Cosima was slipping Tesla scraps of food beneath the table. She was trying to be inconspicuous about it, but Delphine could hear his tags jingle as he scarfed the treats off the floor or out of Cosima's fingers. She scowled at her step-sister from the other side of the table, but Cosima just met her gaze with a cheeky smile or an uncaring shrug, sometimes both, and purposefully dropped a piece of bacon onto the floor.
“Whoops,” she said, and smirked.
“Cosima, don't feed the dog bacon!” Delphine scolded.
“What, it's not going to hurt him,” Cosima retorted.
“It's bad for him!”
“It's just a treat, lighten up. You're such a mom.” Delphine gasped in feigned annoyance, and kicked at Cosima's shin.
“I am not! I take him out for runs, and play frisbee and fetch!” Cosima snickered.
“Right, so you're just making sure he gets his daily exercise.”
“Shut up! I'm cool!”
“Oh yeah, you're so cool, Delphine,” Cosima said mockingly. Delphine huffed.
“You can take him outside now, then,” she replied.
“Okay,” Cosima said. “Okay. Okay. Come on, Tesla.” Delphine watched with a fond smile on her face as the rapidly growing puppy trotted along at Cosima's heels, his tail wagging happily until Cosima slid open the door to the back yard and he darted out. Cosima followed after him, laughing. Delphine propped her chin against her palm. Outside, Cosima chased Tesla around the yard, failing to catch him even on his clumsy puppy legs. She was just as uncoordinated as he was, if not more. Delphine giggled as girl and dog tumbled over each other in the grass. Tesla planted his paws firmly on Cosima's chest and licked her face while Cosima's peals of laugher penetrated the door. She pushed to her feet and opened the door, hovering on the threshold.
“Cosima, we need to leave if we want to get to school on time,” she said. Cosima pushed an excited Tesla away from her, and agreed through her giggles.
“Tesla, get off,” she said, shielding her face from his affectionate licking until she was too high for him to reach. She ordered him inside, and squeezed past Delphine with a small smirk and a wink. Delphine blushed, her body burning where they touched. “Come on, then,” Cosima continued. Her words stirred Delphine into action.
Their hands brushed on the walk down. Delphine fought to keep herself from extending her fingers and wrapping them around Cosima's. It would hardly have mattered, out in the early morning when no one they knew would have been able to see them, but even the smallest risk... Delphine pulled her hand tighter to her body.
“-nking about getting dreads,” Cosima said.
“What?” Delphine asked.
“I said I've been thinking about getting dreads,” Cosima said.
“Yeah, you know.” Cosima motioned at her head. “Dreadlocks. Dad would probably flip, though. Maybe I should just get my nose pierced instead.” She shrugged. “I don't know. I probably won't do it. Just an idea.” Delphine glanced over at her.
“I can't imagine you with them,” she said, reaching to fluff Cosima's hair with her fingers. Cosima pulled her head away with a short laugh.
“I guess it would be harder for you to pull on it during sex,” she replied, then blushed. Delphine's legs trembled. “Sorry.”
“It's okay,” Delphine said, with a light shake of her head. “I do like doing that.” Cosima chuckled.
“Yeah, I know.” She paused. “Did you just acknowledge that we sleep together?” she continued quietly. Delphine bit her lip, hard.
“Yes,” she said. The look Cosima gave her almost buckled her knees, and wiped all thoughts of school from her brain, but they were too close to turn around and go back. She kept it up all day, sneaking touches when they were hidden by desks, or tables, or crowds of their peers. It took all of Delphine's self-restraint to not drag her into every bathroom they passed and kiss her until they were both breathless.
“Hey, Cosima, we should probably work on our project this afternoon,” Scott said during lab work, while Delphine had her face pressed to a microscope.
“What project?” Cosima asked absently. She sounded distracted. “Oh, that project. Yeah, sure, come over after. Oh! You can meet Tes!” Delphine shot up, almost falling backwards off her stool.
“No, he can't,” she blurted out before she could stop herself. They both looked at her, confused. “We have that... thing. Remember? From this morning? We talked about it.” Cosima's brow furrowed, her head tilting to the side. Her eyes sparked when she realized what Delphine was referencing, and her face flushed bright red.
“Right, yeah. Sorry, Scott,” she rushed out. “Tomorrow?”
“Sure,” Scott replied, still puzzled.
“Sorry,” Cosima mumbled again. Beneath the table, her hand found Delphine's leg and squeezed.
They all but crashed into the house. Their bags hit the floor with heavy thuds, the door slamming loudly as Cosima shoved Delphine back against it. Her lips were hot against Delphine's neck. Delphine's legs shook dangerously. She pushed at Cosima's shoulders, trying to lead her towards the sofa at the very least. They had time, she told herself. No one would be home for hours. There was plenty of time. Cosima stumbled, clinging to Delphine to keep from falling. They bumped into the back of the sofa. Never leaving each other's lips, they manoeuvred around the side of it until Cosima could shove Delphine onto the cushions, straddling her hips and cupping Delphine's jaw in her hands.
She had Cosima's shirt and bra off in seconds, cupping her breasts in her hands. Cosima groaned, and rolled her hips, pushing her chest into the touch. She kissed and nipped at Delphine's neck and shoulder. Delphine's head fell back against the sofa, leaving Cosima more room to explore. Lips found her throat. Delphine hummed out a soft moan. Something caught the edge of her hearing. She paused.
“Was that a car door?” she asked. Cosima sighed and pulled away.
“I didn't hear anything,” she said, then froze when the sound repeated itself. “Shit.” There was a scramble of motion. “Where the hell did you throw my shirt?”
“I don't know!” Delphine replied, coming up with Cosima's bra in her hand. She whipped her head around to find something to do with it, before finally giving up and shoving it down the couch cushions. Cosima struggled into her shirt, pulling it over her stomach just as the door opened. The two of them abruptly stopped moving when John stepped inside, shouting half a greeting before he saw them standing awkwardly next to each other.
“Uh, hi,” John said. “You two okay? Your face is kind of red, Cosima.”
“Yeah, I'm fine, I'm good. Just fine. I'm fine.” Delphine elbowed her. Cosima winced and rubbed at her arm. “I'm gonna grab some food. Delphine, will you take Tesla out?” Delphine nodded. Her entire body was trembling, and her heart hadn't stopped pounding since they'd gotten in the door, but now it was fear that ran through her veins, not the heat of desire. Tesla jumped happily around her feet when she opened the door to Cosima's room and let him out of his crate, bumping into her legs and barking. She let him run on his own, standing by the door and watching.
“Cosima,” John said from the living room. “Why is there a bra in the sofa?” Delphine felt her face turn red. She held her breath, and listened.
“Uh,” Cosima called from the kitchen. “Why do you always think it's me?”
“Because it usually is,” John replied.
“No, it isn't.”
“Oh, really? Remember that time the dog had eyebrows?”
“That wasn't me,” Cosima said.
“Don't tell me it was Delphine,” John replied with a laugh. Delphine called Tesla in. He followed her into the living room in time to see John hand Cosima her bra with an “I told you so” look on his face. Cosima's face and ears were as red as a tomato. She glanced at Delphine out of the corner of her eye, then hurried upstairs. Delphine trailed along behind her. Cosima was waiting in her doorway, obviously expecting Delphine to join her, but there was a vice in her chest screwing tighter and tighter. She chose her room instead, hiding behind the closed door.
Cosima followed, like she knew she would. Delphine could have locked the door, could have locked Cosima out, but all she did was move away and let Cosima push it open, poking her head inside with a concerned expression. When Delphine didn't shoo her out, she slipped inside, and shut the door softly behind her.
“Hey, are you okay? I know that was close, but... we're fine now. Yeah?” Delphine closed her eyes, keeping her back facing her step-sister.
“We have to stop,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. Cosima's reaction was delayed by a beat.
“We can't do this any more,” Delphine repeated. “We're going to ruin everything.”
“I-what? No. We can't stop. I can't stop.” Her hand gripped Delphine's shoulder and firmly spun her around. Delphine averted her gaze. “I can't stop,” Cosima repeated.
“We have to,” Delphine whispered.
“No,” Cosima said. Her voice was firm, and too loud. “No, don't run away from me again, Delphine.” She breathed in shakily. Delphine shook her head.
“We have to.”
“I love you.” Delphine's head shot up. For a painful moment her heart refused to beat, and when it finally resumed, its pace was more frantic than it had been before. Her knees felt weak.
“I love you, and I know you love me, too. I know you do!”
“Cosima, please, be quiet. Our parents are downstairs.”
“Go ahead and deny it,” Cosima snapped. Her lips were quivering, and her eyes were shiny and wet. “Say you don't feel the same, and I'll stop. The looks, the touches, the jokes. All of it. We can be normal.” Delphine opened her mouth to reply, but could manage nothing more than a weak shake of her head. “Say it,” Cosima demanded with a fierce gaze. Her voice cracked. “Fucking say it, Delphine!” Her eyes burned and watered. She held back a sob. “You can't, can you. Jesus Christ, Delphine. You can't even deny it!” Cosima shoved her hands through her hair, letting out a laugh that sounded more like a cry.
“Do you know what I see when I look at you?” she asked. “I see forever, and I know, I know that is so, so stupid, but I do. Ever since I saw you in that museum I knew there was something special about you, but I never thought that anything would come of it, but then there you were and, god, don't I wish that things were different, but they're not. I don't know what we're going to do about our parents, and I am just as scared as you are, but I see the way you look at me, and I'm pretty sure you see the same thing I do, and that means we can make this work.” Delphine's head reeled, her thoughts rushing about at a million miles a minute. Her lungs felt tight. She forced herself to breathe, trying to keep them steady and slow, but they shook and trembled just as badly as the rest of her was. She held Cosima's gaze.
“We can't,” she said. “We need to stop. This ends now.” Cosima's face crumpled slightly before she managed to catch herself and scoff.
“I won't believe you're breaking up with me,” she said. Delphine's eyes fell to the floor.
“I'm not breaking up with you. We would have to have been together for me to do that.” She could feel Cosima's stare boring into her, but she couldn't raise her head to meet it, to see the pain she knew she'd caused. Cosima inhaled sharply, and for a moment Delphine feared that she'd retaliate, but then the door slammed, and Delphine was left alone. She blinked back tears, sucking in a breath, looking around her room. She winced when Cosima's door shut just as loudly as hers had, and at the knock of her bed against their shared wall.
She thought, briefly, foolishly, that she'd be okay, even with the sickening swirl in her stomach that made her want to run to the bathroom and puke, but then a sob choked out of her throat, and she couldn't do anything to stop the ones that followed, only bite into the side of her hand to keep anyone from hearing.
Cosima wouldn't look at her, wouldn't talk to her, hardly acknowledged that she existed at all, and it felt like all she could do was cry when no one was looking and try not to when they were. Scott was confused by Cosima's short, often one word answers at school when they were forced to converse during labs, and even then she kept most of her attention on him or silently worked on her own. Tesla was even more distressed, constantly running between the two of them. He'd scratch at Delphine's door to be let in, then want out fifteen minutes later, only to come back after another fifteen. They tried to play happy when the adults were around. Cosima constantly using homework as an excuse to stay in her room made it that much easier.
It was what she wanted, Delphine reminded herself at night, when she was rolling away from the damp spot her tears had made on her pillow. It was what she wanted. Everything was normal. They were normal. Her life was normal. She was normal. Tesla pawed at her door and whined. Delphine got up to let him in, and even though it meant her duvet was covered in golden fur, didn't scold him when her jumped onto the mattress and curled up at the bottom of it, looking at her with his big brown eyes. Delphine sighed and slipped under her blankets again. She was normal.
Inevitably, Marie found out. As if her and Cosima's complete 180 hadn't been sign enough, she walked in on Delphine as she was wiping tears off her cheeks. She tried to hide it, but her mother knew her too well, and always had. Marie nudged Tesla away from the door and closed it behind her, crossing to sit next to Delphine on her bed.
“What's wrong?” she asked, stroking Delphine's hair. Delphine shook her head.
“Nothing, Maman,” she said, but her voice betrayed her, and so too did the blotches staining her cheeks and the red swell of her eyes. “I just had a bad day.”
“You've not been yourself for a while now, Delphy. Is there a boy that's hurt you? You can tell me, you know.” Delphine choked back a sob. Oh, if only it had been a boy. Her life would have been so much easier if it was just stupid teenage hormones and stupid teenage boys and not all of the feelings that threatened to drown her whenever her and Cosima were in the same room.
“It's not...” she started, then shook her head again. “It's just...” She couldn't think of an excuse. Thank god her mother didn't push, just pulled her into an embrace and petted her hair. Delphine clamped her mouth shut and accepted the comfort of her mother's arms before she said the real reason why she was so upset.
Cosima started going out. Delphine wanted to ask where, but she hardly had any opportunity to do so. Cosima avoided her in school, and left before she did, not coming home until after their parents had already arrived. When her birthday came, she skipped school, and no matter how many texts Delphine sent, she never received any response. She walked home alone to an empty house, and sat at the table staring at the box holding the cake that John had bought until he arrived shortly after.
“Where's Cos?” he asked, joining her. Delphine shrugged, and absently flicked the corner of the box with the tip of her nail. “Have you tried calling her?”
“No.” John wrangled his phone out of his pocket, and held it to his ear a few seconds later. Delphine watched him. She heard the echo of Cosima's voicemail. John frowned lightly. “Hey, Cos, it's your dad. You should come home, kiddo, we've got a surprise for you.” He hung up, looked at Delphine, and shrugged. “I'll try later if she doesn't call back. I guess all we can do is wait.”
So they did. Marie arrived home, confused until John took her aside and explained. Delphine slumped at the kitchen island with Tesla at her feet, curled up around the legs of her stool. With her head pillowed on her arms, she was close to falling asleep with Tesla suddenly barked and stood so quickly that her chair wobbled.
“Tesla!” she scolded. “No!” He ran in a circle then bolted for the door just as it opened and Cosima stepped through. She paused, grounding herself before he could bowl her over, then crouched down to greet him. When she looked up, her face was confused. And there was something on it. Delphine frowned lightly, her eyes following Cosima's path through the house.
“Where've you been?” John asked. “It's late. I called you, you know.” Cosima shrugged.
“Why is your nose red?” Cosima hesitated. She pushed Tesla away from her gently.
“I got it pierced.” John nodded slowly, and exhaled.
“I see. Well, we planned a party for you.” Delphine's eyes dropped to the dark spot on Cosima's neck, just below her jaw. She bit her lip, jealousy rising unbidden from deep in her chest.
“Sorry,” Cosima said offhandedly. “I'm tired, so I'm just going to go upstairs.” Her eyes briefly flickered over Delphine, but Delphine couldn't stop staring at the teeth marks on her skin.