Old Flame

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“No, no, ew, no.”

Quinn sighed, begrudgingly scrolling through the contacts list on her phone. “None of the booty calls look appetising tonight?” She heard Martin call from behind the bar, who was snickering as he wiped the counter.

Quinn rolled her eyes. “Unfortunately not,” she admitted, taking a sip of her whiskey. “Hmm, maybe artsy film chick could be nice tonight? But god, I’m not in the mood to hear her overanalyse that new Wes Anderson film. I just wanna fuck, dude.”

“Does she actually do it in bed?” Martin asked with a raised brow.

“You have no idea. She’s alright, but goodness me, I have to go down on her every time just to get her to shut up.”

“What about that pretty carpenter that hit on you the other day? God, he looked delicious. If only I wasn’t on shift,” Martin pointed out, unwittingly licking his upper lip.

“I’ll save you the trouble— he’s pretty rough. And not exactly the good type,” Quinn assured, placing a hand on Martin’s.

“Damn, but he looked so fine though,” Martin pouted.

“I mean, he was nice,” she said with the most forced smile, “but sometimes nice isn’t enough, y’know?”

Martin chuckled as he got back to wiping. “You know, some days I wonder what life was like before you became a regular. It’s like I have a quality checker making sure I don’t get hooked up with the bad ones.”

“I get down and dirty so you don’t have to,” Quinn winked, then went back to the despair pit having to look for a hookup for the night.

It had been a sluggish few weeks— no, months— for Quinn. She picked up a small job doing some admin work for one of the Council offices— just a ‘temporary job’, she told herself as she was trying to get out of her little art rut. But it’d been at least a week since she touched her tablet or even a sketchbook, and she was completely dry. She needed something else to keep her alive, to keep her actually wanting to get through the weeks.

Quinn downed the last bit of whiskey, wondering if this was going to be the first Friday in a long time she was actually going to have to spend alone.

“Oh my god,” she heard Martin mutter under his breath, his eyes fixated on the door of the bar. “Ding dong, 3 o’clock. Your past has returned.”

“What?” Quinn mumbled, trying to meet the bartender’s line of sight. “Oh.”

There was no mistaking the woman that just walked in— clad in her khaki trousers and white dress shirt, with sleeves rolled up to expose toned and tanned forearms. She looked around the bar a little disorientedly, as if the setting was meant to look more familiar to her. But everything about this woman was all too familiar to Quinn.

Nicky.

“Fuck,” Quinn uttered under her breath as the memories flooded back into her head— memories she thought she’d been able to drown out.

“I guess you’ve got your booty call covered tonight,” Martin teased with a most ecstatic look on his face.

Maybe she did. Quinn couldn’t quite say anything while her thoughts were in the gutter. Flashes of those intoxicating nights were playing back now, and she hated that she could remember it all— remember how amazing Nicky was.

It was never a dull night with her— Quinn hated to accept it, and she’d never had an awful time with her. Especially not in bed. Quinn never thought of herself as having high standards for bedfellows, but god, Nicky had made her reconsider raising the bar.

Despite it all Quinn found herself deliberately looking the other way, with a hand brought up to her head strategically covering her side profile. This wasn’t how she wanted it to happen— the last thing she needed was to reunite with such an old flame after a few too many glasses of whiskey. She knew she was going to say something— or do something— that she was going to regret.

“Please don’t see me, please don’t see me, please don’t see me,” she whispered desperately. Quinn shut her eyes naively, somehow thinking it would her less visible, all while Martin could only observe confusedly yet helplessly.

“Quinn!”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” she blasphemed as quietly as she could when she heard her name being called out from the other side of the bar. Quinn carefully set down her right hand, turning with a plastered smile to see the woman eagerly amble towards her. “Nicky!” she greeted in return, heart thumping seeing the well-built woman settle down on the bar stool beside Quinn.

“Rum and coke, please,” Nicky ordered calmly, and Martin was quick to whip up the drink for this ghost of Quinn’s past.

But this ghost didn’t quite look the same. While her physique was picture perfect— and permanently etched into Quinn’s head and her body’s muscle memory—, her face sported differently. And it wasn’t just the band-aid that went diagonally across her right cheek. “Your hair’s pretty,” Quinn couldn’t help but say, butterflies abuzz inside her.

“Oh, please,” Nicky’s face coloured as she planted a palm against her temple, where her jet black bob was pinned neatly on either side behind the ears in a way that not even a single lock was touching her cheeks. “Grew it out while I was away at work cos I just didn’t have the time to do anything about it. You should know more than anyone that it’s torture.”

“Torturous, but still gorgeous,” Quinn quipped with a smirk, and Martin had to suppress a scoff at how quick she was sliding back into Cupid’s chokehold.

“The poetic artist never misses,” Nicky acknowledged the rhyme, taking a sip of her drink as her other arm reached across the bar top to hold Quinn’s hand. But then Nicky’s fingers stopped short, grimly remembering the other woman wasn’t hers. Not anymore. “How’ve you been, Quinn?”

“Not too bad. Got a ‘real’ job not too long ago, doing some admin for the Council,” Quinn said.

“You stopped doing art?” Nicky’s face fell.

“Not so much me stopping art— more of art stopping me. Just haven’t had the moxie to do much, so I thought I’d actually ‘do’ something rather than just stare at a blank canvas and hope something comes out,” Quinn bitterly confessed with a shrug, still mourning the work that she couldn’t produce the past half a year or so.

“That sucks. But hey, artists get blocks all the time, right? You’re gonna get back to it, I’m sure,” Nicky encouraged, flashing a genuine smile.

And for a split second, the spark of hope flickered in Quinn. “Maybe,” she naively held onto it. “But enough about me— when did you get back?”

“Just this morning, actually. Feels so good to finally be home after what feels like an entire year,” Nicky expressed.

“Same house? Must be filled with cobwebs by now,” Quinn joked.

“Jack’s been housesitting and tidying it up from time to time when I was gone. Was easy to convince him to help when I told him he could use the house gym,” Nicky said.

“A quick trip home before you disappear again for work for another year?” Quinn shot, a dash of spite in those words as she recalled the last time.

“I… don’t know,” Nicky’s lips twisted. “I’ve been telling the higher-ups that I’m done with long-term assignments, and all they keep telling me is that they’ll consider it.” Her gaze wandered around the bar, taking in the sights melancholically. “I miss home. Miss being able to wake up and not dread the next trip I’m gonna have to take to leave.” Her eyes centered back on Quinn’s face. “I missed you.”

Quinn held onto her breath— keeping it all together as everything seemed too good to be true. Those honeyed words were like a salve to a festering wound she’d been nursing for the past year. But deep down, she knew it was going to sting once that fleeting, soothing moment ended. Of course it was Nicky who was going to fill that very same hole she left behind. And it was also going to be her that would carve out that stubbornly throbbing heart of Quinn.

“I’ve missed you too.” Quinn hated it. Hated that she was going to fall for it all over again. Hated that she so desperately wanted this, even if it was just going to hurt even more once it ended with Nicky disappearing again for the longest time. Quinn knew Nicky was only going to be here for just a good, short while. Then she’ll be gone again, and Quinn will just be back to where she was. Depressing.

“But we don’t have to think about what’s still yet to come,” Quinn continued, turning her body to fully face Nicky— the woman who would be too good to be true. It still ached that Nicky had left, especially in that silent, abrupt way that she did. And it was only going to ache more knowing it would happen again once Quinn let her in once more.

But at the very least, it held the promise of one good night. And heavens know that Nicky would far surpass anyone else Quinn could get her hands on for the night.

And this time, she’d know better. “Tell you what,” Quinn’s fingers schemingly crawled up Nicky’s arm that was on the counter as their eyes locked. “Why don’t you quickly chug that rum of yours,” Quinn said as she leant forward, lips within millimetres of Nicky’s ear as her voice toned down to a biting whisper, “then we can go back to your place and give your king size bed a little welcome-home party, hm?”

*

Like a whirlwind they raced back to Nicky’s place, and for a flicker of a moment Quinn was back to that golden era from the year before— giddily holding onto Nicky in anticipation for the night to come. It was gonna hurt in the morning, but for now Quinn knew in her bones that this was going to be the best night in forever.

Nicky’s place was in a quiet corner of the Park Promenade, just a short walk off from the town square where the bar was. Quinn may have tried tirelessly to forget about Nicky, but even the route back to her place was still etched at the back of her mind.

Once they were through the door, Quinn immediately leapt up onto Nicky— the way she used to do every time they’d reach her place after a night out. And Nicky would always catch her, hoisting Quinn up from the thighs with her toned arms. By the time they crashed onto the silk sheets they were practically undressed, ready as they’d ever be to make up for that last year that they’d been craving each other’s touch.

And what a glorious night it was— even if it was just going to be a momentary bliss for Quinn. She hadn’t felt so alive in so long, and this time there was even more of Nicky for her. There was something immensely satisfying about getting her turn to do the hair pulling, when otherwise there was usually barely enough for Quinn to wrap her fingers around. This new, bobbed Nicky was like a cherry on top of her usual viciousness that Quinn so desired.

Just as Nicky was about to go down on Quinn, she was met with a barrage of giggles. “Not used to bringing hair ties to bed?” Quinn quipped, playfully withstanding those loose strands of Nicky’s jet black locks tickling her thighs.

“Sorry,” Nicky whispered with a wry smirk, commandingly grabbing each of Quinn’s wrists with either hand. Nicky guided those hands up either side of her face, letting Quinn’s fingers comb through those locks. “Next time, I promise all of this,” Nicky gently shook both of Quinn’s hands such that it ruffled up that unfamiliarly long hair of hers, “won’t be here anymore. But for now,” she pressed Quinn’s hands into her scalp before giving the order. “Hold on tight while you still can.”

Before Quinn could even respond, she felt that familiar, velvet tongue— and there was nothing left to do but hold on for dear life. She gripped hard on those locks as the pleasure echoed through her body, manifesting itself in a few moans. As she got hold of her bearings, she carefully held back Nicky’s hair with a hand, just as the other began caressing her scarred and callused back with a few nails.

Through sheer pleasure, Quinn felt reborn. While the next day was to hold only disappointment for either woman, she could at least embrace the delectable source of her misery for one night.

**

Quinn awoke with a shudder, when dawn was just about to break. She’d gotten good at it— waking up at that sweet spot of a timing where she could slip out of bed while still under some cover of darkness, leaving her bedroom partner none the wiser as she escaped like a thief. Nicky had served her purpose for the night, and it was time Quinn didn’t tread too long on this momentary trip down nostalgia lane. She quietly turned to her right, where Nicky should still be soundly asleep. Only to realise the other half of the bed was empty.

Fuck, she cursed under her breath, staying on alert as she accepted she was one step behind. Of course Nicky was up early— how dumb of Quinn to forget Nicky had always been an early riser, disciplined enough to get a morning workout in her personal gym. But this wasn’t all doom and gloom— surely, she could still slip away. Quinn just had to avoid the gym, and hope Nicky wasn’t going to be done so soon. She’d done stealthier escapades in her day. Quinn silently slipped out of the silk sheets, looking down at the bedside for her clothes.

Which weren’t there anymore. Oh no, her heart thumped, realising this was turning from bad to worse. Where the hell were her clothes? The previous night was so good, but so hazy. Did she undress beside the bed? Or were her clothes already slipping off in the living room as they made out earlier in the night?

Already a trifling start to her morning, but at least the objective was clear— find her clothes, then make an exit. All before Nicky was done with her morning workout.

She hopped off the bed— her bare feet gently landed on the cold floor, getting her body down in a half-crouch as she began her mission. A quick scan of the room confirmed the worst: no sign of her clothes in her immediate vicinity. Which meant it could be anywhere around the house. Times like this, she absolutely loathed how large Nicky’s house was. Nicky’s field agent salary was a hefty one, and she didn’t spare much expense in owning a sizeable bungalow with a few too many rooms for just one person. And to think the house would be empty for most of the year anyway given how often she’s out of town for work. What a waste, Quinn thought.

As large and grand as it was for one person, it didn’t change that Quinn still missed it. Back when things were a lot better between them, they’d even make it a point to be doing it in a different room every night, just for the fun of it.

Once at the end of the long hallway, she silently ambled down the spiral staircase to the ground floor. Just beside the foot of the stairs was that little cupboard drawer, where Nicky placed a few framed photos of her and family. Quinn unwittingly paused for a moment, regarding the set of photos she may have seen countless times, but never got old to stop and admire.

The periphery held various personal photos— the official portrait for work after a promotion, and a few candid ones with friends or colleagues. But the main photograph that took centre spot was the family portrait. Nicky came from a pretty well-off family— one that many would even call “elite” if they were really counting the stripes. They may not be actual ‘royalty’, but they were still hoity-toity and self-important enough to have their own family portrait.

A gruff, suited man that never seemed to smile was seated on the right, and on his left was a regal-looking woman with black hair flowing down her back in gorgeous waves. Behind the woman was a spry-looking man, Jack— perhaps a little short for his adult age, but still with a stocky build that showed machismo. And to his right, towering about a head over him, was Nicky.

But this wasn’t exactly the Nicky that Quinn had just canoodled with— there was no flowy hair that reached her chin. This Nicky, with her tall stature and gentle smile, was cropped. Not a single lock risked even touching her ears with that soft taper she had around the sides, which gradually got longer towards the top. But even the length on her crown was far from the definition of ‘long’— the cropped locks were combed neatly with the front pushed up and over to her right stylishly into a short quiff. A devilishly handsome woman.

“It’s funny, cos mom and dad wanted their firstborn to be a son so bad, and they got a butch lesbian instead,” Nicky once joked about it. “They didn’t find it that funny, sadly. But I think it’s a hilarious compromise they’ll have to live with.”

Quinn could stare at those charming photos of Nicky all day if she could, but she hadn’t the time. She quickly snapped back out of it, continuing her stealthy strides into the living area just beside the main door. She searched high and low, scouring for her skirt and top. She didn’t recall ever making out on the couch before heading to bed the night before, but at this point she was desperate enough to look between even the couch pillows. But still nothing.

Ring.

She immediately froze when she heard a sound, carefully glancing to either side to observe. It wasn’t loud enough to be the doorbell, but still sounded familiar. Just as she turned to realise what it was, she was greeted with a loud meow.

“Mocha,” Quinn whispered excitedly, a smile appearing on her face immediately when she saw the black cat near the foot of the stairs.

“Meow,” the slender cat cooed in return before racing excitedly towards the half-naked woman.

“Hey you! I’ve missed you so much,” she tried to contain her excitement, but the moment Mocha was within range, everything else just melted away. Mocha immediately rubbed her body and tail across Quinn’s legs, slendering her way around as Quinn knelt down to greet her. “How’ve you been? Has Jack been taking care of you?” she asked in her playful, pet voice as her fingers started scratching away on the underside of Mocha’s chin, which she always loved.

When Nicky took her leave last year, Quinn had been worried about Mocha. Surely, a precious cat couldn’t stay on her own in such a gigantic house for more than half a year. While Quinn was more than happy to offer herself to take care of her while Nicky was gone, Nicky had already volunteered her brother for the job. Poor Mocha— bound to share Quinn’s fate of not having their special someone around all the time.

“Look at that, Mocha still loves you.”

Fuck. Quinn’s heart stopped when she heard that charming voice walking down the stairs. The objective was an utter failure— spotted by Nicky, without even being able to find her clothes. All for the sake of lost love with this terribly adorable feline Quinn had always adored.

“I’m surprised too. It’s been so long, I thought she would’ve forgotten me,” Quinn replied, still keeping all her attention to Mocha as her brain schemed. A stealthy escape was no longer a possibility, so now she’d have to improvise. But first, she needed her clothes.

“Nah, she’ll never forget you. I told you before, she loves you more than she loves me,” Nicky said as she got closer. “Oh, yeah,” she perked up when she realised the excessive amounts of skin Quinn was showing in the middle of her living room. “I thought you were gonna be up much later like you always are, so I threw your clothes in the wash.”

“Ah, I see,” Quinn said, lips pressed in a thin line as the mystery was solved— albeit unsatisfyingly. She slowly picked up Mocha in her arms, then looked up to regard the taller woman that was now by the couch. Nicky was still in her grey undershirt from the night before, though now with her skin holding the sheen of the sweat from her workout. A towel was slung around her shoulder, and her hair was tied up in a half updo, with the nape section left loose as the ends crept towards the middle of her neck. “Had a good workout?” Quinn asked as she got to her feet, then stumbled slightly as the pang of the hangover started to creep in.

“Last night or this morning? Both were very good,” Nicky remarked with a cheeky smirk. Quinn forced out a smile, for once hating how smooth Nicky just had to be. “Listen, why don’t you go take a shower first, and then just take whatever’s in my closet that you can fit. I’ll leave a couple of towels on the door. In the meantime I’ll go make you some coffee so that headache of yours doesn’t start pounding soon. Okay?”

Quinn was taken aback. So many months apart, but Nicky still remembered that little detail. Their nights out were always tipsy, and no matter how little or much Quinn drank, the next morning was always skull-splitting. And Nicky still remembered the one thing that could abate it.

This was exactly what she wanted to avoid— to linger after what was just meant to be a night’s fuck. A quick exit could’ve avoided all this… courtesy. Courtesy that Quinn would never have the heart to turn down. Especially from Nicky. “Okay,” Quinn simply said, keeping her forced smile as natural as she could.

She slowly handed over Mocha, who seemed less thrilled about being in Nicky’s arms, before she carefully headed off— up the stairs and to the bathroom that was just beside Nicky’s main bedroom.

Everything seemed exactly that way it was before Nicky left. The same body washes, shampoo, everything. Even the luffa Quinn had left behind on accident that one time. It was a little eerie, as if she’d stepped fully into a dream of a distant, pristine past. It didn’t help that Nicky showed up after a year, and went straight to acting like everything’s back to normal. As if they didn’t have that tumultuous parting in the middle.

Quinn didn’t plan to linger long in the shower. She haphazardly tied up her long, red tresses in a bun, fitting in one of the clean shower caps over her tied-up hair, then turned on the shower to wash herself of the previous night.

By the time she was done, the towels were already hung on the door handle outside, which she used to dry her body before wrapping it around her body. She stepped out of the bathroom and back into Nicky’s bedroom, where she began her foray into the large wardrobe with a sigh. Shirts, t-shirts, shirts, and more t-shirts. It was a consistent style, at least. But not exactly the vibe Quinn typically went for.

She settled on the simplest pair of jeans she could find and a maroon tank top that Nicky probably used for the gym, trying to make the slightly oversized look work for her more femme tastes. Not that it’d matter for too long anyway— she was just gonna return it after she’d managed to get home and change into her clothes. But home seemed a little far away now that she was bound to be Nicky’s guest out of unfortunate politeness.

She made her way back down to the living area, perking up as the smell of coffee was already wafting in the air. Once she entered the dining area where the smell was coming from, she bit her tongue when she realised Nicky’s courtesy wasn’t stopping.

“Hey, nice clothes,” Nicky called out from the kitchen, as she plated up a few pieces of toast and some scrambled eggs. “Hope you’re hungry— turns out my brother kept some stuff stocked while he was around.”

“You really didn’t have to,” Quinn stated, keeping her face neutral despite her growling stomach.

“Please, it was an exhausting night. Not to mention you were on fire. You deserve to wake up to some good food,” Nicky said as she brought the plates over to the dining table that was set by the window, where the bright morning light was already pouring through. “Come on, sit down.”

Quinn obeyed, reluctantly taking the seat opposite Nicky. She went straight for the mug of coffee, at least thankful for that bit of relief if she was going to have to last a meal with Nicky. A quick breakfast and she’ll just bolt out— that was the plan.

“How you feeling?” Nicky asked as she started wolfing down her larger plate of food.

“I’m okay,” she answered. “Am I supposed to say ‘I’m glad the weekend’s here’ now that I’m doing a nine to five?” Quinn added.

“Well, it’s still better than getting thrown out of town for months on end,” Nicky replied with a chuckle.

An opening thread. One which Quinn instinctively pulled on to instigate. “So when do you leave again?”

Nicky sets her fork down, letting out a soft sigh as she’s finally catching onto the spite. “I told you: I don’t know,” she reiterated with a shrug. “It’s not a fixed timetable I can control. One day they tell me I’m leaving, and by the next day I’m out of town.” Not a single word followed from either woman, the air filled only with Quinn’s soft chewing. It wasn’t the answer Quinn desired, but unfortunately the answer she expected. “I’m sorry,” Nicky finally added. “About the last time. I mean, I know it’s something I can’t control at all. But I just wish it wasn’t this way.”

“You don’t have to be sorry about anything,” Quinn said matter-of-factly, keeping her composure as unbothered as she could even if it betrayed how she felt inside.

“I thought about you. Every day,” Nicky picked her fork back up, slowly returning to her food. “Wishing, waiting for this moment, when I get to see you again. To be with you again.” Quinn’s heart stirred, hearing her dangling desires being touched. “Do you… still want that?”

‘Want’ that? Quinn would’ve given up everything in that moment to have it. To just be with Nicky forever, and never leave her side. But whether it was fully going both ways was something she doubted. It only felt right for Quinn to ask. “Can you stay?”

A troubled look crossed Nicky’s face again. “I don’t make promises that I don’t know I can keep.”

“Then like I told you before,” Quinn shrugged, biting the insides of her cheeks to hold back the heaviness in her throat, “maybe it’s best that we don’t do this. I can’t do this if you’re not even gonna be around.”

Another silence ensued, this time a lot more sodden than before. “Y’know, I thought of having you be the one to take care of my house. Maybe even stay here while I’m gone to take care of Mocha,” Nicky spoke up, trying to keep her face a little cheery. “But the last thing I wanted was to have you just wiling away the days in this house waiting for someone who might not even come back. Like I said: I don’t make promises that I don’t know I can keep. And I still can’t promise you anything yet,” she repeated that phrase that Quinn hated to hear. “And even though I still want you, I know it’s only selfish of me to keep pressing this if you don’t want it. You’re doing what’s best for you, and I understand. I’ll respect your decision.”

Quinn’s heart panged when she heard those last words. Words of finality. It was the conversation she didn’t want, but at least she got the final answer from it. For so long Quinn had known it wouldn’t work between them if something didn’t give, and she’d accepted it. But hearing Nicky actually say it out loud, sealing their fate so outrightly. It was a stab in the gut— but a merciful one. The excruciating blow to end all suffering.

“But… could I ask a favour?” Nicky added.

“Sure,” Quinn replied almost immediately. One last favour couldn’t hurt, right?

“Spend the day with me.” There was a wistful look in Nicky’s eyes when she said it. “If you really don’t want to do this again, then at least give me one last day. And really, it doesn’t even have to be much. Just… accompany me. I’ve got some errands to do, and I wouldn’t mind some company.”

“You want to spend one last day with me, going around, doing… errands?” Quinn raised a brow.

“I don’t get a lot of normal in my line of work, Quinn. I think having one calm day with you after this past year would mean a lot to me,” Nicky professed.

It was unexpected, that was for sure. But it made sense to Quinn. Besides, it’s not like she was up for a long day of doing anything adventurous anyway. A quiet day just accompanying Nicky on her errands… it sounded nice. “Okay,” she agreed.”

“I promise, I’ll let you go after dinner. Unless you wanna stay for another night, which is totally up to you,” Nicky raised her hands defensively. “I promise I won’t throw your clothes in the wash again. But really— I just want one day.”

One last day with Nicky. It felt like a poorly-scripted terminal disease plot line in a soap opera, but Quinn wasn’t going to complain. At least it’ll be a way to finally, properly, say goodbye. “What’s on the agenda?” she asked.

“Got some dry cleaning to send, groceries to restock, oh,” Nicky pulled out a section of her hair in front of her face, looking at those excessively locks with great annoyance, “and I gotta get rid of this mop.”

“Not digging the bob?” Quinn poked with a playful frown.

“It’s suffocating. It’s also so weird to look into the mirror and see so much hair. Doesn’t feel like myself at all,” Nicky expressed, the dissatisfaction clear in her voice.

“At least I actually got to pull your hair in bed,” Quinn boasted with a wry smile.

“You got the limited edition Nicky last night. I don’t think anyone else has ever gotten that chance, and I sure as hell don’t plan on tickling any more thighs with hair that shouldn’t be there,” Nicky determinedly said. “Alright, I’m gonna go take a shower,” she continued as she got to her feet, empty plate in hand. “We head out once I’m done?”

“Sure,” Quinn said with a gentle sigh. “Oh, and,” she added just as Nicky was about to turn on the sink tap, “just leave your plate there. I’ll do the dishes. One less errand for you.”

*

When she was done with the dishes, Quinn headed for the vanity in the ground floor guest room, applying a soft layer of makeup. Once she felt presentable enough for a simple errand day out, she naturally went back to the living room, where Mocha was comfortably lounging on the couch like she always does in the morning. Quinn stopped by the little cabinet near the television where Nicky kept all the cat goods, and was lucky to find some treats. She took her place beside Mocha on the couch, who was already stretching and purring— eagerly waiting for her favourite person.

Mocha was still the most affectionate cat as ever— well, at least to Quinn. She’d never really seen herself too much as a cat person prior to meeting Nicky. But from the moment she’d met this adorable, pitch black ball of fur, she’d been fully converted to the cult of cats. Mocha would be rolling over the floor in front of Quinn, meowingly demanding a barrage of pets and scratches. Nicky hadn’t seen that behaviour from Mocha— before Quinn, she thought Mocha was just a quiet, solitary sort of cat that preferred to be left to her own devices, and she respected it. But something about Quinn unlocked this affectionate side to Mocha.

If only poor Mocha knew this was the last day she was gonna see Quinn.

“Ready to go?” Quinn heard Nicky call out from the foot of the stairs, a set of dust covers slung over her back for the dry cleaners. She was squeaky clean now with a soothing perfume on— sporting a well-tailored navy blue polo shirt with white trousers and some loafers. Her wardrobe may have been simple and predictable, but Quinn couldn’t deny she knew how to dress well. Nicky’s hair was neatly combed back and tucked behind the ears just like it was last night before bed, with clips in place on either side of her head to keep her hair out of her face.

“Yeah,” Quinn said, then leaned down to give Mocha a full kiss on the forehead. “Nice outfit, by the way.”

*

“Mornin’,” Nicky greeted as the two entered the laundromat.

“Morni- oh, Nicky! Welcome back,” the man behind the counter greeted cheerfully.

“Still in one piece,” Nicky joked, setting down her laundry by the empty table as she stretched across to give the man a friendly hug. “How’s your family been, Malik?”

“They’ve been great. The little one’s already said his first words!” Malik mentioned.

“That’s so exciting! Seeing how much he takes after you, I’m sure he’s gonna be talking non-stop,” Nicky continued bantering, so effortlessly evoking laughter out of Malik.

“When’d you get back?” he asked.

“Just yesterday, actually. Still getting my bearings, having a look around to see what’s new in town, getting some errands done— the usual routine, y’know?” Nicky regarded Quinn for a moment, suddenly remembering she was standing there awkwardly by the side. “Oh yeah, you remember Quinn?” Nicky introduced her to Malik.

“I thought she looked familiar! It’s lovely that you two’re still together, even after how long she was gone for,” Malik earnestly said.

Quinn and Nicky immediately forced out smiles— awkwardly floating around that remark that they knew was genuine, even if it wasn’t true. “Well at least she’s back now,” Quinn filled in the silence before it got too awkward, “that’s all that matters.”

“Better tie her down before she runs off again!” Malik joked, unwittingly gutting the two women so passingly before starting to flip through the dust covers, inspecting the garments within. “Anyway, usual stuff yeah? Just dry clean?” He quickly jumped back into business mode, much to the relief of both women.

“Same as always. You’ll give me a call once they’re done?” Nicky asked.

“Yep. Anything else you needed?” Malik asked.

“Nope, all good,” Nicky said as she beckoned to Quinn, both already starting to head for the exit. “I’ll see you around, Malik.

It was no surprise to Quinn that Nicky was well-known in town. If it wasn’t her heritage that gave her that status, it was certainly how bubbly she was with everyone. “Thanks for not saying anything about, uhm,” Nicky said, gesturing vaguely as they walked away from the laundromat, “us.”

“It’s nothing,” Quinn brushed it off. “No need to say anything dramatic to anyone. Better to keep up appearances if we’re just having a calm day.”

“Yeah,” Nicky softly sighed. “Calm day.”

“What’s next on the agenda? Groceries?” Quinn checked.

“Wanted to save that for last, actually. Don’t wanna be lugging stuff all around for so long,” Nicky clarified as she looked at her wristwatch. “It’s almost nine, so I think we could do haircut first.”

“Your hair appointment’s at nine?”

“Nah, not an appointment. The place opens at nine, and Samira only does walk-ins, so hopefully we’ll show up to an empty shop,” Nicky corrected. “Shop should be at the end of the street too, so we won’t have to walk too far.”

“Been to this salon often?” Quinn asked out of curiosity.

“Not a salon, actually. More of a family barbershop. And yeah, I’ve been to Samira for quite a long time now, I’d say I’m a faithful regular,” Nicky said as she ran a few fingers through the ends of her overgrown hairs. “Well, at least when I’m in town.”

“A barbershop?” The concept was intriguing to Quinn.

“Yeah,” Nicky looked at Quinn a little oddly. “She just does haircuts for everyone, kinda thing.”

“No, yeah, it’s making more sense now,” Quinn followed, remembering how short Nicky typically kept her hair. “Is this goodbye to the bobbed Nicky?” Quinn asked with a playful pout, raising her hand to the taller Nicky’s hair to run her fingers through those uncharacteristically long locks.

“Yep, never to be seen again,” Nicky tossed her head around slightly, giving a slight look of annoyance as she felt the ends of her hair sweeping about her cheeks. “If anything, growing this out just reminded me how irritating having so much hair feels. Once you go short, you never wanna go back.”

Quinn couldn’t help but smile, seeing Nicky so repulsed by her own hair. Her hair had always been the signature part of her look, where she took pride in wearing and keeping it short consistently. Quinn especially loved how fuzzy the sides always were— the way it was cut so close to the skin that the pricks of hair tickled her palms every time she got her hands on Nicky’s head when they made out. And it was especially thrilling when she got to rub it on the same day she got it trimmed. Last night may have been a novel encounter with so much hair to pull for once, but her fingers wistfully yearned for that short crop that was more in-line with Nicky’s style. Suddenly the thought of spending one more night with Nicky seemed all the more tempting— one last chance to have her fill of those fuzzy sides and back, fresh from a trim too.

“Why don’t you get a haircut too?” Nicky asked out of the blue as they walked.

“Me?” Quinn was caught off-guard by the request, her face not hiding her astoundment. “I thought you loved my hair,” Quinn said pointedly, a fidgety hand absentmindedly running through the ends of her rich, auburn locks that draped over her shoulder artfully.

“I do!” Nicky replied defensively. “I just, I don’t know, thought you might want to take the chance since you’ll be there accompanying me. I’m sure Samira would fix you up nice— she does a really good job,” Nicky started upselling her barber.

“She’s a barber, isn’t she? I’d imagine she’s more comfortable doing short hair,” Quinn was still perplexed by the random offer.

“Like I said, she does hair for everyone. Lots of women in town go to her, and they’ve got hair as long as you,” Nicky countered, still pursuing the topic. “But hey, it’s just a random idea,” she soon backed off with a shrug. “Don’t have to do anything you don’t want t-“

“Nicky!”

The two women looked up just ahead on the street, where the voice was calling out from. “Nicky! I knew I wasn’t seeing a ghost,” the woman called out just as she clicked the lock of the shop’s door open. She tossed the bundle of keys into her handbag with a jangle, then reached forward to embrace the tall woman once she got close. “It’s so good to see you. How’ve you been? Just got back recently?”

“Been alright, and yeah, just got back yesterday. Hope the kids have been well, Samira,” Nicky accepted the hug fully, firmly patting the other woman on the back. Samira was a slightly older woman with a gently plump physique— the makings of a middle-aged mother. Her black ribbed tank top revealed a rather crowded tattoo sleeve on her left arm, with all sorts of motifs from flowers to skulls that were inked immaculately. Her long, brunette hair that was starting to get a little grey closer to the roots was tied up in a neat bun, although with the lower sections of her sides and back cut close in a fuzzy undercut. For a mature woman, she had quite the edgy sense of style that Quinn couldn’t help but admire. She looked like a walking rebuttal of every parent that protested “how do you think those tattoos are gonna look when you’re older?”— and Quinn thought the answer to that was ‘amazing’.

“They’re growing up too fast, but they’ll be just fine. But they’re not the only things growing, I can see,” Samira commented as they retracted, her fingers now ruffling through Nicky’s bob. “And it’s probably no coincidence that you’re around here just as I’m about to open up. Come on in! Let’s get you sorted out,” she invited wholeheartedly, already pushing the door handle down to open up shop.

Nicky eagerly followed Samira in, with Quinn coyly tailing from behind. The ceiling lights were switched on, though the radiant morning light was already illuminating the shop more than sufficiently. “Ah, you brought a friend with you this time,” Samira eventually pointed out as she headed to the single workstation that was by the wall of the small yet cosy shop. Samira pulled out a clean brown apron from one of the drawers, pulling it over her neck before tying the string ends behind her back.

“Oh yeah, this is Quinn. I think I probably mentioned her before. Quinn, this is Samira,” Nicky introduced.

“Wait, the Quinn?” Samira asked as she stepped closer to the shorter woman. “The one that stole dear Nicky’s heart?”

“I guess that is me, yeah.” Quinn found herself in a harsh spotlight so suddenly, not expecting this amount of fame.

“I’ve heard her talk about her fair share of dates, but you, my dear, she’s talked about so smittenly. And I’m honoured to get to see you in the flesh!” Samira extended a hand.

“It’s nice to meet you too,” Quinn responded as she accepted the gesture, slightly reeling at the awkward implication of the exchange. Nicky, on the side, was suppressing a blush— deliberately averting Quinn’s searching gaze now that this part of her was found out.

“Well you can sit tight, dear. I’ll be done with Nicky in a jiffy. Nicky, come on and have a seat,” Samira eventually ordered, patting the cushion of the lone barber chair.

“Anything new with the shop?” Nicky struck up conversation as she lowered herself into the comfortable padding of the seat.

“Oh, yes! The Council’s finally going to be doing up the wall in the alley— you know how the concrete used to be real spotty and all? They said they’re gonna refurbish it next week, and I’ll have full control over what I wanna do with it now that it’s not filthy anymore. Always wanted something fun, like a mural or something up there,” Samira excitedly announced.

“A mural?” Nicky glanced at the reflection of Quinn in the mirror, who was still settled a little shyly by the waiting bench. “Did you need someone to do it up?”

“Yeah, but I haven’t really started looking for anyone yet. Might put up a notice at the town board after they’re done doing it up.”

“Why not Quinn?” The mention of her name startled her, and Quinn immediately turned to see what the fuss was all about.

“Oh,” the realisation struck Samira. “Wait, yeah, I remember now, you told me she’s an artist, isn’t she?” She pointed out before turning to Quinn. “Have you got any commissions on your plate right now, dear?”

“Uhm…” Quinn stuttered, again being put on the spot so abruptly, “no?” She wasn’t sure why she defaulted to the truth, but now she found herself getting even more entangled than what she wanted.

“Perfect timing!” Samira was elated. “I mean, totally up to you if you wanna do it, of course. I’ll pass you my card after this, you can just let me know if you’re up for it. We can talk details and price once the wall’s done next week, and then we’ll see where we can go from there.”

Quinn pushed out a weak smile, unsure what to make of it. On one hand, getting a commission after so long of not practising her craft felt refreshing, but on the other… how awkward would it be that she was doing something for Nicky’s barber? “Sure, I’ll consider it,” she eventually said, thankful she had at least a bit more time to deliberate.

“But that’s still stuff to come— now let’s worry about what we got going on here,” Samira redirected her attention back to Nicky as she started undoing the clips keeping Nicky’s exceptionally lengthy locks in check, setting them on the counter just below the large mirror. “I never thought I’d see you with something so long again, and here we are.”

“It was a really long trip, and I was just way too busy to even try and do anything about it,” Nicky said as Samira shook out the full length of what she was working with.

“How we feeling about it? You liking the bob life?” Samira asked impishly.

“Please, you know I hate it. It’s just pure torture,” Nicky complained.

Samira laughed boisterously. “I know, I know, it’s just been so long since I’ve seen you with this much hair. Besides, your hair never really was meant for something like a bob. I mean, it’s cute, don’t get me wrong, but with how fine your hair is, probably much better to wear it shorter,” Samira explained as she fingered through the texture of Nicky’s locks. “So we’re taking all this off, right, dear?”

“Yes, please,” Nicky let out with relief.

“Short and tapered on the back and sides, then longer on top like we usually do it?” Samira suggested.

“Actually, I was thinking… a bit shorter than usual?” Nicky’s statement caught Quinn’s attention— not only because of what it entailed, but also because of the tone Nicky had brought it up in. That same one she had when she was just that bit unsure.

Samira, however, was quickly onboard. “Ooh, I always love a good change. What were you thinking?”

“Uhm, something a little higher than usual? Wanted the sides to be shorter and tighter than the usual taper,” Nicky was starting to use her hands to gesture to her temples, gesturing upwards to show how different she wanted it.

“Higher and tighter— we can definitely do that,” Samira echoed, running a finger on either side of the temples to gauge for herself how high the cut was going to be. “And what about the top? Still want the usual length? Or you thinking shorter too?”

“Err… yeah?” Again, that tinge of uncertainty was in her voice— probably not too audible to the ears of Samira, but something Quinn could catch onto. “Whatever length you think’s good. Shorter all over would be nice.”

“Sounds like fun!”

Samira headed to the cabinet near the back of the shop, where she pulled out a fresh cape that was in a bright shade of lemon yellow. Once back at the chair, she expertly flung it above Nicky, letting the garment envelop most of Nicky’s tall figure save for her fancy brown loafers that still poked out. As Samira pulled the ends of the cape back over Nicky’s shoulders, her foot was on the chair’s pedal— kicking it down a few notches so Nicky’s taller figure was at a more appropriate height for her to work with.

“So what’s the occasion? Wanted to get a more macho haircut to impress your girl?” Samira teased as she gathered up the bulk of Nicky’s locks and pulled it back, using a barrette clip to pin them in place on her head.

Nicky chuckled nervously. “I don’t know, just thought it would be nice to have a bit of a change after being gone so long,” she cooked up an excuse, though not entirely denying Samira’s statement.

“I see,” Samira said as she tore off a piece of neck tissue from the roll by the counter. “Did you know about this, Quinn?” she asked the woman by the waiting bench as Samira wrapped the tissue securely around Nicky’s bare neck.

“Nope,” Quinn shook her head, wondering what Nicky was up to. It was clear to Quinn that Nicky was definitely not a hundred percent on this idea of hers, yet she was still pursuing it with some measure of confidence. “She only told me she was getting her hair cut, and I just assumed that she was getting it done like how she usually does it.”

“So that makes two of us,” Samira finally fastened the ends of the cape snugly behind Nicky’s neck just above her shirt’s collar, then undid the clip holding her locks in place so that it all scattered around her face once more. “Don’t worry, though, I’ll clean your girl up nice and good. She’ll be looking sharp and handsome in no time,” she cheekily said to Quinn as she smoothened out the rest of the cape, ensuring every single inch of Nicky’s body was well-covered.

Once Samira went to the counter to gather her tools, Quinn took her chance to look at the reflection of the mirror— to search Nicky’s face for any hint of what this show she was about to watch was all about. Was this some sort of elaborate, indirect apology? Or were her words completely true, that she’d just wanted a change? Surely she’d be a lot more confident if it was the case. Nicky only gave a sheepish smile, her gaze fidgeting around to avoid looking Quinn too deeply in the eyes.

Samira returned to the chair with a set of clips— starting first by sectioning off Nicky’s hair by pinning most of her crown section in place. There was a large area of hair around Nicky’s skull that was left laid out and bare, demarcated in a line where the temples met the crown at the sides of the head,all the way to around the occipital bone at the back. Samira then unhooked her clippers, fingers searching across her counter for the right guard for the job.

Pop. Bzzzz.

Quinn had heard of the clippers before, but this was her first time actually seeing such an implement up close. She found herself scooching forward to the edge of her seat, at rapt attention while still doing her best to appear nonchalant. She took one last glance at Nicky’s head, where the bulk of her soft, jet black locks still spilled around her head. And to think that humming machine in Samira’s hands was going to reduce all that hair into fuzz. Quinn couldn’t help but be curious.

Samira started on Nicky’s right, using a free hand to firmly tilt her faithful client’s head to the left. Once fixed in place, her fingers grabbed a section of locks on the right, moving aside the curtain of hair so the clippers could find their starting line just above the. Quinn had expected Samira to say something— to ask if Nicky was ready before starting. But Samira did no such thing.

Bzzaaaa.

The blades screeched in tone as the clippers made their way into that mass of hair, moving in a straight line up the right side of Nicky’s hair. Samira’s fingers tautly held onto that section of hair that the clippers mowed into, making sure it was not in the way for the blades to do their work. With a few passes of the clippers, that tension from the locks in her hands quickly disappeared. The moment Samira felt the locks come loose in her fingers, she casually tossed them.

Quinn suppressed a gasp as she watched those ample locks tumble— some forward onto the yellow cape where the black hair contrasted perfectly, and others directly onto the floor. Her heart stirred when she saw what was left behind on Nicky’s side: short, dark fuzz that was just shy of showing her tanned skin. But Samira was the furthest thing from surprised looking at the drastic work her clippers did— her hand simply held another section slightly aloft before sending the clippers up to munch away.

Bzzzaaa. Bzzzaa. Bzzzaa.

Nicky’s soft, fine hair put up little resistance to the clippers, sliding off in clean torrents with each pass of the clippers that were made. While Quinn was on-edge seeing this thrilling spectacle in front of her, Nicky was all-smiles watching her reflection in the mirror as all that hair she despised was being taken off so quickly, cascading down her right shoulder as it gathered in her lap. In just a few passes of the clippers, the entire right side of her head from sideburns to the edge of the temple was no longer flowy locks— only closely buzzed hair that wouldn’t even dream of touching Nicky’s ears.

As Samira transitioned to the back, she tilted Nicky’s head accordingly, this time almost forcing her chin into her chest. Samira started from the far right of Nicky’s neckline that bordered the already-buzzed section, pushing the clippers straight up into the nape. With each pass, soft locks helplessly slid down past the back of Nicky’s neck, falling straight for the floor behind the chair if they weren’t stuck on that small section of the cape covering the backrest of the chair. It didn’t take much effort to clean up the back, where Nicky’s thin locks put up little resistance to the gnawing blades of the clippers.

Like clockwork, Samira moved over to that last section on the left— her clippers itching to clean up that last, abundant section of hair left exposed. And it went by so swiftly, just like each side that was mowed. Loose locks spilled in torrents, littering onto the cape and floor as the blades left little in its wake. Quinn may have been used to seeing Nicky with short hair, but to actually have the privilege of seeing her go from a longer ‘do to her usual short length. It was a bizarre experience that she found herself enjoying. Once the last long lock was cleanly severed by the clippers, Samira began running the clippers all over the sides and back again— making sure every bit was even in length. And as the clippers were soon shut off for a moment, Quinn couldn’t help but realise the sides and back were a tad bit shorter than how Nicky typically had them.

“Ooh, it’s so breezy already,” Nicky let out delightedly, turning from side to side while smiling like an adorable idiot at how short her hair finally was.

“Must feel so freeing after being dragged down by all that hair,” Samira remarked as she removed the guard on the clippers, fishing around for her next set of tools.

“Mmm, it’s so nice and fuzzy again,” Nicky said, a hand already out from under the cape to caress the sides and back. “Like scratching Velcro.”

“Well, don’t get too used to it— I’ve still gotta make it tighter,” Samira advised as she got back to the chair, clippers still in hand, but with a tiny brush in the other.

“Oh, right,” Nicky quickly fitted her hands back under the cape, eyeing Samira’s clippers a little suspiciously. “It’s already shorter than usual though, isn’t it?”

“It is,” Samira said as the clippers popped back to life, “but you wanted it nice and tight, right?”

But Samira never waited for an answer. She held the clippers in an inverted manner, with the flat part of the clipper head facing the ceiling while the pointy side of the blade was directed at Nicky. Just as Samira brought those blades close to the head, Nicky noticed the lack of a guard on the head of the clippers.

She unwittingly squinted as those bare blades went in surgically into that patch of fuzz on her right side, etching out a tiny, horizontal line the size of the clipper’s head. Slowly and precisely, Samira continued towards the back of Samira’s head, carving out a longer line of practically bare skin that was a solid inch above Nicky’s ear. As the clippers reached the back of the head, the clippers were angled slightly so the line arched down towards the lower part of the nape, then brought back up as the clippers moved towards the left side of the head— the line now forming a slight V-shape on Nicky’s nape. Nicky kept her head as still as rock, only glancing nervously as she wondered what Samira was trying to achieve.

Quinn was none the wiser— watching with anticipation as that line was carved so perfectly around the back of the head. The first thought that came to her mind was some sort of undercut design, which she thought looked rather edgy. But ‘edgy’ wasn’t really a word Quinn would’ve used to describe Nicky, which only confused her a little about how the cut seemed to be transpiring in front of her. It’d definitely be a fun look to see on Nicky, but she’d imagine it’d get old rather quickly.

And just as the worry about seeing the fuckboy version of Nicky started bubbling in Quinn, Samira quashed it within seconds.

Once she was satisfied with the clearly-drawn line that ran around Nicky’s sides and back, Samira returned to Nicky’s right, where the clippers were positioned just below those fuzzy sideburns. The cold steel of the humming blades were still bare— sending a slight chill through Nicky as she realised what was to come next. But before she could even think about saying anything, Samira pushed the clippers straight up.

The clippers hummed menacingly as it mowed upwards, followed by Samira flicking them away the moment it reached the line she drew. Nicky bit the bottom of her lip when she saw it: the naked path of pale skin that was left in the clippers’ wake. But Samira kept going, now folding down Nicky’s right ear so the clippers could have unfettered access to that section around the ear— where the clippers were about to raze every bit of hair that was even close to it.

She could only watch, mesmerised, as that fuzz she was so familiar with was erased so efficiently by the clippers, leaving only bare skin behind. The tiniest specks of hair that trickled down onto her ear, which Samira had to dust off with her manicured fingers. Nicky stifled a gasp when she felt Samira’s fingernails casually grazing that now-exposed skin that was around her ears, and that was when it finally dawned on her what the line Samira had drawn around her head was for. A rough guideline of how high the guardless clippers were to be brought.

Quinn was still on the edge of her seat, though at this point staring intently as she tried to figure out what was happening— especially with the way Samira was positioned that blocked part of Nicky’s head that made it so Quinn couldn’t really see the finer details of the cut. But as Samira started transitioning to the back, Quinn blinked when she caught that glance of bare skin around Nicky’s ears. And she was only going to see more.

As Samira began running the clippers up the back of Nicky’s head, Quinn’s eyes could’ve popped out of their socket when she saw the drastic work that the clippers were putting in. The clippers ran from the base of the neck up to the pointed base of the V-shape that was slightly above Nicky’s occipital bone. With each pass, a fresh chunk of naked skin was made bare— paler in comparison to the tanned skin that was on the rest of Nicky’s body.

Unlike that first part of the cut where Samira went rampant with the clippers all over the sides and back, this time she was much more careful— taking slower passes to make sure that skin-tight section didn’t go higher than it should. As Samira folded down Nicky’s left ear, the clippers were sent in to finish up those last, fuzzy bits below the line she drew. And in just a few methodical swipes of the clippers, the thin white line was fully replaced with that large swath of skin— so pallid, contrasted with the rest of Nicky’s jet black hair that still hung high on her head.

By the time Samira was done with the first round of the guardless clippers around Nicky’s head, the sides and back were now left in two distinct sections— with about half of it being skin, and then the other half just above it still being fuzzy with a #2. With the clippers shut off, Samira picked up a mini brush no larger than the size of her palm from the counter, then went to town dusting off any tiny, stubborn clippings that still cling to the pale skin.

“Might have to bring her to the beach this weekend, Quinn— gotta get her pale neck all tanned up!” Samira teased as the bristles of the brush tickled the nape, which Nicky had to bite her tongue to suppress a chuckle.

“That looks really short,” Quinn remarked, still in a bit of disbelief at how there were parts of Nicky’s head that just didn’t have hair anymore. But there was still a curiosity that lingered— wondering how all that bare skin was going to feel on her fingers when she ran them up the back of Nicky’s neck.

“Looks a little drastic now, but don’t worry, I’m gonna fade it up so it blends it smoothly with the rest on top,” Samira gestured towards the crown, reassuring Quinn.

“I’m more than fine with how it’s looking. I’m just wondering if Nicky’s okay in that chair seeing so much skin on her head,” Quinn quipped playfully.

“Oh, she’s fine. Big girl like her’s not afraid to show some skin, right Nicky?” Samira gave a few pats on Nicky’s shoulder.

“Mm,” Nicky’s lips formed a thin line, trying to seem as neutral as she could while staring at Quinn through the mirror— not expecting this teasing game to come out all of a sudden. Quinn only smirked in return, delighted at the chance to see the strong Nicky having her little moment of doubt, where there usually would be none.

Samira was quick to get back to work— tweaking the lever near the head of the clippers before popping them back to life to start shaping the fade. She made small, controlled passes just above that skin section, taking a bit at a time as she worked her way around the head. Quinn didn’t seem to notice much of a difference as this stage happened, but the calculated expression on Samira’s face was enough to make her want to trust the process. After each round Samira made around Nicky’s head with the clippers, she adjusted accordingly— either fitting on a longer guard onto the head of the clippers, or simply retightening the lever that controlled the blades. With every few passes, Samira had to dust off the loose clippings with the little brush— keeping this canvas around Nicky’s head as clean as possible so she could sculpt the perfect fade.

Before long, the humming of the clippers took a respite, and instead out came the roar of the hairdryer. Samira blasted it all across Nicky’s sides and back as she dusted it off cleanly, making the woman in the chair have to squint as the overwhelming breeze took over her unfamiliarly nude head. The hairdryer was soon turned off, and the shop was back to a much quieter ambience.

“How’s that? Nice and tight around the sides like you wanted, yeah?” Samira asked as her hands were planted on either side of Nicky’s head, helping her turn it from side to side so she could fully take in the sight of the fade.

“Yeah,” Nicky weakly replied, still so aghast at that foreign version of her in the mirror— what with her sides almost virtually shaved to the skin and faded into very soft fuzz, all while the entire, bountiful section on top of her was still pinned securely on her crown. She prudently got a hand out from under the cape, slowly reaching up to the side of her head where her sideburns should be. “Oooh,” her face softened as the apprehension seemed to wash away.

“Takes a bit of getting used to feeling your own skin there, but I’m sure you’ll love it in no time,” Samira assured, grazing that pale skin beside Nicky’s exposed ear with a fingernail.

“I think I love it already,” Nicky was hooked on the feeling, already getting out her other hand to start exploring that new landscape around her head.

Quinn’s heartstrings got themselves in a tangle— watching rather enviously as Nicky got her first crack at that gorgeously bare nape that seemed to be so addictive to touch. God, she wanted her turn to touch it so bad. Wanted to give them the most splendid kisses all over and stain Nicky’s skin with her lipstick. She let out a sigh as she accepted it: that she’d have to painfully indulge in one more night with Nicky, just so Quinn’s hands could suffer delectably to feel Nicky’s fresh head of hair—and skin.

The clips holding the top sections were soon undone, letting those still-long locks spill around Nicky’s face annoyingly. There was a clear look of displeasure on her face— one that Quinn took great amusement in seeing. The sides and back may have been cut to perfection, but there was still a fair bit of length to go before Nicky was going to be satisfied with how she looked.

Samira began combing out Nicky’s mane, parting it this way and that as she got a feel for the length that was left. In those few moments, Quinn was rather obsessed with that image of Nicky, having that sort of long bob, but with a sneaky faded undercut underneath it all. It must be such a treat— imagining rubbing her hands up that skin and fuzz, then being met with such softer, longer locks above that she could still run her fingers through. The best of both worlds.

But as the clippers growled back to life, that thought would only stay as a fantasy. Just as Samira flicked off the guard on the clippers once more, Quinn was left to watch in anticipation as she wondered what more Samira was going to do with that trusty implement of hers that had already taken off so much of Nicky’s hair.

Samira started from the back of the crown, raising an ample section of Nicky’s hair with the comb. With the head of the clippers positioned at the edge of the flat part of the comb, the bare blades went zwoop across the teeth of the comb where those fine locks poked through. A fair few inches of soft hair simply floated down the back of the chair, joining its other lost brethren that crowded the floor around the barber chair.

Samira worked her way from the back of the crown towards the front— lifting up a generous section of locks with the comb, then sweeping right across with the clippers to reduce Nicky’s mane so efficiently. With each pass, only a short tuft that was less than a couple inches was left behind, which Samira quickly combed back down flat against Nicky’s head.

Nicky had to squint when Samira’s working on those front sections of the crown— pulling the hair up above Nicky’s head as the clippers ran horizontally across the comb, causing those shorn locks to cascade forward down her face. But through that tickling of hair came a smile on her face. A brief moment of irritation before a long promise of relief, to be free of all her hair.

That last, long section of hair in front was soon raised, and with just one quick swipe of the clippers by Samira, those soft locks plopped down onto the ever-growing mound of hair gathered in Nicky’s lap. There was a large grin on Nicky’s face now as she finally felt free, being able to recognise that image of herself in the mirror much better than when she got in Samira’s chair earlier. While the sides were still a new experience with the soft fuzz that gradually faded into her skin, the top was practically back to its old length. While the length was still relatively uneven given the choppy technique that Samira used, it was still reinvigorating for Nicky as she realised not a single lock on her head was now even remotely close to touching her ears or her face.

With just a bit of shaping here and there, the top would’ve been back to its familiar state that Nicky was used to— short enough to comb and part, with that bit of length in front to push up and over into her usual quiff. But as Samira combed through those short locks that were left behind, it seemed she was still unsatisfied with the general length she’d left the hair above. Starting at the back of the crown once more, she lifted up a section of Nicky’s locks with the comb. Shorter locks poked through the teeth of the comb this time, and just as the clippers were about to run across the length of the comb— Quinn noticed how close the comb was to Nicky’s scalp.

Most of the shorn locks fell back into the crown of hair, which Samira had to comb out to flick away, tumbling off the side of Nicky’s face and onto her shoulder. While Nicky couldn’t quite see the length yet, Quinn’s eyes widened ever so slightly seeing how much shorter the length was left behind now. She immediately combed up another section of short locks beside that spiky tuft, using its length as a guide before the clippers tan horizontally across the comb— mowing any length that stuck out above.

Quinn watched as Samira methodically continued with this clipper-over-comb technique from the back to the front, taking the already-short crown section a notch shorter. Soft, parted locks that were long enough for Quinn to imagine wrapping her fingers around were replaced with tinier tufts that were no longer than a digit of her finger. Probably too short to even grab onto anymore.

As she slowly worked through the back of the crown, everything still seemed rather intact to Nicky, especially with how the section near the front that framed her face still looked ample enough.

But that illusion was about to be shattered as Samira’s comb raked up Nicky’s hairline that bordered her forehead, picking up the generous section that would make her part. Nicky watched with rapt attention through the mirror as the clippers were brought above her forehead, and in one fell swoop sheared off any soft hair that jutted out above the comb. She had to close her eyes as those short locks tumbled down her face, and by the time she opened them again, she had to bite her tongue. The section left behind near her forehead was short— so short that she probably wouldn’t even be able to run her fingers through to push up and over. It simply stood upright on its own, which Samira had to comb down against the forehead to even get it to stay down. With a smile, Samira ruffled through that tightly cropped landscape on Nicky’s head, delighted at the length that was left behind. Quinn had to nibble on her lower lip to hide a stupid smile— realising not a single lock of Nicky’s hair above was getting messed up by Samira’s hand. But god, Nicky looked so sexy with her hair this short.

The comb now ran through the upper parts of the sides and back, where the sections merged into the slightly longer length on the crown. The clippers were used in the same way— running across the teeth of the comb to shear off any length that poked out. Samira was a lot more focused here, taking her time to blend in the two sections smoothly together. It didn’t take long before Samira was satisfied with the way the sides gradually got longer towards the crown, and the clippers were turned off, then finally put back on the hook.

Samira got out her shears for the first time that day, raking it through the cropped locks on top of Nicky’s head that took a bit of coaxing to even follow the direction she was combing towards. Starting from the back of the crown again, Samira held the flat part of the comb close to Nicky’s scalp, leaving only the tiniest of hairs poking through the teeth.

snip snip snip

There was a meticulous attention to detail, with Samira making sure the comb was held precisely at the perfect length before she made her careful snips. It was impressive how much effort Samira was putting into perfecting a section that seemed so meagre to the eye, especially with how little hair was really being sliced by the shears. Quinn may have walked into the shop that day thinking Samira was just another barber, cutting just simple, short styles. But having the privilege to watch her work had changed Quinn’s perspective— realising how thorough she was with her work, making sure every detail on Nicky’s head was to fit her vision of how the cut should be.

The front section was soon combed up once more— held barely between Samira’s fingers as the shears pointed down to snip away at those spiky tufts that poked out. She went over this section a few more times, point-cutting it with utmost precision. Nicky could only glance curiously as her hair was being sculpted to a length much shorter than she’d ever had, still trapped under that yellow cape that held all the hair she was so excited to be rid of that morning.

Samira took her time, and eventually she was simply staring at her work from every angle, teasing those short locks with a few fingers to make sure it was all at the perfect length. “What do you think, Nicky? Nice and tight enough?” Samira eventually asked, taking a step back to let Nicky have the space to get a good look.

Nicky slowly got a hand out from under the cape, nervously reaching up to touch that sparse bit of hair that was left on her crown. “Oh, wow, that’s short,” Nicky blankly stated the obvious as her hands glided over her jet black crop— a length that wasn’t even close to getting tangled between her fingers. Curiously, her fingers went for that front section where she’d usually push her quiff over and off her face. But now it was probably too short to even be called a quiff— just a spiky tuft that stood out on its own was left behind, which needed a bit of effort to pull down onto the tip of her forehead.

“Nice and tight, just like you wanted it,” Samira said as mussed about Nicky’s crop with a few fingers. “Short enough you won’t even have to comb it, but I did leave a little bit more in front so you can spike it up. Not long enough to really style it like a quiff, but at least you won’t need to keep pushing it off your face,” Samira elaborated, pulling on those short locks in front of Nicky’s forehead upwards.

“No need to comb?” Nicky was suddenly intrigued, looking from side to side as her hands started ruffling a little more violently through her head. Then a smile appeared on her face when she realised nothing was quite getting messed up like it used to.

“Not even the wind could mess it up! Much easier to take care of it. Just wash and go,” Samira continued.

Quinn’s mind replayed that moment she had with Nicky the previous night in bed, and she bit her lip when those words echoed through her head once more. Hold on tight while you still can. At this point, there was practically nothing to hold onto anymore on that dramatically short crop of hair left on Nicky’s head. Bobbed Nicky was a thrilling novelty for a night, but right now it was a completely distant dream. Never again was Quinn going to get the chance to pull on Nicky’s soft hair.

Just as Quinn thought the cut was over, Samira produced a small white towel from the back of the shop. She unfolded it, then placed it fully so that it spread across Nicky’s bare neck and the skin-shaved sides. “Mmm, I missed this,” she heard Nicky let out from the chair, her eyes now shut in pure bliss feeling the hot towel on her skin.

Samira left the towel on Nicky’s neck before stepping forward to her workstation where the rest of her tools were. She pressed a button on a machine that was on her counter, and with a whir it poured out some white foam into a bowl. With a shaving brush, she stirred the foam to make sure it was at the right consistency, then proceeded to remove the towel from Nicky’s neck and tucked it into the collar of the cape. She started applying the foam with the brush, paying attention to the lower parts of the nape and sides that were cut to the skin, spreading the foam down towards where Nicky’s neckline would begin and where the sideburns would’ve been. Once most of Nicky’s neck and sides were lathered up in white, Samira got out the straight razor from its case.

Quinn eyed Samira curiously as she stropped the razor on the strip of leather that was behind the chair a few times, then took her position on Nicky’s right side once more. She tilted Nicky’s head, then carefully positioned the blade an inch above the ear where the edge of the foam ended. Samira made a firm, clean stroke downwards with the razor, cleaning off the foam that was below along with any fine hairs that the clippers would’ve missed.

It was initially unnerving to Quinn, but she soon realised how calm Nicky was with her eyes still closed, despite the fact that part of her head was being shaved with a razor so sharp. If anything, Nicky seemed to actually be enjoying it, with a small smile on her face as Samira continued her work. With every clean swipe of the razor, she took a moment to wipe off the blade on the towel that was tucked in the collar of the cape before repositioning the razor at the next section. Samira was extra careful at this stage, making only the most deliberate of movements as she slowly worked her way around the sides and back. Nicky kept her head as still as a rock, moving it only with Samira’s touch as the skin-tight sections were cleaned up.

Once that final stroke of the razor swiped clean the last bit of foam that covered Nicky’s right sideburn, the razor was wiped one last time before being set on the counter. Samira untucked the towel, folding it in half before giving Nicky’s sides and back a good wipe to clear off any of the excess foam that lingered, then tossed the towel into a little bin below the counter.

“Nice and smooth,” Samira remarked, gently running a thumb through the sections that she’d gone over with the razor. “Almost done with you, Nicky.”

She opened up a little tub that was on the counter, taking a few fingertips’ worth of product before rubbing it in her palms. Samira then roughly ruffled it into the hair on top, focusing on spiking up the tufts that were still left on the front to showcase the short, yet still well-textured locks that were left on Nicky’s crown.

“All done!” Samira announced before turning the chair around so Nicky was back facing the wall mirror. Samira then handed Nicky the hand mirror, which she accepted after getting a hand out from under the cape. “Have a look. Short enough, yeah?”

Nicky confidently raised the mirror up to her face, getting her hand out of the cape at the same time to conduct her own inspection of the cut. Her sharp jaw turned from side to side, grinning delightfully at the sight of her more exposed head that was no longer trapped by that bob she walked in with. “It’s perfect, Samira- ooh,” she said as her hand slid up the skin of her neck that stretched up towards the lower part of her nape. “I don’t know why I’ve never asked you to cut it short like this before— this is amazing.”

“Oh, I always knew you were going to pull something this tight and short off. Was just waiting for the day for you to ask,” Samira commented as she took the mirror back from the satisfied Nicky. She then picked up the hairdryer, letting it roar to life as she started blasting it towards Nicky’s head of hair. It was quite amusing to Quinn— watching such a short head of hair being dried off by something so strong. Only that front part that was still sufficiently long seemed to actually be moving with the direction of the gushing wind. She soon realised though that the hairdryer was probably more for the sake of easily dusting off any loose hair that was still stuck on the scalp and around the head, especially when Nicky was taking the opportunity to crane her neck slightly here and there to really get the wind all over her.

“Now, let’s get this off of you,” Samira said once the hairdryer was shut off, starting to undo the cape from the back of Nicky’s neck. She let the cape lay loose for a moment, then removed the neck strip of tissue to lightly dust off her neck before disposing of it. She got out a large bristle brush, sprinkling a bit of a talc on it before giving Nicky’s neck and the skin-tight section a generous dusting with it. The cape was then whisked away with a flourish, sending those large clumps of jet black hair down to the floor, and a new Nicky was now fully revealed.

Nicky got out of the chair with a spring in her step, turning immediately to regard herself in the mirror with one of the largest grins Quinn had ever seen on her. Her hands were drawn like a magnet to her neck and nape, rubbing it tenderly as she acquainted herself with that new image of herself— one that was still familiar as a version of herself she once knew, but now with that added bit of change that she’d wanted.

Quinn’s hands were fidgety— so eager to get her hands all up in that brutishly short head of hair of Nicky’s that she just knew would feel like the wildest ride. But she played it coy. She may have been ‘pretending’ to be Nicky’s for the day, but even then she wasn’t quite sure if she should be seeming too needy. By a stroke of luck, Nicky naturally went up to the waiting area with a soft expression on her face, regarding Quinn. “Do you wanna touch it?” she asked.

Quinn had to bite her tongue to stop herself from smiling like an idiot, somehow still able to get her wish even if she didn’t ask for it. “Sure,” she played it off nonchalantly, standing up before letting her hands roam free. It was hard to suppress a gasp when her fingers felt it— those smooth sections of skin that spread upwards from Nicky’s neck and sides into where her hair used to be. It gradually turned from skin into stubble, then a short and comfy fuzz towards the crown. Her fingers curled up slightly when she reached the top, sneakily trying to grab any amount of length that was left on Nicky’s head, but to no avail. Quinn wistfully glanced at the floor, where Samira was sweeping up all of that hair she’d been able to grab onto so fervently last night. And now all she had was a soft pelt of hair to ruffle her fingers through. Well, for just one more day, at maximum.

“You look handsome,” Quinn complimented earnestly, her fingers instinctively sliding down to Nicky’s chin to tilt her head down so their eyes could meet. Quinn’s nose crinkled, catching a waft of that rose-scented talc that was spread across her neck mixing in with that cologne Nicky wore— an aroma she quite liked.

“Really?” Nicky’s smile was infectious.

“Mhm,” Quinn affirmed, letting out a soft sigh as she wondered how they found herself here. If only a moment like that could last forever. But it’s a moment she didn’t want to waste— it may have been Nicky’s idea to have this last day together, but that didn’t mean Quinn needed to trudge through it. And at least she got to see Nicky feeling like her handsome self once more before they had to say goodbye.

“Did you want to go next, dear?”

The other voice in the shop called out, and both Nicky and Quinn were left stunned as they stared at each other slightly perplexed. Nicky was the first to turn around, realising that Samira had fully swept up the floor around the chair, which was now turned to face them both. But she had already been shorn for the day, or rather at least a full month. Slowly, Nicky’s gaze returned to Quinn’s— who was beginning to understand who that question was for.

“Uhm,” Quinn stammered, not expecting the attention to be on her so suddenly. “I was just accompanying Nicky, actually.”

“Oh, there’s no need to be a stranger. I’ve got an empty chair and no one else waiting— how about a haircut?” Samira invited. Quinn froze, her eyes glancing back to Nicky’s who was equally as surprised. Nicky definitely didn’t think her harmless question to Quinn earlier that day would somehow come close to being true. “It’ll be on the house,” Samira weaved in. “You’re already helping do up my mural, you can consider this as a tip in advance for the commission.”

“I haven’t even done anything— how do you know it’ll be good?” Quinn was perplexed at the sudden generosity.

“If it’s Nicky’s recommendation, I know it’ll be great,” Samira heartily said as she flicked off the yellow cape, slinging it around her arm in preparation for her next customer.

Quinn was struck. She knew Nicky had quite the reputation with her community, and probably more so for a barber she’d been going to for a long time. Yet again, Quinn was met with an unsuspecting amount of courtesy. And yet again, it was courtesy that would fumble her— courtesy that she didn’t have the heart to reject. She looked up to Nicky once more, and all the taller woman could offer was a light shrug— as if to say ‘it’s up to you’.

With a small breath of a sigh, Quinn made her decision.

Neither Samira nor Nicky said a word as Quinn strode towards the chair, then carefully climbed up the footrest of the barber chair that overshadowed her more lithe figure. As she slowly sank herself into the padded cushion, Samira could only give Nicky a slight look of awe— one which Nicky responded to similarly.

It was now Nicky’s turn to sit on the waiting bench, brimming with suspense as she realised she and Quinn had essentially swapped positions. Surely, nothing too dramatic was going to come out of this unexpected turn of events— more than anything, she was surprised Quinn agreed. But anything more would certainly be a scene to behold.

It took a moment for Quinn to settle herself into the chair that was surprisingly comfy, but her guard was still up as her hands fidgeted with the tips of her auburn hair that ended just around the edge of her sternum. Samira soon spun her around so that she was facing the mirror, and Quinn was left to regard her reflection. Left to wonder what she’d gotten herself into.

But Samira didn’t leave much time for pondering— she was back to business mode as she started gathering up Quinn’s bountiful locks behind her neck. She twisted it up onto Quinn’s scalp then used a large claw clip to hold the hair in place while keeping Quinn’s rather pale neck and shoulders free and exposed. Samira flicked out the yellow cape from her arm, then expertly flung it over Quinn’s figure before pulling the ends behind her neck. Samira left it loose for a moment as she tore another piece of neck tissue, being a little more gentle as she securely wrapped it around Quinn’s neck. “That’s not too tight, is it?” Samira asked warmly as she looked at her through the mirror, trying to make sure her new customer felt welcomed in her chair.

“It’s fine,” Quinn pushed out a smile as Samira fastened the ends of the cape together, and she was now fully caught in this embrace she never imagined herself to be in.

Samira smoothed out the cape, which was just large enough that it practically enveloped Quinn’s entire bodice— even her feet that slightly dangled above the footrest. The clip holding her tresses in place was undone, letting it all fall artfully over the yellow cape that starkly contrasted against her hair. Samira then picked up the large comb from the dresser, taking her time to inspect this new head of hair she hadn’t seen up close before.

“Mmm, now this,” Samira looked over at Nicky while gesturing at Quinn’s hair, “is the type of hair you want for a bob.”

“Oooh, really?” Nicky leant forward a little, perking up at the mention of a ‘bob’— specifically one that wasn’t directed at her.

“Definitely. It’s thick, it’s full, and not to mention a splendid natural colour as well. It’s like a perfect canvas,” Samira continued, gushing over Quinn’s tresses as she ran the comb through it.

Quinn could only stare at Nicky through the mirror with a nervous look, hearing Samira ponder out loud about what she thought would look good. And it didn’t sound like a harmless trim. “I don’t think I’ve ever envisioned her with hair that short, but it’s definitely an interesting thought,” Nicky gave a sly smirk to Quinn, who only stared back in bewilderment hearing Nicky trying to encourage this. “Hmm, but her hair’s so pretty though. I couldn’t imagine seeing her lose so much of it.”

Quinn let out a soft sigh, still keeping her composure together as Nicky at least had the heart to help ‘defend’ her hair. “Well, luckily it’s not your hair— it’s Quinn’s,” Samira finally turned her attention to the subject of her rumination. “What do you think, dear?” She asked vaguely as she pulled back the ends of Quinn’s red hair, as if simulating what it would look like to her in the mirror.

“Uhm…” Quinn’s pulse went into a bit of a panic now that the question was directly at her, and she could feel herself blanking out at the question, even though she knew she wanted to say no. For so long she’d kept her hair long and luscious, and to have it all be confronted so suddenly— there really was no way to prepare for that.

“Nah, I don’t think she wants to,” Nicky swooped in once more to Quinn’s aid, but her smirk seemed to still stay. “She’s too scared to lose a bit of length.”

Quinn blinked, then turned in her seat to face Nicky who was seated diagonally behind her. “I’m too ‘scared’?” she asked, seemingly taking offence at the accusation.

“You’ve kept your hair the same way your whole life, haven’t you? I’m sure you wouldn’t wanna lose so much of that gorgeous red,” Nicky was almost goading now.

“Have you never had your hair short?” Samira’s eyes widened with some surprise.

“No…” Quinn piped down, suddenly feeling dumbfounded for being the ‘odd one out’ about a topic she’d never quite considered, let alone dared to toy with.

“Ah, well of course you’d feel that way about cutting all this off,” Samira said as she ran her fingers more delicately through those crimson tresses, and there was a tinge of relief washing over Quinn as she realised Samira was now on her side. “Anyone would feel scared about losing this much hair. And for what it’s worth, it’s a lovely head of hair you’ve got. I can tell you take really good care of it.”

“Thank you,” Quinn could muster up a smile, at least glad someone could appreciate how much her hair meant to her.

“I mean, it’s not that much length off if it’s a bob right?” Nicky was still playfully suggesting, much to Quinn’s dismay. “Would still be plenty of hair to play around with. Not like she’s chopping it all off into a pixie or something.” Even the mere suggestion of it sent a shudder through Quinn’s spine.

“Hmm,” Samira mused as her fingers found the ends of those red tresses, sliding it up to just above Quinn’s jaw before holding up the length that was left below. “About that much,” she presented about ten inches worth of hair. “And now that I’m looking at it, I think Nicky cut off not so much less than that.”

“Wow, really?” Nicky said amusedly, hand ruffling through her short crop of hair as her eyes glanced down at that pile of her severed hair that was swept off to the side already.

“So technically, even if you didn’t like it— which I don’t think would be the case— it’ll grow back to this length in about a year or probably two, give or take?” Samira was gentle in her coaxing. “But hey, it’s a big choice, but most importantly it’s your choice,” she assured, patting Quinn’s shoulders warmly to soothe her through such a tumultuous topic.

“It’s fine, I was just messing around,” Nicky leant back against the wall in her seat, still smirking away. “I don’t think I would even want to see her lose so much length.”

Quinn hadn’t seen Nicky this teasy before, but somehow it got a bit of a ride out of her. Their last day together, and this part of her seemed to be popping out of nowhere. For someone she’d always considered to be such a serious woman, there was something about this side to her that seemed rather… uncharacteristic. Did Nicky secretly desire to see Quinn with a shorter style? Or was this all just some playful ruse that came out of nowhere? Quinn wanted to think the former seemed unlikely, especially with how Nicky herself had said she loved Quinn’s hair. But it wasn’t as if those two things could be mutually exclusive.

“Why don’t I just take an inch off? Keep the ends healthy, yeah?” Samira settled back on a less dramatic route, sliding her fingers closer to the ends of Quinn’s locks before laying it out against the cape in front of her so she could see the length that would be removed. But Quinn still hadn’t left the dramatic path that Nicky had so brazenly tried to keep her on.

“You think it’ll look good?” Quinn asked with a small squeak in her voice.

“Yeah, a good trim can keep it looking fresh,” Samira replied, not catching onto what Quinn was actually questioning, much to her dismay.

“No, I meant,” Quinn sighed, realising she actually had to say it out loud, “the bob.” The word rang in the air for an eternal moment, and it was enough to make Quinn wonder if this brief temptation of fate was even worth it. Nicky was suddenly back on the edge of her seat, not expecting this dramatic turn after she’d left it alone. But this time she remained silent— eager to see if Quinn was actually serious.

“Oh,” there was a genuine surprise in Samira’s tone as she doubled back, finally taking in what Quinn meant. “Well… I think it would be a very flattering cut for you.” She went back to folding up those bottom layers of the hair, simulating it to appear shorter in the mirror before continuing. “This is what I’d do: it’ll be all in one-length, say to about,” she raised her hands a little so that the hair seemed to end at Quinn’s bottom lip, “here— just a tiny bit shorter than jaw-length. It’ll be that length all around the head, with maybe a slight arch towards the back if it gets heavy there. With how lovely your hair is, it’s gonna look super sleek.” Quinn was still on edge watching Samira’s demonstration— even if it was just a simulation. Just imagining her hair that short, not even long enough to touch her collarbones and anything below that. A shivering thought.

Samira then let go of the hair, once more giving Quinn that security of seeing her hair in its full state. “We’d be taking quite a bit of length off, yes,” Samira added, realising Quinn was still a little frozen after her initial suggestion, “but I assure you there’ll still be plenty to play around with, and it’ll frame your face really well. It’s a big decision, but I promise I’ll make it look as beautiful as it can be for someone as gorgeous as you.”

The barber chair quickly turned into a hot seat as Quinn was put back on the spot, which she’d so wildly decide to put herself in out of the blue. To think she was initially just planning on following Nicky around to do some errands— to think that all she wanted the evening before was one good night in bed to end another slow week. And now she had to contemplate giving up a part of herself that she’d had for most of her lifetime.

“Well,” Quinn gathered up the courage to start voicing, sitting up firmly against the cushion of the chair, “if someone like Nicky trusts you that much with her hair, then I guess I could trust you with mine too.” She gave her best look of confidence as she repeated Samira’s logic back to her, and the older woman only seemed amused. “I trust you,” Quinn’s voice suddenly whittled down to a quick whisper.

“And it will not be misplaced trust, my dear,” Samira assured boisterously before giving Quinn’s shoulder a firm squeeze.

As she enthusiastically went back to the counter to gather her tools, Nicky was left to look in some horror as she realised Quinn had made her decision— a drastic one. “Quinn…” she called out weakly from the waiting bench. “You know, I was just joking. You don’t have to do this,” she half-pleaded, suddenly faced with the reality that so much of that red hair flowing down Quinn’s back was going to be gone.

“I know I don’t,” Quinn was still teetering on the edge of her own courage, which felt like it could crumble at any time. But while she could, she was going to fake it. “But you don’t get to be the only one doing something to celebrate you coming home.”

Nicky bit her lip as those words cut a bit deep. Samira may have only understood what those words meant on the surface, but both Nicky and Quinn knew crystal clear what that entailed for the both of them. This was no celebration of a return— it never was. This was a symbol of goodbye.

It was impulsive, but maybe it made sense. A way to mark the end of an era. To close the loop and start anew. Closure. And what better way than to have Nicky watch it happen up-close, ironically after her own playful suggestion of it. Deep down, maybe Quinn hated what Nicky said— hated it because she was right: Quinn never did change. A whole year lost without Nicky, and all she could do was squander in her own pit of despondence, waiting and hoping for some miracle to come when she should’ve just moved on.

“Are you sure about this, babe?” Nicky bit her lip when that pet name left her lips— something Samira wouldn’t have batted an eye on, but it amused Quinn that Nicky had resorted to it.

“Aww, are you the one’s that feeling scared about me losing my hair now?” Quinn somehow found the opportunity to be the teaser— realising Nicky was now the one that seemed more afraid of what was to come.

“No,” Nicky was suddenly on the defensive, “I just wanted to make sure you- gasp.”

Snip snip snip snip

While all the bickering had happened, Samira had already combed Quinn’s tresses behind her, laying them out against the back of the yellow cape. And without any warning, her scissors simply began their march— starting from the top of Quinn’s right shoulder, working in a horizontal line. Neither Quinn nor Nicky breathed a word as those snips were the only sound that filled the air. While Quinn was left to only watch the oblique reflection of Samira’s hand running across her back, Nicky could see it all.

Her mouth went agape watching those beloved locks sliding down the back of the chair in torrents with each click of the shears, already beginning to litter the floor with red. And as the scissors reached the finishing line on Quinn’s left shoulder, Nicky realised there was no more protest she could make. This was all going to happen, whether she wanted it to or not.

“Well that’s the bulk out of the way,” Samira finally spoke up, running the comb through Quinn’s locks before laying it out in front of her so she could see. Her heart skipped a beat when she realised how much shorter it was now— with the ends just barely grazing the top of the cape now. Too short to even drape it artfully over a shoulder. And it was only going to get shorter from there. “No regrets yet?” Samira asked, hands already on either side of Quinn’s shoulder.

Quinn blew out a heavy sigh, still reeling. It wasn’t as if she could turn back now. All she could do was to keep going down this road. ”No,” she replied as she shook her head, then her goosebumps flared as she felt the way her hair was so short it merely tossed around her head.

“For what it’s worth, you’re taking this really well,” Samira encouraged, gently running her fingers through the shorter length of hair that was now left behind around Quinn’s face. “I’ll get you looking even more beautiful in no time.”

Samira returned to a flurry of preparation— getting out her assortment of clips as she began combing and sectioning out those red locks. Quinn braved a glance towards Nicky through the mirror, who was still on the edge of her seat. Although this time, it seemed less of a thrill on her face, and a bit more of apprehension. Nicky’s hands were pressed against her lips, hiding any emotion on her face as those eyes kept darting down to below the chair, where a good portion of those luscious locks she’d been pulling on the night before lay so lifelessly.

With Quinn’s hair fully pinned up and prepped, Samira picked up a spray bottle from the counter. She started at the back, combing out a small section from the nape and then began spritzing it amply before slotting the bottle into the apron pocket. Quinn sucked in a breath as felt the water sprinkling on her skin, then braced herself when she felt the cold steel of the scissors on the back of her neck, positioned ghastly close to where the nape began.

snip snip snip

Quinn held firm, staring at that reflection of herself that wasn’t changing much as Samira worked on the back. With every few snips, Quinn felt the teeth of the comb raking against her neck as Samira swept off those loose locks. Once a section had been cut to the right length, Samira unpinned the next section from the back, giving it a quick spritz of water before following the guideline that was set from the previous section to snip away.

Nicky watched with rapt attention as Quinn was being taken shorter, little by little. With each snip, her insides tossed about as she watched those short locks slide down the back of the cape and onto the floor, all while poor Quinn could only see the front of her reflection— with only the sensation of the scissors on her neck to figure out how short the back was being cut.

But she wasn’t going to wonder long as Samira was just about snipping that last section on the back, where the ends were barely touching her neck, just shy of where the hairline near the nape began. It was quite the sight to behold for Nicky— seeing so much of Quinn’s neck so exposed now, and not because her hair was tied up. Not a single lock was going to be long enough to cover up that supple neck that she’d devoured the night before. And if she was lucky enough, maybe she’d get one more chance to taste it.

Samira soon transitioned over to the right side, unpinning a section so that Quinn’s hair was left laying down over her cheek before giving it a good spritz and a comb through. Once more she took aim with the scissors, this time following the guideline that was aligned with the length in the back. Quinn’s gaze was locked onto those steel blades, watching it open as she could now finally see the shearing up close.

snip snip snip

The clicking shears rang eerily in Quinn’s ears as she watched her locks on the right being snipped away, level to just about her jaw. The locks that fell weren’t the longest, but it was still unnerving watching them fall so helplessly onto the cape as she could see the bottom of her chin become so exposed. The ends were now grazing near the bottom of her jaw— the shortest she’d ever seen her hair hugging her face. But Samira never dallied as she undid the next section of hair on the right, starting to snip away following the section she’d already cut.

Quinn could only stare at that disjointed image of herself in the mirror— watching as that right side of her head was being shorn so short, all while a crowd of clips were still secured in place on top of and towards the left part of her head. It may not have been the full picture, but seeing just that half that was sliced to above her jaw was enough to imagine the end result of her bobbing.

The left side was soon started on, unpinning that final section as Samira continued her flurry of snips. Samira had her work cut out for her doing two dramatic haircuts in a row, but she remained as poised as ever. She was fast and efficient with her work, but she was also gentle— making sure she never tugged onto Quinn’s hair uncomfortably as her comb raked through, while also making sure she wasn’t completely drenching Quinn’s face with the spray bottle.

With each clump of hair that was snipped off, the final look was coming together, and Quinn was finally about to face that complete image of her new self. Everything was now completely off her shoulders, left to only hug her face as a meagre form of security. It was a jarring reality, finally seeing so much of her face up close with less flowing red to distract— she was starting to grasp how much the little details all over her face were popping out now, from her blue eyes to the little freckles over the bridge of her nose.

Before long, Samira’s hands were ruffling through either side of Quinn’s hair that was all finally loose, having a feel of its weight as she checked to make sure the length was all even. Her goosebumps were still flaring as the ends of her shorn, wet hair were flapping about her ears and cheeks— a sensation she’d never felt before. The reality was sinking in: she was bobbed.

Samira spent a bit of time towards the back of the head, frowning a little as she inspected the length near the nape.
“Hmm, still a bit heavy in the back here,” Samira uttered to herself a little disappointingly. “Dear,” her hand found Quinn’s shoulder once more as Samira looked her in the eye through the mirror, “you don’t mind if I take some of the bulk off the back? It’ll be a small chunk around the nape that’ll be shorter than the rest of your hair, but it’ll make the shape much more flattering, and it’ll feel much lighter. You okay with that?”

“Uhh, sure,” Quinn simply agreed, still kept reassured by Samira’s frequent, warm touches. As far as Quinn could see, the cut was essentially done— her wet-sprayed hair was neatly sliced to about her jaw-length, though she knew once it was dried it would shrink up a fair bit to reach that lip-length Samira had envisioned. And while she couldn’t see the back for the time being, Quinn assumed it would just be about the same length all around, though apparently it was still too ‘heavy’, which Quinn didn’t quite understand. Surely some thinning shears at the back would help with that weight, she thought.

Samira had pinned the back sections up once more, leaving a triangular section near the bottom of the nape still exposed. She headed straight for the counter to pick up her next tool to help clear up the bulk, though it wasn’t the one Quinn was expecting. Before she could even see it, she heard it.

Pop. Bzzz.

Her eyes went wide when that familiar droning returned to fill the air, and she was frozen as Samira simply retook her position at the back of the chair. “Head down for me dear— this might tickle a bit, but it won’t hurt,” she instructed as she tilted Quinn’s head straight down so her chin dug into her chest. Quinn didn’t have the words to protest or question, and could only stare at that small pile of hair in her lap as she felt those humming blades position themselves on the back of her neck. She felt her spine reverberate, not just to the vibrating clippers, but at her own trepidation as she felt them move up into her nape.

Bzzzaa. Bzzzaaa.

She shut her eyes as her hands gripped the armrests, accepting that she somehow ended up being prey to those clippers. She could feel the blades almost munching on the hair on her skin, giving it that little tickle that Samira had forewarned. While Samira only brought the clippers up for a short pass across that little section near the bottom of the nape, it felt like an eternity to Quinn. With each pass of the clippers, Samira flicked off shorn locks as she reached the end of the section, letting them fall onto the back of the cape.

As Samira did her ruthless work, all Quinn could worry about was how garish her hair was going to look. She’d already seen what the clippers did to Nicky, and while that was a style that someone like Nicky could pull off, Quinn knew in her own heart she never saw herself wearing that sort of look. Oh goodness, was she going to be bald in the back?

Before her anxiety could reach a boiling point, the clippers were thankfully shut off and placed back on their hook. Samira started dusting off the back of Quinn’s neck with a hand, and Quinn had to bite her lip when she felt Samira’s fingers so ghastly close to her own skin. Was it just skin that was there now? The breeze of the air conditioning gushing through her neck coolly was somewhat eerie, even if it should’ve been a comfy feeling.

Even though Samira was done with the clippers, it seemed she wasn’t quite done with the back. Without even saying another word to Quinn whose head was still bowed with a pinch of fear, Samira disappeared to the back of the shop once more to grab another hot towel. She spread out it across Quinn’s neck, pressing it into the skin as the redhead let out a soft hum. It was soothing at first touch, but eventually Quinn realised what this stage of the cut meant for her.

Samira carefully tucked the towel into the cape of the collar, then stepped forward to the shaving foam machine near the counter. This time she only dispensed a small dollop on her palm, rubbing it adequately between her hands as she returned to behind the chair. She carefully applied the foam with her fingers on the base of Quinn’s neck, just below where the buzzed hairline was. After wiping her hands, she got her razor back out— taking a moment to strop it on the leather strip once more.

“You’re gonna have to keep real still for me now, dear. This won’t hurt, I promise— it’ll just be like a soft scratch,” Samira advised before placing her free hand on Quinn’s bowed head, holding it firmly in place.

“Mm,” Quinn weakly replied, surrendering to her fate. The least she could do was let Samira finish her work.

Quinn expected the worst, but Samira lived up to her promise. The razor made a clean stroke up the lower part of her neck, and it was gentle— much gentler than the types of scratches Quinn would give Nicky’s back, at least. She had no idea how much was being scraped off, but at least Quinn could feel some careful tenderness while her soft skin was being put to the razor.

It was over before she knew it, and the razor blade was wiped clean with the towel as it was untucked from the collar of the cape. Samira gave Quinn’s neck a little wipe down before tossing the towel in the bin, then picked up a small bottle near the edge of the counter. “Just gonna use some lotion here for your neck,” Samira explained as she poured a small portion into her palm before rubbing it between her fingers. “Your skin’s baby smooth, so this is just to make sure there’s no irritation since you’ve probably never gotten the razor before,” she continued as she slowly applied the lotion to that section below the nape where she’d shaved. Quinn shivered as the lotion graced her skin, a cooling sensation that helped to ease her a little. “Nicky’s skin’s a lot tougher after getting the razor so many times so I can just use talc for her, but for you I think it’ll be better to go with something softer.”“Mhm,” Quinn cooed understandingly, head still bowed.

“We’re almost done, dear. Let me get this all dried up, then you can see just how gorgeous you look,” Samira announced as she wiped off the base of Quinn’s neck with the towel before dumping it in the bin. She picked up the hairdryer off its hook, then slowly raised Quinn’s neck back up so she could see the mirror. The hairdryer whooshed to life once more, and Samira used a round brush to start blow drying Quinn’s freshly cut bob.

Unlike Nicky’s cut, Samira actually had to take her time here, taking proper care to dry and straighten each section she went through. It had been a while since Quinn had gotten her hair professionally styled, so it was a welcome feeling having her hair be pampered with— even if it did come after a massive shearing of it. It definitely took some getting used to feeling the hot air gushing over her neck, with the round brush not having to spread out all the way down to her body, but stopping just short of her chin where the locks ended.

Once every section had been carefully blow dried, Samira briefly ran the hot air across the back of Quinn’s neck, letting it blast off any little stray hairs that still stuck to her skin before shutting it off. After she replaced the hairdryer back on its hook, she turned the chair around so Quinn was facing the waiting bench where Nicky was, still on the edge of her seat. Quinn made brief eye contact with her, searching to see how she might react to this first full reveal of Quinn’s brand new bob. There was still an apprehension on her face— still feeling guilty that she was the one that caused this long, drawn-out scene in front of her. But in those eyes there was a little glint, followed by the hint of a smile on the corner of her lips. A small ray of hope for Quinn as Samira appeared beside her, offering her the hand mirror.

“Have a look,” she chirpily said, a reassuring hand on Quinn’s shoulder.

Carefully, Quinn’s hand appeared from under the yellow cape to accept the mirror. She shakily raised it up in front of her, daring to finally peer up close at that bold choice she’d stumbled her way into. “Whoa,” the word softly left her lips as she was met with that image in the glass— this stunning, bobbed woman that stared back at her. Her locks were in a familiar, rich shade of red, cut in a straight line around her head where it ended just around her bottom lip. Quinn couldn’t believe that was her.

“It’s just a bit shorter than a typical bob, but I think it’s the perfect length for your gorgeous face,” Samira began describing as she gave Quinn’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Took some weight off the back too, but I made sure it doesn’t look too extreme. It’s just high enough that it won’t be obvious,” she continued as she slid a hand up the back of the neck. Quinn had to hold a breath when she felt Samira’s hand so smoothly on her skin, running up into her nape as she showcased the soft undercut. She could finally see through the double reflection the damage that was wrought— and she had to admit it didn’t look bad. It was definitely going to take some getting used to seeing a part of her head being just pure fuzz, but at least it was going to be small and well-hidden. “Oh, but don’t just look at it. Have a feel of it, dear! I’m sure you’ll love the way it feels.”

With a sheepish smile, Quinn obeyed as her other hand got out from under the cape. Still cautious, her hand slowly trailed up to the back of her neck that was now so delectably exposed for the world to see. “Mmm,” she couldn’t help but hum, eyes starting to soften and shut when her fingers finally felt that fuzz that was on the lower part of her nape.

“So good, isn’t it?” Samira happily echoed, sounding boisterously proud of herself. “Feels kind of like Nicky’s hair, right?”

“Yeah,” Quinn replied, finally making that little connection. It was a familiar sensation, running her palm through that short and prickly landscape, but so fundamentally different now that it was on her own skin, and not on someone else’s. Her own little playground for her hands.

“Now, give it a good swing,” Samira followed up. “Just toss your head around— you’re gonna love the way it feels.

Quinn simply adhered. And she could only giggle in merriment. “Wow,” she let out, thrilled by the way the ends of her hair just bounced around her face. She never quite expected her first big chop to somehow end up being… fun.

“It’s a shame it’s taken you so long to try something short. But hey, better late than never,” Samira commented as she took the mirror once Quinn had seen enough. “Now come on, let me get this off you then you two can be on your way. Great start to the day, huh? Two fresh haircuts for two lovebirds,” she said as she began undoing the cape from the back of the neck. She got out the boar bristle brush, gently dusting off Quinn’s bare neck that led down to her upper back before removing the neck tissue. She masterfully whisked off the cape, giving a good flick to the side as those red locks rained down onto the floor where the rest of her luscious red lay lifelessly.

Taking it as her cue, Quinn immediately got to her feet— then almost stumbled at how lightheaded she was. Just as her hand gripped back onto the armrest, she felt a tight grip onto her arm, holding her steady. “Careful there,” Nicky said, a pinch of worry in her tone.

“I’m okay,” Quinn brushed it off, slowly getting off the foot pedal and back onto proper footing on the floor. “How do I look?” she braved the question as she squarely faced Nicky, the heat of her conviction finally letting her face her past fully in the eyes.

Nicky sighed at first, the guilt on her face gently washing away into warmth. “Gorgeous,” she simply said.

“You’re not gonna miss my hair?” Quinn asked poignantly— though it was not just the hair she was talking about.

“I will,” Nicky pushed out a smile. “But I think this suits you better.” Her hand stretched forward, eager to know how that fresh bob must feel. But it was swatted away in an instant, to her dismay.

“Uh-uh,” Quinn wagged a finger, stopping Nicky from getting her hands anywhere close to Quinn’s head. “Only when we’re back at your place,” she sternly chided. Nicky was taken aback, not expecting the resistance. “You started this, so this’ll be your little punishment.”

But she relented. “Okay,” she said, albeit reluctantly— returning her hands to her sides dejectedly.

“Thank you so much for the cut, Samira,” Quinn expressed, somehow finding herself to be quite genuine despite the mixed feelings she still had. It was her choice, ultimately. Samira only did what Quinn asked, and as far as her job was carried out, it exceeded Quinn’s expectations.

“It’s my absolute pleasure! I told you you’d warm up to it eventually. If you ever want a trim any time, you know my door’ll always be open for you,” Samira said. Quinn didn’t quite know how to respond. Her mind was occupied too much with everything that just transpired, the last thing on her mind was yet another haircut. But Quinn smiled— knowing Samira meant it earnestly. “Oh, and here,” Samira handed over one of the business cards she had in her pocket, “just give me a call some time later in the week when you’re free, and we can talk about this commission.”

“Sounds good,” Quinn accepted, pocketing the card with some enthusiasm as she at least had something fun to work on the next week.

“Take care, you two,” Samira waved goodbye to the two women as they headed for the door, still with the most chipper look on her face after a big start to the day.

Almost on cue as Quinn set foot on the street, a gust of wind greeted her freshly cut bob, giving it a gentle tousle. Her fingers instinctively reached up to tuck behind her ears, and her heart still skipped a small beat every time she felt the full length of what was left of her hair— no longer than her chin. It felt so odd that there was just no more weight all over her shoulders or down her back. Everything was higher and lighter.

“What’s next on the errand list?” Quinn soon asked, realising she’d been standing awkwardly on the pavement for a bit.

But Nicky was similarly rooted— just staring at Quinn as she took in this new image of herself. All those little quirks she did as she was getting used to her new ‘do. There was something so precious about it. “Groceries,” Nicky eventually said, gaze still locked on the most gorgeous woman she’d ever laid eyes on. “Got a bit to stock up on. Supermarket’s just a few blocks away.”

“Did you want me to cook lunch?” Quinn offered.

“That’d be lovely.”

**

There was a pensive silence between the two as they trodded down each supermarket aisle. Quinn pushed the trolley while Nicky went on ahead to toss things into it, breaking the silence once in a while to check if Quinn needed anything. Whenever Nicky wasnt looking, Quinn found herself stealing a few touches up the back of her own neck— still so confounded by that bizarre feeling of fuzziness up the back of her neck. And every time Nicky turned back around, Quinn’s hand quickly returned to the trolley handles, giving a nonchalant face.

“Hey, I’m… sorry,” Nicky soon said out of the blue as they reached the end of the frozen section.

“About what?” there was an incredulous tone in Quinn’s voice— even if she did know what Nicky might’ve been on about.

“About… well,” Nicky vaguely gestured to Quinn’s head, thought still respecting the rule to not touch, “the hair.”

“If you’re apologising, it means you think it looks bad,” Quinn slightly instigated.

“Not at all!” Nicky got defensive, and Quinn had to suppress a smile when she got that rise out of her. “It’s just, I mean… I know you didn’t expect to get a haircut today, is all. And, well, if it wasn’t me you would’ve still had all your long hair.”

Quinn gave a slight chuckle, admiring the way Nicky was trying to play it off. “I know, and it’s okay. It was my choice, anyway,” Quinn shrugged, but then raised a finger quickly. “But you’re still gonna have to wait to get back before you touch it.”

“Thankfully that won’t be long,” Nicky gave a naughty smirk in return, and Quinn stifled a gasp as she imagined Nicky’s hands all up in her head of hair.

It felt like she was holding her breath the whole time they were doing the groceries, getting a little antsy about the moment they were going to be back at Nicky’s place. While the whole waiting game was initially meant as punishment for Nicky, Quinn soon realised she was equally suffering. Feeling that new head of hair of hers was bizarre, but she yearned to know what Nicky’s hands on it would feel like. Would the pulling be any different now that the length was reduced? Only time would tell. It felt like they were almost bursting into a jog on the way home after they’d checked out the groceries, though they didn’t share a single word on that march home. Wordlessly, they simply knew what they both wanted. What they both needed.

The moment Nicky’s door shut behind the two women, the bags dropped to the floor with a thud. It was right there in the doorway that they melted into one, hands only on each other as they feasted. Quinn’s eyes were shut, but every sensation was engraved into her mind— Nicky’s tough hands crawling up the back of her neck, those hot breaths between each passionate kiss, the sweet scent of talc still on Nicky’s body. Quinn hummingly moaned as Nicky’s fingers finally felt that fresh fuzz on the back of her nape, slowly caressing through that soft patch that Quinn herself was getting used to. And having Nicky give it such tender love was definitely helping her through it.

Quinn similarly indulged, her fingers trailing up the back of Nicky’s neck where her soft skin spread upwards a lot further, all the way towards the occipital bone where it slowly turned into stubble. Quinn’s hands roamed all across Nicky’s head, getting drunk on that mix of skin, stubble and fuzz. This wasn’t like last night, and this wasn’t close to how it felt from a long time ago. This was completely new— that sensation of soft, short hairs prickling Quinn’s palms. It wasn’t like that short quiff that she used to be able to at least grip between her fingers or pull off Nicky’s face. This time Nicky’s hair just eluded her grasp, letting her fingers glide over that ticklish landscape. And what a thrill it was.

Instead, it was Nicky’s turn to tangle her fingers up in a storm all she wanted. Quinn’s locks were still soft and silky from the blow dry, slipping through Nicky’s fingers so smoothly as she embraced this new Quinn.

“Hungry?” Quinn soon asked as they stared at each other, breaking a little bit of the tension.

“Starving,” Nicky replied, biting her lip while her eyes were still starstruck by Quinn.

“Why don’t you pick me up, we skip straight to dessert?” Quinn said just as she slipped one of Nicky’s hands into her jeans, letting loose a soft moan when Nicky’s fingers touched the moistness below.

“I think I’d like that,” Nicky smiled, licking her dessert-stained fingers before lifting Quinn up by her thighs effortlessly. Their lips met as Nicky carried Quinn up the stairs and back to the room, not wasting a single moment of their final day together.

*

It was a calm day. Quinn had cooked a sumptuous lunch after their brief dessert— which got interrupted when Quinn remembered they had frozen goods still on the floor by the front door. Dinner, however, was just pizza they’d phoned in, what with the busy schedule they had of fondling each other so delightfully everywhere they could in the house. And by the time they were back in bed during twilight, they were more alive than they’d ever been.

“You are gorgeous, Quinn,” Nicky whispered for what seemed like the millionth time— and it sounded painfully better to Quinn each time. “God, I love your hair so much.”

“Do you really?” Quinn kept playing coy as she lay on her front, with Nicky lusciously kissing up the back of Quinn’s neck.

“Mhm,” Nicky tuned between kisses, then stopped for a moment. “Do.. you, like it?”

Now that was a different question, Quinn realised. She’d heard so much about Nicky’s awe of her new hair, but this was actually the first time she was given some input. “It’s… gonna take a while to get used to it. But yeah,” she craned her neck up slightly, coaxing Nicky to resume her lipwork, “I think I like it.” She could hear the smile from Nicky’s hum. “I’m just glad she didn’t give me bangs.”

“Really? I think you’d be cute with some blunt bangs,” Nicky commented, now reaching a hand up into that soft head of hair in front of her.

“You need to stop wishing haircuts on me or they’ll actually happen,” Quinn shot back, suddenly twirling on Nicky so that they reversed positions, with Nicky’s back down onto the mattress. As Quinn stared down, those sharp sheets of her red hair flopped down so seductively, the ends grazing against Nicky’s toned torso.

Nicky smirked, reaching her hands up once more to caress that sleek bob that was all her fault. A sudden, but so magnificent fault. “At least this one turned out perfect.”

*

Quinn awoke with a shudder, the night feeling too short to last in slumber. She turned to her right— startled when she felt her smooth locks slapping her cheeks unfamiliarly, suddenly remembering how much weight on top she’d lost the previous day. And all the neck kisses she’d gotten. Then sighed. Nicky’s side of the bed was empty, as expected. She turned back to the nightstand. And blinked. There her clothes were from the night before, clean and dry from the laundry, all nicely hung on a couple hangers.

She carefully slipped out of bed and into those clothes that fit like a glove, glad that she could at least get them back without having to awkwardly ask for them. She stepped out of the room, though this time in larger strides unlike the previous morning, one last time through that corridor of the house she’d trapped herself in for that last year.

She made her way down the spiral staircase— and there Mocha was on the foot of them. “Mochaaa,” Quinn called out lovingly, to which the little gremlin tossed and turned in pleasure for a few belly rubs. “I’m gonna miss you so much.”

As if she could understand, Mocha let out a low meow, then purred. Quinn knelt for a spell, indulging her favourite cat as her ears soaked up that purring she wasn’t going to hear for a while. But it wasn’t just Mocha she was hearing— her ears caught a rumbling from beyond one of the rooms on the ground floor. Just as she stood up to inspect if, the door creaked open.

Nicky. But not strong and perky Nicky— hunched, and almost shaking.

But the sight of Quinn seemed to strengthen her, giving her some reason to straighten herself and push out a smile. “Quinn…” she whispered.

“You okay?” Quinn asked, still concerned even if it was already time to go.

Nicky walked up to Quinn wordlessly, pulling her into an embrace the moment she was close enough. Quinn cautiously wrapped her hands around Nicky’s strong figure, still aware that this was all ‘extra’. Any more she’d indulge in, and it’ll only hurt even more when she’d walk out the door.

Nicky held on for a good couple minutes, still not saying a word, and not even taking the chance to cop a feel up Quinn’s neck or across her body. She just held tight, taking in large breaths as if she’d just fought a war. Nicky was in her grey sports bra and shorts, but her figure was curiously dry— usually by this time of the morning she’d be soaking in sweat from her workout, but Quinn didn’t question it. She just kept holding on, letting Nicky embrace her for what could be the final time.

“What if,” Nicky finally said, voice still hushed, “I could stay?”

The question floated like a cloud— slow, but uncertain. It could’ve been a shower, comforting. Or some hidden storm. Quinn could feel Nicky’s calculated breaths, tugging her closer than before while Nicky’s towering neck was drooped down, almost crooked completely over Quinn’s bare shoulder. “What do you mean?” she answered.

“I mean,” Nicky’s voice was heavy, like the weight of a thousand worlds were being drawn with her breath, “what if I didn’t have to go?” Her words weren’t clearer, but her tone was— at least to Quinn. The smaller woman didn’t say anything yet. She only listened. “What if I didn’t have to leave again? What if…” Nicky sighed, then sniffled, “I could be here. With you. Forever.”

Quinn’s heart thumped, so desperately wanting to believe where this was going. But she needed assurance. “What about your job?”

“I was just on the phone with them,” Nicky said— and all the conclusions were running through Quinn’s mind. Nicky steadied herself, then added, “And I made my decision.”

“Nicky,” Quinn pried Nicky’s head off her shoulder, pulling her upright so she could look her in the eye with the most incredulous look. “Don’t tell me you quit just for me?”

Nicky shrugged, a whimsical smile finding its way onto her face that was still struggling against a muddle of tears that welled. “Wasn’t exactly a resignation, but I told them I wasn’t going out of town for them anymore. Now it’s their turn to decide what to do with me— they can let me go if they want. And you know what?” Nicky picked up both of Quinn’s hands with hers, rubbing the back of the palms delicately. “That was so much easier to do, than even imagining having to say goodbye to you for the last time. I felt like I was up the whole night… just holding onto you, knowing those were the last few hours I had,” Nicky continued, raising one of Quinn’s hands to cup against her face. “I relished every moment yesterday, even if it was just one quiet day with you. Eating with you, doing groceries with you, even watching you get your hair done— everything. I know in my bones that I only want to be with you.”

Quinn had only been listening silently, still standing strong— but she soon felt the trickle of warmth sliding down her cheek. She spent that last year wallowing, waiting and silently hoping. And just when she was ready to let go, Nicky wasn’t. But this wasn’t some desperate flailing with a plea. This was Nicky taking a stand, and finally digging her heels in to make a commitment. Nicky wanted Quinn, and was willing to do anything to get that.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. But we’ll figure it out, right?” Nicky asked, hoping to receive some comfort. “That’s what couples do, right? We figure it out. Together.” Nicky pulled Quinn in once more, feeling the tears softly trickling against her own skin. It took a moment for Quinn to wrap her hands around Nicky again, and maybe this time it wouldn’t be the last. Could it really be? She pressed herself tighter into Nicky’s embrace, letting herself believe.

“And we will,” Quinn said. “But there’s something you still have to do.”

“What is it?” Nicky pulled back for a moment, wiping her own tear off her cheek.

“Get your sunblock,” Quinn said, reaching a hand up to tenderly palm Nicky’s bare lower nape that was still white as chalk. “We’re going to the beach. Gotta get that pale skin tanned up.”

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