Beth says that she has a type.
Cosima wants to deny it, she really does, but Beth rolls her eyes at her, looks pointedly in the direction of the club expo table where all the foreign students have gathered, because California attracts people from all across the world and their school is no different (especially considering they’re a school for the International Baccalaureate program) and points out that Cosima has had crushes on no less than half of the female students gathered there.
“Okay,” Cosima grumbles, eyes downcast, “I might have a type.”
She definitely has a type.
“Yeah,” Beth snorts, rolling her eyes, “ foreign and female.” So maybe she’d had a crush on Delphine Cormier for a little while, but Beth can’t hold that against her, it was arguably a moment of weakness in Cosima’s usually steel resolve.
She stares for a moment longer at where all the foreign students are gathered, and makes eye contact with one Sarah Manning, the current cause of all her gay-induced panic, and the roguish british girl smirks at her devilishly and winks . She fucking winks .
Cosima groans and sinks into the table, and Beth pats her back.
“You’re so gay,” she points out needlessly, and Cosima just whines, silently cursing whatever gods in existence for sending such unfairly attractive girls her way only for them to be so unfairly heterosexual―because she’s seen the way that Sarah flirts with Paul (granted, she thinks it might’ve been to steal his wallet, but it was flirting all the same), and really the universe is just laughing in her face at this point.
“I can get Ali to pull a few strings in student council,” Beth suggests, and Cosima perks up visibly at the suggestion, “get you to be her, what are we calling them? Guides? Monitors?”
“Something like that,” Cosima shrugs, “but, yeah, that’d be great, thanks, Beth, you’re the best.”
“You’re damn right I am,” Beth agrees, somewhat haughtily, before sending what Cosima assumes is a text to Alison, her girlfriend and the president of student council, who is in charge of these sorts of things, works hand-in-hand with the head bitch of the foreign exchange students, Rachel Duncan, who Cosima’s hated since she moved here.
Cosima meets her officially within the next hour, and Sarah’s even more attractive up close, and the heavy application of her eye makeup gives her a predatory look that makes Cosima want to make pitiful little keening noises that she tastefully represses because that’d be embarrassing.
She hears a voice that sounds distinctly like Beth resonating in her mind.
Keep it together, Niehaus, you gay disaster.
“Sarah Manning,” she greets, voice low and raspy and oh-so-british and fuck Cosima so has a type, holding out her hand.
“Cosima Niehaus,” she returns, holding out her hand, which Sarah readily takes, her grip firm, slender fingers wrapping around Cosima’s own, and Cosima tries not to hesitate too long on the thought of those slender fingers and what they could do, “it’s a pleasure.”
“Pleasure’s all mine,” Sarah practically purrs, and the vibrations of her voice send shivers down Cosima’s spine, goosebumps prickling up over her skin, and Cosima loses all track of the introductory shpeel Alison had made her memorize because the only word that surfaces in her mind is playing on a loop fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck―
She opens her mouth and closes it, doing her best impression of a fish out of water, and Sarah raises a single eyebrow, smirking, and Cosima realizes that she’s being teased , and Sarah Manning really is going to be the death of her.
“Well?” Sarah asks, expectantly. “Aren’t you going to show me around?”
Cosima quickly regains her footing and then the two of them are off, Cosima pointing things out to Sarah as they walk through the campus, listing off bits of trivia about the school and its faculty as they go, and Sarah listens attentively, eyes trained on Cosima in a way that makes it difficult to focus.
“When’re we meetin up with the others?” Sarah asks when there’s a pause in Cosima’s ramblings. “Told my brother I’d wait for ‘im.”
“Brother?” Cosima asks, after informing Sarah that they still have half an hour or so to kill until the new students reconvene in the auditorium for their orientation. “I only saw one Manning on the list.”
“Foster,” Sarah explains with a shrug, offering nothing else, and Cosima doesn’t press. Sarah doesn’t seem like the sort of person who willingly parts with their entire life story upon first meeting someone, unlike one Krystal Goderitch, so Cosima will just have to be persistent.
Cosima brings her to the auditorium, and Sarah looks her up and down once, appraisingly, and Cosima tries to ignore the way it ignites a fire in her.
“See you around, Niehaus.”
She hopes it’s a promise.
Alison has plenty to say about Sarah, later, when it’s her and Beth and Cosima sprawled out in Beth’s living room, grumbling about delinquency and wondering how someone with such an attitude had even managed to get accepted to such a program in the first place.
“She seemed nice when she was with me,” Cosima defends, and Beth rolls her eyes at her and Alison scoffs.
“Yeah, nice ,” Alison repeats, mockingly, “you were probably too busy drooling over her to notice that she stole not only Paul Dierden’s wallet―” so she’d been right about that “―but also managed, in the brief moment she was away from you, to set fire to some of Delphine Cormier’s research and knock Rachel Duncan off of her stool.”
Cosima’s expression goes far off and dreamy and Beth sighs.
“Shouldn’t have told her that, she’s halfway in love now.”
Anyone who can knock Rachel Duncan down a few pegs, literally , is the perfect human being, in Cosima’s mind, so really, Sarah Manning is a gift given to her by the gods. A very, very straight gift.
Fuck the gods.
Alison talks about her student, a strange girl from Ukraine whose english needed a lot of work and who eats more than should be physically possible for someone her size, but is, according to Alison, strangely sweet in her own, weird way, and Beth chimes in about her own girl from Finland, shy little thing named Veera who insists she be called M.K.
Cosima’s thoughts, however, drift to Sarah and her wild curly hair, and her leather jackets, and how agonizingly attractive she is…
It’s going to be a rough year.
Everywhere Cosima turns, Sarah seems to be there, leaning against walls, chatting with someone just around the corner, always sparing a moment to make eye contact with Cosima and smirk. The first couple of times it happens, Cosima trips where she’s walking in the hallway, tumbling into Beth’s side, but the other girl rights her without looking up from her phone.
“Stop tripping over yourself because you saw a pretty girl and watch where you’re going, Niehaus,” Beth sighs, shaking her head, “honestly, how you’ve survived this long is beyond me.” Cosima scowls at her, trying to regain her dignity, but when she looks up, Sarah’s already gone.
She’d thought that being Sarah’s friend was going to be a difficult thing, but it’s easy when Sarah is always there , waiting for her just around the corner, like a cat prowling in the shadows. Her eyes trace Cosima’s form lazily, drinking her in, and if Cosima didn’t know better, she’d think that Sarah’s checking her out―but Sarah’s straight , she knows this, the gods hate her, it’s a tragedy, really.
“What’s a girl like you do for fun around here?” Sarah asks, one day, after classes have ended, catching Cosima unaware as she walks out of calculus, bag clutched tightly to her chest. Cosima, surprised, yelps and stumbles, but Sarah is there to catch her, hands gentle at Cosima’s waist, Cosima’s shoulder.
“Klutzy, aren’t we?” Sarah chuckles, low and rumbling, into Cosima’s ear, and Cosima becomes acutely aware of how close they are, of how her body is pressing into Sarah’s, and how Sarah is somehow managing to support her entire body’s weight with just her arms and god that’s attractive.
Cosima flushes, color rushing to her cheeks and reaching all the way to her ears, and she moves to nervously push her glasses up the bridge of her nose as she steps away from Sarah, the other girl offering her a half-smile of sorts, not quite a smirk, but still an almost predatory edge to it.
“More so than usual, lately, it seems,” Cosima laughs, and she can hear Beth screaming at her, in her head, Niehaus, you gay disaster, you’re literally falling over yourself every time she so much as speaks to you.
“So?” Sarah prompts, and when Cosima stares, she rolls her eyes―an action that she finds entirely too endearing―and repeats her question. “What’s a girl like you do for fun around here?”
Cosima grins, suddenly, because maybe if she can’t handle Sarah like this, she can handle Sarah in her element.
“How do you feel about getting totally baked?”
“Cos, you’re speaking my language.” There’s a flurry of emotion at the nickname― Cos . It’s a new one. Beth calls her Niehaus, and her parents call her Zima, sometimes, when they’re feeling lazy or affectionate, and members of the robotics team and other math and science driven students call her coach sometimes, but nobody’s ever called her Cos .
It’s new, and it’s Sarah’s .
Cosima takes her back to her house and makes good on her promise. Her parents won’t be home until much later, and there’s no better way to get to know a person then with some good, home grown herb.
She wonders what kind of person Sarah is when she’s high. Cosima’s giggly, and very tactile, prone to going on long-winded scientific rants, much like herself when she’s sober, just amplified.
Sarah, as it turns out, is bold, and flirty, and wants Cosima dead.
“I really like your nose ring,” she says, seemingly out of nowhere, and Cosima preens at the compliment.
“Thanks!” she nods at Sarah’s industrial, on her left ear. “I like your piercing, too.”
“This isn’t my only one,” Sarah confesses, lowering her voice so it’s almost sultry, smirking almost suggestively.
“Can I see?” Cosima asks, unknowing that this is the question that will secure her doom. Sarah grins at her devilishly―she knows exactly what she’s doing―and winks .
“Alright, but just remember that you asked for this.” She crosses her arms across her chest and grabs at the hem of her shirt and begins to tug, revealing a bellybutton piercing and taut abs and oh Cosima’s an unholy amount of turned on right now, but she doesn’t stop there, she just keeps tugging and oh that’s lace and then―
Cosima’s suddenly very light-headed and it has nothing to do with the drugs, but because she’s just been made aware of the fact that Sarah Manning has nipple piercings , and she doesn’t know how to properly process that information when said Sarah Manning is sitting across from her, smirking at her, shirt still raised above her collarbones, and Cosima’s mouth is dry and other parts of her are uncomfortably… not .
Is this what it’s like to die? She thinks to herself. Is this some sort of divine punishment? Or am I already dead and in heaven? She steals another look at Sarah and amends her statement. Or hell. Either way.
“Like what you see?” Sarah purrs, and Cosima gulps, cheeks flaming, and Sarah laughs, finally taking pity on her and lowering her shirt. “Remember to breathe, Cos, can’t have my favorite American dying on me.”
Cosima sucks in a sharp inhale of breath and nods, wondering how on earth she’s going to explain this to Beth.
(Beth laughs at her and calls her a dumbass when Cosima tries to drown herself in Beth’s duvet, but brushes her fingers along Cosima’s back comfortingly anyways.)
“This is ridiculous,” Beth announces, Alison nodding from her position next to her, as Cosima stares hopelessly at Sarah’s instagram for what must be the eighth time in the hour alone, waiting for students to filter into the room for the GSA meeting, a club that Cosima heads, “you’re helpless.”
“Why do all the pretty ones have to be straight ,” Cosima groans, hitting her head against the desk, and Alison gently moves to place a cushion from the couch she and Beth are occupying in the path of Cosima’s continual projection, to protect her brain from further damage.
“There are plenty of cute gay girls at our school,” Beth scoffs, “we live in California , for Christ’s sake. Granted, not all of them are foreign, but beggars can’t be choosers, Niehaus.”
“You’re just saying that because you have a girlfriend,” Cosima huffs, and Beth smiles, somewhat smugly, tugging Alison closer into her side.
“Yeah, because unlike your sorry ass I actually managed to man up and say something about it.”
“She’s straight , Beth!” Cosima says, again, and Beth shoots her a look that Cosima doesn’t take time to interpret, because people start filtering in, and she has a meeting to run.
“It smells like repression and poor fashion choices.” She halts as she hears a familiar accent, albeit deeper. “I’ve found my people.” Facing her is a lanky teenage boy, the beginnings of lean muscle dusting his arms, hands tucked into pockets of dark jeans that are very tight and very ripped, tank top hanging off of his waifish frame in an effortless sort of manner.
His eyes, which are dusted with a light layer of dark eyeshadow, take a moment to drink her in, drifting up her form slowly, a small half-smile quirking at her lips, and Cosima takes a moment to consider the nature-nurture debate, because while they might not be related by blood, there is no doubt in her body that this is Sarah Manning’s brother.
“Now I get it,” he mutters, under his breath, and it’s so quiet Cosima might’ve imagined it, but then he’s grinning at her, teeth sharp and blindingly white.
“Felix Dawkins, darling,” he drawls, eyes dancing with mischief or something she can’t decipher, “pleasure to finally meet you, my sister’s mentioned you a fair lot.” Her curiosity is piqued, instantly, because Sarah talks about her, and oh god what does she say?
“Sarah?” he nods, and she hears Alison groan from her position on the couch.
“Oh goodness there’s two of them.”
Felix turns to her then, smirks.
“I’ll have you know that I’m a much better influence than my darling sister,” he informs her, waving gloved hands in the air, “I at least have the decency to make sure nobody’ll catch me before I steal shit.”
Cosima thinks Alison is praying under her breath, and she suppresses the urge to giggle.
“I came here for the gays,” Felix tells Cosima seriously, “but the joints I went to back in Brixton had alcohol. I don’t s’pose y’have any of that here?” Alison squawks indignantly, and Felix nods to himself. “Figures, you americans ‘n your bloody rules.”
Later, Beth raises an eyebrow and nudges Cosima suggestively.
“Don’t they say that being gay runs in families?”
“She’s straight , Beth, give it a rest.”
“I’m just saying,” Beth shrugs, knowing that Cosima is deep in her land of self-induced denial, “you sound a lot like those gossip rags that could literally see a picture of Kristen Stewart going down on a girl and headline it Kristen Stewart Bravely Helps Out Gal Pal and Makes Sure She Doesn’t Have a Deadly Vaginal Infection . There is such a thing as bisexuality, you know.”
“She just doesn’t seem like she’s gay,” Cosima shrugs, because she doesn’t want to get her hopes up, because why would she get so lucky for Sarah to like girls? And even if Sarah likes girls, what’s to say she likes Cosima?
“Niehaus, she showed you her fucking nipples.”
“She was high!”
“Yeah, I’ve been high with you before, and you’ve never seen my nipples, now, have you?” Cosima pulls a face at the mere suggestion, and Beth nods as if she’s proved some sort of point. “Exactly. Pull your head out of your ass and put your big girl panties on and just ask her out, Niehaus.”
Cosima whines pitifully, and Beth kicks her in the shins.
“Honestly, I deserve to be made a saint for putting up with your shit, you’re gonna give me ulcers, wrinkles, grey hairs. I’m going to look like I’m eighty by the time I’m twenty because you can’t get your shit together.”
“You’re the best and I love you?” it sounds more like a question, but Beth really is the best friend Cosima could ask for, and she nods as if that somehow makes up for some of the monumental pain Cosima has caused her.
“You’re damn right I am,” she agrees, “now either ask Manning out or stop mooning over her like some lovesick puppy, or I’m actually gonna kick your ass into the next century.”
“Alison wouldn’t let you,” Cosima calls her bluff, and Beth’s eyes narrow.
“Try me, bitch.”
An opportunity for Cosima, to, as Beth so succinctly puts it, get over it , arrives in the form of a mid-year pride festival, because California is just like that . Beth makes her a profile on Sapphire, dresses her in skinny jeans and one of her ‘ boho indie hipster tie-dye whatever the fuck shirts’ , and they split as soon as they enter the festival grounds.
“Don’t find me until you’ve gotten laid,” Beth instructs, and Cosima rolls her eyes at her before Beth links hands with Alison and pulls the other girl away towards the booths scattered around the grassy venue.
Her Sapphire immediately floods to life with matches, because she’s surrounded by single, good-looking, probably inebriated gay girls around her age and older, and she can’t deny the huge boost to her confidence but she can’t help the tug of disappointment that none of the faces that pop up are Sarah .
One of the girls catches her eye, though, someone from a rivalling high school named Shay, and she meets her at a lemonade stand. She’s pretty, and makes good conversation, and reads Cosima’s palm, but Cosima isn’t totally into it, even as she laughs as Shay tells her about the one guy she dated who insisted they high-five every time he felt some sort of connection.
“I need a bloody drink.” Cosima turns at the familiar voice, nodding when Shay asks if it’s one of her friends, and spies Felix from across the field, wearing nothing more than a rainbow flag as a cape of sorts and a very strappy, revealing get-up that Cosima doesn’t want to spend much time looking at.
“He seems fun,” Shay comments, and Cosima grins despite herself.
“Yeah,” she confirms, “he is―” Before she can say anything more about Felix, though, a familiar form trails after him and into view, and oh .
Sarah’s wearing ridiculously tight pants and a delicious crop-top that reveals her abs , her fucking abs , and her belly button piercing―and that makes Cosima think about the last time she’d seen the piercings, and suddenly she’s very lightheaded―a flannel tied around her waist, and there are stains of pink, purple, and blue paint on her cheeks, and a bisexual pride flag hanging off of her shoulders.
Somehow, throughout the masses, her eyes manage to find Cosima’s, holding her gaze with an intensity that Cosima has begun to associate only with Sarah, and Cosima feels pretty dizzy at this point and she can hear Shay murmuring something in concern but she can’t really hear her, and then Sarah smirks and winks , she fucking winks , and Cosima just―
She wakes up with an almost naked Felix fanning her with a piece of rainbow cardstock, and Sarah is standing over her, eyes filled with concern, yet a small, smug, teasing smile tugging at her lips. Shay’s standing to the side, somewhat awkwardly, as though she doesn’t know what to do.
“You alright, there, Cos?” Sarah’s tone is entirely too innocent, and Cosima’s eyes narrow, because this fucker knows exactly what she’s doing, and has the gall to act like none of it is her fault.
“Um, yeah, it’s just the heat,” Cosima tries to brush off, regain some of her dignity, “I haven’t been drinking enough.” Sarah presses a glass of lemonade into her hand― raspberry , Cosima notes, with a small degree of surprise, how had Sarah known it was her favorite?―and helps her up.
“I’ll take it from here,” Sarah tells Shay, almost coolly, an undertone of possessiveness in her tone that makes Cosima shiver, and Shay just nods before leaving. Felix makes himself scarce quickly, muttering something about dramatic lesbians and peacock of a bisexual sister .
“You’re alright?” Sarah asks again, genuine concern filling her tone, and Cosima nods, smiling at her softly as she sips at her lemonade.
“Now I am.”
They make their way through the festival for a while, laughing and making jokes, Sarah’s arm supportively braced against Cosima’s lower back, constantly at attention.
“You know,” Cosima says, after a while, “I thought you were straight.”
Sarah stops and stares at her as though she’s suddenly grown a second head, mouth opening and closing, before casting her eyes skywards.
“Cos,” she says, very slowly, “I showed you my bloody nipples .” Cosima flushes bright red, because Beth had said pretty much the exact same thing, and she feels like the biggest idiot in the world. “If I’d been coming onto you any harder I might’s well’ve been shagging you in the school bathrooms.”
Cosima blinks at her owlishly.
“You know,” Sarah sighs, “for someone so smart, you can be an idiot sometimes.” And then they’re kissing, wrapped up in one another, in the middle of pride―she doesn’t learn until later but Felix is recording it―and Cosima gasps, allowing Sarah easy access to deepen the kiss, her tongue sliding over Cosima’s own, mapping out the unknown expanses of Cosima’s mouth, hands at Cosima’s hips, brushing at the skin under her shirt, and Cosima keens , a primitive, needy little noise from the back of her throat.
They separate after a long moment, Sarah’s expression smug, Cosima gasping for breath.
“Wanna get out of here?”
Cosima can’t bring herself to be embarrassed by how vigorously she nods, not when it makes Sarah laugh so beautifully and kiss her sweetly before she tugs on her arm and leads her away.
Cosima wakes up the next morning, wonderfully sore, her legs tangled with Sarah’s own, arm draped over the other girl’s back. Sarah’s hugging her pillow, bare chest pressing flat against her bed, wild brown curls spread out like a halo.
She snaps a quick picture and sends it to Beth, not bothering to answer all the messages the girl has left her, and smiles when she sees her friend’s almost instant response.
Fucking finally .
Sighing contentedly, Cosima disentangles herself from Sarah before fishing through her closet and pulling on a pair of boxers and a London Calling shirt that is slightly too-big for her frame, padding down the stairs in search for coffee, or water, or maybe a bowl of cereal.
What she finds is Sarah’s foster mother, sitting calmly at the kitchen table, polishing her rifle .
“Good morning chicken,” she greets, paying no attention to the way Cosima has frozen in her tracks.
“Um,” Cosima pauses, “I’ll just―” she makes to leave, but Sarah’s mother clears her throat and she stops moving again.
“Nonsense.” She puts the rifle down, and Cosima feels much better after that. “My name’s Siobhan Sadler, but that’s a bloody mouthful, so you can call me Mrs. S, or just S, everyone does. How do you take your tea?” She moves to the kettle, before making up her mind on Cosima’s behalf. “Never you mind, sit down, I’ll make you something to soothe your throat.”
Cosima flushes bright red, and Mrs. S’s eyes are dancing with mischief that she can’t see, and she wishes the floor would swallow her whole because lord this is mortifying. Her mind wanders, as it did with Felix, to the nature-nurture debate, and she realizes, suddenly, that this is the woman she has to thank for all of Sarah’s teasing nature.
Sarah comes down the stairs herself as S hands Cosima her tea, strolling into the kitchen in a tanktop and shorts as though there aren’t visible scratch marks littering her back, and a quickly purpling bite park under her ear from when Cosima's gotten particularly excited.
“Good morning S,” she greets, accepting the cup of tea with a smile.
“It certainly seems to be for you two,” she harrumphs, and Cosima feels her ears heating up, “didn’t know I raised a bloody savage, you did quite the number on her neck.” Sarah smiles smugly, proud of herself, and this is the weirdest morning-after Cosima has ever experienced, but it’s also kinda the best.
“It’s called talent , S, and ‘s not like she’s bloody innocent.” Sarah motions vaguely to her back and her mother laughs, and Cosima flushes again.
“I’m picking up Felix, seems like he got himself stuck at some miscreant’s house across town, you two be good, and don’t defile any of my counters!”
Cosima makes eye contact with Sarah, mortified, and Sarah shrugs.
“S’s cool.” A wicked grin crosses her face. “Wanna defile the counters?”
“Don’t even think about it Sarah Manning!” S calls from outside the house, and the two of them dissolve into giggles, and as Cosima sips at her tea, she can’t help but think that this feels right .
Sarah smiles at her, blindingly, and Cosima knows she feels the same way.