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i wanna wake up with you all in tangles

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Turns out, Misty moves an awful lot in her sleep.  

Cordelia’s sleep is, as usual, filled with nonsensical dreams that drift form her subconscious. She lulls closer to light sleep for most of the night, constantly tugged from its grasps when the unfamiliar weight beside her shifts and wriggles against the mattress. At first a leg kicks her, then her pillow is knocked, and at one point she’s even sure Misty is hanging half way off the bed, a limp hand touching the hardwood floor.  

But most of these times she’s pretty out of it, eyes barely a slither in the dark. And Misty’s heavy breathing easily sends her back to slumber.  

That is, until one particular point at four am where she’s jerked awake by a new weight just under her ribcage. She grumbles out her confusion, lips smacking together dryly. Her eyes refuse to open at such an hour, until the weight moves again. It coils tighter this time, curling over her abdomen. Cordelia feels shivers run up her spine at the feel.  

It’s warm and soft, and Cordelia smiles happily into her pillow when her whole back is suddenly enveloped in heat. It smells like Misty’s perfume and strawberry shampoo and -  

This is the moment her eyes decide to fly open, even if the rest of her body remains perfectly still. She dares one look down, body tensing at the sight of Misty’s arm cradling her from behind, so she can only assume that it’s the Cajun’s torso that is currently flush against her back. Something nuzzles into Cordelia’s hair, a content noise muffled into it. 

Placing a hand over her beating heart, she seizes with panic. Does she wake her up? Surely, that will just send her into one of her weird moods if she realized what she was doing. That idea is quickly discarded. Her sleepy brain scrambles to think of what to do. She shouldn’t be letting Misty do this, even if she adores being cradled underneath that arm like it’s protecting her. Stop it. She’ll be upset if she wakes up.  

Misty makes a noise again, sucking in a sharp breath that exhales in a series of shorter ones.  

I can just move her, right? She’s fast asleep.  

Fingers gingerly begin to wrap around Misty’s wrist, grazing the material that covers them. For a moment, she considers something that makes her entire body heave with nausea. She loiters around the dark material, wanting oh so badly to tug it down and check the skin underneath for what she thinks is there on the girl’s wrists. But she doesn’t. She shouldn’t. The idea fights back, over and over, until she lifts the limp arm and begins to detangle it from herself. 

Its loss is immediately felt – just putting it back and basking in its presence is another whim she wants to treat herself to.  

Cordelia grimaces at her own selfishness, slowly navigating the arm over her body and spinning as she does so. Her movements are incredibly careful, not a single drop of air leaves her lungs as she concentrates as best she can with half open eyelids. The action leaves her facing Misty, now free from her gasp, but still incredibly close.  

The Cajun’s face is masked by hair that Cordelia brushes away without even thinking. Inwardly cursing herself, she tugs away her own touch and scrunches eyes closed, willing herself to sleep. She doesn’t dare move again, for fear of waking up her friend, so they sleep face to face; she tries to convince herself that this is better even if it’s driving her crazy every time she feels the ghost of Misty’s breath hitting her skin. 

Sleep doesn’t come as easily now, with her racing heart having awoken her bloodstream by a steady amount of adrenaline. Every so often, a chocolate eye peeks open and stares at Misty, just to admire the peace she wears in her features as she sleeps. Her porcelain cheeks and forehead sit smooth, devoid of worries.  

Closing her eyes once more, she sighs out and lets it hang in the night air.  

With determination, she begins to feel the throes of slumber clutching at her once more, grabbing her tense muscles. She relents, until more shifting sends her reeling back to reality. Dammit .  

This time, Misty’s movement isn’t alone, accompanied by muffled noises. “Mh, nghh.” 

Once again, she stands her ground and tries to sleep, even if the sounds are right by her ear. So close that she hears when Misty begins giggling to herself. She smiles. In the quiet of the night, the laughter is amplified by the four walls around them, angelic and soft.  

Then she moves again.  

And that damn arm is back, creeping over her midriff without an invitation while Misty inches nearer. Misty laughs again, right in Cordelia’s face.  

She peeks an eye open, just to be sure that either she hasn’t woken up, or if this is some hopeful and crazy realistic dream that’s having. Misty’s other arm smacks her in the face, right against her nose. Nope, this is most emphatically real. Cordelia moves the spare arm lower, rubbing at her nose with a grumble at the back of her throat.  

It dies on her lips in the next few seconds.  

Hmmmm, Delia.”  

Misty speaks her name softly, the corners of her lips twitching in sleep as Cordelia stares to her in both bewilderment and jubilation. She releases her tight grip from Misty’s arm in shock, once again debating her dream theory, before Misty says her name again. The Cajun has somehow inched near once more, her hot breath tickling Cordelia’s lips as words turn into slow, gurgling snores.  

Cordelia is too busy having a moral crisis to find an ounce of care about it.  

I should wake her up. She thinks over and over; it might be the only way to keep Misty from straying too near. . . but fuck, she wants her to. Her reluctant fingers begin to shrug Misty’s touch from where she’s glued herself to her abdomen; unfortunately for her the Cajun appears to find her way back in her sleep, returning it with another series of incoherent noises. Her heart just about spasms on the spot. 

She swallows the pool of saliva that’s gathered in her mouth and musters a shaky voice. “Misty.” 

All she gets is another snore.  

“Misty.” She says softly, voice calling out in a hoarse sing song that fails in waking the girl.  

But she does shift on her back, slightly retreating her arm even if fingers loiter over Cordelia’s skin. They twitch, roughly grazing her. Cordelia resists the urge to scream at the closeness, then instead uses the opportunity to gently nudge away the offending arm that is setting her tummy alight. Misty talks again, intelligible words that she can’t understand in such a stuporous state. Twisting, she lies on her back too, wincing at the cold it brings when covers allow air underneath.  

Misty falls silent other than the odd snore, and her arm remains limply beneath them. She stares at it for a moment, missing the feel of it around her. Then she sighs, altogether frustrated and lovesick before eyes close in hopes of finding solace in her dreams.  

It’s five in the morning when she’s knocked awake again by Misty against her, holding her tighter than before, like she’d missed the contact too. Cordelia doesn’t have the energy or the willpower to move her away this time. So, she lets her stay. And, as Misty snuggles in closer, she tries to keep the faint smile on her lips controlled, especially when the girl calls out her name again – still asleep, still dreaming, and still in the fondest of cadences.  

… 

The need to pee forces her out of bed earlier than she’d like, insistent and sudden, and she pads against the cold floor with eyes still half closed. Misty is still fast asleep when she returns, having sprawled out onto her side of the bed the first chance she got. She pushes limbs away enough to give her room to climb back into the inviting sheets, bleary eyes hovering over the girl.  

Misty is prettier than ever in the morning, with hair askew, skin so smooth and delicate that it almost doesn’t look real. She thinks she could stare for hours, and it’s awfully tempting, but she doesn’t want her creepy gaze to be the first thing she sees when she wakes up. So, she turns the television on, just loud enough to so she can hear the words. It distracts her enough, even as Misty twists and stretches beside her with sleepy mumbles.  

Her thought from last night swoops back into her mind without warning, how she’d almost told her she loved her. It brings both heat and ice to her chest at the very idea of the confession; of something she had been too scared to even admit to herself. Maybe she’s wrong. She’s never been in love before, after all. Her only romantic experiences extend to Hank and a couple of guys in middle school. 

Love is – it's big. It’s scary. It’s kind of making her feel nauseous.  

She peers at Misty once more, feeling the swell in her heart as lips sit parted with wispy breaths flowing out. All she wants to do is place sweet kisses along them, to wake Misty up slowly and with care by showing her those feelings.  

But all she can do is force her gaze right back to the TV, and Misty naturally wakes up about thirty minutes later. At first, she isn’t sure, seeing as she continues to give out tired sighs and mutters. Then she rolls so she’s facing Cordelia, eyes fluttering open and half scrunching when sunlight catches them. Cordelia laughs at the way Misty’s face pinches together against the light, offended and caught off surprise.  

She stands, adjusting the drapes so that there is some reprieve and Misty smiles happily against the now dark bed. “Thanks.” She says. Her voice is tight, raspy, like she needs to clear her throat. As Cordelia returns to her side, she leans further in the pillow and stares. 

Cordelia holds her breath, counting the seconds that the moment lasts, because if she stares back she’s sure she’d be invited to peek at Misty’s soul through those sapphire eyes. When she gets to fifteen, she lets out a long, shuddery exhale that scratches against her lungs. “Did you sleep okay?” She asks softly, for a lack of any other words.  

Through hooded eyes, Misty grins and nods, half smushing her face in the pillow with hazy content. “Hmmm.” She stretches out long legs, then her arms. “Your bed is real comfy.” 

She chuckles, feeling at ease despite the troubles she’d had with her own sleep. That reminds her. “You talk in your sleep, you know.”  

Misty’s eyes flash wider, confused.  

“I do?”  

“Yeah.” Light giggles fill the air between them. “A lot. And move.”  

There’s a pause, thoughtful and lasting. Misty frowns, dripping in concern. “I didn’t wake you up, did I?” 

“Only once.” She lies with a shrug. She doesn’t tell her about the continuing battle to keep Misty’s wandering arms to herself, but the idea brings a smile to her lips.  

At the sight of it, Misty gives her own smile, even if she begins to adopt a sense of nerves about her. She looks away, briefly, then back at Cordelia. “What did I say?”  

“Ah, I was kinda sleepy. But there was definitely something about a raccoon.” Misty guffaws into the pillow, eyes crinkling at the corners from her laughter. “And, um, did. . .” She halts, ready to stop this question in its tracks but Misty is already peeking at her again, waiting and curious and invested in whatever is about to come out of Cordelia’s mouth. “Did you have a dream about me?” The older blonde pushes out, her own inquisitiveness getting the better of her.  

Misty, instantaneously, tries to hide her darkening hues of red as best she can while she maintaining eye contact. “Uh.” She frowns, voice a squeak. “I don’t remember.”  

She huffs out a nervous laugh. “It’s just, you kept saying my name, is all.”  

A part of her wishes she could crawl into Misty’s mind and see the dream for herself, to know exactly what the reason for her appearance was. But she’s bitterly disappointed, especially when Misty shrugs, still frowning, and sighs. “Sorry. Don’t know.” When a small, apologetic smile is offered her way, she returns her own and swallows her chagrin at not being able to know.  

Beside her, Misty remains quiet for the next few moments. She continues to stretch limbs, then yawn. She checks her phone, yawning again, though Cordelia can see the way she looks to her out of the corner of her eyes every so often. It brings pink flooding into her own features. As Misty relaxes further, she sinks nearer to Cordelia’s side without noticing, hair falling on the girl’s upper arm and causing a frenzying itch.  

When she eventually has to scratch it, Misty tilts her head in confusion, only to grow sheepish. But she doesn’t shift away, and Cordelia doesn’t want her to.  

“Do you wanna do somethin’ today?” she asks as she lowers her phone, eyes meeting Cordelia’s.  

She nods easily. “Like what?”  

Misty shrugs, eyes bright and playful. “You decide.”  

“No, you can.”  

“But I want you to.”  

Cordelia warms at the tender way she whispers that out, at their closeness. She stares to Misty’s lips, a flicker of weakness, and wonders what it would be like to kiss her. Especially curled up cosy in bed like this.  

Misty giggles. “Delia?”  

“Hmm?” 

Those eyes transfix her as awful, and she smiles stupidly. “You kinda zoned out for a minute.” Misty grins, amusement lacing her words.  

“Just sleepy.” She covers softly, adding a yawn for effect. Cordelia pauses to think, even as Misty’s careful watch remains on her. She turns then, facing the Cajun directly. “We could go to the zoo, like you wanted? I haven’t been since I was a kid.”  

Misty, almost literally, jumps at the idea. She’s out of bed before Cordelia can even register, talking so animatedly that the older blonde thinks her words are coming out faster than her lips are moving. Her excitement is certainly contagious, and the very idea of going with her has Cordelia on her feet too, beginning to pick out some clothes for their day.  

She turns to Misty, who had been giddily asking what animals the zoo has, and offers a half smile. “Uh, did you want to wear something of mine?” An eye peers back into the closet, where the clothes are miles away from anything that Misty would ever wear. For a moment, she wonders if they’re even the same size. All of a sudden, Misty is right next to her, glancing too.  

Her lips pucker thoughtfully, then hands reach out and begin rifling through all of the hangers. “How do you have so many?” She teases, not turning her face because if she did, they would be mere inches apart.  

Cordelia pouts. “There's not that many.” 

“You have more than my entire family combined!”  

Its intended to be playful, if the sweet smile pushing against her lips is anything to go by, but Cordelia dips her head guiltily at the statement. Misty must notice. She watches her carefully, then shakes her head softly with a sigh, a silent confirmation that she hadn’t meant anything by her joke. She continues her search then, giving out a satisfied noise when she finds a pale, yellow maxi dress. Reaching for it, she treads delicate movements down the material, then grins at Cordelia. “Can I wear this?” 

“Of course.”  

Misty's cheeks widen with a smile, dimples poking in the corners. She shuffles past Cordelia to grab the dress, and the older blonde blushes profusely as she find some underwear for the girl to wear, thankful when Misty going for a shower gives her a moment alone.  

She picks out her own outfit, a flowery white sundress that she’s always loved. When she opens her drapes, warmth and light flood her vision; it adjusts quickly, allowing her sight of the multicolored flowers just below her window, to the blossom trees that litter the entire street. The pinks and yellows of the petals waltz in the wind, inviting her outside to join. Cordelia peers upwards where only the odd few fluffy clouds dare to hide the sun, and with a content sigh she decides that today is going to be a good day. 

By the time Misty is out of the shower, she has eaten her breakfast and left some food for the Cajun on the bedside table. Only some fruit and toast, but Misty's eyes light up when she sees them. “I don’t know what I’d do without you, Delia.” She says, seriousness hijacking her words. The profound nature of her statement seems to catch them both off guard, and Misty quickly stuffs the toast into her mouth to avoid saying anything else.  

Cordelia deflates, only slightly, before going to shower herself. The process takes longer than normal, seeing as she finds herself scrubbing every inch of her skin to cleanliness. Afterwards, she smothers her legs in lotion, inhaling the sweet vanilla smell. Her hair hangs lower with the water, waving ever so slightly. As she waits for it to dry, a small amount of makeup is applied. Not much, but just enough to cover the sleepiness in her expression and make herself look more presentable. Fiona would never let her leave the house looking anything less. 

By the time she's done, her hair is drying at the roots. She brushes it down, then blow dries it into wavy locks, and finally smiles at her appearance. She looks pretty, she thinks. With plump lips and dark eyes accentuated by the make up, her soft face framed by coiffed hair. For a moment, she wonders what Misty thinks of her appearance, then urges that thought away. What does it matter anyway?  

As she steps back into the room, Misty is humming out a song, sat cross legged on the bed. The dress bundles up around her, waves of pretty material. Upon seeing Cordelia, her singing stops and she makes to stand, eyes seeming to intensify while she stares at her for just a few seconds too long. “What?” Cordelia laughs, playing with the hem of her dress that sits a few inches above her knee. 

Misty stares there, too.  

“Nothin'." She insists, hurriedly.  

“Okay.”  

Unsure chuckles follow, not missed by the younger blonde whose smoulder quickly follows. “You look nice, is all.” Her gaze falters, for just a second, until it returns with vengeance. Cordelia feels like someone’s just kicked her in the stomach, yet she smiles gratefully anyway.  

“Thanks.” She approaches Misty, appraising the girl in her own dress. “Hey, it fits you pretty well.” She tugs on the small sleeve without thinking, fingers causing the slightest of shudders in Misty as they brush against the bare skin of her arm. Cordelia's eyes rake over her as secretly as she can, deciding that its a pretty perfect fit. Unlike most of Misty's clothes, the dress pulls in her waist and hugs small hips, giving her shallow and gentle curves.  

Misty flattens the material down with her hands, now covered in rings again. “It’s so soft.” She announces. 

The older blonde rolls her eyes fondly. She gathers a few of the essentials in her bag. “You ready?”  

There's a zealous nod, and it’s not long before the two are climbing into the car. It’s hot in there already, causing tiny beads of sweat to prickle at the back of her neck. She hurriedly opens the windows, allowing in gusts of refreshing wind as she moves off.  

Misty can hardly sit still in her seat. It’s awfully endearing, seeing her bounce and shake legs with untapped energy. Even music does little to keep otherwise preoccupied, so Cordelia hopes that conversation might do just the trick.  

“I had fun last night.” She offers with a half smile. “We should have sleep overs more often.”  

“Yeah.” Her nose crinkles up in that happy way that makes Cordelia’s heart melt. “I’d like that.” 

She smiles. “Maybe we could invite everyone else next time. Have a real slumber party, you know?” 

“Even Madison?” she queries in distaste. 

Cordelia gives a short laugh. “Well, whoever you want. It'll be fun. Maybe we could have one next weekend!”  

Her excitement dies moments later as Misty frowns, teeth tugging at her lips nervously. “Oh, I – I can’t.” The wind ruffles what was once combed hair, knotting the strands together. Misty doesn’t seem to notice. “We're goin’ back to Latanier for a few days.” 

She fails miserably at hiding her disappointment. “Well, that sounds nice.” 

Questions prod at the forefront of her mind, but she doesn’t have the ask them. Misty is all too happy to supply an explanation, clearly filled with sadness herself. “I guess so. It’s just for a christenin’ so it'll probably be real boring.” 

“Who for?” 

“Jackson's wife had the babies last week.” She gives a curt nod, seemingly disinterested in the whole affair. “A boy and a girl.”  

She does a double take at her expression. “Why the sour face? I thought you loved kids!” 

Misty offers a wry smile. “I do.” 

“Then what’s the problem?” she laughs. 

“I just. . . I don’t really wanna go back.”  

The quiet nature of her voice fills her with intrigue where laughter had once been, and it must hang on her expression as Misty’s forehead creases together in thought. “It's nothin' bad.” She backpedals, a fraught attempt to put Cordelia's curiosity at ease. “Only, I – " Misty closes her eyes with a frown, face bathed in pretty light that betrays the trouble on her features. “We're goin’ to our old church.” 

“Right.” She draws out, asking for further detail. 

She twiddle her thumbs together. “And there's this guy.”  

Her throat runs dry. Something tugs at her heart and she isn’t sure whether it’s pain or jealously, or a stinging combination of both. “Were you two. . .?” She can’t bring herself to finish that sentence over the bile that might rise in her throat if she does. Thankfully, Misty appears to infer its ending all too quickly, eyes flashing wide with panic.  

“Oh, gosh. No.” Skin paling, she all but balks at the very idea, and a sense of normality is returned to Cordelia's heartbeat. Misty winces. “It's not like he didn’t try, but let’s just say I was grateful when we moved and I didn’t ever have to see him again. Well, maybe now I do. . .”  

“Can't you just avoid him?” She asks simply, hope clutching at the syllables of her words.  

There’s a vehement head shake from Misty, lips pursed far too tightly together. “Our dads are friends.” Her eyes grow sad. “Ain’t no way to avoid him. Plus, I think my family secretly hoped that somethin’ would happen between us. They’d always be findin' ways to get us alone together.” Misty cringes, then glances over to Cordelia who has become a victim to her own overthinking. Her face oscillates between a small frown and a strained smile. When Cordelia's silence continues, she faces her fully, lips quirking. “You know, I’ve been prayin' to God that I can get the flu or somethin'. Just to get me out of it.” 

She turns, too. “Misty!” Laughter rolls off her tongue . “You shouldn’t pray for stuff like that.” 

“Too late. Already have.” She grins wickedly. 

Cordelia shakes her head in disbelief. “Doesn’t that make you a bad Christian if you use God for those sorts of things?” 

“Oh,  that’s  not the reason why I’m a bad Christian.” Misty states without missing a beat, words full of rue.  

Cordelia only has a second to register to tone and intent of those words before Misty is bouncing on the spot like a boisterous toddler.  

“Hey, we're here!” She points excitedly to the zoo sign, turning to Cordelia with a grin. “This is so excitin’.” The car has barely stopped before she’s jumping out, encouraging Cordelia to do the same thing. 

When she doesn’t walk fast enough to the entrance, Misty grabs hold of her arm and yanks her in that direction without an ounce of apology.  

“Hurry up.” She grumbles. “I wanna see everythin’.” 

“They’re open for another five hours. I think we'll be fine.” She laughs.  

True to her word, Misty pays, even if the tickets cost upwards of fifty dollars. She stands there, uncomfortably peering between the cashier and Misty, and wishing the stubborn girl would just let her pay her own way in. But there's a hint of pride to her features as she hands her the ticket and the map.  

Cordelia starts to appraise the map, trying to figure out an efficient route so that they don’t miss anything, but when she looks up Misty is gone. Eyes scan the area, moving past families and couples, and eventually landing on the girl stood in awe in front of the flamingo enclosure. She leans on the fence, so far that she moves dangerously close to falling in.  

She walks up to her, any reprimanding lost on her tongue as she sees the way Misty’s eyes sparkle in excitement. “They're so pretty.” She sighs, resting her chin on both hands as she admires them. Something catches her eye and she all but spasms on the spot, a strangled noise flowing from her. “Look, Delia. There’s a baby.”  

A hand points out straight at the smallest member of the flock, still covered in fluffy, white down feathers. It instantly brings a smile to her face. “It’s really cute.” She agrees. 

“I could just stare at it all day.” 

“And miss out on all the other animals?” she teases, raising an eyebrow. 

Misty instantly shakes her head, standing upright. “C'mon. Let’s find the bears!”  

“We have the map - " 

“We don’t need that.” She grins, breathless from her exhilaration. “Let’s just wander.” 

All instincts in her to plan and organize things are squandered by Misty’s expectant stare. The Cajun wears a smile, like she knows that Cordelia isn’t exactly one to let loose and go with spontaneity, but Misty brings that side out in her until she’s smiling, too and following her down the nearest path.  

Misty, naturally, shows her appreciation for each and every one of the animals they see, often pressed so close to the glass that her breath condenses on it, even in the heat of the day. Her phone remains present in her hand, glued there as it anticipates a new photo opportunity. She waits patiently for her to finish at each enclosure, realizing that she’s watching Misty more than she is the animals.  

The ones that pull most of her attention away, however, are the big cats. Cordelia stares with a faint and adoring smile at a snoozing tiger, feeling her heartstrings tugging. Its giant paw pushes against the glass, pretty much the same width as her entire hand. She watches the steady rise and fall of its chest, not noticing Misty’s eyes on her until the Cajun speaks. “I can take a photo of it, if you want.” She offers kindly, already unlocking her phone.  

Cordelia smiles, sweet and gentle. “You won’t have any memory on your phone if you carry on like this.”  

She shakes her head in the contrary and then lifts up the phone before she can even register, the flash going off in her eyes.  

“Why are you taking photos of me?” she half admonishes, but her laughter gives it away.  

Misty tilts her head. “Don’t you wanna be in one with the tiger?” 

“I’m not exactly camera ready.” she jokes with a dry smile. 

This causes Misty to still, narrowing her eyes and lips twisting into a smirk. She lifts the camera again, grinning. “That’s a lie.” And takes another photo, ignoring Cordelia’s petulant protests. Misty moves in nearer, eyes sparking even in the dim viewing platform. When Cordelia crosses her arms over her chest haughtily, she sighs softly. “You want one together?” 

Turning, Cordelia regards her like she’s just grown another head.  

Laughter quickly fills the silence and Misty playfully nudges her. “A photo, silly.”  

She swallows a sudden lump against her tightening throat, but nods nonetheless. One glance over to the tiger show that it’s still fast asleep, even having rolled over so its face nears the glass, too. Misty coos, inching that way. “C’mon, we gotta get that in.” Cordelia makes no complaints as she’s dragged over by insistent hands, that keep their firm grip on her arm even when they’re in position. Misty takes a few moments to find the right angle, but soon both of their smiling faces stare back in the lens, alongside the snoozing tiger.  

Misty admires the picture for a moment, a genuine smile reaching her eyes, before she locks her phone again. She glances up, her happiness consistent as it has been throughout the morning. If anything, Cordelia would say that it’s growing as the hours pass. “Where to next?”  

She tugs out the map, ignoring Misty’s playful eyeroll, a finger drawn across the crinkled paper. “I think we’ve finished this side. If we go this way, we can get something to eat near the giraffes.”  

“Sounds good to me.” Misty easy agrees, beginning to follow Cordelia’s lead. The zoo is bustling with people around them, as expected for a weekend. Over the sound of screaming children and chatting friends, they can hear sea lions barking and the squealing of monkeys. In the business, Misty hovers closer to her, shoulders grazing hers every so often. She turns to Cordelia, and the older blonde almost expects her to mumble out an apology, but no words come.  

Just a smile. One that she’s never quite seen before; a smile that makes her gut twist and her heart want to sing of professions of love. She smiles back, breathless.  

Food offers a distraction as always, and Misty seems all too happy to order whatever she wants under Cordelia’s offer of paying. The fries are a little greasy for the older blonde, but she eats them anyway and savors the sweet flavor of her ice cream as a reward. Misty couldn’t decide what she’d wanted, so now holds an ice cream in either hand, alternating in her licking.  

Cordelia observes her tongue reaching out to the ice cream for longer than she cares to admit, pretending that she is looking at the giraffe when Misty’s eyes catch hers. Already finished with hers, she places her hands on the barrier, leaning away slightly to stretch the ache in her back. Suddenly fingers are on her skin, namely the same part of her hand that she’d burned last night.  

Peeking at Misty, she finds that she’s doubled up the ice creams in her other hand to free up her left. “Is it painful?” She asks, a thumb brushing against the patch of red.  

“A little.” Cordelia shrugs, appearing far more nonchalant than she feels. “I put some moisturizer on it this morning.” 

She nods, though her eyes remain locked on the wound. “You know, I got some mud that would fix that right up for you.” 

Both her eyebrows skyrocket upwards, perplexed. “Mud?”  

“Yeah,” Misty beams proudly, completely oblivious to Cordelia’s wariness. “From the swamp. I use it for everythin’. I swear, it’s like a gift from God.”  

She chuckles, hoping that the besotted twist in her insides doesn’t translate onto her expression. “Well, if it doesn’t heal in a few days, I’ll come to you.” She grins. “For your mud.” 

Misty’s eyes darken playfully. “Are you makin’ for of me?” 

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it.” She says, equally impish.  

The Cajun scoffs, earning near enough a belly laugh from Cordelia. “Sometimes nature is the best healer.” She insists, sounding far wiser than her seventeen years.  

A long sigh happily leaves her lungs, alongside words that she doesn’t have time to filter. “You are so adorable.”  

Misty bows her head modestly, the ghost of a smile gracing her pretty lips that glisten with pink lip gloss. “You’ve called me that before.” 

“Because it’s true.”  

“You really think that?” 

She gulps, and bites the bullet. “Yeah, I do.”  

When it makes Misty’s smile grow in tenfold, she commends herself on making the right decision, even if queasiness squeezes her intestines. Misty lets the conversation lull, her content refusing the budge, and both stare out as the giraffe browse on hay nets. A tinge of pain surges all the way from the back of her hand, where she realizes Misty is still holding on, thumb rhythmically grazing circles around her burn.  

She wonders if someone saw them now, what would they think? Would they see them holding hands and assume they’re together? Would her fond eyes give her away all too easily? Is it bad that she wants people to think that? And that’s why she doesn’t make any move to lose the feel of Misty’s hand on hers.  

In the time they stand by the giraffes, Misty demolishes her ice creams with zeal, wiping her mouth with her free hand. The one on Cordelia’s wraps around it, pulling her away from the barrier. “We haven’t got much time left.” She whines, “and we ain’t even got to the swamp bit yet.”  

Cordelia stares down at their joined hands, grins, and lets Misty lead her anywhere.  

The contact is gone as soon as they near the alligators; Misty all but bolts in the direction and suddenly turns back to her with a grin. “Delia, come quickly!” She beckons with her hand, bouncing giddily. “They’re feedin’ ‘em!” 

She quickens her pace, moving to stand flush next to Misty as they watch the alligators fed chunks of meat. Cordelia grimaces at the sight of it, in contrast to the way Misty’s eyes widen delightfully. When they’re finished and the reptiles return to the murky waters, Misty continues to gush with glee. 

“That has gotta be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” She pouts. “That guy who gets to look after them is so lucky.” 

They slow in front of the raccoons, both staring at the fluffy creatures. “Maybe you could do something like that.” Cordelia offers.  

Misty leans her head in confusion. “Feed ‘gators?”  

“No.” She laughs. “Be a zookeeper. You love animals.”  

Pausing, the Cajun’s eyes glaze over with thought. “You think I could do that?” She peers at her unsurely, but optimism shines through.  

“If you don’t mind smelling like animal poop all day.” Cordelia grins, scrunching up her nose at the rather pungent aroma that wafts in the air.  

“Oh, that wouldn’t bother me.” Misty’s voice is soft, dreamy, as she dares to think of her future. Cordelia relishes in every second of her happiness, then moves eyes back to the animals. She smiles to herself.  

The smile remains there as they appraise the last of the animals there is to see, the meander over to the gift shop where the temptation to buy anything and everything is all too much. Misty disappears the minute the step inside, lost amongst the families who argue with children about how much they’re allowed to get.  

Cordelia moves to the quieter corner, where bird spotting books litter the walls. She idly flips through them, admiring the varying and impressive plumages that stare back at her. With Misty not around, she secretly buys one for her birthday; the date isn’t until July, but she’s a creature of organization and she knows Misty will love it, either way.  

By the time she reunites with her friend, she finds her oogling over the soft toys. “Hey.” 

Misty turns at her greeting, grinning. “Thought I’d lost you for a second.”  

“You can’t get rid of me that easily.” Her smirk leads way to a questioning look. “Are you gonna get one?” She points to the alligator plush that Misty keeps touching and sighing over.  

“It’s twenty five dollars.” She grumbles.  

“Ah.”  

The disappointment is palpable, but she shrugs. “C’mon, let’s go.” She turns on her heel, beginning to make for the exit. It’s almost five, and the last of the zoo traffic make their way from the gates, including them.  

Once they’re sat in the car, both sigh in exhaustion, stretching out legs and taking a moment to enjoy just being motionless. She observes Misty on instinct. “I think you’ve caught the sun a little bit.” She smiles, leaning over to point to her pink cheeks and nose. Faint, barely there freckles little the skin of both.  

Misty deepens the red with a blush that Cordelia pretends not to notice, even if it causes her to frown in question. Why is Misty blushing because I touched her?  

When she gets barely a response, she gives something close to a smile and moves to fill the car with music. The drive isn’t long, barely thirty minutes, but it’s enough to have Misty dozing in the passenger seat by the time she arrives at her house. She stirs as the car comes to a stop, rubbing at sleepy eyes. “We’re here already?”  

“Afraid so.” She chuckles.  

There’s a slowness to Misty’s actions as she begins to grab her things from Cordelia’s car, like she doesn’t quite want to leave. She hovers by the open door, teeth tugging her lips inwards. “I - this has been really fun.” 

“Yeah.” She agrees, turning off the engine so she can hear Misty’s quiet voice that bit clearer.  

“Well.” The Cajun hesitates. “I’ll see you around.” 

Cordelia nods, the sounds of the swamp surrounding them. She’s beginning to grow quite fond of that. She calls Misty’s name from where she was beginning to retreat. She turns, eyes curious. “I know that school is closed next week, but Miss Snow said I could go in to water the plants.” She informs with a daring smile. “You can always come. We’d practically have the whole school to ourselves.” 

Misty’s eyes light up. “Maybe I could come before we go back home.” 

“Hmm.” She blinks. “How long are you away for?”  

“Five days.”  

Five days? ”  

Her incredulity brings giggles to Misty’s lips, even if the prospect of being away seem to shroud her demeanor with sadness. “I know.”  

“Well, that’s settled then. I’ll pick you up Monday and we’ll go in, right?”  

As relief fills her features, Misty grins. “Yeah. I’d like that.” She appears happier as she makes to leave this time, her shoulders carrying a little less weight. But she only gets half way up the drive before she stiffens, dropping all of her bags to rifle through them.  

Forehead knotting together, Cordelia watches with her mouth gaping open. Has she forgotten something? Misty pulls an item from her backpack; a brown, paper bag, and twists so fast on her heel that she almost doesn’t stop. She rushes back in the direction of the confused blonde, who winds down the window and stares in puzzlement.  

Misty holds out the bag, slightly out of breath. “This is for you.”  

“For me?” She doesn’t take it.  

A stubborn hand forces it nearer. “Yep.” She grins. “Go on, look inside.”  

This time, trepidation creeps inside of her suddenly heavy chest, and she moves closer to accept the small bag. Peering inside, her face bursts into an appreciative grin as Cordelia pulls out the small tiger key ring, a spitting image to the one she’d admired at the zoo. “Hey, when did you buy this?”  

There’s a coyness to Misty’s expression then, a half smirk that she wants to feel pressed against her own lips. “You did disappear.” She laughs. 

“I -” She moves the fluffy keyring between her fingers. “I don’t know what to say.”  

Misty’s face drops. “You said the tiger was your favorite. . .” 

She rushes to put Misty at ease. “It was. And I – I love this, but you didn’t have to get me anything.” 

Misty smiles again, knowing. “It’s a thank you.”  

“For what?”  

“Just.” She peers down to the ground a first, a foot scuffing over the dirt. Then, a set of piercing blue eyes find their way into Cordelia’s vision and refuse to budge. “Just a thanks. For everythin’.” The longer Cordelia continues to stare in wonder, the wider Misty’s smile until it’s spread all the way across her beautiful face.  

Cordelia’s sigh is as wistful as it gets. “Well, thank  you .” She points to the keyring, but that’s not what she’s thanking her for. Misty grins either way, fingers uncurling from where they’d been holding onto the open window frame.  

The pair seem all too content to just simply stare at each other, only severed when a voice behind the Cajun calls out her name. She jerks upwards, frowning. “That’s my Daddy. I better go.” She begins her third attempt at leaving, throwing over a hurried. “See you Monday!” 

“See you Monday.” Cordelia whispers out, fingers curling around Misty’s present.  

She was right. Today has been a pretty good day indeed.