Delphine woke slowly, the sounds of the morning gradually breaking through the fog of sleep. Bit by bit, she became aware of the world around her; the gentle chirping of insects outside, nowhere near as loud as the previous night, distant chatter of voices from other campers, and a car door shutting, the warm body firmly pressed against hers. Her eyes fluttered open. She held her breath. Cosima was still asleep, her head tilted just slightly away from Delphine towards the wall of the tent, her chest steadily rising and falling beneath her cover of her sleeping bag. Delphine moved her arm from where it had remained draped over Cosima's waist and stomach for the whole night and used it to prop herself up. Her gaze travelled over the curve of Cosima's nose, over slightly parted lips and along the jut of her jaw.
It struck her again how different Cosima looked without her glasses on. The brunette hardly ever wore make up, save for the times they had been going somewhere formal, and the wedding, but her glasses were constant. She hated contacts, Delphine remembered. She was pretty without them; like a completely different person. Delphine could almost pretend that they weren't step-sisters. Her face burned the longer she looked, but she couldn't avert her eyes or pull away. The proximity was intoxicating, and Cosima was warm, and soft, and-
Her chest seized with panic. She couldn't think of Cosima as pretty. She could say she looked pretty, or that a dress looked nice on her, from an objective point, but she couldn't lay there with their bodies touching and think that Cosima was pretty. She hardly ever even thought her friends at home were pretty. Not like that. Not in a way where she was admiring the line of her jaw and the length of her neck.
“I can hear you thinking,” Cosima mumbled, her mouth barely moving. “It's too early. Stop it.”
“Sorry,” Delphine whispered, scooting back and putting a precious few inches of space between them. Cosima sighed, her brows furrowed. She blinked her eyes open, turning her head and peering blearily at Delphine in the dim tent light.
“I need to brush my teeth,” she said after a long moment, looking away. She fumbled above her head for her glasses. Delphine reached out and plucked them up gently, placing them in her hand. Cosima mumbled a thanks and struggled out of her sleeping bag. “Are you coming?” she asked. Delphine nodded, breathing in deeply.
“Yes,” she said, her voice weak. “I'm coming.”
A sound stopped them just outside the tent. Cosima heard it first, and paused, frowning in the direction of their parents' tent, across the dead fire pit from their own. She cocked her head to the side, grabbing Delphine's arm to still her. Delphine pulled away automatically, rubbing at her elbow. Her skin tingled from the contact. She followed Cosima's eyes.
“Do you hear that?” Cosima asked. Delphine held her breath, listening. There was definitely something coming from John and Marie's tent.
“I think so. What is it?” she replied. Cosima's brows furrowed further, her eyes squinting even though she had her glasses on.
“I think it's... oh. Oh, god.” She whipped back around, her face bright red. “So, there's this lake nearby. Want to go swimming?” It took Delphine an extra few seconds to cotton on. When she did, her face turned a shade of red that matched Cosima's and she nodded violently. “Great. You get our bathing suits and I'll go find that raft that I tried to keep Dad from buying.” Delphine changed faster than she ever had in her life, throwing a shirt and shorts on over her bikini. She switched places with Cosima a few minutes later, bouncing on her heels outside the tent holding the deflated raft and trying to focus on sounds other than the ones from the other side of the camp.
“Can we please go?” she asked when Cosima stumbled out of the tent, her foot caught on the canvas.
“Jesus, shit,” she swore, flailing her arms to retain her balance. “Yeah, totally. Let's get out of here.”
The lake wasn't very far, but Delphine would have gotten lost were it not for Cosima guiding them expertly through the short stretch of woods. She dragged the raft along her side, doing her best to not let it snag on any branches or bushes. Cosima was patient with her, taking an easy path through where the trees were thinnest and holding low hanging boughs out of the way until Delphine had cleared them. The lake was modestly sized; a clearing lined by thick trees on the far side, and rocks to the right, leading back into the woods. Cosima turned and grinned at her.
“Here, give me the raft. I'll blow it up for you.” Delphine returned her smile, dragging the raft in front of her and passing it over. She waited patiently while Cosima fumbled with the air pump, absently playing with a stray thread on the brim of her hat. The sounds of nature filled the silence until Cosima's voice sounded again. “Here you go; one raft. Want me to push you out?” Delphine lifted her shirt over her head, careful to not dislodge her hat, and dropped it on top of her bag. When she looked up, Cosima was watching her, her lip caught between her teeth. Delphine cleared her throat softly, and stepped out of her shorts. Cosima held the raft steady for her to climb on, and accompanied the soft shove she gave it with a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. Delphine stretched out on the plastic, head tilted to the side to watch Cosima shed her own clothes.
She caught herself staring, her eyes lingering. She'd never seen Cosima in any state of undress before. There was a fledgling confidence to her movements, one that was well deserved. Delphine's cheeks burned. She looked away before the tightness that fluttered in her chest could completely overtake her. Cosima swore under her breath, the water splashing softly against her skin. Delphine closed her eyes, letting the gentle waves float her around, listening to the sounds of Cosima fooling around nearby. The space made the silence comfortable, not like the night before when Delphine had felt ready to break with tension, without having to deal with her squeamish nature and fear of bugs.
Cosima cleared her throat. Delphine opened her eyes at the noise and glanced to the side, dipping her hands into the water to direct her movements. Her gaze traced the way Cosima's muscles, muscles that she didn't know Cosima had had in the first place, shifted beneath her skin. She was following the path of the raft, slowly wading through the water until the bottom was too deep for her feet to touch.
“I know they're married,” she said, easily treading water, “but I don't think I'm ever going to be used to hearing things like that.”
“Non,” Delphine said quietly. Cosima gently grabbed the side of the raft, her fingers clutching close to Delphine's thigh. Delphine tensed, but couldn't find the will to move her leg to the side. Cosima ferried her in a large circle, stopping when she was bored and folding her arms on the plastic. Delphine adjusted her weight to accommodate her, propping up on her elbows to look down. Cosima's expression was unreadable, her eyes on Delphine's stomach. She opened her mouth to speak, but Cosima's eyes flicked up and she smiled wickedly. Delphine frowned. “Cosima, what are yo-” she started, the rest of her question morphing into a squeal as Cosima tipped her off the raft.
The water pricked coldly at her skin, closing over her head and cutting her off from the world. Her reaction was delayed, the silence, and the soft, muffled roar of water in her ears pressing against her skull. Her limbs acted before her brain did, kicking her upright and propelling her towards the surface before she touched the lake floor. She came up spluttering and gasping, blinking water out of her eyes, and glaring at Cosima, who was trying to stay afloat through her laughter, one hand gripping onto the raft for support.
“You brat,” Delphine choked out, hauling air into her shocked lungs. Cosima only laughed harder, the sound echoing like the peal of a bell into the air. Delphine wiped water off her lips, launching herself towards Cosima. Cosima shouted, propelling herself back through the water and out of Delphine's reach. She didn't elude capture for long, Delphine's longer limbs giving her the advantage. She caught Cosima's shoulder and pulled, placing both hands against her skin and using her weight to push Cosima under the surface with a triumphant laugh. Cosima's muscles flexed under her touch, arms flailing. Delphine pushed away a few seconds later, legs and feet kicking her to a safe distance. Cosima shook her hair out of her face, spinning around until she found Delphine. Delphine stuck out her tongue, grinning.
“Is that how we're gonna play it?” Cosima asked, sounding out of breath. “You're so gonna get it.”
“You started it,” Delphine argued, twisting away from Cosima's searching fingers, her own reaching and finding, skirting along Cosima's side. The brunette giggled, squirming towards the shallows. Delphine followed, catching her quickly. Their squeals and shouts of laughter filled the air, hands reaching to find sensitive skin and splashing water as a defence. Cosima yielded first, her hands latched tightly around Delphine's wrists to stop her fingers from tickling her ribs.
“Oh god, okay, okay. I'm sorry! Just stop. Tickling. Me!” she panted out. Her grip tightened, forcibly stilling Delphine's hands. Her chest heaving, Delphine grinned, sucking in air until her heart rate slowed and her lungs stopped feeling like they were being squeezed. “I didn't know your hair's curly,” Cosima said a moment later, still breathless.
“I don't like it,” Delphine replied. Cosima held her eyes, searching them. She inhaled deeply, and held it.
“I don't know why,” she finally said. “It's really pretty. It looks awesome. I wish my hair was that nice.” Delphine flushed, biting her lip. Aside from her mother, and Claire, only Claude had seen her hair in its natural state. All he had done was told her it looked better straight. Delphine was sure he hadn't meant it cruelly, but she'd made sure it was straight as often as possible after that.
“Thank you.” Cosima was still looking at her. Her eyes darted down. Under the cover of the water, her hands were still wrapped around Cosima's sides, their legs tangled and their hips pressing. Her body was hot compared to the lake that surrounded them. Delphine's chest tightened. Cosima pulled away first, unwrapping their limbs and wading back a few paces. Her eyes left, looking anywhere but at Delphine. She glanced up.
“I dare you to jump off that rock,” she said. Delphine looked over her shoulder, following Cosima's eyes.
“Cosima, non. It's too high,” she said, shaking her head. Cosima rolled her eyes.
“No, it isn't,” she said, wading to the shore. “I've jumped off it before. I'll show you.” Delphine watched her movements, water dripping off her body and leaving a splotchy trail of wet dirt and footprints in her wake. She easily scaled the rocks, padding to the edge of the highest and curling her toes over the edge. She gave Delphine a thumbs up, then sucked in a breath and leaped. Delphine watched her fall, entering the water with a loud splash. Delphine waited for her to surface, her brows furrowing in concern the longer it took her to do so. She jumped when Cosima's head popped up a few feet away.
“You scared me,” Delphine said. Cosima grinned in apology.
“I found your hat,” she said, lifting it out of the water. Delphine touched her hair, confused. She hadn't known she'd lost it. Cosima waded to her, slapping it onto her head and covering her face and shoulders in cold water.
“Cosima!” Delphine shouted in protest, batting her hand away. Cosima chuckled.
“I dare you to jump off,” she repeated, head tilted to the side. Delphine smiled at her, swiping her hat off her head and tossing it back.
“Okay,” she said. It felt like flying more than falling.
Cosima floated next to her, her head occasionally bumping against the side of the raft. Her eyes were closed, face peaceful, giving Delphine free reign to stare. She found herself watching for minutes without realizing that she was, catching herself when Cosima coughed or cleared her throat or sighed, only to return to her observations a moment later.
“Do you think it's safe to go back?” Cosima said, breaking the silence.
“I think so, yes,” she answered, sitting up. Cosima blew out a puff of air, her eyes fluttering open and up to meet Delphine's.
“Do you want to?” she asked. Her gaze made Delphine's breath catch in her throat. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. “Cool,” Cosima breathed out, righting herself.
The trip back felt like ages. The morning chill had left, and the air was hot and dry. Delphine's hair was tangled, curling messily against the nape of her neck. Her clothes were stiff against her not quite dry body, her shirt sticking to her breasts and hips. Cosima's had a wet splotch on the back where her hair draped in waves across her shoulders. She stopped when she noticed Delphine falling behind, turning and waiting until she was close enough for Cosima to reach out, stretching her fingers.
“Give me your hand,” she said. Delphine stopped still, then frowned lightly.
“I'll help you. I don't want you falling and cracking your head open. Then we'd have to call an ambulance, and everyone would know you have curly hair.” Delphine's lips twitched. She shoved Cosima's shoulder in response. The brunette giggled. “What? Come on, you know it's true.” She extended her hand again. Delphine slipped her fingers into the spaces between them, letting Cosima guide her through the woods. Her hand was warm, palm damp with sweat, fingers curled around her knuckles. Delphine felt herself smiling, the grin growing wider each time Cosima helped her over a rough patch of ground, struggling to keep her from falling without dropping the deflated raft. The woods thinned, and eventually gave way to the clearings of various camp sites, but Delphine held on, falling into step beside Cosima and letting their hands loosely swing between their bodies.
“You two look like you had fun!” She dropped Cosima's hand as though she'd been burned, snapping her arm tightly back to her side. John grinned at them both from the fire pit, holding a pan in one hand. His voice brought her hurtling back to earth. Her heart fluttered anxiously in her chest, her jaw tightening as she clenched her teeth.
“Yeah, was a blast,” Cosima replied, her voice strained. “I'm going to change.” She split from Delphine's side, leaving her hovering at the edge of their camp.
“Aren't you going to change too?” John asked her. Delphine glanced at the tent in time to see Cosima vanish inside.
“No,” she said. “I'm fine.” She settled in her chair by the fire, dumping her bag next to her, and crossed her arms and legs, sitting in silence until John handed her a plate of food. What is happening? she thought, staring down at her breakfast. I liked that. No. No, I like boys. I like boys like Claude with their sexy muscles. She chewed on her lip, frowning. She has muscles, too. And a pretty smile, and a pretty laugh. God, what is happening to me?