Cosima could have cut the atmosphere in the tent with a butter knife if she tried. The night wasn't loud enough to block out the sound of Delphine's breathing, or the rustling of the sleeping bag whenever she moved. Cosima squeezed her eyes shut, practically cuddling her side of the tent in her attempts to put as much distance between her and her step-sister as she could. That's right, Cosima. Step-sister, she thought harshly. Step. Sister. Stop thinking about the freckles on her back. Even though she could trace the Big Dipper if she tried. Stop thinking about how soft her skin is. Even though it had felt like silk beneath Cosima's fingers. Stop thinking about how pretty she is when she smiles. Even though her grins lit up her entire face. Stop thinking about wanting to kiss those stupid smirks off of her face. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Sibling. Sibling. Sibling.
Her mind was a treacherous thing. She was on edge, every atom alert and attuned to the movements and sounds that the girl at her back made. She wondered, very briefly, if Delphine was having the same trouble, then rolled her eyes at herself. Of course she didn't. Perfect Delphine was perfectly straight. And her step-sister. Step-sister. Sister. She muffled a groan into her pillow. Her body ached, the memory of Delphine's body pressing against hers running in circles around her thoughts and eluding her attempts to capture it.This is fucked up, she thought, abruptly hiding her head under her pillow, inhaling the plastic-y scent of her sleeping bag. Thanks, Dad.
It didn't sound like Delphine was sleeping from the amount of noise coming from her side of the tent. Cosima certainly wasn't going to any time soon. She wished she'd had the foresight to bring her weed with her, but she wouldn't in a hundred thousand years have anticipated that she'd be so worked up over someone she was now legally related to, regardless of how attractive she was.You are seriously fucked, Cos, she thought, hiding in the darkness under her pillow, blocking out the muffled sounds of Delphine shifting across the space.
They both fell asleep on the way back, Delphine just before Cosima did, with her face pressed against the door and Cosima's head resting against her shoulder, her hand relaxed against Delphine's thigh.
“They must have been up all night talking,” John said, glancing at them in the rear view mirror. One of Cosima's earbuds had fallen out, and her glasses were askew. He couldn't help but smile at his sleeping daughter.
“I was worried,” Marie said, looking back at them as well, with a smile on her face. “It seems like this trip worked after all.” John nodded, holding out his hand for Marie to clasp.
“Next time they fight, let's lock them in a room together,” he suggested. Marie giggled, settling back against the headrest.
“Sisters will fight,” she said. “I'm happy that they get along at all.”
“Me, too,” John agreed, squeezing his wife's fingers.
Their communication dissolved into one word answers, much to the puzzlement and dismay of their parents. When they didn't have any other option than to speak to each other, it was done with as little speaking as possible, a series of “yes” and “no” and “okay” that did nothing but feed the awkward air between them. “We're fine,” they told their parents when questioned. School was busy, they were tired, they talked plenty. Cosima spent hours laying awake at night, burying her face in her pillow until the pressure against her eyes blocked out the memories of the camping trip dancing around in her mind. Sibling, Cosima told herself, a mantra that she repeated every night before she went to sleep. Sibling, sibling sibling. Shit. She was out of pot, too, which only made matters worse.
The tension lingered in school, but at least there she could convince Scott to give him the money to buy her more weed from his grower friend. He dropped it into her bag during Bio. Delphine's seat was far enough from her own that Cosima could watch without the risk of being caught. The word project caught her attention, briefly pulling it away from Delphine and towards the teacher she was supposed to be paying attention to.
“Cosima,” Scott whispered behind her. “Wanna pair up?”
“No,” she said before she could think it through fully. Delphine looked over her shoulder at them. “Go work with someone else. It's easier if I do it with Delphine; we live together.” She knew Scott was sulking without having to turn her head to see it, but it didn't matter. Her gaze locked with Delphine's and held it until the blonde looked away.
“Before you leave,” the teacher announced, “you need your grade updates. When I call your name, come up and get your slip. If it needs to be signed, it'll say so.” Cosima had a B. It was the test she did badly on that had pulled her grade down from an A, but it was good enough. To her credit, she thought she was doing pretty well considering everything that had happened over the past month.
“Hey, Delphine,” she called when class ended. Delphine paused by the door, stepping aside to let their classmates out, with an awkward, slightly uncomfortable smile at Scott when he brushed past her. “What do you have?”
“An A,” Delphine replied, falling into step next to her.
“What about everything else?”
“A's.” Cosima looked down at the paper in her hand.
“Shit,” she mumbled, her chest compressing the air out her lungs.
“What?” Delphine asked, frowning at her.
“Your grades are wicked.”
“Why do you sound surprised?”
“They're better than mine.” Delphine smiled, cocky.
“Bye,” she said, and split off to go to her next class. Cosima sighed, lingering at the intersection and watching her weave through the crowd of students until she turned a corner. She's ruined me, she thought. I'm screwed. I'm so, so screwed. Someone bumped into her shoulder, jostling her back into the present. She pinched the bridge of her nose and exhaled a steady stream of air out of her mouth. She would deal. She had to. There wasn't any other choice. Maybe if she was lucky everything would go back to normal. Except, Cosima realized, mindlessly following the stream of teenagers to her next class, things had never been normal to begin with.
They decided on their topic after they got home, Delphine already starting on her homework while Cosima ignored her own to whip up something to eat. She waited, and sat across from the blonde, watching her scribble answers to questions down on a page in neat cursive. She glanced up a handful of times, eyes finding Cosima through her lashes.
“Why are you watching me?” she asked curiously. Cosima shrugged, taking a bit of her food.
“Not watching,” she said around it. “Eating.”
“You want something,” Delphine stated without looking up.
“Yeah. Topic for class. Got one in mind?” Delphine shrugged. She dropped her pencil and stretched, arching her back away from the chair with a content groan. “I was thinking something with genetics. You know everyone and their mom is going to do photosynthesis. Easy A.”
“Genetics?” she repeated, sounding almost alarmed. “I was, too.” Cosima's heart fluttered.
“Genetic engineering,” Delphine continued, leaning forward in interest.
“With a focus on cloning,” Cosima finished. Delphine grinned. “Awesome.”
“Yes,” Delphine repeated. “Awesome.” She paused, tapping her pencil against the table. “I do have a question,” she said as Cosima was standing to go upstairs. She hummed. “Why didn't you pick Scott?” Cosima opened her mouth to reply, but the only response she had wasn't one she could find the words for. Instead, she shrugged.
“He has other friends,” she said. Delphine stared her, a light line between her brows. Cosima waited, afraid Delphine was going to call her out, but all she did was smile, and go back to her work. Cosima carried her plate into the kitchen and dumped it in the sink with a loud, metallic thunk, then hurried upstairs to the safety of her room.
It was a side of Delphine that Cosima had never seen before. Her interest in science had been obvious. It had been the initial attractor, but this... determination and excitement, this almost glow that spread over Delphine's face while they sat side by side at the table or on the sofa and conducted their research was unfamiliar. Cosima handled the visual part of the presentation, letting Delphine write up the report they needed to hand in, and formulate a verbal delivery that made sense. At least to them. Cosima was pretty sure their combined intelligence was greater than the rest of the class put together, even an advanced level one.
“Do you think human cloning is possible?” Delphine asked. Her fingers tapped expertly at her laptop, the soft clicks of the keys being pressed almost rhythmic.
“Totally,” Cosima replied. “That would be so weird, though, wouldn't it? I mean, just think about it. You're at the grocery store or something and you look behind you and there's just this... person who's like, got your face.”
“Our perception of how we see ourselves is skewed,” Delphine replied. “You wouldn't recognize someone as your clone if you saw them.”
“Yeah, but what if,” Cosima countered, her hands twirling in the air before her. She kicked her feet up onto the coffee table, balancing her laptop on her thighs. “That would be just... this whole other person who looks exactly like you, but it's that whole nature vs. nurture thing, isn't it? I mean, exactly how alike would the two of you really be? Just little stuff like fave foods, or the kind of music you like, or if you bite your lip or pick your nails. Dominant side of the brain, that kind of thing. It's just fascinating, you know? Like-” She turned her head, meeting Delphine's eyes. “What?” she asked. Delphine quickly shook her head, averting her gaze.
“Nothing,” she said. “Give me your computer so I can edit the presentation, please.” Cosima watched her until she raised her head again, her stare pointed. “Cosima.”
“Yeah, sorry,” Cosima replied, shaking her head. Delphine set her computer to the side to make room for Cosima's, holding it on top of crossed legs. Cosima distracted herself with one of the books they'd borrowed from the school library. Movement caught her eye. She glanced out the corner, watching Delphine tuck her hair behind her ear, and chew on her lip. Cosima disguised a sigh as a yawn. “We're going to have the best project,” she said. Delphine smiled, glancing at her with her lip still caught on her teeth.
“We should go first, yes?” she asked.
“Totally,” Cosima said. “I hate speaking in front of people.”
“It's not so hard,” Delphine replied.
“I didn't say I couldn't, I just don't like to. People never know what I'm talking about.”
“You talk very fast.”
“Yeah, well, I get excited.” Delphine chuckled airily.
“It's... nice,” she said, setting Cosima's computer between them. “Knowing someone who shares my passions.” Cosima nodded in reply, pushing her hair out of her face and nervously fixing her glasses.
“Yeah. Yeah, it is.”
She'd never clicked so well with someone in her life. Scott was the closest, next to the one girlfriend she'd had at fifteen. Neither of them were anything like how she connected to Delphine. Their brains might as well have been fused together. Previous group projects usually involved Cosima doing the majority of the work, despite being in an AP class full of people who actually knew what they were talking about, but had no motivation to apply themselves. Cosima only did it to keep her grade up, but with Delphine it was to prove herself, and Delphine did more than carry her own weight. Their presentation was finished first, complete with a written report, a professionally put together powerpoint thanks to Cosima's computer expertise, and a verbal script that Cosima was sure could be passed off as college level.
They lost the class after a few minutes. The puzzled stares that met them should have been an indication that they weren't explaining their topic well enough, but instead Cosima was proud. They had accomplished something brilliant, so brilliant that even their teacher was having trouble following along. She was ranting again, rambling along too quickly in that way that usually got her points docked for being incoherent, but she couldn't put a stopper in her brain to slow the flow of words that fell from her mouth, her hands patting the air and making circles and spirals and indiscernible shapes in the space before her.
“The risks are there, there's not any denying that, but the possibilities are just...”
“Endless,” Delphine finished for her. “New skin can be grown-”
“Your appearance changed-” Her hands were everywhere, brushing against Cosima as they both gesticulated.
“Cancer cured. Not to mention stuff out of sci-fi movies is totally plausible.” Cosima was flushed with excitement when they finished, her face warm and her chest swollen. Delphine was glowing, her eyes dancing happily, looking just as flustered as Cosima felt. Her heart fluttered. She hardly noticed the smattering of applause that rose from their confused classmates. Delphine handed in their report while Cosima claimed her USB from the computer and returned to her seat, grinning. She felt high. Delphine smiled back at her from her seat, her teeth sunk lightly into the flesh of her lower lip.