Place des Vosges
Delphine fell asleep in the cab, head resting on Cosima's shoulder. She looked down at the blonde, then back up when their cab driver began to speak to her.
“Ah bah, vous êtes arrivées à un bon moment toutes les deux, hein. Vous savez, la semaine dernière on a eu des orages terribles. Une partie de la ville a été inondée - franchement on sait pas ce qu’elle fout la mairie… Mais maintenant, ça va. Il paraît qu’on aura du beau temps cette semaine. ” He glanced at her in the side mirror. “Vous êtiez déjà venue à Paris avant?”
“Uh,” Cosima stumbled, her mind reeling. All she heard was a jumble of words, with a few she recognized here and there, but she couldn't for the life of her understand what exactly the man had said to her. She glanced down at Delphine, properly passed out against her, despite the bumpy ride. She supposed it was only fair, seeing as she hadn't slept the entire flight over. “Uh, oui.”
“J’suis déjà allé partout dans cette ville, moi,” the man continued. “Même les endroit que personne ne connait. Qu’est-ce qu’il vous plaît le plus ici?” Cosima stared at him, frowning. The man cleared his throat and focused on the road, quiet. Cosima clenched her fingers where they rested in her lap to keep from placing one on Delphine's thigh, and stared out the window. It had all started here, she thought with a sigh. In that stupid museum. She'd never expected it. She still couldn't quite believe it. It was just her luck.
Delphine murmured wordlessly and shifted against her. Her nose pressed to the side of Cosima's neck. Cosima closed her eyes, her body stiff until Delphine settled again and she could relax. She was still doomed. All the messing around, the drinking, the drugs, none of it had helped. Her heart still clenched painfully whenever she was around the blonde. Being alone with her in France wouldn't help, miles and miles away from the only thing that had really held them back. Cosima shook her head, scowling at the back of the seat in front of her. It wouldn't do either of them any good to think like that.
They had a posh room in a posh hotel. There really had been no expense spared. Cosima glanced around as they walked in, pulling her suitcase lazily behind her. Delphine headed straight through the small entry room into the connected bedroom. Cosima didn't stop her, taking the time she had before the blonde returned to breathe.
“Are we going to dinner tonight, Cosima?” Delphine called.
“Yeah,” Cosima replied, and dragged herself and her bag over to the sofa before draping herself over it with a tired sigh.
“Do you mind if I take a nap? I'm exhausted. I won't be any fun at dinner tonight like this.”
“Yeah, Cosima repeated. “Do whatever you want.”
“Wake me up in an hour, please.” Delphine shut the door, and left Cosima to deal with the silence that filled her absence. Cosima sighed again, and drummed her fingers on the couch. She picked up the TV remote from the coffee table and turned it in her hands before setting it back down. Maybe a walk would clear her head, help her to gather her thoughts. Just a short one, only around the block. If she knew Delphine at all the blonde would be out within minutes, and Cosima had plenty of time. She double checked that she had her room key and her ID before leaving quietly.
It smelled like a city, and all around here were sounds that she couldn't understand; a haze of hurried French that jumbled together into a mass of different voices. Cosima shoved her hands into her pockets and picked a direction, letting her feet carry her along the pathway. I can do this, she told herself. I can do this. She could pretend to be over her. She could pretend her heart didn't break more and more each day. She had to deal with it, there wasn't any other option. They were going to have a good holiday and she wasn't going to let her feelings get in the way of her and Delphine enjoying their time in the city. She refused.
They stared at each other for several very long moments when it was time to sleep, full from dinner. Cosima didn't know if Delphine had felt the same tension she had, but she'd almost been dreading this moment. Downstairs in the restaurant it had been fine. They'd planned out their week and chatted easily about the things each of them wanted to do, but now in the stillness of the room it felt like someone had squeezed a whale into the space with them.
“I'll go-” Cosima started at the same time Delphine said,
“I will change-” They both stopped, shared an awkward glance, and giggled nervously.
“I'll change in the other room,” Cosima said before Delphine could speak again. The blonde nodded. Cosima slipped out quickly with her clothes, and speedily shed her layers to replace them with others. She'd been careful with what she picked, making sure her pyjamas dwarfed her. It probably wouldn't matter, but she didn't want to take any chances. No messing it up. She knocked and waited for Delphine's permission before entering the bedroom again. The blonde was already in bed, all but her hair hidden by the blankets. Cosima awkwardly crossed the room to the free bed, and pulled back the unfamiliar covers. She shut off the light on her bedside table, drenching the room in darkness, and waited for a goodnight. When one didn't come, she rolled onto her side and shut her eyes. Sleep didn't come easy, but when it finally did it was fitful.
She was allowed the luxury of sleeping in, but the sounds of Delphine removing herself from her own bed to go shower kept her from drifting off again. She used the time she had to dress, and made them both coffee with the maker by the mini bar. It was still warm by the time Delphine joined her, dressed, and towelling excess moisture from her hair. It looked better curly, Cosima thought, looking away before she could start staring.
“Plan for today?” she asked, finishing off her drink. Delphine shrugged, and tossed her hair over one shoulder to reach the back.
“Breakfast buffet downstairs, no?” Delphine replied, and Cosima wasn't sure if it was her ears playing tricks on her or not, but Delphine's accent sounded more pronounced now that they were back in her homeland. “A walk along the river perhaps? We could grab lunch in a café, and go see a show tonight. I'm sure there is something worth seeing.”
“Hey, you know the city better than me,” Cosima said. Delphine hummed. “You know me; take me to museums and I'm happy. The rest is up to you.” Delphine smiled shyly at her.
“Let me just finish my hair and we can leave. Half an hour?”
“You should leave it,” Cosima said as Delphine turned her back. The blonde paused.
“I'll get my bag,” she said after a moment, and disappeared into the next room.
It was almost romantic, strolling along the Seine, sipping at lattes, despite both of them hardly saying a word to each other. It could have been, if it weren't for the tension that stretched between them. In another life, maybe, Cosima mused, but she'd already touched and tasted, and doubted she ever would again. Any romanticism was a delusion on her part, and she hardly expected Delphine to feel the same. They saw a movie after a quick dinner at one of Delphine's favourite haunts, thankfully one in English. The blonde spent most of the night on edge, fidgeting and constantly looking around them, like she was afraid she was being watched.
“What's wrong?” Cosima finally asked, concern furrowing her brow. Delphine shrugged.
“I'm not so sure I want to see any of my friends,” she replied, “but I'm being silly. They're probably all out drinking.”
“Why don't you want to see them?” Cosima asked, and then remembered. “Oh, right. Him.” Delphine hummed. “We don't need to go out for drinks,” she continued with a smile. “We have a mini fridge filled with alcohol.”
“We have to pay for what we drink,” Delphine pointed out. “It's expensive.”
“It's also not on our dime.” She shrugged, uncaring. “Parents paying, no holds barred. Besides, like they said, it's been a tough year. I'm sure they'll understand if we need some stress relief.”
“You're wicked,” Delphine replied. Cosima laughed, satisfied when the blonde relaxed next to her.
She forgot to knock before going into the bedroom. She was used to sharing a bathroom, nothing more, and she'd thought, foolishly, that she'd given Delphine enough time to get changed. It's not like she was slipping into some elaborate dress for a night out on the town, she was just getting ready for bed, but Cosima had the worse timing in the world. She stared, like she had the first time, Delphine's shocked gasp registering in the back of her mind, but unlike the incident in the bathroom all those months ago, Delphine didn't bother to cover herself. Her shock worn off, all she did was turn her back and pull her shirt over her head.
“Shit,” Cosima suddenly blurted, blushing. “I'm so sorry.” Delphine shrugged her shoulders and pulled back the blankets on her bed.
“It's fine,” she said as she fixed the pillows. “It's nothing you haven't seen before.” They both froze. Cosima held her breath. She had seen it before, time and time again, and loved every inch, but Delphine's acknowledgement, casual and nonchalant, threw her off balance. The blonde glanced over her shoulder, her cheeks pink, then climbed into bed. “Are we still going to the park tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Cosima said, her voice breathy. She cleared her throat. “Yeah, totally. If you want to.”
“Good,” Delphine replied. “Good night.” She flicked off the light, leaving Cosima standing in half-darkness. The images burned behind her eyes made her body smoulder.
The tension in the air was still there in the morning, making it thick and awkward. The two of them shied around each other, Cosima going so far as to stay tucked up in bed until Delphine had been in and out of the bathroom, showered and dressed when she emerged. She glanced at Cosima once, her eyes lingering for a few seconds, before she went into the other room, shutting the door behind her.
“So, where are we going?” Cosima asked after they'd been walking for some time. She didn't know where she was, though she would have been able to retrace their steps back to the hotel if she needed, but Delphine's confidence made her feel easy.
“Place des Vosges,” she replied, “but first we are going to get food at Carette's.” Cosima followed her into the shop, glancing about while Delphine waited in line. “Deux monegasques, sil vous plaît,” she heard the blonde say, and absently glanced over her shoulder. She carried the bag for them, and opened the door for Cosima with a smile. Cosima returned it, brushing past her.
“This is beautiful,” Cosima commented when they reached the square.
“Did you not come last time?” Delphine asked, weaving through the dozens of people stretched out on the grass, looking for a clear spot for them to settle.
“No, it was all the big attractions for us.”
“A shame,” Delphine replied. “It is one of the charms of Pa-” she stopped suddenly, both speech and movement, so abruptly that Cosima almost tripped over her.
“What?” she asked, and leaned around the blonde to follow her gaze to a boy and girl who looked the same age as they did, cuddled up together on a blanket. She frowned, and looked at Delphine again. “Do you know them?”
“It's Claude,” Delphine replied, her voice tight, “and her hair is different, but that is Claire with him.” Claude said something that made Claire laugh, and Delphine's face twisted into a scowl. “We should go sit somewhere else.”
“Give me my salad,” Cosima said, an idea springing into her mind.
“What?” Delphine asked. Cosima held out her hand.
“My salad.” Warily, Delphine fished the container out of the bag and handed it over.
“Cosima, what are you-”
“Wait here,” Cosima ordered, flicking the top open and wrestling with the container of dressing Delphine had gotten for her. She handed the blonde the trash, then navigated her way towards the young couple across the square. Looping around so she could come up behind them, Cosima wiped the smirk off her face, lifted her salad, and dumped it on their heads. They both shouted in alarm.
“Merde, c’est quoi votre problème?!” Claude shouted, turning around to glare up at her.
“I'm so sorry,” Cosima replied in her best tourist voice. “I am so, sorry, I wasn't looking where I was going.” Claude angrily brushed salad out of his hair and off his shirt while Claire rattled off at them both in rapid fire French. “I'm so sorry,” Cosima said again, taking her empty box and backing away. When she turned around she grinned, dumping the box in the nearest trash bin. Delphine's mouth was open in shock when Cosima reached her side again, still smiling.
“Cosima, what have you done?” she asked, sounding horrified. Cosima scoffed and shrugged her shoulders. “That was ten Euros!”
“It was worth it, though. He deserves worse, for what he did to you. They both do.” Delphine stared at her, long and hard, then glanced briefly at her old friends. Her lips twisted as she tried to hold back her laughter, but it bubbled out of her throat and bent her at the waist. Cosima joined in, then reached for the blonde's hand. “Come on, let's get out of here before they see us.” Delphine let herself be pulled along, following Cosima around to the other side of the square and finding a space in the grass for them to settle.
“You don't have anything to eat now,” Delphine said as she pulled her salad out of the bag. Cosima shrugged and stretched out next to her, soaking up the sunlight.
“I'll just share yours,” she replied, and held out her hand for a fork.
“What makes you think I will let you have any?” Delphine asked with a coy smile.
“Because I just dumped mine all over your ex-boyfriend for you, and you love me.” Delphine paused, watching her carefully. Cosima met her eyes and searched them, trying to see what lay behind. Silently, Delphine held out her salad. Cosima accepted the box from her and dug her fork in.
“It was very funny,” Delphine said after a few minutes, grinning again. Cosima smiled back.
“It was, wasn't it?” she agreed. “So worth it.”