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If You Could, Would You?
By Kristina K
Later that evening, after numerous unanswered phone calls and undelivered text messages, Delphine manages to find her in the winter garden behind the old wing, huddled in the window seat and wrapped in her coat. She looks so tiny - tinier than usual - so unlike the woman Delphine is used to seeing, and Delphine has never seen anyone so energetic and hungry for life like Cosima Niehaus is. Or was, she fears.
"Do you have a cigarette?" Cosima asks after a moment of silence between them. She noticed Delphine at the entrance; saw the relief on the woman's face when she spotted her by the window. She slowly walked over, stopped close, just off to the side, and Cosima could almost feel her tremble with Anticipation? Fear? Anger?
"Yes." Delphine exhales and hurriedly reaches for her pockets, patting them down until she produces a lighter and an almost empty pack of duMaurier. " Although I'm not so sure" she starts but Cosima's look is enough to stop her short. "Right." She concedes, lights up the cigarette, and then offers it to Cosima.
She holds it wrong and Delphine can feel herself smiling at that, but it dies away quickly because Cosima starts to cough soon after her first drag. She holds up a hand, though, when Delphine steps closer to help, and waves her off. "I'm fine." She croaks.
"You shouldn't be smoking."
"And there shouldn't be a bunch of human clones running around either, but here we are." The look on Delphine's face is one of absolute defeat. "I'm sorry," she apologizes. "I'm a little twitchy right now. Hence the cigarette: to calm me down."
"Videos were one thing," Delphine says, "but maybe the autopsy wasn't the best idea."
"No. No, I needed it. It was a kick in the gut, but a sobering one, too."
"But you can handle it, right? All of it." It's a plea just as much as it's a statement and it's undeniable right then that Delphine might be almost as desperate as Cosima feels.
Cosima doesn't answer it, just stares at the dancing smoke rising from the ember at the end of the cigarette. "I've been thinking," she says instead. "How much time did they spend on picking out the perfect candidate, someone I couldn't say no to? Because, even though, I am a reasonably extroverted person with solid social skills, I don't just click with that much people. I don't have many friends; I don't form relationships that easily. But you " she gives Delphine a once over, waves her hand at her as if marveling at everything presented in front of her, "You hit every single one of my weaknesses. I become so stupid around you."
"You're not stupid"
"Then why can't I say no to you?"
"Do you want to?"
"I don't know!" Cosima exhales exasperatedly. "And this cigarette sucks! What's the point anyway? It doesn't do anything?" She throws the bud to the ground and stomps on it with her foot.
Finally, Delphine dares sit next to her. It's almost crippling this feeling she has in her chest, the squeezing of her insides, the wringing of her organs, the sensation of almost being ready to explode because she feels so torn. She is trembling when she reaches for Cosima's hand to take into hers. It's uncertainty Cosima recognizes it then and genuine affection, brimming with tears in Delphine's eyes.
"Nobody picked me," she says softly. "I volunteered. I was so in awe with you, but mostly I was naïve, because, merde, I had no idea. It's all easy when it's on paper: graphs, formulas and tag numbers I was ready for the experiment, for the science of it. Nobody prepared me for you."
Cosima closes her eyes and exhales because she's aware that's she's doing it again: she is swooning. Delphine is making it impossible for her to say no again and maybe that's what's going to kill her in the end, that irrational side of her, something she trained herself against her whole life wanting to be a scientist. But hard, cold reason doesn't give you hope. It doesn't look at you like that. It doesn't hold you or comfort you or sweet merciful God, if you exist kisses you like Delphine does.
Even if she could say no, right now, Cosima is not sure she would have, anyway.
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