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“I like this,” Dani laughs, tugging on the sleeve of Jamie’s giant Wario sweatshirt. “Is he your favorite now? Yoshi let you down?”

“Actually, I prefer Waluigi,” Jamie tells her with a smirk, “not that I even know what’s going on in those games. Found this for a dollar and a half secondhand.”

“Good find! And, uh, you don’t have to tell me that,” Dani says slyly. “I could guess by how often I beat you.”

She yawns, her thumb and forefinger still rubbing the fabric. This is something Dani does, touching Jamie without touching Jamie, and it’s a quiet, sweet kind of intimacy. Because no one touches Jamie, not anymore, not if she has anything to say about it. Dani’s seen her shrink and flinch enough to know this. She’s respectful and affectionate and the only person in the world Jamie really wants to be touched by.

But this is more than enough — this is perfect, really, for Jamie — this touching-adjacent gesture, and it’s also all she’ll ever have. Dani’s arm stretched behind her head on a bench. Dani’s fingers plucking lint from her hair. Dani’s shoe nudging hers as they sit pressed to opposite arms of a two-seated couch. Any more and sirens blare in the back of her mind. Touch too much, feel too much, know too much. There’s so much of Jamie that shouldn’t be known.


Dani always buys that weird packaged cotton candy at the movie theater. She buys two bags — one for herself and one for Jamie, who never shows much interest — and is usually mostly done with both by the time the movie ends. She’s loved it since she was a kid, apparently— her dad always got it because pink was my favorite color, and blue was my eyes, and I was sweet.

Was? Jamie asked when she explained this. Aren’t those things still true?

Dani looked a little pensive, a little lost, and then said, as if admitting guilt, I think I’ve graduated to lavender.

Jamie gave her a gentle shoulder-check and reassured her: Can’t see you losing the sweetness anytime soon.


In the lobby, not quite a year later, cutting off her review of the superhero movie they just watched, Dani touches Jamie’s skin for the first time.

She gasps, the remaining half-empty cotton candy bag sliding out of her grip, and reaches out to replace it with Jamie’s hand. Her fingers are sticky. Jamie’s barely peek through the ends of her sleeves.

“I’m—” Dani stammers, letting go. “I’m s-so sorry.”

“Dani, what’s wrong?” She’s breathing more and more erratically, her eyes fixed on a group ahead of you in line. Jamie swallows, shoves the cuff of her sleeve up, and takes Dani’s hand back. “Let’s go outside, okay?”

She nods. Eyes skirting between the path in front of them and the tears trembling down Dani’s cheeks, Jamie leads her through the lobby out into the parking lot, to a private-looking side wall of the building.

“D’you wanna go to the car?”

“No,” Dani sobs. “No— no, I can’t—”

“That’s okay.” There’s a breathing exercise Jamie knows— or should know, but can’t remember it now. There’s something that’s supposed to help. It’s been too long since she’s been to therapy. She falters. Dani’s still panting, crying hard, shaking. And Jamie’s desperate. “What do you need?” she pleads. “I’m— Dani, I wanna help you, but I don’t—”

Dani shakes her head and leans back onto the wall, clutching her heart, her other hand still in Jamie’s. Without thinking, Jamie tugs it forward onto her own chest and breathes. Slowly, evenly as she can.

“Okay?” she asks. She’s shaking now too — violently, maybe, but she comes closer anyway, pushes Dani’s hand into her heart.“I’ll do it with you,” she insists, nodding, “okay?”

Dani’s hands, not that much smaller than Jamie’s, follow the rise and fall of both their lungs, and she nods back. Jamie closes her eyes and counts. In her head at first, then out loud. Counts to eight and back again because she doesn’t know what else to do. It’s music in her head. Four and four and four and four and on and on. A love song in common time.

They wait it out.

Dani slows down, miraculously, at some point, until her rasped sobs go soft and slow, her tremors gentle. Jamie pulls her into her arms, not breathing or speaking or opening her eyes.

“Jamie,” Dani sighs weakly, hugging her back fervently. The sound is like a wave, like a blanket, like music. Jamie strokes her back and stays quiet. “Thank you,” Dani whispers, and then, “It’s okay, Jamie.”

“Are you okay?” Jamie asks, her face still hidden.

“Yeah.” Dani doesn’t move either.

“What happened?”

“I just— I saw someone in there.” She breathes out a shaky laugh. “I thought it was my— my ex. I panicked, I guess.”

“Oh, Dani. I’m so sorry.”

She shakes her head “It wasn’t him, I just— I couldn’t get out of it, y’know?” She squeezes Jamie a little tighter for a moment, and Jamie cringes, knowing what she must be feeling. “Thank you,” Dani says again, “and I’m sorry. For—” She lets go, lets Jamie step back a few inches. “For invading your space. I hope you’re not uncomfortable.”

There’s a way to laugh this off — a way to shrug and say fuck you to neighbors and doctors and lovers — but Jamie can’t find it. She stares at her shoes. Thrift store finds, as usual, from an unlabeled shelf. Not that much bigger than Dani’s, really. Jamie’s barely taller.

“S’alright,” she mumbles.

When Denny grew like a weed, everyone expected Jamie to follow. She didn’t, and they blamed it on her mother, and on her mother’s drugs, and on her mother’s delivery, so early no one really thought the child would make it.

Jamie was always small, and she never minded being so. It meant she could sneak, and hide, and dodge, even if she couldn’t throw a punch like her brother. Even if she couldn’t always fight back. Even if everyone knew this when they looked at her. Even if it made her an easy target.

No one thought Jamie would survive, but she did, and she’s surviving now. With this secret that, indirectly, bleeds into nearly every secret she’s ever had. With Dani’s wide eyes boring holes in the top of her head. With sticky cotton candy residue all over the evil cartoon plumber on her chest.

“Jamie?” Dani says softly, cautiously. “I’m— I’m sorry. Can you talk to me?”

Jamie covers her face with her hands and shakes her head. “I didn’t mean to.”

“To what?”

“Any of it.” She laughs darkly, blinking against the cuffs of her sleeves. “I didn’t mean to,” she starts over, finally looking up and cringing at the concern in Dani’s face, “lie to you. Or to let this happen. So. Any of it.”

“You didn’t lie to me,” Dani replies, brow furrowed. “I could’ve said something too, y’know.”

“You could’ve said something?”

“Yeah, but it— it wasn’t mine to say. It wasn’t mine to know, even, unless you wanted me to.”

“Okay.” Jamie nods, feeling naked and a little lightheaded. “Okay, so you aren’t pissed I touched you?”

“No,” Dani laughs incredulously. “I may have been – um, just a little bit – I may have been hoping you would do that. Touch me, I mean. For a long time.”

That’s new. To Jamie, at least. She can’t seem to focus her eyes or her body or her mind. Here’s Dani Clayton, not pissed. Here’s Dani Clayton, in fact, smiling so warmly it could melt every one of Jamie’s thick ice walls. And here’s Jamie Taylor, nervous and excited and wanting.

“Hey, Jamie,” Dani murmurs, stepping closer. “Would it be okay if I held your hand again?”

Of course it is. Jamie nods, and Dani threads their fingers together, a little net to catch their fall.

“Is this okay?”

“Yeah. It’s good, actually.”

“Good.” She comes forward another inch. “Would it be okay – be honest, please – would it be okay if I kissed you?”

Jamie looks up, laughs, matches Dani grin for grin. “Yeah, I think that’d be even better.”

Dani’s lips, a little clumsy from her broad smile and low laugh, taste like cotton candy. Jamie thinks she might not mind getting used to the sweetness.