Cosima had never had many friends. She was too awkward, and geeky, and nerdy for it. There was Scott, but part of that was because Cosima was one of the few girls who actually spoke to him on a regular basis with something other than disgust or discomfort. Delphine's looks alone would have been enough to win her as many friends as she wanted, even without her accent. It didn't help that her sullen disposition at home hid a rather sunny, pleasant personality, if a quiet one. She was nice, and pretty, and had the voice of a goddess, and people were drawn to her like bees to honey. Cosima didn't know how to deal with it.
Within a few days Delphine had boys falling over her. Whoever it was back in France that held her heart was lucky indeed. Cosima refused to acknowledge the almost possessive urge to keep people away from Delphine that swelled in her chest whenever anyone flirted with her. She showed her displeasure through her music. John was used to it. Cosima liked her music loud. It helped her concentrate, and focus her thoughts. Or distract them. Delphine, however, didn't take too kindly to the bass thumping through their shared wall, especially when she was trying to study.
She didn't hear Delphine's door open, but she heard the loud thump of her feet on the stairs, and just barely caught the muffled French that followed. She could make out the differences between Delphine and Marie's voices, even though she didn't understand the words. Cosima ignored them, humming along to the song playing until a knock on her door startled her. She paused it.
“Yeah?” Her door creaked open, and John poked his head inside.
“Think you could keep that down, kiddo?” Cosima stared at him for a moment, then slowly nodded her head.
“Yeah, yeah sure,” she said. “Yeah.” John smiled, and retreated. He popped back in just after, right before Cosima started her music again.
“You two should spend more time together,” he said. “She doesn't have any friends. You're the only person her age that she knows.”
“Okay,” Cosima replied. She scowled at her computer when she was alone again. Delphine had friends. She had friends in France and give it a few more days and she'd have friends at school as well. Cosima was the one who didn't have friends. She sighed and stretched out on her stomach, lacing her fingers together and resting her chin against her knuckles. Perfect Delphine with her perfect hair, and her perfect voice, and her perfect boyfriend. Whatever it was she was feeling, whatever was slowly boiling inside her, spending more time with Delphine certainly wasn't going to still it.
The bonding happened by accident. Delphine had been locked in her room all day, and while no one cared considering the amount of work Delphine needed to do to reach the same level as the rest of her classmates, it didn't sound like she was studying. Cosima could faintly hear her voice through the wall, soft, but sharp. Curiosity drew her from her bed and the short few feet down the hall to Delphine's door. She had her fist raised to knock when a sudden shout followed by a slew of angry French startled her back from the door. Unsure, she lingered, waiting. Delphine's voice cut out suddenly. Cosima exhaled slowly, and knocked on the door. Entering without permission felt invasive, but when Delphine didn't respond, her concern won out and she cracked the door open enough to peer inside.
“Hey, are you okay?” Delphine jumped at the sound of her voice. She sniffed loudly, her shoulders shifting as she wiped at her eyes.
“What do you want?” she asked. Warily, Cosima stepped into the room, shutting the door behind her and leaning against it.
“Thin walls,” Cosima said with a shrug. “You sounded upset.”
“It's nothing,” Delphine replied. “It's...” She sighed, and bit her lip, turning her head away to hide her face. “Claude... he...” She inhaled sharply, her breath wavering. “Cheated? He cheated. With Claire.”
“Who's Claire?” Cosima asked.
“She was my best friend,” Delphine replied. Cosima drummed her fingers against the door, contemplating, then pushed away from it and closed the distance between them.
“Well,” she started, hovering by the side of Delphine's bed until the blonde shifted to give her room to sit. “Clearly, he has no idea what he's giving up, and he's a complete and total asshat.” Delphine chuckled, and even though it was strained, it was music to Cosima's ears.
“Yes,” she agreed. “He is an asshat.”
“And he totally didn't deserve you, so good riddance.” Delphine giggled again, rubbing her eyes a final time before dropping her hands into her lap, and smiling at Cosima.
“Thank you,” she said. Cosima smiled, and slowly stood.
“Yeah, no problem,” she replied. “I'm just next door if you, like, need anything at all.”
“I know,” Delphine said, still smiling at her.
“Right, yeah. Cool. Okay.” She slipped out of the room, her face burning as she closed the door behind her and quickly retreated to the safety of her own space. She sighed slowly, Delphine's smile burned into her memory. She fell onto her bed, face buried in the blankets, her glasses pressing uncomfortably into the bridge of her nose. She was pretty when she smiled. Really pretty. Too pretty. Far, far, too pretty.
“Delphine,” John started over dinner, “you're all caught up on your work for school right?” Delphine nodded, her mouth too full of food to answer. “Great. Marie and I were thinking about taking a camping trip this weekend.” Cosima frowned at her father.
“Camping?” she repeated. “We haven't done that in years, why are you suddenly suggesting it?” John shrugged, giving her a quick smile.
“We thought it would be a good chance for us to spend a time together as a family. I know things have been going by really quickly. Thought maybe a change of pace might do us all some good, and there's nothing like a weekend away for some rest and relaxation.”
“Delphine and I have never been camping,” Marie told her. “It's something I would like to do. Is that okay, Delphine?” Cosima glanced to her side. Delphine's brows were furrowed up, but a second later she shrugged.
“If you want,” she replied. She caught Cosima's gaze and offered a smile. Cosima quickly looked away, staring down at her food.
“This weekend then?” John asked. A grumble of assent went up from them both. “Great. I'll make the reservation at the camp ground then, and hope that I can find our own camping gear in storage.”
“Shouldn't we just get new stuff?” Cosima asked. “Didn't our tent break the last time we went?”
“I fixed it,” John muttered. Next to him, Marie chuckled.
“I'm pretty sure the supports snapped,” Cosima said.
“I'll go to the store tomorrow.”
“Not without me you're not,” Cosima said. “Pick me up after school.”
“Dad, can you please hold one of these?” Cosima called, struggling with the four sleeping bags John had piled into her arms. “Dad? Seriously. Where are you? What are you looking at? Shit!” Cosima sighed, setting the remaining bundle in her arms next to the ones that had toppled and looked down the aisle for any sign of her father. “Dad, no.”
“What?” John asked, looking away from the row of fishing gear he was examining.
“No,” Cosima said firmly. “You have a fishing rod at home, you don't need a new one. We came here to get a new tent. And can you please carry two of these? I'm a small person, this is difficult for me.”
“Tents,” John corrected, reluctantly leaving the fishing kits to hoist two of the sleeping bags into his arms.
“What?” Cosima asked.
“Tents. We're getting two tents, not one.”
“Wait, what? Why?” John cleared his throat, leading Cosima down a few aisles until they reached the one they needed.
“Because why?” Cosima pried, frowning. “I thought this was supposed to be 'family bonding time.'”
“It is. It will be. You're going to bond with Delphine and I'm going to bond with Marie.”
“Oh. Oh. Oh, god, ew.” Cosima screwed her nose up. “Uhg, god, no.”
“I tried,” John said with a shrug.
“No, no, I don't think you tried at all. Can we just get the tents and go home?” She stopped a pace away from him, resting her chin on top of one of the sleeping bags.
“What about these?” he asked. “They look pretty spacious, and they're on a good sale.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Cosima agreed. “Sale, big, great. Can you just get them?” John balanced one of the packages on top of the sleeping bags in Cosima's arms. She adjusted them in her arms, acquainting herself with the change in weight.
“I just want to look at one more thing before we go...” John said absently, walking off.
“Dad, no,” Cosima said, trailing after him. “Dad. Seriously. Dad, no. We don't need anything else. Dad, we don't need a waffle iron.”
She tried. She really, really tried, but once her father had his mind set on something it was practically impossible to talk him out of it. Cosima was the same way. Their shopping experience resulted in Cosima bogged down carrying far more than sleeping bags and a tent out of the store. Their car was large enough to comfortably fit the four of them alone, but the four of them combined with all the things John had bought didn't work quite as well. Cosima found herself pressed uncomfortably tight against Delphine's side, trying to push herself against the pile of stuff next to her to keep from squishing Delphine against the car door, but there was hardly any room to move. Aside from the occasional grunt when Cosima shifted and elbowed her on accident, Delphine didn't seem bothered, but Cosima felt like she couldn't breathe. Every bit of her skin that touched Delphine's felt like it was on fire. She tried music to direct her thoughts to safer territory, but with each bump in the road she was pushed tighter against the blonde's side, and the music didn't stop the burning.
The fresh air that Cosima inhaled after her and Delphine managed to wiggle out of the back seat without dislodging the pile of camping equipment next to them soothed her frantic mind. There was space, an entire camp ground of it that she could put between Delphine and herself if she needed to. Even with the knowledge that they would be sharing a tent hovering over her head, she felt better. Besides, the tent was big enough for both of them plus one.
“You've never had s'mores before?” Cosima asked that night while her father was busy starting up a fire and Marie was sat a foot or so away lightly dozing. She held open the cooler on her lap, searching through the layers of packed food to find where John had buried the chocolate.
“No,” Delphine replied from next to her. “I've never been camping before.”
“You're missing out,” Cosima said, wiggling the chocolate bars out from near the bottom of the box and lightly tossing them on the ground in front of her with the graham crackers and the jumbo marshmallows she'd convinced John to buy. “As soon as Dad gets the fire going, I'll show you the best way to make them. Actually make them. Sometimes I get impatient and just end up eating everything separately, but it's so much better when they're all smooshed together, and melted, and gooey.” Delphine giggled softly and smiled at her, leaning back in her chair.
“Okay,” she said. Cosima's gaze lingered, a small smile of her own pulling at the corner's of her lips. John made a small sound of triumph, and straightened up with a groan, his hands rubbing at his back.
“Getting old there, Dad?” Cosima asked. He laughed.
“Not quite,” he said, and sunk gratefully into the chair next to Marie. “Just wait for that to get going before you start trying to make anything.” Cosima hummed and slipped out of her chair to sit on the ground before the fire pit, her fingers tearing at the packaging. She felt Delphine's eyes on her, the hair on the back of her neck standing to attention the longer her gaze lingered. She twitched her shoulder blades, disguising it as a roll, and looked over.
“Come here,” she said, grinning, and patted the ground next to her. Delphine hesitated, staring at the spot like it was made of lava instead of dirt, but slid out of her seat and neatly folded her legs. “The most important part is the marshmallow,” she started, wiggling one onto a poker and holding it above the fire. “It's gotta be the right amount of gooey but if you leave it over the fire for too long or for not long enough it'll get stuck to the metal and ruin it all. It's best when it's just browning on the outside.” Delphine hummed, her eyes on the flames instead of on Cosima. “Like that, see? Then you just squish it between the crackers and the chocolate and you have the perfect s'more. Almost. It's better if the chocolate isn't rock solid.” Delphine chuckled. Cosima waited a moment while the heat from the marshmallow melted the chocolate enough for her to sink her teeth in with a content groan. She held it out to Delphine. The blonde gently took it from her, biting off a corner.
“That's delicious,” she mumbled around a full mouth. Cosima grinned.
“Why don't you whip us up some, Cos?” John asked. Cosima scoffed, skewering another marshmallow.
“No way, make your own. I like watching you always set your marshmallows on fire.” Delphine giggled. Cosima cleared her throat softly, face red. She told herself it was from sitting so close to the fire.
“You try,” Cosima told her, handing over her poker.
Cosima had always loved the sounds that came with night time. When she was little she would stay awake until the early hours of the morning listening to the bugs chirping and trilling outside her window and trying to distinguish one from the other, labelling them in her mind. It was better than the quiet that came with winter. Cosima welcomed the noise from around her and Delphine's tent, pushed as close against the wall on her side as she could to try and escape the heavy air that settled in the space between them. The sounds blocked out Delphine's breathing, and the rustling of her clothes against the sleeping bag, and helped to calm Cosima's mind enough that she felt herself slipping off. Something cracked outside, sounding closer than it probably was, but her ears twitched to the sound instinctively. She was about to relax again when a warm body slammed into her back.
“Jesus!” she hissed, her eyes snapping open, and her heart rocketing into her throat, pounding fiercely.
“What was that?” Delphine's voice sounded from close to her ear, tight and worried.
“I don't know,” Cosima replied. “Probably a squirrel or something.”
“It did not sound like a squirrel,” Delphine whispered. Her face pressed into the back of Cosima's shoulder, hands gripping tightly at her arms. Cosima's breath caught in her throat, stuck around the new home her heart had made for itself.
“It was a squirrel,” she repeated, staring at the wall of the tent.
“What was that? Was that a bug? What if the bugs get inside the tent?”
“The bugs aren't going to get inside the tent, Delphine. It's zipped shut.”
“What if they're already in here?”
“Do you want me to search the tent for bugs?” Delphine's nails bit into her skin. “Ow, Jesus.” Nearby, the leaves of the trees rustled as the wind swept through them. Another twig cracked. Delphine gasped and pushed her face hard into Cosima's shoulder. Cosima's chest squeezed tightly around her lungs. “Oh no,” she whispered.
“What?” Delphine asked, her voice muffled by Cosima's shirt.
“I think... did that sound like footsteps to you? Oh god, Delphine, I think someone is out there.” Delphine whimpered, latching her arms around Cosima's waist. Oh god, okay, Cosima thought, holding in a squeak when Delphine squeezed. Okay. She's touching me. Okay. She's holding me really tight. Ow, Jesus, okay, those are nails. Shit. Shit. Delphine whimpered into her shirt. “Shit, I'm sorry,” Cosima said, twisting around so she could lay on her back and fix Delphine with an apologetic stare. “It's not-it's just a squirrel or a rabbit or something. It's not a serial killer I promise.” Delphine burrowed her face against Cosima's shoulder again, digging her fingertips into Cosima's ribs. “Do you want me to go check?” Delphine nodded, her grip loosening just enough for Cosima to breathe and slip out of her grasp, feeling around for the flashlight. Her fingers hit the plastic with a clack.
“Be careful,” Delphine whispered. Cosima rolled her eyes, holding the light against her neck with her shoulder while she fiddled with the stiff tent zipper. She slipped out of the gap, shining the light around into the night. It flashed across the eyes of a rabbit, which disappeared back into the foliage, vanishing within seconds. Cosima ran a hand over her face and sighed, hesitating.
“Okay,” she told herself softly. “Okay.” Delphine squinted into the flashlight beam. Cosima apologized, lightly tossing it onto her sleeping bag, and zipping the tent closed again. “It was just a rabbit. No serial killers. Okay? I was just joking.” Delphine's eyes followed her, watching as she turned out the light and shuffled back into her sleeping bag. Delphine latched onto her again the second she was settled. Cosima stared up at the top of the tent, hardly able to see anything in the darkness. A few minutes later, and Delphine's grip on her had relaxed, her breathing slowly evening out. Cosima yawned widely, her eyes refusing to open again after it passed. She could feel Delphine's breath cool against the side of her neck.