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The Roads Not Traveled

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Street lights blurred by in orange, yellow, green and red as Cosima stared out the window of the car. It was late, or early depending on how you looked at it, and she was glad they’d stopped for coffee before heading out even if it had meant a grumpy Delphine arguing with her as they tried to find the entrance to the drive-through.

She turned her head, leaning it back on the seat to risk a look at her now. Her shoulders were stiff and Cosima could sense an aura of tension around her, but the sight of her still made her feel safe. It always had, even at times when she'd told herself it shouldn't. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, but she found herself zoning out as they rode through the unfamiliar streets and the radio station played cheesy late night music. Her eyes moved over Delphine, watching the lights change on her face, and she smiled contently at how happy she was to have her in her life.

It wasn’t like she was dismissing her feelings, Delphine had every right to be upset right now, but Cosima figured that that didn’t mean she needed to be too.

“What?” Delphine asked tersely when she caught her staring. She glanced sideways, catching Cosima’s lazy smile and softened a little. “What are you looking at?” she asked, with some amusement.

“This is nice,” Cosima commented lethargically.

Delphine snorted. “Did you smoke something before we left?”

“No, really,” she insisted. “OK, yeah, sleeping would be nicer but how long has it been since we’ve gone for a drive?”

“I don’t like driving in the dark,” Delphine reminded her.

“Yeah, but other than that,” she went on, but the light had turned yellow just as they’d come up to it for the third time and Delphine huffed loudly as she was forced to step on the break. “I can drive,” she offered again.

Delphine turned to her, unimpressed.

Cosima shrugged. “I do have my licence. And I’m not high, I swear.”

“Cosima, I’m sorry but the only thing worse than driving in the dark is being in the car while you drive in the dark,” she told her honestly.

“OK, wow, is this how it’s gonna be when we’re married?” she joked, lifting her head. “Anything else you’d like to share before we tie the knot? Are you going to tell me how you get your hair to look like it’s magic or do I have to wait for level wife for that?”

To her satisfaction, she saw that Delphine was smirking at her over a barely surprised laugh. “Level wife?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, the final boss fight,” Cosima supplied.

“What?” Delphine chuckled. “Who are we fighting?”

“Um, the minister?” Cosima guessed. She hadn’t really thought that far ahead but the answer made Delphine laugh so it didn’t matter. “Do we… wait do we need a minister or…?”

Delphine’s phone buzzed and her expression hardened again in an instant. “The plane wasn’t supposed to land for another half hour,” she muttered as Cosima grabbed the phone.

“Hey, this was last minute. He can wait at the airport for thirty minutes,” Cosima reminded her, swiping her passcode to unlock the phone so she could read the text. “Oh, uh, it’s your mom.”

The text was in English, which was good because Cosima’s French still wasn’t the greatest even though she was trying to learn. Delphine’s mother usually texted them in English if she thought they were driving because most of the time, unless they were in San Francisco, it was Delphine at the wheel and she wanted to make sure it was Cosima who was reading it if that were the case. It wasn’t as if Delphine wasn’t a safe driver, she wouldn’t have read it anyway, but her mom was kind of overprotective with things like that.

“And?” Delphine prompted.

“Um, why does she think your brother is sleeping at our place?” Cosima asked.

“What?” Delphine, at least, was as put off by that as she was.

“Yeah, she’s asking if the couch is gonna be big enough for him and his girlfriend.” She made a face. “He has a girlfriend? When did that happen?”

Delphine swore under her breath. “I don’t know, Cosima,” she said, her brow creasing in frustration. “I haven’t spoken to him in over three years.”

“Right…” she remembered awkwardly. “But your mom would have told you if-”

“Yes, probably,” Delphine grumbled. “She must be new. Or he hasn’t told Maman.”

“Why wouldn’t he tell, uh, Maman?” Cosima asked, trying out the new word that Delphine’s mother had insisted she use now.

“Because my brother is an idiot,” Delphine told her flatly and Cosima couldn’t stop herself from snorting with laughter. “It’s true,” she insisted. “Do you know, he had three girlfriends in high school? None of them knew about each other of course, but they found out. And when I was twelve years old, Maman made him take me to the carnival and he left me with a family we didn’t even know.”

“He must have been in shit,” Cosima commented. “I let my little cousin go swimming without a life jacket once and my parents grounded me for a week. And it’s not like I wasn’t watching her, she just hated the stupid thing. But, you know, water safety. I’d never let Kira or Charlotte do that now,” she added. “Or Gemma and Oscar. Or the twins. You know, we have a lot more kids in our family than I thought.”

“She never found out about it,” Delphine said quietly and the heaviness of her expression made Cosima fall silent.

They turned onto the road that led out of the city and all of a sudden it was a lot darker. Delphine put on the high beams, staring blankly into the pitch black ahead without elaborating on her story.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Cosima asked eventually.

Delphine shook her head. “It was a long time ago,” she said and they didn’t talk for a while after that.

But it was a long road to sit in silence down, with nothing to see on either side except solid night and nothing to do but listen to the music.

 Cosima found herself tapping on the door handle and singing along under her breath. ”’Cause I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again… Oh, hey it goes with what we’re doing,” she realized.

“We’re not leaving,” Delphine said flatly beside her.

“OK, yeah, but it’s airplane themed,” she pointed out. “Well, jet plane… but we’re still going to an airport.”

“It’s a bit of a stretch don’t you think?” Delphine asked distantly.

She was so unhappy. It was making Cosima's heart hurt. 

So, kissss me and smile for me,” she sang on loudly, ignoring her criticism. She leaned towards Delphine who cast her a half smile that might have been more to placate her than anything else. “Tell me that you’ll wait for me. Hold me like you’ll never let me goooooooooooo,” she went on, holding the note over the next verse.

“Do you not know how this song goes?” Delphine asked, managing a real smile this time.

“I’m taking creative license, OK?” Cosima told her. Delphine puffed out a chuckle and she grinned. “What, can you do better?”

Delphine glanced at her. “Oh, no,” she said, but she was grinning right back and Cosima continued to stare at her expectantly until she started singing soflty. “…so many times I let you down- you gave me a terrible part,” she complained immediately.

I’ll tell you now, they don’t mean a thing,” Cosima went on. “It gets better.”

Every place I go, I think of you,” Delphine went on softly. “Every song I sing, I sing for you.”

“When I come back, I’ll wear your wedding ring,” they sang together and soon they were both singing loudly and laughing at each other for the rest of the song.

“Hey, I’ll make up the couch tonight, OK?” Cosima told her when it was over. She leaned back on her seat, mapping out her fiancée’s outline in the dark and glad that she’d been able to cheer her up. “You don’t have to do anything. You drive, I deal with the accommodations. Everybody gets home safely,” she added with a smirk.

Delphine chuckled softly, glancing at her again before reaching out to run the backs of her fingers down her cheek. “OK,” she agreed.