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It's (Not) Just A Crush

Chapter Text

Ariana Baltimore was sitting on the bleachers, fiddling with a pen and studiously ignoring the History essay she was supposed to be writing.

The weather was fine, which was why she was sitting out here. Okay, so maybe it wasn't the nice weather itself. Possibly she was here because the cheerleading team practised outside on sunny days. Possibly. Ah, who was she kidding.

Said cheerleaders were assembled on the edge of the football field in what was either a huddle to discuss tactics or a group hug, it was hard to be sure. As Ariana watched, they broke apart and formed a line. Like soldiers getting into formation, she thought.

As they started practising their routine, Ariana found her eyes being drawn to one person in particular. Slightly shorter than the other girls, with her brown hair tied back in a functional yet pretty ponytail, Marisol Beam didn't seem to be much different from the other cheerleaders. Until she picked up one of her friends and hurled her into the air in a move that was graceful and shouldn't be physically possible for someone that tiny.
The other cheerleaders caught the girl safely and continued on cleanly with their routine. It was impressive. Ariana would have applauded, if she wasn't sitting on the silent bleachers alone and would have been the only clapping. It was too embarrassing to consider.
Instead, she kept on watching Beam and tried to hold in a lovesick sigh.

Okay, so she had a crush. Big deal.
Kind of a big deal? She had to admit she was having trouble thinking about anything other than Beam's brown skin against that bright green cheerleading uniform, or the way she smiled.
And if that had been all, she'd have been okay with it.

But the thing was – Marisol Beam wasn't just beautiful. At lunch she sat at the table with the other popular girls and switched seamlessly between trading gossip and talking about video games, both recent and vintage. She was smart and witty and had earned her fair share of detentions for being sarcastic with her teachers. She'd punched the star quarterback in the face hard enough to break his nose when he got drunk and tried to feel up one of the cheerleaders.

Beam was Ariana's dream girl. And she had totally blushed just thinking that. Great.

Alicia would have teased her about it, if she wasn't off at MIT being a genius.

The school bell rang, audible even out here, and the cheerleaders called it a day. They exchanged hugs and the occasional high five before heading to get changed. Trailing behind the others, Beam looked over to the bleachers and gave her a wave.
She could have sworn her heart missed a beat there. Lamely, she waved back, but Beam had already turned around and disappeared in the changing rooms.

Ariana shoved her stuff back into her bag and got down from the bleachers. She tried not to think about how she'd spent her entire free period doing nothing but watching other people do stuff and how she didn't regret it at all.

Chapter Text

Her next period was History, and the only one of her small group of friends who shared the class was Stoner Mal, so she gave up on the idea of trying to copy someone's homework.
Mal didn't do homework. Mal didn't do class either, really, but since he was mostly quiet and alternating between sleeping in class and drawing brightly colourful doodles into a increasingly ratty looking notebook, the teachers left him alone. He would have had perfect attendance if it wasn't for the days he got so high that he forgot to go to school.

History was also one of the rare classes she shared with Beam.
They sat on opposite sides of the room, which sucked, but sitting two rows behind and slightly to the left of her did give Ariana a good view.
So she watched Beam fiddle with her pens, not-so-secretly text on her phone under her desk and joke around with her classmates.

Usually she would be a little more quiet and better behaved in lessons after cheerleading practice, that restless energy that always seemed to fill her subsiding for a bit as she spent the lesson quietly staring out of the window or taking notes. Not today, though.

Today Beam spent the lesson openly antagonising the teacher, cracked jokes that made the entire class burst into laughter twice, and threw a paper plane at Mr Binns' head.
She got away with everything but the last one, which she got two hours of detention for, which she cheerfully acknowledged. It didn't do anything to ruin her good mood, and Mr Binns looked visibly relieved when the final bell rang and his students rushed out of class.

Ariana stayed behind, poking Malcom to get him to wake up and pack his things. Beam called for her friends to go ahead, as her teacher wanted to have a quick word with her.

They ended up leaving the classroom at the same time and walked down the hall together.

Giving herself an internal pep talk and immediately feeling extremely embarrassed about it, Ariana finally gathered up the courage to say something.

She cleared her throat.
“So, um, you're in a good mood.” And immediately winced. Thanks, Captain Obvious, she snarked at herself.

She was about to hightail it out of there and maybe drag Mal with her, when Beam responded. Instead of one of her usual sarcastic comebacks, which she was more than capable of (Ariana had seen some first hand – and was it wrong that it kind of turned her on?), she replied with a dazzling grin.

“Our team's got a new kickass routine and we've got it down flawlessy. We are awesome! We might even go to nationals! Which is more than our football team can say,” she cut in with a smirk.
“We have this awesome new move where I grab Penny and -”, she suddenly interrupted her enthusiastic demonstration to look at Ariana closely. “Ah, but you've seen it, right?”

“The thing where you throw her straight up into the air like she weighs nothing? Dude, that's super impressive.”, she replies.

Beam goes back to grinning, and there's a new bounce in her step.

When they reach the cafeteria doors, she turns to Ariana with a “See you later, Baltimore” before walking away.
Ariana stares after her speechlessly. Then she whirls around to Mal and says excitedly “She knows my name!!”

Mal, on account of being half asleep and fully stoned, doesn't give this news the respect it deserves.
He stares at her for a moment without replying until finally saying “If you buy me a cheeseburger I will love you forever.”
“You're a vegetarian,” she reminds him.
He frowns. “I am?”

Chapter Text

Baltimore was walking on sunshine for the entire day.
The fact that Beam was in a good mood, had smiled at her several times and knew her name (she still wasn't over that!!) had elevated her up to the clouds and that Mr Binns had forgotten to collect the history essay was only a bonus.

She was listening to her favourite rock playlist as she walked to the subway station, miming playing the drums to the tune, when she walked into someone.
Since she was rather tall, and her gangly frame was slowly filling out, this meant that the other person was knocked back rather abruptly.

Torn between watch where you're going and i'm sorry, she blurted out. “I'M SORRY YOU'RE GOING.”

Mortified, she tried again. “... Are you ok?”

The other person was slowly getting up and raised her hands in a “don't worry about it” gesture.

She was grinning at her, and looked familiar. Ah, she was one of the cheerleaders – although she didn't know which. Ariana had never bothered to learn any of their names besides Beam's. Penny, maybe?

Maybe-Penny picked up her fallen bag and gave it a quick brush to get the dust of. She was still looking rather amused.

“Look, I'm sorry-”

“It's fine, I'm not hurt. Besides, that was hilarious. 'I'm sorry you're going'?”, she laughed, but it didn't sound like a mean laugh. Ariana gave her a sheepish grin.

Maybe-Penny was pretty, with her dark curly hair done up in twintails.

Just as the thought crossed her mind, Beam caught up to them. She felt weirdly guilty about thinking it.

“Sorry I'm late, Penny, I couldn't find my stupid-”

“Hello to you too,” Definitely-Penny replied with an amused smile. Her smile turned into a grin. “You just missed the funniest thing.”

“No she didn't”, Ariana interjected and was ignored. Rude.

“Tell me,” Beam demanded, eyes glittering with mischief.

“Oh, I will, but we should get walking if we don't want to miss the train at quarter past.”

They started walking and Ariana had the feeling they were expecting her to come along. So she did.

Penny was already talking. “So I was waiting by the corner for five minutes waiting for you to show up, but you didn't. So I turned to walk back to school and walked into someone. Against someone? Anywhere, our friend here-” “Baltimore,” Beam interrupted” “right, Baltimore, with her broad shoulders, she knocks me down straight away. I mean, I'm short, so it wasn't a long way down...” She gave Beam a playful nudge. She had more than an inch on her in height.

“If you're short, then I'm tiny, yada yada, heard it all before.” Beam replied and rolled her eyes.

Penny laughed before continuing. “So, I'm on the ground, Baltimore's towering above me, and do you want to know what she said to me?”

Beam said “Hell yea” in the same moment that Ariana said “Definitely not”.

“Aw, are you embarrassed?”, Penny cooed at her. Ariana glared back, but the only effect that had was to make her laugh.

Penny continued, because she was obviously Satan. “She said 'I'm sorry you're going'”, she finished dramatically. “You should have seen the look on her face when she realised what had come out of her mouth. Pure mortification.”

Beam laughed, then looked at Ariana's blushing face and laughed some more.

Ariana would really have minded except for the fact that Beam lent over to her and put a hand on her arm. Her eyes were still filled with laughter but she sounded sympathetic when she said “Sometimes sense gets lost on the way from my brain to my mouth too. Usually during English class. Or Spanish.”

“Dondé estar las biblioteca?”, Penny jumps in.

Beam gave her a condescending look. “You tried.”

Penny laughed, not taking offence at all.

“So, Baltimore, hablas español?”

“Uh... un poco? I never really learnt,” she admits.

“Qué lastima! Chicas, you should embrace Spanish. It's a wonderful language, with wonderful swear words.”

“Marisol can swear like a sailor in any language,” Penny confided dryly. “She's been trying to get Ms Flax to teach her Roman insults and she doesn't even take Latin.”

“I applaud your determination,” Ariana said equally dryly, and Beam cracked up.

They reached the station and split up. Penny and Beam had to go get a train home, and Ariana had to take the stairs to the underground subway station. They waved and then went their separate ways.

Now that the mortification, embarrassment, and generally weirdness of the situation had worn off, Ariana's good mood returned with gusto.
She'd walked to the station with Beam. They'd had a conversation! (although, granted, she hadn't said much) She'd made her laugh!!

If Ariana was the kind to keep a diary, today's entry would have been filled with tiny hearts and doodles. That not being the case, she hummed happily the entire way home.

Chapter Text

The door unlocked with a click.
"I'm home!", she called as she kicked the door shut behind her.

There was no reply. She put her bag down and, guessing correctly where her parents were, walked into the living room.

Ariel Baltimore was sitting on the couch watching television while Lucy Baltimore had her head resting on her lap and seemed to be dozing.

"Hey Mom," Ariana said brightly, giving Ariel a kiss on the cheek. Then she turned to Lucy with a grin. "Hey, Mom"

"Oh har har, you're hilarious.", her mother (well, one of them) said.

"And don't I know it."

Ariel gave her a fond look.
"You're in a good mood," she observed.
So that's where she got it from.

"Yeah, I guess," she said with a shrug.

"... Did something happen?"

"Not really. Is there food? I'm starving."

Ariana walked into the kitchen. There was, indeed, some spaghetti from last night left.

As she waited for the microwave to finish heating it, she let her mind wander.

Deflecting was pretty much her modus operandi, but she wasn't quite sure why she didn't want her parents to know about her crush.

They'd definitely be supportive; there had never been a need to declare "Mom, Mom, I'm gay."

Infact, if they knew, they'd probably think it was adorable, like when she was four and declared she was going to marry her kindergarden teacher.

And maybe that's why.

She was seventeen; she didn't want to be called adorable, or treated like a little kid.

And more than anything, she didn't want to be compared to Alicia.

If Alicia was in her shoes, she'd have asked Beam out already. And Beam would have said yes.

Because Alicia was smart and funny and pretty and a hero, and not just in their childhood games. Everyone liked Alicia.
And Ariana couldn't say the same about herself.

Okay, so she might have been a little bitter that her sister had ran of to MIT and left her behind alone with footprints far too big for her to fill.

The microwave beeped just in time to interrupt her thoughts.

And she really was starving.

Chapter Text

Her morning classes were uneventful, which is to say, Beam wasn't in them.

There was a minor occurance where she got a little lippy with one of her teachers and proceeded to quote Harry Potter at an unappreciative audience ("There's no need to call me sir, professor") but she got away with a single hour of detention.

So pretty much the usual. (Although she was a little disappointed the teacher hadn't called home to complain - Mom would have caught the reference and probably thought it was hilarious.)

Lunch was also par the usual. She successfully managed to pick out a pizza with an unidentifiable topping that wasn't inedible and possibly toxic, and carried her tray to a free table.

Shortly afterwards, she was joined by Stoner Mal and Natasha, the bass guitarist from her band which was currently named The Reluctant Alumni but would probably change its name again before the month was out.

Natasha gave her her patented i'm so disappointed in you look.

"What? What did I do?", Ariana asked defensively.

"It's more what you didn't do. Anything you'd like to share with the group? Maybe some details of your illustrious lovelife?"

"Nope, nothing."

"Are you sure? Because to me it looks like your head over heels for our very own Marisol Beam."

Ariana tried very, very hard not to look over to the cheerleading table, which the table she'd chosen had a good view of.

"I don't know what you're talking about?", she tried, and Mal of all people shook his head at her sadly.

"Okay, fine!", she groaned.

"Good. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery."
"That's for alcoholics.", Ariana pointed out.
"Well, Beam IS a kind of whiskey, after all." Nat looked rather pleased with herself.

"You know, I didn't tell you guys."

"No, you didn't, but sadly for you, you're painfully obvious."

"Think maybe I didn't tell you because I don't want to talk about it?", Ariana asked pointedly.

"Oh boohoo. If you spend one more lunch sighing and composing love poems in your head-" "I do not!" "- we're holding an intervention."

Ariana crossed her arms and glared.

Natasha raised a single eyebrow.
"You have a crush? Well, it's time you do something about it."

"Do what?", she said mournfully, slumping dramatically over the table. "I can't ask her out!"

Nat gave her a pitying look. "How about trying to be her friend before you ask her to marry you?"

"... Huh."

"I can't believe you didn't consider it. She's cool and you're not always completely annoying."
"Thanks," Ariana answered, voice dripping with sarcasm.

"It's a match made in heaven. You can be sarcastic together."

Ariana stared over to Beam's table, where the girl in question had started to carefully draw a mustache on one of her sleeping friends. With what looked like ketchup.

Nat followed her gaze and said dryly: "She's so dreamy."

She seemed to get Ariana's silent plea to change the topic though, and she turned back to face her.
"You coming to band practice this afternoon?"
"Yeah, but I have detention straight after, so I need to leave early."

"What did you do this time?" she asked amused. Next to her Mal was trying his hardest to become one with the table, snoring lightly. His pizza was left untouched, and Ariana couldn't say she blamed him.

"Quoted Harry Potter in class. Ugh, Muggles."

Chapter Text

Ariana had a plan now: make a friend.
Which made her feel like a kindergardner and was also easier said then done, considering she used sarcasm and wit to hide just how socially awkward she was.

None of that prepared her even a little for showing up to detention to find Beam, and only Beam, sitting at one of the desks.

She stared at her in confusion and then very eloquently and politely inquired what was going on: "Uh..."

Beam looked up and, ha, beamed at her.
"Finally! I was so bored - I've been here for an hour already."

"Uh," she replied. Get it together, Baltimore!
"Is this the right room?", she tried again.

"For detention? Yep." Beam noticed her questioning look.

"Mr Binns was supposed go keep an eye on us two troublemakers, but he fled after fifteen minutes of me asking him how his husband was and what he'd named their new cocker spaniel."

"That's impressive. It usually takes me at least half an hour before he cracks," Ariana said, taking her bag and sitting down at the desk next to Beam's.

"The trick is to freak him out - I didn't actually know what breed of dog he'd gotten, it was just a lucky guess. But he didn't know that, which is why he hightailed it out of here. It was funny, really - who knew he could move so fast?"

"So what have you been doing the last fourty minutes?"

"Oh, this and that," Beam replied breezily.
"Opening and closing the closet doors, writing "Binns was here" in one of the textbooks I found..."

"Vandalism. Cool."

"What can I say, I'm a rebel."

Ariana laughed.

"Oh, and I've been making paper airplanes. I made like ten of them, but they don't really fly well." She held one up to show her. Now that she mentioned it, Ariana spotted several lying in different corners of the room.

"You're folding it wrong."

Beam raised her eyebrows.

"I didn't know you're a paper plane expert."

"Paper plane warfare is a serious business," she deadpanned. "Look, I'll show you - do you have another piece of paper?"

Beam handed one over obligingly.

Ariana was relieved to find that she still knew how to fold it in the right and pretty complex way - it had been years since Alicia taught her this.

"The key," she said seriously, "is triangles."
"Triangles?" Beam sounded amused.
"Triangles.", Ariana confirmed.

Then she threw the plane. It sailed steadily and then hit the classroom wall, dropping down and missing the trash can by about a foot.
"Not bad."

Baltimore folded another one and Beam made grabby hands.
They watched as it flew, doing a loop and getting stuck in Baltimore's hair.

Beam helped her get it out and then casually added: "By the way, I love your 'locks."

Ariana felt herself blush. "Thanks."

They spent another half an hour folding and throwing paper planes like overly excited kids. Then Ariana checked her phone and noticed the time.

"Quick question. Why are we still here? I mean, I'm not complaining, but Mr Binns went home like an hour go, there's no one to stop us from just leaving."

There was a moment of silence. Then Beam spoke up, sounding embarrassed: "You're right. But I mean, our detention isn't going to be over officially for another thirty minutes."

"Oh no, what are they going to do, give us more detention?"

They shared an amused look.

Then Beam got up and declared: "Let's get out of here."

Chapter Text

Beam picked up her bag and climbed out of a window. Amused, Ariana followed her.
Why use doors when you're on ground level anyway?

Outside, it was sunny and nice. Spring had started off slowly, but now it was full of promise for a hot summer.

„It's probably a felony to give someone detention when the weather is like this,“ Beam said. Ariana had to agree.

They started walking towards the station.

Beam checked her phone and cursed colourfully. „I missed my train so I have to wait another hour,“ she explained. „Time to sit around and play Candy Crush, I guess. And I had just gotten over my addiction to that stupid app.“

„Well, I can't just let you relapse. Want to get some ice cream?“

Beam perked up immediately. „That's a great idea!“

„Atleast try not to sound too surpised.“, Ariana grumbled good naturedly.

„Aww, did I hurt your feelings? You'll survive. Now c'mon, I know a great ice cream parlor.“ She tugged on the sleeve of Ariana's jacket and led the way.

Ariana followed, trying to look casual and not like she was internally screaming ice cream date, ice cream date, ice cream date!!

Suddenly Natasha's disapproving face appeared in her mind, a lot like that scene in The Lion King.
Right. Friendship first, then marriage.

It wasn't far to the ice cream place. When they reached it, she got her wallet out to offer to pay for both ice creams, because friends totally buy each other ice cream, right?
But when she opened it, it was empty. If her life had been a cartoon, a single moth would have fluttered out.
Oops. She'd totally forgotten that she'd spent all her money on a new video game two days ago.

Beam noticed the look on her face and nudged her. „It's fine, I'll treat you.“, she said cheerfully and walked inside.
The interior was kind of clichee, but still pretty nice. Beam headed to the counter, where an unfamiliar boy was operating the till.

„Hi Pete!“, Beam said cheerfully.

Pete looked up and groaned. „Oh not you.“

„Is that any way to talk to a customer?“

„It's not like you ever actually buy anything.“, he shot back..

„Don't make me call your boss.“

„Lovely weather we're having!“, Pete said with forced cheerfullness. His change in attitude almost gave Ariana whiplash. „What can I get you two ladies?“

„I'll have a strawberry sundae. What about you, Baltimore?“

„Uh, a chocolate milkshake.“

They sat at one of the tables and waited for their orders to arrive.

Ariana raised her eyebrows at Beam. „So... you must have some awesome blackmail material on Pete.“
Beam laughed. „Actually, yes, but mostly it's because Penny's parents own this place. She and her siblings usually help out here, but they've all been busy with school recently so her dad hired him. I'm pretty sure Pete's terrified of her dad so threatening to call him is very effective.“

„That's evil,“ Ariana said admiringly. „I didn't know Penny had siblings. Do they go to our school?“

„Nah, there's a pretty big age difference. Penny is a couple of years younger than her brother, who's off at college, and like four years older than the twins.“

Pete brought them their ice cream and disappeared quickly.

„Do you have any siblings?“

„I'm an only child.“

„I can't imagine that. Having a sibling is both the worst and best thing in the world.“

„You have a sister, right? Alicia?“ Ariana nodded. „There's like ten of her prizes in our school's trophy cabinet.“

„That sounds like Alicia,“ Ariana agreed. She then changed the subject: „So, you guys are going to nationals?“

„Well, we'll have to win regionals first, but I think we can make it.“

A semi-awkward silence followed. Ariana hurried to break it. „So, uh, Candy Crush, huh? I didn't know you were such a hardcore gamer,“ she teased.

Beam pulled a face. „That game is harder than it looks,“ she argued, sounding far too amused to be offended. „And I am a gamer, actually.“

Ariana knew, but that was beside the point. „Really? Name five games.“

„Seriously? Gatekeeping? Alright. There's Candy Crush and Subway Surfers and that Kim Kardashian Game...“ Beam saw the expression on her face and burst out laughing. „I'm kidding, I'm kidding! I do play actual games. Right now I'm re-playing Bioshock for propably the tenth time.“

„I was worried for a bit, but you do seem to have good taste.“

Beam smiled at her. „We should play together sometime!“

„Uh. Yeah. Yeah, we should.“

Chapter Text

Ariana was walking on sunshine once more, now with added irony because the sky was filled with dark grey clouds.

When she bumps into Beam in the hallway nowadays, they exchange snarky comments in lieu of an actual hello. They were friends. The thought alone was enough to give her a thrill.

It had been a week since the ice cream thing (and it hadn't been a date – she could accept that now) and she was forced to admit that Natasha had been right.

Pining was great and stuff, but they could have just been friends all along. Their epic combination of snarky insubordination and pranks would have let them rule the school and probably traumatize all teachers for life.

That line of thought took a peculiar turn when a teacher saw the two of them highfive as they passed each other in the hallway. Ariana noticed the look of horror on her face and stopped walking. “Everything alright, Ms Frizzle?”

“Ah. Yes. So tell me, uh, Baltimore, since when have you and Ms Beam been friends?”

“Uhhh. About a week? We had detention together. But I don't see how that's any of your business.”

“Right right. Just, uh, who was the supervising teacher?”

“Mr Binns,” she said, not too bothered about ratting him out. “But he went home early.”

“Oh that brainless idiot.”, Ms Frizzle said, completely ignoring Ariana's surprised face. “I can't believe he just went and ruined all that careful planning.”
And before Ariana could ask what the hell she was talking about, her teacher stormed off in the direction of the teachers lounge.

Normally she'd be gleeful at the thought of having turned one teacher against another, but right now the wheels in her head were turning.
And they kept turning while she walked to the cafeteria. When she sat down at her regular table, she had reached a conclusion.

Nat took one look at her face and put her sandwich down. “Tell me.”

Ariana hesitated. “This is going to sound completely crazy,” she said “but I think there's a conspiracy.”

Natasha's face told her that yes, that did sound completely crazy.

“Listen to this. Isn't it weird that Beam and I are in the same year and take basically the same classes but History, Math and lunch are pretty much the only periods we share? And in both History and Math, we sit at opposite ends of the classroom.”

When Natasha didn't look as impressed as Ariana thought she should, she leaned over the table towards her. “The seating is assigned,” she said urgently. “And we both get detention fairly often but last week was the first time we served it together. And Ms Frizzle freaked out when she heard that we were friends and is probably on her way to murder Mr Binns right now. That can't all be a coincidence.”

Natasha gave a nod. She suddenly looked a lot more interested. “Keep the two biggest classclowns and troublemakers from joining forces. Makes sense.” “Right?”
Then Ariana leaned back with a groan and stared up at the ceiling. “There's an actual conspiracy to keep me from getting close with my crush. What even is my life?”

Natasha patted her hand consolingly and failed to look at all sincere. Baltimore didn't care, because she wasn't done complaining yet.
“Like. The entire staff of this school is united in the effort to cockblock me.” “You don't have-” “Fine, clamjam then. These grown ass adults have nothing better to do than to mess with my love life.”
“I don't think that was the motive.”
“But it was the result. Ugh. I'm never being polite to another teacher ever again.”
“Have you ever been?”
“That's not the point.”

Outside, it started raining. Just perfect.

Chapter Text

Baltimore was hanging around the school's entrance in a way that was definitely not shady. No, seriously.

A passing teacher gave her the evil eye. Man, she had put cellotape across the a door one time and now everyone was all suspicious of her. (Okay, it might have been more than once. It was their own fault for always falling for it.)

But she wasn't even up to anything. She was waiting for Natasha to pick her up in her mom's car, which was a totally innocent thing to do. The only reason she was still inside the school building at all right now when everyone else had already gone home was that it was raining cats and dogs. Although luckily not literally, that seems pretty hazardous.

She had an umbrella with her - how could she not, with twice the mother henning in her life? - but it was really pouring down. Why walk all the way to the station if you had a good friend who-

Who just texted her.

From: Nat
sorry can't make it.
To: Nat
what do u mean u can't make it?
To: Nat
these are floods of biblical proportions u cant expect me 2 wALK
From: Nat
To: Nat
dont u xoxo me

I can't believe she ditched me, Ariana thought. Actually, that did sound like something Natasha would do.
She texted it to her anyways.

To: Nat
i cant believe u ditched me and also u r fired from the band

Her friend answered with the poop emoji.
While she was trying to figure out how to reply to that, a familiar figure walked up. She almost dropped her phone when she noticed Beam standing next to her.
"Jesus! Make some noise, will you?"
Beam ignored that. Rude.

"I can't believe anyone else is still here. Ms Flax wanted to talk to me after the last period ended, and it took like an hour. I'm still not sure whether she was trying to recruit me to the army or telling me about this new book she read. In Ancient Latin. For fun."

"That woman needs a life."

"Yeah. So why are you still here? And you wouldn't happen to have a spare umbrella, would you?"

"Uh, not a spare one, but mine's pretty big? Where you headed?"

"Train station, as always."

"Me too. We can share."

"That would be awesome!", Beam said with enthusiasm. She seemed to constantly alternate between sarcastic comments and genuine cheerfulness. Ariana totally didn't think it was adorable. Shut up.

She opened the umbrella and they started walking. They had to crowd together a little to both fit under the umbrella, bags and all, and Ariana resolved to thank her mother for reminding her to bring one. Both of them.

They traded barbs and sarcastic comments while they walked. The rain thudded in a steady rhythm, drowning out all noise outside of their conversation. With the way the street seemed to glow softly from reflecting the street lights and how close Beam was, it felt a lot like a dream.
They talked without actually talking about anything, and the playful back-and-forth of it made Ariana feel giddy with happiness.

The illusion shattered when Beam offered to hold the umbrella instead because Baltimore's arm had to be getting heavy. Ariana handed it over, mostly amused, and immediately a problem arose.
Because of their size difference, Beam couldn't hold the umbrella high enough for Baltimore to fit under. She hit her on the head with the canopy multiple times until Ariana finally took it back. "I appreciate the sentiment," she added dryly.

Her illusion was shattered, but that was fine. This wasn't a dream. This was reality.
And even with all the bumps in the road, it was far better. And anyway, that had been pretty funny.

Ariana laughed, and when she turned to Beam to make another witty comment, she was surprised to find her staring at her. Beam turned away quickly after that, but it kinda looked like she was blushing. It was too dark to be sure, though.

She got distracted from that line of thought by her cell phone vibrating in her back pocket. Probably another text from Natasha. And thinking of Natasha made her think of her friend's recent mantra of "I swear to god if you don't confess to that girl soon I'll do it for you".
Thinking about confessing made a blush rise to her cheeks and she was glad her skin was dark enough that you couldn't easily tell.
She glanced over, or rather down, at Beam. The girl was typing out a text on her phone, although she looked up when she noticed Ariana was looking at her.

She was breathtakingly beautiful. Her eyes seemed golden in the light of the nearby street lamp and even the bleary greyness of the rain couldn't dull them. Baltimore really wanted to lean in and steal a kiss.

But she wouldn't, not just because she was a coward, but she couldn't be sure Beam would be okay with that.
It was like the friendship-before-marriage thing. First a confession, and then, if she was really really lucky, kissing. She could hardly wait.

And maybe she shouldn't. No time like the present, right? And with them sharing an umbrella, the moment already felt intimate, romantic. It would be the perfect timing.

If only she could gather up enough courage to finally, after more than a year of crushing on and pining after her, actually ask her out.

"I'm glad we're friends," she said abruptly. "I mean, for a complete loser, you're not that bad."
Ohmygod what was she doing. She didn't have much experience with confessions but she was pretty sure you weren't supposed to insult them in the process.

Beam didn't seem offended - she never did. She took it as the clumsy joke it was and shot back with "Well for a nerd, you're surprisingly tolerable."

"Thanks." Ariana had fallen more deeply in love with Beam the more she got to know her. They shared a fondness for witty one-liners and dry humour. The teachers had been right to fear their alliance. They just... clicked.

They were almost at the station now. She stopped walking and Beam did too, shooting her a questioning look.

Ariana took a deep breath. Here it goes, she thought, and had to suppress the immediate urge to just run away instead.
"Beam... Marisol.... Beam," she decided, because Marisol just sounded weird (no offence). "There's something I have to tell you, and for once in my life, I'm not being sarcastic. I actually mean it."

Beam gave her an expectant-but-amused look. "What is it?"

"And I'm really not good at this sort of stuff so..."

"'So' what?"

"I couldn't think of a good way to say it, and I still haven't, actually. So. Um."

"Say what?", Beam said and she was starting to sound exasperated. Ariana's brain switched to panic mode.

"It's.... I...", she faltered. "... uncovered a conspiracy." Goddammit Baltimore.

Several expressions flitted across Beam's face, too fast for Ariana to be able to tell what they were, until she finally settled on mild scepticism "A conspiracy?"

Ariana nodded and noticed Beam shift back a bit. Had Ariana moved closer without realising it? She felt a flush spread across her face and valiantly avoided making eye contact.

The excruciatingly awkward (at least for her) silence was interrupted by a car pulling up next to them and honking it's horn. In the driver's seat was Mama Lucy, long dreadlocks help back by a bright red scarf and with a smile on her face. She rolled down the window.
"Hi, I'd like a big mac with some extra large fries please."
Ariana groaned, her own mortification temporarily forgotten. "Mama, we talked about this. No more bad mom jokes."
"That was quality humour and if you weren't adopted you'd appreciate it."
"Did you drive here just to make fun of me?"
"I drove here to pick you up because your friend from the band - Tasha, right? Such a nice girl - texted me to say that you were stuck at school because you refused to walk in the rain and get your feet wet. Because obviously you're made of sugar," she gave her daughter a stern look.
"You weren't at the school so I figured you probably walked to the station. While I was driving by I recognised that hideous umbrella - don't tell your Mom I said that - and there you were. Now are you coming or what?"

Beam looked a little steamrolled and greatly entertained, which was pretty much the usual reaction to meeting Lucy Baltimore for the first time.

Ariana opened the car door and then turned to Beam. "Need a ride?", she asked with faked nonchalance.
Beam studied her face for a moment before shaking her head. "Nah, I'm good, there's a train in about five minutes that'll take me home."
On an impulse, Ariana reached out. She gave her the umbrella. "Keep it - I won't need it in the car.", she said and gave her an uncertain smile. Beam smiled back before walking away, taking the umbrella with her.

Ariana got into the car. Her mom gave her about ten seconds of peace before she asked: "So, who was that girl? She was pretty cute."

Chapter Text

(Mama Lucy agreed not to mention that Ariana had lent Ariel Baltimore's favourite umbrella to a classmate without asking as long as she swore not to tell that Lucy had called it "hideous".)

"So that's what happened," Ariana said glumly as she finished recounting yesterday's events.
There was a pause. Then, with her usual tact, Natasha said: "Well you sure cocked that up."

Ariana glared at her half heartedly. "Honestly, this whole thing is your fault."
"Right, because I forced you to chicken out of confessing."
"No, but if you had just picked me up, like you said you would, the whole thing wouldn't have happened."
"And you would have missed out on a romantic stroll through the rain with your crush. Wow, I really am the villain here."

Ariana picked at her pizza without replying. Then she sighed. "I messed this up, didn't I? We were getting along great and I went ahead and made it weird. Aghhh, why did I have to say anything?"

"The problem is that you didn't say enough."

"Wow, that's deep. Did you get that from a fortune cookie?", she snarked.

"Shut it," Natasha replied immediately. Then she added: "Heads up."

Ariana looked up just in time to spot Beam walking towards them. Play it cool, Baltimore, she thought and raised her hand in greeting. "Hi there."

She immediately winced. Natasha facepalmed and Beam burst out laughing. "Howdy neighbour.", she responded playfully.

She sat down at the table and looked at Ariana. She didn't say anything and Ariana was torn between shit she figured it out and is there something on my face?
After studying her face a bit, Beam finally smiled.
"So," she started. "There's a conspiracy?"

"Ah. Right. Okay so the the conspiracy-"
"If you can call it that," Natasha interrupted and Ariana rounded on her immediately.
"You agreed with me!", she said accusingly. "I said that it made sense, not that it's a conspiracy."
"Well according to the definition of a conspiracy, which is a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful, this definitely qualifies."

There was a moment of silence. Natasha broke it. "I can't believe you looked up and memorized a definition just in case you might need to quote it in an argument. You are such a nerd." She turned to Beam and added: "I hope you're aware of that."

"I think I'm starting to be," Beam replied mischievously and it was obvious that she was enjoying this conversation. "Now, does either of you feel like telling me what the conspiracy actually IS?"

"Okay I compiled several instances into a basis for my thesis which is-"
"You and Baltimore are star-crossed lovers.", Natasha interrupted once more. Baltimore could feel her face heat up and very deliberately didn't look at Beam. "Oh, completely platonic and only metaphorically, of course. What I mean is that destiny, and with that I mean the teachers, have conspired against you to stop the two of you from ever becoming friends."

Beam thought it over for a second. "I was going to ask why," she said, "but it's pretty obvious."

"Hellish duo that would strike fear in the hearts of all authority figures?", Baltimore suggested and raised her hand.
"Hell yea," Beam responded and highfived her.

"You guys are cute," Natasha said and got up. She walked away without a word, leaving a half full lunchtray behind.
The two girls watched her leave.

 "She does that sometimes," Ariana explained and shrugged it off. "She probably won't be back until band practice."

"You have band practice today?"

"Yeah, every tuesday and thursday. Friday is 'party night' and Monday is 'the day from hell' so those two were out. I'm not sure what disqualified Wednesdays... Ah. Right. Natasha really hated Mean Girls."

"And that disqualifies all Wednesdays?"

"Well... it might have been due to us wearing pink and quoting Mean Girls at her for three weeks straight?"
Beam snorted. The corner of Ariana's mouth twitched up and she added: "Our band was called Hair Full Of Secrets for a month too."

"Poor Natasha."

"Yeah. So tuesdays and thursdays it is. ... Do you have practice today?"

"Nah." The bell rang to signal that lunch break was over. Beam got up and grabbed her lunchtray. "See you later, maybe?"

"Sure," Ariana said and watched her walk away, filled with relief that she hadn't made things weird. And admiration. Who could blame her? Beam was wearing skinny jeans today.

Chapter Text

Ariana was in the middle of a drum solo when Beam walked in. Her drum sticks fell to the floor with a clatter and she could feel herself blushing.

Natasha gave her a pitying look as she picked them up again.

She cleared her throat in embarrassment. "Well. This is a surprise."

Beam grinned. "Thought I might check out the legendary band. ... What is it called again?"

"This week? Thirty seconds on Mars."

"That's dangerously close to plagiarism."

"We're rebels like that." Ariana said with a perfectly straight face.

"It's just the two of you?"

"Just today. Junpei, our guitarist, is sick and Jaya had an appointment. Also, our keyboardist somehow managed to escape and we haven't been able to recapture her yet."

"I'm not even going to ask.", Beam declared.

"Smart move," Natasha said casually.
She picked up her instrument with a devious look on her face.

"How about a demo?", she offered innocently.

"I don't-" Ariana started but was cut off by Beams enthusiam. "Sure!! ... Unless you don't feel like it?"

The last part was directed at Ariana and filled with an uncertainty she wasn't used to seeing in Beam.
It made her want to reassure her.

"No problemo," Ariana said, throwing her sticks up in a twirl and catching them again.

Okay, so maybe she was showing off. It was pretty obvious that was what Natasha had been going for, wingwoman that she was.

"Gorillaz?" Nat suggested.

Ariana nodded and started playing Feel Good Inc.
It was familiar and weirdly comforting, even though she missed Jaya's weird laugh at the beginning.

They played for about a minute and Beam kept quiet, avidly watching them as her foot tapped to the beat.

Natasha ended it rather abruptly when she checked her watch in the middle of the song and cursed.
"Shit. I'm supposed to be babysitting in twenty minutes."

She unplugged her base guitar, then turned to Ariana.
"Can you go to the teachers lounge and get a key to lock our instruments away?"

"Why do I have to do it?", she complained.

Nat fixed her with a glare.
"Oh, so you'd rather pack away all this sensitive and expensive equipement?" She gestured to the Amplifier and the mess of cables around it. "We all know how that went last time."

"I don't," Beam chimed in.

"Right. What happened was that-" "Fine, I'm going.", Ariana said quickly, throwing her hands up.

All the way down the stairs, she tried not to think about the consequences of leaving Beam and Nat alone together. It didn't work. She started running.


As she approached the classroom, keys jangling in her hand, she braced herself for the worst. Considering Natasha was involved, it could be very bad.

She came back just in time to see the end of a conversation. Beam was standing with her back to the door, so she couldn't see her facial expression, but Natasha looked decidedly smug. Oh no.

Natasha spotted Ariana in the door and gave her a wave. "You can lock this stuff up, right? I really need to get going."

"Sure," she said, eyeing her warily. She couldn't really picture Nat of all people being a baby sitter.

Her friend left, leaving Ariana lone with Beam. Her crush. Who was looking at her again.

"Right..." Ariana said awkwardly, gesturing around. "You want to help? Nat packed up the delicate stuff so all I need to do is lug stuff around. You know, since apparently the only thing I'm useful for is manual labour.", she said with a huff.

"I can help," Beam shrugged, picking up the closest box of equipment to her. Which also happened to be the heaviest one.

"Wait, let me--" She cut herself off as Beam hoisted the box up easily.

"Where to?"

Ariana closed her mouth with a click. "Uh... stack 'em up in that open broom closet over there."

They both carried stuff in silence for a while before Ariana broke it.

"So, the super strength... is that a cheerleader thing or were you bitten by something radioactive?"

Beam laughed. "I thought you were a DC fan," she teased, and Ariana blushed a little that she had bothered to remember that. Although to be fair she was pretty loud in her appreciation of Batman.

"I can totally be both. Fine, are you an alien with an incredibly obvious secret identity?"
"Are you hating on Clark Kent?"
"I just don't understand. How can people think he's just some nerd? Sure he wears glasses but LOOK AT THE SIZE OF HIS MUSCLES."

Beam gave her an amused look and Ariana cracked a smile herself.

"You should probably stop me, I can rant about comic books for hours," she warned.

"Well, I did want to talk about something," Beam said in a casual way that was totally not casual and set off like fifty alarm bells in Ariana's head.

She swallowed. "Okay?" The fact that Beam looked nervous too didn't reassure her at all.

"While you were getting the keys I was talking to Natasha and she told me--" "Oh my god I'm sorry I wanted to tell you myself I just--"

"Tell me what?", Beam asked.

Ariana paused in her rambling. "What? Oh. Uh. I mean, it's not important--"

"Tell. Me. What?", Beam persisted. "I'm not letting this go like I did last time. I was trying to be nice but it's driving me insane. You need to tell me so I know if I'm getting my hopes up for nothing."

"Your... hopes?" Ariana asked carefully.

Beam shook her head and crossed her arms. "You first," she suggested in a tone of voice that sounded more like an order.

Ariana didn't deal well with people ordering her around and even less so with being backed into a corner.
She wanted to escape, hide beneath her blankets like when she was a little kid scared of the horror movie she insisted she was old enough for, and pretend this entire thing hadn't happened.

Sadly, that didn't seem to be an option.

Her heart was still beating fast and every instict was screaming at her to just run away so she didn't have to deal with this, but she straightened her shoulders instead.

"Marisol Beam," she started, hoping her voice sounded steadier than she felt, "I've been in love with you since the first time I heard you sass a teacher, probably even longer than that. Our conversations flow so easily and I think you're amazing. I can't even list all the things I like about you, there's so many.

"And I know you're the prettiest girl in the school and I'm just an awkward nerd, but will you please go out with me?"
Ariana paused, then immediately backpedaled. "I mean, we can just be friends, friends is good, I think I can handle friends-"

She was interrupted by Beam's hands reaching up to tug her down and then their lips met and oh.

Ariana's brain shut down and immediately started rebooting. It felt like her face was on fire, but she couldn't help the grin that was spreading across her face. When they parted, she cleared her throat.

"So that's a yes?"

"Idiot," Beam muttered fondly and leaned in to steal another kiss. They keep them short, just standing close together and holding each other, eyes filled with awe as they looked at each other.

"I'll admit," Ariana said after a while. "This is not how I expected today to go."

"Are you disappointed?" Beam joked, but her eyes were scanning Ariana's face carefully.

"Now who's the idiot," she murmured, wrapping her arm around Beam's shoulders. "I'm euphoric right now." And she meant it.

Beam smelled of peach shampoo and the lipgloss that was now smeared across her own mouth. Her warmth against her side was both comforting and exciting. Ariana couldn't believe how lucky she was. She voiced that thought.

"I can't believe how lucky I am. To have you."

She pressed a kiss against Beam's scalp. The shorter girl wove their fingers together and smiled.

They stood like that for a while. Outside the classroom window, the sun was going down. It served as both a romantic backdrop and a reminder that it was getting late.

"So," Ariana said, flashing her new girlfriend - her new girlfriend!!!! - a grin.

"Are we still on for gaming this weekend? We could order a pizza, call it a date..."

Beam smiled back up at her. "Sounds perfect."