“Do you know how much shit I read about gunshot wounds to the heart while I was waiting for you to wake up.”
Marla lets gravity roll her head to the right side so she can properly squint at Fran in a pastel blue chair. “You’re not going to say ‘hi.’”
“Fuck you. Hi.”
Fran looks rough. All unwashed hair and bruised edges. Definitely hasn’t gotten any sleep since…
“Well fuck that guy.”
She looks a little better when she’s laughing. Makes Marla want to smile with her, but she has that drugged-bubble feeling that’s warning her if she moves any muscles against gravity, she’s going to start feeling her own body again, and that will be bad.
“Yeah,” Fran agrees, shaky. Both of her hands are pressed tight together between her knees. “Definitely fuck that guy.”
“How long’s it been since you slept?”
“Um. Passed out in a different chair halfway through surgery six? Woke up totally convinced the doctors had kidnapped you and I’d never see you again.” Another laugh, nervous in a way Marla doesn’t like. Not just scared-nervous. Embarrassed-nervous. “Kinda fucked up how much I don’t feel like you and I can trust anyone in a place like this.”
Marla tries out her fingertips. They move okay. “I have you so I don’t have to trust anyone in a place like this.” She manages to unbury one wrist from the generically blue blanket and curl her fingers in Fran’s direction. “Come here.”
Fran shakes her head, but she drops her phone in the empty second chair and stands up. “If I go over there I’m definitely going to touch something I shouldn’t and bring a half dozen doctors running in here. You aren’t even supposed to be conscious yet.”
“Since when do I do what I’m supposed to?” Fran’s lips twitch like she can’t decide if she’s about to smile again, or cry. “C’mere. I just want to hold your hand.”
Fran slides a little closer, hands clasped behind her back, glancing at the door like she’ll get in trouble.
“If I have to lift up my arm to get you and that rips my chest open, you’re going to feel terrible.”
Fran lets out a tiny huff of air through her nose, then steps the rest of the way up to the side of the hospital bed. “Seriously, fuck you,” she whispers, but then her warm fingers are wrapped around Marla’s, and Marla gives in to the smile at last.
“I really want to tell you to shut up and go back to sleep, especially if you keep saying ‘hi’ to me.”
“Well, I really want a smoke, but I have a feeling I can’t get that, so you’ll have to put up with the talking instead.”
Fran’s fingers twitch and curl around hers, just a little. “Did I ever tell you how much that pissed me off?”
Marla lifts an eyebrow. “What, talking?” It does hurt — doing that with her face, and the smiling, and the air moving in and out of her lungs when she breathes — but it’s the deeply drugged kind of hurt that doesn’t register as pain so much as just wrongness, and Marla Grayson doesn’t shy away from just a little wrongness. Wrong is the price (and spice) of life.
“Don’t give me that look. Your stupid vape . The day you hit on me. Like, I saw you first. I thought... that’s the tackiest, most frat-boy thing I’ve ever seen a grown ass woman do in my entire life. But there you were with a cloud of dumb smoke all around your face and you walked right up to me and somehow you were still that hot? God, I was so mad. I’d never wanted to fuck someone that bad in my life.”
“I can’t believe you never told me that. I could have died never knowing our first hookup was a vape-hate fuck.”
Fran’s laugh is one hard burst of air. Marla feels it in her chest. She watches her wife’s eyes squeeze closed. The circles under them look even darker this way — almost so dark her eyelashes disappear.
She curls her fingers up against Fran’s wrist, feeling her pulse against her fingertips. “You need rest. I’m okay.”
“You are not remotely okay. It wasn’t even like… a lucky miss, or a slow bullet, or like I was doing any good grabbing at all the blood pumping out of you. We were literally next door to the trauma center. That’s it. That’s the only reason I’m not standing here talking to your corpse, Marla.”
“Please don’t talk to my corpse when I die.”
“Then don’t fucking die.”
“Deal.” She tries out a squeeze. That hurts, but honestly a bit of real pain is almost a relief. Cuts through the haze. Fran squeezes back, then starts to pull away. “Oh no you don’t,” Marla says. She uses the business voice — quick and low and firm. Fran reacts just how she wants her to: she stills, hand still resting in her palm, eyes shooting up to meet hers, waiting to hear what’s next. “Come here.”
Her eyebrows pinch together. Exhausted, sleepy confusion. She’s so wrecked and adorable, it would make Marla’s chest ache if it wasn’t already a little preoccupied being one giant stitched-together lump of bruise.
“Just… get your face down here. I’m going to kiss you on the forehead, then tell you to get the fuck out of here and go sleep.”
Fran looks like she might argue, glancing left and right at the tubes and wires and beeping machines Marla hasn’t even begun to wrap her brain around, but with one long sigh, all the tension goes out of her, and she bends at the waist, curls brushing against her cheek, just low enough that Marla can press her lips against her forehead, feel the feverish warmth of sleepless nights beneath the soft, thin skin there, then steal one extra brush across her lips on the way up, catching the lower between her teeth to keep her from pulling up too soon. Fran freezes, like she’s afraid if she keeps straightening, she’ll bring Marla up with her and tear her in two.
Marla knows she doesn’t have the strength for that yet. Her teeth are only capable of a promise right now, not a threat, but she makes the most of the stillness, feeling Fran’s breath, hot and ragged through her nose, then slower, more even, right against her lips. There she is — Fran kisses her back, gentle but real, before she finally pulls away. "I can't. Baby, I can't just leave you with them."
Doctors, carers, angry men in baseball caps. It's never easy when it's not just the two of them. Marla sees the tears in the corners of her eyes, but she doesn’t say anything. Fran is the kind of woman who deserves to say she doesn’t cry, even though Marla has seen her do it more than once in the past few years. “Go on,” she breathes. “Let the people who are getting paid to keep me alive do what they’re gonna do whether you’re here or not. I'm not gonna go all trusting the minute you're out of the room: I know all the tricks in the book. Hell, go on a vacation. Come back when I can smoke again and not a minute sooner. I don’t want you sitting around here till I can make you mad, then do something about it.”
At last, Fran’s giving her a lopsided smile. “I can't believe you. You actually are okay, aren’t you.”
“Let’s see. Still alive. Still rich?” She raises an eyebrow at Fran like she wants an answer, and she gets it in the twitch of her lips. “Still have a pair of hands to rip that man’s dick off once I’m out of here? Oh yeah. I’m doing just fine. ”