The Moulin Rouge
She never figured out how exactly Cosima persuaded her to go to the Moulin Rouge with her to see Féerie, but Cosima had secured them both tickets before she could even say anything. It was one of the few places in the city that Delphine had never been. She'd walked past it several times, to be sure, but it wasn't the kind of place visited with one's parents, and her friends had never been interested enough or rich enough to book tickets. They had frequented the bars in the area on occasion, but nothing more.
There was wine with dinner, and by the time the show was beginning, Delphine's body was pleasantly warm and her head fuzzy. Cosima ordered them more, lifting her glass to Delphine with a smile. Delphine raised her own, touching them with a soft clink before sipping, her eyes never leaving Cosima's. It was quiet a spectacle, Delphine admitted, settled comfortably in her seat with her wine glass almost constantly full. She enjoyed the costumes, and the music, and the dancing was certainly more than impressive. She drank her wine with a glance over at Cosima, who was thoroughly enjoying herself with a smile on her face. When she noticed Delphine's stare, she looked over, and leaned close so she could speak.
“Having fun?” she asked, directing her smile at Delphine.
“It's very entertaining,” Delphine agreed. Cosima snorted in amusement.
“No shit. Half naked French girls? What's not to like?” She settled back into her chair, unaware of the blush that heated Delphine's face. A minute later and she leaned over again. “So, who do you think is the prettiest?” Delphine nearly choked on her wine. She dabbed it off her chin with the back of her hand and glared at her companion.
“They are all equally pretty, Cosima,” she replied. In the lights flashing from the stage, she could see Cosima roll her eyes.
“Come on, there has to be one you think is prettier.” She gestured to one of the dancers on the side, almost spilling wine onto the table. Delphine's hand darted out to steady the glass before she could think, and her fingers lingered on the side of Cosima's hand until it was pulled out of her reach. “I like her.” Delphine sighed, scanning the women on the stage. She was no where near drunk enough for this.
“They're all pretty,” she said again. Cosima huffed and leaned back in her chair. She finished off her glass.
“You're no fun,” she said.
“And you've had too much wine.”
“Pfft, I'm just tipsy.” She filled her glass again, and tipped off Delphine's for her. “You haven't had enough. Drink up, stop being so stodgy.”
“I'm not being stodgy!” Delphine retorted. “I do not have the same tastes as you.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Cosima said absently. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.” Delphine sighed and turned her attention back to the show.
Cosima somehow managed to run into a small gathering of dancers on her way to the bathroom before they left, and she was absolutely charming them out of their silly sequinned and feathered costumes. Delphine stood off to the side with her arms crossed over her chest and a glower on her face that she couldn't have hidden if she tried. Her head was fuzzy from all the wine, and she wanted nothing more than to stomp over and drag Cosima away from the giggling girls and take her step-sister back to the hotel for the night. The grin of delight on Cosima's face was almost enough to make her sick, even without the muttered snippets of conversation between the dancers that floated over to her.
“She's so adorable for an American,” one of them said giddily in French.
“I know, and very cute as well. I wouldn't hesitate to take her home with me.” Cosima looked confused, but delighted. Delphine angrily bit into her lip, then stalked over to the group and grabbed Cosima's elbow.
“Come on,” she said, “we need to go back."
“Noooo, Delphine, I want to stay with the pretty girls,” Cosima complained, pulling her arm away. Delphine reached for it again.
“Let her stay with us,” one of the dancers said to her, looping her boa around Cosima's neck and loosely pulling her in. “We will take good care of her, we promise.” Delphine turned the scowl that threatened to line her face into a tight smile.
“I'm sorry,” she said in her native tongue, “but my sister has had too much to drink, and if I leave without her our parents will be furious.” With a firm tug, she untangled Cosima from the mass of feathers and women. Cosima moaned, stretching out an arm towards them, the boa still around her neck, but followed anyway. One of the girls blew Cosima a kiss, which she returned with a loud giggle. Delphine pushed away the urge to puke.
“They were lovely,” Cosima said when they were settled in the back of a cab. She played with the boa around her neck, and rolled her head to the side to look at Delphine. “Weren't they? So pretty, and nice. I love girls.” Delphine crossed her arms over her chest and rolled her eyes, but she was less inclined to hit someone now that it was just her and Cosima alone again. It was hardly Cosima's fault, she was just drunk and enjoying herself. Delphine sighed softly.
“Yes, Cosima,” she agreed, and closed her eyes. “They were lovely.”
She felt better by the time they arrived back at the hotel, her steps a bit unsteady, but miles better than Cosima's, who was having trouble walking in a straight line but at least was able to keep herself upright. She hummed a tune to herself under her breath in the lift up to their floor, and made a beeline for the mini bar the second she stepped in the door.
“Don't you think you've had enough?” Delphine asked, shutting the door and gratefully slipping her heels off her feet. Cosima shrugged, finding glasses for both of them.
“One more won't hurt,” she said with a smile, and filled them halfway. She pulled the boa off her neck, and handed Delphine one of them, then settled on the sofa with a content sigh and kicked her shoes off. Delphine joined her on the couch, and stretched her legs out. Cosima's eyes skimmed up her legs. “You look really good in that dress,” she said, then cleared her throat, but it couldn't hide the roughness in her voice. Delphine's heart jumped painfully. “Is it new?”
“No,” Delphine replied softly, sipping at her wine. “I have not had a recent occasion to wear it.”
“It's beautiful.” Delphine turned her head to meet Cosima's gaze, and felt her throat go dry under the intensity of it. “You're beautiful,” she clarified.
“You're drunk,” Delphine said weakly.
“You're still beautiful.” Cosima's breath ghosted across her lips. “If you don't move, I'm going to kiss you.” Her lips tasted like wine. It was how their first kiss should have been, Delphine thought, as Cosima's lips moved slowly and softly against hers, tentative and exploring. It should have been like this, not rough and desperate outside her bedroom door. Her heart lodged in her throat, fluttering like a bird trapped in a cage. Her blood rushed in her ears. Cosima's eyes were dark when she pulled away, gently taking Delphine's wine glass from her hands and setting them on the coffee table.
She had tried, Delphine told herself, as Cosima's fingers laced through hers and she helped her to her feet, never breaking eye contact. She had tried, and she had had a good run, but she had been doomed from the start. Anticipation grew in her chest, a ball of warmth that spread from the centre of it out to her fingertips. Cosima kissed her again, just as soft, her teeth lightly scraping, and with their pressure any doubts lingering in Delphine's mind vanished. Cosima dropped her hands to reach behind her for her dress zipper, and she raised them to cup Cosima's jaw, angling her head down to deepen the kiss. Cosima hummed into her mouth, pausing to dig her fingertips into the back of Delphine's shoulder. The touch made her arch, rolling her hips forward into Cosima's.
Her hands returned, jerking the zipper until it moved, then slowly drawing it down. The backs of her knuckles brushed along Delphine's spine. She pulled back just enough to drop the straps off her shoulders, letting it pool against her hips. Delphine moved one hand to dislodge it, then stepped out of its folds, her fingers reaching for the clasp behind Cosima's neck that held hers closed. She walked them towards her bed as they worked, flicking open the snap and drawing the sleeves down Cosima's arm. Her knees hit the mattress. She turned and sat. The material of Cosima's dress brushed against her palms as Cosima hiked up her skirt and smoothly pulled it over her head. It knocked her glasses askew. She bumped them back into place with her knuckle only to have Delphine lift them off her face and set them to the side. Cosima's hands threaded into her hair, pulling her head against her stomach. She kissed the soft skin beneath her lips, exhaling a shaky breath.
Cosima was trembling. Delphine laid her hands against her hips, and with a gentle press of her lips against Cosima's stomach, she dipped her fingers under the top of her tights and tugged. Cosima helped her pull the clinging fabric off her legs, one hand braced against Delphine's shoulder to keep her balance. Once her feet were free, she gently pushed Delphine back, hands on her thighs to guide her back fully onto the mattress, and hovered over her. Delphine stared up at her, meeting her gaze unflinchingly. Cosima smiled, a small thing that didn't quite reach her eyes, but it grew when Delphine returned it, and then she drew Cosima down for a firm kiss, holding the back of her neck. Cosima let herself be held for a moment, then sat up and reached behind her, her spine curving as her arms bent and reached and her bra loosened. She dropped it off the side of the bed.
“Tu es belle,” Delphine whispered, pleased when Cosima flushed crimson. Her hands flattened against Delphine's stomach. Delphine watched her chest rise as she breathed in deeply.
“You, too,” she said. She kissed her again, hands working their way between Delphine's spine and the bed, fumbling until they'd gotten the clasp of her bra open and pulled away. Her lips moved, then, down Delphine's neck with gentle nips, leaving a path of faint red marks in their wake. Delphine was sure Cosima could hear how hard her heart was thudding against her ribs when she paused with her forehead resting in the valley between her breasts and her hands guiding Delphine's underwear off her hips.
She loosely tangled a hand in Cosima's hair, and when teeth gently nipped at the rise of her chest she gasped and arched up into the touch. She felt Cosima's smirk against her skin. Wherever Cosima touched her her skin tingled, and between her legs the ache that had started the second Cosima had looked at her on the sofa grew worse and worse. This is what it should have been like, she thought again, stroking her fingers through Cosima's hair. She heard herself moan, lips grazing a nipple. It should have been like this. Guilt clawed at her chest. She had used her, that first time, desperate and horny and hoping that if she kissed her enough, if she let herself be touched enough, that all of it would be flushed from her system and life could go back to normal.
That was all she had ever wanted, normalcy, but maybe this was what was normal now. It felt more natural than anything else in her life ever should. She had tried to hard to deny it, but no one made her feel how Cosima did. No one ever would, and fighting it was exhausting.
“Cosima,” she said when it finally grew too much for her to bear. Cosima lifted her head from Delphine's chest and licked her lips, eyes black. Delphine stared, hoping that the look was enough. Cosima dipped her hand down, gently parting Delphine's legs. She inhaled sharply when her fingers met the wetness gathered there, then swallowed hard and shifted her body up so she could hide her face in the crook of Delphine's neck. She clung to Cosima's shoulders, feeling her muscles shift with the stroking and pushing of her fingers.
Cosima's name was on her lips when she came, moaning softly and cursing under her breath, clenching around the clever fingers buried inside her. Cosima kissed her neck, then her jaw, then found her lips and muffled her groans with it. After Delphine relaxed, she gently pulled her hand away and licked her fingers clean without a shred of hesitation. They were wet against Delphine's ribs when she laid her hand down, propped up on her elbow with her fingers brushing away an errant curl.
“Are you okay?” she asked softly, stroking her thumb along the top of Delphine's brow. Delphine nodded and rocked her hips up until Cosima rolled away and onto her back. She draped herself over the brunette, and stroked her hands over the firm muscles of her stomach. Her fingers traced the outlines while her lips danced across Cosima's sternum. Delphine shifted her body, and nudged Cosima's thighs open so she could settle between them, kissing the places where her fingers had just been. “You don't have to-” Cosima started, but Delphine hushed her, and pulled the last piece of clothing between her and what she wanted down Cosima's legs.
Her chest fluttered nervously, but the wine still filling her blood made her bold. She kissed the jut of Cosima's hip, and hummed when a hand wound its way into her hair and tangled firmly in her curls. She experimented with scraping her teeth across the soft skin under her, and was rewarded with a gasp. Cosima was tense beneath her, her want practically radiating off of her in waves. The hand in her hair flexed and tugged lightly. Delphine laughed lightly at Cosima's impatience, her anxiety getting the better of her for a moment as she was faced with the prospects of what she wanted to do. She took a deep breath to settle herself, then licked her lips and leaned in.
The first taste elicited a groan from both of them. Cosima's hips jerked up abruptly, nearly dislodging Delphine, and she pulled sharply on her hair. Delphine glanced up. Cosima had thrown her other arm over her eyes, her teeth digging into her lip.
“Don't stop now,” she said, when Delphine took too long to continue. Delphine blushed, and ducked her head back down, even though Cosima couldn't see. She used the noises Cosima made, and followed along with her body language, alternating between broad strokes and short flicks. All she could smell, could taste, could feel was Cosima. The brunette ground up into her, moaning and gasping, and sighing. “Oh, Christ, Delphine,” she said, her voice strained. “There, shit.” She hissed in a breath, and then her body arched and stilled. Delphine pressed her hips back down against the mattress, and didn't move until Cosima pulled on her hair with a satisfied groan and twisted her hips to the side.
Delphine crawled back up her body and collapsed on top of her, panting lightly and licking her lips. Cosima's taste lingered. The room smelled like them, the air thick and warm from their exertions. Cosima stroked her hair, and pressed her cheek against Delphine's brow while Delphine drew a fingertip through the sweat that had gathered on Cosima's chest. She sighed.
“I'm tired,” she said. Cosima curled into her and hummed.
“Me, too,” she replied. “So sleep.” Delphine shook her head.
“I mean I'm tired, Cosima,” she repeated, laying her hand flat against Cosima's sternum. “I'm tired of fighting. Fighting this. You.” Cosima was quiet for so long that Delphine thought she had fallen asleep, but then her chest heaved with a heavy sigh.
“Why don't we stop?” she asked softly.
“Stop what?” Delphine replied.
“Trying to fight it.” Delphine nuzzled closer until her nose was against Cosima's neck, and breathed in the scent of her skin, and the trace of soap under the sweat.
“Okay,” she breathed. Cosima hesitated a second before kissing her head.
“Science museum tomorrow?” she asked, as if they hadn't just mutually decided to turn both their lives completely upside down. Delphine nodded and closed her eyes.
It was a far cry visiting the museum with someone who's passion for science was just as strong as her own, and not someone who tagged along only because it was a slightly better way to kill time than standing on the street corner smoking. Cosima's hand was a warm, comforting weight in hers, leading her from place to place. It took her a moment, when they arrived in the room, to realize where exactly they were. Cosima noticed it too, her shoulders tightening with realization, but neither of them said a word. Slowly, they moved around the room, stopping now and then to play, or wait for a gaggle of children to run past them. On the other side, Cosima stopped them, and turned to face her. She glanced to the side, then took Delphine's hand in both of hers and pushed her thumbs into her knuckles.
“I think I knew,” she said softly, her head bowed. Delphine didn't need to ask what. “Here. The second I saw you.” She laughed lightly, and lifted her head with a smile. “I didn't know what it was, but there was something. I felt it.” She moved a hand and pointed across the floor. “You were there when I bumped into you, and I don't think you really noticed me until you left.”
“I saw you when you came in,” Delphine replied instantly. Shock passed over Cosima's face, then she grinned, all teeth and crinkled eyes. Delphine bit her lip, wanting to kiss her, but settled for firmly squeezing her hand instead.
It was almost like the last few months had never happened at all. Back in France, far away from everything that had pushed them apart and held them there in painful limbo, Delphine felt free. She wasn't afraid to reach for Cosima's hand in the street, or make her urges perfectly clear when they woke up in the morning, or when they had settled in for the night. Cosima teased her for the sudden resurgence of her sex drive, but Delphine could feel her joy when they lay curled together after, as if every minute that Delphine stayed in her arms gave her more and more reassurance that she wasn't going to run away again.
The line for The Louvre was just as long as Delphine had told Cosima it would be. The brunette had brushed off her warning with a scoff, but they'd been waiting for ages to get in, and Cosima was growing more and more frustrated by the second.
“You know it's going to be full to the roof with people, Cosima,” she said, shifting from foot to foot to ease the aching. “And the Mona Lisa is not as big as everything would have you believe.” Cosima stepped to the side, and looked down at the dozens of people still in front of them, then sighed.
“I know. Maybe we should have come earlier,” she said, resigned. Delphine smiled, and laced their fingers together.
“If you had gotten out of bed when you were supposed to this morning, we would have,” she said. Cosima blushed. “We still have a few days left. We can try again.”
“You weren't exactly eager to get up either,” she mumbled. Delphine rolled her eyes and tugged Cosima out of the line. Cosima glanced longingly at the building behind them as they walked away, then squeezed Delphine's fingers and pressed close to her side. “How are you going to make it up to me, then?”
“Coffee and pastry?” Delphine offered. She swung their hands lightly between them as they walked.
“Only if you're paying,” Cosima replied. “This had better be worth missing out on seeing some of the most famous works of art in the world.”
“They will still be here tomorrow,” Delphine said, tugging Cosima across the road when the way was clear. “And the day after that, and the day after that.”
“Okay, okay,” Cosima said, hushing her. Delphine could hear the smile in her voice. They found a shop on the corner, one Delphine had been to before, but only a handful of times, and a few minutes later emerged again with a bag of sweets and a drink each.
“So, what do you want to do?” Delphine asked. “We have a whole afternoon to waste before dinner.”
“We could always just go back to the hotel and finish what we started,” Cosima replied, in what she probably thought was a sultry tone, waggling an eyebrow, but the whole effect was ruined when she knocked her drink against her chin and it splashed down the front of her shirt. Cosima glanced down, momentarily shocked. “Shit.” Delphine held a hand over her mouth to muffle her giggles. Cosima pulled her shirt away from her body and shook it lightly, glaring at Delphine. “Stop laughing,” she said, but she couldn't keep her composure, and a few seconds later her laughs filled the air. I love you, Delphine thought, and went quiet. Cosima's shocked expression mirrored her own. “What?” She could try to pass it off as something else, but what was the point? Cosima knew the phrase, even though her French was poor. It was common enough, and they had both heard it so much over the past year that it was impossible for the meaning to be lost on her.
“I love you,” Delphine repeated, holding Cosima's gaze. For an achingly long moment, Delphine was afraid that she had ruined everything, that Cosima didn't feel the same way about her any more. It was a foolish thought, of course, and was quashed the moment that Cosima pressed her against the wall of the shop and kissed her so hard her head spun. Her hands flailed at her sides, wanting to reach up and touch, but full of food and drink. Her lungs were screaming for air by the time Cosima finally pulled back, flustered and grinning.
“I love you, too,” she said, and kissed her again, slower this time, and softer, pulling away after a few seconds. “Let's go back to the hotel,” she whispered. “If nothing else, I need to change my shirt.”
“Okay,” Delphine agreed, stealing another peck. Cosima looped her arm around Delphine's elbow and was pulling her around the corner when a voice calling her name stopped Delphine in her tracks. Confusion on her face, Cosima stilled, and slowly dropped her arm away.
“Delphine, is that you?” She turned around slowly, knowing very well who it was calling her; Claire's mother, Alice. The woman wrapped Delphine in a hug before she could respond, and kissed her cheeks. Shocked, Delphine barely managed to return the gesture before Alice pulled back. “How have you been? Claire hardly speaks about you any more. Did you know that her and Claude are seeing each other now?” Delphine hummed before her manners kicked in.
“Yes,” she said. “I had heard.” Alice looked past her.
“This is... Cosima, yes?” Delphine felt her jaw clench. Cosima waved awkwardly and smiled.
“Hi,” she said, then glanced at Delphine.
“It was nice to see you, Alice,” Delphine said, “but Cosima spilled her drink, and she needs to go change.”
“Yes, of course. Tell your mother I say 'hello'.” Delphine smiled tightly and backed away. She didn't relax until they were several blocks again, and Cosima's hands tugged at her arm to stop her brisk pace down the road.
“Hey,” she said, insisting, and pulled Delphine under an awning. “What's wrong?”
“Do you think she saw?” Delphine asked, digging her teeth into her lip. Cosima frowned lightly, and brushed a curl behind her ear.
“No,” she replied. “I'm sure she didn't. We were already moving when she called you.” She smiled, broad and happy, and stroked her knuckles along Delphine's jaw. “It's okay.” Delphine nodded, sighing, and shifted the bag she was holding into her other hand so she had one free to ruffle through her hair.
“Let's get you a new shirt,” she said, and returned Cosima's smile. The brunette reached for her hand and squeezed it, and didn't let go the entire walk back.
“Are you sad to be leaving again?” Cosima asked when they were packing away the last few things, forcing themselves into bed early to minimize the risk of not getting up in time to catch their flight. Delphine flipped the top of her suitcase shut and pressed down on it to compress the clothes folded inside.
“No,” she said after a moment. “I'm afraid.” Cosima looked at her, then crossed the room to hug her close.
“We're okay,” she said, adding a gentle kiss to back up her words. “They don't know anything, so we don't have to worry about it. We'll deal with it when we have to. Okay?” Delphine bit her lip, and nodded, but she felt sick.