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here are your upturned hands

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There is no more blood. In lungs or in eyes or in glass vials. When Cosima laughs it doesn't warp into a cough. When she jogs up the stairs, when she twirls below Delphine's hand in dark clubs, her lungs don't collapse in on themselves.

At first, after the first test result came back and Delphine's lips trembled when she whispered the growths have regressed, Cosima, it's working, she was afraid to do anything at all. Afraid to breathe, afraid to move, afraid of the memory of seizuring, still there like a phantom pain in her limbs. Cosima used to be the first one to dance at university parties. She used to be the loudest one in the concert crowd, the first one to reach the top of the hill, the last one to get out of the water. She used to close her eyes and become only a fluttering heartbeat and a collection of sighs when Delphine mumbled feverish love into every corner of her chest. Now, she sat on the couch and tried to remember how to do it all. How to trust things not to fall apart.

She hated it. How she had come to fear what she used to love. How those people had control over her even now, even after most of them were dead in the ground, and she had found a cure for their reckless gambles and won against the sickness inside her. How sometimes she became scared to touch a petri dish, suddenly reminded of how not long ago her own cells had been smeared onto it. How not long ago her hands had been cold, shaking things that couldn't hold onto science.

She told Delphine this, and Delphine cradled Cosima's face in her hands and said defy them. Cosima didn't say that that would mean defying Delphine too, because Delphine was theirs once, was once incorporated in the signature after the patent that was tucked into her DNA in code. That sometimes when she thinks about that patent she feels so trapped in her own skin that she has to heave over the sink like she's trying to physically reject it, but no, no, they're dead now, and Cosima is still here, she's still alive after all, and she will not be dictated by anyone anymore.

So she does what Delphine said. She stands from the couch, even though it's frightening. She searches for every name on the neatly printed list Felix gave her until she can cure them or mourn them. She lies between her sisters in the hammock in Alison's back yard and lets Sarah trace the shape of the golden ratio on her wrist, and she watches with equal parts fondness and amazement as Helena gently plays with her sons on the blanket on the grass. She lets peace come to her in short moments, and then in longer ones. She teaches Kira the basics of genetics. She steps on a plane to visit her parents, she goes back to school and laughs at Scott's silly jokes in the lab, and eventually she jogs up the stairs, and dances in dark clubs and she laughs at how life tickles her skin again, and it feels so wild that it drowns out the fear.

Once a month, she lets Delphine push the clear liquid through the syringe and into her bloodstream. They do it on the sofa during commercials, or in the hallway before she goes to class, or leaning towards the kitchen counter after dinner. Never in the bathroom. Never in bed. Cosima throws out the box of surgical gloves Delphine has stored in the bathroom cabinet. She's not a patient anymore. She'll never be a test subject again. From now on, she refuses to be anything less than an equal.

Some fears take longer to lure away than others.

"Promise you'll always be honest with me," Cosima whispers in the blackness of their bedroom, their bodies flush beneath the sheets. She can barely keep her voice from sounding like a threat.

"I promise," Delphine murmurs.

I thought you were dead once, and sometimes it's still so hard to believe that you're alive, she doesn't say. I love you so much but I don't know how to trust you again, she doesn't say. You're still the safest thing I know, and that's scary, she doesn't say.

“Promise me you'll stay," she says.

"I promise," Delphine whispers.

And every morning that Cosima wakes up and Delphine is there, kissing her shoulder, making her french toast, walking her to the train, Cosima doubts a little less. Delphine's patience never wavers, and neither do her eyes. Je t'aime, Cosima, she mumbles into Cosima's hair every chance she gets. And those people, they stole so much from Cosima. They don't get to steal her courage to love, she thinks, with the scent of Delphine still a memory below her tongue. She has to defy them one final time, show them that despite everything they did, she is brave enough. To breathe deeply, to be unapologetically free, to trust.

She laces her fingers with Delphine's in bed at night.

Her hands are warm.