Josie’s torso covered in a puffy jacket and wrapped in a blanket.

Josie was sure she’d picked up on a fever throughout the day. Her body was steaming compared to how it was usually as cold as ice.

But she still kept herself warm because all she knew was that she had a cold, and she didn’t want it to get any worse. Still, her head pounded and her body felt like warm jelly.

”Yeah,” she mumbled anyways. “Just cold. And a little tired.”

MG smiled sadly. “You know you don’t have to force yourself to be out here if you don’t feel good,” he whispered sympathetically. “I’ll save you some s’mores.”

Josie smiled at the offer but shook her head. “You’re kind, MG. But it’s really okay. I’m actually waiting for someone. . .” she faltered off.

MG nodded. He smiled before taking another sip of the Coke in his hands. “Jade?” he said, lowering his voice even lower, as if her name was a secret.

Josie chuckled and shook her head, “Actually it’s-“

”Can someone please explain why this stray Mikaelson appeared at the front door?” Lizzie’s voice announced behind them.

Josie and MG made quick eye contact before she turned around. Her heart bounced excitedly when she saw Hope, her auburn hair flowing down the maroon tweed coat wrapped around her body. She looked stunning compared to Josie’s ‘zombie’ appearance.

Hope was standing on the patio deck, hands in pocket, and looking down shyly. Meanwhile, Lizzie was acting like they were performing on stage.

The girls walked over to the fire pit and Lizzie immediately whispered in Josie’s ear, “Why did you invite her?”

Lizzie didn’t sound mad, surprisingly. Just more curious, if anything.

Josie looked up before answering. Hope was already initiating small eye contact. She gave a small smile.

”I want her here,” Josie mumbled, still not looking away from Hope.

The auburn flinched at her response, but Josie didn’t notice because Lizzie said, “That’s so gay.”

The side of Josie’s head built up walls of stuffy irritation and she broke eye contact. “You’re so gay,” she murmured under her breath, rolling her eyes.

Hope just let out a sweet laugh.

”Is this seat taken?” she asked, nodding towards the empty spot on Josie’s left. MG occupied her right, but scooted over anyways and allowed Josie to make room for Hope.

”Sit,” she said and patted the empty spot. Hope gave a small smile before smoothing down her coat and sitting down on the bench, rubbing her hands together and exhaling. Josie watched the white puff of Hope’s breath escape her mouth and fly up. It was really cold.

Lizzie pulled MG with her to sit on the other bench, leaving the two girls sitting together in awkward silence. Josie cleared her throat and scooted to the empty spot MG left. Hope, surprisingly, followed her, making sure they were close enough so that their knees were slightly brushing against each other.

Josie swallowed and averted her gaze to the orange, sparked fire in front of her. “So how’d you get home?” she asked.

Hope took one second of silence before answering. “I just called my dad,” she said simply.

Josie frowned. “Sorry for not considering that earlier.”

Hope just chuckled. “It’s fine, really,” she said. From the corner of her eye, Josie could see Hope’s head turn to look at her. So she did the same, meeting Hope’s blue eyes with small glimmers of light from the fire and stringed bulb lights hung around the backyard.

She could hear Stefan’s loud voice laugh, Damon’s even louder voice joining him. She still had no idea why he was there, and why Katherine was there as well. And even Mrs. Bennett. Cleo had to pull her to the side to ask her if she was there to make sure they were doing their assigned homework.

Hope’s lips curved up into a small smile. She pursed her lips inward before bringing a hand to Josie’s forehead and fiddling with the corgi clip MG had put in her hair.

”So cute,” she muttered. Josie’s cheeks warmed. Partially from the fire and partially at how Hope’s soft skin brushed against her forehead and she examined the corgi clip in her hair.

Josie exhaled a breath as Hope pulled away. They sat in even more silence, listening to Rafael argue with Jed in the back and Lizzie scold and laugh at MG for setting a marshmallow on fire.

Then Hope suddenly blurted, “Wait.”

Josie hummed and turned to face her again. Hope brought her hand up and cupped Josie’s cheek, used the back of her hand, then used the front again and ran it against her forehead.

”Are you sick?” she asked.

Josie quickly shook her head. “No,” she croaked. Hope did not look convinced.

”You’re really warm,” she whispered. Josie nodded and forced a chuckle.

”I’ve been in front of the fire for a while,” she shrugged. Hope rolled her eyes and stood up. Josie forced down a whine begging her to stay, but quickly forgot about it when Hope grabbed her hands and pulled her up with her.

”Let’s go,” she whispered and pulled Josie back to the house.

She walked past the looks of the adults. Josie swallowed thickly. She didn’t tell her mom or Stefan about being friends with Hope again. They all stared at the shorter girl with confused faces, looking at Josie with even more confused faces.

She kept her eyes on the ground until Hope eventually brought them into the warm, quiet house. She shut the door behind them and put a hand against Josie’s forehead again.

”I know you’re lying, Josie,” she sighed, a hinted smug tone in her voice. “You’ve caught a fever.”

The brunette frowned, but nodded anyways. “It’s not that bad,” she shrugged.

Hope pursed her lips to the side and shook her head. “You looked miserable out there.”

Josie frowned again. “How did I-“

”Let’s go,” Hope interrupted. Josie couldn’t even say a word when Hope pulled her back, going up the staircase and entering Josie’s room.

“Hope,” she chuckled forcefully. “I’m fine.”

“I know you well enough to know that you’d rather be inside, Josie.”

Josie opened her mouth to object but quickly closed it. Hope was right. She would rather spend time sleeping than go out there with a pounding headache.

Hope inhaled before walking closer and grabbing Josie’s blanket. She threw it on the bed and unzipped Josie’s puffy coat.

Josie sucked in a breath. ”What are you doing?” she murmured.

”You’re wearing too much layers,” Hope said and threw Josie’s coat on the floor. Her hands shot down to the hem of Josie’s sweater before she stopped herself. “Oh-, sorry,” she blinked and retracted her arms.

Josie had to turn her head down to avoid looking at Hope. Her face was probably far too red to look normal.

”It’s fine,” she chuckled awkwardly.

”Just change into something lighter.”

Josie nodded stiffly. Josie smiled, despite the awkward tension that built itself up between the two, and walked over to her closet to grab a pair of gray shorts and black tank-top.

She turned around and attempted to make eye contact with Hope, who was looking at the floor.

”Hope?” she called out. The shorter girl looked over and nodded.

Josie smiled awkwardly, teeth revealing itself. “Could you. . . turn around?”

Hope’s head trembled before she nodded. “Oh-oh yeah, yeah of course,” she chuckled weirdly and spun around.

Josie began changing with an even greater blush across her cheeks. Landon’s body looked better than hers did, and she didn’t want Hope to see her stomach and compare it to his muscular one. Not that it mattered if she were to actually do that (yes it did).

Josie threw her clothes in the hamper and walked back to Hope. She tapped her shoulder.

”What now?” she said.

Hope spun back around with a slightly tinted red face.

”Sit down.”

Josie frowned, tilting her head to the side. She obliged anyways when Hope nodded her on.

”I’ll be right back,” she said, snapping her fingers and darting out of the room, leaving Josie standing there awkwardly.

Josie sighed and walked to her bed. She sat on the edge of the mattress and rubbed her bare arms, goosebumps forming under her touch. Her body was a mix of steaming with cold sweats.

A few minutes later Hope came back, a bowl of water in her hands and a few small towels wrapped around her arm. She smiled before shutting the door with her foot and walking forward.

”What’s that for?” Josie nodded towards the ball. Hope waved it off and sat down next to Josie, placing the bowl down and shuffling through the towels.

Josie watched Hope dump a small towel into the bowl of ice water. She wrung it out before scooting closer. Slowly, she placed it on Josie’s shoulder.

Both of them pretended like they couldn’t hear Josie’s loud and rapid heartbeat. She sucked in a breath and watched as Hope moved the towel across her bare skin.

The cool towel gave her some sort of relief. But it was hard to feel that when Hope was so close, one hand caressing her arm under the towel.

”Feel better?” she whispered. Josie swallowed and nodded.

”A little bit.”

Hope smiled at her, eyes big and teeth showing. She reached down and grabbed another towel to place against Josie’s forehead.

Josie’s lips curled up without her permission as she shut her eyes. The cold towel felt good against her hot skin.

Hope continued cooling up Josie’s skin while the brunette sat completely still.

About five minutes passed until the shorter girl stood up and moved behind Josie. She couldn’t help but feel disappointed that she couldn’t see Hope’s face now. They both moved to the center of the bed, Hope sitting cross legged behind Josie while the brunette sat with her knees to her chest.

Hope placed a towel against Josie’s shoulder bone and moved it down her back. She felt her skin huff in relief as the temperature temporarily moved down for seconds before rising, then moving back down when Hope placed the towel back on the area.

A few minutes passed until she heard the towel drop back into the bowl of water and stay there.

”Want to head back out now?” Josie breathed. She didn’t really hope for a ‘yes,’ only asking from her naturally good manners.

Hope didn’t say anything. Josie cleared her throat, about to ask again until she felt two arms slide against her hips and connect against her stomach. Hope leaned forward and laid her chin above Josie’s shoulder, her breaths landing against the brunette’s neck.

Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak-

“Just a few more minutes,” Hope mumbled, her voice barely above a whisper.

Josie was definitely freaking out now. She shut her eyes and inhaled slowly through her nose and exhaled through her mouth.

Be normal, she had to remind herself. It seemed almost impossible, with Hope’s hands placed flat against her stomach and her breaths brushing softly against her neck.

”Y-you could get sick,” she stammered. Hope turned her head down so that her lips pressed against Josie’s shoulder. She could feel them curve up.

”I’ll be fine,” she muttered against her skin.

A sudden knock at the door startled both Josie and Hope. The person didn’t give them enough time to scramble away before opening the door.

“Yeah, that’s really gay,” Lizzie rolled her eyes.

Josie shot up and pushed Hope away, causing the latter to fall back and land on the floor. Josie stood up and brushed down her clothes.

”L-Lizzie!” she breathed. “What are you doing here?”

The blonde walked over and crossed her arms. “Stefan is calling for you outside. He wants to teach you how to start a fire.”

Josie frowned. “I already started one with him earlier,” she said.

Lizzie shrugged. “He wants to show off to dad.”

“Oh.”

Josie turned around. Hope was sitting on the floor, one hand up to rub her head.

She spun back. “I’ll be there in a few minutes,” she said.

Lizzie raised a brow, looked at Hope, then slammed her hand against the doorframe and left the room.

Josie bit her lip before turning back to face Hope. She was now standing up, running a hand through her hair and looking at Josie.

”Sorry,” she mumbled. Hope shook her head.

”It’s fine.”

Josie cleared her throat and turned back around so Hope couldn’t see her blushing cheeks.

She bended down and grabbed the puffy coat and zipped it on. All that cooling down went to waste, but Josie still felt better than she did before.

Josie and Hope walked back to the backyard in silence. But it wasn’t awkward like usual. Josie couldn’t stop thinking about how intimate Hope was being out of nowhere. They’ve done all sorts of cuddling and hugs from behind before their parting, but this felt so much more greater.

Josie walked over to Stefan, her bare legs being slapped by the cold air.

”I can’t wait to learn how to start a fire!” she beamed in the most enthusiastic voice she could manage, despite how embarrassing it was.

Stefan grunted as he set down a piece of firewood. “Ah, yes!” he laughed, his eyes darting from Josie to Alaric behind her. “Father daughter bonding time it is!”

The teenagers sitting around the fire looked at her weirdly, but she didn’t care. She glanced at Hope, watching her sit down on the bench alone before making short eye contact with Josie. The brunette broke it before clapping her hands and turning back to Stefan.

Stefan taught her the steps that she already knew. The entire time, both of them shot glances towards Alaric, who was glaring at them with his arms crossed.

A few minutes passed before the fire grew bigger. Stefan cheered and gave Josie a big pat on the back, encouraging the rest of the teenagers to cheer as well. Josie’s face flushed red.

”Yeah, yeah. . .” she mumbled in embarrassment. It was all an act for her, but the group didn’t know that and probably thought the cheering and repetitive fire starting was serious.

Then she met eyes with Hope. The latter was clapping her hands softly, a small smile drawn against her lips, like she was suppressing a laugh and a smile at the same time.

Josie huffed in a breath and pursed her lips. A voice snapped her out of it.

”She is not your daughter.”

Josie spun around. Alaric was was walking towards them.

Stefan clicked his tongue and laughed. “Look who’s talking.” He gave a fake smile.

Josie gulped and stepped back. She blindly walked backwards all the way to the bench. Hope wrapped a hand around her arm and pulled her down with no hesitation.

”Ooh, things are getting interesting,” she smirked. Josie pursed her lips and snorted. She leaned her body closer to Hope’s, smelling the firewood scent engraved in the fabric of her coat.

-

One year prior - Summer camp

Hope smoothed out the comforter spread out across the mattress. It wasn’t like it was going to stay that way for long. She stepped back and admired the beautiful bed-making skills she used before grabbing her counselor lanyard and exiting the cabin.

She searched the courtyard for the brunette. Josie was talking with a group of other counselors, laughing and blowing bubbles towards the little children. Hope smiled, watching Josie attempt to wave at the kids, but only received screams of terror.

She walked over and joined the group, resting an arm on Josie’s shoulder. The latter looked at her with a smile and tickled her hip, making Hope’s body lurch to the side. She grumbled and poked the side of Josie’s body with two fingers. The brunette tickled her quickly before speaking.

”I get to lead bonfire day,” Josie said. Hope gasped and smiled.

”Yay!” she squealed. “That’s so exciting!

Josie smiled in a cocky manner and flipped her hair sarcastically. “I mean, it’s whatever.”

Hope slammed her hand against Josie’s face and pushed it to the side. The taller girl laughed.

A whistle blew. The counselors were told to move down the canal and gather in the west wing. Hope followed after Josie all the way, sitting down next to her on a log once they made it to the huge bonfire. A few staff were already starting the fire together.

Josie and Hope shared a group with a boy named Leo. Though Leo was always out at night smoking weed with a few other counselors, so Josie and Hope were the ones who were left with making sure the little kids were all in bed safely.

”Group C!” Hope announced. She watched the little kids and teenagers wearing green all stumble around the on grass. “Did everyone bring their rocks?”

They all raised up their terribly painted rocks. Hope smiled and nodded. “Great job, everyone!”

Beside her, Josie laughed. “You’re so good with children,” she said. Hope only shrugged.

”I guess everyone just loves me,” she smiled sweetly. Josie rolled her eyes and smacked her shoulder.

”I don’t,” she teased, sticking a tongue out.

Hope gritted her teeth. “Yes. You. Do.”

And with that, she threw herself at Josie, making them both fall on the grass with a laugh. Hope grabbed Josie’s hands, both of them wrestling with each other. Then the brunette flipped them over and hovered above Hope’s face, her quick breaths falling against the shorter girl’s skin.

“How dare you treat the Bonfire Leader this way?” she frowned. Hope rolled her eyes playfully, but couldn’t reply when Josie rolled them over again. They continued rolling until they ended up dangerously close to the fire, so close that Leo had to stop them with a foot.

”No horsing around!” he barked.

Hope saw Josie roll her eyes before stumbling away from her. The two girls stood up, brushed the grass off their clothes, and walked back to the log, mumbling insults about Leo.

“Like he has a place to talk,” Josie scoffed. Hope snorted.

Minutes of the two gossiping about Leo and joking with each other passed before Josie was called up. She gave a small smile to Hope before skipping to the middle of the bonfire, grabbing the microphone from one of the old, cranky staff members.

“Good evening!” she announced in the microphone. “Every contestant in the rock painting competition, please come up and show off your creations, if you will.”

Hope watched as Josie inhaled a deep breath. The kids and teens all lined up behind one another, holding a rock in her hand, waiting for Josie to examine them and show them to the rest of the campers.

Half an hour passed before the line was gone and Josie was exhausted.

”Well!” she announced again. Hope could tell how tired she was behind the tough, sturdy voice she covered herself with. “That was a very. . .” Yawn. “Hard decision! But we have a winner.”

Josie held up a rock painted as a ladybug. “Emerson!”

A little boy giggled and jumped up and down excitedly. Josie gave him a small medal and excused him off. She looked over at Hope. They smiled for a second, a long second.

Then she walked back over and sat down with a huff. Hope rubbed her back.

”Good job. That must’ve been boring,” she said.

Josie groaned and rolled her eyes. “I’m never doing that again,” she mumbled and put her face in her hands. Hope chuckled.

They listened to a group of counselor guys sing a few songs. Hope swayed her body from side to side, but Josie leaning on her shoulder made it rather difficult. She had even begun snoring.

Hope turned to face her and shook her shoulder. “Jo,” she whispered loudly. The brunette choked out a snore and shot up.

”Huh?” she mumbled groggily.

Hope stood up and wrapped an arm around Josie’s torso to force her up with her. “Let’s go, you’re falling asleep.”

Josie whined, but stood up anyways, crossing her arms as Hope pulled her towards the cabins.

They entered groups C-D’s counselor cabin and closed the door behind them. In the corner, a counselor was already asleep. Hope recognized her as a girl named Finch, but they never communicated with each other outside of group activities.

Hope pulled Josie to her own neatly made bed and made her lie down, allowing herself to plop down next to her.

The brunette was barely awake, facing the ceiling with her arms spread out.

”I need to shower,” she said groggily. “I stink.”

Hope giggled and rolled over to rest on her side. She used one hand to rub Josie’s arm and leaned in to smell her. Her firewood scent mixed with Josie’s already warm lavender perfume pervaded Hope’s senses.

“I like how you smell,” she said as she leaned back. “Firewood. Like a. . . vampire.”

Josie snorted, this time turning her head to face Hope, eyes still closed. “Only you would go around sniffing people and calling them vampires,” she chuckled.

Hope instantly blushed. Thank goodness Josie had her eyes closed, otherwise she’d see how red Hope’s face had gotten in a matter of seconds.

”Actually,” she sputtered out. “You smell more like a. . .” Hope faltered off and bit her lip. “I don’t know, you just smell nice.”

She saw Josie’s lips curl up. “Thanks,” she smiled.

Finch turned around and grunted in her sleep, now facing the wall.

Hope scooted closer to Josie. The brunette was already falling asleep. And by now, she could hear her small breaths escape through her nose.

Hope smiled. She leaned her body in and connected it with Josie’s, the same firewood scent filling her nose.

-

“You’re the one who left them.”

”I’m back though, aren’t I?”

”It doesn’t matter anymore,” Stefan snarled. The entire group of teenagers watched as the two men bickered with each other.

“Stefan,” Caroline blurted. She handed Mrs. Bennett her bottle of beer and stepped between the two men. “You’re embarrassing the girls.”

Stefan clenched his jaw and groaned. He used his fingers to send glares from his eyes and pointed them towards Alaric. “You don’t belong here anymore,” he spat and walked off with Caroline.

Josie whistled and turned around to face Hope, whose eyebrows were raised, looking far in the distance.

“That was fun to watch,” she showed her teeth with a small smile. Hope glanced over at her and rolled her eyes, inhaling a deep breath.

”I hate your dad.”

”Tell me about it,” Josie mumbled.

She glanced over to look at Alaric, but only ended up finding Caroline staring right at her. Or, more specifically, Hope. Josie opened her mouth and quickly stood up when her mom walked closer.

“Hope? What are you doing here, sweetie?” she asked. Her voice seeped with heavy hints of confusion and worry.

Hope gulped beside her before answering. “Um, well-“

”I invited her, mom,” Josie blurted.

Caroline looked over at her before tilting her head to the side. “Oh?”

Josie nodded. “Yes, I did.”

The dark, night winter sky revealed the bright moon and sparkling stars that shone down on the backyard. Josie wanted to lay down and watch it, but she needed to get this thing off her chest first.

So she told her mom to follow her into the kitchen.

”I thought you weren’t friends with Hope anymore,” Caroline said once they made it into the kitchen. Josie shrugged, sputtering out a few sounds. She sighed and leaned against the counter.

”I mean,” she muttered. “We are. Friends, that is.”

Caroline hummed, pursing her lips in. She pulled out a barstool and sat down on it, grasping her hands together and facing Josie.

”Do you forgive her?” she asked softly. It wasn’t a threatening question. Though, Josie didn’t take it easily.

Did she ever forgive Hope? Simply, the answer was no. She could never forgive Hope.

“Well. . .” Josie scoffed and looked away. “I don’t. . . I don’t know.”

”Did you feel forced to invite her?”

Josie’s head snapped up. “No!” she argued. Then she sighed and put her hands in the back pockets of her shorts. “Mom, I don’t forgive her. But I,” she took a deep breath and looked Caroline in the eyes. “I don’t need this treatment where you act like I can’t help myself.”

Caroline looked at her and nodded. Josie swallowed.

”I’m not a kid anymore.”

”I know that, Josie,” Caroline said. “Trust me, I do.”

”Then why did you interfere?” she croaked out. Tears welled up in her eyes, but no. She could not cry now. It would defeat the entire point she was trying to make.

Caroline sighed. She looked away and closed her eyes. “I’m sorry.”

”Do you and Stefan really think I’m going to break down any minute?” she said, the volume of her voice rapidly increasing. “Do I look that weak to you?”

”Josie,” Caroline stopped her. “You are not weak.”

Josie looked up and shook her head, a fresh tear falling from her eye and landing on the floor. She hated how everyone chalked her up with those words, you are not weak. She knew that’s how everyone would always see her.

“Hope didn’t listen to you,” she breathed. “She didn’t cut me off. She told me that you blamed her for my breaking.”

”She broke you, Josie. You and I both know that.”

Josie bit her lip and nodded. As much as it pained her to admit it, Hope did break her. “I know,” she murmured.

”Then why are you letting her back in?” Caroline asked softly. Josie could tell she wasn’t trying to win the argument, which made it even worse. She was genuinely concerned for Josie. And she had no choice than to tell the truth.

So Josie took a deep breath, stood up straight, and looked her mom in the eyes.

“Because I’m in love with her.”

The air stilled. Josie regretted saying anything, because Caroline looked at her with the same expression she wore whenever she heard something she didn’t expect.

”You love Hope,” Caroline said, like she was confirming the statement.

Josie nodded. “And I know that I shouldn’t. I know that she hurt me, but I just can’t bring myself to hate her.”

Caroline didn’t say anything. More tears fell from Josie’s face. The sides of her throat closed in, sharp and prickly.

Then her mom stood up and enveloped her into a hug. It was a natural reflex for Josie to lean into her mom’s hug and cry against her shoulder.

She expected her mom to scold her for falling in love with someone who hurt her so badly, but that wasn’t the case. Caroline rubbed her back all while Josie sobbed even harder against her shoulder.

”I’m sorry,” she choked out in a sob.

Caroline shook her head. “There is no reason you should be sorry.”

Josie decided to shut up. Even to her mom, she couldn’t expose how vulnerable she was about to be. Maybe it was the fever that made her emotions act up. She was still a bit cranky from how painful her head was.

Then she pulled back. Her mom smiled and stepped back.

”I’m going back out,” Josie said. In one second, Josie spun around and darted out of the door and into the backyard. Through blurry eyes, she found Hope sitting at the fire, where she’d always been. Josie blinked roughly and ran over, wiping her eyes with her sleeve.

”Hope,” she breathed. The shorter girl looked up and raised a brow. It was too dark for her to notice Josie’s tear-struck face.

”Never mind,” she murmured.

Josie sighed and plopped down next to Hope. Her head still pounded from the fever, but she couldn’t care less. All she wanted to do was touch the bonfire, set her finger on fire, and have Hope blow it out. But that was stupid. And weird.

Her emotions were definitely acting up.

So instead Josie just leaned her body against Hope’s, smelling the fresh scent of firewood and listening to the light cracks of the fire accompanied with laughter among the group.

Chapter Text

Katherine somehow snuck in through the array of tents and grabbed Coach Gilbert’s whistle. Josie witnessed the whole thing. And she didn’t say a word when she yelled at Brooklyn, one of her teammates, to run two laps around the field.

 

She was a bitch, anyways. Tripping Josie every time they had an away-game on the charter bus. Bitch.

 

Goosebumps formed down her arms. It was about forty degrees Fahrenheit outside, yet they still weren’t allowed to wear their long-sleeved uniforms for the sake of pictures. It was horrendously cold.

 

Josie wished she could of at least played one game. Only to warm herself up. Other than that, she’d never wish for that horrible nonsense. Ever.

 

”Lucky you, Saltzman,” a girl’s voice said.

 

Josie tilted her head up and saw a girl on her team. She never really knew anyone’s name. But she did know that whoever this girl was, her name started with an H.

 

Hannah? Haymitch?

 

. . . Hope?

 

Josie decided her name was Hannah.

 

”Hm?” she hummed. The girl shook her head, letting her high ponytail fly around in the air. She took off her hair-tie and snapped it on her wrist before plopping down on the bench next to Josie. She had to scoot over so she wouldn’t accidentally brush her leg against this Hannah girl.

 

“Not having to play,” she nodded to exemplify her point. She took a small sip of her water. “Must be nice, hm?”

 

Josie frowned. Hannah was sweating profusely despite how cold it was. Meanwhile Josie, dry as an unused sponge, sat beside her shivering.

 

Still, she said, “Aha, yeah, I guess,” in the most humored voice she could manage.

 

Hannah inhaled a deep breath before bringing the bottle up and chugging it down through the sippy lid. She leaned her head back and sighed.

 

“So,” she huffed once her water bottle was on the bench in the space between them. “I heard about you. Well,” she closed an eye and tilted her head to the side as if she was looking for a different way to phrase that. “I’m friends with MG.”

 

”Oh,” Josie raised her brows. “Cool.”

 

Hannah seemed to be looking for a different answer. She folded her lips to one side and looked away.

 

”Oh, right!” Josie breathed, trying to get Hannah’s attention back. “I heard about you. . . Yeah, yeah I did,” she said.

 

Hannah perked up. “Really?” she said. It sounded like she tried to hide her excitement. She pushed the water bottle to the side and scooted in a little closer.

 

”Yeah!” Josie beamed. “Hannah, right?”

 

Hannah frowned.

 

”My name is Alyssa.”

 

Oh.

 

“Oh, whoops, I meant- uh, no I mean. . . I know this sounds like I’m- okay, so hear-“

 

Alyssa cut her off with a hand. “I take it you two haven’t talked much?”

 

By her tone, it sounded like Alyssa was challenging her.

 

”Uh,” she sputtered, blinking a few times in confusion. “What does that have to do with knowing your name?”

 

Alyssa sighed dramatically. “I’m his best friend. You’d obviously know about me.”

 

”Oh.”

 

Well, this was awkward.

 

Josie had never heard about Alyssa once from MG. And didn’t MG say he had no friends? What’s up with that?

 

Mmmmmm,” Alyssa suddenly hummed. She shut her eyes closed and sighed dramatically. “I forgot. You’re a Saltzman!” she laughed softly to herself. “He likes you. Or your sister, the blonde.

 

She scooted back and placed the water bottle back as a barrier. She shot up her arms and began tying her hair back up.

 

Josie tilted her head to the side. “Yeah,” she murmured. “I’m sorry,” she blinked with a slightly forced smile. “What are you trying to tell me?”

 

Alyssa bent down as she tightened her shinguards, grunting as she sat back up. “Nothing,” she huffed.

 

Her tone didn’t sound convincing at all. Josie thought to herself.

 

Hmm. A possible love triangle? Ooh, spicy.

 

Before she could ask a stupid question, Alyssa interrupted her.

 

“I mean,” she chuckled harshly. “Not that it matters that he likes someone else. Right. Right?”

 

Alyssa moved so close to Josie’s face that she could practically feel the other girl’s heated breaths land on her face. She awkwardly smiled and pushed her away gently.

 

Well,” she squeaked. Alyssa looked at her with big, desperate eyes, like she was going to die if Josie didn’t say whatever she wanted her to say.

 

Josie decided to just leave it. “You two would seem like a great couple,” she lied.

 

Alyssa breathed out in relief. She even slapped a hand to her heart and fluttered her eyes shut. Josie thought she seemed quite, well . . . like she was crushing.

 

Katherine yelled at her to go back to the field. Alyssa exchanged an emotionless glance back to Josie before fleeing off.

 


 

“Ice cream? No, Jo. It’s so damn cold,” Lizzie shuddered, as if Josie had just suggested they swam around in the town sewers.

She rolled her eyes. “What else do you wanna do on a Monday?”

 

Lizzie stopped in her tracks, forcing Josie to come to a halt. The duffel bag in her arm swung forward before coming back and smacking her leg aggressively.

 

”Maybe . . .” Lizzie faltered off. She spun around on a heel and clapped her hands together before snapping her fingers. “We could have another movie night!”


Josie’s mind instantly picked up on the words ‘movie night’ before anything else. She remembered inviting Hope, the fight they had . . . Timmy.

 

Josie decided it was probably best for her state to not think about that. She shook her head and continued walking, though at a slower pace, in case Lizzie wanted to suggest something else.

 

She didn’t.


“Come on,” Lizzie groaned. Josie felt a tug at her arms, pulling her back. She planted her feet in the cement and yanked her hand back.

 

”Lizzie,” she gritted out. “You can have one with MG, or whoever.” Her mind wandered to the conversation she had earlier with Alyssa. Part of her wanted to intrude in this love triangle business, but the other part of her wanted to . . . well, also intrude.

 

She continued anyways. “I’m busy tonight.”

 

Lizzie breathed out a scoff. “Huh! Yeah, right,” she snorted. “Doing what? Stripping down to bras with Hope Mikaelson?”


Josie’s breath stopped in her throat, causing her to physically choke and bend over coughing.

 

“Wh-what“? she soured out. “What did you just say?”

 

Oh, hell no. Josie blinked. Maybe this was a dream. It had to be. There was no way that Lizzie knew about her hardcore crush on Hope.

 

Lizzie just groaned. “Come on, Jo,” she said loudly, sounding mad as if Josie wasn’t catching on. Oh, she was catching on, all right. “You heard me.”

 

Josie’s cheeks filled warmly. “Yeah,” she muttered under her breath. “Not like anyone could’ve missed it with how loud you are.”

 

”WHAT?” Lizzie yelled out. “SORRY! I COULDN’T! HEAR! YOU! DID YOU SAY YOU WERE KISSING HOPE MIK-“

 

Lizzie!” Josie hissed. She whipped around and slapped her sister across the face. “You’re insane!”

 

Lizzie cracked her head back and smiled smugly. “I know,” she said with a hum, shrugging her shoulders and flipping her hair.


Josie pursed her lips and inhaled to stop herself from absolutely mauling Lizzie like a bear. Her eye twitched as she forced a smile.

 

However, her words did not come out as confident as she was hoping.

 

”Wh-what, you, what makes you think that, what makes you think that Hope- and you think that I, Josie Saltzman, with Hope-“

 

”Please,” Lizzie cut her off with a finger. “You’re hurting my brain.” She brought a hand up her her forehead and rubbed her temples, before whamming her hand back down and huffing. “Why did you tell mom about your love life before telling me? I thought we told each other everything,” she said, a twinge of hurt in her voice.

 

Josie’s mouth parted. She looked at her sister, who was clearly upset with her. But for the most part, she was still wondering how Lizzie even found out.

 

”Did you spy on me?” she asked.

 

Lizzie smirked. “Heh. Yeah.”

 

The urge to roll her eyes was strong, but Josie pushed it down and sighed. She folded her lips to the side and gave a small shrug, looking at the crack in the cement of the parking lot.

 

”I wasn’t meaning to,” she muttered. “It just sort of slipped, I guess.”


She looked back up to face Lizzie. She was staring at her, slightly narrowed eyes, and tongue jabbing at the inside of her cheek. Josie cleared her throat.

 

Lizzie hummed, like she was accepting fate. “Well,” she said and pursed her lips in. “This was bound to happen.”


Lizzie began walking forward, her shoulder brushing slightly against the fabric of Josie’s uniform. Josie spun around and watched her sister knock on the window of the car. She raised her brows, waiting for Josie to unlock it.

 

”What do you mean?” Josie said. She took out her keys and unlocked the car, making Lizzie instantly jump inside. Josie walked to the other side and entered.

 

Lizzie continued. “There’s no way you’re not crushing on her,” she said. “I mean, come on. You literally died when she left you.”

 

Josie snapped her head to the side and gawked at Lizzie. “Excuse me?” she sneered. “I did not die.” She started the car and began backing out. Lizzie’s words rang in her ears.

 

Lizzie went rambling about multiple reasons why she knew Josie was bound to crush on Hope anytime soon, being shit like: Well! First of all, you two fight like a married couple countless times, it physically pains me. Oh! And you also cuddle with her all the time even though you’re supposed to be having some sort of angsty silent treatment. Haha, and you went to her room just to do that during that one weekend-

 

“Lizzie!” Josie blurted, slamming her foot on the brake and pulling over to the side. She got out, walked over to Lizzie’s side and pulled her out. “First of all, you’re saying false things.” She pushed Lizzie towards the side of the road. “And second of all,” she scoffed, crossing her arms. “Your voice is piercing my ears. Please shut up or I’ll leave you on the side of this road.”

 

Lizzie held up her hands in defense and pouted dramatically, whipping out her phone and pretending to make a phone call. “Mommm!” she called out. “Josie wants to kill me!”

Josie rolled her eyes and snatched the phone out of Lizzie’s hand. The blonde was quick to slap Josie’s hand away. Josie, already on the edge of fuming her guts out, slapped her arm back. “What are you, Candice Flynn?”

 

You’re acting like a child!” Lizzie hissed.

 

Me?” Josie sputtered out. “I think you mean you are. My God,” she seethed.

 

Lizzie grabbed a few strands of Josie’s hair and yanked it, causing the brunette to yelp and tumble over. She grunted and pushed Lizzie back.

 

”You’re practically begging me to leave you here!” she yelled. Lizzie rolled her eyes.

 

“Yeah, yeah,” she scoffed. “Sebastian still has that bottle of bourbon!”

 

”What does that have to do with this?”

 

”You’ll understand the universe’s signs one day, Jo!”

 

Josie rolled her eyes and groaned. She placed her head in the palm of her hand and shook it, wandering how she was ever in the same womb with such a headache-inducing creature.

 

She was about to yell at Lizzie again until a car behind them honked loudly. The honking was long, loud, and dragged. It was far too distinctive to be anyone other than Hope Mikaelson.


Josie’s heart skipped a beat as she spun around. Her face touched up her expressions into a giddy, happy, ‘nice to see you!’ look. Hope’s emo car was driving towards them. It slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road.

 

Hope walked out and ran over. “Did you guys get a flat tire?” she panted, a huge blast of worry in her voice. Her eyes darted between Josie and Lizzie, waiting for an answer.


Lizzie stepped forward before Josie could even register her words. She placed a hand on Hope’s shoulder and gave yet another dramatic sigh.

 

Josie’s eye twitched. She wanted to lean forward and yank Lizzie’s hand off of Hope’s shoulder. It was a stupid thing to get worked up about. Lizzie literally hated Hope, and Hope hated Lizzie.

 

She calmed herself down with a deep breath and watched Hope look up at Lizzie with furrowed brows and her head tilted to the side.

 

“My dearest sister is in need of your accompaniment,” she said sickly. Her hand slid off of Hope’s shoulder, all while the shorter girl glanced over in Josie’s direction. Josie straightened up and gave a small smile and an awkward, little wave.

 

The side of Hope’s lip curved up softly. She gave her own tiny wave. Josie’s heart thumped aggressively in her chest as she gazed at Hope’s slightly red-tinted nose and softened facial muscles. Hope lingered her eyes on Josie before turning back around and facing Lizzie, her smile immediately dropping.

 

“What did you do this time?” she sighed, crossing her arms.

 

Lizzie’s eyes bulged out of her sockets. “Excuse me?” she seethed. “I didn’t do shit! It was all her!” She raised an accusing finger straight towards Josie. “She is a pain in the ass!”

“Well, your face makes me want to rip my eyeballs out!” Josie shot back. Lizzie gasped dramatically and settled her gaze on Hope, gawking at her with wide eyes as if she was saying, Did you just hear that?

Josie’s face soured up. Hope was smiling awkwardly, looking between the two sisters. She blinked a few times before raising her chin up and nodding forcefully.

 

”Oh, yeah,” she furrowed her brows in agreement. “Totally. Wow, unbelievable,” she said sarcastically.

 

Josie snorted.

 

Lizzie snarled.

 

“I’ll have you know!” she fumed, raising a finger up aggressively. “That when Josie was a baby, she-“

 

”Bup bup bup!” Josie interrupted. She desperately tried to shoo Lizzie away before she could blurt out something embarrassing. Josie was embarrassing in general, she always thought. So it wasn’t like it would’ve been hard for Lizzie to shoot out something that could send Josie to blush like a tomato.

 

Lizzie rolled her eyes. “She would-“

 

”Lizzie had to use a car seat until she was-“

 

”Our mom had to constantly watch Josie before she-“

 

”One time, Lizzie-“

 

”Okay!” Hope yelled out, raising her hands up in exhaustion. She looked at the two with furrowed brows, wide eyes, and a very, annoyed expression. “I don’t mean to intrude into your sister rivalry,” she spat. “But come on, guys. On the side of the road?” She nodded towards the passing cars behind her. Josie watched a person in a red car look at her as they passed. She gulped.

 

Hope huffed. “You’re better than this.”

 

Lizzie grumbled and crossed her arms like a child. “You’re better than this,” she mocked. Hope shot her a glare, only to receive a raspberry from the blonde.

 

Josie shook her head and took a deep breath before saying, “No, she’s right, Lizzie.” Josie walked over to Hope and stood by her side. She could literally feel Hope’s presence infecting her, warming up her cold body and making her heart jittery.

 

Lizzie’s eyebrows turned down.


Josie rocked back and forth on the heels of her shoe before a voice finally spoke. It was just Lizzie, her dramatic sigh, and then her stepping forward.

 

”Please take her away from me, Mikaelson,” she spat out. “I cannot stand the sight of her face any longer.”

 

Josie opened her mouth, about to sputter out lines of defense, until Hope nodded.

 

“Sure,” she said with a shrug. Before Josie knew it, Hope has intertwined her fingers between hers, slightly pulling her towards the car.

 

Josie stiffened. As much as her swoon-ful mood wanted to hold hands with Hope, she was literally on the side of the road, in her mere uniform t-shirt and shorts, and a single pluck of grass on the bottom of her shoe.

 

It was not her best look.

 

Lizzie smiled contently and walked to the driver’s seat of Josie’s car. She leaned back out and threw Josie’s duffel bag right at the brunette’s feet and closed the door before driving off.

Josie stood there. Hope bounced on her feet beside her.

 

”She seriously just took my car,” Josie mumbled dumbly.

 

”Hm,” Hope shrugged, jutting out a bottom lip. “Oh, well.”

 

Now there was silence, despite the loud ruckus happening on the road. Josie swore she saw a can of soda drop out of someone’s car, hit the ground, and shoot out flying, the fizzy liquid projecting it further in the air.

 

”So . . .” Hope started. Josie looked over and raised a brow. She tried her hardest to not look like she was literally admiring Hope’s face while drooling. She wasn’t actually drooling. But it sure as hell felt like she was bound to any second now.

 

You’re so beautiful, Josie thought to herself as she watched Hope’s soft and neatly done eyebrows raise before falling down slowly.


So . . . what?” Josie mumbled back. Hope let out a heavy breath before pulling Josie’s hand back and leading them back to Hope’s car. They let go mutually, Josie entering in the passenger’s seat while Hope went to the other. It was like a natural response, how easily she went in Hope’s car. Before that thing, it was quite easy to. Then after that thing, it was a little harder.

 

Now it was somewhat easier. Again. (Woo-hoo)

 

“Uh.” Hope cleared her throat. “Where did you want to go again? Your house?”

 

Josie pushed her lips to one side. “Hmm,” she hummed.

 

Home, or Hope? Home with Hope, or no-home-yes-Hope? 


God, she was crushing just like middle school Josie did on Penelope and Landon. This felt much more deeper, though. And better.

 

Her final answer took herself by surprise. “Actually, can we go do some Christmas shopping together?”

 

Josie pretended like she didn’t just go Christmas shopping yesterday. Like she didn’t have piles of ready-to-be-wrapped presents in her closet.

 

Hope shot her head to face Josie, her face beaming. “Oh, ho-ho.” She pursed her lips inward and squealed. “Yes!”

 

Josie grinned. “Okay,” she breathed.

 

She didn’t know why Hope was so excited, to the point where she stomped down on the pedal and went at least five MPH over the speed limit. She grabbed the handle as her body lurched back and smacked the back of her head against the head-rest.

 

Please, for the love of God, she thought. Don’t drive into another ditch.

 

 


 

Her tail shot straight up. MG watched as she hissed, smacked his face with the fluffy tail, and marched off elegantly. He groaned.

 

”Missy! I can’t overfeed you!” he seethed.

 

The cat arched her head back, hissed again, and ran off behind the corner. MG closed his eyes, clenching his jaw, before standing up and wiping his hands on the fabric of his jeans.

 

A sudden knock at the door drew all his irritation away. He quickly did a light jog over and opened it, his heart instantly warming.

 

“Lizzie!” he smiled.

 

Lizzie smiled back before inviting herself in and taking off her heavy coat. “I’m such a good actress. I should consider joining the theatre program.”

 

MG blinked. He grabbed her coat and hung it up before closing the door. Lizzie spun around.

 

MG smiled again, this time a little more awkwardly. “Care to elaborate?” he chuckled.

 

Lizzie’s cocky face stayed for a while, before she dropped it and let her warmer, more natural expression take over. “Okay,” she laughed. “I think I make a good wing-woman.”

 

MG tilted his head to the side and furrowed his brows. Lizzie continued.

 

”Jo has a crush.”

 

Ah!

 

”Oh!” he raised his brows and blinked slowly, crossing his arms as he leaned back. “Really.”

 

”Mhm!” Lizzie beamed. “And I’m the one who’s going to make sure she gets her girl.”

 

“And are you sure you’re going to do that right?” MG teased. Lizzie shot him a glare before rolling her eyes with a smile.

 

“You’ll see for yourself,” she said. Lizzie rubbed her arms and looked around at his house. She’s never gone inside, neither has Josie. MG’s heart dropped. Oh no. She was going to see his demon-cat!

 

”Uhm,” he nodded his head forward to get the blonde’s attention. “Who is it?”

 

Lizzie smirked and wiggled her eyebrows. “I can’t say,” she said. MG frowned. Lizzie noticed his facial expression and rolled her eye again, this time, letting out a light laugh. “I may have done some . . . poking to get an answer.”

 

MG snorted. “Of course you did.”

 

Lizzie stuck out her tongue before turning back around to face the house. She eyed the walls, the couches in the living room, and the ceiling.

 

”Nice house,” she said.

 

MG shrugged. “Hm. Thanks.”

 

Lizzie rubbed her arms again and let out a breath. “It’s more . . . calm than I imagined,” she said, walking over to a wall. She ran her fingers along the glass of a picture frame. The picture was of MG’s first football game, where he had played for the entire game as quarterback. Landon would never let him step a single foot on the field at the school.

 

”What?” MG chuckled. “Did you expect my house to be bustling with chatter?”

 

Lizzie looked over, not taking her hands off the picture until she set eyes on MG. She shrugged. “I dunno,” she said. “I guess I just assumed your house to not be this quiet.”

 

MG sighed. “Yeah, well.” He pursed his lips to the side, contemplating if he should share such personal information with Lizzie. To be fair, she and Josie were his only friends anyways.

 

Lizzie gave him her full attention, dropping her hands to her sides.

 

”I only live with my grandma,” he breathed out. “I don’t know where my parents are. I’ve never met them.”

 

Lizzie’s head raised up. Her eyes softened, while she took a small step forward.

 

”Oh,” was all she said.

 

MG was expecting the typical ‘You poor thing,’ or the classic ‘Awh.’ But Lizzie didn’t say any of that.

 

”That’s really sweet of her,” she smiled. “Taking care of you. I’m sure she’s so grateful to have you.”

 

MG looked at her. She took another gentle step forward. His lips curled up.


”Thanks,” he mumbled. “I’m really grateful to have her, too.” He stepped closer and placed his hands on his hips as he let out a breathy sigh. “Do you want to see my room?”

 

Lizzie perked up and nodded. “Obviously,” she rolled her eyes. MG smiled to himself and led Lizzie up the stairs, through the hallways, and into his room. She opened the door herself and immediately walked in the middle.

 

“Oh, wow,” she mumbled. Her eyes went to the wall with posters of bands, two guitars (one being acoustic) displayed on the wall, and a bookcase with trophies and other kinds of trinkets he collected from gift shops.

 

She then looked at the other wall, which contained his desk. She walked over and pressed the keys of his computer’s keyboard down. Then she ran her hand along his desk, brushing across the blank sheets of paper, and eventually sliding behind a picture frame with him, Josie, and Lizzie at the lights fair.

 

She picked it up and smiled, running a finger along the frame.

 

”I love this picture,” she said, looking over and nodding at him with the slightest smile drawn on her lips.

 

MG smiled back. He watched as she turned back around to place the picture back, his heart dropping when she completely froze.

 

Lizzie slammed down the frame on top of the keyboard and immediately grabbed another picture frame. MG didn’t even know there was another one there.


She picked it up, titled it left, then right, then looked underneath it. Lizzie wiped the glass with a thumb before turning back around aggressively.

 

”Who’s this?” she said in a shaky breath, as if she was trying to hold down her anger. It wasn’t really working.

 

MG walked forward and looked at the picture. It took him a few seconds to pick up on it.

 

He and Alyssa were sitting against a tree. It was a selfie that Alyssa took. Her hand was cupping his cheeks while his eyes were squinted in a smile.

 

“Oh,” he mumbled, leaning back. “She’s my ex-girlfriend.”


That seemed to stir something in Lizzie. She flinched aggressively and blinked a few times before choking out a, “Huh?”

 

MG furrowed his brows and raised his chin up. “Ex-girl-“

 

”No I know what you said,” Lizzie interrupted. She whipped her head back to the picture for only a second before bringing it back up and shuddering. “She’s ugly.”


MG frowned. “I mean, well-“

 

”She’s ugly,” Lizzie repeated sternly. MG threw his hands up in defense.

 

He watched as Lizzie shoved the picture frame back onto the desk, covering it with the blank sheets of paper and finishing it off with placing the picture of the three of them on top of it.


Then she huffed. “Nice room,” she said with a smile.

 

MG didn’t let her see the way he was practically shell-shocked. He pretended like he wasn’t totally confused by the random interaction Lizzie just had with the picture.

 

Was she . . . jealous?

 

Nah, MG thought. There was no way she would like him.

 

Then a loud hiss brought both of their attention away and onto the chubby, fluffy cat walking into the room. She hissed again.


“Y-“ Lizzie choked out. “You have a cat?”

 

Missy looked up and hissed at both of them. Lizzie hissed back.

 

MG watched the whole interaction. How Missy stopped hissing and stared at Lizzie, how Lizzie caught her in her arms when she jumped up. And most importantly, how Missy cuddled into Lizzie’s chest while the two of them exchanged hisses.

 

Okay. That interaction was even weirder than the one with Alyssa’s picture.

 

“Good kitty,” Lizzie cooed, hissing and petting Missy. The cat purred, hissed, then purred again before hissing even louder.

 


 

“I think it’s a bear.”

 

Josie craned her head to face Hope with a jokingly annoyed face. She removed her elbows from the glass and placed her hands in her pocket.

 

”I think it’s a polar bear,” she said, staring down at the glass case. Hope honestly didn’t know what the animal was, but it certainly wasn’t a bear nor a polar bear. She had her eyes on something more shiny - the gold and silver pendent that had a rose engraved into it.


Josie’s voice snapped her out of her trance. “Let’s go,” she whispered in her ear. “The employees probably think I’m going to steal.”

 

Josie nodded down towards her soccer uniform. Hope pursed her lips inward to stop herself from laughing.

 

“It’s fine,” she said, leaning her elbows on the glass case. She fished through her pocket and pulled out a credit card. She waved it around. “I’ve got it covered,” she said with a smirk. “Do you want this bear?”

 

Josie looked at her with raised brows for a few seconds before shaking her head with a light chuckle. “Come on, Hope,” she said, pushing Hope’s credit card back into her pocket. “Your dad gave you that for emergencies.”

 

Hope gasped. “This is an emergency!” she seethed. “I’m in a jewelry shop with a bench-warmer!”


She watched amusingly as Josie frowned and jutted her bottom lip out in a pout.

 

”It’s not my fault Lizzie didn’t let me go home,” she murmured. Hope rolled her eyes and smacked Josie on the shoulder.


“At least you get to hang out with me!” she cheered. Josie slowly turned to face Hope, raising a brow.

 

Yippee,” she said in the deadest voice Hope has ever heard. Josie’s arm stretched out forward so she could pinch the skin of Hope’s arm. The shorter girl jolted back and smacked her away.

 

Ow!” she hissed loudly.

 

Josie only smiled smugly. Hope walked over and pinched Josie 


They erupted into a battle of pinching each other until a store employee had to shoo them out of the store. They literally shoved the two girls out of the store roughly, almost making Josie fall forward if Hope didn’t catch her by the arms.


The two of them decided to walk back to Hope’s car. Both of them had empty arms, no bags in their hands. Hope didn’t ask about the Christmas presents Josie claimed she was going to buy. They just let it go.

 

Hope drove her home. Both of them stayed silent the entire ride. She couldn’t bring herself to ask Josie if she was cold. The brunette was shivering so hard she practically shook the car, so Hope turned on the heater anyway.

 

Once she arrived, she parked the car about two blocks away from Josie’s house. She heard a small hum of confusion, but ignored it.

 

”Let me walk you to your house,” she said. “It’s pretty dark out. Wouldn’t want you getting kidnapped, now would we?”

 

Josie furrowed her brows and frowned. “It’s like, three in the afternoon,” she said.

 

Hope pretended she couldn’t hear her. She kicked the door open and ran over to the other side to pull Josie out. The brunette grunted as she was almost thrown to the ground. Hope barely muttered a small “sorry” before pulling Josie to the sidewalk.

 

“So, did you guys win?” she asked with a smile.

 

It took Josie a while to understand that Hope was just trying to initiate a conversation. She finally began walking by Hope’s side and fiddled with the hem of her jersey.

 

”Yeah,” she murmured. Hope grinned.

 

”Good job!”

 

”I didn’t play.”

 

Well. It wasn’t like that was a surprise. Hope admired Josie’s strength to arrive to her soccer team everyday despite how horrendous she was at the sport.

 

”I’m sure you contributed to the win. Somewhat.”

 

Josie chuckled and shook her head. “Yeah,” she snorted. “My horrible soccer skills inspire my teammates to work harder so they won’t be as bad as me.”

 

”See! You got it!” Hope cheered. Both of the girls broke out into a soft laughter. The sky had begun to drizzle a little while earlier. It wasn’t a beautiful kind of rain, and it was definitely enough to make her cold. Josie too. The brunette was shivering profusely.

 

Hope frowned. She wished she had a coat, or something that could help Josie stay warm. She couldn’t afford to get sick again. Especially since the party was coming up soon.

 

Oh! Right, the party!

 

”Hey,” Hope suddenly blurted. Both of them walked on the driveway before stopping. Josie tilted her head slightly to face her and raised a brow.

 

”So,” she started. Hope turned her body to face Josie. She fiddled with the rings hugging her fingers and forced herself to look at Josie. All she could manage was a small gaze towards her chin. “I don’t know if we’re . . . you know. Good enough.” She swallowed before taking a deep breath. “For me to be asking you this, but have you thought about the Christmas party?”

 

She could feel the way Josie’s body stilled. She sucked in a breath and held down the urge to run, like she was holding down a wild beast.

 

Josie bit her lip, nibbling on it as she averted her gaze someplace else. “Actually, I haven’t,” she whispered.

 

Hope was about to nod in understanding and go to her car to weep like a baby, but Josie’s voice beat her to it.

 

”But,” she took a deep breath. “I’ll make sure to keep that on my mind tonight.” She stepped closer and turned her gaze back to Hope. Hope could see her large eyes snuggled beneath her eyelids. Brown eyes. Hope loved her brown eyes.


She never knew how to describe them. She’s seen multiple people refer to brown eyes as chocolate, or mud . . . someone even told Hope that brown eyes looked like poop.

 

She didn’t like that. But even beautiful descriptions, like chocolate and bear fur weren’t enough. Josie’s eyes were so much more greater than those things.

 

Hope’s brain spiraled into a deep state of just searching; searching for something that could capture her attention and have her connecting that to Josie’s eyes.

 

Tea? No. Hmm.

 

Coffee? Eh. That’s basically just tea with extra steps.

 

Then it slapped her. Fall. The season, autumn, fall . . . Josie’s eyes reminded her of her favorite dark velvet boots she loved to wear, and that antique bookstore she loved to visit with her mom in the fall, exiting the building and stepping on the crunchy leaves. Her eyes reminded Hope of the same warmth she felt when she snuggled her body near the fireplace.


Or maybe it was the chilly air fighting to break through her thick coat, but only failing miserably. Maybe it was the way she saw her dad’s dark leather briefcase lay atop the dining room table as a seasonal ‘fashion trend,’ the color so captivating that Hope couldn’t stop staring at it. Maybe it wasn’t just a color, more like a feeling.


In the middle of reminiscing about that time she and Josie stayed outside during a cold Fall night, sitting by the fire pit in Josie’s backyard while they huddled in blankets and told each other everything on their minds, a voice snapped her out of it.

 

”Hope?”


She blinked. Josie was staring at her, her cheeks slightly tinted a pink color. The tip of her nose was red. Maybe she was just cold? Or had Hope been staring too long to the point where Josie was uncomfortable?

 

Oh no.

 

”So-rry,” she choked out. She cleared her throat. “What were you saying?”


Josie straightened up before repeating herself. “I said I’ll think about my answer tonight.” She smiled.

 

Oh, that’s right. The party. Hope completely forgot why they were having that conversation in the first place.

 

Still, she returned Josie’s expression with her own smile. “Okay,” she whispered.


“Okay,” Josie echoed.

 

The two of them stood there, as awkward as ever, just staring at each other and waiting for the other to initiate the first move. Josie was the one to that.

 

”Well,” she breathed out, stepping back and fiddling with her fingers. “I’ll see you next time?”

 

Hope pursed her lips in a smile. “See you,” she croaked. She winced at how cracked her voice sounded.

 

Hope watched as Josie gave one last smile before drumming her hands on her thighs and turning around, walking up the driveway and to the front door.

 

She saw the door open, Josie’s brown hair disappear, and the light from inside slowly disintegrate. A rush of that same, sticky feeling she felt when she had to leave the backyard party came back.

 

Maybe she missed Josie just a little bit.

Chapter Text

“And did you know that Stiles Stilinski is in it?” Lizzie announced. “Oh my God, he was so hot.”

 

To her right, Caroline sighed while Stefan bellowed a laughter. Josie picked at the single grain of rice on her plate. She stabbed the fork through it, held it up, and shoved it in her mouth.

 

”Thank you,” she smiled. Before Caroline could sputter out a ‘you’re welcome,’ Josie had already darted to the sink and began washing the dirty plate.

 

The entire time the water ran down her skin, Josie couldn’t stop thinking about the Christmas party. It wasn’t like she didn’t want to go. But at the same time, Josie didn’t believe she would be wanted there in the first place, besides Hope.

 

Maybe she could go for just Hope.

 

Josie shut off the water and placed the wet dish on the rack before running back to her room. She shuffled through a drawer of her desk and pulled out that invitation card. Her eyes ran along the word ‘Mikaelson’ over and over again.

She fumbled with the card and looked at the words ‘Christmas Ball.’ There would be food. Good food. Mm. Josie liked food.

 

She flipped the card over and looked at Lizzie’s signature and the one she forged for Josie’s. She ran her fingernail along the ink.

 

Hope would be wearing that dress she was talking about on their way to the jewelry store. The pretty, silky maroon dress that stopped just below her knees.


Oh, bad reason.

 

With a grunt, Josie flung the card and dropped it on her desk. She stared at it and swore she could see the sharp, thick edges of the card turn up and mold themselves into hands, begging her to come.

 

Josie snatched the card aggressively and walked over to the middle of the room to throw herself on her bed. She fished out her phone and accompanied herself with her own attention, all while she gazed at the card every few seconds.

 

Not even thirty minutes of alone time later, Lizzie barged into her room. Josie shot straight up, a gasp leaving her mouth. When she saw her sister’s beaming face, she exhaled slowly, closed her eyes, and slapped a hand to her forehead.

 

”Damn it, Lizzie,” she groaned. “You scared me.”

 

”Anyways,” Lizzie said. “I was thinking I could rock that party with an elegant, green dress.” She held up a long, green dress that seemed to reach her ankles. “But I feel like it’d look like I’m a Christmas fan girl.”


Josie raised her brows and eyes the dress in front of Lizzie.

 

”Uh,” she blinked. “What is this for, exactly?”

 

Josie knew damn well that Lizzie was already preparing for the Christmas party on her own. And by the way Lizzie gasped and put a hand on her hip, she knew she was right.

 

”Okay,” she sputtered out. “You need to quit your ugly banter with your own mind, and just agree to come already.” She walked forward and hung the dress on the handle of the door. “Plus,” she added. “The invitation card says to bring a plus one.”

 

Josie raised a brow. Lizzie wiggled her brows.

 

“I can’t bring Hope. She lives there,” Josie huffed.

 

Lizzie just let out a snort. “I didn’t say to bring Hope.” She puffed up her cheeks, as if she was trying to suppress a laugh. “Ha! Even your subconscious wants you to go!”

 

Josie rolled her eyes, but blushed. She turned her head to the side and pretended to examine the invitation card so that Lizzie couldn’t see how red her face had gotten.

 

Wow. Mikaelson! What a pretty name.

 

Then Lizzie let out a sigh. “Well,” she huffed in defeat. “I guess Hope just has to find someone else.” Josie turned around to find Lizzie crossing her arms and leaning her back against a wall, acting like she was in some sort of emotional romance soap drama. “Perhaps . . . Roman?”

 

Josie threw her phone on the ground and stumbled out of her bed. That didn’t work. She ended up tumbling face first on the hard-wood floor. “No,” she choked out anyways.

 

Desperately, she reached for her phone. Lizzie beat her to it. Before she knew it, her sister had snatched the phone and picked it up.

 

”Lizzie!” Josie hissed. “Give that back.”

 

She attempted to swipe for her phone, but only ended up slashing through the air and falling forward on her face. Again.

 

”Let’s see here,” Lizzie clicked her tongue. Josie tried to sit up but Lizzie slammed a foot on her face and gently pushed her back down. “She devil bitch . . . snake?”

 

Oh dear God.

 

Lizzie don’t,” Josie warned.

 

Not even a second later, she heard the faint sound of the phone dialing. Josie grabbed Lizzie’s foot and pulled it, making the blonde fall over.

 

”GAH!” she yelled. The phone dropped on the floor, right in front of Josie. She crawled over and slammed her hand on it. Before she could pull it back, Lizzie was already back on her feet.

 

Hello?”

 

”Hope!” Josie called out.

 

”Hello, Mikaelson,” Lizzie said in the sweetest voice ever. She snatched the phone out of Josie’s grasp and walked to the other side of the room.

Lizzie?”

 

Josie’s facial muscles tightened up. She stumbled forward, tripped over her feet, and fell down. Face first. Again.

 

”Jo and I actually decided-“

 

”Hope do not-“

 

”-that we’re coming to the party!”

 


Oh for fucking’s sake.

 

Josie’s mouth opened slack. She watched Lizzie tilt her head to the side and give a small, evil smile towards Josie before holding the phone back up to her ear.

 

Oh!” Hope breathed out, her voice holding a decent amount of shock for the matter. Josie slammed her head on the floor and banged it repeatedly.

 

There was a light shuffling over the phone before Hope said, “Great! I’ll tell my parents. Make sure to-“

 

Lizzie hung up and threw the phone on the floor right in front of Josie. She picked her head up and glared at the phone before turning her eyes to Lizzie.

 

What. The. Hell,” she gritted out. Josie stood up and ruffled down her clothes. She glared at Lizzie, who was only smiling innocently back.

 

“Oops,” she mouthed. Then, in one second, she grabbed her dress and darted out of Josie’s room, leaving the brunette standing there awkwardly in the middle of the room.


Well. 

Maybe she could come up with an excuse. One that said something like, ‘I was sick, haha.’ Hmm. Nah. Hope would probably come over and put those towels on her again.

 

Josie soon found out that it wasn’t easy to find excuses when she didn’t even know the reason why she didn’t want to go in the first place. Sure, the Mikaelsons probably didn’t want to see her after thinking they just got in a fight. There’s no way Hope would be dumb enough to tell her entire family the shit she did.

 

What’s stopping her?

 

Josie bit her bottom lip and bent down to pick up her phone. Then she craned her neck to look at her bed, where the invitation card laid.

 


 

Josie’s dress was stunning.

 

She had from Monday to prepare for Friday, yet she still didn’t choose a dress until Friday morning.

 

It was a dark blue, a-line shoulder-less dress that fell just a little bit above her ankles. And it was be-dazzled with jewels on the corset. Josie didn’t have a single regret losing that those hundred dollars.

Josie smiled at herself in the mirror. She even added in a few model poses for a little confidence boost. Her eyes ran down and traced the fabric of the dress lay just underneath her bare shoulders.

 

Jade was supposed to be matching with her, but then again, Josie asked her to be her plus one pretty late - Thursday night. She just couldn’t bring herself to ask Jade anytime sooner, with all the guilt of crushing on Hope, yet still going out with Jade?

 

Was it cheating?

 

Josie constantly told herself that she’d be better off with Jade, a girl who actually liked her in a non-platonic way. Maybe this ball could help her see that in a better light.

 

Then she heard the doorbell ring. She quickly fixed up her hair, admired herself one last time, grabbed the bag with Hope’s gift, and ran downstairs.

 

When she opened the door, her mouth let out a breath of relief without her even noticing. Jade was wearing a dark blue pantsuit with a lacy white top underneath. She definitely didn’t expect a pantsuit, but she was still glad she and Jade weren’t going to look the exact same.

 

”Hey,” she smiled. The blonde looked at her and gave her own small grin.

 

”You ready?” she said, bringing out her arm. Josie looked up and pretended to think. Jade rolled her eyes with another smile and pushed her arm closer to Josie.

 

”I guess,” Josie teased. She wrapped her hand around Jade’s arm and allowed the blonde to lead them to her car.

 

Jade put on Taylor Swift due to Josie’s request. It didn’t seem like she enjoyed the music, though. Josie took heavy offense to that, but had to remind herself that it was literally just music.

 

Josie smiled as Jade opened the car door for her, allowing her to exit before closing it. They walked towards the entrance, heels clattering against the red brick flooring.

 

Josie liked how the Mikaelson Manor looked during the holidays. It was decorated with colorful lights on the house, and white lights around the bushes. The thought of Hope getting excited when the decorating company was finished sent Josie’s lips curling up. She didn’t even know if Hope was even excited about it, but the thought of it was still nice.

 

Josie rang the doorbell. They waited for a few seconds before hearing a click. The door cracked open, revealing Klaus. Josie’s stomach did a somersault.

 

The man had his chin raised slightly. It looked like he was glaring the two down. Josie gulped before sputtering out, “I-It’s great to see you, Mr. Mikaelson!”

 

”Josette,” he greeted back with a small tilt of the head. Then he moved his eyes to Jade. “And may I ask . . . who is this accompanying you tonight?”

 

”Jade. Nice to meet you,” the girl said. By the way her shoulders stilled and stiffened up, Josie could tell she was just as nervous. She even gave a small bow.

 

Klaus looked at them for what seemed like hours before finally heaving out a sigh and stepping back. He turned his head around and yelled out, “Your friend is here, Hope!”

 

Josie straightened up and gave a polite smile-and-nod once he turned back around. He returned the gesture - though less polite and more modest - before stepping back and completely disappearing from the doorframe. Josie watched the back of his tuxedo before something - or someone - else took her attention away completely.


Hope was in the same maroon colored dress she was obsessing over. The one that revealed her back bones, the one with those one-inched straps laying above her shoulders, and the length ending just below her knees despite how short she was.

 

She was too busy looking at the dress wrapping perfectly around Hope’s body to notice the sparkly blue eyeshadow on her eyelids.

 

Then Josie was forced to stop staring - no, admiring - when Hope squealed.

 

”You finally came!” she beamed before wrapping the brunette into a hug, sliding her arms under Josie’s arms and rubbing her palms against her back. Her cheek laid on top of Josie’s bare shoulder in such a thrilling way that Josie blindly used her arms to hug her closer.

 

Unfortunately, the moment was cut short when Hope suddenly choked on whatever it was she choked on. Air? Possibly.

 

”What the hell?” she suddenly scoffed. Josie frowned. She pulled back, her chest falling in relief when she saw that Hope wasn’t totally disgusted by her, but by something to her side. Then her chest tightened up again when she realized Hope was glaring at Jade.

 

All of a sudden she remembered their strange interaction from the bakery. Oh, shit. This was a terrible idea.

 

“What is that doing here?” Hope grumbled.

 

That?” Jade choked out. “Are you seriously going to act that childish?”

 

Hope rolled her eyes and mocked Jade’s words with her own mouthing. She even raised her hands up and wiggled them around like she was giving her jazz hands.

 

Josie pursed her lips in before releasing them with a small pop and placing her body between the two girls, cracking through the tension.


“Guys,” she scolded, raising her brows and taking turns with herself to glance at each of their faces. Hope held an irritated expression while Jade held an offended one. “No fighting, okay?”

 

She felt it was pretty bold of her to say that, considering she thought it was basically her fault that they were willing to fight in the first place. She was the one who asked Jade to come, anyways.

 

Hope grumbled. “Okay,” she spat out bitterly. She crossed her arms and raised her brows at Jade. “What about you, Jade?”

 

Josie heard a very faint scoff before a, “Yeah, of course.”

 

The two continued glaring at each other until Josie let out a breath. “Hope,” she said with a forced smile. “May we come inside?”

 

Hope’s eyes shot away from Jade and to Josie’s, her face immediately relaxing. Her lips curved up warmly. “Of course. Come in, Josie,” she said sweetly.

 

Hope stepped to the side and allowed Josie to walk in. Right when Jade was about to set foot inside, Hope blocked her.

 

”Uh uh uh,” she said, raising a finger up. “You can only enter if you agree to these rules that I’m about to list.” Hope held up her hand and set down a thumb. “Rule numb-“

 

“Hope!” Josie snapped.

The auburn groaned and slammed her hand back down against her thigh.

 

“Fine. Come in.”

 

Jade gave an obviously fake smile before stepping inside and walking on Josie’s left, with Hope on Josie’s right. Hope aggressively held her hand tight around Josie’s arm, so tight that she was sure her blood circulation would get cut off.

The inside was bustling with liveliness. The chandelier cast a beautiful white and golden light over the ball, shining generously on the dresses and tuxedos and grand Christmas tree in the middle. Under the tree were an assortment of fake presents. The Mikaelsons clearly specified multiple times that they did not accept gifts for the reason being that more people would come if they could come empty handed. Josie hoped they couldn’t see the bag in her hand.


Large pine garlands wrapped around the grand staircase. The floor was busy with people chattering, laughing, and having drinks from the servers walking around with steel trays.

 

And, of course, jazz music was playing in the back.

 

“Wow, Hope,” Josie said. “You guys went all out this year.” She turned to face the auburn, who turned her head as well. She gave her a smile. “As always,” Josie added.

 

Hope hummed. “We didn’t do anything,” she admitted. “It was all the decoration company’s work.”

 

Josie was about to laugh until Jade’s sudden voice stopped her.

 

”I’m going to head to the bathroom,” she said. “Care to show me where it is, Hope?” she smiled, her lips curling up way higher than they needed to be to look normal.

Hope gave an even faker smile back. “Down the first hall, to the left,” she said.

 

Jade spun around and began walking off.

 

Josie frowned. “That’s not whe-“

 

”I know.”

 

Josie closed her mouth. She decided it was probably best to not say anything about that when Hope literally yanked her over and pulled her away from the center, ending up at one of the refreshments stand. The man behind the counter looked at Josie, wiping champagne glasses with a cloth.

 

Hope’s voice snapped her back. “What’s that?” she said, her voice somehow soft despite her malicious manner just a few seconds ago. She nodded down to the bag in Josie’s hand.

 

”Oh.” Josie held up the bag. “It’s a gift. For you.”

 

Hope’s lips curled up, but she pursed her lips quick enough so that Josie couldn’t see it.

 

“Want to set it in my room?” she asked with a sweet voice.

 

Josie’s eyes narrowed, but she nodded anyways. Something about Hope’s sudden shift in her mood did not seem normal. Oh no. Maybe she was going to kill Josie once they got into her room!

 

Josie shook off the thoughts with a gulp before following Hope up the stairs. Her revealed back, and those sharp, prominent backbones sent Josie’s head spiraling and warmed her cheeks. She had to force herself to look down at the velvety carpet along the steps.

 

They ventured through the long hallways before Hope literally pushed Josie into her room. The brunette stumbled forward, dropped the bag on the floor, and choked out a, “GAH!”

 

Hope slammed the door right as Josie whipped around.

 

”Hope, what’s your-“

 

”I didn’t say you could bring her,” Hope interrupted. “She wasn’t invited. Therefore, she can’t be here. Tell her to leave.”

 

Josie closed her eyes and inhaled a deep, heavy breath. For the love of God.

 

“She’s just a plus one,” she shrugged, her shaky breath seeping into her voice unintentionally. Josie opened her eyes, only to find Hope glaring at her. She gulped before adding, “You don’t have to talk to her, but please just-“

 

”I’m not doing shit for her,” the auburn grumbled, crossing her arms and averting her gaze to the floor. She rolled her eyes with a sick smile. “Did she force you to invite her? Is that what it is? Ooh! I know! She manipulated you into bringing her, just so she could shove it in my face how-“

 

“Hope, stop that.” Josie furrowed her brows, shaking her head in disbelief. “It’s not a big deal,” she murmured.

 

Hope eyes practically flew out of their sockets. “Not a big deal?” she choked out. “Do you even hear yourself right now?”

 

Josie frowned. “I’m really trying to understand where you’re coming from right now,” she huffed. “What’s the matter?”

 

Hope nibbled on her top lip all while she kept her glare on Josie. Then she moved her eyes down to Josie’s torso before letting go of her lips with a sigh.

 

”Nothing,” she whispered.

 

”Are you sure? We can talk ab-“

 

”I said nothing,” Hope spat out. She tilted her head up made eye contact with Josie.

 

She noticed the blue eyeshadow and the white glitter in between her eyes. There was even specks of glitter in her hair. Josie’s chest swarmed with something. Butterflies? Maybe it was bees, and their butts stinging her heart and injecting her with some sort of poison that made her just want to lean in and kiss her eyelids.

 

But Hope would probably think she’s weird for hugging her eyes of nowhere.

 

Then Hope clapped her hands and smiled. “Wanna head back downstairs?” she asked.

 

Before Josie could even answer, Hope had already spun around and began walking out of the room.

 

-


Josie didn’t interact with Hope for the thirty minutes they parted. It was almost as if she wasn’t even there, but she was. Josie could see her laughing along with Maya and Penelope when she passed the trays of sweet delicacies.

 

Jade was still in the bathroom, probably taking a massive shit. She’s been gone for thirty minutes and did nothing but leave Josie stranded alone. She tried to act not so awkward, but it was rather hard when the entire Mikaelson family was staring her down.

 

Elijah Mikaelson decided to keep her company.


In the middle of texting Lizzie a brief ‘where the hell are you?’ text, the man approached her. He didn’t look at her, but Josie could tell that he was trying to initiate a conversation.

 

She hadn’t talked to him since last Christmas. He was teaching Hope how to ballroom dance, but the auburn did nothing but giggle and glance over to Josie.

 

She tripped many times. Josie thought it was so cute.

 

”Hello, Miss Saltzman,” he said.

 

Josie turned to her left side and watched as Elijah tilted the champagne glass as a greeting, still not looking at her. She nodded back. He probably had a strong peripheral vision.

 

”Long time no see.”

 

Josie pursed her lips and looked in the same direction the man was. She saw all the people doing their own things. Many of them were Hope’s teenage acquaintances that Josie was too scared to ever talk to.

 

“Yeah,” she mumbled.

 

Elijah replied immediately. “I heard about you and my niece.”

 

Josie sucked in a breath. The muscles in her neck tightened. “I’m sorry about that,” she mumbled. “That was cruel of me.”

 

It was funny. How Hope was the one who left Josie, yet the extended Mikaelsons didn’t have a clue. She was basically ‘Hope’ in their eyes.

 

”Do not apologize to me,” he shrugged. “I suppose, since you’re here tonight, that everything is just fine.”


“Yeah,” she wavered.

 

Everything was fine. It was.

 

”How is school, Josette?”

 

He glanced over and pursed his lips in a friendly smile. Josie’s eyes landed on him for less than a second before awkwardly turning back to face the people in front of her.

 

”Good,” she said.

 

”Are you still studying marine biology?”

 

“Partially.”

 

Elijah clicked his tongue and chuckled. “Not much of a talker today, Josette?”

Josie didn’t even realize how one-sided the conversation was. She opened her mouth, readying up some words that never came.

 

Elijah only chuckled again. “I suppose my niece is at fault?”

 

Josie frowned. “What do you mean?”

 

Elijah frowned back. “She didn’t tell you?”

 

Josie turned to face him. He seemed just as confused as she was.

 

”Tell me what?”

 


God. Josie didn’t need more boulders occurring in their relationship. Even though-

 

Well. Maybe there was a boulder right now. She should probably apologize to Hope for bringing Jade while she has the time.

 

“Never mind,” Elijah sighed. “I don’t think I should intrude.” He began walking away, but before doing so, he tilted the glass in his hand one last time. “Cherish your time. Happy holidays, Josette."

 

Then he disappeared into the crowd. Josie bit her bottom lip.

 

She would’ve worried about Elijah’s words, but Josie’s mind was already occupied with the loud, ‘Hope, Hope, Hope.’

 

She straightened her posture before walking off. The last place she saw Hope was the table full of delicacies, with Maya and Penelope. It had only been merely ten minutes since she left.

 

So they could still be there. Right?

 

Yup.

 

Josie smiled and sighed in relief. Hope had one hand up to her mouth, where an eggnog truffle hovered just before it. The two other girls were laughing to each other. That left Hope unoccupied.

 

She walked over.

 

”Hope.”

 

The auburn snapped her head. She seemed almost surprised by Josie’s presence. She popped the truffle into her mouth, wiped her hand on the cloth on the table, and nodded her head up.

 

”Hm?”


Her tone took Josie aback. It was almost as if Hope wasn't literally just avoiding her.

 

”Well,” she said anyways and raised her brows. “I was just wondering if . . .”

 

Hope shifted her body to face Josie.

 

“Where’s your date?”

 

She seemed to be challenging Josie. But that was stupid of her to assume. Hope was only asking a question. Well, with a twinge of bitterness in her voice.

 

”She’s, uh . . .” Josie faltered off. Hope raised a brow. The brunette decided to just shake her head and force herself to chuckle out a “Don’t worry about her.”

 

Hope rolled her eyes. “Where is she?” she demanded.

 

Josie replied instantly. “Restroom.”

 

Hope scoffed again and looked up, shaking her head as if she couldn’t believe it. “Wow. She really ditched you then, huh?”

 

She could tell Hope tried putting on a hard exterior in that very moment. But she knew Hope more than anyone else to know that Hope actually felt bad for her in some sense. Not in a mocking way, or some sort of ‘Haha, you’re sad now I’m glad’ way. It was genuine empathy.

 

So Josie just smiled. “Yup!”

 

Hope frowned. “Oh,” she blinked. “I’m sorry.”

 

Josie waved it off. "That's not why I came here, though." She took a step forward, making herself so close to Hope that she could see those specks of glitter in her hair. "I wanted to apologize."

 

Hope rolled her eyes with a huff. "There's nothing to be sorry for," she pursed her lips. "I was just overreacting."

 

Josie shook her head. "I still wanted to say I'm sorry."

Hope looked up at her. Maybe time actually froze, or Josie was just completely enchanted by her eyes. She was so far into her own daze that she didn't notice when Hope replied.

 

"-because you didn't do anything-"

 

"Oh," Josie blurted. "Sorry, what were you saying?"

 

Hope fluttered her eyes shut. "Never mind," she said with a smile. Then she opened her eyes again and took a step closer to Josie, despite how already close they were. Josie could feel her breath land against her chin. If someone were to come shove her in even the slightest way, there was no doubt she would fall down and brush her own lips against Hope's.

 

She wished that would happen.

 

After a long minute of silence, Hope said, "Do you want to help me and Rebekah wrap presents?"

 

Josie perked up. "Yeah, I'd love to."

 

Hope smiled before softly whispering a small, "Great."

 

Josie followed Hope around the Manor. She walked past a few of her classmates, Roman, and even her mom and Stefan. So they did end up coming, too.

 

They ended up in the kitchen. Rebekah was at the bar table, seated on a barstool with rolls of wrapping paper in front of her. She looked up once the girls arrived and immediately straightened up.

 

"Ah," she smiled. "Come here, girls."

 

Hope craned her neck back to smile at Josie before nodding her head to follow her. They walked to the table, Hope sitting on Rebekah's right and Josie sitting right next to her.

 

Hope reached forward and grabbed a Star Wars Lego set. That must have been for her cousin, Nik.

 

"So," she breathed, grabbing a roll of shiny red wrapping paper and cutting off the needed amount. "What are you and your family doing for Christmas, Josie?"

 

Josie stared at her hands, occupied with the scissors. They glided down the wrapping paper.

 

"I don't know," she shrugged, grabbing her own roll of paper and a random toy to her side. It was also a Star Wars Lego set. "Eat and open presents, I guess."

 

Hope hummed. "What about you, Aunt Bex?"

 

Rebekah shot her head up and immediately set down her scissors, as if she was preparing for this moment her whole life. "Me and your father have planned something so exciting for you, Hope!" She glanced over at Josie and widened her smile. "You as well, Josie."

 

She handed Hope the roll of tape, to which the auburn took. She pulled out a strand of tape before scooting it over to Josie.

 

"What is it?"

 

Rebekah cleared her throat. "He finally allowed me to host this year’s slow dance!"

 

Hope snapped her head up. She nodded slowly, her mouth opening to reply. Nothing came out.

 

Josie replied for her, "That's so cool," she smiled. "A holiday dance, right?"

 

Rebekah nodded proudly.

 

"And the best part . . ." she paused, trying to stir up anticipation. She wrapped a long strand of twine on the present in front of her before adding a white bow. She threw the wrapped present on the floor into the pile where all the other finished presents laid. "You two have a spot reserved on the floor."

Hope choked on air. Both Josie and Rebekah flinched.

 

"Don't tell me . . ." she faltered off. "That you already-"

 

"Actually, your father chose your partner," she interrupted. Rebekah pursed her lips and tilted her head down. "Sorry."

 

Hope groaned. "He put me with Roman, didn't he."

 

Rebekah sighed. That already answered enough.

 

Hope slid her tongue along her cheek and huffed. She looked down at the present and aggressively slapped a piece of tape on.

 

Josie's stomach curled. She was going to dance with Roman. The very same Roman who was on the pavement in front of the Mystic Grill. But most importantly, she was going to dance with someone else. The thought of it made Josie sick.

 

"Who's my partner?" she choked out.

 

Rebekah regained her smile. "You brought a plus one, right?"

 

Hope snapped her head up and slammed her palm against the counter. "No," she spat out. "Nuh uh. Not happening."

 

Josie flinched so hard she had to grip the stool beneath her so she wouldn't end up falling over.

 

Rebekah cocked her head to the side. She reached over and removed Hope's hand from the present to prevent her from absolutely clawing it apart.

 

"What's the matter?" she asked. "Did you not bring a plus one, Josie?"

Josie gulped and glanced at Hope. The auburn was glaring at the table, fuming.

 

"Um," she breathed in. "Actually, I sprained my ankle. I don't think I can dance tonight. I'm sorry." She tucked her foot behind the legs of the stool in case Rebekah needed to confirm the claim.

 

Instead, she just smiled understandingly. "Aw," she said. "Maybe next time."

 

Josie looked back at Hope. Her hand was no longer in a fist, and her eyes no longer had that red glint in them. She seemed calm, almost.

 

"Yeah," she murmured, still not taking her eyes off of Hope.

 

-

 

About an hour of wrapping presents later, Hope pulled Josie away and to the main room. Instead of jazz music, it was classical. She scanned the room and could only find adults in the center. She already saw their kids in the kitchen earlier, feasting on all the holiday sweets, so loud that it was the only reason Hope brought them back.

 

Hope kept her grip on Josie's arm, gradually sliding it down. Josie sped up the process by bringing her hand up and connecting it with Hope's.

 

She watched as Hope stood on her tip-toes and looked up, peering her head around the room. Then she gasped, waved her hand up, and motioned someone to come forward.

 

Josie turned her head to find one of the men holding the steel trays of champagne glasses. Once he arrived, Hope grabbed one glass and let go of Josie's hand to grab another. The brunette frowned; their contact was broken up because Hope decided she wanted to entertain them both with the presence of alcohol.

 

The man walked off and Hope turned to face Josie. She wiggled one glass in her hand and raised her brows with a nod, shoving it in Josie's direction.

 

"Oh," Josie choked out. She grabbed the glass before Hope could drop it on the floor. "Thanks."

 

Hope shrugged. She took a sip. Josie didn't. She stared down at the liquid in her hand and swished it around. The tiny bubbles floated up.

 

"Does your mom know you're drinking that?" She attempted to laugh, but only ended up stumbling on her own breath.

 

Hope rolled her eyes playfully. "Just pretend it's sparkling cider."

 

A laugh broke right through Josie's lips. To her right, she could see MG walk through the door with Lizzie beside him. She was wearing that green dress, while MG matched her with a dark green tux and white tuxedo-shirt underneath.

 

She straightened up, nudging Hope's shoulder and pointing towards the two.

 

"Hello all. I am here," Lizzie announced once they approached both Josie and Hope. MG gave them a small greeting with a smile, his hands tugging at each other behind his back.

 

"What took you guys so long?" Hope asked.

 

Lizzie huffed. "Well," she raised her voice. Lizzie turned her head and glared MG down. "Someone locked their keys in their car."

 

The boy only retorted with an eye roll.

 

Josie glanced over at Hope. She was suppressing a laugh, her cheeks puffing up slightly in the process.

 

"Sorry for taking a while. I found an old friend."

 

Jade.

 

Josie completely forgot she was here. She craned her neck and gave the girl an awkward, stiff smile as she spun around.

 

”Hey,” she breathed out.

 

The girl gave her a sweet smile back before scanning the group.

 

”It’s nice to mee-“

 

”Who the hell is that?” Lizzie blurted. Josie gawked at her with wide eyes, as if that would’ve made Lizzie’s words non-existent.

 

Jade pursed her lips in a smile. “Uh.” She eyed Josie. “Did Josie not tell you about me?”

 

Josie swallowed. She exchanged eye contact with Lizzie, trying to make her defend herself. But the blonde only glared at her with narrowed eyes as if she was saying ‘we need to have a talk.’

 

”Oh, she talks about you, all right,” Hope suddenly blurted. She crossed her arms and walked towards Jade, the champagne glass in her hand nearly tipping over. “Does that make you feel good?”

 

Jade rolled her eyes. “Can you just shut up for once?” she hissed.

 

And they’re back to fighting each other with snake eyes.

 

Josie ignored them and turned to face MG. The boy returned her stare and nodded towards Lizzie’s purse. Out stuck a small, green prickly bundle of-

 

Mistletoe?

 

She gawked up at MG. He nodded towards Hope, Lizzie, then to her. He raised a brow.

 

Lizzie was seriously going to be her wing-woman right now?

 

Without wasting a second, Josie reached over and snatched the mistletoe out of the purse. She shot Lizzie a glare, to which the blonde only replied with a gritted smile.

 

”Ooh, is that mistletoe?” Jade asked. She pried her eyes off of Hope’s and stood by Josie’s side.

 

Josie didn’t give her a verbal answer. She nodded her head and barely huffed out a laugh. Then Jade did the unexpected.

 

She grabbed the mistletoe, held it up high above them, fished out her phone, and took a picture when she pressed her lips against Josie’s cheek.

 

Josie was too shell-shocked to notice Lizzie’s disgusted face and MG’s surprised eyes. But she did notice when Hope’s eyes darted between the two, and she definitely noticed when Hope furrowed her brows, inhaled, and threw the champagne glass on the floor.

It shattered everywhere despite how small it was. Tiny shards of glass spread out across the floor and the liquid splashed Josie’s shins.

A hush drowned the crowd. Hope stared at the mess, her chest heaving up and down. Josie wanted to bend down and clean it up just for her, but Hope’s eyes stopped her. She gave one last glance to Josie before spinning around and running off up the stairs.

Chapter Text

Hope knew Josie was following her. She could hear the loud footsteps clattering after.

 

She didn’t want to look at her right now, not when she was about to burst into flames. She slid through the crack of the door and slammed it right after.


Hope stumbled over to the middle of the room and dropped her body to sit on the foot of her bed. Her hands quivered as she clumsily pulled her heels off and clutched them close to her chest.

 

Then Josie barged through the door.

”Hope,” she breathed out.

Hope shut her eyes tight. Every bone in her body began to ready her next move - darting away.

 

And so she did. Hope bounced up, forced her eyes opened and attempted to make a run for the door, only to get blocked off by Josie’s hands on her shoulders. She squirmed under Josie’s touch, but the brunette wouldn’t let go.

 

”Let go of me,” she grumbled in a raspy voice. Josie did nothing but tighten her grip. Hope attempted to break free, but this time, Josie pushed her back to the foot of the bed.

 

”We have to talk Hope.”

 

Josie pushed Hope down. She nearly toppled over if it weren’t for Josie grabbing her wrist and yanking her back. Hope kept her head twisted to the side, looking anywhere but Josie’s face. The ball of fury in her stomach didn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, and she couldn’t afford lashing out on Josie.

 

Her breaths seethed through her gritted teeth as she said, “I don’t want to talk,” in the stillest voice she could manage. It still came out quavery and not-so-confident.


“You don’t have to,” Josie whispered. That threw Hope off guard. It took everything inside of her to not look at Josie.

 

Then why are you here?” she gritted out again. Though now it was a little easier to keep her voice steady.

 

She felt a hand cover her cheek. It was cold. It was Josie’s.

 

Hope tried to bring herself to remove Josie’s hand off of her, but she couldn’t, no matter how hard she tried. She could feel her freezing thumb rub along the skin of her cheek.

 

Then Hope shot her hand up and smacked it on top of Josie’s. Finally. Now she could pull it off.

 

She couldn’t.

 

Hope’s hand remained on top of Josie’s. If anything, she was only trying to warm it up with her own warmth. Now Hope completely forgot why her hand was there in the first place.

 

Josie gently pulled Hope’s head to the side, forcing the auburn to look at her. Josie’s face held worry. So, much, worry.

 

Hope suddenly remembered that she literally smashed a glass on the floor.

 

Oops.

Then Josie cleared her throat. “Like I said. You don’t have to talk,” she said. “But I feel like you did . . . you know, that.” She mimicked the throwing expression, angry face, and running away. Hope rolled her eyes with a small smile. “I feel like it was my fault,” Josie finished timidly.

 

Ahh. Oblivious Josie . . . She was starting to get it now.

 

Still, Hope knew it wasn’t entirely Josie’s fault; it wasn’t like she knew.

 

”I really didn’t know that you and Jade’s rivalry wasn’t just some ridiculous banter.”

 

Meh. It basically was. Hope didn’t say that, though.

 

She sighed and fluttered her eyes as if there was an eyelash in them. “Not entirely,” she mumbled.

 

Josie flinched. She probably wasn’t expecting an answer. Hope caressed Josie’s hand underneath hers before prying it off her cheek, setting it down in Josie’s lap.

”I’m sorry,” she choked out. “I don’t know why I’m being so toxic today.” Now the tears were creeping in. Hope bit her lip, digging into the gloss she applied earlier to prevent them from coming any closer to her eyes.

 

Josie noticed her behavior and immediately used her other hand to envelope Hope’s.

 

”It’s okay, Hope,” she whispered.

 

Hope disagreed. “No, it’s not. I ruined your night, all because I was . . .”

 

She couldn’t find the word.

 

Irritated? Annoyed? Well, she was pretty annoyed with that bitch named Jade, but that wasn’t it.

 

Jealous?

 

The realization smacked Hope in the face. She stared into the distance, trying to process everything she just figured out - she was jealous. Jealous.

 

“Hope? You there?”

 

Hope blinked and whipped her head back up. “Oh, yeah,” she sputtered out.

 

Josie smiled softly. “You didn’t ruin my night, Hope. It’s only been an hour.”


Suddenly, Hope felt the urge to just spill everything out. Everything inside her gut, literally everything. She even wanted to tell Josie about the fly that went into her soup this morning.

 

”I guess I just . . . Well,” she swallowed. “I was really excited when Lizzie said you guys were coming.”

 

Josie leaned back but cocked her forehead down and forward, showing that she was listening very closely and intently.

 

Hope continued. “I told my mom, and she went to the store to get a bunch of those peppermint bark chips you always used to love.”

 

Hope watched Josie’s lips curl up in the slightest way, but powerful enough to infect Hope and make her smile as well.

 

”I don’t know.” Hope dropped her smile. “It was stupid of me to expect that you’d just be . . .”

 

”Hungry?”

 

Hope frowned at the awfully wrong answer.

 

She shook her head and chuckled. “No, just-“

It was like all of Hope’s breaths were suddenly sucked out. She couldn’t force out the words. She even choked on her own spit.

 

Just say it, she scolded herself.


Hope took a deep breath. Josie was watching her very closely; so close that Hope was convinced she was trying to analyze each breath Hope took.

 

Wow, she was really close. Really close.

 

Hope shook her head slightly to rid the thoughts before saying, “I was just excited to spend time with you tonight.” She looked up at Josie for any reaction. The brunette blinked, but her silence urged Hope to continue.

 

”But then you brought Jade, and I-“ she laughed humorlessly, teeth tugging her bottom lip. Why was she saying this? It would be safe to just back out, but she continued anyways. “I got jealous,” she admitted.

Oh my God.

 

Josie leaned back even further, as if she had just realized something life changing. It wasn’t like what she just said was life changing. Hope thought she was being pretty obvious by the way she literally became a bitch once Jade came into place.

 

“Oh,” she breathed out.

 

Hope chuckled. “Yeah. Oh.”

 


”Hope I’m so sorry-“

 

Hope cut her off with a hand. “Don’t be,” she whispered. She hoped her voice held enough grit to make Josie shut up. It did, thankfully. Hope really did not want to make Josie apologize; she’d end up crying and Josie would have to awkwardly comfort her.

 

But what she was certainly not expecting was Josie standing up. She watched in surprise, and a bit offense, as Josie stood up and walked towards the door.

 

Great. So she’s leaving. All those secrets for nothing?

 

Josie stopped right at the door and grabbed the bag.

 

Oh.

 

She watched in mental embarrassment as Josie brought the bag over and regained her spot next to Hope. She shifted around before pulling out a nearly wrapped box, one that was a lot bigger than her hand. Then she pulled out another; that one was long, flat, and looked like a necklace case.


Josie set the bigger box on the comforter and held up the smaller one in front of Hope. She shook it, encouraging the auburn to grab it. Hope hesitantly took it. She examined the shiny green wrapping paper, and the twine, and the bow on top. She unraveled the bow and dropped it on the bed.

 

Hope slowly unwrapped the paper, careful not to ruin it. Then it revealed an actual necklace case. Hope called it.

 

She put her fingers on the sides of the velvety case, pulling it up. She let out a quiet gasp.

 

”No, you didn’t, Jo,” she breathed out, not caring about the nickname slipping from her lips.

 

In the box was the necklace she’d been eyeing at the jewelry store on Monday. It looked even more beautiful now that it was right in front of her, and that it was bought by Josie (something about that made Hope crave it more).

 

Josie smiled and hummed, flipping her hair sarcastically.

 

Hope’s eyes ran along the outline of the rose. She took a finger to feel the silver and gold, so authentic that the store was selling it for a whopping four-hundred dollars. It felt so enchanting.

 

”Want to put it on?” Josie suddenly said. Hope quickly nodded and pushed the box towards Josie.


The brunette carefully removed the necklace from the case and stood up to walk behind Hope. Hope pushed her hair to one side, allowing Josie better access to her neck.

 

She felt soft, cold fingertips brush along her skin. Then she felt the cold sting of the jewelry as it hovered just before her skin, the pendent bouncing off of her chest.

 

After a small click, Josie returned to her place in front of Hope. The auburn glanced down at the necklace and fiddled with it. It gave such a buzzing feeling.

 

”You look really beautiful, Hope.”

 

When she looked back up to smile, all she could see was Josie’s red face. Huh. Weird.

 

Hope pretended not to notice; Josie would only end up blushing more if she were to point that out, speaking from past experience.

 

”Thank you so much,” she whispered. Hope put a hand on Josie’s arm and attempted to pull her in for a hug, but Josie stopped her. She tapped the box on the comforter. Hope forgot that was there - she was too busy squealing over the necklace.

 

She picked up the box and slowly unwrapped it. Another white, cardboard box appeared. It was a cake box. Hope unboxed that too, finding tissue paper.

 

She paused. “Can I hug you after I open this?” she teased.

 

Josie straightened up. She laughed weirdly. “Yes!” she shot out. “Y-yes, yes . . .”

 

Hope cocked a brow up, but turned her attention back to the box. She pulled out only a few tissue papers before seeing that familiar green fur. It took her a while before realizing-

 

Hope gasped.

 

”Timmy?” she choked out. Hope grabbed the alligator and threw the box across the room, hitting something and making it fall over. Hope ignored it.

 

Timmy was in her hands now. Perfectly in tact Timmy, with stitch marks running down his fur. She squeezed him to make sure he was real and she wasn’t just dreaming.

 

”How did you . . . ?” she faltered off, still looking at Timmy in shock.

 

“I just sewed him back together,” Josie shrugged. “His remains were still on the porch, anyways.”

 

Hope’s chest tightened. She remembered how she literally ripped up Timmy right in front of Josie. Well, to be fair, Josie stabbed him with a plastic knife and threw him out of her window in a duck tape-sealed box. They were both murderers.

 

Hope gave him one last look before setting him gently on the bed and wrapping her arms around Josie’s neck. The brunette let out a muffled gasp from the sudden movement, she hugged Hope back anyways, her breaths hitting Hope’s neck.

Then Josie stilled. Hope frowned and pulled back, examining Josie’s sudden worried face.

 

”What’s wrong?” she mumbled.

 

Josie looked at her and took a deep breath. Her shoulders rose. “Are you leaving?” she asked in the shakiest voice Hope has ever heard.

 

Hope’s heart dropped. She quickly sputtered out, “What do you mean?”

 

Josie swallowed thickly, glancing down at Hope’s lap before speaking again. “You’re leaving,” she repeated, this time her voice sounding more like a claim instead of a question.

 

Where did Josie even find that idea?

 

She opened her mouth, and before she could tell Josie anything, the door opened.

 

Both girls quickly turned around. Rebekah was standing in the doorframe, peeking into the room with a hand on the knob. Josie quickly stood up and rubbed her hands along the fabric of her dress.

 

”Hi,” she breathed out.

 

Rebekah smiled at her before turning to face Hope.

 

”The dance is starting. Roman’s waiting by the staircase.”

 

Hope internally rolled her eyes. God damnit.

 

She sighed and stood up as well, slightly stretching her arms out. “Be there soon,” she smiled.

 

Rebekah nodded. She glanced at Josie, then at Hope, then closed the door as she left. The room was silent.

 

Then Josie cleared her throat. “I won’t dance with Jade,” she said.

 

Hope frowned. Now that Josie said that, it sounded like Hope was a controlling bitch who didn’t let her friend go anywhere near happiness. She pursed her lips inward and shook her head.

 

”You should,” she croaked out. “You guys would look really cute together.”

 

The words pained Hope’s chest. She didn’t know why. Maybe it was the fact that . . . No. Hope wasn’t going to over-analyze it; all she knew was that she didn’t like her own words, and that was final.

 

Josie bit her bottom lip and shook her head. “Your aunt will get mad if she sees me in the ballroom with a perfectly fine ankle,” she chuckled.

Hope couldn’t help but smile back. Partially in humor, and the other part . . . obviously relief. Hope was beginning to think her middle name should’ve been toxic.

 

Hope Toxic Mikaelson. It has a jingle to it.

 


 

“Don’t touch me.”

 

“Well how else are we supposed to dance?”

 

Hope rolled her eyes. She turned to face Roman with a fake smile. “Easy!” she beamed. Then she dropped her smile. “We don’t.”

 

Roman groaned. “Come on, Miss Mikaelson,” he teased, punching her arm softly. Hope quickly recoiled and punched his arm back, though not so softly.

He jumped back and rubbed it, a pout on his face. Hope almost does the horrific move of comparing his pout to Josie’s, but she stopped herself.

 

Rebekah walked into the small room and gasped, clapping her hands together giddily.

 

”You are perfection!” she squealed towards Hope. The auburn smiled and gave her aunt a small hug. When she pulled back, Roman was yawning, his mouth opening farther than he needed to.

 

Rebekah walked over and gave him a small pat on the shoulder before turning around. “Good luck you two! You make such a lovely duo!” she beamed before heading out of the double doors.

 

Now Hope was left alone with Roman again. This night couldn’t possibly have been worse. They heard Rebekah’s voice over the speaker announcing the start of the dance. Then the double doors opened by the men in red suits.

 

Hope shoved every ounce of irritation down so that she could interlock her arm with Roman’s. They walked out of the tiny room and into the ballroom, the light instantly blinding her.

 

She could just get this over with and then eat those scrumptious eggnog truffles. Mm mm mm. Hope wished Roman was an eggnog truffle. That way, he would be a little bit more bearable.

 

The music started. Roman let go and held out his hand. Hope’s jaw clenched.

 

”Don’t think that I like you, okay?” she gritted out. “Never have, never will.”

 

Roman only chuckled, reaching his hand out even further. Hope rolled her eyes and grabbed his hand.

Roman was a good dancer, Hope couldn’t lie about that. But every small move she made where she was brought closer to him, he saw it as a hint. Hope had to constantly remind him with her snake eyes that she wasn’t into him.

 

They moved to the center of the dance floor. That’s when the lights dimmed, and the spotlight cast on the two of them. Hope squinted, arching her neck down so she wouldn’t get blinded.

 

Everyone was looking at them now. Hope sighed. It was like this every year - she and Roman danced, and everyone would tell her parents what a lovely pair they make and that they should marry. Hope always glared at those people who said suggested such horrid things.

 

She looked straight ahead, and that was when she saw Josie, all smily and giggly. Hope wondered what she was laughing about. Jade wasn’t around, thank goodness, so it couldn’t have been her.

 

“You’re slacking,” Roman blurted out.

 

Hope looked down to see that her foot was in the incorrect spot. She quickly fixed it and mumbled out a “Thanks.”

 

Hope looked back to where Josie was. She was still watching Hope with a smile. Hope even noticed her give a playful smirk. Hope stuck her tongue out for only a split second before Roman twirled her.

They continued dancing until the fifteen minutes were up. The duos took turns bowing while the crowd cheered and even threw mistletoes the ground instead of roses. Hope bowed first, tilting down. Roman bowed, but as soon as he finished, he grabbed Hope’s hand and pressed his lips against it.

 

Hope nearly threw up. She glared at him to let go, but his eyes were closed as he slowly pulled away. Hope yanked her hand back and rubbed it on her dress.

 

Gross.

 

She looked off into the crowd, only to find a very angry Josie clapping her hands aggressively and slowly, each clap sounding like it could wake up countries across the globe.

 



Hope was already devouring herself in those eggnog truffles when she saw Josie walking forward. She grabbed one and put it in the pocket of her dress (bad idea) before turning to face her with a smile.

 

”Hi,” she said.

 

Josie pursed her lips, leaned over and swiped something off of Hope’s chin, and leaned back to greet her back with her own smile.

 

”You just couldn’t wait for that dance to end,” she teased. Hope rolled her eyes playfully and shoved a truffle into Josie’s mouth.

 

The brunette chewed it while Hope clapped her hands together and stepped away from the table, grabbing Josie’s hand to follow her.

 

“Where did Jade go?” Hope asked, pulling Josie further from the table. She honestly had no idea where she was leading them.

 

Josie sighed. “I have no idea, I haven’t seen her at all after you smash-“ Josie stopped herself. Hope tensed up, but forced out a chuckle anyways.

 

”Continue,” she urged.

 

Josie took a deep breath. “I think she left, really.”

 

Hope scoffed. Of course she did. Jade. Bitch. Her name should’ve been bitch, or maybe a combination of-

 

“You did amazing Hope!”

 

Hope flinched and snapped her head forward. Before her stood Caroline and Stefan, both with big smiles on their faces. It took a few seconds for Hope to process that they were complimenting her for the dance.

 

”Oh,” she blinked, chuckling and adjusting her stance. “Thank you.”

 

The woman smiled before leaning in and enveloping her in a hug. The hug took Hope by surprise, considering she literally hated Hope’s guts last week. Still, she hugged back.

 

Caroline pulled away and Stefan walked forward to give her a pat on the shoulder.

 

”Josie used to always tell us about your dancing last year,” he said. “She was in love with it-“

 

No,” Josie interrupted. “Not in love, p-probably more like, like admired, you know what I’m saying?”

 

Hope smiled to herself at the thought of Josie admiring her dancing. Sophomore Josie; socially awkward Josie who would ask Hope to follow her when she went to ask a teacher a question.

 

Wow. She’s really changed a lot.

 

”I bet,” she chuckled, glancing over at Josie and giving her a small, smug smile. The brunette’s cheeks turned pink as she gave a small nod, her own smile forming on her lips.

-

 

Countless conversations occupied both Hope and Josie’s night, being with her extended family members, or random kids from school. Even some teachers came up to them to talk.

 

The eggnog truffle in Hope’s pocket began to seep through her dress. Thankfully, though, the party was coming to an end. Guests said their goodbyes, took goodie bags and pamphlets and left. Pretty soon, the manor cleared out.

 

Hope didn’t know if Josie was clueless about the end of the party, or if she just purposely stayed behind. She hoped it was the latter.

 

On their way to snatch some of the peppermint brownies in the kitchen, Klaus passed by. He stood in front of the girls, stopping them from going any further.

 

”Are you staying over, Josette?” he asked immediately.

 

Josie pursed her lips in a smile and shook her head. “Can’t.”

 

Hope frowned. Obviously Josie wouldn’t be able to stay over; it was Christmas Eve. Still, her dad bringing it up and Josie confirming it made her lungs heavy.

 

Klaus sighed. “I was hoping you and Hope would be willing to help clean up the ballroom. But I suppose not.”

 

Oh, thank God. Hope hated cleaning the ballroom. She absolutely hated it. Not only was it too big, but it also always had empty wine glasses and the floor was always-

 

“Oh, we’d still do that! Right, Hope?”

Well, of course Josie didn’t care about that.

 

Hope’s bottom lip twitched as she forced a smile. “Of course,” she managed to choke out.

 

Klaus gave a content look before nodding and walking off past them.

 

Once he was gone, Hope groaned.

 

”Seriously?”

 

Josie held up her hands in defense. “Come on, Hope. It’ll be fun!”

 

Hope huffed through her nose. “Remind me next time you mention something is ‘fun’ that your idea is clearly off.”

 

Josie rolled her eyes. Before the auburn could process what was going on, Josie grabbed her wrist and pulled her through the manor, all the way to the ballroom.

 

She pretended not to hear Hope’s obnoxiously loud complains. Hope decided to just give up with her childish cleaning protests and help Josie with clearing off the glasses on the table.

 

They placed them all in a tray before grabbing large trash bags and shoving random napkins and plastic in them.

 

”This is the Christmas spirit,” Hope grumbled to herself as she held up a napkin smothered in lipstick stains.

 

Josie huffed. “The less you complain the faster we get this done,” she grunted, throwing a cluster of unfinished chocolate-covered marshmallows into the bag.

 

Hope whined under her breath.

To her right, she saw the tall broom resting against a table. She walked over and grabbed it and began sweeping the dirty floor.

 

There were a bunch of garland scraps scattered across the floor. It was quite easy to broom them up.

 

They continued cleaning the ballroom until the floor was pristine and piles of trash bags laid before them. Hope slammed the broom on the floor and took a deep breath, wiping the non-existent sweat off her forehead. Josie did most of the work while she repeatedly swept the already cleaned floor over and over again.

The broom dropped in the direction of the DJ table. Hope smirked to herself. She left the broom there and walked towards the table, up the steps.

 

”You okay, Hope?” Josie called out, throwing a trash bag on the pile.


Hope ignored her. She stumbled over to the table with the controls and shit that she didn’t understand. There was a small triangle button that Hope obviously knew meant ‘play.’ Hmm. Maybe she could be a DJ.

 

She pressed it. The room filled up with the sounds of classical music, or more specifically, a renovation of Swan Lake. Hope watched as Josie’s soul nearly flew out of her body, causing the brunette to flinch and whip around.

 

Hope had no idea how to turn down the volume. It was loud, so loud that she could feel the music vibrating under the floorboard she stood on.

 

Josie crossed her arms and walked over, but Hope stopped her from coming any further by stumbling down the steps and staying still right in front of her.

 

”Wh-“

 

”You admire ballroom dancing,” Hope interrupted. “Right?” she panted out.

 

Josie tilted her head to the side and furrowed her brows. “Well, you could say-“

 

”Great! Want to help me practice for next year?”

Josie blinked, her mouth forming the small shape of an ‘o’ before she replied with, “Uh, sure.”

 

Hope ran her hands down Josie’s arms, feeling the goosebumps slowly form before pulling her to the center of the dance floor. Josie’s hands were shaking. Hope frowned.

 

Before she could say anything, or ask if Josie was okay, the brunette grabbed Hope’s hand, interlocked them, then placed her other palm against Hope’s back.


Hope swallowed. Josie’s hand felt electric as it did the slightest move of brushing against the arch in her back. She ignored the feeling- or tried to. It was rather hard.

 

Still, Hope brought one hand up and placed it against Josie’s shoulder.

 

”You should’ve chosen a different practice dummy,” Josie suddenly murmured. “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. I’m not sure why your aunt signed me up to dance in the first place . . .”

 

Hope couldn’t help but chuckle. Josie was staying absolutely still, her hands trembling against Hope. Meanwhile, Hope was consciously urging her to reflect her slow moves.

 

It was like there wasn’t even any music in the back. All Hope could hear was Josie’s rapid heart beat, and her heavy breaths that quickly became more and more detached.

 

“Well,” Hope whispered softly in an attempt to calm her down. “Do you want to be my practice dummy?”

 

She watched Josie’s brows raise. Her breaths somewhat calmed down, but didn’t stop their detachments from each other. She nodded.

 

Hope smiled. She started stepping forward, encouraging Josie to step back. Somehow she completely got the wrong idea and ended up stepping forward as well, tripping on Hope’s dress and sending them falling to the ground.

 

Shit-“ Josie choked out.


Hope felt Josie’s body crash into her, sending her falling to the ground. She lifted her head up on reflex, but still let out a weird gasp/choke noise when her body landed on the floor. She let out an even uglier noise when Josie landed right on top of her.

 

Hope opened her eyes and felt her heart blow up. Josie was so, so close to her face, breaths landing just atop her nose. Hope could see the faint pink tint spreading across her face, and maybe even infecting Hope as well.

 

Josie was really beautiful. Hope always knew that, but seeing her this close made her realize that Josie was really beautiful.

 

Swan Lake still played in the back.

 

Josie stumbled away from Hope and slapped a hand over her mouth.

 

”Sorry,” she shut her eyes tight and looked away. “That,” she choked out. “Never mind.”


Hope rubbed her head, and before she could tell Josie to not worry about crashing into her, Josie’s purse buzzed. They made small eye contact before Josie cleared her throat and fished her phone out. The light illuminated her face as her eyes skimmed across the screen.

 

As if they shared emotions, Hope felt a pang to her heart when Josie’s face dropped. She pursed her lips to one side and shoved the phone back into her purse.

 

”I’ve gotta go,” she mumbled.

 

Hope’s chest tightened. She watched in utter disappoint as the brunette gave her a small smile before averting her gaze to the exit doors.

 

”Oh,” Hope mumbled.

 

She watched as Josie’s retreating back made an exit for the door. Josie glanced over and smiled again with a nod before disappearing behind the double doors.

 



Sorry for overreacting

 

Hope frowned. She dragged the pen along the paper and crossed it out.

 

Sorry for overreacting

Merry Christmas Josie. My apologies for

 

Hope groaned and crumbled up the paper into a wad. She threw it across the room, but only managed to get it halfway before stopping mid-air and falling to the floor. She rolled her eyes.

 

The clock read 12:37 A.M, and all Hope did instead of trying to fall asleep was send Josie a picture of a panda saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and attempt to write an apology letter.

She fiddled with the necklace on her neck. She should probably take it off and at least try to fall asleep before Freya barged into her room and scolded her to fall asleep or help her draw funny faces on Keelin’s sleeping figure.

 

Hope walked to her bathroom and turned on the light. She examined her makeup-less face. Dried mascara stains laid beneath her eyelids and enhanced her eye bags.

 

She ran her palm on her chest, dragging it along her collarbone until she reached the rose-engraved pendent. She unhooked it off her neck and held it in her hand.

Hope’s heart immediately warmed. She smiled, staring down at the pendant in front of her. She brought the thin chain and set it on top of the pendent, turning it over and gently placing it on the counter.

 

Then something caught her eye.

 

On the back of the pendant was a poem-like structure with words engraved into the silver. Hope’s eyebrows curved down. She picked up the pendant and read the words, a small, quiet gasp leaving her lips.

 

I Love You

 

Hope blinked and rubbed her eyes. She gawked at the pendant, her eyes running over the three words over and over again.

 

She threw the pendant down. It felt like it suddenly upped its temperature just so it could burn Hope’s hand.

 

Her brain began spiraling.

 

Had Josie done this on purpose? Did the pendant come like this?

 

She felt relief; that those two times where she had said she loved Josie weren’t just tossed away.

Chapter Text

"You're going to love this, JoJo Potato!" Damon clapped his hands.

 

He slid the white box covered in shiny wrapping paper across the table with enough force so that it landed right in front of Josie.

 

She gave him a smile, tried not to gag at the nickname, and carefully unraveled the bow.

 

The box was fairly easy to open. Though, Josie's fingers trembled feverously and made it hard to unwrap.

 

She still didn't know why Damon and Coach Gilbert were here, and she definitely didn't know why Bonnie was right next to them.

 

It was all too weird. And not to mention she was already in a bad mood.

 

Once she finally finessed it open, she saw a shiny ball. It was basically a big marble that seemed to be the size of a jawbreaker.

 

"Wow," she smiled. Josie set the ball back into the box and pushed it aside. In front of her, Caroline glared.

 

"Josie!" she hissed. "Thank your uncle!"

 

Josie choked. Uncle? She would've been fuming by now, or perhaps too shell-shocked to think, but Josie was just tired and wanted to sleep. Her brain already hurt from Lizzie's countless bickering with Stefan.

 

She cleared her throat and looked up, pursing her lips in a smile as she looked at Damon. The man straightened up and clasped his hands together.

 

"Thank you, uncle Damon," she forced out. He smiled and closed his eyes.

 

"You're welcome."

 

Stefan clapped his hands. "Alrighty, now that this is done, Bonnie." He looked over at Mrs. Bennett. Josie watched them with dead eyes as she followed him to the kitchen.

 

She turned back to the table and rested her head on the wood. Lizzie had now turned to Coach Gilbert and began going off about useless issues. Alaric was there, but all he was doing was burping and reading a newspaper. Caroline was occasionally butting in to Lizzie's rant, and Damon . . . well, Damon was just pouring himself more bourbon.

 

Josie wanted to have fun. It was Christmas, for fucking's sake, yet here she was, brooding all over the table.

 

Coming to the conclusion that her horrible mood could've spread, Josie picked up the weird marble and left the table. She dragged her feet all the way upstairs and to her room, but kept the door opened about six inches. She still wanted to make sure she didn't miss out on anything.

 

Josie slumped over to her bed and threw her body down, facing the ceiling. She rolled the marble on her stomach.

 

Josie didn't know what purpose it served, but the marble did make a good stomach soother. Maybe if she rolled it enough, she could get a six pack.

 

Then the sticky sensation in her stomach came back. Not because of the marble, but because of Hope.

 

Even after writing those words on the pendant, all she sent Josie was a stupid panda picture. Josie fished out her phone just to look at it one more time.

It was even worse the more she looked at it. Josie let out a whine and threw her phone behind her.

 

That was a stupid idea. It was so, so stupid. She didn't know what she expected when she told the merchant what she wanted written on the necklace.

 

Her mom always told her not to expect too much, otherwise she'd get hurt. But it just killed her how Hope didn't even notice. Or maybe she did, maybe she- no.

 

Josie didn't want to think about that - if Hope actually did see the words but chose to ignore it.

 

God, how could she be so miserable on a holiday? Especially Christmas! It was the one-sided pining to blame.

 

She let her eyes wander around the ceiling. The room was only dimly illuminated from her Christmas lights that she'd hung up. Red, green, yellow . . . and blue. Everything reminded her of Hope. Josie wished she went with the white lights.

 

How could Hope not have noticed? All she had to do was flip the pendant. Hope always does that when she takes her necklaces off, it was a habit Josie picked up on. Maybe she just ignored it.

 

That was a possibility that Josie wasn't hoping for, but could've been the case anyways. Hope was always good at ignoring things.

-

Seven months prior (June)

 

"Pleeeease, Jo! I promise I won't force you to talk to anyone."

 

Josie shook her head, her nose rubbing against the wheel. She had her head hidden in her arms, arms hugging the wheel, and Lizzie, loud as she can be, begging her to come to the summer sunset. It was a tradition at Mystic Falls High School; their class would head to the boardwalk and watch the sunset on the first Friday of the summer.

 

"What if I see her," she choked out.

 

"I'll make sure she doesn't lay a finger on you."

 

Josie laughed humorlessly. "You say that like she's going to even consider coming close to me." She moved her head to the side and tilted her forehead down.

 

"Well-" Lizzie started. She bit her bottom lip and set her finger down. "Try not to worry about her, okay? You can do this!"

 

Josie folded her lips to the side and shuffled back so her head was hidden in her arms again. Lizzie groaned and pushed her self back into the seat.

Josie knew she was being difficult. She just didn't expect Lizzie to want to drag her along. Her only role in this was to drop Lizzie off at the boardwalk and then leave, simple as that, with no communication.

 

And definitely no contact would be made with She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

 

Her heart pounded so loud that it echoed in her ears. Her palms became sweaty, and her leg would not stop trembling. Even the thought of seeing her with Landon made her want to throw up.

 

Not because they were a gross couple, but because it tore her heart into shreds whenever she saw her ex best friend with her ex boyfriend.

 

Sour acid filled the back of her throat. "I, I don't want-" she tried to choke out, but her stomach repeatedly clenched up and squeezed. She bit her lip harder and tried not to make the tears fall down. "I don't want to see her."

 

In truth, Josie did want to see her. She missed everything about her. Even the bad. But whenever she did see her, she broke down and wouldn't be able to function for at least a day. It was pathetic and so unhealthy. But there wasn't anyone else that could ever fill the hole in Josie's heart except for She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

 

"Fine," Lizzie whispered, her voice suddenly shifting from annoying to more kind. "Thanks for driving me, Jo. I'll See you later."

 

She heard the door open and close, right after hearing the piercing sound of Ethan's greeting Lizzie with a loud, "Liz!"

 

Josie removed her head from the wheel and took a deep breath. She rubbed her forehead, wiping off a thin film of sweat. Considering it was the middle of June, it wasn't too hot, and that sweat came mostly from fighting away Lizzie's begging.

 

Ahead of her were her classmates, all walking across the street with their friends and holding blankets. Laughing, smiling . . . Josie felt like a loser. She wanted to go and hang out with Lizzie and her friends (even though they drove her nuts), but she couldn't even get herself to say the girl's name. And there was no doubt she was there.

 

Her fist balled up. She banged it against the horn.

 

It honked.

 

Students all jumped up and looked at her with weird looks, but Josie didn't care. She opened her window, stuck her head out, and screamed, "Hurry your asses up!"

 

"Fuck off!" a voice screamed back. Snickers followed.

 

Josie bit her top lip and closed the window. Now almost all of the crossing students were looking at her.

 

God, she was such a mood kill. But these students were walking so damn slow, to the point that she didn't care how absurd she was acting.

 

She pushed her body back into the seat harshly. Her fingers drummed along the leather of the wheel.

 

Were they walking even slower?

 

Her jaw clenched. Teenagers are so annoying.

 

Eventually Josie had enough of these kids completely ignoring the big, red hand on the sign. She slammed her foot down and pushed forward.

 

Of course, she wouldn't do that if it meant killing someone. There was just the tiniest gap. Plus she honked loud enough so the students would scurry out of the way.

”What the hell?!” a high pitched voice screamed.

 

Josie ignored it, even though she was genuinely worried she might’ve hurt someone, or maybe scared them.

 

All she could think about was getting away from this place. Maybe she could go home and have ice cream and-

 

“AH-!”

 

Josie slammed her foot on the brake. She snapped back to her senses only to find a body crash onto the hood of her car, falling off and landing on the ground with a groan.

 

“Shit!” she cursed under her breath. She quickly scrambled out of the car and went to the front. She examined the person head to toe before flipping over the squirmy body and finding-

 

Oh.

 

”Josie?” Landon choked out. Josie immediately stumbled away.

Out of all the people she could’ve - nearly - killed, it had to be Landon? What kinda sick joke was the universe playing on her?

 

”I,” she began, but a lump in her throat caused her to choke on her own words.

 

”I get that you’re mad at me, but killing me? That’s extreme,” he grunted, attempting to pull himself up, but only managing to prop his body on his elbows.

 

Josie took a step back. She watched her ex boyfriend, clearly in pain, rub his head.

 

”I’m sorry,” she spluttered out. “I-I can get you some help, or-“

 

”I’ll handle it.”

 

Every bone in Josie’s body went limp.

 

She slowly averted her attention to the poisonous voice on her left. Unsurprisingly, there she was, a low look on her face. She had two blankets slumped over her shoulder and a picnic basket in one hand.

 

Josie swallowed. So she and Landon were having a picnic, and she just hit him with her car.

 

She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named shared a small gaze with Josie before walking over and tapping Landon on his shoulder.

 

”You’ll be okay,” she whispered and stroked her hand through his hair.

 

Josie rolled her eyes. What was this, a Netflix rom-com? All she did was hit him with her car.

 

Crybaby.

 

Her breath became unsteady as she watched Hope lean down and caress Landon. Her stomach grew some sort of parasite that made her feel queasy.

 

”I’m sorry,” she croaked out. “I didn’t mean to hit you.”

 

Landon only grunted. Hope’s stroking stopped as she craned her neck around and looked at Josie.

 

Oh, shit.

 

She was as beautiful as ever, and she had that worried look on her face she always wore whenever Josie bursted into her room in tears.

 

It was the same look she wore right before Josie fainted at a school assembly and had to be dragged to the emergency room because she wouldn’t wake up for two hours.

 

She felt sick seeing that look be given to Landon.

 

Hope’s face softened. She no longer had that worried face anymore. Josie couldn’t even tell what face she was wearing.

 

Her palms became sweaty. She darted her eyes to the ground and closed them, breathing in and out slowly.

 

She needed to get back in her car before she completely broke down again.

 

But Josie couldn’t move. It was like her feet were planted in place. She tried taming her rapidly growing breaths, but her heart was too flimsy to control.

 

'One, two, three, four . . . five. One two, two, one, two . . .'

Even her brain lost control. She couldn’t even remember what second she was on.

 

Her breaths became out of control, uneven, and hitchy.

 

Josie turned around and leaned her weight on one hand that rested on the hood of her car. Shit, shit shit shit. The walls of her chest squeezed in, accompanying the heavy breaths and trapping them in her lungs. She choked.

 

First she tried to not breathe so loud, but now she was desperately trying to breathe, but her breaths stayed in her lungs.

 

Then a tear slid down her cheek. Josie plummeted further into panic. She pried her eyes open and saw the line of cars in front of her, waiting for her to move.

 

Shit. They were all waiting for her.


Josie shook her head, tears falling from her eyes. She couldn’t bear to look at them any longer, so she spun around and, well . . . that was a bad idea.

 

Hope stood in front of her, a hand raised as if she was going to place it on Josie’s shoulder. Josie stumbled back.

 

”Stay away!” she breathed out.

 

”Josie, it’s okay,” Hope said in a stern voice. “We need to get you off this road.” She reached her hand forward and only managed to brush it along Josie’s shoulder before the brunette slapped it away.

 

”Stay away!” she repeated.

 

Hope retracted her hand and let it drop to her side.

 

Josie didn’t realize it at first, but her neck began to sweat profusely. Her breaths slipped through her lips.

 

Then Landon stood up. He stretched his arms out and placed one on Hope’s shoulder. The auburn’s jaw clenched, but she kept her gaze on Josie.

 

”Baby, not now. She’s having a panic attack.”

Josie almost cried when Landon glanced over at her. He furrowed his brows, eyed her down, then huffed.

 

”Just calm down,” he said, as if he found it funny. It seemed like he did. He even glanced at Hope with a pregnant laugh before she pushed him away and stepped forward.

 

That was all it took for Josie to bolt off. She ran off the road, to the bathrooms, and slammed her body against the brick wall. She slid down, keeping a hand on her chest and panting heavily.

 

'One, two, three. One, two . . . Three.'

 

It was easier to do shorter breaths, but those didn’t help nearly as much as longer ones. She shut her eyes and kept her hands in her hair, attempting to count to five.

 

'One, two, three, four, five . . .'

 

Josie didn’t know how long she had been counting, but by the time she opened her eyes, the sun was nearly setting. She blinked and wiped away the tears that were stained to her skin.

 

It was beautiful. A combination of yellow, red, and orange; one of Josie’s favorite kind of sunset. But it was definitely not her top favorite. Still, she thought every sunset was beautiful and didn’t need to be compared to the others.

 

In the moment, she couldn’t wish for a different one.

 

Then she saw them - Hope and Landon.

 

One of Hope’s hands was caressing his curls, head on his, while he laid his head in her chest and rubbed his hands down her back.

 

Josie’s tears seemed to be endless. More streamed down her face as she watched the couple, going on with their date as if nothing had just happened.

 

She even saw Hope pick up a strawberry and feed it to Landon before giving him a chaste peck on the lips.

Her heart throbbed. She bit her bottom lip and forced her eyes away. Sobs burst through her lips, and she brought her knees up and hid her face in them.

 

She had to go back sometime soon and move her fucking car out of the way. Who knows how much traffic she caused?

 

Josie stopped thinking about that. As selfish as it was, she couldn’t afford to panic any further. Plus, she could still see cars drive past her.

 

Maybe someone pushed her car off the road with super strength powers.

 

”Josie, baby I’m here.”

 

Josie cracked her head up and sobbed in relief. Caroline was running towards her, adjusting the purse on her shoulder as she bent down and rubbed her hands down Josie’s arms.

 

”Mom,” she choked out. “I did something bad.”

 

Caroline shushed her and enveloped her into a hug, which she instantly returned. Her mom’s embrace was all she needed for her breaths to calm down.

 

She opened one eye and still saw the couple, laughing happily with each other. Her nails dug into Caroline’s blouse.

 

”Can we go home?” she rasped.


Caroline nodded in the hug and pulled away. She wiped a few tears from Josie’s face before pulling her to the parking lot and into her car.

 

The car was chilled with the AC. It blew right into her tear-drenched face and stung her.

 

“Stefan’s taking care of your car, don’t worry,” Caroline said, but Josie didn’t listen.

 

”Who called you here?”

 

It definitely wasn’t her - she left her phone in the car. And Lizzie clearly wasn’t around.

 

She turned her head to find Caroline gulping, her eyes set on the road but her attention on Josie.

 

”Hope.”

 

-

 

Josie shot up. Back then, she scoffed it off. But now . . . her point was awfully proven to be false; Hope didn’t ignore her.

 

Maybe she wasn’t that good at ignoring things, as Josie had originally thought.

 

”Knock knock.”

 

Josie looked up. Damon was there, a glass of bourbon in one hand and his other arm leaning against the doorframe.

 

Josie frowned. “Yes?”

 

Damon set down his arm and took a swig of the beverage, his face wrinkling as he set it by his side.

 

”May I come in?”

 

Josie frowned again. Why was Damon, a man who she only knew because apparently he was related to Stefan, and because he was married to her soccer coach, asking to come inside her room?

 

“Uh,” she blinked. “Okay?”

 

Damon smiled before walking in and standing in the middle of the room. Josie watched him awkwardly, sitting on the foot of her bed.

 

”Can I help you-“

 

”So I know we haven’t properly met,” he interrupted. He held out a hand. “I’m Damon. Stefan’s brother, your coach’s hot husband, whatever.”

 

Josie raised a brow and looked at his hand. She hesitantly shook it.

 

”Great,” she clicked her tongue. “You done now?”

 

“Meh,” Damon shrugged, his nose wrinkling. He took another swig of the bourbon. “It looks like you’re down in the dumps.”

 

Josie scoffed. “No kidding.”

 

Damon ignored her and continued. “And as your uncle . . .” He raised his glass and tilted it towards Josie. “I thought, why not help my niece out?”

 

Josie furrowed her brows. He wiggled his eyebrows.

 

”No thank you,” she mumbled. “My love life is kind of personal to me.”

 

”Ah!” Damon raised his brows. “You’re struck with that terrible lovesick condition?”

 

He seemed like he wanted to converse even more at the subject of love. Josie mentally slapped herself across the face.

 

”So what’s he like? Tall? Jock?”

 

”Actually,” Josie said before she could stop herself. “It’s a girl.”

 

Damon raised his brows, tilting his head to the side. “Oh,” he nodded. “A girl. I see.”

 

”What do you mean, you see?”

Damon shrugged. He placed his glass on the dresser. “They called me the lady killer.”

 

Josie gagged. “Lady killer?” she chuckled. “Seriously?”

 

”Hey.” Damon furrowed his brows. “You listen to me, you get your girl.”

 

Josie thought about Lizzie and her wing-woman plan, and how terrible that went.

 

Yeah, it was a safe idea to not let anymore people learn about her love life.

She shook her head. “I think I got this.”

 

Damon rolled his eyes. “Well why are you so grumpy about her?”

 

Josie glared at him. He wiggled his stupid eyebrows again. God, how could he be related to Stefan, a calm man?

 

“I just made a stupid mistake,” she huffed. “That’s all.”

 

”Go on. Share.”

 

Josie was about to shake her head again before he walked over and slumped next to her. The bed bounced as he sat down.

 

What the fuck.

 

”Okay, Damon,” she gritted out. “I am not your niece. You don’t get to come in and act like we’re family.”

 

Damon frowned dramatically. “In that case, is Stefan not your father figure?”

 

Josie’s jaw clenched up. She groaned. “Fine!” she seethed. “But if your relationship advice is bullshit, you are never allowed to talk to me.”

 

She stood up and walked over to her desk chair to sit down. Damon smelled like bourbon.

 

”Capisce,” he said.

 

Josie sighed. She fiddled with her fingers. There was no way she was going to tell Damon, a person she barely knew, about her embarrassing love life.

 

”I gifted her this necklace,” she said anyways.

 

Well. She couldn’t go back now.

Damon nodded. He reached across the room for his bourbon, but it was too far away. “Continue,” he urged with a grunt.

 

”I had written I love you on it, and she- uh . . .”

 

She couldn’t continue when Damon snapped his head to the side and gawked.

 

”Wow!” he chuckled. “Bold.”

 

Josie rolled her eyes.

 

Can this man just shut up for once?

 

She continued anyways. “And I don’t know if she saw it, or if she did . . . she ignored it. I just don’t know how to feel about it.”

 

Damon raises a brow. He jutted out his bottom lip and widened his eyes. “Hm.”

 

Josie scoffed. “Are you gonna give me the advice now?”

 

Damon held up his hands in defense. “Hold on, hold on!” he rolled his eyes. “I am thinking.”

 

Josie sighed and slumped back into her chair. Damon brought a hand to his face and tapped his chin. Then he stood up, drunk the rest of bourbon, and exhaled an “Ahhh.”

 

He placed the empty cup back on the dresser and sat back down on the bed, making it tremble under his weight.

 

”Do you know if she read it?”

 

Josie literally just said she didn’t.

 

”Yes,” she lied anyways for the sake of time.

 

”Hmm,” he hummed. “Maybe she wants to hear it from you.”

 

Josie cocked her head to the side. “What do you mean? She did hear it from me.”

 

Damon shook his head. “No, she read it. On a necklace.”

 

Josie pursed her lips. He was technically right. It wasn’t like she screamed those words to Hope. She didn’t think she’d ever have the guts to.

 

”What should I do, then?” she asked. Then she tilted her head to the side as she added, “Without actually saying it.”

 

Damon’s eyes narrowed as he thought. Then, to Josie’s surprise, he reached into his leather jacket and pulled out a whole bottle of bourbon.

 

She raised her brows, eyeing the bottle as Damon walked over back to the dresser, grabbed the glass, and poured some more. He sat back down on the bed and took a drink. He sighed.

 

“You can’t.”

 

Josie frowned. “What do you mean?”

 

Damon rubbed his eyebrow with the bottom of his palm. “What I just said!” he exclaimed, as if he speaking to a wall. “Though you aren’t related, you sure do have Stefan’s genes.”


Josie rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” She waved her hand in the air. “Just tell me.”

 

Damon took a deep breath, followed by another drink. “She wants you to say it. That’s my best bet.”

 

Josie ran her tongue along the inside of her cheek. “No,” she shook her head. “Not doing it.”

 

Damon huffed and looked up. “Guess you’re not gonna get anything out of that pendant.”

 

Josie’s eyes flew out of their sockets. “That was four hundred dollars!” she snarled. “And you’re telling me it was useless?”

 

Damon shrugged, completely not matching Josie’s energy. “Pretty much.”

 

Josie groaned. She rested her elbow on the table and scratched the palm of her thumb with her middle finger. “Your advice is shit, Damon,” she sighed.

 

Damon sputtered out a croak. “Only because you aren’t listening.” He took another drink, this time chugging the entire thing down. “Besides,” his face wrinkled up. “Who is this girl, anyways?”

 

Hope’s face popped up in Josie’s mind immediately. Her heart warmed so lovingly that she almost closed her eyes to bask in the feeling.

 

”Her name is Hope Mikaelson,” she swooned. Her eyes actually managed to flutter shut for only a second before she heard Damon spit out the drink.

 

She opened her eyes and saw the bourbon fly from his mouth and land all over her floor.

 

”Ew, gross!” she yelled, looking down at the bourbon on the hardwood floor and pushing herself back.

 

Damon wiped his mouth and stood up. “I didn’t hear anything.” He plugged his ears with his fingers and stumbled out of the room, his body hitting against the door frame on his way out.

 

Huh.

 

Josie stood up. She walked back to the bed, straightened down the crinkled spot where Damon was sitting, and grabbed her phone.

 

She almost spit out her non-existent drink, too, when she saw Hope’s contact name in her notifications.

 

She-Devil-Bitch-Snake

coming by to give u ur gift, be there soon

 

Her heart skipped a beat. She looked at the time only to find out it was sent at 8:54, which from now was ten minutes. And it only took ten minutes for her to drive-

 

“Jo! Hope’s here!”

 

It didn’t take long for Josie to run around the puddle of bourbon and dart down the stairs. She stopped at the front door.

Lizzie was standing at the door, but once she saw Josie, she stepped aside. Josie instantly slid over and leaned her body against an arm and that arm on the doorframe. She scratched her neck.

 

Heyyyyyyyyy,” she dragged on.

 

Hope, wearing a white winter coat that accentuated her figure, furrowed her brows with a smile.

 

”Where is Josie?” she teased.

 

Josie’s cheeks warmed. She brought her arm back down and stood normally. “Sorry,” she mumbled.

 

Hope only laughed softly. She pulled out a bag and fished her hand through it.

 

”Lizzie,” she said. “I got you this.”

 

Josie watched as Lizzie was handed a box. She squealed.

 

”I didn’t get you anything, but thank you!” she giggled and hopped away.

Hope rolled her eyes playfully. “I got these for your parents.” Hope handed a smaller bag to Josie.

 

”You didn’t have to get one for all of us,” Josie smiled. Hope shrugged.

”It’s the least I could do for their forgiveness.”

 

Then she gulped.

 

”But,” she laughed it off. “This is for you.”

 

She pulled out a bigger box, one that was wrapped in brown wrapping paper. Josie set the bag down on the floor to hold the box.

 

“Open it in private,” Hope whispered.

Josie sucked in a breath. She looked down at the box in her hands, neatly wrapped with twine holding it together.

 

”Okay.”

 

When she looked back to thank her, all she saw was Hope fiddling with her fingers tremendously.

 

”Actually,” she said, keeping her gaze on the floor. “Follow me. I have something else.”


Before Josie could say anything, Hope was already out the door and running down. Josie clutched the box close to her chest and followed, shutting the door after.

 

Hope stopped by her car in the driveway. She spun around.

 

”Okay, I actually don’t have anything, but-“ she cleared her throat. “I need to talk to you.”

 

Josie shuffled her feet against the pavement. “Oh.”

 

Hope stepped forward and began talking immediately. “I’ve hurt you horribly.”

 

Josie frowned. “Wh-“

 

”Let me talk,” Hope cut her off with a hand. Josie pursed her lips in and nodded. Hope took a deep breathe. “And it’s totally understandable if you never want to see me again.”

 

”Hope.” Josie’s heart prickled. “I don’t und-“

 

”Please, just-“

 

“No,” Josie stopped her. “Listen to me.”

 

Hope’s eyes darted across Josie’s face before she raised her chin and nodded.

 

Josie stepped forward and pushed the box to one arm to hold Hope’s hand in her other.

 

”I don’t want you apologizing anymore,” she whispered. “It’s over now.”

 

“But-“ Hope started. She tried pulling her hand away but Josie tightened her grip. Hope shut her eyes tight. “I should.”

 

Josie frowned. Months ago, she would’ve loved to hear that Hope was willing to apologize. But now . . . it was just too much.

 

”Why are you saying this?” she murmured.

 

She watched as Hope choked on her breath. She managed to pull herself together enough to inhale slowly and hold the air in her lungs. Then, with an exhale, she reached into her coat and pulled out the pendant and turned it around so Josie could see the words.

 

She nearly fainted.

 

Does this mean that Hope saw it?

 

Oh, fuck. If so, then that meant Hope did in fact ignore it.

 

Hope pursed her lips and laughed out a breath through her nose. “I just . . . wanted to make sure,” she mumbled, turning her attention to the ground. “Love is a pretty strong word.”

 

”It is,” Josie replied. She squeezed Hope’s hand hard enough to make the shorter girl look back up. Her eyes were wide as if she couldn’t believe her ears.

 

”It is,” Hope repeated, titling her head down.

 

Damon’s advice came jolting to the front of her mind. It screamed at her. So, so obnoxiously loud.

 

”I love you,” she choked.


The words slipped before her lips without a second thought. Josie quickly slapped a hand to her mouth.

 

She wanted to run away, but it was like her feet were planted in the ground. All she could do was look at Hope, completely shell-shocked, stare at her.

 

It only took a whole two minutes of mutual staring until Hope broke the silence.

 

”Let’s open that gift.”

 

Josie’s chest fell. She allowed Hope to take the box from her arm. Not like she had any energy to keep it in her grasp, anyway.

 

Hope set it down on the hood of her car and nodded for Josie to unwrap it. The brunette walked over with a forced smile (she wanted to cry like a baby) and slowly unwrapped it.

 

A wooden box came into view. Josie unlocked it and opened it. Before her were about two dozen envelopes, all laid before each other with their spines sticking up


Josie cocked a brow. “What’s this?”

 

”Read one.”

 

Josie took one envelope and folded the flap up. She pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it.

 

Her mouth read the words as she skimmed through. “Dear Josie,” she started, mocking an awful Hope voice. “I sincerely apologize for my -“

 

”Wait!” Hope interrupted. She slapped the letter out of Josie’s hand. “Not that one,” she chuckled nervously.

 

Josie frowned. She shrugged it off and picked up another envelope. “Dear Jo . . . I miss you so much. I had a nightmare where we were on a picnic and then I turned into a bear and ate you. It was so sc-“

 

”Nope!” Hope slapped that one away from her.

 

Josie groaned. She picked up yet another envelope. “Dear Jo. I’m sorry. I miss you so much and-“

 

”No-“

 

”Okay, Hope.” Josie rolled her eyes and smacked the paper against Hope’s face. “Why did you give me these if you don’t want me to read them? And what are they, anyways?”

 

Hope took the paper and pulled it down. She sucked in a breath. “They’re letters I wrote, or tried to.” She gave a breathy, dry laugh. “They’re just stupid apologies that I was too much of a coward to give you.”

 

Josie looked down at the letters. She skimmed a finger along the spines.

 

”Why are you giving me these?”

 

She glanced over at Hope for only a second, but caught her shutting her eyes.

 

”To show that I’ve always loved you,” she said.

 

Josie almost fainted. Again.

 

”I know you felt like I stopped caring for you in all those months, but that’s not true, I really blah blah blah . . .”

 

Josie stopped listening. All she could hear instead was I’ve always loved you ringing over and over again in her head.

 

”So I’ll see you next time?”

 

Josie snapped back to reality.

 

”H-huh?” she sputtered.

 

Hope laughed. “Goodnight, Josie. Merry Christmas.”

 

She watched miserably as Hope unlocked her car and sat inside. Josie took the box back into her arms and picked up the papers off the ground as she watched Hope slowly back out of the driveway and zoom away.

 

“I’m never wrong!”

 

Josie jumped and dropped the box. She looked up.

 

What. The. Fuck.

 

Damon was in her room, peeking his head out through the window. He clapped his hands.

 

”You did it, you-“

 

”Were you eavesdropping this whole time?”

 

Damon stopped his clapping. “I needed to see if my advice worked," he defended. 

 

Josie groaned. She took one of the papers, crumpled it up, and threw it right at Damon’s face.

Chapter Text

The following week was just as dull as Josie’s life. She did nothing except for get her nails done (a simple white coat) and watch a movie with MG. What made it even longer was the constant need to be around Hope. It was like everything she saw reminded her of the girl—the sky, the lake, and even a squirrel; due to the similar color of its fur.

 

But she figured since New Year’s Eve was today, she could maybe have a little bit of fun, even if it involved doing something illegal.

 

The farthest she was willing to go was drinking. Probably some cheap vodka. Maybe even that bourbon.

 

Speaking of bourbon, Jade hasn’t left Josie’s mind, either; just not in the same way as Hope. Instead she was overwhelmed with guilt.

 

Going out with a girl even though she knew damn well she was in love with someone else? That was so unlike her.

 

But she was just looking for the right time to end things. That was all. It wasn’t like they kissed or anything.

 

Once her smoothie was done blending, Josie whipped out a cup and poured it till it reached the brim of the glass, carrying it to her room with as much balance as she could maintain, and set it down at her desk.

 

Then she fished through her closet for a pair of black leggings and a white sports bra. She shimmied it on embarrassingly (it was a good thing no one saw) and walked to the middle of her room where her laptop laid.

 

She put on an ab workout and immediately dropped to the floor.

”Are you ready for your two week abs?” the lady behind the tiny screen said. Josie shook down her body and huffed.

 

”Mhm!” she replied to the lady. It was stupid how she was speaking to the woman behind the screen, but that was what Josie needed to do to make herself actually do the workout.

 

The music started, and the woman began stretching her body out. Josie crawled over to her keyboard and fumbled around to change the boring elevator music. She used a separate window to play The Cheetah Girls soundtrack.

 

”Phew!” she breathed, a determined smile on her face. She was ready to get her two week abs.

 

Josie instantly began the workout. Terribly.

 

”Oh, fuck,” she grunted. Her lower abdomen burned just after doing two sit ups quickly. While the lady continued the thirty seconds, Josie laid her back on the ground, hand on stomach, panting from the first five seconds.


“Ten second cooldown is over! Time for Russian twists!” the lady said excitedly.

 

Josie groaned. She forced herself up and began doing terribly slow and flimsy Russian twists.

 

“Today’s the day c’mon everyone! The party’s just begun! Come on!”

 

The Cheetah Girls soundtrack was beginning to scratch Josie’s ears. She crawled over and skipped the Russian twists portion of the workout.

 

”We’re almost a quarter there!” the lady cheered. “Now, get on your butt and follow my lead!”

 

Josie’s mouth dropped slack. The woman was doing some impossible bicycle workout, one that Josie was absolutely positive she couldn’t do.

 

She attempted it anyways. Again, doing it horribly.

 

”Chillin' out, break it down, that's the way we do it now . . . attitude in the groove, getting into something new . . .”

 

”Five second cool down and then we’re back on our backs!”

 

Josie slammed her hands down on the floor and snapped her head to the screen. Five seconds? Five? Seconds?

 

That’s it. Josie crawled over to her laptop and slammed it shut. She huffed. Useless workout. One would’ve thought that the hell of a sport named soccer would’ve helped to get her in shape. But to be fair, Coach Gilbert only made them run.

 

She decided to go downstairs and get a glass of nice, sharp cold water. The kale smoothie she just made didn’t sound very appetizing at the moment.

 

Once she turned around, her breath got caught in her lungs.

 

Hope was standing there, as beautiful as ever, though slightly winded? A type of emotion was flooding her face, one that wasn’t normal, though wasn’t necessary bad. She just looked a little shocked.

 

Her hand was gripping the doorknob and she was staring down at Josie, who was sprawled out on the floor, catching her breath and probably as red as a tomato. It was not a pretty sight to see.

 

Feeling too unpresentable, Josie quickly stood up and crossed her arms over her chest to walk over to Hope.

 

”Hi,” she smiled stiffly.

 

How long had Hope been there? Did she see Josie miserably fail at the workout? Oh no, what if she heard The Cheetah Girls soundtrack?

 

Josie gave an even weirder, creepy gritted smile.

 

”Um, bu-uh, hi?” Hope greeted, still looking at the laptop and Josie’s outfit. “I’m sorry, I think I interrupted something.”

 

”No!” Josie laughed. “No, no it’s fine. You didn’t interrupt anything.”

 

Hope pursed her lips in a smile. She took a small step forward to close the door. “So,” she breathed out, her eyes instantly setting down on Josie’s stomach once again. She inhaled a deep breath and looked back at Josie. “What were you up to?”

 

Two week abs! Woohoo!

 

No.

 

”I just needed to get a bit in shape. You know, the new year resolutions and all.” She gave a persuading nod to Hope, who was slowly narrowing her eyes as if she was trying to figure out a mystery. Josie cleared her throat. “I just want a toner stomach,” she admitted simply with a shrug.

 

Hope’s mouth opened slightly as she raised her brows. Her eyes fluttered repeatedly, as if she was trying to process the words but couldn’t quite get them out. Then she looked down again, and before Josie could say react, she felt long, soft fingers press gently against her stomach, their fingernails grazing along the small indents of her only toned parts.

 

Josie sucked in a breath, though it was quite hard to do so when her heart suddenly turned into a thunderstorm. She bit her lip to maintain a standing body.

 

“Your stomach is pretty toned to me,” Hope muttered ever so softly. Josie wasn’t even sure she could hear her.

 

If she wasn’t already freaking out, Josie was for sure about to faint right now. She quickly averted her gaze to the wall behind Hope. Hope’s fingers still scratched her stomach softly, sending fiery chills through Josie’s veins, leading to everywhere in her body.

 

Then when Hope finally removed her hand, Josie let out a small audible sigh.

 

”Um-” Hope cleared her throat. She chuckled the moment of, as if it was nothing in her book. But when Josie looked back at her face, she could see the red color creeping up to her cheeks. She smirked.

 

”So,” Hope interrupted Josie’s thoughts, “your sister wanted me to tell you about Jed’s party coming up.”

 

Josie frowned. “Why you?”

 

Hope only shrugged amusingly. “She said you would only go if I tell you.”

 

Hope’s voice held a teasing tone in it. Josie’s cheeks flushed. She mentally cursed Lizzie for even giving Hope the idea of her being ‘soooo head over heels’ over the girl.

 

Josie forced a chuckle through gritted teeth. “Haha, yeah.”

 

”So are you coming?”

 

Josie blinked. To what?

 

Oh, right. The party.

 

”I mean,” she started, instantly stopping herself. She thought for a moment. Her face etched with waver over the two choices—have fun at a party like the other teenagers her age were, or stay home and sleep with a stolen bottle of bourbon from Stefan’s alcohol cabinet.

 

The answer became crystal clear.

 

”When is it?” she asked. It was obviously a New Year’s party. Maybe there would be fireworks, and Josie would pretend to get scared so that Hope would drive her home, maybe even tuck her in bed. Or, if she’s really lucky, Hope would join her and give her warm cuddles and-

 

“Tonight.”

 

Josie felt the need to run out of her room from allowing herself to fall deep into those thoughts again. She’s wished for these kind of things with Landon, yet the boy never did them. Either it was because Landon was, well, Landon . . . or she just had shitty luck with love.

 

Perhaps it was the latter.

 

”Okay,” she sighed. “I’ll meet you there.”

 

Her voice sounded miserable. Hope seemed to pick up on her sudden shift in mood, because she quickly said,

 

”We could go together, if that’s okay?”

 

Josie immediately nodded. “Yes!” she said too quickly. “That sounds like a great idea. Mhm.”

 


 


They ended up getting changed into better attire for the occasion. Josie picked out a sheer black buttoned-up top over a black camisole with a plaid skirt while Hope wore a white puffed long sleeve and corresponding black jeans. They matched in some sense. Not really.

 

”I figure your sister is riding with MG?” Hope asked.

 

Josie nodded. “Don’t worry about them, they’ve got their own little thing going on.” She overdramatized the word, ‘thing,’ in hopes that Hope would pick up on their weird romance thing. She did.


“Well then,” she chuckled. “Let’s go.”

 

They rode in Hope’s emo car all the way to Jed’s house. Lineups of cars crowded the driveway, so Hope parked far from the rest—which was too far. They had to walk three blocks just to get to his house.

 

Even at the front steps, Josie could hear the boom of the music. She shared a small smile with Hope before opening the door.

 

To her surprise, a male body flew across the room and crashed into the wall next to her.

 

”Holy-“ Hope gasped next to her. They looked down at the poor rocket-boy, who was groaning on the ground. A few other boys came over to his aid and smiled at the girls reassuringly so that they’d leave him alone.


The party wasn’t a ruckus, or some stereotypical teenage crack headquarter. Josie was pleasantly surprised to find out that almost her entire class - including a few dozen students from other schools - was there.

 

The house was big. It was large enough to house almost two hundred students, yet small enough to keep the party discreet and hidden from the cops or any grouchy neighbors with their cellphones ready.

 

Hope gently nudged her shoulder. “I’m going to head to the bathroom real quick to fix my appearance. Be right back.”

 

Josie glanced over to find Hope already making her way over, her hand sliding down Josie’s wrist as she took off.

 

Something about her was off. It couldn’t have been the party, because even in the car, Hope was acting weird. She even forgot to push the gear and ended up backing up - pushing for full speed - instead of going forward.

 

”Wait!” Josie blurted. She did a light jog over and grabbed Hope’s arm. “I’ll come with you.”

 

Hope, who seemingly had her mind set on going alone, hesitated before turning around. She ended up only craning her head back to lock weak eye contact with brown eyes.

 

”No it’s okay,” she smiled. Her fake enthusiasm was barely strong enough to hide her nervous state. Josie could even see her bottom lip trembling before Hope tugged it between her teeth.

 

A film of dread washed over Josie. Was this her fault? Was the necklace beginning to feel like too much now that the high of the holidays was over? Oh, it was definitely bold of her to do so, according to Damon.

 

She panicked. “Are you sure?”

 

Hope’s lip slipped from her teeth as she quickly replied. “Yeah, yeah it’s all fine,” she assured.

 

Now Josie was definite that it was her fault.

 

”Hope,” she breathed out. Her brain went on autopilot as she searched for something to say (a skill she’d picked up on to maintain a good face whenever she got called on to answer a question) but everything went blank. “You sure?” she repeated.

 

Idiot.

 

Hope bit her bottom lip again and turned her head back so that Josie could only get a view of the back of her head. Then she raised her chin up and said, “You can come.”

 

A breath of relief slipped from Josie’s lips. She followed Hope around the sweaty, humid house all the way to one of the bathroom. She didn’t navigate it very well and they had to end up asking Jed where they were. Even through that, Hope didn’t dare to utter a word to Josie.

 

They barged into one of the bathrooms and locked the door behind to make sure no one would enter and start barfing. Hope laid her purse on the counter and fished through it for a makeup pouch.

 

Josie leaned her back against the door and watched Hope through the mirror in silence. She pulled out a tube of mascara, retracted out the wand, and began reapplying more over her already touched up lashes.

 

Josie frowned but didn’t say anything, only staring at Hope through the mirror. Her face held this state of concentration that sent a buzz down Josie’s body.

 

She swallowed thickly. If she stood silent this entire time and watched Hope, that would’ve been weird. “I wanted to ask you if you were okay.”

 

What the hell? Now she asked Hope for, what? Three times now?

 

Hope looked down and twisted the wand back into the tube. She tossed it back into the pouch.

 

”Actually I’m not,” she breathed out. She turned her gaze up just enough to lock eyes with Josie. They were large, blue (of course), and, if Josie was reading her right, scared.

 

There was a small knock at the door.

 

”Yoo-hoo! Anyone in there?” Ethan’s voice said from behind the door. Josie rolled her eyes and ignored it.

 

The brunette shuffled and tried hard not to ask the same question again. “What’s wrong?”

Hope blinked and sucked in a breath, keeping her eyes on Josie’s. “I don’t know, just . . . Stressed. Tired.” She glanced downward Josie’s face before quickly moving her eyes back up. “Confused.”

 

Josie died inside. Hope was looking at her lips, was she not?

 

No, she had to have been. There was no way her saying ‘confused’ meant nothing with the way her eyes moved down. Josie’s heart quickened, and before she could fall into another state of excitement, reality hit her.

 

That didn’t mean it was a good thing. Hope was clearly stressed. She even said it. That couldn’t mean anything good.

 

She shook her head discreetly and took a small step forward. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

 

“Hello? If anyone is in there, say Raf is awesome!” said a voice from behind the door. Both girls ignored it.

 

Hope frowned. “What?”

 

”I know it’s because of me. Look, if it was too much, we could always-“

 

Her words were cut off when the door suddenly slammed into her back and sent her tumbling forward towards the counter. Hope pulled herself to the side and held her arms up, shocked that Josie was literally thrown right next to her.

 

”How did you get in?” Hope fumed.

 

”Uh . . .” Rafael. “We picked the lock. You guys were taking too long.”

 

After a brief pause, he continued. “But it seems like you two were busy.”

 

“Actually, we were just leaving.”

 

Josie felt a hard tug at her arm before being yanked away from the counter. She made quick eye contact with Rafael and Ethan while Hope pulled her out of the bathroom, interlocking their hands together. She must’ve been doing it on accident, or impulse, or by nature.

 

”I wonder how they pick locks,” Hope mumbled. Josie knew she was only talking to ease the air, or to make her forget the conversation. But Josie already had her priorities straight - begging on her knees for Hope’s forgiveness.

 

”Wait.” Josie retracted her arm and stood still. “I wasn’t done talking with you yet.”

 

Hope spun around sharply. Her eyes laid on Josie for only a second before searching the room like she was trying to find a distraction. She ended up getting it not even five seconds later.

 

”Maya!” she beamed, instantly smiling and walking past Josie, their shoulders lightly brushing against each other and making Josie turn around to watch the interaction.

 

As expected, Maya was there, arms outstretched for a hug. Hope walked into them and gave a small smile to Penelope next to her.

 

Josie’s stomach crunched in pain. Hope was definitely avoiding her. Her eyes swam between the three girls, all interacting with each other, laughing, giggling, and not even sparing Josie a glance.

 

Suddenly Josie wasn’t in the mood for any kind of parties. She pursed her lips and slapped a hand down to her thigh and spun around on a heel, walking off in the direction of the backyard.

 

The sweaty bodies became more unbearable and the humid air became more humid-er. So when she broke into the new atmosphere outside, Josie couldn’t help but sigh in relief at the feel of the cool winter breeze.

 

“—cause you’ve been targeting me this entire night!”

 

”I’ve only been here for ten minutes. Get over yourself.”

 

Josie turned around. Lizzie was in the middle of a quarrel with . . . that Hannah girl in front of a ping-pong table. MG was the one setting up beer pong while the two girls sneered at each other.

 

Careful not to bother the fight, Josie walked behind the girls and made her way over to MG. She began installing the cups and setting up the beer pong game on the other side.

 

”So,” she clicked her tongue. MG looked up and instantly soured his face up in desperation.

 

”Help. Me,” he whispered, tilting his head in the direction of the girls.

 

”Your hair doesn’t match your eyebrows, anyways.”

 

”Yeah? Well I still look hot. What are you doing with those clad boots? Are you a lumberjack?” Lizzie retorted.

Hannah scoffed. “These are Doc Martens! How dare you insult them!”

 

Josie gritted her teeth. “Ooh,” she frowned. MG pouted and continued setting up the table miserably.

 

As much as she wanted to intrude, she knew she’d be absolutely roasted. It wouldn’t have been a surprise. Josie always sucked at arguing.

 

Still, she decided to set down the cups and walk over.

 

”Lizzie, Hannah, let’s calm-“

 

”My name is Alyssa,” Hannah snarled. Alyssa? I already told you this!”

 

“Right,” Josie nodded. She cleared her throat and took a small step back to avoid any chances of being mauled.

 

Alyssa glared at her before shooting Lizzie the look. “This bitch,” she spat. “Is driving me crazy.”

 

”You’re driving me crazier!” Lizzie argued, crossing her arms like a child. Josie mentally facepalmed.

 

She turned back around and went back to MG.

 

”Mind if I join?”

 

She didn’t actually want to play. Mostly because she wasn’t one to drink, and also because her chest was already weighed down enough from Hope not wanting to be around her. She could probably burst out sobbing if the smallest inconvenience happened.

 

MG flashed a toothy grin. “Oh, please do.”

 

Josie, still feeling her chest sour up more with each minute, smiled and walked to the other side.

 

MG was surprisingly a beast at the game. He managed to hit in three shots before Josie could even make one in.

 

The second she managed to score a shot was the moment everything finally felt normal. Her chest rose for a split second, her smile widened, and she almost walked over to pick up the cup and chug it down before she stopped herself. She was planning on staying sober tonight, even if it meant going through the stress of Hope; she couldn’t drink away her problems. Otherwise she might end up like her dad.

 

MG pretended not to notice and continued the game.

 

The game lasted for about twenty minutes. MG was a bit more loose, and Josie was completely normal. The cups on MG’s side were all full of beer, untouched.

 

Lizzie and Alyssa strayed away from them. Josie could remember the faint scratching sound of them deciding to go inside and punch each other, but she didn’t think much of it.

”Hey, do you mind if I go find Lizzie? I could also totally chill with you.”

 

Josie shook her head with a smile. “Go. I’m sure she’d want to see you beat the shit out of Alyssa anyways.”

 

MG furrowed his brows, gave a reluctant smile, then nodded and headed off.

 

Josie looked at the ping-pong table. She sighed.

 

She could’ve went days, months, years, and even decades without Hope a month ago, but being alone at a party made her feel even more miserable. And dull.

 

“Tap tap.”

 

Josie turned around.

 

”Oh,” she exhaled. Jade was standing in front of her, wearing a black pantsuit with a beret on top for some reason. It still made her look good, though.

 

”Oh?” Jade chuckled. “I figured you wouldn’t be so dead to see me.”

 

”Sorry,” Josie shook her head and forced out a laugh. “I’m just lagging a bit.” She walked over and gave Jade the most awkward hug she’s ever given. It was mutually uncomfortable enough for both girls to pull back.

 

Jade was basically a duplicate of Hope in a cheap way. Not that Jade was cheap, or bad, but it seemed like the universe went, ‘Oh! Sorry you couldn’t have Hope, here’s a girl who looks almost just like her!’

 

That was a terrible take. They didn’t even look alike.

 

”So did you come here alone?” Jade asked.

 

Josie shrugged, her shoulders slumping down pathetically. She practically did come alone due to the fact that Hope abandoned her. “Yeah,” she said.

 

Jade frowned. “If you want, you could hang out with me and my girls. I’m sure they’d be glad to have you join.”

 

Something sticky filled Josie’s stomach, accompanying her already weighed down heart. Jade was being so nice to her, and yet here she was, obsessing over Hope just because she didn’t want to talk to Josie?

 

”Are you sure?” she croaked out, wincing at how small her voice sounded.

 

Jade looked at her like she was crazy, but in an amusing way. “Of course,” she chuckled. “I really like you, Josie. I want you around.”

 

That was it. Josie couldn’t take it anymore.

 

She stared down at Jade’s big eyes, full of so much love and kindness. And oblivious to the fact that Josie couldn’t return those feelings. The walls of her chest closed it.

 

This was her chance to end thing once and for all. She needed to do it at some point rather than lead her on. It was the perfect time! All she had to do was-

 

“Thanks.”

 

Josie was taken aback at her own answer. She stared off into the distance, trying to recover why she just said that and not ‘I don’t think this is going anywhere.’

 

”Great,” Jade smiled. “So you coming or not?”

 

Josie was about to say no when two fingers tapped her shoulder the same way Jade did. Only now, Jade was in front of her rather than behind. Josie turned around.

 

Her chest tightened again. Hope somehow shimmied her way outside and found Josie. She seemed almost normal now, but still wore this look of confusion as she glanced between the two girls.

 

”Hope,” Josie sighed.

 

Hope’s brows curved down. “Um,” she shook her head, blinking abnormally slow. “I was just.” She glanced at Jade. “Wondering if you wanted to- you know what, never mind. It seems like you two are already doing something.”

 

The back of Josie’s neck heated up. The audacity of this girl; to come to Josie after leaving her alone not even thirty minutes ago?

 

Josie gave a fake sweet smile before turning to face Jade. “You have to introduce me to your friends. I’d love to get to know them.”

 

Jade nodded. “Love to. Come on.”

 

With a nod of her head, Jade guided Josie away from the backyard and into the sweaty, smelly and humid house. Josie’s fake smile would’ve already been gone by now (the house smelled like shit) if it weren’t for her catching a small glimpse of Hope’s obvious pained expression as she watched them walk away. A real, pridefully toxic smile overtook Josie’s face instead.

 

-

 

Jade’s friends were boring.

All they conversed about were soccer, social media (Josie wasn’t surprised due to Jade’s large follower count), and scrapbooking. Josie liked scrapbooking, but these girls made it sound like a weird mom activity.

 

To make things weirder, they all seemed to have the same amount of letters in their nick names - Bri, Liv, Mac, and, somehow, Jade.

She managed to survive through only fifteen minutes by smiling and nodding. Smile and nod, she told herself over and over again, even though she had no clue what they were talking about most of the time.

 

Once they all were a bit tipsy from their own vodka shots, they began making the conversation even worse by talking about very explicit sexual fantasies and edible dealership. Josie decided that was enough for her.

 

”Hey, I’m gonna go head to the bathroom. Be right back,” she told Jade. Jade, clumsily reaching into her purse for a small bag of edibles disguised by brownies, nodded.

 

Josie didn’t stay back to listen to her answer, instead running out of the house and back into the nice backyard. It was the only place in the party she figured she’d be able to survive in tonight.

 

With her hands digging into her arms as she crossed them over her chest awkwardly, Josie wandered around the backyard. Jed’s family seemed to be good exterior designers. The place was covered in stringed bulb lights and had a grand patio, steps leading down to the lower part of the backyard. Josie walked down and spotted the pool.

 

What caught her eye the most was the girl sitting at the edge of it, swishing the tips of her shoes around in the water.

 

Josie inhaled a breath. Lizzie was cat fighting with MG spectating, and Jade was a little occupied. Hope might just be her only choice  left to have fun.

 

She scurried past the clusters of teenagers and made her way over to the side of the pool. Hope glanced up.

 

”Josie.” She raised her brows, like she hadn’t been expecting to see her.

 

Josie didn’t say anything and instead sat down by Hope’s side. Her legs were longer, so her feet ended up plunging completely in the water while Hope outstretched hers so that they would only skid across the surface.

 

“Hi,” Josie whispered, keeping her eyes set on the water in front of her. It was reflecting the light of the bulb lights, making the water have small bubbles of yellow spread across.

 

Hope swished her feet around in the water gently. “I’m sorry.”

 

Suddenly all the anger from before was gone. Josie cursed herself for forgiving her that quick.

 

”Mm,” she hummed.

 

She felt the eyes of Hope stare into the side of her head for a brief second before Hope sighed and continued.

 

”If I knew I’d be acting weird tonight, I wouldn’t have dragged you along with me.”

 

”Lizzie would’ve made me come anyways,” Josie shrugged. That dragged a small chuckle out of Hope.

 

”Yeah, well,” she cleared her throat. “I just can’t stop . . . stressing about this thing.”

 

Josie tilted her head slightly and found Hope already looking at her.

 

”If talking about it helps, I’m all ears.”

 

Hope chuckled. She leaned forward and bumped Josie’s shoulder with her own.

 

”No it’s-“ She paused and changed her gaze down to Josie’s lap. “I don’t actually know what to talk about. It’s just constantly in the back of my head and begging me to come forward and analyze it.”

 

Josie pursed her lips inward. As much as she was desperate to know what Hope was talking about, she had to back off. All she could imagine was Hope stressing about the necklace situation, and by now she definitely knew Hope glanced at her lips. Either by accident or impulse.

 

Instead of talking, Josie placed her knuckles softly under Hope’s chin and tilted her head up so that Hope connected her eyes with Josie’s.

 

”Twenty minutes ‘till the New Year. Wanna get some topics off our chests before it ends?”

 

Hope perked up. “Yeah, definitely.”

 

”Okay,” Josie giggled. She kept her hand under Hope’s chin, but lifted her thumb to tickle the soft skin. “I’ll go first. Whenever we worked together at the concession stands and you took a bathroom break, I’d sneak in some of the money so we could get slushees afterwards.”

 

Hope’s mouth dropped open, but not enough, like she was being careful to not scare Josie’s knuckles away.

 

”You know Principal Lockwood scolded me for the decrease in profits, right?”

 

Oops. Josie frowned. “Um . . .”

 

Hope rolled her eyes with the slightest, terribly hidden smile and said, “My turn.” Her eyes locked on Josie. “I was actually the one who sent you guys the invite for the Christmas party. Not my dad.”

 

Josie’s bottom lip twitched into a small smile. “I knew it.” She raised a brow. It had only taken her an hour into the party to realize that Klaus’s surprised reaction to her entering wasn’t normal if he was the one who sent the invite.

 

Hope snorted. “Damn it.”

 

Josie slid her thumb along Hope’s chin again. “My turn.” The proper thing to do would’ve been to confess something from the past year, like how she was the one who broke Hope’s window with a snowball back in January. But Josie wanted to confess something, as in confess.

 

”I think,” she whispered. Hope flinched while she waited for Josie to continue. Josie just let her eyes wander around Hope’s perfect face, savoring every second she had to stare. “That you’re amazing.”

 

Hope smiled. Wide. She rolled her eyes as if that would make Josie’s statement less serious. It didn’t.

 

”I know,” she said sarcastically.

 

Josie didn’t waste a second before continuing. “And you’re beautiful. And smart. And everything about you makes me-“ She stopped herself before she could admit something stupid; like how she wanted to kiss Hope. So instead she said, “Love you more.”

 

Hope bit her bottom lip and furrowed her brows. Her breaths became heavier, and her chest visibly heaved up and down.

 

”This isn’t part of the game,” she barely managed to breathe out.

 

Josie ignored her and slid her hand away from Hope’s skin, dragging it along her jawline and resting it on her cheek, fingers gently brushing against her neck.

 

Hope didn’t break eye contact, so neither did Josie.

 

”I know,” she said simply. Her eyes moved down. Hope’s lips were covered in a thin film of gloss. They gently parted from each other and revealed the smallest crevice leading into Hope’s mouth, small and quick breaths exhaling through. They looked so inviting.

 

Then Josie lost control. Her heart continued her actions for her, and before she knew it, she was leaning in with her lips barely ghosting above Hope’s.

She caught the faint sound of Hope inhaling a sharp breath as soon as she pressed her lips against the auburn’s.

 

Hope’s lips were warm - or maybe it was just Josie’s chest that exploded. And soft. They were so, so soft even under the strawberry gloss she was wearing. Was it even strawberry? There was a tangy undertone to it, but it tasted like strawberry.

 

Hope’s lips parted open but didn’t move after. Josie didn’t even know if Hope was moving.

 

She didn’t think too much of it, because her body was already sending sparks everywhere inside of her. She tilted her head a little to the side to get a better taste, and that’s what made her entire head rattle.

 

Kissing Hope was much more enchanting than she could have ever imagined, but something was off. Josie slowly opened her eyes and immediately regretted it.

 

Hope barely had her eyes opened, her eyelids fluttering like she was trying hard not to let them close. And her lips weren’t moving; she wasn’t kissing back. Instead, she had a hand already on Josie’s chest.

 

How could she have not noticed before? Hope’s hand applied the smallest amount of pressure, trying to push her away.

 

Because Hope didn’t want this.

 

Josie’s chest plummeted all the way down.

 

She allowed her body to go limp for Hope to push her away. Her lips disconnected from the gloss with a small ‘pop,’ but Josie didn’t pay it much attention. All she could see, hear and even think of was Hope, in front of her, breathlessly opening her eyes.

 

Josie’s heart crunched. Hope’s eyes swam around her face before she mumbled, “No, we can’t. You’re drunk.”

 

What?

 

Josie wasn’t drunk. She never even took a sip of any kind of alcohol, let alone touched one.

 

”Hope.” She let go of Hope’s cheek and placed her palm flat against the cement right before the pool tile. “I don’t drink. And you know that.”

 

Hope looked down. “Oh, right.”

 

Something sour stirred up in Josie’s throat. It burned.

 

She’s fucked up. So bad. And now she was going to lose Hope again, just like she always said if she ever acted on her feelings. But now it was coming true. She acted on her feelings, and she got rejected.

 

”Wait, Josie.”

 

Even Hope’s voice sent Josie’s heart to crush even harder.

 

A ball slid up Josie’s throat. She swallowed it down before slipping her feet out of the water and stumbling to her feet. The wetness of her shoes almost made her slip over as she ran away from the pool, headed up the stairs, and ran back into the house.

 

She spotted Jed in the kitchen, pouring some sort of concoction in a big punch bowl. Josie ran over, slipping and almost falling to her face if he hadn’t caught her.

 

”Woah, Josay, slow down,” he chuckled, propping her back on her feet. Josie rolled her eyes and grabbed a cup from his hands. She dipped it in the bowl and brought it to her lips with no hesitation.

 

This wasn’t a good idea, but who was she kidding? If she didn’t find some release soon, she would absolutely break down.

 

”Josay, this drink is spiked with more vodka than usual. Are you sure-“

 

”Please just stop talking.”

 

Josie tilted the cup up reluctantly. She could smell the fruit punch right before it slid down the cup and burned her throat.

 

Her face soured, but she didn’t let herself stop. The liquid burned her throat more and more and she attempted to chug the whole thing down with every second having Hope haunt her mind.

 

She rejected her. She didn’t feel the same. She was disgusted enough to believe that Josie wasn’t in her right mind to kiss her.

 

Josie took a small break from drinking before bringing it back to her mouth and letting the liquid burn her again. She whimpered, but managed to finish the entire cup.

Impulsively, she reached forward to dip her cup in the bowl for more, but was stopped by two of Jed’s hands on her shoulders.

 

”Woah, calm down,” he said, eyes darting across her face. Josie whined and pushed him away. She scooped up more of the beverage into her cup, grabbed a BudLight bottle on the table and strutted off out of the kitchen.

 

There was a crowd of people dancing, grinding each other to the beat of Low by Flo Rida. Josie slammed the bottle of beer against the wall so that the cap pried off. She instantly took a swig.

 

It was nasty. Even worse than the vodka fruit punch. Josie’s face wrinkled in disgust.

 

She was an idiot. Hope clearly gave hints that the necklace was stressing her out, yet Josie had to go ahead and kiss her? Idiot, idiot, idiot.

 

Josie’s chest tightened again. The brim of the bottle rested beneath her lips. She tilted it up and chugged even more down, forcing herself not to gag at the burning, disgusting liquid.

 

She scanned the dance floor, looking for anything that could’ve distracted her.

 

She found Jade.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It took almost ten minutes and five shots of vodka along with the horrible beer for Josie to finally feel herself loosen up. Suddenly, dancing with Jade - or more like grinding their bodies together - didn't seem so bad.

 

"Wanna head somewhere more private?" Jade panted out. Her arms let go of Josie's waist to make room for snatching a red solo cup from an innocent passerby. The boy pouted and stomped off.

 

Josie wiped the film of sweat off her forehead with her shoulder. "Um, yeah. 'Kay."

 

Jade pretended not to hear the relucted tone in her voice. Or if she even did hear it. The girl had intoxicated herself with both alcohol and weed and was far more out of it than Josie.

 

Her eyes watched Jade as the girl took a chug of the concoction inside of the cup, threw it to the side, and pulled Josie away from the dance floor and through the humid, sweaty house.

 

Josie giggled. Her brain tickled.

 

What was she so worked up about? Hope was just a girl. There were far more better things in life than girls, like making out with one.

 

Her giggling quickly stopped when Jade grabbed both of her hands and slammed her back into the wall. Somehow, and for some reason, Jade brought them into the wide kitchen where they would be far too exposed to the other guests. Josie let out a muffled grunt. Then she giggled. Again.

 

"You're such lady-killer," she snorted, her eyes rolling to the back of her head unintentionally. Her arms squirmed helplessly under Jade's determined grasps.

 

Jade inhaled a breath through a wide mouth. Then her mouth got wider. Or was it getting closer? Oh. It was getting closer. Shit.

 

The last lucid part of Josie told her to not let Jade kiss her. Josie listened, quickly swerving her head to the side so that Jade's open mouth pressed roughly against her jawline.

 

It probably would've been better if Josie didn't make out with Jade at all, considering she couldn't even get herself to do a simple kiss, but Josie didn't even know what was going on with her choices lately.

 

Jade took her jaw like it was no big deal. Her lips closed in, teeth jabbing and tongue swiping.

 

Physically, Jade's mouth did feel good. Emotionally . . . Josie felt nothing but a small tickle.

 

Her eyes racked around for entertainment. To her left stood Jed, in the same spot as before. Only now, the liquid in the punch bowl was tipping over the edge. Josie cackled. She remembered the good old days when she dipped her cup in there because she kissed her best friend and got rejected. Ah, it still felt like it happened thirty minutes ago.

 

Silly Josie.

 

She swung her head to her right.

 

Then she gasped.

 

Not because Jade decided to move her lips down Josie's neck, but because in front of her (or more like fifty feet away) stood Hope, arms crossed, feet planted in the doorframe.

 

All of a sudden, Josie gained more interest in Jade's mouth. She managed to untangle her hands from Jade's grip to tangle them in her hair, pulling her head inward. All the while, she made sure Hope was looking.

 

Josie wasn't being very subtle. Hope was going to stare nontheless, but it was weird how Josie was staring right back.

 

Hope's eyes narrowed. Her bottom lip was being pulled mercilessly by her teeth.

 

Josie inspected her body language. Hope's hands dangled loosely in her arms. Josie wanted more.

 

So she let out a loud, dramatic, obscene moan, loud enough for the entire party to hear.

 

Hope's eyes shot open.

 

A lot like the mess they'd made at Landon's locker that one night, Josie's action sprayed a loud mess on Hope. Hope didn't bother hiding her fury while she stormed over to the two, arms abandoning their twist and falling down to Hope's sides. They bounced against her thighs with each thunderous step Hope took.

 

Josie was pleased. It felt nice to poke at Hope's anger. In fact, it felt so nice, Josie decided to do it again.

 

She took Jade moving to the other side of her neck as an opportunity to pour out an over-exaggerated gasp, adding in a few pants for extra effect.

 

Hope's anger extinguished, replacing itself with a different kind of emotion that Josie was too out of it to analyze. Well, she wasn't happy, nor feared, and definitely not disgusted like she should've been. If anything, she seemed more wretched, much like how Josie felt the moment she saw Hope's hand on her chest for the purpose of pushing her away.

 

Her heart stung horribly.

 

Josie whimpered. She tried to let out another moan to make the memory go away, but all it did was bring Hope closer. The auburn grabbed Jade's earlobe and pulled her back. The faint, wet sound of tongue leaving Josie's neck made Josie shiver.

 

Josie's gaze connected with Hope's. She could see her glossy eyes shimmering above blue, much different than Jade's dilated pupils surrounded by red. Hope's grip on Jade's earlobe was weak. The girl managed to shimmy away like it took no effort.

 

"Ah bup bup!"  Hope regained her fire and grabbed Jade's ear to yank her back again, keeping her in a hold that had Josie blinking funnily at.

 

"Come on, do you have to ruin everything?" Jade slurred out in a groan. She swiped at the air.

 

Hope gripped her tighter. Even while drunk, Josie could tell that Hope was projecting her emotions on Jade. It was obvious by the way her fingers pushed down so hard to the point where they turned white. And Jade's ear turned red, but Josie didn't pay much attention to that.

 

"Yeah!" she laughed dryly. "All I've done tonight is ruin things, and I'm not going to stop until you lay off my friend."

 

Jade rolled her eyes and emitted the loudest, most dragged out groan Josie's ever heard. Josie snorted.

 

"She was the one who came to me!" Jade argued.

 

Hope grip loosened in the slightest way. Her eyes twitched from open to closed, open to closed, over and over again.

 

"No, she didn't," she denied, her voice leaking with desperation, like she was hoping Jade was kidding.

 

Josie frowned. "Ya-huh!"

 

She expected her childish retort to have a futile effect, but it somehow managed to dig deep into Hope's chest. Her wretched face filled with sadness.

 

"No," she repeated. Her eyes glanced back at Josie. "You didn't."

 

Josie sneered. Of course she did. She just said it!

 

She decided to shut up and let Hope believe what she wanted. Even though it wasn't fair.

 

"Let go of her," she grumbled out, not even sure if her words came out the way she wanted them to.

 

Hope looked at her like she was crazy. "No." Jade yelped as Hope tugged her closer. "You wouldn't go off kissing a random girl if you were sober."

 

"So?" Josie challenged. She stepped forward only to stumble back. Her head thudded against the wall. "It's nunya!"

 

Hope threw her free hand up in disbelief. "It so is my ya," she scoffed.

 

She was avoiding the subject of Josie kissing her. It was almost like she was embarrassed by it, or ashamed, or just disgusted. Her gut told her not to mention it.

 

Well, if she even had one at the moment.

 

"Why didn't you care, this much, why didn't you- care." Hope raised a brow at Josie's fumble of words. Josie took a deep breath and continued. "When I kissed you!" she yelled at last.

 

Hope stilled. Her body stood still like a doll, unable to produce any answer or emotion.

 

Meanwhile, Jade gasped like she was in a horror movie.

 

"What?" she fumed. Her hand raised, a trembling finger pointing straight at Josie. "You-you motherfucker!"

 

Josie frowned. This wasn't the way she was expecting to break up with Jade, but it was already set up with her, so why try to stop it?

 

She watched as Jade arched her head back aggressively to free herself from Hope's hold.

 

And with a few trips over her feet and frustrated grunts, Jade was gone.

 

The air became impossibly thicker. Josie felt like she couldn't breathe. But Hope, on the other hand, didn't look like she was breathing at all. Her eyes were on Josie but her attention was allured away, making her stare at Josie mindlessly.

 

Josie actually thought she did a good job at making Hope react to the kiss. But it wasn't a good feeling, if anything, she only felt even worse than she did before the alcohol.

 

The kitchen blurred in her vision. She blinked, doing nothing but making the kitchen grow black.

 

So this was when Josie died.

 

She sighed in acceptance. Her body slumped to the floor, her arms stretched out, and her mouth opened.

 

It didn't occur to Josie that she was just blinking. None of that mattered in the end though, because Josie did end up fainting right then and there.

 

Ten,

 

Nine,

 

Eight,

 

Seven,

 

Six,

 

Five . . .

 


 

Hope purposely boiled herself with a hot shower. She planned on taking one for an hour to cleanse her mind, but all she could think about were Josie's words and the kiss. The shower lasted ten minutes.

 

She tried denying it. What if Josie actually was drunk before kissing her? What if she was bumped? There were a hundred reasons Hope could believe, yet the one she couldn't wrap her mind around was the fact that Josie did kiss her with all her intention.

 

Her hands clenched around the hem of her sweater.

 

Thoughts intruded her brain - Josie's soft, delicate lips that tasted like lemon; her hand that rested before Hope's cheek; the way her lips moved gently, like she was being careful not to hurt Hope (though it would've been hard for Josie to hurt her through a kiss, but the intention still remained). The feeling only made the fire in her chest grow.

 

That stupid fire ruined her night. All it did was concern Josie.

 

With feeling the fire a while ago - having it grow over time; more and more powerful each day to the point where Hope was beginning to think it wasn't just a flame or a spark - Hope grew frustrated that she never considered thinking about it. And now, here she was, all the pressure building up and overpowering her.

 

She could still see Josie's eyes pervade her vision even though no one was in her room but Hope. Her brown eyes turned from their usual dance and beam of light to a dead, wary look that almost made her unrecognizable. And it was even worse to know that Hope was the one who caused it.

 

You did this. You've filled this life with nothing but dread.

 

First it was leaving Josie, and now it was rejecting Josie? And for what, for the fear that the unresolved question stuck in the back of her head wasn't just a silly thought?

 

Hope slumped over to her bed and sat down with the intention of sleeping everything off. Despite having the clock strike midnight an hour ago, fireworks were still going off outside of her window.

 

She sat above her covers. Sat. She didn't lay down. Her hand reached blindly behind her to dig under her pillow and pull out a small wooden box. It was kept closed with a small dial that wasn't too flimsy, but it was weak enough to break if she applied enough force.

 

Her fingers fiddled with the jewelry box. A gust of guilt flooded the pit of Hope's stomach, so powerful to the point where she begun to feel her upper thighs squeeze.

 

Inside of that small, seemingly meaningless box laid the pendant that Josie gifted her. Don't ask why she kept it under her pillow (just a simple sleep aid).

 

Instead of opening it, - crying wasn't on her to-do list tonight - Hope placed it in her lap and turned on her phone. She pressed on Josie's contact, took a deep breath, and listened to the sound of it ringing.

 

A good moment of waiting passed before her voicemail scared the shit out of Hope.

 

"It's Josie! If you're receiving this message, it means I did not pick up!"

 

Hope smiled. Josie was always so prominent in making sure everyone understood her clearly.

 

Josie's voice went on. "Please leave me a message, call again, or don't! Whatever suits you. Thank you, buh-bye."

 

Hope's stomach twisted. She clicked on Josie's contact again and waited.

 

"It's Josie! If you're-"

 

Hope ended the call and started over.

 

"It's-"

 

And again.

 

"It's Josie! If you're rec-"

 

Out of pure frustration, Hope threw her phone down and slammed it against the ground.

 

Josie was avoiding her. And it was all Hope's fault. Josie was avoiding Hope because Hope made her feel like shit.

 

A thought slapped Hope in the face. Either that, or Josie was . . . busy with something.

 

Jade?

 

"No," Hope laughed aloud. That was impossible.

 

Images of Josie and Jade making out intruded through Hope's mind. She tried fending them off by blinking roughly, but none of that worked. All it did was dim the lights over her eyes for the images to become more vivid. She could still see the way Josie's breaths left her lips when Jade slammed her disgustingly open mouth to her skin.

 

Suddenly Hope felt like crying.

 

She shot her eyes open and tumbled out of bed to reach for her phone. She rung Josie up again.

 

"It's Jo-"

 

And again.

 

"It's-"

 

Hope didn't even let the next voicemail make an appearance the third time. What she didn't even expect from herself was the anguish scream that rumbled out of her mouth. She quickly slapped a hand over her lips.

 

She whimpered. Desperation flooded her senses. She rung Josie again, and again, and again. Josie didn't answer. Hope gave up, but not entirely. She punched the keyboard with trembling fingers.

 

jois e please pic k up

 

She bit her thumb and waited.

 

jois e please pic k up

Message failed to deliver

 

Hope blinked. She leaned her back against the edge of her bed and took a deep breath. A tear rolled down her cheek. She didn't even notice how many unshed tears housed themselves under her eyes.

 

The implication from that tiny, red message was even worse than the countless voicemails, because it confirmed that Josie had blocked her.

 


 

Weighted silence kept Josie company. The day went on as per usual, but for the entire time she couldn't help but feel anxious. Her legs would not stop trembling, and her mind would not give up with the false reassurance.

 

Hope's probably forgot about it by now.

 

It's not a big deal.

 

But both Josie and Hope knew it was a big deal. She would keep her palms together, prayer-like, squeezing the guts out of them as she laid them before her lips. She's messed up bad.

 

And now she had a hickey bulging off her neck to remind her of that. And a horrible hangover that morning.

 

It was a surprise that Hope brought Josie to Lizzie and told her to take her home before Josie did anything stupid while intoxicated. It was a nice gesture. But Josie wished Hope had taken her home herself.

 

She didn't eat, or leave her room, or talk to anyone. Lizzie tried making her feel better by bringing MG and his cat over, but Josie couldn't bring herself to crack the slightest smile. Tears haven't shed from her eyes yet, but the heavy, thick and sour feeling in her chest was much worse.

 

Her room probably became ten times more thick from how long she's spent time in there. And her bed was warm under her body.

 

Josie needed more release.

 

She got up from her bed and shimmied on a black pea coat over her soccer t-shirt and shorts. Lizzie and MG were downstairs having a movie night. Josie would've participated if it weren't for the fact that she felt like she was dead.

 

She wearily slumped down the stairs and made her way to the front door, ignoring the random cat that brushed its tail against her leg.

 

"Where are you headed, Jo?" Lizzie asked.

 

"The park." She didn't bother giving more details.

 

The air was much more cooler outside. It brushed softly against her bare legs in a sense that relieved Josie. She took her car and drove to the park, not even caring that she didn't have a bottle of pepper spray or a taser. Sure, going out at eight in the evening with the sky pitch black was terrifyingly dangerous, but Josie didn't give a shit.

 

Jade found out about the kiss and probably hates her guts by now. And Hope . . . Josie didn't want to know what Hope thought. She even blocked her just in case.

 

Josie was a mess.

 

She parked her car in front of a flimsy tree that looked like it was on the brink of dying, with its skinny leafless twigs and pole-like trunk. She hugged herself and walked down the trail to the pond.

 

Josie didn't sit down once she reached the edge of the dock. She just stared at the annoyingly peaceful water. It was mocking her. Even the non-living things were having a better time than she was.

 

Josie took off her pea coat and folded it, allowing the cold, sharp air to sting her skin and make her brain spark a little life into it. Using her shitty cold intolerance for the purpose of relief seemed like the smartest thing she'd done the entire weekend, but it was still one of the many dumb things she'd done.

 

It only took about ten minutes until Josie got cold. Ten? It felt much shorter, but Josie could see the moon rise a little higher, indicating that she's been there longer than she thought. She put the coat back on.

 

And because the universe hates Josie, a sudden voice startled every bone inside her body.

 

"Why did you block me?"

 

It sounded crooked, broken, and forced, like whoever was saying it had a hard time producing a sound. Josie knew exactly who that belonged to.

 

That didn't matter for five seconds, because Josie plummeted herself straight into the water as a form of protection. Bad idea. It was cold. So cold. Her expensive coat was now ruined, and Hope had gotten a free chance to present herself as more intimidating.

 

"Oh fuck," she sucked in. Her eyes shut as she tried regaining her senses back, but the freezing temperature of the water had her keeping her hands up above the surface, spine in a straight line so that she looked like an idiot.

 

"Answer me," Hope pleaded, desperation slipping through her voice. Josie knew Hope was probably confused as to why she literally just jumped into the freezing cold pond at eight in the evening, but it seemed as though she already had her priorities set on asking Josie something else.

 

Josie was totally not prepared for this interaction. How did Hope even find her? Was she stalking her? Josie did block her on everything she could think of. But-

 

Lizzie and MG.

 

Of course.

 

She exhaled a shaky breath through an open mouth. "Sorry," was all she could say.

 

Damn it. Has water always been this cold?

 

Josie forced herself to pry her eyes open, though her chattering teeth made it seem impossible. She managed to shoot them open only to find Hope, standing perfectly dry on the dock, glaring down at Josie with tears slipping from her eyes with each quick blink she took. She looked angry.

 

Suddenly everything in Josie came back to life. Her heart raised. Her body warmed (though not warm enough to stop her from shivering, but close). It was a stupid effect that Hope always had on Josie throughout their years of friendship. Hope always found a way to keep her grounded, and happy, going against all the odds in their relationship at that very moment.

 

Hope gawked at her like she was waiting for Josie to say something.

 

Do something.

 

Josie took a few long steps back, each step furthering her from Hope and making the girl's disappointed expression grow.

 

"I-I'm sorry," Josie said with an obviously forced smile.

 

She saw Hope's throat bob.

 

What did Hope want? For Josie to beg for forgiveness? For her to will Hope to forget about the ki-

 

"I said," she gritted out, "why did you block me?"

 

Oh, right. That.

 

"Um," she exhaled. Hope glaring at her didn't help. "I, um. I didn't."

 

Chicken.

 

Hope scoffed. "Bullshit," she seethed. "If you're just going to pretend like this wasn't anything, then you shouldn't have kissed me in the first-" Her words choked off. "God damn place!"

 

Josie's head spun. Her chest boiled.

 

Her hands shot down in the water to tangle with each other. She dug her nails into the palm of one hand.

 

"I don't owe you anything," she said simply. The water was suddenly feeling a lot warmer than before. Josie's body was heating up. She wanted to poke. Something inside her begged her to stir something up in Hope. It was toxic. Josie didn't care.

 

"You're overreacting," she decided to say.

 

To her pleasure, Hope absolutely exploded from those words.

 

"Overreacting?" she huffed. "Okay- you know what?'"

 

Josie's eyes swam down her body, where Hope's hands were beginning to uncover her body under her sweater. She threw the piece of fabric behind her.

 

Each action made Josie's cheeks flush. She forced herself to keep her eyes on Hope's face and not whatever was going on below that.

 

Hope continued taking off her clothes as she continued. "If you're not going to answer me, I'm going to make you."

 

Josie didn't know what to say. Before she knew it, Hope had stripped herself to only her undergarments and began waddling into the water. Her face winced when she dipped her body in the cold water, but she quickly focused back on raging forward. Josie would've found that impressive if she wasn't fearing for her life at that moment.

 

Josie took more steps back, her body sinking lower under the water, now dipping the ends of her hair in. Hope pulled herself forward through the water like it was Jell-O.

 

They repeated the dance. Step back, faster waddling. By now, Josie had the water only an inch under her collarbone, and Hope stood almost a meter away, not moving forward.

 

Josie laughed dryly. "That's all you're willing to go?" she challenged. She regretted the words as soon as they came out. Why was she trying to snark at Hope? She didn't even want that scary, short she-devil coming any closer.

 

Hope sneered. She took a step forward and her whole body plunged under the water. Josie swallowed thickly.

 

Did Hope just sink?

 

Her question was answered: nope. She felt a pair of hands slash at her body, grabbing her shoulders and pulling her forward. Legs wrapped around Josie's waist. And those arms hugged her neck tightly. Water splashed everywhere.

 

Josie let out a weird, embarrassing gasp in surprise. In front of her came Hope's head, flying out the water, hair in front of her face. She gasped for breath.

 

"Josie," she breathed out, her arms desperately pressing her body against Josie, almost making the brunette fall backwards. "G-Go back to the dock."

 

Josie had to laugh. Hope looked silly, holding on to Josie for dear life while also being presumably mad.

 

Her chest loosened. "What do you mean?" she snorted. "Are you," she gasped, "are you drowning?"

 

Hope's eyes shot open. Josie looked up and- bad idea.

 

The view made her question if she was in a romantic movie scene. Hope had her arms hugging Josie's neck, making her slightly taller with how her legs wrapped around Josie. She looked down at Josie with blue, shimmery eyes that were slightly red from crying.

 

"I am not drowning!" she yelled.

 

Something teasing built up in Josie's chest. She bit her bottom lips to stop a smirk from forming as she dipped her body lower.

 

Hope yelped and slid up Josie's body before her top could dip into the water.

 

"Josie!" she hissed. "I swear to God, if you-"

 

"If I what?" Josie questioned calmly. She leaned her body back, making Hope's face dip into the water. She crawled further up Josie's body and groaned.

 

"Okay, okay!" she spat. "I'll be nice to you if you don't let us drown! Please!"

 

Josie didn't think the offer was fair. Hope wasn't going to drown. The water wasn't even deep. Plus, didn't Hope know how to swim? Or did she-

 

Oh. Hope didn't know how to swim. How could Josie forget the times when Hope would miss out on lake football during summer camp?

 

Hope shook Josie's head. Josie didn't even realize she was still leaning back.

 

"Josie!" she yelled.

 

Josie sighed. She gave Hope a sarcastic pout as she carried her back to where the water was more shallow. She didn't want Hope to have full advantage, so she went as far as she could so that the water only ended under Hope's collarbone.

 

Hope took a few seconds to collect herself before jumping off Josie's body and clearing her throat. An obvious blush spread across her face.

 

"Thanks," she muttered under her breath.

 

Josie smiled. A genuine smile. For the first time today.

 

The happy feeling quickly dropped when she remembered why they were here in the first place. She gulped and watched Hope ready up her next words. Her face swam with different expressions, like she was having trouble calming herself down.

 

Josie decided to break the heavy silence. "I'm sorry," she said for the third time that day. "If I had known that kissing you would-"

 

"Why did you kiss me?" Hope blurted. Her eyes instantly connected with Josie's.

 

She could see the painful, desperate glint in Hope's eyes, like she was hoping Josie would say the exact thing she was looking for.

 

"Uh . . ."

 

Hope raised her brows and swallowed.

 

"Well-" Josie stopped herself. If she told Hope the truth, things would never be the same. It didn't matter which answer she gave - if she meant the kiss or didn't - because a thing like this could never be normal.

 

Her brain searched for an answer. "I was drunk," she lied. "I was drunk when I kissed you. I'm sorry."

 

Hope's face fell. She looked disheartened, like the answer she'd been hoping for was the only thing she could accept hearing.

 

"Knew it," she choked out. She nodded down, her eyes beaming at Josie's neck. "I was just another one of your drunk encounters, right?" she chuckled dryly.

 

Josie realized she was staring at the hickey. She quickly slammed a hand against the skin, covering it with no use. Hope already saw it.

 

Neither of them said anything. Josie stared at Hope while Hope stared down at the water. Hope hugged her arms, rubbing the bare skin. She looked colder than Josie since she wasn't wearing anything except for her undergarments.

 

And then Josie saw it -  a single tear sliding down Hope's cheek and dropping in the water with a small plop.

 

Guilt ate her insides. "Wait."

 

Hope looked up.

 

Josie inhaled a deep breath through her nose. "I," she swallowed. "I didn't . . . kiss Jade."

 

The confession made Hope flinch. She furrowed her brows. Then she stepped closer.

 

"Why did you kiss me?" she asked in a voice so soft and vulnerable that Josie couldn't entirely tell it came from her.

 

Well. It was now or never.

 

"Because I like you," she squeezed out in a pitchy breath. Her eyes shut, regret instantly flooding her brain.

 

Did she just say that? Was this a dream? Oh, God. Hope wasn't talking. She wasn't talking.

 

Josie shut her eyes tighter as if that would make her disappear.

 

A gentle swish of the water made her freeze. It gave her enough courage to open her eyes.

 

Then she saw it - that smile. The one Hope wore when she was both flattered and cocky. But this time it was warm.

 

A breath slipped through Josie's lips when Hope took another step forward so that their bodies almost brushed against each other. She sucked in a cold breath.

 

If she wasn't practically an ice cube already, Josie was now. She just watched. Observed, as Hope took a deep breath, her eyes moving all over Josie's face. She looked as if she was thinking very intently, like she was trying to solve a life's worth of unsolved crimes by herself.

 

Her face sparked with realization.

 

Then her arm moved. It slid up, pushed forward, and wrapped itself around Josie's neck.

 

Josie felt like her knees became jelly. She's only dated a squat number of people, but Josie knew far too well where this was leading.

 

Hope leaned forward. Josie let her.

 

Then, alike a matchstick striking along its box, Josie felt her chest immediately produce a flame the moment she felt Hope’s soft lips press against her own.

 

At first the kiss was slow and gentle, but both of them could feel the hunger in each other. Hope took a lot of pleasure in Josie's bottom lip, keeping more of her weight there for a few seconds before sliding her lips up and using her other hand to rest on Josie's shoulder.

 

She could taste Hope's actual lips along with small droplets of water, with no lip gloss underneath. She wore a gentle strawberry flavor, making Josie melt even harder into her touch.

 

Her hands reached for Hope's shoulders, holding them with a delicate squeeze.

 

She could feel the burning passion build inside of Hope. Josie was euphoric. Hope's constant smile infected Josie, unconsciously making her lips curl upward.

 

Having already kissed Hope, even if it wasn't technically 'real,' Josie's reaction to the second kiss was great, but not as powerful as Hope, who seemed to be as greedy as ever. She let go of Josie for the purpose of hungrily removing the drenched pea coat off of her to reveal the t-shirt. They both let the thick, waterlogged coat fall down in the water.

 

Hope ran her hands all over Josie's body, trying to feel every inch she could in a sense that had Josie not recognizing her at all. She ended up feeding her desires by kissing Josie harder and pushing her down into the water. They plunged under the surface. Josie slipped in a quick breath.

 

Under the water was like a completely different world. Sounds were muffled. It was cold, though warm at the same time.

 

Hope's lips continued moving quickly against Josie's, their bodies brushing together from the slow fall.

 

Curiosity sparked inside of Josie. She forced herself to open her eyes. Everything beautiful, ever, was what she was feeling at that moment the second she laid eyes upon Hope's closed eyes with little bubbles of air resting delicately on top of her eyelashes. Everything was blurry in her vision except Hope.

 

Then, sensing Josie's sudden shift in behavior, Hope opened her eyes slowly. They locked with brown. Josie's heart thundered.

 

They shared a look that felt so personal, Josie couldn't believe it belonged to the two of them.

 

Then Josie's breath caught in her lungs. She kicked her feet against the rocks underneath her, hugged Hope to her body, and propelled them back above the surface.

 

She gasped for breath. Small pants escaped her mouth, a little for air, but mostly from the adrenaline.

 

Looking down at Hope felt too good to be real. Her figure was ethereal with her messy wet air, shimmering skin, and water droplets resting against her face.

 

"Were you drunk when you kissed me?" Hope suddenly said, her words barely managing to get out. It didn't sound like she cared at all for the answer, like she already knew, but decided to ask anyways.

 

Josie was amused. "No," she mouthed with a shake of her head.

 

They both broke out into a soft laugh. Josie stared at the small little crevices at the corner of Hope's lips, then at her narrowing eyes, then at the little curve down the middle of her top lip.

 

Hope's smile grew giddier. She grabbed Josie's cheeks, slid her thumbs down them for a brief second, and pulled her down for another kiss.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Mikaelsons never took news leniently.

 

But how could one explain why they were out at nine in the evening, coming home with soaking wet hair and a red-tipped nose?

 

Klaus noticed it first. Hope had only managed to squeeze her body through the small crack of the door, not opening it too far to prevent the hinges from screaming, before her whole body jumped at the sound of her father's thundering voice.

 

"Where have you been?" he asked calmly, his volume not having the same effect as it should've. Or maybe it did - maybe her father meant to come off as intimidating. Hope could never really tell anymore.

 

She shut her eyes tight and closed the door. Klaus made a disgruntled sound in a suspicious, conflicted way, like he was trying to read his daughter who looked like she might as well have taken a shower in broad moonlight.

 

Then, Hope replied with, "Running," in a simple voice.

 

Klaus wasn't convinced. He tried to speak before Hope stopped him abruptly by pushing past him and heading towards the staircase in a run. His words dropped when Hope mounted the stairs, need for a conversation gone once she turned the corner in the hallway.

 

Once she got into her room, Hope shut the door and pushed her back against it, sighing deeply.

 

Luckily her hand was enough to cover the small mark on the prominent curve of her jawline. Hope slowly slid her hand down and let it drop by her side, still in shock by what had happened thirty minutes ago.

 

Her lips burned. Her jawline burned. Everything felt like a small flame that continuously sparked every now and then, even when Hope wasn't thinking about it.

 

A small smile formed across her lips. When she looked down at her slightly drenched shirt from her wet hair, her smile only grew wider.

 

She felt like a middle schooler who just had their first kiss, only ten times greater and much, much more euphoric. She might as well have been on drugs. Maybe some shrooms or whatever, or those weed things that Maya used to offer her but she never accepted.

 

Who needed weed when she could kiss Josie? Hope felt like she could do it a thousand times, decades on end, until she died.

 

Great.

 

After analyzing for what seemed like forever, Hope only found out that she was a dumbass. How could she ever assume that feeling was completely platonic? Platonic bonds don't usually have one end feeling like she was going to die after finding the other end make out with someone else.

 

Maybe Hope was stupid after all.

 

She took a deep breath and regained reality back. That was quickly gone once she took one step forward and ended up breaking into a small victory dance in the middle of her room, tiny squeals of excitement and bliss slipping through her lips.

 

Hope huffed and cleared her throat, her dance instantly coming to an end. She couldn't help but feel a childish excitement that was both awkward and weird. Josie probably didn't act this strange.

 

Josie's face appeared in Hope's mind like a dream. Her soft, plump-

 

Stop.

 

Hope was definitely being too weird. Was this creepy?

 

She frowned and looked up as if there was an answer waiting in the sky for her, but instead, all she saw was Josie's face.

 

Yeah, it was creepy.

 


 

"Meow," came Lizzie's voice.

 

Josie's face filled with repugnance as she watched her sister crouch down in front of that random cat and attempt to communicate with her. Beside her, MG crossed his arms and sucked in a breath as he walked over to Josie and sat next to her on the bottom step of the staircase. Josie shifted a little to the side to make room.

 

"So," he said, "how are you?"

 

It never occurred to Josie until now that she hadn't kept in contact with MG much ever since things got better with Hope. It was ironic, how he was speaking to her again right after things got more than better.

 

Shit. Was that a weird way to phrase a kiss?

 

"Well," she chuckled lightly, keeping her sweaty palms clamped together. "Swell, as usual." She instantly recoiled. Swell? Swell? The only person who used that word was Stefan during his wedding with Josie's mom.

 

"Mm." MG grinned warmly. "What have you been up to?"

 

"How are you?" Josie blurted. She lowered her voice. "With, you know," she added with a small nod towards Lizzie, who was hissing at the fluffy white cat.

 

MG didn't glance over, already knowing what was going on behind him. He shrugged. "I don't know. I think she likes my cat more than me." He said it shamefully.

 

Josie slid a tongue over her teeth and looked at her feet. "Lizzie doesn't like cats," she said, as if that would make anything better.

 

MG laughed.

 

Josie was about to reply until a buzz in her pocket stopped her. She fished out her phone from under her butt and read the notification.

 

She-Devil-Bitch-Snake

GOOD MORNING

 

She-Devil-Bitch-Snake

i did not mean to send that capitalized. sorry if i frightened u

 

Josie grinned widely at that. She may have even bit her bottom lip as her eyes flew over the screen again and again.

 

"Please don't tell me you just got a titty pic," came Lizzie's voice.

 

Josie's eyes flew open. She whipped her head around and pushed her screen to her chest as she shook her head violently. "No!" she defended, shutting her eyes to stop any dirty images of Hope from flooding her mind. "I- God, no, Lizzie!"

 

She fake gagged to prove her point across. Lizzie looked at MG unamusingly. It was only ten in the morning. No one wanted to deal with another person, especially since the coffee machine broke after MG's cat knocked it to the ground.

 

They were all a bit grouchy.

 

Josie rolled her eyes and imperceptibly peeked at her phone again to type a quick response.

 

Gm

 

"I feel like a nice coffee trip would really finish off winter break like a cap," Lizzie suggested. Josie tilted her phone down and watched MG's face light up.

 

"Ooh! Good idea," he said.

 

The two looked at Josie, waiting for her chip-in to confirm the plan.

 

Buzz.

 

She-Devil-Bitch-Snake

i think i got hypothermia ;)

 

"Actually," Josie started, raising her head a bit but keeping her eyes on the screen, "I have somewhere to be."

 


 

Whatever mood Josie was in instantly shifted into deep worry and concern. Hope before her looked as pale as a ghost, even more pale than the milk tea that Hayley gave her.

 

"Oh my God," she mumbled, shaking her head slightly. She placed the mug of tea on the nightstand and reached over to place a hand against Hope's cheek and neck. "Are you okay?"

 

Hope sniffled and shook her head. Josie frowned. She didn't think Hope was being legitimate about having hypothermia. Sure, the claim was a bit overexaggerated - she only had a cold. But still, though it wasn't a surprise that Hope had caught a sickness. She jumped into the freezing cold pond with only her undergarments.

 

Josie began to think that was kind of her fault. Guilt flushed in.

 

"Sorry," she mumbled timidly. She removed her hand from Hope's cold skin and reached behind the auburn's head to fluff up the pillows to make sure Hope's head had better support. Hope smiled contently and hummed.

 

Josie glanced at her only to find a smug, weird smile on her face. Hope was waiting for her to speak, but Josie was waiting for Hope to speak. Both girls stared at each other with stiff smiles on their faces, waiting for the other to start a conversation.

 

Then Hope's smile faltered. Josie wanted to sink into the floor at that very moment.

 

She was being too awkward. Hope was probably regretting that kiss by now. Has Landon ever been this weird?

 

"Um." Hope cleared her throat and regained her smile, a little more forced than the one before. "Did you want to sit down, or . . ."

 

"That's fine," Josie kindly declined with a smile. Damnit.

 

Hope clicked her tongue and gazed around the room. "Look," she sighed tiredly. "I don't want things to be weird between us. It's not like . . ." She faltered off, biting her lip as she searched for an answer. Instead of giving one, Hope turned her eyes to Josie, grabbed her hands, and gently tugged her closer.

 

Oh, oh shit. Josie let out a silent yelp as Hope scooted over and forced Josie to sit beside her. The feel of the familiar mattress beneath her and Hope's body being so close made her relax a little too quickly.

 

She slowly loosened all the tension in her body, taking a while to get used to the sudden change in position. Hope's body emitted some of its cold temperature.

 

While Josie mentally settled down, Hope reached behind her and reached under her pillow to pull out her laptop.

 

"I have something to show you," she said with a smirk.

 

Josie nodded quickly, her desperation for distractions revealing itself. She side-eyed Hope as she pull something up on her screen.

 

"Oh my God," she groaned once her eyes set on the picture in front of them. Hope displayed the daily news on her laptop, scrolling down and clicking on a page that read, 'Two Teenagers Reported Dead in Pond.'

 

Hope nudged the laptop closer. Josie squinted. A gasp fell from her mouth.

 

"Is that-" she choked off. Shit. "I'm not dead," she said dumbly. "I-I'm not-"

 

A picture of Josie's back appeared on the screen, covering Hope. It was blurry and barely made any details out. Josie knew that no one would've been able to tell it was her except for the two of them; they had been the only ones there.

 

Hope only snorted. Humorously. "Well now your body is on the lookout for burial," she joked. Josie gawked at her. Hope winced. "I mean . . . No one will know it's you."

 

Josie couldn't help but feel worried. Someone had to see their faces in order to take that photo. What if she woke up the next day inside of a coffin, buried-

 

Alive?

 

That was Josie's nightmare. An absolute, dreadful and hellish nightmare. She shuddered from the thought. None of her reasoning was logical, or even made sense.

 

Impulsively, she jerked her knees upward, causing the laptop to fly up and slide off the bed. Before Hope could whine, Josie flipped over and hovered above the auburn, pushing their bodies close together.

 

Hope's throat drew out a small sound. Her eyes darted across Josie's face while her lips curled into a small, shy smile.

 

Josie melted. She didn't even know what she was doing, but having Hope be shy underneath her made her just want to lean forward and shower her with kisses.

 

Hmm. That would be weird, wouldn't it?

 

Oh well.

 

Just when Josie leaned in, her lips ghosting just above Hope's, she felt a hand on her chest pushing her back with the slightest force. The feeling felt horribly familiar. Rejection.

 

Oh, fuck. Hope was rejecting her again. Was this a nightmare? Did she get buried alive?

 

Josie opened her eyes that she didn't even realize were closed, finding nothing but a satisfied and slightly humored look on Hope's face. Josie accidentally let a whine slip through her lips. She attempted to lean in again until Hope pushed her back with slightly more force.

 

Josie huffed and let her body rest above Hope's thighs. Well. This was humiliating, and utterly pathetic. Why wasn't she running away? She could jump out of Hope's window and do some parkour to get to-

 

"If you kiss me you'll catch a cold," Hope breathed out in a small chuckle.

 

Oh my God.

 

Josie mentally slapped herself across the face. Why didn't she think of that?

 

Like she wasn't just planning an escape plan, Josie rested her knuckles against Hope's stomach. That same shy look overtook the auburn's face, only being slightly tamed down, like Hope didn't want to show it.

 

"So?" she challenged, a weirdly competitive urge seeping into her brain.

 

Hope quirked a brow. She smiled reluctantly, but overall looked quite amused. "Did my mom poison you with that tea, or did- mmph-"

 

Her words sunk into Josie's mouth, rumbling through Josie's throat and bouncing off the walls. It only took a brief moment before Hope's cold hands reached up and glided down Josie's neck, fingernails grazing against the skin. Josie began to like her nails. They felt good as they ran down her neck, stopping just above her collarbone, and then slid back up to repeat the process.

 

Josie rested her elbows on Hope's shoulders and slowly lifted her head up, making their lips disconnect with a small wet pop.

 

Hope's eyes were still closed as she hummed comfortably. "Mm. One more?" she requested.

 

Josie didn't realize how natural affection was in their tie. It happened smoothly - Josie leaned her head back down while Hope slightly tilted her chin up. Her chest filled with a combustion of flames.

 

Everything felt so right, like things had just been building up, waiting to be released. And now that they were released, each kiss felt like it was bound to happen - already being planned ahead by the universe.

 

Or maybe Josie was just being silly.

 

Hope gave a pleased hum, her lips only leaving Josie's for a small second before bringing them back up again.

 

Josie liked this. She could kiss Hope forever and-

 

"GAH- oh, fuck!"

 

A sharp, heavy pain pierced through Josie's lower abdomen. A force against her hip thrusted her body to the side, rolling across the bed, and another kick that sent her falling to the ground. She landed with a pained groan on her elbows.

 

Did Hope just . . . kick her off her bed?

 

A voice spoke from a farther distance away from where Hope was. "What was that sound?" Hayley asked.

 

Josie instantly stopped groaning.

 

"Oh!" Hope giggled, breathless. "My laptop just fell on the floor."

 

"I swear I heard someone-"

 

"That was me!" Hope instantly retorted. Josie frowned. She wanted to pop up and greet her mother, already having been greeted by her when she entered the house.

 

"Where's Josie?" Hayley asked. Josie heard Hope choke.

 

"What?" she chuckled nervously. "Wh-What? What do you mean?"

 

An arrow shot right through Josie's heart. Was Hope ashamed of her?

 

No, Josie told herself. This was just some normal teenage thing - hiding someone from their parent who just walked in.

 

"Josie dropped by," replied Hayley.

 

"Oh." Hope sucked in a loud breath. "Oh did she?"

 

Silence.

 

Josie frowned.

 

"I suppose she's left by now," Hayley sighed. "Would you like me to bring you some soup?"

 

"No thank you, thank you," Hope replied.

 

With a few more mumbles, Josie heard the soft click of the door closing, and a loud sigh of relief come from the auburn sitting on the bed.

 

Josie took that as a signal to stand up. Hope was now sitting up rather than laying down, her hands behind her holding her up, and her face redder than ever. She looked like she just ran four miles in one minute.

 

Upon seeing the brunette stand up, Hope turned around and immediately sputtered out apologies.

 

"I'm so sor-"

 

Josie cut her off with a smile, one that was disappointed and clearly shown. Hope winced at her expression.

 

"Sorry," she mumbled in a small voice, fiddling with the rings on her fingers. Josie eyed the pizza bracelet wrapped around her wrist and swallowed thickly.

 

"It's fine," she assured with a smile. "I get it."

 

Josie didn't clarify what the 'it' really was. Mainly because she didn't know what made Hope kick her off and act so flustered just moments ago.

 

Hope shook her head and crawled across the mattress. She licked her lips and cleared her throat before sputtering out, "No- well, it's not- it's not that I'm trying to hide you- or I mean-"

 

Josie looked down on instinct. She couldn't bare to look at Hope's face as she rambled around looking for ways to phrase an excuse.

 

She felt two hands circle around both of her wrists, gently tugging her closer to Hope. Josie didn't look up from the ground, didn't let her body move anywhere.

 

Hope tugged a little harder. "Josie, please. I'm sorry."

 

"It's okay," Josie replied quickly. She added a promising smile. "Really. It's okay."

 

It wasn't like Josie could be mad, right? She would've done the same if her parents walked in on her kissing someone. But why did Hope come off as so ashamed?

 

"Oh my God," she mumbled out, the realization hitting her with a brick. "Are you homophobic?"

 

"What?" Hope immediately hissed, her body flinching roughly. "No!" Josie turned her eyes back to see if Hope was lying or not, but she wasn't. That made sense. Josie regretted asking such a thing.

 

"Oh," she said, embarrassed.

 

Hope blinked a few times before sliding her tongue along her lips and sighing. She looked down at her grip on Josie's wrist. "I'm just . . . you know?"

 

Josie didn't know what she was talking about, but figured it wouldn't be appropriate to ask.

 

"Yeah," she nodded. Well, she could only hope for the best now.

 

Hope smiled and squeezed her wrists. "Can we take it slow?"

 

Oh!

 

How silly of Josie. That's what this was about!

 

Josie wanted to cry in relief.

 

"Yeah, of course," she said a little too quickly. She was just overly relieved to find out that their thing was still in its baby stage rather than an ashamed stage. A smile even popped across her face.

 

Hope bit her bottom lip, the corners of her lips twitching up in a suppressing way. She squeezed Josie's wrists harder and tugged her with enough strength to send Josie tumbling forward, her upper body leaning over just so that Hope could connect their lips again and continue kissing like they were before.

 

Josie didn't know how much time had passed, but she knew it didn't take long for Hope to quickly pull away, let go of Josie, and then snap her head to the side, hiding her face.

 

Josie cocked a brow. "What's the matter?"

 

Hope held up a thumbs up. That did nothing to help Josie's understanding.

 

A second later that thumb slowly dropped, soon being replaced by her index finger. Then, with a hitched inhale, Hope let out a big sneeze. It wasn't cute and small, but it still sounded like a song to Josie's ears.

 

Josie suddenly remembered that Hope was sick, and her being here, kissing her and stressing her out, wasn't doing her any good.

 

Hope let out another smaller sneeze before turning her head back to face Josie. She didn't look like she wanted to kiss anymore, and Josie understood that.

 

"Hey," she whispered, gently nudging at Hope's shoulders. "Lie down."

 

-

 

September, approximately four months prior

 

-

 

Josie looked so miserable, Hope could feel her own heart sting.

 

The brunette was sitting alone at the edge of the lunch table while her sister chattered with her friends on the other. She picked at the food in front of her, not taking a single bite.

 

A frown plastered across Hope's face, one to which Landon immediately noticed.

 

"Hey, babe!" He pouted. "I was just kidding around."

 

Huh?

 

Hope looked at him and his friends, who were all gaping at her dumbly, waiting for her to forgive Landon for whatever he did. Roman wiped something under his nose and sniffed.

 

"It's okay," she smiled reluctantly, a little grossed out.

 

Landon sighed in relief. "Okay. Love you." He smiled before turning back to his friends. "And her aunt is crazy! She's just blah blah blah . . ." Landon's words faded away.

 

Hope could not stop watching Josie, and could not stop feeling guilt pool her insides. Another frown tipped her lips, and that was when Cassie spoke.

 

"Are you okay, Hope?" she asked, her eyes bulging with worry.

 

"Yeah, you look kind of depressing," Dana said.

 

"Dana!" Maya scolded. She looked at Hope and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "If you're experiencing a loss of a loved one, don't worry. My mom's a therapist."

 

Hope wrinkled her face. "You're acting like Josie died."

 

Penelope gasped. "Oh!" she pipped, gawking like an idiot. "This is about Josie?"

 

Hope shut her eyes and pursed her lips, regretting even saying anything.

 

Maya rubbed her shoulders. "I could convince her to give you one free session. After that you have to pay. It's her job, after all-"

 

"-Landon, isn't Josie your ex? Did she-" blurted Dana.

 

"-Sebastian has a stash of vodka in his locker. Wanna go and help yourself?" blurted Cassie.

 

Hope inhaled a sharp breath and pried Maya's hand off of her.

 

"Thanks, guys. But I was kidding," she laughed off, knowing that her words would convince everyone. And they did - a wave of relief hushed over the lunch table.

 

But that relief was only one sided. Hope looked back across the table, forced a smile, and turned back to watch Josie. She choked on air. Josie was staring right at her, with a hint of hurt and confusion gleaming in her eyes. Once they made eye contact, she quickly looked away.

 

Hope watched her pack her things up and leave the table, walking out of the cafeteria and off to who knows where.

 

"Hey, um," Hope said, blindly nudging Landon's shoulder while staring at the hallway that Josie walked through. "I've gotta grab something from my locker. Be right back."

 

Landon gave a brief hum and a small peck on Hope's cheek before scooting over so Hope could get up.

 

She headed straight for the hallway like a magnet was luring her in. She followed the invisible trail that Josie created, leading her to the hallways full of lockers. A few students were already there.

 

Hope looked around for Josie. Her locker wasn't too far, only being located around the corner. The second she took a step forward, a small freshman shoved a huge sign in front of her.

 

"Hello!" the little boy beamed, shoving the sign straight in Hope's face to the point where it brushed against her lips. She sputtered out and pushed the sign away, holding back the urge to kick him straight in the stomach.

 

"What?" she hissed, still looking for Josie, but the brunette was long gone.

 

"Would you like to be apart of our dating club?" he asked proudly. "We need attractive juniors to help expand our audience."

 

Hope raised a brow and looked down at the boy. "Uh huh," she said unamused. "Dating club?"

 

The boy reminded her of Rowley Jefferson, ginger-haired with freckles and a coconut-like hair cut.

 

Rowley-kid nodded eagerly, shoving the sign in Hope's face. This time, Hope grabbed the sign, ripped it apart, and threw it on the ground.

 

"Find a girlfriend your own age," she grumbled, rolling her eyes and walking away with Rowley staring at her in horror.

 

Hope continued her venture to find Josie. She turned the corner and sighed when she spotted her, but the relief was quickly gone when she looked more into how she was presenting herself as.

 

Josie was sitting on the ground with her back against the lockers, face in her knees, and hands in her hair.

 

"Oh, shit, Jo," Hope sighed to herself quietly. She took a few steps forward, only getting a percentage of the way there before she felt an arm wrap around her waist and pull her back.

 

The arm threw her into the air and spun her around. Hope couldn't help but squeal, and when she saw Landon's face, she squealed even happier. A smile spread across her face.

 

"What's taking you so long?" he fake pouted. His pout oddly reminded Hope of Josie. Just less full and with lips that were more chapped.

 

Hope shook the thoughts away and frowned playfully. "I was only gone for a minute," she said.

 

Landon rolled his eyes and snuggled his face in her neck, smothering her with kisses from her neck up to her face, earning more happy laughs from Hope.

 

She forgot the reason why she came here in the first place. That was until she heard a small, choked out sob come from in front of her.

 

Hope placed her arms on Landon's shoulder and pushed herself up a bit to get better access of the hallway. She saw her, Josie, looking at the both of them for a brief second. And again, their eye contact had her running away.

 

Hope's chest instantly squeezed in. Her laughs stopped. Her stomach crunched.

 

And then the bell rang. A flood of students came through, drowning away Josie and any sight of her for the rest of the day. And week. And month.

 


 

"Hope," Josie scolded, grabbing Hope's chin and forcing the spoon above her lips. Hope kept them closed and whined.

 

"It's gross," she groaned.

 

Josie rolled her eyes. "Your mom made this. Don't say that."

 

"It's still horrible. Might as well be poison."

 

Josie inhaled a deep breath. She squeezed Hope's cheeks, held the spoon to her mouth, and nudged at her lips, but Hope didn't open them. Josie was beginning to think she was a toddler disguised as a teenage girl.

 

"Hope." She frowned. "Would you please drink it?"

 

Hope shook her head. "It's poison, and I don't- grphh-"

 

Josie smiled in satisfaction, slowly pulling the spoon out of Hope's mouth. Hope scrunched her face in disgust.

 

"See, was that so bad?" Josie teased, dipping the spoon in the bowl of soup again.

 

Hope rolled her eyes. "It was awf- gurphh-"

 

Hope glared at her, spoon in her mouth. Josie snorted and pulled the spoon out before dropping it in the bowl and using her empty hand to cup Hope's cheek. It was cold, but not as cold as before. Maybe it was the placebo affect; there was no way Josie cured Hope after two spoons of soup.

 

Hope's throat bobbed as she swallowed. She looked up at Josie and glared.

 

"I hate you," she snarled.

 

Josie smiled sweetly. "All because I fed you a little bit of soup?"

 

Hope pondered with the sentence. Her face flooded with embarrassment right after.

 

Hope was the one who asked her mother for soup, still not wanting to expose Josie's stay. Maybe Hope saw what was in it, and maybe that was what made her dramatic. Or maybe she was just dramatic in general, which would've made sense.

 

Josie set the bowl down on the nightstand, joining the cold mug of milk tea. She used her new free hand to cup Hope's other cheek.

 

"Lizzie and MG want me to hang out with them before school starts. You'll be okay here on your own?" she asked, rubbing the skin with her thumbs.

 

Hope rolled her eyes with a small smile. "I'm not a child," she snorted.

 

Josie glanced over at the bowl of soup.

 

Hope cleared her throat. "Don't worry about me. Have fun."

 

Josie nodded and let go, standing up and walking over to the door. Before she could turn the doorknob, Hope's abrupt voice shot through the air and stopped her.

 

"Wait!" she blurted. Josie turned around. Hope gulped. "Could you . . . leave using the window?"

 

Josie groaned internally. How unbelievable! What was she, a barbarian?

 

She sighed and crawled out of the window.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The first day back to school was fucking terrible. Who even pulls a ‘freshman prank’ to celebrate coming back to school?

 

The teachers grew grouchy all because the lounge was plastered in sticky notes. Josie had to admit, it was kind of funny. But not the packet of essay prompts they were given.

 

Even Mrs. Bennett, her only collectively calm teacher, betrayed her students and assigned a buttload of work for them to complete that night.

 

”There’s already so much prompts. Why can’t we come up with our own?” a boy in the back of the class asked. A few snickers rose from none other than Landon Kirby and his cult of girlfriends and boyfriends who acted like he was a celebrity.

 

Josie wasn’t surprised to know that him and Hope’s breakup didn’t have an impact on his social status.

 

Mrs. Bennett’s eyelid twitched. She pursed her lips in a finished smile before slamming her palm against her desk, violently. Josie jumped back in her seat.

 

”That is highly disrespectful. And coming from you, Wade?” Her finger raised. “Is unbelievable.”

 

Josie frowned. She agreed with Wade on his question. Why would they be given the prompt choice of ‘Folding Fitted Sheets: a chore or a job?’ It didn’t make sense.

 

She decided not to say anything, though it was extremely difficult when Landon became horny for attention again.

 

”That is so disrespectful, Wade! Wah wah wah.”

 

More snickers. Josie kept her eyes straight at the packet beneath her, trying not to feel pity for Wade.

 

”Cut it out, Landon,” came Wade’s voice in the saddest way possible. Josie wanted to cry. Maybe she was too sensitive.

 

Mrs. Bennett scolded Landon before slumping down in her desk and doing something on her computer. She must’ve been filing a complaint on his name as she kept glancing up and over at the boy repeatedly and jabbed at the keyboard.

 

”Psst.”

 

Josie felt a small nudge on her back with the butt of a pencil. She didn’t have to turn around for the smile to overtake her face.

 

Hope stabbed her back over and over again until Josie snapped out of her trance and whipped around. The auburn was almost standing out of her seat, leaning over the desk in front of her. The pencil was in her hand with the butt about to poke at Josie again.

 

She lowered it, pointed it towards the empty chair beside Josie, and smiled discreetly. “Mind if I take that spot?”

 

Josie nodded embarrassingly quick. She pulled her stuff back to her body to make room for Hope while the girl stood up and walked over to the spot.

 

Hope didn’t look too sick anymore. It was almost as if Josie cured her with her awesome caretaking skills.

 

Hope settled down. Josie stiffened up. It wasn’t like things between them were awkward or anything - no. She was just a little  vigilant from having their relationship so fresh out of a womb. Josie didn’t want to mess things up and have Hope leave. Again.

 

That was a silly thing to assume, right?

 

She felt a gentle prod against her shoulder.

 

”What prompt did you decide on?” Hope whispered, her voice coming off more like a hiss. Her packet was open and on the last page like she’d read through the whole thing.

 

Josie bit the inner flesh under her lip and glanced down at her own packet, roughly nine out of ten pages unread. “Err-“ She flipped the paper over and skimmed through the second page. “I think I’ll- genetics.”

 

She recoiled at her answer. Genetics. Just genetics. The rest of the section had nothing more or less than the single word: genetics.

 

Hope twirled the pencil in her fingers to cover up her perplexity. Josie’s cheeks warmed.

 

”I-I mean,” she started, violently screaming at the page in her mind to give her at least a decently appropriate answer. “I’ll look through it tonight. Maybe.”

 

Hope perked up at her answer. She took a moment to herself before stabbing the desk with the pencil - generously - and smiling. “Maybe we could do that together?” She said it shyly, as if Josie would reject her offer.

 

How ridiculous, and immensely unrealistic. Hmm.

 

Josie smirked. Hope noticed and frowned, confused. She eyed Josie’s expression before leaning back slightly and sputtering.

 

”I mean,” she started, “it’s okay if not. It shouldn’t be too hard finding-“

 

”-No!” Josie interrupted, her original plan of playing “hard-to-get” rocketing far out of her priorities. Her hands raised suddenly, urging Hope to sit back down even though she hadn’t moved yet. “I mean- I’d love to.” She nodded as if revising her answer.

 

Hope visibly relaxed. Her shoulders loosened. Her cheeks, a small faint pink color, unclenched.

 

”So I’ll-“

 

”What are you doing out of your seat, Miss Mikaelson?” Mrs. Bennett roared, her voice so sudden and out of character that Josie’s heart nearly dropped out of her chest.

 


 

Somehow lunch became Hope’s least favorite subject. Or part of her schedule, at least. Lunch wasn’t a subject, even though she distinctively remembered thirteen year old Lizzie Saltzman screaming at her because Hope told her that her favorite curricular study was the anatomy of a sandwich.

 

But besides that, Hope usually loved it. Not now. She stayed behind in Mr. Donovan’s art classroom.

 

After everything that happened leading up to and during winter break, she couldn’t sit at that table. Not with Landon, Dana, or even Maya and Penelope.

 

The best choice would’ve been to sit by Josie, but that . . . Hope knew her excuse was childish and stubborn.

 

Even though those six months felt like ages ago, she still gained some sort of reputation from dating Landon. She hung out with Cassie and Dana, sat with the majority of the football team, and had been to many of their parties. If they found out she had gotten Josie back, let along dating, who knows what they would’ve done.

 

Dana would snake-eye her. Landon would sent his army after her. She would become the epitome of Loserville for leaving her best friend and stealing her boyfriend and breaking up with her boyfriend and going back to her best friend, haha, what a tramp!

 

The thought made Hope smudge the tip of the paintbrush a little too hard, ruining a keen line she had going on.

 

”Damnit,” she groaned. As she was searching around for a color to repair her mistake, a knock rattled against the door. “Come in!” she called out while her head stuck far into a cupboard under the sink.

 

”Hope?”

 

MG?

 

Hope’s head shot up and she instantly regretted it. Her head banged against the top of the cabinet, and when she tried pulling her head out, groaning, her hair got caught in the hinges of the mini door.

 

”Fuck,” she cursed.

 

”Here, I’ll hel-“

 

”No! No no, it’s fine!” she chuckled. “Everything’s under con- ah, shit!

 

She almost sobbed when her scalp felt like it was ripped off of her head. That was her fault, she knew. If she hadn’t of tried yanking her head out of the cabinet while her hair was stuck . . . the rest was explainable.

 

She finally shimmied out of her dilemma and stumbled over to where MG stood at the front of the classroom. It was empty except for the two of them.

 

”Hey,” she breathed out casually, brushing down her hair.

 

MG danced back and forth on his heels before clicking his tongue. “Sorry. I wasn’t aware I’d be running into you. Want me to go, or . . ?”

 

Hope shook her head. “It’s fine. I don’t own this place.” She took a few steps back to sit back on the bench she’d been occupying for around twenty minutes. “So . . . what uh, brings you here?”

 

They weren’t close. Not at all. But something about MG made Hope feel safe. He was almost the only humble player on the football team. Plus, he was Josie’s friend. Josie doesn’t just friend anybody.

 

MG fumbled around in his pocket for something. He pulled out a small, crumpled up piece of notebook paper that looked like it had been ripped out aggressively. He unfolded it with shaky fingers.

 

”I came here to, uh,” he mumbled. He racked around for an answer while Hope, awkwardly sitting on the bench alone, watched. “You know- here.” He handed Hope the paper to which Hope took with reluctance.

 

That wasn’t smart of him. What if Hope was still dating Landon? She was a completely different person then.

 

He motioned for her to unravel it. Hope was met with thin, neat pen marks that scattered around the wrinkled lines.

 

Go out with me to the winter dance? -ALYSSA <3

 

”Who’s Alyssa?” Hope questioned, setting the paper in her lap.

 

MG played with his chin before sighing. “A girl. She wants me to take her to Mystic’s winter formal.”

 

Hope jutted her lip out and nodded. “Hm. Do you want-“

 

”No.”

 

”Oh,” Hope said dumbly. She stared at the paper, the material beginning to burn her fingers. It felt like she was touching something cursed, now that knew MG’s discomfort with this Alyssa girl.

 

”Sorry,” he recoiled. “I’ve just been meaning to ask out this other girl, you know? I like her a lot.”

 

Hope’s heart dropped. Her fingers squeezed around the paper. She forced herself to look at the canvas in front of her with her rough painting of a hotel room.

 

Calm down, she told herself. But what if MG was talking about Josie? They spent a lot of time together, have they not?

 

“Um,” she chuckled stiffly, “wh-who, may I ask, is the girl you like?”

 

MG shook his head with a wry smile. “Can’t say. It’s a secret.”

 

What was this, middle school?

 

Hope took a deep breath and continued to push. “What’s the first letter of her . . . name?”

 

”Nope,” he said with a smile.

 

Hope grumbled under her breath. “Last name?”

 

S.”

 

Hope’s brain itched. “Oh, ha. Wow.” She smiled, her lips twitching slightly. “Second letter?”

 

A,” he replied shyly.

 

Ew, stop that! Josie clearly doesn’t like him back. Why else would she kiss Hope in the pond at like, eight in the evening?

 

“Lemme guess, the next letter is an L?”

 

”Yes!” he laughed.

 

Hope didn’t find that funny.

 

T?”

 

T,” he confirmed. “Then Z, then M, then-“

 

His words came to a rude halt when Hope suddenly jumped up from her seat, the bench legs squeaking against the floor. She shoved past him - maybe a little too violently - and made an exit.

 

Hope knew she was toxic. It was engraved in her blood. But knowing that and accepting it didn’t help her feel any more better about MG’s little fling with her . . . girlfriend? Josie? Josie.

 

Hope frowned a little from that factor. That frown stayed all the way back to the lunchroom, and continued, fogging up her brain so that she didn’t realize where she was headed.

 

Her muscle memory led her to her usual group.

 

“Hope!” Cassie cheered. She held out her hands and pulled Hope by her wrists down. “We haven’t seen you! What’s up?” She was cheerful and everything Hope was not.

 

The table’s chatter hushed away, all eyes turning to face Hope. She could hear a small snort coming from Landon, but she didn’t care.

 

Hope could barely think straight, running on nothing but purely shed envy.

 

Envy? Jealousy.

 

“Oh, yeah,” she puffed. “I wh-wha, uh, I was just catching up on some late work.” She nodded confidently.

 

Penelope frowned. “We just got back.”

 

Hope wanted to tell her that she actually didn’t do the assignments she was given to complete during the break, but that would’ve made her look pathetic. Especially since Landon was looking at her.

 

Maya scooted over and patted the small spot she just made. “Come sit. There’s plenty of room.”

 

Hope took once glance at the spot and shook her head, not because she knew not even a child could fit, but because she didn’t look forward to spending the last ten minutes of lunch with her ex boyfriend after kissing his ex girlfriend a few days ago.

 

She declined with a polite smile.

 


 

“Please. Please? God, please! I’ll do anything!”

 

MG dropped down to his knees, and right when he was about to push his hands together prayer-like, Josie stopped him with a hand on his arm.

 

”Fine,” she muttered. “I don’t think I’ve got a choice, anyways.”

 

”Nope,” the boy said with a smile. He wrapped Josie’s hand with his own and stood up. “You’re amazing. Truly.”

 

Josie waved it off in a ‘pssh, stop it’ manner before motioning him to follow her into the small banner shop.

 

”Okay,” she breathed out. She took a brief glance around the small shop, the old shop owner with small tuffs of white hair slicked across his bald head, and the arrangement of banners and posters and other shit that was crafted to be written on. “You choose something pretty.”

 

MG squinted his eyes. He walked over to one particularly small aisle and leaned down slightly to observe a large green banner.

 

”Uh huh,” he said, rubbing his chin. Josie walked over and hovered over his shoulder. He continued. “What would look better on this? BE MY DATE, or WINTER FORMAL?”

 

Josie frowned. “Don’t you think that’s a little too generic?”

 

MG paused. He took a while, still frozen, looking around for an answer.

 

”How about this,” Josie said. “We head to my house, or yours, and come up with it there?”

 

MG agreed. They ended up buying the large green banner, told the man they’d be back later, and hopped in Josie’s car.

 

She bumped the radio on. The news station took over and blabbered on about random families sharing stories about themselves. Stories that were obviously paid to be shared because of how plain and strange they were.

 

MG hummed beside her. She contemplated turning it off to play some music, but the anchor began screaming out something that almost made her drive into a ditch.

 

”Two teens have been reported dead. Their bodies are yet to be found, and word comes in that the victims may have drifted off.”

 

Josie sucked in a breath. She reached to turn the volume down, but MG slapped her hand away.

 

”No no,” he mumbled, shaking his head. He almost looked like he was drooling to be informed. Informed about false information, that is, because what the fuck? Josie was right there.

 

”I bet it’s just two teens who were swimming around, or whatever.” She shrugged. “The media often portrays anything they can to entertain.”

 

MG pursed his lips out and clicked his tongue. “But what if they died,” he said, completely ignoring Josie’s proposition. “We-we could, oh wow, we could search for those bo-“

 

Nooo!” Josie interrupted. She winced at the thought. Who even suggests such a thing? “No,” she repeated, shaking her head over and over again.

 

Despite MG’s constant persuading, Josie managed to drive the both of them to her house without getting into an accident. He carried the banner while she unlocked the front door.

 

”Head up to my room first while I- oh, heyyy . . ?”

 

Josie’s hand froze on the knob, growing sweaty. Hope was sitting on the couch in the living room next to Caroline, a tea set sprawled across the coffee table. She looked a little mad. Or grossed out. More like disgusted? But why would Hope be disgusted? Josie’s mom always made the best tea, she even got fresh leaves from a market a hundred miles away!

 

MG disappeared up the stairs after shooting a small greeting wave to her mom.

 

”Oh!” Caroline piped. “Come join us, Josie. We’re having blueberry black tea.” She nodded to the seat across from her and the table, ending up at Hope’s right. She took one glance at the shorter girl with the intention of sitting down with a smile, but Hope’s glare didn’t seem so inviting.

 

Josie smiled anyways and took a few steps forward to close the door behind her. Hope didn’t stop glaring. Her mom didn’t stop pouring tea. Literally. The liquid began seeping over the edge, dripping on the hardwood coffee table.

 

”Hope, did you want to join MG and I?” she asked. Hope face shifted into mixed expressions that Josie couldn’t quote decipher. “Or not,” she added quickly.

 

Caroline dipped the pot back and pushed the small teacup towards the empty seat. “Me and Hope here were just talking about . . . what was it, sweetheart?”

 

”Your divorce.”

 

”Oh, right. Silly me,” Caroline giggled, rolling her eyes and waving a hand. Josie cringed. Meanwhile Hope, still glaring at Josie, downed the rest of her tea and tossed the cup rather brutally on the table, earning a small jump from both Josie and Caroline.

 

She slapped her hands on her thighs and rubbed them down. “Well, Josie, are you ready to choose an essay prompt?”

 

Huh? Essay? Prompt? Josie never did an essay prompt. MG still had the banner, and it was now in her room, waiting to be slathered with paint. Or maybe the printer, who knows. But where did-?

 

”Oh my God,” she mumbled, everything coming back to her like a brick. She refrained from palming her face, because doing so would’ve let Hope know that she actually forgot. She couldn’t let that happen. She couldn’t get Hope mad not even two days into their relationship.

 

Hmm. Has dating always been this hard? Landon would just drop Josie off behind the bleachers so that she could watch him torment his football team.

 

Nuh uh. Josie is going to be the best girlfriend. The best.

 

“Hmm?” Hope prompted, raising a grumpy brow.

 

”Well,” Josie said. She even chipped in a laugh, which she immediately regretted once a snort came out. “I actually was choosing a prompt for the both of us!”

 

Hope raised her brow higher. “Oh really?”

 

”Mhm.” Josie did not. “I was uh, thinking . . . maybe, g-genetics?”

 

Caroline froze. Hope sighed. Her face dropped, disappointed. Then she glowered.

 

”Well,” she breathed, standing up, “what are you and MG up to?”

 

Josie took a small step back to gesture Hope to come follow her, but Hope stayed still.

 

”Just some winter formal stuff. You know?”

 

MG asking Lizzie out was going to be a secret. If anyone found out, Lizzie would find out, and it would ruin the whole surprise.

 

But she didn’t expect Hope to grow even scarier by her answer.

 

”Take your genetics!” she suddenly spat.

 

Well, Josie thought.

 

“Okay, okay,” she sighed. “We don’t have to do genetics. Come up to my room and we’ll-“

 

”Have a threesome? Nuh uh, I don’t think-“

 

”Woah woah woah,” Caroline blurted, her voice cutting through the conversation and filling it up with reality. Did Hope seriously just say that? In front of her mom?

 

”Oh,” Hope said. She propped up a polite smile. “I’m kidding. And actually, I’ll-“ she looked around, not meeting Josie’s eyes, “head home right about now. Thanks for the tea!”

 

With that, she shimmied away from the living room and out the door. The slamming of the door made the cups of tea rattle.

 

Caroline slowly turned to face Josie.

 

”We need to have a talk.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Caroline seemed to be as awkward as Josie was feeling, except with more confidence. Josie was the one in trouble after all.

 

”So,” she said with a sigh, folding her hands in her lap where her cup of tea previously sat. “You’ve started dating again?”

 

”No,” Josie said quickly and dismissively. Her eyes awkwardly darted from her mom to the floor. Her spine stuck up levelly. Her cheeks stayed a hot and flushed red. Must the universe always be against her?

 

Later she would curse the hell out of Hope. But right now she had to find a way to give a completely reasonable answer to Hope’s out-of-the-field outburst. Hmm.

 

A lightbulb clicked on in Josie’s head.

 

”We were just goofing around,” she said with as much confidence as she could.

“Uh huh.” Caroline nodded, unconvinced. Josie’s heart sunk deeper. Her mom bent over slightly to wrap her finger in the crook of the teacup, pausing to look back at Josie. “It was a very aiming, and, and far-“

 

”Yeah, yeah, I know,” Josie mumbled submissively. “We won’t joke like that again.”

 

Damn it Hope.

 

Caroline volleyed with her original belief and Josie’s explanation, while Josie sat there praying to the gods that she’d go through.

 

Her mom clicked her tongue and sighed. She tipped the tea over her lips and took a brief sip. “Okay, well,” she sighed, “I’m sorry for assuming.”

 

”It’s okay,” Josie said, as if she wasn’t the one who was being dishonest. It would’ve made her feel guilty had she not been praying for her life at that moment.

 

Her mom gave a pursed smile before offering some tea to Josie, to which Josie declined.

 

”I’ve got some stuff to do with MG.” She stood up and headed over to the staircase, expecting Caroline to call her back or offer something else, but she didn’t. She just let her go.

 

That was kind of suspicious. Josie frowned subtly. She turned around, but all she saw was her mom, still sitting on the couch in the exact same position, sipping serenely on her tea.

 

”Hey, mom?” she called out. Caroline perked up. “Why would it be bad if Hope and I were dating?”

 

Caroline’s tranquility instantly zapped away. She set down the tea and stood up, walking over to the staircase to put a hand on Josie’s shoulder.

 

”Well . . . How should I say this?”

 

Josie’s stomach curled. She clenched her jaw. Caroline wore the same face she wore when Josie told her she had to play a full soccer game. Worried. And a little scared.

 

”Mom?” Josie reminded, urging her back to reality.

 

”Don’t you think it’d be a little too quick?” she let out. Josie blinked. Quick? She hadn’t dated - or had an actual relationship. Jade doesn’t count - ever since Landon.

 

”What do you mean?” she asked.

 

Caroline swallowed cautiously. Josie knew she was trying not to hurt her feelings. Which was stupid.

 

”I mean-“ She laughed dryly, throwing up her free hand. “Josie, do you not remember the emotional damage she’s put you through?”

 

Josie realized that this wasn’t about how much time it took for her to date again. It was about Hope. And after everything Hope has shown to her mom to redeem herself she was still far out of trust.

 

“I know,” she said hardly. “But it doesn’t matter now, I’m fine and I’m sure that she-“

 

”It doesn’t matter?” Caroline whisper-yelled. “Josie! If you continue to spend time with her, God, you might as well be self sabotaging yourself.”

 

”How is that even logical?” Josie shot back. The back of her neck heated up, running along the edges of her ears.

 

Caroline rolled her eyes comically. Josie’s teeth only clenched harder. “You wanna know what happened with your dad?”

 

Her words shot a fire through the room. Josie blinked, sputtering nothing but wordless breaths. Caroline raised her brows.

 

”Back in high school, we dated. Broke up, of course, he wasn’t very fluid in terms of going to different colleges-“ She cut herself off. “He begged me for forgiveness, and you know what I did?” Josie knew damn well what she did. “I let him back in. And look where we are now.”

 

”But Hope isn’t dad!” Josie cried out. “She’s not who you think she is, mom!”

 

”I thought the same about your father.”

 

”Hope. Isn’t. Dad!” How many times would she have to repeat herself? And how many times would it take for her mom’s words to get to her?

 

A hot tear slipped down her cheek. She instantly swiped it away. The stairs were so close, yet Josie felt as if her feet would reach it with four tons of strength.

 

Caroline let go of her shoulder and took a step back. “I don’t want you getting hurt again,” she said with a lower, softer, yet more stern voice.

 

Josie shook her head, more tears flying from her eyes. This was humiliating. “She won’t.”

 

”But if she does?”

 

”I-,” Josie started, but unsure where her words would take her, she stopped.

 

What if? If Hope left her again, what would happen? It’d be much worse than before. She wouldn’t be able to handle it.

 

The thought scared Josie. Her breathing racked.

 

No, Hope wouldn’t leave again.

 

You thought the same before.

 

She won’t.

 

But what if she does?

 

Her mom stood there, no longer wearing that face she wore when she wanted to win an argument. Rather now she looked more concern, and ruefully facepalming for asking such a question in the first place.

 

”I’m sorry, Josie. I went too far.”

 

Josie shook her head dismissively, biting her bottom lip. Everything fogged up. And numbed. Hurt. Especially hurt.

 

Without speaking a word, she spun around and ran up the staircase, knowing exactly where she needed to be at that moment. She pushed the door open.

 

”What?” Lizzie fumed, pushing her chair away from her desk. “Some of us have- oh shit, Jo, what happened?”

 

Smoothly and naturally, like they’d been born to connect together for the rest of their lives, the twins fell into one of their warm, safe comfort hugs. Josie nuzzled her nose in Lizzie’s shoulder while Lizzie used the bone of her knuckles to rub up and down Josie’s back.

 

”Lizzie,” she choked out, wincing from how weak she sounded, “I’m dating Hope.”

 

Lizzie tensed underneath her. Josie knew her words weren’t much of a giveaway, probably weren’t even a crumb, but she couldn’t find enough strength to cook up more.

 

”What do you mean?” she asked softly.

 

Josie huffed painfully. “I-I, I don’t want her to . . . leave again.”

 

Maybe she was weak all along. Maybe she never changed like she thought she did. Hope could hate her for a week and Josie would hate herself even more. Maybe, or definitely, she could never stop being so easy.

 

“If she does, I’ll-“ She blinked hard, feeling the fabric of Lizzie’s sweater grow more wet than she expected. “I don’t know what would happen.”

 

”Hey, hey,” Lizzie cooed, rubbing Josie’s back softer. “Don’t think about that right now.”

 

”But what if?” Her sobs cut through her lips. “She was like, half of me, or something. But now-“

Another tear slipped, hot and wet.

 

”I feel like she’s become my world. It’s, damn it, I know it’s stupid, and pathetic, and-“

 

She couldn’t even let herself continue. This was pathetic, and what made it even worse? It was true. No matter how hard she wanted for her life to have balance between romance and love or everything else, she could never have it.

 

”I think I’m just too . . . sensitive. And-“

 

Weak.

 

Lizzie pulled away only to hug Josie from the other side. She was met with more dry room on the sweater to cry on. Woohoo.

 

Why wasn’t Lizzie saying anything? What happened to her terrible words of advice? They sucked, but at least they were reassuring. Sometimes. She just wanted to know Lizzie was listening.

 

”Lizzie?” Josie asked in a voice smaller than a whisper.

 

”I know it feels impossible to think that you’re more than just a crier.”

 

“Wow, okay,” Josie grumbled. She attempted to leave but Lizzie’s arms kept her tucked in like iron walls.

 

”I don’t mean it like, uh, you know, literally.” She sucked in a breath. “But you’re the strongest person I know, Jo. And I don’t trust Hope enough to keep your heart pure, but I do know that if, if she leaves, you’ll get through it.”

 

Josie shook her head shortly. She wouldn’t. She knew she wouldn’t.

 

”Thanks, Lizzie,” she said with a forced smile, pulling away and tottering back to the hallway. Lizzie’s words only gave her false Hope. She already knew the answer to what she was asking for.

 

And she knew that keeping a respectable distance away from Hope would keep her from that pain that would soon come.

 

MG was still waiting in her room when she arrived. Josie closed the door and joined him on her bed, finding the banner sprawled out across the floor with some words already painted on.

 

Be my date to the winter formal?

 

Well, maybe it was generic. But at least that banner didn’t have to care about its girlfriend leaving her again. Lucky fucking banner.

 

“Hey, you alright?” MG nudged Josie’s shoulder, concern filling up his eyes. He folded his hands together and shifted on the mattress.

 

Josie chuckled. “Yeah, I’m okay.” She looked down at the banner. “Allergies are really kicking in, you know?” It was winter. Who was she fooling?

 

MG, apparently. “Oh, I see.” He clapped his hands and slid down the bed and onto the floor like it was a water slide. “I’ve already got the words down. Now we need decor!”

 

“Nice paint job,” she teased. White paint slathered over the green banner like a child did it. They could’ve just brought it to the store to get the words laser printed or generally printed on. It seemed like MG was just too excited.

 

”Thanks,” he said with a respectable nod.

 

Lizzie walked in like she owned every inch of the house. Her eyes were drawn to the banner. She smirked.

 

”Ooh lala. Who’s this for?”

 

Josie pointed weakly at MG below her. Lizzie seemed to have perked higher at that. She walked forward and sat on the empty spot next to Josie where she could hover over MG’s sitting body.

 

At the same time, while MG was busy admiring his work on the banner, Lizzie and Josie spotted a small little flap of paper sticking out from inside his pocket.

 

Lizzie reached for it. She unfolded it. Josie didn’t expect much from it, because it was literally a sloppy piece of paper, but Lizzie’s shoulders visibly fell down.

 

Josie glanced to her side. Lizzie looked as dead as Josie did. Her fingers tightened against the paper, crinkling it. Josie peeked over.

 

Go out with me to the winter dance? -Alyssa <3

 

Uh oh.

 

MG beamed happily at the banner. Perfectly normal, while Lizzie looked like she was about to burst a blood vessel from how hard her head was clenching. Then she wadded it up in a ball and threw it behind her before storming away and out of the room.

 

MG frowned. He craned his neck back and asked, “Was that because of me?”

 

“No,” Josie lied. She didn’t even know if they were dating or not. She’d been too caught up in her drama with Hope that she forgot everything else that-

 

“Oh, by the way, you remember about the dead bodies, right?”

 

Josie blinked, a little thrown off by the sudden bizarre question. “Oh, wh-uh, yeah? What about them?” she sputtered out.

 

”Well, the sheriffs did some analyzing. I searched it up. They confirmed that the brown-haired body belonged to a fifty year old woman.”

 

Josie’s eyes bulged out. Fifty? Fifty? Josie was barely eighteen! Was her hair that dry? Or dead? Did she have loud wrinkles? Hmm. But that old woman across the street didn’t have wrinkles. Perhaps she wore anti aging cream. Josie didn’t use that. Maybe she should consider buying a bottle if the town thinks she’s a fucking hag.

 

”Wow, that’s um . . . That’s nice,” she said, lips pursed. MG nodded.

 

”It’s very interesting. I wonder who would target a fifty year old woman?” MG went on rambling. Josie went on being dead. According to the news, too. And old.

 




Coming back to school on Tuesday felt strangely familiar to the first day of soccer practice - skidding heartbeats and very sweaty palms. It was like that for the entire car ride with Lizzie all the way to walking to her first period class alone. Hope sat in her usual spot behind her, but Josie couldn’t get herself to turn around and steal a smile or anything else.

 

What if mom is right? she kept asking herself, over and over again like a prayer. Her chest tightened mercilessly and Josie couldn’t tell if she was about to fall into a heart attack or die right there.

 

All of that came to a stop when she felt something prod against her back.

 

”Psst.”

 

Josie turned around. Hope had her index finger pointed out. She looked annoyed or mad. Or maybe she was tired? Whatever it was, it was clear that Josie was at fault.

 

”Yes?” she asked.

 

Hope raised her brows, urging Josie to continue talking or to pick up on whatever it was she was asking of her.

 

When nothing came from Josie, Hope sighed.

 

”When I’m mad at you, you’re supposed to text me or something. I was going to reply with a hard ‘I’m fine’ message,” she hissed. Josie frowned, cocking her head to the side. Since when was that a thing?

 

”Oh,” she mumbled, “I wasn’t aware. I’m sorry.”

 

Hope rolled her eyes and waved a hand dismissively. “It’s fine. That was ages ago.”

 

Josie bit the inside of her lip. “Hold up,” she said. “Why were you mad at me?”

 

Hope looked like she was about to explode from that question. Her eye twitched. Her grip on her pencil hardened.

 

”Really?” she seethed.

 

Josie smiled brittle. Hope glared at her for a few seconds before taking her silence as a sign that Josie didn’t know what she was talking about.

 

She closed her eyes and inhaled. “We didn’t even get to choose a prompt together.”

 

It only takes five minutes or so to pick on, but Josie decided it’d be safe to keep that to herself.

 

”We can do that tonight,” she suggested. Hope shook her head.

 

”And then you went to work on winter formal shit with MG. You drove with MG. And I was there drinking a damn cup of tea with your mom talking about her divorce.”

 

Josie sucked in a breath. Now that Hope said it, maybe her being mad was already obvious.

 

What did Landon do when Josie was mad? Josie racked around for an answer.

 

Landon would kiss her. That would’ve been inappropriate to do in the middle of class.

 

”But what I’m trying to get across is,” Hope continued. She fiddled with her knuckles, looking down at the desk. Timidly, she added, “I was hoping that yesterday would’ve been our day.”

 

Josie lit up. “Oh. Like a date?”

 

”Mhm.” Hope pursed her lips.

 

Josie thought about it. The setting - homework and MG talking about dead bodies - wasn’t really a good place to have a first date.

 

”Well how about this.” Josie scooted forward and brushed her fingers along Hope’s hands, earning a small twitch from the auburn. “Tomorrow after school. I’ll take you on a real date.”

 

Hope’s brow raised. She looked up, small mischief lathered on her face under a shy smile.

 

“A real date?” she whispered.

 

Josie leaned in and spoke with the same volume. “Yeah.”

 

Hope bit her bottom lip and smiled. The rest of the classroom was a blur, and felt like a movie playing in the back. Hope’s shimmery blue eyes were the film.

 

Oh God, Josie cringed.

 

She grazed Hope’s hand with her fingernails. Right when she was about to say ‘a date’ again for no reason, Mrs. Bennett snapped her fingers.

 

”Josette, Miss Mikaelson, please end the chit-chat! Unless you’d like the whole class to hear.”

 

Josie shared a humorous smile with Hope before turning back in her seat and facing the front.

 

A real date. Josie smiled to herself.

 




“I think I’d make a great concession lady.”

 

”Please,” Josie snorted. “You’d end up eating all the snacks.”

 

“Ha. Ha. Very funny.” Lizzie rolled her eyes and stabbed her salad with a fork. She chewed on the lettuce aggressively.

 

Josie looked around. She couldn’t find Hope anywhere. Yesterday, too.

 

”Have any of you seen Hope?” she asked the table. Only MG and Lizzie paid attention. The rest was busy with their own popular people problems.

 

Lizzie shook her head.

 

MG looked up, finding an answer in the clouds. “Oh!” He snapped his fingers. “Look in the art room. I ran into her there yesterday.”

 

Why would Hope be in the art room?

 

Josie thanked him. She left the lunch table, brought a small lettuce roll, and headed for the art room. Hope probably didn’t eat yet, and the lettuce roll had chicken in it anyways - not good for Josie’s meatless diet. It was perfect.

 

She found the art room and pressed her ear against the door. There was a light scribble of a paintbrush of paint against a damp canvas. Josie’s heart warmed unexpectedly.

 

She pushed the door open. Hope was in the middle of the room sitting on a bench, a ladder canvas propped up in front of her. At the sound of the door opening, she looked up. Her brows raised a tad.

 

”Oh, Josie,” she said, surprised. The paintbrush in her hand hovered around in the air.

 

Josie squeaked out nothing but a breath. Now that she was actually in here, with a lettuce roll in her hand, things were awkward. She held out the piece of food.

 

”Are you hungry?”

 

Hope looked at the sandwich. A small smile cracked on her lips.

 

-

 

Josie didn’t know why she was still wandering around the art room. Maybe it was just the feeling of being around Hope that made her entire being content.

 

She observed the plates of paint that were left out, the drying paintbrushes, and the spray cans of paint. Josie laughed at that.

 

She took a paintbrush and fiddled with it, skimming her finger along the soft and damp bristles. She never knew how to paint well, the artistic nature was always on Hope’s behalf. Still, Josie liked the sound the paintbrushes made.

 

From Hope’s late night painting sessions during their sleepovers, how could Josie not like the sound?

 

”Hey, Josie?” Hope asked. Josie set down the paintbrush and hummed. “Could you hand me that bottle of yellow?”

 

In front of Josie were big bottles of acrylic paint. They were aligned in so specific order, so finding the one yellow out of them all was kind of a hassle.

 

She tossed it around before sitting down on the bench next to Hope. Hope took the bottle with a small thanks and squirted it on her palette.

 

Josie watched the whole thing. Hope mixed it with white and green, swirled it around, and then pressed the paintbrush back to the canvas. Even after ten minutes of watching Hope since she walked into the room, Josie still didn’t know what Hope was making.

 

“What are you painting?” she asked, nodding towards the blue and green and yellow canvas with accents of white all around.

 

Hope shrugged casually. “I don’t know, just . . .” She clicked her tongue and tilted her head to the side to make eye contact with Josie. Josie felt her entire body pulse. “Grass.”

 

Josie looked back at the canvas. She mentally slapped herself. It was so easy to see now. How could she not know it was grass?

 

”It’s pretty,” she said.

 

Hope laughed and shook her head. “It’s nothing.”

 

Everything Hope made was beautiful to Josie, even grass. Josie always admired her artistic abilities and how they came so naturally.

 

Hope clicked her tongue, sucked in a breath, and said, “Here.” She prodded Josie up and moved the bench so that it was vertically facing the canvas. She then pushed Josie back down and sat behind her, pushing her legs on either side of Josie and pressing her chest against her back.

 

Josie squeaked. She felt Hope’s hands slither down her waist and move to her arms. She tucked the paintbrush in Josie’s fingers and moved their arms up to the canvas. Josie pulled back.

 

”I’ll ruin it.”

 

Hope chuckled, puffs of air hitting Josie’s neck. “There’s nothing to ruin,” she murmured, bringing Josie’s hand back to the canvas.

 

Josie sucked in a breath when the tip of the brush pressed against the canvas. Hope guided her hand with her own, filling in small splotches of light green with the darker shade of yellow.

 

It took a minute for Josie to get used to it. Hope used her other hand to tickle Josie’s knuckles on her free hand.

 

”Are you going to the winter formal?” Josie asked. Hope leaned forward and laid her chin against the brunette’s spine.

 

”Possibly.” Her hand gripped Josie’s hand with the brush harder. “Are you?”

 

”Mhm.”

 

No, she wasn’t, not if Hope didn’t ask her out. Or she would ask Hope out. Either way, Josie was not going to yet another dance by herself while Lizzie went to the back to kiss a random boy.

 

Hope slid her chin up and down. “With who?”

 

Josie’s throat bobbed. “With, uh,” she laughed. She couldn’t just tell Hope she was going with her like a dog. “I’m not sure yet.”

 

Hope grunted at that, discreetly and quietly. Josie pretended not to notice.

 

”But that’s in a while. There’s plenty of time to think about it,” Josie said. She pried her hand away from Hope’s and set the paintbrush and palette on a nearby stool.

 

”Right,” Hope mumbled. Her voice vibrated against Josie’s back in a way that made her legs feel as if they were made of gelatin.

 

Josie took a deep breath and let herself melt in the moment. It was quiet. It was perfect.

 

Hope shifted her head so that her ear was pressing against Josie’s back, as if she was listening for her heartbeat. Her hands joined each other, resting just before the other, and laid gently on each of Josie’s thighs. Josie wanted nothing more in that moment than for time to slow down.

 

”There’s only five minutes ‘till fourth period,” she said in one breath, only because if Hope got too comfortable, Josie would end up falling asleep.

 

Hope shook her head weakly. She raised it and pressed her lips against the nape of Josie’s neck, making the brunette jump slightly and let out the softest gasp.

 

Hope continued to plant small kiss down her neck. Josie tilted her head to allow Hope more room, small and heavy breaths leaving her lips. Hope’s lips were so soft and gentle, and each kiss she planted left a warm residue against Josie’s skin.

 

Everything felt so perfect. And right. But perfect. Maybe even too perfect.

 

What if she leaves?

 

There always had to be something that ruined Josie’s day. And it was that deciding factor, that things could never be too perfect.

 

At that intruding thought, Josie winced. Her eyes shut tight. Hope’s kisses continued, undisturbed.

 

Josie held her breath. Her heart skidded, weighted heavier, and dropped far down. Her hands found the edges of the bench and gripped it. That’s what made Hope stop her kisses.

 

”Are you alright?” she asked, her voice soft and cautious. “Is this too much?”

 

Josie shook her head. A loud sob left her lips, making Hope immediately remove herself from Josie, step in front of her, and bend down.

 

Hope’s eyes darted across Josie’s face. Her eyebrows slowly furrowed down worry as she tried reading Josie’s face.

 

”No,” Josie reassured. “I-It wasn’t too much.”

 

Hope shook her head slightly, her eyes twitching. She stood up and took a few steps back.

 

”What can I do?” she asked desperately.

 

Hope’s concern only made Josie’s throat squeeze in tighter. Now she could be the most caring person in the world, but what about later? What was one good thing in Josie’s life that didn’t leave her in crumbles?

 

”Don’t,” Josie muttered. “I’m okay.”

 

No tears fell from her eyes. Her chest just stayed as tight as it could ever be.

 

She let out a pathetic whimper, one that compelled Hope over. She placed two hands against each side of Josie’s neck on the junctures. Josie could feel Hope’s soft hands press against the now damp skin that was slowly becoming drenched from a cold, thin layer of sweat.

 

Hope leaned forward and softly pressed her lips against Josie’s, in a way that was gentle and considerate. She pulled away and Josie instantly leaned forward to let Hope’s body enfold her.

 

Hope stilled for a moment. Slowly, she wrapped her arms around Josie and placed her chin above the top of the brunette’s head.

 

Now the tears came. They slid down and out of her eyes, falling through both the air and down Hope’s shirt.

 

Hope’s hand found the small of Josie’s back. Using her knuckles, she rubbed out small stars while Josie did nothing but sob even harder.

 

Maybe Caroline was right. And maybe Josie had been right all along.

 

Damn it, she cursed. What was wrong with her?

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Every relationship Josie has ever had ended up dying as a wilted rose—once beautiful before falling into a void of ugliness. And yet, Josie couldn’t quite hate anything about Hope, because like a wilted rose, everything about her was still beautiful. It was like a storm of heaven and hell raging roughly before falling into meek winds of nothing.

 

Because Josie didn’t know what was happening between them. They kissed—a lot. But what else? How could something that was once so horrible turn into something so perfect?

 

Josie laughed dryly to herself, alone in the room, her airy breaths hitting the skin of her kneecaps. She’d been sitting in that position—knees up to bury her face in with her back against the door—for about an hour, crying with and without tears. It was the same position she was in on the same day Hope held her for the first time in months. Something about that memory brought a bittersweet feeling into Josie’s heart.

 

She was being dramatic.

 

Her face was probably going to breakout the next morning from how long she allowed the runny mascara to stain her face. Maybe considering waterproof mascara would be a good idea from how much she has cried in her life.

 

Nothing should’ve been difficult. She loved Hope and Hope loved her, so much to the point where she was willing to break up with Landon. And yet, Josie still felt like things weren’t supposed to be like this.

 

Because one of those precious days would have Hope’s teary eyes killing Josie as she told Josie everything was over. 

 

Sadness quickly turned into the wretched feeling of fear.

 

Even after telling Hope and herself that all of that was in the past, she couldn’t help but feel it all resurface. No matter how badly she wanted it to stay deep down. No matter how unreasonable she was being.

 

A small rattle at the door, just above the knob, alerted Josie.

 

”Hello?” came a muffled voice, as if the person was pressing their lips against the door. “Sister? Oh dear sister!” Lizzie called in a chip voice. “Open up!”

 

“No,” Josie quickly groaned back. She lifted her head from her knees and rested it against the door. Her room was dark; it always was during a crying session.

 

Lizzie continued knocking the door, her gentle pads slowly turning into aggressive punches.

 

”Okay, okay,” Josie mumbled. “Damn.” She wiped the tears off her face but didn’t turn on the lights. Lizzie would see she was crying and Josie was not in the mood for anymore twin comfort sessions. She wasn’t even in the mood to see anybody.

 

She reached over to grab her sunglasses and put them on to hide the fact that she’d been crying.

 

She slowly opened the door and was met with a mess. Lizzie’s hair was, for some reason, decorated with green streamers, and across her torso was a medal made for a giant. The medallion was obviously plastic, probably from Party City. And the rest of her outfit . . . Josie felt nauseous staring at the lime green button-up blouse.

 

Lizzie huffed and brushed her hair down. “Does this look like it would grab everyone’s attention?” She modeled with the weird outfit.

 

Josie’s eyes lingered on the streamers in her hair before hesitantly nodding. “I mean, yeah. Not in a good way, but attention-grabbing nonetheless.”

 

Lizzie sighed in what seemed like relief, to Josie’s surprise. “MG’s grandma is having this stupid tea party that only I’m invited to. And she’s making me wear something that would help her, and I quote, ‘see me in a better light.’ She can’t be that old, right?”

 

Josie was too tired to even correct Lizzie. But she couldn’t just let her sister go out looking like that, so she said, “It’s old-people language for ‘dress modest.’”

 

Lizzie’s face rushed with all sorts of emotions, a sequence of events. First it was denial, then she looked as if she was analyzing everything, then her face fell, and finally, to conclude, she groaned.

 

”I feel so stupid.”

 

”Don’t. It was just a misunderstanding.”

 

Lizzie shrugged, not taking Josie’s words to heart. Josie could feel why. She herself couldn’t act like she wasn’t just crying for a whole hour about a relationship that only started a few days ago.

 

Right when Josie was about to ask Lizzie to leave so she could continue what she was doing, the doorbell downstairs rang.

 

”Got it!” Lizzie yelped and darted down the stairs. With that she was gone. Simple and easy.

 

Josie sighed and took off her sunglasses before kicking the door shut with the heel of her foot. She walked over to the edge of her bed, sat down, and leaned her back against the footboard. A change of location was always refreshing.

 

But here, she didn’t feel like crying. Annoyingly, Josie felt fine—mentally. Her heart still felt as tight as ever from the constantly intruding thought of Hope leaving her again.

 

She stayed like that for a while before another knock rattled against her door.

 

”I’m too tired to judge anymore outfits, Lizzie,” she called out. Only that was when the knocking softened instead of turning more aggressive. That was obviously not Lizzie, more like-

 

“It’s Hope.”

 

Josie shuffled around on impulse. She quickly scooted back to her original position before calling out, “You can come in.”

 

Once the door opened Josie could see a glimpse of Hope’s face, illuminated only dimly by the light from the hallway before descending into just shadows from the darkness in Josie’s room. Everything inside her suddenly warmed and blossomed into nothing but a fluttery type of excitement.

 

Hope had a shy smile plastered on her face. She gently closed the door behind her and asked, “Lights on?”

 

”Off,” Josie replied. Hope nodded and blindly walked to where Josie was sitting without disturbing the lights. Josie was surprised when she made it over without tripping.

 

Hope stood still, tense and awkward, while her body hovered over Josie’s, which was still sitting against the foot of her bed. Josie assumed Hope was trying to process where each of the room’s furniture was. Her foot even kicked Josie in the softest way as if she was watching her steps.

 

Finally, Hope managed to sit down next to Josie. Their bodies brushed at a respective distance, but it wasn’t close enough to feel intimate. Josie subconsciously scooted closer.

 

”So,” Hope said into the room devoid of light, “are you okay?” A gentle nudge from Hope’s elbow poked Josie’s leg.

 

She was referring to earlier that day. When Hope was kissing her from behind and all of a sudden Josie decided it was the perfect time to break down!

 

”Yeah,” she assured. “I was just stressed.”

 

”Wanna talk about it?”

 

Josie pursed her lips. She could feel Hope to turn to look at her even though she couldn’t see it. “I’d rather keep it to myself. It’ll die down sooner, then.”

 

Hope didn’t answer immediately. If Josie could see, she would find Hope’s face volleying with choices. She knew that was what was happening because Hope did that same thing with her fingers—tapping the pads against each other, loudly.

 

Then she said, “Okay.” With a semi-subtle sigh, she shifted around and scooted an inch closer to Josie.

Josie’s reaction was immediate; a soft smile appeared on her lips; she could feel the edges of her heart squealing; even her fingers twitched from the feeling of Hope’s arm brushing against her leg.

 

It was like every issue she’d come up with earlier was gone right there. Perhaps it was only a temporary effect much like intoxication. But if that was so, Josie wasn’t sober.

 

Hope was much shorter than Josie. In moments like that, where they sat so close to each other, where Hope’s head lingered dangerously close near the muscle in Josie’s chest, Josie really took notice of her height.

 

She sucked in a breath and hoped that the shorter girl wouldn’t be able to hear how her heart suddenly picked up on a rapid pace. And when Hope’s head moved closer, and closer, and . . . even closer, Josie bit her lip to hold in a squeak.

 

She did squeak—softly—once Hope’s head rested against her shoulder. Tuffs of her hair poked at Josie’s chin, but it wasn’t in a horrible way. Hope’s hair was soft and tickled her chin in a light way, with her scent pervading each and every one of Josie’s senses. The smell of Hope was what made her tilt her head and rest it gently above Hope’s.

 

Hope hummed at the small action, making Josie’s chest feel as if it were exploding.

 

”I missed sitting like this,” she whispered softly. Without warning, Hope’s hand tiptoed over to Josie’s, fingernails tracing along the veins of her wrist. “In the rain. Sixteen.”

 

Josie tried to recall what Hope was talking about. Sure, they had sat like this a lot. But in the rain?

 

“Me too,” she replied anyways, her voice breathless and quiet.

 

She could feel Hope smile against her shoulder. It was that very move that sent a fury of memories tumbling in Josie’s brain uninvited.

 


16 yrs

And now he is playing some LEGO Star Wars game.

 

Hopey

what

 

Please pick me up.

-

”Damnit!”

 

Josie looked up from her small screen to Landon’s larger one, where the video game was displayed, smooth graphics moving around quickly. Even through her tear-struck eyes, she could still see the glow of the lightsaber.

 

He didn’t even notice her tears. Thankfully. It was embarrassing and probably even the lowest day Josie has ever had.

 

She moved back so that her body was pressed against the wall, curling her legs in to her chest. A sob trickled through her lips. And, of course, Landon didn’t notice.

 

She fiddled with the necklace around her neck that he’d given to her on Valentine’s Day. It was still shiny and had that same new, cold feel to it. But somehow, when Josie used even the slightest touch, it felt like it burned her skin. She felt incredibly sick from being in the presence of Landon after the terrible night they—or she, mostly—had.

 

Minutes passed before she received another message.

-

Hopey

i’m out front

-

The brunette sighed in relief. She didn’t waste more than a second to jump off of Landon’s unmade bed and stumble to her feet. Landon looked up, slightly confused, but half of his attention was still on that game. Was it really that competitive? Star Wars? LEGO?

 

”Where’re you going?” he called out.

 

Josie stopped at the door. “My mom wants me back.”

 

Landon gave a playful pout, something completely different from earlier when he looked like he was going to puke with Josie’s presence. It only slightly threw Josie off when he stood up and walked forward.

 

”Stay safe,” he whispered with a smile. He leaned forward and pressed his lips, gently, against Josie’s temple. They lingered there for a while, long enough for Josie to crack a smile.

 

Once he pulled back, Josie said, “Thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow. I love you, Landon.”

 

As soon as she was about to leave, Landon interrupted her. “Wait.” Josie tilted her head back to give him an eye. He cleared his throat before speaking. “I don’t want you leaving with feeling like what you wanted was a mistake. It wasn’t. I’m just not ready, you know-“

 

”I know, I know.” Josie shook her head dismissively, forcing a smile where the edges of her lips barely moved her cheek. She hated how Landon used the word ‘wanted,’ and how it wasn’t entirely true. She thought everything that happened—and was going to happen—was mutual.

 

Landon nodded with a smile of his own. His thumbs caressed the baby hairs before Josie’s ear. Josie was the one to break the atmosphere.

 

”See you.”

 

She left the room and nearly tripped as she stumbled through the hallway. She was just desperate to get out of there, as well as through the rest of his house.

 

When she finally made it outside, Hope’s car was waiting for her.

 

”Hey, Jo,” Hope said once Josie entered through the passenger’s door and sat down.

 

”Please just take me home.”

 

Hope frowned. “What’s wrong? Did anything happen in th-“

 

”Please,” Josie interrupted, turning her head to face Hope. The girl’s eyes, once narrowed in confusion, raised in a mixture of surprise and worry at the sight of shimmery, red over brown eyes. “I can’t be here anymore.”

 

Hope didn’t say anything after that. She just began driving while Josie leaned her head against the window, watching the rain pattering against the glass. Every now and then would Hope turn to look at her, but Josie only continued to watch the droplets of water slide down the window. She could drown out her own tears within those on the glass.

 

“Um,” came Hope’s voice. “I’m so sorry. It is alright if I pump some more gas?”

 

Josie gave a meek nod. “Yeah,” she croaked.

 

Hope drove into a narrow road surrounded by trees, pulling into a small gas station. Josie stayed in the car while Hope walked into the rain to pump gas. She heard the small latch close before Hope walked into the gas station to pay.

 

With being alone in a car on a rainy night, Josie’s thoughts were able to intrude into her mind. The specialty on the menu being pictures of what just happened with Landon. She winced, cringed, and sobbed again with the image of his disgusted face constantly shooting everywhere, no matter if she closed her eyes or focused on the raindrops.

 

The car began to feel stuffy. Josie unlocked the car, got out, locked it back up for no apparent reason, and closed the door. It was much colder outside due to the rain. But at least the air was fresh.

 

She walked over and leaned her back against the hood of the car. She could see, through the windows of the shop, Hope paying at the cash register. She soon came out with a small, white plastic bag draping over her wrist.

 

”What’re you doing out here?” she teased as she walked closer to Josie. Josie gave a weak shrug and jumped up from the hood of the car.

 

”Needed some fresh air.”

 

Hope smiled softly before nodding Josie to follow. She walked to the drivers seat and pulled on the handle. The door didn’t open.

 

She frowned and pulled again. The same result was given.

 

Slowly, Hope turned to face Josie. “Did you lock us out?”

 

Josie shrugged. “No,” she answered, too tired to give a better answer. She didn’t lock them out. She’s not stupid. Maybe Hope was just weak.

 

Josie walked over to the door and attempted to pull the handle. It didn’t open.

 

Well, maybe Josie did lock them out of the car. She pressed her eyes against the window and saw the shiny keys, laying mockingly on top of the dashboard.

 

But outside, she was met with the heavy sprinkle of rain against her hair.

 

Hope sighed deeply. She didn’t say anything, not wanting to disturb Josie’s mood that was already horrible. With a smile, she grabbed Josie’s wrist and pulled her away from the car.

 

”What are you doing? Aren’t we gonna get help?” she asked. Hope kept her hold on Josie’s wrist and pulled her over to the store, seating them both against the white brick wall.

 

“Actually, we should talk,” she answered simply. Josie watched lazily as Hope reached into the bag and pulled out two small pints of ice cream, handing one to Josie with a plastic spoon. “Because I’m not letting you carry all this weight alone. And-“ She nudged Josie’s shoulder. “It’ll be the only thing keeping us both calm from the fact that someone locked us out of my car.”

 

Josie blushed. She took the pint of ice cream and pressed the bottom against her thigh. It was cold, but somehow, the rain slamming violently against her legs was colder.

 

She smiled at the ice cream. Hope always knew how to get her on her feet, whether it be with ice cream or a simple cuddle session that would last for five hours. She uncapped it and took a spoonful in her mouth, a rush of contentment filling through her mouth at the taste of rich butterscotch.

 

”So for the entire night, he played video games?” Hope asked, a slight twinge of annoyance in her voice from the thought of Landon playing that stupid game.

 

Josie tugged her bottom lip between her teeth. “Um,” she said hoarsely, “no. We were doing fine before that, and then we kissed. For a long time.”

 

Hope’s hand stopped midway into scooping another spoonful of ice cream. “Uh huh,” she said slowly, urging Josie to continue.

 

Embarrassment flooded through. “I-I thought things were going well. You know? The lights were dim, everything was perfect. And Landon—he seemed to want it, too.” Josie could still see and feel how desperate he was, dark eyes and sloppy kisses.

 

Hope’s head turned slightly at that. Her eyes didn’t directly lay on Josie’s, but she kept them watching the brunette’s legs. A small gesture to show she was listening very intently.

 

Josie took a deep breathe and splurged the rest out. “He took one look at me and just-“ She swallowed. “It’s like his mood was ruined. I could tell.”

 

It was painful and humiliating to even think about; how when Josie undressed her shirt, Landon seemed to not have wanted it anymore, as if what he thought Josie was actually wasn’t. It was like she threw him off, turned him off, and made him decide video games were more interesting.

 

She could still see the way his face soured up, and his bare back as he gently pushed her away and went to put his own shirt back on.

 

Hope made an audibly loud swallow. Josie expected her to say something like, ‘maybe he wasn’t ready,’ or, ‘it could’ve been the wrong time.’

 

But instead, she said, “Do you really want him to be your first?” It didn’t only slight throw Josie off, it punched her in the face. Of course she did! He was her boyfriend, and the longest relationship she’s ever had—five months.

 

But again, when Josie thought about it, did she really want that? Landon barely showed any signs of loving her more in private than public. It was like she was a toy for his show—Landon Kirby, captain of the football team, dating a Saltzman twin (or more like Lizzie Saltzman’s sister).

 

“I mean-“ She laughed dryly. “I’ve liked him for so long. Ever since he moved to Mystic Falls.”

 

Hope sighed, much to Josie’s surprise. And a little offense. The auburn set down her ice cream, crawled on top of Josie’s lap, and brushed the hair away from her face. Her fingers gently wiped away fresh tears.

 

The new position made Josie squeak. Hope’s face was so close, and her eyes wandered around Josie’s face like she was admiring a painting.

 

”Whatever I say is usually wrong,” she started off. “But not this. You deserve someone who thinks you’re the sexiest, hottest, prettiest person alive.”

 

Josie snorted, a smile breaking through a fluttery laugh, something she didn’t expect to be emitting that night. “Shut up,” she giggled.

 

“It’s true,” Hope said, her own shy smile forming. “I mean, honestly, you’re perfect. If I were Landon, I would definitely-“

 

”Hope!” Josie laughed at the implication. “That’s enough.”

 

Hope playfully rolled her eyes before removing herself off of Josie’s legs and plopping herself back in her original spot by the taller girl’s side.

 

Instead of feeling an overwhelming gust of empty as she did earlier, Josie felt something more of contentment.

 

“Even if he wasn’t just ready,” Hope whispered gently, cautiously, like Josie was a floor of broken glass, “it’s not because of you.” She grabbed the pint of ice cream again and rested her head atop Josie’s shoulder, shifting around to make herself comfortable.

 

Josie knew that Hope could hear the steady-turned-hitch beat of her heart. Hope continued eating the ice cream, while Josie exhaled a long breath and laid her head on top of Hope’s. She unbuttoned her coat and drenched it above both of them like a blanket.

 

It was still cold as hell outside, with the harsh rain bouncing off her ankles and cold, fierce winds slapping her cheeks. But right then and there, with Hope’s breathing so close to her heart, Josie couldn’t feel warmer.

 


 

Hope eventually had enough of sitting on the hardwood floor and gave in to the idea of sprawling her body across Josie’s bed. And so while she did that, observing random trinkets even though it was almost pitch black in the room, Josie took a few minutes to herself before succumbing to the loneliness.

 

She got up to her feet and walked over to the bed, whisking Hope over so that she could lay down. The auburn scooted slightly to the side, and since Josie couldn’t really see, she ended up pressing her body against Hope’s stomach. Hope took that as a perfect opportunity to drape her leg over Josie’s.

 

Josie sighed to get used to the new position before opening her eyes. Her eyes had adjusted only slightly to the dark, but she could see Hope’s hands in front of her, twirling an object around. Behind that was her face. Josie knew if Hope were to let out an airy laugh, her breaths would flutter all over Josie’s skin from how close their faces were.

 

”What’s that?” she asked in a soft voice, careful not to startle them both.

 

Hope twiddled with it more before whispering, “I don’t know. It was on your desk.” She gently pressed it against Josie’s forehead for her to feel the object. It was big and cold, probably made out of stainless steel or glass.

 

Josie wrapped her own hand around Hope’s, slowly pulling it down and removing the object from her face so that she could have a better view of the girl before her. In the dark, she could still see those blue eyes that glimmered like a sky full of stars.

 

Her heart skipped ten beats at once.

 

“Maybe it’s a cup?” Hope whispered. The shape definitely was cylinder, but Josie didn’t remember bringing a cup to her room.

 

”I think it’s a really big hockey puck,” Josie said, as if her claim made more sense than Hope. She’s never even played hockey before, let alone bought a hockey puck.

 

Hope hummed, fatigue slipping through. Josie took the object in her own, slowly reaching back to set it on the nightstand to allow Hope to rest without holding such a big object in her hands.

 

When she turned back around Hope still had her eyes opened, watching Josie’s every move. It wasn’t in a creepy or made Josie feel contained way. Hope’s gaze, somehow, only made Josie feel as relaxed as she would’ve been after coming back from a good massage.  She almost hummed from the feeling.

 

Hope used two fingers to walk on top of Josie’s arm, slowly moving to her shoulder, then to her collarbone, and then taking a big jump to the tip of her nose.

 

“This feels nice,” the shorter girl barely murmured. “To be like this.” She brushed her finger along Josie’s nose before dropping it back to the small space of mattress between them.

 

Josie’s breaths were almost completely sucked away from her lungs. “Yeah,” was all she could say without embarrassing herself. When Hope suddenly placed that same hand on Josie’s waist, she couldn’t help but impulsively jerk and squeak. Josie began to think that was her new normal.

 

Hope didn’t judge. Instead, she drew small stars with the pad of her index finger along the small spot of skin that was exposed above the hem of her shorts.

 

Josie didn’t want to be completely submissive, so she brought a hand up and brushed the back of her fingers along the skin of Hope’s cheek. It was incredibly soft, as usual. Josie could even feel a small tingle spark run through her fingers from the contact.

 

She then moved it down to cup Hope’s jawline, playing with the baby hairs on her neck. By then she could hear soft breathing coming from the girl, nearing a slumber.

 

Josie couldn’t help but feed the starving urge to kiss her. She leaned in and gently pressed her lips against Hope’s. Though it was gentle, Hope jumped as if she was woken from a dream.

 

”Sorry,” Josie whispered, moving back, only for Hope to use her other hand and pull her head back by the neck. She returned the kiss with a gentle, delicate move of lips. The kiss quickly became rough in a matter of seconds, and before Josie knew it, she was on top of the auburn, cradling her hip, and leaving wet kisses down a trail on her neck.

 

Hope’s hand on her waist moved up to her shoulder, squeezing her arm before continuing to pull Josie down, harder, making the brunette’s teeth graze against her neck. A soft, almost-moan elicited from beneath her.

 

That continued for a minute. Hope’s—very inappropriate—sounds slowly became louder, having to make Josie cup a hand over her lips before Lizzie or her parents could hear. Hope’s hands grabbed each of Josie’s shoulder blades right as she flipped them over. The sudden change in position momentarily surprised Josie—Hope was now above her rather than beneath.

 

When she expected Hope to kiss her or do anything, she was rather amused when all the auburn did was groan.

 

”What’s the matter?” she asked.

 

In the dark, she could spot Hope’s silhouette as her hand moved to her face.

 

“My head.” She slowly backed away from Josie’s face and rested her bottom against the heel of her feet, still cradling Josie’s hip. Her palms rested flat against each side of the brunette’s stomach.

 

Hope was probably too tired to be sitting up. Josie smiled fondly, sitting up slightly to attack Hope’s lips again.

 

”It’s okay.”

 

As sexy as she tried to be, all of that went to waste once Josie tried flipping them over again. They ended up tumbling off the mattress and landed on the floor, Josie directly on top of Hope.

The auburn yelped once Josie landed right on her stomach. They laid like that, groaning and moaning—a bit dramatically coming from Hope’s end, to be frank. Or maybe that was because Josie was right on top of her, literally.

 

She quickly rolled off and stared at the dark ceiling, catching her breath from both the adrenaline and fear that crossed her heart in a rude interference.

 

Then, at the same exact time, they laughed. Josie snorted in a completely unsexy way while Hope shed the most beautiful, fluttery sounds she’s ever heard.

 

Josie got up to her feet and stumbled over to her nightstand to turn on the lamp. She switched it on, noticing how dark the room really was. The small lightbulb brought a completely different feel to the room, warm and cozy rather than dark and emo.

 

She turned back around to find Hope still laughing on the floor, a wide smile on her face. It almost—almost—made Josie pass out from the rush she got; Hope’s smile was natural, not sugared up. It was dark in the room only a second ago, and seeing Hope’s smile, still beautiful, that came so naturally made Josie’s body warm.

 

Apparently Josie wasn’t the same. Hope slowly turned her head to face the brunette, but once her eyes set on Josie, her smile dropped.

 

Well then, Josie thought. All she could do was accept it.

 

Hope then shuffled to her feet and walked over to Josie, tripping slightly on quick steps. Her hand went for Josie’s face. She dragged a finger down, as if she was tracing a trail.

 

”Were you crying?” she asked, heavy concern coating her words.

 

Josie remembered about the mascara. She probably looked hideous at that moment. In the dark, she didn’t have to worry about that—hence being the reason she cried in the dark.

 

Josie shook her head and looked into big, luminance reflected eyes that captured the warm tone of the lamp Josie flicked on. “It was a while ago.”

 

Hope pursed her lips, letting them go with a small pop. She took a moment to think of what to do with that. Then she snapped her fingers. “I have an idea!” she perked.

 

Josie didn’t know what happened next, but she somehow found herself chasing after Hope, out of her room, down the stairs, and into the dark night outside.

 


 

“Miss Greasley, it’s an honor to finally meet you.”

 

Lizzie took a bow in the living room in front of the elderly woman, who sat on the leather Lazyboy, looking at Lizzie like she regretted bringing her in.

 

Lizzie didn’t mind. The green outfit she’d put on made her look like a lime-flavored Jolly Rancher. It was quite an appearance, and she was disappointed to see MG’s grandma wearing nothing too exciting—a cardigan above a simple white blouse. She looked like a grandma, not a Jolly Rancher.

 

The lady said nothing as she motioned for Lizzie to sit on the couch. Lizzie mentally cursed herself for putting on such a show the second she stepped in. She shimmied over to the couch and took a delicate seat.

 

A tray of teacups and a very posh looking teapot laid before her on the coffee table.

 

”We haven’t talked face-to-face, so I’m excited to finally be able to get to know you!” She smiled at the lady. Again, Lizzie was given no verbal answer, just a subtle smile that only seemed to be there for kind manners.

 

Lizzie began to think the lady already hated her. Was it the appearance she put on? Didn’t old people love to see blinding colors?

 

”Um.” She chuckled nervously, leaning forward to grab the grandma’s attention. “Is MG arriving anytime soon?” No answer. Miss Greasely looked around, then let out a huff before setting her eyes back on Lizzie.

 

Was Lizzie going to give up? No. She’d been dying to meet MG’s caretaker forever. She wanted to know who shaped him into such an amazing boy, who was so incredibly perfect in every sense-

 

Gross, she thought. Stop it.

 

She took in the face of the grandmother. She looked very much like MG, with similar features that stood out broadly. She especially loved how her lips were shaped—similar to MG’s. Distinctive.

 

”Your face is built very well,” she said, motioning a hand over her own face to exemplify her point. “You’re very beautiful.”

 

Lizzie wasn’t expecting for that simple statement to bring a big, warm smile to the lady’s lips. She opened her mouth and chuckled, showing her teeth that weren’t necessarily perfect, but looked like one day, back then, they’d been pearly white and stunning.

 

She then used to hands and motioned a cup-and-stir shape with them. Lizzie furrowed her eyes slightly, trying to pick up on what that meant. It obviously was either tea or coffee. But why wasn’t she talking?

 

The realization slammed in Lizzie’s oblivious head. She was deaf. The disability that MG was referring to was a hearing disability.

 

She politely nodded with a smile and watched as Miss Greasely leaned forward and began pouring tea into one teacup. She handed it over to Lizzie, to which the younger girl accepted with a smile.

 

While the lady poured her own tea, Lizzie let out a long sigh. What was she going to do? She never learned ASL.

Lizzie quickly whipped out her phone, set down her tea, and searched up ‘asl for how are you.’ A result popped up. She watched the brief video and mimicked herself performing the action in her head before turning off her phone and meeting the lady with a smile.

 

How are you? she signed. The lady looked at her and instantly signed something back using two hands.

 

Shit, Lizzie thought. She quickly used her phone again and searched up the movement the lady did. The results that popped up were happy.

 

Lizzie and Miss Greasely continued a talk-less conversation that consisted of Lizzie frantically searching up every single sign and the lady sipping her tea contently.

 

Once they were finished, the lady went to grab the tray to put it away in the kitchen, but Lizzie whisked her hands away.

 

I’ve got it, she signed with a smile, something she searched up as well. She took the tray and stood up, walking to the kitchen. Once the tray was on the counter, she sighed.

 

Was this why MG’s house was suspiciously quiet the first time she visited? It had to be.

 

She shook her head from her thoughts and went to hand-washing the dainty chinaware. She liked how they looked. The lotus flowers and the antique design brought a sense of comfort, and made Lizzie feel fancy when she was drinking the tea.

 

Suddenly the back door opened, and into the kitchen came MG. He struggled to fit through the door with a big duffel bag slung over him, weighing him down.

 

Lizzie turned off the water and set the dishes on the rack. “Where’ve you been?” she asked. She whisked her hands in the air, drying them,  before walking over to MG and pinning him against the wall with a hand encompassing his throat. “Tell me.” She said the second part a bit more aggressively, making sure she had enough edge in her voice to emit a warning.

 

Is this too much? Maybe. But Lizzie couldn’t hold down anymore anger.

 

His eyes shot open, thrown off. “On the field, prac-practicing!” he choked out, squirming from under her grip. The duffel bag was definitely looking like a body bag, but whatever.

 

Lizzie let go and allowed the boy to breathe.

 

”You didn’t tell me your grandmother was . . .” She had trouble getting the word out, unsure if throwing it around was appropriate or not. Why wouldn’t it be? It wasn’t like it was the plague. “Deaf,” she squeezed out.

 

MG looked guilty. His eyes locked with Lizzie’s. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I-I was just . . . I didn’t know how you were gonna act.”

 

What?

 

MG looked at the ground, his guilt not subtle at all. “I was scared that you wouldn’t, you know . . . go.” By the way he said it, Lizzie could tell he’s had friends in the past who have judged him and his grandmother. But how could Lizzie? What was there to judge?

 

”What? I’m mad because you didn’t tell me beforehand!”

 

”What would that have done?”

 

”Well, let’s see,” Lizzie groaned, putting her hand out and counting down each reason. “I could’ve researched sign language better, I could’ve worn something better than this.” She nodded down to her Jolly Rancher outfit. It wasn’t a reason that correlated to her rant, but Lizzie only had one reason why she was mad. It wasn’t like she could just put the rest of her fingers down. “And I would’ve researched more about fine tea. Your grandma . . . she’s like a tea master. My mom would love her.”

 

MG raised his brows, taking all of that in. Lizzie caught her breath and sighed, smiling proudly.

 

”Oh,” he said. “Oh. Okay.” He smiled. “Did you wanna, you know, uh, I mean, if it’s okay with-“ He stopped himself and took a deep breath. “Would you like to stay the night? It’s pretty late out.”

 

Lizzie was about to reply with a yes, but something big and ugly slammed right into her gut. The last time she’s been in his room, there was a picture of him and that girl, Alyssa; his ex; the girl he was going to ask to homecoming.

 

She swallowed, her throat bobbing. “Actually,” she whispered with a fake smile, “I’ve got to be home right now. Stefan’s crazy about curfew.” Everything about that was a lie, but MG believed it. She felt guilty, and almost frustrated, at the way his face wallowed in defeat.

 

”That’s alright,” he said, forcing a smile that was just as fake as Lizzie’s. “Goodnight, Lizzie.”

 

“Goodnight.” She left the house through the back door. And once she was in Josie’s car that she stole, Lizzie felt a sudden gust of jealousy, something she hadn’t felt in a long time.

 


 

”How many is that?”

 

”Five constellations.”

 

”It has to be six.”

 

“There’s no such thing as a ‘unicorn merged with a butterfly’ alignment, Hope. That doesn’t count. So there’s five.”

 

Hope grumbled quietly, but sighed anyways and waved her hand, dismissing her claim.

 

Josie turned back to face the sky. It’s selection of stars was so vast, the winter bringing out its true beauty after being hidden for so long under puffy, dark clouds of rain.

 

They had probably been sitting there for an hour or two, Josie didn’t keep track. It was definitely nearing midnight. Neither girls cared. And they didn’t care that the air was thin and sharply cold, only bringing them together closer to keep warm.

 

They didn’t directly hug, just touch. The sides of their foreheads rested against each other rather than Hope’s head resting on Josie’s chest. Earlier, Hope whined and told her she wanted to feel like they measured the same. So there they were, laying close to each other in a position that was new, and Josie couldn’t complain—she liked it a lot.

 

Hope brought the two of them on a walk to that same hill where they ate ice cream and cuddled on a few weeks ago. She wasn’t expecting to keep them there, but Josie insisted. The starry night sky was too beautiful and extraordinarily clear to dismiss.

 

“Oh, look.” Hope raised a hand, a droopy finger pointing lazily at the sky as she spoke in a dulcet voice. “Orion.”

 

Josie turned her gaze, finding the familiar alignment in the southwestern part of the sky. She smiled and reached up, wrapping her hand around Hope’s wrist to gently guide it a few inches away so that she was now pointing to a different constellation. “And Taurus,” she whispered.

 

By then they could see the neighboring configurations, many of which were familiar to the both of them. Stargazing wasn’t an alien activity; they’d done it often, together. Josie’s favorite alignment was Orion, mainly because it was the first one she’d recognized that wasn’t the Big Dipper. Hope’s was Eridanus because of how far it stretched out.

 

“That’s eight.”

 

”Seven,” Josie corrected, and gently lowered their hands, resting them above Hope’s heart so she could feel the beat of it. Hope’s heartbeat was steady. Josie was sure if she were to listen to it she’d fall asleep, much like a lullaby or a music box.

 

Thump. Thump. Thump, it went, under her hand, unaware of how much Josie admired it.

 

Hope shifted her hand around to position Josie’s like she was cradling a stuffed animal. “How have you been feeling?” she barely murmured, her voice smaller than audible but above a whisper.

 

Josie wasn’t expecting to be asked a question like that. It was so simple, yet she was usually given it when she hadn’t seen an acquaintance in a while. But being asked that in such a normal state made her feel more eased.

 

Complete, she wanted to say, but nothing came out. Why couldn’t she say it? The word was right there, the atmosphere was inviting, but why couldn’t she say it?

 

It was because it wasn’t true. She’d been analyzing every small thing that’s happened before, finding pieces and connecting them, acting like they didn’t fit. Like she and Hope didn’t fit.

 

That same parasite spawned in her gut once again, infecting her entire system.

 

Why were they even there again on the hill? They were there because not even a night ago, Josie had been obsessing over the fact that maybe she and Hope would never work out together as something more than friends.

 

Everything about those couple hours spent with Hope, alone, walking and laying on the grass, gazing at the stars, everything about it was perfect. Too perfect. And nothing could ever be too perfect for Josie.

 

”Good,” she managed to breathe out. A damn lie. “What about you?”

 

Hope hummed, completely unaware of the sudden attack of deluges in Josie’s mind. “Everything has just been . . .” She racked for a word. “God, just perfect.”

 

Perfect.

 

Josie could say the same.

 

Hope continued. “I can’t believe I was stupid to not realize it before—how these feelings weren’t just something that would pass by.”

 

Josie’s heart squeezed. Her guilt exemplified.

 

”But when you kissed me, it was like-“

 

”I don’t think we should continue this.”

 

Hope stopped mid sentence, her words halting like she’d slammed a foot on the brake. Josie could feel a killing tension seep into the air. Was this the wrong time to say that?

 

”Wh-what do you mean by this?” Hope asked. Her voice was cautious now. Under her hand, Josie could feel Hope’s heartbeat quicken. She retracted her hand as soon as she noticed it.

 

This, like . . .” Josie took a deep breath, motioning a hand around the two of them. “Being together.” Something sharp and thick pierced right through Josie’s heart. Saying that hurt like hell, so why wasn’t she stopping? “I think we’d be better if we stayed as just friends.”

 

At that Hope shot up, now sitting up and looking down at Josie. “But-“ she choked out. Her hand raised, pointing an accusing finger down at Josie. “Y-You kissed me first.” Her eyes welled in tears. They pooled in her eyes. “I thought you liked me.”

 

Josie sat up. “I di- I do, I still do, but I-“ How could it be so hard to just say what she wanted to say? How did Hope’s denialism and woe face make it so incredibly difficult?

 

Hope shook her head slightly. “I don’t understand.” Her formerly perfect eyes began to coat themselves in red, pushing tears out that slid down her cheek and dropped to the grass in a second. Josie felt her own heart ache at the sight of it.

 

”I haven’t really gotten myself to . . . forget.”

 

They both knew what she was referring to. Josie didn’t even have to say it.

 

Hope’s throat bobbed. She looked down, studying the structure of the grass before shaking her head again and leaning forward to wrap a hand around Josie’s wrist. “We can talk about it,” she squeezed out. “Like we’ve always done before.”

 

Josie could see how much guilt began coating her face. It made her wince. She slowly pried Hope’s hand off of her wrist. Pretty soon she felt her heart tighten.

 

She took a deep breath, choking on a sob she didn’t even know had been forming, having been too caught up in what emotions Hope had been processing. “I’m . . . It’s-“

 

Damnit, she cursed. Why was it so hard to say?

 

Hope looked at her pleadingly, subconsciously moving closer and making Josie lean further back.

 

“I’m just afraid you’ll leave.” It came pouring out of her, filterless, no gifted mercy.

 

Hope did flinch at that. Her eyes darted across Josie’s face, trying to read her. “But-“ Her brows furrowed. “But you said you were over it.”

 

”I am,” Josie replied in a brief panic.

 

Hope pursed her lips. “Can we at least talk about this?”

 

Josie sucked in a breath. She’s talked about it already, with her mom. How could she trust Hope not to do the same thing her dad did?

 

She shook her head. “There’s nothing you could say to make me change my mind.” She watched another tear fly freely from the center of Hope’s eye as the girl stilled.

 

Then, with a scoff, she removed herself away from Josie’s presence and leaned back on her hands, staring at her outstretched legs. After a while of mutual silence she said, “You know, Josie?”

 

Josie stayed silent.

 

Hope continued. “I tried my best to be patient with you. I knew that what I did was . . . horrible. But now-“ She looked at Josie, revealing her now puffy red face and pursed lips that kept in sobs. “It’s like you don’t even want to try.”

 

Josie instantly averted her gaze to the grass. What did she mean by try?

 

Hope scoffed. “All you’ve ever done was hide, but now you’re-“

 

”But it’s not-“

 

”-running! You’re running away from your problems without even trying!”

 

Suddenly the air that was once comforting became dark and gloomy, like in a horror film. The crickets became haunted bells, the moon became a ghost. And now Josie couldn’t help but feel both cold and horrified at the same time. Not from Hope, but from herself.

 

Hope sniffled quietly in a gentle way that completely contrasted from her frustration. She brought an arm up and wiped her eyes on the sleeve. “Don’t do this right now,” she croaked. “I’ll help you get through it. Don’t throw this away after everything we’ve been through.”

 

“I’m not. I’m more than willing to keep being friends, like we used to be.”

 

Hope’s face kept its armor before, slowly, falling, accepting that Josie wasn’t going to keep them together. She rolled her eyes and shook her head.

 

”Fine,” she muttered. “You wanna be friends? Take your stupid love necklace, then. Doesn’t seem appropriate for me to wear it anyways.” She reached into her sweater, pulling out the chain. Josie didn’t even see that she was wearing it. It was hidden beneath her sweater.

 

She watched, her heart squeezing in more with each move as Hope tugged and yanked the necklace off her neck. She turned to give Josie a fake smile before grabbing her hand, shoving it in, and propelling herself away and to her feet.

 

There was a moment of hesitation as both Hope and Josie stayed completely still, with Hope standing up with the intention of turning around and leaving, and with Josie, who had no intention to do anything at all. It was like Hope was waiting for her to say something. But Josie’s mind was utterly blank.

 

And then she left without exchanging a word.

 

This was what Josie wanted, right? To save herself from potential future harm?

Yes, she reassured herself. She stared down at her hand and caressed the rose pendant, not daring to turn it around. She’d done the right thing. You did the right thing.

 

But it felt so wrong.

 

Why did she feel like she had made the biggest mistake of her life?

 

Before she knew it, she was crying, too. She squeezed her hand around the necklace and allowed herself to cry for the hundredth time that day. Not because of being insecure like the rest of the sessions were for, but because suddenly felt all the payment from her choices strike down on her all at once.

 

But she’d done the right thing . . . Right?

 

The stars in the sky seemed to have been looking down at her, frowning and shaking their heads in disappointment.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Hope has been desperately trying to hold onto something she knew she lost months ago:

 

Trust.

 

And being an anchor for safety, or to keep someone grounded when they felt as if they would tumble off the earth and fall into dark, mortal grounds that never seemed to stop being so cold.

 

She knew from the moment she gave Josie the trench coat back. And she knew at the wheel, head against the leather, after she returned Josie’s pendant.

 

Her memories were delightful, but Hope knew deep down those were just a fantasy, far from the truth. She’s never learned to forgive herself and by the way Josie acts, Hope thinks her point’s only further proven.

 

She’s nothing but cruel.

 

Cruel enough to the point where Josie is willing to give up a promising future with Hope just so she wouldn’t get hurt again.

 

Or, Hope ruminated frequently over the span of the past hour she’s spent in her car, Josie just didn’t love her enough. Not as strongly as Hope did to pine and follow and beg on her knees to keep Josie in her life, and potentially more.

 

It just seemed as though Josie wanted to get rid of Hope. Like she was just a convenient dose of pleasure for one day, yet she knew she could survive well without Hope.

 

Hope knew it was toxic, but she missed when Josie would come to her for comfort or cuddles, tune into The Kissing Booth under Hope’s thick sheets and fall asleep together within the first ten minutes into the movie.

 

She missed the way Josie would look at her with grateful eyes when she defended the brunette from gunshots of insults. Or the way she’d look at Hope with a deep sense of relief when Hope arrived late to school one day.

 

”I thought you were sick!” she exclaimed and ran into Hope for a tight hug.

 

(Hope thinks if she were sick tomorrow, Josie would break up with her again just to focus the pain on something else)

 

If Hope stayed in the damn car for one more minute, she was sure she’d be sick from basking in her own warmth and salty tears.

 

She drove home, leaving Josie to walk herself back, but trailing discreetly behind her to make sure she arrived safely.

 

The way Josie walked straight home with her hands in her pockets and no sign of an upcoming breakdown only made Hope want to throw up her guts.

 

-

 

She found Roman leaning the back of his head against the metal vents of her locker.

 

”Miss Mikaelson,” he greeted with a nod when she approached. Hope ignored his sudden urge to talk to her and began twisting the lock.

 

Roman waited a minute for her to reply, but when she closed her locker and began walking off, he quickly scrambled upright and trailed after her.

 

”Wait!” he called out, jogging to her side. “What’s the matter with you?”

 

Hope shifted with her unfinished assignments—the majority of the bunch not even started—and let her eyes fall to the back of her head, something she’s always done at the sound of Roman’s voice.

 

He was annoying. Hope wondered why her father was so fond with him. Probably his hair that would annually smell like roses, but always felt like spiky and sharp hay.

 

“Not interested,” she said.

 

Roman made a sound of confusion. “Huh?”

 

Hope turned around and stopped, making Roman pause in his tracks and almost fall over. “The dance. I know you’re lonely and no girl wants to go with you. I’m not going to be a last resort.”

 

Roman blubbered humorously, but Hope could see the glint of disappointment in his eyes. “I wasn’t going to ask that.” He laughed.

 

”Then what?” Hope raised a brow. “Were you just gonna ask for last night’s homework? I didn’t do it.”

 

”What’s the matter with you?” he repeated as if Hope didn’t hear him the first time. His face fell and transitioned into a more irritated look. “It’s Thursday, almost Friday. Don’t be so in the dumps.”

 

”I’m not.”

 

Hope thought she put herself pretty well together today, considering the tremendous lack of sleep she’d gotten last night. But looks probably don’t do much coverage.

 

Roman’s lips tugged in a smirk that read ‘yeah, right.’ Hope sneered and, right as she was about to turn around and shun him immaturely, a loud squeal came from her left.

 

She turned around, squinting to grasp a better view. Her stomach churned miraculously into something along the lines of sour or just pure jealousy.

 

There was MG, holding an ugly as hell green sign reading a proposal to the formal. His cheeks were guppy, his smile wide and flashy. He looked happier than he had been all week. Hope figured he’s just been anxious about asking Josie to be his date.

 

Hope’s jaw clenched. They’ve already went over how MG was planning on asking Lizzie, but what if-

 

Hope choked on spit, bending over and causing a small scene that had Roman rushing to put a hand on her back and caress it instead of smacking it. She slapped his useless hand off and collected herself to watch the interaction. 

 

She had to stop herself from assuming such nonsense scenarios about why Josie broke up with her. She wasn’t getting it with MG. Well, she hoped so, at least.

 

The proposal went on for a brief period of time, no one really paying them much attention as the sign practically covered MG’s whole body. And Hope was mostly paying attention to Josie.

 

Josie, standing there awkwardly with her arms crossed behind the boy, eyes on her shoes, not engaging in any social activity. It shocked Hope for a second, giving her a small sense of deja vú.

 

Hope hadn’t seen Josie be this awkward since October.

 

Cute, Hope thought. She loved the little scrunch between Josie’s eyebrows as she murmured something under her breath, clearly frustrated with something that Hope didn’t know.

 

She almost—almost—forgot they broke up. Hope immediately frowned, her heart plummeting to the planet’s core.

 

“Looks like she’s moved on fast.”

 

Hope snapped alert. She turned to Roman, who was watching the interacting with his head turned only slightly. “What?”

 

He nodded towards the proposal. “I figured Sebastian would’ve had her by now. He said he would take her.”

 

Hope’s heart floated lazily. “Oh,” she said, a little more relaxed. Then she cursed herself for getting so worked up over a small assumption.

 

They’ve only dated for three days before breaking up. Of course no one knew.

 

Roman clicked his tongue and inhaled. “Yep. Lucky he isn’t the one being beat up.”

 

Hope snorted unexpectedly. Roman pouted.

 

“Josie really loves her sister,” she said softly, a shy smile forming.

 

”The Saltzmans love everyone. It’s a problem,” he scoffed back in useless defense, trying to ease Hope’s insult that she wasn’t even making.

 

It seemed as if he insulted her without knowing.

 

Her heart pulled and tugged with hurt. It’s only been a few minutes in conversing with Roman, yet he found a way to poke.

 

”That’s not true,” Hope said, her voice wavering slightly. Even the thought of Josie loving her family more than Hope made her feel uneasy. It was toxic, but Hope can’t help it.

 

It just further proves a hidden point that she never really loved Hope like Hope thought she did.

 

”Uh?” Roman glanced at her through tuffs of his hair. “Are you good?”

 

”Everything’s fine,” she snapped, rather loudly. Maybe even too loud.

 

Chatters stopped from a few students. The hallway’s attention turned to the two, including Josie.

 

Hope swallowed thickly and stared right back, connecting blue with a gorgeous shade of brown that reminded her of all things cozy and safe. They glimmered.

 

Hope was too distracted to realize that she was close to crying. The fact that Josie didn’t want her, the fact that Josie was scared of her. It was all too much to handle before first period even started.

 

Josie’s face was blank and devoid of any clues for Hope to read on her emotions. Hope knew Josie well enough to know she was just good at hiding them. It hurt to find Josie trying to keep them a secret from her.

 

The closest thing she got from it was the glint of pity in Josie’s eyes. Hope would rather have nothing than that; it made it feel as though Josie wasn’t hurt about any of this, as if the only negative emotion she’d gotten out of them parting was seeing Hope with purple eye bags and eyes that were slowly turning red and wet.

 

How could you be so perfectly fine?

 

Hope wanted to scream and yell at something—someone.

 

She slowly turned to face Roman. He stared back.

 

”Nuh uh,” he said before she could even do anything.

 

Well, now she couldn’t cause a scene that would potentially humiliate the both of them yet distract her from something other than Josie. Thanks a lot, Roman.

 

Hope turned and headed through the growing crowd of high school students hurrying to their first period, straight to the bathroom. A stubby freshman had a flat iron plugged into the wall and was halfway into straightening her hair.

 

”Out,” she demanded, already pulling the plug from the outlet and shooing the poor student out—more like shoving.

 

She kicked the doorstop and left it outside before closing the door.

 

Hope knew if she let herself feel whatever it was she was feeling out there for a minute longer, she’d rip something up.

 

In her room, somewhere on her bed, laid a torn apart stuffed alligator.

 

Hope really needed to outlet her feelings somewhere else.

 

She walked over to the sinks and gripped the countertop that was usually covered in abandoned eyelashes and smudges of eyeliner.

 

She took in her appearance: purple eyebags, a red tint of film around her pupils with tears already sleeping through the crevices under her eyelids.

 

God, she was hideous. It almost looked like she came back from a party hungover and possibly high. Hope really wished she could’ve had something dangerous to ease her mind off things.

 

The ugly monster in the mirror took up enough of her attention for her to not realize the door had been opened.

 


 

“Hey!” a voice called from behind. “Josay!”

 

Jed hobbled from behind, his bag swishing around and slapping his jeans harshly. It sounded like he was carrying a colony of rocks in there, but Josie knew it was probably just a bundle of Rockstar cans.

 

“Yes?” she prompted as he approached.

 

He smiled and gave her back a pat that was gentle on his end yet aggressive on Josie’s, and she had to plant her feet in the midst of the halls to stop herself from falling over.

 

She wasn’t planning on stopping. Josie needed to get to Hope, that was her priority at the moment. She tried to push past Jed but his bulky figure made it hard to even consider stepping away.

 

”Are you planning on going to the dance?”

 

No.

 

“I don’t have anyone to take me.” Josie’s heart felt as if it was a replacement for a practice dummy. Hope was supposed to take her, she was supposed to take Hope.

 

Jed lit up. “Well.” He clicked his tongue. “I don’t have anyone to take.”

 

”I’m sorry,” Josie said with a pitiful smile. “I get it, everyone’s already clinging to someone else. It’s not easy to find a date.”

 

Jed’s lips dipped to a frown.

 

“Don’t be embarrassed,” Josie said in an attempt to wipe off his frown. She honestly had no idea what she was saying or what his words implied, because all she could focus on what how she could pivot around the students and get to the bathroom door before it closed.

 

She saw a tiny freshman scurry out of there, looking as if she had been tormented by a pack of wolves.

 

She needed to see Hope, even if it meant getting no words in return or a cold eye. Maybe even a black eye.

 

Josie just wanted to make sure she was okay.

 

She only took one step to the side before Jed fished a blue wad of paper from his book bag, flattening out its wrinkles against his jeans.

 

”Wait wait wait,” he murmured, holding the piece of paper in front of her. Josie groaned quiet enough for only her to hear and turned to read the paper.

 

”What’s this?” she asked, her eyes wandering around what seemed like an invite. Her brows raised at one particular requirement. “B.Y.O.C?”

 

“Bring your own condom,” Jed prompted, proudly. “Gotta stay safe, you know?”

 

”Right.” Josie cleared her throat.

 

Jed’s Epic Function (Get wasted at my cave!!!!)

 

”Function?” Josie asked. “For what? It’s literally January. There’s nothing going on.”

 

“Before the formal,” Jed helped, his brow quirking in confusion. “You know, every year?”

 

Josie’s never been to a pre-dance celebration before, let alone gone with anyone else other than her sister or Hope.

 

”Oh, right,” she laughed anyways. “Silly me.”

 

Why does everything always come back to Hope?

 

One side of Jed’s lips raised in an awkward smile. The paper in his hand lingered in the air, waiting for Josie to give an answer.

 

”You should come,” Jed suggested, his voice wavering consciously. “It’s gonna be lit. Rafael’s supplying it with drinks.”

 

”The last time I’ve gotten drunk wasn’t exactly great,” Josie said, raising a hand, shuddering at the memory. Now it wasn’t just about Hope, it was about pure humiliation.

 

Jed’s head fell to the side. “Please?” he begged with his eyes big and glossy. “I can’t go without a date. We don’t even have to touch.”

 

“I know you and my sister are friends, but Jed . . . We barely know each other.”

 

”I served you drinks.”

 

”You served everyone drinks.”

 

”I usually do an identification check.” He rolled his eyes playfully, an action that Josie can’t help but smile at.

 

Jed’s funny. And nice. Yet, Josie couldn’t think of going with anyone besides Hope. Even if they just went as friends, it wouldn’t be nice to just bring a boy along.

 

Who knows how it would make Hope feel? Josie has already done enough.

 

Jed prodded her chest with the paper, offering it. She held it in her own hand, sighing quietly in relief when she realized the conversation was coming to an end.

 

“See you there, Josay!” He smiled, walking off backwards with his hands pointing finger guns in her direction before turning around on a hop and smacking Rafael on his shoulder.

 

Josie finally, desperately, ran to the bathroom.

 

She was pleased to find the door unlocked, and when she opened it, was even more pleased to find it empty except for Hope.

 

The auburn was leaning against the sinks, her hands gripping the counter. Josie’s eyes stayed there for a second, watching chiseled veins pop out and the brunt of her knuckles turning a bony white. Her insides came to a boiling rage.

 

Hope had very exceptional hands.

 

“Josie?”

 

Josie looked up and found herself staring through the mirror and at a replicant of Hope. A very, off, horribly produced one, that is. Josie blinked, trying to recognize her, but all she could see was bloodshot eyes and tear stained skin.

 

Her heart plummeted further past the core and on the other side of the planet. Josie did this.

 

Hope looked back, her back facing Josie but her eyes moving rapidly in the mirror. She looked like she was in some sort of relief but also like she didn’t want to see Josie at all.

 

”Uh,” Josie said awkwardly, startled by how loud her voice sounded in the tranquility of the bathroom. “S-Sorry-“

 

”Why did you follow me?” Hope interrupted, her voice desperate and a little broken, though armored by a stone wall that made it hard for Josie to read her. Sure, her tears had said enough, but Josie needed more.

 

”I didn’t,” she lied.

 

Hope’s lips tilted down, disappointed.

 

”I did,” Josie corrected herself timidly. No way was she going to lie to Hope after being the conduit for the teenage-girl-in-a-breakdown in front of her.

 

Hope nodded. Her eyes glanced down repeatedly as if she didn’t know where to set them.

 

”Look at me,” Josie said softly, stepping closer. She didn’t know what she was doing, or why she suddenly had the courage to act like this.

 

If anything, Josie should’ve left Hope alone, not push her further.

 

Hope’s shoulders tensed up, wanting Josie to stop coming closer. Josie halted herself a meter away from Hope.

 

Then, as if the task required every ounce of energy, Hope forced herself to look up and at Josie. There was a short moment where her gaze softened, but right as Josie noticed it hardened again.

 

”Jed’s having a function before the dance,” Josie said airily to ease the awkward atmosphere. “Apparently the school does this every year. Did you know that?”

 

”Yes,” Hope answered bluntly, clearly uncomfortable with Josie’s sudden requesting conversation.

 

”Oh.” Josie felt stupid and impossibly more pathetic. But she couldn’t stop herself. “How come you’ve never went?”

 

”Because I couldn’t leave you alone.” This time Hope turned around, leaning her body against the countertops with her arms crossed. She gave an obviously forced smile. “You hate parties.”

 

”Hated,” Josie corrected, surprised and a little hurt at how Hope decided to suddenly poke at her weak spots. Hope’s eyes narrowed imperceptibly.

 

“What are you trying to say?” Hope’s sharp tone revealed just how annoyed she was. Josie had to fight the urge to run away and leave Hope alone, but no; she had to do this and make sure everything was somewhat okay. Even if she knew they weren’t.

 

It was incredibly frustrating, how all day Josie was yearning to talk to Hope, but now that she had the chance all she wanted to do was run. She felt like a little voice was trying to tell her to stay away.

 

She remembered Hope’s fragile voice telling her now you’re running!

 

Josie held up the wrinkled invitation, the wave of horrible-timed courage hitting her again. “Do you think we could go, together . . . ?”

 

The look that Hope gave her was enough to make her legs twitch and ready themselves to run.

 

Josie watched each move with her insides crawling sickly.

 

”Are you serious?” came Hope’s rash voice. She stepped forward, and Josie could feel Hope’s fumes practically engulf her in a tornado.

 

Josie bristled at her sudden snappy and cold tone. “What?”

 

Hope shook her head slightly in disbelief. “You just don’t get it, do you?” When Josie stayed silent Hope continued. “This isn’t fair,” she exhaled and slapped her hands to her sides.

 

”What isn’t . . .” Josie trailed off, her words coming to a stop at Hope’s scoff.

 

”How you’re coming here and acting like everything’s fine!” she snapped. “And pretending like we’re still friends, Josie. We’re not. I don’t think I can do this.”

 

Josie fought the urge to cry. Her mind blurred, Hope’s implications hitting her hard. “But Hope,” she started, unsure where her words would take her, “I thought-“

 

”I don’t know what makes you think you can lead me on like a toy.” She took a step forward so that she was now looking up and Josie had to look down. “First you tell me you love me, kiss me, then break up with me?” She threw her hands up, exasperated, and used one hand to harshly prod Josie’s chest with a finger. “It’s not fair how you get everything you want and I have to sit here, following everything just because you’re letting your fears control you!”

 

”They’re not controlling me,” Josie defended in a quivering voice, ignoring everything else Hope had said. She knew if she analyzed it she’d end up falling into a breakdown.

 

Hope’s face fell, her eyebrows losing their pull. “Then what?” She took a step back and raised a brow. “Is it because you don’t love me? Is that why?”

 

Josie took a shaky inhale and looked around, trying to drive her attention elsewhere so that her tears wouldn’t slip out of her eyes. Hope didn’t seem to be putting any effort, letting her tears fall and slide down her cheeks like a river.

 

“Do you love me?” Hope’s voice was more conscious now, like she was scared of what the answer was. Josie bristled, frowning. She looked down at Hope and found big eyes that pleaded desperately.

 

”Of course I love you,” she whispered.

 

Hope leaned her forehead closer, lowering her voice as well. “Then what are you afraid of?”

 

Josie let her eyes flutter shut for a moment to collect herself. Her lips parted, words tumbling out like a landslide.

 

In reality, nothing came out. Josie only remained silent.

 

Hope grew impatient, no longer having enough energy to wait. She snatched the blue paper from Josie’s hands and flicked it.

 

”I’m going,” she scowled. “I’m going, and I’m going to have fun and enjoy myself but I am not doing it for you.”

 

She pushed past Josie, her hair brushing against the brunette’s jawline and her shoulder pushing Josie’s elbow closer to her.

 

A sudden idea, possibly horrible, came into mind, and Josie didn’t have the sense to think it over.

 

She removed Hope’s hand off the handle of the door, pulled her back, and let her lips meet soft, warm, pillowy ones.

 

For a second she stayed still, waiting for Hope to allow her to. Everything was still: her heart, lips, and Hope.

 

Josie was about to pull back and run as far as possible until Hope slid her tongue, coaxing her entrance until Josie parted her lips and allowed Hope to enter.

 

She used her other hand to rest on Hope’s shoulder, pulling her closer and letting Hope nibble on her bottom lip in a way that made Josie want to reach over a few inches and lock the bathroom door.

 

Everything fogged for a moment. The fight didn’t exist, Hope wasn’t crying, and Josie wasn’t planning on running anymore.

 

Though Hope seemed to have touched reality quicker.

 

She roughly took her hand out of Josie’s grip and used both of her palms to place against Josie’s shoulder, pushing her back until the back of Josie’s head touched the wall.

 

She appeared more breathless than confused. Which, actually, was saying something considering how disoriented her eyes were as they darted around Josie’s face.

 

”What are you doing?”

 

Josie blinked. “I’m-“

 

The door swung open and Josie quickly scurried out of the path, leaving Hope to step away from her and lean her back against the other wall like she couldn’t go an inch closer to Josie.

 

What more torment could she have experienced from the universe at that very moment?

 

”Dana?” Hope asked, her voice still out of it but somewhat more steady than Josie’s breaths.

 

Dana looked between them with an amused eyebrow raised. “What in the world . . .” She snorted.

 

Josie stared at the ground while Hope glanced  for a second at Josie.

 

”Why are you here?” Dana asked without humor. “Penelope has been looking for you.”

 

Josie felt Hope take her eyes off her and avert them to the blonde bitch. Josie didn’t know if she ruined the moment or saved her from having to explain to Hope why she suddenly, randomly kissed her.

 

Definitely saved.

 

”Josie was just giving me the answers to Mr. Machado’s homework.” Josie looked up, finding both Hope and Dana staring at her.

 

She sputtered. “What-“

 

“Ooh, me too, please!” Dana giggled, taking out her phone. “I was sooo busy with breaking up with my side-man that I couldn’t complete anything.” She groaned with a breathless smile as if that was relatable.

 

Josie looked at Hope nervously. Hope was just blank with the smallest smirk tugging at the side of her lips.

 

”C’mon, Josie,” she urged, a fake frown tilting her lips. “Pre-Calculus is clearly not a strong suit for Dana.”

 

Dana glared at her.

 

Josie took in the situation. Blonde Bitch was there. Beautiful, Stunning, Immaculate Bitch was with her. And now Hope was practically forcing her in a chokehold to give them the answers to the homework.

 

And didn’t Hope hate Dana’s guts? What the hell was going on?

 

”Um,” she murmured, pulling out last night’s assignment. She held it out for them to take a picture, but then the bell rang and Dana snatched it from her hold.

 

”We’re gonna be late,” was all she said before dragging Hope by the wrist and pulling her out of the bathroom.

 

Josie’s heart tore. Not only did Dana take her homework with her, but she also took Hope. And by the way her hand gripped far too close to her hand and the way Hope didn’t even dare to look back, Josie felt a surge of jealousy.

 

Hope was hers; not Dana’s. Not anyone’s.

 

Then again, Josie doesn’t have the right to say that. Josie wasn’t Hope’s friend anymore, and this was all because of her own stubborn, scared, and thick head.


How pathetic.

 


 

Josie sat alone in her first three periods where she usually sat with Hope, or near her. Today she sat at the very front while Dana—so obviously Dana—threw chunks of a broken eraser at the back of her head.

 

Josie swore she could hear Hope tell her, ‘Quit it,’ but why would she? Nothing made sense to Josie anymore.

 

For the rest of the school day she sat alone as well, as always. The desk in her sixth period Pre-Calculus class had a big sharpie mark over the ladybug with an umbrella. Josie frowned.

 

“I’ll give you an extra day, Miss Saltzman. I have to say, I’m quite surprised you’ve missed the assignment,” Mr. Machado said once class ended, handing Josie another sheet of homework from last night. “An extra pass for you. I know you’re a good student.”

 

”Thank you,” she said tiredly, running her eyes over the countless equations.

 

MG was waiting for her at the doorframe. When she approached, he began walking alongside her.

 

He wore a smile. Josie decided to ask why, even though she knew it was there because of his successful proposal.

 

”What’s gotten you all happy?”

 

MG’s lips parted and revealed his beautiful teeth. “She actually said yes.”

 

Josie smiled, because keeping her frown wouldn’t be very nice.

 

”Oh hey,” he said, “are you coming to the game tonight?”

 

Josie stopped at her locker and punched her fingers against the numberpad. “Game?”

 

”Yeah.” MG scratched the back of his head. “It’s gonna be a big one. Tomorrow, if we win, Jed said he’s going to try to get Carrie Underwood to come to his party.”

 

Josie snorted and grabbed her textbooks. “That’s not possible.” She gently shut her locker, biting her lip. “Is Landon gonna let you play?”

 

MG seemed to have been holding that in like it needed a big reveal. “Finally,” he laughed out.

 

Josie hummed happily. “And who is gonna be there?”

 

”Practically the whole school. We’re playing against the Salvatore School.”

 

Josie perked up. “The whole school?” She faced him. “Like, everyone?”

 

He nodded, not really as interested in the quantity of attendees but more interested in whether or not Josie was going.

 

”I’ll come,” she said. “Support you, as always.” She winked and MG chuckled.

 

”Great. It doesn’t start until three hours from now. Should we all head for linner?”

 

Josie frowned. “Linner?”

 

”Lunch and dinner,” MG gasped, as if the answer was a general principle of life that everyone should’ve known.

Josie checked the time on one of the wall clocks. It was nearing four o’ clock. The game started at seven. And Josie was planning to talk to Hope at eight.

 

”Okay,” she said, nodding.

 

-

 

They go for lunch and dinner—linner.

 

Josie realized only two minutes in the car ride to the Mystic Grill that it wasn’t a good idea.

 

MG and Lizzie were screeching loudly in the backseat, talking about what they were going to wear to the dance while Josie, lonely and single in the front, had no other choice but to listen to them through the radio she had blasting.

 

Lizzie sounded like a megaphone with MG as her echo. Loud as hell.

 

“Guys, keep it down please? I can’t focus.” Josie could focus. They’re just too loud and it was beginning to hurt her ears.

 

“Turn down the radio, Grinch,” Lizzie sneered and went back to talking to MG about Grey’s Anatomy.

 

Josie rolled her eyes but did so. All it did was make Lizzie and MG’s voices project so much louder, to the point where she could hear every single word they were exchanging.

 

“Meredith Grey is all I know.”

 

”I figured.”

 

”Does she, you know, hide bodies if they die?”

 

”Uh . . . ?”

 

”I’m investigating that body from the lake crime, the one that was-“

 

Josie slammed a foot on the brake and turned to the side, accidentally forcing them into a ditch a minute away from the Grill.

 

”Ah! Ah! Watch it!” Lizzie screeched and tumbled over MG’s body as a way to protect him.

 

Josie snapped her head back and began yelling. “There is no damn body in that lake! None! No one died!”

 

Has MG really been searching for the bodies of two teens who were just making out?

 

The look the two gave her was horror and perplexed, surprised with her sudden outburst. MG scooted his hand and rested it on Lizzie’s shoulder while Lizzie gawked at Josie.

 

Josie's jaw clenched. "Get out," she bit out before she could drive them into another ditch and then potentially harm them.

 

Ditch. Lake. Even away from Hope everything reminds Josie of her.

 

“Okay, so my sister is possessed by some greater evil, cool.” Lizzie smiled, terrified, and shooed MG out of the car, following after him.

 

Once they were gone Josie let herself huff.

 

She drove out of the ditch, left the two on the road, and went straight for Hope’s house.

 


 

She was surprised to find the driveway empty, only containing Hope’s emo car parked right near the fountain. Josie punched in the code for the gate (she memorized it like it was her first name) and entered the property, her shoes clattering too loud against the brick driveway.

 

Her hand was hesitant to raise. She reluctantly let her knuckles pat the door.

 

First there was no answer. Josie knocked harder.

 

She heard a faint groan grow louder, and louder, until the door clicked open and before her stood Hope. She looked just as surprised to see Josie as Josie was to see her dressed in a pair of gray sweatpants and a black tanktop that revealed too much of her shoulders for Josie to not look.

 

“Josie?” Hope asked, her eyes taking in Josie’s sudden attendance. “What are you doing here?”

 

Josie crossed her arms over her chest, suddenly forgetting what it was that brought her there in the first place. “I don’t know.”

 

Hope raised a brow. She rolled her eyes. “Then leave.”

 

The door began shutting in her face. Josie stopped it with her hands. “Wait.”

 

Hope didn’t completely stop trying to shut the door, but the force of her pushing did decrease a bit.

 

“You said we should talk about it.” She forced the door open to find Hope. “So, let’s talk.”

 

Hope lingered for a minute. To Josie it felt like an eternity, waiting, watching Hope think the choice through like it could kill her.

 

Then she sighed and waved Josie in.

 

Josie smiled smugly to herself and entered, letting Hope slam the door aggressively.

 

”Are you hungry?” Hope asked. Josie had been trailing sheepishly behind Hope all the way to the kitchen.

 

”No,” she declined. Hope threw a banana at her anyways before leaning her back against the fridge.

 

”Talk,” she commanded, crossing her arms.

 

Josie blinked. She didn’t have much of a social life to know how to initiate conversations well enough, but she knew saying ‘talk’ wasn’t a common starter.

 

“Okay, so,” she started anyways. “Um . . .”

 

Hope gazed at the floor.

 

Josie wanted her to just look at her. It would make everything feel more like a conversation rather than a pitiful apology.

 

Josie’s fingernails dug into the flesh of her palms, oozing out warm blood onto her fingertips.

 

“What makes you think I don’t love you?” was Josie’s first choice to say, because she was tired of wasting time.

 

Even Hope bristled at the fast-paced question. She looked up at Josie and examined her, brows furrowed.

 

”What?”

 

”You heard me.” Please please please just answer.

 

Hope’s brows lifted a tad, her face softening into what seemed friendly.

 

”You don’t act like it,” she replied quietly.

 

Josie stepped forward and smacked the banana against her palm. “I didn’t break up with you because of whatever assumptions you made.”

 

“I know.”

 

Another moment of silence. Blood began staining the peel of the banana from how hard Josie’s nail was digging into her palm.

 

Then Hope spoke. “You don’t have to be scared,” she whispered. Her voice didn’t echo around the kitchen like Josie’s did, and Josie assumed she knew that from how her voice lowered.

 

”I’m . . .” Not, Josie wanted to say. But in truth she was. She was scared and pathetically living in fear from what could happen.

 

Hope glanced at her with soft eyes that hid under their hard exterior. “You are.” She stepped closer and grabbed the banana from Josie’s hand. She held it up, bloody side facing Josie, and raised her brows. “And don’t do this, please.” She raised a hand and waved it down. “You’re scaring me.”

 

Josie’s heart grew fond once Hope pulled her by her wrists over to the sink and began washing the blood off her hand.

 

There was a small moment where Josie gazed at Hope, feeling a sense of warmth. Warmth from Hope wiping the blood off her lip when she bit it too hard that one day, or just general caretaking that’s wasn’t necessary but Hope does it anyways because she cares for her.

 

“I’m scared,” Josie admitted with her full chest. Hope turned off the running water, but kept her hands on Josie’s.

 

”Don’t be,” she repeated. “Josie.”

 

Josie forced herself to bring her eyes off her hand and onto Hope.

 

”Can you please trust me?”

 

Josie instantly nodded. “Hope. I already do.”

 

For some reason, that sent Hope into letting go of Josie’s hand and making a small sound like she didn’t believe her. “That’s bullshit.”

 

Her words and tone didn’t match. Her voice remained soft and gentle, yet her words might as well have punched Josie straight in her gut.

 

”I do,” Josie insisted, though she was unsure if she really meant it or if she just wanted Hope to keep holding her hand. “I-I . . . I think-“

 

”It’s okay to admit you don’t.” Hope’s voice sounded awfully broken and limp, like it would fall apart soon. She came back with a paper towel and began wiping the excess blood and water off of Josie’s hand. “I get it, I do.”

 

Josie stayed silent and watched Hope’s—hot—hands help her wound. But even with Hope’s—hot—hands, Josie couldn’t focus entirely on the movement.

 

”You do?” she squeaked. Josie shut her eyes tight from the embarrassment flooding through her cheeks.

 

”Yeah,” Hope muttered. “I wouldn’t trust someone like me, either.” She finished drying Josie’s hand and wadded the paper towel into a ball and gave a sad, fake smile. “Someone who does nothing but hurt.” She glanced at Josie’s hand. “Do you need that bandaged?”

 

”Hope.” Josie opened her eyes. “That’s not true.”

 

Hope ignored her and began shuffling through drawers and cabinets, grunting in exasperation. “Where the hell are the bandages?”

 

Josie looked down at her hand and squeezed it. “I’ll be fine.” She couldn’t have their talk end, not because of a stupid wound. “Can we-“

 

”I think I have some in my bathroom.” Hope snapped her fingers and waved Josie to follow. “Come.”

 

Josie threw her hands up in disbelief. Talk about wasting time, Hope might as well have an entire century to finish their conversation.

 

She followed Hope up the stairs and into her room, bathroom, and stood awkwardly as Hope fished through her drawers. She pulled out a single sparkly pink band-aid and smiled.

 

”Okay, well, this is all I have. Sorry.” She looked at Josie’s palm and immediately frowned. “How am I supposed to apply this?”

 

Josie grabbed the band-aid and tossed it aside, making Hope blubber and look at Josie like she was insane.

 

”Could you stop stalling?” Josie hissed. Hope smiled smugly.

 

”I’m not.”

 

”Yes you are,” Josie insisted.

 

”No I’m not.”

 

”You are.”

 

”I’m not.”

 

Hope’s face perked up, her attention alarmed, waiting for Josie to retort.

 

Josie took a deep, frustrated breath, and spat, “You are.”

 

She didn’t even realize Hope had bent down and picked up the bandage. As soon as the words left her mouth, she was met with Hope childishly slathering the band-aid over her mouth, as if it would stop her from talking.

 

Shocked (very offended, too), Josie took the band-aid off and smacked it on Hope’s cheek, which only made the shorter girl jab two fingers in Josie’s hip.

 

Urgh-“ she choked out, lurching over. Hope took that as the perfect opportunity to run past her and head for the door. Josie jumped ahead and grabbed her arm, yanking her back.

 

”Don’t you dare!” she hissed. Hope, a smile on her face with a sparkly pink band-aid above it, only seemed amused by the situation, which only made Josie more infuriated.

 

She pulled Hope back further and tackled her on the ground.

 

Hope’s breaths tripped over one another. She groaned and peeled the band-aid off her face to slap it back over Josie’s mouth.

 

In the fairly odd position—Josie cradling Hope with her knees while Hope squirmed from underneath her—it was hard for Josie to initiate the conversation.

 

So she just let herself bathe in the small crumb of joy. Annoyed joy, but joy nonetheless.

 

Hope pursed her lips into a smile. “I’m not.”

 

”You are!” Josie groaned, shaking Hope’s shoulders violently. “Just admit it!”

 

Hope’s teeth broke out into a bright smile, something that threw Josie off completely.

 

Josie realized it was probably because she was talking through a band-aid. She ripped it off and crumpled it in her hand before looking down at Hope beneath her.

 

Then Hope stopped smiling. Her face fell into something more sad and weak as she gently pushed Josie off and rolled to the side.

 

Josie sat up and watched Hope stare at the ceiling, a hand on her stomach. She watched her shut her eyes, and she watched her tug her bottom lip between her teeth.

 

”Hope,” Josie gently said, and scooted closer.

 

”Don’t.” Hope stopped her with a hand up like she could sense Josie moving. “Please just go.”

 

”No.” Josie shook her head. “Not until we talk everything through.”

 

”What is there to talk about?” Hope suddenly snapped, sitting up. “I mean, why did you even come here? To tell me we should still be friends? To tell me you want to get back together?” She hugged her knees with her arms. “Why are you so confusing?”

 

Josie scooted closer and Hope scooted back. “We both want something.”

 

Hope scoffed. “You want me dead.”

 

Josie gawked at the absurd assumption. “The hell? I would never want that!”

 

”Then what do you want?”

 

“What do you want?” Josie shot back, trying to divert the conversation back to Hope.

 

Hope smiled gently, though not genuinely. “You. Can’t you tell?”

 

Josie’s heart warmed. At the worst timing possible, too, because she subconsciously started to move closer and only resulted in Hope moving further back.

 

Then Hope’s smile broke into something more genuine. “I’d drive my entire arm into open hellfire for you.”

 

Josie lifted her eyebrows, flattered, but honestly a little concerned. “Thanks,” she whispered shyly.

 

Hope’s smile dropped and she sighed. “Never mind,” she said, her voice sounding exhausted and frustrated. “Please just say whatever you wanted to say. I have to do homework.”

 

Josie knew that was a lie because she has never actually seen Hope do her own homework on time. She considered doing it for Hope, but that would be a lame gimmick.

 

Josie opened her mouth to speak but it’s like all her vocal cords were ripped apart.

 

Why was it so hard to say? What did she even want to say?

 

And because Josie can’t make good decisions, she leaned in and kissed Hope. For the second time that day she committed a crime in her own book: kissing Hope while Hope was mad at her.

 

Light burst through her chest when Hope actually kissed her back. She placed her hands on either side of Josie’s neck and pushed further, entering her tongue and sliding it across Josie’s inner lips.

 

Josie let out a pathetic moan that only made Hope grab Josie’s hand and place it on her hip, begging her to keep it there.

 

Even when she was mad, Hope found a way to be gentle with Josie-

 

Except for when she decided to stand them both up and throw Josie on her bed. Josie let out an embarrassing squeak that Hope swallowed up. She leaned back and removed her top.

 

Josie watched the action.

 

Okay, so this is really happening.

 

Her cheeks picked up an intense blush that traveled down to her chest. This was actually happening, she wasn’t imagining it.

 

She instantly looked away, feeling like a pervert.

 

Josie had to remind herself that Hope was allowing her to look at her. Hope even grabbed Josie’s chin and pointed it back forward.

 

”It’s okay,” Hope muttered, noticing Josie’s quick breaths. Then she grew concerned. “We don’t have to-“

 

”Please,” Josie interrupted, placing a hand against Hope’s stomach. Touching her like this felt so much more exciting than just looking at her stomach. Josie nearly made an embarrassing sound that would’ve haunted her for the rest of her life.

 

Hope smiled. Genuinely. Then she kissed Josie again before rolling up the thick sweater she had on, making the brunette whimper from the sudden cold air engrossing her.

 

Josie didn’t know what took over her to make her so needy and desperate for something, but she knew she needed this. And it felt like Hope did too.

 


 

Hope woke to the feeling of something—no, someone—running soft, slender fingers through her hair. She tilted her head up and instantly felt a smile break through.

 

Her arms were slouched over each side of Josie, her chin resting above the brunette’s chest. Josie looked down at her and tousled her hair.

 

”Hi,” Hope mumbled through a tired smile. Josie scribbled something on her back with a-

 

Pencil?

 

Her eyes moved up. “Are you . . . Are you doing homework?”

 

Hope’s slightly awake state managed to find Josie using her back as a table to do homework. Hope snorted. “Nerd.”

 

”Hey,” Josie whined, pushing her palm against Hope’s forehead. “This is yours. The last thing I want is you stealing my homework because you didn’t do it.”

 

”Uh, okay,” Hope scoffed. “That was fully Dana. Not me.”

 

Josie smacked her face with the sheets of paper. Hope just laughed, because she found everything to be funny in her groggy state.

 

Then she grew lucid as soon as Josie said, “I’m sorry.”

 

Hope shifted her chin around on Josie’s chest, trying to find where her heartbeat was so she could feel the vibrations of it.

 

Josie continued. “I was leading you on, for like, the hundredth time now.”

 

Hope smiled fondly. “Yeah,” she chuckled softly. Josie looked at her weirdly. Then she sighed and replaced the homework on Hope’s back with her own hand, massaging it.

 

Hope mindlessly reached a hand up and twirled Josie’s hair around a finger. It was wet. She must’ve showered. Hope wondered why Josie decided to slip back into bed to do fucking homework that wasn’t even hers.

 

”I wanna be with you.”

 

Hope’s mind fogged. She slowly looked up, reading Josie’s face to see if she was planning a trick. She wasn’t.

 

Hope spluttered. “Wh-Huh?”

 

Josie fiddled with Hope’s hair, clearly growing conscious. “You were right,” she quickly said. “It just took me, this,” she motioned an awkward hand around Hope, “to realize I was just running.”

 

Hope licked her lips. She must’ve been dreaming or something. “What?” she mumbled dumbly.

 

Josie took a deep, impatient inhale, and released it slowly. “I’m done with running from fear, and-” Her eyes met Hope’s, sparking a small flame. “I love you too much to throw this all away.”

 

Hope tilted her head, a small smile tugging the side of her lips. “How long were you awake for to come up with that?”

 

Josie smiled shyly. “A while.”

 

Hope couldn’t help but press her body further into Josie’s. She took this time to press the side of her face above the muscle in Josie’s chest, listening to her heart’s steady heartbeat spike a step faster.

 

”How much time do we have left?” Hope asked, stretching. She didn’t feel like she’d gotten enough sleep last night, and she certainly didn’t feel ready enough to attend her classes.

 

”It’s only half past seven, Hope. In the evening.”

 

Hope shot up, bumping the top of her head against Josie’s nose. “It is?”

 

Josie nodded slowly, a small, pregnant laugh before her lips. Then her face quickly geared into an expression that seemed like she forgot to turn the sink off five hours into a road trip.

 

”Shit,” she mumbled to herself, pulling herself out of bed and causing Hope to plummet her face onto the empty mattress. “Sorry, Hope, I have to go.”

 

Hope lazily rolled over and whined. “To do what?”

 

”I completely forgot I told MG I’d come to his game,” she groaned, overwhelmed.

 

Josie quickly stacked Hope’s homework into a neat pile on her nightstand. Hope’s eyes wandered down her outfit, feeling pleased to find that Josie was wearing her camp counselor sweatshirt. Then Josie turned around and Hope saw the Saltzman engraved on the back.

 

She blushed.

 

”Oh, um,” she called out, her hand extending in the air. “I had no idea I had that in my closet,” she lied, feeling even more embarrassed by how shaky and blunt her voice was.

 

Hope may or may not have stolen it from Josie a year ago.

 

Josie tilted her head back enough for Hope to see the smug half smile on her face, not believing Hope one bit. “See you tomorrow, Hope,” she said.

 

Hope wanted to protest and beg and convince Josie that she should spend the night with Hope instead of go to a silly football game where their team was bound to lose. But she didn’t say anything.

 

”See you,” she called out with her voice as gentle as a feathery pillow.

 

She had to hold in a laugh when Josie opened the door and smacked her own forehead against it, giving Hope a disoriented, dorky smile before disappearing into the hall.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Hope woke up as the sunset’s cusp lit her room dimly.

 

She had gotten quite a lot of sleep last night, much more than she’d gotten before after the weird “breakup” thing. Something inside Hope said it was because of how early she fell into slumber, but she knew it was really because she had never felt more at peace—

 

Emotionally.

 

Physically.

 

But with the rain pattering against her window and the dark sky on the other side, Hope wished the spot to her left wasn’t so empty. And cold.

 

So she got up and did everything as usual. Once she was finished, she jumped back into her bed and sprawled her body across it on her stomach. She toyed with her phone.

 

good morning :)

 

It took a few minutes, but Josie eventually replied back.

 

Jo

Hi

 

Secretly, Hope was fond with the short (and dry as hell) answer. It created the visual in her mind where Josie, barely awake and puffy, had just gotten out of bed at the sound of her notification.

 

A line of excitement suddenly electrocuted her, making the hairs on her arms to rise and her neck to chill.

 

i miss you

 

She tucked her nails in between her teeth, nibbling on them, trying to hide a smile as if someone were watching her.

 

Maybe her opinion was biased because of her breakup with Landon, but Hope felt as if it were her first time—the difference between the two was drastic.

 

Jo

I miss you too. Want to head to the school together?

 

yes

-

can you come over first?

 

Moments of waiting passed. The more that time stretched out, the stronger it felt to Hope that Josie wasn’t going to answer. And with a disappointed sigh, she shut off her phone and went downstairs to have breakfast.

”Good morning!” her mom greeted her, her voice chip and airy despite it being six in the morning.

 

”Morning.” Hope twisted her body around the counter and took a seat next to her mom on a barstool. She took the mug full of coffee to her side and went in for a sip—or atleast attempted to—before her mom slapped her hand away.

 

”Eat something first,” she scolded, dipping her forehead down in a warning.

 

Hope would not like to admit her stomach problems with having only coffee in the mornings, so she huffed and stood up to get a bagel.

 

As she was cutting it into halves, her mom made conversation.

 

”Josie came over last night?”

 

Hope barely stopped herself from slicing the knife straight through her finger. She dropped it for extra safety measures.

 

The horrifying thought of her mom, or anyone, hearing them made Hope want to throw up.

 

“No.” Her voice was free of stutters, yet still wavered a bit as if she was unsure, making it borderline obvious she was lying. “She was too busy studying,” she added for no reason.

 

She picked up the two halves of the bagel with shaky fingers, plopping them into the toaster.

 

”I saw her car leaving the driveway as your father and I pulled in.” Her voice glinted suspiciously.