“Fuck me.” Alex muttered under her breath as she closed the door behind Nicole, letting her head fall against the cool hardwood. “I don’t need this right now.”
Standing up straight a moment later and walking back to the couch, Alex realized she was too tired to go back to her bedroom and change before getting into bed; crashing on the couch seemed more appealing. At that moment, she was glad she’d decided to invest in a couch comfortable enough to sleep on.
“Isn’t that a bit too expensive for a couch?” Reyna asked as she and Alex finished moving it into place.
“Well, yes.” Alex started. “But if you’re anything like me and sleep on the couch more often than your own bed, then no, it’s not too expensive.”
Alex stood in front of her open fridge after coming home from work, going over the events of the past two months.
They had passed rather quickly but Alex had to admit, it was more eventful than the last 6 months of her life. Lincoln had moved into his new place the past week and it felt a little weird to have the apartment back to herself. She had also been spending a considerable amount of time with not only Nicole but her friends as well. Robin was, believe it or not, someone you’d want to hang out with. She was mostly in a good mood, cracking jokes and just a fun person to be around. Ophelia and Nicole seemed to have a very strong bond that was very unlikely to be broken; minus all the teasing, they seemed to care about each other more than anything else. Helios Blake, to her surprise was a genuinely nice guy. He was very protective of his sister – and Nicole – and loved her more than Alex thought was possible to love family. Watching the two of them made her realize what she’d missed out on. He was also really close to Nicole; if anything, they could be mistaken for siblings. Martin and Casper seemed to be best friends but they were hardly ever around for Alex to know much about them. Lincoln had suggested inviting Reyna for one of their movie nights – which was almost every weekend – and Alex agreed. Nicole and her friends seemed to get along with her right from the start and Robin may have finally met someone who had a comeback for whatever she says; in other words, Robin had probably met her match.
Suddenly Alex was pulled out of her thoughts when her phone buzzed from the kitchen counter next to her. Without looking at whom the text was from, Alex unlocked the phone.
Can’t go to Lincoln’s place for movie tonight :(
I have this paper due tomorrow and I haven’t written most of it.
The others are expecting u though. They were supposed to start the movie like 8 mins ago.
Damn she could type fast. Alex thought as she typed out her reply.
I can’t go either. I told Lincoln to let you guys know.
Something come up?
It wasn’t unusual for Alex to cancel on the last minute. Not that it was her fault, it was work; either a body drop or paper work needing to be completed by the next day. Nicole didn’t mind. And as far as she could tell, neither did the others.
Yeah. Just closed a case so there’s paper work and they want it done by tomorrow morning.
Alex hesitated before sending her next text. Although she had been around Nicole and hung out with her more than a handful of times since they’d met, the brunette still wasn’t sure whether it was overstepping by asking or suggesting something.
I could come over…if you want. To keep you company? We both have work so I guess its better than spending the night alone.
If you’re okay with that.
I’ll see you in a little while then.
Alex grabbed her keys, jacket and backpack with all her paperwork and as she opened the door she turned back around, walking back to her bedroom, she grabbed her gun and badge because there was no telling whether she’d get called in later tonight.
It took a little under 15 minutes for Alex to pull up by Nicole and Ophelia’s apartment. Getting out of the car, she grabbed her bag and walked up to the building. Despite the fact that they lived on the 5th floor and there being a perfectly usable elevator right there, Alex opted for the stairs.
“You gotta stop taking the stairs.” Nicole said, shaking her head disapprovingly, as she opened the door.
Alex seemed a little taken back, “How do you know I took the stairs?”
“Because I know you.” Nicole said as she stepped in to the apartment.
The two of them walked over to Nicole’s room. The first thing Alex noticed was the number of papers and books strewn all over her bed. “You have a lot of work left to do, don’t you?” Alex asked.
“What gave it away?” She responded with an almost-convincing puzzled look on her face before smiling. “So you’re okay working on the desk?”
“Yeah.” She replied, placing her bag down.
About an hour later, there was a knock on the door. “That must be dinner.” Nicole said, beginning to get up.
“I got it.” Alex beat her to it.
By the time Nicole walked into the living room, Alex had already paid the deliveryman and was closing the door. She peeked inside the box as she followed Nicole into the kitchen. “Pepperoni?” She asked. “But I thought you only liked cheese.”
The blonde grabbed two bottles of beer from the refrigerator and turned to look at Alex, “Yeah but you’re favorite’s pepperoni and I don’t mind it, I kinda like it.”
She did her best to hide the smile on her face as she followed Nicole back to her room.
“Are you listening to Badlands?” Alex asked as she walked past the open laptop, back to the desk.
“We’ve been listening to the same music but with separate headphones.”
“You like Halsey?” Nicole asked.
“She’s all I’ve been listening to since Badlands came out.”
The room fell silent minus the music now playing out loud from Nicole’s laptop as the two of them went back to their work; Nicole was about a third into her essay and Alex still had a long way to go.
“What movie are they watching anyways?” Alex spoke for the first time in hours.
“Movies.” Nicole corrected. “Lord of the Rings marathon.”
The blonde nodded.
“It’s been forever since I watched them.” One thing Nicole had picked up about Alex in these couple of months was that she was a huge geek; Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, you name it. And if Marvel was classed as something you could get addicted to, she definitely needed help.
“Finally done.” Alex said as she leaned back onto the chair, putting down her pen.
“Me too.” Nicole spoke. “Well one more line…” She paused for a couple seconds before looking up from her screen. “Done…and it took only…5 hours. Fuck it’s late.”
“Wow.” The brunette added. “I didn’t realize.”
“Do you have work tomorrow?”
Alex nodded. “But I won’t be able to sleep for a few more hours.”
“Same.” Nicole said as she began to put away all her books and papers on to the nightstand. Once done, she motioned Alex over with a nod.
She sat down by the edge of the bed. “Ophelia’s not going to be back till…?” Alex paused and thought before adding hesitantly, “…like 8am? If I’m not wrong, all three movies take a little over 11 hours…?”
“That’s when they’d be done watching, yeah but she probably won’t be back till noon.” The room fell silent again, Nicole contemplating whether it was alright to ask Alex what she wanted to or whether that would be over stepping. “Can I ask you something?”
“Yeah sure.” Alex shrugged.
“You and Reyna…you guys seem really close.” Nicole started. “Tell me to stop if I’m overstepping.” She added before continuing. “And you obviously know Lincoln through her but like…how do you guys know each other? …Is that too personal?”
Alex thought for a second before giving the her a small smile. “Not at all.” She pulled up her legs on the bed and crossed them under her. “It’s kind of a long story and I’m more than willing to tell you, if you wanna listen to it.”
“Yeah.” Nicole nodded enthusiastically.
“Well…” She started. “Reyna and her parents moved into our neighborhood the summer before I started high school. They were across the street, two houses down to the left.” She smiled at herself for remembering as she continued, “I ended up spending more time there than at my own house to be honest.”
Nicole noticed how Alex’s smile was now gone and replaced by something she hadn’t seen on her face till today. Nicole’s confusion didn’t go unnoticed, and so she explained. “As to why is another long story, I just preferred her and Lincoln’s company over my parents’.” Nicole would’ve probably asked why but there was something about the way Alex had said it that made her decide not to.
“I met Lincoln before Reyna though. He knocked on our door the day after they’d moved. Lincoln was just very good at talking to people and basically, he was very likable. Umm, I opened the door and he introduced himself, I was pretty much the complete opposite of him when it came to new people but he was really nice and we got along well from the start. We spent the next couple of days just getting to know each other; mostly because there wasn’t anyone else his age in the neighborhood. My parents thought it was a good thing that I was spending so much time with a boy.” Alex rolled her eyes, the annoyance from all those years ago still apparent in her voice. “I met Reyna a few days later. She was two years older than me and seemed a little detached at first but by the end of the summer, it was like we’d known each other forever.
“High school wasn’t too kind to me and well…” She paused. “Those four years were probably the worst years of my life.” Alex stopped for a moment.
“Hey,” Nicole said. “It’s alright if you don’t want to talk about it, I get it.”
“No, it’s fine.” Shaking her head slightly, Alex continued. “A couple of months into my first year, my parents found out I was gay. Umm…” Alex closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “…let’s just say that wasn’t the greatest thing that could’ve happened to me.” She didn’t want to get in to that, not now. “Reyna was there for me when I didn’t really have anyone else. She helped me make it through the day basically. And Lincoln was like an overprotective little brother.” She smiled. “If anyone ever brought it up at school, he was the first one to jump in and shut them up. I didn’t really mind, I mean yeah, I didn’t like it but I could block it out.
“Then Reyna left for college, came here.” Alex shifted, lying down by the foot of Nicole’s bed, her legs sticking out, staring up at the ceiling. “Things went a little downhill if anything.” Definitely not just a little.
Nicole followed her lead, lying down next to her but not too close, both their legs hanging out. The brunette turned on her side, looking at Nicole. “But Lincoln was still there and I still talked to Reyna, she visited every time she came over to see Lincoln and her parents.” She told her. “It was only about a four and a half hour drive from New York to DC and she came over every chance she got.”
“You’re from DC?” Nicole asked to which Alex only nodded with a half smile. “Cool.”
“By the time my senior year rolled in, I was desperate to just get out of there though.” She continued. “I came here for college and when I told Reyna, she was over the moon. Lincoln went to California and I hadn’t seen him for more than a few days at a time till he came over a couple of months ago.
“Reyna gave me a reference for the NYPD. Mostly because I was – still am – really into crime fiction and I’d asked her about it, she thought I’d do reasonably well. A year later, I got transferred to homicide along with Reyna. And after a year of working in homicide – last year – I got my new badge. And…we’re still partners so yeah, that’s about it.” Alex smiled awkwardly as she finished. “What about you and Ophelia? You two seem really close. And Robin and Helios?”
Nicole smiled. “That’s also a long story, if you’re up for that.”
Alex nodded and Nicole continued. “Me and Ophelia pretty much grew up together. She and Helios lived with their mom next door to us.” She started. “We’ve known each other since we were…” the blonde thought for a moment, “9 years old. Helios was 14 but he spent more time with his sister than anyone else. And so in turn, he ended up spending a lot of time with me as well. My mom liked them almost instantly. They’re mom wasn’t around much, she owned this designer boutique which took up most of her time, but she still loved the two of them more than anything. My mom wasn’t around much either; she’s a surgeon so pretty busy. Ophelia and Helios…they kinda became family; I couldn’t be any closer to O even if were actual siblings.
“When we were 13, Helios and O’s mom passed away.” Nicole said in a small voice. “Well she was murdered outside her boutique. Mugging gone wrong.” She repeated the words that had been said to Helios and Ophelia by the police officer working the case. “It hit them hard but fortunately, Bell was 18 so technically he was in charge of O.” She sighed. “And he did everything he could and more to make sure his sister was alright.
“High school rolled in two years later and Ophelia had put her mother’s death behind her, so to speak. She was the life of the party. I ended up being the responsible one. Nights before tests and exams were spent with me helping her study till the wee hours of dawn either at my place or theirs.
“That’s also when we met Robin. It’s a funny story.” Nicole couldn’t suppress the smile as her mind went back to that memory. “Robin’s about a year older than us, a sophomore, us still freshmen.” She explained. “So Ophelia was in the school’s soccer team and the team held practices every Tuesdays and Thursdays after school…I think. O, however, put in an extra day between them. And I didn’t have a choice but to go along with her ’cause no one else was there; I’d just sit on the bleachers and draw till she was happy with how she kicked that damn ball.
“So on one of O’s extra practice days, Robin was out on the field after school testing out one of her projects…I think it was for her physics class; she’s crazy smart with stuff like that. And Ophelia walks out on to the field, kicking the ball as far as she can without realizing someone’s out there. By the time she realized she wasn’t the only on there, it was too late. Unfortunately, the ball went straight up to Robin and decided to land on her…thing.”
“That couldn’t have ended well.” Alex said with an amused smile.
“No.” Nicole responded seriously, shaking her head. “Ophelia ran over to make sure she hadn’t done any damage…which she had. And Robin looked pissed. By the time I reached them, they…seemed to be pretty mad. O was mad because she had no way of knowing someone would be out here and Robin, obviously, was mad because someone had just broken her thing, whatever it was. I intervened and calmed them down, Robin admitted that this was just a prototype so it wasn’t going to cost her anything and Ophelia apologized… something she almost never does, especially to a stranger. And since then, we’ve pretty much been friends.
Robin was gone for college though, MIT ’cause she loves to show off.” Nicole rolled her eyes, pretend annoyance. “But she totally deserved it. I was gone for college too, John Hopkins at Baltimore. O and Helios stayed here. She went to NYU, same as her brother. I decided to come back here, missed those idiots too much.”
“Where do you go now?” Alex asked.
“Columbia.” Nicole replied simply.
“Impressive.” She commented with a nod.
The blonde smiled before continuing. “Robin called us after she came back. She wasn’t sure what she’d do after college but she got a job offer here so that paired with the fact that me and O were here too, it was no brainer.”
The room fell silent for a few long seconds before Nicole spoke again, “Our high school years were crazy. We were crazy. Well I was the most responsible one but it wasn’t enough when you have two people like Robin and Ophelia. They ended up getting in trouble, getting me in trouble.” She sighed with a smile. “Helios was there for us though.”
“What the four of you have, it’s special.” Alex responded.
“Like you and Reyna and Lincoln.”
“We’ve had our highs and lows. Ophelia didn’t take her mom’s death too well and I didn’t take my dad’s one too well.”
“Your dad?” Alex asked, confused, Nicole had never mentioned it.
“Yeah,” She nodded. “Car crash. This idiot thought it was a good idea to get behind the wheel while drunk. Drove straight into my dad’s car.” Nicole could feel her throat tightening up, words getting harder to get out.
“Were you close?”
“Very.” Nicole looked up at the ceiling, hoping Alex hadn’t noticed her eyes getting teary.
Which she clearly had, and without thinking, Alex reached out and grabbed the blonde’s hand. It took them both by surprise but neither of them seemed to mind.
“Ophelia and Helios were there for me. It made it a little easier.” Nicole clenched her jaws and swallowed the lump in her throat, Alex making soft circles with her thumb on the back of Nicole’s hand. “I don’t know what I’d do without them.”