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Tomorrow’s the last day of the school year and Alice cannot wait for it to be over. Sophomore year has, in lack of a better term, been a bitch and she just wants it to be over already.

At least lunch is right around the corner. That always helps a bit. Now, Alice always tries her best to follow her classes closely and take notes, but her brain keeps taking her elsewhere and it’s annoying. She wishes it would stop, but it doesn’t and she ends up accepting her fate and spending her remaining time in Algebra II eyeing the clock.

When it’s finally over, she hurries to drop her books off at her locker. While she’s busy shoving them in there, she gets met by a surprise hug from behind and she can immediately tell who it is. Grace Chastity. “Hey!”

Alice turns around as soon as her best friend lets go of her and she gives her best and biggest smile. “Hey! You ready to go grab lunch?”

“Absolutely. I’m starving .” Grace leans in and Alice can feel her heartbeat picking up and oh God, she’s gonna lose her breath as well, isn’t she? But Grace doesn’t kiss her. Of course she doesn’t. She kisses her forehead and then she grabs Alice’s hand to drag her off to the cafeteria.

So. Alice might have one slight problem. And that problem may or may not come in the shape of a huge crush on her best friend since as long as she can remember.

She tries her best to act normal. Girls often walk down the halls of Hatchetfield High hand in hand, there’s nothing strange about it. Nothing out of the usual, nothing romantic, nothing weird. They’re just two friends, being friends. Two gals, being pals. It’s cool. It’s chill. She’s got this.

By the time they get to the cafeteria, it’s already rather filled. Which makes sense. It’s lunch time and everyone’s off right now.

Sometimes, Grace steers her towards a table where all her cheerleader friends sits. Luckily, today is not one of those days. Alice doesn’t mind the cheerleaders, per say, but it’s intimidating sitting there when she only knows Grace. The table where their small friend group is sitting, however? That’s nowhere near as intimidating and Alice appreciates that they’re going there.

Their squad consists of five people. There’s Avery, who is wearing his old leather jacket and has a pair of sunglasses tugged down the neck of his shirt. Alice has Algebra II with him, but he certainly wasn’t in class today or literally any other time this week. Maybe she should be shocked he’s sitting there, but it isn’t really surprising in the slightest.

Then there’s Delight. She and Grace are both on the cheer squad and while Grace proudly wears the uniform around school, Delight only wears it when absolutely necessary. She says it doesn’t go with her hair or her style, and Alice has to agree with her. Her hair is pink and adorable, but doesn’t blend well with the bright red uniform. Plus, Alice has trouble remembering seeing her in a non-black outfit. Delight, too, is in Algebra II, but Alice also didn’t see her around today, so maybe Avery convinced her to skip? Knowing Avery, it’s certainly something he’d attempt.

Evangeline, or Evan as she mostly goes by, is a blessing and Alice sometimes questions why she bothers hanging out with them. She’s the kindest human she’s ever met, but she’s also naive and it’s a bad combination. She doesn’t think she’s ever seen Evan without space buns and it’s a commitment she appreciates.

Of course, there’s Alice. That’s her!

Last, but certainly not least, there’s Grace. Grace, who decided to befriend Alice when they were kids and who made Alice’s life so much better. Grace, who she’d spent so many hours playing pretend with in her garden. Grace, who always wears her hair in a high ponytail at school but never on the weekends. Grace, who lets go of her hand and sits down at the table, all casually as if her thoughts hadn’t just been completely wiped from anything but her.

Though now that Alice thinks about it, Grace thinking about herself would have been a bit weird, so it probably makes sense. Whatever.

Alice shakes her head and then she, too, sits down at the table. She immediately regrets her choice of seat.

“So Alice, could you be a babe and move a little to the right?” Avery asks. She does as he says and then he points towards the cheer table. “Thanks, you’re the best. Now if everyone could please take a look at that girl and if you ,” he points to Grace with his other hand. “Could please tell me her name, I would be so thankful.”

Alice watches as Grace rolls her eyes at Avery, before taking a look at whoever he’s pointing to. When she turns back around, it’s not Avery she looks to but rather Delight. “I assume he’s asking because you’re refusing to tell him?”

Delight nods. “Oh, absolutely. You should hear his reasons for wanting to know. It’s disgusting.”

“It’s not!” Avery places his hand over his chest, but definitely not over his heart. “I just wanted to know her name because she is cute and I want to fall in love with her.”

“Oh, that is cute.” Evan smiles.

Delight sighs and puts a hand on her shoulder. “Sweetie. When Avery says love, it means he wants to get his dick wet.”

“Does not!” Avery cuts in. “I am a complex human being, plenty capable of having emotions. I just want to fall in love like everyone else.” He puts his head on Delight’s shoulder.

She pushes him off. “You’re a dumbass. Her name is Cassidy. Be nice, alright?”

“Oh, absolutely. Permission to go invite her for tonight?”

“Permission granted.” As soon as the words leave Delight’s lips, Avery is up and on his way to go invite this Cassidy to their intimate end of the year get-together. “I don’t know why we put up with him. He’s gonna try to sleep with her and he’s gonna be so awful. Why didn’t you guys stop me? Why didn’t you guys stop him ?”

Evan shrugs. “I mean, one day he is going to fall in love and if Cassidy’s the one, it would be a shame we stopped it from happening, don’t you think?”

Alice appreciates Evan, she always has, but given Avery’s history with the word love , Alice wasn’t so sure Cassidy, or anyone else, would be ‘the one’. “To be fair, I think he’d be worse if we’d said no.”

“Yeah, I’m gonna agree with Fink here.” Grace smiles at her and Alice swears her heart skips a beat. “Anyway, I’m gonna be boring today and look over my homework for next class while I eat. Sorry guys!”

“Nerd alert!” Alice gently bumps her shoulder into Grace’s.

Grace gently bumps back into her, but then she dives into her homework. It makes so much sense and Alice isn’t surprised this is happening, not the slightest. School is over tomorrow and yet, Grace still gives it her all. It’s admirable. At least it is in Alice’s opinion, but she doesn’t know how much that’s worth when she thinks everything Grace does is admirable.

Not long after, Avery returns to their table and announces that Cassidy is going to be joining them tonight. He winks and it makes Delight push him. It’s evidently not something he expected, because he ends up on the floor.

Chapter Text

“And you promise you won’t drink?”

Alice tries her very best not to roll her eyes while she nods. “Yes, mom. I promise I won’t drink. I’m not stupid.”

“We’re not saying you are. We just want you to be responsible,” her dad chimes in. “And remember, if anything ever comes up, you can call us, alright? Please know that you can always call us. I’ll come get you immediately, you just need to let me know.”

She smiles a bit, before pulling her dad in for a hug. “I know, dad. Thank you. I better get going. See you tonight!” And she’s on her way out the door before her dad gets a chance to tell her to come home at a reasonable hour, or her mom starts going off about how it’s a school night.

It’s a yearly tradition. Sure, they’ve only done it once before, but that doesn’t make it any less of a yearly tradition. She just has to go to their end of the year get-together, because it can’t become a tradition if they don’t all show up.

Maybe she should have said yes when her dad offered to drive her, because it’s raining out and she doesn’t look forward to the walk, but it is what it is. Besides, her dad is already doing more than enough for her. He’s picking her up tonight, most likely. And she appreciates that.

Besides, it’s just a little bit of rain. She can handle it. She puts in music and picks up her speed.

She’s always blown away whenever she visits Delight. She lives with her parents in a big house in Hatchetfield’s richer neighborhood and Alice can’t even imagine what it must be like to be able to afford that. After a year of being Delight’s friend, she still doesn’t know what her parents do for a living and has only ever heard her refer to them as assholes.

Avery and Evan’s outside when she arrives. Avery’s having a cigarette and Evan’s keeping him company, it seems. They both greet her when she comes closer.

“Where’s everyone else?” She asks after giving both of them a quick hug. “Please don’t tell me you’ve left Delight alone in there.”

Avery laughs a little. “No, don’t worry. Grace and Cassidy are both here. They were in the living room before we left. Cigarette?” He pulls a package out from his pocket, but starts putting it back before she’s even answered.

“No thank you. Still don’t smoke. I’d love to stick around out here, but I’m soaked so I’m gonna head in.” Alice quickly smiles at them again before going inside and getting out of her coat.

Soon after, she joins the rest of the party in the living room. Grace gets up from her spot on the couch between the two other girls to greet Alice with a hug and Alice, just as she expects at this point, feels her heart beating a little faster upon contact with her friend.

Feelings are stupid. Luckily, Alice is not.

“Good to see you!” Okay, maybe she’s a little stupid. She lingers in the hug just a moment too long and ends up pulling away with slightly redder cheeks than when she first went in for the hug.  Oops. She hurries to the couch to greet both Delight and Cassidy with hugs as well and yeah, they’re partly friendly and because she wants to say hi, but mostly they serve as a way to distract everyone from her crush.

Not long after, Avery and Evan comes back inside and Delight goes to turn up the music. Avery starts his plan for the night almost immediately and it seems to be giving Cassidy all his attention.

They’re all friends with him and they know he gets like this sometimes. Evan gets a drink and sits with Delight, who also has a drink, on the couch that’s not occupied by Avery and his target of the night.

Grace pulls Alice with her to the drink table. “Want one?” She asks and Alice shakes her head. She has school in the morning and promised her parents she wouldn’t drink, so it’s probably for the better she says no from the beginning.

But Grace doesn’t take a shake on the head for an answer. She pours Alice an alcohol-free drink: It’s a glass of soda and Alice appreciates it. They get seated on the floor in front of the table by the couches just as a door opens.

“Marcelline Bernadette Gwyneth Imorgen Franceso!” Another thing Alice knows about Delight’s parents is that they liked to full-name her. And hearing it in full just now, she understands why her friend preferred to use Delight. “Could I get you to turn the volume down, just a little bit?” The smile on Mr. Franceso’s lips wasn’t anywhere near friendly and yikes.

Delight sighs but gets up from her spot on the couch to turn down the music. “Better?”

Her dad nods. “Better.” And with that, he’s gone.

Alice is conflicted, because part of her wants him to come back and act less cold towards his daughter or at the very least wish them all a good night, but another part of her is happy he’s gone. It’s not something she does anything about.

For most of the night, Grace is who keeps her busy. She tells her about how nice it’s been to have lived with her brother rather than her parents for the past three months, she talks about how happy she is that summer’s coming so she can catch a little break for studying and she talks about wanting to stick around in town during the summer, despite her parents talking about vacation in Europe.

And Grace asks her if her parents are doing alright, she asks how long she is in that show she’s watching, to which Alice tells her it’s called Supernatural and that she’s only just started watching it.

It’s nice. She likes talking to Grace all on her own.

And just as she thinks that, another body joins them on the floor. Then one more. Avery and Evan. Which… is strange. Last Alice checked, Avery was attempting to woo Cassidy and Evan was chatting with Delight.

She turns to have a look at Delight and Cassidy, then immediately turns her attention back to her other friends. She does not want to interrupt what looks like a pretty heavy makeout session.

“Should we bounce?” Avery suggests in a whisper. They all nod and start making their way out of there, only saying goodbye by the time they’re by the door.

Avery suggests they go to his place, but Grace looks tired and Alice doesn’t really feel like it either. When no one answers him for a while, Alice decides that she can do it. She can answer him. “While I’d love to, I promised my parents I’d be home early, so I think it’s better if I call him now. Sorry.”

“Can I join?” Grace asks. They live around the same part of town now that Grace lives with her brother and Bill’s dropped her off a couple of times before.

“Of course,” Alice smiles at her and she smiles back, all while Avery boos at them.

They all know he means it lovingly and he while he is a dumbass, he is a dumbass they appreciate. Alice is the first one to hug him goodnight and he seems to appreciate it. Then it’s Grace’s turn.

Evan doesn’t hug him goodnight yet, because she’s not getting picked up and even though Avery is the way that he is, he’s still a friend. A protective friend, that is. One who doesn’t let any of them walk home alone, especially not at night.

Their two other friends eventually start walking off while Alice waits around with Grace for her dad to come pick them up. Rain, Alice decides, is a good enough excuse to stand a little too close to her Grace and maybe she thinks that too, because she too scoots a little closer.

Chapter Text

The thing about summer is that the idea of it is always much better than the actual thing.

Alice doesn’t have any interesting plans and both of her parents are busy with work, so they’re not going on vacation. Her mom promises her that they’ll go see a show in Clyvesdale sometime over the summer and Alice appreciates it.

Most of her summer is spent with her friends. They don’t have anything too exciting going on, but Avery pretends to be busy and sometimes drags them along.

His version of busy is, in Alice’s opinion, not all that busy at all. He has this band, Second Exit , that he’s been trying to make a thing for like a year at this point. And it’s not like it sounds bad: It’s just not anything out of the ordinary. It is, however, more entertaining than doing nothing, so Alice often sticks around when they practice. As does the rest of their squad, which now apparently also include Cassidy.

Avery texts their group chat one morning before the band is supposed to meet: drama alert. we’ve got a runner

When Alice gets around to checking her phone, Delight has already asked him what’s up (and called him an idiot, but that’s not anything to write home about: He just is that way). Her phone shows that Avery’s mid-text and sure enough, he writes them a moment later letting them know that Billie’s leaving the band.

She’s apparently moving, which makes sense to Alice. Billie’s been telling her about how she’s ready for a change. Hatchetfield’s a shitty town and now that she’s done with high school, she wants to go off somewhere better for college. And while Alice’s nowhere near close to done with high school, she still understands the feeling.

But the band still meets and so does the rest of the squad. Avery keeps the mood high and suggests they just have auditions for a new bassist. Which is fine. They do that.

Not a lot of people show up and when they do, it’s not very interesting. At least Alice doesn’t think so, but maybe that’s because she’s more interested in leaning against Grace and trying not to smile like an idiot.

Grace tugs on her sleeve and Alice sits up straight. “What’s up?”

“Wanna go grab slushies? The Kiosk isn’t awfully far from here and I could really use a slushie. And a break.” She whispers the last words and Alice nods almost immediately. They let the rest of the people in the small garage know that they’ll be back soon and then they head out.

The Kiosk is a small kiosk right at the corner between two streets. Up one of them, Alice’s dad works and so does Grace’s brother. The Kiosk’s owner, Stanley, is known for not checking IDs when selling alcohol, which Alice knows for a fact that both Avery and Delight have taken advantage of.

Stanley himself is equal parts cool and intimidating, but he’s smiling and chatting with a woman with red hair when they enter the store so today is seemingly more of a cool day than anything else. Not wanting to disturb them mid-talk, Alice pulls Grace over to the magazine stand and they browse for a while until the woman kisses Stanley goodbye and leaves.

As soon as the door closes, Stanley calls out to them. “Alright, what can I get you two today?” They make their way up to the counter and before Alice has time to place her order, Stanley points Grace. “Let me guess. Raspberry slushie?”

Grace blushes a little and looks down. “Yes please.”

“Got it!” Stanley smiles at her, then turns to face Alice. “And what about you?”

“Oh, uh… I’ll have the same, thank you.”

He nods and gets started with their orders, filling the kiosk with soft humming. Grace and Alice share a look and a smile while they wait. When they’re done, Alice tries to pay for her own drink but Grace kind of pushes her out of the way and insists on paying for them both.

“It’s really not a problem, I can pay for my own slushie,” Alice insists. To be fair, she was going to try to pay for Grace’s drink as well as her own, so she understands.

Grace shakes her head and hands Stanley the money. They argue about it a bit on the way out, but it’s nothing more than friendly playful arguing. Friends pay for each other’s drinks, right? They must, because otherwise Grace wouldn’t have insisted.

As soon as they’re back out in the sun, Alice playfully bumps her shoulder into Grace’s. “Becoming a regular, huh?”

Grace smiles and it’s adorable. “Shut up.”

Alice doesn’t shut up, but she does spare Grace the teasing. It’s kind of adorable, she thinks, but she’s also capable of critical thinking and suspects it might only be adorable because she likes her as much as she does.

They round the corner of Avery’s place and Alice feels her little finger brush against Grace’s hand. Both girls pull their hand to themselves and Alice doesn’t dare to look at Grace because she can feel her cheeks burning up and she’s not ready to have that conversation quite yet.

The fact that there’s no music coming from the garage kind of surprises her, but then she spots Avery and he’s chatting with a group of three people she doesn’t recognize from the back. From what she can tell, Avery’s just handed them something and now they’re handing him something in return. They all nod at each other, then the three strangers turn around and start walking away from the garage but towards Alice and Grace.

Okay. Maybe they’re not entirely strangers. She’s familiar with two of them: One of them is Lex Foster, who dropped out of high school not too long before exams. The other is Ethan Green, her boyfriend – and from what Alice has heard, he’s not doing too well either. Alice knows Avery’s said they’re friendly, but she still feels slightly intimidated by their presence.

The third one was a girl who seemed maybe slightly younger than Lex and Ethan. She’s intimidating too, but it’s way different than the other two. She’s pretty . And not just a little. A lot. Her hair is a beautiful shade of red and Alice mentally curses because in no way is it fair that she’s being forced to be around pretty girls when she’s not out to anyone yet.

As she tries to formulate ideas in her head for how to make it illegal, she also remembers that she should probably stop staring. It has nothing to do with the fact that she and the girl make eye contact, not at all. Alice comes up with her smart idea on her own and looks away without confrontation of any kind. Totally.

Chapter Text

Grace goes to Spain with her parents and Alice spends two weeks missing her. She sends the occasional Facebook message her way, but she doesn’t want to seem like she spends all of her time thinking about Grace, even though she totally does.

But it’s kind of stupid, so she decides to just… not! She calls up the rest of the squad and asks them if they’re up for doing something together. Evan lets them know that she’s actually on a spontaneous road trip with her parents, so she can’t go. Avery leaves them on read. Delight, however, has no plans and honestly, Alice is so fine with hanging out with just her.

They go rollerskating in Clyvesdale and grab milkshakes and then skate around again for a while. It’s a good time. It doesn’t stop Alice from thinking about Grace.

After a race from one end of the rink to the other that Delight wins, Alice decides to blurt out a question that’s been on her mind for forever. “How did you know you were a lesbian?”

Delight shrugs and starts skating around Alice in circles. “Don’t know. I think I just kind of always knew, y’know?” Alice shrugs. She doesn’t know if she knows. She likes to think she knows, but she’s always been very confused. “Girls… yeah. Girls made me realize. And I guess in the end also boys. Did you know that Avery–”

Alice cuts in. “–Was your first kiss?” Delight nods and as does Alice. “Yeah. You two tell that story a lot.” They both thought they might be gay, so they kissed and it ended in Delight coming out as ‘definitely a lesbian’ and Avery as ‘definitely pan’ and Alice has heard that story five too many times.

“Why?”

Part of her had hoped Delight wouldn’t ask. Luckily, a bigger part had hoped she would so it wasn’t too big of an issue. She was prepared. “I think... I might be a lesbian.”

She doesn’t know what she’d expected, but Delight nodding a few times was not it. “Yeah. Yeah that makes sense to me.” It leaves Alice feeling a little confused and perhaps Delights picks up on that, because she elaborates. “No offense, but you’ve called kissing guys gross and boring at at least three different parties. And – again, no offense – you’re not exactly subtle around Grace.”

“What?”

“Dude.” Delight looks at her with raised eyebrows. “We’ve all been there with the drooling and the heart eyes. It’s alright. It happens. But don’t worry! I don’t think anyone else knows. Avery and Evan are, no offense, dumb as shit. I mean, yes offense to Avery, of course, that’s a given. Or maybe not dumb. Unobservant! And also kind of dumb.”

Alice sighs. Delight’s probably right about Avery and Evan not knowing, but Delight knowing? That’s at least one too many. “Do, uh.... what about Grace? Do you think she knows?”

“No clue. She’s observant, sure, but she’s also literally never dabbled in love or relationships or whatever, so she might legit not notice.” Delight shrugs. It doesn’t help much but Alice appreciates her anyway. “Are you going to tell her?”

“I–” Alice thinks about it for a while. She wants to, but also she really doesn’t want to. Admitting to her feelings sounds terrifying, especially when the easiest thing to do would definitely be to bury her feelings and forget about them. “Don’t know. Maybe someday. Not right now, though.”

Delight nods. “That’s fair. But hey. I’m proud of you. And I want you to know that if you’re ever ready – to tell Grace or to come out to the others – I’m here for you. And I know the others will be too.”

Alice smiles. “Thank you.”

 

School’s just about to start up again but before it’s able to, the squad decides to have another get-together. This time, it’s at Grace’s place. Well, Grace’s brother’s place, but that’s close enough because Grace lives there. She’s basically just gotten home from Spain and none of them have had a chance to see her since then, so it’s exciting. And it’s way nicer than not getting to see her before they’re back in school, at least.

Alice is the first one to arrive and she gets to witness Grace discussing a very important question with her brother. “Can we have a bottle of vodka, pretty please?”

“I don’t know, can I watch a movie with a friend in the living room while you have your weird friends over? No offense, Alice.” He doesn’t seem to mean it completely, but she’ll take it.

“Depends. Who are we talking here? Sam? Charlotte?”

Her brother nods. “Charlotte.”

“Then yes. But only if you promise to tell her you’re in love with her.”

“I’m not and I hate you and you can have half a bottle because that’s all I have.” Having a sibling surly sounds wild.

Grace smiles. “Thanks, you’re the best, I hate you too.” Alice isn’t sure why she asked, because she goes to find the bottle herself and her brother just lets her.

Delight’s the next one to arrive. She’s no longer stringing Cassidy along, which Alice doesn’t mind because while she is intimidated by people like Lex and Ethan, certain cheerleaders intimidate her as well. And by certain, she means pretty much everyone but Delight and Grace. She’s brought a few beers, but doesn’t even get a chance to put them down on the table before Avery and Evan knock. They’ve brought a bottle of white wine, not each but together, and Alice honestly feels a bit overwhelmed by the amount of alcohol, but it’s fine. She’ll be fine.

She ends up being right about that. She has exactly two drinks, but one of the barely counts because she tries to drink a beer, takes one sip and slides it across the table to Avery who gladly accepts it. Then Grace mixes her a drink with very little vodka, but lots of soda and something that makes the drink blue which is fun and exciting. It doesn’t taste awful and it’s made by Grace, so she extra appreciates it.

The night is rather uneventful, but they all seem to have a good time – Alice certainly does. Evan goes home first, but Delight and Avery follow not long after. Then it’s just Alice and Grace left to clean up – well, also Grace’s brother and his friend, but Alice can’t see a logical reason as to why they’d help out mid-movie – and Grace starts almost immediately after the door’s closed.

Alice starts helping too, but Grace just shakes her head a little. “Oh, you don’t have to. I’ve got this, don’t worry.”

Then Alice shakes her head too. “No way. I’m helping. Don’t worry about it.”

Grace looks at Alice with her eyes narrowed and an attempt at a frown on her lips, but it doesn’t seem to work too well for her as she seems to be fighting a smile as well. “Fine. You can help.”

Alice smiles and then she helps and while it’s not the most exciting activity in the world, it’s still pretty chill because it’s alone time with Grace. It doesn’t take too long and once the last glass is put away, they high five. Then Alice texts her dad to come pick her up and they go to Grace’s room to wait.

Grace falls down on her bed and Alice follows not long after, although she just sits on the edge of it. It doesn’t take Grace long to sit up as well. Her face is slightly red, her hair is very messy and she’s smiling. It’s impossibly adorable and Alice doesn’t know how to handle it.

Something terrible happens. Or maybe not terrible. Maybe the opposite of terrible. Grace takes her hand and Alice’s brain completely short circuits for a second. Holy fuck. “Hey Alice?” She mumbles.

“Mmm?”

Grace intertwines their fingers and gives Alice’s hand a little squeeze. She looks relatively calm, which Alice doesn’t understand at all since her mind is running at about a million trillion miles per hour. “I’ve missed you so much and, like… I’m just really happy you’re my friend. You’re so nice and so good and– yeah, I just appreciate you so much.”

Alice smiles. She’s pretty sure she looks stupid considering how wide she’s probably smiling, but it doesn’t matter. “I appreciate you too. So much. And I missed you too and– I’m really happy I got to know you.”

How is her brain supposed to function normally? Grace continues showering her in compliments and sweet, sweet comments that almost makes her cry in the best possible way and Alice can feel her heart fluttering. It’s so unfair!

And sure, she compliments Grace back and she matches the sweet comments to her best ability, but then suddenly she’s, like, super aware that they’re still holding hands and that they’re sitting super close togeter and oh god, oh god, oh god .

She wants to kiss Grace. She’s going to kiss Grace. She leans into kiss Grace and Grace leans in as well an–

The doorbell rings and Grace leans back, lets go of her hand and moves away. Ouch . She understands, but ouch. “That’s, uh…. that’s probably my dad. I should go out there.”

“Yeah.” Grace nods. She doesn’t look at her. Ouch. “Yeah, probably. Uh… goodnight. I’ll see you at school.”

“Yeah. See you.” Alice swears to herself in complete silence as she awkwardly wanders out of Grace’s room. By the time she gets out there, Grace’s brother is already in the process of opening the door.

And sure enough! It’s her dad. “Ted?” Her dad looks at him in disbelief, then looks to Alice and smiles briefly, before returning his gaze to Grace’s brother. “Grace Chastity…. Ted Chastity… no. No .”

Ted blinks a few times, then looks at Alice with a smile. “Lovely seeing you tonight. Have a safe trip home and all that.”

She thanks him and then quickly gets in her shoes and jacket, before bringing her dad outside. He asks questions all the way home and most of them are about his co-worker and her best friend’s big brother, Ted Chastity, who he cannot seem to understand is the same person.

Alice rolls her eyes a bit. She loves her dad with all her heart, but she has more important things to think about.

Chapter Text

Over the next couple of days, Alice almost manages to forget how much the idea of having to start in school again sucks and it’s all Grace’s fault.

Okay, maybe it’s not entirely Grace’s fault: Maybe it’s her own fault for almost kissing Grace but not following through or maybe it’s her own fault for even trying to kiss Grace in the first place. Either way, it’s not really Grace’s fault, but the idea does make it slightly easier to be Alice, so she sticks with it anyway.

Then suddenly it’s six in the morning and she’s supposed to get up for school and it sucks. It really sucks. She’s tired because she hasn't slept well and everything about school sucks. She goes anyway.

Evan and Delight both look tired too. Avery isn’t there and Alice figures that means he isn’t coming today. Grace isn’t there either, but it’s unlike Grace not to show up to school: Besides, they have English together today and she really hopes Grace doesn’t miss that.

Or maybe she doesn’t. They haven’t really talked since almost but not quite kissing and it appears to Alice that she actually has no idea what she’s going to say to Grace when she does see her. Fuck.

Alice decides to calm her nerves about it by going to class early. Hopefully someone can distract her: And preferably someone who isn’t Delight, because she fears she might just spill what happened. Or well. Didn’t happen. Whatever. The mission is to not think about Grace and she can’t do that with Delight around.

She doesn’t expect her mission to be successful, but it is. In front of the still locked door to her English classroom, Alice spots a somewhat familiar face. Not that she knows the girl’s name, but she does recognize her as Lex and Ethan’s friend from earlier that summer. They make eye contact and instead of awkwardly looking down, Alice smiles.

The girl smiles back.

That’s a positive sign, Alice decides. And while she’s still slightly intimidated, she’s feeling a lot braver now that she’s also motivated by the need for distraction. She walks up to the girl to introduce herself. “Hi! I don’t know if you remember me, but you were at my friend Avery’s place over the summer. My name’s Alice.”

“Oh, I remember you.” Great, now Alice is blushing. How stupid. “Name’s Deb. I went to Sycamore last year. We didn’t like you guys, so it probably makes sense we haven’t seen each other much.”

“Oh, so you’re a Timberwolf? We don’t really like you either.”

Deb smiles. She looks cute and seriously, fuck girls for being so pretty. Like, who allowed that? “I would hardly call myself a Timberwolf anymore, but yeah. Honestly, we didn’t like ourselves either.”

They continue chatting for a while and Deb is really nice. It’s almost as if engaging in conversation makes people less intimidating, but only almost. Their teacher arrives about five minutes before class is supposed to talk and Alice goes in with Deb. She almost sits down next to her, but is pulled into a hug from behind before she has the chance to.

Behind her is Grace and Alice hugs her back once she manages to turn around. “Hey you!”

“Hi!” Grace beams and all Alice’s worries are suddenly gone. “Good to see you again. Wanna come sit with me in the front?”

Alice quickly nods, then waves goodbye to Deb before getting seated next to Grace in the front. The last three minutes before class is spent excitedly catching up and Alice can feel all those feelings from last they saw each other well up again and she supposes that it’s alright, because she’s getting used to looking at Grace like this, no matter how annoying it might be at times.

 

For the next month or so, Alice finds herself showing up to English class a bit early. She gets a word, maybe two in with Deb and then Grace arrives and her attention is completely gone. What she has with Deb by the end of month is barely a friendship, but she does enjoy her company and Deb doesn’t seem to mind hers.

Then one day after a late English class, something magical happens. Grace suggests they go see a movie after school and when Alice says yes and asks who else is coming, Grace tells her no one: It’s just them. Alice feels beyond excited and by the time the school day is over, Grace asking her to the movies feels like it happened ages ago.

Did she actively listen during her last few classes? No. The answer is no. But she did have lots of time to overthink the meaning of going to the movies with her friend who she happens to crush on who she almost kissed and who almost kissed her back, kind of. At least she hopes that was what it was. She also didn’t reach a conclusion to her overthinking, but she did have a lot of thoughts and even though she knows that it probably counts for nothing, she tells herself that it does anyway.

Maybe the movie makes sense but Alice doesn’t actually know, because she ends up spending more of the movie looking at Grace’s hand and considering taking it than she does actively following. She even considers going to the bathroom and calling Avery to hear if he has any advice for her on how to pick up girls, but then she realizes that that’s stupid and that she can’t just do that.

But it’s whatever. It’s not like she’s watching this movie to watch it, anyways. She’s here to hang out with Grace and what is hanging out if not longing from a very short distance?

Chapter Text

Alice is excited for October, because October means Grace’s birthday and October means Halloween. Those are, in her opinion, two very good things and she is right to be excited about them. Of course, there are a few things she has to attend to first. Like another week and a half of September. It’s theoretically not that hard, but she just wants it to be October already so it feels harder than it has to be.

Today there’s another English class, as there so often is. It’s not a good one, because their teacher starts talking about something that instantly makes the month feel much longer: Projects.

“Now, before you start making too much noise: Yes, this is a group project and no, you cannot pick partners yourself.” Everyone sighs, but their teacher just keeps going and explains further about the project.

Alice takes notes and silently prays that if God is real, she’ll let her and Grace be partners. By the end of it all, Alice isn’t sure what to think. She’s not paired with Grace, but she’s not in a bad position, probably. Her partner is Deb. And she can work with that.

They’re all told to go sit with their partners and Alice does. She makes her way down to the other end of the classroom and joins Deb’s table with a smile. “Hey!”

“Hey.” Deb looks at her, does a little upwards nod and smiles back. Alice tries to mimic the upwards nod and it only seems to make Deb smile even more. “So we ready for this?”

 

Despite Deb being the one to ask Alice if she is ready, it turns out maybe Alice should have been the one asking Deb. They stick around after school that day and plan out the tasks they’re supposed to do and it’s fine and it’s good, Alice fears nothing. Because Deb seems nice and she doesn’t have any reason to fear her letting her down.

And then she does. She shows up at Alice’s house because that’s where they’ve agreed to meet up and she’s done nothing . Well, practically nothing. And the one thing she has done seems to be copied from Wikipedia (which Alice confirms is the case with a quick Google search). And it’s not that Alice mids , in theory. But Deb doesn’t even have an excuse ready to go. Not even a freaking excuse!

It’s frustrating. But she handles it and says it’s fine. Those things happen. And Deb says thank you and promises not to do that again.

And then they meet a week later and Alice is still the only one who’s worked on the project and it’s frustrating and she kind of wants to cry, because she’s putting a lot of work in.

One day, Deb doesn’t even show up to class. Alice seizes the opportunity and goes to ask their teacher if she can please, please, please switch partners with someone or at the very least get to work on her own.

But no. No switching allowed and no working alone. It’s a team project, not a solo project. Alice needs to learn to adapt and overcome: People out in the real world sometimes don’t put in as much work and that’s just a fact you have to learn if you ever want a job, Fink.

What-fucking-ever! She’s a sixteen year old student, not an adult with a full-time job who has things at stake here.

 

The next morning at school, all of her friends are there. It’s nice, because she can’t remember the last time that happened. Alice and Grace have both been busy with projects, though Grace has actually been busy with meeting and working with her partner.

Evan’s been sick, so she hasn’t been there much. And Avery’s basically a 50/50, but he’s always been so that’s not really a surprise.

But it’s nice. Seeing her friends is nice. She’s had a rough couple of days. A rough week, honestly. Maybe even more. And her friends give her exactly what she needs: A hug.

It almost makes her start crying, but luckily only almost. It’s just hard and she’s just busy, but being in Grace’s arms – if only for a few seconds – makes things feel slightly better. “It’s just so… frustrating!” She sighs. “Like, I don’t get it. I’m sorry I’m complaining, it’s just that... Deb seemed so nice and she just completely abandoned our fucking project. And I get that school is hard and time is limited and whatever, but it is for me as well!”

Her friends all nod understandingly and it’s nice and reassuring. Evan even slips an arm around her shoulder again. “Hey, it’s alright.”

“I know, I know… I’m just angry, I think. Like, why does she have to be so dumb about it? I wish she’d just… I don’t know, tell me what’s up? Or do the work she keeps promising me she’ll get around to. Like, I don’t know… it’s just dumb. Deb’s dumb.” Alice knows she doesn’t mean it, but she’s upset and she sometimes says stupid things when she’s upset. It’s what happens.

She just wishes it hadn’t happened just as she makes eye contact with Deb. Deb, who’s undoubtedly heard Alice complain about her to her friends judging from the look on her face Alice catches before Deb looks away and walks off.

Ugh!

There is only one thing to do and that would be to follow after Deb. Which Alice swears she wants to do that, but then Grace pulls her in for another hug and starts talking about how Alice deserves better and maybe Alice kind of agrees with her, but she’s more concerned with Deb and how Deb’s feeling right now.

When she finally manages to get her brain to cooperate and she breaks away from the hug to go chase down Deb, it’s too late. She doesn’t find Deb before it’s time to go to class. She’s not at lunch either which majorly stresses Alice out.

Worst of all, she’s not in English class either. That tells her one thing: She definitely fucked up.

Going home from school, Alice feels nothing but bad. She wishes she could redo the day and make it better. She buys some Pringles from The Kiosk on the way because she feels like she deserves it, but she probably doesn’t. Hopefully they’ll cheer her up anyway.

Her parents are not home yet and Alice decides that she’s old enough to make her own decisions. She can sit on the couch with her homework spread out in front of her, not do it and watch Tangled while eating Pringles instead.

At least she thinks she can. But then the doorbell rings and Alice sighs, then pauses the movie and goes to open.

There’s a lot of things she expects: The neighbor, one of her friends, her dad having forgotten his key again. But she doesn't expect Deb.

Chapter Text

About a million questions very suddenly run through Alice’s head and most of them are about Deb. What is she doing here? Did she even hear her this morning? Is Alice an absolute idiot for even questioning if she heard her? What should she say? What is Deb going to say? Is she about to get punched?

Okay, maybe not a million, but who cares? Math is hard, especially when you’re gay and stressed about the mistakes you’ve made and the people you’ve crossed in fustration.

She should apologize. Or maybe she should ask one of her many questions. Or maybe both. “Hi.”

“Hey. Can I come in?” Deb offers a smile and that only raises about a million more questions.

Does Alice ask those? Of course not! “Yeah. Yeah, sure. Uhh, yeah.” She steps aside and gestures for Deb to follow her in, which she does. Deb is in her house again. “So, uhhhh…” She scratches the back of her head and desperately searches for inner motivation to stop being a dumbass and start asking all the questions she wants to ask. “You’re in my house.”

Deb nods. “Sure am.”

This is going great. “You, uhhh… Do you want anything?”

“No. No, I’m good.” Deb nods a little.

Alice mirrors the nodding and tries to pretend like that’s a totally normal thing to do. She kind of wants to bang her head into the wall a few times in a hope that it’ll let her reset her brain and stop it from acting stupid, but she doesn’t really feel like doing that right now. “I… I’m sorry. About this morning. I’m sorry I said you were dumb. I don’t think you’re dumb.”

“Oh, I know.” Deb smiles at her and Alice raises an eyebrow. What? “And, uhh… I appreciate the apology, but actually I’m here to say that I’m sorry. I’ve not been a good project partner and I want to change that. Problem is… I don’t know how to.”

“Oh.”

“Oh,” She repeats. She’s also nodding again and Alice doesn’t really know what that means, but she accepts it anyway. “I keep sitting down with it and getting nowhere. And then I’ll get distracted and tell myself, oh, I’ll get around to it later , and then later comes around and I’ll get distracted and tell myself later and… yeah, I think you see where I’m going. Procrastination is a bitch and a battle I have yet to figure out how to win.”

Procrastination. See, that makes sense . Alice can work with that, because it’s something. It’s better than no excuse, it’s better than nothing . It’s not great, sure, but it’s something . “Do you wanna… maybe work together more? Together as in in the same space, I mean. Like, I don’t know if it’d help, but we could always try it out and see what happens?”

Deb nods. “Yeah… yeah, I’d like that. I don’t know if it’ll help either, but it can’t hurt to try, right?”

“Right!”

“I’ve actually brought my laptop and some books, so… If you want to get some work done now, we could? We can also totally do another day if you’re busy or just don’t want to, that’s also fine by me, I just… wanted to offer.”

Alice smiles. She appreciates Deb right now. Her offer, her initiative, the fact that she’s trying and that she isn’t mad at her and never wants to talk to her again. “I’d love to. Just, uhhh.... can I get you to  wait here for a second?”

Now it’s Deb’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Sure?”

“Great!” Alice throws some quick finger guns in Deb’s direction before hurrying off to the living room again. She quickly hides her Pringles and turns off the TV so Deb can’t see how unproductive she’s been all day. Then she returns to get Deb. “All done. Please feel free to follow.”

They manage to do a fair amount of the project and while Alice still feels like she’s putting in more work, at least she can also see that Deb’s trying and – for the first time – actually getting somewhere.

But productivity doesn’t last forever and before she knows it, she and Deb are both laying on the floor and looking at the ceiling, talking about nothing and everything all at once. Well, everything but the project.

“You know…” Deb starts. “We’ve made some progress today. I think we deserve a reward.”

“A reward?” Alice raises an eyebrow and moves her glance from the ceiling to Deb. “What are you thinking?”

“Well. One, I can see you have a can of Pringles hidden under your table which, if you’re up to share, seems like a pretty dope reward. Two, how would you feel like a break and a movie?”

Alice pretends to be thinking about it for a while, despite being 100% in at this point. “Hmmm… I think I can work with that. What movie are you thinking?”

“Have you ever watched Spy Kids?”

“Uhhh, of course I have. Love Spy Kids. Actually rewatched the first one like a week ago.”

“No way!” Deb places a hand over her heart. “Me too.”

“Wait, really?” Alice can’t help it but to smile. It’s a strange coincidence, sure, but it’s one she appreciates. Spy Kids is great.

“Really. Wanna watch the second one with me?”

Alice says yes, because she does. She wants to watch Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams with Deb more than anything right now. So they find the movie and they get settled on the couch with Pringles and each other. The Pringles disappear rather quickly, but Deb sticks around.

Alice considers leaning up against her and maybe Deb knows how to read minds, because she raises her arm and puts it around Alice, which Alice decides is an invitation so she cuddles up against Deb’s side and finds herself smiling a little. It’s nice. It’s really nice.

“What an icon,” she comments when Gary Giggles first shows up.

Deb laughs a little. “Got a soft spot for the bad boy, huh?”

Alice shakes her head in denial. “Absolutely not.” She has a soft spot for the good girls. Girls like Grace. But maybe she’s lying to herself, because right now her brain is playing a trick on her and telling her she has a crush on Deb, which is stupid. It’s most likely because she’s right there. “Boys are dumb. I just think his sunglasses are really cool.”

“Boys are dumb.” She doesn’t know if this is Deb just agreeing with the statement or if she’s also trying to subtly come out like Alice just badly attempted. “Also, what are you talking about? He’s not even wearing sunglasses.”

“Oh, you don’t remember?” Deb shakes her head and Alice’s smile grows. “Just you wait. You’ll love them.”

Mid-movie, Alice pauses it to go to the bathroom and she can’t get herself to slide back into her position cuddled up at Deb’s side, even though she kind of wants to. But it’s whatever, she tells herself. She likes Grace, not Deb, so it’s fine for them to just sit next to each other like normal people.

When Gary Giggles finally shows off his bad boy sunglasses, Alice declares that that’s all she wants in life and Deb tells her she understands. Then she takes Alice’s hand and holds it for the rest of the movie and Alice tries her best to hide her face and the fact that she’s smiling like an idiot.

Chapter Text

It’s almost as if talking to your previously thought problematic project partner about your fears and frustrations helps, because Alice and Deb starts working together as a team after that day. Alice stops being so stressed and Deb stops feeling so stuck in it all, and the two manage to hand in a finished project.

And sure, Alice likes getting As and feeling like she’s on top of the world, but they get a B+ and that’s good enough because Deb looks extremely excited about it and that makes it feel not-as-bad.

She’s been so busy with her project lately that Alice almost doesn’t realize that it’s Grace’s birthday before it’s already October 11th and Evan makes a separate group chat for everyone but Grace, telling them to meet earlier than usual.

And while Alice is absolutely in – she, more than anyone there she suspects, wants to celebrate Grace turning seventeen – she doesn’t really understand why they have to meet that much earlier, until she sees the big undecorated banner Evan’s carrying.

“Isn’t that a bit much?” Avery asks. He barely looks awake. Alice is impressed he’s even there.

Evan shakes her head. “Absolutely not. We’d do the same for you if you’d just tell us when your birthday is.”

It makes Avery smile. “I’ll tell you next year. Not before the day, of course, but I’ll tell you.”

“Promise?” Evan asks with a pout. She doesn’t often doubt anything they say, but Alice understands her uncertainty with Avery’s loose promises. She wouldn’t trust him either.

“Pinky promise.” Alice watches as Avery holds out his pinky for Evan and as the two link pinkies and nod to signify that the deal is now in fact made. She doesn’t trust Evan to remember or Avery to keep his promise, but that’s whatever.

Right now isn’t about them. It’s about Grace. And while Evan and Avery keep talking, Alice gets started on decorating the empty banner. Delight shows up too. She’s a bit late, but she shows up and instead of joining Evan and Avery’s conversation, she sits down and helps Alice which she appreciates.

They make Evan and Avery hold the banner, which is a bad decision considering that between all of them those two have the biggest height difference, but Delight insists that that’s what they get for forcing them out here in the early morning hours only to not even help with the fucking banner.

Grace shows up and they all say happy birthday and goodmorning and swarm her with hugs and love. She seems to appreciate it and that makes Alice smile. There’s nothing better than making the people you care about happy. Evan, Avery and Delight all give Grace their birthday presents and Alice swears under her breath before she tells Grace that hers is coming later. She also tells Grace that there’s a reason for it: She just can’t tell her yet because that’d ruin the surprise.

Problem is. There is no surprise. She’s completely forgotten that the birthday is today and not in a week or a few days. So Alice does something she’s never done before in her entire life: She skips the class just before lunch and sneaks off to town.

In an alternative reality where she’s still forgetful but at least a little more lucky, she doesn’t get caught. And in another alternative reality where she’s even more unlucky, it's’ not Deb who catches her.

“Hey. Where are you going?”

Alice turns around and looks at Deb with big eyes. “Uhhhh……. I… am going to The Kiosk.” It’s a bad lie, seeing that it’s not a lie at all.

“What a coincidence. As am I. Wanna walk together?” Alice nods and so, they start walking. They don’t speak until they’re safely off school grounds. “I didn’t take you for the kind of person who’d skip class, no offense.”

“I didn’t take myself for that kind of person either, but… here I am.”

“Here you are. What are you getting anyway?” Deb asks.

“A raspberry slushie. It’s my best friend’s birthday. What are you getting?”

“Weed.”

“Oh?” Alice stops in her tracks and raises an eyebrow at Deb in confusion. “At The Kiosk?”

She nods. “Stanley’s an asshole, but I respect his prices. You don’t smoke, do you?”

Alice shakes her head and Deb tells her that’s fair, which Alice wholeheartedly agrees with. They continue small talking on their way to The Kiosk and then again on their way back, but then their paths split: Deb’s about to meet with Danny and Lucy, and Alice’s about to go celebrate her best friend and crush. They hug goodbye, though, and wish each other a good day.

At lunch, Alice hands Grace her slushie. Grace puts a hand in front of her mouth, before pulling Alice in for a tight hug. She even leaves the tiniest kiss on her cheek and it makes Alice absolutely weak in the knees. Who allowed her to have this big of a crush on this straight of a girl? It is all very unfair, in her opinion.

After school, Grace invites them all out for dinner. For a second, Alice thinks she’s taking them to David’s Corner, where her dad and Grace’s brother both work and where they absolutely cannot get in (it’s a bar and she knows Avery well enough; he’s going to be difficult if they go). Turns out, they’re not: They’re just going next door.

It’s a little diner called Lulu’s Diner and Alice has never been. She doesn’t know if it looks tacky or charming, but it’s definitely something along those lines. The food’s not the best in the world, but maybe she just has too strong opinions because her dad’s a chef.

Then Grace tells them that she’s so happy they came. This is her favorite place to eat in the entire world, because her brother loves it and takes her here whenever he doesn’t want to cook. And then suddenly Alice loves the food, because it means something to Grace (and her brother, who she appreciates; if not for Ted moving to this part of town and letting Grace move in with him, Grace would be in Sycamore Alice wouldn’t have her around and that would majorly suck).

“So are we going drinking now?” Avery asks when they’re done eating. “I got a new fake ID, so I think we should go drinking.”

Grace points to David’s Corner. “If you can get Ted to let you buy a drink, I’ll pay for it and we can do drinks.”

“Deal!” Avery winks at them and disappears into the bar. He returns after a very short amount of time and they all accept that that’s where their night ends.

The others disappear off, but Alice offers to walk Grace home and she lets her. Grace also lets her crash for a bit and they talk about life for a while, until Bill texts and asks when she’s coming home. Grace hugs her goodnight and thanks her for making her birthday a million times better and Alice leaves with a smile almost too big for her face.

Chapter Text

October passes rather quickly and it’s Halloween before Alice even has the time to blink. There’s a school organized Halloween party and Delight’s been theorizing that it’s because they just want the youth to not drink on Halloween, which she thinks is stupid. They’re all going, though, because Evan thinks dressing up is fun and Avery feels confident he can hook up with someone even without alcohol being involved.

Alice wears the same costume every year, because her as Alice in Wonderland is always fun. This year, she’s taken a slightly different turn: She’s bought some fake blood and ripped her old costume that she’s almost grown out of and she’s honestly a big fan of the costume.

Instead of going straight to the school for the party, the friends meet up at Steak House no. 37 and have dinner together, fully dressed up. Evan’s in a very complicated-looking Ursula costume, fully purple and with a big smile on her face. Delight’s in some sort of demon costume, complete with colored contacts, a tail and horns. Avery’s Han Solo and Grace is a hot zombie cheerleader. Okay, maybe not specifically a hot one, but she is naturally hot so Alice’s allowed to have that opinion.

It’s strange, eating out in full costumes, but it’s also a lot of fun. The food is good, too, but the company is way better and despite the fact that Grace and Avery are arguing about what the best soda is (with the surprising twist of Alice having to agree with Avery for once), Alice can’t help but love and appreciate her friends all throughout the dinner.

Then they go to the school and while Alice thinks it’s impressive, Delight is quick to shake her head. “It’s slightly sad, is what it is.”

“Oh, come on. They’ve got iced tea and everything!” Evan chimes in. She even pouts and Alice thinks it has the desired effect, because both Delight and Avery end up following her to the drinks table.

Instead of joining the others, Alice and Grace find a remote corner to sit in and it’s nice, because being with Grace is always nice. Sad thing is, they rarely get talking before a bunch of Grace’s cheerleader friends come over and Alice ends up excusing herself to go somewhere else.

Turns out, the idea of a Halloween party is far more interesting than an actual Halloween party. Evan’s having fun, Delight’s nowhere to be seen and Avery seems to be in the middle of flirting with someone Alice swears she’s never seen, so she assumes she’s a freshman.

Then something unexpected happens. She spots someone she knows, talking to no one: Deb!

“Didn’t think I’d see you here.” Maybe not the proper way to greet someone, but whatever. Alice pulls her in for a hug and luckily, Deb hugs her back. “Are you–”

“Sam Winchester. Yeah.” And so, the Halloween party turns a little better as they start talking about Supernatural. It’s not the direction she expected tonight to go in, but it’s a nice enough twist and one she appreciates.

Their conversation is eventually interrupted by Avery, who comes over and announces that they’re going to an afterparty. He invites Deb too and Alice isn’t sure if it’s because they’re friends or because she’s talking to her, but she appreciates it either way and decides not to ask.

They show up at... someone’s house? Alice isn’t sure and it doesn’t matter much, probably. It’s a bit cramped, but she manages to get a seat on the couch between Deb and Grace, and within close proximity to Avery as well so it’s not too bad at all.

Never Have I Ever isn’t an interesting game when you haven’t tried much, but at least she has Grace next to her who also hasn't tried everything . Deb and Avery keep putting their hands up and drinking, though, and maybe it shouldn’t surprise her, but it kind of does.

“Uhhhh….” It’s Alice’s turn and she realizes she has nothing. “Never Have I Ever been to Europe?”

Not a lot of people raise their hands but Grace does and she looks at Alice with a scrunched up nose, but a smile that completely takes away any anger she may or may not have been trying to express.

Then it’s Deb’s turn. “Never Have I Ever kissed a boy.”

There’s a bit of noise, but most girls and some boys raise their hands. Alice does. Grace and Deb don't.

Now, Alice hopes that whoever starts whispering about Grace being a dyke meant to speak much, much lower, but she can clearly hear it and obviously Grace can too, because she starts shaking her head. “Am not, shut up.”

The girl smiles. It’s not a kind smile. “Oh really? Prove it.”

It’s extremely uncomfortable. Like incredibly uncomfortable. Like Alice wishes she could just disappear extremely, incredibly uncomfortable. Then Grace grabs Avery’s face and starts making out with him right next to her. That’s uncomfortable too.

By her logical reasoning skills and ability to do quick math, there’s a good chance someone will call her a dyke too if she gets up and walks away, but she decides that it doesn’t really matter because they’ll be right and it’s whatever at this point, so she gets up. And she walks away. There’s really no reason to stick around and be upset.

No one calls her a dyke. No one even pays attention to her.

Well, almost no one. But she’s already outside by the time she notices that Deb’s right behind her. And out of everyone, she minds Deb being around the least.

They end up getting seated in the little garden in front of the house and Alice leans against Deb almost instinctually. Then Deb puts her arm around her and Alice feels a little better.

“So…” Deb says after a while. Her voice is soft and her arm is still around her and it’s nice. “How are we feeling?”

Alice shrugs. “Right now? Pretty alright. In there? Not so much.” She can’t exactly see it, but she thinks Deb might be nodding judging from the way she can feel her body gently moving. She doesn’t say anything, so Alice continues speaking. “I’m… a lesbian. People saying dyke like that, like it’s a bad thing, kind of really sucks. And I kind of maybe sort of really like Grace, so her making out with Avery? Not the coolest thing in the world either, not gonna lie.”

“Oh, word. Straight people are awful. And having a crush on a straight girl fucking blows.” It makes Alice laugh a little. “Does the people in there know?”

Alice shakes her head. “Well, Delight does. And now you do.”

“I’m proud of you.”

“I’m proud of you too.”

Chapter Text

How do you break through that weird barrier that comes to exist between you and your best friend turned crush once someone calls her a dyke at a party and she kisses a boy to prove people wrong, then you leave because you don’t want to look at it? Serious answers only.

Alice honestly has no clue and she keeps asking herself the same question over and over and over and over again. How does she break through it? How does she act all casual when she sees Grace in English in a few moments?

Then Grace shows up and she swears all the air disappears from her lungs for a solid seconds, before Grace… hugs her?

“Hey, good to see you.” She’s smiling. She’s smiling and acting all cool. “You suddenly disappeared at the party Friday. What happened?”

What? What the fuck? “Oh, uh… I just…”

“I pulled her outside.” Deb slides in and saves the day. Thank. Fucking. God. “Someone way talking about lesbians like they’re bad and as a lesbian, I got kind of upset. Alice’s a friend and she was closeby, so I took her with me so I wouldn’t be alone. Thank you, by the way.”

“Oh, yeah, no worries.” She mouths a quick thank you to Deb who just smiles at her and claps her shoulder before bouncing to the back of the room to find her usual seat.

And just like that, the barrier is broken. Ded’s the one with the answer, which is apparently to slightly twist the truth to not really look like the truth but at least be in the same ballpark. Phew!

 

November turns out to not be bad at all. December isn’t half bad, it’s just slow and Alice can’t wait for Christmas break to hit. Well, then Grace announces that she’ll be spending most of the Christmas break in Florida with her parents and suddenly, Alice can wait.

But time doesn’t stop moving just because she wants it to and suddenly, she’s standing in the airport, hugging Grace goodbye. “Merry Christmas,” she whispers. “I’ll miss you.”

Grace tightens her grip around her and it’s nice. She just wishes she didn’t have to go so soon. “I’ll miss you too. But I’ll write, I swear.”

“You better!” She laughs. Grace laughs too and it’s the most adorable thing she’s ever seen in her entire life. “Oh! Oh, I just remembered…” Alice takes off her backpack and pulls out a small gift. “I brought you this. Please do me a favor and open it now?”

She nods and then she opens it. It’s two necklaces in the same packaging: A pink heart and a yellow one, both soft in color. It’s the most subtle friendship necklaces Alice was able to find, but she does like them.

And apparently so does Grace, because she lets out an excited squeal and grabs Alice’s face. She looks so excited and so happy . She also looks like she’s about to pull Alice in for a kiss. In fact, she does pull her face a little closer and Alice loses her breath. Is this really happening?

No. No, that’s a false alarm. Grace seems to realize what she’s doing and she lets go of Alice’s face and takes a step away. “Thank you. Thank you so much. I’ve never had friendship necklaces with anyone before.”

“Me neither.” Alice doesn’t really know how to exist within the boundaries of her body. What does this second halfway kiss mean for them? Probably nothing, but it is confusing.

“You’re the best. I love you so much,” Grace says while she works on opening the packaging. Before she knows it, the pink necklace is around her neck and the yellow one is around Grace’s. “I’ve already dropped off your present with your mom, so I can’t give it to you here, but… Please text me when you open it. It’s not as good as this, but I hope you’ll like it anyway.”

“Nonsense! I’m sure it’ll be at least as good as this.”

“You’re just being nice. Mine sucks in comparison to this: Really, I’m so happy about it.” Grace holds the stone of the necklace in her hand and smiles at her. “I’m gonna miss you so much.”

 

On Christmas morning, something strange happens. There’s a tap on her window and when she goes to check what’s happening, there’s no one to be seen outside. Yeah, there’s tracks leading from her window in the snow, but she can’t see a person around.

She can, however, see a small gift right in the window. She opens the window and picks it up, very quickly inspects it. Then she sees the card. From Deb it says. It makes Alice smile before she even has a chance to open it.

It’s a pair of sunglasses. They look cheap, but there’s something off about them. On the glass, two words are written. BAD and BOY . She doesn’t know what it’s written in, but it looks like it’s coming from a green tinted permanent marker.

Somehow, this pair of sunglasses that she’s never going to put on ever makes her smile like an idiot. It’s a cute and thoughtful gift, as she’s pretty sure she told Deb that this was what she wanted most in the entire world back when they watched Spy Kids.

She quickly writes a text message to Deb: I didn’t get you anything, I’m sorry!!!! But thank you so much, I love them!!!!! Best Christmas present ever!

Deb doesn’t take long to reply: Hey, no worries. Christmas is about giving, not receiving or whatever. Don’t worry about it

Alice writes back instead of getting up: Let me worry about it if I so please! Is there anything you want? Late Christmas presents are totally a thing, right?

When Deb doesn’t reply immediately, Alice decides to actually get up. She eats breakfast with her parents and opens some presents. The first one she opens is the one from Grace. It’s a snow globe with a picture of them when they were kids in the middle and it almost makes her cry, but she manages to pull it together.

She sends Grace a picture of her face with the snow globe in the picture and Grace sends a picture of her kissing the yellow stone of her necklace and oh, yeah, Alice is definitely still weak, what the heck.

A few hours later, her phone buzzes. It’s another message from Deb: Sorry, got caught up in some Christmas stuff with the family, you know how it is. If you buy me a cup of hot chocolate while there’s still snow, you’re an actual angel

Alice decides she doesn’t mind being an actual angel and the two agree to meet up a few days later.

Chapter Text

Deb and Alice go out for hot chocolate. Well, they don’t go out -out. They go friend-out and Alice pays for both of their hot chocolates.

Then, instead of going straight home, Deb suggests they go ice skating. And it sounds like a lot of fun, so Alice says yes. She likes both ice and rollerskating, so she’s more than ready. Also, spending time with Deb is a lot of fun.

Deb isn’t very good at ice skating. She ends up falling a few times, but she always laughs it off and it makes Alice feel comfortable enough to laugh with her as she helps her up. The last time she falls and Alice helps her up, Deb doesn’t let go of her hand.

And yeah, maybe it makes Alice smile like an idiot, but sometimes it is like that. Sometimes a cute girl holds your hand while the two of you are ice skating. How are you supposed to not smile when that happens?

Deb doesn’t let go of her hand for the rest of the time they spend in the rink but to be fair, neither does Alice. She does, however, feel a bit conflicted as she still can’t get Grace out of her head.

“Before we say goodbye, I want to ask you something,” Deb says as they’re standing in the parking lot behind the ice skating rink. “Me and a few friends are throwing a party on New Year’s Eve. It’s not very big, but everyone’s allowed to invite a few friends and since you’re pretty much the coolest person in Hatchetfield, I figured I’d ask you.”

Alice is suddenly happy it’s cold out, because her face is probably already red and hopefully red enough for Deb not to be able to see her blushing right then and there. “I appreciate the flattery, but I’m hardly the coolest person in this parking lot.” She holds an arm out to gesture around the mostly empty parking lot where only Alice, Deb and a young boy who seems to be trying to skateboard through the snow currently are. “And while I’d love to go, I’m pretty sure I already have plans with Grace. Sorry!”

“Hey, no need to apologize.” Deb flashes her a big smile and it makes Alice smile too. “Just know you can always text me if you change your mind, yeah?”

Alice nods. “Yeah.”

 

She changes her mind.

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely the right way of phrasing it. Grace cancels on her and Alice is left planless on New Year’s Eve.

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely the right way to phrase it either. Grace doesn’t just cancel on her without reason like she’s making it sound in her own head. She just remembers that she has plans with the cheerleading squad and that those plans have existed for much longer than their plans. And she’s, like, super sorry about it, so it’s not even like Alice can really allow herself to be upset about it. Especially not because Grace offers she can come with her.

It’s completely unreasonable for Alice to be upset and she can logically see that and stuff, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t blow. It blows! It really does. Because spending New Year’s Eve with Grace is all she wants, but spending it with the rest of the cheer squad is all she doesn’t want.

Whoever Deb’s friends are, they’re probably nicer. They probably don't say dyke like it’s a bad thing to like girls. They’re probably good people.

So Alice shoots Deb a message and asks if it’s still alright for her to join. And Deb gets back to her so fast and says that yes, of course it is. Then she sends an address and Alice thanks her about a million times.

 

And then Alice shows up at the address and she manages to think for a moment that maybe she’s made a mistake. It’s not a big party, in fact it’s rather small, but almost everyone there seems to be smoking… something? And Alice doesn’t know why, but she has a feeling it’s not cigarettes.

It also doesn’t help that it’s almost exclusively people who intimidate her. Deb doesn’t. Deb’s cool, but Deb isn’t there yet. Or maybe she is, but she isn’t with everyone else. Ethan and Lex? Extremely intimidating. Danny and Lucy? Also extremely intimidating. Avery?

Wait a second. “Avery?”

Her friend turns around from his conversation with Danny and sends a big smile in Alice’s direction. “Oh, hey Alice. What are you doing here?”

“Deb. Deb invited me.”

And right on cue, Deb arrives. “Damn right I did!” She pulls Alice in for a hug and Alice isn’t sure if it’s Deb or herself who’s lingering, but the hug lasts for maybe a few seconds too long. It’s whatever, Alice decides. Because Deb’s a friend and Deb’s a good hugger and Deb smells nice too, so she’s not about to complain at all.

Then Deb makes sure to get Alice properly introduced to the rest of her friends, which Alice appreciates. It makes almost all of them seem much less intimidating, but she still feels on the fence about Lex and Danny.

Danny doesn’t end up bettering his case at any point throughout the night. He asks her to take a hit of whatever it is they’re smoking (Alice’s almost 100% sure it’s weed, but pretending like she doesn’t know makes it a lot easier to justify if her dad asks why she smells like weed; and while lying to her parents isn’t them most fun thing in the entire world, it’s something she’s willing to do) and she tells him, she doesn’t think she ought to.

Deb steps in and thank God for that. “Look, she doesn’t have to if she doesn’t want to.”

“That’s not how it works,” he tells them. He’s apparently pretty set on not allowing her to grow to like him. “You’re either in the smoke club or you’re out.”

“Oh, shut up.” Avery decides to chime in as well, apparently. Alice appreciates it. “Alice isn’t ever going to join this smoke club and she doesn’t have to. She’s not brave enough to try.”

She can live with Avery’s teasing. She’s used to it. “I see you challenging me, but sadly I have more than two brain cells to move around with and you’re going to have to try a little harder.”

He dramatically moves a hand in front of his chest and pretends to be hurt, before he turns his attention away from her and seemingly tries to get Danny’s attention instead, which she continues to appreciate.

Midnight comes around and everyone seems to couple up. Lex and Ethan start making out as soon as they start the countdown to midnight. Alice knows Avery’s moves, kind of, and it seems like he’s pulling them on Danny. Lucy’s standing by herself and for a while, Alice is too.

But then Deb stands next to her and she doesn’t know if it’s intentional or not, but she can feel their fingers brush against each other and it makes her realize that she has about ten seconds to make a decision.

Kissing someone at midnight is certainly a thing and while she certainly wouldn’t mind kissing Deb, there’s still the whole question about Grace. Grace, who may or may not like her as well (but probably not; the chances are pretty slim, at least). Grace, who’s friends with both her and Avery. Avery, who’s one hundred percent going to keep bringing it up in front of the others if she kisses Deb.

Unless she of course asks him not to. She could ask him not to and he would, because he’s not that big of an asshole. But then she’d have to explain herself and he knows he’s enough of an asshole to push that.

Deb looks at her. They’re almost at zero. And Deb’s leaning in.

The fact that Deb is leaning in makes Alice realize two things: She definitely wants to kiss Deb and she’s not going to. Because Deb seems to want to too and Alice doesn’t want to hurt Deb’s feelings by kissing her before she knows that’s what she wants.

She goes for a hug instead. And Deb doesn’t look angry or disappointed, which Alice appreciates. A hug and a smile is a good enough way to start a new year.

Chapter Text

School starts back up again and Alice is certain about exactly one thing: It’s awful. School’s awful and she can’t wait for it to be over, even though she knows that high school ending just means starting college. And then she starts thinking about college and the thought of just having to do high school becomes a little better.

At least she has her friends. Avery provides a certain sort of entertainment, although she feels weird watching his life unfold. His current ‘mission’ is a girl. A really pretty girl, sure, and a very nice one too. It’s the same girl he was flirting with at the Halloween party. Her name is Quinn and she is, in fact, a freshman.

It’s strange to see Avery be so… nice . Alice doesn’t quite believe in it, because even though it absolutely looks like he’s in love when she’s there, she knows he has a tendency to sabotage his own love life when things get a little too serious and while they’re very sweet together, she doesn’t trust Avery. She wants to. But she doesn’t.

Delight and Cassidy are back to being a thing, kind of. At least for a little while they’re together almost every day. Then Alice doesn’t see Cassidy for almost all of February and by the time March hits, she’s back around. She asks Delight what’s up with that, but Delight doesn’t have an answer. And she supposes that’s fine. That’s what happens sometimes.

Okay, maybe she doesn’t have all of her friends. She sees Evan in school, but she’s pretty busy outside of it and while it’s not out of the ordinary, it’s extra bad at this time. But she gets it. Evan’s in a band, Evan travels to see her parents, Evan’s in the middle of filming a short film she’s been working on for a while, Evan’s busy. That’s just how it is to be friends with her.

She mostly hangs out with Grace and she can’t say she minds. They occasionally go hang out at Grace’s place, but mostly they’re at Alice’s and it’s a good time. Bill really likes Grace and he’s made it his mission to teach her how to cook, which Grace finds really interesting.

“My brother almost never cooks himself,” she tells Alice when she asks if they can’t just watch TV instead. “And he definitely never cooks for me. It’s just a lot of frozen dinners and take out. It’s not my fault I don’t have a chef for a father. It’s not my fault I don’t know how to cook.”

And Bill’s on Grace’s side, which doesn’t surprise Alice one bit. In the end, she doesn’t really mind either, because Grace and Bill are both fine not having Alice’s help in and around the kitchen; they just talk to her and it’s fine, because she can play on her phone while they do.

Also, she gets to eat really good food prepared by her favorite person on planet earth, which has absolutely zero downsides.

 

One day in early March, Avery asks them all to join him at their table during lunch break. They all do. “A while ago, I made you all a promise. And, as we can probably all agree, I am a man of my word. I keep my promises. Today is no different. I told you that once my birthday came around, I would tell you. And it’s today. My birthday is today. We’re having a party tonight at my place and if you can’t come, we can’t be friends anymore.”

“But–” Grace tries to get a word in.

Avery just shakes his head as he interupts. “No buts. You’re coming or I’ll cry. And you don’t want that.”

“It’s my brother’s birthday. I can’t just leave my brother alone on his birthday. He’s a sad, lonely soul with no friends a–”

I’m a sad, lonely soul with no friends outside of you, Grace Chastity. You’re my only friend. You can invite Ted, I don’t care. I just want you to show up, alright? This is really important to me.” And while they all know that he’s bulshitting them and don’t care if the show up or not, and that Grace isn’t his only friend in the slightest, Grace still sighs and agrees to come, because – as she later tells Alice during English class – Ted’ll be fine. And a night with Avery and the rest of her friends sounds a lot more fun than a night with her sad brother, who’s apparently still upset about this girl he liked back in high school getting a boyfriend who’s not him.

 

Her dad is not super happy about Alice suddenly having plans in the evening. “We were going to watch a movie together! As a family! And you’re just going to leave us hanging?” He says.

“Yeah… sorry, dad.” Alice adds a sad smile despite not feeling all that upset about the whole situation. As much as she enjoys family time or whatever, she also misses friend time. They haven’t had a good party in some time and even though Alice doesn’t drink too much, she still misses it. “But hey! We can watch a movie tomorrow night if you’d like?”

He shakes his head while he talks. “No, no. It’s fine. We’ll be fine. Your mother and I will just enjoy this movie on our own. Is Grace going?”

Alice quickly nods. “Yeah! It’s her brother’s birthday too, but she says she can make time. Can we maybe drive her home tonight?” She hasn’t asked Grace if she needs a lift but she usually does.

“Yeah, of course.” Her dad nods a few times, then freezes in place. “Wait, it’s Ted’s birthday?”

“Yes! At least according to Grace, it is.” Her dad fishes his phone out of his pocket and seems to write a message. He doesn’t say anything, so Alice takes the opportunity to leave the kitchen. “Well, I’m gonna go get ready. See you later.”

Chapter Text

“And you take care tonight, alright?”

“Yes, dad.”

“And no boys, alright?”

“Yes, dad.”

“And no alcohol!”

“Yes, dad, I get it. I’ll be fine, alright?”

He looks at her for a few seconds. “Alright.”

She smiles. Then she leans over to give him a hug. “Say hi to mom for me. I’ll see you in a few hours.”

“Promise you’ll call if anything comes up?”

“Promise.”

She steps out of the car and waits by the side of the street as he drives off so she can wave goodbye. Then she waits a little longer, just to prepare herself mentally for what might happen tonight. And sure, she’s trying not to be too unrealistic, but she does really want to talk to Grace about her feelings and she does really want Grace to like her back. She can’t help but to hope for the best, no matter how unrealistic it might be.

Maybe she ends up standing there for a bit too long, because it’s not herself that drags her inside. Rather, someone taps her shoulder. She turns around and– It’s Grace. Oh gosh, it’s Grace. She smiles and she pulls her in for a hug and Alice finds herself smiling like an idiot. “Hey. You wanna come inside with me? There’s not too many just yet, so it’s not really the most fun party in the world, but I do know that it’d be a lot cooler if you were there with me.”

Alice seriously questions whoever allowed Grace to be so adorable, but rather than dwelling in thought she nods quickly. “Yeah. Yeah, of course.”

Then they start heading for the door and Alice considers taking Grace’s hand, but doesn’t. And it’s probably for the better, because the door opens and two people Alice doesn’t quite reckonize step out and while she’s completely alright being a lesbian, she’s not alright crossing Grace’s boundries and taking her hand in public no matter how harmless it might seem, because Grace totally didn’t seem cool with the idea of being a lesbian at the last party they were at and Alice is not going to force it on her. Especially if she turns out to not be into girls at all and all the signs pointing elsewhere has just been Alice’s wishful thinking.

“I’m a big fan of the dress, by the way. Looks really good on you. You look really good tonight.”

Oh, great, now she’s blushing. “Thank you. You look really great too. Yellow’s really pretty on you.”

Grace smiles at her. Then she opens the door and holds it open until Alice steps through. “Thank you. Now… I know you don’t drink much, but can I get you a drink? A soda counts as a drink, don’t worry.”

“I think…. I think I’d like to try an actual drink? Like an actual alcoholic drink? Yeah.”

“Alright. Any preferences? Or can I surprise you? You know how my brother’s a bartender? That totally makes me qualified to mix you a drink.”

“You know what? Sure. That sounds really good.”

And so, Alice finds herself sitting by the kitchen table in Avery’s house and watching Grace mix her a drink. Maybe it’s because she’s never been to a bar outside of when she’s been visiting her dad at work, but she finds it incredibly exciting to watch. It might also just be because it’s Grace, but she likes to believe otherwise.

Avery’s party might be a lot of fun, but Alice will be the first to admit that she’s not really there for the rest of the party. Sure, she has fun and she has a few drinks (which is a lot more than she’s used to, but Grace is there with her and it’s not a lot of drinks so it’s fine), but she also doesn’t really notice the rest of the party.

She notices Grace. And she’s fine with that, because Grace notices her too.

Then Grace has to go to the bathroom and Alice feels alone for like a second, before she falls in conversation with Quinn. Not a happy looking Quinn, though: This Quinn is crying and trying to find Avery. Apparently he told her he loved her, they had sex and he hasn’t spoken to her since. Alice really wants to be surprised, but this sounds just like Avery and she feels utterly disappointed in her friend, as well as extremely sad for this girl.

When Grace returns, they all go looking for him and despite the fact that it’s his party and his place, he’s nowhere to be found and Quinn goes home heartbroken.

She’s already gone when Grace gets the great idea that they look for him in his bedroom. “That’s a pretty logical place to hide, isn’t it?”

And she’s so right, so Alice follows her down the stairs to the basement and knocks on the door to his room. No one answers, but Grace opens the door anyway. It’s completely dark in there until Alice turns on the lights.

“So he’s not here either. Dammit. I really thought I had it,” Grace sighs.

“I really thought you did too.” Alice gives her a smile and luckily, Grace smiles back. “Poor girl. Do you think she’s alright?”

Grace shakes her head. “Is anyone who’s ever wanted to kiss Avery truly ‘okay’?” And she makes a fair point, because Avery has a very questionable track record and as much as she loves the guy, no one who wants actual love out of a relationship should be near him. “God, he’s so stupid. I liked Quinn! She was cool!”

“She was. I mean… she still is, but… yeah, I don’t know. I don’t think we’ll be seeing her around,” Alice says and Grace nods in agreement. “Also… be nicer to yourself. You’ve wanted to kiss Avery. And you’re okay. At least I hope you are?”

She laughs a little and Alice takes that as a positive. Then she slides down the wall and Alice joins her on the floor shortly after. “I didn’t want to kiss him. Not actively, anyway. But I’m happy I got my first kiss out of the way. People are so lame.”

“People are so lame. And I’m happy for you, I guess. Now you just need to stop being such a big nerd.”

Grace gives her a playful shove and Alice shoves her back in return. Then Grace takes her hand and they just sit there for a while. It’s nice. Being with Grace is nice. And Alice should get her shit together and actually talk to Grace about her dumb, stupid feelings. Which she will. Eventually. Right now, she decides to just savour the moment instead.

“Hey Alice?” Grace asks after a while.

Alice turns to face her. “Mmmhm?”

“I–” She can’t help but notice how close Grace’s face suddenly is to her own. She also can’t help but to notice how Grace shows no sign of stopping her slow forward movement towards her and oh god, is Grace going to actually kiss her for once? Is it going to actually happ– she stops moving. Alice can feel her shaky breath on her lips and she’s pretty sure Grace can feel that her breath is shaky too, because oh gosh they’re close and what the actual fuck is her heart doing? Who allowed it to do this? “Can I...?”

She doesn’t finish her sentence but she eyes Alice’s lips and Alice is done with impatiently waiting for this to happen, so she leans in. She closes the distance between their lips. She finally kisses Grace.

And Grace kisses her back. She lets go of her hand to cup her face instead and Alice doesn’t know how she manages to smile this much and kiss Grace at the same time, but she does.

She doesn’t mean to lose track of time, but she completely forgets the world around her and all her thoughts are about Grace and about how Grace and her are kissing right now. So when someone opens the door and Grace very quickly moves away from her, Alice has no idea how long time has passed or what is even happening.

And when she looks up, it’s just Avery and Evan. Avery practically carrying a very drunk looking Evan into his bedroom, which is definitely not a good sign. Evan’s way too naive to be anywhere near Avery’s bedroom.

But before anyone has the chance to say anything, Grace gets up from the floor, says goodnight and walks out. Alice reaches out for her as she passes by, but Grace doesn’t spare any of them a second thought. She just hurries up the stairs.

“What’s with her?” Avery says while putting Evan to bed.

“What’s with her? What’s with you? You are not sleeping with Evan, that’s fucked up. Evan? Let’s get you home, yeah?” Alice sits at the edge of the bed and takes Evan’s hand, but she seems to already be asleep.

Avery rolls his eyes. “Would you relax for a second? I’m not gonna sleep with her, alright? I’m not an asshole.” She gives him a stern look and he nods as he continues. “Fine. But I’m definitely not that kind of asshole. She’s drunk, she’s tired, she’s forgotten her keys again and her parents aren’t home, so I’m letting her crash here. Don’t worry about it.”

And Alice knows Avery isn’t that kind of asshole, but she also knows Quinn was very upset and that all she’s heard about Avery tonight has been negative stuff, so it’s all a bit confusing. “Fine. Fine, you’re right. Sorry.”

“Apology accepted. Now… What were you and Grace doing in my bedroom?”

She doesn’t tell him, because it’s none of his business whether Grace is ready to come out or not. So instead, she says they were looking for him because of Quinn, but that they got distracted and started talking instead, which sounds reasonable enough. At least he buys it.

Then she calls her dad and he picks her up and she definitely doesn’t spend all the time she should be using to try to fall asleep to think about Grace and about kissing Grace and about what the fuck that happened to make Grace walk off like that.

Chapter Text

Some things in life are simple. Like addition and subtraction or like riding a bike after you’ve first learned it. Other things are not.

Alice knows that it’s going to be bad for her if she does nothing, because she’s done nothing all of Saturday and it’s only helped her think even more about Grace than she usually does. So when Sunday rolls around, she knows she has to do something, but it’s not simple and she wishes it was because simplicity sounds so much easier than trying to communicate her feelings to Grace.

And then again: Maybe it’s all a lot more simple than she’s making it out to be. At least that’s what she’s hoping. She takes a deep breath and then she knocks on the door to Grace’s apartment.

Her brother opens. “Grace is at church. I assume that’s why you’re here, at least.” Alice nods and Ted opens the door a little further. “You can wait in her room if you’d like. I don’t think she’ll mind.”

“Thank you.” Alice smiles at him as she steps inside. She’s completely forgotten that Grace actually goes with her parents to church every single Sunday, unlike herself who only shows up every now and again. “Happy birthday, by the way. I know it’s a little late but… yeah.”

Ted rolls his eyes as he closes the door behind her. “Thanks. I’ll be in the living room if you need me, but hopefully you’ll be able to take care of yourself?”

Alice quickly nods. Then she goes to Grace’s room to sit and wait around for her friend to return home.

Luckily, it doesn’t take long. And luckily, Grace stops to talk to Ted in the entrance before she enters her room and Ted even warns her that Alice is in there, waiting for her, so not only does Alice have time to prepare herself but so does Grace.

“You’re in my room.” It’s not the warmest greeting Grace has ever given her, but it’s the one she gets and Alice supposes that’s fine because things are a bit strange right now. At least they feel strange. She doesn’t like it. “Why are you in my room?”

Alice considers lying, but then she remembers that she’s literally here to talk about what’s been going on and that she’s been trying to do just that for the past… who knows how long? Certainly not Alice, but she estimates somewhere between three days and three months. She can’t just back out. “We need to talk.”

“Oh.” Grace bites her lower lip and closes the door after her, before making her way towards her bed where she sits down. Alice considers joining her, but she doesn’t want to be a bother. Maybe later.

“Oh,” Alice repeats back.

“What do we need to talk about?” Grace looks at her. Her eyebrow is raised and while Alice doesn’t one hundred percent buy what she’s trying to sell, it does truly sound and look like she has no idea.

But of course she has an idea! She has to. “We need to talk about what happened Friday. We need to talk about the kiss.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking ab–”

Alice cuts her off. “I know it’s hard, Grace. I know, okay? But I’m not your enemy. If anything, I’m in the same boat as you.” She should have thought of a much more concrete plan. She should have written down on a piece of paper what she was going to say, because coming up with it on the spot proves harder than it has to be. “You’re my best friend in the entire world and I don’t like forcing you to talk about something you don’t want to, but we need to talk about this, Grace. We do. Or at least I do.”

For a long time, Grace doesn’t say anything. She just looks at Alice, but she does look like she’s trying to think and Alice doesn’t want to rush her. She can think if she wants to, even if Alice can feel herself getting increasingly nervous the more time that passes.

“I–” Grace starts. The fact that she even starts is a good sign, Alice tells herself as she waits for her to continue. “I don’t know what happened. I mean, I know what happened. But I don’t know why it happened. I just– it can’t happen again, okay?”

It feels like something drops in her chest. Her heart, perhaps? She didn’t know what she expected coming here today. Probably nothing. But she knows what she hoped would happen and this was quite frankly the opposite of what she hoped. So she nods a few times and tries her best to act like it doesn’t hurt. “Yeah… yeah, of course not. You’re right.”

“I’m sorry, Alice.”

So maybe it didn’t work, the whole looking like she wasn’t hurt thing. But it’s whatever. “It’s alright. Don’t worry about it.” She keeps nodding and then she heads towards the door. Before she makes it all the way, she changes her mind a little bit. She’s not going to just leave. She’s going to finish this chapter, so she turns around and looks at Grace once again. “Deb and Delight already know, but I wanted you to know before the others find out. I’m a lesbian. And I like you, but uhh… I’ll work on making sure that won’t be an issue anymore. I’ll see you around.”

It’s not anything like she imagined coming out would be like and it’s not fun to turn around after saying what she’s just said, but she does it. She turns around and she heads for the door and– She’s stopped? She’s stopped because Grace grabs her hand.

“Wait!”

And Alice doesn’t mind waiting. She doesn’t know what’s going to happen or what Grace is going to say, but she doesn’t mind waiting. She turns around and she’s face to face with Grace again.

But Grace doesn’t say anything. Grace looks at her for a while instead and Alice can’t quite place what the look means, but she suddenly decides it doesn’t matter because Grace kisses her again and that’s a lot more interesting than anything else she can possibly think of.

Chapter Text

Life turns strange after Grace kisses her again. Not bad-strange, just… strange. Because instead of being stressed about whether or not Grace likes her back all the time, Alice gets to not be stressed and kiss Grace a lot instead.

And sure, Grace doesn’t take her hand in public or act affectionate in any way, shape or form, but that’s alright because coming out is terrifying and just because Alice is ready doesn’t mean Grace is. And getting to kiss Grace when they’re behind closed doors is infinitely better than not getting to kiss Grace at all.

March turns into April and April first turns into April third and Alice’s parents surprise her with breakfast in bed, which is a nice birthday surprise.

Then she goes to school and her friends are all there, waiting for her, which is a really nice birthday surprise, because they sing for her and give her hugs and happy birthday wishings before class. Sometimes she fears they might be a bit too extra about these birthday happenings, but then she remembers that she doesn’t care because her friends are really nice and she likes being like this with them.

She sees Deb in the distance while she’s being showered in attention from her friends and the two of them smile at each other before continuing with whatever they’re doing. She kind of misses Deb, she realizes, but she’s also been so busy lately. Maybe once her life calms down a little, she can make time for hanging out with Deb. No. Not maybe. She promises herself to make time for Deb and rather sooner than later.

Then she’s off to classes for the day.

 

It’s almost lunch when she sees Deb again. Or maybe see isn’t the right word. It’s around lunch when Deb stops her in the hallway when they’re both on their way to classes.

And Alice, having missed her friend, stops up. Because of course she does. She stops up for Deb and she sends a huge smile in her direction. “Hey! What’s up?”

“Hey! I couldn’t help but to notice your friends and their little birthday parade for you. I just… wanted to say happy birthday. So happy birthday!” Deb smiles back and yeah, okay, Alice definitely misses her even more than she thought she did.

“Thank you!” She considers asking her then and there when they can hang out next, but the next two weeks of her life is completely booked up already and ugh.

Deb takes off her bag and starts rummaging through it. “Actually… I got you something.”

“Oh, you really didn’t have to.”

“I know. But I wanted to. I promise it’s not anything big. It also didn’t cost me anything. It’s really just something cool I found today because I didn’t know it was your birthday before literally this morning.” She stops rummaging and Alice guesses that means she’s found whatever it is she’s looking for. “It also means it’s not wrapped, so you’re going to have to close your eyes and hold out your hands for me.”

Alice does as she’s told to. She closes her eyes and she holds out her hands and she smiles perhaps a little too much, because she’s excited and here with Deb.

Then something is put in her hands and Alice can’t quite tell what it is. “Alright, you can open your eyes again.”

She does. She looks down and sees a rock with a hole in it in her hands. She puts it between her fingers and brings it closer to her face so she can look at it a bit closer. “I love it.”

“It’s also alright if you don’t like it. I mean, it’s really just a kind of cool rock.”

Alice shakes her head a little. “I like it. Really.” And she does. Because yeah, it might not be something she actively wanted, but it’s really thoughtful of Deb to even get her anything. She could have just bought her lunch, but she went out of her way to find her something and a cool trinket is, well, pretty damn cool. She pulls Deb in for a hug. “Thank you so much.”

Deb hugs her back. “Yeah, no worries.”

“When’s your birthday?” She asks as she realizes that she really has no idea. She hopes it hasn’t already passed because surely, that would suck.

“It’s on the twelfth.”

“Of April?”

Deb nods. “Of April.”

“That’s so soon!” Alice doesn’t know why she states the obvious, but it’s the first words that come to mind so it’s what she says. “I hope you know that I’m getting you a present too.”

“You really don’t have to.”

“I know. But I want to.”

 

The rest of the school day passes rather quickly and once Alice gets home, she carefully places her rock with a hole in it on her bedside table. She has no good idea where to put it, but it makes her smile so close to her bed feels like a good call.

Then she starts getting ready for her evening plans, which aren’t all that exciting according to Avery. Rather than throwing an actual party, Alice throws a dinner party and she invites her closest friends, that being Evan, Avery, Delight and, of course, Grace.

Her dad has promised he’ll cook them something delicious and he really does live up to that promise. He also doesn’t let her in the kitchen to help and it’s probably for the better.

Grace arrives a little before everyone else and while Alice appreciates her present (a silver bracelet), she almost appreciates the few extra moments of extra quality time even more. Dinner with friends and a chance to kiss the girl she likes is really all she can ask for on her birthday and she gets it. It’s a good day.

Chapter Text

It’s the day before Deb’s birthday and they’re watching a horror movie in English class and Alice isn’t the biggest fan of horror movies. In fact, she’s not a fan at all, not in any way, shape or form. There’s far too many jump scares and it’s simply too much nightmare fuel for her.

And of course the one they’re watching has jump scares. Of course it does!

She instinctively reaches out for the hand next to hers. Grace’s. And Grace? Well, Grace moves her hand away, way too fast. It kind of makes Alice’s heart sink in her chest, which feels stupid because she knows they’re not there and she shouldn’t be so disappointed. But she is. And it sucks. She spends the rest of the movie not reaching out for Grace’s hand. In fact, she doesn’t even look in Grace’s direction.

And perhaps Grace can feel that something is wrong, because she pulls Alice aside after the class is over. “I’m so sorry. I just– I’m still getting used to this, I’m still… I’m still figuring stuff out. But I don’t know what came over me, I don’t know why I did it like that and I’m so sorry.”

It makes Alice smile a little. “Hey, it’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Really.” Yeah, it hurt but she doesn’t want Grace to feel bad for not doing anything wrong. “In fact, I’m sorry for trying to take your hand. I probably shouldn’t have done that either.”

They apologize back and forth between each other while they walk towards the cafeteria and they end up concluding that they’re both in the right. They’re both allowed to be sorry, but they’re also both allowed not to be. They also make plans to take a walk by the shore later today and Alice spends the rest of her school day feeling excited about that.

 

What are we? What are we doing? Why is everything so confusing all the time and why do you keep running away?

Those are all questions Alice should at least consider asking Grace as they make their way along the waterside. But instead she ends up asking her what she thought of the movie they watched (she thinks it’s alright) and how her brother’s doing (not very good at all) and how she, herself, is doing (she’s not doing bad at all, though she has a chemistry assignment that’s really kicking her ass).

And Alice listens, because she cares about Grace’s life, but she also keeps looking on the ground, which Grace ends up asking her about. “Oh. I’m just looking for a rock.”

“A particular rock?”

She shakes her head. “No, not really. Just a pretty one.”

Then Grace asks her why that’s what she’s looking for and Alice tells her that it’s for Deb’s birthday tomorrow. She also tells her about the rock with the hole in it that Deb gave her and while Grace doesn’t seem too impressed, she does promise to help her look which Alice appreciates.

They continue walking and talking, but it gets late and Alice suddenly feels stressed about the fact that she may not find a rock for Deb, so she asks Grace if they can stop by Lakeside Mall, to which she says yes and thank God for that.

Alice drags her into Al’s Antiquities, which isn’t really an antiquities store but rather a small shop filled with what Alice can best describe as curiosities. It’s maybe not her best bet in the world, but if anywhere in Hatchetfield should have cool stones it’s her best bet. Besides, Al is a family friend and Alice knows he’ll help her pick out something else for Deb if need be.

Turns out, there’s no rocks with holes in them. There’s no normal looking yet cool rocks either. But there’s rose quartz and amethysts and a variety of other gemstones and Alice decides with herself that all those count as cool rocks.

“What do you think she’ll like?” She asks Grace.

Grace shrugs. “I don’t know. I’ve practically never spoken to her.”

And that’s all very fair, so Alice decides to take a chance. She buys a tiny piece of amethyst and Al even giftwraps it for her.

Then Grace and her go buy ice cream, because the weather is nice and it’s just what they need. They sit outside the mall on a bench away from any other people and Alice decides to take the chance right then and there. She decides to be brave. She asks Grace if she wants to be her girlfriend.

And Grace?

Grace tells her no. “It’s not that I don’t like you,” she says. “I do… I really do. I just… I’m not ready. I’m not ready to come out an–”

“You don’t have to come out,” Alice comments.

“I know. But… I know you’re ready to and I’m not ready to disappoint you. And I can see that look in your eyes, I know you’re going to say that it’s not going to bother you and that’s all good and fine, but… It’s going to bother me. I can’t say yes right now, I’m sorry.”

Alice smiles. It’s not a happy smile, but it’s not entirely sad either. It’s just a smile. “That’s alright.” They’ll figure it out later, she figures. She doesn’t know what she expected, but she probably should have expected this.

They eat their ice cream and then they go home.

 

The next day at school, Alice manages to locate Deb in the morning which is an achievement all and in itself, because she’s behind the school smoking with Danny.

“Hey Danny, hey Deb. Happy birthday.”

“It’s not my birthday.”

“She wasn’t talking to you, dumbass.” Deb rolls her eyes at Danny. Then she walks with Alice a bit away from him. “Thank you, though. I’ll spare you having to ask: It’s been alright so far, thank you very much.”

Alice smiles a bit. “That’s good to hear. I got you something.”

“Of course you did.”

Of course she did. She finds the present in her bag and hands it over to Deb, who unwraps it immediately. “Amethyst? No way! How did you know it was my favorite?”

She didn’t, but she accepts it when Deb pulls her in for a hug anyway.

Chapter Text

The rest of the school year goes by so quickly and by the time Alice has time to blink, it’s already summer.

It’s not that it’s been bad or that school’s been kicking her ass (at least it hasn’t kicked her ass more than it usually does, so she’s pretty happy with her situation. It’s just that she’s had so much to see with. Evan’s been in the school musical, so she’s watched that. Delight’s had relationship issues now that her and Cassidy’s began dating. Avery’s… well, Avery’s been Avery. She’s hung out with Deb a few times and that’s been a good time.

She’s also spent a lot of time kissing Grace and it’s been a good time. Not the best time, because she still believes that they could be kissing while they date and that’d make it a little better, but for what it is, kissing Grace has been very very good.

Summer passes rather quickly too. One day Grace’s off on vacation with her parents, one day they’re all sitting in Avery’s garage and listening to his band play music and then suddenly, another day, school’s a week and a half away and they’re all chilling in Delight’s garden together.

Both Avery and Evan are playing guitar and it makes for nice background music. Alice is doodling, Delight seems to be sunbathing and Grace has taken out her books to get started on reading for the new school year.

The day after, they all hang out again and it’s pretty much the same thing. They’re just chilling and enjoying each other’s company. Grace grabs her bag and gets out her books again and Avery rolls his eyes.

“God, I can’t believe people at school are so damn attracted to you,” he tells her. “You’re a fucking nerd. You’re a nerdy prude is what you are.” His tone is teasing and he doesn’t look like he means it in a negative way and Alice truly doesn’t believe he does. Avery just tends to say things in the most idiotic way possible.

Grace closes her book and looks at him very intensely for a moment. “I am not. I’ll prove it to you.” He raises an eyebrow at her and Grace proceeds to prove her point. She grabs Alice’s face and she kisses her and Alice feels very out of breath all of a sudden, but it’s Grace so of course she kisses her back.

After a moment, Grace pulls away. She looks back at Avery. “Would a nerdy prude have done that?”

Avery rolls his eyes at them while he fishes his phone out of his pocket. “Obviously, yeah. I’m changing your name on my phone and in our group chat as we speak. Suck it.” And he really follows through, because moments later they all get a notification, letting them know that Grace’s nickname is now, in fact, The Nerdy Prude.

And for a while, that’s it. Alice knows her cheeks are red but everyone politely ignores it and she appreciates that. Grace’s cheeks are also slightly more pink than they usually are and Alice appreciates that too.

She goes back to doodling until Avery once again interrupts. “Hey, so there’s a bonfire down by the lake tonight. You guys wanna join?”

“Can’t.” Delight doesn’t even look up from her phone. “Anniversary dinner with the girlfriend.”

“Lame. What about you, Evan? You’re going, right?”

She shakes her head. “My dad’s coming home tonight, so I promised I’d be home. Sorry.”

Avery turns his attention to Alice and Grace. Grace quickly excuses herself (she has plans with Jill from the cheerleading squad) and Alice? Alice agrees, because she’s got nothing better to do.

 

The bonfire luckily isn’t as big as Alice feared.

They’re only eight people and Alice recognizes four of them by name and another two by face. Oh, and she’s included in the seven, so it’s really not terrible. Avery, of course, is there, but so is Deb (and thank fucking God for that) and Lex and Ethan. There’s a tall guy in a suit, which is a bit strange for chilling on the beach but she accepts it. She thinks she’s seen him around school before, but he must have either dropped out or finished during her first year. Then there’s the red headed woman she sometimes sees in The Kiosk as well as at Lulu’s Diner. The last one she’s never seen in her life, but it’s some brunette girl who seems to be a few years older than her.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who’s there. Her first plan is to hang out with Avery, but he abandons her very quickly to go chat up the redheaded woman. Then she very quickly decides to go talk to Deb.

Deb didn’t know she was going to be here, that’s the first thing she tells her. “But I’m happy you are,” is the second.

“I’m happy you’re here too.” Alice smiles up at her and Deb smiles back.

Then she tells Alice that she’s sorry, but she’s been with Lex and Ethan all day and she’s a bit high. And Alice tells her not to worry about it. Then she goes and gets a drink and then another and it’s honestly a pretty good time.

She manages to see that Avery’s making out with the redheaded woman before Deb pulls her down in the sand. They lay next to each other and look up at the almost starry sky and then they talk about life and what they’ve been up to over the summer and it’s a good time. She enjoys it.

“Hey, can I confess something kind of strange?” She asks.

Deb turns her head and looks at her. Then she nods. “Of course. Anything.”

“I… kind of had a tiny crush on you a while ago.”

It makes Deb laugh. “Yeah… yeah, I know. Or well. Don’t know. I just kind of figured, you know?” And Alice just nods. It’s not that she knew but she’ll pretend, sure. “I definitely had a huge crush on you too, though. Kind of still do.”

Alice smiles. She doesn’t know why she does, but there’s just something about hearing that that makes it hard not to.

And Deb? Well, Deb moves a little closer. And Deb starts leaning in. And Alice quickly tries to come to a conclusion in her head. Is it a good idea? She’s not sure. Because she’s not sure where her and Grace stands. But does she want to kiss Deb? Absolutely.

She decides, fuck it. She can kiss Deb if she wants to and tomorrow's Alice can deal with the consequences. Then the universe decides something else.

A car pulls up on the beach and they very quickly move away from each other to see what’s going on. Alice doesn’t recognize the car, but she does recognize the man who steps out of it. It’s Stanley from The Kiosk. And he’s heading straight for Avery and the redheaded woman.

It happens very fast and Alice doesn’t know what she’s supposed to do, because she’s never seen anyone get beat up before. But Avery’s definitely getting beat up. And oh boy. At least Deb seems to know what to do, because Alice sees her call the police.

Once Avery’s been sufficiently beaten, Stanley decides it’s time to yell. “Becky! Get in the fucking car!”

Becky gets in the fucking car, despite Ethan yelling at her that she doesn’t have to. Then they all stand there dumbfounded as they watch the car drive away.

Well, not all of them. Alice runs over to Avery and as does the dude in the suit. She can hear Deb on the phone with the police in the background of Avery spitting bullshit about this being nothing.

Once the cops show up, Alice calls her dad. He worries a lot, but he agrees to drive Deb home and then he stays up with Alice until she eventually falls asleep on the couch.

Chapter Text

School is back up and happening again and it happens a lot.

Alice doesn’t know how Avery’s managed not to tell them, but he’s redoing the last year due to too little attendance and while it doesn’t surprise her, it also feels strange to suddenly not have classes with him anymore.

Other than that, life continues like normal. They still sit together most days, but Alice starts sitting with Deb every now and again and it’s nice. They still have English together and when it’s time to pick a project partner (they get to pick this time which Alice is very appreciative of), the two of them pick each other.

And yeah, sure, it feels a little strange leaving Grace behind like that, but she still sees Grace outside of school fairly often and she sees her in school as well and Alice decides that it’s fine. They can not be partners in one project where they get to choose themselves and that’s fine. Also, it’s not like she needs excuses to spend more time with Grace. She’s got plenty of those and they seem to keep showing up, project or not.

It’s strange, though. Kissing Grace and being with Grace is nice and all, but it’s not much more than that. It’s just nice . She keeps hoping it grows into more, but it doesn’t. Neither of them lets it. She wants it to, but it’s unnecessarily complicated.

Things with Deb are… well, they just are. They’ll work on a project and Deb will tell her she’s a nerd when she wants to take a break and then they’ll take a break and watch a movie and Deb’ll move closer to her on the couch as the movie progresses and sometimes, she’ll even hold her hand and Alice can’t stop herself from smiling like an idiot when that happens.

Alice thinks she still likes Deb. Or likes her again. Whatever! It doesn’t matter, because she’s not sure. And she’s not sure, because she’s not sure about Grace. This thing they’ve kind of been having has been going on for about six months and she doesn’t know what to do, so she does nothing. She just sits on the couch and lets Deb hold her hand and pretends that making no moves in any direction is fine .

 

October eventually comes around, which means Grace’s birthday comes around. It sadly doesn’t mean that Alice is any closer to figuring out what she’s supposed to do, but it does mean she goes to a party. Grace’s birthday party, to be exact.

It’s not very big and it’s not very eventful, but Grace does ask her to stay once everyone’s gone home and Alice does so. They help each other clean up and then they go into Grace’s room to talk for a while.

Grace takes her hands and pulls her closer almost as soon as the door closes behind them. “I’ve missed you,” she whispers.

It makes Alice smile a bit. “I’ve missed you too.” It’s not that they haven’t spent time together, it’s just been a little less time than they usually spend together.

“I’ve missed you so much!” Grace repeats herself, but with more emotion in her voice this time round. She smells like alcohol and it’s not a surprise considering how much they’ve been drinking (though to be fair, Alice still doesn’t drink a lot and she still considers herself a bad judge of what much is when it comes to alcohol). “I wish we could be together all the time.”

It’s really sweet and Alice tells her that as she helps Grace to bed. Grace then asks her to lay down with her for a bit and Alice sees no issue in saying yes, because it’ll be a while before her dad has a chance to get here anyway and cuddling with her not quite girlfriend but basically girlfriend is not something she’s about to say no to.

She kind of wants to tell Grace that things could be like this. All the time. Or at least more often. But that’s incredibly selfish and she already knows where Grace stands on the whole coming out and actually putting a label on them thing, so she saves herself the hurt and doesn’t tell Grace about what she’s thinking.

“I… I want to say that I’m sorry. Because I am. I am sorry. I’m sorry that I keep acting so weird around you in school and I’m sorry that I told you we can’t date and I’m sorry… I’m sorry I suck.”

“Hey, no. You don’t suck. Don’t be sorry.” Alice wraps her arms around Grace and presses a kiss on the top of her head. “It’s all good, alright?”

Grace shakes her head a bit. “Yeah, but–”

“No buts.” Alice shakes her head too. “It’s fine, alright? Don’t worry about it.”

“It’s just… I really like you. And I’m sorry things aren’t perfect.” She turns around a bit so she can look Alice right in the eyes and Alice finds herself smiling sadly in return.

She thinks she’s supposed to feel a little more happy about Grace saying she likes her, but it’s kind of almost upsetting in a way. It clearly upsets Grace, so of course it upsets her too. And yeah, she has her own frustrations with it, but those are just stupid fustrations that she’s willing to look past. She doesn’t like that Grace is apologizing, but she doesn’t know what to do.

Instead of continuing the dialogue, she kisses her. And Grace kisses her back. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough. And it’s not a sustainable solution, but for now it’s what they have and Alice is fine with that.

They’ll figure it out. Eventually, they’ll figure it out. They’ve been friends for so many years and that’s not about to be over. They have to figure something out, she believes in them.

Chapter Text

The rest of the year is a bit weird. Alice isn’t sure weird is quite the right way to describe it, but she has no better word for it so she settles for weird.

Things with Grace are… well, they’re like how they always or at least often are. They’re still sneaking around and Alice isn’t sure she likes it. Actually, she’s growing more and more sure of the fact that she doesn’t. She likes Grace. She just doesn’t like this thing they’ve got going.

Deb and her manage to get an A on their project, which ends in a high five and a hug and then in Deb asking her out. And Alice wants to say yes, she does, but then she sees Grace a little further down the hall and she smiles at her, and she just can’t.

So she says no. Not now. And Deb takes that a little too literally, because she asks her again the next week and the week after that. In fact, she asks her every single week and Alice keeps saying not now, but  then one week she bites the bullet and just says no. And Deb nods. Then she stops.

The week after, she asks her if she wants to join for New Year at Danny’s again and Alice says no once again, because she has other plans. This year, the plans are actually settled in stone and they’re all going to Louise’s place, them being Alice, Grace, Avery, Evan and Delight.

“That’s alright,” Deb says when Alice apologizes. “Don’t worry about it. Wanna hang out in the new year, though? And before you say no, I do mean hang out. No date, no anything… just hang out?”

Alice smiles. “I would love to. See you in 2015.”

 

On the final day of 2014, Alice finds herself getting ready for Louise’s New Year’s party with Delight. They talk a bit about Cassidy, who Delight has broken up with for good this time. At least that’s what she says. They’ve been broken up ‘for good’ a few times and Alice hopes for their sake that it’s really over this time, because she can’t imagine constantly breaking up and getting back together would be that fun.

They also talk a bit about Grace, but Alice doesn’t know what she’s supposed to say and what she’s supposed to shut up about, so it becomes more of a ‘oh, I’m still into her’ than a ‘oh, we’re kind of an item’ talk.

Then, once they’re ready, they go to Louise’s and celebrate. Delight splits off from her rather quickly, because Louise is a cheerleader and Delight knows her, so they’ve got some stuff to catch up on and Alice kind of feels left alone.

That is, of course, until she doesn’t feel alone at all. She feels a pair of arms wrap around her and eventually two hands cover her eyes. “Guess who.”

It’s not that hard to guess, because Grace doesn’t even bother changing her voice. “Hmm… Avery?”

It earns her a little playful push forward. By then Grace has let go of her and Alice turns around to greet her with a proper hug. Once they’re done saying hi, Grace takes her hand and begins dragging her towards the kitchen. “Come on, let’s get something to drink.”

And they do get something to drink. Alice gets a soda with the tiniest amount of vodka and Grace gets a soda with slightly more vodka and they end up sitting on the floor in the kitchen rather than rejoining everyone else, which honestly? Alice doesn’t mind.

After their first drink, they get another and then they go join the others. Grace disappears off to talk to Evan about something and Alice finds herself suddenly helping Avery send out texts to people on his phone.

They’re all poems and Alice has no idea how it works for him. Like seriously, why would anyone reply to ‘ Roses are red / Violets are blue / Are you down to give head? / Please and thank you ’? She doesn’t get it and she doesn’t get why his poems asking for nudes gets him nudes either, but it does make her leave the couch where his shenanigans are going down.

They’re getting closer to midnight when Grace pulls her into the kitchen again. They’re alone in there and Grace has absolutely had a few more drinks, because she kisses her. And it’s not that Alice minds. She doesn’t. It’s nice and she kisses her back.

Until… she doesn’t.

Someone walks in and it’s not one of their friends. Alice is sure she’s seen her before, but she can’t quite place who it is. All she knows is that she asks them what they fuck they’re doing and that it makes Grace break the kiss and stare at the girl in front of them like she’s seen a ghost.

“We– oh, we got dared to make out in the kitchen for three minutes.” It’s a lie. Grace is lying. Alice doesn’t know what she expected.

Then the girl asks who the fuck dared them to do that and Grace blames Avery, then she walks away and leaves Alice standing alone in the kitchen. She sends the girl an awkward smile, then goes to grab herself a drink. Then another. And another.

Then she leaves. Not the kitchen. The party.

She really doesn’t want to be here, not at all, so she gets her things and she starts walking towards Danny’s place. She doesn’t plan on asking if it’s alright for her to crash, but she has a feeling that it is going to be okay because Deb’s friends are some of the most casual and non-caring people Alice’s ever met.

Part of her hopes she can make it before midnight. Maybe she can make up for her mistakes from last year and actually be around to kiss Deb when the new year hits. Maybe it’s not the smartest idea, but Deb is nice and Alice is slightly drunk, so it seems like it is.

Turns out, it doesn’t matter if it’s a good idea or not. It’s too late, because she shows up just as midnight hits. She knows this because fireworks are going off. She knows this because Deb is kissing someone else.

Chapter Text

It’s certainly not fun seeing Deb kiss someone else and Alice knows that that’s stupid, she knows that that’s selfish, but she feels it anyway and she hates it.

Part of her considers just walking away. There’s no harm done so far, no one’s seen her and it’s probably her best bet. Her parents are celebrating with the neighbors, so she should have time to sneak in and go to bed without any questions being asked and without anyone questioning her or how she’s feeling.

It’s the easiest solution but sadly, life doesn’t like easy solutions.

Deb breaks away from her kiss rather quickly and Alice is right in her line of sight once she opens her eyes, so it doesn’t surprise her when their eyes meet. It does make her want to flee even more, so she does. She walks away and she doesn’t think more about it than that.

She is, however, stopped when she feels someone grab ahold of her wrist before she’s able to entirely leave the property. She turns around and looks up at Deb, who’s smiling very apologetically. “Hey Alice, I uhh… I’m so sorry you had to see that, it’s not what you think.”

Alice starts shaking her head. “No, it’s fine. Even if it is what I think, it’s fine. Really. Don’t worry about it.” She feels comfortable and right in what she’s saying, because she logically knows that it is fine and alright and that Deb shouldn’t worry about it. They’re not exclusive. They’re not even dating. They haven’t even kissed. She’s just upset and it sucks, because she wishes she wasn’t.

Deb pulls her in for a hug and even though Alice is feeling stressed about a lot of things that are going on, she doesn’t feel stressed about this hug. It feels nice and warm and she lets herself melt into it.

“How’s your night been?” She asks after a while. “From the looks of it, not great. Are you alright?”

“I’m alright,” she tells Deb. “Theoretically, anyway. My night’s not been great, but I probably should have seen all this coming, so… I don’t know. I guess I’m just in a bad mood.”

“What happened?” Deb asks while they walk. They end up back inside and Alice doesn’t complain about it. It’s getting cold and while the fireworks are pretty, warmth sounds far more inviting.

They sit down right in the entrance, though, and Deb wraps her arm around Alice and Alice cuddles up to her. It’s nice. “Um… Grace. Grace happened.”

“Oh.” Deb nods a few times.

“Oh,” Alice repeats. “She, uh… She’s complicated.”

“Complicated does not sound good.”

It makes Alice laugh a little. Maybe because it’s so obvious and yet she’s still failed to realize that for a long, long time. Maybe because the thought of Grace being anything but good hurts a little bit. She’s not sure. “It… it isn’t good. It isn’t good at all, in fact. It’s very frustrating.”

“I could imagine. Do you want to talk about it?”

“If you don’t mind?” The thought of talking to Deb of all people about it seems a bit weird to her, but maybe that’s because she’s pretty sure she likes Deb and talking about her issues with Grace, the girl she thought she liked, to the girl she does like seems like something one shouldn’t do.

Not that it matters. Grace takes Alice’s hand and nods. “I don’t mind.”

And so Alice talks. She talks about tonight and about what went wrong and about how that hurt. She talks about all the other times things not quite like this but similar enough have happened and about how that’s hurt too. She talks about how it sucks that it hurts and about how frustrated she feels about everything being so complicated.

She also talks about thinking she liked Grace for a long time, but also about coming to the conclusion that she might actually not and about how strange that is. She likes her, of course she does, but she doesn’t know if it’s more than lingering attachment from when she did like her and a very strong feeling of friendship at this point.

Deb listens. She makes comments every now and again, but mostly she listens. She sits there with one arm around Alice and with the fingers of her other hand intertwined with Alice’s. It’s nice.

Then Alice comes about to the part of what she wants to say that feels both the hardest and the easiest. Deb. “Also, uh… Also it doesn’t make it easier that I think I like you.”

“Oh my god. You think you like me?” Deb gives her a little playful shove with her shoulder and it makes Alice smile again.

She also shoves back, which in turn makes Deb smile. “I think I like you. No… No, I’m– I like you. I do.”

It only makes Deb smile more. She leans in a bit and Alice thinks she’s going to kiss her, but it’s a ruse and she’s left with a mere forehead kiss instead. “That’s really good, because I like you too.”

Now it’s Alice’s turn to lean in and make it look like she’s about to kiss Deb, but unlike Deb she has actually has plans to follow through. They’re not plans that work out, but they’re plans and she feels like that should be accounted for somewhere.

Deb ends up pressing her forehead against Alice’s and stopping her before she has the chance. “I want to kiss you, I really do. But you’re upset and I’ve had alcohol and so have you, if I’m not mistaken?” Alice nods. “We’ve waited this long… how would you feel if we waited just a little bit longer and went on a proper date and had a proper, non-drunken and hopefully happy rather than sad kiss instead?”

It makes Alice pout, just a little bit. She appreciates it, she does, but she also really wants to kiss Deb, so she pouts. “I think I can work with that.”

“Good.” Deb smiles. Then she leaves a kiss on Alice’s cheek before helping her up from the floor. The rest of the evening is not bad at all.

Chapter Text

Alice wakes up around eleven on January first and she feels… well, she feels a lot of things. She’s tired, she’s anxious and she’s happy. It’s an annoying combination, because she doesn’t really know which one to single in on. She wants to focus on the part of her that’s happy, but it doesn’t quite sit right with her and she can’t stop thinking about Grace.

She’s very happy Deb didn’t kiss her last night, but she’s also very happy that Deb expressed wanting to kiss her, because that’s exciting and that brings her happiness. But now that she’s sober and nowhere near as sad and frustrated, it feels nice to have the kiss to look forward to rather than it already having happened.

Plus, there’s the whole Grace thing.

The whole Grace thing is still frustrating, because it hurts and Alice doesn’t like that. It feels like there’s no easy way to do… well, anything. And on the other hand, Alice knows she needs to get it done. There’s no way she’s finally going on a date with Deb and finally kissing Deb without having things with Grace settled, because that’s shitty to herself, that’s shitty to Deb and that’s shitty to Grace.

Thinking to herself that she’ll have to make a change and actually making a change is two completely different things and instead of listening to her voice of reason, Alice drags herself out of bed and into the kitchen where she and her dad makes chocolate chip pancakes together (because that’s the only right way to start a new year, she’s pretty sure).

They then eat their pancakes on the couch, together as a family, and it’s a much better time than Alice imagines calling Grace and making plans to talk over what’s happening with Deb and pseudo break up with her will be. Yikes!

 

It takes her a few days, but she eventually gathers the courage she needs and goes to knock on the door to Grace’s (well, Ted’s, but whatever) apartment. It’s somehow less terrifying than texting, because sure it’ll be in person, but at least it’ll be over when it’s over.

Grace opens. She looks tired, which is fair. They’re on break from school and it’s fairly early in the morning. At least she smiles when she sees her, which is a good sign. Or maybe not. Alice actually doesn’t know anymore.

“Hey,” she says as she steps aside to let Alice inside. “You’re here early. What’s up?”

“Hi.” She figures greeting back is a good idea. “Uh, yeah. I guess I am. Uhh… I need to talk, I guess?”

Grace’s smile drops a bit and it hurts. It makes it more terrifying. “This is about me abandoning you in the kitchen at New Year’s, isn’t it?”

Alice nods. Then she shakes her head. “I– maybe? Kind of? Yes, but also no?”

“Oh.” Grace bites her lip. “I… Do you want to come with me to my room and talk about it?”

Once again, Alice nods. Then she follows Grace into her room and the two of them get settled on opposite sides of her bed. Alice finds herself sighing deeply before she’s able to talk. “Whatever this thing between us is… we need to end it.”

Alice watches as her best friend since forever, her not at all girlfriend anymore, bites her lip even harder. She doesn’t like the look of it and honestly, it kind of hurts. She wishes things could be different, but at this point she’s pretty sure they can’t, at least not if they want to stay friends for longer than their ‘relationship’ would have lasted. “Why? I like this thing between us. Why does it need to end?”

“Because… Because it hurts. Because it makes me sad and not happy. Because I care about you and don’t want to hurt you, but I also don’t want you to hurt me. Because I don’t like tiptoeing and not knowing where I have us.” She tries to explain to Grace how she feels like it’s difficult to navigate between whether they’re public or they’re not and how the uncertainty of it all makes her uncertain. It’s hard to formulate and she isn’t sure she manages to do it properly, but Grace doesn’t look angry with her so she probably is? She looks upset, but not angry. And she gets it. She’s upset too.

Then she gets around to the other thing about it. “Because… Because Deb asked me out. For several months. And because I want to say yes to that.”

“I… I kind of saw that one coming…” Grace laughs, though it’s more unsure than happy. “I hoped it wasn’t the case, but…. I saw it coming. I’m not… I’m not mad, I’m… It hurts. But I understand. Can we still be friends?”

Alice nods harder than she’s ever nodded before in her entire life. “Of course we can still be friends! I never want to stop being your friend. I love you.”

Grace hugs her. It’s a lot tighter than any other hug she remembers them sharing, but it’s nice, it’s warm and it’s familiar. “I love you too. God, I’m happy we’re still friends.”

 

Deb takes her to an aquarium.

They look at fish, they get snacks in the cafeteria and they even briefly attempt plotting breaking into the aquarium and sleeping under the fish one day, just because they talk about how cool that would be. Then a security guard walks past them and the conversation quickly dies.

It’s a good time. Like, a really good time. Deb doesn’t mind holding her hand and she doesn’t mind talking about the fact that she likes her. It’s strange, but it’s nice. And Alice feels so incredibly happy she’s said yes and that she’s sorted things out with Grace before going, because she’d probably have felt bad for having such a good time with Deb if Grace hadn’t known.

Then they walk past some dolphins and she stops thinking about Grace again. She thinks about dolphins, other cool sea creatures and Deb.

Deb, who’s incredibly nice and chill. Deb, who makes her heart beat a little faster. Deb, who kisses her for the first time in a corner right around the dolphins and makes her feel all sorts of things, all nice.

Chapter Text

By the time February hits, Alice and Deb have been on plenty more dates and they’ve kissed plenty more as well.

Alice is pretty sure her other friends know about them, because they’ve not exactly been subtle. Deb’ll often show up after her classes just to walk her to the next one and she’ll kiss her goodbye at the end of the day and it’s all very nice.

None of them says anything about it, though, but she suspects the fact that she’s recently told Delight about the situation with Grace might have something to do with it. It would not surprise her if Delight’s somehow managed to tell the rest of them not to bring it up.

It also doesn’t really matter, she figures.

 

She brings Deb home on a weekend and the two of them decide to rewatch Spy Kids. The second one, of course, for old time’s sake.

By the time it’s over, Alice is wrapped up in Deb’s arm but Deb still manages to look down on her. “Hey Alice?”

“Mmhm?”

“God, I don’t even know how to ask this without sounding like a total sap. Would you– Do you want to, uh… Girlfriend? You, me, girlfriends? How do we feel about that?”

Alice smiles. Then she nods. Then she kisses Deb. “Yes. We feel yes about that. So many times yes.” Relationships aren’t about sentence structure, Alice decides. They’re about her and they’re about Deb and they’re great.

 

Deb stays over for dinner that evening. “Can I introduce myself as your girlfriend?”

They’ve been saying the word girlfriend a lot over the past few hours and Alice kind of thinks it’s lost its meaning. Not that she cares about that. It’s still very nice to say. She’s never had a girlfriend before and Deb being her first one is great. “Absolutely, yes.”

“Do your parents know you’re a lesbian?”

Alice shrugs. “They’ll find out if they don’t.”

Deb asks her if she’s sure and Alice says that she is. Then they share another quick kiss before going out to join her parents for dinner. Deb introduces herself as Alice’s girlfriend and her parents take it quite well.

Well. They mostly do.

After Deb’s left, they have a talk with her about this whole girlfriend and being a lesbian situation and it goes very well, until her dad brings up the fact that he doesn’t like Deb. She was on her phone and he’s never once seen her in church.

“I like Deb, though, so you’re just going to have to get used to her.”

He comes with a comment that Alice politely decides to ignore. She knows he means well, but she just doesn’t want to listen to him talking about how he thinks she should be dating someone like Grace instead. She’s dating Deb and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Chapter Text

The last weekend of March, Alice throws a party. Her parents are out of town and her eighteenth birthday is coming up, so the party’s a bit bigger than anything she’s done before, but she’s excited and Deb is around to help getting things ready, which she appreciates.

She’s gone back and forth on whether or not she should invite Grace. Things have been alright between them. They haven’t been good, but they haven’t been bad either. It’s just been a little awkward, but Grace has been her friend since forever so Alice ends up inviting her anyway. It’ll only be more awkward if she doesn’t.

Grace arrives while Alice is seated in Deb’s lap and she immediately fears that it’ll be awkward, but it’s not. At least it’s not as awkward as she imagined it would be, but she did imagine the worst so maybe it’s just because it’s nothing near that.

She gets up and she goes to hug Grace and it’s fine. They’re fine. She feels silly for even doubting it was a good idea.

At some point during the night, Alice and Deb decide to go for a walk. It’s dark out by then, but they can’t quite see the stars which sucks a bit but ultimately doesn’t matter. She’s with Deb and that’s nice enough in itself.

Coming back isn’t as nice.

Coming back isn’t as nice, because Grace is making out with someone in her living room. And not just any someone. A girl.

There are other people in the room and she’s making out with a girl and not pulling away or coming up with excuses. And when she finally does pull away, she just smiles until she makes eye contact with Alice. That’s what makes her break up the whole thing. Seeing Alice.

They talk about it. Of course they do, they’re best friends since forever or whatever. They go to Alice’s room and they talk about it. But it’s complicated, just like it’s always been complicated.

It’s great that Grace is able to come to terms with the fact that she likes girls, but Alice is upset – and perhaps unfairly so, but feelings doesn’t always care about what’s fair and what isn’t – that it took her one night with this girl, when she wasn’t able to get to that point with her over several months.

It sucks, because Grace becomes angry with her for saying that. And perhaps fairly so, but feelings still don't care. Grace tells her she shouldn’t care about it, she’s with Deb now, and Alice tells her that she’s right to be angry with her for feeling like this, but that she herself is right to be upset as well.

They stop talking. Not because they’re done, not because they don’t have anything more to say, but because Grace decides to walk out.

And it’s fair, because maybe Alice isn’t being the kindest and maybe it’s a bad idea to discuss this when they’re drunk. They’ll figure it out. Eventually. She doesn’t know if that’s true, but she hopes it is.

She eventually rejoins the party and Deb asks her what happened.

“It’s complicated,” she says. It’s always complicated with Grace. She wants to feel better, but she doesn’t exactly know how to pick herself up. Deb pulls her in for a hug and kisses the top of her head. It makes things a little better. She really hopes that being with Deb continues to be this simple.