The warmth of Delphine's body against hers combined with tiredness born of their exertions sent Cosima to sleep after a few moments. When she woke up, Delphine was gone, and the place in the bed she had occupied long gone cold. Cosima pushed aside the painful pang in her chest, and swung her legs out from under the covers. Methodically, she gathered her clothes from their various places strewn around the bed and by the door and dumped the lot of them into her hamper in favour of the comfort of pyjamas before she left, following the grumbling in her stomach and the scent wafting around her nose to the kitchen. Delphine flushed when their eyes met, and quickly looked away. With a yawn, Cosima settled on the stool next to her at the island and pillowed her head on her arms.
“Oh, good,” John's voice came from behind her. “You're up. I wanted to ask you two something.” Cosima followed him with her eyes, unmoving. “How would you two like a puppy?”
“Seriously?” Cosima asked, lifting her head up. Beside her, Delphine looked curious.
“Yeah,” John replied, smiling at her. He ruffled his hair. “One of the guys at work's dog had some, and they're old enough now to start going out to homes. I said I'd ask, and take you two up to his place to pick one out tonight if you wanted?”
“Yes,” Cosima said automatically. “Absolutely.” She glanced at Delphine. The blonde grinned at her. “Can we go now? We can go now, right?”
“You're not even dressed, Cosima,” Delphine said, and giggled. Cosima flushed.
“I'll be right back,” she mumbled, pushing away from the counter.
She sat in the front seat to keep herself from reaching out to hold Delphine's hand between her own, but she couldn't stop herself from casting quick glances at her step-sister in the rearview mirror. For most of the trip, Delphine looked out the window, but the grin on her lips showed her excitement. Cosima could hardly get out of the car fast enough when she arrived, bouncing on the balls of her feet while she waited for her father to lead the way. Delphine fell into step beside her. Their arms brushed as they walked. The second the door opened, the excited yips of dogs at play met Cosima's ears. She grinned.
“John!” A voice called. Cosima didn't recognize the man who rounded the corner, but smiled at him anyway.
“Dave,” John greeted, shaking his hand.
“The puppies are just through there, girls,” Dave told them, gesturing through the kitchen. “Go right on ahead.” He clapped John on the shoulder. “Do you want coffee or something?” he asked.
“Yeah, thanks,” John replied. “Give a holler when you're ready, Cos.” Cosima grabbed Delphine's hand before she could think through what she was doing, following the sounds of play through to the room where the puppies were being kept.
“Oh,” Cosima breathed out, her smile growing. “Golden retrievers. Awesome.” Another family was there, middle aged parents with a young daughter, carefully overseeing their child's interactions with the puppies that tottered and tumbled around the space prepared for them. Cosima let her hand linger on Delphine's until she was too far away for their fingers to stay entwined and settled herself on the floor in the middle of the room. Delphine lingered at the door, her arms crossed over her chest. Cosima motioned her over, and by the time she was at Cosima's side again, there were already curious canines sniffing and nuzzling at both their shoes and ankles. One of the more inquisitive of the bunch put his paws on Cosima's leg in an attempt to crawl into her lap. Giggling, Cosima helped him, dissolving into laughter when a rough tongue licked at her fingers and hands.
She could feel Delphine's eyes on her. Even though her hands were occupied with a puppy of her own, her gaze remained fixated on Cosima, and when the dog wandered off with its nose pressed to the ground, she didn't move. Cosima tilted her head to the side, meeting her eyes, then snorted when the puppy in her lap nudged her chin with his nose. The noise broke whatever odd trance Delphine had been in, and earned her a soft chuckle. Raising her brows in question, Cosima carefully picked the puppy up and deposited him in Delphine's lap, then scooted closer to her. The puppy yipped happily, squirming in Delphine's hands, but making no real attempt to escape and join his siblings.
“This one,” Delphine said, sounding certain. She glanced to the side to look at Cosima, being careful not to turn her head. It was for the best, Cosima told herself, sitting back on her heels to quell the temptation to kiss the blonde.
“Yeah?” Cosima asked, gently playing with the puppy's ears. He snuffled her palm. “So sure already, are we?”
“The others won't sit still, and despite us both handling this one, he seems more than content to stay in our company.”
“I think he's falling asleep,” Cosima pointed out. Delphine looked down. The puppy had snuggled against her stomach, his eyes drooping. “This one, then.” Delphine lifted her head back up, chewing on her lip. “I'll go tell Dad.”
Dave gave them a courtesy starter kit that consisted of a blanket, a spare bowl, a chew toy, and a container of the food he'd been giving them to blend in with whatever mix they decided to buy. It was Cosima's turn to go crazy in the store like her father had before they went camping. Delphine trailed after them with the puppy bundled up inside her hoodie, sleeping soundly despite her movement, while Cosima filled the cart that John pushed along with everything she thought their new family member could want or need. He took it with much better humour than Cosima had his shopping tirade.
“What are you going to name him?” John asked when they were back in the car. Cosima had let him fill the front seat with bags so she could sit in the back with Delphine and their new dog, absently scratching behind his ears.
“I don't know,” Cosima replied, rubbing her thumb against the soft fur of the puppy's ear. “Del?” Delphine shrugged.
“I don't know, either,” she said. “Tom, perhaps? After Thomas Edison?”
“You know Edison stole all his ideas from Tesla, right,” Cosima deadpanned.
“We are not calling him Nikola.”
“What's wrong with Tesla?”
“Tesla isn't a good name for a dog.”
“It's better than Tom,” Cosima said. “Odd names are cool. Normal names for dogs are boring.” Delphine sighed and rolled her eyes.
“Okay,” she conceded. “We'll call him Tesla.” Cosima grinned, and ruffled Tesla's head. He sneezed lightly. Delphine jolted in alarm. “Uhg,” she muttered, her voice eclipsed by Cosima's giggles. She smiled at Delphine, and, hidden from view, gently laid her hand across the blonde's for a brief second.
“Who's room is he sleeping in?” John asked.
“Mine,” Cosima said instantly. Delphine huffed.
“Mine.” John chuckled as they bickered, laying out the blanket and food and water bowls in a corner of the kitchen where they wouldn't be tripped over.
“You can alternate until he's old enough to choose where he wants to sleep,” he said eventually, before their voices rose too high. “Flip a coin to decide tonight.” A few seconds later, Cosima's voice rang out triumphantly.
The two of them followed Tesla as he scurried happily about the house, pressing his nose against everything he could reach. Cosima found herself groping for Delphine's hand, only to pull her own away the second their fingers met, her face steadily growing more and more red as the evening went on. She didn't apologize, and Delphine didn't say a word about it. Inevitably, Tesla got tired, and Delphine scooped him up in her arms to carry him outside while Cosima headed up to her room to make sure that anything she didn't want chewed or accidentally peed on was within his reach. Delphine rejoined her a few minutes later, Tesla looking more alert, and squirming slightly against her chest. She let him down after she shut the door, settling next to Cosima while he explored.
“Do you think they did this on purpose?” Cosima asked, watching. Delphine hummed questioningly. “To get us to 'bond'.”
“It's silly,” Cosima continued. “We've been bonding plenty.” Delphine huffed out an awkward laugh. Cosima glanced over to find her cheeks red. “I'm sorry.”
“No,” Delphine replied, shaking her head. “No, it's okay.” Cosima folded her hands in her lap and looked down at them as she picked nervously at her fingertips.
“Who's going to train him?” she asked after a while, breaking the thick silence. Delphine chuckled.
Tesla whined when Cosima put him in his crate for the night. Stretched out beneath her blankets, she listened silently as they began to quiet down as he fell asleep. Cosima was far from it, though. She couldn't lay still. Her bed felt empty without Delphine's body occupying the space next to her, but she couldn't leave Tesla all alone, even if he was sleeping. She smoothed her hand across the mattress next to her, then grabbed her phone.
Delphine. The reply was quick.
What? Cosima stared at the message, squinting at the bright backlight that shown into her eyes. Her thumb hovered over the keyboard so long the screen went black. She fumbled for the lock button to turn it back on.
You should come here.
You can just say you fell asleep in here if they ask it's fine seriously. She paused, contemplating. Tesla misses you. She thought Delphine had fallen asleep until she heard the creak of her door opening, and the dark shape that was her body stepping into the room.
“He's asleep,” Delphine said quietly, shutting the door behind her without a sound. The bed dipped as she crawled onto it, finding Cosima's lips in the dark. Her hands wandered. Cosima turned her head away, letting Delphine's mouth glance off her jaw.
“No,” she said. Delphine paused, and pulled back to look at her. In the dim from the lights outside, Cosima could make out the confused furrow of her brow.
“I-I'm sorry, I thought-” Delphine stuttered, pulling away. Cosima held her steady.
“No, I don't not want it,” she explained. “I just wanted you here tonight.” Delphine's body was tense beneath her hand. Cosima exhaled shakily. “Forget it, it's just me being stupid,” she continued, sitting up to reach Delphine's lips. Might as well take what she could get. Delphine stopped her this time, pulling back with a hand lightly resting on Cosima's sternum. Cosima watched her face in the dark.
“Move over,” Delphine finally said. Cosima let out the breath she'd been holding. She shifted to the side and pulled back the blankets to let Delphine settle beside her. As soon as she was comfortable, Cosima inched closer, tangling their legs together. Her body was warm and soft, but her feet cold. Cosima shuddered, earning a quiet, nervous giggle.
“Is this okay?” she asked as she cautiously swung an arm over Delphine's waist. The blonde's breath was shuddery. She nodded.
“You are taking Tesla out in the morning,” she whispered. Cosima pressed her front to Delphine's back, closing her eyes.
“Yeah, yeah,” she mumbled into her shoulder, yawning. For a few long moments, Delphine was stiff in her arms, but then she sighed and the tension drained away from her body. Cosima sleepily shifted her arm, tightening her hold. Delphine rested a hand over hers, and tangled their fingers together.
Tesla was still asleep when Cosima woke up, and Delphine was still there, with Cosima curled around her. Cosima blinked her eyes open, blearily staring at the mass of golden hair in front of her face. It had curled some during the night from Delphine's shifting, messily sticking up and out and spreading across the pillow. Cosima propped herself up on her elbow and moved her arm from where it was still resting over Delphine's stomach and threaded her fingers through the curls, pushing them back from the blonde's face. Her ministrations were enough to pull Delphine out of her slumber, and she hummed in content, a small smile playing at her lips.
“Quelle heure est-il?” she asked sleepily. Cosima glanced at her clock.
“Ten something,” she said softly, tucking Delphine's hair behind her ear. The blonde's eyes fluttered open, finding hers. “Did you sleep okay?” Delphine nodded, and yawned.
“Mmm, oui. Et toi?”
“Yeah,” Cosima breathed out, grinning. She stroked her thumb across Delphine's cheek, then reluctantly pulled back. “Come with me to take Tesla out,” she asked. Delphine stretched, her back arching off the bed with a content groan.
“Okay,” she replied, and rubbed at her eyes. “Just let me put on pants.” Cosima sat back to let her get up, following suit and crouching in front of Tesla's crate. She poked a finger through the door, brushing it over his nose. He snuffled.
“Hey, buddy,” she said, opening the door and wrangling the sleepy puppy out of the crate and into her arms. “Ready to go outside?” He flopped on her bed when she set him down, but by the time she had found shorts to wear, he was waking up. Cosima picked him up again, easily supporting his weight and carrying him out of the room. Delphine followed her down the stairs, opening the back door for her. As soon as they were outside, Cosima crouched down and let Tesla wiggle out of her arms, slipping clumsily into the soft grass.
“Tesla!” Cosima called. The puppy stopped his bounding leaps around the yard to look at her, panting happily. “Come!” He tilted his head to the side. “Tesla, come,” Cosima repeated. “Tesla. Come.” Tesla yipped, then lost interest and went snuffling off to the bushes. Cosima sighed and sat back on her heels, watching. Behind her, the door slid open. The sounds of the television filtered out from inside, where John was presumably still lounged on the sofa watching the football game.
“I brought gifts,” Delphine's voice sounded. “Do you drink beer?” Cosima looked over her shoulder. Delphine offered her a can. “Before you ask, yes it's okay.” Cosima smiled, and took the can offered to her, cracking the tab with a hiss and a snap. Delphine settled on the grass beside her with a soft grunt.
“Finally got sick of the noise, huh?” she asked, sipping. She scrunched up her nose. The first few were always the worst. Next to her, Delphine coughed softly.
“You father is very enthusiastic about his sports,” she replied.
“Yeah,” Cosima replied, chuckling. “You get used to it after a while. Why do you think I play my music so loud? It's kind of a competition between us now. I'm surprised the neighbours have never called the cops on us before complaining about noise with how loud we can get.”
“Have you two always been so close?” Delphine asked. Cosima shrugged, watching Tesla attack something in the grass. They both laughed when he tripped over and fell onto his side.
“Yeah,” Cosima replied when her giggles subsided. “After Mom died, it was just us, so... yeah.”
“I'm sorry,” Delphine said. “I didn't know she-I should have figured it out.”
“No, no,” Cosima said hurriedly. “It's okay. It was a while ago.” Delphine's hand found hers and lingered for a moment.
“So, what are you doing out here?” she asked.
“Trying to teach Tesla to come,” Cosima grumbled. “It's not going well.” She glanced over. “Why are you smirking?” Delphine bit her lip, and cleared her throat.
“Tesla!” she called, her voice ringing clearly across the yard. Tesla paused his bounding leaps. “Ici.” He cocked his head, then galloped over, stopping when his paws hit Delphine's leg.
“You have been spending all of your time reading about how to train a puppy, but not applying your knowledge. I have been. Tesla, assis!” Excited, Tesla wiggled his butt, tail wagging, but then plopped his hind on the ground. “Bon chien,” Delphine praised, scratching behind his ears.
“How did you-” Cosima asked, disbelief etched across her face. “It's been like, two weeks!” She clambered to her feet, setting her drink down in the grass, and walked a few paces away. “Tesla, ici!” Tesla whirled about and trotted over to her, putting his paws against her knee. Delphine giggled. “God dammit. What else does he know?”
“You'll have to find that out yourself,” Delphine replied, and leaned back on her elbows. “Drink your beer before it gets warm.” Cosima frowned at the self-satisfied smirk on Delphine's face, but rejoined her regardless, stretching out next to her in the grass with her arms pillowing her head.
“Seriously,” she said after a minute, “what else does he know?” Delphine hummed in thought.
“How to lay down, roll over, and speak,” she replied with a grin.
“I hate you,” Cosima said.
“No, you don't,” Delphine replied. Cosima's heart thumped painfully. She turned her head to look at Delphine, and opened her mouth to speak, but instead of words all that came out was a grunt as Tesla bounded over her stomach and knocked over her beer can. Her shout of surprise was lost beneath the sweet sound of Delphine's giggles echoing in her ears.
“Tesla, no!” Cosima scolded when the puppy began sniffing around the wet grass, and gently pushed him down towards her feet. Delphine tipped her can back up for her, leaning across the space between them, her face serious. Cosima blinked up at her.
“You don't hate me, do you?” she asked.
“I-no,” Cosima replied quickly, shaking her head. “No, of course not. Why?”
“I've been unkind,” Delphine said softly. Cosima didn't care that their parents were nearby, and that at any time one of them could pass by the door and see. She raised a hand, brushing her palm against Delphine's jaw, and hooked her fingers around the back of the blonde's skull to draw her head down. Delphine pressed closer, but after a second Cosima heard her brain click back into gear, and felt her pull away abruptly. Her lips tingled lightly.
“I definitely don't hate you,” Cosima said, watching as Delphine put distance between them again. She mirrored Cosima's position, falling back onto the ground. She expected to be reprimanded for such a dangerous display of her affection, but none came, and after a while, Delphine's hand snaked across the grass and her fingers spread lightly across Cosima's knuckles.