There's someone holding my hand.
There's someone holding my hand, and if I look over I'll see her .
I'll see her and feel my heart race because Emma Barnes is holding my hand.
But there's no saccharine in her eyes, no razor under her tongue, just her fingers tight around mine and my twice-shy smile on her lips.
And it finally hits me. She's me. She's happy .
I can see it in the light in her eyes, how the world opens up around her smile and stride.
Emma-me pulls me along in her wake like her unsightly little shadow, frog-mouthed and spider-armed and stick-legged; she looks back at me and smiles my smile, and I can't help but smile back at her.
I'm sitting on the edge of my bed, hugging myself as I stare at the floor.
"Please," I whisper.
I draw in a breath. Hold it.
And I try again, feeling the muscles in my neck and jaw ache as I try again, feeling my temples pound like throbbing bass in the key of please.
She still isn't here, and my fingernails bite at my palms and my arms tremble tighter and I have to stop, I have to breathe-
We're only a few blocks from home when she stumbles on flat sidewalk, her hand tightening on mine as she catches herself.
She looks back at me, sweat beading on her forehead, cheeks paling.
She's not smiling anymore.
-and air surges out of me, my body heaving for breath.
She's not here and I'm alone and it hurts worse than the pounding in my head, biting down in my throat because this is my power, I should be able to use it-
We're sitting on a bus stop bench; Emma-me's looking down at the sidewalk, holding my hand, fingers tightening until my knuckles grate against each other.
Her gaze flicks up to meet mine. She smiles, but it's the smile I use when I'm telling Dad everything's okay.
"I thought we'd have more time- I thought we'd be home by now- no, it's not your fault." She puts her other hand atop ours. Squeezes gently.
"Just... listen. Whatever I am, it's got a duration, and I can tell mine's running out. Feels like my heart's stopping."
I squeeze her hand and she smiles.
"Don't worry. It doesn't... hurt, really, it just feels weird."
Her throat works as she swallows.
"So... I'm- I'm gonna go soon. Really soon. And- and-"
She looks at me, intent, intense.
"I... I think we're going to be-"
I start to try again, tears welling in my eyes from frustration, cramping pain radiating through my neck into my head.
"Please." The words come out with effort. "Please come back."
Wet trickles down my cheeks, tears spilling out as I force my eyes closed, trying-
I try focusing on Emma-me, my hand in hers, smiling with her; but my head hurts too much to keep things straight and it's Emma in the school bathroom, her hand on my cheek and a razor at my hair and a smile on her face that gleefully proclaimed I see what you are-
-and I open my eyes and Emma's sitting on the floor, one hand on my knee as she looks up at me.
She smiles up at me and I smile down at her and she rises and leans in, arms closing around me for a hug; I lean into her, palms pressing to her back, tears dampening her shoulder as I let out a sob because I miss being held-
"Where did you go?" I whisper, not trusting my throat for anything louder, and she tightens her arms around me.
"I don't know," she says quietly. "I remember being you, on the bench, watching her disappear."