Author's Note: Another new thing because I can't sleep. Not sure I love it, but we'll see how it goes. More to come. Not sure anyone reads this fandom, but oh well. I don't own anything and I have no beta. Takes place in a series of shorts following Paulie jumping from the roof of the school. Let's just cross our fingers, close our eyes and believe that she lived, okay? Currently one-sided Mouse/Paulie. We'll see.
After Paulie jumped off the roof and broke her arm, her leg and her hip in three places, Mouse would visit her in the hospital four times a week: twice during on weekdays and then once Saturday and Sunday. She even stayed at school over the summer, mostly so she could stay near Paulie, which her parents tried to understand. Every day that she came, Paulie would thank her and ask about Tori. Today was no different.
"Thanks for coming, Mary Brave," Paulie said. She was able, after six weeks in the hospital, to sit up now.
"Of course, Paulie. You're my friend and I'm yours and of course I'm going to visit you." Mary said this every day, too.
Everyday though, this made Paulie sad. "I know, Mary B. We're friend, us two." Paulie looked out the window.
Mouse frowned. This was getting old. Maybe, she thought, she would make today different somehow.
"How's Tori? Have you talked to her?" Paulie asked.
Mouse sighed. "No, not since last week. She's away with her family right now. Summer family time, she said." Mouse had said this yesterday as well. "Let's talk about something different."
Paulie looked up. This was new. "Like what, Mary B?"
"Like how when you're better you'll take your final exams and graduate and leave me. What are you going to do?" Mouse looked at her lap, wishing Paulie wasn't leaving in a few months, too. Tori wasn't the same after that day, that terrible day, and Mouse knew it was only a matter of time until she was alone again.
"Why do you want to talk about that?" Paulie asked, genuinely confused.
"What are your plans?" Mouse asked again.
"I don't know. I haven't thought about it," she said, looking at Mouse with concern.
"Well, you should," Mouse stood and walked from the room, leaving Paulie to stare after her.
One week later, Mouse returned on another Saturday afternoon, to see Paulie. When the young brunette entered the room, Paulie looked up and smiled hopefully.
"Mary Brave! I missed you," Paulie said, her smile fading.
Mouse sat down and pulled her chair close to Paulie's generic hospital bed. "Yeah, I missed you, too. That's why I'm back."
"What do you mean? Were… Were you not going to come back?" Paulie almost looked scared, but not quite, because she was Paulie and nothing except loosing Tori scared her.
"No, I wasn't. Not for a while anyway. Because," Mouse reached over and gripped Paulie's hand carefully even though it wasn't the broken one, "because this hurts, Paulie. Seeing you like this, and knowing that when you're better you'll leave. It hurts." Mouse looked down, sad, but unable to cry again. She had cried so much when she thought Paulie had died and left her behind.
"We'll always be friends, Mary," Paulie said earnestly, squeezing Mouse's hand.
"Will we? You thought that you and Tori were unshakeable, and look what happened." Mouse knew this was cruel, but she was hurting, too, and so terrified of being at that school where everyone now knew about Paulie and Tori and knew she lived with them and everyone wondered if she was involved somehow in their romance, or whatever it had been.
Paulie recoiled and looked away, pulling her hand from Mouse's.
They didn't speak for several minutes. Mouse stood.
"I'll come back tomorrow. Think about what you're doing when you get better, okay? You need a plan." Mouse turned to leave, but stopped. Something pulled her back. Something she'd been turning over in her head since that day. She turned back and leaned down, kissing Paulie softly on the cheek. "I can't hug you right now, so that will have to do." She took a steadying breath and left.
Paulie watched her go and felt her heart stir.
On Sunday, Paulie and Mouse began to talk about the future.
"I want to go to college, but I don't know if any place will let me in," Paulie said, toying with Mouse's hand that was connected again to hers as Mouse sat beside her bed.
"You have good grades," Mouse replied, though she knew what Paulie meant.
Paulie looked at her and rolled her eyes.
"Well, you're getting treatment, right, for… doing what you did, aside from the physical stuff, aren't you?" Mouse asked.
Nodding, Paulie shifted her weight a bit, making a face.
"Are you uncomfortable? Do you want me to call the nurse?" Mouse moved to stand.
"No, no, sit Mary B. I'm okay. Just sick of being in this bed," Paulie squeezed Mouse's hand as the other girl settled back in her chair.
"Yeah, I bet. Didn't your doctor say you'd be able to walk soon?" Mouse asked, squeezing Paulie's hand back.
"Maybe. In a few weeks," Paulie said, smiling at the thought.
"Well, that's good at least," Mouse paused, "So, college. Where do you want to go?"
"I'm not sure, but I had a list. It's in my stuff at home now," Paulie shrugged.
Mouse frowned. "Well, my parents got me a laptop computer, I can do some research for you if you know where you want to go or whatever."
"You would do that?" Paulie grinned.
"Duh. We're friends, us two, remember?" Mouse smiled back, feeling her stomach flutter and hating it.
"Yeah, for sure," Paulie gripped Mouse's hand tighter again. This was becoming a routine for them now. Mouse would come four times a week like before, but now they talked about college and Mouse's classes for her sophomore year and they held each other's hand like a lifeline, because really, that's what it was. They almost never talked about Tori.
Mouse liked it better this way. She knew that Paulie was serious about not thinking she was gay; thinking that she could love Tori and not be gay at all, even if that did not quite make sense to Mouse. Mouse also knew that the way her insides felt around Paulie – wild, strong, crazy Paulie – meant something. She just was not ready to deal with it.
A few weeks later, on a Wednesday, Mouse came into Paulie's room to see smaller casts that showed more of Paulie's healing body and sat heavily in her chair. Paulie frowned at her and reached for her hand.
"Why so blue, Mary B?" Paulie asked when Mouse did not immediately offer her hand.
"Just tired, Paulie. I didn't sleep well," Mouse replied, rubbing the heels of her hands against her eyes and then taking Paulie's hand, trying to ignore the thrill that moved up her arm when her skin touched Paulie's. Mouse had not slept well because she dreamt about Paulie for the third time in as many days. She dreamed about being with Paulie like Tori had been; of being Paulie's new Tori… except that Mouse would not leave her for some boy just to please her parents. She loved her parents, of course, but knew they would understand, somehow, that love was love and it just was.
Paulie frowned more deeply and squeezed Mouse's hand.
"My poor Mary. What's on your mind?" Paulie smiled when Mouse looked up from their hands.
"Just… I don't know," Mouse looked away, wondering how much to say. "How did you know you loved Tori?"
"Um, well, I," Paulie stuttered over herself, which was so un-Paulie that Mouse had to keep from laughing. "I just knew."
"Yeah," Mouse sighed, "but when? How? If…" Mouse chose her words carefully, "If you're not gay, how do you know if you love another girl?"
"Well," Paulie leaned her head back against her pillows and considered this. After a moment, she squeezed Mouse's hand again and said, "It can be a number of things, Mary B. Your palms might sweat, your insides might flutter and all that, you might feel lightheaded. That kind of stuff. Just like with a boy, except sometimes it happens with a special girl and that doesn't mean you're gay – it just means you're in love." Paulie smiled, happy with her answer.
Mouse nodded. "So, if you dream about kissing another girl, about… being with her, then you probably love you, but you don't have to be gay?" She asked.
Paulie nodded back, "That's right. Why?"
Mouse squeezed Paulie's hand and stood. "Thanks Paulie. I'll see you in a few days. I'll bring you some more stuff about that college you liked in Massachusetts."
Paulie frowned, but said goodbye and watched Mouse leave the room.