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A Name Come Late

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Liza hadn't expected things to go back to how they were, before, but...Some changes, she never could have accounted for, like how the smallest sound made her heart race, how the city lights made her eyes burn. She was drowning in stimulation. Sensory overload. As she managed less and less sleep, it got worse. Liza didn't know what to do, who to talk to; out of the group, she'd had it the easiest, and she was holding onto them with yellowed teeth and jagged fingernails. If she gave ground, they would all tumble.

Daisy didn't need her the most--maybe not at all, which was beyond painful to think. Liza spent most of her waking hours with her anyway, and, when Liza's clothes ended up in the ottoman and her favorite blanket on the couch, Daisy only said that she should invest in a cot for her back's sake. Later, they talked about the move enough to iron out house rules and money issues and neither mention Jason, much as Liza felt she should.

Someone should talk about it, right? Say something about Vaas Montenegro's name marring Jason's skin? Jason hadn't shown the mark to anyone but his own mother before the island, and now he left his wrist bear in something like pride. Pride that he survived his soulmate, pride that he killed his soulmate...Liza didn't want to know. She couldn't know, not without something inside her breaking. Jason was wrong, wrong, wrong, and she needed to believe he used to be okay, that part of her could still love him without it making her a monster, too.

Because she did love him, mates or not. Just like Daisy and Grant had absolutely adored each other, blank wrists or not. And now, Daisy didn't have Grant, she didn't have Jason, and Liza was never going to tell her about the name she bore. Not with Daisy still whimpering Grant's name in her sleep. Not with Liza in love with her already, completely unable to keep it platonic like she told herself she would when they met.

So Liza pretended soulmates didn't exist.

Until she woke up in Daisy's bed, mouth tasting of vodka and death. They were both still dressed, thank God, but Daisy's eyes were wet and bloodshot, expression carefully blank. Liza panicked. She rolled out of bed--well, she tried to roll out of bed. Daisy's fingers curling around her forearm, loose, caring, stopped her. With a groan, she dropped back down beside her.

"What did I do?"

"Nothing."

Liza glared. "Then what did I say?"

Daisy let go of her, avoided her eyes. "Nothing. This is my problem."

It was then that Liza realized that at some point between dinner and now, she'd taken off her cuff. It wasn't too surprising; she'd never found one that didn't pinch her skin, and drunk her forgot about little things like propriety. But not once had she taken it off around Daisy.

"I don't want to push you for anything; I know you don't have my name. I'm fine being friends--I love being friends."

Daisy snorted. "We were going to get married, you know?"

"I know," Liza whispered.

"I loved him, so much, but I kept telling him it was a future thing. I never thought he wouldn't have a future." Liza grabbed her hand, held it tight. "I didn't die when he died. My world didn't end when he died. Does that make me a bad person?"

"No! No, it doesn't, Daisy."

"Usually, people get their names in middle school, but...Sometimes, they come late. Sometimes they don't show up until you're already halfway in love, you know?"

"I know."

"I thought we were going to be like that. I thought--I really believed we were going to be a match. So, when I got a mark, when I got a name--your name--when you kissed me a week after his funeral, it felt like betrayal."

Liza remembered that kiss. It had been a light, good morning peck on the cheek while they waited on coffee. She remembered blushing, stuttering, Daisy paling and stuffing her fist in her robe. That was two months ago.

"It's okay, Daisy. We don't have to-"

"But I want to," Daisy said, and Liza would've given her a real kiss if it didn't sound so miserable. "How long have you had my name?"

"Since I was nine. Early bloomer."

"That's a long time to wait." Her breath stuttered, sighed. "He would want me to be happy."

"He would," Liza agreed, cautious.

"It's been six months. I still miss him. I might miss him forever. You don't mind that?"

"No, of course not. I wouldn't have minded being platonic, or a triad."

Daisy smiled. "A triad. We should've had that." Her brows furrowed. "Why didn't you tell us?"

"I was afraid. I didn't want to hurt you, or make it awkward. I just wanted to be with you, in any capacity."

"Jason?"

"I love him, but not how you loved Grant." Softly, through the buzz of anxiety in her chest, she finished, "Not how I love you."

They shared a grin. It was a quiet, intimate moment, free of expectation or fear, full of love and pain. Daisy leaned up, and up, and up, and Liza trembled as their lips finally met. It was sweet. Chaste. Too much, and not enough. She couldn't remember how to breathe. She felt like she was going to vibrate through her skin.

She whined when they parted, when Daisy flopped back down and looked up at her.

"So," she started, "what now?"

"Dinner?"