I'll Be Right Behind You

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Chapter 11

The past two months had been slow. But to Nicole and Ophelia’s relief, Alex and Lincoln had been getting better at dealing with Reyna’s death. Ophelia and Lincoln had been spending a bit more time apart – which Robin and Nicole believed was a good thing for them – and when they were together, they both seemed to be having a better time. Alex had been sleeping more and drinking less, which Nicole agreed, was a fine improvement. They spent more time together which involved more smiles and decent TV shows. Alex and Lincoln had also been spending more time with Nicole, Ophelia and Robin once again; movie nights at their places or drinks at Grounders…to Alex, it felt like things were slowly getting back to normal.

“Last episode.” Alex said as Nicole pulled up the fifth episode of How to Get Away with Murder. “I have work in the morning.”

The two of them were lying in Nicole’s bed, under the covers with her laptop. Ophelia was out for the night with Martin and Casper and she would be spending the night with Lincoln because he was working and couldn’t join them. Alex didn’t stay over if Ophelia was home mostly because it would raise questions and neither her nor Nicole wanted to go through the whole “We’re just friends” thing – even they weren’t entirely convinced it accurately described them at the moment. It was already past midnight but the show was too good to stop, if anything it was getting better with every passing episode.

“It’s just so hard to stop.” Nicole started. “But yeah, last one.”

“You don’t have class tomorrow right?” Alex asked as the previously on played.

“Nope.” She replied, fast-forwarding through it. “But I do have to get myself out of bed relatively early to finish editing this paper.”

It took Alex longer than she’d expected to fall asleep. Being in such close proximity of Nicole was getting harder and harder with every minute they spent together. Watching episodes or movies together was easier than falling asleep next to her because they kept her mind distracted. Since their almost kiss two months ago – the one they both refused to acknowledge, there was a sense of awkwardness between them; when their hands accidentally touched yesterday while getting the door to The Hourglass, the glances across the booth at Grounders last weekend…or maybe it was just Alex being unable to keep her feelings in check because the blonde seemed unaffected by it. Either Nicole was really good at not showing how she felt, wasn’t really affected by that almost kiss or just didn’t want their friends to be able to say “We told you so”. Robin and Ophelia were catching on if their comments meant anything. It wasn’t just because of the almost kiss, Alex thought, she had a hard time keeping her eyes off the blonde since the moment they met but that night…that kind of escalated it all. Lying on her back, Alex sighed as Nicole’s arm found its way to her, draping it across her waist. She was not making this easy.


“O?” Nicole asked as she stepped out of her room, surprised to see her friend. “I thought you were spending the night with Lincoln.”

Ophelia, standing by the kitchen counter, motioned towards the living room with a small nod. “He got held up at work.”

Nicole looked over, unsure of what her friend was pointing to. There was clearly someone sitting on the couch but she couldn’t make out their face. She took a step forward, “Mom?”

“Nicole, good morning.” Her mom turned to look at her.

“What are you doing here?” Nicole asked, standing across from her, arms crossed over her chest.

“Well, its nice to see you too.” Abby muttered. “Can’t I stop by to see how my daughter is doing?”

“Well…you don’t.” She shrugged, walking away to join Ophelia causing her mom to get up and follow her.

“And I know you don’t have class today so you can’t walk out on me.” She told her daughter. “I need to talk to you about something.”

Nicole glared at her roommate as she poured two mugs of coffee, one for herself and another fro Alex. There was no way her mom knew what days she had class so it had to have been Ophelia. “What do you want to ta-” She was cut off by Alex who had just walked out of her bedroom, dressed in only a t-shirt and really short pajama shorts.

“Hey Nicole, do you kn-” Alex stopped abruptly, noticing how Nicole wasn’t the only one in the room. If the look on Ophelia’s face was anything, she and Nicole were never going to hear the end of this. The look on the other woman’s – whom Alex did not recognize – face was mostly shock. “I’m gonna go.” She muttered under her breath, stepping back into Nicole’s room.

“OH MY GOD.” Ophelia exclaimed in disbelieve the moment the door closed shut. “OH. MY. GOD.” She had a huge grin on her face as she stared at Nicole in disbelief.

“Who was that?” Abby asked, knowing better than to pay attention to her daughter’s best friend.

“No.” Nicole stated simply to Ophelia before turning to her mom. “And that was Alex, she’s just a friend.”

“Just a friend?!” Her best friend choked out, trying to contain her excitement.

“You and I have very different definitions of the word ’friend’.” Her mom told her.

“Wait till Robin finds out about this.”

“You’re not helping O.” Nicole snapped before turning back to her mom. “She’s just a friend and there’s nothing going on between us, she was just staying over for the night.” She paused. “Wait…would it be a problem if there was something going on between us?” She knew the answer to that; her mom had made it very clear that she didn’t approve of Nicole’s…choice in partners, more specifically their gender when it wasn’t a guy.

Ophelia leaned back against the counter, watching her friend and her mom was always entertaining. She just felt a little sorry for Alex having to walk in like that.

“Umm…” Abby stalled. “Ophelia do you have somewhere you need to be?”

“No,” She replied with a smile.

“I wanted you to hear this from me before anyone else.” Abby went back to talking to Nicole. “Marcus proposed.”

What?!” Nicole and Ophelia exclaimed in unison.

“The wedding is next month, on the 12th, details are on the invitation – yours are on the coffee table along with Helios and Robin’s; I would appreciate it if you could give it to them. And I expect you guys to be there.”

Ophelia nodded.

Expect us to be there?” Nicole asked, cocking an eyebrow. “I don’t know mom, we might be busy.”

“Yes, I need my family to know you’re still alive – they haven’t seen you in that long.” Abby rolled her eyes.

“It’s not like they want to see me anyways.”

Abby sighed, choosing to ignore it. “And if you bring a plus one just…it should be a guy okay?”

Nicole didn’t say anything, only walked off with the coffee mugs.

“Nicole stop.”

“Why?” She snapped, turning on her heel to look at her mom, already halfway to her bedroom. “I don’t have a plus one anyways…and I was actually thinking about turning up but you just had to go ahead and say that.” Nicole turned back around, walking back to her room. “I have work to do mom, I’ll see you later.”

She stepped inside her room, slamming the door behind her. She stopped in her tracks when she caught a glimpse of Alex. She had changed into her jeans and was only just pulling on her t-shirt, the same one from last night. It took Nicole a moment to get herself to speak, turning around in an attempt to look away, “Sorry, I didn’t know you were changing…”

“It’s fine,” Alex said, quickly pulling the t-shirt down over herself. “You can turn around now,”

“Sorry,” She muttered, handing Alex the mug and sitting down on the bed.

“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but is everything okay?”

Nicole sighed, “How much did you hear?”

“The walls are pretty thin.” Alex sat down next to her. “And I’m sorry about that…me walking in like that.” She shook her head.

“It’s fine.” Nicole smiled. “Oh right,” She remembered. “You wanted to ask me something didn’t you?”

“Yeah. I was just looking for the shirt I left here last time.” Her clothes usually ended up in Nicole’s drawer – second drawer from the top, along with her pajamas – but not this time and she didn’t want to go through any of the other drawers so Alex didn’t have a choice but to wear the t-shirt she’d shown up in last night. “It wasn’t in the drawer.”

“Oh right,” She remembered. “Other drawer, it was empty so I thought I’d put your stuff in that one.”

Alex walked up to it, waiting for Nicole to tell her which one.

“Top left.”

Pulling out the shirt, Alex turned around, her back facing Nicole and pulled of her t-shirt.

She tried, she really did but it was almost impossible to not look at the brunette. “You have a thing for tattoos, don’t you?” It surprised Nicole that she didn’t know about the elaborate tattoo on Alex’s back. It covered her shoulder blades and coming down her spine.

Alex turned her neck, looking at Nicole, “Uh, yeah.”

“It’s beautiful.” She walked over, “Can I…?”

“Yeah,” Alex pulled her hair over her shoulder, giving Nicole a better look.

Alex’s breath hitched as Nicole’s fingertips touched her back. She wanted to tell herself that it was because her hands were cold and not because her fingers were in contact with her skin. Nicole traced the design with her fingers, running down her spine, doing her best to not be distracted by the flawless skin. Which she failed as her hand moved away from the tattoo, onto a clear expanse of skin…smooth and flawless. Alex didn’t complain, well she was pretty much frozen so she couldn’t exactly even if she wanted to. Nicole looked questioningly as her fingers ran across a bit of skin on the side of her lower back, which was a bit rougher than the rest. Her hand stopped, causing Alex to look back at her, “What’s wrong?”

“What happened?” Old scars heal, but they leave a mark and Nicole knew what self-harm scars looked like. She just didn’t expect to see them on Alex.

She wasn’t sure what Nicole was talking about, moving her eyes down to look at where her hand was, “Umm…” Alex stepped away from her touch. “It’s nothing.” She pulled on her shirt, looking away from her. “I know what it looks like bu-”

“But it’s not?” Nicole asked rhetorically.

“It is…” She sighed, buttoning her shirt. “But it was a long time ago and…” Alex rubbed her eyes trying to think of something to say. “I was in a bad place and…it was a really long time ago. Can we pretend like this conversation never happened?”

Nicole thought for a moment before replying. “I won’t bring it up ever again unless you want to talk about it or anything…”

Alex nodded, walking towards the door. “Is your mom still here?”

“I don’t think so.” She shook her head. “I’ll put on some cloths and then meet you in the kitchen okay?”

Alex walked out of the bedroom with her coffee mug to be greeted by Ophelia who seemed like she was waiting for her. “So…” She started as Alex approached.

“Morning.” Alex greeted.

“You and Nicole…”

She rolled her eyes. “What about it?” Alex questioned.

“What’s going on with you two?” Ophelia asked.

“There’s nothing going on between us.”

“You walked out of her room, practically half naked.”

Alex almost glared at her, clearly unimpressed.

“Okay fine, you weren’t but still…” She stopped for a moment. “That’s gonna have a lasting impression on Nicole’s mom.”

“I didn’t know she was here.” Alex said in her defense. “And I didn’t know you were here either. Weren’t you supposed to be with Lincoln?”

“Don’t turn this on me and yes I was, but he got held up at work.”

“O, please stop harassing her.” Nicole said as she walked up to them.

“I’m going to be late for work,” Alex said, trying to hide her smile as she walked towards the front door. “We’re still on for movie later, right?”

“If you don’t catch a murder then yes, I’ll meet you at the theater at…when is it again?”

“5:20.”

“Right so I’ll meet you there a little before then.”

As the door closed behind Alex, Ophelia turned to her friend and said in a singsong tone, “You guys going on a date?”

“OH MY GOD.” Nicole groaned out loud walking towards the living room. “It’s not a date. Just going to watch a movie O.”

“What movie?” She followed her friend.

“The new Mockingjay.” She sat down on the couch and turned the TV on.

“Didn’t that come out like 2 weeks ago?” Ophelia took a seat next to her roommate.

“Yes and Alex and I have been too busy to watch it and we need a break.” Nicole paused. “So it’s Friday and we’re hoping no one gets killed…or well she doesn’t get called in because someone decided to commit murder.”

“It’s a date.” Her best friend said after a beat of silence.

“No, it’s not.” The blonde protested. “And Alex doesn’t do dates…I don’t either. We’re just friends and that’s it.”

“Does Robin know you guys are going on a date?” She disregarded everything her best friend just said about it not being a date.


Alex

5:02pm

I just left the precinct.

Nicole checked her phone once she’d parked at the movie theater’s parking lot. It had been ten minutes since Alex sent the text and she predicted it would take her another five minutes to get there. So Nicole quickly typed out a reply as she walked inside.

Nicole Griffin

5:13pm

Yay, no one got killed.

Alex could hear her phone buzz with a text as she turned around a corner. She expected it to be from Nicole, letting her know that she was already there. She decided to wait until she’d parked her car.

As she read the text, Alex couldn’t help but smile or stop her eyes from rolling. She wasn’t sure why she bothered to, but Alex typed out a reply as she walked inside.

Alex

5:18pm

I just got here.

Nicole was still waiting in the queue to get some snacks. She was worried the movie would start before the two of them were inside when she remembered that trailers were on for about 20 minutes. Her phone buzzed in her pocket and she pulled it out.

Nicole Griffin

5:18pm

I’m at the snacks counter. Already got the tickets.

Alex looked up from her phone, scanning the place for Nicole, spotting her fairly easily at the snacks counter. There were only two more people in front of her.

“Hey,” Alex greeted her with a small smile as she stepped next to her.

“Hey,” Nicole smiled back.

“This is going to be a little weird though.” Alex pointed out after a few of seconds of silence.

“What is?”

“The place is full of teenagers. We’re probably the only ones who aren’t.”

“I thought you watched the other Hunger Games movies.”

“I did.” She paused. “But I caught the late night shows just so I didn’t have to be surrounded by kids.” They stepped forward as the queue moved.

“Aww.” Nicole smiled. “Badass detective Alex doesn’t want to be seen with a theater full of kids?”

Alex sighed. “How do think I get my badass reputation? By not being seen in a theater full of kids.”

Nicole laughed out loud and Alex couldn’t help but smile, it was just too cute. Although it was hard for her to admit, she’d do anything to hear her laugh.

They stepped forward, finally reaching the counter, “What do you want?” Alex asked.

“Oh, you don’t have to.”

“You got the tickets, I think I can get the snacks.”

She smiled, turning to the cashier, “Small Diet Coke please.”

“Make that two.” Alex told him. “Popcorn?” She turned back to Nicole.

“Only if you want, I can never finish it.”

The trailers had already started by the time Nicole and Alex walked into the theater. It took them a minute to find their seats, third row from the back in the middle. Alex was right; the place was almost completely full of teenage girls. There were probably a couple of viewers who were older. Probably.

They were a quarter way through the movie when Nicole leaned in towards Alex, her lips almost touching her ear. “I still can’t stand Peeta.” She whispered.

Alex tensed for a moment to the close proximity of Nicole’s mouth, her warm breath on her ear. “I thought I was the only one that couldn’t stand him.” She finally muttered in response.

The popcorn was on the armrest between the two of them to make it more convenient – less awkward because there was a smaller chance of both of them reaching in at the same time. A few minutes before the movie ended, the container was empty without either of them realizing it. Nicole’s hand was already in there, searching for one last popcorn when Alex decided to reach in as well; the moment her hand touched Nicole’s she pulled away, muttering an almost inaudible “Sorry.”

Nicole turned her head, having noticed her hand. Alex was looking intently at the screen when the blonde reached out for her hand, silently taking it in hers. Nicole looked back at the screen, pretending she didn’t just do that as Alex turned to look at her. It took her a moment before turning back to the movie, the muscles in her hand still tense. The blonde made small circles on the back of her hand, probably subconsciously, causing Alex’s hand to finally relax.


“I really wish they hadn’t killed Finnick and Prim.” Nicole said as they made they’re way towards the exit hand in hand, their fingers now intertwined.

“They had to stay true to the book.” Alex responded, pushing the door open with her free hand.

“But movies change things all the time. Like Percy Jackson and the Olympians…” She shook her head before continuing. “The only thing same with the books and the movies are the titles.”

Alex nodded. “So I have to say, they did a way better job with The Hunger Games movies.”

They walked in silence up to their cars, walking up to Alex’s first. She took out her keys and unlocked it when Nicole unexpectedly stepped in closer, causing Alex to push up against the side of the car unsure of what was happening but finding the need to put some distance between herself and Nicole.

The blonde remained silent to a second, her eyes flicking between Alex’s eyes and lips. “I so want to kiss you right now.”

She swallowed the lump in her throat. “What’s stopping you?” If it was anyone else, anyone other than Nicole, it would’ve sounded like a challenge but with her…Alex was surprised she could get the words out without stuttering.

Nicole almost laughed, looking down at their still-conjoined hands. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m just too stubborn to give my friends the satisfaction of doing that.”

Alex didn’t know what came over her when she let go of the blonde’s hand, bringing it up to her face. “I’m not.” She brought her face closer to Nicole’s, who didn’t move away – she had half expected her to. Their lips met, Nicole’s were soft and gentle, a hint of the taste of Coke still lingered. The blonde closed her eyes as Alex’s lips touched hers. She didn’t know what she expected but this was so much better. Alex’s eyes fluttered shut as Nicole kissed back and brought her arms up, snaking them behind Alex’s neck before moving them up to the back of head, her fingers running through the brunette’s hair. Nicole opened her mouth and Alex took the opportunity to slide her tongue inside the blonde mouth. She tilted her head, trying to get a better angle, her nose sliding against the Nicole’s.

“We can’t.” Nicole stepped away abruptly, biting her lower lip.

Alex gasped for air, once again unsure of what had just happened. She was still too dazed by the kiss to say anything when Nicole started to walk away. “Wait,” She finally called out, taking off behind her. “Nicole, wait.”

The blonde didn’t, pretending to not have heard Alex, she kept walking till she reached her car, unlocking the door. The brunette tried again, “Will you stop for a second?”

She turned around, “What?”

“Talk to me, what’s wrong?”

“We can’t.” She shook her head, opening her door, “I can’t, Alex.” With that she got in her car and drove off, leaving Alex standing alone in the parking lot, still dazed from their kiss and questioning what she’d done. She remained rooted to her spot for a few seconds, with the voices inside her head yelling at her before she regained her ability to walk back to her car.

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