Lily had a girl but not a girlfriend once-twice-three times; she can count the times on the fingers Stacie fucked her with. It was in San Francisco, because of course it was, every half-assed bout of experimental sex-with-women has some root in California, it's like a rule. The first time was at a post-performance party, nothing official, nothing company-sanctioned. Stacie practically oozed lesbian, but Lily hung out with her anyway. Gotta be fiercely insecure in your sexuality to let something like that feel like a threat. She oozed confidence, too, and Lily figured once wouldn't hurt. The second time they were rolling, third time, too. Stacie schooled her in drinking enough water to make it to class the next day. Valuable lessons, it turns out.
Veronica's got some massive bug up her ass about Nina. "She dances like a virgin. Like, I can feel myself shriveling up, watching her." Words tumble out of her as eyeliner goes on. "I heard that Jenna caught her, last year? Or maybe it was the year before that, anyway, and she had all these cuts on her legs, I mean, thank god Tomas hasn't seen her naked, at least, I assume." The other girls chime in or ignore to whatever degree they want to, and Veronica keeps on. Spitting at her reflection in the mirror.
She's cold unless she is moving, so Lily moves more than ever. She's liquid, almost. Why the hell'd they call her in, across the fucking continent, if they aren't going to use her? It could be easy to get bitter, get mean. She can feel it happening, and she pushes back.
Lily finds Nina, crying. Despite the chill, its enough to make Lily stop, crouch and sympathize. Nina's eyes are red around the edges, and Lily can't shake the feelings that if Nina would stop taking herself and everything so fucking seriously -- they could be something.
She doesn't realize it until they're apart again, but Nina makes her feel warm.
Fuck Tomas, fuck her career, fuck everything. She's never seen anyone with the look on Nina's face, goddamn blissful, almost, and bleeding out. It's ages before the EMTs arrive, and they aren't keen on a non-family member riding along, so Lily takes the subway, agonizing over every stop. Maybe if she tried harder, if she had told Veronica to shut the fuck up already. Maybe if she'd reached out. The subway is full of eyes, and Lily dashes at the swan makeup, silver coming off on her hands.
By the time Lily arrives, Nina is already in emergency surgery, but a kind nurse says that Lily can sit in the room Nina'll be returned to. There's a woman, wailing, and Tomas, somehow beating her to the hospital, but the nurse won't let them past the lobby. Lily does a quick turn around the room, unhooking her tutu and leaning it upright against a chair. The room hums with white noise, and panic slowly turns to sleep.
"I had the strangest dream about you," Nina says, and Lily jerks awake. Her body feels like gelatin poured into lead, stiff and liquid all at once. Nina's voice is hoarse, like she's been screaming for days.
"Let me get the nurse, okay?" Lily is suddenly terrified to be alone with her, afraid of the way her heart starts pounding.
"No, no, that won't do." Nina turns her face and rubs her cheek on the pillow of her hospital bed. "It doesn't hurt," she says, without explaining her first comment. "Maybe I'm still dreaming."
"Did you… hurt yourself, Nina, why?"
"I had to let go. Loosen up. Live a little. Like you."
And that's the last thing Lily wants to hear, she starts to cry, despite herself. "No, Nina. I… I don't think I could do what you did tonight."
"But you did," Nina insists. She lifts a limp hand and rests it on her stomach, she moves her thumb slowly, back and forth. "I couldn't have done it without you." There are still traces of makeup on Nina's face, though the doctors have cleaned her arms and from the chin down. Lily kneels by the bed, takes a washcloth from the stand and wets it with her tongue, wipes with sure strokes across Nina's forehead, down her nose, across her cheeks.
"You're gonna be okay," Lily insists.
"It doesn't matter. I did it, I finished. -- here, I want you to have something."
"What?" Lily settles closer, and Nina arches away from the bed to press her mouth to Lily's. She's on heavy pain killers, it's the drugs, shock. But she kisses Lily and Lily can feel it all through her. Her own mouth is dry, but Nina's lips and tongue are wet. She tastes like sweat and stage makeup.
"You'll dance for me, tomorrow?"
"Come see me after?"
She runs, she spreads her wings, she jumps. She falls she falls she --
"Oh, good, you're awake. Dr. Mitchell wanted to talk to you, Nina. I'll send him in."
Nina sighs, short notice. She brushes her hair back, casually, and tries to look more awake than she feels. The room has been quiet, other than the regular beeping that begins to sound like the ticking of a clock.
There is a knock at the door, and Dr. Mitchell enters, his face empty. "Your mother--" he begins.
"I don't want to see her."
"Oh, no, Nina, I agree."
It's agreed then, that there are harmful figures in Nina's life. Threatening. She knows better than to utter a word about goose-flesh and feathers and murder. Knows they'll add Lily to the persona non grata list if she does.
He's on his way out when Lily comes in, another doctor with another vague smile. Lily is still flushed from dancing, but her face is clean and she's wearing yoga pants and a t-shirt under her winter coat. She is beautiful.
"You look beautiful," Nina whispers.
"Well, you look like shit," Lily answers, sitting on the bed. She drops her coat at the foot of the bed. "Ugh, I'm exhausted."
Nina closes her eyes for a moment, picturing how Lily must've looked up there, pausing, pausing, taking that dive. She pictures Lily, caught by surprise by a kiss. She pictures Lily, opens her eyes this time, in her bed.
"I bet you were perfect," Nina says, echoes of Lily's body moving through her mind. Muscles shift, and suddenly it makes sense. It's easy. Movement, freedom. The tempo exists separately from her body. She smiles. Easy.
"Not even close," Lily says, and squeezes Nina's hand with hers.
She laughs later, that it took a breakdown for Nina to get a girlfriend.