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I loved you first, I love you still (I always will).

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"Now girls, you wait right here, and I'll go get the bandages."

 

"Yes Ms. McPherson." Lola Perry responded diligently, her hands folded nicely in her lap. Beside her, her new friend Susan who was still cradling her newly cut hand with the washcloth draped over it, nodded quickly. They both watched the school nurse slip out, leaving the two to sit and twiddle their thumbs on the cot of the aid station. Lola turned her head, finding Susan pressing and squishing the cloth to her cut. She quickly slapped her hand away.

 

"Don't do that!"

 

"Why?"

 

"It's suppose to stop the blood remember?!"

 

"I think she did it wrong.." Susan observed, pulling it back to try to get a better look at the wound.

 

"She can't do it wrong – she's the nurse!"

 

"Adults can be wrong – my mom, she helps adults who hurt themselves all the time where she works!" the cloth was pulled back further, Susan's eyes widening "woah – it's so weird, you should come look at it!"

 

"No!"

 

"Look – it's got this green gunk around the sides, see?!"

 

Susan whipped up her injured hand, where Lola got a very quick look at the cut with it's crusted blood and puss still lingering over, before she instantly scrambled back with a squeal.

 

"Eww, gross!"

 

She shoved her friend away, who was only laughing at her disgusted face. Lola still didn't know why Susan found that kind of stuff so funny. She'd only been friends with the girl for about a week now, not very long.

 

The two had found each other in their kindergarten class, gravitated towards one another over nothing other then their mutual, bright, red hair. It had started when Tommy Matthews had tried to tug at her wild curls, demanding to know why her hair was the colour of a crayon, why was she like that, it was weird. Lola Perry, bright-eyed on her first day of school with her brand-new summer dress and buckle up shoes, could only hold back the oncoming tears – her plan to try and make new friends was not going off so well. Until the moment when a defiant call of another kid cut off Tommy's mean words. Susan had stumbled in, untied sneakers and worn knuckles from playground wear and hair the very same flame as her own, looked Tommy right in the eye and told him he'd better not mess with another red head. It gives us super powers! Yeah – like the X-Men! You better watch out or we'll use them to totally kick your butt! That had all but sent the bully running, and after Susan had smiled at her, gave her name, and offered her to be her swing buddy – they gotta stick together, right? Susan was kinda weird but it was something Lola liked about her and her smile was true, so she took her hand and off they went. And that's the way it's been since.

 

However, Lola hadn't known that Susan's weirdness would lead them into one testing event after the other. Like when she wanted to get a closer look at that ant hill and they barely got away before they were bitten alive. Or that she'd have to talk Susan out of wandering in that tree burrow to look at that garden snake or trying to make a bike ramp out of a couple pieces of wood in the middle of the road. And now, after trying to lift a, frankly, full-grown branch, out of the ground it’d sunk into, she'd slit her hand and Lola had to take her to the nurse.

 

"..I told you not to lift it. It was too big."

 

"We need it for the fort! All we have is little branches!"

 

"But you hurt yourself!"

 

"S'ok, it'll fix itself! And then we can get back to building the fort! Oh, what if we –"

 

The door opened back up, Ms. McPherson reapearing with a smile and something in her hand.

 

"Alright girls, you're free to go now. And this is for you Susan, for being such a good patient. Just try to be more careful from now on, okay?"

 

"Yes ma'am." Susan nodded, fingers closed around the candy deposited in her palm. Once the smiling nurse was gone, Susan spun to the other redhead, and held up the gift of the kid-sized yellow M&Ms packet to her.

 

"Here you go."

 

"Huh?"

 

"For you. For helping take me to the nurse." Susan explained, pushing the candy forward, edging Lola to take it. Which she did, slowly, not really believing it.

 

"But..it's yours.."

 

"I don't really like peanuts. And you said those are your favourite."

 

Lola furrowed. How did she remember that? She guessed she shouldn’t be that surprised; it always amazed her how smart Susan was.

 

"Yes, thank you.."

 

"S'ok – best friends do that kinda stuff."

 

Best friends. Lola started to smile, holding the crinkling wrapper closer in her hands. She's never had a best friend before. She'd really like to have one, though. And she'd like to be Susan's.

 

"C'mon!" and then Susan was grabbing her wrist and yanking her forward in a run "we still gotta put the roof on before our moms come to pick us up!"

 

-

 

“Susan, you have to hold still –”

 

But it hurts –"

 

Yes, because you hit your head!”

 

“Ms. McPherson already looked at it, so you don’t need to –"

 

“It still needs ice –"

 

“I don’t want –"

 

Susan –”

 

Lola huffs, bringing the bag of ice back down. Susan was being impossible. By now, their routine was pretty well established; Susan will hurt herself, Lola will try to help. And then she’ll stubbornly refuse it.

 

You have to put the ice on it, or it won’t get better –”

 

You’re not the nurse.” Susan quipped. Lola might be her best friend, but now, she was getting kinda tired of being coddled. She was nine years old, not a baby anymore. Lola furrowed.

 

Well you’re the one who fell out of a tree.” Lola snipped back; she hurriedly placed the pack over the purpleish-green lump over her head, Susan flinching but otherwise not moving “..I told you not to climb that tree; you could’ve really hurt yourself!”

 

Stop being a baby! I’m fine!

 

You’re not, you have a giant bruise! You’re sure you don’t have a concussion?!

 

Ms. McPherson said I –”

 

How many fingers am I holding up?!”

 

Lola thrust her fingers in front of her face. Susan rolled her eyes. This was about the third time she’d done this. She was holding up four, so she replied,

 

Many.”

 

Lola huffed again.

 

I’m not dead okay?! So stop freaking! ‘Cause now,” She whipped her head up as fast as she was able, grinning proudly “I hold the new climbing record for the class!”

 

Lola only sighed “It’s a silly record, and you could’ve hurt yourself worse!”

 

Yeah but isn’t it kinda cool that I beat the highest climber for the oak tree? No one’s gone that high!”

 

Yes but then you fell out! The record is dumb and I told you not to do it. I’m always telling you not to, and then you hurt yourself!”

 

Susan lost her smile, clearly having expected Lola to revel in her glory and excitement with her. So she just rolls her eyes again and looks away to glare over at the kitten poster on the wall.

 

Whatever, fine...”

 

Lola squinted, shoulders already slumping “What..?”

 

It’s nothing – it..it’s just like when I did the stunt on my bike even though you complained I sprained my wrist, or when I caught all those cool spiders, to study, and you said that I should’ve been careful for bites – and maybe I shouldn’t have let that one bite me, but you still never get it anyway...”

 

Lola could’ve rebuttled back, but she was at a loss. She shrunk back into herself, head ducked low so the many curls covered her face.

 

..Do you think I’m a loser..?”

 

What?” Susan glanced back, brow pinched and befuddled. Lola didn’t look back, only to her lap.

 

My..my sister..she’s been calling me that – lame, not very special, and stuff. Loser Lola..”

 

The name stung, but it hadn’t been the first time Liah had said something like that. Her elder, preteen sister seemed to enjoy picking on Lola’s oddities, how she liked to spend time reading more then doing summer activities like other kids, or how she liked to make fun of her for colour coordinating her socks. Loser Lola was the slur, the high ponytail swishing back and forth and the braces on her teeth glinting as her sneer spread. Sometimes their parents would get after her, but not very often. They were usually very busy with her younger brother, and given he had downs, Lola didn’t really blame them. She will usually try and look after Lenny to help, showing him how to do-up his shoes or reading to him the books her father reads to her at night. But between Liah’s dramatics and Lenny’s struggles, it was easy to fall in the cracks, so that her parents don’t keep up to their eldest’s bullying tactics.

 

Now, when she looks back to Susan, she sees her straighten up in her stubborn anger – the same that rises to every challenge and fight and spits back whenever another kid tries to pick on them – and looking right ahead at her with ice eyes set in stone.

 

Because your sister is a jerk. And you shouldn’t ever listen to her.”

 

Instead, Lola shrugs, exhaling heavy “I dunno, I guess I sorta am lame. Loser Lola..”

 

Lola’s not a loser.” Susan pressed “Lola’s my best friend.”

 

At that Lola managed a little smile, although forced “Thanks. But she’s still right – being a loser, having a loser name..”

 

Susan furrowed with heavy thought, whirring away with calculations to come up with a solution.

 

What if I called you a different name?..”

 

Lola only tilted her head “What would you call me?”

 

I dunno – what about Perry?”

 

But that’s my last name..”

 

So? It would be cool to go by your last name. I’d like to – Susan is such a lame name..”

 

No it’s not, that’s who you are!”

 

Whatever – now you can be the cool one, with the last name, Perry.” Susan started grinning up at her “Isn’t that what your grandma calls you anyway?”

 

Well it’s..”

 

Perr-bear! You told me!”

 

Susan –”

 

It’ll be that.” Susan decided, smile only becoming cheekier as she started singing “Perr-bear. Perr-bear Perr-bear Perr-bear –”

 

Shut up!” Lola playfully shoved Susan right back, getting her to topple over on the cot. She gasped a bit and before she could apologize for being rude, Susan began laughing. No soon after, so did Lola, both giggling madly at the silliness of it all.

 

The door opened, revealing a weary Nurse McPherson. She looked to the two with her best attempt at a professional expression, but the tiredness was clear. Maybe she’d liked them when they first made trips here for Susan, but after about the tenth time, and even by then had only just started first grade, her favourtism of them had very much dwindled. Perhaps she’d seen, as Lola had, that scoldings and warnings to be more careful next time were never going to stop Susan from getting into whatever danger she pleased.

 

Alright, Susan, now after your fortieth trip to my office, I’ve decided you’re fine to go; I’ll just give you a note for your mother, and..” Glancing over the scene, she now just noticed the icy bag Lola was pressing to Susan’s head “Lola, hun, where did you get that..?”

 

Oh. Well, I just got it from the fridge..”

 

She pointed over to the little fridge and freezer, currently storing whatever supplies might be needed, including a couple ice packs. With her accompanying so many trips, she’d become quite familiar with the supplies the nurse held onto and where they were. She even did some studying on her own, learning about how to heal and fix wounds, just figuring it would probably going to come in handy with Susan.

 

The nurse blinked back at her. Then sighed.

 

Alright, fine..” She wandered over, pulling out a piece of paper to scribble a note on, handing it to Susan “Just give that to Marina – your mother, it’ll tell her what happened. I’m sure she’ll be glad not to hear from the office’s phone again, or mine...”

 

Sure thing!” Susan replied happily, stuffing the paper into her jean pocket.

 

And both of you know where the candy pale is – and even though this is just going to go in one ear and out the other, Susan you can’t be climbing –”

 

Sure, yep, great – thanks!”

 

At that, Susan had snatched Lola’s hand and bolted out the room. Lola just barely managed to throw back a thank you, but the nurse was probably too busy shaking her head and wishing that mother would strap a bike helmet to that kid’s head, to hear her.

 

Susan reached the office desk and swiped the filled plastic tub. She spun to hold it right up to Lola, who starting rummaging inside.

 

Hey, do you think we could check out that old barn at the end of Alma drive tomorrow? I hear it’s haunted!”

 

Lola squints, already not loving this idea “Like ghosts..?”

 

Maybe! That would be so cool, then we could catch one!”

 

What would we do with it?” Lola shuffled around the plastic army men and temporary tattoos; the peanut butter cups were usually at the bottom.

 

I dunno, I’d probably keep it as a pet – maybe teach it tricks.”

 

Your mom wouldn’t let you.” there were some Mars bars, a Skittles packet, but no Reese’s she could spot yet “And I thought you didn’t believe in that stuff.”

 

Since when?”

 

Well you don’t believe in Santa or the Tooth Fairy or anything…”

 

“‘Cause that stuff is dumb. Who collects teeth? And it’s impossible for reindeer to fly.”

 

It’s magic.”

 

It doesn’t make sense!”

 

Well what about ghosts?!”

 

Ghosts aren’t magic ‘cause they were real people and now they’re...ghosts..”

 

Lola, eventually, found a corner of an orange wrapper peeking out. They tugged and pulled out the peanut butter cup.

 

I guess – it can’t just be like last time when we went to spy on a new place ‘cause you wanted to see if Mrs. Pennington was a witch.”

 

She is a witch!” Susan protests as she slid the tub back over the office desk with one hand “And I could’a proved it!”

 

Yeah but she nearly called our parents on us!”

 

Whatever – that’s totally why she has so many cats. And is so creepy and hates kids – she’s definitely eating them.” Susan’s eyes bug playfully wide as they grin, getting Lola to giggle, after grabbing her again “Let’s go –”

 

Where’re we going now?”

 

I’m gunna build us a ghost trap! Now no ghosts are gunna stop the undefeatable Susan and Perry!”

 

She guessed she was Perry now – she liked it, enough that she didn’t even tell Susan that ‘undefeatable’ wasn’t even a word.

 

-

 

Susan knew Perry wasn’t talking to her for a reason.

 

It was stupid. She’d been helping her. And Larry Morrison was a complete asshole who deserved what was coming to him.

 

And yet Perry was giving her the silent treatment.

 

She was currently sat across from Susan, their regular spots in the all-too-familiar aid station. She was attempting to wrap the bag of ice up in a towel, Susan watching her struggle to fit it over.

 

..You know you can just use the bag.”

 

Perry didn’t say anything, other then look up to glare over her brow at her best friend. She got up and then pressed the pack to their currently bruised and throbbing nose.

 

Ow, jeez –”

 

That’s why I wrapped it in the towel.” Perry sighed.

 

Susan raised an eyebrow “Oh so now you’re talking to me? I thought we were just gunna continue to glare at one another.”

 

Perry only huffed more, pressing the bag tighter. Susan winced. Larry had dented her nose pretty bad; it’d stopped bleeding and they’d taped bandages over it now, but according to the nurse it was going to take a month to heal right.

 

..I still don’t know why I’m getting the harsh treatment.”

 

Because Susan, after outright attacking someone, you ended up getting yourself a broken nose!”

 

Me?! Uh, did you not hear what that asshole said?!”

 

Don’t say that! That’s bad!” Perry scolded with a pinch to her arm, Susan groaning with aggravation “..And, yes..but everyone knows he’s like that Susan. You should’ve just left him alone then continuing to poke the bear with a stick.”

 

Susan sighed. For thirteen, Perry had a very extensive vocabulary.

 

C’mon Perry, I wasn’t gunna let him talk about you like that! No way!”

 

She didn’t say anything again. Scooting the chair closer, she sat back down across with a sigh, still holding the pack up. Susan would argue that she could hold it herself, but she wouldn’t win that argument.

 

..It doesn’t really matter anyways.” Perry mumbled dejectedly, eyes to the floor “I know everyone’s thinking that..”

 

Susan frowned, wilting a bit at the words. Middle school had been something of a turbulent adventure so far, if this showed anything.

 

Perry had been really excited for it; with all the new responsibilities they’d be getting and she was going to try out for student council. Susan didn’t really care either way; she just knew that they’d get to do labs in science now, and that was all that mattered. But middle school had provided many hills for them; steeper classwork and cruel bullies. The two really had to ban together to try and survive the harsh environment that was your early teens.

 

Susan had always been weird; she was used to the kind of backlash by now. Though, not like it was any more fun then normal to deal with the teasing insults over her ruddy, tomboyish clothes and high grades. But Perry had been having an even harder time.

 

Her best friend had always been a nervous person – it didn’t take a genius to decipher that. But as things had gone on, it’d only gotten worse. Perry had become anxious nearly all the time, to the point were it was so overwhelming she couldn’t focus on much else. She’d been missing days of school. There were some times she didn’t even leave her room. Susan had tried to come and visit her, keep her company, but often Perry’s parents wouldn’t let her. Instead, they’d talk late over the phone at night, and Susan would listen to Perry’s tears with a heavy heart and wishing there was a way she could fix it. Hearing words that she didn’t know what was wrong with her and why couldn’t she just be normal .

 

They’d never be normal. Susan tried to remind her that that was their strength. But it was kinda hard when Perry went into panic attacks just walking up the school steps to get in.

 

Things were getting better now; Perry was finally doing well enough to come back to class full time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t like their peers were going to completely miss the fact that Perry had mysteriously stopped coming to class. Rumors filled the halls – that she’d finally lost it, went bonkers, they had to lock her up. Susan had fought back and shut down every one she heard but she was just one mindset against hundreds of unforgiving adolescents.

 

Which, eventually, landed them in this situation. Larry Morrison, known as the school’s bully ring leader, cornered them today to sneer and mock. He already took a great joy in bothering Susan, throwing in insults wherever he can. Freak. Dyke. Susan always shot back, a snide sentence or two, like asking if he had better things to do with his time like go fail Mr. Lawson’s math class for the fourth time.

 

Clearly not getting the reaction he wanted from her, he tried to attack a more defenseless Perry, who always took the more gracious route of walking away then hitting back. Asking her when she finally got out of the loony bin. That everybody thought she’d finally cracked. She was such a loser anyway. Loser Lola. Susan could see the tears growing over bright blue eyes and fought on Perry’s behalf; pushing Larry away, piss off, he didn’t know shit. Perry had just wanted to leave, taking Susan’s wrist and pulling her away, then start something.

 

It only took Larry snarking that since she was a crazy loser anyway, why she hadn’t just offed herself.

 

The gathering crowd had erupted into calamity when Susan’s fist slugged right into his eye. The skin had gone black and she’d sunk her nails into him, getting a few mad hits in before he began wailing on her. Perry had stood on the sides of the crowd, teary and screaming for Susan to stop, until teachers broke in and had dragged the students away.

 

Now Susan stared down a helpless Perry and suddenly reached forward to grasp her wrist.

 

No they’re not. They’re just a bunch of..” she bit into her cheek “..jerks. They don’t anything about you Perr. Or about us. Maybe we’re weird, but we’re a lot better then them. And cooler.”

 

She’d never been good at words, or at saying the right thing; she’d just wanted to make her feel better. Slowly though, Perry’s lips start to turn up.

 

..They are jerks. And..I’m glad you came to my defense today..”

 

Susan had always been good at that. Arguably, it was where their friendship started; where Susan had boldly defended Perry from the kindergarten bully. Susan, in turn, only shrugged simply, as if it was nothing.

 

You’re my best friend.” She answered easily. Perry only smiled brighter at her. The banged up nose, old and faded CatDog shirt, her bright red hair she’d half-haphazardly chopped off in the bathroom sink so that it barely reached her ears now. She could be reckless and Perry wished she wouldn’t do half the things she did, but she was brave. She was her brave best friend, fearless when Perry couldn’t be.

 

They simply smiled back at one another, interrupted when the door finally opened. Principal Barrett stood in the door frame, folded arms and a disgruntled look.

 

Alright Miss LaFontaine, your mother is on her way. You’ll be waiting in my office now.”

 

He swiftly walked back, a notion to follow him left in the air. Susan only sighed and gradually rose from her chair.

 

Better go face my doom – oh, wait, here, almost forgot.”

 

She stuffed a hand in her pocked, grasping something she leaned forward to give to Perry. The curly-haired girl opened her palm and a red lollipop was dropped into it.

 

Nurse Brown gave me one for my nose anyway – I guess..she felt bad for me, even if I punched a kid..”

 

Perry curled her fingers around the candy, saying nothing but staring up at Susan. In a second, she bolted forward and wrapped her arms around her neck. Slowly, Susan’s came around too, enveloping her in the hug.

 

I’ll go wait for your mom.” Perry whispered to her. A promise to defend her too. Susan smiles against her shoulder.

 

When it’s all over, and Susan doesn’t get into massive shit with her mother for a permanent grounding, she knows it was because of Perry who caught her mom to tell her the real story first.

 

-

 

This was the worst so far.

 

It had to be. The silence was awful, thick and wraught with tension. Susan and Perry sat on the total opposite of the room to the other, to better pretend the other wasn’t there. Perry acted like she was busy fiddling with the bow laced around her waist, and Susan glared at the floor of one of the hospital rooms, occasionally messing with the bandage wrapped around the burn on her arm. She’d been trying to tighten it and having little luck, fingers nicking at her skin and curses huffed quietly. Perry was fine to let her be, stubborn in her anger and idea that it wasn’t her problem to constantly fix Susan’s injuries. But as the other redhead only continued to screw up her bandage more, it became impossible not to say something,

 

..You know if you keep doing that you’re going to –”

 

Ow!”

 

Exactly.” Perry sighed sharply. Susan threw her a dirty glare.

 

Great – any other opinions on me you’d like to share?! What else did I do wrong?!” Susan spat, roughly kicking another chair out of the way so she could turn and fix it while not in Perry’s line of sight. Perry just rolled her eyes.

 

You don’t have to be so dramatic..”

 

Well you can just lay off!” Susan grumbled back “I don’t need a damn babysitter..”

 

Yes you do!” Perry snapped, her usually non-existent anger roaring again “You can’t be trusted with anything, and I always have to fix it! You know I was just...just trying to have a nice, normal high school experience but then you have to go injure yourself and –”

 

Well I’m sorry for being such a burden on your life! Christ, I’m surprised you weren’t too busy sucking face with your new boyfriend to care about what I was doing!”

 

Perry went up in red. Cheeks aflame, she straightened up to glare better at Susan.

 

He’s not my boyfriend! God, it was only a date to the dance!”

 

Could’ve fooled me..”

 

Perry huffed indignantly, foot stomping down “God, you..you are so impossible! I don’t even know what your problem is with him – you don’t like him, you...you don’t even like boys ..”

 

Susan could only angrily bite into her bottom lip. She didn’t know what her problem was exactly, that was the issue. All she knew, was that Terrance Wilkson was a giant loser and that Perry could do a lot better. He didn’t care about her, just how she made him look in front of his track buddies, something Susan desperately tried to tell Perry, rolling her eyes as her best friend very well drooled at the team of boys in shorts doing laps.

 

And what she hated even more then Terrance, was the person Perry turned into when around him. Suddenly all gushy and giggly, pretty blush and toying with her curls at whatever dumb thing he said. It was completely lame. And it drove Susan totally mad, to the point where she couldn’t even be around it less she internally combust.

 

She just didn’t really know why.

 

Perry was right, she didn’t like him (gross). She didn’t really like any of them. Frankly, while Perry had chosen the track team, she was drawn to the girls’ cheer team; to slim legs and fluttering lashes and bubblegum lipgloss smiles.

 

It still didn’t exactly answer why she boiled over seeing him put a hand to Perry’s back, or look away when she kisses his cheek. Or why she totally blew up when Perry said he was taking her to the dance , and how excited she was to get a dress, and that Susan should come along. Maybe, with everything combined, it wasn’t a total wonder why she got mad at Perry, telling her dances were stupid and so was her date, who the hell was she going to bring to a dance anyway even if it wasn’t a total shitfest, leaving Perry to snap and say it wasn’t her fault that Susan was a lesbian even though she hadn’t really said that because the label still didn’t yet fit. This left them fuming and not even talking to one another – until tonight, the night of the dance, where Susan had defiantly gone off to work on her newest project, only for it to horribly backfire on her. One second degree burn and a desperate call to Perry later, her best friend had come rushing in to help her, and leaving them here in yet another aid station with Susan patched up and both still fuming.

 

Besides, it doesn’t even matter anymore! Since I had to come help with you, he’s probably..gone off somewhere else, with someone else...”

 

Yeah – because he’s an asshole Perry! No surprise he up and left!”

 

Frankly, Susan thought she could be a way better boyfriend, or, she guessed girlfriend, to Perry then anyone else. Sometimes, she thought about what it would be like to kiss her – thoughts, she usually ended up pushing away. She didn’t know if she liked Perry, but she did know that you weren’t suppose to have feelings for your best friend. So she squished them. It wasn’t like Perry would reciprocate anyway, not even a chance – Perry liked guys, liked normal things. Not weird stuff like liking girls.

 

Well fine then!” Perry yelled back, slumping back in her chair defeatedly “The first boy who’s ever liked me will just go, and then so will you too, off to whatever fancy college begs you to join then so that you’re the first to cure cancer or whatever –”

 

What?” Susan broke in, having no idea where Perry was going with this conversation. The curly-haired girl huffed shortly.

 

You know! You’re so smart, you and all your science friends will go off to win Noble Peace Prizes or whatever and I’ll just..” She shuffled uneasily, not meeting Susan’s eyes for another reason other then anger now “..be here, going to the lame in-state college and you’ll be off, forgetting all about me with all the grants you’re getting –”

 

Woah woah, hold on, back up,” Susan furrowed, holding up her hands “What are you talking about Perr??? I’m not..doing any of that stuff..”

 

Perry only raised an eyebrow, curiously confused “But why? I mean, you’re so smart, you have to..”

 

Susan snorts, amusement finally coming back “Well thanks for the compliment, but I really don’t have to do anything. I mean, yeah, I’m excited to get outta here and do actual work in real labs where they don’t ban you from using the Bunsen burners, but it’s not like I’m gunna up and drop you or something for it. I want to be with you.”

 

You..you do..?”

 

I mean, not right now particularly, but in general, yeah.” A tick of silence “..Also, the only reason I have those science friends, is because you’re too busy with those weird, over-achiever kids in student council to make posters and junk.”

 

Perry opened her mouth, gaping for a couple seconds before she found her words “W-Well, I-I invited you to come –”

 

Those kids are weird Perr. And like, not the kind of us weird, but the kind of over-stressed, possible psychopath kind of weird. I don’t think some of them even blink.”

 

Perry snorted, head ducking down to swallow her laughter. Finally, Susan started to grin.

 

Yes, well, I guess I thought I could belong in that crowd, but – it would’ve been nice to have you there, anyway..”

 

Well really I don’t know why you’d wanna – all that dance shit is lame, and you and I..we, we don’t do that kinda stuff..” She shuffled in her chair, gaze back the floor “And, guess I’d assumed you wouldn’t want your weird, dyke friend there..”

 

Oh, no, no Susan that’s not – that’s not how I think of you at all..” Perry leans forward in her seat, reaching, an attempt to get closer “I..I shouldn’t have said that, or gotten mad that you didn’t want to come to the dance – it was all very unfair of me to say, and I’m sorry..”

 

She looks it; big blue eyes pleading, head tilted down remorsefully – a kind of look even Susan couldn’t say no to. She started smiling bashfully back.

 

Hey – I was the asshole. Even if all that stuff’s dumb, I still didn’t have to yell at you for it. I..I guess, I was worried you’d, I dunno, want to hang out with him more then me..”

 

Perry only tilted her head to the side. Curls, once done up into a formal and admittedly pretty updo, has started falling out, dangling down and brushing against the sharp jaw. With her blue dress and bright lipstick, Susan had a brief thought to how beautiful she looked until shoving it away.

 

Why would I do that..?” She finally asked. Susan’s grin grew and the formlessness from Perry’s expression started to lift.

 

Right. Maybe, then, I was freaking about things changing, and stuff becoming different, even us, and I..

 

Yes, I..I’m worried about that myself –worried if you’d leave, if things were becoming too different. I mean..” She looks up from where she’s twiddling with her dress, and Susan can hear the anxiety unspoken,

 

are things changing too much..?”

 

Susan stalled, chewing on her tongue in the tense quiet begging for an answer. But she didn’t know the answer to that, if there even was one. In a way, they both knew things were changing – and those things were inevitable. But, to ask the same thing of them, of each other, if they’d really lose the other after everything and how much they really loved each other –

 

The door burst open and both bodies jumped. It revealed a rather short woman in scrubs who had Susan’s ice blue eyes and wore an enraged look. Susan paled significantly.

 

You!” She pointed to her child, stomping over “What is all this?! They tear me away from my shift to apparently tell me my daughter came in and was being treated for a second degree burn?!”

 

Uhhh..” Susan stalled, grinning awkwardly in her attempt to appeal to her mother’s better nature “it was for science..?”

 

Her mother groaned, rubbing her eyes “Good lord, you’re just lucky Lola was here to help! Now lemme see, is it..”

 

Susan inched away from where she pulled at the bandage “It’s fine mom, they just –”

 

Nu-uh – not only as your nurse but especially as your mom, you don’t get to tell me it’s fine. C’mon, let’s go..”

 

She dragged a groaning Susan up to her feet and to the door, squeezing Perry’s shoulder in a silent thank you as they walked out. She could only watch them go and then sit there, wait ing on the return . She wasn’t going to walk away from Susan now.

 

She was gone with her mother a long time – probably, only five minutes in reality, but far too long for Perry. Her question was still swimming around, leaving everything to see-saw over the edge with no answer. She was just hoping everything was going alright; by now, Susan’s mother was very accustomed to the bizarre antics and trouble her only child got into, and the berating was probably all coming from parental love.

 

She sat, worrying and worrying, as she was prone to do. Worrying if Susan was going to be in trouble, worrying for what she was going to say, worrying if she was going to walk away without her best friend or not. She thought she could hear Susan’s voice, the dismissive short replies to her mom, but it had gone quiet now, and she didn’t know if she should get up or if Susan had gone off and left –

 

Suddenly, she sees beaten up Doc Martins obstructing her gaze to the floor and a candy bar dangling above.

 

Perry’s head shot up, finding the other redhead standing right in front of her; she was so lost in thought she hadn’t even heard the door open. Susan was looking down at her, grinning as she held out a Kit Kat for Perry that’d undoubtedly spit out from the vending machine nearby.

 

Perry smiled a mile wide and rose up. Her hand wrapped around the chocolate, tips pressing against Susan’s as she gently slipped it from her hand. No words, because the smiles and red wrapper said everything already.

 

They walk back out, their conversations and laughter easy again. Susan had never been incredibly good with words, nor with feelings, but watching Perry who’s looped her arm through hers, she does ask,

 

You wanna look at some colleges?..”

 

Perry couldn’t have looked more happier, bringing something of a relief to the air.

 

They were going to be totally fine, right?

 

-

 

In Susan’s defense, it was the flower’s fault.

 

She’d just wanted one. That was all. The plan had been to just snip one from the plentiful garden in the field past Silas’s history building. Until, it had retaliated by angrily spraying some kind of powder in her face, startling her completely and sending her flying back into the bramble bush. She’d been quick to wipe off the orange gunk from her face, after left to wobble back to her and Perry’s dorm with brambles stuck absolutely everywhere, each movement like the stabbing of a thousand safety pins.

 

Now they sat in their tiny dorm washroom as Perry grumbled and plucked the brambles out, even taking scissors to the ones stuck in her hair. She’d thought being the roommate of the floor dorm would entitle them to a bit more space, but apparently not. Distantly, she could hear Perry huffing over being interrupted from her baking and just how many times you can get yourself hurt.

 

C’mon Perr, it hasn’t been that many..”

 

Perry stepped back to set her into yet another pointed look.

 

In the near year we’ve been attending Silas, you’ve come back with two hundred and sixty-two injuries. That’s almost enough to last you through an entire year, if you, you know..took out summer or something!” Perry huffed, snipping out another bramble “And yes, before you ask, I have been keeping track. Someone has to!”

 

Actually, I’m not that surprised.”

 

Perry only huffed again “..I’m not sure what you were even doing all the way out there.”

 

I told you, it – ow!”

 

Sorry sweetheart.”

 

“– it was for a scientific experiment!”

 

Well that doesn’t narrow it down.” Perry snipped, pulling out a bramble from her shoulder and rubbing at the nicked skin. Susan sighed.

 

I just..heard about these flowers and they like..can make different changes to you or whatever..”

 

More specifically, bodily changes. Susan had read it in those texts Perry had kept around that gave recipes for potions or listed magical herbs, that she had originally mocked but were now coming in rather usefully. Apparently, if using this flower properly, one could alter properties of their body, like voice pitch or chest growth, even a full sex change. She hadn’t planned to go that far, but she was curious enough to possibly try something like that. Just to see, you know, what she’d look like, what it would feel like.

 

Changes??” Perry instantly straightened up with worry “What changes???”

 

I dunno, to make you look different I guess, be someone different..”

 

Perry already didn’t like that idea. Change what? Why was her best friend changing? She didn’t want her to be anyone else but who she already was.

 

Perry furrowed “Well, wh-who would you turn into – I mean, who would you be other then Susan?!”

 

Susan only sighed; she should've known better. Every time she thought about bringing this up with Perry, she could never make the first step. Though she did really want to. Perry, while very understanding and who had the biggest heart possible, still would never get what she meant. She hated any kind of change, whether positive or negative. And she wouldn’t understand Susan’s deep want to change after growing to be so uncomfortable in her own skin.

 

It’s fine, relax – I wasn’t gunna make any big changes anyway ow.”

 

Sorry sweetie – at least we’re done now. Also, I told you not to mess around with that stuff!” She scolded. Now with all the brambles done, she went and started tackling the red puffiness currently spread over Susan’s cheeks and nose, applying some kind of cream. The shorter-haired squinted up at her, a brow raised.

 

...Didn’t you, just last month, string up some crystals you collected and then light twelve candles at once which even I’m sure is a fire hazard?”

 

Perry pursed her lips. There was some stubborn quiet, and then she mumbled “..I got rid of all those.” Susan snorts.

 

Figures, now that you’re done playing a witch..”

 

Huffing, sharp and annoyed, Perry pulled back again. This time her expression was holding back a bit more wrath.

 

Funny Susan because I’m sure the only reason you’d know what those flowers did was because of those witch books I had!”

 

Susan goes quiet. She averts the pointed gaze.

 

I guess that stuff..wasn’t totally useless like I thought..”

 

Perry only hmm’d angrily and continued slathering goop over her nose.

 

..So, maybe, you know..” Susan cleared her throat, pretending to pick off dust on her jeans “we could actually do some of that weird magic stuff you kept going on about, now, that I found out it’s not complete bull..”

 

It was probably unlikely. Just as fast as the magic obsession had started, it had ended all too abruptly. Perry had simply come home one evening, a bit shaken up, and immediately began tearing everything down and tossing it away. Susan had tried to get her to talk about it but she refused. Now, Perry only sighed, leaning over to wash her hands of the cream.

 

Susan, I think if today taught us anything, it’s that you shouldn’t go around any of that stuff.”

 

But why –”

 

Because it’s dangerous!” Perry snapped back, getting Susan to inch back slightly. There was a horrible silence, cut off by Perry sighing shortly. She pushed back her wild curls and tried to recollect herself to speak much calmer.

 

Now, unless there’s anything else you’d like me to again fix, I have to finish the cupcakes for the freshman fundraiser!”

 

Susan glowered. She had about a million things she wanted to say that she wished she could; that she could tell her how much she hated being called Susan, that she wanted to be someone different but she had no idea what it meant, that she knew Perry was hiding something about this magic stuff. Instead, she just stayed quiet.

 

Because, even though they were different, it felt like they were becoming even more and more so with each passing day. That things were really changing, they were changing and their interests were becoming so different.

 

That they thought college could save them, keep them safe them from the drift apart every friendship faces, and now, that terrible night of the dance felt like it was more of a terrible premonition of false hope then anything.

 

..Nothing.” Susan muttered, getting off of her seat “Go play mother hen with those other boring kids. I’ll just go back to the lab.”

 

Well please be safe this time! I do not need to be called away again because you lost a limb or an eye or something!”

 

Susan couldn’t resist her last remark.

 

Hey, you never know how weird things could get Perr!”

 

No! With all you’ve done, I refuse to let anything else get weirder beyond this point! Things will just be normal.”

 

Susan watched her cut into the brownie s , forcefully if not somewhat angrily, just pulled out of the oven . She thought maybe she’d, as a peace offering, take her down and they could get ice cream – from the place right off campus that lets you put at many toppings on as you like.

 

Instead she just rolled her eyes as she left, leaving Perry to her own desserts.

 

-

 

LaF huffed angrily as they tried to dig through the clutter. They guessed they should be thankful that Laura's dad was total helicopter parent and had made sure his daughter hadn't been anywhere without a first aid kit, but would it have killed either of them to organize it? They'd been trying to find the ace bandages for what felt like twenty minutes!

 

Laura had offered some help, but LaF had turned it down, stomping past the girl to the library's back room with their newly burnt hand. They knew her intentions were good, but LaF also knew that her mind was wrapped in navigating her (supposed) lack of feelings for Carmilla. Or her poor acting of not having feelings for Carmilla, or whatever the hell was going on there.

 

Apparently it was too important for LaF's work. Or for Perry.

 

LaF hissed as they nearly grazed their fingers again – on, what, maybe the third swiss army knife stowed away in there?! Good god.

 

Maybe they guessed they shouldn't be so critical. They were only used to Perry's way, after all. Perry had everything put together so meticulously. One place for ointments, band aids and bandages together, it all made sense. LaF had sometimes made joking fun of her for it. Wasn't it funny, that they missed it now.

 

With the back of their throat stinging, LaF shook their head, hoping the thought would fall away. Thankfully the bandages revealed themselves, and they dug it out, hopeful to wrap up and finally fix the wound.

 

It was almost hilarious, in a way. They'd watched Perry do it a million times. And they were quite ept themselves – they could dissect any creature you handed them, work a way around any magical device.

 

And yet they couldn't wrap one fucking burn done by their own experimental weapon.

 

LaF swore and grumbled for nearly an hour – why the hell wouldn't it just stay in place?! They tried every which way, tugged and pulled and placed it carefully, and it would not stay together. LaF desperately tried not to give into it, believe in it, but they still swore they could hear Perry. Her warm voice by their ear, scolding about what mess they got themself into now, and didn't you know this can cause permanent damage to the skin. The careful fingers pressing against their skin, hands held together – and when it was done, it was always perfect. The wound would always heal up just right.

 

There. Now, do you need another warning?

 

LaF swallowed through their thick throat, desperately staring down at their hands. Like the longer they did it, Perry's would suddenly appear intertwined with their own.

 

But it didn’t happen, of course. Instead LaF, after ripping the material and angrily kicking a dent into a nearby bookshelf, got it to at least stay in place over their skin. Instead of how it usually was though, it was crooked and messy. Instead it stung and they probably didn't give it enough room to breathe. Instead, it wouldn’t even heal right and LaF would have to try again.

 

Defeated, LaF took a seat down, head held in hands. They tried to ignore the way their shoulders were shaking.

 

There were still so many things they couldn't do. And so many she could. All of the ones they used to make fun of her for.

 

Then, in the deadly silence, the library began croaking and groaning; emanating it's ominous and foreboding sound. LaF's head shot up, recognizing the noise; it was up to something.

 

They waited for something big, maybe a crash and annoyed yell from Carmilla from the main room, but all there was was a flash of something colourful they spot from the corner of their vision.

 

LaF looked over across from them, only to find a kid-sized M&M packet looking back at them.

 

No. No no no no. LaF stared and stared, hand curling in to make a fist. They were blinking back brand new tears, ones that managed to drip down anyway. They didn't know how the library could know, even if it did. Maybe this was it's way to try and cheer them up.

 

Or it was a cruel mock.

 

LaF stormed up, stumbling as they did and snatched the candy. The bright wrapper crinkled in their fingers, the candy shells cracking as they squeezed and crushed it underneath their fist, as if trying to make it so it wasn't there. And then, an angry yell dying on their tongue and heart ripping, threw it across the room. The shriveled piece thumped against a wall and hit the floor, laying there in the forgotten corner in broken pieces.

 

And LaF fell back down. Crumbled up against the wall opposite, curled up as they continued to shake, knees covering up their face. And sobbed.

 

-

 

“LaFontaine, I hate to be rude, but you’ve been in there for almost thirty minutes!”

 

The brisk knock at the door nearly got them to jump, items on the bathroom counter jumbling around. LaF cursed quietly, snatching back the roll of ace bandages.

 

“Just a sec Perr!”

 

“You’ve been in there absurdly long – what could you possibly be doing?”

 

“You’re really asking that question?”

 

“Well after that instance where you burned a hole through the bathtub with acid because you thought that was the safest place to do your experiment, yes, I’m a little concerned!”

 

LaF sighed “I’m just doing up my bandages!”

 

That’s why it was taking forever – it was still a massive uphevel trying to change it, but they had gotten at least slightly better. A couple of weeks since and their robot eye remained in the works, a couple of kinks they had to work out before it could function, so they were left with switching bandages. There was a long silence from the other side, until,

 

“..By yourself?!” It was more urgent this time. LaF furrowed.

 

“Uh, yeah?!”

 

“Y-You can’t do that yourself! You can barely see!”

 

“I can see fine Perr!” It really wasn’t that bad. Perry just seemed to love to overdramatize their situation.

 

“You can’t do that alone –

 

“I have been doing it alone!”

 

“– I’m coming in.”

 

No –”

 

LaF tried to hold the door, but Perry was very stubborn when she wanted to be. The door pushed open and LaFontaine damned themself for not locking it earlier like they considered.

 

Perry wait –”

 

LaFontaine what are you –”

 

Perry wedged her way in, and so as a last resort, LaF turned their head away, hand covering the side with the missing eye . Perry huffed impatiently .

 

..LaFontaine, look at me.”

 

No thanks.”

 

LaFontaine –”

 

Look Perr, you’re the first to say you hate gross stuff like scars and bodily fluids, and I am currently riddled with those, so you should just –”

 

What injury haven’t I already seen on you?! I’ve cleaned up enough of your blood to possibly fill that bathtub!”

 

...How grotesquely out of character for you Perr.”

 

Another tisk, and then before LaF could do anything, Perry reached in and swiped their arm away. LaF froze, scrunched up to try and be smaller like they could disappear from view, but the damage was already done. They slowly peered back to find Perry’s crestfallen look, gaping and crushed . Lips open but nothing was coming out, except stutters. She looked like she was going to start shaking at any second. LaF’s own heart dropped – they knew it.

 

I-It..y-you...”

 

LaF quickly took Perry’s hands in their own “Look, it’s really grosser then it actually is; residual scars and stuff, I honestly don’t feel it now, so..just, don’t worry..”

 

Perry stood as stone, frightened look hard for her best friend to read deeper. Slowly though, a hand reached up, and cupped the side bearing scars once caused by those very fingers, the tips that were gently rubbing the skin. LaF could only stare back into teary blue eyes, heart hammering loudly in the room that was suddenly so quiet.

 

..Perr –”

 

..W-We need to fix it, fix this.” She demanded, despite not sounding overly confident herself “W-we just need to-to fix it..”

 

She reaches for the supplies that LaF had laid out. She tries to pick up s upplies but it all slips through her trembling fingers, bottles and pieces clattering down. LaF flinches.

 

God, just, alright, I-I need..I..”

 

The shorter leans in, hand on her arm “Perry, hey –”

 

LaFontaine, just let me –”

 

You’re shaking –”

 

Stop it – did you disinfect the wound?!”

 

Yeah but Perr –”

 

Good.” She roughly grabs the bandage roll, trying to disentangle it “Now come here.”

 

LaFontaine shakily takes in a deeper breath, grasping Perry’s flying hands that were attempting to reach over their head.

 

Perry, look, listen to me, you have to put it down –”

 

LaFontaine stop! –”

 

Perry you can’t do it right now okay, just put it down –”

 

Perry angrily ripped her hands away and set them in a glare. The tears were already starting to leak out the corners. She didn’t know what the hell they were doing – they needed help and she had to help them! Why won’t LaF let her help?!

 

Stop telling me what I can’t do – you-you need the bandage!”

 

LaF roughly swallowed the lump in their throat “It’s alright right now Perr, it’s fine, let’s just –”

 

It is not fine!” Perry roared, making LaF jump, wide-eyed to the tears streaming down and the screaming desperation to do the only thing she knew how which LaF wasn’t letting her do.

 

You’re missing an eye and y-you won’t let me help you but if I don’t fix it it’ll get infected and-and then it’ll be worse so you – gasp – you need to let me do this because I know you can’t so just let me help you why won’t you let-let me..

 

And then it falls to sobs. Perry clasps a hand over her mouth, words no longer tangible, tears warm against her cheeks and gasps choked out because for the first time she can’t fix what’s wrong with LaF and can do nothing but let them live with the horror of what they went through and LaF’s not even letting her try –

 

LaFontaine’s own heart tore open and then instantly they were reaching for Perry, careful hands wrapping around and bringing the shaking body closely into theirs, arms tight around.

 

Hey, hey Perr, it’s okay..” LaF mumbled, offering their own clumsy hand at comforting, voice gentle “it’s alright, I’m alright..”

 

Slowly, arms slipped around them, around their neck and fingers clutching to their ratty X-Files tee, nails scraping skin as if LaF just might slip away. Head buried into their shoulder where sobs poured out, hot tears staining along their neck. LaF pushed back the sting of tears, eye(s) squeezed shut. This cannot happen now. Instead they only hold her closer, the sweater gripped between their fingers and trying not to worry about how hard Perry was trembling.

 

It’s okay Perr, I’m fine now, it’s going to be alright..”

 

I-I can’t fix it..” Perry cried, gripping tighter and LaF bit down on a sob “Ican’tfixitIcan’tfixitI’msorry..”

 

Don’t – don’t say that.” LaF spoke into her, hand slipped over her shoulder to pull her in tighter “Don’t ever, it’s not your fault – it’s not your fault..

 

LaF didn’t know how long they both stood there; long enough until Perry could breathe again, until she wasn’t gripping whiteknuckled onto them. They led her back to the bed, intended to let her lie down and maybe get some blankets, some of that jasmine tea she liked, only for Perry to grip onto their hand and sob please don’t go.

 

So LaF sat with Perry burrowed into their side, head on shoulder and hands intertwined. They’d put on some mundane t.v channel, mostly for background noise as no one was really paying attention to it anyway. LaF still sat anxiously, thinking there was something, more, they could be doing for her, that was a better help then this.

 

They shifted their eyes from the t.v, onto the nest of curls perched on their shoulder. Just along the exposed neck, where the sweater had slid down, they could spot the still fresh wound there. It’s beginning to heal slightly now, but the deep cut into the skin from their own gun remained present and would never really heal completely. Jagged and scared, as angry as LaF has been when they’d pressed the weapon against her, against it, unforgiving to it’s screams that only sounded like Perry’s so they could save her.

 

LaF fought down the terror, swallowing through a thick throat. The first time they’d seen it they’d end up rushing past Perry to make it to the washroom before they threw up. Absolutely sick under guilt and shame, the same anxiety they felt when Perry wakes up screaming, it’s dark it’s so dark LaFontaine where are you, rushing in and coaxing, it’s okay you’re safe you’re not there anymore, until the tears stopped.

 

“.. Are, are you sure you don’t want any of those cookies we got? The white chocolate ones?..” LaF asked, next to desperate for things that would get her feel better, to fix this “Maybe-maybe if you had something to eat..–”

 

“No.” Perry spoke, stone and sure, head nuzzling against them “Just..stay with me, please..”

 

LaF looks back ahead, finally breathing in steady. They squeezed her hand tighter.

 

“Always.”

 

-

 

Ow, Perry, ow ow ow, okay, ow –”

 

Well it is glass LaFontaine.” Perry sighed tightly. Thankfully, that was the last piece of it to be extracted out of the wide cut on LaF’s arm. Perry tossed it, and the bloody paper towel she was using to pluck, into the trash “And you know, this wouldn’t have happened if you’d used gloves.”

 

Alright fine, mistakes learned here today.”

 

I’ve been telling you to use those gloves for three months! And now it takes you nearly losing your arm to realize that?!”

 

It was a tiny explosion! Like, not even noteworthy. It barely set fire to anything, didn’t even have to use the extinguisher.”

 

Perry only grumbled some more. She’d been doing that a lot since LaF came stumbling back from the lab, into their place and interrupting Perry’s baking, with their bleeding arm – well, after the initial screaming. To LaF, it seemed like it went above and beyond this time, past the usual annoyed tsking and mother ly clean-up. Perry was still angrily furrowed down at the task at hand, not making eye contact with her best friend. She’d gotten another towel and wetted it under hot water, a fter scrubbing away at the blood the pale arm was covered in. LaF instantly flinched, shrinking a little.

 

Okay, it stings. Per, ow, Per ow –”

 

Yes, it’s blood.” Perry dismissed, like that explained everything. She continued to scrub a little harder then necessary. LaF bit into their cheek, feeling worry rise until they finally had to get out,

 

You seem a little..off, or something..is there something wrong or –”

 

Oh I don’t know LaFontaine.” Perry cut in, tossing away the paper again angrily and grabbing the bandage roll “What do you think I’m suppose to feel when my best friend continuously comes back covered in blood, and is so nonchalant about the arm they possibly could’ve lost?!”

 

LaF could only blink back at her. The air was thick and they felt their stomach tighten; Perry’s anger was often so rare.

 

..I-I don’t know, I...we..we always do this, and..and it’s never been a big deal before, so, I dunno, I just..didn’t think –”

 

No, you didn’t.” She spat, pulling the bandage so it squeezed tight around LaF’s arm “And you never do.”

 

LaF winced, brow furrowing.

 

..Well, if it’s really that difficult..” they muttered indignantly “...you know, I’m not making you do this..–

 

Oh my – it-it’s not that LaFontaine, god, just..”

 

Clearly frustrated, she drops the ir arm , hands over face and pinching her brow. LaF felt a little sting of guilt, but only a little, arms folding stubbornly. A defiant silence hung over the room, creating thicker and thicker tension between the two bodies. Less it fester worse, Perry cut i t off with a heavy sigh and,

 

...You know it’s just so unfair.” She lifts her head, strict and thin lipped, but that’s when LaF notices the gloss over her eyes “You get to be worried all the time about me, but I can’t be worried about you?!”

 

LaF froze. Their mouth hung open, only guttural sounds coming out. They felt like they’d been caught in something they didn’t even know they were doing.

 

I..I just..I don’t know what you..”

 

Yes you do! Ever since..since..” Perry swallows tightly, that brief glimpse of terror and memories flashing over, and LaF nearly forgets they’re arguing with the need to reach out and grasp her hand “since..that, you haven’t left me alone! You’re checking up on me constantly, you haven’t left my side since – if you were any closer you’d be breathing down my neck!”

 

LaF can only stand back, eyes burrowed into the floor. The silence around simply got louder. Maybe they’d fight it, but there was no denying; ever since losing Perry, LaF was determined to never let it happen again. To be at her side no matter what, to never let her slip away out of their hands like that again.

 

And, well..it isn’t like I’m...dying, to be alone again, but..but it’s like..you can be free to be worried about me, but I can’t do the same?!”

 

I..I dunno..I mean, you’re always worried about me, so..”

 

Yes, and I’m tired of doing that!”

 

LaF’s head snaps up. Now she’s really crying, angry even though she’s shaking with tears.

 

God..do..do you have any idea, the constant worrying I go through?! To try to get you to be more safe, try and...protect you, but you just ignore me?! Because one of these days LaFontaine, that lab is going to blow up, and you’re going to be in it!”

 

LaF avoids her eyes, blinks back their own tears and swallowing through the stinging in their throat. They guessed that they really didn’t think. That they never did.

 

...Perry, I –”

 

I love you so much.”

 

Their head jumps back up and meets adoring and breaking teary blues; blues they knew and had made home for so many years. Tears fall down and instantly, a once seething Perry looks so small there, gaze pouring into theirs and breaking LaF’s heart clean open.

 

You...you’re my person.” She gasps, a little voice that begs for them to understand “And I..I nearly lost..everyone not that long ago. Including you. But...but god, I don’t..know what I’d do..”

 

A sob threatens to break free so she holds a sweater cuff over her red lips, to press it all down because the mere mention of the idea could get her to collapse.

 

..if..if I lost you. I-I don’t know how, to live without you in my life! You’re...you’re a part of everything and if I lost..if I lost my person, I...”

 

Perry doesn’t finish her words. Because something happened to LaF.

 

Something shifted. Something fell into place, that’d probably been waiting for a long time. That ha d been waiting from when they were children and they promised to be together forever, from when they were teens and never left each other’s sides, from now that even though the world was breaking apart they did everything to keep each other safe.

 

Everything made sense, like a black and white world suddenly put to colour.

 

And LaF knew instantly, how much they loved her.

 

They bolted forward and put a hand around her cheek and kissed her. Perry stopped, froze, and then altogether, softened. LaF kissed her with everything they could give; all the ir love that was Perry’s. With her gentle lips, tight curls tickling along their knuckles, and vanilla they inhaled, well,

 

That was it. It was home.

 

When Perry wasn’t doing anything however, was what finally what s tirred them awake. LaF sharply pulled away once realizing what they did, seeing Perry’s wide eyes blinking back. Oh. Oh no.

 

..Perr, I-I, I’m sorry..”

 

LaFontaine..”

 

I-I don’t know why..I just..”

 

It’s okay –”

 

I didn’t mean..I’m sorry..–”

 

S uddenly Perry’s fingers were gently pressed over their lips, silencing them.

 

Shhhh, shhh honey..” Perry whispered, careful, a pinched brow and watching them so closely “Just..hush.”

 

LaF did, heart beating wildly. Waiting. Panicked, for what might happen, for Perry to say they’ve made a mistake, for her to walk out –

 

And then Perry has a handful of their shirt, fingers still gently pressing over their jaw, and pulls them in for a kiss. Perry kisses them . LaF melts into her, into the kiss with hands on her waist and hers tugging at them. Into their home.

 

Later, the brownies will burn, having been completely forgotten about. It’s the smoke alarm that ends up pulling them away from each other, from realizations and spilled confessions of I love you in a deeper way then how they’d already said it to each other, of their hand tangled in the red curls and hers yanking at their button-up collar.

 

I think that’s the first time you’ve ever burned anything Perr.”

 

LaF will eat them anyway. They scrape out the middle center part of the pan which was just crispy, not burnt, making a mountain of chocolate dough topped with whip cream, which they both share together. Perry’s disappointed she ruined them, even if LaF says it was kind of their fault for distracting her, but her tears are dried anyway, soon laughing into LaF’s shoulder as they attempt to eat this dessert monstrosity.

 

After, when she takes her best friend’s, her love’s, lips back between her own, they still held the lingering taste of warm chocolate and fluffy cream. And something that was only LaF.

 

It was better then any brownie dessert she’d had.

 

-

 

"Only you would injure yourself on your own wedding night."

 

"I'm setting up my own personal record Perr. The only thing above this is injuring myself during, like, birth of first child."

 

LaF only chuckled as Perry pinched their arm, sighing to herself, and making sure to hold onto the podium of the king bed less they slide off the mattress. It was a wide, spacious suite; the two of them sitting on the master bed, the rather pristinely decedent bathroom across the way and fancy furniture scattered about. It was just right for a wedding suite, but not too luxurious – perfect for them.

 

"Why do I worry you're not even joking.."

 

"Hey, you opted into this remember? You signed a contract to put up with this until death do us part."

 

"I believe I was, probably, always having to put up with this.."

 

"Yeah, but now you legally have to." LaF grinned, holding up their hand and wiggling their fingers, the gold band around the middle glinting. Perry playfully rolled her eyes in reply as she finished up wrapping LaF's newly bruised ankle. It was okay, they could still walk, they just shouldn't have let themself get too excited by taking up the third dance challenge by Laura – but who was to blame them when it was your wedding and you were marrying your best friend and love of your life?

 

LaF only watched Perry while she leaned over to tighten the bandage, taking every detail to memory; the whole day, while possibly the best of their life, had been quite a blur with all that had gone on, so it was nice that the two could finally slow down. The delicate, white lace was now slowly sliding off of Perry's shoulders, and the red lipstick had worn away, her unruly curls trying to break free from her braid. But it was alright, for LaF's blazer and bowtie were already thrown on the bed, leaving them in suspenders, crisp shirt and pants, and a single sock missing so Perry could wrap their ankle. And frankly, that's all they wanted now, just to be with their wife.

 

Their wife. Wife. LaF kept repeating it over and over, unable to stop grinning.

 

"..Have I told you how beautiful you look?"

 

Perry lifted her eyes to meet LaF's, bashful smile spreading over, before glancing back to the task at hand.

 

"..It would only make it the hundredth time tonight.."

 

"Wrong. Hundred and one. You look so beautiful."

 

She was trying hard not to give in, but LaF could see the shining smile leaking out the sides. Now, Perry sat back up on the bed, roll of bandages in one hand and job finished.

 

"I'm done. So you can stop trying to get in my good books."

 

"Hey!"

 

Perry giggled, reaching over to rest her forehead on LaF's shoulder, who soon started laughing too. She was a little more relaxed now; the night had been amazing and she'd had so much fun, but it, and all the event planning leading up, had been a big sore of stress on her. So now, she was glad to have it over with, in a way. They both kinda were.

 

"Well, what if I told you I stole some of those cupcakes from the buffet?"

 

"LaFontaine!" Perry smacked their arm "Those were for the guests!"

 

"And they ate them! They liked them, but I knew they're your favourite – so, before they were completely gone, I swiped some."

 

Perry bit into her cheek, trying to decide where she fell here "..Are they the triple chocolate ones..?"

 

"The very same." LaF grinned. Perry gasped lightly, pressing down her giant smile. She did love those a lot.

 

"..Where?"

 

"I put them in your purse."

 

"In – in my purse?!"

 

"Well everyone would've suspected me to take them! That was the perfect get-a-way."

 

Perry only beamed, shaking her head. Of course –that was her love after all. Her favourite cupcakes, shoved into her purse as an escape goat. LaF was still giddy, knowing she wasn't going to actually be mad. Well, until later, which is when, Perry decided, they were going to address it.

 

"Well we can have those later." Perry straightened up, brushing off imaginary dust from her gown. LaF furrowed.

 

"..Later? You sure –"

 

Perry grabbed one of the suspenders, yanking LaFontaine abruptly into her to kiss them deeply, pressing and demanding. LaF gasped against her lips, heart suddenly pounding. They barely had time to respond to the tongue slipping by their lips before Perry ripped away, and suddenly, LaF was being shoved down onto the mattress. Perry crawled over them, wearing a grin that either delighted or frightened them and they weren’t really sure which.

 

"..Perr?.."

 

"I'd like to have something else right now.."

 

LaF swallowed thickly, bright eyes and dazed smile the only reply they could make. They absolutely adored their wife for all the ways she was; to the mothering and the overt cleanliness and the sweet disposition and every single other weird trait that fit in between.

 

But god, LaF loved this version of Perry too.

 

-

 

 

This may or may not be the dumbest thing LaF has managed so far, they’ll admit that.

 

In reality, it was just an accident. A harmless one, a little reckless, but otherwise normally fine. Even through it all, they still didn’t think they deserved Perry’s berating. She was a storm of angry grumbling as she worked away the blood across their palm.

 

Honestly LaFontaine, of all the ridiculous things, and there have been many –”

 

This time was an accident, swear! And really, why do we even have such sharp cupboard drawers?”

 

Well you weren’t suppose to go crashing into them. You know how I feel about play fighting in the house.”

 

For the record, he pushed me..”

 

Good LaFontaine.” Perry stopped wiping, placing her hands at her hips – she’d always been very good at that, but had perfected it in the last few years “Just blame it on the four-year-old.”

 

LaF made a sour look. They’d really like to say, that for the many times they’d both been playfighting, no one had been injured, concussed or had themselves cut open. And frankly, they were quite proud that he won that battle, and they took the humble disposition of admitting defeat via their injury.

 

However, it didn’t look anywhere near innocent fun when Perry had run into the scene with their four-year-old hollering and LaFontaine cradling their bleeding hand after slipping from the mock fight and cutting their palm on the open cabinet door .

 

Well not like I’m mad – he’s the reigning champion! He can’t be stopped!”

 

I thought you were the one who said you didn’t want to enforce gender stereotypes on our child..”

 

It’s not really about that – I’d be just as excited even if we’d had an estrogen baby.”

 

Perry scrunched her face “Can you not say –”

 

At least now, if all the babies get into a death brawl at the day care,” LaF explained, smushing their hands together “he will come out on top.”

 

Perry sighed deeply, pinching her nose. LaF chuckled, getting a glare right after.


“You’re not funny.”

 

J.P thinks I’m funny.”

 

Sticking chopsticks in your mouth to look like tusks doesn’t count.” She snatched their hand again, scrubbing the rubbing alcohol onto the wound “What I’m thinking about LaFontaine, is that it could’ve been him who was injured!”

 

I’m careful with him! Don’t you think I love him too? Besides, it’s not like you’re a total helicopter mom..”

 

LaF, in a way, sorta had to be grateful. His arrival had taken a lot of heat off of them – now, where Perry would be worrying about LaF, she was instead worrying about their son. Though, her constant overbearing of him was nearly as frustrating to watch as it had been to be a part of.

 

“I mean, the other day, you thought he’d contracted some kind of rash because there was a smidge of red marker on his cheek.”

 

Perry huffed, though otherwise made no move to defend herself. She was too busy cleaning up supplies, paper towels thrown out with disinfectant put away and now holding onto the ace bandages, to look at LaF.

 

Well I heard it was going around his daycare!”

 

Perry, look at him, he’s fine!”

 

She sighed again, relenting by leaning past the doorframe, LaF following. Sure enough, there he contently sat at his playmat, staring attentively up at whatever brightly coloured toddler cartoon playing with characters singing some obnoxiously cheery song – the same one LaF hates because the annoying jingle always got stuck in their head.

 

Thankfully, it captivated him, and they both couldn’t help but chuckle at the fireman’s hat he somewhat half-haphazardly threw over his head, the wild red curls trying to break free from the sides. LaF knows that every parents says that they have the cutest kid, but c’mon – they had the cutest kid. And maybe that had to do with the fact that J.P looked exactly like the person they loved the most in the world (after him). With the thick head of curls, a bright red you could spot from a mile, and big baby blues, he was nearly the spitting image of his mother. But Perry would claim, over and over again, that while he had no biological ties to LaF, he’d inherited the never-ending curiosity. Bright-eyed and bold, he’s gotten into everything he possibly could at the age of four, always digging around for something interesting to get his little hands on. Between him and LaF, Perry has already had half-a-dozen breakdowns to Laura.

 

Yes, but it’s only a matter of time before he gets into something else..” She sighs, slumping down onto the bathtub rim, LaF sitting beside “..Sometimes I’m so glad he’s not related to you..”

 

LaF squinted, contemplating the words “..Should I be insulted by that?”

 

Oh, no! No sweetie, I didn’t mean like that. And he’s a wonderful little boy.” Perry smiled briefly as she cupped their face, slipping into serious right after “But with the way he is now, if he had your smarts, and I had both him and you, I think we’d have to get a divorce.”

 

A second, and then LaF loses it. Doubled over and clutching their stomach, whole body shaking with laughter. It took a second until Perry was laughing too, leaning up against LaF with face burrowed in their shoulder.

 

Is..is that bad..?” She tried to get through her giggles. LaF just shook their head, still trying to breathe properly. Eventually, when they calmed down and brushed their tears away, they grinned over at Perry.

 

No – I wouldn’t hold it against you.”

 

Perry laughed some more. They were interrupted by small, pattering feet coming down the hallway. In no time, J.P appeared in the doorway. Fireman’s hat still thrown sideways on his head, he grinned upon seeing them.

 

Hey little dude!” LaF chuckled at him.

 

Hi sweetheart.” Perry smiled, hands reaching out. At that, he came rushing in, stumbling right into her legs and her hand encircled around him, the other going up to remove the hat so she can fix the curls currently sticking out everywhere.

 

Clearly remembering the event from earlier, he reaches across Perry’s knee and grasps LaF’s hand. He turns it upwards, the cut across now a lot more cleaner but still visible.

 

Owie all gone?” He asked LaF, blinking up at them with big blues of curiosity.

 

Almost! We just gotta put a band-aid on it.” LaF told him “You wanna help?”

 

He lit up “Yes!”

 

LaFontaine we have to put the roll on –"

 

It’s okay Perr – great, you know where the band-aids are, can you get them?”

 

He bolts out of a fussing Perry’s hands and goes to the cupboards. He yanks them open and soon they hear him digging through the continents inside. LaF saw Perry bite her lip, anxiously shifting in her spot.

 

Jordan, sweetie, you –"

 

He’s fine Perr.” LaF gently reminded her, smiling easy “He knows what to do.”

 

She looked over to her love, one brow raised “Should I be concerned that he knows exactly where the band-aids are and what to do with them?”

 

He’s a smart kid! He already knows his alphabet and I taught him the names of each character on the original Star Trek.”

 

Why did you –"

 

And he knows his full name. Right buddy?”

 

Jordan-Presley!” He stuck his head back out to grin. Perry did shake her head, though smiled all the same.

 

J.P came back out eventually, carrying two different band-aid boxes. He proudly stuffed them into LaF’s hands.

 

Alright, we have, uh, Elmo band-aids, or..dogs! Which one should we choose?”

 

Doggies!” J.P answered right away, jumping up on his feet.

 

Good choice – dogs are better.”

 

Isn’t it Elmo who freaks you out..?”

 

No that’s the giant purple one – I just feel like there’s something he’s hiding.” LaF explains as they open the new box, Perry laughing and now remembering the perks of not having to watch the morning cartoons “Okay, opened – now hand it over to mom.”

 

J.P happily gave the box over to Perry with a “here mommy!” Perry, giving a “thank you sweetie,” fished out a new band-aid and ripp ed it open. She peels off the back adhesives, and then, lets J.P put his fingers over hers to guide the bandage onto LaF’s cut. LaF beams away at it, at their wife’s gentle and patient voice guiding him so it was perfectly placed – she was always so good with him.

 

Yay!” J.P celebrated once it was done.

 

Awesome buddy, you did a great job.”

 

And mommy too! Did good job..”

 

LaF chuckles “Yeah, she did – although she’s had quite a bit of practice..”

 

LaF tosses out the wrapper, though didn’t miss Perry’s head shake and smile, pulling back their grin too. After, they looked to their son.

 

Hey, do you wanna do something else for me? For mom?”

 

What?”

 

LaF leaned in and whispered something into his ear. Perry, an eyebrow raised, had no time to questions it before he shouted “I can do that!” and was off running out of the washroom.

 

What did you tell him?”

 

Nothing, I’ve just sent him on a fetch quest.”

 

Well, um – LaFontaine, he, he’s only four, he can’t do everything you ask of him –"

 

He’s got it Perr!” LaF grinned, knocking shoulders with her “Have a little faith.”

 

I do! It’s just..he..– I’m his mother.” Perry defended herself, straightening up her back and fiddling with the hem of her shirt “I’m allowed to be worried..”

 

LaF chuckled, kissing her temple over the thick wall of curls “C’mon, he’s a pretty sharp kid. He’s gunna rock kindergarten.”

 

I know, I just..” She sighs, resting her chin on her palm with elbow on knee “..I hope he gets along with the other kids..”

 

That was fair, LaF thought. In reality, all kids were pretty weird, but maybe theirs was especially. Though LaF would expect absolutely nothing less of a kid who came from them and Perry. Nor should that be a bad thing; really, if some kids didn’t want to play with J.P because they thought he was too weird, then those kids were lame and he could make much better friends.

 

It’ll be fine. I mean, Laura already says him and Ella get along like two houses on fire. He loves going over there for playdates.”

 

Yes. Well, maybe then, he’ll get a wider variety of friends to go see when he starts school..”

 

LaF squints amusedly “Why do you say that?..”

 

Perry only huffed to herself, repeating yet another nervous tick of straightening he r clothes or picking off imaginary lint. Or, as LaF knew it, the signs she was stalling because she had a somewhat unpleasant opinion that she was too kind to say.

 

It’s that..well, I..I think..” A sharp sigh and then she spins to her spouse “I fear Carmilla is teaching them swear words. Or she’s at least planning to.”

 

LaF couldn’t help but snort at that.

 

You think Carmilla is teaching not only J.P, but her own daughter, swear words?..”

 

Perry gives them a pointed look.

 

I mean….yeah, you’re probably right.”

 

Another sigh “Either that or teaching him pranks – at least before you do.”

 

LaF grins “Nah – we have no one to practice them on yet.”

 

In all honestly, I just assumed I would be the victim.”

 

That’s okay Perr – I really don’t feel like getting kicked out of my own house..”

 

Finally, Perry laughed, head falling to hit their shoulder again. LaF did the same, smiling down at her.

 

You know,” Perry grinned wide, one of LaF’s favourite things “sometimes I forget you are the age you are.”

 

What’re you talking about?! I’m a total adult! I work at a nice university as a prestigious scientist person, and I have a wife, a kid and a mortgage. I’m a peak adult.” They smiled bigger, holding up their injured hand “That’s why I have this dog band-aid.”

 

More giggles, coming o f f of the both of them, filling up the bathroom. It stopped when J.P finally came rushing back into the room, both glancing up to see him holding one of the recently bought cupcakes. Perry raised an eyebrow but LaF grinned.

 

Perfect! Now give it to mom.”

 

A smiling J.P came stumbling over, carefully placing the dessert in Perry’s hands.

 

Here you go mommy!”

 

Perry beamed as she was handed it, a tiny shake of her head. Then she leans over to kiss him atop the head.

 

Thank you honey.”

 

Great job dude. Now we’re all done!”

 

Why..mommy gets the cupcake..?” He awkwardly phrases, hands on their leg to lean against them and staring up curiously.

 

Well, she helped put me back together,” LaF told him, glancing over to meet Perry’s baby blues and grinning instantly, fondness smeared all over “And that’s just kinda how these things go..”

 

Slowly, they watched her pink lips spread up – a single, second of intimate quiet shared between that had gotten fewer in between in their busy lives, but had never dwindled in their love. LaF saw the same fondness making her smile shine too.

 

..Well, you helped too sweetie,” Perry grinned at him with just the littlest bit of slyness “so do you want a piece too?”

 

Yes!”

 

Perry tore a piece and handed it to J.P – who only proceeded to smear turquoise icing right over his lips and nose. LaF had to laugh at that, smiling bigger when Perry instantly reached out to wipe it away. Thinking, how weird it was the way choices and life leads you; how, one decision to rescue the helpless girl in your kindergarten class with the pristine sundress and equally red, curly hair from the merciless bully, led them to the most love in their life. And how wonderful.

 

Later, LaFontaine will be too busy playing the matching blocks game with J.P to notice Perry watching them from afar. Or that she was thinking the same thing; about the same adult that was letting their son place the fireman’s hat on their head, was once the little five-year-old with a toothy grin and mischievous eyes. The very same who’d come crashing into her wold and turn it upside down with wild adventures; her saviour and who’s love for her would bend the edges of the earth if needed. How all that felt like a million years ago and yet like no time had passed at all.

 

She’s grinning. Yeah, he was going to do just fine in kindergarten.