Veera’s phone buzzed in her pocket. She pulled it out, screen lit up with a message from Alison.
She turned to her left, smiling at the sight of Krystal in the driver seat, bopping and singing along to the bubbly pop song blaring from the car speakers.
“Alison wants to know when I’m getting there.”
“‘Cuz baby,” Krystal sang, then pointed over to Veera expectantly.
“Baby?” Veera repeated, and miraculously just in time with the lyrics. Krystal grinned and nodded emphatically, drumming her palms against the steering wheel as the chorus kicked into gear.
“Did you hear me?”
“Mhm,” Krystal hummed. “Tell her to relax, we’re almost there. Five minutes, tops.”
Veera pulled up the keyboard and fired off a quick message.
“I notice she didn’t text me,” Krystal pouted.
“I think she expects you to be late.”
“It’s called fashionably late, okay?” Krystal huffed. “Always make it seem like you’re doing them a favor by even showing up.”
Veera raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, okay,” Krystal conceded. “Bad habit, I know.”
“You seem excited,” Veera couldn’t help but notice. The smile hadn’t dropped from Krystal’s face in over an hour.
“Well, yeah,” Krystal said, grinning even wider. “You think they’re gonna freak?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know,” Krystal said, eyes flitting between Veera and the road. “When we tell them.”
“Tell them… what?” Veera asked cautiously. Surely, Krystal couldn’t be suggesting what it sounded like she was suggesting.
“About us!” Krystal yelled, like it was obvious. Oh, okay. Krystal had lost her mind.
“What?!” Veera said, her heartbeat instantly doubling in speed. “No! We can’t tell them. We didn’t talk about this.”
Krystal, brow furrowed, reached over and shut off the music, stranding them in the tense silence.
“I thought it was obvious,” she said. “It’s the first time seeing everyone since we hooked up.”
“Why do you think I asked you to drop me off down the street?”
“I dunno, I thought you wanted to pick up some rosé or something. I dunno!”
“I don’t understand why you’d think I’d want to tell them.”
“I don’t get why you think I wouldn’t.”
Veera turned away, watching the near-identical houses of Bailey Downs fly by the window. The silence was uncomfortable now, a feeling she’d become painfully familiar with over the years. But it wasn’t supposed to happen with Krystal.
They turned back to each other, the same pained look in their eyes.
“I’m sorry,” they both blurted out.
“No, I got too excited, I wanted to show you off to everyone--”
“I don’t want to hold you back--”
“--you know, make everyone jealous. I should’ve thought about how you’d feel--”
“--just because I don’t know how to handle uncomfortable situations--”
“Okay!” Krystal exclaimed, holding a finger up. “Compromise. We’re not gonna tell them tonight. We’ll tell them when we’re both ready to tell them.”
The knot in Veera’s chest evaporated in an instant.
“But I’m not dropping you off down the street, okay? We show up together.”
“Okay,” Veera said and made a conscious effort not to ask how they were going to explain that. She would just trust Krystal knew what she was doing. “Is that it?”
“No,” Krystal replied, and pulled the car to a stop in the shade of a particularly thick tree.
“Oh, Alison’s house is a few blocks down,” Veera said, confused.
“Yeah, so, if we can’t be a couple in there…”
Veera heard the click of the buckle and Krystal’s seat belt whirring back into place, then felt a firm hand on her thigh. She could make out the shape of Krystal in the dark, leaning over her, back arched downward like a jungle cat.
“I wanna make out first,” she purred.
“We’re already ten minutes late,” she said, but couldn’t manage to put much feeling behind it.
Veera’s seat fell back as Krystal pulled at the lever on the side.
“That didn’t sound like a no.”
They were twenty-five minutes late by the time Krystal rang the doorbell, an amount of time Veera wasn’t sure even fit into the “fashionably late” window. Alison nevertheless answered the door with a wide smile.
“Hello, Veera,” she said sweetly. “Oh, and Krystal! Did you two come together?”
Krystal stifled a laugh, managed to play it off as a throat clear.
“Veera was helping me with my computer,” she said, looking over to Veera for confirmation. Veera nodded.
“I basically had to gut the whole thing. A lot of outdated parts.”
She wasn’t sure she sounded convincing but told herself it was at least more believable than the truth.
“Well,” Alison said. “We’re a family of many talents, aren’t we?”
“Yeah,” Krystal said, grinning. “Veera’s very good with her fingers.” Oh no.
“Sorry we’re late,” Veera blurted.
“Oh, it’s no trouble at all. We haven’t even started eating yet. Donnie just had to try and impress everyone. Honestly, he takes one cooking class, and he thinks he’s Wolfgang Puck. He forgot to turn the oven on, can you believe that?”
Krystal and Veera shared a furtive look.
“Well,” Alison continued. “He went out for pizza, so it shouldn’t be too long now. Anyhoo, where are my manners? Come in, come in.”
She backed away and extended an arm out to let them through. Krystal stepped in first, then Veera.
“There’s plenty to drink, at least. Assuming Sarah hasn’t gone through it all yet.”
“Oi, pretty cheeky comin’ from you,” Sarah said, rising to her feet from the living room couch, beer in hand, appropriately enough. She sauntered over to the group, Helena following close behind her. “What’m I meant to say to that, ey?”
Alison shrugged, smirking and turning away.
“If you’ll excuse me, ladies,” she said. “Drinks are in the kitchen. Please help yourselves.”
Alison headed off somewhere, leaving the other four to exchange pleasantries. Veera maintained what she told herself was a normal physical distance from Krystal, about a meter or so. Was a meter too much? What was she doing with her hands? Dangling at her sides; was that normal? What did people usually do with their hands when not secretly dating their clone?
“Okay, I just wanna say, Sarah,” Krystal buzzed, shaking Veera out of her moment of panic. She realized she hadn’t heard a word anyone had said in the last thirty seconds. “I know we got off on the wrong foot or whatever, but I’m just like, so happy we got through all that ugliness, you know? Clones! I totally see it now. I mean, a little. Anyway, I’m so sorry for calling you a seven. If we’re being honest, we’re all at least nines, right? Like, baseline nine.”
“Cheers, Krystal,” Sarah said, laughing jovially. “Honestly, forget it. Been called so much worse.”
“Aww!” Krystal squealed, pulling Sarah into a tight hug, who shot Veera a panicked look over her shoulder. “‘Cheers!’ That’s so cute, I love it! Seriously, I hope we can be like, what do you call them? ‘Bezzie mates’?”
“Never called ‘em that in my life. But sure, Krystal. I’d like that.”
Sarah patted at Krystal’s back, which Veera recognized as a signal to wrap up the hug.
“And this one!” Krystal screamed, finally releasing Sarah only to move on to Helena.
“Krystal, hello. I like the way your hair smells.”
“Aw, babe, you’re the sweetest!” Krystal pulled back, hands locked on Helena’s shoulders. “I’ll bring you some shampoo next time. I get like, crazy discounts.”
She ran her eyes along Helena’s hair.
“Maybe some conditioner while we’re at it.”
“What is this conditioner?”
“God,” Krystal said disbelievingly, turning her head between the three. “We’re all so different, huh?”
Finally, she released Helena’s shoulders, stepping back toward the hallway.
“Anyway,” she said. “Gonna see about these drinks.”
She turned with a wave to Sarah and Helena, adding a little flourish of her fingers and sly smile to Veera’s, then bounced off to the kitchen.
“She’s in a good mood, ey?” Sarah said, nudging Veera’s shoulder playfully. “What’d you do to her?”
“What? I didn’t…” Veera paused, clearing the shakiness out of her voice. “I didn’t do anything.”
“You are well, lamb sestra?” Helena asked.
“Yes,” Veera chirped, happy to move on. “Thank you, I’m--”
She stopped short as Helena reached forward, swiping at the corner of Veera’s mouth with her index finger.
“Hey,” Sarah said, swatting at Helena’s arm. “You can’t just touch people’s faces without askin’.”
“Sorry,” Helena said, bowing her head sheepishly. “There was something.”
She brought her finger up, and Veera recognized with horror the pink smudge of Krystal’s lip gloss. She’d been in such a hurry that she neglected to check for it, even though this was what happened every single time.
“Candy,” she said in a panic. “I had some candy.”
It seemed like a good enough lie for about a second, until she watched, wincing, as Helena popped her finger into her mouth.
“Gross, meathead,” Sarah said, shaking her head.
“Yes,” Helena agreed, sticking her tongue out in disgust. “I do not like this candy.”
Veera and Sarah watched on as Helena wrestled with the taste in her mouth, face scrunching in discomfort.
“Finnish candy,” Veera said after a moment. “It’s not to everyone’s taste.”
“Right,” Sarah said, brow wrinkled in confusion. “Anyway, glad you showed up. I know this can all be a bit overwhelmin’.”
“Yes,” Veera agreed. She remembered the last dinner party and how she’d had to excuse herself from the table, spending the next twenty-or-so minutes curled up on the kitchen floor alone. Learning to be a part of a family after over a decade of isolation wasn’t without its challenges. “I’m glad I came too.”
She smiled and found she genuinely meant it. She could finally say she was in a good place.
“Well, you look good, Mika. Happy.” Sarah said, smiling back. “Guess you and Krystal must’ve rubbed off on each other.”
Veera sputtered, choking on air.
“I’m fine,” Veera said, pulling herself together. “Sorry. Dry throat. I’m going to get a drink, can I get anyone anything?”
“Beer, please,” Helena said. “This taste…”
Veera nodded apologetically, then turned to Sarah.
“I’m good,” Sarah said, raising her bottle. “Don’t need the judgment from Alison anyway.”
As Veera made her way into the kitchen, she heard the sound of animated laughter echoing through the hall and realized she recognized it as Cosima’s. They really were all different.
She spotted her as she entered, clutching Felix’s arm, doubled over with laughter. Between them: Krystal, having made herself very comfortable on the kitchen counter with a glass of white wine.
“Veera!” Cosima shouted, trying to contain herself. “Hey!”
She glided over and draped her arms around Veera.
“How are you, my darling?” Felix asked.
“Good, thank you.”
Cosima pulled away, smiling brightly.
“You look good,” she said, echoing Sarah. “Love the hair.”
Krystal had been the one to even out her bangs, and even though it was a small thing, it hurt not to be able to give her credit.
“Thanks,” she said simply. Krystal, sipping from her glass, flashed her a quick wink. “What were you talking about?”
“Nightmare dates,” Cosima said. “Felix’s is the worst I’ve ever heard.”
“I still shagged him.”
“What?!” Cosima screamed, devolving once again into hysterics. Krystal pressed a hand to her lips, struggling to keep the wine in her mouth.
“Yeah, so what? I was young and desperate, alright?”
“And now you’re just desperate?” Krystal shot back.
“Oooof,” Cosima groaned, wincing dramatically and extending her hand for a high-five, which Krystal delivered.
“How dare you?” Felix asked, mock-offended. “I’m the youngest one here. Cheeky bitch.”
Veera felt a little out of her element, but couldn’t help but smile seeing the ease with which Krystal had slipped into a familiar rhythm with the group.
“What about you, Veera?” she asked, twirling a finger through her hair. “I bet you get all the cute boys.”
Veera felt her face heat up as everyone’s attention turned to her.
“No,” she said softly, and couldn’t keep her lip from quirking upward at the sight of Krystal’s mischievous smile. “No boys.”
“Oh?” Felix asked, pouncing on her moment of weakness. “That look on your face says otherwise.”
Krystal’s mouth dropped open in “surprise”.
“Get it, girl! Is it serious?”
“Hey,” Cosima interrupted before Krystal’s game could play out any further. “What is this, middle school?”
“Yeah, well,” Felix started. “I’ve become somewhat used to a life of conspiracy and intrigue, and I’m afraid this is about as close as I can get these days.”
Cosima chuckled, throwing Veera a sympathetic look.
“What he means is he’s happy for you. Krystal too.”
Krystal threw her hands up in innocence.
“Okay,” Cosima sighed, checking her phone. “This is getting crazy now. I’m going for a quick smoke. You guys want to... partake?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Felix said.
Krystal and Veera exchanged glances, sensing an opportunity to be alone for a moment.
“I’m good for now.”
“No, thank you.”
“Cool,” Cosima said, nodding. “Alright, we have to grab Alison first.”
“Alison?” Felix asked, stunned. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, dude. She’s in the middle of her --what’d she call it?-- “reawakening”. So far, it’s been a lot of pot and electronic music, but you know, she’s figuring it out. We have to let her figure it out.”
“Lord, the music, don’t remind me. I’ll never understand suburbanites.”
“Hey,” Cosima said, pointing an accusatory finger at Krystal. “Don’t probe Veera too hard.”
Krystal giggled into her glass, casting a somewhat unsettling echo around the room.
“Don’t know if I can promise that.”
On her way out, Cosima lay a hand on Veera’s shoulder.
“Come chill with us if she gives you a hard time, okay?”
“I’ll be fine, thank you,” Veera said, slipping into a smirk. “She doesn’t scare me.”
Krystal raised her eyebrows dramatically. Cosima offered a kind laugh before slipping out of the room with Felix.
Veera and Krystal listened for a moment as their voices faded off into the distance and then went silent. Krystal smiled down at her from her perch on the kitchen counter and curled a finger back toward herself, coaxing Veera forward. Veera, as usual, was powerless to resist. She approached, slowly, cautiously, and watched as Krystal’s legs parted, providing a space for her to settle. Digging deep, Veera shifted instead to her side, a position much easier to explain away if someone were to walk in. With a disappointed sigh, Krystal threw one leg back over the other.
“You’re not mad, are you?” she asked, concerned.
“I’m not mad,” Veera said, flashing a reassuring smile. “I’m glad you’re having a good time. I’m realizing I haven’t seen you with other people very often.”
“Is it weird?”
“Maybe a little. I guess I didn’t think about how you might be the same way around everyone.”
“Oh?” Krystal said, eyebrows raising. “What way is that?”
“You know, um…” Veera wasn’t entirely sure where she was going with this or what name to put to the feeling currently taking hold in her chest. “Like you were with me at the salon.”
Krystal smiled like she had everything figured out.
“Did you notice how Cosima kept staring at my tits?”
Veera frowned, just managing to catch herself from looking.
“Kidding!” Krystal exclaimed, amused. “Oh my god, you’re totally jealous!”
Jealous! That was it! ...Oh no, she was jealous?
“I’m not,” Veera lied.
“Babe,” Krystal said, laying a hand gently on Veera’s wrist. “You know I only have eyes for you, right? My slippery little sheep?”
Veera tried to fight the heat rising to her cheeks.
“I should be the jealous one. Didn’t you hear her?”
Krystal cleared her throat, slipping into an utterly bizarre imitation of a southern California accent.
“Dude, Veera, you look sooo good. Your hair is, like, totally killer. You wanna come get high and suck face in the back--”
She paused mid-sentence, wide-eyed, throwing a hand over her mouth in shock.
“Oh shit, I am jealous!”
Veera couldn’t contain herself, small squeaky giggles pushing through her lips.
“That was a terrible impression,” she said.
“What?!” Krystal screamed, offended. “You’re such a liar.”
“It was really bad.”
Veera only laughed harder as Krystal kicked at her legs, very nearly slipping off the counter with the effort. Eventually, she settled, letting out a sigh as she leaned back and surveyed the room.
“This kitchen bringing back memories?” she asked.
It was, after all, the room where the two of them had met. It felt like an eternity ago, even if, in reality, it had only been a few months. These days, Veera found it hard to remember a time before Krystal. Or maybe she just didn’t want to.
“I don’t know if I ever told you how happy you made me that night,” Krystal said. She sounded nostalgic. “It was weird. I always kinda lived my life like an open book. Everyone who knew me would be like, “oh yeah, Krystal, she wears her heart on her sleeve.” I didn’t have anyone to talk to, so I just talked to everyone, y’know? I thought that was right for me. Like, I thought that was me being true to myself. But I didn’t realize that they never really understood me, not like how I wanted. I told myself they did, but it was like, no matter how many people I poured my heart out to, I was still all… tangled up inside, if that makes sense. And I started to think, is there something wrong with me? Anyway, I dunno if it’s because we’re clones or whatever, but I had this feeling when I saw you, like maybe you’d be the one who finally got me. And I know it was a small thing, but when you said what you said to me, it was like, oh shit, this is what I was missing. So what you said in the car about not wanting to hold me back… it’s totally the opposite. I was holding myself back, and I guess you kinda set me free.”
They caught each other’s eyes for a moment, both blinking back tears, before Krystal bashfully turned to the wine glass in her lap.
“I don’t really know what I’m saying,” she said, and Veera was stunned to see her picking at her immaculate nails. “I talk too much when I’ve been drinking, huh?”
Veera took a quick glance over her shoulder to confirm the coast was clear, then leaned over, laying the side of her head against Krystal’s arm. After a second or two, she felt Krystal’s fingers begin carding gently through her hair. She closed her eyes and, just for a moment, allowed herself to forget where she was.
“I hope you know how much you’ve done for me,” Veera said. There was still a panicked feeling in her stomach every time she let her walls come down, but it was becoming easier to ignore over time. “I feel like I can do anything when I’m with you.”
She swallowed, considering the ramifications of what she was about to say.
“Even telling them about us. If that’s what you want.”
Krystal’s fingers slipped out of Veera’s hair and down to her chin, pulling her face upward. She opened her eyes to the sight of Krystal’s glittering smile.
Veera nodded quickly before she could change her mind. Krystal leaned forward, pressing a kiss to her forehead that sent tingles skittering across her skin.
“Let’s wait a little more, ‘kay? I don’t want you to do it just for me.”
“Okay,” Veera agreed. Part of her was relieved; part of her just wanted to get it over with.
“Besides,” Krystal said, smile shifting into a cheeky grin. “It’s kinda fun, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, you know, like, “Oh, hey, Veera! It’s Veera, right? How you been, girl? It’s been so long since we all got together like this, and it’s not like I’ve totally seen you naked a buncha times since then!”
Veera blushed furiously, instinctively whipping her head around to check for anyone hiding in the shadows.
“It’s kinda like,” Krystal continued, finding and curling a finger into the collar of Veera’s shirt. “Our… dirty little secret.”
Veera raised her head nervously. Krystal’s expression had changed, eyes half-closed, bottom lip pulled between her teeth. Veera recognized the look a second later, but it was half a second too late, as Krystal had already managed to snake her legs around Veera’s waist, pulling herself off the counter, lips crashing into Veera’s. As Krystal lost herself in the kiss, Veera fought to maintain her balance, stumbling backwards until she knocked against something soft. Soft and sort of… human-shaped.
“Shit!” Krystal shrieked, and very quickly jumped to the floor, pulling the bottom of her dress down. “H-hey, Helena!”
Veera very slowly turned around, hoping against hope there would be no one there. But there she was: Helena, mouth pulled up at one side.
“We were just, um…” Krystal continued, face contorting in thought. “Well, it’s kinda embarrassing, but I always drink too much at parties. Like, ask any of my girlfriends, they’ll tell you stories. So yeah, I, uh... I was on the counter, right? Sitting on the counter over there? And I’m just so wasted that I just kinda fell, just fell right off. Luckily, Vee was here-- I mean, Veera. Veera was here, and she caught me. And, um... yeah! She caught me. So, if it looked like… well, I dunno what it looked like, but that’s what happened. Kinda crazy, huh?”
Helena listened silently, the amused smirk never falling from her face. Veera, realizing why she was here, popped open the fridge, picked up the beer she’d promised, and handed it over.
“Please don’t tell anyone.”
“Don’t worry,” Helena said, smirk widening. “I will keep your dirty little secret.”
She reached out and again swiped at the corner of Veera’s mouth, coating her finger pink, then turned and headed back to the living room.
“Candy,” she mumbled, laughing to herself.
“Oh my god,” Krystal squeaked. Veera turned back to her and saw her hands clasped over her mouth, about ready to cry. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
“It’s okay,” Veera said. To her surprise, she meant it. To her even greater surprise, she was able to laugh about it. “It was kind of funny.”
“Yeah?” Krystal asked and let out a squeaky little giggle of her own. “You think she bought it?”
“What?” Veera asked, honestly wondering if they’d just experienced two different realities. “Definitely not.”
“Wait, seriously?” Krystal looked uncharacteristically panicked. “She knows?”
“Food’s here!” came the call from the front, and the two had to cut their conversation short as Cosima and Felix entered the kitchen through the back door, a very giggly Alison following closely behind them.
“So this is where you two were hiding!” she buzzed.
“We weren’t hiding!” Krystal snapped, defensive. Alison froze in her tracks, stunned.
“Sorry,” Krystal added hastily, then tipped the remaining contents of her glass down her throat. “There’s more wine, right?”
“Of course,” Alison said, gesturing to the dining room. “Help yourself.”
Krystal nodded and stumbled her way through the small crowd, avoiding Veera’s gaze like she was scared it would turn her to stone.
“What’s gotten into her?” Alison asked Veera.
“I’m honestly not sure.”
Thanks in no small part to the wine, Krystal seemed to eventually settle, despite the knowing looks that Helena kept throwing the two of them. The fact that she was sitting directly opposite Veera and directly to Krystal’s left made them particularly hard to ignore. Currently, she was chuckling at the unbreakable strand of cheese stretching between Krystal’s slice of pizza and her mouth.
“So, Krystal,” Alison started. Part of being a good host appeared to be finding a new topic whenever there happened to be a lull in the conversation.
“Mm?” With some relief, she finally managed to snap the cheese loose.
“How are things at the salon?”
“Mm!” Krystal swallowed the pizza in her mouth, playfully shoving a tittering Helena. “So good! I mean, let’s be real, winter is usually pretty slow, but like, after Lady Gaga’s Grammy performance?”
She scanned the table, a series of blank stares, including Veera, who had to pretend Krystal hadn’t sat her down to watch it. (Moderately entertaining, vastly improved by Krystal’s commentary.)
“She had these nails… Anyway, whatever, the point is we’re getting a ton of business. I swear, that woman has like, single-handedly kept that place running. We should put up a plaque or something.”
“Happy to hear it,” Alison chirped.
“So when are you gonna come in?” Krystal asked. “I’m a little hurt it’s only been, um… Cosima, so far. Oh, and Felix, but that was just to steal my identity, huh?”
“I still feel awful about that,” he groaned.
“Oh,” Cosima said, wrinkling her eyebrows. “When I came in, you said you’d already done Veera’s nails.”
Krystal flashed Veera a look of panic.
“Helena,” Veera said, looking away. “Could you, um, please pass the mozzarella sticks?”
Helena nodded happily, grabbing two of her own before handing the container over.
“Right! Veera!” Krystal exclaimed. “I forgot that I… mentioned that. Totally blanked.”
“It’s okay,” Veera said quietly. “I’m used to it.”
Okay, that wasn’t entirely fair. Krystal frowned. It made Veera’s heart hurt.
“Y’got your nails done, Mika?” Sarah asked, a disbelieving smirk on her face.
“I was in the area,” she replied. Not a lie. “Krystal’s very talented.”
“Aww!” Krystal smiled in that way where Veera could see the crinkles around her eyes and those sharp little canines she always tried to hide. Jumalauta. “Thanks, ba-- Thanks!”
“Yeah,” Cosima agreed, thankfully not noticing the slip-up. “Gotta be honest, I was a little skeptical. It’s just not really my scene, right? But yeah, she totally figured out what would work for me.”
“I’m telling you,” Krystal said proudly. “People think it’s just for, y’know, Real Housewives or whatever, but the truth is if you feel good on the outside, you feel good on the inside. And that goes for anyone. Even husky masseur over there.”
Donnie pointed to himself, making some sort of questioning grunt through a full mouth.
“Oh, you’d have your work cut out for you with Donnie,” Alison chuckled. “Those nails are like slabs of granite. I’ve never seen anything like it. Aside from his mother, of course.”
“Please, I’ve seen everything. This woman, Marie, she comes in once a week, and every time, she’s got these crazy, like, Slitheen-looking nails, and it’s, um… yeah, it’s crazy. Anyway.”
Krystal turned away, hiding her face behind her wine glass, but it seemed the damage was done.
“Sorry, ‘Slitheen’?” Alison asked.
“If I’m not mistaken,” Cosma said, smirking like crazy. “I believe Krystal Goderitch just made a Doctor Who reference.”
“Yeah, so?” Krystal shot back, defensive. “Whatever, who cares?”
“Holy shit,” Cosima laughed. “You’re a nerd!”
“Or shaggin’ one,” Sarah offered.
Veera cleared her throat.
“Helena, could you please pass the marinara sauce?”
After Veera pointed to the appropriate container, Helena obliged.
“It is not so surprising,” Helena said, kindly trying to preserve their secret. “I also know about this Doctor Hoop.”
“Nah,” Sarah said, scanning Krystal’s blushing face. “Definitely shaggin’ one.”
“Oh god,” Cosima groaned, covering her mouth dramatically. “It’s not Scotty, is it?”
“What?” Krystal asked, stunned. “No! And what happened to not probing anyway?”
“Thought you could use a taste of your own medicine.”
“Well, too bad, ‘cuz I promised I wouldn’t say anything. It’s too, um… scandalous.”
She ended the sentence with a small, scared little whimper that Veera knew meant she realized she was saying too much and that she was powerless to stop herself. Veera badly wanted to reach over and take her hand.
“Well, color me intrigued,” Felix said.
“Alright, alright,” Sarah said. “That’s enough, yeah? She’s embarrassed.”
“Sorry, Krystal,” Cosima said. “Honestly, I just hope it’s good. You deserve it.”
“Yeah,” Krystal said, smiling wide. Her foot brushed against Veera’s under the table. “Yeah, it’s really good.”
Veera cast her eyes around the table, to the kind smile on everyone’s face. They were all happy for Krystal, and none seemed happier than Helena, now very blatantly staring at Veera like she’d stepped out of a fairy tale. And in that moment, she wasn’t scared anymore. Suddenly, it was stifling, pretending like Krystal wasn’t a part of her life.
Before she realized what she was doing, she’d risen to her feet.
“I want to say something.”
Everyone turned to Veera, curious. Helena’s eyes widened with excitement. Krystal threw her hands over her mouth as she realized what was happening.
“I’m ready,” Veera whispered to her.
Krystal swallowed, nodded, and stood on shaky legs.
“Krystal and I… we’re, um, seeing each other. Dating.”
She wished it had come out better, but that was the cost of being spontaneous, she supposed.
Krystal was picking at her nails again, a common habit of Veera’s, but it looked horribly wrong on Krystal. Veera reached across the table and took her shaking hand. This wasn’t exactly the reaction she’d expected from Krystal who, just an hour ago, had been bursting with excitement at the idea of telling everyone. Now, she looked very much like a scared little girl with a serious case of stage fright. Another reaction she hadn’t expected was the one she was currently getting from the rest of the table, which is to say: no reaction at all. A group of blank faces frozen in time. Finally, after several agonizing seconds, Sarah spoke.
“Yeah,” Krystal said, and it sounded like there was more she wanted to say, but she swallowed it instead, looking to Veera with pleading eyes. Veera could only shake her head in response. What else was she meant to say beyond that simple statement of fact?
“It’s true,” Helena added. “I saw them in the kitchen.”
It allowed Veera and Krystal a couple of seconds of respite during which everyone’s eyes were on Helena instead, but their silent stares quickly returned. One look from Krystal was all it would take. One quick motion to the door. They could run away and never look back. Maybe that would be the best option.
“Well,” Felix said. Krystal’s hand tightened around Veera’s. “It’s about bloody time.”
Krystal laughed, a small thing that seemed to carry with it every worry she’d been holding in.
“What?” Sarah asked with a smirk, the tension now broken. “Y’had your eye on these two?”
“Well, no. Not these two specifically. But it seemed inevitable, yeah? A clone-clone romance? Be honest, which one of you hasn’t thought about it?”
The others looked around nervously at each other. No one objected.
“Honey?” Donnie said, stunned.
“Well,” Alison said, clearing her throat. “That aside, it’s just a little unexpected. If it were going to be anyone, I would think…”
Alison drifted off, seeming to reconsider as she felt the weight of everyone’s eyes on her, waiting on the end of that sentence.
“Yeah,” Krystal said, finding her voice again. “I don’t think either of us expected it. But now I just can’t imagine it happening any other way.”
Krystal smiled shyly, blushing even harder than she had on their first date. Veera’s heart flipped over itself.
“Now you kiss!” Helena shouted, stars in her eyes.
“Oh, um…” Veera stammered. “I don’t really think it’s a good time for that.”
“Donnie,” Alison said. “Stop gawking, and bring out the dessert please.”
Donnie quickly stood up and made for the kitchen.
“I wasn’t gawking,” he grumbled.
“Mazel tov,” he added awkwardly as he dipped out of sight.
“Well, I think it’s wonderful,” Alison said.
Veera and Krystal looked at each other, eyebrows raised.
“Yes! Life’s too short. If you find something that makes you happy, you just have to grab it by the short and curlies and, and suck the marrow right out of it!”
“Oh,” Krystal said. “...Thanks?”
“Confusing and... oddly graphic metaphor aside, I agree,” Felix said.
“Yeah,” Cosima added. “I just wanna say that I’m happy for you guys and leave it there, even though the scientist in me is dying to ask you a shitload of questions. I mean, you two are like, sexual pioneers!”
Veera looked down to her plate, blushing.
“Please stop mentioning… sex. That’s not what this is about.”
“Weeelll,” Krystal chirped. “That’s not all it’s about.”
Veera suddenly regretted having left her sheep mask at home.
“Never seen either of you so happy,” Sarah said, smiling fondly. “So siddown and stop being so dramatic, yeah? It’s all good.”
Veera and Krystal nodded gratefully and sat. Veera sank into her chair, finally allowing the relief to wash over her. Everything was okay.
“So,” Sarah said, turning to Helena with a smirk. “You saw ‘em in the kitchen?”
“Yes,” Helena said, pulling out a smirk of her own. “Much kissing.”
“Helena, could you please pass the--”
“What, like, proper snoggin’?”
Helena nodded, demonstrating by closing her eyes and wriggling her tongue around the outside of her mouth with a series of lewd sloshing and smacking sounds. The others at the table laughed, everyone but Sarah at least making an attempt to stifle it.
“That’s not exactly what it was like,” Veera said, face on fire now.
“Yeah, it was all me,” Krystal added, defensive. “Veera knows I get super horny when I drink.”
Veera slipped farther down in her chair, wondering if anyone would mind if she disappeared under the table.
Eventually, the topic of conversation shifted to other things: Cosima’s studies, Sarah’s new job, Alison’s music, Helena’s experiments with macramé. Veera and Krystal’s relationship became something in the background, something known, something that just… was. It became like anything else, something to reference in casual asides.
“She always like this?” Sarah had asked Veera.
“Veera’s very perceptive, isn’t she?” Alison had asked Krystal.
It was all so normal. Shockingly, wonderfully normal. When it became time to leave, Veera found she couldn’t wait until they could all get together again.
“So, hey, weird question,” Cosima said as the three of them hovered near the front door. “Thursdays at our place have kinda become like, Star Trek nights. We’re working our way through The Next Generation right now. Charlotte gets pretty into it, but I think Delphine mostly just tolerates it. So yeah, I think she’d love having other people around, and I know Charlotte would wanna see you guys, and now that I know Krystal’s a huge nerd--”
“Yes!” Veera interrupted, dizzy with excitement. She turned to Krystal sheepishly. “I mean, if you want to.”
“Mhm,” Krystal hummed, smiling. She reached out and lightly brushed Veera’s cheek with the back of her hand. “I want to.”
“Holy shit,” Cosima said, drawing their attention back. “I totally ship you guys.”
“What’s that mean?” Krystal asked. “Is that good?”
“She thinks we’re cute,” Veera explained.
“Oh,” Krystal said, grinning. “Well, duh.”
Krystal tossed her car keys over to Veera as they made their way down to the sidewalk. Veera breathed in deep as she walked. She hadn’t realized it until just now, but tonight was a really nice night. She popped open the passenger side door and moved aside.
“Ooh,” Krystal cooed. “Such a gentleman.”
She moved closer to Veera instead, draping her arms around her neck and resting her head on her shoulder. She sighed deeply, contentedly.
“I guess I should open doors for you more often,” Veera said. Only when she heard Krystal sniffle did she realize she was crying.
“Nothing,” Krystal said, laughing happily. “They approve.”
Veera felt like it still hadn’t totally sunk in.
“I got really scared,” Krystal whispered. “It didn’t really hit me until we were in there, what it would be like to tell them. I just started to think, what if they freak out? What if they think it’s weird? I dunno. I was worried maybe you’d leave me.”
Veera was stunned. She found it so absurd, the idea that she would ever be the one to leave. She’d never imagined Krystal would even consider the possibility.
“I wouldn’t,” Veera said. “I would never.”
“Yeah,” Krystal said. She brushed the tears away from her cheeks. “Yeah, I know.”
Now that Veera knew it was there, she could hear the uncertainty in Krystal’s voice.
She reached back behind her shoulder and took Krystal’s hand, placing their palms against each other. She desperately hoped Krystal would get the message.
Krystal’s arm tightened around her, pulling herself closer.
It had been the first sleepy night they’d spent together, talking (and occasionally attempting to write poetry) deep into the AM hours. Veera hadn’t intended to stay over, but Krystal had used every subtle technique in her bag of tricks to keep her from leaving. Veera was sure of it, even if she couldn’t prove it. Eventually, their bodies had settled limp against each other on Krystal’s couch, and it was far too late for either of them to even consider moving.
“See this?” Krystal asked, fighting a yawn. She found Veera’s hand and pressed hers flat against it, fingertips to fingertips, a perfect match.
“Mm,” Veera mumbled.
“This used to kinda freak me out. Now, it’s like… we fit together, you know? You’re my missing piece.”
Veera couldn’t tell if it was from sleepiness or happiness that her eyes were filled with tears.
“I’m your missing piece?”
Krystal sighed something that sounded like agreement, head falling forward onto Veera’s shoulder, and she was asleep. Veera, warm and contented, very quickly followed suit.
“Let’s go home, babe,” Krystal said from the passenger seat. Veera nodded and turned the key in the ignition, bringing the car humming to life.
Krystal jumped at the sound of a knock at her window. A very inebriated Sarah and Helena shot them a few seconds’ worth of kissy-faces before heading off down the sidewalk together, howling with laughter.
“I guess we have to get used to that,” Krystal said, though she couldn’t keep the fond smile from rising to her face.
“Yeah,” Veera said, also smiling. “We’re the ‘sexual pioneers’, after all.”
“Oh god,” Krystal snorted. “We can’t make that a thing.”
She plugged her phone back in and that same pop song from earlier came blasting from the speakers as if no time had passed at all.
“Cuz baby,” Krystal sang.
“Baby,” Veera sang back, plastering a giant grin on Krystal’s face.
“Ain’t nothing gonna keep me from loving you...”
Veera took a parting look at Alison’s house, put the car into gear, and began the trip home.