Alya came to consciousness slowly, in a fog of darkness, confusion and grogginess. Her head ached, the familiar throbbing of a hangover, but it wasn’t too bad. She hadn’t gotten that drunk the night before, had she?
The night before… the singles day party. Instead of celebrating Valentine's Day, one of the local bars was doing a singles celebration instead. On the promise of getting away from the stupid love hearts and couples doing couple-y things, she and a bunch of other friends had gone there. Max and Kim hadn’t been there like they were originally. After everything that happened, they decided to go back to Kim’s place and nobody had heard a word from them since, except to get a text from Kim in the group chat that was simply a heart emoji. Despite the missing duo, everyone had had a blast drinking the night away, singing songs, spending the little cash they made from their part-time jobs.
Nino had been there.
Alya groaned, burying herself further into the blankets, which smelled…strange. Not bad, in fact they smelled nice. Just different. Maybe it was her hangover making her more sensitive to smell?
She hoped, in her inebriated state, she hadn’t said something stupid to Nino at the bar. It had been hard enough seeing him whilst she’d been sober during school hours. Stupid no-dating pact! It had taken all she’d had not to march up to him, say “forget the pact” and give him the smooch of a lifetime-
The word “smooch” triggered something in her brain. Dark eyes in a dark corner of the bar, soft, nervous laughter, kisses. More giggles. Many kisses.
Oh my god they had kissed! She’s kissed Nino. They’d gotten drunk and broken the pact!
Once the dam had burst, the memories began to spill out quicker than Alya could catch up with. There were more, far more, than she was prepared for. Finding their way back to Nino’s place… a flurry of clothes… it had stopped being funny at that point. And then- and then-
Alya couldn’t breathe.
A low hum reached her ears, a shift in the bed, and an arm was suddenly around her. An arm, she knew, had to be Nino’s.
Without thinking, Alya shot upright, promptly grabbing the blankets and thrusting them up to her chest when she confirmed that she was, in fact, naked as the day she was born. She was naked. In Nino’s weirdly organised-messy room. She was naked- in Nino’s bed...
AND NINO WAS STILL ASLEEP.
“Nino,” she whispered, lightly tapping him. She kept her eyes on his peacefully slumbering face. She would not let them linger lower, and she definitely would not wonder if he was naked too. “Nino wake up.”
“Nyghlfghl,” was the articulate response she received. “Five more minutes.”
“Nino Lahiffe!” Alya said, the pitch in her voice rising to a level just under hysterical, even as she fought to keep her volume down. What if his parents walked in? Oh god. “If you don’t wake up this instant-”
Nino’s eyes opened blearily, he smiled at her. If she weren’t so caught up in their situation, the sweetness of his expression would have caused her to melt. “Oh, mornin’ Alya,” he yawned and began to close his eyes once more…
Only to snap them open wider than Alya had ever seen his eyes go. He bolted up like a shot. “ALYA?!” he spluttered, “What did- how did-”
His spluttering faded into a stunned silence, his eyes darted down to where Alya had herself covered with the blanket and he made a strange strangled sound. Turning away, Nino brought a hand up to cover his mouth. “Did we. Oh man we did, didn’t we?”
“Alcohol is a powerful drug I guess,” Alya replied. For some reason, Nino’s shock was comforting somehow. It made her calm down and think about things logically.
They were silent for a while, caught somewhere between awkwardness and acceptance of the situation they’d landed themselves in. Eventually, Nino sighed and ran a hand through his already messy hair. He kept his eyes off of her but, from the corner of her eye, Alya noticed his hand subconsciously reaching towards her. It stopped just short of her thigh, curling into a fist. “Do you want me to make you a coffee? You can- you know- get changed and stuff. When I’m gone. F-for, privacy.”
“Coffee sounds good thanks,” Alya replied quietly, staring at her lap. On top of her headache, now her entire face was burning. It wasn’t a fun combination.
Nino got out of bed, quickly finding a discarded pair of boxers and robe. “I’ll be right back,” he said.
And then he was gone, leaving Alya to her thoughts.
She flopped backwards, trying to regain a sense of equilibrium in both her mind and body. After sending a few hysterical texts to Marinette, who hadn’t come to the singles night, she began getting dressed.
Until she came across her attire from the night before; a short, strapless dress. Yeah, because that’s what she needed to take the metro home in on a freezing Saturday morning. Last night’s clothes. A walking cliché. That’s what she’d be. Literally.
Not that she felt any shame in sleeping with Nino. Whatever she felt about it, and she was still unsure, shame wasn’t on that list at all. On the contrary it was how cold she’d be. She didn’t have an alcohol jacket protecting her from the bitingly cold air this time around.
It was as she was contemplating this that the door opened and Nino came back with homemade coffee. On instinct, she pulled the dress up against her body.
“Oh sorry,” Nino replied, ducking his head. He froze at the door.
Alya smiled, trying to alleviate the delicate tension in the air. “It’s not like you haven’t seen me naked.”
Nino let out a squeaky laugh. “I guess so,” he replied, walking towards his bedside table, on the other side of the bed to Alya, and setting down the coffee. He sighed. “Alya, we should talk I”- he stopped when her dress caught his eye. “Wait, you wanna go home in that? It’s even colder today than it was yesterday. You’ll freeze.”
She shrugged. “It’s not like this was a planned sleepover, what do want me to do?”
He thought for a moment, before rummaging around the chest of drawers on the side of his bed. Alya stood there, not really knowing what to do. She wasn’t used to feeling so awkward.
“You can borrow these,” he said, placing tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie on the bed between them. “They’ll be big on you, but they’re comfy and warm. Not that I disapprove of that dress. You looked totally hot in it. I just don’t want you to be cold.”
Alya shuffled forwards picking up the hoodie with a smile. Her heart stirred. She remembered kissing him, and wanted to do it again. He was so sweet. “Thanks Nino.”
“No problem,” he replied and sat on the bed with his back to her, sipping his coffee, until she let him know she was dressed. When she sat back on the bed, he handed her coffee to her and she took a blessed sip. He remembered how she liked it. Milk and bit of sugar.
She liked being in his clothes. It made her feel safe somehow- like something colossal had shifted in their relationship. But it was ok because he was still there for her like he’d always been before. It just meant more now.
“Are you ok?” Nino asked after a moment of genuinely comforting silence between them. It was so natural, like this is what they should have been doing all along, that Alya had to double take at the question. When she shot a confused look Nino’s way, he elaborated, “It’s just- I know that girls can hurt after…you know. I- I don’t know if it was your first time. I mean it was my first time and I know we had a pact but I don’t own you or anything and I”-
“Nino, honey, breathe,” Alya interrupted him, gently placing her hand on his and giving it a squeeze. “It was my first time too.”
He looked at her then, and Alya saw the same shift reflected in his eyes that she herself felt in her heart. Reality settled in that moment, locked them together. Alya had heard jokes in the past, of chains and being locked down. But it wasn’t like that. Not with Nino. Instead, it felt like an unbreakable ribbon, tying them together, holding them in a place they had no intention of leaving.
Nino smiled shyly. She returned the gesture. He began to stroke the back of her hand with his thumb.
“What I was going to say is that, I know girls can hurt afterwards. Do you… are you ok? Do you need anything? A hot water bottle? Some painkillers? Let me know, okay?”
Alya couldn’t help herself. Grabbing the lapels of his robe, she pulled him down into a loving, passionate kiss, throwing all of her feelings into the gesture. All the frustration, the years of pining, the overwhelming feelings of love. All of it went into the simple gesture that lasted mere seconds before she was pulling away and blurting out. “I don’t want any of that. I want you. I want you, Nino. Screw the pact, screw not dating until we’ve passed our exams, screw love being a distraction. It was a distraction anyway. The pact is dumb and we were dumb for setting it up in the first place.”
“You’re not dumb,” he replied instantly, eyes dazed from both the kiss and the confession.
Alya’s mouth dropped open. “That’s what you took from that?!”
“I’m not as quick as you, okay? I need time to process,” he stared into his coffee cup, and stuck his finger in it before taking it out with a hiss of pain. “OW. Yeah okay not a dream.”
“What on earth are you doing?” Alya asked, crossing her arms over her chest with a frown.
“The girl of my dreams woke up in my bed, confessed to me and kissed me,” he explained. “I’m just checking it’s real.”
The frown disappeared from Alya’s face as quickly as it had formed there. Honestly. She was in love with such a hopeless sweetheart. Shuffling closer, she rested her head on his shoulder. “Silly, of course it’s real.”
He rested his head on top of hers. “Then, I guess, can I take you on a date? Like a real date. Because I’d really like to see you naked when I’m sober.”
Alya burst out laughing. “Yeah, I bet you would, and who says I’d sleep with you on the first date?” she said in mock offense, puffing out her chest and placing a hand on her heart. “Apparently, I only sleep with guys before the first date.”
Nino chuckled. “Well it worked out, didn’t it?”
Alya dropped the act. “Yeah. Yeah I’ll say it did.”
“Good. Cause I… I really want you too. Not just for this”- he gestured to the messy, unmade bed, “-but because I- I love you Alya. I have for so long now. All I want is to be with you, make you happy, hold you when you’re sad, eat ice cream and watch dumb movies with you. All of that cheesy stuff and more. Forever.”
Alya was certain that it’d take a week to wipe the stupidly large grin from her face, and that she’d look like an idiot during that whole time. But she didn’t care. She was far too happy to care.
“I love you too,” she said, kissing his cheek. “And I’d love to go on a date with you.” She paused. “But first, I think I need to figure out a way out of your house without your parents seeing me. I am not ready for that conversation.”
“Yeah you’re right,” Nino agreed with a shudder. “They weren’t in the kitchen when I made coffee so maybe they’re still in bed.”
As if on cue, Nino’s mother bellowed up the stairs “NINO, COME AND GET BREAKFAST! YOU’LL NEED SOMETHING TO SETTLE THAT HANGOVER.”
Followed by Nino’s father adding, “TELL ALYA SHE CAN HAVE SOME TOO.”
Well. That solved that problem then.
The pair looked at each other, caught somewhere between amusement, horror, and mortification. After a brief pause, Alya shrugged, got up, and offered a hand to Nino. He grinned, accepting her hand and not letting go as they made their way down to the kitchen together.
Sure, it might have been an awkward situation. But they were safe now, in the knowledge that they had each other to get themselves through it.
And that was worth all of the cringey parental teasing in the world.