A/N: I don't own it, this is just my toybox & Bryce & Nicole are merely borrowed action figures. I'm keeping myself spoiler free prior to the episodes airing (US) so here's hoping they don't break my heart too much... and I get as much written as possible before they can.
Chapter 1- Don't Stop Believin'
After their kiss Bryce had hoped that he and Nicole would get back to their normal. That easy place where they joked and laughed without self-conscious pauses and furtive, sideways glances. It didn't quite happen. Their banter was still there but they were trying too hard. That they were trying was a problem. The glances were there but they were trying to act like they weren't. Their usual synch had been disrupted and all they could do was try and make the best of it.
After the kiss, they'd headed over to Weiland Brewery for dinner and both had been grateful they'd been seated so quickly.
"So, this was good." Nicole said, her tone tense, over her mostly untouched burger while using one of her french fries to paint in ketchup on her plate.
"Yeah. It's a little..." Bryce began and trailed off as he suddenly found his salmon a most interesting and engaging specimen, poking at it with his fork.
"But it doesn't have to be. I mean, everything was normal and fine before I did... that. So..."
"Right. And we can just maybe act like it never happened. RIght?" she asked with a quick glance, hoping he'd contradict her.
"Yeah. That's most likely the perfect thing to do."
"Of course. It's best not to get all caught up in a whole quandary of questions about it."
"Exactly. Because you know, it's so clear what that was all about. Right?" Bryce asked, taking his turn on hoping she'd be the one to contradict him.
"Yeah. Absolutely." Nicole offered quickly, not looking up.
The two sat silently for a minute that seemed to stretch out interminably.
"Okay, we've got about two more minutes of acting like this before it officially gets weird. It was a kiss not public sex." Bryce said as he leaned in and broke their shared mute awkwardness.
Nicole burst into laughter "And are you familiar with just how much awkward is appropriate in the second instance?"
"So not where I was going and... pleading the fifth on that one."
"Wow. Pleading the fifth? Really?"
"So you know, that's like a total Yes."
"No it's not a yes."
"Oh, it's a yes by default. The refusal to answer says it all."
"I can't even believe we're having this conversation."
"You brought it up."
"I didn't, I was just trying to get us over the other thing and..."
"And the only thing you could come up with to contrast it with was public sex."
"Okay, what's it going to take to get you to let me off the hook for this one?"
"Oh it's gonna cost you. Huge."
"Fine. Whatever you want."
"Damn, that must be some story."
"State your price, woman."
They relaxed finally and continued to joke and tease one another straight through dessert over a shared triple hot fudge sundae. And when they finally called the evenings end, they lingered and laughed a little while longer.
"So we're even. I've totally paid." Bryce said as they sat in his car outside her house.
"I'm still in disbelief that you actually went through with the karaoke." Nicole said as she pulled her hair into a ponytail.
It was late and the street was empty and silent.
"Oh, so you thought I wouldn't do it?"
"Well the whole way there you kept trying to get out of it."
"No, I wasn't trying to get out of it. I didn't really think you were serious."
"And then we get there and you tried to stall."
"Okay yes, there was a little stalling. But when you went to sign us up, it's not like I ditched. I was still at the table when you came back."
"This is true. You could've made a successful run for it at that point."
"Thank you. And considering the first song we had, I think that should count as extra. I think I've overpaid actually."
"Yeah, now that I think of it, that was probably not what you'd have chosen to lead off with, huh." Nicole giggled as she recalled the two of them on stage.
"Um... no, I wouldn't have led or ended with Barbie Girl. Ever."
"I used to totally love that song. My friend Quinn and I would lip sync into our hairbrushes to it when we had sleepovers. It's not really a guy song. See, now I feel kinda bad I picked it. I could've gone with something else. Why didn't you say anything?"
"Because I figured if you picked it, that's what you wanted to sing. I wanted you to be happy." he said as their kiss crossed his mind. "No big deal. It's what any friend would do."
He tried to remember if he'd ever noticed how beautifully light reflected in her eyes. And then he reminded himself not to stare at her.
"Yeah" was all Nicole could manage as she held his gaze as the disappointment of their kiss came back to her along with a long list of if only's. "Well at least I picked awesome to end with."
"Journey almost makes up for the other."
"Almost? Are you serious? Don't Stop Believin' makes up for everything. No matter what and always."
"Yeah okay, that's true. It's pretty much a universally perfect song. Doesn't matter at all if you can't hit the notes."
"Exactly, and that's why I chose it for us to end on. We were awesome."
"Well, should we wind up on YouTube for worst rendition ever, I won't be surprised. But I'm glad we did it and I'm glad you suggested it."
"Me too." she said and felt herself blush under his gaze. "I should go. It's late"
"Yeah, me too."
"Tomorrow?" she asked, gathering up her things and opening the door to climb out.
"More like, later today, actually." Bryce said as followed.
'Later then." she agreed, closing the car door. "Sleep well. I hope the chemo doesn't wreck you too much."
"Are you kidding, I stood up in front of fifty people and sang Barbie Girl tonight. I'm a badass." he chided.
"You'll always be my Ken." she tried to maintain a straight face.
"And you, my Barbie." he replied with mock sincerity, a hand over his heart.
He stood by the car and watched her up the walk to the door. She turned to wave once she was inside safely and he nodded before getting back in the car to drive away. They usually parted with a hug but not this night. The veil of an unspoken agreement hung between them that things were different now even if they weren't sure how or what it meant. It just was and there wasn't any going back. All they could do was try to deny it, act like it hadn't happened and hope another opportunity presented itself so they could try it again.