She couldn't sit on Cosima's bed without remembering what had happened, as much as she tried to ignore it. It hadn't happened again, sparing Delphine the temptation to listen, but the memory of the sounds echoed in her head at night. All it would have taken to avoid everything was for Cosima to be in her room instead, but that was almost just as bad. It was just as bad, Cosima in her space, radiating warmth and comfort from every pore with only her presence. But, at least then she wouldn't be stiffly sat in the middle of Cosima's bed with her mind constantly, relentlessly reminding her of what Cosima had done under the cover of her blankets. Her showers had been growing colder. Delphine could hardly stand the temperature, but the sharp needles of icy water hitting her flesh were more effective at relieving the tension in her muscles than heat did.
It was all messed up. I know what she did here, Delphine thought, her fingers digging into the bulk of Cosima's duvet. I heard her. I heard her and I- She what? She had liked it? She'd been aroused? She couldn't have been. It wasn't right. Cosima was family. Close family. They were sisters. She couldn't. She wasn't. She-the lie didn't fully form. The attraction was obvious. It fizzled under her skin, taunting her. She sighed, biting into her lip. She could hardly think for it all. Half the time her mind violently rejected it, and the other half wondered and imagined, and made her watch and stare, and smile when Cosima began to ramble. A hand waved in front of her face, breaking her from her stupor.
“Delphine, hey. Earth to blondie.” Delphine blinked, and glanced over. Cosima rolled her eyes. “Have you heard a single thing I've said?” No, she hadn't. She'd forgotten that Cosima was even there, only aware of the thoughts that tumbled around in her own mind.
“I'm sorry,” she said. Cosima huffed, faking irritation.
“It's fine, it's not like I was saying anything important,” she sighed.
“Were you?” The brunette grinned, and raised a brow in challenge. Smirking, she reached out to poke Delphine's side. Delphine squealed, and squirmed away, the light touch ticklish against her sensitive skin, even through her shirt. Cosima's gaze twinkled with an amused curiosity. She poked Delphine again, prompting another squeak. Delphine didn't like the glint in her eyes. “Cosima...”
“Ticklish?” she asked.
“No,” Delphine replied too quickly, feeling her face burn lightly. Cosima's smirk grew. “Don't you dare.”
“What?” Cosima asked innocently, shuffling closer.
“Do not even think about it.” Cosima launched at her, fingers wiggling against her sides and stomach, like Delphine's own had done at the lake. She fell back, the weight of Cosima's body and the force of her laughter making it impossible to stay upright. Cosima followed, digging her fingers into Delphine's ribs. Her lungs sputtered for air, laughter ringing in her ears. One of them kicked a book off the bed, its thud inaudible over their giggles. Delphine curled her knees up to her chest to protect her stomach, but Cosima elbowed them back down, using her weight to her advantage. Delphine groped for her wrists, moving to Cosima's hips when they eluded her, and pushed.
“Nice try,” Cosima gasped through a laugh. “I'm totally stronger than you.” Delphine squeezed Cosima's sides. The brunette squeaked in alarm. Delphine took advantage of the opening she had, arching her weight and rolling them to the side until she was in the superior position, with Cosima wriggling beneath her and squealing with laughter.
“Who is stronger now?” Delphine gasped, her cheeks, and chest, and stomach hurting from laughing and grinning.
“No!” Cosima shouted in protest. Her body bucked up, pressing flush against Delphine's, grinding and rubbing as she tried to regain control.
“Admit it!” Delphine repeated. “You won't win.” Cosima's breath was hot against her neck and collar, blowing in harsh, uneven puffs between her giggles. She managed, finally, to secure a tight grip around Cosima's wrists. She forced them down against the mattress, one on either side of Cosima's head, with a triumphant grin, gasping air into her lungs.
“Okay,” Cosima whispered, her voice raw. Delphine felt her breath ghost over her lips. “You win.” How did she get so close?
“Yeah?” she breathed out. Her fingers were burning. Cosima's body was warm against hers, both their chests heaving from the exertion. Cosima swallowed, and looked up at her with dark eyes. Her own gaze shifted, dropping briefly to Cosima's lips, then back up, and then again, as though they couldn't decide which feature was more attractive. The air was thick, almost suffocating in its density. The sounds of their laboured breathing were all Delphine could hear.
“Yeah,” Cosima repeated, and turned her head. Their noses brushed. Delphine's lungs compressed, forcing her breath out in a shaky rush. Beneath her hands, Cosima's fingers flexed, her wrists pushing against Delphine's palms. Cosima shifted her head again; a soft nuzzle along Delphine's nose. Her throat closed, a lump sticking hard, heart pounding harder than it had been before. Her eyes slid shut, head dipping to meet Cosima's as the brunette tilted hers up. She could feel the heat from Cosima's lips, how they trembled ever so slightly. Just a bit more, and then—
“Girls!” John's voice echoed from below. “Dinner!” Delphine's eyes snapped open, her expression mirrored by Cosima's own. She scrambled off her step-sister, putting what distance she could between them, her eyes wide and panicked. Cosima sat up quickly, opening her mouth to speak, but she floundered, able to do nothing more than gape. “Girls!”
“Co-” Cosima's voice cracked. “Coming!”
She wasn't just attracted to Cosima, she was aroused. Her whole body hummed, buzzing angrily in protest at having been denied what it wanted. Their parents could tell something was off, Delphine knew from the looks on their faces, but they didn't know—couldn't know... Feeling sick, Delphine asked for the bowl of salad by Cosima's elbow. Cosima's reaction was slow. She stared down at her plate until John nudged her shoulder and said her name. Cosima mumbled an apology under her breath. The touch of her fingers to Delphine's burned so hotly that she almost dropped the bowl. Marie gave her a concerned glanced.
“Ça va, Delphy?” she cooed, tucking Delphine's hair behind her ear.
“Ça va, Maman,” Delphine muttered, and pulled away from the touch. She sighed. “I'm tired.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I'm going to go lay down.” She stood quietly, clearing her plate. She could feel Cosima's eyes boring into the space between her shoulder blades as she left the room. She ignored her bedroom, heading straight for a cold shower.
When she finished, feeling no more relieved for it, Cosima's door was shut. Delphine assumed locked as well. She hid in her own room, clutching her towel to her chest and clenching her thighs together with a frustrated groan. I'm not attracted to her. I don't want her. I'm not gay. I don't like girls.
“I'm not gay,” she said out loud. The words felt wrong in her mouth. Anyone but Cosima, please, god, anyone but her.
They didn't speak on the way to school. Delphine's body called out to Cosima, but she ignored it, and split away as soon as they arrived. She caught sight of Mark a few hours later, just before her and Cosima's shared science class. After a moment of hesitation, she called to him, drawing his attention from his friends.
“About the other day,” she started, when he was in front of her. “I've changed my mind. Is the offer still open?”
“Yeah, totally,” Mark replied. His voice was rough against her ears. “Do you wanna go out for dinner, or see a movie, or...” Delphine let her lip slide between her teeth.
“Dinner is good,” she said, nodding her head in confirmation, more for her own benefit than for his.
“Cool. Give me your address, and I'll pick you up?” He patted his pockets, coming up with a chewed pen and a crumpled bit of paper. Delphine used the wall for support, and handed him his things back with a smile. “How's six sound?”
“Good,” Delphine said, with another affirmative nod. “Good. I'll see you then.” She smiled at him, and turned to leave for class.
Cosima didn't speak to her, and thank god they didn't have lab work, because Delphine couldn't fathom being forced to sit so close to her, even with Scott between them. Every now and then she picked up on the familiar murmur of her voice, but it was nothing more than a hushed, barely whispered word to something Scott said into her ear. The closest of the two to the door, Delphine was out of the room before Cosima even left her seat, putting much needed distance between them. She only lingered briefly after school, waiting for Cosima, but when the brunette didn't show, she walked home on her own.
The house was still empty when she arrived. Sighing, Delphine slumped on the sofa and let her bag fall to the side with a soft thump. Three hours. Maybe all she needed was to find someone else. Someone to replace Claude for her. Someone not Cosima. She wondered where her step-sister was. As the time passed and no one showed, her worry grew. Finally, when she was upstairs fixing her hair and make up for the night, she heard the door open. Too early for their parents to be home, Delphine peeked down the stairs to catch a glimpse of Cosima sitting where she had before. Delphine retreated, finishing her make up with lightly trembling fingers. John arrived not much later, Marie with him.
It felt safe to leave her room with the adults around. Marie noticed her first; the nicer clothes, the carefully applied cosmetics, the freshly straightened hair, and gave her a curious glance.
“You look nice,” she commented from the door, setting down her bags.
“I'm going out tonight,” Delphine replied. Cosima's head snapped up so hard Delphine swore she heard it crack
“With a boy?” Marie asked. John paused in the kitchen doorway.
“Who's going out with a boy?” he asked, looking over his shoulder.
“Yes,” Delphine said.
“Who?” Cosima asked sharply at the same time Marie said,
“Merveilleux!” Delphine bit her lip, ignoring her mother in favour of Cosima's attention.
“Who?” Cosima repeated, staring hard at her. Delphine stared back, her eyes defiant.
“Mark,” she replied. Cosima's face darkened, and she turned away. Delphine tucked her hair behind her ear, fighting against the ache building in her chest. “He'll be here soon, so... I won't need dinner.
“Just be safe,” John said, but his eyes were on his own daughter, brows furrowed in concern the same way hers did. Cosima darted to the far end of the sofa when Delphine sat next to her to wait, her gaze firmly locked on her laptop. She was trying to act normal, but Delphine could see the faint line between her eyebrows. A car honked from outside a few minutes later. Marie peeked out the window, and with a smile announced Mark's arrival.
“Oh, you're going now?” Cosima asked when Delphine got to her feet. Her tone was full of an acidity Delphine had never heard before, at least not directed at her. “I hope you have oh so much fun.” John picked up on it right away.
“What's wrong with you?” he asked from his spot in his armchair, watching the news.
“Nothing,” Cosima said with a shrug, raising her hands defensively. “Just telling Delphine to have a good night out.” John's reply was lost behind the closing of the front door. Mark waved at her from the car, and leaned over the seat to open the door for her.
Mark was talking about football. It was only natural, since he played for the team, and it was Delphine's own fault for asking about it, but she didn't understand what he was saying. It wasn't her English, or him speaking too quickly like Cosima did, she just didn't understand. It had happened with Claude as well, whenever he went on about whatever latest game he had watched. Delphine slowly cut her chicken and tried to feign interest. He was trying, too hard, she thought, but he was trying, and that, at least, was admirable. She wondered what Cosima was doing; wondered the real reason behind her sharp tone. No, stop. Focus.
“What do you like to do?” Mark asked, breaking through the fog.
“Science,” Delphine replied. “I'm in AP Bio. I really, really like immunology.” And there it was. He didn't understand the intricacies that came with the field she enjoyed so much, and so his eyes narrowed slightly in confusion.
“You going to be a doctor or something?” he asked. Delphine shrugged, the spark of excitement in her chest fading to nothing.
“No,” she said, going back to her food. “Not in the medical sense.”
“I never got science. Too hard. Not that you liking it isn't cool or anything.” Delphine smiled and shrugged, and let him direct the conversation to something else.
Delphine hadn't a clue what compelled him to think going for a kiss on the first date was an acceptable end to the night. Maybe he thought that it was all right because she was French. Delphine responded eagerly, despite it. She let Mark rest his hands on her hips and left hers lightly on his shoulders. He was sloppy, more-so than Claude had been, but at least with him there had been a spark; an attraction. Her mind wandered. Cosima's lips looked nicer than his, she thought. She was probably a better kisser than he was. She wondered how soft they would feel against her own. Delphine pulled away abruptly with an apologetic smile, her heart a lump in her throat.
“So, can we do this again?” Mark asked. Delphine hesitated, then nodded, not trusting herself to speak, and slipped through the door before he could say anything else. The tightness in her chest loosened enough to let her breathe. On her way past the living room, a familiar body caught her gaze out of the corner of her eye.
“Nice night?” Cosima asked, with only a brief glance up from her book, curled up in the armchair her father had inhabited when Delphine had left.
“Yes,” Delphine replied. Cosima turned a page, and absently rubbed at an eye beneath her glasses.
“Your lipstick's smudged,” she said, flatly. Delphine's hand darted to her face to brush against her lips, her cheeks burning. She left without a word, hurrying up the stairs. Cosima wasn't jealous, she told herself, and rubbed her fingers over where her make up had smeared at the corner of her lip.
Cosima left before she did, for once. The only sign she'd been in the house at all was the presence of an empty cereal bowl in the sink when Delphine placed her own dishes with it. She saw Mark before she saw her step-sister, waiting outside her science class. His presence confused her. She almost turned around to dart into the nearest bathroom, but he spotted her before she could make her escape and waved at her in greeting. Biting her lip, Delphine pushed through the stream of students in her path to stand before him, tilting her head back.
“Hey, so about going out again,” he started. Delphine held in a sigh and glanced around. She had forgotten she'd agreed, in the terror that had followed her thoughts the previous night. “You wanna go see a movie?” Delphine threaded her fingers through her hair, watching people bustle past her. She was about to open her mouth to reply when Cosima slipped through the crowd, catching sight of her and meeting her eyes. She frowned lightly. “Delphine?” She turned back to him and stood on her toes to grab his face, pulling his lips down to hers. They pressed messily, his surprise delaying his reaction for a very long second. She was flushed when she pulled away, glancing at Cosima out of the corner of her eye. The brunette's face had soured, her eyes sharp behind her glasses. Delphine dropped her hand from the back of Mark's neck, staring at her.
“Yes,” Delphine said.
“Wow, okay,” Mark breathed. Delphine stepped away from his hands. “I'll pick you up again?” Cosima knocked her shoulder into him on her way into the room, stepping past Delphine without so much as a second glance. Mark scoffed, and scowled at her retreating back. “Bitch.” Delphine frowned, biting her lip in annoyance.
“I'll meet you there,” she said shortly. “Seven.” Cosima didn't look at her when she sat at her desk, and didn't speak to her during their lab project. Scott took advantage of her silence to pay full attention to Delphine, but she couldn't stop glancing past him to where his friend was scowling into her microscope, glasses pushed onto the top of her head.
John and Marie went out for a dinner date, leaving Delphine alone again the house with a sulking Cosima. Her step-sister holed herself up in her room, and the second after their parents shut the front door behind them, started blasting her music. Delphine scowled at her laptop, but tried to ignore it. They wouldn't be alone forever. When the adults came back, Cosima would turn her music down so everyone could relax for the night. Or at least she would put headphones in. She wasn't discourteous. Most of the time. It was still irritating, especially with her and Cosima's taste in music being completely different.
Delphine sighed, slouching against the sofa and digging her teeth into her lip. Her hand found her forehead, fingers pushing into her temples, trying to massage the tension away. Cosima's music pounded at her ears. She bit down on her lip too hard through a sigh and winced at the pain it caused, her frown deepening. She couldn't focus. Slamming her computer shut, she rose, tucking it under her arm and trumping up the stairs. She was passing Cosima's door when the music stopped and it opened. Cosima cursed, and stopped short. Delphine glanced at her, but continued to her own room. She felt Cosima follow.
“Going to get ready for your date?” she asked, leaning against Delphine's door frame. Delphine looked over her shoulder, tossing her laptop onto her bed.
“No, not yet,” Delphine replied, turning around to face her.
“You could sound a bit more enthusiastic,” Cosima muttered, frowning. “Mark's cute, right?” She stepped into the room, crossing her arms over her chest. “Tall, beefy. Just your type, right?”
“What do you want, Cosima?” Delphine sighed, brushing her hand across her eyes. Cosima paused. The air between them was heavy. Delphine's body coiled tight, her heart pounding in her chest.
“Stop pretending like you want to go out with him again,” Cosima said, hovering by the door.
“I'm not pretending,” Delphine replied.
“Yeah, you are,” Cosima argued. “You said no first, I saw you, so why are you suddenly all over him? We need to admit what this is really about.” Delphine couldn't breathe. “You don't want him, so why are you going out with him again?”
“You don't know what I want,” Delphine said, her voice weak. She could feel her body trembling.
“Not him,” Cosima replied. Her back hit the wall with a harsh thud. Delphine grasped at her face, fiercely pushing their mouths together. Her body screamed, pressing to the other girl's as firmly as it could. Cosima kissed back immediately, her hands gripping tightly to Delphine's hips, blunt nails digging roughly into her clothes and her skin, holding her close. She was burning, all of the want that had been building in the pit of her stomach since that morning at the lake returning with the force of a hurricane, raging inside her chest. It was as good as she had imagined. So much better than Mark. Better than Claude. Cosima's lips were soft and warm and skilled. She barely managed to gasp in a quick, needy breath before Cosima's lips were on hers again, Delphine's desperation echoed by her own. Delphine jerked away as suddenly as she'd pounced, slapping her hand over her mouth. Flustered, Cosima stared at her, still leaning against the wall. Delphine's stomach churned violently. Leaving Cosima dazed, she rushed out of the house, her long legs helping to carry her away from it and from Cosima. She was going to be sick.