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i wanna wake up with you all in tangles

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“Are you sure about this, Misty?” 

Her fingers are glued to the steering wheel, squeezing and pinching to keep her body here in reality and not swept away with her thoughts. Or worries, for that matter. Beside her, Misty is scrambling through her backpack with furrowed eyebrows, producing a carton of eggs as a smirk steadily makes its way onto her lips. When she spies Cordelia’s expression, she falters.  

Well, for all of a few seconds before her resolve returns with a swift whoosh of intensity. “One hundred percent. He’s an ass.” 

Cordelia wholeheartedly agrees. But her stomach twists and pulls with a lack of nerve, and she wishes that Misty could share some of hers. Even the tiniest transfer of courage would be appreciated, because she sits frozen with fear and trepidation tugging her shoulders further and further down.  

Now with a bag of flour in her left hand, Misty settles a look on her, hard and yet soft at the same time. “Don’t you wanna do this?”  

She does. She really does .  

Her heart still stings with betrayal, throbbing every so often just to remind her that she isn’t wanted, something Hank oh so plainly believes. Or they wouldn’t be parked here outside his house, plotting a wicked idea that makes her insides gurgle with dread. Not for Hank. Fuck Hank. But the prospect of getting caught lingers around the edges of her mind, not prominent, but there. Enough to give her pause.  

Then she’s looking to Misty, feeling the anger radiating off of her friend. Should she be fizzing so violently with anger too? Because right now she’s sure she reeks of fear, embarrassingly so, and she fears the eyes of judgement.  

Misty’s pointed expression relents, pretty features melting to one of compromise. “We can go home, Delia.” She shrugs, never letting her eyes falter. There’s care in her blue orbs, that stretches out and wraps Cordelia in a shroud of comfort, so much so that her fingers begin to ease their grip on the wheel, one by one.  

She shakes her head. “I don’t wanna go back.”  

The Cajun grins widely. 

“And we did drive all this way . . .” 

Said smile spreads so wide that she’s sure Misty’s cheeks must be aching with exertion. Suddenly another carton is thrust into her hands with such force that she fumbles and almost drops them. How many things did she buy?  Misty is hastily exiting the vehicle under the cover of dark, throwing her hood up as far as it will go.  

Cordelia follows suit, feeling lost in the baggy hoodie that Misty has lent to her, but the smell of her friends lingers in the material. Another comfort, enough to bolster her courage. She quietly closes the door and creeps down the street with knees knocking nervously together.  

“You sure this is his house?” Misty is close, dizzyingly close, with hair strewn out of her hood in every direction as it fails to keep it under control. They come to crouch just outside one of the large residences, a sickly wash of familiarity flooding over her like the tide.  

She nods. “Yeah.” Then she points BMW sat unsuspecting on the driveway. “And that’s his car.”  

That’s all that Misty needs to know before she’s rushing over there in long strides, and Cordelia follows like an obedient puppy. Her nervous eyes dart back and forth to ensure that there are no witnesses, so lost in hiding their actions that she doesn’t notice when Misty comes to a halt and slams straight into her back. Strong fingers steady her, then move up to her shoulders. “You okay?” She asks sweetly, voice low and concerned.  

She peers up to Misty, feeling her fingers clutch around the egg carton as though It's her last lifeline. Nestled under her crossed arms, she hopes that she hasn’t cracked any yet, but realizes it’s the least of her concerns. She’s not here to be a wimp, she’s here to show Hank exactly what happens when he cheats on Cordelia Goode.  

“I’m great,” she says through tight teeth.  

The rage that she’s been supressing the past day begins to bubble up, ever so slowly, but this time she makes no effort to stop it. She embraces it, encourages its ascent until her chest burns with rage and aches of its own volition.  

She feels an egg placed in her fingers, Misty’s black nail polish blending in with the dark night. “After you,” she smiles, teeth flashing out between pink lips that quickly pucker in a way that leaves Cordelia staring.  

With a visibly gulp, she closes the gap between her and Hank’s car. One final glance around, just to satiate her own paranoia, and then she throws the egg. It falls against the windshield in a satisfying splat, trailing down in a gooey mess that has maybe more strength and control than her own shaky feelings. Bewitched by the scene before her, she sucks in a breath. Then, she smiles.  

It only grows tenfold as another egg trapezes past her, hitting the roof instead. Shell and yolk splatter in a pretty display of something pretty akin to justice. She turns, whiskey eyes catching cerulean, before both friends each turn to the task at hand. Eggs begin flying in a non-stop assault and bringing a symphony of bangs that free the weight from her shoulders. She experiences a freeing wash of exhilaration, of euphoria – of pure fucking glee.  

One by one the eggs meet their destination, and then Misty is tearing open a bag of flour so hurriedly that she does it with her teeth. Ignoring the drops that drift onto her clothes, she throws the entire thing over the car, shaking the paper bag with more determination than Cordelia has ever witnessed. She laughs as she does so, and then Cordelia is laughing too, drunk with giddiness. She doesn’t care that their cackling might alert to the treacherous task they’re pulling off; all she can think about is that she’s with her best friend, and this is the most fun she’s had in  months

“Well, that felt damn good.” Misty steps back, haphazardly brushing the rogue flour from her hands. It only succeeds in spreading to her clothes.  

Cordelia beams, jumpy with adrenaline, and admires their work with the uttermost pride. With a sudden spontaneity that she’s unfamiliar with, she’s shakily reaching over the bonnet.  

“What’re you doin’?”  

She turns, eyes glistening and a smirk planted firmly on her lips. “You’ll see.” Her index finger connects with the screen, dragging over the congealed mess of eggs and flour as she writes her message against the cold glass. Misty lingers near, observing with interest. Suddenly, eyes widen and Cordelia catches sight of alertness in those pupils.  

The Cajun stiffens. “Fuck, someone’s comin’.”  

Without warning, she yanks hold of Cordelia’s arm and tugs her alongside in a mad sprint back to the car. As Cordelia dares a glance back, she sees lights flooding on in the house, and registers someone hollering over the sound of her own blood pulsing like a steady drum in her ears.  

They scramble into the car together. She can’t get the key in fast enough, tyres screeching as the vehicle surges into action and away from the scene of the crime. As they’re speeding away, she grins happily at the sight of  Fuck you  written across Hank’s windshield. 

… 

“You were right.”  

Misty cocks an eyebrow, head tilting over the cushion of blonde hair she’s currently sat on. The moon highlights her features in a mix of lines and shadows, but her eyes remain as bright as ever, dilated and as blue as the most tempting of oceans. “Huh?” 

She grins, almost shyly. “That was really fun.”  

This seems to breathe another lease of life into Misty, who bustles with pride and laughs softly. It floats out against the night air with wisps of her white breath. Cordelia watches, besotted. It’s nice out here with Misty, just the two of them. Don’t get her wrong, she loves all of her other friends at High School, but there’s something about the Cajun’s presence that she feels allows her to just be herself. No games, so acting, just her and Misty.  

Then, the mood is dampened slightly.  

“I don’t know why you dated that dick.”  

She pauses, thoughtful. And maybe a little annoyed. Okay, maybe him cheating on her is something that she should have seen coming, but blissful ignorance definitely played a part in their relationship. Still, the judgement bites at her insides unpleasantly, a disapproval is unwavering in its nature. Misty is almost glaring now, eyes boring at Cordelia’s lying figure.  

The older blonde doesn’t look at her – she can’t. Is it shame? Embarrassment? Cordelia doesn’t know the answer to that; however, she does know that she has to stand by her decisions, stupid or not.  

“I don’t know, he used to be sweet.” 

Misty scoffs, rolling her eyes. “Wasn’t anythin’ sweet about him. He was playin’ you.”  

She bristles then, a wounded glare making itself known to the Cajun, who somehow manages to hold her own. “You didn’t know him like I did,” she tries, “I loved him.” Even as the words leave her mouth, she wishes she could sound more convincing.  

Next to her, Misty turns in her direction, knees knocking against Cordelia’s as they lay stretched out over the bonnet of the car. She looks apologetic, no – she’s filled with sympathy, and that irks Cordelia more than it should. 

With the long sound of a sigh being inhaled and then forced out of her lips, she shrugs. “You’ll understand when you get a boyfriend.” 

Nothing but silence is offered from Misty then and this prompts Cordelia to gaze her way, eyes locking with her friend's in a quiet quest to read her thoughts. She doesn’t succeed, only leaving herself more confused by Misty’s sudden demeanor change, especially as she curls in on herself. She ignores the terse energy she’s lay out before them, because that’s all she can do in the moment, and she looks up to the sky. Light pollution skews the sight, but she can make out some of the stars watching over them.  

As the wind glides between them, it leaves a cold clasp in its wake and she shivers involuntarily. Misty does catch this now, lips twitching with a smile. She reaches for the hoodie that Cordelia had thrown off due it being doused in flour and offers it out. “Thanks,” she smiles, easily slipping into it and patting away the white dust that clings stubbornly. “I’ll have to wash this for you.”  

“Oh, you don’t have to,” Misty starts, as usual.  

Cordelia feels her tension drift away along with that nervous energy and they’re back to being best friends again. “It’s the least I can do.” She turns her eyes away from the night sky and rolls onto her front, swinging legs up behind her. Misty’s eyes drag down her entire body then back to her face, tongue darting from pink lips for just a moment.  

She sits up, stretching toned arms over her head and sighing. “What if your mom sees it?” 

“She won’t ask about it. . .” she says. She hopes. “I can just say I dropped flour over myself in home ed.” 

“One problem.” Misty grins. “You are a terrible liar.”  

Mouth falling open, she elicits a tiny gasp. “I am not.”  

Misty erupts into giggles at the sight of it, a small shake of her head following.  

“Why am I a bad liar?” She pouts.  

“Your voice goes all nervous and you can see it in your eyes.” 

This gives her pause, scrutinizing Misty under a blank stare that grows more intrigued by the minute. “My eyes?” Under her gaze, Misty shifts. Eyes widen and squint on repeat as unknown thoughts run across her features.  

Her words are gravelly, straining against resistance in her throat. “Yeah. I dunno what it – I can just . . . tell.” She ends lamely, bowing her head.  

“So, I can’t keep any secrets from you?” Her words are innocent, but come across as something much deeper. A feeling tugs at the pit of her stomach, spreading like roots until all her insides are tangled in the tightness.  

Misty smirks. “I’m afraid not.”  

She watches her friend, not realizing how focused she is on her lips until she’s snapped back into reality with another chilling gust of wind. Despite its icy clutches, she is thankful for the interruption, suddenly feeling irritatingly hot. “How do you know I’m not keeping secrets from you already?” 

“Me?” She laughs, all pretty in her southern cadence. Cordelia swoons, and then firmly presses her lips together for fear of saying something altogether stupid, or friendship altering. “Thought I was your friend?” She teases.  

“Well, have you told me all your secrets?” 

The ease slips from her face, contrasted with wrinkles and hard lines. “I don’t have any,” she says, too seriously, too quickly.  

Any laughter dies on Cordelia’s lips. But, ever too keen to change the mood, she sighs. “I’ll tell you one thing, Misty Day.”  

There it is, that smile again. It brings a grin onto her own lips. “Go on.” 

“When I found out about Hank cheating,” she pauses, suddenly finding the cold metal of the bonnet interesting, “I guess I did feel betrayed.”  

Misty blinks, voice gentle as she asks, “but?” 

“But, I also felt kind of relieved.” 

“Oh.” 

“Hmm.” 

“Really? I thought you guys were  so  happy together.” There’s a bite in her words, and Cordelia settles it with a glare.  

Hands subconsciously rise to cross over her chest, taking hold of her arms in a hug. “Things were okay. They weren’t bad or anything, and he was always nice to me.” She feels a twist in her stomach as she starts to gather the next few words, an ongoing debate as to if she should. It’s Misty. She won’t tell anyone. “And, if I’m being completely honest, I think I was starting to have feelings for someone else.” 

Now, Misty joins her in sitting upright as Cordelia seems to hold every ounce of attention that the Cajun has. “Who?”  

You.  

She blinks, and chokes down that word. It slides painfully until it sits heavily on her lungs. Cordelia turns away, a half-smile on her lips that catches the moonlight in a way that has Misty’s gaze intensifying.  

Misty chuckles, nervously so, all the while leaning in closer. “Come on, tell me.”  

It's all so tempting, too inviting, but any semblance of courage she thinks she could summon cowers inside her. And all she can do is sigh. “It doesn’t matter.”  

Misty’s doesn’t look disappointed as she’d expected, but only locks her jaw in thought. She eyes Cordelia for a few more moments then turns to look at the town from their perch, shivering in her thoughts. When a yawn follows, Cordelia stiffly climbs off the front of the car and stretches her legs. One glance at her phone tells her that it’s later than she’d thought, and she smiles at how easily time passes with Misty there.  

Turning around, she spies Misty is standing too, hands running through her dishevelled hair as she tries to renew some energy. It doesn’t work, and on the drive home she watches the way she sits with hooded eyes, mouth falling slightly open.  

Cordelia clears her throat, forcing Misty to peer up at her, through fluttering eyelashes. 

“Yeah?”  

“Thanks.” She says, keeping her eyes on the road, because she thinks if she looks at Misty, she might want to blurt out more. “Thank you for tonight. I really needed that.”  

Misty grins, stretching long legs out and mewling like a cat. “Hmm, ‘s no problem. Anything for you, Delia.”  

That should bring a smile to her own lips, but it merely elicits a strangled noise that snags against the roof of her mouth and refuses to look any further. Misty stares, eyes questioning.  

By now, however, she’s pulling into their stop. The lights of Misty’s home call out in the distance, signalling that someone is still up, unsurprisingly. From the sounds of it, there’s a lot of foot traffic from her older siblings and Misty staying out until almost midnight is hardly shocking for the Day clan.  

Cordelia lingers, as she always does. “I could drive closer, you know.”  

“No.” Misty replies, rehearsed. “I can walk from here.” The embarrassment that flows from her is hard to miss, and it does its usual job of making Cordelia feel guilty.  

“But it’s dark.”  

“We ain’t got neighbors for a while. I’ll be fine.” She’s already slinging her bag over her shoulder and reaching for the hoodie that Cordelia has shed in the warm car. A slender hand takes hold first, refusing her.  

The older blonde smiles. “I told you, I’ll wash it.”  

She doesn’t argue, instead flashing a brilliant smile.  

“Okay,” she laughs, “night, Delia. Get home safe.”  

“You too.” Her words are serious, nervous, as though Misty’s house isn’t sitting a few minutes away. But the walk unnerves Cordelia, as she sits and watches her disappear down the dirt path, a canopy of trees on either side of her. About half way down, she turns. A small hand rises, giving Cordelia one last fleeting wave before her head is bowing, almost sadly, and she’s continuing her retreat.  

Cordelia stays there until her eyes strain against the dark. She spies light flooding out of the front door as it opens, and allows her to have a breath.  

Finally, she drives away, reflecting on her strange night. 

… 

The weekend gives her a chance to think some more, when she’s not catching up with the demanding amount of homework her senior year brings.  

And before she has time to even blink, she’s back at school on the Monday, bustling her way from math to history. She spies Misty in the hallways a couple of times, offering her a small wave and as much conversation one can get in a couple of minutes, but it’s not until lunch that she gets to see her properly.  

Being the President of the gardening club (yes, that’s a thing and something she’s actually pretty proud of), she usually spends her lunch hour in there. She waters and tends to the plants, sometimes she even talks to them. Cordelia is pretty good at convincing herself that she gets more sense out of plants than she does most people. 

Today, as well as Thursday, is one of the days that Misty helps her, too.  

She smiles at the sound of the door opening, not even having to turn around to know it’s the Cajun. “Hey,” she greets happily, lowering the watering can slowly onto the desk.  

Misty smiles in return, lowering her tattered bag to one of the chairs and showing Cordelia one of the plants she found on the way to school. It’s quickly placed in her “orphanage” - a series of wilting and battered plants that earn extra attention from the blonde.  

They chat easily and softly, with glances here and there when the other one isn’t looking. Cordelia eventually remembers the hoodie in her bag, pulling out the neatly folded item and passing it to Misty with a smile. “How’d you get it so soft?” She asks, rubbing it softly against her face and smiling with content. 

A laugh falls over her lips. “Must be the fabric conditioner Fiona buys. I can find out which one, if you want.” 

“Sure,” she shrugs, suddenly less interested. 

Cordelia spies the way she’s lowered the hoodie and a hand now idly runs over the gold cross around her neck. She places a hand on Misty’s shoulder, transporting the girl from where she’d disappeared into her thoughts. “How was church this weekend?” 

Eyes widen and she stiffens under Cordelia’s touch. For some strange reason, the question always brings a strange air about it before she relaxes into herself once more. “Oh, you know. Same ol’ stuff.” 

She nods as though she does know, but as someone who was raised with a lack of religion, she feels like she’s lost at sea without a lifeboat at the mention. Still, she tries, for Misty. “Hmm.” 

And then, expertly so, Misty is finding a way to avert the conversation in another direction, one she’s all more comfortable with. “I actually found a dyin’ bird on the way back. Tried to take it home and help it.” 

“That’s nice of you,” she smiles genuinely, appreciation for the kind soul that Misty is.  

But that sentiment isn’t shared as Misty looks blanky ahead, face devoid of, well . . . anything. 

She continues to rub her thumb over the cross, as if in some silent prayer. “My daddy shot it.” 

The color drains from Cordelia’s face, and she’s hugging Misty without even realizing she’d gone to do it. “I’m sorry, Misty.” She sees Misty blink away the shining tears that teeter in her eyes, then holds her tighter. Hands reach up to wrap around the small of her back and keep her close.  

“It's okay.” Misty mumbles sadly. “I guess it ain’t sufferin’ anymore.”  

She pulls away from the hug all too quickly, leaving Cordelia’s skin crying out for more. She resists its calls, barely, but her hands does manage to find Misty’s as the younger blonde speaks.  

“He was so angry. Made me pray for an hour after dinner.”  

Cordelia frowns, eyes narrowing. “You were only trying to help.” As Misty’s silence continues, she tries to eradicate it with a short laugh. “It’s a good thing he didn’t find out what we did on Friday then.” 

She smiles then, even if it is shyly so. “Yeah,” she dares to laugh too. Standing, she tries to busy herself with pruning some of the plants while Cordelia lingers nearby. “In the grand scheme of things, though, I guess what we did ain’t so bad.”  

“No?”  

“Nah,” she gives a soft shake of her head, “when my brother was doin’ drugs, he only had to do all the chores for a month.” 

She peers curiously at Misty, enjoying that she’s sharing a part of her life that no one gets to see.  

Misty continues, unaware of her thoughts. “And my sister almost had a baby outta wedlock, which I’m sure Daddy would have shunned her for.” She smiles then, “thank God she had the sense to get married. I’d have missed her.”  

Having no siblings, Cordelia only nods in empathy and nothing else. She doesn’t understand the idea of missing someone that way; she barely even misses when her own mother goes away for work visits. Solitude is something that she’s grown all to accustom to. She regards Misty with growing interest, wanting to know more about her siblings, about her relationship with them. Maybe she’ll let her in - maybe one day she’ll actually be able to go her house.  

She grins. “Well, it looks like you’re pretty safe then. Seems your dad is pretty forgiving.” 

She’s nodding quickly then, humming a soft tune under her breath for a moment. “Yeah, it ain’t too bad.” 

Cordelia smiles, too.  

“If he wouldn’t kick you out for drugs or prenuptial babies, surely you’re safe.” 

Until Misty says something that brings all serenity in the room crashing down around her.  

“Only thing he’d kick me out for is being a dyke.”  

The way the word falls so easily, so innocently from her lips, causes Cordelia to splutter over her reluctant response for a matter of a few seconds. Misty stares, confused. “What’s wrong?”  

“Misty,” she breathes, “that word. . .” 

“What? Dyke?”  

She winces, eyes closing. “Yes. You shouldn’t say that.”  

Her face scrunches up in bewilderment, features pinched tightly together. “Why? Are you . . .?” 

No!” she says all too quickly, hands slamming down on the counter so hard that Misty jumps. She continues to stare, waiting for an explanation for something that is clearly normal to her, and all of a sudden Cordelia realizes that maybe she doesn’t want to know about Misty’s family as much as she thought she did. “I just – that's not a very nice word, Misty.”  

She bows her head. “It isn’t?” 

Cordelia is vehemently shaking her head, finding herself inching away from Misty with a tight pain in her chest. She tries with all her might to ignore it. “You might offend someone.” 

“Gosh. . .  I didn’t realize.” Misty sighs, staring longingly at the space now between her and her friend. Her voice is quiet, barely a whisper. “That’s what my Daddy says.”  

“You don’t have to listen to everything to he says, you know.” She hates the way her voice cuts through the air, how it does nothing to slice the tension, only allow it to grow tenfold. Misty’s fingers slow around the tomato plant under her touch, brows still knitted together as guilt clouds her eyes.  

She turns to Cordelia, thoughtful. “What should I say?”  

“Girls who like girls are called lesbians,” she says softly, “not. . . that.” Her brain can’t even fathom the idea of saying it. Misty nods then, though is still doing her best impression of a sad puppy with big, blue eyes and bottom lip curling over.  

“And,” she continues, voice strong and authoritative despite its quite nature, “there is nothing wrong with being a lesbian – certainly not something to warrant kicking someone out of your home.” 

Misty is nodding once more, more hurriedly. Eyes flash up to Cordelia with intensity, thoughts burning away behind them and she looks up to her friend like she wants nothing more to believe her, but those eyes are tinged with an eternal sadness. 

Chapter Text

Any irritation at their earlier conversation vanishes by the end of the lunch period. She reasons that being mad at Misty is like being mad at someone who’s been brought up believing the Earth is flat and then suddenly is thrust into information about its spherical existence. She didn’t know any better. Still, the work dyke parrots accusingly in her mind, and she realizes that any feelings she might be haboring for the blonde are best left to rot. 

But they can still be friends, best friends. 

Friends who laugh together and garden, and get revenge on cheating ex – boyfriends. That’s better than the notion of not being friends with her at all.  

As best as she tries, their conversation lingers and her mind overexerts itself in conjuring ideas of what Misty’s home life is like. Ever since transferring here last year, she’s been pretty mute about it, something that is confirmed by everyone that she asks. 

Zoe looks to her apologetically. “I’m not sure, Cordelia. Doesn’t she have, like loads of siblings?” The question is unsure, just something thrown out in hopes of being right.  

It hurts Cordelia that she isn’t sure exactly  how  many her best friend has, a guilt-ridden pang striking her insides. Misty knows about her life, doesn’t she? About Fiona and her absent father, about her big, lonely house and how she plans to become a teacher, just like the headmistress thinks she should be.  

And Misty? Well, she’s never mentioned her mother, but her dad is brought up freely. Though from what she’s heard, Cordelia isn’t quite sure where she stands with him, which seems rather cruel for someone she’s never met. But through Misty’s words, he sounds like a hard authoritarian with a habit for mistaking Misty’s kindness as feeble natured.  

She sighs in thought, frowning as Madison jumps in.  

“Yeah,” she agrees, “all of them live in some tiny trailer in the middle of the swamp. Pretty gross if you ask me.”  

“Too bad nobody is asking you.” She scowls, dangerously. Casting attention away from her, even as she smirks from getting a rise out of Cordelia, she settles on Mallory. “You go to her church, don’t you? What’s she like there?”  

The brunette purses her lips together thoughtfully, eyes flickering between her hands and Cordelia’s unwavering gaze. “Honestly,” she shrugs, “I never really notice her. They leave as soon as the service is over and her dad usually looks pretty pissed about something.” 

Cordelia ignores the swill of unease in her stomach, then hums in thanks.  

Mallory then tilts her head. “Where is the sudden interest from?” 

Shifting in her seat, she glances down at the work currently going ignored by the group, and wishes their persistent gazes would go away. They don’t; she’s forced into a corner without anywhere to go, only able to heave a sigh from her painful lungs. “She’s my friend.” It’s spoken lamely, with about as much conviction as she can muster. Which, for the record, is not much at all.  

Madison’s eyes glimmer wickedly.  

“Friends?” She scoffs. “Don’t think my friends look at me like you do Misty.”  

Spying the blush creeping across Cordelia’s cheeks and the panic in the corners of her eyes, Zoe jabs Madison in the ribs in an act of sympathy. Her countering yell earns the attention of the teacher and forces them to pretend to be focused in trigonometric functions rather than their actual conversation. 

“Don’t even joke about that.” She insists, a frown deeply embedded into her expression. “Especially not around Misty!” 

“Why? Trouble in paradise?” 

No, because if a joke even circulates that she’s gay, then her dad might kick her out and it will probably ruin her entire life.  

She bristles, muscles tensed uncomfortably. “Just . . . don’t.” 

“Or what?” she teases, chewing on the end of her pen with a grin. “Are you two gonna egg my car?” 

All eyes focus is on her once more, wanting confirmation on the rumor that’s been circulating the school all morning. She can’t help herself then, pride seeping into the cracks that the frown had left. “He deserved that.” She insists with her best attempt at a nonchalant shrug.  

“You should have let us come.” Zoe says, a fire burning behind her own eyes. It brings a swell of belonging, at the idea of her other friends wanting to have helped. In hindsight, Madison would have loved every second of it, but then she knows that there’s always the possibility of it going too far with her. Most likely there would have been broken windows, at the very least

She smiles softly. “It wasn’t my idea.”  

Out of the corner of her eyes, she catches sight of Madison’s liberal eye role, then the gentle, musing expression that Mallory holds beside her. She feels under scrutiny once more, enough to cause her to actually focus on her work in hopes of finding an escape. 

All she’d wanted was to know more about Misty, not for her friends to start some incredulous theories about her feelings. Said feelings that she buries deep down so that no one, especially Misty, will never have to deal with them.  

… 

She waits for Misty to finish track, scrolling idly through her phone as she leans against her car. The warm winter sun bores down at her, causing eyes to squinting in protest. So preoccupied, she barely notices the figure storming up to her in the throes of rage. She perhaps senses that first, eyes flickering upwards and ice running through her spine at the sign of Hank.  

“Oh, it’s you,” she deadpans.  

“What the fuck, Cordelia?” 

His normally kind eyes are dark, beady things that bare no familiarity, irises straining against bloodshot whites. At the sight of his firm set scowl and tight teeth, she forces herself to stand taller, phone lowered to her side in abandon. “Am I supposed to know what you’re talking about?”  

His nostrils flare, easily resembling an enraged bull. Fitting. He certainly acts like an animal. 

“I know that you did that to my car – you think I’m stupid?” 

Cordelia remains silent, letting her lack of an answer concisely say what she really thinks.  

“So, you’re just gonna ignore me now?”  

She smiles, the act sickeningly sweet. “Now, why would I do anything to your car, Hank? That would be rather petty of me.”  

As expected, his face grows redder, veins pushing against the skin of his neck and puffs of air grunt from his nose. “You’re such a fucking bitch. Just wait until I send you the bill for it to be cleaned.”  

Cordelia rolls her eyes, scoffing and forcing down the rampant irritation inside of her. “And I will send it right back, so you have something to wipe your crocodile tears on.”  

“Are you kidding me right now? I could go to the police for trespassing on our property.” 

Please.”  

“I’m serious.” He slams a hand down on the metal frame of the car beside her, pressing her firmly between him and its exterior. Panic momentarily flashing through her, she feels her muscles turn as hard as steel, hand rising to lay flat against his chest and push him out of her space. It only bolsters him further, and he inches closer – what was once a long time ago a welcome smell of his cologne now infiltrates her senses in a nauseating attack.  

She scrunches her eyes closed and offers another unceremonious shove. “You know who my mom is, right? Maybe you’re the stupid one, ‘cause if you touch me again, I swear to god you will regret it.” 

“Your mom is a bitch, just like you.” 

His presence doesn’t yield, remaining a frustrating barrier between her and the rest of the world. That is, until a pale hand on Hank’s shoulder yanks him away and she hears a voice makes her insides jump from relief. “I think it’s time you leave.” Misty’s thin lips are placed into the tightest of lines, blue eyes no longer the calm waters that Cordelia is used to, but the crashing waves of the angriest ocean she’s ever seen. And with her hair swept back into a loose pony tail, Cordelia can see every wrinkle and lines of displeasure that litter her face.  

He shrugs off her touch, backing away from Cordelia when Misty steps between them like some protective guardian. The older blonde bites back a laugh as she realizes Misty’s slender frame almost matches up to Hank’s own height, only an inch or so off, but with her formidable expression she seems all that much taller.  

Still embracing his belligerent nature, he looks her up and down, then stares past to where Cordelia glares with a firm set jaw. “I’d go if I were you,” she warns, Misty’s presence doing wonders to instil her with further confidence. He seems to debate with himself, eventually relenting to the small, rational side of his brain and he makes his retreat.  

“Good riddance,” she mumbles under her breath, loosening the tight grip on her bag she hadn’t realized was there. Misty spins, her solemn glare melting under the winter sun and a smile springing onto her lips.  

A hand holds onto Cordelia’s shoulder, filled with the uttermost tenderness compared to the treatment Hank got. “You okay?”  

“Yeah.” She steadies herself with a deep breath and fingers running through straight, blonde hair. “You know what it’s like with ex’s.” 

She gives a weak nod, eyes peering down. Cordelia takes a moment to appraise her, eyes peering lower to the shorts of her track uniform that end half way up her thigh and reveal the impossibly long expanse of her toned legs. Blinking, she jerks her head up and finds Misty’s eyes, then spies the thin layer of sweat across her forehead. “Come on, let’s go.”  

With one glance over to Hank’s retreating figure, she climbs into the car and Misty follows suit, throwing her piles of bags in the footwell. She sighs, eyes closing tiredly for a minute as she settles into the passenger seat.  

“You have fun?” Cordelia asks, just to fill the air as they begin to leave the lot.  

She gives a wry smile. “I wouldn’t exactly call runnin’ fun.” 

“You’re the one who chooses to do it.” She counters with a smirk.  

As she peers at Misty through the corner of her eyes, she sees her hastily tugging the hair tie out and ruffling her curls wildly around her head. Bandana bracelets adorning each wrist, both hosting a different floral pattern, and quickly catch Cordelia’s attention. She reaches her hand out without thinking, taking hold of the nearest one. “Are these new?”  

Fingers around the younger’s blonde’s wrist and eyes back on the long road ahead, she doesn’t see the way that Misty squirms and winces under even her gentle touch on her wrist. She gives a forced smile as Cordelia briefly turns back awaiting an answer.  

“Yeah,” she speaks against a lump in her throat, quickly clearing it away. “My sister gave me some old clothes but they were too big. Thought I’d make some stuff outta them.”  

“They’re pretty.” 

Misty’s eyes brighten with a genuine glow, appreciative and delicate. “Thanks, Delia.” That affectionate gaze quickly falters, taking on the guise of something altogether troubled and Cordelia feels it grow in intensity. “Hey, I’m sorry about before, you know. I didn’t mean to upset you.”  

She frowns as stifling air suddenly pushes inside her, the heavy words catching Cordelia off guard. Readjusting her hands on the wheel, she ignores the whites of her knuckles poking through pale skin. “It’s fine,” she sighs.  

From barely a couple of feet beside her, Misty radiates a nervous and frantic energy, one that makes her insides run cold with something she can’t quite place. She ignores the aching in her chest and stretches out a hand to ever so lightly at Misty’s knee, feeling the soft hairs and skin underneath her touch. “Don’t beat yourself up about it.” But words seem to fall on deaf ears as Misty spends most of the ride back twiddling her fingers and fidgeting with the hem of her shirt.  

She gently calls her name as they pull onto Cordelia’s drive, tugging her from her thoughts with a growing smile. “You coming?” 

Misty nods keenly, scrambling for her things and following Cordelia inside. She takes her shoes off in the hallway as always, despite Cordelia’s amused resistance, then traipses up the stairs at her side. Within the expansive rooms, Misty seems smaller than ever, curling in on herself and holding her bags to her chest. It isn’t under they’re in her room that she lets her guard down, chest expanding as she remembers how to breathe.  

The Cajun throws herself onto the double bed, legs and arms starfishing, with hair twisted underneath her and the easiest of grins on her pretty lips. Cordelia feels her knees go weak at the sight, only managing to lower her bag to the desk and muster a half-hearted tease. “Gross, you’re all sweaty.”  

Tilting her head in Cordelia’s direction, she giggles and bites on her lip. “Aw, I ain’t that bad.”  

The sight before her beckons her numb legs forward, all too tempting, and she lowers herself to the soft sheets beneath. With each movement, Misty watches with unconditional interest. Her lips twitch into an inviting smile, curling upwards until her eyes are crinkling at the corners, too.  

Cordelia finds herself running fingers through Misty’s mane, feeling the heat flooding from her scalp. “Hmm, and you’re really warm, too.”  

Misty closes her eyes from the sensitive ministrations, practically melting on the spot.  

And she thinks that she could sit like this forever, until she sees that it’s later than she thought, coming back into reality with a sigh. “How about I go make us something to eat while you go take your bath?” 

At the prospect of food, Misty gives an impish grin. “You are the best, Delia.” She reluctantly sits herself up, then rises on sinewy legs and makes for Cordelia’s closet. With the robe in her hands, eyes remain on Cordelia, reluctant to turn away. Under the appraisal, she feels herself shift, head bowing briefly and fingers subconsciously itching with the need to do something. There’s an unknown nature to Misty’s stare; she half expects her to speak, if the pensive wave across her face is any hint, but she only smiles. The act is all cheeks and teeth, azure eyes catching the emotion of the smile in a way that makes Misty radiate joy. She mirrors the action, although altogether unsurely.  

But Misty doesn’t talk. Slowly, she drops the paralyzing gaze and releases Cordelia of its hold. The older blonde still watches her walk into the adjoined bathroom, then moments later hears the faucet turning.  

Satisfied, she makes the journey down to the kitchen where she peers through the fridge for food and settles on pizza. It’s easy; Cordelia making the addition of Misty’s favorite toppings to her half (she cringes as she places pineapple on for her) while losing herself in thoughts. The most pivotal thought being of her friend, currently sat in Cordelia’s very own bath as if that’s the most normal thing in the world.  

It’s normal for them, she supposes. An idea summoned by Cordelia herself almost a full year ago now, when Misty had told her that her house doesn’t have a bath, just a small electric shower, and had gushed about how much she misses them. Her kind encouragement to use hers had been met with bewilderment, then protests, then grateful smiles as Misty’s resolve wore down.  

And now, if Misty comes to her house, it’s normally one of the first things she does. It’s not weird. That’s what friends do, right?   

No one answers her question, and she’s too scared to answer it herself, so she scrolls through videos on her phone for a distraction and waits for the food to cook. Soon, the kitchen fills mouth-watering smells, beckoning her forward. She smiles at the sight of the pizza, cheese bubbling away invitingly, and quicky cuts it into pieces that she divides into two plates.  

Said plates burn her hands as she climbs the staircase back to her room. Cordelia nudges the door open, slowing when she hears a quiet voice singing out, “you touched my hand and you smiled, all the way back you held out your hand.”  

Her voice is as gentle as a summer’s breeze, light and loving, and Cordelia finds herself entwined in the pretty notes as she crosses her room. 

If I hope, and if I pray. . . ” 

The noise lulls, leaving in its place the stammering of Cordelia’s heart, that she quickly satiates with a firm reprimand.  

She chokes on a wistful sigh, then finds her own voice in the thickening tension that she’s not quite sure how she created so efficiently. “Misty?” 

There’s the disturbance of water, something banging against the tub, then a hurried, “yeah?” 

“Food’s ready.”  

“I’ll be out in a minute.”  

Cordelia makes herself comfortable at the head of her bed, nestling into the plethora of cushy pillows and reaching for the controller to turn the TV on. She flicks through channels, disinterested, but grateful for something to ease the thoughts from her mind.  

The door to the bathroom clicks open, announcing Misty’s presence as she tiptoes out, a bundle of clothes in her hands that are lazily shoved into her bag. Cordelia stares from the corner of her eyes, revelling in the sight of Misty in  her  robe, with wet, bedraggled locks falling on either side of her face. With all remnants of eye makeup gone, they somehow appear seemingly larger than normal, and stare right over at her friend with startling intensity. 

It’s gone in a flash as she sits on the bed too, grinning at the sight of the food waiting for her. “Thanks.” She mumbles around a slice, lifting her hand to catch the escaping sweetcorn and pineapple. 

Cordelia watches, taking sight of her tongue wrapping expertly around it, and turns away with a hot blush that she hopes Misty doesn’t see. She’s thankful that no meal ever lasts too long in Misty’s presence, because she could stare all day. But soon they are focussed to the task at hand, books and papers strewn about the pair. 

She feels her head pulsing in pain at the prospect of more math, the numbers and formulas beginning to merge into nondescript shapes. “A.” Misty says plainly as they stare at the next SAT question together, before Cordelia even has chance to finish reading. She blinks up at Misty, then back to the question as she figures out the answer herself. Her smile grows then, a mixture of mirth and slight annoyance. 

“Show off,” she mumbles. 

Misty laughs too, cheeks changing to the softest hue of pink. “Oh, don’t be jealous.”  

“How are you so much better at math?” 

“Math is easy,” she teases. “And you’re one to talk! You’ve practically already got a scholarship for college.” The words take a hint of a sadness that Cordelia just about catches until Misty is covering it with a withering smile.  

She catches on her own words, never been one to brag, unlike her mother. She deflects quickly, eyes beginning to grow weary from so much concentration. “You’ll get one too, I know.” Misty stills under her gaze, eyes thoughtful. 

Then, she too perfects the art of diversion. She reaches for Cordelia’s glasses that lay ignored on the bedside table, handing them over to her. “You’re supposed to use them when you’re readin’” she says, much like a mother scolding a child. But Cordelia doesn’t shrink away from it; she feels corners of lips tugging upwards.  

The idea of college weighs at the forefront of her mind, and she perseveres with the topic as she places the black rimmed glasses onto her face. She hates them, but they’re certainly better than uncomfortable contacts. “I really hope you go to college too, Misty.” She breathes into a deep smile, “wouldn’t it be great if we went to the same one?” 

The Cajun sits taller then, eyes glistening and wide and daringly hopeful. She looks so pretty like this, the light scattering of freckles around her nose wrinkling with her smile, a certain rejuvenated spirit washing over her, and excitement exuding her every pore. It’s a refreshing sight, as though Cordelia is just getting the taste of water again after a gruelling journey through a desert.  

“It would be,” she agrees quietly. 

They let the idea linger in the air, dancing teasingly around them as both allow their optimistic side to take reins.  

Cordelia fills with glee. “We could even be roommates. We’d have so much fun.”  

Misty nods, chuckling softly.  

“I’d like that.”  

The idea honestly makes Cordelia grow drunk with possibilities; having a housemate who’s somewhat consistent in her life and, not only that, but wants to take an active interest in it. She finds herself physically unable to stop grinning, then teeth tug at her lower lip happily. She thinks how freeing it would be, about not coming home to an empty house, about having voices and singing and laughter filling the rooms. Most of all, she thinks about how less lonely she’d feel. 

This brings the familiar dark swell inside her chest, dampening the job in said cavity. 

But then Misty’s sweet voice severs any further thought, lulling her back into reality. “Hey, earth to Delia, you in there?” 

A hand sweeps in front of her face and comes to rest beside the one that Cordelia is leaning on. It twitches with the want to make contact. Cordelia smiles, close to bashful and apologises with a soft head shake. “Just got lost in my thoughts.” 

“’S fine.”  

“Thinking about college is just making me wanna go already.” The itch to fly the nest is stronger than ever, so much that It's very much beginning to consume endless hours of her life.  

Misty smiles, and then her hand does brush against Cordelia’s. It’s barely there, like the touch of a feather, but Cordelia feels it and then subsequent prickle of electricity that surges through her skin. “Gonna be like girls gone wild.” The Cajun jokes. 

A guffaw catches in her throat at the implication, eyes bulging slightly. “Only if Madison ends up in the same college as me.” 

“That could be dangerous.” Her eyes glisten mischievously at the possibilities. 

“But remember, she’s going straight to Hollywood and taking it by storm, right?” 

Misty’s grin grows even further, accompanying an obnoxious roll of her eyes. “How could I forget?” But then her face twists, a sudden darkening of demeanor that throws Cordelia into super protective mode. She inches in closer, hoping her presence offers some sort of comfort, and places her hand more firmly over Misty’s, surprised at her own lack of hesitation.  

She half expects Misty to pull away, to flinch at the way Cordelia’s tenderness is pouring from her judging by their earlier conversation. But she doesn’t. Fingers curl around her own, even if Misty is only able to muster a wobbly smile from the action.  “What’s wrong?” 

“She keeps callin’ me trailer trash.” She grumbles out loud, anger lacing her tone.  

Every muscle in Cordelia hardens, except for the ones currently holding Misty’s hand, and she regards her with a frown. “She’s a bitch. Don’t listen to her.”  

“Just wish she didn’t have to be such a bitch in front of the whole school.” She sighs, a slight defeat overcoming her, before it’s replaced with stoic features. “Sick of people lookin’ at me like I’m a piece of garbage.” 

“Misty, that’s not . . .” She slows as a stubborn gaze meets hers, words halting in its quake.  

And she never forgets how strange this is, seeing Misty so vulnerable. The girl wears an unbreakable armor at school, protecting her in the war that is High School - a war that she wishes she didn’t have to fight. She has the cards stacked against her, with her hand me down clothes and her “backwoods” accent. What she admires most about her is that, despite the names and the whispers, she still shows up the next day with the brightest of spirits and an unbeatable kindness.  

But sometimes, as rare as the blue moon, the softer side comes out. As though it’s reserved for her and her alone. She sees the tears glistening in her blue pools of irises, the way she chews her lower lip nervously until the skin breaks. “They’re,” she sighs, trying to delicately pluck the right words from her arsenal, “they’re just ignorant. Madison, included.” Cordelia then stretches out her other hand and moves in nearer, until fingers are clasping under Misty’s chin. “But it doesn’t matter what they think. Only what you think.”  

“You sound like Miss Snow.” Misty laughs, all wry and half there. 

She feigns offence, but in all honesty, being compared to their kind headmistress is a stroke to her ego.  

Misty then lifts her own hand and it seeks out to where Cordelia so tenderly grips her jaw. She tilts her head slightly, the ghost of a smile dancing across her lips and hair brushing over both their arms. “I don’t care what anyone else thinks,” she says, surely, as though repeating that mantra might make it real, “’cept you. I care what you think of me.”  

The confession causes her heart to skip a couple of beats, insides compacting together nervously. “Well, that’s good ’cause I think the world of you, Misty Day. You’re my best friend.”  

She suddenly seems less small, any doubt chased from her features. “You’re mine, too.”  

Cordelia feels stupid for the way she reacts so keenly to the word mine, glad that Misty doesn’t seem to notice. The younger blonde does however seem to zone in on their joined hands, staring down at them as though the decisions to combine them hadn’t been her own. She all but jumps away, severing the contact with cold air between them.  

With that, any illusions are shattered, and Cordelia ignores the stab of pain to her chest.  

Misty doesn’t look directly at her at first, still worrying her lip, still fidgeting with unused energy, before Cordelia tries to compensate with words, at least.  

She smiles into a sigh. “Hey, do you remember the day we first met?”  

The Cajun’s head snaps up, unable to not react to a direct question. Any rigidity in her body melts under the nostalgic reminder, “yeah.” She nods. “You got annoyed at me ‘cause I came into your greenhouse uninvited and started movin’ all that plants.”  

“I wasn’t annoyed.” She counters, bordering on a playful whine.  

Misty snorts into her hand, eyes growing delightfully wide as saucers and doing a great job at hypnotizing Cordelia. “You called me a plant meddler. ”  

“Oh for – " She balks, though laughs are at the threat of bubbling over her lips at all time. “Why do you always mention that?” 

“I remember goin’ home that night thinkin’ I’ve never met anyone like ya.”  

She stills, ears hot and chuckling softly.  

“And then a week later you came to ask me to join your club ‘cause the plants were doin’ much better where put ‘em.”  

“I still don’t know how you did that.” She narrows eyes at her, more in closeted admiration than any sort of accusation.  

Shrugging off the half compliment, she smiles plainly. And Cordelia wants to touch her again, wants to grab hold of her hands and bring her impossibly closer, but she fights the urge with every inch of reason within her. She steadies herself on the bed, feeling the cold papers against fingertips; they force her to remember that forgotten task at hand.  

Misty notices too, eyes flickering down and then up again. “Guess we got a little distracted, huh?”  

“Guess so.”  

“I’m tired of studyin’” she remarks with a pout, shoulder slumping.    

Cordelia hums her agreement, but insists they carry on. It’s not the work that she wants to do, but she knows that the best thing for idle hands is to keep the distracted. And if doing school work stops her from wanting to touch Misty at every possible moment, then school work it is.  

Chapter Text

Biology is her most favorite subject. 

She’d like to convince herself that it’s because of a certain zeal for the subject (and she likes it, don’t get her wrong), but Cordelia knows with great certainty that it isn't the reason. Instead, said reason is sitting about a foot to her left and currently doodling on the edge of the worn notebook.   

Ahead, Miss Pembroke drones on about trophic levels and ecology, the monotony of the lecture causing Cordelia to lose focus. She feels her eyes droop once, twice, before blinking. She leans to one side, so dangerously far that she fears she might topple off the stool if she dares go an inch further, and peers over at Misty. “What are you drawing?” she whispers. 

Misty startles under the scrutiny, pencil stalling on the hooded eyes she draws. She twists in the spot, eyes momentarily darting to the teacher with the hint of nervousness, before she pushes the notebook closer to Cordelia. The older blonde has to cover her mouth to fight the laughter that threatens to spill at the sight of Miss Pembroke illustrated as a haggard lizard, the apathetic features donning sleepy eyes and a disapproving frown. “Oh my God.” One deep belly laugh pushes through her fingers, that she covers with a choked cough into her hand as Miss Pembroke glares their way.  

A series of minor coughs are thrown in for effect, so much so that Misty reaches over and pats her back, eager to keep up the charade. 

The glower, lacking in intensity as with the rest of her actions, last for all of a few seconds, then it subdues. She turns back to the board, continuing to explain to the disenchanted group of students.  

Cordelia finds her eyes on Misty again, who stares right back. There’s always an intensity to her eyes that she thinks overwhelming, in both a good and bad way. Good, because it makes her feel a symphony of emotions swimming inside, and bad, seeing as she fears she might never know the thoughts behind such potent gazes.  

She feels weightless under those eyes, an ease flowing through her that she rarely experiences. Giggling, she reaches for Misty’s notebook, “do you have any more?” 

Misty’s eyes glisten wickedly, and she grows more daring now, not even bothering to cover the book as she bustles up to Cordelia’s side. Her sweet aroma momentarily dizzies the older blonde, until she anchors herself back in reality.  

The notebook calls out to her once again, and she soon finds that Miss Pembroke isn’t the only inspiration for the illustrations, with most teachers making an appearance. Each cartoon has a unique style, with soft edges and caricature details, yet hold the hints of realness to them. She sits, both impressed and amused, having to spend most of the time with a hand firmly placed over her mouth to keep the chortles at bay.  

And the entire time, Misty watches with joy dancing across her expression so easily that it looks as though it’s always lived there.  

Her own joy vanishes as she catches sight of Madison observing them over Misty’s shoulder, eyes burning with brewing wickedness. Cordelia turns away before its bothers her further, feverishly setting her sights back on drawings which are thankfully inanimate and will not spend the next five minutes making obscene gestures at her.  

Misty notices, though not enough to realize what had happened, and only has the opportunity to glare at Madison, even as close to a snarl, as though Cordelia’s discomfort is enough to set her into protective mode. The corners of her mouth twitch at such a thought.  

It’s not hard for Misty’s art to redeem her good mood, and she smiles softly over at her best friend who shuffles next to her in nervousness. “These are really good.” 

“Ya think?”  

“Well, my art skills are about as good as a one-legged chicken,” she giggles to herself, “but I think they’re amazing.” 

She beams brightly at the compliment, the edges of her cheeks growing rosy. And that’s all the thanks that Cordelia needs for her praises before she turns back to her curious peeking.  

The pages are soon littered with animals and plants, so real that she has to brush fingers over them in disbelief. Misty, in turn, seems bashful and modest, only watching through thick eyelashes that flutter delicately like the wings of a butterfly.  

Cordelia spies something somehow more distracting in the corner of her eyes, something that draws all her thoughts to a blinding halt. “Is that me?” 

She can recognise her own features in the graphite lines, shocked at the kind eyes and delicate smile that dances on the image’s lips. But the notebook vanishes from within her grasp, into the clutching fingers of Misty who holds it tightly to her chest like she might snatch it back. She wants that; to study every detail of the picture she’d seen, the one of her that had painted the older blonde in such a beautiful light she never thought possible.  

Misty shrinks under the growing pressure.  

“That ain’t you,” she mumbles unconvincingly. 

She blinks, a confused smile gluing to her features. “It looked like me.” Her forehead crinkles neatly as she watches Misty squirming.  

“It -” 

“Cordelia. Misty. This is the second time you have thought it fitting to distract the entire class today.” Miss Pembroke’s irritation is clear, eyes accusing. “Is it something you wish to share with everybody?” 

She stiffens, unfamiliar to the feeling of being scolded by the teacher and shakes her head meekly. Beside her, Misty frowns. “Nope.” She says, popping the ‘p’ and keeping her eyes firmly ahead. 

“Great, so do you think the two of you can stay quiet for the remaining fifteen minutes?” 

Nodding her agreement, Misty does the same, though appears somewhat relieved at the thought that Cordelia can’t question her any further. The notebook doesn’t leave her grasp, and Cordelia notices the way she holds onto her cross absentmindedly, worrying the soft skin of her lower lip.  

When she does catch Cordelia’s eyes, all the older blonde can do is offer a reassuring smile, and hope it works to return things back to normal. Misty bustles in her seat, then relaxes once more. She sighs, all airy and tension free, then smiles back. 

And seeing as she can’t focus on the work, she lets her mind begin to wander to the image burned in her retinas, despite its brief view. The memory it summons is accompanied with twists in her stomach and a tight chest; two things that Cordelia would think uncomfortable, but feel awfully wonderful in that moment. She glances at Misty when she’s not looking, smitten and light, and for a minute she wonders what Misty looked like as she drew that picture of her.  

… 

Lunch brings with it other people’s problems, which are a welcome distraction from her own dangerous thoughts.  

She sits with Zoe who laments over her boyfriend, Charlie, moving to another state, while she and Coco hum and agree during the lulls of quiet. In true mom friend form, she gives as much advice as she can, with a hand sitting squeezing Zoe’s and finally pulling her in for a tight hug. “You’ll be fine,” she whispers into her ear. 

Zoe wipes at red rimmed eyes, sniffling. “Do you think so?”  

“Of course.” Her words come with unbridled assurance. “He can drive, right? Surely he can come and visit.”  

She seems satiated then, nodding softly. “Yeah, I guess. Thanks, Cordelia.”  

A gentle squeeze of her arm is the last bit of comfort she needs, and she returns to her old self before Mallory and Misty make it to the table.  

“Everything alright?” Misty asks in concern upon noticing the demeanor of the three.  

“It’s all good.” Cordelia nods, eyeing Zoe and then looking back to Misty. I’ll explain later.  Her gaze says, clear enough for Misty to drop the subject and plonk herself down next to her. She pulls out a wrinkled paper bag, then a squished sandwich that is demolished before she moves onto a slightly bruised apple with as much enthusiasm.  

Cordelia watches, a grin playing on her lips. Fingers tap against her forgotten tray that she nudges in Misty’s direction. “You want that? I’m not really all that hungry.”  

“Sure.” Misty agrees happily and moments later digs into that too.  

While the older blonde leans chin against hand, observing almost fondly, the others shake their heads in disbelief. “I wish I could eat like you, Misty.” Coco sighs. “I just have to  look  at food and I’ve put on like, three pounds.” 

This is where Cordelia takes the moment to consider Coco’s words, eyes drifting over Misty’s slender frame that always seems exaggerated by her ill-fitting clothes. Despite the bagginess, she often uses belts and loops to give herself a waist, albeit a tiny one at that. But somehow, the girl is always grazing on whatever food is available, whether it be Cordelia’s leftovers, or the fruit grown for the gardening club. And there’s something mesmerizing about watching her eat, the way she cherishes every bite, those plump lips, or the hums of appreciation that bubble from inside her.  

Sometimes Cordelia thinks that Misty’s one true love in life is food.  

Even now, eating cafeteria pasta that she more often than not sticks her nose up at, Misty devours it like it’s a gourmet banquet. 

“I don’t eat that much.” Misty insists, earning smirks and glares. 

“You eat like a pig, swampy,” Madison appears, shoving herself between Zoe and Coco, and sipping on the straw in her bottled water. “Anyway, I have something a lot more important to talk about.” She moves the sunglasses from her eyes, nestling them neatly in her hair. “My folks are gone this weekend, so you know what that means.” 

Zoe rolls her eyes. “You’re having another party?”  

“Sure fucking am.”  

“’Cause the last one went so well.” 

Madison glowers, then gives an indifferent shrug that shoos away any concerns. “It’s not my fault the chandelier fell on him. Must have been loose wiring or something . . . weird.” Her eyes move around the circle. “So which ones of you bitches are in? 

“You know I am.” Coco grins delightfully. “I need to get my party on or I might explode.”  

“Cool. What about you, Benson?”  

There’s a moment of consideration despite them all knowing what the eventual answer will be. Cordelia has never really understood the relationship of these two friends, who seem to go from glued at the hip to making remarks about the other in a flash. But still, Zoe’s trepidation simmers into a smile. “I guess. As long as you don’t leave me to go hook up with college guys again.”  

Madison’s own smirk wavers, something dark lurking beneath that has Cordelia narrowing her eyes in wonder, before it’s gone. She holds up her hand, “I promise I will be a lame ass friend who doesn’t leave her other lame ass friend for some dick, alright?”  

Her response is a liberal eyeroll and groan, but Zoe agrees nonetheless, and that’s when Madison sets her sights elsewhere. Cordelia is fully expecting it to be on her, so is thrown into momentary shock as it’s not her name that leaves Madison’s lips. “And you, trailer trash?” 

She hears her own stern voice calling out before Misty’s. “Madison. Don’t call her that.” 

“Alright, fine. You comin’, Misty?” 

Beside her, Misty is still bristled, eyes dark and pissed. “You want me at your party?” 

“Well, we’re friends, aren’t we?" 

It’s probably the first vocal confirmation of such a friendship, as Cordelia had previously assumed they only put up with each other for the sake of the group, and so did Misty if she confused glower is anything to go by.  

Madison scoffs to fill in the awkward silence. “You’ll have fun, swampy. Parties are an awesome excuse to get mind numbingly drunk. It’s even more fun than seed spitting and dumpster diving, I promise you.”  

“Are you makin’ fun of me?” Misty asks, a brow rising as she chews more slowly now, a thoughtful expression beneath her accusing eye. 

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” 

“Good.” Misty takes another bite, then the fork comes down to stab the last piece in a clearly threatening display, ”’cause I could beat your skinny ass any day of the week.” There’s no humor in her words, though the spectators in the group as smirk and watch with barely hidden glee at the exchange, except Zoe, who seems rather concerned that Madison is going to be pinned to the floor in a matter of moments if she continues. Cordelia thinks she wouldn’t mind to see Misty put the girl in her place. 

“Oh Jesus Christ, are you coming or not?”  

Cordelia listens intently then, hope trickling inside of her as she waits for the answer.  

She sighs, then acquiesces with an answer. “What day?” 

“Saturday.” 

“Can’t,” Misty frowns, “got church the next mornin’.”  

The older blonde bows her head in disappointment, but keeps her mouth shut. 

Madison pouts, “boo, you suck.” She accepts the answer for all of four seconds, adding, “why don’t you just skip? No one will notice. Plus, Cordy is gonna be at the party, right?” 

At the mention of her name, her eyes widen, confusion seeping into her features. Is she really using me to convince Misty into coming? When Madison’s gaze catches her own, she flashes a devilish grin in return. 

“You gotta make sure that none of those college guys are gonna take advantage of her now that she’s on the market again.”  

Misty purses her lips angrily, but doesn’t bite.  

Unfortunately, Coco does. “That’s right, Delia.” She smiles excitedly. “This is how we’re gonna get you over Hank. A good hookup.”  

“I am over Hank.” she insists, still squirming under the attention, especially at Misty’s pensive gaze.  

“I can talk you up to the football team.” Madison offers. “Who knows? Some of them might be into nerds. How else do you think Zoe got a boyfriend?” 

“Jeez, you are unbelievable today.”  

If anything, this only serves to boost the ego that Madison oh so proudly displays, and she delves further into party planning that fills the rest of the lunch hour. Cordelia only checks in when she’s directly questioned, although to her dismay the conversation only revolves around finding her some one-night stand that she wildly objects to.  

Her insistence isn’t taken into consideration, to the point where she catches Misty’s eyes and mouths ‘help me’ with nothing short of desperation. 

The Cajun laughs loudly, shuffling in closer somehow and placing a sympathetic hand over hers. Any nervousness at the plans currently being hatched by Madison disappear in the blink of an eye, and she can only stare at the connected skin, enjoying the delicate hold and heat that the touch brings.  

Until it’s gone all too quickly.  

… 

“Are you sure you can’t come?” She asks Misty on the ride home for maybe the tenth time, blindly hoping that the answer might change.  

It doesn’t, and Misty gives her an apologetic shrug. “Wish I could. But if I missed church my daddy would kill me. Like literally, you would be plannin’ my funeral the day after.” 

She visibly deflates, then clicks her tongue thoughtfully. All the while, she can feel a burning gaze relentlessly on her cheek. “It won’t be as fun without you there.”  

Misty smiles genuinely, a sense of pride surging through her body and straightening her posture; it unfortunately is as temporary of a wave upon a beach, waning within a matter of seconds. Dejection takes its place, locking her in a firm grip as she fidgets with ringed fingers. “You can tell me all about it on Monday.” The way her lips curl this time is forced, like they’re fighting against the action with all of their might. Cordelia pulls her own gaze away from it; the subdued smile’s presence only gnaws away at her only brittle happiness.  

“Yeah. . .” She breathes.  

A pause. One that serves akin to a vacuum, stealing the air between them.  

In that time, eyes dip and gaze toward Misty when they should be on the road, but the Cajun’s solemn expression holds her attention without question. Misty stops twiddling her fingers under the scrutiny – she stares back with as much conviction as Cordelia, and the two enter an unconfirmed staring match. 

That is, until Misty breaks it with a darting glance and practically screams her name.  

She breaks on reflex, surging the pair forward so quickly that the seatbelt cuts into her skin and she narrowly misses hitting her head on the steering wheel. Cordelia pokes one eye open, demands that her own muscles listen and unclench from the tight coils they’re in, and turns to Misty. 

Who isn’t there

Cordelia doesn’t remember hearing the car door open, but over the screeching of tires and squealing brakes, she thinks it’s an easy one to miss. Yet it hangs on hinges, left abandoned, just like the passenger seat. She claws to get her own seatbelt off, then clambers out of the car on wobbly legs.  

Misty’s figure is easily spotted on the quiet road, hunched over on the side where asphalt meets the line of decaying leaves and fresh grass sprouts. As she nears, she sees the tassels of Misty’s shawl dipping into a murky puddle of water, and that knees are already muddied from kneeling on the ground. “Misty.” She questions in disbelief.  “What the hell was that? I could have – " 

“She’s dead.” Her voice is so morose and macabre that Cordelia peels back for a moment, skin crawling thick with unease.  

Then she spies it, the fallen doe curled in a heap in front of Misty. Glassy eyes stare back, mouth agape. Although they sicken Cordelia to her stomach to look at, she keeps her steady gaze on those as her peripherals spot blood and tissue and things that most definitely should be on the  inside  of the animal hanging out of a wound. 

She places a hand on Misty’s shoulder, sensing her sorrow. The action kickstarts Misty back into reality, where she blinks and peers up at Cordelia with a grave nature to each corner of her expression, eyes scarily hard. “I can’t believe someone did this,” she seethes. Cordelia feels muscles as hard as stone beneath her hand, even as they tremble – with anger? Despair? She thinks surely a combination of both. Teeth knock together, forming a tight line, and she’s on her feet, moving to the softer earth where water saturates the dips and the grass sits sparsely.  

Cordelia can only watch, unsure of what to do or say. 

It’s not that she finds Misty’s attachment to animals strange, in fact she thinks it’s utterly endearing. But the concept is altogether foreign to the other blonde, who’s never even had so much as a fish to call her own. She feels sadness settling in the pit of her stomach, but more so at Misty’s reaction than the fallen creature.  

Here is Misty, nothing short of distraught for an animal she’s only just met. She truly is a unique soul, she thinks.  

“You got any shovels in that car of yours?” 

Dragged from her thoughts, she narrows in on Misty where she’s nudging the dirt with the tips of her shoes, assessing and calculating. When she lifts her eyes again, the ire has dissipated, but fragments of impatience litter her expression.  

Shovels?  She shakes her head. 

Misty frowns then, inhaling deeply. “Thought not.”  

It takes her all of one second to resort to plan B, on her hands and knees before Cordelia can even register, and clawing at the ground like some frantic squirrel trying to bury a nut.  

She gawks. “What are you doing?” The question is redundant, stupid; it hangs between them like a bad smell.  

Eyes never wavering from her task, Misty says, “well, I’m diggin’ a hole,” like It's the most obvious thing in the world. 

Cordelia’s eyes knit together in bewilderment, lips parting ever so slowly and sucking in cold, winter air. It slices against her lungs, but not as much as the look that Misty suddenly gives her does.  

“You wanna help or are you just gonna watch me do it?” 

Her tone is inscrutable, but enough to have Cordelia gently lowering herself to the ground, too. She cringes at the feel of soggy mud beneath her tights, soaking into the material, and she finds her movements carried out far more gingerly than Misty. The Cajun digs like her life depends on it, scooping out piles of dirt with black fingernails and debris flicking in every direction, even all over her cream dress. If she cares, she doesn’t show it.  

They work in silence, other than heavy breathing, and she thinks how strange this is, how her car doors are still wide open, practically inviting strangers in. She thinks about how the sun, even in the winter, mockingly bores down on them, forcing sweat from her pores, or how the surrounding foliage smells more like rotting than life. But most of all she looks to Misty, and thinks that she’s never met anyone who would care so much about one roadkill deer that most people would have driven past.  

Her heart swells, a tentative warmth making its home right at the center. Said feeling doesn’t subdue, not that she wants it to. Which, the more she thinks about it, the more she’s going to enjoy it right now. Misty doesn’t have to know that she is the object of such an affectionate surge. 

And thankfully, she’s far too distracted. Now satisfied with the size of the hole, she stands and wipes a muddy hand across her forehead. It of course smears, leaving lines and speckles along Misty’s porcelain skin. She is unbothered, marching over to the doe that she heaves with surprising strength and places inside. Cordelia helps, as much as she can bear, but when dirt mixes with congealed blood on her fingers, she taps out.  

The hard bit over, the two cover her with the disturbed mud and flatten it down, while the silence continues. 

Cordelia feels disgusting as the different matters mix between her fingers and forearms into a paste of death. But, eyes solely on Misty, her attention is usurped by the altogether mesmerizing girl, who kneels at the makeshift grave with eyes scrunched closed and one muddied hand clutching the cross around her neck.  

Lips mouth out words so quickly that she can’t decipher them, no matter how hard she tries, but whatever silent prayer Misty is calling out is soon finished, leaving the girl slumping but satisfied.  

She turns to Cordelia, dress soiled, hair awry and looking as though she’s just crawled out of the hole they’ve dug, but there’s a tender smile that returns to her lips. She copies it, hand reaching out and meeting her clothed arm. “You good?” 

“I feel better now.” Misty admits softly, staring down at where they touch. She doesn’t look uncomfortable, so Cordelia lets her fingers remain.  

In turn, Cordelia grins. “Yeah, I’ll feel better after a long, hot shower.” She peers down, regarding herself with a look of horror as she realizes she fares no better than Misty and, released from whatever muggy hold she was in, the Cajun seems to notice too.  

“Oh my . . .”  

Eyes flash wider, sheepish.  

“I’m sorry Delia . . . I didn’t think – I – " 

She shakes her head vehemently. “They’re just clothes.” Very, very expensive clothes that Fiona might freak that she’s ruined, but that is the least of her concerns. She's smiling, invitingly so because she wants to drag the worry that’s currently etched in Misty’s pretty features. “Come on, you can use my shower if you want.” Misty has her own shower. She doesn’t need to use yours. She inwardly grumbles at her pathetic excuse to get Misty to come to her house.  

“Actually . . .” Misty starts, voice barely a whisper.  

Cordelia winces, ready to be told that her suggestion isn’t very helpful at all and for Misty to question her motives.  

She doesn’t.  

Misty makes to stand, wiping away the loose dirt and setting a perfect set of blue orbs on her that transfix Cordelia on the spot. She rolls on the balls of her feet thoughtfully, some internal war going on behind her slightly unfocused gaze. A gust of wind comes up behind them, flittering Misty’s already wild hair in every direction.  

Hanging on her silence, Cordelia waits for the rest of the sentence.  

“I wanna show you something.” 

She frowns. “Show me what?”  

There’s a teasing to her smile now, eyes glowing brightly with a nervous anticipation. Cordelia watches her chest expand with a long sigh, then follows it flooding from those pretty lips. “You’ll see.”  

“Misty, we’re in the middle of the swamp. . . there’s not a house for miles – " 

“Do ya not trust me?”  

Playfully said, her tongue traces along the edge of her teeth and upper mouth, keeping Cordelia’s attention. She blinks profusely, wondering how the subject of showering connects to whatever Misty has in mind. Curiosity tugs at her, painfully so, because she knows that this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity with Misty. “Of course I trust you.”  

Misty outstretches a dirty hand, wiggling her fingers enticingly. “C’mon then.”  

And she knows it’s fruitless to deny her, not that she thinks she’s capable of it either way, so she locks her car without even thinking and pushes a gentle smile onto her lips. As she reaches Misty, she takes hold of that hand, interlacing their fingers together. Misty seems to soften even further under the contact, all beaming grins and glistening eyes. And it gives Cordelia pause, because they’ve always been tactile with one another, but they’ve never  held hands , not like this. Not wrapped around each other like a perfect puzzle, Misty’s insistent tugging and leading while she obliges with a fond chuckle.  

In that moment, she thinks she’d follow Misty anywhere.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

They walk for what feels like eons, when in reality it can’t be more than fifteen minutes. Cordelia supposes that it stretches so long because she’s navigating unfamiliar terrain, pushing away plants and branches that cross her path while Misty’s own movements are effortless. She moves in a rehearsed manner, seeming to recognise every change in shrubbery, ever rock and pool of water that litters the ground beneath them.  

Cordelia nervously eyes the beige, cloudy water of the bayou not too far away from them. She must falter in her step, as Misty comes to halt beside her with a tilt in her head as a sharp gaze lands on her friend. She then pulls at their ( still ) combined hands, grinning. “The gators are hibernatin’ this time of year. Don’t worry.”  

“I wasn’t -” 

She cuts herself short as chocolate eyes catch the mirth behind Misty’s. “Are we almost there?” she asks, growing weary of walking and grimacing at the drying mud, now crackling in wrinkles along her skin. 

Nodding eagerly, Misty picks up the pace and she’s forced to match it on unsteady feet.  

“Should I be nervous?”  

“Nah.” Even so, Misty grows visibly anxious, a strange energy radiating from her that is contagious enough to have Cordelia’s stomach knotting. And then she’s pushing the wilting leaves of a cypress tree from their path to reveal a clearing. She holds the leaves open like a curtain for Cordelia, urging her through, and pursues after her.  

The older blonde smiles at the sight of a building albeit a small, dilapidated shack that hosts a series of boarded gaps and wonky woodwork. It’s a building nonetheless, with lights that Misty turns on and running water on the faucet outside. They scrub away the dirt with tattered wash cloths and icy water that takes her breath away.  

“What is this place?”  

Misty stills, smiling over in her direction. “I found it a few weeks after we moved here. It was a real mess – holes, weeds, even had a possum family livin’ inside.” She furiously tries to clean the dirt from her fingernails with little success, then turns to Cordelia with a blinding grin. “We shared it for a while, but I’m guessin’ they’ve found somewhere quieter. I have a bad habit of listenin’ to music too loud.” 

The older blonde chuckles at the idea of Misty and said rodents cohabitating, then left her eyes drift up at the building with interest. But it’s the surrounding swamp life that beckons her attention not long after. With the evening drawing in, the crickets and frogs begin a chorus of songs for only their ears. Cordelia sees still waters beside them, aside from the occasional bug darting across its surface and in the distance a bird takes to the sky with a hurried flapping of its wings. Misty peers up then, too, following her gaze as its shadow becomes smaller and small until it’s nothing but a dot on the horizon. “So, you just . . . moved yourself in?” she finishes with a soft, awkward laugh. 

“Yeah,” Misty admits with a shrug. “Seems a real waste for such a fine little house.”  

House.  

The older blonde looks to it again, the word echoing around her head and wondering how on earth someone could refer to it as such; the idea leaves more questions than answers, and she regards Misty under the setting sun. Orange light bathes her skin, warming the palette invitingly, and when she smiles, it’s enough to take Cordelia’s breath away.  

She turns, the rays dancing over her pale face, and observes Cordelia slowly, nervously. Cordelia just about catches the way that Misty’s eyes wander lower and lower, as though memorizing every inch of her Cordelia’s body. The scrutiny has her insides tugging and twisting like vines, cutting off any flow to her heart. But then Misty is smiling, and the tension eases. Pleasantly so. The Cajun reaches out a hand again, this time her fingers damp and scrubbed raw of mud.  

They’re cold to Cordelia’s touch, but she wraps her own fingers around regardless.  

She pulls Misty in nearer. “You want a tour?” Misty says, words low and quiet, and altogether enticing.  

Cordelia throws a glance over her shoulder, wondering how much of a tour she could give for just one room. In spite of that, she finds herself biting her lip and nodding. 

Turns out, Misty has a small garden hidden in the back that she shows off the few scattered plants. A shoddy, homemade fence marks the threshold, and the inside is filled with mismatched pots that Cordelia definitely recognizes from the gardening club. Misty tenderly touches each of the plants the way a mother would a child, talking to them chirpily and causing Cordelia to smile so much that her cheeks ache.  

Then she flutters near the tree line, dirtying her hands once more as she climbs expertly a couple of branches up and smiles into a dark hollow. “Oh, she’s started to nest!” She steadies herself on one of the thinner branches, perching like she belongs there, and leans further in. Cordelia watches on with curiosity tinging her mind, laughing and shaking her head as Misty insists she come look for herself. 

“I do not trust my tree climbing abilities.” She shouts up, though almost considers it, especially when Misty pouts. It fizzles in a matter of seconds and then she’s scaling back down the tree, jumping to the empty spot next to Cordelia. Her once clean hands now hosts greens and brown splotches from the bark, but she simply wipes them on her dress. 

“What’s up there?” 

Misty’s eyes brighten. “An owl. She’s been hangin’ around the past couple of weeks.” Her delicate smile causes a bubbling warmth in Cordelia’s heart, one that she tries to forget about with a soft hum and nod.  

“That’s pretty cool.” 

“Yeah, I’m hopin’ if she has babies I can get a look at them.”  

The idea of Misty cooing over small chicks is all too sweet, but the idea is jarred out of her mind as Misty continues to dust herself off and then glances back to the small building. “C’mon, I’ll show ya inside.”   

They begin to walk back to the shack, bodies bumping against one another every few seconds. Misty’s hand is suddenly next to hers again, pinkie nudging Cordelia’s, before it vanishes in the blink of an eye. Cordelia turns to peer up at her, hoping that the withering light helps to hide the red in her ears, and follows her inside.  

Past the creaking door, there’s a small, homely space that welcomes her with open arms. Misty drops herself to a bed that’s pushed up against the window, tugging up her legs to cross them under herself. The colorful lamp besides her plummets her features into different shades of oranges and reds, but Cordelia can make out her inviting smile. Lifting a hand, Misty pats the empty space beside her; Cordelia doesn’t need to be asked twice.  

As she lowers herself down onto the bumpy mattress, she peers around thoughtfully. The silence continues, comfortable at first, but with the clock in the corner counting down the seconds, she feels a pressure building inside of her. It shifts and pushes painfully at her insides as she fights with the need to say something. But what does she say? It’s rare that a conversation between the two doesn’t flow with ease, yet here she is, itching with doubt.  

It’s Misty who is first to break the ice, or more melt it with warmly spoken words. “What do you think?”  

Cordelia blinks, taking her gaze off the series of band posters and floral paintings that hide the holes in the walls to where Misty is staring at her intently. “Of what?” she chuckles, tucking some hair neatly behind her ear.  

There’s a delicate pause, words shy and tentative, but they push through. “Of here.” Misty elaborates. Her fingers fidget with the ties around her wrists, tugging at the material every few moments in jerky twitches. 

“It’s not what I expected,” she says, her grin allowing Misty’s nerves to seep away before her.  

“What did you expect?”  

With a short laugh, she shrugs. “Not this.” Cordelia shuffles closer, as though drawn to the warmth pulsing from Misty, and feels her expression soften even further. “You did all this yourself?” she peeks across at her through fluttering eyelashes, lips curving upwards.  

Misty nods, pride swelling into her body as she sits up that little bit straighter.  

“It’s really nice – it's very. . . you.”  

“Is that. . .” She licks her lips in thought, “that’s a good thing – right?” 

She grins, endeared at the modesty, and hums. “Yeah, it is.” Cordelia continues to study the room, wanting to learn everything that she can from its carefully chosen décor. “I didn’t realize you liked Fleetwood Mac so much.”  

“Like them?” she bounces in her seat, accent growing thicker in her enthusiasm. “I practically worship the ground they walk on! They are like, the greatest band in existence.”  

Cordelia watches in earnest joy at the way she becomes so animated, eyes so wide and brimming with unabashed excitement. Eyes squint at the many posters surrounding her, a glowing shrine to the band that Cordelia only just about recognizes. Misty follows her line of sight, a sigh of admiration and reverence escaping from her chest. “Their music just. . . just speaks to me, ya know?”  

She doesn’t, and only can shake her head with a barely contained giggle at Misty’s dreamy expression. 

Fear momentarily strikes in the core of Misty‘s features at the appearance of laughter, spreading like wildfire across her face. “Are you laughin’ at me?”  

No.” Cordelia quickly backpedals. “Misty, I’d never. I – I just think it’s really sweet.”  You’re sweet.  The last thought, ironically, catches in her throat with a bitter taste and hides there alongside her courage.  

Misty blinks, mouth forming into a pretty ‘o’ that Cordelia feels her gaze linger on. She servers the action as she realizes her mistake, turning away while heat searing under her skin. As the conversation lulls, the noise of the swamp begins to crawl inside, offering a background of white noise. The quiet resurgence of life and nature back into the room brings a tentative smile tiptoeing on Misty’s pink, puckered lips.  

She doesn’t offer a reply, but stands and pads over to a boom box in the corner. Pale fingers fiddle with the controls, and soon music joins the swamp’s serenade. Cordelia doesn’t know the song personally, but she’s willing to bet any money that it’s from a certain band.  

Spinning on her heel, Misty sighs, shoulders loosening with vanishing tension. Her eyes close slowly, jaw slackening as lips fall open; Cordelia’s transfixed eyes follow from the pointed jawline down the slender neck on show. When the Cajun finally opens her eyes once more, azure spheres have Cordelia sitting with her heart in her stomach and unable to move. “This is one of my favorites,” she confesses aloud. 

“That’s Stevie Nicks, right?” Cordelia finds her voice, even if it is strained. 

Delighted surprise bustles Misty with further excitement. “She is my idol. She is the most amazin’ person in this whole wide world.” It’s no longer admiration that glimmers in her eyes, but sheer and unconditional love.  

Cordelia only notices she’s smiling by the muscles growing weary in her cheeks.  

“She does this thing. . .” Misty continues, breathlessly despite the winds beginning to seep through the open window. She scrambles for one of the shawls hung over the corner of the floor length mirror, pausing for the briefest of moments to observe herself before turning away with a frown. Thankfully, the action is temporary, as she wraps the delicate material over thin shoulder and finds a position in the centre of the room where floorboards creak under her weight.  

She stalls, locking gazes with Cordelia who can only spectate on in interest. She had been leaning her weight against the headboard, but when she notices the trip in Misty’s demeanor, she is erect once more, unsurely debating whether to close the distance between them. As if able to sense her uncertainty, Misty offers a nervous chuckle. “Sorry.” She shakes her head at herself. “I’m just used to doin’ this alone.” 

The word sends a pitiful pang down her already tight chest, but she forces out a supportive smile. “Just pretend I’m not here.” Please don’t.   

With the shawl shrugged onto her shoulders, a newfound confidence surrounds Misty; it bathes her in a glowing light despite the evening drawing in. Misty locks gazes with Cordelia one more time, not long enough for the older blonde to decipher the glisten in her eyes, before she takes to her stage. In one sweeping movement, she lifts the ends of the shawl out, legs expertly twirling her round and around until Cordelia feels dizzy from watching. The tone muscles of her calves drawn attention, speeding Cordelia’s heartbeat up more than she cares to admit. 

Dark material and yellow hair spin in unison, a dance of contrast where they move as one, like ying and yang. She holds a surprising poise, movements elegant and rehearsed, leading Cordelia to wonder how many times she does this. How many days, nights . . . alone. But she’s not alone right now. She is with her, and she doesn’t plan on going anywhere.  

The more she spins, the broader her lips spread until there’s a toothy, unstoppable grin that accompanies laughter. Though Misty eventually stops twirling, the momentum has her moving as though drunk with giddiness and toned legs turn wobbly. She comes to a clumsy stop, then glances instantly over at Cordelia with chest heaving excitedly. “Obviously Stevie does it better than me – but I could watch her do it all day. It’s so magical, right?” 

This time, Cordelia has no hesitation in agreeing with Misty’s words. She almost asks her to carry on twirling in those dancerly motions – almost. “Yeah.” She swallows the dry lump in her throat. “It’s something.”  

Misty keeps fingers clutched onto the shawl and hovers near her boom box once more. “And she does it all the time. My dream is to see her live in concert one day. Can you imagine?” She practically goes cross eyed, head clearly filling with fantasies of occupying the same space as her idol. “Oh my, how incredible it would be.”  

Cordelia’s feels the warm touch of fondness around her heart. But it grows colder with the thought that this is a world of Misty’s she barely knew about, and that realization hits her like a ton of bricks. She blinks up at her, brows knitted together. “How come you don’t ever talk about these things at school?” 

It’s an innocent enough question at first glance, but there’s a hidden weight behind him. Why hasn’t she told her this before? It’s a selfish, fleeting thought that has Cordelia bowing her head in shame, but she waits on baited breath for the answer.  

The Cajun is turned away from her, faced to the table adorned with dog eared books and gardening tools. She stiffens, but throws a stare over her shoulder. Just from that, Cordelia can sense the shift in emotion, can see the way Misty wrinkles her forehead together. “It ain’t anyone’s business.”  

She isn’t expecting the animosity that comes hand in hand with the reply and, even though it isn’t directed her way, it has her nerves fraying on end.  

Misty’s steps are marked by the floorboards playing like rusty, squeaking piano keys, and she slows in front of the window. Through the lace canopy, Misty looks outwards with the most wistful of sighs. “I learned to stop talkin’ about that sort stuff.” She admits sadly, “people just think you’re weird when you’re not like ‘em.” 

On her feet without thought, Cordelia moves to stand by her side. “You’re not weird.” she comforts, in very the way a friend should. She inwardly reprimands herself for wishing the hand on Misty’s shoulder could be more than friendly, especially in her need of reassurance. 

“You don’t have to – " she begins.  

Insistently, Cordelia purses her lips and narrows eyes in a show of stubbornness. “You’re not! You are . . . you’re unique.” 

Misty gives her the side eyes, smiling wryly. “That’s just another word for weird.”  

“It’s better.” She speaks tenderly, eyes boring up at Misty who scrutinizes her in return with unsure features. “Way better than being like every other girl at school. So what if you like plants more than cooing over boys? Or that you don’t conform to what they think is cool?” She sees that she’s beginning to gain some success when Misty has the makings of a smirk on her mouth. “And I actually think it’s really cool that you emulate Stevie Nicks in here. No better way to show your respect, right?” Cordelia squeezes her shoulder now, anxiety stabbing at her chest as she still feels her hard muscles underneath despite her efforts.  

But Misty is smiling. Grinning, even. “You do?” 

“Yeah.” She nods, biting her lip delightfully.  

There’s a pregnant pause, where Misty now crinkles her nose like some sort of adorable mouse. “I guess it is awful borin’ to be like everyone else, huh?” 

Cordelia chuckles, fingers drifting from the shoulder to rest on Misty’s forearm. Fingertips trail the sparse and light hairs that line the skin, until Misty is shuddering under her now firm touch. “You’re definitely not boring.”  

“Guess with a name like Misty Day that’s pretty hard.” She jokes, but Cordelia hears the resentment hidden behind her words.  

“I love your name.” She says, barely giving Misty to a second to finish her words. The Cajun may seem initially surprised at the speed of the delivery, though it clearly doesn’t bother her. In fact, she appears to blossom under the sudden attention, like some rare flower that is fit for only Cordelia’s eyes.  

She admires her just as such, even with the flush tainting her skin. “Um,” she continues lamely, “it’s really nice.”  

“Thanks, Delia.” Misty smirks, then everything about her becomes altogether. . . different. And she’s whispering, but Cordelia isn’t sure why. “You’re a really good friend.” The small expanse of air between them grows stifling, thick, like when the threat of lightening lingers oh so dangerously and the arms of your hairs stand on end. Cordelia wonders if she’s about to get struck down, because her heart pumps erratically in anticipation. Misty takes hold of her hand (Cordelia winces at the definitely clammy nature of it) and doesn’t let go. Good, because she doesn’t want her to.  

She's sure she must be smiling like some fool, lost in smouldering eyes.  

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she registers the song changing, and it flips Misty like a switch. Her impossibly wide eyes thin, until there’s soft, hooded eyes in their place, and she fills the silence explaining why the band wrote the song. Cordelia can only listen, wishing she could inspiration for her own heartfelt words that lie dormant deep inside.  

With her free, idle hand, she finds herself readjusting the shawl over Misty’s sleeves. She clears her throat. “This looks nice on you.” 

“Ya think?” She pulls away now, spinning and modelling the shawl more for herself than Cordelia. Every so often, her eyes flicker to the mirror. “I always preferred the black one, but I got gator shit on it.”  

Cordelia rolls her eyes and laughs heartily now. “Course you did.” 

She twirls so much that she falls into the bed with an oof, and Cordelia follows as though connected by some invisible tug. “Don’t hurt yourself, Miss Nicks.” She teases.  

“Don’t even joke about that. I couldn’t ever hope to be as good as her.” She says seriously, only managing to endear Cordelia even further.  

“Fine, fine. But please watch where you’re going. If you get hurt, I don’t even remember where my car is to help you.”  

“I don’t plan on that happenin’” She chuckles, then seems to notice the sun waving goodbye over the horizon.  

The older blonde is the first to comment, an air of sadness washing over her. “I can’t believe it’s getting dark already. Surely we only just got here.” Her watch says otherwise, and she chooses to pointedly ignore it.  

Misty is just as discouraged by the dwindling time between them remaining. She grows quiet, contemplative, and her eyes move over the room in disenchantment. “Guess you wanna go back, huh?” 

She almost goes to agree, knowing that the walk with light guiding her way had been nothing short of treacherous for her untrained feet; the girl doesn’t even want to consider doing it in the dark. But she can’t bring herself to answer in the affirmative. She eyes Misty with a half-smile, a hopeful one that has the Cajun frowning in confusion. “It’s not that late.” She starts alongside a shrug.  

“Don’t you have homework?” 

Yes. Lots.  

“Nah.” Cordelia shakes her head in a terrible feat of appearing nonchalant.  

It works, seeing as Misty is beaming toward her, barely able to stand still from growing excitement. “You’ll stay?” she asks, as though no one has ever stayed for her before.  

“Sure.” Misty’s contagious giddiness has her heart singing loudly within the caverns of her chest. “Would be a shame to go so early.” 

There’s a barely audible gasp from Misty’s mouth, but she’s skipping over to the other side of the room and routing through a collection of music. “I’m gonna show you all my favorite songs.” 

“Why do I feel like there are lots of those?”  

She smirks coyly and bites at her lip. “Yeah . . . but you’ll like ‘em, I know it.”  

“And if I don’t?” she teases.  

Misty doesn’t even have to feign shock now. Turning sharply, she has an all too serious glower, nostrils flaring. “Then we can’t be friends.” 

Cordelia feels all the blood drain from not only her face, but every vessel in her body. “What?” 

Thankfully, a grin pushes onto Misty’s lips and the shock fizzles away from the older blonde at the sight of it. “i’m just kiddin’.” The smile shifts into something altogether more devoted. “Don’t think there’s anythin’ you could do to make me not wanna be your friend.” 

She really doesn’t want to find out if that’s true or not.  

As Misty skips ahead to another song, she doesn’t hesitate in grabbing Cordelia’s hand now, tugging her over to the bed where she sprawls herself across it. Just like how she does on the older blonde’s much larger bed. Long, lanky limbs stretch across the floral sheets, almost dominating it, and Cordelia finds herself tucked away in one corner.  

She’s all too content to observe Misty’s calm presence. The music appears to soothe her like a child being rocked to sleep. There’s not a single worry line in her face; every muscle of her body down to her pinkie finger hang in complete and utter tranquillity. At first, her eyes are closed, helping her lose herself in the moment. When Cordelia only continues to linger, debating if she’s an intruder on the bed, a piercing gaze narrows in on her.  

Under its intensity, she grows shyer, fingers tugging at the ends of her hair.  

Misty grins. “You gonna sit there like that all night?”  

“. . .what?”  

She easily holds herself up in a half sit, reaching for Cordelia’s arms and tugging her down beside her in one swift movement. It’s so fast that she doesn’t register it until she’s lay scarily close to her. This isn’t a double bed - It's barely a  single . And now Misty has twisted in the space, hair fanning out around her in a golden crest while rough fingers loiter around the older blonde’s body. “You can’t listen to Stevie like that.” Her words are more certain than she’s ever heard her, almost authoritative. 

With Misty’s face only inches away from hers, she gulps and trembles. “I can’t?” 

“You gotta relax.” She insists first, not realizing that it’s her very presence that has Cordelia so very much teetering on edge. “Listen to the music. And just . . . feel it.” Misty turns, ever so slightly, as she readjusts arms comfortably under one side.  

“Feel every word, every note.”  

“Okay.” 

“It helps if you close your eyes.”  

There’s a moment of hesitation, but she complies despite the quake in her bones. She is all too aware of the other weight on the mattress, a warmth exuded beside her that is increasingly distracting. Her lips are tightly sewn together, fingers twitching with the want to do anything but sit idly by her side.  

Beside her, Misty sings in a low hum that always manages to put her at ease. If she lets her imagination run away with itself, she could pretend that it’s like a private concert just for her, but she supposes that would be all too wishful. One song turns into another, the lyrics perfectly memorized by her friend whose voice becomes barely a whisper. Even right next to her, Cordelia has to strain to hear them.  

The room stills with the disappearance of Misty’s notes, but she doesn’t open her eyes. And there are other sounds around her, she’s sure. Strangely, Cordelia doesn’t register any of them, like when you’re underwater and the rest of the world is a blur. Her world is currently dark and quiet; the only sense she can think about is the sweet smell of Misty’s perfume wafting her way enticingly.  

Through the murky waters of her brain, Misty speaks. “Do you like this?” 

She squints an eye open as the voice jars her into back into reality. To her surprise, Misty is watching her, chin rested on one hand and a smirk dancing prettily on her lips. How long has she been doing that? As she considers it, Cordelia finds herself struggling to care. She smiles, despite the queasy tugging in her tummy at Misty’s closeness.  

Cordelia then nods. “Yeah. This song is nice.”  

Misty’s face doesn’t fall, but it definitely stumbles, only to have a strained façade of joy pushed onto there. “Right. The song.” She repeats. Cordelia frowns at her strange response, and pushes it aside before she can overanalyze.  

Catching sight of the time, she sighs. “It’s getting late.”  

And Misty is nodding too, jumping from the bed in suit with Cordelia. The two move with speed, almost nervously, like much more had happened other than laying listening to music. For a moment, and she isn’t sure why, she can barely bring herself to meet Misty’s eyes. When she does, they’re still warm and welcoming; she instantly feels guilty for her reluctance.  

“C’mon. I’ll get you back in one piece.” Misty’s eyes glisten as they step outside, catching the light of the moon in them.  

The walk is most definitely scarier in the dark, especially when roots seem intent on catching her uncertain feet at every opportunity. At one moment, she stumbles straight into Misty, flailing arms wrapping around her shoulders. “Am I gonna have to piggy back you to the car?” she half jokes, half looks as though she’s rather keen on the idea.  

Cordelia pulls away, face hot and red. “I’ll be fine.” 

Even so, she doesn’t let go of Misty’s equally strong grip, that only increases with her every slip on unstable ground. She finds herself smiling against the dark, almost willing the journey to be longer so she can, without guilt, relish the feel of Misty’s fingers interlaced with hers. Without thinking, she leans in closer, and lets her thumb move over the many bracelets that adorn Misty’s thin wrist. 

At one point, it toys with the thick material she ties around them, one that she can just about make out as a different color to yesterday in the dark. It shifts and loosens under Corderlia’s absent ministrations, and quite honestly, she doesn’t notice she’s even doing it, until the smooth skin under her thumb becomes raised, thin, raised scabs littering the area. It reminds her of grazes she’d have as a kid in the rare moments that she’d more daringly play outside and would usually end up with some sort of wound.  

And she wouldn’t think anything of it, if Misty didn’t tense up, refusing to even look in her direction. She detaches her grasp from Cordelia’s with little hesitation, but continues to walk. “Look,” she comments at the sight of headlights in the distance. “We’re almost there.”  

That is the least of Cordelia’s concerns as she pursues Misty with a deep setting frown, navigating the terrain as best she can. They’re not touching any more. Despite this, the ghost of the cuts hover over her thumb as though imprinted in them forever. She feels a prickly dryness against her throat, even the roof of her mouth as she ponders the possibilities. “How did you do that?” she eventually says.  

Misty quickens her pace. “Do what?”  

It isn’t her voice. It belongs to a stranger – cold and indifferent.  

Cordelia slows, if only to reel at the reaction, then continues to follow with unbridled speed even as Misty nears the car. When their eyes meet, hers narrow up at Misty. “Your arm.” 

No further explanation is needed, because surely Misty knows that’s there. But she pauses as if she doesn’t, the peers down to the bandana bracelet covering the small marks. “Oh? That.” She speaks, unconcerned. “Did it climbin’ a tree the other day. It’s nothin’.” 

Misty is smiling now, looking between Cordelia and the car expectantly.  

She isn’t so keen to accept the answer, yet Cordelia only finds herself being able to stare in question. The idea of probing further makes her uncomfortable, so much that her skin itches with uncertainty.  

“Honestly,” Misty continues, a hand reaching up to settle on her shoulder in a grounding squeeze. “Don’t worry.”  

But she does

Even as they get into the car once more and they complete the drive to Misty’s house on the now unlit road. Misty continues to smile and laugh without a care in the world – either she’s an amazing actress or Cordelia is completely overreacting. She prays that she is. Even as Misty talks about their shared science project, she can only nod and hum in the appropriate places.  

The conversation only lulls as they pull up outside the long drive, crickets welcoming them noisily. In the distance, Cordelia can hear the low call of some bovine creature. Misty glances across at her now, fingers on the door handle, but making no move to open it.  

“Are you okay?” she asks unsurely. 

She drops her hands from where they clutch the steering wheel. “Yeah, of course I am.” Cordelia lets out a sigh like she’s been holding her breath for the past ten minutes, and the inhale afterwards feels as though breathing for the first time. “I had a really good night, Misty. Thank you.”  

Her friend beams, face so happy that Cordeia feels her heart ache in appreciation. 

“Well, you’re welcome anytime, ya know. Was nice sharin’ the cabin with someone else. Especially you.”  

This time, a genuine smile does find its way to her lips. “That’d be nice.”  

Misty eventually opens the door, pausing to grin at her. “Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.” Lips twist into a smirk. “Don’t stay up too late doin’ your homework.” 

And she knows that Cordelia abandoned work to stay with her, leading to older blonde to smile sheepishly at getting caught out. She chuckles in a gentle manner, then ducks her head. “Can’t make any promises.”  

There’s a tangible thickness to the air,  again , but neither comment on it. In fact, Misty takes this as her moment to leave, taking the usual route to the house in the distance and, as always, Cordelia sits and waits for a sign that she’s gone inside. Even when she’s sure of though, she doesn’t set off straight away, her mind too swamped with the events of the evening to even consider driving.  

She thinks of the way Misty had been so close to her, how enchantingly she’d danced around the room, and how Cordelia definitely thinks that her crush is not going to go away any time soon.  

Chapter Text

Madison’s party is not as fun as she’d made it out to be.  

Maybe it’s the fact that everyone is incoherently drunk, or that the leering looks of guys actually repulse her, but she’s not really enjoying herself. She holds onto her drink for dear life, contemplating perhaps calling it a night as the crowd blends into nothing more than blank faces. In her drunken stupor, it’s hard to pinpoint each individual one.  

When she does spy a familiar friend, she’s relieved to see it is Zoe; the brunette’s thoughtful eyes around the room, glancing between a group of girls swooping around a crying friend and some college kids experiencing what appears to be an intense game of beer pong. Sucking in a breath to steady her hazy head, Cordelia slowly walks over to her. “Everyone left you too, huh?” she asks wryly. 

Zoe momentarily jumps at the sound of her voice so near, then eases into a smile. “Madison abandoned me the second a guy made eyes at her. Go figure.” She shakes her head in irritation, then takes another forceful sip of her drink – some fruity smelling thing that Cordelia has been avoiding all night. “I thought you were with Queenie?” 

“I was “cramping her style” apparently.”  

The brunette rolls her eyes, but smirks nonetheless.  

“I’m guessing you were living up to your mom friend calling?” Despite being perturbed, she feels herself grow more eased under Zoe’s light laughter.  

“I can’t help it.” She confesses with her own grin. I just care too much.  With that thought cast away and a distracting swig of the own bitter liquid in her cup, she squints around the crowded room. “Where did everyone else go?” 

“Nan is somewhere around here with Luke. And Mallory – she went off Coco.” 

“Oh.”  

There’s another smirk, impish, alongside an arch of her eyebrow. Zoe responds in equal, leaning herself gently against the door frame where she’s stood. “I know. Didn’t see that one coming. But then again, I thought you would have bailed by now.”  

She wonders if she’s supposed to be offended at that. It’s barely one am, and she’s not  that  much of an old soul that she would have retired already, but a part of her seems surprised at herself, too. The party isn’t exactly her kind of scene, not really. Too many drunk guys with wandering hands and childish drama that she can’t abide by. At least there  are  people though. Anything seems better than the idea of sitting home alone on a Saturday night watching Friends reruns. 

Blinking at Zoe, she resigns herself to an empty laugh. “Am I that predictable?”  

“No,” she says, “you just don’t look like you’re enjoying yourself.” 

Cordelia shrugs then, “it’s okay, I guess.”  

“Would it be better if a certain someone was here?”  

The question has her stilling in place like a deer in headlights, mouth agape and brain scrambling to make sense of the words as though they are spoken in some sort of alien language. Zoe is hiding a grin, her inebriation seeming to give her a bolder approach than normal, seeing as she continues in wake of Cordelia’s ongoing lack of a response. “What’s going on with you two anyway?”  

She sucks in a sharp, painful breath now against a constricted throat, letting it shudder out with her response. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Cordelia lies – really, really badly.  

There’s a hardening of her gaze, more in scrutiny than annoyance, like she’s trying to figure Cordelia out. Zoe leans in nearer now, clearly sensing the way Cordelia’s heart is rattling inside its bone cage right now. “You and Misty . . .?”  

With a wince, she bristles defensively, though tries to maintain her cool and collected character that is decidedly not at all cool  or  collected. The lump in her throat swallowed, Cordelia chuckles. “You’ve been spending too much time with Madison.”  

“Oh, come on, Cordelia. I’ve got eyes, you know.”  

Something close to dread settles on her stomach, nestling in and making home inside of her. “Zoe.” She says, smiling although there is little happiness in her response. “There is nothing going on, I assure you.”  

Zoe doesn’t answer straight away, exacerbating the anxiety clawing at Cordelia’s heart, and regards her with a musing glance. Despite the intense background noise around them, Cordelia can barely hear a thing.  

She does, however, hear the next question that Zoe asks, just as jarring as the first. “Do you want there to be?”  

More than anything in the world.  

“I -” Cordelia clamps her lips closed before anything incriminating can flow out of them, but that seems to be enough of an answer for Zoe. Perceptive as ever, she only smirks. The blonde does her best to calm the nervous tremor that usurps all other functions in her body.  

Then there’s a friendly hand on her shoulder, one that squeezes and lingers. “Your secret is safe with me.”  

“Zoe, I don’t -” 

“Madison was right.” She cuts across Cordelia’s useless countering. “You do look at Misty differently than everyone else.”  

Realizing that denial is a fruitless expedition, she merely heaves with a sigh. “I do wish she was here.” She confesses, barely a murmur against the noise of the party. It’s not meant for Zoe’s ears, not really; she just happens to be a spectator to Cordelia’s admittance. For once out loud and not in her own head, as if she’s getting that little bit braver. Maybe one day she’ll muster enough courage to utter those words in front of the one person she really wants to.  

But Zoe is smiling at her now, the action tarnished with sympathy – maybe pity – and nods. “Maybe she can come next time.” 

Cordelia hums doubtfully, perhaps to snub any waxing hope. “Yeah.” 

Their serious conversation comes to an end as two drunken idiots try dangling from the chandelier with as much success as one would expect. Even with the burn of alcohol in her veins, she finds her enthusiasm dimming after that and soon after makes the decision to go home.  

What is usually a short cab ride seems to take hours, her mind spinning like a carousel that she can’t get off. Misty refuses to leave her mind, even for a second, and when she does eventually settle into her bed that night, head clouded by more than the alcohol, she reaches for her phone. It’s easy to find Misty in her contacts, eyes staring at her number.  

She hesitates, eyeing the time in the corner of her screen, but a part of her really doesn’t care. The urge is strong, undeniable and Cordelia easily succumbs to it. With as much care as she can in her inebriation, she types a quick message. Hey, you awake?  

Ignoring the twist in her stomach, she throws up head back against the pillows and allows herself to reflect on the night, on Zoe’s words. They hang above her head with no signs of giving up. Are her feelings for Misty so transparent? Would it be less noticeable if she wore a sign around her neck saying ‘I like Misty Day’? Her face pinches with a frown, eyes glancing to her blank phone screen that shows no sign of a reply.  

A groan resonates deep within up, crawling up her tight throat and out of her lips until it echoes around the room. She feels stifled in what should be her sanctuary, where walls close in and air grows cold inside her lungs.  

Cordelia jumps to her feet and is leaving the room before she can even register it, migrating to the kitchen where a glass of cold water helps to clear her head. As she begins to ascent back up the stairs, she eyes the dark corners of the large house where shadows creep in an unsettling way. In the end, she supposes her room is the best place to be and returns with her glass and chips in the other hand.  

Both are immediately forgotten about as she spies the notification. Her heart seizes in excitement, fingers so hurriedly moving to put in her passcode that she gets it wrong the first couple of times. Her smile widens upon seeing Misty’s response.  

Sure am. Isn’t it a little late for you? 😉   

Her heart warming and fluttering, she bites her lower lip to keep the smile in place.  

She pauses in thought for a moment, and decisively bites the bullet. Can I call you?  The idea is a fleeting one, but she’s already sent the text before she has a moment to really think about it, and Misty quickly agrees. In fact, it’s her caller ID that shows up not seconds later.  

Cordelia answers with a grin. “Hi.” Her words are slightly slurred, tired, but filled with sweet fondness.  

Misty, on the other hand, brims with worry. “What’s wrong, Delia? Did somethin’ happen?” 

All she wants to do is sweep Misty is in her arms and take away every gram of fret from her body. Unfortunately, her only option is to talk it out of her. “Nothing happened,” she says, voice adopting an airy quality.  

Her friend pauses, the line falling quiet, though Cordelia thinks she can hear the distant sound of a baby wailing somewhere in the background. Soon, Misty’s sweet, probing cadence returns. “Are you drunk?”  

No.” Cordelia laughs, “well, maybe a little.”  

She hears Misty joining in, low and gravelly, like she was just woken up from sleep. For a moment, she wonders if her text brought her out of slumber. “So, you’re drunk diallin’ me right now?” She teases. 

Eyes grow in shock, grin wobbling on her lips. Misty’s playful taunting moves right to her core; she can hear the smirk in her voice, envision the way her brow points neatly upwards and her insides just about turn to jelly. “I just . . .” She pauses, biting on her tongue before anything slips from her lips. Her own quiet is deafening. Does Misty hear the strain in her voice? “I -” 

There’s an exhalation from Misty, impossibly long, before she replies. “I’m glad you called.”  

Time stops moving around her and she smiles against the phone. She gulps. “You are?” 

“Oh yeah, was sat here thinkin’ what you could possibly be getting' up to at Madison’s party.” Misty replies, words thick with playfulness. “Seein’ as you’re such a party animal.”  

Cordelia snorts, a hand moving to cover her face and hide further laughter. “Why do you all think I’m so boring?”  

“I don’t think you’re borin’.”  

“Hmm?”  

She lets her eyes close then, her drunken stupor beginning to take hold. Tiredness wears at her body, but she fights it with a soft smile pressed to her mouth as Misty speaks. “Did you at least have fun?”  

“It was okay.”  

“Just okay?” 

“It would have been more fun with you there.”  

Misty laughs loudly. “Oh, you know I’d love to see you drunk. Even if it meant having to go to Madison’s party.”  

“Then come next time.” She whines. “Promise me.”  

“Delia -” 

Promise.” 

Neediness doesn’t just creep into her demand, instead it envelopes every syllable in it until Misty clearly takes pity on her and whispers out. “Okay. I promise.” 

Cordelia grins once more and sighs out her happiness at that. The surrounding room no longer suffocates or intrudes; she settles into the soft sheets with legs stretching out at a leisurely pace. Still, despite her newfound content, something doesn’t sit quiet right with her.  

I wish you were here now. She thinks, and then in her vulnerable state she’s suddenly saying those words. If Misty hears the heartache within them, she doesn’t ask any further, though there is a long pause. One that has Cordelia’s nerves fraying on end, eyes flying open once more and brimming with dread.  

“You do, huh?” She giggles, all light and pretty and enough to make Cordelia’s stomach swim with butterflies.  

Too far in to backpedal, she bites her lip “Yeah.” 

She’d do anything to be able to see Misty’s face right now, to decipher exactly what emotions it’s currently holding. Because all she can hear is her steadied voice. “You really are drunk, aren’t ya?”  

“Not really.”  

“Oh.”  

She might not be that drunk, but she’s drunk enough for more words to slip out unfiltered. “I miss you.”  

She laughs again and Cordelia finds herself chuckling along in spite of the way sleep pulls at her mind. 

“I was with you last night.”  

“Still miss you.” She insists, then daringly asks. “Don’t you miss me?”  

“You’re my best friend . . . of course I do.”  

Those words should be enough to satiate her yet she finds them increasing her greediness, exacerbating the want in her heart. “We should do something tomorrow.” 

“I have chur – " 

“Afterwards.” She insists. “I’ll come pick you up.” 

Misty sighs then, but not in the way of Cordelia’s demand being a chore. More a wistful exhale that fills the space between Cordelia’s ears with a gentle hum. There is no fight in her friend when it comes to her request and she soon finds her words. “Okay. I’ll text you when we’re done.” 

Cordelia’s face splits into a beam. Her once tired limbs become overcome with energy, any hint of tiredness flying out of the window. Unfortunately, she is the only one awash with the sudden buzz, for Misty is yawning deeply on the other end of the phone. “You should go to sleep.” She returns to her motherly nature like the flick of a switch.  

“Hm, you too. Sleep off all that liquor.”  

She snorts out a laugh. “Goodnight Misty.”  

A pause, then a sweet. “Night. Sweet dreams.”  

Cordelia stares at her phone for longer than she should after Misty hangs up, a dumbly delighted smile refusing to budge from her lips. 

… 

She waits the next day at the end of the dirt track drive with music playing quietly in the background. Nerves prickle at the back of her neck, but she pointedly ignores them by scrolling through her phone and thinking of anything but their conservation last night. Cordelia supposes there’s a little embarrassment lingering inside of her, for things she wonders if she’d say with the lack of alcohol.  

Any worries about it are cast out when she peers Misty from the corner of her eye, appearing in the doorway. There’s someone stood next to her, a burly man with a good half a foot on Misty and the same dirty blond hair. One of her brothers? She makes a note to ask until she focuses on the way Misty’s brows furrow in annoyance and she shakes her head vehemently.  

He throws his hands up then, towering over her for all of a few seconds. Cordelia fights the urge to go and put herself between them, despite knowing he’s at least a foot taller than her and double her width. 

But Misty spins on her heel, putting distance between her and the man who clearly calls after her, to no avail. Walking with hunched shoulders, Misty only quickens her pace. A smile springs onto her lips when she spies her, all but setting into a run and climbing into the car. “Hey.” She drawls, catching her breath. There’s a long pause as she observes Cordelia. ”How you feelin’?” Her eyes crinkle with mirth, only for Cordelia to realize she isn’t wearing her usual deep black eye liner.  

She rakes her eyes down then, taking in the long cream dress that she wears, with flowers stitched neatly to the bodice. Unlike many of her other clothes, there aren’t any mud stains or tears, and it actually seems to fit her slim figure rather than hang loosely. Even her wild hair appears to have been tamed. Cordelia can’t help thinking how beautiful she looks. “I’m fine.” She grows sheepish. “Sorry about waking you up.”  

“Oh, don’t worry. Buddy had the whole house awake anyway.” Misty caves off the concern. Dark bags under her eyes confirm her story, while lines crease on her forehead, especially as Cordelia’s gaze moves past her friend to where the man still stands in the doorway with nothing short of a brooding glower.  

A look thrown over her shoulder, she grumbles. “Ignore Tommy. He’s just pissed ‘cause I won’t lie to Daddy for him.”  

“Lie?” she inquires.  

“He keeps sneakin’ off during church to go see some girl. Who’s married.” The last words are spoken emphatically, eyes widening in a way that has Cordelia grinning. She moves her gaze away from him and then sets on putting the car in motion.  

She takes a moment to gather her thoughts. “Sounds like a real drama.”  

“I don’t wanna be involved.” Misty confesses, all too quiet.   

“Then don’t get involved.” 

She tsks then, eyeing her with nothing short of an intense gaze. “It ain’t that easy. My family is way too involved in each other’s lives.”  

Cordelia nods like she understands but, in all honesty, there is not an ounce of comprehension there. She doesn’t have any siblings, cousins, or extended family. Just her and Fiona, and they are definitely out of synch with each other’s business. But Misty continues her rant with an expanding frown and slumping shoulders. 

When she sees the vacant expression beginning to meet Cordelia’s eyes, she sighs. “Sorry. I don’t mean to bore ya.”  

All to quickly to backtrack, she shakes her head. “No, you’re not. I just wish I could relate. I have the curse of being an only child.”  

“You mean the gift.” She corrects. “What I’d give to be an only child.”  

A smirk tugs on at corner of her lips at the way her words are said in exasperation and dramatics.  “Surely you’d miss them?”  

Her expression says otherwise, annoyance spreading like wildfire. Cordelia laughs gently, eyes squinting against the low winter sun as she drives. The journey isn’t long – Misty must recognize where they’re going seeing as she doesn’t ask and eventually, she stares at of the window thoughtfully while Cordelia peeks glances at her. 

When they park up, at the same overlook they’d gone to the night they’d egged Hank’s car, Misty jumps out with a burst of energy. She beams as she spies the items in the backseat of the car. “You brought food?”  

“Thought you’d be hungry.” Cordelia’s cheeks tinge the slightest of pinks, though Misty isn’t looking her way. 

Her friend takes a moment to observe the view, just as beautiful in the daytime, with the mixture of sun and clouds overlooking the town. She closes her eyes, breathing in the air that always seems clearer up here. Wind collects around them, sending Misty’s tidy hair into a flurry that she fails in patting down.  

Cordelia grabs her makeshift picnic and follows Misty to the dry spot she finds on the ground. Blankets are lay neatly before she even contemplates sitting down, leaving Cordelia to grin and set confused eyes on her. “Since when do you care about mud?” She asks gently.  

“This is my church dress.” She flattens it neatly underneath her. 

She nods, offering her the selection of sandwiches. “Why didn’t you change?” 

Misty stills, not quite a deer caught in the headlights, but still the hint of panic washing over her features like a gentle wave. Clouds hide the sun rays from her features, highlighting the shadows under her sleepy eyes. She tucks some hair behind her ear. “I like this dress.” She says simply, timidness catching at the edge. “I think it’s pretty.”  

Cordelia grins, taking a bite of her own food. “You do look pretty in it.”  

The panic returns with a vengeance on the Cajun’s face, and Cordelia covers its track so keenly that she almost chokes on her mouthful of food. “So, how many siblings do you have?” she thinks back to her questions a couple of weeks ago. “I don’t think you’ve ever said.” 

Blinking, she toys with the hem of the plaid blanket. “Uh, I got two sisters and four brothers.”  

“Jesus.”  She breathes. “No wonder you want a break.”  

A stark laugh bubbles over, then she shrugs. “Yeah, they’re a lot.”  

“You’re the youngest, right?”  

She nods then, eyes wide and face innocent, definitely making her look the part of baby of the family.  

“You know,” she teases, leaning in with a strawberry poised in front of her lips. Misty watches this with glossy eyes and lips parted until Cordelia’s words bring her eyes back north again, “I hear that the youngest always get away with everything.”  

Misty perks a brow. “Oh yeah, where’d you hear that?”  

“Common knowledge.” 

“Wish it were true.  Only reason I get away with stuff is ‘cause there’s too many of us to keep track of.” She gives a wry smile. “Especially since Hunter and Buddy came along.” When Cordelia’s brow knits together in thought, she supplies further explanation. “Hunter is Nash’s kid, then Nell had Buddy last year.”  

She nods, storing that information away for future reference.  

Misty continues with a faltering smile. ”’Course Jackson’s wife is expectin’ too.” She rolls her eyes. “Twins.”  

“Okay, I’m gonna need you to write all this down so I can keep up.”  

She receives a playful shove from Misty, enjoying the feel of her fingers on her upper arm. For the briefest of moment’s, Cordelia shifts her gaze downward to where her arms are covered over with the sleeve of the dress. They hone in, as though trying to physically see through the material, to where Misty claims she’d hurt herself climbing a tree. The second Misty notices this, she tugs sharply away as she clears her throat and then wraps her arms around herself. “It’s not that hard to remember.” She says, anything to take the attention away.  

Cordelia almost asks again, but buries the question deep inside of her alongside the feeling of sudden nausea.  

She puts a strained smile onto her expression, shuffling closer to Misty before she looks out at the view. It’s not much, their little town. Nothing more than a High school and a few political scandals, but she guesses it’s home. That being said, she can’t wait until the day she gets to fly the nest toward college.  

The very idea brings a melancholy ache to her chest, however, when her eyes find their way back to Misty and she frets over the idea that going might mean leaving her behind. In spite of the bitter sting against her ribs, she doesn’t let it spread to her friend.  

Misty, for the most part, seems at ease. She thoughtfully picks out every bite of food, which Cordelia finds herself watching as though it’s the most interesting thing in the world. Through thick eyelashes, Misty locks their eyes and grins “You look tired.”  

She feels it. She counters with a nudge of their shoulders. “Speak for yourself.” 

“Well, someone wanted to talk to me at two am this mornin’” Cordelia notes how Misty doesn’t shy away from her loitering presence, only leans closer. When she turns, their faces are inches apart. She suddenly feels lightheaded, as though they’re say on the top of Everest rather than a lookout. 

“You didn’t have to reply.”  

Her brow quirks, the corners of her lips twitching. “What if Madison had done somethin' bad to you?”  

“Like what?” she gets out through giggles.  

“Oh, I dunno. Set you up with some pervy college guys.”  

“That was a distinct possibility.” She catches the way Misty is staring at her, waiting for a missing piece of information. “What?” 

She hesitates, hiding the slight tenseness behind a wary smile. “Did anythin’ happen?”  

“What?” 

“With a boy.”  

“Oh god, Misty. You’re acting like we’re in the fourth grade!” She says in incredulity, only for it to spread when Misty bows her head and averts her eyes. Cordelia grows calmer then, sucking in a sharp breath. “Nothing happened, with anyone.” She gives a self-deprecating grin. “Should I be worried that nobody tried to make a move?”  

Misty jerks up at that, eyes stilling from where they glisten with some mystery emotion. “At one of Madison’s parties? I don’t think so.” 

“Hm, you’re right. Not exactly like I’d entertain the idea of hooking up with any of them.” 

She doesn’t answer right away, her face pinching together with thought in a way that Cordelia’s finds mesmerizingly adorable. “So, the person you liked wasn’t there?” 

And this is the moment Cordelia freezes with fear, air trapped in her throat. The ice of the emotion spreads through her veins until it grips around all the organs in her chest with a tight squeeze.  “What?” She chokes out.  

“After you broke up with Hank . . .” She frowns. “You said that you started having feelings for someone else.” 

Oh. That conversation. She feels it burned into the forefront of her mind, draining her from within. She holds in a sigh, but it soon grows stale in her lungs and cries to be released. As it forces itself out, it accompanies a shuddery, “yeah.”  

Misty observes her curiously. Her eyes seem wider, pupils dilated. “Do you still like them?” 

Cordelia gulps thickly against her constricting throat and offers nothing more than a half shrug. She doesn’t want to lie to Misty, but she fears the repercussions of telling her the truth. Not just for her, but more so for Misty. And more worryingly, she dares not think what it could do their friendship because she knows that Misty can’t return those feelings.  

At her strange demeanor, Misty reels back slightly. “Did I say somethin’ wrong?” 

“No.” She reaches up, needing some tactile comfort before she combusts amidst her sudden anxiety. Hands find Misty’s arm and refuse to leave. “I just don’t think it’s going to work out.”  

She doesn’t know how she expects Misty to react, but she certainly hadn’t considered that the blonde would look almost  relieved  at that confession. Ever the doting friend, though, she places her hand on Cordelia’s. “I’m sorry, Delia.” She comforts. 

“Don’t be. It was a long shot, anyway.”  

This seems to confuse Misty more, who appears to become lost somewhere deep within the cavern of her thoughts, leaving Cordelia to her own company. She picks at the food, then lifts her knees so they’re against her chest and watches the world around them. In the town, everything seems so much faster, people rushing this way and that. Honking horns and revving engines can be heard even at their distant stoop; even closer to her she can hear bird song and rustling wind.  

She turns to Misty again, her pale face too staring out ahead of her with an expression more of despondence than Cordelia’s admiration. Lips pursing together, she wishes she could climb into her head and find out what’s bothering her.  

With a flutter of eyelashes, Misty’s eyes become focused once more and she regards Cordelia like one would a pretty bouquet of flowers. “This is nice.” 

Cordelia hums her agreement.  

“I don’t want to go home.” She says quietly, voice filled with a sadness that Cordelia doesn’t understand. What she does know is that it breaks her heart to see.  

“We can stay here as long as you want.”  

Misty toys with the blanket again, smacking her lips together in thought. “It’s gonna get cold.” 

She waves off any worries. “We can sit in the car. Or go back to mine.” 

A smile fights its way onto the Cajun’s face. “That sounds good.” 

Cordelia counters it with her own grin. “You can tell me more about your family. Feel I need to study all these names.”  

A blush climbs from Misty’s ears to her delicate cheekbones. “You don’t need to know all their names . . .” 

“What if I meet them one day though?” She says, bordering on optimism. One day she’s going to get that invite to Misty’s house, no matter how patient she has to be.  

But Misty is just watching her and smiling with her own disbelief, before she helps to tidy up their leftover food. Most of it is snacked on by her friend on the drive back to hers, although she does send Cordelia into a fit of giggles as she haphazardly tries to hand feed her grapes while she’s driving.  

Her house brings with it an afternoon of planting seeds followed by scrolling through her Netflix. Still feeling the effects of the alcohol, Cordelia finds herself in somewhat of a haze. Conversation is lazy, but comfortable; she soon notices Misty’s own eyes drooping. Their gazes meet from where they’re lay on sofa, her giving a silent okay for Misty to succumb to her tiredness. She does not long after that.  

Cordelia follows, not before staring at her friend like some lovesick fool. 

Chapter Text

Valentine’s day sucks. 

She thinks that over and over as the days preceding the holiday have her friends turned into materialistic, love clouded idiots who can only talk about that one stupid day as if it’s the only thing that matters. And okay, maybe she’s being bitter and resentful from seeing everyone else so happy. But this day is just another jarring reminder that she’s alone. Even her own mother has plans.  

Cordelia tries not to let her fragile mood teeter too far over the edge as the day approaches. It’s easier said than done when the school erupts into a sea of hearts and deep red. They infiltrate every classroom, the locker room and lunch hall in a sickening display that makes her feel a combination of guilty and enraged.  

She should be happy for other people’s love.  

But she’s not.  

She feels it as stares with longing in her dark eyes are Nan and Luke snuggle together during lunch, or how Queenie gets a box of chocolates left in her locker for her. And each time, she walks away with a heavier heart than before, counting down the days until the holiday is behind her, until next year of course.  

At least she’s not alone in her torment. 

“This is so fucking unfair!” Madison seethes over her salad, spitting profanities and complaints all over the bed of lettuce.  

“I’d hate to say I told you so but – " 

Her head snaps in Cordelia’s direction, moving so fast that she panics it might not stop and Madison will do a wonderful impression of the girl from the exorcist. “Don’t.” A sneer climbs onto red lips. “You might be happy being alone for Valentine’s day but I had plans.” She pushes her food away in a huff. “Why does his girlfriend have to come back into town? What have I done to deserve this?”  

Misty, who had been more preoccupied with scooping the chocolate pudding scraps from the cup, suddenly looks up and that and readies herself with a retort. “Well, for start – " 

“Shut up, trailer trash.”  

Eyes narrow and her jaw sets. Cordelia is sure that Misty is about to launch herself over the table and land a full blown punch at Madison, but she anchors herself at the last second. A testy “go fuck yourself” follows from her lips, the muscles in her neck straining.  

She catches Cordelia’s eye, who just rolls her own dramatically.  

The older blonde takes a bite of her own salad. “Maybe you’ve still got time to find someone that isn’t dating somebody else,” she starts in what she thinks should be a helpful suggestion, though definitely comes across as a jab at her.  

“Not likely.” Misty mutters into her cup, only loud enough for Cordelia to catch who hides her smile behind her hand. 

In true form, Madison glares daggers at the both of them and then begins to pointedly ignore the pair in favor of her phone. It pings and vibrates respectively as she desperately tries to maintain her social status as what she thinks is HBIC. Cordelia isn’t so sure she was ever that. Still, she doesn’t want to burst her bubble so she remains quiet and enjoys the peace that her distraction brings.  

As her attention returns to the friend that gives her far less of a headache, she suddenly smiles in earnest and scoots forward. “You’ve got pudding on your face.” 

Misty straightens in her seat, tugging at her sleeve and using it to wipe haphazardly at her face. “Is it gone?”  She inspects said sleeve with a thoughtful frown, then moves bright blue eyes back up to Cordelia who is wearing a fond half smile in retrospect.  

She shakes her head no and reaches up a hand. It slows near Misty’s cheek, their eyes locking, as she silently asks for permission that Misty’s lack of an answer gives. With the lightest of touches, her thumb grazes against where the small bit of food lingers, just tucked in the corner of Misty’s lips. The movement is slow and efficient as she removes it, then she moves her focused eyes from that back up to those of her friends.  

And instantly feels like she’s been punched in the stomach.  

For Misty’s eyes are wide and clouded over, glistening with unreadable emotions under the fluorescent lighting of the cafeteria. The way puzzlement swims in those spheres makes Cordelia’s stomach twist further under an invisible force, and she all too quickly pulls her hand away from Misty like her skin scorched her own.  

To her surprise, Misty frowns at that, shoulders slumping with Cordelia’s retreat before she mutters a half-hearted “thanks” out to her. 

“No problem.” 

Cordelia turns her attention back to her food and, unfortunately, at the girl who’s sitting across from them. The first thing that meets her gaze is a shit eating grin. Madison’s eyes then peer, threateningly, over toward Misty while Cordelia counters with her own glowering look. More of a warning, one that Madison chooses to ignore. 

“So Misty,” she begins in a sickly sweet tone. “What are you doing for Valentine’s day?”  

All intentions behind the question are picked up rather quickly by the Cajun, whose features become far more stoic than the soft way they’d regarded Cordelia moments ago.  “What do you care?” 

She scoffs. “We’re friends, aren’t we?” 

Misty hesitates at that, causing Cordelia to bite back a laugh.  

“We seem to only be friends when you want somethin’.” 

“Jeez, it was just a question.” Madison begins to back down when she realizes she isn’t going to get the pleasure she so desperately wants from Misty’s response.  

Surprisingly, Misty does answer. 

“I’m not doin’ anything, if you must know.” She offers. “And no, I don’t want you to set me up with anyone.”  

“Your loss. I know lots of guys and gals that would be into this hippie shit.” Madison gestures the full length of Misty’s body with a growing smirk. And Cordelia only shakes her head at the suggestion, knowing that Misty would never in her right mind let anyone like Madison make decisions about her dating life. Surely, she could never pick someone who could work for the kind and gentle girl, seeing as most people she knows can only be described as fuckboys.  

Even though she’s on the cusp on amusement at Madison’s suggestion, having long ago learned to humor her rather than get annoyed, she senses a shift. It’s confirmed when brown eyes slowly drift over to where Misty is sat like someone has just stuck a metal road down her spine. She twitches nervously, licking her lower lip in thought and confusion and -     

“Girls?” She accuses, her accent growing heavier as the strain tugs at it.  

Madison’s indifferent expression seems to perturb her even further, and all Cordelia can do is watch on as if spectating a car crash that she can do nothing about.  

“Yes. Girls.” Madison deadpans. “What’s your problem, swampy?” 

“I’m not . . .” She blinks, eyes darting about the room like a nervous deer before she leans closer across the small table. When those frightened eyes meet Cordelia’s, her ears burn red, and she tears them away all too quickly to glower at Madison. “I’m not gay.” She whispers harshly.  

That it is.  Madison knows that she’s cut Misty open and got under her skin, and on the rare occasion that she has the upper hand on the Cajun, Madison clearly intends to milk it. She bends over the table too, smugly so, and rests her chin on a perfectly manicured hand. “Yeah?” Her eyebrow arches neatly. “You seem pretty gay to me.”  

Cordelia sees storm clouds brewing in Misty’s eyes, her hands moving into tight fists, but she doesn’t pounce. Self-restraint seems to be hidden somewhere, even when she hisses out the next words with anger and ire that frightens Cordelia. “You don’t know shit about me.” She angrily shoves the rest of her lunch in Madison’s direction and storms away from the table without giving her a chance to respond.  

To her credit, Madison seems somewhat unfazed and simply returns to scrolling through her phone while Cordelia finally finds her words. “Are you kidding me, Madison?”  

“She’s going to realize one of these days,” she shrugs, not taking her eyes from the screen.  

The older blonde swats it out of the way, forcing attention in her direction. “You gotta stop this.” 

She huffs then, lips pursing into a firm line. “I’m just helping her, you know? It isn’t good to repress feelings like that.” Even as her words spout bullshit of benefit, a smirk hides in the corner, and Cordelia has to summon all of her strength not to wipe it away. “Besides, don’t you want her to be gay?”  

Cordelia reels, seeing red at the blasé way she speaks. “She’s my friend.” she insists. “I want her to be happy with whoever she is.”  

“Jesus fucking Christ, you two are unbelievable.” She smiles as her phone begins to buzz invitingly. “And I have finally saved my valentine’s day. Catch you later, Cordy.” Madison leaves with the phone pressed firmly to her ear and her small handbag thrown over her shoulder.  

She remains at the table, wondering if she’d even be friends with Madison if it hadn’t been for Zoe, quickly deciding that’s the least of her concerns now. A particular blonde comes to mind, and she knows just where to find her. She dives through the crowds in the hallway, moving from a bustling scene to eerie quiet when she steps into the shadowy classroom.  

Reaching up, she turns on the lights and fills the room with artificial yellow, nowhere near as pretty as the yellow of Misty’s hair that she’s staring at the back of. Apparently having not heard her come in, Misty jumps upon being bathed in light, only to grow sheepish as she notices the company. “Delia.” She sighs in relief, like she’s been waiting for her.  

Offering a weak smile, she steps further into the room and sits next to Misty where she’s watering the geraniums with the uttermost care. “You’re gonna be late for next period.” Cordelia smiles softly next to her, knowing the bell had rang not that long ago.  

Misty gives a weak shrug. “Don’t really care.” 

“Oh, but you love English.”  

A wry grin follows, amusement hiding in the way her ears crinkle at the corners. “Don’t,” she warns with her expression never wavering. The watering can is ignored to one side and she casually leans her head in her hand. “You know I hate that shit.” She bows her head slightly. “I used to skip it all the time at my old school.”  

She stirs in surprise, not having pegged Misty as that kind of student. “Why don’t you now?” 

“’Cause I wanna go to College.” The Cajun insists, “and to do that, my dyslexic ass has gotta at least pass.” She follows with a set of self-deprecating laughter that dies before it reaches Cordelia, and worry shows through in the way her idle hand fidgets with the hem of her shirt. “I probably should go to class.” Misty decides after a moment. Turns out, she does care. 

But she doesn’t make a move to leave, nor does Cordelia, even though she’s hardly ever been late to a class in her life. While the idea would normally have her trembling with anxiety, she struggles to worry about herself in that moment.  

And her quick appraisal of Misty tells her that something isn’t quite right. She won’t meet Cordelia’s eyes, her legs bounce against the stool leg with untapped energy, and she has red stained around her pretty blue eyes. “Madison is just trying to stir the pot, you know. She likes to get a rise out of people.”  

Misty stiffens before her, breath strong and forced. “I know.” She nods curtly, unconvincingly. “She just pisses me off.”  

“You can say that again.” She chuckles, just enough to make the ghost of a smile on Misty’s lips.  

The Cajun does succeed in looking at her now, eyes searching every crevice of Cordelia’s face while her own epitomes the meaning of vulnerable. “You believe me, right?” 

Cordelia frowns, head tilting in confusion. “Believe what?”  

“That I'm not gay.” She chokes out, just as nervous and uncomfortable as she had been with Madison, and it harks back to a similar conversation they’ve had in this classroom. 

She watches her, ready to agree and comfort as she always has done because it’s Misty. Her best friend. A friend who she'll always be cheering on from the corner for no matter what the situation, but there's a wobble in her lips, a rawness in her gaze that unsettles Cordelia. Just seeing it feels like a strike to her heart. And she finds herself asking . . .  does  she believe her? Her lips separate though the words are too timid to come out, only causing Misty's brow to furrow into a thicker line and expression to flood with dread.  

She's scared. No, she’s terrified.  

In that moment, Cordelia really doesn’t believe her, not for a second. And the idea that Misty could be not only lying to them all, but to herself, causes her heart to crack and split into thousands of pieces.  

She can’t bear to say that, or maybe she’s not brave enough, so she plays the facade of faith and nods. “Of course I believe you.” She reaches up, cupping her chin and holding her gaze steadily into the depth of her own. “But Misty, there’s nothing to be ashamed about if you are. You’ll be my best friend no matter who you’re attracted to.” 

“But I’m not.” She reiterates, voice taking on some of her lost confidence, even if she’s displaying more of a grimace than anything else. 

Cordelia feels her smile flicker once more, the conversation leaving more questions than answers. “Okay.” She places a hand on Misty’s bouncing leg and stills it with her touch, then speaks with the uttermost tenderness. “Come on, let’s go to class.” Though reluctant shows in her sluggish movements, Misty does stand and reach for her backpack. She walks with sunken shoulders a couple of steps ahead of Cordelia.  

All the older blonde can do is absentmindedly reply to her conversation, nodding and smiling where appropriate. Most of all, she finds herself letting thoughts take over and Misty’s sexuality to be questioned, even if she hates herself for doing it without the inclusion of her friend. To make matters worse, the hundreds of stupid, red hearts that surround them only serve as a mocking display. 

… 

The dreaded day comes and goes about as well as she’d expected. She reminds herself that things could be worse, that this time last year she was still dating Hank and his idea of romance had been trying to convince her to blow him off at the movie theatre.  

Still, even he has a date for Valentine’s, and she trudges through the hallways with a permanent scowl attached to her lips. It remains there all the way through classes, as Coco hands out roses to students from the Secret admirer scheme she’d set up to “spread love” around the school. The thought is only met with more distain when she has nothing to show for it, and she feels awfully unwanted in that moment.  

Cordelia tries to lose herself in her studies, but even they grow tiresome as the day dredges onward.  

Her spirits only lift when she spies Misty walking in the direction of her car with Mallory, the two of them giggling in hushed voices. “What are you two laughing about?” she questions coyly when they halt in front of her, though she feigns less interest than there actually is. 

“Oh, Misty got – " 

Misty quickly jabs her in the ribs and turns to Cordelia with a forced smile, then the soft shake of her head. “Nothin’ important.” She eyes the car. “You ready to go?”  

At the strange response, Cordelia feels her insides sinking like quick sand, though quicky swallows against her constricting throat and nods. They bid goodbye to Mallory, whose eyes volley between the pair before she leaves, and climb into Cordelia’s car.  

To say she’s still irked is an understatement, but then Misty is telling her about her art class, and giggling and snorting with such childlike glee that she feels her frosty heart begin to thaw. “Sounds like you’ve had a good day.” She says softly, glad that at least someone could enjoy it.  

“Yeah. It won’t last long though.” 

Cordelia frowns at her. “Why not?”  

“’Cause Sylvia has a date comin’ round.” She winces. “Her room is next to mine and the walls are really thin.” 

Her eyes grow wide with horror at the thought of poor Misty forced to endure that. As if that idea isn’t bad enough, she continues with her head bowing further and further.  

“And Tommy is gonna be pinin’ all night ‘cause of that girl. Plus, last valentine’s day Daddy drank so much that he hurled all over the bathroom.” She sighs, eyes closing in the distant memory. “It’s gonna be a fun night.”  

Teeth tug at her lip nervously, and Cordelia finds her tiptoeing around the right thing to say. “Was that . . . it was the first one since your mom died?”  

Misty nods, eyes wet, then takes to staring out of the window in a quiet moment, gaze and mind seemingly astray. The houses and buildings all too quickly transform into woodland, trees boring shadows over the car, the same once that frolic over their features. She feels the makings of a pressure headache behind her eyes and now she seems to have even dismantled Misty’s good mood, she’d all but ready to put this dumb holiday behind her.  

A sigh flows from her lips of its own accord, loud and wistful enough to catch the attention of the Cajun.  

She presses her lips together in a sad smile, downcast eyes lifting to meet Cordelia’s for the briefest of moments. The darkness seems to seep out of them, then, like she’s willed it from her soul; she twists in the seat, moving to turn down the music so it’s only her voice that Cordelia gets the luxury of hearing.  

“What are you doin’ tonight?” she poses curiously.  

She toys with her options, then raises a brow as she smirks wryly. “Hmm, probably ordering chinese, drinking wine from Fiona’s stash and swearing off men altogether. They’re not worth the trouble.” 

Her joke goes by unfiltered, and it’s only as she says it that she thinks about her conversation with Misty the day earlier. Color draining from her cheeks, she dares a glance in her friend’s direction, only to find her responding with a crisp snort and a half smile. “Sounds better than my night.”  

Cordelia’s nose wrinkles in disgust. “You’re not really gonna have to listen to your sister have sex, are you?”  

Another guffaw. Misty’s eyes sparkle like the night sky is trapped inside there, and she shakes her head while teeth keep a firm lock on her lower lip. The older blonde has to keep her eyes glued on the road ahead and not stare in a trance at that. She recognizes as the trees become denser. Though they all look the same at first glance, subtle differences separate the expanse of brown, and other foliage landmark the road.  

“I was actually gonna go to my cabin.” 

A frown tugs away with great force. “You’re gonna spend the night alone?” she asks, as if that isn’t exactly her plan, too.  

Misty seems less bothered; in fact, the promise of solitude seems to warm her expression. “I’ll have Stevie.”  

“Right.” She breathes. “Guess you’re not totally alone.” Even so, her heart clenches as if she is. Maybe It's because she understands that feeling all too well.  

She gets the sudden urge to ask Misty to come to her house, despite being so close to hers by now. The idea springs in and out of her head so quickly that she barely has time to register it. As a result, the question hangs reluctantly on her lips. What if she takes it the wrong way? What if she doesn’t want to spend the day with her because it’s Valentine’s day and people might get the wrong idea? Such fears grab her words and drag them back down into her throat where they lie painfully in her lungs.  

Misty squints her eyes are her in confusion, though her grin tries to keep Cordelia at ease. She’s pulled a pack of candy out of her bag and idly munches on them. “You okay?” she asks between mouthfuls. 

Hurried nods follow, doing little to diminish Misty’s uncertainty.  

As if unsure what to say next, she offers out the packet. “Do ya want one?”  

Cordelia huffs out a small laugh. “No thanks.” 

Soon, her tyres hit the familiar dirt drive and she slows to a stop, turning to Misty with a reluctant smile. “Have fun at the cabin.” She offers.  

“Hmm,” she empties the last of the candy into her mouth with a grin, “gotta get the chance to sneak off yet. But thanks.”  

As she reaches for her bag, Cordelia spots a flash of red from inside, knitting her brows together thoughtfully. “What’s that?”  

Misty’s head snaps down to the bag. She falters, if just for a moment, then reaches to pull out a flower that Cordelia instantly recognizes as the ones handed out by Coco that very same day. “Just someone’s idea of a joke, I’m sure.” Misty laughs over the red carnation, though still holds it tenderly in her fingers. All the while, Cordelia experiences a coldness inside of her that spreads like ice on a winter’s day. The ice cracks and breaks, shattering with little care for her feelings.  

“Oh.”  

She inwardly reprimands herself at the response. Sometimes, saying nothing is better than that. And now Misty seems to have caught her contagious awkwardness, clearing her throat and shifting from foot to foot in the doorway. “Like I said, probably just nothin’.” 

And once again, although Cordelia prides herself on a boastful amount of language, all words fail her in that moment, which only sends Misty sinking deeper and deeper into her shell. She watches Cordelia as though one would a ticking time bomb, her chest frozen with a lack of breaths.  

The older blonde attempts to relax her muscles, only managing to further lock them in place. With her teeth clenched into a line so tight she might need some serious dental work after this, she manages what could be considered a wince in the costume of a smile. “I’m sure it wasn’t.” She insists. 

That very thought causes an inward spiral that she fears may never stop. 

Misty grows demure under her admiring gaze, still twizzling the stem of the flower in her hands, and face catching the fading rays of sun as they move through the trees. She’s beautiful. Who wouldn’t send her a flower?  

Someone who isn’t too scared to tell her the truth.  

“See you tomorrow.” She says in the sweetest of hushes.  

Cordelia has no choice but the match the nature of her tone, knowing that she can’t take her frustration of the day out on her best friend. “Yeah. Goodbye, Misty.”  

But she doesn’t go straight away. She lingers, and Cordelia doesn’t quite mind. Her smile grows timid, trepid, like it shouldn’t be on there while she looks to Cordelia with a gaze that makes her gut wrench. Cordelia is somehow both besotted and winded by its presence, until Misty begins her retreat to the house.  

She puts the volume on the radio up to a deafening amount on the drive home, if only to chase out her thoughts that are most certainly not welcome.  

And, as she walks into the house, she’s met with her mother rushing her way. She’s in the sleek, black dress that she always wears when she wants to impress a man, and she barely notices Cordelia as she steps through the door. When she does, it’s only because the girl breaks her from her thoughts first. “Are you going to be back tonight?” she asks quietly.  

“Hopefully not.” Fiona smirks as she lips on another layer of dark red lipstick. Her age lines are hidden behind a multitude of makeup, hair styled neatly atop her head, and she slips onto a pair of stark black stilettoes. “There is money on the side if you want to get food.” 

“Thanks.” She mumbles dryly.  

She begins to carry her things to her room with dwindling enthusiasm, only to be stopped by the rare moment of Fiona calling after her with something akin to genuine interest in her life. “Are you not doing anything tonight, Cordelia?”  

“With who?” she shrugs. “I broke up with Hank weeks ago.”  

“No, don’t be stupid. I meant that other one. That girl, the skinny thing with a bird’s nest of hair.”  

Eyes narrowing at the description, she holds back a sigh. “Why would I do something with Misty on Valentine’s day?” 

“Jesus, I’m just asking you a question. I could do with less of the attitude.”  

“Attitude?” she gapes.  

“Yes.” Fiona’s face grows in exasperation. “You’re so difficult these days, Cordelia.” 

She bristles. “You’d have to be a part of my life to notice things like that, Fiona.”  

“Here you go again, with all your woes and complaints. I give you a roof over your head, don’t I? Food? A car to drive to school?” she places a freshly lit cigarette to her lips. “And when I ask you about things, this is the thanks I get.”  

The words play like a broken record of their last argument, and she all but resists the urge to rip her hair out. But engaging Fiona in her own game is something she’s learned long ago that she’ll never win, so she pulls her school bag closer and keeps the tremble from her body long enough until she’s out of sight. “I’m going to my room.” She insists, then spits out. “Have a nice night.”  

Her mother calls after her, but clearly doesn’t care enough to take it any further, and she’s left to slam her bedroom door behind her in an act of defiance. She angrily throws herself onto the bed, unsaid words bitterly sticking to the roof of her mouth and terrible thoughts plaguing her mind. A part of her wants to call Misty, to vent and grumble all of her troubles away.  

The only problem being that the biggest of those troubles involves Misty herself. She thinks about the carnation, how she’d smiled happily at it, how her gaze had eased into something else, and she wonders who on earth had sent it to her.  

At first, she tries to bury those thoughts under schoolwork until everything becomes so sloppy that she’s actually embarrassed of it, then she lets her mind rot away in front of the television. Every so often, her chest heaves with a broken sigh.  

Valentine’s day is the fucking worst.  

Chapter Text

“Look at him, Delia. He’s so cute.”  

Misty giddily swipes over to the next photo, then another, all to go alongside the twenty she’s already shown to Cordelia, who smiles and chuckles accordingly to each one. “He’s adorable.” She leans in closer, eyes closing briefly as she detects some sweet perfume wafting from Misty’s direction and dancing around her. Part of her wants to ask why she’s wearing perfume to sit in the woods of all places, but bites the question back with a smile.  

“I love him already.” Misty gushes as she continues to stare at the picture of the tiny calf. Over the weekend, one of her cattle had given birth and since then she’s struggled not to coo constantly over the baby. Cordelia seems to have gotten the worst of it, but her other friends have definitely experienced Misty’s zeal over a new baby. The Cajun stares to her phone with utter adoration, smile so wide that dimples poke into her cheeks.  

Cordelia sighs and shakes her head at her, though more in her own amused way that in annoyance. 

Misty’s fingers brush over the screen again. “He’s so tiny.” 

“Misty.” She tries to break the intense focus with a gentle lull of her name.  

It doesn’t work. “Look at his small ears and nose, and all those spots.” Misty goes googly eyed, once again ignoring Cordelia’s voice as she loses herself to the image in front of her.  

In the end, Cordelia reaches for the phone and gingerly takes it from her hands. She frowns at first, though it dissipates when Cordelia is in her sights instead. “Was I doin’ it again?”  

“I was beginning to think I was never going to get you to stop.” She teases, spotting the picture again in the corner of her eye. “He is cute though. But you gotta stop ignoring people.” Her light laughter infuses around the woods like bird song, and has the effect of making Misty smile sheepishly under its wake. Cordelia doesn’t vocalize that being disregarded for an animal is a little perturbing, yet Misty’s innocent appreciation brings a swell to her heart.  

“Sorry. Animals are just better than people.” Misty pouts, struggling to keep chuckles within her lips. As they bubble over white teeth, Cordelia feels the skin of her ear prickle when she notices how close they’ve drifted toward one another. The Cajun doesn’t have seem to have realized, either that or she doesn’t care, and they practically drink in the other’s buzzing aura.  

Cordelia moves her besotted gaze away briefly, scared that if she looks too long she’ll be paralyzed in place. The result is she peers down lower to the ground beneath them. 

“Are your feet not cold?”  

Her grin grows painfully wide where she observes Misty’s pale toes sat submerged in the lazy stream, sitting alongside a scattering of pretty pebbles. As if knowing they’re the centre of attention they wiggle back at her while Misty tilts her head with a gentle smile. “Nah.” She shrugs indifferently, a hand running through her dishevelled mane.  

Without thinking, Cordelia reaches over and pushes a loose strand out of her eyeline. “Don’t tell me,” she starts with a playful grin, teeth poking out between pert lips, “you probably did this in the middle of December too, right?”  

There’s a flash on pink on her face but she grows comfortably into it. “And so what if I did?”  

“You’re such a weirdo.” She taunts all too fondly.  

Misty severs their locked gaze, leaning forward and running fingers through the water. As fingers make contact with ground under the shallow pool, the surrounding water turns cloudier with dirt by the second. “I just like the feel of it.” She sighs. “Makes it seem like I’m connected to God and the earth somehow.” As if realizing that there’s an audience, she smiles in a self-conscious pause. “Sounds silly, huh?”  

“Not at all.”  

Any doubt flies away at Cordelia’s insistence, but she stares toward the stream in a pensive manner. “You gotta say that ‘cause you’re my friend.”  

“Hey.” She growls playfully, but lets a serious nature creep into her words. “I said it ‘cause I meant it.”  

When Misty doesn’t reply, the older blonde finds herself glancing around at their surroundings with piqued interest. The swamp holds a sense of serenity and intrigue that Misty so perfectly fits into as though she’s sprouted from the soil beneath them. Cordelia’s fingers dig at that soil idly, enjoying the sensation of damp mud clinging to soft fingertips. 

Even in the middle of February, life and creatures cling to the protection of the swamp around them. Birds call from tree to tree in a chorus of repetition, with crickets offering a backing choir for their singing. Closing her eyes, she allows the noise to lull her into a pool of calm; a perfect way to spend her evening in a midst of a long day at school. There’s a shift beside her, a sweet hum that perks her hearing and falls peacefully into the space between her ears. 

With one eye cracking open against striped sunlight that fights through surrounding foliage, she finds Misty staring at her. At first, her heart jerks in wonder, until Misty’s light giggles instantly put her at ease from their own carefree nature.  

“What are you looking at?” The corner of her mouth twitches with a deep smirk, eyes beginning to smoulder despite the way she fights it. 

Misty changes under the gaze, all wide eyes and thoughtful lines carved into pale skin. The question hangs awkwardly in the air for a few moments until Misty stamps it down into the dirt with her own. “Do you believe in God, Delia?”  

Cordelia laughs softly on reflex, more from being completely and utterly blindsided by the existential question than anything else.  

Then her skin begins to itch with unease as she notes the way Misty’s nostrils flare in upset, skin pinching tightly in the corners. The itch grows harder, more uncomfortable, until she’s ready to just about claw it from her own body. As if ignorant to Cordelia’s exponential agitation, Misty continues to wait expectantly. 

With the abruptness of the question fizzling away around them, she faces the probing head on with a knot twisting at her intestines. “I guess I – um. . . not since I was a little girl.”  

“What made you stop believin’?” 

For some reason, she finds herself struggling to glance at Misty, whose boring eyes seem to beg access for Cordelia’s soul, and she’s too scared to give it to her. Instead, she watches her own index finger tracing patterns in the dirt below them alongside fall, decaying leaves. “I don’t really know.” She thinks back to her childhood, to a time when she thought an all-knowing deity watched over them; maybe in Fiona’s quake no other force could compare, or perhaps too many prayers went unanswered. Cordelia swallows thickly and tries not to let despondency cling too tightly to her words. “I think too many bad things happen for me to believe, you know.” 

She stiffens nervously as she says that, tiptoeing around Misty for fear of offending her beliefs, but the Cajun only muses further, then her eyes move back to the water. “There are lots of bad people in the world.” Misty agrees quietly, then surprises her with far more hopeful words. “But there’s good people too.” 

Cordelia offers her the sweetest of smiles. “Yeah.” Her arm is wrapping around Misty’s thin shoulders, searching for smooth skin that she pulls closer in a need for closeness. Misty grants her that, effortlessly falling against her body. Sure, it’s slightly awkward with her taller height, but neither make to readjust. “Like you,” Cordelia compliments in earnest.  

“Oh,” Misty sighs, “I’m not all that good.”  

She scoffs in disbelief, peering down at her. “Of course you are.”  

There’s a long pause, then she heaves in a breath of the swamp air like it might cure her of her sudden melancholy. “My Daddy says we’re all full of sin.” 

Her words linger around them uncomfortably, infiltrating the natural beauty that surrounds the pair with a stifling weight.  

Uncertainty keeps her from replying straight away, answers filtered and edited and thrown away because they just don’t feel right for the sudden severity in Misty’s gaze. She squeezes her shoulder and runs a hand through shaggy hair, biting back a chortle when she feels moss stuck to those tangles. Picking it out without prompting, she speaks in a wiser tone that she’s ever been capable of before. “Well, no one’s perfect, but it doesn’t mean that people aren’t trying.”  

Another standstill in the conversation makes her question whether Misty had heard her softly spoken words, but just as she’s about to say something else there’s a meek response making itself known. 

“I’m tryin’ real hard.”  

Cordelia tilts her head. “To be perfect?” She holds back that she thinks the kind hearted Cajun is already pretty perfect enough to her, letting the words die in her lungs.  

Against her body, Misty rotates and warps until there’s cold where her skin had pressed against Cordelia’s. “Tryin’ not to sin.” She clarifies.  

“You? Sin?” She raises her brows with the start of a smirk on her lips. “Misty, you haven’t got a sinful bone in your body.” 

She thinks of the girl fawning over baby animals, the same one who stopped them in their tracks to put a deceased deer to rest, and who talks to the plants in their club with the insistence that it helps. But then there’s a switch inside of her, that flips and changes, and pushes Misty into a fierce bear ready for fight or flight. Usually, that response is fight. Cordelia wonders if it’s because she is the youngest of seven, if brawling and roughhousing is an everyday occurrence in her household.  

Even so, that side of her only emerges when provoked. And right now it’s as dormant as a hibernating bear, sleeping soundly deep in the caverns of her body, ‘cause with Cordelia there’s never a reason for it to appear.  

Misty gives a wry smile, then watches her muddled reflection in the water. “I don’t know about that.”  

“What sins could you possibly have done?” Cordelia smile, only half there but still present. “You’re like a little puppy.”  

At the comparison, Misty snorts and shakes her head. Even if sadness is saddled on her shoulders, she clearly tries to keep it reined in and smile in the direction of her friend. “A puppy?”  

“Yeah.” She feels her cheeks growing pinker by the second. “You’ve got these big, expressive eyes and your hair. . .” For effects, she carefully runs fingers through it again and admires it. “And you’re just - I don’t know.” Embarrassment clutches at her words. “Adorable, like a puppy.” 

“You think I’m adorable?” Misty asks, sickly sweet and completely bewildered.  

Cordelia laughs at her own awkwardness, hoping it does something to shift it. She pulls her knees up and wraps arms around them slowly, never taking her eyes from Misty who has tilted her head to one side in thought as she waits for a reply. “Is that too weird a way to describe you?” she winces slightly, her smile bordering on a grimace. 

But Misty is grinning and shaking her head, all dejection chased away by Cordelia’s compliment. “Not at all. I think you’re . . .” She pauses, lips twisting thoughtfully. The older blonde hangs on the edge with all muscles frozen in place.  “You’re. . .” Those blue eyes move the full expanse of Cordelia, slowing over her parted lips and tearing themselves away to get lost in the abyss of her own stare. “You’re my best friend.” Misty whispers out to the trees that surround them in a protective veil.  

She reels at the strange description at first, but Misty is admiring her with such a devoted smile that she forgets how to breathe for a second.  

“And you’re mine.” She grins.  

Misty returns it all too easily. 

She just about manages to tear her gaze away to look at the hazy sky as reds and oranges push the sun further down the horizon. Against it, rain clouds threaten them with a downpour at any moment though neither seem to care about its potential.  

The Cajun tugs her feet from the river finally, allowing them to dry in the receding sunshine while Cordelia checks the time on her phone. “You don’t have to go yet, do ya?” Misty suddenly asks, fixing her with narrowed eyes.  

“Ah, no.” Even if she did, she knows that she’d push and push that time limit until she physically couldn’t anymore. “Was just making sure Fiona hadn’t text.”  

“She still mad at you?”  

She rolls her eyes. “Well, she thinks I have an attitude problem.” 

The very idea has Misty snickering under her breath and muttering some cuss about Fiona that she doesn’t need her to repeat. “Why does family have to be such a pain in the ass?” Misty poses out of nowhere, back falling so she’s sprawled on the plush grasses with her flowing dress pooled around her.  

“I just have my mother to contend with. I don’t know how you deal with siblings as well.”  

Misty lifts her head, catching Cordelia with a sardonic twist of the lips.  “You get used to it.”  

Cordelia stalls at her lacklustre answer, continuing to admire the world around her with a faint smile, only for it to grow when her eyes fall on Misty again. “That sounds convincing.” 

Fingers sifting through not quite sprouted flowers, Misty sighs loudly. “Nah. They’re fine. I love ‘em all, I suppose.”  

“You suppose?” She probes with a teasing smirk.  

Though Misty smiles, it doesn’t quite meet her eyes. “Well, you gotta love your family, haven’t you?” She gives a shrug, as if that’s all there is to it. Just the black and white of love. “Even if you fight and holler at each other . . . they’re family.”  

She frowns in sympathy. “Do you fight a lot?” 

Misty shrugs again, then begins playing with the silicon casing on her phone. The older blonde hates the way these opportunities fly by like a shooting star, so fast that if she blinked they’d run right under her nose. But she doesn’t miss this one, and intrigue, as always, pushes her to ask more. “You sure don’t like talking about your family, huh?”  

The Cajun blinks, keeping that steady gaze in her direction. “No one’s ever really asked me about them before.” She admits. Lips twist unsurely into a smile, like she can’t quite decide Cordelia’s angle. “Why do you care so much?”  

“Because I like hearing about your life.”  

Misty’s smile blooms through her glum demeanour.  

“Why?” 

Put on the spot by the question, she feels cheeks suddenly tainted with pink and her lips puckering in thought. “Because I care about you.” She whispers. I care in ways that I shouldn’t.  

Misty grins proudly upon hearing those words, reclining in her position to catch the smallest amount of sun. The way her skin captures it makes her close to ethereal, and Cordelia considers confessing her feelings then and there, surrounded by the songs and murals of nature. In Misty’s natural habitat, she thinks with a soft smile.  

“Well,” Misty poses quietly, twisting in her direction with a smouldering set of blue eyes, “what do you wanna know?” 

“Anything.”  

She grows baffled, though in the most delightful of ways. “That narrows it down.”  

“Honestly,” Cordelia says, “just tell me whatever you want.”  

“But what do you wanna know?”  

Oh so much. She wants to drink in every aspect on Misty’s life and learn it all, but they’ve not got long until the night is going to close in and she doesn’t think that an entire seventeen years can be condensed into the best part of an hour. “Um, who do you live with?” 

Misty regards her with a strange look, but supplies her with an answer too. “My Daddy, Nell, her husband and the baby, then just Tommy and Sylvia.” She keeps her expression plain, but joy seeps in as she continues to speak. ”’n the dogs are allowed in the house most of the time. When Daddy’s in a good mood.”  

She hums, trying to keep track of all the names in her mind. “But you have more brothers, right?”  

“Yeah.” Misty nods. “Nash got his own place when we moved here. Then Jackson has a ranch further out east – he has the most beautiful horses you’ve ever seen!” Her excitement must get the better of her, seeing as the next couple of words fly out unfiltered. “And Kyle, he . . . he – " She stops dead in her tracks, eyes widening slightly as though realizing an error. “He don’t live with us anymore.” She ends simply, tone turning icy in the face of the warmth around them.  

That only serves to pull Cordelia in further, forcing questions out of her own lips. “Did he move out when you got here? Like your other brother?” 

The Cajun offers a sad shake of her head. “Nah, this was before all that. When we lived in Latanier. Maybe two. . .” Her nose scrunches up as she calculates dates in her head, “no, three years ago.” 

She nods, mouth creating a small ‘o’ as the daunting bleakness threatens to sweep around Misty again. Deciding that she isn’t going to let it win, she quickly jumps in with something that she knows will brighten her friend in any moment. “Least that means there’s more room for the dogs.” She walks on a thin piece of ice, she knows, but it holds firmly and Misty is beaming her way.  

Her laughter lands wonderfully in Cordelia’s ears. “Right. And in the new house I get my own room.” Each word is uttered appreciatively, with her smile widening to reveal white teeth. “Which is way better than sharin’.”  

“Oh, I bet.”  

“I had to share with Nell back home and we’d argue all the time.” She remembers with a fond grin, and Cordelia can only assume that this is the typical kind of sibling arguments that bear no real anger. “But these past few years are – " She bows her head and pausing in contemplation. “I dunno, she’s different. In a good way. Guess bein’ a mom is good for her, huh?” 

Cordelia stretches out muscles from where they’re cramping of sitting idle so long, but she nods and hums along contently with Misty’s words.  

And now, like a flower’s petals first peeking out, Misty seems to gain confidence and fully blossom in her company, speaking without prompting. “Sylvia on the other hand. . .” She rolls her eyes. “Some days I think I could strange her with my bare hands!” 

The old blonde barks out a laugh. “Really?” She stares to Misty with a concoction of shock and amusement swimming in her eyes. 

“She’s just awful.” Misty insists. “Goes outta her way to spite me, I’m sure.”  

Unable to find a comfortable position, Cordelia makes a bold decision to lay down on her front, daring not to think about what could be sticking to the cotton of her blouse. Grass tickles the skin around her collar bone and when she peers up at Misty she sees wandering eyes that snap away all too quickly. “I’m sure she doesn’t.” Cordelia prompts. “I’m sure she loves you.”  

Misty is grumbling and shaking her head, doing anything to negate that statement. “You don’t know her like I do.”  

“I don’t know her at all.” She chuckles to herself.  

“Trust me, you don’t wanna.”  

They fall into a natural lull again, with Misty peeking at her through thick eyelashes when she thinks she won’t notice, and Cordelia doing the same. She lets a hand over toward Misty’s, where it loiters just next to it. This time, she finds bravery where tentativeness had been and crosses the invisible line between them, making contact and placing hers over the pale hand next to her while her heart beats erratically.  

Beneath it, Misty tenses, like the way one would do when an insect unsuspectingly crawls onto them. But then she’s glancing down and realizing it’s not some rogue arthropod and instead her friend. A sigh so light that Cordelia barely catches it follows, then she relaxes once more and fights a smile that wants so badly to be on her lips.  

Cordelia watches her curiously. “Maybe your sister will surprise you and change for the better, like Nell.”  

“I doubt it.” She grins wryly.  

Her fingers move under Cordelia’s. At first, she’s worried that she’s pulling away and severing the comforting contact, until fingers interlace with hers. It takes an awful lot of self will not to give a reaction to such an act. She does manage to stifle her adoring beam to a conservative and sweet smile. “You never know.”  

Optimism brings a brightness to Misty’s aura, who peers back at her in a way that has her insides twisting delightfully. “Is that everythin’ you wanted to know?” She asks coyly.  

The older blonder chortles in an instant. “Not even close.” 

“We’ll have to go soon.”  

“There’s always tomorrow.” Cordelia smirks, brow twitching simultaneously. “And the day after, and the day after that . . .”  

Bursting into a fit of giggles, Misty balks at her in elated surprise. “That’s an awful lot of time talkin’ about my family.” Even if she’s smiling, nerves tug at her voice and lower it.  

Cordelia shrugs. “Until you take me to meet them, this is all I have.”  

“Alright, alright,” she starts to relent. 

“I’ll keep asking – " 

“We ain’t that interestin’ a family.” She chuckles and continues to stare down at their joined hands.  

She tightens her grip. “It’s a right as your best friend.” Cordelia points out coolly. “And you’ve met my mom, it’s only fair.” 

Misty, though clearly enthused with her words, raises a brow and narrows eyes into thin slits. “Didn’t realize it was best friend duty to meet each other’s families?” 

“I don’t make the rules.” She feigns innocence, eyes shimmering with playfulness behind them.  

The Cajun’s grin splits impossibly wide and she lifts a hand easily to shove Cordelia away to match her jest. She rolls onto her side, rocks and twigs jabbing into her ribs. “Ow!” She dramatically calls out, running fingers hurriedly through her hair which has flown in front of her face in the shape of a dishevelled nest.  

When it’s pushed out of the way, Misty is surveying her with laughter easily sitting on her lips.  

And Cordelia isn’t sure what comes over her but she next thing she knows she’s retaliating by springing onto her knees and attempting to pull Misty to the ground too. She squeals and fights with childish hijinks that she’s never once had the urge to do in her life. But now, at eighteen, with Misty in front of her, it seems like the only choice available. Her fingers grip around Misty’s wrists, tugging and twisting against a girl who’s clearly her superior in strength.  

Their bodies writhe against one another, shrill voices chasing away birds and other wildlife as they disturb their peace around them, and inside Cordelia thinks her heart is just about ready to kick up a storm. Laughter rings in her ears as the two stubbornly fight for a winner and neither are ready to given.  

As the play fighting continues, giggling beginning to take her breath away but even so her chest feels as full as ever at the feel of rough hands against her and the occasional peak of bright, blue eyes.  

Until she slips and stumbles, landing clumsily on the uneven ground once more, though this time she manages to bring the Cajun down with her. There’s a fluffy of golden blonde hair in her sights, and a shifting weight on top of her. “I win.” The voice comes from somewhere behind all that hair, gravelly and proud and enough to send Cordelia into a spiral of arousal.  

“Y - yeah.”  

Misty slides off of her, though comes to rest just to her side, so flush that she may as well still be lay atop her torso. She spies Cordelia’s pout and smirks. “You ain’t bein’ a sore loser, are ya?”  

She manages to find air once again and shakes her head. “I’ll win next time.” She insists.  

At the idea of ‘next time’, Misty’s eyes widen delightfully. She has a light sheen of sweat from all the movement, and Cordelia can feel the warm liquid sticking to her own forehead. “Oh yeah?” she taunts back.  

Her suddenly dark gaze is a promise of yes, but it catches Misty unsuspecting. At first, she lets pink creep along her skin, but then she’s shifting away from Cordelia and clearing her throat nervously like they‘ve gone too far. Maybe they have. Maybe Cordelia has, but she knows that Misty had enjoyed every second of it. The older blonde pushes out a pensive breath, pretending she doesn’t notice, and keeps the strained smile on her lips.  

Misty is already reaching for her phone in the hopes of a distraction. With a low groan, Cordelia tugs herself up so she’s in a sitting position and glances over the Cajun’s shoulder at her phone screen. In the background, she sees the calf Misty has spent the last few days besotted with. She leans in gently. “Even if I don’t get to meet your family, can I at least meet Axel?”  

Twisting, she tilts her head in wonder. “You don’t like animals.”  

“I do!” 

“Yeah. . . cats.”  

She ignores her sudden flush and gestures to the screen. “But if he’s as cute as you say, then I have to meet him.”  

The Cajun’s smile returns, all awkwardness forgotten about. “Yeah, you do.” Cordelia grins at the prospect and lets the pair fall into silence as Misty can’t help but overwhelm her with more pictures. She focuses in on her camera roll, seeing not just the calf, but all sorts of animals staring back at her in varying places.  

It causes her to have a moment of musing, gaze volleying between Misty’s phone and the girl herself. “How come there are no pictures of us on there?”  

Misty slows her scrolling and regards her with confusion. “What do you mean?” 

“Why don’t we have any photos?” Cordelia decides unhappily. “I don’t think I’ve got any of you on my phone and all you’ve got is animals.” 

She shrugs with ease and then chuckles. “I ain’t really one for takin’ selfies.” But Cordelia isn’t so convinced and is reaching for Misty’s phone, switching to the camera. “Delia. Are you – does this really bother you?” 

“I just think best friends should have at least one picture together.”  

The Cajun opens her mouth to counter, but firmly shuts it closed when she notices Cordelia’s expression. Unable to deny her, she softly glances toward the camera. “Okay, but you gotta take it.” 

Cordelia is all too happy to do that, finding the perfect angle in an instant where the small amount of sunlight is still visible “Scoot closer.” She says softly, a hint of tentativeness after their roughhousing just moments ago, but with the tension having dissolved into the earth beneath them, Misty does as asked. Their heads come together gently, Misty’s leaning slightly in her direction until hair is tickling the side of Cordelia’s face. She grins, instantly taking a number of photos to ensure they get the perfect one, even if Misty groans and rolls her eyes half way through. “Oh, stop complaining.” She orders with a grin.  

“I’m not complainin’" Misty mocks offence just in time for Cordelia to catch it on the photo. She sniggers and shows it to her proudly, earning a liberal eye roll from Misty.  

Just as she’s tugging away, Cordelia suddenly frowns. “Wait, I want one for my phone!”  

She pauses. “I can just send them to y – " 

Craving that closeness to Misty once more, she’s already shaking her head and insisting. “Just one?” 

“Oh, alright.”  

She’s sneaky and takes a couple extra when Misty isn’t quite looking, though she’s pretty sure that she realizes. “There. That’s the first of many.”  

There’s no fight left in Misty who only bites her lower lip and nods with a smirk. “C’mon,” she says after a few moments, “we should get goin’.”  

And Cordelia almost forgets about the photos in the upcoming days with the flurry of classes and studying. 

Almost .  

Until she is sat next to Misty in the beginning of biology and she spies her phone on the desk, hidden beneath textbooks. When Misty clicks on it at a particularly boring moment of the class, Cordelia sees the image of Axel the calf has now been replaced with one of them as the lock screen, grinning and laughing at the camera. They look so happy. Her heart aches for a moment, breath hitching just loudly enough for Misty to notice and turn to her in question.  

All Cordelia can do is offer a small shake of her head and the most serene smile, as dormant hope stirs inside of her.

Chapter Text

Cordelia grimaces as her stomach loudly announces its empty state once again, then curses herself for missing lunch on account of a meeting with Miss Snow on potential colleges. The meeting had been simultaneously exciting and intimidating, as the adult world draws nearer.  

It’s not that she doesn’t want to go to college. She guesses it’s sort of natural progression in her life, and she’s never going to be a teacher if she doesn’t get the right qualifications. Yet the speed of their upcoming graduation trembles her nerves. Already, early March approaches. The days fleet past without her permission, faster and faster, until she’s scared it’ll be their last day at school already.  

It’s as though she’s lost afloat a raft on a long, bustling river; the view may be pretty, engrossing even, but she’s increasing in speed and there’s no banks near enough to clutch onto.  

So yeah, the idea of leaving High school is just a little daunting.  

But right now, it seems to pale in comparison as her hunger demands attention.  

Beside her, Misty smirks behind her hand and regards her with squinted, mirth filled eyes. “Is that noise you?” she scoots in closer, desperate to grin even as Cordelia squirms with embarrassment. 

“I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.” She grumbles, any attempts to focus on the lecture thwarted by an uncomfortable twist in her stomach. All she can do is chug at her water bottle and hope it does something to satiate the emptiness.  

“Since breakfast?” Misty reels, voice rising so much in surprise that she almost catches the attention of Miss Pembroke. When beady eyes briefly move their way, they both pretend to be taking notes in an instant, faces evolving into far more attentive expressions than what the class actually deserves. It does the job - she turns back to the board and Misty twists on the stool to face her again, still smiling and as pretty as ever. “Are ya serious?”  

Cordelia nods pathetically, her smile half there. It only remains on her lips because Misty is by her side and that keeps her on the cusp of hangry rather than lost in its depths.  

She jumps slightly when Misty leaps into action, knocking pens and books askew to reach for her weathered backpack in order to tug out a packet of Nutter butter bites with as much discreetness as she can. Which, for the record, is very little. She nudges them in the direction of Cordelia, waiting and watching with wide eyes. 

“I can’t take your food off you Misty.” Cordelia begins to almost instant protests.  

Misty rests her head on one hand and gives a small but firm shake of her head as the snacks are pushed back to her side of the desk. “I ain’t havin’ you go hungry.” The Cajun insists, lips cloaked in a delicate smile that makes Cordelia’s stomach hurt in a different kind of way.  

Eyeing the packet, she sighs. “We’re not supposed to eat in class.”  

But that attempt is met with a raised brow and a disbelieving scoff. “I do it all the time.”  

And that is no lie. Most days in biology she sits listening to Misty happily chewing on some item of food, no matter the time of the day and with little care for the class’ rules on food. Cordelia finds herself leaning in just like Misty had, all too close with merely inches between them. “That’s ‘cause you’re a rebel.” She whispers mockingly, enjoying Misty's liberal eye roll and grin way more than she should.  

“And you’re stubborn.” Misty counters, teeth poking out between her lips.  

True to the name, she finds herself staring at Misty with some sort of unwavering determination that she won’t take food from her. Not really because of the eating in class rule. In all honesty, that’s the last thing on her mind. The real reason hangs on her tongue, bitter and reluctant and guilty. Because it’s not exactly a secret amongst her and her friends that Misty’s family don’t really have a lot of money, and there’s a strong voice in the back of her mind insisting that taking her food is wrong.  

It’s kind of stupid, she knows, seeing as Misty is offering. Not exactly like she’s snatching it from unwilling hands, but that voice isn’t quiet. In fact, it rivals the noise that her stomach is currently trying to share with the entire class. She sighs, conflicted and under pressure, and feeling awfully silly for both of those things. 

Especially when Misty moves them closer once again, seemingly oblivious to Cordelia’s inner turmoil (thankfully). “Just eat them.” Misty laughs lightly.  

“Are you sure?” she eventually sighs.  

Misty’s patience might be wearing thin, yet her smile prevails. “’Course I am.”  

The delicate way the words are ushered are enough to bring any of Cordelia’s protests crumbling down and she reaches for the packet with a grateful smile. She is far more inconspicuous as Misty, wincing and eyes squeezing almost to a close every time to plastic rustles while she tries to open it. Not before long, she takes a handful and eats them with a ladylike manner rather than taking the whole bag and tipping it between her lips like she wants to.  

So consumed with filling the pit in her stomach, she barely notices a set of blue eyes gazing intensely her way. She tries to stifle an embarrassing noise of appreciation at the sweet taste of the treats. Airy giggles inform her of Misty’s observation, bringing a burning to her cheeks.  

She almost goes to apologize for her, but something about the way Misty regards her that lets her know it’s not needed. Instead, she smiles and places the almost empty wrapper down, then flickers eyes to the front of the class. “Which page where we up to?” she asks, pointing to the textbook in front of them.  

“Oh.” Misty straightens, eyes widening slightly. “I. . . have no idea.”  

Cordelia volleys between the textbook and the board at the front in an attempt to make a match, a satisfied smile jumping to her lips when she does. “There.”  

Even so, she doesn’t pay attention. Not really. Or not to the teacher that is, because Misty is suddenly doodling next to her, with focused eyes and her left hand floating across the page easily. The new distraction is all too tempting, and she briefly wonders if she’s going to pass biology at this rate, but Misty’s actions just beckon her without words. The Cajun is aware that she’s watching, as for a moment she stiffens under the gaze, only for muscles to melt in its warmth. Her doodles today are of the floral variety, with marigolds and hyacinths in such vivid detail that Cordelia thinks she could reach out and feel tangible velvety petals if she tried to. One flower brings a halt to Cordelia’s admiration, or more smacks it straight out of the nearby window.  

She recognizes it instantly; the same carnation that someone had anonymously given Misty on Valentine’s day. Try as she might, the jealously clings to the roof of her mouth like glue. When Misty glances up at her with a soft set smile, Cordelia’s own is far too strained. If Misty realizes, she keeps her thoughts to herself and remains silent.  

Most of the class goes by as such and the bell rings out like a savior, triggering a rush of students all eager to go home. Cordelia is one of those, stuffing her books into her satchel in what can only be described as an organized mess. Beside her, Misty shoves her stuff in while barely looking, seeing as her eyes follow Cordelia while she walks around the desk.  

“You still hungry?” she asks suddenly, pulling Cordelia from the fog of her thoughts.  

Her tummy gurgles in response. “Guess so.”  

Misty chuckles and cradles her drawing pad to her chest. With her spare hand, she tucks an unruly curl behind her ear and Cordelia could almost convince herself that the Cajun is nervous if she tried enough. “Wanna go to Wendy’s?” she asks, azure eyes locking onto Cordelia’s and refusing to relent.  

The older blonde nods keenly, partly out of hunger, but mostly out of the thought of spending more time with Misty.  

… 

“You didn’t have to do this.” She speaks half-heartedly, peering over at the food on Misty’s lap that the Cajun had insisted on paying for (“It was my idea to come here, Delia.”). Even so, a smile tiptoes onto her lips; there’s something awfully wonderful about the idea of Misty’s good deed.  

She slowly pulls into the parking lot on the overlook, relieved to see it empty other than her car. Misty smiles at that realization too and struggles to reach for the handle with all the bags weighing her arms down.  “I wanted to.”  

Cordelia moves around and opens the door for her, then reaches out to take a warm paper bag from her hand and relieve Misty’s struggle. Her smirk is visible despite the evening light. “Plus, you looked super hungry.”  

“I am.”  

Misty grins fondly and begins to slowly trek over to the edge where dry grass sprouts over rocky mounds. There is little hesitation on plonking herself down, legs dangling over, before she turns to Cordelia expectantly. The older blonde obeys those eyes and sits down too, even if the grass tickles the sensitive skin at the back of her legs.  

For once, she matches Misty’s vigor when it comes to eating, chewing without abandon until her burger is happily sitting in her stomach. Misty, still faster, is already chomping on some fries and offers the tub over in her direction. “Thank you.” Cordelia says curtly, taking a couple and eating with more reservation now that the majority of her hunger is under control. “Why aren’t you having dinner at home tonight?”  

Stopping mid bite, Misty gives a frown. “It’s stupid.” She mumbles.  

Cordelia shuffles closer. “I’m sure it’s not.”  

Her silence says otherwise as Misty peers outwards over the town in discontent. Her face twists this way and that, unable to decide what expression to go with. In the end, a scowl is the ultimate winner. “They’re havin’ Callie.”  

A pause. “Callie?” Cordelia doesn’t speak the name the same way Misty had, with fondness and hurt and something close to heartbreak.  

“One of our hogs.” Misty clarifies with a crack in her voice even as she tries to keep it together with fragile strength. When Cordelia struggles to reply, for a lack of the right thing to say, she gives a harsh laugh. “Told you it was stupid.”  

“No, I – " She senses the way she’s losing Misty and reaches out hands, hoping a tactile approach will shake away the sorrow. “Misty, hey. That’s not stupid.” 

“Sylivia said I was bein’ a brat ‘cause I don’t wanna eat her. But. . . she – she. . .” Misty winces. “I just can’t. We’ve had her since she was a baby.”  

She nods sympathetically, hands squeezing Misty’s shoulders. “I think that’s actually really sweet of you.”  

Her head snaps up. “So, you don’t think I’m bein’ dumb?”  

“I'd never think that.”  

Misty’s lips purse together, more to control the wobble in them, and she practically falls into Cordelia’s grasp, head meeting her shoulder. Cordelia’s insides jump at the contact, but even so she forces her outward exterior to remain calm and continue her comfort of Misty. “And,” she starts hopefully, “if you hadn’t asked me here, I’d be eating dinner alone tonight. So, I’m really thankful for that.”  

“I’d eat with you every night.” Misty says aloud, so serious and out of place to Cordelia’s light words that she is dumbstruck for a moment.  

Then a smile eases on her lips. “That’s just because you love food.”  

Coyness usurps the last of the sadness littered on her lips and the pair seem to relax under the warm evening winds that blows grass blades in every direction. “I love spending time with you as well.” She admits, twisting her neck to stare upwards where Cordelia’s hair tangles with her own.  

The older blonde, fighting a lump that’s trying its hardest to ascend her throat, smiles and breathes out before she explodes. “That means a lot to me, Misty.”  

Her smile widens until pretty dimples poke at her flushed cheeks. “I mean it.” Her boring eyes let Cordelia know that her words seep with honesty and meaning; the very same that tugs at her insides until they’re tightened into a complicated knot. But Misty’s intensity dissipates away all too easy and she returns her gaze to the town. “And I love bein’ us here, too.” 

“Yeah.” She agrees, surprised to find words when her lungs ache with a lack of air. “It’s peaceful.”  

Misty sucks in a long breath and hums her accord. She gives a half smile, “wish it could be like this all the time.”  

“I can’t believe how fast this year is going.” Cordelia laments much in the same way she had to Miss snow in her office not too many hours ago. She shivers in the realization that the two might have a finite number of moments like this, if they go to different colleges; she has half a mind to convince Misty to apply wherever she goes, or vice versa.  

Before she can even begin to contemplate the idea of them being separated and the concurrent panic it stirs, Misty’s hand is in hers, as if she can read each new troubled line on Cordelia’s face. “Don’t think about that.” She says aloud, to herself as much as Cordelia.  

Misty’s hand is warm in hers, rough and soft at the same time, with mismatched rings catching the sensitive skin of Cordelia’s palm. She sits in silence for a few moments, stunned by the simple action that fights her anxiety head on. It wins, all too easily. Without thinking, she fidgets with the nearest ring on Misty’s pale thumb, where three silver bands connect to make one piece of jewellery. “I like this one.” She peers down to the only one on her own hand, a pretty birthstone that she’d gotten from her grandmother for her sixteenth birthday.  

The Cajun moves in toward it with a strangely delicate approach, fingertips barely grazing the stone. “This one is nicer.” Misty comments, tongue darting out of her mouth nervously. “What is it?”  

“Sapphire.” Cordelia rolls the ring on her finger for a moment, more of an edgy tick than anything else. Like your eyes. She admires alongside a doting smile. Misty is so close, brimming with admiration; the sun is low in the sky, forcing both of them to peer at once another through squinted, barely there gazes. Maybe it is for the best because she’s sure the full sight of Misty bathed like an angel in sunlight might be enough to break her resolve one day. And then she’ll be tempted to kiss her. Even now, in their proximity, she glances to parted lips that seem to shimmer from some sort of lip gloss.  

A grin springs onto her face pleasantly. “You don’t normally wear lip gloss.” She points out, cringing as Misty now knows that she was staring at her lips. Like she does an awful lot these days.  

Misty blinks, a hand flying to her lips. “Oh yeah.” She pulls back slightly, head bowing and fingers slipping from Cordelia’s. The older blonde only chuckles and regards her with amusement over the fact that she seems to have forgotten she had it on. “My sister gave it to me.”  

Cordelia hums and stares out at the view, impressed at her own ability to tug wanting eyes away from those lips.  

But it isn’t so easy when Misty’s sweet southern cadence demands its return. “Don’t ya like it?”  

“I -” She jerks slightly at the way words abruptly halt on her lips. Clearing her throat, she sighs and nods. “It’s nice.” Her brows suddenly knit together, mouth tugging downwards into a frown even if her next sentence is teasing (and a little accusing). “Are you wearing that to impress some guy?”  

Misty tenses, hands curling in on themselves. “No.” Her body retreats from Cordelia where she crosses arms over her chest and glares out at the same view Cordelia had been admiring with something else glistening behind her eyes. “I ain’t tryna impress anyone.” Misty grunts. 

“Oh.” It’s barely there, hidden behind rustling grass.  

The Cajun doesn’t acknowledge it.  

This means that she misses the way Cordelia winces and then slumps beside her, suddenly growing cold. “Guys wouldn’t notice, anyway.” She scoffs out. “I dated Hank for at least a year and he never noticed if I made an effort.” Dejection lathers each syllable of her speech. “Guys are idiots.”  

When Misty continues her silence, she feels words bubbling over with the need to fill the space between them.  

“They also burp all the time. And fart.” She wrinkles her nose in disgust. “And all they want to do is have sex with you, quite frankly.”  

Misty raises a brow. “Thought you loved him?” 

She exhales wistfully. “On reflection, I think I just like the idea of not being alone.” 

“Yeah.” She sighs in understanding. “I get that.” Misty’s gaze grows darker, black filling her blue irises. “I’m real glad you dumped him. He didn’t deserve you.” Though she won’t look at Cordelia, the words carry over with ease and wrap fondly around her. Misty’s lips curl into a disapproving snarl. “I hated that guy.” 

An undignified snort follows from Cordelia. “Really? You hid it  so  well.”  

“He’s an ass.”  

She’s pulling her face again, all annoyed and perturbed but somehow in the most endearing of ways. Cordelia is drawn back in time to when they’d come up here the night they’d egged Hank’s car, how Misty had a few choice words to say about him then as well. “Yeah. He is.” Still, he’d filled a void, no matter how badly.  

Misty looks to her now, with a serious nature tainting her usually soft cadence. “Do you really think all guys are idiots?” 

This pulls an airy laugh from her lungs, before Cordelia offers a half shrug. “I hope not. Maybe they’ll be different when we get into college. That’s where my parents met.” She mimics the way Misty is sitting, with knees tugged closely to her chest and arms wrapping around them, hunched forward in a closed manner. Neck lulling to one side, she follows the movement of vehicles below them, anything to keep her mind somewhat focused.  

Resting her chin on her knees, Misty frowns in sympathy. “Do you remember much about your dad?”  

At first, she struggles to register the words; ones that she certainly didn’t anticipate coming up now of all moments. She turns to Misty, the thickness in the air stealing her response from her, paralyzing every fibre of her muscles. 

Her hollowed eyes must say it all, seeing as Misty’s forehead creases together sadly, lips on the cusp on a sympathetic wobble. “It’s shit, isn’t it?”  

“What is?” she croaks out, wondering who’s replaced her voice with this measly thing.  

Misty’s smile is strained and fits right at home in the suddenly gloomy air around them. “Losin’ a parent.”  

“Oh.”  

She blinks and rubs at tears that she hadn’t realized were gathering, feeling rather silly and vulnerable and small under Misty’s intense smoulder.  

“Yeah, it is.”  

Cordelia doesn’t mean to sound so weak, especially about something that she hasn’t really even dwelled over for years; something that happened when she was merely a kid. Especially in front of Misty, with a death so fresh in her own past. But the Cajun shifts onto her side and eases nearer. “C’mere.” Long arms snake around her before she even has a chance to register her presence, tugging her closer and against the Cajun until her head rests in the crook of her neck.  

It’s warm and suffocating in the best of ways, keeping her flush against Misty – so near that if she strained her hearing, she’s sure she could make out the pulse of her heart against that neck. She sighs then, casting out her heavy thoughts where they can’t bother her any more. Misty acts like a guardian, bathed in a mystifying white light that shines through gentle eyes and a sweet, caring smile.  

She sniffles and then exhales once more, counting its length by the second in her head. “I don’t know why I’m crying.” Cordelia confesses in a barely there voice.  

“Cryin’ is good.” Misty says. “It means you’re feelin’ something.”  

And the way she says it, without a hint of humor behind her gaze, makes Cordelia wonder how many times Misty cries just to experience a swell of emotion. She tightens her grip on the Cajun until the whites of her knuckles make an appearance.  

Those ringed fingers suddenly stroke through her straight hair, a light graze that leaves a tickling sensation in its wake. Cordelia all but melts in Misty’s embrace. “Do you?” She asks, not caring to wonder anymore and wanting to know instead.  

Misty blinks. “Do I what?”  

“Do you cry?” She begins, sadness seeping into her vacant expression. “About your mom?” 

She doesn’t answer straight away, with face contorting a number of ways until it settles on desolate. “Sometimes.” Cordelia can feel vibrations of her words against her cheek and she closes her eyes to relish them even further. She also senses the way Misty takes in a sharp gulp. “Tommy says it don’t do anyone good dwellin’ on what’s happened though.”  

Cordelia twists upwards, fingers finding Misty’s without much effort. “You guys don’t talk about it?” She isn’t sure why surprise grips at her words; how often does Fiona bring up her dad? She's sure that she could count the amount of times on one hand, yet her heart aches for Misty in a way it doesn’t pang for herself. 

“Nah.” Misty doesn’t seem to share her concerns. “Not really.” 

An offer springs freely from her lips, eager in its nature. “If you ever do want to talk. . . you know I’m here, right?” 

Now, Misty manages a genuine smile. “Uh huh.” 

“Any time. Night or day.” She continues. “Even if it’s four in the morning. I will be there to talk.”  

“I’ll hold you to that.” Misty chuckles, “ya might regret offerin’.”  

Cordelia joins her in mirth, just for the moment. “Never.” She unwinds herself from Misty’s torso, ignoring her body’s cry to be near to the Cajun once more and lost in the sweet smell of her perfume. That call resisted, she admires Misty through her suddenly red rimmed eyes and wipes away at the last of the wetness.  

When she shivers with something other than the cold, Misty shrugs off her baggy sweater and sweeps it over Cordelia’s shoulders without a second thought. She gives a harsh laugh against the backdrop of blooming trees and fluffy clouds. “Only we could come here to eat our burgers and end up talking about our dead parents.”  

The older blonde’s own chuckle is disbelieving, drawn out alongside weak sighs. What is it about Misty that wants to make her spill out her entire life story over a casual hangout? “You brought it up.” She attempts a smirk but it might get lost a little in translation.  

Misty’s fingers linger on her shoulders that little bit longer. “I'm sorry.”  

“Don’t be.” She insists, her own index finger grazing over Misty’s for the briefest of seconds. If she notices, she doesn’t make to move in any way. “It’s strangely cathartic, in a way.” 

“Guess you’re right.” Misty offers a half smile, faint in nature.  

Cordelia, growing braver, places her full palm over Misty’s loitering hand, an added weight to her shoulder. She tries to ignore the fact that her own is probably clammy and hot, though Misty appears far from deterred. “You can talk to me about anything.”  

She grins happily, face scrunching up all too prettily. “I know that, Delia.”  

“Just. . .” The weather may be cooling around them, but the heat of her growing anxiety burns inside her chest. Her fingers migrate on Misty’s, delicately and fearfully moving from the girl’s pale palm to where she has some black cotton ties covering her wrists. She always has something covering her wrists, Cordelia has noticed. Tips graze the material in a deliberate move for the briefest of seconds. Not for long, but enough for Misty to stare at it in bewilderment. “Anything.” She emphasises, voice thick with emotion even as she tries to keep it steady.  

Wide and glistening blue eyes return the distress in Cordelia’s, and Misty catches the meaning of her words, at what Cordelia is insinuating; the times she’s sat and wondered and fretted over the idea that Misty could have possibly hurt herself on purpose.  

The ache in her heart only deepens when her supposedly comforting words force the Cajun out of her touch, fingers slipping away like a wave slips from the sand’s grasp. Cordelia just hopes it will return at some point. Tightness embraces her as an old friend would, squeezing the air from her lungs while she watches Misty curl in on herself. Hands fuss and tighten the bands around her wrists; annoyed, perturbed, but also ashamed, with worry dancing on her wobbly lower lip and lines growing deep into her expression like cracks across ice.  

“If I think of anythin’, I’ll let you know.” She mutters through tense teeth.  

Any courage that Cordelia thinks she could have cowers within her, save for one tiny amount. It gives her just enough strength to whisper out Misty’s name. 

Hard eyes fall on her, making her squirm on the spot. “What?” And her expression is steel, intimidating and daring her to utter the question that hangs plainly on her lips. Cordelia doesn’t, or maybe she can’t. Even if she’s sure that there is a pleading lost in the abyss of Misty’s guess.  

She hangs her head and sighs. “Nothing.” Shame sticks to both syllables of the reply. Coward.  

Cordelia isn’t sure how long they sit there like that  

All she does know is that she hates every second of it.  

Misty watches her the entire time, the ice in her gaze relenting with the lull of the minutes as though she doesn’t have it in her to stay mad at the older blonde. She eventually heaves in a long breath and so starts the tension of who will be the first to speak.  

To her surprise, she’s the one to do it. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”  

Her perceptive gaze catches Misty’s frown. The Cajun purses her lips and shakes her head lightly while her hand finds Cordelia’s shoulder to give it a squeeze. “You didn’t. Don’t worry about me.” 

But I do.  

She knows that her face must say it all without words, seeing as Misty plays that strong façade once more. “Honestly.” She laughs oh so quietly. “It’s all good.” Her smile widens until dimples poke at her cheeks. “I’m with you.”  

Those three words are enough to calm and frenzy her heart at the same time.  

“Okay.” She breathes.  

Misty shakes off the heavy air around them, eager to rid it from their lives and moves to stand as Cordelia remains in the spot thoughtfully. “C’mon.” She nudges her side with her foot. “It’s gonna be dark soon.”  

She rises to her feet too, wiping grass blades from her clothes and then following Misty in the direction of the car. Her hands move to hug herself in the chilly air, only to realize Misty’s jumper is still wrapped over her shoulders. Cordelia slows, smiling despite their terse interaction moments ago.  

The Cajun doesn’t ask for it back, even as they climb into their seats. “Do you mind droppin' me off nearer to the cabin?" Misty asks after a few moments.  

Cordelia balks. “You’re gonna walk there alone?” 

“I do it all the time.” Misty chuckles, easing into a grin.  

She grumbles her disagreements under her breath, earning an eye roll from her friend. “If you’re so worried, why don’t you escort me there?” Misty teases. 

“Fine.” 

Head shooting to regard her in surprise, Misty’s eyelids flutter in a series of blinks. “Huh?” 

“I will walk you there.” She states, as if she’s some authority on trekking through the swamps after dark, whereas they both know last time she’d been nothing short of a burden on Misty.  

Misty bites back a laugh. “Good one.”  

“I'm being serious!” 

“And what you gonna do once you’ve got me there safely?”  

The affectionate intonations in Misty’s voice sweep around her pleasantly and she can smile for real now. “I’m gonna hang out with you.” Cordelia insists, then points out. “You said I was welcome any time.”  

After a long pause, Misty swallows her stun and sighs contently. “Yeah - I did.” Teeth tug on a smile that’s fit to burst through, then it does anyway, all cheeks and bright eyes. Cordelia warms at the idea that she’s the one who put it there. 

 

Chapter Text

“How many am I on?” Misty sucks in a sharp breath, the words straining against tight lips as she does another push up.  

Cordelia, who is sat nearby on the track field with her back against one of the bleachers and her legs stretched out, smiles softly. “Thirty four.”  

Thought she doesn’t complain through words, Misty’s expression says enough of how she feels about that. Cordelia bites back a smirk, lowering the chemistry book to her lap. “Only sixteen more.” She tries helpfully, as if she would be capable of doing that many. Her only arms are so spindly she thinks sometimes she couldn’t hold up even half her body weight.  

She surveys Misty under the guise of admiring the scenery around them, but eyes focus in solely on her biceps as she pushes up and down. The muscles tense tightly, well-formed against her pale skin. At the sight of them, Cordelia feels every ounce of saliva run dry in her mouth, something stirring awake deep within her pelvis. In a moment of weakness, she imagines Misty pushes her down onto a bed with those strong arms, trapped delightfully beneath them, and the remaining air in her lungs escapes with a squeak.  

Stop it, Cordelia.  She curses her wanton thoughts and banishes them, even if they move reluctantly. It’s difficult as Misty continues her push ups in earnest, beads of sweat forming on her forehead with the afternoon sun blinks above them. “Forty nine. . .fifty.” Slightly breathless, she rolls over so she’s lay on her back and closes her eyes. “It’s hot.” She says, wiping at the face with her shirt. As she does, it reveals an expanse of a taut and creamy stomach that has Cordelia reeling on the spot. 

Despite this, she succeeds in finding words from her scrambled brain. “It was your idea to do exercise.”  

Misty turns to her, hair gathered beneath her head like a pretty, blonde pillow; her lips twist upwards. “You know I gotta train every day.” 

“I know.” She laughs, “but it looks exhausting.” 

The Cajun doesn’t disagree. She lifts herself with wobbly arms and slowly moves over to where Cordelia is sat with a welcoming smile. A second bottle of water is offered, which Misty takes and begins to drinks greedily; droplets of it escape down either side of her mouth, dribbling onto her track shirt and darkening the gray material Eyes linger, mesmerized.  

“It ain’t too bad.” Even so, she plonks herself down next to Cordelia in weariness, legs momentarily knocking against her own. “It’ll be worth it, if I get to go to the state meet.” She dares to look proud. “Even my Daddy said he’d come watch if I did.” 

Cordelia smiles and rubs a hand on Misty’s arm softly, feeling the smooth hairs there. “I don’t doubt you at all. You’ll be the best runner there.” 

She flushes under the compliment, but doesn’t grow bashful. Lips twist and twitch into a pretty grin that Cordelia returns, then moves to put away her book. “Are you ready to go?” Nodding keenly, Misty gathers all of her things too, a messy pile in her arms that is quickly carried the five minute walk to Cordelia’s car. “You going home or to mine?” She asks as nonchalant as she can, hoping for the latter, which Misty instantly agrees to. 

Misty sings along to the radio the entire way, tapping her fingers against the dashboard and occasionally throwing playful laughter over to the content Cordelia. In turn, she hums softly, wishing that the drive would last longer so they could remain in such a serene state. All too quickly, though, she’s pulling up in front of her house and Misty is already jumping out of the car.  

She scrunches up her nose as she stands on the stoop, head shifting this way and that. Cordelia peers at her through the corner of her eyes while she unlocks the door, stifling a laugh when Misty lifts up an arm to smell her armpit. “I stink.” She grumbles, face pinched together.  

“Well, go shower.” Cordelia insists with a toying smile, then nudges Misty over the threshold of the door.  

The Cajun doesn’t need to be told twice, hurrying inside where shoes are shrugged off and she leads the way to Cordelia’s room. She casually chats about school and the owl nesting near her cabin on the journey, and turns occasionally to grin toward Cordelia with shimmering eyes. Bags are thrown onto the floor before Misty makes herself at home with grabbing things to shower with. Warmth spreads through Cordelia at seeing the blonde so comfortable in her home, just as much as when she’s twirling blissfully along the wooden floors of her cabin.  

With the pleasant heat embraced, she smiles into herself and rises to her feet. Misty peers around from where she’s stood at the ajar door, questioning.  

Cordelia’s soft expression keeps her at ease. “I’m going to make us something to eat.” She says, knowing that those are the magic words to brighten Misty. Especially after over an hour of exercising. It works, and she gives an impish grin.  

“I won’t be long.” 

“Take your time.” Cordelia breathes; her mind tells her legs to move, but they seem to refuse, as if she just needs to take the sight of Misty in that moment. Looking over at her friend, the Cajun appears to be under the same conflict, and the two continue to stare with unknown words hanging tentatively on their lips. She exhales until her lungs begin to collapse in on themselves. Even so, her smile lingers under Misty’s intent eyes. “I’ll be downstairs if you need anything.”  

Misty nods, the wisps of her hair bouncing delicately. 

It’s a struggle, but she manages to draw herself away from those twinkling, blue eyes and begin the descent downstairs. Without Misty’s constant conversation, it seems awfully quiet. She fills it with music from her phone that perches on the kitchen counter and she rifles through the cupboards like a girl on a mission. Maybe she is. Feeding Misty is something that she’s grown used to now; normally an affair of pizzas and burgers, and whatever is easy to just place in the oven at that moment.  

For some reason, she gives pause. Teeth chew on her lip thoughtfully, until the pressure becomes too much and she breaks through sensitive skin.  

She knows that the Cajun doesn’t care what they eat, that it doesn’t need such a debate. So why is it suddenly a great dilemma?  

Fingers push through bags and items in the freezer, none of them taking her fancy. She wants to do more for Misty than some cheap meal. She wants to do something nice, something special. Why? She doesn’t dare say. What’s special about a random Wednesday night in the last week of March? Nothing. Absolutely nothing at all. But Misty is here, and that’s special to her. Maybe that’s reason enough.  

Once the idea begins to take root like a tiny, hopeful seedling, any resolve she has to counter it flies from the nearest French window.  

With a new and bizarre thrill bubbling away in the pit of her stomach, she moves back to the fridge where she pulls out a series of vegetables and begins chopping away. The repetitive work is soothing, her mood lightened by the playlist filling the air around her. She smiles absently as Fleetwood Mac plays, one of the randomly chosen songs, humming to the tune with a small sway in her hips.  

Losing herself in cooking is easy, something that she’s always loved to do, and doing it for someone that she cares (a whole damn lot) about brings a whole new element of joy to the simple tasks. Once the vegetables are seasoned and roasting, Cordelia focuses on making the sauce and boiling the pasta to perfection.  

In the small bouts of time between, she sets the nearby table with nerves itching in her fingertips. They tremble and quiver until she scoffs out her self directed annoyance. “Oh, stop being an idiot.” She mutters aloud. Her body listens, or at least dilutes the tension slightly. Replying to Zoe’s text about math homework distracts her for all of about three seconds, until she hears the sizzle of overflowing water mixing with the heat of the hob. Throwing her phone to the side hastily, she jumps toward the pan and removes it with as much speed as she can muster. Which, turns out, is way too much, and the boiling water sloshes this way and that against the rim of the pan. Some of it jumps ship, landing over her fingers without apology and summoning a strangled hiss from the teenager. “Goddammit.”  

“You shouldn’t use the Lord’s name in vain, ya know?”  

She spins, cradling her burning fingers in her other hand and wincing. Misty leans prettily against the doorway wearing the clothes she’d had on at school earlier that day. A cream colored dress reaches down past her knees, drowned by the oversized, knitted cardigan that sits comfortably around her shoulders. Her damp hair hangs longer than normal, slightly frizzed from being towel dried. Despite her serious words, a smirk fights its way onto her lips as she regards Cordelia.  

The older blonde suddenly forgets that she’s actually in quite a lot of pain, chest heaving and eyes widening. She peers to the gold cross around Misty’s neck, catching the kitchen light and sending a warning that the Cajun can’t quite keep to maintain. “Sorry.”  

Misty is less perturbed, if she even had been, and crosses the room with purpose. Her hair flounces airily even with the water trying to weight it down.  

Suddenly a hand is cradling Cordelia’s and directing it to the cold water faucet. “You okay?” 

She stares down at their combined hands. One, pale and soft, like moonlight. The other mottled by red markings that rampage over the freckles on the back of it.  

“I’m fine.” Cordelia glances up to her. “It doesn’t hurt that much.” Not with you holding it like that.  

Misty inspects it further as she bows in front of the sink, eyes narrowed into inquisitive slits and forehead creasing sympathetically. “I hope it doesn’t blister.” She says softly, brushing a thumb over it. That stings, but not as much as the sting in Cordelia’s chest. Her gaze begs for something else to stare at; all she can do is notice that Misty’s fingers are bare and they look awfully strange without any jewellery on them. The Cajun stands, still holding her hand under the icy water until it’s numb and frigid. She puckers her lips into a wrinkled line and then grins. “What are you makin’?” 

A huff of air close to a laugh comes from Cordelia. She gestures to the pan with the nudge of her head. “I was making linguine, before. . . well, this.” Her hand stares pathetically back at her.  

“Linguine?” Misty’s cheeks widen with an earnest smile. “Sounds real fancy.”  

She laughs again, a real, definite one, and moves to turn off the water. “I just need to put it all together.”  

Even at her insistence, Misty’s grip clings.  

“I’m fine. I promise.” The pain is now like a subtle nip on her skin every so often. Ever so softly, Misty begins to let her fingers loosen their clasp and make to fall limply by her side. They hang sadly, as if having lost their purpose.  

Cordelia offers the sweetest of smiles, brushing past Misty to finish their meal. Eyes remain on her the entire time, watching each and every movement with interest, a pretty tinge of befuddlement creeping in too.  

It remains there the entire time that Cordelia sets up two dishes, placing a hearty amount for Misty and a more modest for herself. Misty’s confusion only peaks when she’s led to the table and not Cordelia’s bedroom, where there are drinks and neatly set cutlery waiting for them. “Am I missin’ somethin’?” she teases, “is today some sort of special occasion?” 

Her neck reddens, and she tugs her collar up to hide it. “No. I just. . .” She won’t look into Misty’s eyes, or maybe she can’t. “I just thought it would be nice.” 

Misty accepts that with a carefree shrug, though her entire being seems to drip in appreciation. The smile falters, for the blink of an eye, and she clears her throat. “Do you mind if I say grace?” 

Grinning, she shakes her head. “Go for it.”  

There is littele hesitation from Misty now, who closed her eyes with a bowed head, and draws those ringless hands together. Cordelia follows suit, though pokes one eye open to observe with a warmth in her heart. 

“For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful. Amen.”  

Cordelia hums out her own quieter amen, then peers curiously with the tilt of her head before either of them take a bite. “Do you normally pray before meals?” She enquires. It isn’t something that she’s accustomed to Misty doing normally.  

The Cajun nods, stabbing at the linguine eagerly and twizzling it around her fork. “We always do at home. At school ‘n here I guess I normally do it in my head. But this fancy meal definitely needed one at loud.” She doesn’t pause to think any further on it, shovelling the heaping forkful between pale lips and moaning in happiness. “Hmmm, Delia, this is amazin’.”  

She flushes again, smiling. “Thank you.”  

Another mouthful, one that leaves sauce left on her chin. Cordelia stares and bites back a smirk that pushes and barges against her mouth.  

“You have to make this again.” She insists.  

“Okay.” Cordelia agrees in a heartbeat.  

Misty does that look again, all too grateful, and manages to slow her assault on the food as though she remembers that table manners are a thing. Her cheeks are plump like a hamster’s as she chews what’s remaining, then swallows it with another moan. A hand reaches out for the glass of water and chugs at that. “How come you never said you were such a good cook?” she says playfully, a pink tongue poking out between teeth.  

Taking a bite of her food as a distraction, Cordelia falls victim to her own demure expression. “I only ever cook for myself.” She says, trying not to let sadness hijack her words. “And Fiona once in a blue moon.” Cordelia then smiles genuinely. “And you, but you’re normally so hungry that I don’t have time to cook anything that take more than fifteen minutes.”  

Her laugh is full of delight, like a charming angel. “I’d wait if it meant it was this good.”  

Cordelia swells with pride again, unable to chew seeing as she’s smiling too much.  

“What about you?” She starts.  

Chewing stops, her mouth hanging open. “Huh?” Cordelia knows she should be grossed out, but she really, without a doubt, is not.  

She giggles. “Are you good at cooking?”  

“Ah.” Misty pauses only to grin devilishly and shake her head. “Nellie don’t let me in the kitchen anymore.” Eyes widen with pointed mirth. “I have a tendency to set things on fire.”  

The very idea of Misty causing chaos in the kitchen elicits more chucking from the older blonde, her fondness all too obvious and floating over the mahogany table where Misty meets it with her own grin.  

“Now bakin'  - that is where my talents lie.” 

“Really?”  

“Hmmm.”  

Cordelia leans forward as she sips her drink, entranced by the conversation which fills the kitchen that’s only used to silence. “You’ll have to bake for me some time.” She suggests even if her tummy fills with butterflies as it leaves her lips.  

It goes unnoticed by the Cajun, who is scraping the last few morsels off of her plate loudly. “I can do that.” She pauses.  

“What’s your specialty?”  

She can feel her own gaze growing darker with intensity, something suddenly way out of her control, and it pulls Misty in like a moth to the flame.  

Leaning her chin on one hand, she gives a cross eyed grin, lost in Cordelia’s stare. “Whatever you want.” She whispers, a promise that in that moment seems to transcend their conversation and hint to a much bigger picture. It makes Cordelia stare dumbly at first, enrapt, until the rational side of her brain kickstarts with a bang and jerks her upright.  

Misty seems to realize her faux pas before it’s too late, face paling in embarrassment? Horror? Neither are given the opportunity to dissect it as the Cajun stares at her empty plate, then clears her throat loudly. “Uh, is there any more?”  

On her feet all too quickly, Cordelia relishes in the distraction. As she returns with the remains in the pan, ready to scoop them into Misty’s dish, she catches Misty’s berating expression that the Cajun seems to direct at herself. Angry and ashamed, she reeks of self-hatred for those few fleeting moments until Cordelia appears by her side. Then, it disappears with her fluttering blinks. She tilts her head to one side to glance just barely at Cordelia with a half smile, like she can’t quite manage to bring the other side of her lips up. The small action is just enough to send cracks rippling through her already weak heart.  

“Thanks.” Misty whispers, avoiding eye contact. Cordelia feels her mouth quirk in annoyance.  

She moves around to her seat where Misty has no option but to look at her in the middle of devouring the rest of the food. Her satisfied moans begin to usurp the tension that had briefly enveloped them.  

Even so, it’s still not enough for Cordelia, who desperately seeks any other form of conversation. Her usually overworking brain comes up short, leaving her just sitting with a mouth jutting open and closed like some sort of floundering fish.  

For once in her life, her mother turns out to be her savior; she stomps into the kitchen without warning. Cordelia hadn’t even heard the front door go. But she sucks in a sharp breath and then pushes it from her lungs, hoping her relief isn’t too evident. “You’re back early.” She comments to the woman, who has thrown her handbag to the side and begins the process of making herself a cappuccino.  

“The case settled.” Fiona gives somewhat of a proud smile. “I showed that bitch Laveau how good representation works.” A haughty laugh follows, or maybe a cackle. Cordelia isn’t quite sure. “I’d do it all over again to see the look on her smug, little face.” 

Cordelia gives a long, slow nod. “That’s good, I guess.”  

“It’s a cause for celebration. Joe is taking me to that jazz club he keeps talking about and then tonight we are going to have the best – " 

“Please don’t finish that sentence.” She scrunches her eyes closed with the will of making herself deaf for a few seconds.  

It doesn’t work. “Honestly, Cordelia, you are such a prude.”  

She flushes pink, then scoffs. Any offence is barely hidden, but that’s not the least of her worries. Eyes drift over to where Misty is sat, observing the two with interest from her seat. Fiona seems to only just then notice her presence. “Ah, Misty’s here.” She announces, then pointedly looks to Cordelia. “Again.”  

“We’re just having dinner.”  

Fiona’s eyes grow more interested, darker with thought. “How quaint.” Her eyes flicker in Misty’s direction again, finding the Cajun staring right back with no signs of relenting. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get ready.”  

She reaches for her drink and begins retreating with it, leaving a smell of bitter perfume in her wake. Cordelia sighs over what’s probably been their longest interaction for a week, then turns apologetically to her friend.  

Misty smiles now, a real smile that meets the pretty blue behind her eyes. “Does your mom think I’m here a lot?” Though chuckles follow her words, there’s something coating them that Cordelia can’t quite understand.  

“It doesn’t matter what she thinks.” Cordelia replies steadily, moving to take their empty dishes.  

Reaching out, Misty’s hand on hers halts her quickly. “You cooked.” She gives way as answer, that appreciate demeanor flourishing around her once more. “Least I can do is clean up after us.”  

Cordelia follows in her tracks, watching as she begins doing the dishes without complaint. She almost protests that they have a dishwasher yet the words refuse to come. All she can succeed in doing is slowly ambling up to Misty’s side, hips brushing against her, and holding her hand out expectantly with the dishtowel ready.  

At the sight of it Misty beams, then continues to clean with a hum playing at the back of her throat. Cordelia catches it, just barely there, and smiles to herself too. They work in synch, without words, but with peering glances and content washing over them.  

Her tranquil word falters as her brain goes practically rogue of all rationality, sighing over how painfully domestic this all feels.  

Reality returns to her as Misty reaches for the dish towel hanging limply in her hands where fingers brush and electricity flies up her arm. She hides her shock under a sheepish smile, then suggests going up to her room under the guise of studying.  

Misty sits cross legged on her bed, hair now dry and frizzing at the ends in a way that makes her want to reach out and touch it. The textbooks in her hands keep her fingers distracted, to her great relief. Sinking down onto the bed, she feels the mattress shift, as does Misty. The Cajun moves that slightest bit closer, bringing with her the waft of Cordelia’s shampoo. She likes it. She likes the fact that Misty smells like her, that she could be hers. 

Because she’s never going to be.  

And she realizes that with a sinking heart. 

There’s movement in front of her, an arm casting shadows against the dim side lighting, and suddenly a pair of glasses is in front of her face. “You’re ‘sposed to wear ‘em.” Misty gently reminds her. “Squinting your eyes ain’t good for ya.”  

She nods, grateful, more for the fact that Misty thinks her strained expression is from blurry vision that a nauseating realization.  

With the glasses on, the words come into focus; Misty too. The idea of studying biology right now is the furthest from what she wants to do, but Misty encourages her, chatting amicably about punnett squares and transcription and things that drift into one ear then straight out of the other. “You don’t need to look so bored.” Misty grins after a while, delicate fingers flipping onto the next page.  

Cordelia blinks, tilting her head in the Cajun’s direction. 

She’s leaning against the headboard now, lost in a sea of pillows and eyes pointing at Cordelia with the warmth of the sun. “I thought you liked biology?” I like it because you’re there. The older blonde swallows the lump ascending her throat. 

“I do.” She starts with floundering commitment. “My head is just starting to hurt a little.”  

Misty grins, an air of sympathy to her. “Tell me about it. I can’t wait for all of this to be over.” She places a dramatic hand to her pale forehead. “Feel like my brain is gonna be nothin’ but mush soon.”  

“Think I’m too late for that.”  

Her wry words have Misty sitting up straight again, gravitating toward her person like the moon dances around the Earth. Cordelia sighs under her breath. “I feel like all we do is stuff for College.” Misty grumbles, “I miss doin’ fun stuff.”  

She pokes a thin eyebrow upward. “Like what?”  

“I dunno.”  

“You don’t know?”  

Misty shrugs, gaze softening. “Anythin’. I’m real sick of training and studyin’.” 

“We go to your Cabin.” She nudges her, wondering where the teasing tone appears from in her voice, as if they do anything other than gardening and listening to music when they’re there. 

“I know.” 

Cordelia chuckles. “But?”  

There’s a thoughtful hum, brows knitting into one. “This could be the last year we’re with each other. I want us to do other stuff.”  

Despite that being a possibility that Cordelia has been all too aware of since the beginning of school in September, hearing Misty concrete and build the truth like a dominating tower winds her. For a moment, she doesn’t know what to say. Seeing as she fears whatever does come out of her mouth will only send them spiralling down into a whirlpool of sadness.  

She doesn’t want that; not when Misty so regularly carries that same weight on her shoulders without her prompting.  

Lifting an arm, she finally lets her twitching fingers meet the mark that they so desperately want, and she squeezes her arm. “Well, what do you want to do?” 

Misty’s hand finds hers, holding on. She smiles, daringly. “Lots of things.” 

“Well, you gotta name one to start.” Cordelia laughs. 

Her face pinches together in contemplation, eyes darting up at her friend then back to the bed sheets that she smooths with her free hands. They’re yellow and soft, and remind Cordelia of her friend every time she sees them.  

“I know you don’t like animals and stuff. . .” She starts slowly, “but I ain’t been to the zoo since I moved here and I was thinkin’ - maybe, if you’re free. . . we could. . .” 

Cordelia smiles, endeared at her suddenly demure nature. “We can do that.” She agrees with very little debate.  

“I’ll pay,” Misty offers.  

“You don’t have to.” She begins with a shake of her head, words light and loving.  

“But I want to.”  

The intensity that the response is thrown, bringing everything inside of her to a standstill. Her lips just about part, air escaping without noise. Misty continues to stare, transfixing and bewildering and beautifully insistent. Cordelia isn’t sure where this sudden need to buy things for her has stemmed from, but the more she thinks about it, the more her head hurts. So, she casts the idea aside and relents with a tentative smile.  

“It sounds fun. We’ll definitely go.” Misty smiles, too. “Ooh - we should go to the botanical gardens. You’d love it.” Those cheeks spread wider, eyes twinkling with Cordelia’s excited expression staring back at her. 

“Yeah.” The Cajun is nodding eagerly, pursing her lips into a twisted line. She hasn’t seemed to notice that they’re still practically holding hands, but Cordelia doesn't have the heart to stop the tactile moment. Shifting with gleeful anticipation, she shifts on the spot. “We’ll go.”  

“I’ll hold you to that.”  

Her own intensity shines through then as she leans in so close that their foreheads almost touch. Misty pales, stuck to the spot and eyes growing twice the size. All she can manage is another dumb nod.  

Cordelia reels back, cursing herself for having so comfortably swooped in, before she eyes the textbooks in distaste. “I'm think I’m all studied out.”  

There’s a hum on agreement. It takes her all of three seconds to decide that the books are better suited on the floor, leaving more room for Misty to stretch out long legs that Cordelia admires through hidden views. Misty reaches for the TV remote, turning it on automatically and beginning to see what  Netflix  has to offer. “What do you wanna watch?” she asks. 

She shrugs, too busy appraising Misty to care. “Please just don’t put on anything scary.”  

“Aw no. I don’t like that kinda stuff.” Her nose crinkles up cutely. “Let’s just watch somethin’ funny.”  

As she sifts through the choices, the tip of her tongue ever so gently makes an appearance between her lips. She eventually decides on some spoof movie, deciding the two need an easy movie after their hour or so of staring at the fine writing in textbooks. “There.” She settles into the pillows the way a cat kneads and prods to get comfortable. Cordelia follows suit, not intentionally but totally intentionally leaning into Misty’s side. “Now, we can just watch Netflix and relax.” 

She snorts. “Yeah. Netflix and chill.”  

The inappropriateness of the words is lost on Misty, who turns to her with a muddled expression. Eyes and mouth and nose pinch together. “What?”  

“Netflix and chill. . .” More sniggers threaten to fall. “That’s a thing.” 

“I ain’t ever heard of that.”  

Cordelia resists the urge to present the palm of her hand to her face very quickly, giving a soft shake of her head. “It doesn’t matter.” 

The Cajun frowns now, brows dipping down. “Am I missin’ somethin’?” 

She is glad for the dim light when pink begins to color her neck. Describing exactly what it means to Misty makes her gut twist in an instant with the idea that she might take her joke too close to heart. Cordelia shakes her head again. “No, It's fine. Just watch the movie.”  

Misty gives her some serious stink eye, though eventually lets her thoughtful gaze return to the TV that demands attention. As it goes on, Cordelia can feel her eyelids growing warier with the long day behind them. A long week, in fact. Another week gone. One more closer the end of school. Misty moves an arm that’s clearly grown dead, accidentally catching her just against the ribcage. She hitches her breath, eyes locking. An apology is mumbled out and all is forgotten. Even the process of breathing is forgotten for Cordelia who has to kickstart into her lungs into exhaling. 

She stretches out her own limbs that ache with a lack of use, laughing at her much longer Misty’s legs appear compared to hers even though there’s little than a few inches between them in height. When she shares that with Misty, the Cajun laughs fondly and presses their legs together, just for a moment. The silky feel of skin against Cordelia’s is wonderful, no matter how small the contact.  

This is nice. No, it’s better than that. It’s amazing, it’s natural. It’s easy.  

Cordelia doesn’t think she’s ever felt more herself with any other person, not even Fiona who had given her life and experience and memories. Misty gives her that in an altogether better way. One that she never wants to lose.  

The movie ends, and it blends into another, then an episode of a TV show. Until she’s blearily glancing over at the time on her phone. “Shit. It’s late.” She sits upright from where the two had been half cuddling, half pretending that neither noticed how close they’d gotten. Blinking feverishly, she double checks her first assumption. “It's really late.” How is it past midnight?  

“Oh.” Misty drips in disappointment. “Least we don’t have school tomorrow.”  

“But you’re gonna get back so late. Won’t your dad be angry?”  

There’s a moment of pause, of consideration. Misty’s relaxed attitude confuses Cordelia, whose heart races at the idea that she might have gotten her into trouble. “I’ll just call Tommy. As long as they know I ain’t dead, it’s fine.”  

She frowns. “He’ll still be up?”  

A quick snort follows from the Cajun. “Until at least three am. It’s the only time he can go on his play station in peace.”  

Her mouth forms into a small ‘o’ and she watches as Misty begins searching through the clothes in her bag to find her phone. She yawns as she does so, eliciting one from the older blonde who only seems to grow more tired by the second.  

The idea of driving a full round between her and Misty’s house makes her limbs cry in protest and her brain bubble with all sorts of silly ideas. Like the one that dives from her lips before it manages to go through the filter in her head. “You could stay here, you know.”  

Misty’s head snaps up from her phone. “What?” 

“You could stay over.” She says quietly when she gains the courage to say it again, palms beginning to itch with sweat. “It’s really late.”  

She doesn’t know what she expects Misty to say, but it’s certainly not the sweet and naïve ways she asks her question. “Like a sleepover?”  

Sleepy giggles bubble over her lips. “Yeah, I guess so.”  

Excitement begins to fill the edges where indifference had been. “I haven’t had a sleepover since I went to church camp.”  

“Well.” Cordelia starts in a voice that she tries not to make too enticing and obvious. “We could have one now.” By now, Misty has started wringing her fingers together, teeth pulling at her lip while she nods emphatically. Her lack of hesitation causes Cordelia’s heart to swell impossibly wide.  

Still grinning, she finally plucks up her phone and starts racing through the contacts. “I need to tell Tommy.”  

Cordelia nods, slipping out of the room to give her that slightest bit more privacy. As she does, she finds herself in the kitchen once more, picking out whatever snacks she can find, which turns out to be a questionable bag of pretzels and some miscellaneous candy bars. Neither of which are much to boast about but Misty makes an excited noise when she sees them, practically snatching them from her hands.  

She laughs. “What did your brother say?”  

“Well, at first he asked why I was botherin’ him, then he said he doesn’t care and lastly he told me that I better not be getting drunk somewhere.”  

“I don’t know about drinking, but I can offer you those.” She vaguely gestures to the food, inwardly jumping for joy at the idea of Misty spending the night at her house.  

Misty offers her the sweetest of gazes. “I won’t complain about that.” Already she’s opening the pretzels and stuffing some into her mouth. She shuffles further back on the bed, making room for Cordelia. “Wanna watch somethin’ else?” she asks with a mouthful of food. 

“You are so gross.” Cordelia giggles, jabbing her in the side where she thickly swallows the half chewed food and gives a sheepish tilt of her head. She offers the open packet to Cordelia, who takes one and eats it in a much daintier fashion. Misty continues to look to her in question. “I’m gonna get changed before we watch anything else.” She explains, pausing when she nears the closest. “You probably wanna borrow some pajamas.” 

“Well, unless you want me to sleep with no clothes on.” Misty blurts out, realizing her words and flushing past the point of pink to red in a matter of seconds.  

Unable to look at her under her own blush, Cordelia misses the way her face drops with self-directed ire again, features crumpling in on themselves sadly. But she doesn’t see it. And she turns around with some shorts and a baggy T – shirt for the Cajun, throwing them in her direction. Misty squeaks some hurried words out about going to change in the bathroom, leaving Cordelia to do the same herself.  

She suddenly feels on show in her own thin layer of pajamas. Her paranoia convinces her that the cotton is suddenly see through even if her rational mind argues such an idea. She climbs under the covers to add another layer over her bare skin, taking the remote herself while she waits for Misty.  

It seems like an eternity before the lock clicks open and Misty tiptoes out. A nervous smile lingers on her lips, and she looks like all of a sudden she may be regretting her decision to stay over when she spies Cordelia in the bed. “Hey.” She says softly, fingers tugging down the shirt that is barely long enough to cover her abdomen.  

Cordelia totally doesn’t stare. She tries to put Misty in as much ease as possible despite her own frantic insides by gently patting the free side of the bed. It has the opposite effect. Both stare like two deer caught in opposite headlights. A long breath flows from her lungs as she severs eye contact, moving the bag of pretzels off Misty’s pillow.  

Her pillow. Not Misty’s. She wishes it was. 

Ever so gently, Misty begins to pad over to the bed, where covers are lifted and she scoots underneath. Her hair spills onto the pillow that has stolen Cordelia’s interest with no regrets and all the older blonde can think is how both the pillow and Misty’s hair still smell like her shampoo. If she breathes in deep enough, the sweet scent fills her lungs.  

She can’t help thinking how strange this feels, how different it is to be sat under the covers with her instead of on top. Both their warmth begins to combine, and if she shifts her leg just a few inches they’ll be touching. Oh God, how she wants to. But she fights the urge and focuses on the TV because it’s the only thing keeping all sane thoughts reigning over the not so sane ones. Misty does the same, munching away and occasionally commenting on how bad the acting in the movie is. All she can do is hum out agreement. 

“Are you even watchin’ this?” 

Cordelia rubs at the top of her cheekbones all along the underneath of her eyes. “Of course. I’m just kinda tired.”  

Now, Misty turns in the bed so that she’s fully facing her, blue eyes focused in spite of her own clearly sleepy stupor.  

She sighs happily. “We can go to sleep, ya know?” 

“And skip the pillow fight?” Cordelia smirks.  

A loud laugh fills the otherwise quiet buzz of the TV, and hands shove her playfully. She’s hyper aware of the touch. Because they’re touching each other. In her bed - together. It feels all too intimate for her, even more so than when she’d shared a bed with Hank. And all they’re doing is staring into each other’s eyes like their lives depend on it.  

Misty’s touch begins to retreat. She almost reaches out for it, but catches herself the last second. She sighs, beginning to sit up in a slow amble. “I need to brush my teeth.” 

The cold air pinches at her skin but she is glad to be away from tempting thoughts and brushes her teeth with far much more ferocity than she needs to. Misty hasn’t joined her yet, though she can hear noise from her bedroom and lives happy in the knowledge that she hasn’t fled. When she begins her return, she isn’t expecting to see Misty kneeling in front of her bed with hands clasped together and eyes scrunched tightly shut.  

Her mouth moves quickly, too fast for Cordelia to decipher any of the words. She considers closing the door, giving Misty a moment of privacy as she clearly prays, but there’s a part of her that curiously watches on. The focus and fervor to her actions are somehow besotting to the older blonde, who’s never seen her like this before. Misty peeks an eye open, smiling into her words as she notices Cordelia there. She continues, unbothered. If anything, her lips move faster now. This is a different kind of intimate than most people know; this is baring your whole self out in front of someone without fear.  

Cordelia wants to lose herself in the moment.  

She does, until Misty is finishing by making the sign of the cross with her hand quickly and then squinting both eyes open. “Sorry for takin’ so long.” She mumbles, not sounding apologetic at all.  

“It’s okay.” She licks her lip nervously and asks without thinking. “What were you praying for?” Misty stills and she panics. “Am I not supposed to ask?” 

“No. I just. . .” She forces herself to relax, tucking wild hair behind both ears. “Just the usual stuff. For guidance and repentance. And the health and happiness of my family.” Misty can’t hide the way her cheeks tinge with a pink hue. “For your happiness, too.”  

Cordelia smiles, delighted. “You pray for me?”  

Misty nods, trying to give a nonchalant shrug even if her tone gives her away. “Every night.”  

“That’s really sweet, Misty.” She says with genuine appreciation aimed the Cajun’s way. “Thank you.” There’s another moment of staring, more shared, lasting smiles, and Cordelia quickly clears her throat. “I put a spare toothbrush on the side for you.”  

Misty smile and jumps to her feet, skipping past her with a flounce in her hair where Cordelia then hears the girl doing her own night time routine. In this moment, she crawls back into the now cooling bed, head nestled on top of soft pillows.  

As Misty emerges this time, the nerves seem to have settled. She bounds with a newfound confidence that is contagious enough to have Cordelia grinning. As Misty joins her, she is yawning once more, eyes hooding over. She looks awfully beautiful in the semi darkness – only the TV lights the room around them now, but Cordelia makes to turn it off and plummet them in blackness.  

Even so, she can feel Misty’s gaze in her direction.  

They’re further away from each other now, a good, respectable distance between two friends. It mocks her silently as her eyes adjust until she can make out the outline of Misty’s shape. The Cajun tugs up the covers, right under their chins, and sighs into the room. “I’m tired.”  

“Then go to sleep.” Cordelia giggles.  

She doesn’t reply, but Cordelia is sure that she’s grinning.  

“Goodnight Delia.”  

Another yawn.  

“Sweet dreams.” 

The older blonde stares, eyes straining against the black as she fights her own exhaustion. She scoots closer, hoping Misty doesn’t notice. “Goodnight Misty.” Her own words are just as loving, filled with care and earnest and too many heavy things for almost two am. I love you. The thought appears without warning, popping into her mind so quickly that she almost utters the words out into the quiet of the night.  

And they make her chest tighten like something is clamping down on her ribcage. Maybe it’s the weight of her unrequited feelings finally catching up on her or maybe it’s the realization that her crush has definitely progressed into something altogether serious and delightful and terrifying. 

 

Chapter Text

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.  

 

Chapter Text

Wandering the quiet halls of the school is strange during the daylight. The echo of her clicking heels bounces off the lockers and right back into her ears. She walks the familiar path back to the classroom, carrying the heavy bag of soil between her arms. As she steps in, Misty is immediately there and relieves her of the great weight with a smile. 

She thanks her, then leans over the nearest bench. “It’s so weird not seeing anyone else here.” 

Misty peers up from where she’s moved to change the support on the tomato plants, laughing. “I know.” A tongue darts out of her lips that twist mischievously. “When I was a kid, Sylvia convinced me that the teachers used to sleep here at night. I spent a whole week tryin’ to figure out where they slept until I got in trouble for walkin’ into the teacher’s lounge.”  

“Really?”  

“Oh yeah. I barged right in and asked where the beds were.”  

Cordelia stifles a laugh behind her hand. “I can totally see you doing that." She moves the small distance around the table to begin helping Misty, relishing in the feel of soil against her fingers. This is one of the few occasions where she doesn’t mind getting dirty. In fact, she savors each moment of it; especially when the hobby brings her closer to Misty.  

Her hands are already filthy, splattered with dry and fresh mud alike. “It wasn’t funny.” She insists, even if she’s chuckling too. “My momma had to sit me down and explain to me that teachers went home like everyone else.” She shakes her head at the memory. “I felt like a real dummy.”  

She presses her lips together sympathetically. “You were just a kid.”  

“That’s when I learned neve to listen to Sylvia. Ever.” Half of Misty’s mouth turns upwards into a smirk. “And she tried to fool me an awful lot.”  

“Oh yeah?” 

Although her eyes remain steadily on her work as she deftly repots and tends to plants, Misty replies in an instant. “Hmm huh. Then she started gettin' everyone else to join in.” She scoffs, muttering something about siblings under her breath. Turning, she sets soft eyes on Cordelia. “They even convinced me that you could only say a certain number of words a day, and if I talked too much, they’d tell me I was almost at my limit. I’d be quiet for hours!” Her lips bend into a tight line, before she rolls her eyes dramatically. “Can’t believe I fell for it.”  

Cordelia struggles to keep her smile away at that, imagining a young and gullible Misty mortified at the idea of almost having used all her words. 

She grabs hold of the secateurs, trimming at wilting leaves. “Please tell me that you got them back.” 

“You bet I did.” The joy swishes back into Misty’s features, eyes glistening as they lock with Cordelia’s. She pauses, seeming to reflect on her own revenge before it’s shared with the blonde beside her. “I put spiders in their beds,” Misty crows proudly.  

She almost drops the tool in her hands. “Spiders? ” 

Despite her words of pretty horrific practical jokes, Misty giggles delicately in a way that causes Cordelia’s skin to prickle happily. “A whole lot of them.”  

“Please remind me to never piss you off.” She jokes, voice a deadpan.  

Misty grins, nudging her side. “I’d never do anythin’ like that to you.”  

“But maybe someone else who crosses you?”  

When Misty doesn’t reply, coyness pinching at her mouth and nose. Cordelia raises a brow and chuckles “You are terrible, Misty Day.” 

“Oh, come on, like you ain’t ever done somethin’ like that!” She tries to reason, smirking.  

“As a matter of fact, I haven’t.” 

“Serious?” 

She’s tilting her head now, eyes narrowing in disbelief. Cordelia feels her stomach churn under the scrutiny, offering a timid smile. “Nope.”  

“Not anyone?” She probes. 

Laugher courageously bubbles over her lips. “Who was I going to prank as a kid? Fiona?! ” 

Misty’s eyes widen delightfully at the idea, chortles following. Her expression suggests that she’s rather keen on said idea, but she doesn’t speak it. In fact, she says something that catches Cordelia off guard completely. “You are too nice for your own good.”  

Her movements pause, body twisting so that Misty can get the full effect of her intrigue. “How can someone be too nice?” 

“You just are.” she grins. Then adds, sweetly with her head ducking. “I mean that as a good thing, you know.”  

“I -” Cordelia firmly presses lips together, mouth wrinkling thoughtfully at the corners. They soften then, just as her gaze does upon observing the sweetness on Misty’s face. “Thanks.” 

The Cajun grins, bowing her head again to continue her work. Beneath her, soil and dry leaves scatter the floor, making a blanket of dark brown over her boots. She doesn’t notice, continuing with concentration and vigor. Her thin eyebrows tangle together against her pale forehead, a pink tongue poking between lips. Cordelia stares for longer than she should, then smiles.  

Misty drops some more soil, oblivious, as she scoops a divot into the layers of dirt to plant seedlings. Nothing misses her path, including the desk and her own clothes that lay muddied from where she subconsciously wipes her hands on them. She adds the tiniest splash of water to her pot now, a few escaping droplets mixing with the stray dirt and creating a congealed mess.  

A hand wipes it over, leaving smear marks in its way. Cordelia hides a smirk in the corner of her mouth beneath some chuckles. “Do you always have to be so messy?” Her voice isn’t angry at all; it only holds the complete and earnest notes of endearment in there. 

“Huh?” Misty flutters dark eyelashes and sets a soft look on her.  

She points to the trail of Misty’s work, only succeeding in bringing out an impish grin from her friend. “That ain’t mess.” She insists with light laughter, but wipes it again for effect. This leaves the palm of her hand soggy with dirt. 

Cordelia balks at the statement, earning an eye roll from Misty. “There’s more soil on the floor than in the pot!”  

“No, there isn’t.”  

“There is.”  

“Isn’t.”  

A besotted grin refused to move from her plump lips. “Is, and you know it."  

Incredulity causes her voice to heighten. This seems to push more giggles from Misty, who peers at her with a serene expression that she wishes could be there all of the time. Her lips quirk with a playful tug, one that Cordelia stares at so intently that she doesn’t see when Misty’s fingers curl around a small ball of dirt, smoothing it between the tips. Moments later, she aims it directly in the direction of the older blonde where it splats unceremoniously onto her cheek.  

It takes all of a few seconds to register the cold intrusion on her skin that she wipes away with haste. Eyes dart from the misshapen ball in her palm to the Cajun, who grins at her innocently and sways from side to side. Her eyes flash daringly, and Cordelia finds that childish impulse surging through her bones once more, just like it had done in the swamp that day. “Oh, you are  so  in for it.”  

She locks her jaw, determination settling on her features like a blanket of snow.  

Misty’s laughter turns to a shrill squeal as Cordelia launches the soil back at her. Unfortunately for the older blonde, her aim isn’t something to envy, and it misses by a fair margin. The smugness of Misty’s face bolsters her further, where she reaches for the open bag of soil with urgency. Panic briefly shows on her friend’s face, who takes slow steps backwards, even if she’s grinning the entire time.  

Cordelia throws more in her direction again, despite telling herself that if Miss Snow walked in right now they’d get in so much trouble. Debris from her shot litters against the posters on the walls, but most of it scatters over Misty, speckling in her golden hair. Hands fly up to it, raking through the locks that she shakes without abandon to rid herself of it. Even so, it clings to each individual strand regardless.  

There is little care in Misty’s expression. In fact, there’s an electrifying energy that makes every hair on her body stand at end in anticipation. The feeling has her insides buzzing with the ferocity of a wasp. Misty smirks at her, jaw setting and eyes piercing right through her skin. Across the desk, Cordelia holds in a delightful shudder, experiencing the same dismissal of inhibitions.  

With a handful of dirt, Misty practically launches herself at Cordelia, circling the desktop so quickly that Cordelia almost doesn’t have time to react. By the time she does, Misty is only feet away, grinning like a madwoman, and sending a furious flutter into her already weak heart. A throw is aimed her way, somehow dodged last second.  

Misty grumbles her disappointment, but is already arming herself with another handful. 

“This isn’t fair.” Cordelia announces airily. “You’re faster than me.” 

“Shoulda thought about that before you threw it in my hair.” Her devilish response comes.  

That very same hair that swishes and dances around her as she runs in pursuit of Cordelia, who flees like a baby deer on wobbly legs. Her coordination leaves something to be desired, though she is impressed by how long she manages to evade the Cajun. They go round and round until dizziness swirls at the back of her eyes. She runs faster then, fingers reaching out to the stained desk to ground herself, even if they run the risk of knocking into the series of potted plants.  

Ultimately, it’s all fruitless. Her pace is no match for what Misty’s long legs can reach, and she squeals when a set of arms wrap around her from behind. “ Gotcha! ” As the clutch tightens, so does the tight hold on her heart. She hadn’t been expecting that.  

Misty is laughing right against her ear, so endearing that Cordelia doesn't think she could try running again even if she really wanted to. But she does find the arm that twists in on itself, a mission of trying to squish the mud into her forehead. “Misty,” she says, voice strained with laughter, constricted by the effort of trying to hold her back. 

But she’s strong, stronger than Cordelia no matter how hard she tries. She’d always imagined having Misty’s arms wrapped around her, though not exactly like this.  

“I thought you said you’d never do anything mean to me!” she attempts, sweetness thickly lacing the syllables as she fights against Misty’s hands. 

The movement against her slows, muscles weakening, but not relenting.  

Cordelia uses it to her advantage, manoeuvring herself stealthily until she can twist around and out of the embrace, where her fingers clutch onto Misty’s advancing hands. Surprise pleasantly fades into the corners of her expression, hiding in her dimples that her grin creates. “That was sneaky.” Misty comments, brows twitching in place.  

It’s her turn to bathe in smugness now, enjoying that way Misty hones in on her, like she has eyes for nothing else.  

Those arms fight against her again, drawn near even as Cordelia summons hidden strength to keep them at bay. The silliness of it all sits warmly on her stomach, then rises to her chest that tightens under a serene swell. Misty is so near; she smells of dirt and fresh flowers, and Cordelia almost gives in to her strength, if only to bring her that bit nearer.  

Stubbornness keeps her fingers firmly clutched around those palms that try to reach her face, ready to litter it with dark marks. Misty grunts with effort, a noise that hits her right at her very core. The unsteadiness that it brings with it gives Misty a momentary advantage; she swoops in with all the agility of a hawk, hands grazing Cordelia’s forehead. “Almost.” She grins, teasingly. Maybe something else. Maybe, if Cordelia let her imagination run as wild and carefree as it could, she could convince herself that Misty is flirting.  

But she isn’t. Right? And the nervous pit in her stomach begins to appear, sucking away the breath from her lungs.  

As it is, she’s still smiling. Her own lips twist coquettishly, in a way that has Misty staring with something lurking behind her features. Cordelia fully prepares herself for the inevitable way that Misty will withdraw, taking away her touches and smiles with her as she curls into herself. She doesn’t. She remains in Cordelia’s foresight, gaze ever so thoughtful and complex and swimming with things that Cordelia doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to understand.  

Breath hitching, it sucks all the firmness from their connection. Her fingers begin to uncurl from around the soft skin of her inner wrist that no longer pushes against hers, drifting downwards without command. They linger; again, not by any control of her own.  

Misty doesn’t seem to mind. Her face shifts and twists so quickly that Cordelia can barely keep up. The Cajun appears happy and sad all at the same time, eyes welling deeply with emotion. Pressure begins to build in her chest. Cordelia’s next words are breathed out like air slowly escaping a balloon. “Why did you stop?”  

“I -” It sounds like something is stuck in her throat. Her courage, maybe. “I don’t know.”  

Cordelia tilts her head at the vague response, lips pressing together to form a straight line.  

There’s a moment where Misty forces out a sharp breath, one that she swears she can see even in the tepid classroom. She takes in the sight of Misty, how her fists begin to unfurl in a languid manner, clumps of dirt descending to the dreadfully dirty room they’ve created. For a moment, Cordelia wonders whether Misty’s going to take hold of her own hands, as if that is the natural progression.  

She peers down to them, her pale skin muted by the brown speckles.  

She smiles even as Misty seems to have lost her own.  

Eyes drift lower, to where her fingers hold the Cajun with purpose, where her deep purple nail varnish sits starkly over moonlight skin. She admires it as she does everything about Misty, until suddenly there’s something not worth appreciation. In the scuffle, the material around Misty’s wrist seems to have been pulled askew, sitting lopsided on her arm.  

And all Cordelia can do is stare at her wrist, nausea beginning to crawl its way up her throat.  

The exposed skin sits heavy with long red lines, some thin and faded, others thick with red, angry appearing scabs that taunt her with their presence. They criss cross each other, layers and layers like age lines of a tree bark, hinting at the age of the older ones.  

Cordelia knows what it is the second she sees it, but she still finds herself looking to Misty with eyes demanding an explanation.  

Misty she refuses to give it to her, looking to the ground with shimmering intensity to her eyes; like she‘s begging it to swallow her whole. Her spare hand shrugs itself of Cordelia, reaching to free the one under scrutiny. When Cordelia only clings on in blatant denial, her nostrils flare. “Let go.”  

“No.” 

The girl recoils within her hold. “Delia,” she starts, voice a warning that unsettles her.  

But she feels her courage swirling around, bolstered by curiosity and care, and love. “What is this?” She asks, like she doesn’t know, words barely a whisper. She does know. She’s known for a while; she just wants Misty to say it out loud and make it real. Even if the idea of making it real has bile burning the back of her throat.  

“It's nothin’.”  

She shakes her arm harder this time, eyes stretching wider and worry lines growing on her face like weaving roots. 

Her breath returns to her, even if it tastes stagnant and thick. “Misty.” Eyes volley between Misty’s tight expression and her wounded arm, the icy wrap of anguish joining for the ride.  

“What?” She snaps, giving one firm and final tug that causes the both of them to stumble on wobbly legs. Cordelia steps forward, reaching out again only to have the Cajun practically fly from her reach, hurrying to hide the cuts from her view. Her fingers tremble with the speed of her knots. Her wrist may now be covered, but the imagine burns against Cordelia’s retinas.  

“What do you mean, ‘what? ’” 

“Your arm – " 

She cuts her off with a harsh. “It’s fine.”  

“Misty, please.” 

Misty takes another step back, shoulders sloping heavily and hand held protectively over her wrist. “I told you, I was climbin a – " 

All and any frustration that she has over the whole thing finally has had enough, spurting out a deadpan of “bullshit.”  

The Cajun’s eyes widen in shock. “Excuse me?” she chokes out.  

“That,” she points accusingly, “is not an accident, Misty.”  

“It was.”  

“Why are you lying to me?” As she speaks the question, her heart stings as needles of misery poke hundreds of holes into it.  

She stands taller at the accusation, scary and intimidating with dark, black eyes that cut right through the girl in front of her like they’re not best friends. “I ain’t lyin’.” 

Anger surges through her. She digs her nails into her own palm as the temptation to shout and yell overcome her. That isn’t going to help anybody, especially not Misty, so she stifles them as best she can. Her strained voice is steadied with a slow gulp. She swallows the lump that blocks her replies from forming.  

“There are so many.” She points out.  

Misty scrunches her face together in uncertainty, a hint of anger still swimming at the surface. “So?” she throws out.  

“They’re not from just one day.” Cordelia says, as if Misty’s doesn’t already know, like saying it out loud will make the girl have some sort of realization. She doesn’t; all Cordelia’s words do is pull another layer of vexation to her troubled face.  

She can’t seem to find a reply now, only glaring in hopes it might sway Cordelia into silence. With her courage finally catching up with her, that doesn’t seem very likely.  

“You did it on purpose, didn’t you?” 

Teeth clenched together, she throws her head to the side. “Stop it.” It’s a whisper, lacking in conviction.  

Cordelia feels tears poking at her eyes. “You’ve been cutting yourself for weeks.” She says, not seeking confirmation. It’s all too clear in Misty’s face. Her voice rises with emotion. “Maybe even longer.”  

“Stop.” She’s louder now. Her darting gaze manages to still on her for all of a few seconds; she looks like she’s going to throw up. “Cordelia, please – don't."  

A broken sigh follows. “If you are hurting yourself then you can ge – " 

“I saidstop it!"  

Cordelia does stop.  

If only to stare the tears that well in Misty’s eyes like an angry ocean. She’s holding a hand protectively over her wrist, hiding it from Cordelia’s gaze as though the damage isn’t already done.  

She doesn’t talk, not that Cordelia expects her to. But the tension between them becomes thick and stifling, as they continue to stare like they’re both waiting for something to happen. A single tear begins to descend down Misty’s cheek, where the dirt sits like freckles. Cordelia is reminded of how they were just a few moments ago. Happy and laughing. And now? In a matter of minutes, the illusion is shattered.  

The very thought has her body preparing itself for tears of its own. A hot prickle pokes in the corner of her eyes.  

“Why?” 

Her questions hangs heavy in the air between them, broken like her heart.  

Misty winces.  

“Cordelia, please.” She closes her eyes, and suddenly she looks awfully tired. The momentary chink in Misty’s anger gives her an opening where she steps closer. Her fingers twitch from where they hang beside her.  

“I just want to know why.” 

She says nothing.  

The older blonde gulps. “Why won’t you tell me? I could – I want to help you.”  

Silence. Deafeningly so. 

Her denial irks Cordelia to no end, but she holds that back with teeth pressing tightly on the tip of her tongue. Any pain it brings fizzles out with her upset.  

Instead, she tries to close the gap between them again, a hand lifting to meet Misty’s free arm. But the Cajun shifts out of her reach like a frightened animal, eyes as wide as saucers. She gives Cordelia one firm and decisive look, a strangled breath flowing from her lungs. “I'm gonna go.”  

“Go?” She repeats like it’s a foreign word.  

Misty frantically wipes at her cheek where another tear falls and lunges to grab her bag before Cordelia can even register the movements. When she does, she follows her. “Misty, don’t leave. Come on.” 

“I don’t wanna talk about it.” She insists, that anger back from its slumber.  

“Hey.” 

She reaches for her upper arm, making the slightest of contact before Misty shrugs her off with ease. A dark glance is thrown over her shoulder, one that has Cordelia freezing on the spot in dread. Reeling back, she scrutinizes Misty likes she’s a different person for those few seconds. “Stay.” She says. “We can just. . .”  

. . . Forget this happened.   

But no, she doesn’t want that. She wants Misty to confide each and every of her problems in her, just like they always do. Just like they should. It kills her that Misty won’t do it, even now that she’s seen the undeniable evidence.  

Misty looks at her again, that same dejected way that makes her want to sweep the girl up in her arms.  

Her fingers are already on the classroom handle, yanking it open. “Misty.” Cordelia tries again.  

“Just -” She stops herself, lips parted with reluctant words that this new Misty clearly wants to say, but the old one holds back. The internal struggle is palpable in the air, until one of them wins, and it’s clear who when she sighs out the next sentence. “Leave me alone, okay?”  

She doesn’t agree to it. She can’t. Misty’s name falls from her lips once more, only to be ignored by the Cajun who’s throwing her backpack hastily over her shoulder and stepping out of the room. As she does so, Cordelia can see her tugging on those damn wrist ties again, making sure all of the scars are hidden out of sight from everyone else.  

“Misty!” Cordelia is standing in the hallway now, her words echoing tauntingly around her. “Come on, don’t go. I didn’t. . .” She pauses, biting her lip, because she had meant to probe. It’s something she’s been hinting at for weeks now. “Where are you going?”  

“Home!” she yells over her shoulder.  

“But that’ll take you over an hour to walk.” 

Her shoulders stiffen. “I don’t care.”  

“Don’t be like that.” She finds herself resisting the urge to scream out all of her frustrations into the hallway that seems to be growing smaller by the second as Misty’s figure angrily retreats, or more flees, from her sight.  

Her chest sucks in tighter, like a vacuum tugging the air from within it.  

Misty stops just before the corner, head bowed and feet sticking to the squeaky floor. She glances back, just for a second, and Cordelia thinks she might realize what’s she’s doing. That regret might tinge her insides and force her back toward her, but it doesn’t. Hardness fills where fragility once was in her features. She wipes at her eyes again, though Cordelia is too far away to see any tears that linger there.  

Then she’s gone, and Cordelia wishes there was a way to have made her stay.

Chapter Text

Cordelia feels empty as she steps in through the door of her home, letting it slowly drift open until it slams into the walls. The noise barely jerks her from her daze.  

For a moment, she's aware of another voice. Distant, like it's under a deep pool of water. She blinks and finds herself staring slowly to the housekeeper, Esther, who smiles and chats amicably. Cordelia does her best to keep up with the conversation, but it’s hard when her heart feels as though it’s been stamped on repeatedly. 

“Are you okay, Miss Cordelia?”  

Oh, so it’s noticeable.  

A smile is pushed unwillingly to her lips, still holding small scatters of dirt from earlier that afternoon. “I’m fine.” Her fingers curl tighter around her backpack, until the strap digs into her palm. “Just a little tired,” she lies, “it’s been a long day.” Well, that is less of an understatement. She’s spent the past hour or so cleaning the classroom, replaying those few minutes over and over in her head like some cruel loop. That is itself has played havoc on her emotions.  

How serene everything had been in that room, just for a moment. Had she imagined that part? The way Misty’s arms had been wrapped firmly around her midriff, how their touches had sent shockwaves through every nerve in her body, and then how Misty had changed all too quickly.  

Into a person she didn’t even recognize.  

Someone she’s been seeing flashes of for weeks now; a doppelganger determined to steal her happy and gentle Misty from her.  

There'd been nothing gentle in the way Misty had glared at her, the same glares she reserves for Madison and people who badmouth her. No, worse. Betrayal had laced the edges – Cordelia's betrayal. At what? Attempting to get through to her, out of care and fret over what she’s doing to herself. If that’s what betrayal is, then she’d do it over and over again, even if the hole where her heart used to be seems to be painfully increasing in size every passing second.  

She lays on her bed now, a hand idly hovering over the cavern in her chest. Cordelia keeps her tears at bay; most of them had fallen on the car ride home as she’d considered searching for Misty, stubbornly insisting that she get in her damn car and not walk all the way back to her house. But she hadn’t. Maybe she’d been too scared, for the idea of facing that new Misty is alien, causing a quiver in her stomach. And she can’t bear the thought of Misty looking at her with anything but softness in her eyes.  

Had Misty cried as she walked home? The question loiters, unforgiving. The Cajun had cried in the classroom, why not the streets as she’d stormed all the way back near the swamps? Maybe the tears had lasted the entire way home, enough for her family to see and question. Cordelia’s heart pangs for a moment as she wonders if they even would notice, or if Misty’s tears will go without an audience, without any sympathy.  

Her answer comes in the realization that her family don’t even know what she’s doing to herself.  

Those scars flash back in her mind, this time vengeful in return and bringing a sharp sting to her lungs. A tear does fall now, full of sorrow for her friend.  

All she knows is that Misty had never answered her question, how there’d been no explanation or reasons or rationale to the red wounds that decorate her wrists.  

Cordelia thickly swallows that lump that she’s struggling to breathe with.  

Is Misty depressed?   

The very idea makes her gut clench and nausea to twist around her stomach. She honestly doesn’t know. For a moment, she considers googling the symptoms of depression, but the idea that Misty might have any of them frightens her, sending another jab to her insides. What is she going to do? How do you stop someone from hurting themself? 

Ironically, the one person that she wants to talk to about the whole affair is the very one under her mind’s scrutiny.  

Her phone sits heavy in her right hand, akin more to the weight of a brick than the latest iPhone. It buzzes, and she glances up from where she’s sprawled across her bed, neck straining with effort to keep herself steady. It’s not Misty. She doesn’t know why she’d expected it to be. The Cajun’s words had been all too clear. 

Just leave me alone, okay?  

Never had she thought she’d hear such irate words aimed at her. Maybe it’s blissful ignorance, or delusion, but she’d only ever thought of herself bringing happiness to the Cajun. Not the onslaught of emotions she’d witnessed mere hours ago. Cordelia had always thought of Misty like a bear, her offensive side saved for those who provoked, like Hank or Madison. 

Now, in uncharted waters, it’s Cordelia who had woken up that side, who poked the slumbering beast until it snapped. Guilt sits over her like a heavy blanket. Not for words that were said, but maybe for the ones that weren’t, especially over the past few weeks. She’s known - of course she has. Cordelia isn’t stupid, and people don’t get marks like that incidentally. So why is it only now that she’s tried to do anything about it? 

Tears grip at the corners of her eyes from her own cowardice. Maybe she’s not as good a friend as she thought she was. Maybe she could have done more.  

Misty’s words repeat again, but she sets her lips straighter. Her jaw locks in place.  

She can’t just let this happen.  

With resolve filling the gaps between her erratic thoughts, she pulls up her phone and quickly begins to search for Misty’s contact. The call goes through to voicemail, then another, and she realizes with a sinking stomach that Misty is most definitely ignoring her. But that’s not going to stop her.  

Cordelia tries again. Once more. She imagines Misty’s phone buzzing up a frenzy from all her calls, all of which unanswered.  

When that doesn’t work, unsurprisingly, she sends a text, hoping that Misty can feel the way her heart reaches to her through the words. Misty, just talk to me. Please.  

Nothing.  

But she keeps trying, because Misty is her friend, and she loves her.  

… 

The week goes painfully slow; between catching up on mind numbing school work, attempting to get something of a response out of Misty, and tending to the plants at school, she still finds herself with more time on her hands than she knows what to do with.  

When Zoe asks her out for a coffee, she practically jumps at the chance. 

There’s something about Zoe’s presence, calm and collected, that lets her breathe for the first time in four days.  

They sit outside, even if clouds litter the sky and Zoe shivers every few moments. Cordelia finds herself mostly listening to the girl’s complaints about her boyfriend. Having moved not too many weeks ago, the long distance thing doesn’t seem to be going great.  

Her heart goes out for the girl, and she nods and hums at appropriate places, occasionally sipping her mocha.  

“I just wish we’d stop fighting so much.” Zoe admits, deflating.  

Cordelia can relate in a way that Zoe won’t ever understand, but she keeps that to herself and nods in empathy. “It’s not easy.” She says softly. “But at least you’re both trying.” 

“That’s the thing.” 

She tils her head ever so slightly. “What is?” 

Zoe closes her eyes, huffing out a breath. “I don’t think he is trying.”  

“Ah.” She says unhelpfully, for a lack of any other response.  

It doesn’t seem to deter Zoe, who’s now blinking thoughtfully at her again, fingers curling around her warm cup and tugging it nearer. “He’s just so blasé about the whole thing. If he misses a phone call, he just says ‘maybe next time’.” Her eyes grow wetter. “I don’t know how many next times there’s gonna be.” 

The corners of her lips tug down and for an awfully selfish moment she’s kind of glad that she’s not the only one struggling right now. But that thought is chased away with a small shake of her head. Cordelia sighs. “That really sucks, Zoe.”  

“Yeah.” The brunette deadpans. “It does.”  

“Can you not convince him to come back for a weekend?” She tries hopefully. “Maybe you guys just need to see each other.”  

She hesitates, eyes becoming darker amongst the gray clouds above them. “I don’t think that’ll work.”  

“Why not?”  

Zoe shifts on the spot, troubled. Her shoulders curl in with discomfort. “Because maybe.” The words may be reluctant, but they’re spoken with a sense of resolve. “Maybe it’s just not going to work out.”  

It takes a moment for the realization to settle before Cordelia’s eyes widen slightly. “You’re going to break up with him?”  

“I - I don’t know. Maybe.”  

She reaches out a hand now, taking hold of Zoe’s and giving it a small squeeze. Cordelia isn’t exactly an expert with this sort of stuff, but there’s a part of her that hates sitting idle by as someone suffers. The same part that still thinks about her argument with Misty and how she hadn’t done enough. Self-deprecation swirls around her mercilessly for a movement, until Zoe is speaking again.  

The brunette is frowning, deeper than she’s ever seen her do before. Her voice may be steady, but the words are heavy. “What do you think I should do?”  

Cordelia sighs. “Oh, I really don’t think I’m the best person to ask about that right now.” 

“Right now?” Her response hovers over in confusion.  

With a wince, she lets go of Zoe’s hand. “Just - things aren’t exactly going that well in my life, either. I hardly think I should be giving out dating advice.”  

The pieces are put together far too easily even if Cordelia has tried her best to avoid outright saying it. She may as well have; Zoe is no fool and the anguish on the blonde’s face is the final clue to lead her to a conclusion. “What happened between you and Misty?” She asks abruptly, concern present.  

“Misty and I aren’t dating.” She corrects.  

Zoe makes a sound close to a scoff, then pushes further. “Seriously, Delia. What’s wrong?” 

Taking a long sip of her drink, just to gain herself a few more seconds of thought, she eventually shrugs. “We had a fight.”  

“Yeah, right.” She laughs, disbelieving.  

Cordelia’s hollow expression quickly derails all of the chuckles. 

“Shit.” Zoe announces. “About what?” She can barely bring herself to look at her friend. Zoe purses her lips at that, eyes glistening with thought. “Did you tell her how you feel?” 

Her head snaps up with urgency, mouth parting open. “No.” The assumption hangs heavily between them, and Zoe’s perplexed eyes grow slightly wide.  

“Are you ever going to tell her?” There is a hint of exasperation, like she’s becoming tired of their whole charade. But softness is there, too. And caring. 

“I -” She hates the way she sounds so small. “I can’t.” Especially not now.  

“Why not?” 

When she can’t come up with an answer, her shoulders begin to slump. Small droplets of rain start to flee from the clouds above them, though neither make to move from their spot at the table. Zoe continues to stare at her with interest, leaning in when the silence prevails. “I don’t think she’d be upset if you told her.” She offers kindly. “Maybe she likes you back.”  

Cordelia makes a noise that’s neither of scoff or a laugh, though it is definitely disbelieving. “That’s impossible. She has made it pretty clear that she isn’t into girls.”  

Zoe gives her that look again, eyebrow twitching in thought. “And you believe her?”  

Once more, Cordelia stills.  

Their conversation on Valentine’s day returns to her thoughts, how Misty had almost cried at the very suggestion of someone calling her gay, how her face had been aghast and terrified. She hadn’t believed her then, and she supposes her thoughts still remain the same, even if she doesn’t dare ponder on what it could mean, or even get her hopes up. As long as Misty lives in her catholic household with her homophobic father at the helm, she knows that the girl is never going to admit to any untraditional feelings.  

“If you didn’t fight about that, then what happened?” Zoe probes as Cordelia succumbs too readily to her own overthinking.  

Dread runs icily through her veins – she can’t tell Zoe the real reason. Misty is already angry enough that she knows, never mind another one of their friends. “Just. . . something stupid.” 

Zoe nods slowly. “Is she okay?”  

No, I really don’t think so.  

She swallows the burning lump in her throat and shrugs. “I don’t really know.” 

“Do you want me to talk to her?” 

Cordelia shakes her head vehemently. “Please don’t tell her I told you anything.” 

The brunette reels back for a moment, then sighs.  

“Are you okay, Cordelia?” 

They both know the answer to that, evident in her hesitation, how her eyes dart about stubbornly because she knows she might cry if she stares into Zoe’s caring eyes. She takes another sip of her drink which grows colder by the second, smacking her lips together. “I’ll be fine.” She decides, or insists. Maybe if she says it enough, it might come true. Mind over matter and all that.  

Zoe hums, now squeezing her hand in turn. “Who knows, by Monday Misty might have forgotten all about this and you guys will be talking again?” 

She wishes that her helpful smile would warm the numb sensation inside of her. As it is, it only amplifies it. “Maybe.” Cordelia whispers out.  

But the idea of ‘maybe not’ seems all too likely, and she feels physically sick of the idea of Misty still being mad at her by then.  

When she gets home, she tries calling her again, a single tear falling as it’s never answered. 

… 

Calling Misty throughout the day becomes somewhat of a ritual, one where she finds herself practically itching with discomfort if she doesn’t try a certain amount of times.  

It’s Friday night by now, and she knows that her friend is still in Latanier with her family. Maybe she’s busy hanging out with them, maybe not; a part of Cordelia wonders whether she’s alone, if the trip is as dreaded as she made it out to be. She wonders whether Misty misses her as much as she yearns just to hear her voice. 

The phone is pressed to her ear casually as it rings, like her heart isn't beating frantically in her chest.  

With her other hand, she idly flicks through her textbook – she's been staring at it for so long that the words all congeal into one, and she can’t distinguish one letter from another. Cordelia sighs, closing it with a loud slam. She listens to the dial tone, so used to the noise now that she hears it in her troubled sleep.  

It almost rings out, just like she expects, until she hears movement on the other side of the line.  

For a moment, she thinks it’s all in her imagination, a desperate whim dreamed up by her cruel mind. Then, words accompany the noise. “Will you stop callin’ me?” Misty sighs, deflated.  

“Misty.” She speaks her name in surprise, ignoring the abrupt greeting she’s gotten. “Misty.” Cordelia says again, relief filling her words. “You answered.” It’s as though she’s forgotten how to converse normally, all possible sentences hijacking on the first train out of her head.  

Thankfully, Misty isn’t so lost for words. No matter how callous hers may be. “Yeah.” she agrees. “You’ve called me like, a hundred times. My Daddy thinks you’re dyin’ or somethin’.”  

“I just wanted to – " 

She cuts her off, voice all sad and quiet. “Can you just stop?” 

“Stop what?”  

“Cordelia.” 

Her throat tightens, but she forces her reply through anyway, thick with upset. “I miss you.” She blurts out, not even realizing that she’s on the verge of crying until her hand is wiping at her eyes.  

There’s another shuffle on the end of the line, doors being closed and any background noise disappearing. She waits on baited breath for Misty’s voice to return, the only clear thing in her clouded mind. “Delia.” That tenderness is back, the resurgence of it enough to make Cordelia’s tears fall with joy mixed in. “Are you cryin?”  

“No.” Cordelia says with as much petulance as a stubborn child. She inwardly reprimands herself for letting the tears fall freely.  

Misty sighs, longer than last time, and she can practically hear the cogs turning in her mind. Cordelia wants her to say it back, that she misses her and that their argument is a thing of the past, that the two can build a bridge and figure this out.  

But she doesn’t.  

The Cajun lets silence shape around the pair until it’s suffocating, the end of her line frozen with words that she either doesn’t want to say, or is too scared to.  

A door opens. Cordelia can hear the bustle of boisterous voices muffled by the reception; there’s music and chatter, and children’s laughter. She hopes that Misty is having a good time, whatever they’re doing. Misty is talking, but not to her; she struggles to make out any of the words, until the ones she does hear add one more stab to her heart. “Look, Cordelia. I gotta go.” 

“But you only just answered.” She all but whines.  

Her voice exerts with a strain. She imagines the girl grimacing. “I really do have to go.” Misty insists, at least having the decency to sound sorry about that. 

“. . .okay.”  

Misty lingers, like she doesn’t want to say goodbye.  

“I’ll see you Monday?” Cordelia asks, desperation seeping into her tone.  

Another pause. She counts to nine seconds and is all but ready for her chest to cave it. “Yeah.” Misty eventually says with a sigh.  

Cordelia closes her eyes, leaning against the bed and holding in tears with all her mind. She doesn’t want Misty to go. She wants nothing more than to sit for hours and listen to her sweet, Cajun accent until she ebbs away with sleep. “Misty?” She speaks quietly. 

“Yes?” 

She smiles sadly against the phone. “I hope you’re having a good time back home.”  

There is a hitch in the Cajun’s breath, tiny yet deep. And Cordelia thinks she might have made some progress from the way Misty continues to linger on the other side of the line, but there’s a voice again. A woman this time. She registers Misty’s reply but can’t quite make out the words.  

Her fingers play with the cotton of her sheets as she waits for a response. Forgotten are her tears and instead that emptiness is returning, like a vast abyss. Cordelia would trade it for the tears any day.  

“Misty, Pa says to get off the phone now!” Those words she does hear, impatient and bad tempered. Not Nellie, Cordelia thinks. Maybe her other sister.  

She catches Misty’s equally perturbed response. “Fine, I’m comin’!” Her groan carries all the way through to the other end of the phone, where the cadence is softer, almost like the Misty she knows and love. “Bye Delia.”  

The phone is hung up before she gets a chance to say anything back, and the abyss grows wider.  

At least she answered. That’s something, right? 

In that moment, it's all that she can take. 

… 

But she doesn’t answer again.  

The weekend stretches for an eternity. 

She waves off Zoe’s concerns, annoyed when it seems to spread to her other friends. She doesn’t want their sympathy. She just wants Misty not to be mad at her any more.  

After another ignored phone call the Saturday night, she finds herself throwing her phone angrily to the other side of her room as emotion swills inside of her without warning. There’s a resounding crash that she pointedly chooses to disregard. She could scream; she really wants to. But the last thing Fiona needs is to hear her caterwauling from her room.  

So, she keeps the frustration within, festering within her organs painfully.  

And she drifts into a dreamless sleep. 

… 

Her uneasy nights continue until Monday morning, where she wakes with all the energy of a zombie. She lays in bed for a long while, her insides bubble unsurely, like she’s not quite sure how she’s supposed to feel. The idea of seeing Misty both excites and terrifies her, and she finds that she can barely focus on her entire drive to school. She smiles apologetically to the person that she always runs over in the parking lot as eyes scan for curly, blonde hair.  

The search continues for most of the morning. It’s not unusual; the pair only share one class and that’s not until that afternoon, but she’s at least used to seeing her flittering around in the hallways. 

As the wait lengthens, so does the nausea inside of her. She spends most of math fighting light-headedness and hoping that the numbers will come into focus. They don’t.  

“You look like you’ve had a week.” Queenie jokes as they leave. Even so, that concern tinges the corners of her eyes. Cordelia sighs, wondering how much Zoe had told them.  

She forces a smile to her lips. “I’m fine. Just spent way too long studying.” Cordelia rubs at tired eyes and clutches her books to her chest as they slowly migrate to their lockers.  

Queenie speaks softly. “You know the whole point of a break is to actually have a break, right?”  

“I just needed to keep myself busy.” She says, without adding ‘I wanted to take my mind off of Misty’. Either way, Queenie seems to infer it somehow and her face twists with that sympathy that she’s beginning to despise. 

Which makes matters even worse when Queenie’s eyes drift right past her. Cordelia follows the gaze in confusion, her stomach knotting when she sees Misty walking in her direction with Mallory by her side. Right, because their lockers are only a few feet away from each other. She finds herself staring without realizing. Misty hasn’t noticed her there yet – she's still smiling gently at whatever Mallory has said. 

Cordelia’s mouth opens with the intention to speak, but words don’t follow through and get caught in her throat.  

Beside her, Queenie brushes a hand over her arm in a tiny squeeze. It’s supposed to be supportive, she thinks, only she might throw up if she carries on staring at Misty like this. Queenie steps forward with her in tow, grinning. “Hey guys.”  

Both now peer in their direction, and she definitely catches the way that Misty’s expression falters when it lands on her. Vulnerability spreads across her pale features for all of a few seconds before she becomes stoic, lips pressed into a thin line. She regards Cordelia intensely, and in turn the older blonde takes in the sight of Misty.  

She wears the same dark circles under her eyes that she sports, perhaps illuminated by her porcelain skin. Her hair sits dishevelled atop her head, tamed only marginally by a red headband that sits slightly askew. Cordelia finds her eyes drifting; she can’t help herself. It’s like there is something calling out to her and she’s helpless to its cries. When they settle on Misty’s cloth covered wrists, she sucks in a shuddery breath.  

Misty catches it, sharply moving her arms behind her back and out of Cordelia’s view. Her eyes darken, almost warningly, at the blonde who feels any semblance of joy left in her flee in the wake of such a glare.  

“Hello, earth to Misty.” 

The Cajun snaps her head back in Queenie’s direction, where she stares expectantly. “Sorry.” Her eyelids flutter closed languidly, her voice airy and far away. “Was in a world of my own.” Even as she speaks, eyes dart back and forth between the other two and Cordelia, who has decided it hurts an awful lot less to just focus on the ground instead of on Misty.  

“I said, did you have a good trip?” 

“Oh.” She breathes, pausing. “It was okay.” 

“Do anything fun?” 

She shakes her head ever so softly. Cordelia dares a peek upwards when the silence lasts for longer than she’d expected and finds blue eyes scorching her own. Misty tears them away quickly, frowning, and twists more to face Queenie. “Was pretty borin’ stuff.” She shrugs, though jumps as she remembers something. “I did go to my brother’s ranch – he's just got a new foal.” 

Misty is already reaching for her phone; no doubt having filled it with an extortionate number of images of the new animal. Despite herself, Cordelia smiles fondly. It only wavers when Mallory and Queenie don’t seem to give Misty the reaction she’d wanted. She sees the way the Cajun deflates, the slump of her shoulders, as the baby animal is dismissed in favor of some of the football players walking past.  

Queenie all but oogles at them. Mallory, less conspicuous, watches their passing with focused, brown eyes and a smirk. Misty rolls her eyes, turning away with disgust evident on her face, then stares to the ignored photo cheerlessly.  

Cordelia can’t help herself, not for a minute. She leans in, just a little, and catches sight of the knobbly kneed white foal staring back at her. “It’s cute.” She says to Misty, anxiety gripping to her chest as she speaks directly to her for the first time that day. Misty looks up at her in surprise. But it’s lacking in an animosity and anger, and that’s a good thing, right?  

The corner of Misty’s lips quirks. She wants to smile, Cordelia can it poking through. That brings the tiniest of smiles to her own lips. Maybe everything will be okay, just maybe.  

“Ya think?” she tilts her head to the side, that messy hair flopping slightly.  

With a nod, she hums. “Really cute, actually. How old is it?” 

She doesn’t know where the easy conversation comes from, but she savors in every second of it as Misty watches her with soft eyes. “Two weeks.” Misty dares to grin, “she’s real big already.”  

The bell rings, cutting Cordelia’s smile in half. She honestly contemplates skipping the next class just to stand here and catch up with Misty while she seems to be in a forgiving mood. Still, despite the amicable air that surrounds them for a moment, the root of their argument loiters. And it’s not going anywhere.  

She just can’t ignore it, not anymore.  

But Misty is moving away her phone and giving her a look that makes her stomach twists in knots, in a totally good way. While reaching into her locker, Misty keeps her eyes on her most of the time. “You got English next?”  

Cordelia nods.  

Slamming her locker shut, she smiles. “C’mon then.” It’s an invitation to walk with her, an olive branch so to speak. From her peripheral, she can see the encouraging glance of her friends who seem all too relieved that their fight is over. 

Is it?   

That question hangs over her head the entire walk, even when Misty tells her about the christening and home, their shoulders bumping together every so often like she’s missed their touch. Cordelia sure has, she’d yearned for it for an entire week – probably the longest she’s gone without seeing Misty in months.  

The Cajun may be smiling, one that Cordelia tries to match even if it’s only half there, but this isn’t right. They can’t just ignore what’s sitting plainly in front of them. Why is Misty doing this? Why is she acting like nothing happened?  

Cordelia stares at the black ties on Misty’s wrists, then pulls in the longest of breaths.  

She knows that mentioning it is going to shatter whatever this illusion is right now, but doing nothing is worse, surely?  

By the time she gets outside her classroom, she has a splitting headache. Misty lingers, her own class only a few doors down. The Cajun smiles, almost forgiving, and Cordelia feels sick to her stomach. She watches Misty begin her retreat down the hallway with an ache in her heart.  

The decision stalks her, unrelenting. 

She’s damned if she does, and damned if she doesn’t. 

… 

Misty is already there before she gets into the gardening club, watering plants with one hand and eating a squished sandwich with the other. She smiles as she sees Cordelia, who over the past hour has thought herself into an anxious and frazzled state.  

Apparently, it’s pretty obvious. Misty tilts her head at her, chewing thoughtfully.  

She sets about eating her own lunch to bide her some more time to prepare for the inevitable, though the salad sits heavily on her stomach. Every so often, she looks at Misty, content and serene as she works away. Cordelia clears her throat, needing the soft charm of the Cajun’s accent to put her at ease, especially while it’s still good natured. “How was your trip really?” she asks.  

Long.”  

Cordelia snorts, moving her half finished lunch out of the way and inching closer to her friend. “That good, huh?”  

“It just made me realize that I like it here.” Misty states, not looking up from her work.  

“You prefer here to your family home?”  

The surprise in her voice is clear as day, and now she catches Misty’s full attention. She shrugs. “There’s too many bad memories up there. I hated school and everyone there. At least down here I have friends.”  

She frowns at that, absorbing the sadness that drips from Misty and heads in her direction. “Did you have to see that guy at church?” The question only serves to add another blow to her mood, but she finds herself desperately seeking the answer.  

Each one of Misty’s muscles stiffens before her. She places down the watering can with force, sighing. “Yup.”  

Her fingers nervously wring together. “And?”  

“You were right. Guys are idiots.”  

Cordelia hums her agreement.  

When Misty grows contemplative of her own words, the quiet begins to increase at a suffocating rate, so quickly that she finds herself asking anything just to stop its advance. “It sounded like you guys were really busy the night I called.” Or more, the night Misty finally answered.  

Misty’s gaze meets Cordelia’s once more, and this time there are tears residing in there. “I’m real sorry for ignorin’ you for so long, Delia. I – I. . . my head was all over the place.” She stops in all of her actions completely, dropping herself down on the nearest stool and staring over at Cordelia in what she can only described as what a kicked puppy would look like. “I missed you too.”  

Those words are enough to make her heart swoop and soar in the confines of her chest, rattling against her ribcage. She’s in front of Misty without even realizing, sat directly across from her and refusing to unlock their eyes.  

The Cajun looks like she wants to say more, but she doesn't. 

So, Cordelia says it for the both of them.  

“Should we talk about it?”  

That question, she guesses, is rather rhetorical. Of course they should talk about what happened; every rational part of her brain can attest to that. Sometimes, though, people don’t listen to the side. In fact, it’s often ignored for the easier, less painful option. Maybe she would have been better asking ‘are we going to talk about it?’, but as it is the words have already left her lips and there’s nothing else to be done.  

Other than wait on baited breath.  

Misty sighs, her leg bouncing against the stool. “Talk about what?”  

“You know what.”  

She isn’t sure where the confidence comes from, but she’s awfully glad of its presence or she might be too scared altogether to tackle this conversation. She wishes that some of it could be transferred to Misty because she looks just about ready to jump out of her skin.  

Fingers linger around her wrists absentmindedly, and she won’t meet Cordelia’s eyes. “Misty.” She reaches out, not surprised when hands slip from her grasp in a matter of seconds.  

She tries again, and this time they limply lay on hers. It’s better than nothing.  

Misty grimaces. “Can we just forget about it, Delia?”  

“No.” She recoils, horrified at the very idea.  

Annoyance spreads across Misty’s features at her refusal.  

“What kind of friend would I be if I just ignored this?” she asks earnestly, a slight crack in her voice.  

Misty stays awfully quiet.  

She takes this as the opportunity to near her, relieved when Misty doesn’t push her away instantly. “Talk to me.” Her request goes unanswered, prompting her to tighten her hold around Misty’s fingers. “Misty.” A hand rises, meeting soft locks that she caresses out of the Cajun’s face, tucking it behind her ear.  

“Why do you care so much?” Her breath shudders, her fingers return Cordelia’s hold. Inside, she jumps for joy because she’s getting through to her. But there’s still a long way to go, and it’s clear in the doubt that laces her words.  

“I’m your friend.”  

Their eyes meet, gazes intertwining. “No one else cares this much.” 

Cordelia gives a wry smile. “I’m your  best  friend,” she corrects.  

“Yeah.” Misty agrees, “you are.”  

She sucks in a breath, feeling the floor move beneath them slight as Misty starts to bounce her other leg now; both of them jump up and down in rapid movements while the rest of her body maintains an eerie stillness. Cordelia lifts a hand to grip lightly on Misty’s shoulder, just over where her shawl hangs from the skin. “So . . . will you tell me?” Misty still lingers, and that exasperation surges inside of her once more. What else can she do without forcing the answer out of Misty? “Please?” 

Misty scrunches her eyes shut, shaking her head.  

There is no stopping the groan that flows freely from her lips.  

At its presence, Misty squints open an eye. ”’m sorry,” she mutters quietly.  

“If it were the other way around, wouldn’t you want me to talk to you?”  

That silence returns again, and Misty continues her transformation into a shell of a person, like she’s just about ready to shut down. Cordelia's forehead wrinkles into neat lines. “Wouldn’t you?” she urges. 

Licking her lips nervously, Misty sighs.  

It’s all the answer she gets and it’s enough. Enough to start the embers of rage burning inside her gut. “So, that’s what you want then?” Misty blinks at the sudden hostility in her tone. “You just want us to pretend that this isn’t happening?”   

“No, I – I just – " 

“But you don’t wanna talk about it?”  

“Cordelia, I -” 

“What do you actually want, Misty?” 

She hates herself for the bluntness in her words, especially as Misty seems to harden under its quake. Her head bows, her hands retreating away from the warm touch of Cordelia, who doesn’t fight it this time. “I just want things to go back to the way they were.”  

It hits her like a punch to the gut.  

“Misty.” She hesitates, teeth tugging on her lips until it’s painful. “I don’t think that’s possible.”  

Her crushed ‘I know’ settles on Cordelia’s ears bitterly.  

She lets it echo around for a few more moments until questions begin to burn at the forefront of her mind. 

“Why is telling me the truth so bad?” she whispers. 

The way that Misty looks at her just about breaks her heart, and she resists all urges to sweep her up in her arms. As it is, she’s still waiting ever so patiently for an answer she’s afraid she’ll never get.  

“I tell you everything.”  

Misty shifts then, face crumpling in on itself as thoughts take over. After a long beat, she speaks delicately. “That ain’t true.”  

“What?” 

“You don’t tell me everythin’.”  

At Misty’s words, she finds herself scrutinizing the Cajun with upset and confusion. She searches the expanse of her mind for anything that she may be keeping from her friend, but comes up empty handed. It’s Misty herself who comes to her rescue, offering the small nugget of information that she searches for. When she hears it, she wishes she’d given up on said search. “You didn’t tell me who you had feelings for.”  

All air whooshes from her lungs as Misty stares bleakly, her own trouble evident.  

“Oh,” is all she can say.  

Misty’s mouth and nose pinch together tightly. “See?” 

“That’s. . .” she scrambles for the right words, ears scorching hot and red. “That doesn’t matter anymore. It was weeks ago.” How does she still remember?! 

“Why can’t I know then?”  

“Because I – " Her voice cracks. “I can’t tell you.”  

She shrinks under the pointed way the Misty observes her, trying to figure out the exact reason why Cordelia can’t share that information. All too easily, she’s turned the focus onto the older blonde, and away from herself; Cordelia isn't going to accept that. Try as she might, Misty isn’t going to deflect this.   

Her words strengthen. “But this is different. You know it is.” 

“How?” 

“You’re hurting yourself.”  

Misty doesn’t deny it this time. She reeks of shame and discomfort, and her eyes shift in a wayward manner.  

The bell rings, signalling the end of lunch period, though neither make to move. They’re initiated into some sort of stalemate, eyes unrelenting as they peer into the depths of one another. She doesn’t know what she’s searching for, and she’s too scared to find out.  

Moments pass by, long and short at the same time.  

When she catches the tears in Misty’s eyes, still prevalent after all this time, she lets hopelessness tug at her every muscle. “So, what are we gonna do?”  

“I can’t tell you.” Misty insists, one final time. She looks like she wants to say more, but the words never come.  

Cordelia stands then, sighing. “Guess I’ll go to class then.”  

The way that desolation clings to her words has Misty staring to her with a pained expression. She makes for the exit, her fingers curling around the doorframe as she internally cries for a friend in need. She frowns at Misty, sadder than ever before. “Things can’t ever go back to before, you know.” She says again. “But you were right, I  do  care more than anyone else.” Cordelia swallows the thick lump in her throat. “And I’m not going to stop asking, Misty.”  

As she leaves, she catches sight when Misty’s disconsolate tears rolling down her cheeks.  

 

Chapter Text

She doesn’t see Misty again until biology, and the Cajun shows up five minutes late with red rimmed eyes and a bleak expression. Mumbling an apology to the teacher, she sits herself on the stool next to Cordelia, not daring even a peek in her direction. Cordelia can’t look either, not without her insides throbbing with heartache.  

So, they do just that; spend the whole class not looking at one another.  

It hurts the confines of her chest. Inches apart, the air around them so thick that even Madison notices it a few feet away.  

Cordelia ignores the strange glances thrown their way, focusing solely on the board in front of her. It’s awfully boring, especially without the usual distraction of talking to her friend. Eyes flutter to the clock, wondering how an hour can last an eternity. And she still doesn’t glance at Misty.  

Even when she hears the distinct crinkle of a wrapper and knows Misty is snacking on something, or when the girl hums music under her breath. The tune, she doesn’t recognize, yet somehow succeeds in filling her with melancholy. Trying to work and simultaneously ignore/give Misty all of her attention from her peripherals should be an Olympic sport. Seeing as she aches with effort.  

It’s as though Misty demands her focus without prompting. But Cordelia’s severe words hang between them, a promise (maybe even a low-key threat?) that her questions aren’t over. That Misty shouldn’t grow complacent because they’re sort of, but not really, talking to one another.  

Curiosity burns at the insides of her brains as she once again tries to figure out the reason for Misty’s actions. More importantly, why she won’t tell her. Even so, the Cajun’s own question itches there, too. About the person that Cordelia liked (still likes, and is terrified that she is well and truly in love with).  

Why does she keep bringing that up? 

The question lingers, causing her eyes to glaze over as she thinks of the possible answers. Misty seems awfully invested in the answer, even as she winces and grimaces at the idea of Cordelia liking a person sometimes. Is it inquisitiveness? Or is it just a best friend thing? They’re supposed to tell each other everything, right? Her heart starts a slow, sinking descent as their conversation replays in her head.  

Misty had seemed genuinely annoyed that she wouldn’t tell her. Is her refusal to tell Cordelia her own reasonings a spiteful reaction to that? 

No. She shakes her head quickly at the very idea that Misty could be spiteful. Guilt sits heavily on her stomach for thinking that, even for a second. Misty is sweet and kind, and she’d never intentionally want to hurt anyone.  

But she’s hurting Cordelia, whether she knows it or not, and the older blonde shifts in her seat to try and nudge the discomfort out of her body.  

This class has always been one of her favorites. Right now, given the chance, she’d run for the door without a second thought. A long sigh flows from her ragged lungs. She blinks a few times, eyes unfocused and squinting and altogether tired. It’s a feeling the rest of her soul can relate to. 

She narrows her eyes in the direction of the board where writing seems to mock her with its blurry nature. Beside her, she hears Misty make a noise, close to disgruntled. Cordelia can’t help herself then, tearing chocolate brown eyes away and in Misty’s general direction, where they pick up on the worry lines scattered all over her face.  

Her eyes are still red. Less so, but still noticeable. 

In spite of her dishevelled appearance, and Cordelia expecting some snarky comment like it’s Madison sat next to her, the Cajun puckers her lips together. Then, all too fondly and attempting to be a reprimand, she speaks. “Will you just put your damn glasses on?” Cordelia’s mouth falls open at that, no reply able to form.  

Misty doesn’t seem bothered. She just stares back, unrelenting and commanding. So much so that Cordelia is wordlessly rifling through her bag for her glasses case. When they’re on, she dares to watch Misty again, just for a second, to find her looking elsewhere. Bowing her head slightly, Cordelia chews on her lower lip painfully and tries not to overthink.  

Unfortunately for her, that’s one of her only talents.  

By the time the class ends, she’s swallowing thick mouthfuls of tension until it hurts. Misty looks at her again, then pretends it had all been by accident when Cordelia just so happened to be peering in the Cajun’s direction. Their brief eye contact sends a judder through her body, and not a pleasant one.  

Her insides clench. She doesn’t know what to say. Never before has she never had anything to say to Misty, even if it is in one of their recent arguments. That stings even more.  

But Misty stands in blatant refusal to glance her way now, maybe because of the tears beginning to swill in her eyes. She shoves things into her backpack, then scurries out of the room.  

Cordelia resists the urge to scream.  

… 

Misty always comes to her house on a Monday, without question.  

But that day she doesn’t.  

Cordelia, again, laments the idea of Misty having to get home by herself, even if she knows the Cajun is a capable almost adult. She sighs and frowns and then sighs some more. Textbooks hold no interest to her. The TV serves only to fill the once white noise with aimless chatter and characters.  

She pushes the lump in her throat down as she makes dinner and realizes she’s making enough for both her and Misty, then angrily throws half of it in the trash. So ferocious in her actions, the plate almost makes it in. 

Not long after, she sits at the empty table, stabbing at the food in a way it probably doesn’t deserve. And it makes her feel better. Maybe. A little. Well, not really at all.  

Fiona flitters in, making herself a bourbon. Cordelia almost asks for one herself, knowing her mother couldn’t really care less about underage drinking. She doesn’t ask, but Fiona does set a pointed stare at her.  

“Where’s your friend?” She questions nosily.  

Cordelia doesn’t have it in her to summon the snarky teenage response that seems to be fit for talking to Fiona these days. She lets a frown tug at her lips and shrugs.  

Her mother takes a generous sip of her drink. Eyes narrow, wrinkles appearing even if she’d never dare tell Fiona that. “Did you fight?” 

Another shrug. “Sort of.”  

The way she responds is detached, uncaring, because if she lets even a droplet of emotion into her voice, the floodgates will open and she’ll be crying in front of Fiona. That is not a situation she wants to find herself in. To Fiona, crying is weakness. And Cordelia doesn’t need another reason to disappoint her mother.  

She curls her fingers tighter around the fork, eyes lifting to stare dead centre into Fiona’s almost black eyes. She's thinking. She’s always thinking. Ever since she remembers, that gaze has held hidden thoughts behind it, mockingly in her sights, but never simple enough to understand. For once, her mother grants her the aid of an explanation into her expression. “Well, it’s not going to do you any good sitting here and moping, is it? Either find the girl and sort this shit out, or cut her out of your life.” Cordelia winces at the way she speaks so bluntly. “But you’re a Goode, and Goode’s do not mope.”  

That sentence carries with her the whole night, heavy on her shoulders, her chest. It’s an immense weight that she wonders if she’ll ever shrug it off.  

If her mother ever realized how often she betrayed the Goode name by moping and pining over a certain blonde, she’d most definitely be disappointed in her. As it is, she keeps it hidden behind her bedroom door and falls into a dreamless sleep against the deafening silence.  

… 

Tuesday brings with it a new resolve, the idea that maybe she is going to be strong like Fiona. That she can look at Misty and not feel like everything inside of her is shattering if this continues. She can do it. Misty will realize that her intentions are good, caring; she’ll confide in her eventually, right?  

Said resolve breaks the second she sees the Cajun, and Cordelia inwardly berates herself for having such little conviction.  

Misty is by her locker, struggling to fit something inside of it. She shoves and grunts and pushes the object with tight lines at the corners of her mouth. When she sees Cordelia approach, her movements slow almost to stillness. She blinks, watching Cordelia open up her own locker. “Hi.” She tries. 

“Hey.” Cordelia says. Short, curt. But not angry. Still, it makes Misty bow her head slightly, something flashing across her face.  

The younger blonde opens her mouth to speak, but it flops closed when she notices Cordelia already clutching her things. She’s ready to go, knowing that if she lingers near Misty too long then she’s going to ask again, and she can’t do that. Not here, in the middle of the hallway. The thought of leaving Misty with despair sweeping over her expression in front of so many people causes her heart to seize with ice.  

Cordelia doesn’t notice how she causes that look either way. Seeing as she’s walking in the opposite direction of the Cajun. 

… 

“Damn Misty, are you sick or something?”  

Cordelia’s head snaps up at the mention of Misty, who sits between Mallory and Queenie. Not next to her, like normal.  

She frowns at Queenie, forehead creasing at the very idea. “No.” She pushes out slowly. “Why?”  

A snort of laughter follows, but neither Misty or Cordelia join the humor. “’Cause you’re eating like a normal person.”  

“Oh.” Misty frowns. Her voice is quiet, and Cordelia doesn’t like the desolate energy that vibrates from it. “Just not hungry, I guess.”  

“Stop the fucking presses.” Madison smirks, interested enough to lower her phone. “Someone write down the time and date so we have proof of this.” 

Zoe rolls her eyes. “Shut up, Maddy.”  

Under the sudden attention of everyone, Misty tries not to let herself shrink. She pushes on the least convincing smile Cordelia has ever seen. “I’m fine, really. Musta ate somethin’ bad, you know?” She clearly forces herself to take another bite of the sandwich, chewing longer than normal. 

While others drift attention away, Cordelia continues to stare. When their eyes meet, she doesn’t surrender to the idea of looking away, no matter how much she wants to. Misty stops. Like literally stops in all movement - every part of her body freezes, the unswallowed food causing a lump in her cheek. And she just stares, right into Cordelia’s soul, with a gaze so convoluted that Cordelia feels practically winded.  

They haven’t spoken since their greeting this mornin; they’ve barely glanced at each other all day, and now Cordelia doesn’t know what to do. Because those eyes are wide and wild. Uncertainty dances in the corner. Her irises shimmer like glitter in the ever-moving surface of stormy seas on the most tempestuous of days. She isn’t okay.  

Her own gaze must hold all of the questions that remain unanswered between them, seeing as Misty suddenly looks terrified. 

Cordelia isn’t surprised when Misty jerks back into life, hurriedly finishing her bite and then reaching for her things. She utters some quick excuse about having to go, leaving with long strides. Everyone just sort of pauses for a second, confusion filling the air around them.  

She experiences the intensity of six gazes thrown her way, demanding an explanation, as if she’s some sort of expert of the unpredictable nature of Misty. But she doesn’t have anything to say to them. Misty’s troubles aren’t hers to go about sharing with people who don’t notice enough to ask the girl herself.  

Sighing, she stares at the door where Misty had walked out of, wanting to follow.  

“What the fuck’s wrong with her?” Madison asks.  

Mallory, after a thoughtful pause, shrugs. “Maybe she needed to throw up.”  

Their eyes still linger her way, hoping for her to share something, anything. She doesn’t. Cordelia somehow manages to remain indifferent to their whole conversation, and she thinks maybe for a second it might look like she doesn’t care. Fiona would be proud at that. Nothing gets the Goode’s, not even emotions.  

But she does care.  

She said so herself. And she’s rising to her feet too, with all those eyes observing again. She doesn’t have to say where she’s going. They know. Expressions range from sympathetic to amused, and Cordelia tears her gaze away from every single one of them in pursuit of Misty.  

Only, the Cajun isn’t where she expects her to be. The plants in the classroom sit quietly, staring back at her for disrupting the calmness over the buzz of the UV light. Cordelia feels her frown grow that bit bigger, checking the room again just in case her eyes are deceiving her. They aren’t.  

She checks everywhere she can think of. The library. The locker rooms. Even the bathrooms. All are empty of any blonde haired Cajun.  

She realizes with a nauseating thought that maybe doesn’t want to be found.  

This is only instilled further when the girl doesn’t show up to biology that day, and Cordelia spends the entire hour staring at the empty seat next to her.  

… 

The next morning, Misty doesn’t speak to her at the lockers, but her eyes loiter over the older blonde regardless. She doesn’t need to say anything for Cordelia to perceive the erratic nature of her being that morning.  

She takes a step back, scrutinizing her. Misty’s skin is pale, almost to the point of pasty. This does nothing but highlight the shadows and lines that hollow her face. When she catches that gaze, just for a moment, the blue is duller.  

And Cordelia is hit with that guilt again, with the resounding taunt in her head that she’s doing this to Misty and she should just apologize, let this be water under the proverbial bridge. Only, Misty won’t tell her the truth then, and she stubbornly holds out with the (perhaps fruitless) idea that Misty will apologize first.  

She doesn’t.  

Even without an apology, tenderness fills her next few words. “Are you alright?” she swallows 

Misty nods so emphatically that it’s clear it isn’t genuine.  

Cordelia speaks out her name oh so quietly. 

But they’re both really fucking stubborn, turns out, and Misty is straightening in one disdainful movement. Her nostrils flare with pride. “I’m fine.”  

She readies herself to call out Misty’s obvious lie, though the Cajun is already making to leave as if anticipating so.  

… 

Misty doesn’t show up to biology that day, either.  

The familiar abyss inside of her grows darker.  

“Trouble is paradise?” Madison snickers as she walks past, finding Cordelia glaring to the empty spot like it’s personally insulted her.  

She bristles, muscles tightening.  

“Go away.”  

… 

“Is Misty talking to you?”  

Zoe frowns at the strange, desperately asked question, and finally answers with a small nod. Then, her face twists in musing. “Why?” 

“I think she’s avoiding me.” Cordelia admits with a pit in her stomach.  

She struggles to concentrate on the work in front of them; she actually doesn’t remember any time in the past week that she’s successfully managed to focus in class. The idea is banished with a shake of her head. Slowly, she lowers her pen to the half filled piece of paper and looks directly at Zoe.  

To her friend’s credit, she feigns surprise fairly well, but it’s no secret that things have been weird between her and Misty for days now. “She hasn’t said anything.”  

Cordelia bows her head.  

Oh.”  

A hand is suddenly on hers, squeezing it. She barely smiles.  

“Maybe she’s just really busy. She was going on about falling behind in English yesterday.”  

She tries not to let her breath hitch at that, but it does anyway. All worries of Zoe hearing it are usurped by concern that suddenly floods around her body. It’s usually Cordelia who helps Misty study for that particular class, at her home with the TV entertaining itself in the background and Misty’s soft giggles filling the air. Cordelia lets the nausea crawl up her throat, preventing any words from following.  

Beside her, Zoe must notice how the blood drains from her features, tilting her head in unease.  

“Cordelia?” 

She blinks back into reality, tearing away damaging thoughts that their fight might be affecting Misty’s education. “Yeah?”  

“Have you tried talking to her?” 

Tried and failed, she thinks bitterly. Then gives a soft shrug. “I’ll try again.” The sigh that follows seems to last an eternity. “Maybe things will be different now we’ve both had a little time to think.”  

Zoe smiles hopefully, returning to her math. In turn, Cordelia tries to do the same. The monotonous nature of the work is almost enough to calm her frazzled nerves. 

Until she hears Zoe speak up ten minutes later. “I really do think you should tell her, you know.” 

Cordelia doesn’t answer.  

... 

When Misty’s absence prevails for the third day, the anguish inside of her very quickly transforms into something else. Her blood boils, hands clutching onto the edge of the desk.  

And the second the bell rings, she storms out before anyone else can even react.  

Feet carrying her with purpose, she heads toward the locker room all too quickly. With each passing step, her annoyance bubbles from her stomach into her lungs where it fills the space with thick irritation. She is barely aware of the other faces who look at her in confusion, knowing that she is not a regular in her gym class.  

Then suddenly, there’s one face staring back at her not with befuddlement in its wake, but guilt instead. Misty is already changed into her gym wear, and she’d been fighting to get her curls into a high pony when Cordelia had barged in. She drops the locks now, mouth flapping open and closed like a fish out of water.  

Because Cordelia is fucking pissed.  

It’s evident in the way her body twitches on the spot, or how her teeth tightly hold onto lips to keep herself from fully exploding with words she doesn’t mean to say. She slows in front of Misty, who nods, rising to her full height from where she had been sat on the bench. The Cajun braces herself with a deep breath. “Cordelia.” She says on the exhale.  

“What the hell, Misty?” 

The girl winces.

She can see the others around them, some beginning a retreat out of the room and others standing to attention, while pretending they are focusing on something else entirely. Cordelia couldn’t give a shred of care in the moment, even as Misty’s eyes dart nervously between the spectators and her friend.  

Her jaw becomes taut with frustration, all aimed toward Misty. “Why are you skipping class?” 

It’s a question she already knows the answer to, seeing as Misty is avoiding her in every other instant of school. Why not biology? Fire settles inside of her, never before reserved for the Cajun like this, and if she wasn’t so worked up, she’d take a moment to let it subside. But its flames rise higher and higher like a bonfire, the smoke bitterly catching in her throat, especially when Misty continues to flounder. “Why?” She pushes.  

“Don’t make me say it.” Misty insists through tight teeth. 

When she lowers her head to stare to the linoleum floors, Cordelia closes the gap between them. Misty’s warmth wraps around her, most stifling than usual. Catching Misty’s chin with her hand, she tenderly lifts it and brings their gazes together - one reluctant and another unyielding.  

Misty softens under her touch, whether from weakness or fondness she can’t quite tell behind red eyes, but she sincerely hopes its the latter. 

“You shouldn’t skip class.” She insists as the silence becomes too much for her spinning mind to take.  

Misty opens her mouth to speak, but she’s not quite finished. Even if the next few words pain her. “I don’t care if you’re mad at me.” She says, choking on her own words. “I don’t care if you hate me. But I do care if you fail because of me.”  

A firm head shake follows. “I ain’t failin’.” 

Cordelia sighs at her friend, once again at a loss of what she can do to help. Especially when Misty seems so headstrong on a path to self-destruction. Her fingers loosen on her chin, a sign of dwindling patience, and she wonders in a moment of weakness if this is all just some lost cause. But then there are two hands on hers, keeping it steady; there and then she knows that she’ll keep fighting for Misty.  

Misty's hands are cold against her own. She welcomes their presence nonetheless with the want to smile hanging on her lips. She doesn’t quite manage. Maybe Misty can see it in the way her eyes illuminate at the touch.  

“I can’t do it.” 

She pauses, not wanting to ask, but without any other choice. “Do what?” 

“I can’t. . .” Misty trails off, grimacing, “sit there with you not talkin’ to me.” She lowers her hands now, falling limply by her side and tugging at the hem of her shorts. Cordelia would normally stare there, all dumb and smitten, yet she finds herself with more pressing matters. The worry lines on Misty’s face grow in number, a terrible onslaught of anguish that tugs at her heart strings. “It hurts too much.” 

Her lips press together again, thoughtful. But also to keep tears at bay. They fight against the barrier, trying to permeant the skin with their noises of despair. She keeps fighting. Cordelia closes her eyes and, just like Misty, experiences that unforgiving sting of pain. “Then don’t sit next to me.”  

Misty’s eyes widen, confused. Horrified. That at least gives Cordelia somewhat of a break in her sadness. Not enough, because she keeps on talking even as Misty shakes her head.  

“Swap with Madison, or anyone. I don’t care. Just.” She stops, letting her voice crack. Just once. “Just show up to class, please.” 

At her words, Misty’s face has become darker, pained. Though directed at herself rather than the older blonde in front of her. She doesn’t say anything, and maybe that’s for the better because Cordelia doesn’t think there’s anything that could make this situation any better.  

She’s offering to sit next to Madison of all people just to keep Misty from skipping. Her stomach flips and twists uneasily, and her hand does slip from Misty’s face this time, hovering for just a moment. Misty observes its retreat with regret swimming in her eyes.  

“You can’t be serious.” She barks out, disbelieving. For a moment, she observes Cordelia like this is some trick, a farce created to heal the rift that the pair are succeeding in amplifying every passing second.  

But it isn’t, and Misty must eventually realize that because something strange settles on her features. The look that always catches her off guard. She stares at it, hoping one day it will make sense.  

Their eyes meet, and she smiles ever so sadly. “I am serious, Misty.” The quiet nature of the words doesn’t mean that they're not heartfelt, and Misty stills again in their appearance.  

Whatever moment the pair are having, it is rather abruptly put to an end when the coach barrels in, demanding a reason for the hold up. It’s only then that she realizes she’s late for her next class, and she’s been keeping this one held in ransom through their own curiosity at watching the pair. Cordelia flashes red, mumbling an apology to the coach and throwing one last look to Misty.  

Who still hasn’t moved.  

As soon as she is out of the door, she pulls in a shuddery breath. Surprise rolls through her in waves as she feels the tears ebb away, none of them falling. Briefly, she’d assumed the flood gates would open the minute she left. Maybe she’s getting better at controlling them, or maybe she’s cried so much that few remain. 

Either way, she finds her way to the next class appearing outwardly less scathed than she feels.  

… 

Their conversation follows her the entire way home, all through dinner and then haunts her bath as she attempts to read some prose for her English. Shakespeare is easily put to rest in favor of thinking herself into a frenzy.  

She reaches for the phone, where music softly hums from the speakers, checking it for any messages. There are texts, but not from the one person that she wants. After staring for a long while, she lets a sigh reap melancholy through her entire body.  

Cordelia didn’t realize it was possible to miss someone this much when you see them every single day.  

… 

Friday brings with it the promise of the weekend, a reprieve to whatever this week has been. She is all but ready to put it behind her, insisting that next week will be better. Maybe. Surely it can’t be any worse.  

Most of the morning is spent making amicable chatter with Queenie and Nan, feeling herself laugh for the first time in days as they have her in stitches over Queenie embarrassing herself in front of her crush. It’s nice, it’s easy and she likes how her smile meets her eyes for once.  

She has another meeting with Miss Snow. Not out of necessity, turns out, but the teacher curiously asks her if she’s had any college letters yet and she ends up in her office for most of the lunch hour. That’s nice, too. An adult who’s interested in her future, who shares the passion of teaching others and wants only what’s best for her.  

Don’t get her wrong, talking to her friends is great, but there’s something reassuring about having the confidence of the woman in her. That glint behind her eyes brings a warmth inside of Cordelia, one that makes the future seem less scary.  

She leaves a few minutes early, enjoying the gentle pat on her shoulder from Miss Snow as she’s ushered from the office when the woman’s phone starts ringing. 

The walk to her locker feels lighter than previous days. She turns, hoping to find Misty at her own locker, but no such luck. The smile falters, just momentarily.  

Maybe she’s already at class. She hopes. What if her words haven’t got through to Misty? What if she continues to skip and steer clear of her at all costs just for the sake of avoiding the discomfort of having to sit next to one another?  

Oh so expertly, she begins to unravel the good mood she’s worked all day on building up, and it falls apart like strands of yarn. More so when she gets to the room, almost late herself, to see no Misty. 

Well, shit.  

Madison is behind her, less caring of her own tardiness, and practically barges into Cordelia to get past. She yelps, eyebrows knitting together in annoyance as she glares at her. “Is that necessary?” she grumbles out, eyes flittering back to the empty stool. She’s beginning to hate it.  

“You were in my way.” 

“I’m stood in front of my desk.” 

A liberal eye roll follows, then quickly locks onto the wistful way Cordelia stares beside her. “I wouldn’t expect trailer trash any time soon.”  

Cordelia narrows her eyes at the name, then grows in dejection at the idea of even Madison knowing that Misty is avoiding her. All she needs now is ‘pathetic’ written over her forehead. “Yeah, I was just hopeful, I guess.” I really thought she’d come.   

Before her, the girl gives a deep frown, then smirks in understanding. “Ew, this isn't about your lover’s quarrel.”  

She really, honestly and truly, resists the urge to slap her there and then.  

But Madison has piqued her interest, and now she finds herself staring expectantly to her for some sort of an explanation. “You didn’t hear?”  

“No.” She says, growing in exasperation.  

Madison shrugs, unbothered. Even if the gossip rolls off her tongue way too easily. “Swampy got into a fight.”  

She feels her breath catch, then her eyes widen. “What?” The voice doesn’t sound like her own, all choked and shocked. “With who?”  

There’s another smirk, eyes glistening and eyebrows rising. “That would be telling.”  

“Madison, I swear to god – " 

“Apparently she was defending your honor.” She gives a stark laugh, obviously amused by the paling of Cordelia’s face at that revelation.  

Cordelia ignores the way Miss Pembroke is staring to them impatiently. “Have you finished ladies?” She asks, perturbed.  

It goes completely unanswered, because all Cordelia can do is try and ground the many of thoughts soaring around her head right now, the first and foremost wondering if Misty is okay or not. She says it aloud, only for Madison to give another non – committal shrug. “Where is she?” she then demands to know, a hand grabbing onto her arm.  

Madison pushes it off, pulling a face. “You know I don’t like people touching me.” She insists as her smirk quickly transforms into a scowl. Cordelia’s eyes relent, wide and wet and desperately caring. “I dunno. She’s in the nurse’s office, I guess.” 

That’s all Cordelia needs to know before she’s grabbing the bag that she hasn’t even unpacked yet and unceremoniously shoving Madison out of the way to get to the door. Behind her, Miss Pembroke calls her name, but she really couldn’t give two shits. Her power walk becomes a run in a matter of moments, where she sprints toward the office with more than breathlessness on her lungs.  

And she doesn’t have to look very far for Misty, seeing as she’s sat on the bench outside. Her legs are crossed under herself, a hand holding tissue firmly to her bloodied nose, just enough to cover the wounded way she stares at the ground.  

At the sound of footsteps, she throws her head up and locks their eyes. “Hi. . .” Cordelia pauses for all of a few seconds to regard her downtrodden appearance, then she decides that she doesn’t care if Misty is mad at her and she swoops onto the spare seat next to her.  

“Misty.” She says, softer than ever before. Nearer, and with the aid of the artificial light, she can see where her lip and eye are beginning to litter with the blues and purples of forming bruises. She cups the Cajun’s chin, just like she had in the locker room, only this time her thumb brushes over the not quite there bruise of her thin lip.  

Under her touch, Misty stills. Her eyes had first been reluctant to land on Cordelia, but now settle on her in a beautiful sadness.  

“I was going to ask if you were okay,” Cordelia starts with a wry smile, “but I think I already know the answer to that.” 

“How did you know I was here?” 

She finds fresh tissues for Misty, replacing the old one with crisp, white material that doesn’t stay white for very long. Misty lowers both her hands now, allowing Cordelia to carefully tend to her. “Madison.” The Cajun nods in understanding. 

All those questions fight to make themselves known, but the moment is so quiet that she dares not break it. Plus, her eyes are pretty busy making a map of all the bruises, committing them to her memory.  

Inside the room, she can hear someone complaining, no doubt that other party to the fight. When she returns her gaze thoughtfully to Misty, she finds the girl continuing to stare at her direction. “I was gonna come, you know.”  

“What?”  

“To class.” She explains, eyes closing briefly for a second. She looks awfully tired. “I swear I was.”  

Cordelia runs a hand gently down her arm, all the way to the wrists. When she notices that the material is askew, just like it had been in their first fight, she breathes out against a constricting throat and fixes it for Misty. The cuts now lay hidden behind the black material, just as angry and unforgiving as the bruises on Misty’s face. She rests her hand on the girl’s forearm then, needing her touch to bolster all and any confidence.  

Her dark eyes keep Misty enrapt. “What happened?” she asks gently, wondering if Misty’s story will corroborate what Madison had said. At such an idea, her chest throbs with something she doesn’t want to admit.  

Misty’s face pinches with ire. Fists clench together, all but ready for round two.  

She questions again, when the response takes too long. Trepidation lingers on her features, for fear that she might push Misty too far again. But then again, she doesn’t want too little, either. It’s a fine balance, one that she’s determined to master.  

“They were talkin’ about you.” She mutters, words all quaky as she fights her obvious resentment of anyone badmouthing her.  

The older blonde eases the moment with light laughter. “We’re in High School. Everyone talks about everyone.”  

“Well, they – they shouldn’t have said those things.” Misty says, severely and with fervor. Her brows grow thicker as they knit into a tight line on her forehead, but Cordelia can only stare to her lips as she speaks. Her tongue darts out, nervously, like she doesn’t want to say the next few words. Cordelia is all too familiar with that internal battle, squeezing Misty’s arm in earnest.  

Interest forms inside of her like a seedling, nurtured by the fury that Misty wears.  

Cordelia swallows thickly, rearranging the tissue to help catch the droplets of blood that fall from Misty’s nose. She guides her head backwards ever so slightly, holding the tresses of her golden hair with her free hand. Misty closes her eyes, basking in whatever this is.  

“You didn’t need to fight them.” Cordelia says. “I’m sure people say bad things about me all the time.” 

“They called you a dyke.”  

Her lips part, face falling ever so slightly. “Ah.”  

Misty licks her dry lips again, thoughtful this time, but enough to keep Cordelia staring with feelings stirring inside. “You said that was a bad word.”  

“It is.” Cordelia agrees softly.  

“I didn’t want you to hear and be upset.” She confesses, eyes still closed.  

With an appreciative warmth buzzing through her body like a hive of bees, she simply gawks. She stares because Misty would do this to herself to defend her; because her friend was worried that some random kids at their school might her hurt feelings and acted on instinct, and she stares because Misty’s oddly noble act is both endearing and bittersweet.  

She wonders how she’d react if she ever told her she did like girls. 

Cordelia couldn’t ever imagine Misty judging her for such a thing, but sometimes those inklings of doubt find their way in. She never thought she and Misty would argue until last Monday, so that goes to show how much she knows. Even now, holding Misty in her delicate touch, she is aware the Cajun is somewhat of a firecracker.  

Unruly. Unpredictable. A mixture of chaos and good that makes her insides quiver.  

Maybe she should tell her. Surely, she won’t share the same views as her father; she’s from a different time, a different generation who are altogether more accepting. Except, here Misty is bruised and bloodied defending her because someone called her a lesbian. 

She sighs. Maybe not. 

“That’s sweet of you to think of me.” She speaks carefully, using a rehearsed tone that Misty peeks an eye open at. “But you really didn’t need to do that.”  

Misty shrugs, unapologetic. “Couldn’t stop myself.”  

“You’re hurt, though.”  

“I’ll heal.” 

For a moment, Cordelia wonders whether she thinks that about the cuts on her wrists, too. And how much Misty hopes time is going to be the healer of all and any of her wounds.  

Crisp tears spring to her eyes without warning. A hand begins a rapid retreat from Misty, who jerks to attention and watches Cordelia with sadness swimming in her own eyes as a sob flows from the older blonde’s lips. “Delia?”  

“I’m sorry.” She wipes hurriedly at the wetness on her cheeks, feeling downright silly when Misty is the one sat with literal blood flowing from her nose. Her hands clutch the tissue there tighter, until Misty takes over and holds onto it. With her other hand free, it simply holds onto Misty’s arm, anchoring her in place. “I’m sorry.” She says again. “I just – this week. . .” 

Misty nods quickly, face crumpling with despair as she witnesses Cordelia try to clutch onto the last semblance of composure.  

Through watery eyes, she sees the Cajun stare down to her wrists, then back at Cordelia in a solemn manner. She calls her name, pulling Cordelia’s attention away from her tears just enough to slow them. “Hmmm?”  

“I want us to be friends again.” 

“Misty.” Her lips quiver. “We were always friends. I – " 

She holds up a hand to silence her, suddenly nervous and twitchy, but so fucking sincere that Cordelia feels her eyes inch that bit wider. “I know. I just.” Misty looks down again, decided. “I’m gonna tell you the reason, okay? And. . .” Her voice shakes with effort, but she persists, pulling the tissue from her nose to keep the words from being muffled. Cordelia watches, transfixed, as the smallest drop of blood travels down her philtrum toward her lip. “And - I ain’t ever told anyone this so please just. . .”  

That’s all she can manage to get out, but Cordelia nods either way.  

Breath waits patiently in her lungs; this is something that she’s both wished and dreaded at the same time, and now it’s happening.  

Her fingers find Misty’s. In turn, Misty interlaces them neatly.  

And Cordelia waits.  

Because she’s got awfully good at this waiting gig. To her relief, Misty only needs a few moments to gather her words, to summon strength that Cordelia knows she has an abundance of.  

Her words are so quiet that she almost asks her to repeat them. “I have these thoughts.” She does hear them, just about, and feels her face react with confusion.  

Misty isn’t looking at her; she’s found a particularly interesting pattern on the floor and seems content in mapping every twist and turn of it. Their hands stay held together.  

“What kind of thoughts?” she hears herself ask. 

Eyes rising to her, she is taken aback by the grave nature of Misty’s stare. “Sinful ones. Stuff I shouldn’t ever be thinkin’ about.” 

That isn’t enough for Cordelia, whose lungs burn with the desire to probe just that little bit more. Only, once she starts breaking through all the layers of Misty’s complex psyche, she fears there won’t ever be a chance to go back. 

Misty blinks. “I can’t stop ‘em.”  

She sniffles, and Cordelia hadn’t even realized the tears she could see were Misty’s and not her own. Cursing herself for not taking notice, she leans in nearer and places a hand on the girl’s shoulder, fingers curling around the soft skin.  

“I think I’m goin’ to Hell, Delia.” She confesses, nothing short of broken.  

Cordelia envelopes her that bit tighter, hoping that her embrace is enough to make Misty feel less stranded in the vast ocean that is life. “Not a chance.” She says, voice stronger than she ever remembers it being. Misty turns to her, almost needily. “Not a fucking chance.”  

Face crumpling in on itself, Misty lets the tears take over. Any want to believe Cordelia’s words is usurped by a notion that she’s already convinced herself of. “I just know I am.” Her head falls against Cordelia’s shoulder, and the older blonde can hear her physically gulp down the army of tears. “The thoughts – they scare me sometimes. . .” She closes her eyes, then corrects herself, whispering out. “Well, all the time.” Her expression shatters. “I’m definitely goin’ to Hell.”  

“Hey, hey.” She tries her best to corral Misty’s emotions together, but they resist. “You are so, so good. Misty. You’re like – like. . .” She feels Misty shift against her, “you’re like when sun breaks through the clouds after a storm. When it’s reflected in all the puddles and there’s nothing but bright and color, and life. That’s you.” Her own words surprise her, but she continues regardless. “Someone like you couldn’t ever go to Hell. I refuse to believe it.” 

Misty doesn’t say anything, though there’s a growing air of disquiet about her.  

Cradling the girl, Cordelia begins to put the puzzle pieces together of all the information she’s been given. “That’s why you do it?” she asks, heartbroken. “Because of those thoughts?” 

The Cajun exhales, like she’s relearning how to breath.  

“Yeah.”  

Cordelia lets another hot tear roll down her cheek.  

“At first I thought if I felt pain every time I had one of those thoughts, it would stop them.” She bows her head. “But it didn’t.”  

“How long?” she asks, needing to know.  

“I don’t remember.”  

Her chest stings uneasily.  

“But it’s got worse since I moved here.” Cordelia feels that familiar pang inside of her, the desire to keep Misty in her arms all too strong. Like that’s going to help her. Clearly it isn’t, if she’s getting worse. She doesn’t know whether to cry or scream, and she knows both are pretty damn useless in doing anything to stop this.  

“If it doesn’t work, then why do you still do it?” 

Misty’s discomfort grows in tenfold, like she knows she’s about to push Cordelia to her limit. But the honestly continues to flow from her, and Cordelia is willing to accept whatever is thrown her way in its midst.  

The Cajun frowns so deeply that her entire face wears the sorrow. “I figured if it wasn’t gonna stop, I should at least be punished for them.”  

Punished?  

She almost recoils from her friend’s touch, insides pinching painfully.  

“Shit, Misty.”  

There is no response, and she really doesn’t think anything could alleviate the turmoil that runs through her veins. She clutches Misty tighter, wondering if this is what she feels all the time.  

Her words must finally strike a chord in Misty, who lets her own tears fly through the threshold and return with vengeance. They’re ugly, broken sobs that Cordelia doesn’t think she’s ever heard from anyone. She holds her, too scared to let go. And she doesn’t know what to make of what Misty has told her, what it could possibly mean. Implications drift like abandoned boats on the ocean of her thoughts and she desperately wants to cling into them. 

But as she looks down at her friend, she realizes that what she thinks is really quite redundant now. Misty is hurting, and all that matters is that she’s there for her.  

 

Chapter Text

She isn't sure how long they sit there, not that she minds the passing of time. With Misty, everything slows, frozen in place. For once, her head is devoid of thoughts. It’s calming, almost peaceful, and it clearly has something to do with the girl nestled in her arms.  

Surprisingly, Misty holds no reservations about being so close to her right now, nuzzling her damp face into Cordelia’s neck and letting the sobs eventually dissolve into whimpers. She’s warm, no - she’s boiling, her skin burning as it frazzles against Cordelia’s pulse point. She gulps, and breathes in the sweet smell of Misty, letting it swill around her nostrils delightfully.  

Misty shifts, then sniffles quietly. She vibrates against the suddenly hypersensitive skin of Cordelia’s neck, and the older blonde can feel the way that her leg bounces beneath her. A soft smile ghosts over her lips; the Cajun never can seem to sit completely still.  

Cordelia, on the other hand, quite successfully impersonates a statue that Misty curls around. She dares not move, for fear that it will scare off the gentle creature in her arms. All she can manage is soft, short breaths that exert her lungs somehow.  

“Delia.” 

Her voice is muffled by the confined space. It tickles Cordelia’s skin in the most wonderful of ways. For a moment, she can almost forget the reason why they’re sat like this.  Almost.  

The morose manner that Misty says her name is a stark reminder that this intimacy isn’t fuelled by romance, but instead hurt. Her embrace grows around the girl, and she lifts a hand to run through her dishevelled curls. “Yeah?”  

Twisting, she takes in some air that shudders from her lips and blinks blearily now that her eyes hit the lights above them. “I’m real glad that you came lookin’ for me.” Her lips twitch, mirth making an appearance in the tiny wrinkles around the corners. “Even if you are skippin’ class.”  

She snorts without thinking, then allows seriousness to return to her gaze once more. “I guess some things are worth skipping for.” 

Misty hums her agreement, sniffling louder this time. Despite her gloomy appearance, Cordelia’s words bring a faint smile to those bruised lips. The Cajun closes her eyes at the feeling of fingers in her hair, running over her scalp in the most delicate of manners, almost as if admiring every strand. Around them, the world is quiet, allowing them their moment. Cordelia basks in every second that Misty gives to her before she retreats into the shell that she uses for protection.  

Her free hand is idle, itching to make contact with Misty in any way possible. It falls on Misty’s arm, the tips grazing over tiny, blonde hairs that splatter the skin. She finds a line of freckles, the dots forming patterns like star constellations, and she smiles at the sight of them. Her touch migrates close to Misty’s wrist without even realizing.  

For just a moment, Misty stiffens, but it’s a fleeting, instinctive response that she fights against and relaxes once more. It’s progress, Cordelia thinks with a swell in her heart. “Can I ask something of you?” she says, nervously. 

Blue eyes open half way, pretty and calm. Misty doesn’t speak but that gaze says anything

Cordelia circles her index finger around the hem of the black ties on her wrists, grimacing when she can feel the scab of a particularly large cut. Watching in curiosity, Misty tilts her head with creases appearing on her forehead. The older blonde sucks in a cold surge of air. “Next time you feel like you’re going to . . .” She can’t say it, a bitter taste already beginning to coat the roof of her mouth, "you know.” Misty’s eyes flicker wider in understanding. “I want you to call me first. I don’t care what time it is, if I’m busy, if you think it’s going to upset me. Call me, okay?”  

There’s a moment of thought, Misty all pensive and tentative. “You’d really do that for me?” 

“Yeah.” She tries to sound as casual as she possible can, but love strangles each and every one of her words. “Of course I would.” 

Misty leans in closer, her arm wrapping around Cordelia in the tightest of hugs.  “You are the best friend anyone could ever ask for.” She announces, ever so surely.  

Her response both spurs her with the usual feelings of endearment, but she feels the tinge of disappointment loitering. She doesn’t want to be just the best friend, she wants to be more.  

She recalls Zoe’s words, the ones she’d so pointedly ignored.  

I really do think you should tell her, you know.  

And, for a short – lived second, she almost does. The words dangle on the edge of her mouth, wanting. So badly. She calls Misty’s name, tenderly. Fluttering her eyelashes and leaning up in her direction, the Cajun stares, her own lips parted. “I -” Cordelia starts. I love you, I love you, I love you. The strangely serene way that Misty regards her stalls Cordelia, who deflates with her sudden cowardice. “You’re my best friend, too.” Voice thick with emotion, she adds. “I don’t think you know how much you mean to me.”  

But Misty stares back at her with this intense glower, and maybe she does understand. 

Footsteps can be heard further down the hall, putting an abrupt stop to their moment. Cordelia checks the time, wondering if classes are finished, but that’s not for another half hour. 

But Misty is pulling herself away at the sound of the footsteps. She furiously wipes at her eyes, the back of her hand catching some of the congealed blood under her nose at the same time. Misty looks to it in disgust, then wipes it on the abandoned tissues.  

For the most part, Cordelia stays silent, musing. Especially as the mystery person rounds the corner and Misty straightens further, trying with all her might to hide the fact that she’s been crying. It doesn’t work. How could it? Her puffy face catches Cordelia, who offers a simple smile in hopes that it calms the sudden frantic energy of her friend.  

The person draws nearer, a woman with a baby in her arms. “Are you fuckin’ kidding me, Misty?” She grunts in the Cajun’s direction as she hones in on her, the same blue eyes that Misty has narrowing in on the girl. “Fightin’?”  

“Nellie, I -” 

Her sister holds up a hand, cutting off any arguments that Misty may try to convince her of. “You better not be startin’ this shit up again. We can’t be draggin’ our asses to the principal’s office every month, ya know?” Her words are annoyance filled, and she shifts the squirming baby from one arm to another as she berates Misty. 

Cordelia takes a moment to observe the furious woman, a few years senior of Misty. Though the slopes and angles to her face remind her of the Cajun, her hair is mousy brown, wispier. It waves rather than curls, and the baby clutches onto it tightly with one of his hands.  Her words linger in the air uncomfortably. Did Misty used to fight at her old school? She sucks a breath in at such a thought, stomach twisting. 

Beside her, Misty sniffles and continues her protest. “It ain’t like before.”  

“I don’t wanna hear it.” She groans out her perturbance, seemingly not having even noticed that Cordelia is in the hallway, too. The older blonde enjoys the momentary invisibility, if just to observe a member of Misty’s family to satiate her own curiosity.  

Nellie steps forward, regarding Misty with eyes that soften at the sight of her. “Jesus Christ, look at you.” She grips her chin, so tight that Misty winces. The hold persists, moving her face this way and that in the light. “Please say you got some punches in, Mist.”  

All she gets from Misty is a small grumble, eyes locking onto her sister’s.  

But Nellie is already struggling to manoeuvre her bag on the same arm that the baby (Cordelia struggles to remember his name) sits on. He whines and gurgles in annoyance at being manhandled, so much so that Nellie thrusts him into Misty’s arms. “Here, take him.”  

Misty’s arms flex around him instinctively, practised. “Hey, bud.” He leans up on wobbly legs, bouncing up and down, while fingers reach out to clasp around Misty’s cross necklace. The Cajun peers at Cordelia from the corner of her eyes, face scrunching up as she tries to read Cordelia’s thoughts from her expression.  

She's too busy smiling at the small baby, seemingly so strange in the arms of her friend. She always knew that Misty had nieces and nephews, but actually seeing her with them is kinda surreal. Misty tenderly runs fingers through his thin hair, looking to the baby where no judgement resides rather than the fizzing form that is her sister.  

“Ah! Gotcha. C’mere.” Nellie, having successfully located some baby wipes, pulls out a few and yanks at Misty’s face again. She makes quick work of wiping at the blood and snot and tears that stain the skin. Beneath her ministrations, Misty resists petulantly, eyes darting to Cordelia every now and then to see if she’s witnessing this.  

When she realizes she is, she uses a free hand to push at Nellie’s arm. “Stop it.” She orders, then snatches the wipe from her hands. “I can do it myself.”  

Her sister pushes a hand onto her protruding hip, raising a brow with the hint of a smirk.  

Misty tightens her hold around the infant once she’s wiped her face clean. The fresh skin sits pink from the pressure, and Cordelia stares at it for longer than she ought to, especially with a spectator in front of them. One who seems to have calmed for the moment and now sets those blue eyes on her. It’s not like Misty’s gaze, all soft and tender. It sits pointedly, burning her skin. “You ain’t hurt.”  

“Um. . . no?” 

“So, why are you here?”  

Eyes flashing open in annoyance, Misty groans out her sister’s name. “You don’t gotta be so rude,” she insists. Then frustration begins to drip out of her as she twists, setting eyes on her friend. “Remember how I told you about Cordelia?” Her voice grows quieter, whispered out like she’s trying to prod her sister into realization without making it too obvious.  

“Cordelia.” Nellie repeats, then tilts her head at Misty for confirmation. “The plant one?” 

“Yeah.” She says through strained teeth, clearly embarrassed at that being that only thing that Nellie remembers. “That one.” An exasperated sigh follows at the vacant expression. “Also my best friend.” Beside her, Cordelia swells with pride, a smile playing on the corners of her lips.  

But it’s short lived as Nellie is tutting at her phone and hoisting Misty up, the baby looking disoriented as he’s thrown abruptly higher, too. “Alright, we need to get goin’. Where is the principal’s office?”  

Misty frowns, peering down the hallway from where she’d come. Her hands wring together for a moment, fingers twisting like vines. “Where’s Daddy?” 

“He ain’t back from his huntin’ trip yet.” She reaches out for her son, taking him back from Misty with a newfound gentleness and the widest of smiles. Returning her attention to Misty, she sighs at the worry that etches onto her face, while Cordelia holds a sigh in of her own. “Look, he’ll be mad for a little bit and then it’ll all be forgiven – you know how this goes.” Misty ducks her head. “He sent me instead of Sylvia, so he can’t be that pissed.” 

A small shrug follows from Misty, though she still rolls on the balls of her feet as if needing a soothing motion to keep her grounded. “Yeah, guess so.” Cordelia almost reaches out a hand to take hold of hers, but resists the silly urge.  

Nellie is already trying to herd her down the corridor, impatient and bossy.  

“Lemme get my damn stuff first,” Misty huffs, face tight. She spins then, facing Cordelia directly who seems to be glued to the spot. Her sister can’t see her expression, and she’s too busy on her phone to look for it. But Misty flips like a switch the second her attention is solely focused toward the older blonde; any irritation that had blanketed over her features vanishes in the blink of an eye. She smiles, so genuine that her eyes sparkle like the loveliest of stars.  

She bends down slightly in front of the bench, grabbing the trail of bloody tissues that she’s left and stuffing them into the nearest trash can. When she returns near Cordelia, that smile persists. Misty throws a glance over to her sister, then back at her. She gives her that look, the one that makes her feel delightfully queasy, before leaning in nearer and wrapping sinewy arms around Cordelia.  

It may take her by surprise for the first few seconds, but she’s reciprocating all too easily, enjoying the way Misty’s hair tickles against her nose. “Thank you.” Misty whispers in her ear, so sincerely that her heart jerks about in her chest.  

All she can get out is a few shaky breaths and a watery smile.  

“Will you hurry up?”  

The moment is ruined. Misty tugs away reluctantly, her arms falling limply to her sides, looking all kinds of lost now they’re not around Cordelia  

She turns to her sister, who sets her stare on Misty. “I got shit to do, you know?”  

Misty grunts out something indignant, throwing her backpack quickly over her shoulder and rushing to her sister’s side. “C’mon.” She says. “It’s this way.” The two of them begin in the direction of Miss Snow’s office, leaving Cordelia sat alone on the bench.  

But Misty does turn, just for a moment, giving the smallest of waves toward her. It’s stupid, the way her breath catches at the sight of it. She gives her own back, a solemn look on her face as she wonders just how much trouble Misty is going to get in. She holds her phone up, mouthing ‘call me’ to the Cajun, who nods eagerly with her lower lip trapped between her teeth.  

Once they’ve rounded the corner, she finds herself with no intention of standing. Weighed down by her thoughts, she doesn’t know what to focus on first, where to start. So much whizzes around her head, such heavy notions that could send her lungs caving in on themselves and her skin itching with discomfort, if she allows it. She doesn’t.  

Misty finally opened up to her, and that’s a positive in her eyes. Things can only get better from here.  

... 

“Suspended?” she says thickly, disappointment evident.  

Misty huffs on the other end of the phone. “Yup,” she says, emphatically popping the ‘p'.  

“For how long?”  

“One week.” She deadpans. “It’s gonna be so borin’. Daddy is makin’ me help Tommy out at the garage.” 

“Well. . . that sounds fun.” Any attempt at hopefulness is lost somewhere along the line, and Misty is giving a cheerless laugh.  

“Oh yeah. A full week with my brother.” She mutters dryly. “Can’t wait.”  

Cordelia pauses, just long enough to concentrate on stirring the sauce she’s currently working on. It sizzles loudly, steam bubbling from its surface. “How angry was your dad?” she asks the question that’s been sitting patiently on the end of her tongue ever since Misty had called.  

On the other end, there’s a small hum. She can imagine Misty pressing her lips together and gets carried away with that image. “Less mad than you’d think.” 

She falters, surprised.  

“That’s good then?” 

“Uh huh. I thought I was gonna be readin’ bible verses until my brains melted,” she exclaims, pausing in thoughtfulness. “Guess he had one look at my face and took pity on me.” 

Misty’s bruises flash into her mind once more, and she all but whimpers in sympathy. “How are you feeling?” 

“Beaten up.” She chuckles.  

Reluctant laughter comes in her own response. “Misty.” She berates quietly.  

“My head hurts a little.” Misty offers in earnest. 

“I’m not surprised.” 

But Misty ignores that, continuing an explanation that makes Cordelia's heart clench. “And, I’m kinda – I feel like shit.” 

She pauses, just to swallow the saliva that's pooling at the back of her throat and threatening to choke her. Holding the phone nearer, she pushes out almost whispered words. “You're not going to. . .?”  

The implications sits there in plain sight for both of them. She cringes at her hesitation, wishing she could be bold enough to say the words. As it is, all she can manage is a muted inquiry.  

She wishes she could see Misty’s expression, to decipher what she makes of the words' appearance. “Nah,” comes a reply, swift and sad. 

Cordelia pauses all of her movements on making dinner, turning off the burner so she can give her full attention to Misty. “Then what's wrong?” 

“I just. . . I don’t wanna be suspended.” 

She sighs in response.  

“I wanna go to school.” Misty says. 

“You don’t like half the classes.” She teases, glad to briefly bring a reprieve in the downcast way that Misty’s voice carries over the phone. 

“I do too!” 

“Like what?” Faint giggles push against the inside of her lips at Misty's childlike retort.  

“I like art and gym.” She says softly. “Biology too.” 

She grins, disbelieving. “You  never  pay attention in biology.” Cordelia doesn’t remember a class where Misty hadn’t spent the entire time doodling.  

Misty’s scoff carries clearly, playful and light. “Ain’t my fault the teacher is so dull.” Humming her agreement, she suddenly finds herself biting at her lower lip. “Least you make it less borin’.” At this, Cordelia finds her chest swelling, and she's grateful that Misty can’t see the rosy hue of her cheeks. 

“We'll, I'm glad.” She smiles so wide that her face strains with effort. 

There’s another long pause. If she concentrates enough, she can hear every gentle exhale of Misty's breath. It soothes her in a way she doesn’t understand. “I can’t believe we ain’t gonna be able to do anythin’ together for another week.” Misty declares all of a sudden, soft spoken and dejected, and kind of angry, too. Not at Cordelia. Maybe the situation. Maybe even herself

Such a notion hits her like a slap in the face. And the once sweet smelling food that she's stood next to now sits sourly on her tongue. She hums again, this time from uncertainty of exactly how to answer that without exacerbating said ire. Plus, if she speaks, she might engage in verbal diarrhoea where she confess to Misty that the idea of not seeing her for another week makes a gloomy weight settle on her chest.  

She heaves in a breath. On the other line, Misty does the same. She does so again, as though words are obsolete and the two can easily communicate with puffs and expirations of air.  

Soon, to her great relief, Misty finds words. Even if they make that intimidating weight grow heavier. “That’ll be almost three weeks.” 

“What?” 

“Three weeks.” She confirms. “Of not hanging out.  

Another punch to the gut. “Oh.” She blinks, legs weakening ever so slightly so that she has to lean against the counter. It nudges, hard and unforgiving, into her hip bone.   “That's. . .” 

Awful. Terrible. A great injustice in both their lives.  

“It sucks.” She finishes lamely, wondering how her words never seem to carry the poetic way her thoughts oscillate around Misty. 

Her friend is too dispirited to comment on her choice of language. “I miss doing things with you.”  

She expects the tightness in her chest to fly away from such a confession, for there to be light where dark resides. But the sunrise in her emotions never comes. Her guts tangle together further. Why? She really, desperately tries not to think about it. “You honestly don’t know how much I've missed you.” Specifically, and irrefutably, she's missed everything and anything to do with the Cajun, down to fond way she says her name. 

“I really do, Delia.” 

There. That way. It’s a way she doesn’t say anything else’s name. Not that she knows of. Misty says it with a reverence that makes her want to hear it over and over. 

“We should do somethin’.” 

Cordelia blinks. “But you’re suspended.” A frown tugs at her lips. “And grounded.” Even so, the idea makes her insides bubble with hope. 

“So?” 

“Surely, you don’t want to get into more trouble?” She says, disbelieving yet amused. 

Misty makes a noise, one that has her smiling wider. “Guess some things are worth gettin’ in trouble for,” she counters fondly, mirroring Cordelia's words earlier with her own  adaptation. It makes her heart swoop as though she's on a rollercoaster. 

“I don’t want you to get in trouble because of me.” Any more trouble, either way.  

“I won’t get in trouble.” She insists, suddenly assured and confident. 

“Oh really?” 

“Yeah.” She can hear the grin in Misty’s words. “I’ll just climb out the window after dinner. No one will notice.”  

“What if you fall?” 

Misty bursts out in laughter. “Its like, a five foot drop, Delia. Ain't exactly gonna break my neck.” 

Her tongue smooths against her suddenly dry lips. “What if someone notices you’re gone?” 

“They won’t.” Another laugh. 

Misty.”  

“Will you just say yes?” 

“Do I have a choice?” 

Misty's voice is suddenly so endearing that it might send her to an early grave. “Not at all.” 

Resolve fizzles with her sadness, both cast aside for the pleasant warmth that Misty beckons. “Fine.” She says, feigning annoyance. Misty giggles in response.  

“So it’s settled then.” It’s not a question.  

“Yup. You’re climbing out a window tonight.” She laughs wholeheartedly. “You are such a rule breaker, Misty.” 

“Rules are made to be broken.” The Cajun half whispers, and this in itself sends a shiver down her spine. Suddenly she wishes they were together already; how has she managed to go two weeks without the force of nature that is Misty.  

... 

And this is how she finds herself navigating the walk to Misty's cabin. It’s familiar, well travelled, but she doesn’t like it as much without Misty stopping to appreciate markings in the tree bark or to observe fluttering insects. 

She doesn’t trip this time, however, so she considers that a success. Soon, she's stepping into the recognizable clearing that welcomes her with open arms. The dank smell of the waters and weeds catch her off guard, strong and insistent. Strangely, she finds herself smiling at it. Misty isn’t there yet, so she allows herself a leisurely amble around the small property.  

With the warmth increasing every passing day, the plants flourish around her. For a moment, she wonders if it’s the delightful heat or Misty’s fond care of them, and quickly decides it must be a combination of both.  

When the moments draw on, she makes herself busy, watering each and every budding stem that calls out to her.  

“I didn’t invite ya here to do the upkeep, ya know?”  

She jumps at the sound of Misty’s voice, spinning in such a rapid motion that water flies around with her from the can, splashing at Misty.  

Surprise fades into her face. The same face where time has darkened the bruises. She resists the urge to reach out and touch them. But Misty is brushing the sparse droplets off her arms and letting a grin split across her face. “Sorry.” Cordelia starts with the shake of her head, lowering the watering can as not to do any more damage. She tilts her head to the side slightly, admiring Misty in the sunlight. “I was beginning to think you weren’t coming.” 

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”  

She steps forward, and now Cordelia does find her arm reaching up to touch forward. Misty reacts, moving to wrap cold fingers around the older blonde's.  

Without as much as a word, she’s leading her inside. “We need Stevie.” She says firmly, a toothy grin. Misty carries the music back into the evening air, still keeping their hands connected. Cordelia takes every few seconds to stare at them, thinking how right it feels. She wants to tell Misty that. She doesn’t.  

Nor does she find herself questioning Misty’s actions as she begins collecting items around them. Their hands do separate then, as she rifles through the backpack that Cordelia hadn’t even noticed she'd brought. All the while, Misty hums along to the music under her breath, but the older blonde finds herself scrutinizing the bruise just under Misty’s eye again. Her stomach plummets. She did that for me.  

“I hope you’re hungry.” Misty suddenly announces, voice a playful lull that drifts nicely into her ears. 

Cordelia tears her eyes away from the bruises, staring. The Cajun is dropping to her knees now, building rocks and wicker and sticks together in an intricate design. “Are you making a fire?” She blinks her bleary confusion as Misty. 

“Well, how else are we gonna make s'mores?”  

She narrows her eyes, lips left hanging slightly open. The tip of her tongue pokes out, just slightly. Her words are spoken as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and it brings a serene smile to Cordelia's lips.  

Watching Misty is mesmerizing, every move and decision done so expertly that it leaves her mightily impressed. Before she knows it, smoke it pushing through the kindling. Misty surges forward, huffing and puffing in its direction with great intensity, until fire crackles steadily from her makeshift campfire. She leans back, proud as a peacock, and then turns to Cordelia almost instantly. That expression is mirrored. “I didn’t know you could do that.” She chuckles.  

“I can do lots ‘o things.” Misty shrugs ever so slowly. It’s almost enticing, and she’s certainly fucking enticed.  

She glances away, just for a moment to compose herself, and then observes the Cajun again. By now, Misty has began poking at the embers with a skinny stick, head leaning in concentration. This exposes the expanse of her long neck, with creamy skin calls to her. If only Misty would, too.  

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a s'more.” She says airily, a coy tone about her confession. 

Head snapping up, Misty stares in bewilderment. “Are you kiddin’ me?” 

Cordelia gives a shake of her head, tucking away hair behind both of her ears.  

“They’re real good. You’ll love them.” Already, Misty is pulling out marshmallows and graham crackers from the bag, leading her to throw an inquisitive glance at her friend. 

Her fingers fidget with the edge of the marshmallow wrapper. “Where did you get the money for all this?” She jokes. “You’ve been treating me a lot lately.” 

Misty stills, eyes flashing wider. “Um, nowhere really.” 

“Nowhere?” She probes. 

She stops her prodding of the fire, twisting in her spot to set a somewhat sheepish gaze toward her, one that’s laced with something else. “Okay. Sometimes. . . I, uh – borrow money from Tommy's wallet.” 

Cordelia splutters out her name in shock.  

“What?” She shrinks under the reaction. 

“That’s stealing, Misty.”  

Her jaw sets, head dipping down to stare at the fire that grows steadily in front of them. “I’m gonna pay him back,” She says tersely. 

Although Cordelia doesn’t understand it, she finds herself unable to judge Misty. Her features soften with a smile that has the Cajun at ease again. “Yeah, I’m sure you will.”  

Misty gives a slow nod, staring at Cordelia until the older blonde's skin begins to itch. When she can’t stand it any longer, she grabs the ingredients and asks Misty how to make them.  

All too eagerly, the Cajun is arranging everything haphazardly onto a stick and handing it over to her before constructing her own. 

They sit in silence as they hold them over the fire. Comfortably so, with the music from Misty’s boom box singing happily around the pair. She finds herself enraptured by the way the marshmallow blackens and crisps under the heat of the flames.  The stick is swivelled between her fingers, evening out the cooking, but soon Misty tugs it from the fire. “That’s done.” She announces, her grin widening with every second that it sits on Cordelia's face. “You gotta eat it real quick before it slides off.” 

She hesitates, seeing as the marshmallow still bubbles with heat. But Misty is watching her, so encouraging, that she finds herself holding the s'more with unsure fingers and taking the biggest bite she can manage. 

Misty sets into giggles at the sight of it, with an overzealous bite of her own s'more following. Even so, her eyes never leave her friend who struggles to chew around the sticky mess in her mouth. 

“Good?” Misty inquires, both eyebrows lifting hopefully and a finger pushing some stray marshmallow between her lips.  

She swallows, the graham crackers scratching against her throat, but the sweet treat makes her taste buds dance. “Hmm.” 

“These were my favorite as a kid." Misty says, already half way through hers.  

“I feel like I’m going to be on a sugar high all night.” 

Misty laughs and scoots closer, just a little, like one would when they’re cold. But the April sun is still just about in the sky, and the fire is enough to keep her comfortable. It’s not even tepid. Cordelia just smiles and appraises how the flames appear to creep over Misty's face, lighting the bruises with oranges that make them seem that little bit better. “Can I ask you something?” She poses after a daintier bite. Even so, she finds chocolate clinging to the corner of her lips.  

Misty nods in an instant, leaning one hand on the dry grass and twisting to face her.  

“Before,” she recalls, “your sister said that you used to fight at school.” There is no delay between her words and the way that Misty’s head suddenly hangs in shame. She almost doesn’t want to ask her next question, but it is unrelenting in her lungs, “Why did you?”  

She shrugs, not enticing this time. There is a way that unwillingness holds her muscles at ransom. “It was stupid.” 

“What was?” 

“Fighting.” 

“Right.” She sucks in a sharp breath. “Then why?” 

Misty finishes her s'more with an angrier tear of the teeth, chewing as though to bide herself more time. “They used to call me dumb.”  

“Who did?” 

She gives a painfully long exhale, and with it any joy seems to disappear. “The other kids.” 

“Misty.” She begins in sympathy. “You’re not - ” 

“I know.” The words are spoken dejectedly. When Cordelia meets her eyes, she hates to see the watery way they shine back. “This was before I knew I was dyslexic. And I couldn’t figure out why everyone else could read so much better than me.” Her frown persists, causing her forehead to crease. “I started gettin’ angry about it. Real angry. And frustrated. One day in class, we had to stand at the front of the whole class ‘n read some poem or something.” Cordelia finds herself moving closer to Misty, a hand soothing up and down her bare arm. “I just- I couldn’t do it. I looked at the words and my brain got all jumbled. The more I tried, the harder it got until I couldn’t read a damn thing. Eventually the teacher took pity on me ‘n let me sit down. But. . .” Another shrug, a sad turn of her head as she suddenly can’t look at Cordelia. “It was so humiliatin’.”  

“They would make fun of me about it all the time. Eventually, I just kinda snapped. I got into fights. I stopped going to classes where I knew I had to do lots of readin’. . .even now I hate all that shit.”  

“Least you still go.” 

She nods, then casts the sadness away with a wry smile. “And I now know if I skip anymore classes you're gonna hand my ass to me again.”  

Cordelia grins. “Without hesitation.” Her fingers tighten around Misty’s arm, so much that Misty stares down at the connection with those glossy eyes.  

“You kinda scared me a little.” She jokes, nose crinkling up.  

“I just want you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.” Cordelia admits quietly. This brings a genuine smile to grace Misty’s chocolate covered lips; her heart swoops at the sight of it.  

“I’m tryin’.”  

Cordelia leans in nearer, eyes smouldering with flames caught in them. “I know.” Her words vibrate with a seriousness that has Misty staring, rapt.  

Their conversation seems to have strayed to deeper sentiments, just like always. Not that she minds. She wants to know every part of Misty’s soul, even the parts that the Cajun doesn’t like about herself. They are the parts she thinks she could love the most. Severity melts from their gazes, and Misty is reaching for the food again, her half smile aimed at Cordelia the entire time. “You want another one?” 

She's still kind of full from the last, but Misty is irresistible. She nods, teeth just barely catching the skin of her lips.  

“Will you come here again?” Misty questions while they construct their s’mores, almost shyly. Like Cordelia could ever say no.  

She places her food into the crackling fire, nodding on instinct. “You'll have a hard time getting rid of me.” She chuckles. “There’s a bed. I might just move in for the week.” 

The Cajun looks all too delighted at that idea. She hides it with a squeaky reply. “Please, you'd be scared that the ‘gators would eat you.” 

She feigns offence with wide eyes and an even wider smile. “No, I wouldn’t.” 

Misty sets a hard side eye her way, one side of her mouth twisting in mirth. “You City folk wouldn’t last a day out here.” She pushes, face growing lighter despite the dwindling sun. 

City folk? ” She scoffs. “So that’s what you think about me, huh?”  

Her giggles say it all, but she does bustle up to Cordelia’s side as she pulls her steaming s'more from the fire and shoves it eagerly between her lips. “Alright, maybe you’d last  two days.” 

She almost shoves her, playfully so, but finds all limbs stuck in place with a great deal of reluctance. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t want Misty to increase the gap between them; she wants the void that keeps them separated to vanish. Because something pulls her nearer, like a magnetic tug. And she thinks she couldn't draw back even if someone tried to physical move her.  

“I'll prove you wrong one day.” She insists, playful and teasing.  

Misty chews messily on her food. She’s so close that she can see crumbs fall out when she speaks with her mouth half full. “Oh yeah?”  

“Yup.”  

She accentuates her response with a bite of her own s'more, left sizzling for too long so now its more goop than any sort of integral structure. Either way, she bites it and faces the consequences of it practically dripping down her chin, slightly stinging on the way. A noise follows, something close to a moan, as she tries encourage the most of it into her mouth, all the while thinking how unladylike this all is.  

Misty only watches her with a gentle gaze, lips twitching like she shouldn’t be enjoying it, but she definitely is.  

She does, however, gather up the sleeve of her hoodie and reach for Cordelia with her free hand. “And you always say that I’m messy.” She smirks, beginning to clean away the leftovers with her sleeve, despite Cordelia’s protests that it’s getting dirty.   

Misty’s concentration holds her like in frozen audience. She counts the very faint few freckles that sit on the bridge of her nose, then migrates past the bruises to those lips, as always. Inside, she curses herself for it. Yet on the outside she must be wearing a dopey, enamored cloak of an expression. The sleeve disappears, but Misty’s touch doesn’t. It makes her eyes sting hotter than the nearby fire does. Misty regards her with kind eyes that don’t stop moving, like they’re memorizing every part of her face. Such attention would normally make her squirm. Not today. Her muscles comply under its request, sitting still and relinquishing all control.  

Misty’s gaze stops on her lips, transfixed like they’re still covered in chocolate and marshmallow. For a moment, just a fleeting second, she really thinks that Misty is going to kiss her.  

And she knows that it’s her own damn wishful thinking, because Misty is shifting in that way that she does with features adopting an altogether downcast movement. Her hand on Cordelia's chin drops, limp, and confusion ebbs from the Cajun out in her direction. She frowns at Misty. “Is everything okay?” 

All the color floods from her face, and the skin now only reflects the orange glow of the fire. “Oh yeah.” She squeaks hurriedly. “I got it all, I think.” Misty smiles, though it lacks intention as Cordelia furrows her brows at her strange tone. “I’m totally fine.” 

“You sure?” 

Her fingers connect with her arm again; Misty subtly leans out of the touch. “Hm huh.” She nods, pursing her lips. “It’s been a long day.” 

Cordelia responds with a dry smile of her own, even if her eyes waver with concern. In the back of her mind, all she can think is that their lips were inches apart and she would have given anything for them to connect. “It's been a long week.” She corrects. 

“Yeah.”  

She hums. 

Quiet. Just enough to give them both time to contemplate. “Delia?” 

“Misty?” She grins. 

Misty does that thing, that wonderful imitation of a sad puppy. As always, she falls for it hook, line and sinker.  

“Promise we won’t ever fight again?” 

The air seizes in her lungs. “Misty, I can’t promise that. I don’t know if we'll fight again.” 

She winces. “You think we will?” God, why does she have to sound so broken?  

“No, well – I hope not. But it’s normal for people to fight, isn’t it? Sometimes.”  

Her head bows and focuses on the floor. “I guess.” 

It makes her want to agree to the promise without a moment’s hesitation, yet she works on somewhat of a compromise. “How about we both promise not to be idiots next time we fight? And be honest and open with each other?”  

Misty’s tiny smile begins to grow just like the fire had. “That sounds like somethin’ I could agree to.”  

Her smile widens, even if something churns uneasily in her stomach at the thought of what she's about to do next. “And. . . in the spirit of honesty. . .” 

“Yeah?” Misty pushes in earnest when the pause lasts that little bit too long. 

“I want to tell you something.”  

Misty’s grow big as saucers, listening intently. “W – what?” 

“I - " She stalls, then closes her eyes as if that’s going to banish away her fears that begin to creep in. “I know that I haven’t told you everything.” She swallow thickly. “And I guess a part of me is kind of scared.” 

“Scared?” Her face pinches together in uncertainty. 

“Yes. Because of how you'd react.” 

She’s shaking her head, all kinds of befuddled. “I don’t understand. You're not gonna tell me you’re some secret animal abuser, are ya?” 

“No.” She gives a shaky laugh, poking eyes open just enough to catch Misty’s growing confusion. “I just. . . you – your family. . .” 

“What do they have to do with this?” 

Her chest tightens; she very much considers aborting this entire thing. If this queasiness persists, she might actually throw up in the next few minutes. “Nothing. Well, I – Misty, the person that I had a crush on . . .” 

Misty only stares.  

She doesn’t want to do this. She doesn’t want to tell her, because that icy fear nips at her insides. What if Misty reacts badly? She isn’t sure if she can deal with the Cajun regarding her with that venom in her eyes once again.  

But she finds herself biting the bullet with a breathy confession.  

“It was a girl, Misty.” She expects the words to come out weakly, yet a quiet strength envelopes them. “I think I like girls.”  

 

Chapter Text

She isn’t sure how she ever thought she’d feel when she finally utters those words to Misty, words that before have made her so ridden with anxiety that she can barely breathe. But the second they leave her lips, there’s a strange sense of calm that surrounds her. It might be some hopeful form of delusion that maybe it might not be so bad, or it might be the calm before the storm.  

Still, it’s quiet.  

So hushed that even the symphony of the swamp doesn’t manage to reach her ears. Like the entire world has paused around them on baited breath to witness her moment of vulnerability.  

For the longest time, Misty just watches her. With the firelight flickering back in her widened eyes and disbelief clinging to the gaze, as though she hasn’t quite heard her right.  

All the while, she finds anxiety gnawing at her insides with no sign of surrendering. Despite the fire next to them, her world suddenly feels colder in the wake of Misty's silence.  

But she finds her voice, eventually. Even if it’s awfully quiet. “Girls?” She repeats.  

Cordelia nods, finding herself gulping on air.  

Misty worries her lower lip. “As in, you think you’re gay?”  

Cordelia can’t quite decipher what emotions lace her voice. She doesn’t know that it’s either relief or anger, more like a befuddled mixture of both.  All she is aware of is the voice in her heart begging Misty to be the understanding and kind hearted person that she cares for, and that no judgement will come from the Cajun. If she believed in God, she’d be praying to him right now  

She doesn’t. Nor does she believe in any other deities, so her thoughts are kept firmly inside of her reeling mind. Soon, it begins to throb with her own pulse, the blood hot in her ears. She wonders how she must appear to Misty, if her silent panic is written all over her features, plain to see.  

Though Misty is continuing to stare at her like she’s just asked her to recite the entire pi formula.  

“Bisexual. I think. I guess.” Misty’s eyelashes flutter in a series of surprise. “It means I’m attracted to both.” 

“I know what a bisexual is.” Misty says, voice still all hushed like she fears someone will hear them. 

“How long have you known?”  

She stares anywhere but at Misty. “A couple of years.” 

The Cajun’s voice cracks when she speaks again, unsure. “Why didn’t you tell me before?” 

Any air that remains in her lungs retreats in fear. “Because you. . . you’re. . .” 

“I’m what?” she asks thickly, bordering on offended. 

She gives the longest sigh she’s ever had in her life, so much so that her lungs shrink with the vanishing air. “Misty.” She whispers out, hearing the tremor in her voice and hating herself for it. This is Misty; she’s the kindest person she knows. But said kindness is hidden behind the something that’s making her Cordelia feel a quake in her bones. “I just – I didn’t want you to think any less of me.”  

Her face scrunches together, full of warped lines and sadness. “I would never – " Her eyes flash with something. “Why would you think that?”  

Ever so briefly, she turns away, unable to look at the intricate way that emotions move over her features. She tries to keep her gaze averted. It fights back, intent to settle on Misty even if it makes her insides clench.  

“You remember a few months ago?” she starts. “We were at school. It was the day after we egged Hank’s car, remember?”  

She gives a firm nod. 

Cordelia pulls in another breath, not enough to fill her chest. But just enough to relieve her of the feeling of breathlessness. “And we were just talking about things. . . all kinds of stuff. Then we got onto the subject of your dad.” Upon hearing that, Misty’s head tilts thoughtfully to one side, the corners of her eyes pinched together. “You said, that he’d kick you out of the house if any of you were gay.”  

Realization floods over her features, even if Misty doesn’t seem to welcome to implication. She presses her palm against the ground, fingertips brushing up on some wilting weeds just beside her. “So?” 

“I don’t know. . .” she grimaces. “That just scared me.”  

The next time Misty speaks, it’s not the sweet cadence that Cordelia swoons over, but instead devoid of any contentment that she’d felt not too long ago. “Why?” she probes, even if she clearly seems trepid about the answer.  

The muscles of her mouth tighten in reluctance.  

She finds her gaze drifting over Misty, staring down to the cross necklace that hangs among a couple of others. The gold shimmer stands proudly, forcing any other jewellery to shrink in its wake. Cordelia must stare longer than she realizes, a sinking lull overwhelming her. She wonders if Misty’s skin burns under the scrutiny, because she’s giving the smallest of peers downwards.  

Cordelia is caught out all too quickly, eyes still on the cross. It causes Misty’s face to tug with a deep frown as she glances downwards too, then her spare hand moves to wrap around it delicately. Lips part in understanding, most definitely in offence now. “You’re scared that’s what I think too?”  

Shame clutches at her.  

“You think,” she continues, pointing out all of Cordelia’s biggest worries, “that ‘cause of how I was brought up, that I’m gonna hate you for this.” 

She doesn’t say anything. That, of itself, says it all.  

Misty’s face twists in devastation. “You do, don’t you?” 

“Can you blame me?” She says.  

There’s an obvious flinch, even if the words hadn’t been spouted in anger. “What do ya mean?” 

“Misty, you beat someone up because they called me a dyke. You’ve used the word yourself.” Her eyes scrunch shut, throat constricting. “When Madison joked that you were gay, you were so angry that you stormed out. If someone so much as mentions the word gay, you get this really weird look and go all quiet. So yes, maybe it does seem like sometimes you. . . you. . .” 

Like you could be homophobic.  

Misty seems to shrink under a hefty amount of gloom, fingers idly playing with her cross necklace. “I don’t - " She begins  cutting herself short with something dark in her azure gaze. 

“You just – sometimes I am scared that you think that way, Misty.” 

Hurt is all too evident in her every movement. She turns away abruptly, her lips glued into one strained line that Cordelia stares at with an ache in her chest. There’s a shuffle of dirt beneath her shoes as Misty tugs her legs up to her chest and hugs knees to herself. Her chin rests on them, eyes becoming wet. “I used to think like that .” 

Her heart skips a beat, not in a good way. More in a way she fears it may stop completely.  

Then, Misty is squinting one eye open, as daring as she can be. “When you're told all your life that somethin’ is wrong and disgustin’, I guess you believe it.” 

She feels herself itching to reach out, to comfort Misty in some way, but the weight of the conversation plays on her mind. And she’s just told her that she's gay and will Misty take it the wrong way? Could her simple touch possibly make Misty freak out? She tries not to allow such thoughts in her mind but they plague it either way. Her heart strums in an erratic beat and why does she always have to overthink these things and – 

Oh . Without prompting, there are suddenly calloused hands on hers, wrapping around and a thumb brushing over the ring she always wears on her middle finger. 

Misty’s voice chokes with emotion. “Will you stop lookin’ at me like that?” 

“Like what?” 

“Like I'm about to start damning you to an eternity in Hell.” 

She laughs, a dry and harsh noise that struggles to find the humor in the situation. “Aren't you?”  

The Cajun sets an empty stare on her.  

“Misty.” 

“You couldn’t ever go to Hell.” She says, insistent and strong, and with an assurance that she believes every word she's saying. 

She licks her lips, thoughtfully. “But you think other gay people will?” 

Her eyes set darkly on Cordelia. “That ain't fair.” 

She does think that. The contents of her stomach churn with an uneasy vengeance, making the s'more  want to resurface. But Misty deflates, all kinds of troubled. Her bleak retort barely carries over the sound of the nearby flames. “I honestly don’t know what I think anymore.” 

Her words sway with delicate musing. “My Daddy always says that the bible has all the answers we need.” Misty lets her eyes open further, the sapphire irises a swill of conflict. “No matter how many times I read it, I never seem to get the right ones.” 

She moves her hand away from Cordelia's to wipe at the corners of her eyes where tears threaten. But then it’s back, holding onto the older blonde's fingers like her life depends on it.  

Cordelia stalls. This is one area where she can’t truly understand Misty, even when she opens up about her home life. Fiona may not have been the best mother and she may judge certain aspects of her daughter. Never her sexuality. But Misty's family are different. Okay, she doesn’t really know them. And maybe judging them in such a way is a step too far. She can’t help herself. Being attracted to girls is something that she's never chosen to happen to her, and the idea of being condemned for it makes her stomach quiver. 

She imagines Misty at a young age, impressionable and naive, being told that homosexuality is wrong just as sure as the sky is blue.  

It makes her hold onto her hand that bit tighter.  

“I don’t want to say anything bad about your religion,” she begins in a tentative nature, “but I don’t think anything has all the answers.” 

Misty regards her with a tilt of her head, pretty curls shifting. “Ya think?” If anything, this allows the Cajun to be swept up in further sadness. 

She shakes her head.  

“No one knows everything.” She shrugs. 

“Not even God?”  

Cordelia squirms at that particular question, but replies nonetheless. “That’s for you to decide, Misty.” 

She puckers her lips in thought, all pink and wrinkled, drawing Cordelia’s attention. Misty slackens the muscles of her legs, just slightly, so they stretch out further toward the fire. Her eyes lighten, filled with hope, even if it might be fruitless. “Maybe you could ask your family  . . Or your pastor?” 

What?” She cringes in an instant. “I can’t do that.” 

“Why not?” 

“I just can’t.” Her grumble gives Cordelia enough of an idea that she isn’t going to convince her of this. But the conversation stifles the air around them like thick smoke, and she'd give anything to feel fresh air in her lungs once more. Misty peers at her, all kinds of beautiful even with the desolate way that her lips and eyes fall. “Did you really think I was going to be mad at you for this?” 

Guilt washes over her features. “Well, I'd hoped not. But there was this tiny, nagging voice at the back of my head that maybe. . .” 

“I told you.” Misty begins, heartfelt. “I don’t ever want us to fight again. So, if you like girls then. . .” She sucks in a breath, gaze shimmering. “Then. . .”   

She's all twitchy again, observing the gap between them with nothing short of detest. All of a sudden, Misty is shifting onto her knees and bouncing with a frantic energy that appears from the very depths of her soul. Her hand never leaves Cordelia’s the whole time, and now she's inching closer. “After all you’ve done for me, what kinda friend would I be if I was upset at you for this?”  

Those words are all Cordelia needs to break any inhibitions that keep her held in place. Without hesitation, she is throwing her arms around Misty and hoping that it's not too much in light of their conversation topic. But Misty reciprocates in just as much ardor, her arms locking around Cordelia like they might never let go. A face nuzzles into the crook of her neck, inhaling deeply. She wants to speak, to say something to let Misty know how grateful she is for this acceptance. Want and ability are two very different things, and any capability to use words vanishes in Misty's grasp. 

Maybe the way she holds her says it enough, with fingers clutching through hair and the other hand just above the small of her back. It keeps her near, steady. 

And she can hear her breath hitching with her own tears, sharp in her throat. Misty peels back, appraising the tears with eyes are wide as the moon. “Why are you cryin’?” She blinks, all watery with the serene world around them reflected in her pupils. 

“I’ve wanted to tell you for so long.” Her voice trembles. “I’m sorry that I didn’t.” 

“Hey.” Misty is there, close again. Like she doesn’t realize she’s sending Cordelia into a spiral of emotions just by the way her aura seems to blends with hers. She gives another sad smile, trying to be strong for her friend. “Don’t say sorry. I get it.” Dejection tugs at the corners of her lips. “I really get it. You don’t need to apologize to me. I’ll love you no matter what, silly.” 

She half expects hearing those words to summon a fire of passion inside of her, but her heart beats glumly. Because it’s not a confession of the same love that resides inside of her for Misty. That love that is fiery and persistent and so damn overwhelming that she can’t think straight sometimes. No. It’s the kind of love between two friends, just like she'd say it to Mallory, or Zoe. Not unique. Not especially for her. Cordelia’s heart pangs at her unreciprocated feelings, and she tries with all her might to hide that from Misty.  

Cordelia doesn’t say anything of the sort back, but she does let Misty tug her in for another embrace.  

They sit there until the blanket of dark falls over them and the fire diminishes save for the tiniest of flames remain. At some point, they must pull apart, though she isn’t sure who does that first. She looks up at the stars then, just beginning to greet them both. Most of the celestial bodies are surprisingly dim, no more than speckles against the dark blue. But a few twinkle delightfully and shamelessly over their heads. She catches Misty staring at them too, and a barely there smile appears on her plump lips.  

 A shiver crawls slowly down her back and she shudders on the spot.  

Misty notices, placing a hand on her shoulder. “C'mon. Let’s go inside.”  

She finds herself standing slowly, still peering upwards with interest. “Actually,” She sighs, “it’s getting pretty late.”  

The Cajun drips in disappointment. “Oh yeah.” Her tongue nervously runs the length of her lips. “Yeah, I guess.” 

“You know me,” she starts with a self deprecating grin, “if it gets too dark, I might never find my way back to the car.” 

“We could stay here.” Misty gestures to the cabin. “Both of us.” 

Such an idea has her insides seizing with ice; she unequivocally knows that if she spends a night by Misty’s side then she's going to be riddled with that aching love in her heart. The same love that’s beginning to hurt.  

She shakes her head, hating the way Misty's face drops instantaneously. “You should go back. If someone checks and you’re not in your room, you're going to get in trouble.” 

“I don’t care - " 

“Misty.” It leaves no room for arguing. 

The Cajun sighs, her features tight. “Least let me walk you back to your car?”  

Cordelia hesitates, just for a moment.  

This forces a shy and tentative smile out of her friend. “Can't have it on my conscience if you get lost.” She just about teases, a twinkle in her eye, brighter than any of the stars above their heads. 

She can’t reject her twice in the matter of a minute, and so she finds herself nodding. “Okay.” 

Misty’s smile grows, just slightly. She moves to take the stereo back inside and then returns with a tub of water, killing the flames as she pours it out. Sizzling rings in Cordelia’s ears. Over that, she's sure that she can make out a hooting owl.  

When she catches eyes with Misty, who had been scuffing the smoking twigs with the sole of her shoe, the Cajun’s lips twist delightfully. “She's got eggs, ya know? Three of ‘em.” She turns and stares right into the tree hollow that Cordelia can barely make out in the dark. “Shouldn’t be too long ‘til they hatch.” 

“She doesn’t mind you looking in her nest?” 

Misty rolls her eyes softly. “Ain’t like I'm touchin’ any of the stuff in there.” She shrugs. “We got an understandin’. I take her worms sometimes, and she lets me look.” 

As always, she finds herself oddly endeared. Her smile returns from its long migration, settling onto her face like dew sits prettily on green grass in spring. Misty regards it all too intently. 

She reaches out, taking hold of Cordelia's hand. “C'mon, City girl.”  

The older blonde finds that she's smiling to herself, stained with fondness, at the nickname. Even more so, the cold hand around hers maintains said smile in place. Quiet contemplation keeps the two busy on the walk back. The woods are different in the dark, trees intimidating walls that convolute the way. She's grateful for the steady compass that is the Cajun, confidently leading every step of the way.  

Soon, they linger by her car.  

This is where Misty decides to return to the heaviness of their earlier conversation, just as she thought she'd shed its unbearable weight from her shoulders. “Cordelia?” 

“Yeah?” 

Misty’s hand is slipping from hers now, though her voice sings of a soft affection. Like a friend's would.  

“Things won’t change between us because of what you told me.” She insists, her head bowing just that bit so Cordelia can’t see the conflict in her eyes. “You're still my  friend.” 

I want things to change. I want to kiss you and hold you and be able to call you my girlfriend. She hides her grimace under the guise of a smile, then corrects Misty. “Best friend.” 

She grins, her cheeks rosy against porcelain skin. Relief is evident in her shimmering gaze. “Right.” 

Cordelia looks to her car. “Can I give you a ride back?” 

“Nah, I can’t sneak in that way. If the dogs see me, they'll start barkin’ and someone’ll come out to check.” 

Her lips part into a small ‘o’, a nod following. She hates the idea of Misty ambling alone through these woods, even if the girl insists that she knows them like the back of her hand. “Promise you'll stay safe?” 

She gives a low laugh, laced with affection. “Promise.” 

“And that you'll let me know when you get home?” 

“The second I get back.” Her grin widens, nose crinkling as mirth fills every inch of her expression. “You don’t have to worry about me.” Cordelia gives her a sharp look. “I know, I know. You always worry.” 

“Mom friend.” She points to herself, half smirking even as a thickness still clutches to her words. “Comes with the territory.” 

This summons tiny giggles from Misty that wonderfully fill the night air. She suddenly doesn’t want to go, but her fingers loiter around the door handle. Even so, they continue to stare at each other in a stalemate as to who's actually going to leave first.  

Before any decision is made, another question leaps from Misty’s lips. “When will you come again?”  

“Tomorrow.” Her reply comes, just as eager, surprisingly fast. A kneejerk reaction where the information doesn’t even pause to filter through her brain.  

Misty looks at her like with no lack of cherish in her gaze. 

She draws her nearer for one final hug, a lasting one. If she lets her imagination run wild, she can imagine the lips that linger just near her earlobe pressed warmly against her skin. Cordelia closes her eyes and chases the selfish thought away with reprimands that she's all too familiar with. 

... 

She does come back the next day, and they sit outside again. This time, there are no stark confessions. Nothing to twist their conversation from the laughter and serenity.  

Maybe that’s because they so desperately try to cling to that light air.  

But she can’t help wondering if Misty had sat in bed the night before, just like she had, replaying the evening prior over and over until the thoughts stung and pinched at her.  

Then, Misty is smiling at her, and she thinks surely not. She forces herself to believe it. The idea of Misty giving it another further thought both terrifies and exhilarates her. 

And that keeps her from bringing it up again. 

... 

“How's Misty?”  

Queenie asks gently on their way to the library, her gaze full of inquisitiveness. 

She sighs, just having got the Cajun out of her head. “She's fine.”  

“That's all you gonna say?”  

Zoe is watching too, thoughtful as ever. The three slow, making to sit at one of the empty tables and shoving their books loudly onto it with a clatter. “You can always ask her yourself, you know?” Exasperation flows from her lips. “She has a phone.” 

Why is it always that people come to her about Misty rather than to the girl herself? 

Bypassing that aspect of the conversation, Zoe leads forward with a tender smile. “How is everything between you guys?” 

“It's fine.” She says, further annoying her friends with a lack of description. The two share a look that she chooses to give no notice to. Her eyes focuses solely on the prose in front of her.  

They continue to watch her, as though she’s about to perform some spectacular trick. Unfortunately for them, she's pretty insistent on keeping her mind occupied. “So you made up?” 

She eyes them, just barely. “Yup.” 

The longer she continues to stare at the words, the more they begin to blur. Cordelia can hear Misty’s voice in her head, berating her playfully for not wearing her glasses. With a stifled smile, she searches through her bag for them. Eyes persist in her direction. She groans, blinking up at their clearer faces with her black rimmed glasses perched neatly on her face. 

“That's all you’re gonna say?” Zoe pushes. 

“Well, we were fighting, and now we're not.” She gives an wildly compact explanation with a small shrug. “That’s about all there is to it.” 

Queenie frowns at her, eyes hard and beady. “You gonna tell us what you were fighting about?” 

She slowly turns the page as she finishes reading the paragraph, even if her concentration wavers. “No, I'm not.” 

Beside her, Zoe sighs at Queenie. “It's no use. They’re both tight lipped about the whole thing.” 

“You asked Misty about it?” 

“Of course I did.” She deadpans.  

Cordelia pauses, hand gently holding the page in place. “What did she say?” Despite her attempt, interest hijacks her words.  

“Less than you.” She smirks and shakes her head lightly. “I didn’t push it ‘cause she's kind of scary sometimes.” She's opening her mouth to protest when Zoe cuts off her retort with a knowing glower. “She did beat someone up, after all.”  

“Once.” She defends, knowing in her heart that she's lying and it’s not the first time Misty has resorted to fisticuffs to solve her problems. “And the girl was fine.” Her face twists in annoyance. “She didn’t even get suspended for as long as Misty – it’s totally unfair.” 

“Yeah, from what I heard Misty got it pretty bad, too.” Queenie frowns, concerned.  

This does succeed in tempting more information out of Cordelia. “She’s just a little bruised up.” 

“So, you've been to see her?” Curious words flow from Zoe, who is close to smirking.  As if going to visit her injured best friend implies that there’s some secret love affair going on between the two. 

She sighs ever so softly. “Uh yeah, I saw her this weekend.” 

“I thought she was grounded?” 

Cordelia flushes, feeling well and truly busted. She's awfully glad that Madison isn’t here to mock her for the way her expression contorts at the realization around the room.  

“Are you sneaking into her house?” Laughter carries from Queenie, who delights in her sudden shyness. The gentle probing is something she’s experienced before, aimed toward her every time she's had a crush on a boy and her friends want the details. Cordelia feels her forehead crease at the idea of not only Zoe realizing her feelings for Misty, but Queenie, too.  

She gives her friend a look. “No, I'm not. Can we just focus on our work?” 

“Oh but that's boring.” She leans forward, giddily. “But this – this is juicy. You and Misty. . .” 

Cordelia gasps, reaching to hush Queenie with a hand clamped over her mouth. “Jesus, do you wanna say that any louder?” Peering frantically, she attempts to pinpoint anyone that might have heard that statement. 

Her hand is shoved off in annoyance. “Not cool.” Queenie grumbles.  

But Cordelia struggles to care at all as she attempts to subside the panic inside of her. She doesn’t like a these people knowing. Too many people. It was so much easier when she'd be the only one burdened with this knowledge, and now it feels like half the school is in on it.  

Zoe's hand locks onto hers. “Seriously though. How are things with the two of you?” 

“They. . .” She stalls, not really sure that their free period is enough time to describe the rollercoaster that is her friendship with Misty. In the past few weeks alone, secrets have come to light that make pain clutch at her heart with no sign of surrender. But the tempestuous moments seem to be disappearing, she hopes. More than anything.  

She thinks back to the night prior at Misty’s cabin, where the girl had flung a shawl on herself then one on Cordelia, insisting that they spin and twirl together. Jovial laughter had filled her ears then, shameless and light, and just a content that only Misty can make her feel. “Things are good.” She eventually says to Zoe.  

The brunette smiles. 

Queenie butts in. “Well, I’m glad. Please don’t fight again.” Her eyes plead. “Do you know how awkward it was? Like you two had broken up or something.”  

Something jars without warning in her chest, so strong that it takes her a moment to get her words out. “Can you guys stop saying stuff like that?”  

“Like what?” 

A groan crawls up her lips. “Jokes. Comments. Anything about Misty and I dating.” She furiously turns to another page. “It’s never going to happen and I’d appreciate it if you stopped making the both of us uncomfortable.”  

“Well, if you told her that you’re -” 

“I have, actually.” She cuts out, instantly regretting it the second the words leave her lips. 

Zoe’s eyes bulge excitedly “You told her you had a crush on her?”  

“What? No. I told her that I’m attracted to girls.” 

They pause, just for a moment’s respite. The other two, with shared musing, and Cordelia, with a tension in her muscles that she tries to shake herself free of. “What did she say?” Queenie eventually asks.  

“She’s fine with it.”  

“Oh, that’s good then.” 

She gives a small nod.  

“Is that why you’ve been fighting for two weeks?” They push, ever so insistent on finding out the reason.  

Cordelia refuses to budge. “No, it’s not. That was something else.” Ambiguity draws frowns from the pair, and she says nothing else of the topic.  

… 

“Um, a little higher.” Misty says, a thoughtful finger pushing against her lip. She watches as Cordelia adjusts the string lights in her hands, hoisting them that little bit up against the wooden wall. Her face splits into a grin. “Yeah. Perfect.”  

The older blonde sighs in relief, seeing as her arms ache for holding them up for so long. She pins the last of the copper string to the wood before making to climb down off of the bed and admire her handiwork. Beside her, Misty beams just as bright as the lights. “They look nice.”  

She gets an eager nod in return. “They’re beautiful. Thanks for gettin' them for me, Delia.” 

“I thought it would cheer you up.” I just wanted to see you smile.  

Misty’s eyes sparkle with devotion. “Well, it worked.” Then, she grins. “An’ it makes up for you bringing me loads of school notes.”  

An indignant huff follows. “You asked me to get you those!” 

“Don’t mean I’m happy to have so much work.” She looks to the lights again, then makes to get herself comfortable on the bed. Cordelia follows not much long after, when Misty’s eyes relent on her until she sits down. 

“I did say I’d help you catch up.”  

Her gaze softens. “Yeah, guess so.”  

Cordelia peers at the stack of sheets on the bedside table. Once neatly placed into a pile and now rather askew from Misty’s curious investigation through them all until she decided they were rather dull. “We could do something now,” she gestures to them, “if you want?” 

By the way her nose crinkles up in distaste, she most definitely does not want to.  

She heaves in a sigh. “I’ve been stuck with Tommy all damn day. Last thing I wanna do is sit and work out math problems right now.”  

“Not even with me?” Cordelia teases, not sure where from inside of her that came from.  

Even so, it makes Misty grin, so she supposes she can’t be too upset with herself for it.  

Misty pokes up one brow. “Maybe then. But right now I just wanna sit.”  

“Sit?” 

“Hmmm. Yeah.” 

As she says so, she reclines against the pillows on the bed, chest rising and falling with a series of calm breaths. Cordelia watches, taking in sight of her friend in this state. The serenity in the air is nice; the music in the background, the sweet smell that sits pleasantly around them, even watching Misty’s breaths seems to allow her to go into some trance like state.  

She could stay here forever, no future, no responsibility. Just being, with her favorite person.  

Her eyes narrow with scrutiny as she does peer back over Misty, double taking the weariness around her eyes. “You look tired.” She announces. Although it’s a statement, the expectancy of an answer lingers around them.  

Misty rubs at those eyes, pupils unfocused for just a second. “I’ve been gettin' up at practically the crack of dawn to run.” She fidgets with the bed sheets. “Coach said not to get outta practise so. . .” When her eyes lift again, Cordelia stares right into them. “Then I’ve been stayin’ here late with you, ‘n Buddy cries all night when I do get back.” A short laugh carries over. “It’s a miracle I get any sleep at all.”  

“You’re gonna wear yourself out.” She insists. 

She shakes her head firmly, stubbornly. “I’ll be fine.”  

Disbelief spreads through her features, and her caring nature prevails as always. “Why don’t you have a nap now?”  

More laughter, genuine this time. “Right now?”  

“Yeah.” Her smile may be faint, but it’s there. Misty lets her scepticism show all too clearly on her expression, even if there’s a humor behind her gaze.  

“I’m not gonna go to sleep on ya, Delia. You drove out all this way.” 

“But you’re tired.”  

“Don’t matter.”  

There’s something about Misty’s wilful retorts that she finds far too endearing. Perhaps the playful way that Misty regards her, or maybe how she can feel the care radiating from her own body. She likes to care about people; she likes the way they smile when they realize there’s someone on their side. Like Misty, right now, so intent on her that she feels her soul stripped naked in front of the Cajun.  

“You know it does to me.”  

Misty’s hand is in hers, and even if she’s feigning annoyance at her overbearing nature, there is no credit to it. “I know.” She chuckles. “Still don’t mean I’m gonna nap with you here. I mean, how rude is that?” 

She barely holds in a sigh. “You are so stubborn, Misty.”  

“Speak for yourself.”  

Cordelia shifts, the springs of the mattress protesting loudly to the movement. That movement that takes her closer to Misty where their legs brush against one another. The Cajun stares down, just for a moment, with a tiny tug on her lower lip. “You gonna tuck me in now?” She jokes, voice unnaturally low and allowing warmth to settle delightfully in Cordelia’s tummy.  

She balks. “No. I -” 

Misty chuckles again, her fingers twitching in Cordelia’s. Both her brows rise now, as though silently questioning why Cordelia is moving that bit closer, though doing nothing to stop the course of action. When Cordelia fully lays next to her, in that tiny bed that they’re both hanging on the edge in, Misty stiffens initially.  

Her voice cracks in confusion. “W - what are you doin’?” 

“Lying down and taking a nap so that you have one too.”  

Eyes widen in a bewildered manner, though she fails to find a response.  

Cordelia fluffs the pillow beneath her head, resting as comfortably as she can. She’s not tired, not even close, but if this is what it takes to get Misty to listen to her, then so be it. Peering to Misty, she takes note of her tight muscles, keeping her restrained like a statue in her wakefulness. The Cajun seems to be observing the few inches between them where the sheets lay cold and untouched. Something lingers in her suddenly glossy eyes.  

The older blonde tries too much not to think about that; letting her mind wander is dangerous. Right now, she focuses on the fact that her friend has a need, no matter how small, and she can do something about it here and now.  

“Will you just close your eyes?” she requests, not a hint of impatience. In fact, her words are laced with sweetness.  

Misty bites her lip again, nodding. “Yeah. I guess I – " She blinks. “Just for a little while.”  

She scoots the tiniest bit closer, staring at the space again. A rather visible barrier that both deem is needed. Her eyes flutter closed, only for a few minutes, before they snap in Cordelia’s direction, who is already facing straight her way. “You sure you’re gonna sleep, too?” 

“Yeah.” She lies, moving stray hairs out of Misty’s face. “Now relax.” 

That’s easier said than done for the both of them, who sit stiff as the mattress beneath them. She’d give anything to hear Misty’s thoughts right now, to know why she clings to the pillow super tightly with her right hand, or why her eyes are scrunched together so. Maybe the Cajun was wrong, maybe things have changed between them in light of her confession.  

They’ve been in this position before, squeezed together on the very same bed. The rift between them hadn’t existed; it wasn’t even a thought in either of their minds. She looks to it in disdain, cursing the subtle changes it is making all too obvious to her.  

Misty begins to breath more evenly, her muscles falling lax against the mattress.  

She continues to stare at the space until sleep forces her to join Misty, though her own is far too restless.  

... 

The evening nap had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now interferes with her internal clock. Cordelia frowns as time passes ever so slowly with no release from the day. Tiredness tugs at her insides, just not enough to let her actually cross the line into slumber.  

She grumbles, flipping and twisting under the bed sheets as frustration creeps in.  

Turns out, she’s not the only one in this predicament.  

Strangely, that doesn’t bring her the catharsis that she thinks it would. Because the second she sees Misty’s caller ID flashing up, she gets a terrible feeling right at the pit of her stomach. She answers nonetheless, her voice dry from the cold night air. “Misty?”  

“Hey.” 

She rolls just slightly, frowning as her clock reads that it’s almost two am. Sitting up, her slow mind begins to register the tone of Misty’s voice, the desolate edge to it. And she begins to think that her gut feeling is right. “Everything okay?”  

Misty doesn’t answer.  

She says her name again, more desperately. 

“It’s really late.” She suddenly begins, clearly beginning to back pedal. “You were probably asleep. I shouldn’t hav -  

“What do you want me to do?” Cordelia cuts her guilt-ridden ramble. 

“Huh?”  

Gulping thickly, she ignores her exhaustion and focuses on Misty’s strained breathing. “What do you want me to do?” She repeats in earnest. “What will help?” Help you to not hurt yourself.  

“Can you just. . . just talk? Please.”  

She smiles wistfully. “Yeah. Of course I can.” The unease of the moment catches up on her already vulnerable state and she freezes. “About what?”  

“Oh.” She starts, all quiet and with tears in her voice. “Anythin’.”  

A pause lasts a lifetime as she ponders where to possibly start, whether light-hearted is the way to go, or if she throws endless support at her friend to heighten her spirits once again. She decides the latter may be too forced, smiling wryly as a certain topic pops up into her mind. “So, Madison is having another party. Next Friday.” Cordelia says. “It's sure to be a mess like they always are and people are going to get stupidly drunk.”  

Misty hums, showing that she’s listening.  

“We’re all invited. Coco even said we could get ready at hers together.” Her smile begins to grow, daring, even in light of the reason why she thinks Misty called her. “And I specifically remember a certain someone promising to come to the next party that happened.”  

“Am I gonna regret that?” 

Chuckles fall from her lips. “No, I’ll take care of you.” 

“From what everyone else tells me, you ain’t exactly that good at handlin’ your alcohol.”  

“Who said that?” 

The indignation to her tone summons more laughter from Misty, and she thinks maybe she’s helping. Just maybe. “People talk.”  

“I am very responsible.” She insists in a huff. “Just you wait and see.” Cordelia pauses for just a moment, letting her thoughts concrete. “You will come, won’t you?” You promised.  

“And miss seein’ you drunk? ‘Course I’ll come.” 

She breathes a sigh of both relief and happiness, seeing as she’d campaigned to Madison for a good while to have the party on a Friday for the exact reason that Misty could be there. “I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.” 

“We’ll see.” Misty teases back, an air of content reforming around her. Even if temporary. Because she’s asking another question that makes Cordelia’s insides clench. “Maddy ain’t gonna try and set me up with some guy, is she?” 

“No, she only says that to wind you up, Misty.”  

“Right.”  

Cordelia feels her face twist thoughtfully. “She’s only ever tried to do that to me once. Never again. I am not a fan of random make out sessions with strangers. Especially when I’m drunk.” She cringes, remembering all the time she’s felt straying hands on her. The only upside to being with Hank had been that her relationship status had kept all the creeps away.  

“Yeah,” she agrees, “that don’t sound like fun.” Then adds, with a sincerity that holds Cordelia’s heart a random. “If I ever kiss someone, I want it to be because I really care about them.”  

The simplicity of the words brings about an onslaught of more complicated and pressing questions, one of them that Cordelia almost asks. Almost. Her lips catch it just in time, the question of if she's ever been kissed before. It’s only then that it dawns on her, they’ve never spoken about that. Misty knows about each and every one of her boyfriends, all the relationship dribble and regret that they’ve laughed about since.  

No matter how she wracks her brain, she can’t think of a single time Misty has told her about any of her past relationships. Not that she’s judging. as if being with someone is resoundingly better. If anything, it just makes her more curious. How can someone as beautiful as Misty not have dated anyone before? But the night is late, drawing on with every second. She’s not ready to delve into those ideas, not yet.  

So, she sighs out an answer, unable to smile. “I wish I’d only ever kissed people that I care about.” 

Turns out, Misty is in the mood to provoke her restless mind further. “Have you ever kissed a girl?”  

“I - no, I haven’t."  

She can hear the way Misty’s breath stalls. “Then. . .” She inquires, “how do you know that you like ‘em?" Her voice no longer holds the sleepy and distressed intonations of before. She is completely baffled now, seeking answers for a world she doesn’t understand.  

Cordelia closes her eyes, not having expected this to be brought up so soon again. “I just do.”  

“How?” she pushes, as if desperate for an answer.  

“Because it feels right.”  

That damn, contemplative silence follows.  

“How did you feel,” Misty continues in a hush, “when you would see the girl that you liked?” 

Her heart just about spazzes in her chest. If Misty’s family could hear what she’s asking her right now, she’s sure the girl would be praying rosaries for weeks. “I -”  

“Cordelia?” The quiet must have gone on too long.  

“Full.”  

She laughs. “What?”  

The choice of a response brings the hottest of blushes to her cheeks and ears. She resists the urge to hide her face under the pillow, even if Misty can’t physically see it. “I felt full – full of every happy emotion you can think of. Like I could burst at any moment.”  

Misty hums a half response.  

“Why do you want to know?” she asks thickly.  

“Just curious, I guess. I’ve been thinkin’ about it, since you told me.” Now, Cordelia does retreat under the pillow where maybe the tightness in her chest can’t follow her. “I dunno why. I just. . . I just wanted to know.”  

Cordelia lets the words settle slowly on her brain, but it refuses to make any sense of them.  

“Was she pretty?” 

Misty’s question yet again leaves her dumbfounded, floundering for the right words to say. In the end, she knows there are only few options to describe the girl she was (is) infatuated with. “She’s beautiful.”  

Oh.” Words sit heavy with something. Distraught? Annoyance? Cordelia doesn’t allow herself to even consider it. They’re both tired. Misty is fragile right now. This means nothing.  

And even so, she knows that Misty wouldn’t be asking if it really is nothing.  

Chapter Text

“Misty, please.”  

“No.”  

A groan. “It’ll look nice. I promise you!”  

Hesitations holds back her response. “I ain’t ever straightened it before. . .” Misty absently touches the ends of her hair, wild and unruly, and apparently begging for Coco to style it. Even if the Cajun holds some reservations about that.  

Coco grabs her by the shoulders, shoving her down into the chair just in front of her vanity. “Which is whywill do everything for you.” She runs her own hands though the curls, excited and thoughtful; not in the tender way that Cordelia often finds herself doing. “Mallory, pass me the brush.” 

Through the mirror, Misty catches sight of where Cordelia is smirking on the bed at her. Her eyes twinkle with the words ‘I told you so’ after they’d debated on the way here which one of them Coco was going to try and dress up. Misty pulls a face, annoyed but playful, and gives a roll of her eyes. Still, there’s a smile that lingers in the corner of her mouth.  

It lasts for all of about three seconds until Coco drags a brush through her hair. “Jesus Christ.” She winces. “Are you tryin’ to scalp me?” 

“It’s not my fault your hair is so knotted,” she counters with a tut. The next time she strokes it through, the action is much gentler and Misty only manages a grimace.  

She purses her lips in irritation but doesn’t bite. Instead, her eyes keep drifting back to Cordelia like she’s going to help her through the ordeal of a semi makeover. All she gets from Cordelia are her stifled giggles. There’s something amusing about the way Misty shifts and grumbles like a petulant child, reprimanded every so often by Coco for not staying still.  

“I don’t know which one of you is going to kill the other first.” Mallory grins as she works on her own make up in a hand-held mirror. Two glares are thrown her way. 

Coco finishes her militant brushing and regards the frizzy mess she’s created, while Misty’s eyes widen in horror. “Don’t look like that.” She leans in over Misty’s shoulder. “You’re gonna look great. Every guy is gonna be staring at you the whole night.”  

At that, Misty pales ever so slightly, gaze flickering downwards. Her silence is enough to summon Cordelia’s gaze again, who watches the Cajun hum out a half-hearted, “yeah.” It gives her pause, but Coco is already speaking again.  

“Oh, this is going to be so much fun!” 

“As long as you don’t throw up again.” Mallory chimes in, teasing, and bringing color back to Misty’s face when she draws the conversation elsewhere.  

On the bed, Cordelia shifts and giggles. “You threw up last time?”  

Her haughtiness carries through easily in her response. “Someone spiked my drink, I swear. I didn’t have that much.” She suddenly smiles softly over to Mallory. “Least you were there to make sure I was fine.”  

“And watch you hurl out of my car window.” She shakes her head with laughter. “I’m beginning to think being the designated driver isn’t all it’s made out to be.”  

Misty tilts her head curiously. “You ain’t drinkin’? I thought that’s what people did at parties.”  

“No, my parents would kill me if they found out. And I’m a really bad liar.” She grins then, continuing with her eye liner. A casual point is aimed in Coco’s direction. “Plus, someone has to make sure these idiots are safe.”  

Coco glares, while Cordelia feels a response bubbling over her lips. “Hey! I’m not that bad.”  

There's a pointed glance from Mallory, whose smirk is subtle but definitely there. “It’s not the alcohol with you. You’re just so damn clumsy.” This summons a sharp laugh from Misty, low and gravelly, and enough to have Cordelia turning away with a flush in her cheeks. “I swear, I’ve seen you fall up stairs before.” 

“Whenever we go to the swamp, we can’t go five minutes without her trippin’ over her own feet.” Misty offers, laughing and all too fond. For the first time that night, she seems fully comfortable in Coco’s room, especially as her teasing blue eyes find purchase of Cordelia’s gaze. Her insides clench.  

“No, I don’t.” She feigns offence, grinning.  

The Cajun gives a toothy grin, head beginning to drift to the side as she regards the pink sitting wonderfully on Cordelia’s cheeks. That is, until Coco yanks it back into the center. “Stop moving,” she orders, gathering up thick tresses to start the process of straightening them. “Hey,” she starts in earnest, “why do we never get invited to the swamp?” 

She freezes in her seat, watching Misty in a careful nature to see what she could possibly respond with. It’s something Cordelia has never given a shred of thought to, but now the idea clings to her mind stubbornly.  

But Mallory comes to their rescue, voice assured and brimming with mirth. “Coco, you would get one speck of mud on your shoes and swear never to go again.”  

“You guys all think I’m some sort of snobby rich girl.” She grumbles.  

“Well, yeah.”  

Her hand tightens its hold on Misty’s hair as vexation courses through her, though it is only skin deep. Coco frowns. “Cordelia is rich too.” 

That statement is enough to have her dropping her lipstick in surprise, panicking as she hopes it doesn’t stain the sheets below. She wipes at it either way, not making eye contact with anyone in the room. “I’m not rich.” Cordelia counters, quietly.  

“Don’t you have like, a five million dollar trust fund from your dad?” She asks, a raised brow.  

In her seat, Misty’s eyes bulge wider. She turns on instinct, wanting to look directly at Cordelia and not just through the mirror. “ Five million dollars? ” she splutters out in absolute and complete disbelief, accent growing thicker. 

Cordelia squirms under the three sets of eyes. In the back of her mind, she can hear Fiona berating her for such a demure stature, and so straightens her back. Head high. Still, she doesn’t like the way that Misty is looking at her, and chooses to focus on Coco instead. “How did you know about that?”  

“Our moms are friends.” She shrugs. “I thought everyone knew.”  

Her frown persists. “No, I don’t really see the need to talk about it.”  

By now, Misty has curled back around to face forward, one side of her hair straight and the other resembling a mane. Cordelia studies her for a few seconds, then crosses the room to grab her dress from where it’s hung. “I’m going to get changed.” She doesn’t mean for it to sound perturbed, but maybe it does, just a little.  

Either way, she spends longer than intended in the bathroom, flattening every tiny wrinkle in her dress and ridding herself of any imperfections. The sound of laughter carries under the door, tempting her back into the bedroom. But she finds that she’s glued to the mirror in vanity, nit-picking everything. Stop it. She won’t even notice. Her heart thumps to a nervous song in her chest, and she washes clammy hands once again.  

Cordelia checks her make up one more time, satisfied, and tiptoes back into the room.  

She quickly has an open bottle of wine shoved into her hands. “Drink up.” Coco orders.  

“Already?”  

“Don’t you wanna get in the party spirit?” she smirks. 

Under her breath, she can hear Mallory lamenting how she’s going to be looking after people all night. But Cordelia is already taking a long sip and letting it settle like fire in her stomach. It calms her nerves, for all of about three seconds. Seeing as her drifting eyes move over her two friends, past the mess of strewn about make up and clothes, to where Misty is twirling in front of the mirror with the widest of grins on her face.  

Her dress is short, so damn short that most of her toned thighs are on display. They tense and relax under her movements; Cordelia wouldn’t be surprised if she’d started drooling at the sight. Misty must see her staring in the mirror. She has just enough time to pick her jaw up off of the floor before the Cajun is turning her way and - 

Holy fucking shit.  

She gulps against the driest of throat. Her hands are so damn clammy again, and she doesn’t think she’s capable of blinking. No, not at all. That would mean she’d have to take her gaze off of Misty for a full nanosecond and that just won’t do. Misty tries to fidget, to roll on the balls of her feet, but the heeled boots she’s in prevent her from doing that.  

Eyes, expertly accented with neat eyeliner and smoky eyeshadow, don’t leave Cordelia’s. “Well,” she bites her lip. Her lip that looks all plump and invited and sits with deep red lipstick on it. Fuck. Stop staring.“ What do ya think?” 

I think I’m so in love with you.  

Cordelia swallows again; it takes just as much effort as it does to find breath in the suddenly sweltering room. “You look. . .” Eyes rake over Misty once more, on that tight dress, on the taut skin where she can see her biceps, then back in a glorious ascent to her beautiful face. Not that she wasn’t beautiful before. She is always stunning to Cordelia, whether she’s drooling in her sleep, or laughing heartily as she twirls Cordelia around the cabin.  

It’s her soul that she finds to be the most alluring thing about her, the same way that shines through her bright, blue eyes as she looks to Cordelia expectantly.  

The older blonde sighs, smitten. She prays that no one else can hear that in her shuddery exhale. “You look really good.” 

Misty turns back to the mirror again, almost timid. “Yeah?” 

She makes to stand behind Misty now, a hand smoothing out her silky hair that looks so strange when it’s not ruled by curls. All the individual shades of blonde, some sandy and others golden, all combining in a stunning harmony of color. Misty catches her staring and smiles, demure. “It looks weird, huh?” Her hand rises too, grazing Cordelia’s. As it does, Misty jumps like she’d touched flames instead.  

“Not weird.” Cordelia breathes softly. “Just different. Nice.” 

The heat around her grows. She isn’t sure whether it’s the room or if something deep inside of her supplies it. She wonders if Misty feels it too. But Misty is spinning now, in turn appraising Cordelia. She stands even taller in her heels, gazing down with a smoulder that makes her heart sit in her stomach.  

Cordelia feels her fingers twitch around the bottle in her hand, then lamely offers it out. “You want some?” It breaks the cycle of just staring at each other; she’s sure she could skip the party and spend the entire night basking in the vision of Misty.  

Pale hands lift up to gently wrap around the neck of the bottle, and she takes it with a smirk on those red coated lips. Cordelia hardly notices, still gazing at her eyes, lost in pools of blue. She doesn’t ever want to get found.  

As Misty is taking a generous sip of the wine, Coco breaks away from her conversation with Mallory to bustle up next to them. “She looks hot, doesn’t she?”  

“Uh. . .” Her mind spasms at the very idea of telling Misty that she’s hot to her face, but her eyes are volleying between Coco and Cordelia, and she’s biting her damn lip again. “Yeah.” She agrees, so quiet that she hopes no one can hear.  

Coco narrows her eyes at the girl, though keeps any thoughts to herself and yanks the bottle away from Misty. Between the three of them, it is finished all too easily. She ignores the thick way that it clings to her throat, and instead embraces its relaxing powers. She’s certainly going to need it to keep her heart at a regular pace.  

True to her uncoordinated nature, and enhanced by alcohol, she tangles her own feet together just outside the front door. A set of cold hands keep her upright, and she follows them to a grinning Misty. “Honestly,” she giggles, “can’t take you anywhere.”  

She only laughs in response, enjoying Misty’s touch before it withdraws. There are only a few seconds to mourn the loss of it before Coco is linking their arms together and leading her to the car.  Cordelia holds in a sigh, wishing it was Misty there instead. Wishing she wouldn’t keep retreating. But as they settle in the car, their eyes lock, and all is forgotten. 

Nerves are exchanged for a warmth that makes home right in her core, one that she wants to stay there forever. 

… 

Cordelia blinks profusely as the alcohol makes steady work of blurring her vision. One more blink, harder, as she tries to focus on the person in front of her. That person being Zoe, who steadies her with an arm on either shoulder. “Jeez, how much have you had to drink?” 

She stares down to the last few droplets of pink liquid in her cup and grins sheepishly. “I - I don’t remember.” Her legs wobble beneath her, so she reaches for the nearest wall and hopes that it doesn’t fall out of her grasp. Lips part in her drunken stupor, eyes unfocused. “Where did Misty go?”  

Zoe smirks, “she went to dance, remember?”  

A confused head shake follows.  

“Yeah, she’s right over there.” Zoe points through the crowd of people where she can make out the distinct figure of the Cajun, her flowing blonde hair and the quirky way she spins. Like she can’t hear the beat of the drum and base music, but instead moves to the music that sweeps through her own mind. Cordelia smiles like the lovesick fool she is.  

Suddenly, she frowns. “Why is she on her own?” 

“Because she wanted to dance.” Zoe explains softly, laughing between each syllable. “And you were too busy talking to Queenie.” She wracks her fuzzy brain as best she can, forehead creasing with effort. “But you’re more than welcome to go dance with her now. . .” There’s an encouraging nature to her friend’s voice, and also in the way she nudges Cordelia ever so gently to where the others are dancing.  

She twists her head in Misty’s direction again, glossy eyes taking in the sight of her unique dancing; she moves as a free spirit, ignoring all of the looks she’s getting. Cordelia’s heart sways right along with her. 

Cordelia pauses, narrowing eyes at Zoe who is both amused and exasperated. “You’re up to something.” She decides.  

“I’m not.”  

The blonde points an accusing finger at her, though little anger clings to her words. She isn’t sober enough to even consider being annoyed. With music buzzing inside her head, and constant movement dizzying her peripherals, she can barely concentrate long enough to feel many emotions. “You so are.” She laughs at the way her own voice rises in octaves. 

Her friend rolls her eyes, grinning. “And what do you think I’m up to exactly?”  

She clamps her lips together, not brave enough to say it. Zoe infers it either way, and gives her another nudge, with her elbow this time.  

“You should go.” She laughs softly, “dance with her.”  

There might be thoughts in her mind that could lead to some sort of dissention, fuelled by alcohol. Zoe hides the majority of her coy expression behind her as she sips the drink from her red cup, the same stuff that has Cordelia in a dazed hold.  

But whatever her befuddled mind might be trying to figure out is usurped by something else. By the overwhelming and compelling notion that she really does want to dance with Misty. Her legs move without command; she doesn’t even get out so much as a goodbye to Zoe before she is navigating her way through the other drunk teenagers. Shoulders barge against her, guys get too close for her liking, and her vision blurs every few seconds.  

The faint smile on her mouth slips when someone knocks into her, sending her drink flying a few feet away. “Crap.” She mutters, so quiet that it’s lost long the music. All she can do is watch as the cup vanishes between dancing feet, a small sigh following.  

All disappointment floods from her the moment she hears her name called out with the sweetest intonations. It carries clear through all the noise, like she’s been waiting an eternity to hear it. She twists with purpose, finding herself almost face to face with Misty, a smile breaking onto her lips instantaneously.  

“What were you lookin’ at?” Misty questions with two raised brows, perfectly shaped.  

She peers to the floor again. “I dropped my drink.”  

Misty’s face morphs with sympathy. “Oh, that’s real sad.” She drawls, each word longer than Cordelia ever remembers it being before. Is Misty drunk? She can’t tell. Her own inebriation clouds her mind, and focuses more on the fact that Misty’s cheeks are flushed from dancing, how her eyes sparkle all too delicately. Those eyes widen. “Here.” She smirks, just about, and holds out her own cup. “Have mine.” 

Reaching to do so, she halts when she sees a trail of red lipstick marks all along the rim of the cup. Fuck

The Cajun’s brows furrow in confusion. “I don’t have cooties, ya know?”  

Laughter is dragged from Cordelia’s lungs, whether it wants to come or not, and she relinquishes, taking the drink from Misty. Eyes scold her skin with her every movement, until the edge of the cup teeters just on the sensitive skin of her lips. She raises her own gaze, insides twisting as she finds herself the sole recipient of Misty’s scrutiny.  

That’s enough to sends her soul into a tizzy, unsure of what to do, where to look for all of a few seconds. Because surely if she continues this staring competition with the Cajun, she is going to lose in an incredibly embarrassing fashion as her own desire takes over. But she does look. She looks because she can’t look anywhere else.  

Misty is the most alluring creature in the room, and she wants to bask in her presence forever.  

She finally takes the plunge, sucking in large gulps. The stench of strong liquor infiltrates her nostrils, enough to make her splutter around the plastic. It echoes inside the cup, which she tugs away and coughs loudly away from. Misty’s delightful laughter follows.  

She’s biting her lip, tongue poking out. Enough to steal more breath from Cordelia’s lungs. Misty takes the cup from her and downs the rest in one steady movement, allowing Cordelia to watch as it trails down her throat. 

With the empty cup disregarded on the nearest surface, Misty suddenly grabs hold of her hands. For once, her hands are warm – hot; she clutches them back as she embraces the heat. “C’mon, you need to dance.”  

“I’m not much of a dancer,” she reasons.  

Misty pauses again, giving her that look. Like she doesn’t believe a single word that’s coming out of Cordelia’s mouth. Her dark eyes squint, the corners of them fold in a ripple of faint lines. She looks stunningly unconvinced.  

Her legs begin to move to whatever music floats about her head, but all Cordelia can hear is the party music, loud and obnoxious. As if able to sense her hesitance, the Cajun leans in ever so closer. Near enough so that Cordelia catches how a pretty hum vibrates from deep inside of Misty. It wraps her in a pleasant warmth, a hum that she recognizes fondly as a song from Misty’s favorite band. She beams, and breathes in every second of it.  

Just as she loosens under the purrs of Misty’s voice, the younger blonde is grinning, too. All wide, and with soft eyes. She sets them both in motion, into a gentle twirl that makes her feel dizzier with just one rotation. Even so, she can’t stop.  

She draws Misty nearer, selfishly so, ignoring the voice in the back of her head telling her that she’s taking it too far. That she’s drunk and incapable of using rational thought. Both true. Both disregarded. Seeing as Misty doesn’t pull away when she tugs her so near that their bodies press flush against one another. And she only laughs heartily as Cordelia twists the Cajun around and around in her arms. Just like they do in her cabin sometimes. 

Fingers clutch onto one another then, as Misty steadies herself with eyes scrunched shut, joy littering her features. She's stopped humming the song now, but Cordelia continues to play it in her own head, familiar from having heard it so many times before.  

They move to their own beat, giggling and cackling with happiness that she tells herself isn’t just alcohol induced.  

This is just them, her and her best friend. They make each other happy, and maybe that’s enough.  

Blood pulses in her ears at having Misty to close. She smells like perfume and alcohol, but somehow still clings to the sweet scent of nature. How does she do that? It draws her in as always, that painful surge of loving hitting her right between the ribs. Misty finishes spinning, colliding her back with Cordelia’s front. “Ooh.” She doesn’t shy away from the way Cordelia’s arms wrap around her midriff, and instead leans her head backwards, resting it just near her shoulder.  

That guilt surges through her again. So much that she can’t enjoy the feel of Misty in her arms, pliant and giggling – and drunk.  

You’re taking advantage of her. Stop it.  

Despite her own drunken stupor, that thought pushes through against all restraints and jolts her into action. She straightens like someone’s just thrown a rod down her spine, her muscles growing weak under the pressure of her own conflicting thoughts.  

Misty tilts her head, so slightly. That newly straightened hair tickles Cordelia’s cheek; she steps backwards then, her lips volleying between a smile and a frown as she struggles to decide which emotions to embrace. After so many days of missing Misty’s closeness, she’s now the one to sever the connection. 

The Cajun must experience the loss of heat against her back. She moves to face Cordelia, with more control of her legs than the older blonde, and settles her with that unconvinced look again, less playful this time. The severity of it cuts right though Cordelia, who clears her throat and gives a half smile. “I need to pee.” She blurts out, head all kinds of hot. It’s not a full lie, but she still feels guilt coating her tongue. 

She gets a series of fluttering nods in response.  

“Well, I’ll wait for ya here.” Misty says quietly.  

“Yeah.” She nods. “I won’t be long.”  

Misty nods once more. “Okay.”  

It takes her a few seconds to actually leave, reluctance settling over her. She feels eyes on her the entire time, but when she dares a glance over her shoulder, Misty has already begun dancing again, insistent on having fun.  

But by the time she gets back, the Cajun isn’t where she left her. She spies a flash of blonde hair stood with Madison and Coco, and on instinct she feels herself bristle. The two girls seem to compliment one another like two strong flavours, like mint and chocolate, both intimidating in their own right. Together, they’re a force.  

Cordelia beelines for them, not caring as the new drink she has splashes over the side of the cup in her haste. It glues, tepid and sticky, down her thumb and across her palm.  

“He’s been looking at you all night, you know?” 

She nears just in time to see Misty’s nonchalant shrug and perplexed eyes. “And?”  

Madison takes another drag of the cigarette that’s neatly placed between her fingers, eyes almost black as they look Misty up and down. “And, you should go make out with him.” It’s spoken as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Live a little,” Madison sneers, "laissez les bon temp rouler, or whatever it is you guys say.” 

“But I don’t wanna.”  

“It’s a party,” she smirks, “everyone does it.”  

Cordelia is close enough now to be noticed by the three, who have a mixture of reactions. The only one she cares about is Misty’s and the Cajun seems all to relieved at the sight of her. “Hey,” she smiles, eyes lingering on the Cajun for longer, “what are you guys talking about?”  

“Misty’s got an admirer.” Coco practically sing songs.  

Beside her, the Cajun bows her head and refuses to look Cordelia in the eye. “I don’t even know him.”  

“Even better. No strings.” Madison announces. “Just a good fuck.” 

“A fuck?” At the coarse language, Misty’s entire face scrunches up in distaste. She isn’t sure exactly what offends her so, but the sight of it makes Cordelia feel a pang of protectiveness. She finds her gaze boring down at Madison in warning.  

As always, this only encourages their so called friend, who lives her life intent on making others uncomfortable. “Why not? You scared of a little bit of dick?”  

Madison.” Cordelia rolls her eyes. 

“I ain’t scared of anythin’.” Misty retorts, stepping closer so that she towers over Madison and seems all that bit more intimidating. Between them, Coco watches like it’s a rapt tennis match, eyes glistening at the disagreement; that makes Cordelia roll her eyes once more, harder and until she thinks they might never stop spinning.  

Madison presses her lips together, a tight line that fills with knowing and amusement. “Is that true?”  

“Yeah.”  

Cordelia feels her hand rising slowly, meeting with the soft skin of Misty’s upper arm. Their voices are rising, beginning to catch the attention of others around them. She knows all too well that these vultures of students will go giddy at the idea of another fight. But she’s not prepared to let Misty fall victim to that again.  

No punches are thrown though, even if a thick and uneasy air plunges over the four. “I know what you’re tryin’ to do, Madison, but it ain’t so easy to fool me.” 

“Me?” she feigns sweetness. “I only have your best interests at heart, trailer trash.” 

Misty scoffs, a twisted smile on her lips. “You are so full of shit.”  

“Guys, can’t we all just get along?” Coco whines.  

It does nothing to break to spell of discord that’s fallen over the two. As always. If Madison and Coco are two complimenting flavors, the haughty blonde and the Cajun are completely contrasting, like orange and mint. The very thoughts make her insides spin. Madison finishes her cigarette, crushing the butt on the side table before she smiles up at Misty. “Yeah. Let’s just get along. Why don’t we go dance?” She nudges her head in the direction of the dance floor. “Why don’t you let me hold you like Cordelia did? We can all be lesbians together.”  

Cordelia almost drops her drink, sucking in a sharp breath that cuts at her throat. Not this again.  

But normally when she goads Misty like this, it’s at school, where there are consequences and teachers there. And none of them are clouded with the shroud of alcohol over their brains.  

For a moment, she can’t even peer at Misty through the corner of her eyes. She can feel her though. Fire and rage and something else radiating off of her body like steam from a geyser. She's fit to explode. Yet she doesn’t. And the curiosity of why is what finally beckons Cordelia’s gaze. Her frame trembles, and her withering eyes would make Cordelia writhe on the spot. They only serve to entertain Madison.  

“I told you, I ain’t like that.”  

Her grip on Misty’s arm tightens, with the intent of support.  

Misty shrugs it off, with it sending Cordelia’s heart dropping to the floor, too.  

Madison doesn’t see it. No need. She has her weapon of words locked and loaded, and aims right for the Cajun in front of her. “That’s fucking rich.” She laughs, enjoyment swimming in her features. “You guys were really convincing over there. I was almost saving a room for you.” Her eyes flick to Cordelia and then back. “You’d like that though, wouldn’t you, trailer trash? Cordelia, lay underneath you, screaming out your name. . . oh, Misty!” 

Cordelia isn’t really sure how the set of events that follow transpire, though she’s aware of Coco’s unsure protests to Madison, of how Misty is clenching her fists painfully tight. What she is not aware of is her own hand flying up without as much as a nanosecond of thought. It swoops through the air, colliding satisfyingly with Madison’s smug little cheek and bringing a resounding slap around the room.  

“Fuck.” She exclaims, cradling the now red spot in between two hands. “What the hell, Cordelia?” 

She can barely hear her words from the adrenaline that overcomes her; she almost considers doing it again. Her hand twitches with the desire, held back by very little resolve. Cordelia blinks back into reality where her blood doesn’t boil and she can feel the breath passing from her lungs again. People are looking at her, too many people. Coco’s eyes bulge in place. In the distance, she can see Queenie smirking and cheering her on.  

Those aren’t the people that matter, though, and her gaze finishes its rounds by reluctantly falling on the Cajun beside her, who is stoic and still. And troubled as ever. Their eyes meet, endless questions between the both of them. None are asked aloud.  

When her mouth opens to try for any words, Misty straightens. That pride and determination refuses to leave. She regards Madison with spite in her eyes, and sneers. “You’re wrong. I don’t think like that.”  

Madison at least has the sense not to retaliate, even if she’s clearly dying to spout some retort out.  

“Misty -” Cordelia is reaching up once more, her voice as warm as a summer’s day.  

It does nothing to shed the tension from the Cajun’s arms, and she doesn’t return the soft gaze. The muscles in her neck tighten, her jaw locks, but her eyes grow wet. “I ain’t gay.” Cordelia is instantly transported back to the moment in the cafeteria where Madison had provoked Misty then, too. How similar it all seems. “I’ll fucking show you.”  

This time, as she storms off, it is not in the nature of fleeing, but with resolution in her every step. Coco calls after her, then Cordelia, whose voice still shudders with anger. She snaps her head back at Madison, where she appears to have absorbed the message. “Should someone go and check on her?” Coco asks.  

She’s looking straight at Cordelia.  

All she can manage is a long breath, her shoulders slumping as tension begins to seep out. “I’ll go,” she says.  

In her pursuit, she downs the entire drink in her hand. It’s a bad idea, she knows. But she does it anyway and the frustration within her subsides, just a little. Enough for her to consider going for another cupful before finding her friend. She doesn’t, though regrets it when Misty seems to evade her again.  

She isn’t sure how long she spends searching the expansive house, giving in to a drink or two that stop her hands from shaking and that bad feeling from taking over her. Misty seems awfully good at not being found when she doesn’t want to be.  

Confusion sweeps over her when she finally finds a familiar face in Mallory and Zoe, who are both gaping in the direction of the kitchen like there’s a unicorn pottering about in there. Cordelia isn’t drunk enough to be seeing imaginary animals, but she is drunk enough that she finds herself spluttering out questions. “What’s wrong with your two?” she laughs, “surely nothing at Madison’s party can surprise you anymore?” 

Mallory’s head snaps away, blinking. “Cordelia!” Why does she sound panicked?   

“. . . yeah?” 

Hands reach out for her, twisting her in the opposite direction while Zoe stops her gaping just long enough to join them. This perplexes the blonde even further. “What’s going on?” 

“Nothing. We should go over here. Look, there’s Nan.”  

Cordelia twists in their arms, considering the strangeness of it all. “But I was looking for Misty.” Eyes scan the room, where many bodies mingle, none of them belonging to the Cajun. “I don’t know where she went.”  

“She’s probably with Queenie.” Zoe insists, quickly.  

“I just saw Queenie. . .” 

The two share a look of the uttermost concern that sends Cordelia into a spiral. “We’ll help you look.” Mallory begins in kind, her grip tightening on Cordelia’s arm as she tries to spin again.  

She narrows her eyes at them, an uneasy smile beginning to take hold. “You’re being weird.” she announces, slowly. Very much affect by alcohol. She’s still shaky from her altercation with Madison, too, and the pressing need to find Misty follows her.  

“You are just drunk.” Zoe counters. The usually cool edge to her gaze is gone, and Cordelia doesn’t like that one bit. She digs her heels into the ground, effectively halting the three of them in one jerking move.  

“What’s going on?” She frowns deeply, gaze flittering between the pair suspiciously. They pale in unison, and that’s all Cordelia needs to shrug herself of their arms. They’re reaching out again moments later and hot on her tail as she storms back in the direction from which they’ve just came. Someone shouts out her name, only for it to fall on deaf ears. “What are you hiding?” she says with the hint of a smirk.  

Mallory’s face begins to crack, nerves making home on her expression. “Cordelia,” she gulps, “don’t.” 

The older blonde pauses, for a moment almost listening to them. Unfortunately, her curiosity will always win, and she continues. “What is it that you don’t want me to – oh." She blinks. “Oh.” 

Despite the alcohol surging through her veins, a stone cold sober hits her like a brick. Reeling from the shock, she doesn’t realize as the two catch up with her, caring hands on her shoulder and sympathetic glowers in her direction. They do nothing to help. Nothing at all.  

“I -” Her voice croaks, tears welling in her eyes. “Shit.” 

Is this really happening? Is she seeing this right? She furiously opens and closes her eyes, hoping that one of these times, the image searing her retinas will change. Disappear. Right off the face of this damn planet. Zoe says her name tentatively when her silence is lasting.  

She forces out a breath, not looking to either of them. “I - I found Misty.”  

And found her, she has. With her lips attached to some guy in the middle of the kitchen, his hands running through her hair and dishevelling it. Cordelia experiences nausea at the very sight of it, how the Cajun’s arms sit loosely around his shoulders. Her eyes are scrunched together, and Cordelia almost does the same. Not wanting to look for another second.  

But she does, then one more. With a morbid fascination and every tendril in her heart breaking into two. Tears rise from her chest, an invasion of upset that sits unwelcome in her throat.  

Fuck, fuck, fuck.  

“This isn’t happening.” She thinks, only for the words to pass her lips, dismayed and cracking. Her friends hear them; they brim with pity. To Zoe’s credit, she almost looks as shocked as Cordelia at the sight of Misty making out with someone.  

Cordelia looks again, unable to focus behind her watery eyes. “I’m -” Her head shakes its unwilling to accept to sight before her. “I need to go.” She states. “I can’t. . .” I can’t look at that. The cup in her hand sits heavy as lead. She stares down to it, expecting to see her own distraught reflection in the alcohol, but it’s too clouded to make out. Just like the emotions beginning to awaken in her mind.  

She gulps the rest of the drink with her head thrown back, begging it to help her forget. Just for a minute.  

She can’t. Even as she rushes past her friends and away from Misty, it haunts her to no end. She doesn’t fucking understand. Why is Misty doing this? She recalls their conversation days ago; the words Misty had tenderly spoken in the mask of night. 

If I ever kiss someone, I want it to be because I really care about them.  

The idea of why runs through her muddled brain again, and how? And who the fuck is he? Jealousy sucks any remaining joy from her like a leech attached to her skin. She keeps stumbling away, and lets the tears fall freely as she ignores the well-meaning calls of her friends.  

… 

Cordelia wipes furiously at her tears with the bed sheets that she’s sat on. She doesn’t know who they belong to, nor does she care, even when she sees the streaks of makeup left behind.  This is all Madison’s fault anyway. 

Another sob comes, broken and loud. Because the image haunts her with no signs of stopping, sticking daggers into her heart. It’s not even jealousy that so strongly burns inside of her now; just hurt.  

And why? It’s not like Misty isn’t allowed to kiss people. She’s almost an adult and she can do what she wants with who she wants. But why him? What could he possibly have? The answer sits stagnant in the waters of her mind, though she refuses to hear its reason. In the midst of all her thinking, the alcohol begins to demand more attention.  

She’s had so much, more than she ever remembers having before. Her stomach hurts and her gaze blurs every time she so much as tries to blink. That’s fine. She can live with that. If she just closes her eyes that is, until everything around her starts to take a life of its own. The bed moves, the floor shifts; when she peeks one bloodshot eye open the walls even dance about her. Cordelia scrunches her eyes closed and wills away all of it, but it only makes it worse.  

Gooey saliva clings to the back of her throat stubbornly, stuck on the dryness of her skin. She tries to swallow, only for an altogether more pressing matter to arrive.  

Because she is going to throw up.   

A hand flies to her mouth as she jumps to uncoordinated legs. Manoeuvring her intoxicated limbs is a nightmare, where she falls against surface after surface until she finds purchase on the wall, or what she thinks is a wall. It doesn’t move away from her so that’s a good sign.  

Less of a good sign is the flipping of her stomach, the rising heat up her oesophagus. Cordelia makes a strangled groan as she successfully makes it out of the room, not fast enough to find a bathroom and instead having to throw up in a nearby plant pot. She cringes at the sight of the chunky vomit, threatening to make more follow.  

Remains of it linger in her throat, her nostrils, so every time she heaves in a breath it’s just there. “I’m never drinking again.” She mumbles pathetically to herself as a hand hovers over her upset stomach.  

She lays on the floor, legs stretched out and head pounding, until the feeling subsides slightly. Enough for her to make it to a faucet and desperately gulp water from her cupped hands. It cleanses her, even if a bad taste lingers in her mouth. Nothing as bad as the distraught feelings that hang over her like a raincloud.  

The idea of sitting in that bathroom and letting sleep overcome her is all too tempting for a moment. Until she realizes the last thing she wants is to wake up at Madison’s house, smelling of her own sick, and looking the role of an absolute mess. Cordelia forces herself onto weak legs. “Air.” She says to herself. “You just need some air.” Every word is slurred, and if she didn’t say it herself, she wouldn’t have had any inkling to what they actually are.  

Madison’s house is huge, she knows, but finding a door to outside poses a challenge. Made worse by her inebriation. She staggers her way from door to door, intruding on a couple having sex, on a group of college students doing something insanely illegal, but she keeps trying.  

Until some French doors open out onto a small balcony where the cold, night air wraps around her in a jarring and welcoming embrace. She sucks in a breath (wincing at the lingering smell) and gives what could be called a smile. If you squinted. As welcome as the icy wind is, it only makes the swirling of her world grow more intense. The trees appear to flutter from their anchor points in the ground, there are at least three moons, and she’s pretty sure the plant a few feet away is moving.  

Her fingers clutch the railing, then she soon rests her head against it. It’s so cold that she lets a grateful moan echo from her mouth.  

The plant lifts its head and -  

“Cordelia?” 

She blinks, opening eyes that were most definitely open a second ago. Her legs have given way too, so she’s half lay against the banister with it in a death grip. But she definitely recognizes that voice. 

Her response is something of a grunt.  

With urgency, the plant is moving ever closer and then there are strong hands lifting her from the railing (she protests with a whine, reaching for it again) before the worried voice says her name once more. This time, the accent is close and strikes right to her heart. Only one person has the power to do that.  

She sighs, all that hurt resurging so strong that she doesn’t know whether to cry or throw up again. “Misty?” 

Hands are on her face, moving to her shoulders. They reposition until Cordelia falls against a warm body, her neck slumping instantly. “Jesus, are you okay?” 

“I’m fine.” She mutters. 

The Cajun leans in near, sniffing at Cordelia with a wrinkle in her nose. “You smell like sick. Have you thrown up?” 

She tries to nod but it’s more of a head flop. Arms lift her higher, cradling her, and cold fingers move the hair that sticks to her forehead out of the way. When her eyes manage to focus after much effort, she finds Misty’s face pale with worry. “I’m fine.” She finds herself repeating. 

“No, you ain’t.”  

“Am.” 

Misty’s face twists with disbelief. “You’re even stubborn when you’re drunk.” A half smile follows, even if it doesn’t last. Cordelia’s gaze hones in on her, where red rimmed eyes stare back and cheeks shine with tears.  

She straightens up, frowning. “Have you been crying?” 

There is no answer, not that one that she wants anyone to know, because Misty is gently lifting her onto resistant feet. She leans into the Cajun, even if her head shouts that she wants to be anywhere but there. She doesn’t want to touch Misty where that asshole has touched her. “C’mon, we should get you home.”  

Her lips open to protest, but there’s little fight in her. Especially with Misty holding her firmly (and protectively) as they navigate their way to the front door. The party is still in full swing, people are dancing and laughing and smiling. In that moment, she hates every single one of them. Misty must see the way she glares so intently at them, because her frown grows deeper, forehead creasing.  

Outside again, and with the added pressure of moving, the contents of her stomach make to lurch out. She grabs onto the nearest tree where she can hurl her guts out, hating that Misty’s soothing voice makes her feel better, how the Cajun holds her hair back and soothes the small of her back.  

She wants to be mad at her, but she’s not physically capable of it.  

Getting home is a blur, where streets move past her fluttering eyes, and she focuses on keeping everything still. She fails. Quite miserably. Other voices fill her ears, maybe Mallory. She isn’t quite sure; what she does know is the hand in hers is definitely Misty’s because her thumb can brush over the collection of rings there. She sighs, choking back more bile.  

“I’ll help you get her to the door.” Mallory. Definitely Mallory. 

Cordelia leans into the blonde side of her supports and quickly hears the keys being rattled. A murmur of words follows, things that escape her attention as her pulse beats rapidly inside her head, drumming its own song.  

“Delia, Delia.” She flutters her eyelids open, gazing at a pretty, blue eyes. “You need to step, okay? C’mon.” 

She does as she’s told, instantly recognizing the smell of furnishings of her own home.  

“Hey,” she giggles ever so lightly to herself, “how did we get here?”  

“You really are a lightweight.” Misty confirms, a strained smile on her lips as she peers down to the drunk mess that is her friend. “Do you think you can get upstairs?” 

She eyes them, as daunted as she’s ever been. But Misty is clasping her waist and she wraps limp arms around her. They make it most of the way without her falling, only for her to trip right at the top. The pair freeze, eyes wide as saucers, when movement comes from Fiona’s room. She’s not drunk enough to forget that’s a bad think, and begins chanting, “fuck, fuck, fuck,” under her breath.  

Misty’s expression echoes that dismay. She tries to urge Cordelia on, only for her languid and intoxicated body to fail her. They only get a few steps further when the door opens and Fiona steps out. She’s in a silk robe, hair still impossibly neat somehow, and wearing an expression that’s enough to put the fear of God into her daughter. 

Fingers once against tighten against her skin, accidentally squeezing where Cordelia is trying to keep herself from vomiting again.  

Cordelia tries to speak, only for Misty to clamp a hand over her mouth. “I can explain.” She starts in earnest, hiding every quiver in her voice.  

But there’s no anger in her mother’s eyes now; she only watches them with a careful gaze and eventually pushes a sigh out of her wrinkled lips. “There’s a bucket in the downstairs closet.” She says to Misty. “Put that next to her bed. I will not have her throwing up on the floors – they are very expensive.”  

Misty nods frantically. “Yes, ma'am.”  

Fiona’s eyes drift over her daughter once again, smirking. “Go to bed. Both of  you.”  

They need no further invitation, and even Cordelia’s limbs listen as they scurry into her bedroom. Misty sets her down on the bed then goes to retrieve the bucket. The few minutes that she’s gone is enough for Cordelia to torture herself by replaying the events of the night over in her head until tears clutch at her eyes.  

She lets them fall freely, too out of control to keep them back, and this is how Misty finds her. Cordelia jumps as she feels her weight on the bed next to her, followed by a hand rubbing up and down her arm. “Shhh,” the Cajun soothes, then frowns as she observes her upset, “do ya need to throw up again?” 

Cordelia shakes her head, biting at her lip firmly.  

The bucket is slowly placed to the floor and that’s when it becomes a waiting game. Because Misty begins to stare at her expectantly, as though waiting for some explanation as to who or what is the reason for such distraught. And Cordelia is terrified to tell her that  she  is the culprit. Not of her own fruition, because Cordelia knows she’s being stupid and jealous, and totally unreasonable. Misty isn’t yours. Still, it hurts as if she is.  

She continues to cry, a gentle nature to it now. Her breath shudders with each attempt, and she hates that she’s making Misty sit with her through this. A tiny, “I’m sorry,” makes its way through the cries.  

Misty’s eyes grow more caring. “Don’t be. We all do dumb shit when we’re drunk.” 

If anything, the easy acceptance makes shame sit heavier on Cordelia’s stomach.  

Her limbs move, shuffling her until she’s lay on her side and facing away from Misty, where her eyes close and her breath evens out. It also means she doesn’t have the see the heartbreak on Misty’s face.  

Movement catches in her ears as the Cajun walks around the that side of the bed, placing the bucket in front of her. Cordelia peeks open an eye. “If you’re gonna puke, do it in there. Last thing I need is your mom pissed at me.”  

She sighs and nods.  

Misty continues to watch her for a few moments, keeping Cordelia paralyzed even in the spot with her eyes sliding wider open every passing second. The evidence of Misty’s own tears sits right in front of her, but that’s a whole can of worms that she doesn’t have the energy to open right now. Tomorrow.  

Then her eyes are gazing lower, to where Misty’s dress has slipped down on one side and her cleavage is more on show than it originally was. She stares, the familiar heat welcome between her legs, until eyes are torn away. Cordelia closes them, frustrated.  

Thankfully, Misty takes this as a sign of her impending sleep and retreats. Small noises and rustles creep into her ears, though other than that Cordelia is dead to the world, sprawled out on her bed with the alcohol taking its revenge. A hand flops to make contact with her head as she groans out her woes. This well and truly sucks.  

Light suddenly burns against the small slither of her eyes that’s exposed. She winces and hides away from it like a vampire, pulling the cover to shield her entire face. Under there, it’s hot and stifling, and her self pity seems to fill the space all too quickly. 

The door to the source of blinding light closes, followed by the soft pads of Misty’s footsteps. With her eyes still closed, she waits for her to get into the bed too, for there to be some inclination of movement next to her, but there isn’t. Confused, she forces one eye open and curses the way the world won’t stop spinning.  

Except for Misty, who sits quiet and dutiful with her hands interlaced together, expression deep in prayer. Cordelia rolls onto her other side to observe, even if it swills her insides about uncomfortably. The Cajun has washed her face free of makeup, leaving pure and soft skin; her hair resists being in straight strands, beginning to wave and curl again at the ends so invitingly that Cordelia almost reaches out to touch them.  

As it is, she’s not very sure she could control her limbs so expertly.  

So, she sucks in a breath and watches the way Misty’s lips wrap around her prayers. It seems to last an eternity, enough for the anger to ebb away and the ghost of a smile to grace her mouth. When Misty opens her eyes and finds her watching, she pauses. “I thought you were asleep.”  

“What were you praying for tonight?” 

Her features twist with just the hint of humor where seriousness clearly wants to persist. “For you not to suffer with a terrible hangover tomorrow.” The wry intonations in her words have Cordelia’s stomach flopping in a different way.  

She closes her eyes and groans again, for a lack of the right words to reply.  

Eyes linger for her for just as few moments, but intense as ever. She does feel that movement next to her that she’s craving, selfishly so, before it disappears like the sun over the horizon. Cordelia feels all the warmth swept from within her, especially when her unsteady gaze settles on Misty creating a makeshift bed on the floor with pillows and blankets from the bed.  

Her heart literally stops.  

“What are you doing?” Pain is all too evident in her question.  

Misty jumps, having been absorbed in her task with an aura of sadness about her. She stills, clutching a pillow to her chest. “I -” She looks down. “I kinda got the feelin’ you were mad at me.” 

Another jab. Her poor heart might not survive the trauma of the night.  

She sighs, dispirited. “Get in the bed, Misty.”  

When the Cajun hesitates with shimmering eyes, Cordelia outstretches a hand, a hopeful notion, that will break her if Misty doesn’t reciprocate. But she does, tentatively moving to lie next to Cordelia on the far comfier mattresses. She relaxes, though not to the usual amount. And Cordelia doesn’t need to be sober to register the damn gap between them again.  

She hates it. She detests it with every fiber in her being.  

Because it never used to be there before, not since before she told Misty about her sexuality, and its very presence is a sign of change. No matter how small. She glares at it, as if her hard pupils could burn it away. They can’t. And she really, really tries.  

Part of her leans into it, assessing the way it diminishes for the shortest of time until Misty shifts in turn. Back to square one. Anger flares through her. She’s drunk and fragile, and she can’t stop the next few words from rushing out of her mouth. “You know, just ‘cause I told you I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m going to make a move on every girl I know.” Frustration is far too present in her words.  

She instantly regrets saying them, but they’re out there now. 

Misty’s breath catches, eyes growing. “Cordelia, that’s not -” 

“It’s okay.” She says sadly, apologetic, “Madison has probably freaked you out, but please just – don't act like you’re too scared to touch me.”  

It all sounds a little absurd; she’s no fool. They've spent the whole night dancing and partying, all of which involves Misty having been close to her. This is different though, the most intimate way they’ll ever be, and she doesn’t know if she can stare at that gap for the rest of her life.  

Before her, the Cajun deflates with something. Her lips purse into one, and she’s all too thoughtful for this late hour. She does, however, reach out and take hold of Cordelia’s hands, squeezing them tightly. “She hasn’t freaked me out, promise.”  

Tears begin to fill Cordelia’s voice. “But you said nothing would change between us and I – I. . .”  

Misty practically flies forward, wrapping arms finding Cordelia in the dark. The older blonde leans into the touch, beckoned by the comfort it offers. She wants to apologize for being so needy and petulant; all she can do is lay her head against Misty’s chest, letting her alcohol induced tears fall out. “Nothing has.” Misty insists in an uncompelling whisper. It makes Cordelia’s tears fall even harder.  

Everything has changed.  

She doesn’t have much left to say after that, or nothing that she has the courage to say, and so lets the tears lull her closer to the cusp of sleep. The strong hold around her doesn’t waver. She’s too drunk to appreciate it, and too out of it to hear when Misty calls her name after maybe twenty minutes of sitting just like that.  

“Cordelia?” she whispers out again, probing and nervous, and lost on the almost asleep blonde.  

It’s said a third time, just to be sure that she is asleep.  

Cordelia can just about feel hot breath lingering near her forehead, like a tropical breeze. Barely there, not enough to stir her. Neither is the gentle kiss that is moments later pressed against the skin, full of sweetness and apologies. And love.  

Chapter Text

The first thing she’s aware of as consciousness returns her is the way her head tries with all its might to split in two. A wince rests on her features, and the tiniest of shifts sends nausea jolting through her entire body. Cordelia moans, a throaty sound that echoes around the room.  

“Well, good mornin’ to you, too.”  

She jumps at the sound of a voice, eyes flickering open to see Misty staring back at her. Blonde tresses are all ragged from her night’s sleep, but she sits half upright, wide and awake. Cordelia feels movement against her fingers, only to realize they are holding hands. When did that happen? She groans again, the newly exposed light succeeding in amplifying her headache.  

Cordelia throws her head back dramatically. Bad move. The notion of rushing to the toilet appears for a few seconds. “What time is it?” she asks in a hushed tone. 

“Almost midday.” 

Her heart leaps. “Are you serious?”  

The Cajun shakes her head ever so softly, teeth around her lower lip. She remembers the way they’d been prettily painted with red lipstick last night and ignores the fire in the pit of her stomach. Last night. Oh God. It comes back to her in flashes, unwanted. Persistent. Misty kissing someone else. Pressed against him in that tight, short dress that left nothing to the imagination.  

She begs her eyes to peer away from the Cajun, but they resist. Misty stares back at her, eyes wide and thoughtful. And they can’t seem to tear themselves away from Cordelia, either.  

“So,” Misty starts, a smile beginning to curl on the corners of her lips. “I just had breakfast with your mom.” 

The ache and weight of her hangover is nothing to the flabbergasted way she now finds herself regarding her friend. “You what now?” 

Misty is laughing in a way like she’s just seen aliens and isn’t sure whether she should believe it was actually true. Her bewilderment is shared by the older blonde, who sits herself upright and clutches a pillow to her chest for comfort. It just so happens to be the same pillow Misty had slept on last night. She subtly inhales the smell of her perfume that settles the way her nerve endings twitch.  

“Yeah.” Her eyes are hooded over, almost dazed. “I went to get you some water ‘n there she was in the kitchen. Asked me if I’d eaten yet. When I said no, she made me French toast.”  

Cordelia can feel the lines on her forehead grow thicker; her lips open, inviting in dry air that parches her throat. Next to her, Misty shakes her head softly, but she is smiling. She's enjoyed herself. “That’s her favorite.” Cordelia points out. “She has it once a month. . .” Despite the protest from her stomach, she pushes herself further up the bed with heavy legs. The headboard prods and shoves into her back like a terrible massage. “Did she talk to you?” 

She responds with a keen laugh, “for a whole hour. I used to think your mom was scary, but she ain’t said a bad word to me.” The jovial tug to her expression wavers, sadness fighting for the spotlight; Cordelia wonders if Misty’s thinking about her own mom. But the joy wins, and Misty sighs softly.  “It was actually kinda nice.”  

“Jeez, you must really be in her good books.”  

“Well, I did make sure her only daughter made it home safe with no major incidents last night.” She teases with a pretty lull to her voice. Almost sleepy – most definitely fond.  

Her fingers dig into the pillow. She can think of one major incident in particular that she desperately wants to press Misty on, but she finds pressure building at the back of her throat. Her head swoons with pain.  

When she opens unfocused eyes, Misty is staring at her with puckered lips. “How are you feelin’?”  

She offers a wry smile. “Like I drank a lot of alcohol.” 

“Ah.” She chuckles, “guess my prayers didn’t get answered.” Misty bows her head ever so slightly. “As usual.”  

Any misery that tiptoes about her words retreats in the face of concern for her friend. Her eyes haven’t once left Cordelia, and they continue to stare as Misty practically leans over her to the bedside table to where a large glass of water sits. At the sight of it, her insides cry out for hydration, but she’s too preoccupied thinking that Misty’s lean torso is awfully close to hers; her hair even tickles over Cordelia’s trembling fingers.  

She holds her breath, cheeks bulging out with the slight puff. Misty must mistake it for the threat of puke, seeing as she reels back a little.  

Sheepish and pink faced, she shakes her head. “I’m not going to throw up again, I promise.”  

“Please don’t. I already had to empty that bucket this morning.”  

Cordelia blinks, not having remembered waking up to vomit. When her friend spies the uncertainty, she gives the faintest of smiles, shadowed by worry lines that sit atop her normally smooth skin. “You were pretty out of it,” she says, “you just kept apologizing to me for getting puke in my hair.”  

She cringes, so hard and fast that it physically pains her. Great, as if the past twenty four hours couldn’t be any worse, she’s now gone and embarrassed herself even further. Her lips part to speak, though Misty beats her to it. “You don’t need to say sorry again.” She rolls her eyes, “I have three nephews and two nieces. You think I haven’t had sick and shit on me before?” 

Her nonchalant nature eases Cordelia to sink slightly down in the bed. Misty’s smile dares to grow; she tilts herself forward with the glass nestled between her ringed fingers. She stretches them out for her fragile friend, who reaches in relief. “Thanks,” she breaths. As soon as the glass hits her lips, she begins to gulp greedily.  

The water hits her stomach in a refreshing way, starting to quench the void that the alcohol has left in her. It’s not until she’s almost downed the glass that she realizes Misty is still holding onto it. Onto her, should she say. Fingers curl around Cordelia’s, light and firm at the same time. And she’s watching her with a great potency behind those eyes.  

Cordelia almost coughs the water back up.  

It’s forcibly swallowed just in time, and she lowers the glass to her lap. Misty’s fingers follow the path of migration. They rest there, too. Comfortable and still, unbeknownst in the way they are drawn to the older blonde.  

When she looks down at them, she experiences the sharp stab of betrayal as she pictures them holding onto that guy. “Some party, hmm?”  

Misty pokes an eyebrow up, her lip jerking with the want to smile. “It was somethin’, that’s for sure.” Then the smile does come, instilled with a strong sense of pride. “You slapped Madison.”  

She blanches at the memory, that having been the least of her concerns. “I did.” 

“After all the lectures I get from you about not rising to her comments.” She’s teasing again, eyes shimmering despite the fact that she’s clearly exhausted.  

“I don’t lecture you.” Cordelia scoffs, drawing her legs nearer when they begin to cramp in her position. She nudges Misty’s knee by accident. Misty shifts, too, but nearer.  

Her shoulders judder as she breathes in a long sigh, then decides on a smirk. “She had it comin’.” Brows knit into one furrowed line. “Why are we even friends with her? She’s such a bitch.”  

“For Zoe’s sake.” She grumbles. “But I’m beginning to think even that’s not worth it.”  

There’s another moment of pause, of musing. Misty seems to be all too pensive these days. Cordelia finds herself dying to crawl inside of that mind and drink up every little thought, good or bad. “Yeah.” She says, all those thoughts condensed into the dejected word. “She just seems to hate me more than everyone else.”  

“She doesn’t hate – " 

“Then why does she take every opportunity to make me feel like shit?”  

Cordelia bites her lip. How can she deny that Madison oh so intentionally belittles the girl for nothing more than her own entertainment? She heaves in a breath, running a hand over her aching head. “You know, they say that means someone is jealous of you.” It’s an attempt of satire, with a coy pull of her mouth.  

Unfortunately, it has the opposite attempt. Misty’s crestfallen expression stares back at her, a poignant stab to her chest. “What on earth could she be jealous of?”  

The words wind her, which doesn’t help when she’s already in a vulnerable state. “Don’t say things like that, Misty.” She whispers out. 

“Why not?” Her jaw lines tenses. “It’s true, ain’t it?” 

She squeezes back the hands that have been sat atop hers for the past few minutes. “Just because she has more material things than you, doesn’t mean that she’s a better person.”  

Misty is glancing down, eyes trailing the lines on the bed sheets like they hold the answers to all the questions she so desperately seeks. It summons Cordelia closer, shoving the glass to the side, out of her way, and shuffling upwards. Her stomach lurches, but she defiantly ignores its cries.  

“Is this what you were crying about last night?” She frowns. “Madison?” 

In front of her, the Cajun flinches at the soft accusation. “No.” She insists with haste. “I wouldn’t cry over – when did you see me cryin’?” 

Unease rushes over her skin, forcing it to itch and burn. “On the balcony. . . I think. I went out and you were there. . . you – you looked like you had been.”  

“Well, I hadn’t.” Those piercing blue eyes are adamant, wilful, and panicked.  

Cordelia slumps. “Oh.” She offers a smile in apology. “I just thought. . .” 

One shoulder slopes as she shrugs stiffly. “It’s okay. You were pretty drunk.”  

Not that drunk. Confusion clouds her mind. If it didn’t happen, then why can she so vividly see the tear tracks that had stained Misty’s skin in her memories? Cordelia hums out a noise, then reclines back against the headboard and pushes down the bile in her throat.  

The Cajun hurries to shift the strange air that orbits then, moving so she’s lay next to Cordelia on the thinner pillow to her side of the bed. Seeing as the other one is cradled in the older blonde’s arms. Her voice is quiet, soft as a cloud. “How did it feel to slap Madison?” 

Cordelia’s face splits into a grin. “Really fucking good.”  

Her laughter is joined by Misty’s, a melodic chorus that sets her tummy alight.  

She twists in her direction, moving so that she’s lay out too and staring solely at the pretty Cajun on her bed. “I think you were my favorite person ever when you did that.”  

That’s enough to have the flickers of fire inside of her ignited further in love, blazing unashamedly through her heartfelt gaze. She might still be drunk, still lacking a filter, because she can’t control what comes out of her mouth next. “You are always my favorite person.” It’s a clear cut confession, leaving her crawling on dangerously thin ice as she waits for Misty’s response.  

Misty lets the words trickle toward her slowly, extending Cordelia’s baited breath, before her stare stills. Cordelia prepares herself for the rejection. The armor around her heart thickens for once, not prepared to be broken again.  

And she continues to stare, transfixed, and completely caught off guard.  

“You’re still a little drunk.” Misty decides (teases) as if that’s the only reason why Cordelia could so starkly put herself out there.  

The Cajun then chuckles, biting her lip. Cordelia moves her eyes away and turns to the ceiling. As her gaze is taken from Misty, she only hears the shuffle of her movement. Then the weight of a head on her shoulder and a body flush to hers. Her heart sighs with a flutter, melting when Misty remains. No distance this time. She smiles to herself.  

Misty’s words seem to vibrate against her, lulling her neck downwards until she’s peering at her friend. “I don’t think I want to go for another party for a while.”  

“No. Me either.”  

“Next time,” Misty asks, “can we just go to my cabin instead? Or stay here?” Her warm breath tickles Cordelia’s neck, sending a shock down her unsuspecting spine. Misty continues in a resolute voice. “Just us two, no Madison, no one else, no guys.” Though her chocolate gaze is hidden behind her eyelids, Cordelia can feel Misty’s penetrative stare. “Just us.” She repeats. 

The no guys echoes in her head in a dance of victory, and she thwarts it instantly. It’s just a reminder of what happened. 

She turns, smirking and whispering out. “I promise not to puke next time.” 

Misty’s chuckles are so close, muffled slightly as she leans into Cordelia’s shoulder. “It ain’t your fault you’re a lightweight.” 

Cordelia may feel rotten from her hangover, heartbroken from the events that have transpired, but the devoted way that Misty speaks the words makes her feel like she’s floating on a cloud. So relaxed, her head rolls once more. Gravity beckons it until her forehead makes contact with soft blonde hair. “If you call me a lightweight one more time. . .” she jokes.  

“What are you gonna do about it?”  

Her insides curl deliciously at the purr in her voice. How does she have such a hold on her? Sometimes, she wishes she wasn’t so powerless against the Cajun’s intricate cadence.  

Today, she allows it to bring her that swell of affection, only knowing soon that the high will stop. The pain will come. And she’ll do it all over again. She’s addicted to it.  

With the endearment in that moment, her own playfulness appears from its dormant sleep and sets its sights on Misty. No more words follow, but she does grip tightly around the corner of the pillow in her hold, then in a movement way too fast for someone in her condition, she aims it in Misty’s direction. Cordelia’s eyes open just in time to see the Cajun yelp, not able to dive out of the way in time.  

The pillow hits her chin, forcing eyes wider and pushing pretty giggles from her. She sits herself straight, yanking the offending pillow away and gazing at Cordelia in that unruly way that makes her breathless. She braces herself for the impact of Misty’s response, but it never comes. The wildness in her eyes fades out and takes with it her playful smirk.  

Misty relents to her own conscience, tossing the pillow to the side and then snuggling up to Cordelia’s side again. “You know, if you weren’t hungover, I so would have beat you.”  

“No way.” She grins gently, even if she certainly does know it to be true.  

Next to her, Misty’s presence is all too comforting. “I would have.” She says slowly, eyes meeting Cordelia’s. 

She’s shaking her head when she feels a pinkie finger brushing up against hers. “Jeez, why are your hands always so cold, Misty?” Without asking permission, she has both of the rough hands between hers, rubbing the skin hurriedly to encourage blood flow and warm them.  

Misty watches the entire time with pink cheeks and unsaid words hanging on her plump lips. 

When she stops, she doesn’t let go of Misty’s hands. Misty doesn’t take them away, either. 

At this point, exhaustion holds her ransom. She doesn’t remember a time when she’s ever been this tired before other than when she had a really bad case of the flu just before her twelfth birthday. Her eyes close against their will, head rolling further before it finds something solid. Misty, maybe. She's not too sure.  

One of those now warm fingers touches just above her hairline. “Are you sure you feel alright?”  

“I’ll be fine.” She mumbles. “I just need sleep.”  

Comfortable silence wraps around them.  

But she does force one eye open, insides jerking as she realizes just how close she is to the Cajun. “You don’t have anywhere to be today, do you?” A half smile follows.  

“Nah.” Misty is shaking her head, pressing lips together as though to control them from doing something else. “I can stay here. Make sure you don’t die ‘n all that.”  

The headache is beginning to return, this time with a vengeance. “I’d appreciate that.” 

Her stomach somersaults with purpose now that they’re completely still again, and she starts checking that the bucket is still nearby, just in case.  

A lasting sigh follows. “You have to make sure I never drink this much again.” She insists, groaning. In her sleepy state, she continues the ramble. “You know when you wake up and instantly regret everything?” 

She's not looking at Misty, so she doesn't see the way that the words cut through her, all too relatable. The Cajun grimaces, whispering in exhaustion. “Yeah. . .” 

“It sucks.”  

“Get some sleep.” Misty orders, like a mother with a child, and her eyes sparkling sadly. “In a few hours, you'll feel better. You'll forget all about it.” 

Upset clutches her voice like she’s trying to convince herself of the very same thing. 

… 

She spends the rest of the day feeling sorry for herself in every way possible. Curled up in bed and ignoring each single bit of school work that she knows is calling out to her. 

It's easy, with Misty pressed up next to her, occasionally joining the older blonde in her impromptu naps. Other times, she sits with her eyes glued to the TV screen. In all the time she's known her, it's the calmest she's ever seen Misty. Other than the bouncing of her feet at the intense parts of the shows.  

She smiles to herself, indulging in it. True to Misty’s word, sleep chases away her discomfort. And water and dry toast ease the nausea. If only she could forget as easily.  

Misty stretches out beside her, lengthy limbs on view. In the movement, her arm comes down over Cordelia’s head and shoulder, resting around her. She stiffens despite the quiver in her tummy. “Hmm.” The Cajun's eyes are half open. “It's almost eight. . . I should probably go soon. I ain't done any runnin' today.” 

She nods, head still on her shoulder and arm laid across Misty’s midriff from where limbs had wandered and neither had the heart to move . “Just tell me when and I'll take you.” A yawn catches at the end of her words.  

“’Kay.” 

Even so, they sit like that for at least another thirty minutes, holding onto the other in the cosy moment just for them.  

Misty interrupts with some of those pressing thoughts. “Hey, Cordelia?” 

“Yeah?” 

Conflict pushes her lips about, makes her eyes shimmer. “Was I really bein’ weird with you?” 

Her head spins, but not from anything alcohol related this time. “What?” She frowns, leaning back just enough so she can absorb all of Misty's expression. 

“You said that I was too scared to touch you. . . That ain’t true. I don’t think of you no different since you told me that you like girls.”  

She squeezes her hand, holding in a sigh. “I think the alcohol was making me a little paranoid.” She says. You can’t use that as an excuse

“Oh, yeah – sure.”  

Cordelia rests her head on Misty’s shoulder again, at home in that position.  

The Cajun continues her thoughts aloud. “Just, I know how hard it is with stuff like that.” 

Her face tightens in curiosity. “You do?” 

“Hmmm huh. I read all these horror stories about people coming out before. About the families shunning them, their friends leaving. All that stuff.” She speaks in a steady tone for the most part, but one small crack gives her away. “Did you know that in the 60's they were still electrocution’ people's brains ‘cause they had gay thoughts?” 

Cordelia makes a strangled noise. “Well, thank god I was born thirty years after that.” 

“Yeah.” The arm around her seems to have moved in, cradling her nearer. “Could you even imagine?” 

“Times are different now, Misty. They're better.” Cordelia certainly hadn't been expecting the seriousness of this conversation. Her brain struggles to keep up with it. She tries her best, though. “Most people have realized that it's just love.” She shrugs. “Regardless of gender.” 

Misty goes awfully quiet again, but her fidgeting increases. She stills her by running fingers soothingly up her arm. If she looked into Misty's eyes as she does this, she thinks maybe it'd be that bit too intimate, so she doesn’t.  

“I wish everyone thought that.” Misty confesses gravely, just as Cordelia's fingers reach the point where the scars are covered on Misty’s wrist. They feel less angry; she faintly smiles at that.  

“Maybe one day.”  

“You should be allowed to love whoever you want,” she affirms, that severity returning. This draws the older blonde's gaze, finding Misty’s with ease. But there is no simplicity behind her withering eyes; there's a whole lot of something in each sky blue speckle that sits in her irises.  

Only, her hidden message seems to get lost in translation, for Cordelia fights against her lingering headache and her preoccupation with the night earlier keeps her from hoping to see something that she knows couldn’t ever be there.  

She nods, then smiles. And she tries not to notice how Misty deflates a little. 

... 

If Cordelia spends the whole weekend trying to force that wretched image out of her mind, school remains insistent that it be shoved right back in. 

Monday brings with it the usual excitement of seeing friends again, and after the events of the party, the others seem to gather around Misty like a swarm of flies. 

Only, she can’t do enough to bat them away. 

“I told you, it just kinda happened. . .” She sounds annoyed, unwilling.  

Cordelia hovers from where she's searching through books in the library. Queenie had at least had the kindness to wait until she'd left their table before beginning to quiz Misty. Still, she isn’t exactly quiet, and the blonde is merely a few feet away by the closest bookcase. 

She lingers, straining her ears and ignoring the clench in her gut.  

“Was he a good kisser?” Coco pushes with starry eyes. 

Misty hesitates, perturbance giving way to a falter in her expression. “Um, I guess so?”  

“But,” Queenie continues, starved for information. “How does he rate, compared to everyone else you've kissed?” 

“Fine.” She drawls in boredom. 

Coco reaches out for her. “You’re killing me, Misty! Give me the juice.”  

“I. . . We just kissed. What else is there to it?” 

She receives a chorus of exasperation, even if she doesn’t understand why. Cordelia continues to feign interest in the titles of the books as she tiptoes nearer to them again.  

What else is there? ” Coco gives a dramatic heave. “You’re supposed to feel that fire, that burning. You’re supposed to want to stay locked in their arms forever.”  

For a brief second, Misty's eyes flicker, landing on Cordelia. Who pretends to be deep in the middle of reading. The moment is all too quick and then her eyes are impatiently focusing on Coco. “You've been watchin' too many movies.” 

“Have not.” 

Misty shakes her head. “People don’t feel things like that about guys in real life.” She insists. “A kiss is just a kiss.” Her tongue moves to sit nervously between her lips. “Right?” 

Blank stares meet her confused one.  

Right?”  

Zoe clears her throat. “Well, when I was dating Charlie, I felt like sometimes everything just kind of stopped when we were kissing.” Her voice is quiet, the memory maybe a little too fresh. Mallory places a hand on her shoulder, smiling sadly. 

But Misty’s shares no sadness as the words offer her only bewilderment. Especially when the other girls begin to share their stories of kisses, all brimming with fondness of the act. The Cajun stares at her book before her like it's personally wronged her. “I thought people just made all that stuff up.” 

“No,” Coco laughs, “why would you think that? You know, the first time I held a boy's hand, I thought my heart was going to explode and – hey Misty, are you okay?”  

Cordelia does lift her gaze now, spying as Misty seems to wear the pale cloak of trouble and nausea. She forces a smile to her lips. “Yeah. Just fine.” 

Though she seems unsure, her dying need to speak forces Coco back into conversation. “And the first kiss I ever had was at Camp. . .” 

Her story continues, excited and detail oriented, sharing profound stories of just how magical her kisses had been.  

Cordelia notes that Misty seems to shrink the longer it goes on. 

… 

“Can I ask you something, Cordelia?” 

“Of course.” She says without looking up. Her eyes are too busy searching for small mites in the succulents.  

A pause. “It's about guys.” 

Cordelia stills at the strained way she asks, that being enough to urge her attention solely on Misty. “Guys?” She repeats just to be sure. Panic sets in as she realizes exactly where this conversation is going, and she doesn’t want to do it, not at all. But it looks like she has no damn choice.  

She slowly lowers herself to the stool and regards Misty. The Cajun has been miserably drawing line after line in her sketchbook and now it's nothing more than a convoluted black mass that stares back at them. “Kissin’ them, more specifically,” she fights back her grimace. 

“Is this about what happened at the party?” 

Misty's face drops from a great height. “Y – you saw that?” 

Tears demand the use of her eyes. Don’t you dare, don’t you dare.  

“Uh, yeah.”  

“I thought you didn’t know.” She whispers, in false hopelessness. 

“Come on, Misty.” Her crinkled and sad smile sits stubbornly on her lips. “It's the talk of the school this morning.” 

Misty at least looks ashamed at the attention. She thought that would make her feel better, but it doesn’t. In fact, it clutches at her heartstrings even more powerfully.  

The Cajun can’t seem to settle on an emotion, moving from that shame to ire, to just a simple sorrow that flutters about her features like a bird in the sky. It's becoming all too at home on there, nesting away, and Cordelia would give anything to stop it.  

She purses her lips. “So, what did you want to ask me?”  

The reminder of her motives makes her tense slightly, contemplative. It is begrudgingly pushed through the barrier of her lips.  

“What was it like when you kissed Hank?” 

“Hank?” She says the name in distaste.  

Misty nods delicately.  

The idea of having to recall any memories with her ex boyfriend makes her skin crawl but she does it for her friend. She combs every inch of her brain, pulling out the ones needed. “It was nice. Most of the time.” 

“Nice?” Misty pushes, forehead wrinkled.  

“Yes.” She flushes with embarrassment, like a young schoolgirl rather than someone who's almost graduating high school. “I like kissing.” Cordelia cringes at how lame it all sounds, especially in front of her crush.  

“Does. . .” She starts with piercing eyes. “Does it always feel good? Like, every time?” Her voice rises an octave.  

Cordelia hesitates, trying to recall. As much as she'd despised Hank by the end of the relationship, she can’t quite think where the intimate act had ever failed to make her feel something

When she tells Misty that, she slumps in a downcast manner.  

She inches nearer, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. “Why does it matter anyway?” It's a gentle push to get the information that she's been dying to know about all weekend.  

“It's dumb.” Misty decides in irritation. 

“You know I won’t judge anything that you tell me.” She insists with an encouraging smile.  

Misty stares; her fingers tap erratically onto the thick drawing pad.  

Cordelia takes hold of that frenzied hand and entwines her own with it, even if Misty's fingers are smudged with graphite.  

“Misty.” That draws her wavering gaze back toward the older blonde.  

She bites her lip. “I think there's somethin’ wrong with me.” 

“Wrong?” She echoes, horrified at the very suggestion. 

There’s a dutiful nod in return, emphatically and sure. Cordelia laughs, past the point of nervous now. “Why would you think that?” 

“Because I – I ain’t right.” 

Her perplexed expression pushes Misty into her reluctant explanation. “When I kissed him, at the party, I just. . .I didn’t feel anythin’.” Doubt continues to saddle her words. “And I thought that was normal. I - " 

“You thought it was normal not to feel anything when you kiss someone?” She asks, just to make sure that her ears have heard Misty right. Ever since she was a kid, she's known that feelings are a rather strong precursor to kissing, and all relationships.  

Misty mistakes her perplex for judgement, and bristles on instinct. “My parents never kissed.” She frowns, “everythin’ I ever learned about that sort of stuff was from TV. That, and watchin' my siblings bring random people home.” She shrugs with disinterest. “The stuff I saw on TV, all those feelin's that the girls would have. . . I ain’t ever looked at a guy and felt that.” Her face is all crinkled up in thought. “I assumed it was like that for everyone, that people just get married and have kids, and don’t really feel those TV emotions.” 

Tears begins to swirl in her eyes, calling out to Cordelia for comfort.  

She gives a harsh laugh. “And I know how dumb that is, but TV shows have spaceships and talking animals, an’ a whole bunch of stuff that don’t exist. Why should I have thought any different about the fireworks?” 

“Fireworks?” 

Misty’s eyes soften in observation of her. She chews on that lips again. “Yeah. When a guy and a girl finally kiss, they say it feels like fireworks goin' off inside of ‘em.” She shrugs again, a growing sense of disenchantment about it. “I thought that was just made up stuff, like the tooth fairy or somethin’. 

She gives a sorrowful smile, both endeared and heart reaching out for her friend. She’s led a different life to Cordelia, one filled with more strife than she can ever imagine.  

A long exhale tugs at Misty’s strength before she looks down. “But from the sounds of it, everyone else has felt that, ‘cept for me. And now I’m beginnin’ to think there’s somethin' the matter with me.”  

“Hey,” she reacts within seconds, moving so fast that the stool beneath her scrapes out of her way. Hands hold either sides of Misty's face, giving her no choice but to stare into her loving gaze. “There is nothing wrong with you, Misty. Don’t you ever think that.” 

“But - " 

“I've never felt it either.” She confesses. 

Misty blinks away the tears, lips pouted from her sadness. The older blonde finds herself enraptured at the sight of them. “Really?” she says, like she almost believes she's sane again. 

Cordelia nods. “Really. I’ve kissed guys, and I’ve enjoyed it, but I’ve never felt that way about one.” She clears her throat and allows just a few nerves to hijack her voice. “So, don’t think you’re alone.” 

But clearly she does, because her face is crumpling again in Cordelia’s hold. “I didn’t even enjoy it.” She says oh so quietly, a secret for just the two of them. “It was like I wasn’t even in my body, and it was just happening. I just let it happen. . .” 

She pauses now, lost. She certainly doesn’t know what to say to that.  

At her retreating touch and silence, Misty figures it out with ease. “See?” She says darkly. “That ain't right. You think so too." 

“I don’t think that.” She replies intently. 

But maybe she does, just a little. Or a lot. And like Misty had said at the party, she's no fool. Her eyes are shrewd, catching every flicker on Cordelia’s face as she scrambles to think of anything to satiate her upset.  

She comes up shorthanded. 

Fingers come up to meet Cordelia’s, then shift to her head as if it’s the cause of all her troubles. “I’m just so confused, Delia.” 

“About that guy?”  

Her face is pale, eyes hollow. “About everythin’.” 

“What do you mean?” she asks, too vague for Misty to give her the specifics. Even so, she has a feeling, one of those gut ones that refuses to budge. Because she can’t ignore the signs, not for any longer. Air makes its way into her lungs, shuddering all the way down her throat. What if Madison is right? She can’t actually believe she's thinking that. 

But what if? 

The second more tears fall from Misty, she’s got her in her embrace, held firmly against her chest. She can feel those tears beginning to pool on her sweater, sticking to her like those thoughts leech into her mind.  

Those thoughts that tell her they think that Misty is gay, too.  

And that the Cajun hates herself for it. 

Chapter Text

The newest revelation in her life is one that has her sat in biology, every bit on the verge of falling apart with so many insistent thoughts. She’d almost been relieved when Miss Pembroke had announced a pop quiz, even if Misty had groaned and dropped her head into her hands. Even now, Misty leans over the paper, pen clutched in her left hand as narrowed eyes try to make sense of the questions.  

All the while, Cordelia tries to make sense of well. . . everything.  

She peers at Misty subtly, not enough to draw her attention away from where she chews the end of the pen absentmindedly. Just enough to study her in the way that she thinks she's getting rather good at. Her eyes are dry now, if a little pink, but if she hadn’t held her in her arms over an hour ago as she cried, she wouldn’t even know.  

Even if she thinks she’s being inconspicuous Misty seems to have a second sense, like always, that she is the object of attention and turns. Their eyes catch, and she offers the tiniest of smiles. With it, she places her hand on the desk where Cordelia's sits stationary, right in the middle. That pinkie finger of Misty’s sweeps up against hers, asking. 

Asking for what? Cordelia doesn’t quite know. What she is aware of is the way she places her own hand over Misty's comfortingly. The smallest, but most serene smile appears on her friend's lips. 

She appears to need all the soothing she can get, if she ragged way she stares at the paper in front of her is anything to go by. 

Cordelia is finished with her own quiz; it sits abandoned in favor of her friend. She listens to Misty’s delicate sighs and grumbles that seem to be endless. Her index fingers scrolls over the same question a couple of times, the girl mouthing the words to herself. One word stumps her, leaving her staring in bewilderment. The pen nib gets tapped against it as eyebrows scrunch together.  

She can’t help herself. Eyes watch for all of a few minutes before she's leaning in and whispering. “Chlorophyll.” 

Misty jumps initially at the closeness, then smiles, nothing short of grateful. “Thanks. I can never get that one.” 

No talking.”  

Now, the two of them peer upwards at the teacher, though bear little guilt on their faces as they are reprimanded.  

And then they're back to silence, to her thoughts that drown her. The only thing that calms them is watching Misty, face twisting in frustration every few minutes. She observes her until those questions become all too loud.  

When the bell signifies the end of class, both sigh in relief. It’s short lived, because Madison is advancing, and she's smirking. If there's anything she's learned, that is not a good thing. 

She stills on her approach, caution written on her features.  

Misty, who had been hurriedly packing her things, seems to be the recipient of that smirk. A crumpled piece of paper is slammed on the desk in front of the Cajun, drawing a frown on her lips.  

She doesn’t reach for it. “What's that?” 

“James' number.” 

Fingers clutch the strap of her backpack that bit tighter while Cordelia glares at the scrap. “James?” Misty swallows thickly.  

Eyes flash wickedly. “Don’t you remember?” She pushes the paper nearer until it is grazing Misty’s touch. “Your little make out buddy. He asked me to give you this.” When Misty continues to hesitate, she rolls her eyes. “It’s his number. You put it in your phone and text him hi. Then before long you get to do more than make out, capiche?” Her words are mocking, slow and punctuated like she’s talking to a child.  

Misty moves her gaze ever so softly from the paper, to Madison, then briefly in Cordelia’s direction. As if appalled that she’s having to witness this. “That’s okay. . .” She begins to shake her head, withdrawing. 

“Oh, come on Swampy, just take it.” She goads. Cordelia can feel that familiar swirl of anger inside her, or maybe it’s protectiveness. Either way, she thinks she's about ready for round two of slapping her.  

She doesn’t, and instead spectates with a tightness in her jaw that quickly becomes painful. Misty's tentative hand curls around the paper, holding it between her index finger and thumb.  

Madison grins. “You're welcome.” And just like that, she's flouncing off, not before throwing a gleeful gaze in Cordelia’s direction.  

Ire surges inside of her; violent images swill in the deepest depths of her mind and her desire to keep Madison out of Misty's already convoluted headspace is overwhelming. So intense that she almost snatches the paper from her friend's hand and chucks it away. Or considers burning it. That would be more cathartic, for sure.  

Instead, she takes the less vex fuelled, albeit more diplomatic, approach of leaving Madison’s face unharmed and sending a pained smile over at her friend.  

Misty is shoving the paper as far down into her bag as physically possible, as though willing it out of her sight. And mind. Just life, in general. Cordelia attempts to do the same.  

This gives her pause again. There's a stunted moment between the pair, now alone save for the teacher, as they absorb the interaction.  

It’s as though their roles have switched; Cordelia is the one brimming with pent up, barely held together, annoyance. Misty, by contrast, seems all too eager to brush over Madison's coarse nature.  

“Let's go.” She is yanking Cordelia out of the classroom by the wrist, leading her away from the bad vibes that now float around their desk.  

The older blonde keeps up with her pace, practically a run. Hustle and bustle of other students is hardly registered in her foggy mind, where Misty holds her steady attention, as always. Is this what it's like to be in love? To be so utterly consumed by someone that they make a quaint and cosy home in her mind where they can reside forever?  

She sucks in a sharp breath, trying to focus on the literal Misty in front of her, and not the figurative one that seeks shelter in her thoughts. “Some quiz, huh?” Misty grumbles, opening her locker to shove books inside.  

It is done in a jerking manner, her eyes suddenly darker.  

Cordelia feels herself tiptoeing around her, despising every second that she can’t just come outright with her own emotions. Such as the complete and utter repulsion at the idea of Misty calling that guy. That James. Despite the bitterness it brings to her mouth, she forces her expression to remain neutral.  

“Hmm, it was okay.” She's leaning against her own locker, but twisting in Misty's direction to observe every irate flex of her muscles.  

All instincts to reach out and place a calming hand on her are fought with dwindling strength. “Easy for you to say .” Misty softens, just for a moment, like an eclipse of the darkness allowing her to see things more clearly. “You always ace them.” 

“I don’t.’ Cordelia playfully rolls her eyes.  

“Yeah, you do.” She is reaching for her running gear now, tugging at the laces of worn sneakers that sit under the pile of books and papers in her lockers. “Wish I was as smart as you.” 

Her face pinches in annoyance. “Who says you’re not?” 

Misty halts in her actions to give her a strong side eye, before she is slamming her locker closed. “Least I ain’t so bad at the runnin’.”  

She's giving a cool shrug, acting all nonchalant as if she isn’t aware that she's the fastest one on the track and field team. 

Cordelia feels a smile poking at the corners of her lips. A genuine one, that wants to let Misty know that she's perfect the way she is. It pushes through, and Misty’s tender blue gaze catches it. “Oh, don’t act so coy.” She chuckles. 

A toothy grin is sent in response, the same teeth moving to tug at soft skin on her upper lip. Cordelia is drawn to it like a bear to honey. 

There’s a creak in the lockers as Misty moves to stand beside her in her recline. Both linger, holding their respective items for their extracurricular activities, yet neither make to move. They simply watch the world go by around them, falling victim to the intensity of the day. And what a day it's been, with tears and a gripping weight on her chest.  

Now they’re here, no steps closer to a resolution. Just adding more questions to the eternal pit of befuddlement.  

But Misty seeks to  address one of them, clearly the braver of the two. She turns to Cordelia, her fingers rolling the strap of her gym bag between them rhythmically. “About before. . .” Misty starts, giving this half smile that isn’t really a smile at all. “Please don’t tell anyone else ‘bout what I said.” 

Cordelia blinks, the simple demand enough to make her head spin. It allows the inquisitive side of her flourish like a blooming garden of curiosity. “You know I wouldn’t.” She insists. Because that’s what she is to Misty, a friend, a confidant. Someone who she can maybe share her deepest and more feared secrets with.  

Maybe even a secret that Cordelia expects is the reason for her hesitance in this moment. She looks to her friend now, attention drawn from rushing students to the eerily still way she leans into the lockers.  

That same fear still resides in the Cajun's eyes, fear that she's seen before. It rings clearly in her ears, strained words orbiting her brain. I have these thoughts. They scare me sometimes. Cordelia wants more than anything to know what those thoughts of Misty‘s are. “I know.” Misty makes for a delicate nod. “I just. . .everyone else just makes a bigger deal outta things than they need to.”  

She hums her agreement, knowing all too well the high school drama.  

Misty continues, slumping to the right so her side falls neatly against Cordelia's. The older blonde stills, her body a barrier to keep Misty upright. “And,” Misty sighs, failing in keeping the frustration from her lips, “I just wanna feel normal.” 

“You are - " 

“Don’t.” She whispers, eyes closing. There’s a silent please that doesn’t quite make the leap from her lips.  

Cordelia listens, sensing the fragile way that Misty hangs onto self composure. “I won’t tell anyone.” Her voice may be quiet, but it grows strong with her promise. So much, that Misty turns to peer at her in that pensive state.  

When Cordelia feels Misty’s hand reaching out for hers again, just like in class, she eases under the nervous touch. It’s strange. Misty is always so tactile, so sure of her movements and actions, but these days hesitations seems to hold her at ransom. The paranoid part of her mind, even when not muddled with alcohol, tells her that it’s because of her own confession to Misty. That she's not truly okay with it.  

But her heart fights such ideas with a swell of emotion. It’s something else, she just knows it, and she wants more than anything to put the puzzle pieces together. 

She isn’t granted the chance, because Misty is talking again. The Cajun speaks out into the now almost empty hallway. “What do you think I should do?” 

“What?” 

Misty visibly gulps. “Do ya think I should text him?” Eyes dart away. “Like Maddy said.” 

Her hand retreats from Misty's touch in a knee jerk reaction. Misty stands erect, surprised. Mostly confused. “What's wrong?” she pushes. 

She's already shaking her head before the question is finished, feeling awfully transparent in her emotions. She both desires and dreads the idea of Misty realizing how she feels about her. “Nothing.” She says hurriedly, clutching her textbook tighter. Cordelia wills her heart to slow down, and continues with the intention of deflection. “And it's up to you, Misty.”  

“I – I don’t know.”  

She lets her stare linger, forcing Misty to decide. If it's left to her, it would be a resounding no. Only, it's not up to her, and she isn’t even exactly sure of her suspicions about Misty. Said doubts that have her questioning Misty’s sexuality entirely.  

Cordelia pauses, allowing herself a moment to figure out exactly how to tackle the situation. She thinks she's always been a pragmatic person, but this has her stumped. A delicate approach is needed, preferably with someone who isn’t wholly biased, say, by being kinda completely in love with the Cajun.  

She ignores the clench in her heart. “Think on it, you'll know what's right.”  

Her fidgeting increases, pulling Cordelia’s focus from Misty’s expression to her hands. They have sparkly purple nail polish on that Misty had let her niece paint on, and it glistens in the lights above them. “What do you think?” She questions again, voice thicker. 

“It doesn’t really matter what I think.” Her laughter is half hearted. 

“Yeah.” Misty agrees with just as much conviction, yet continues regardless. “But what do you think?” And she's turning to fully face her now, with an unrelenting glower that makes Cordelia weak at the knees in.  

She clears her throat, praying that something logical comes from her scrambled mind. What does she think? Now, that is the million dollar question, the one that wanes and waxes in all too many situations these days.  

Sometimes she wishes she didn’t think at all. “I - "  

The way that Misty is looking to her, like she's oh so desperately waiting for one answer in particular, is unnerving. Because she has no idea what that answer is.  

“Why does it matter so much what I think?” She says, under the guise of humor, with a teasing smile and a lack of breath in her lungs.  

Misty's eyes might flash with alarm, only for it to fizzle away. “Just,” She pauses, licking her lips in thought, “you always know the right thing to do.”  

The words are said with utter earnest, enough to have Cordelia’s heart swelling at the profound statement. For the first time in that conversation, Misty’s trepidation disappears. She means those words, wholeheartedly, and that means more to Cordelia than the Cajun will ever know. “Well,” she ponders, “kissing aside, do you think you want to see him again?” 

Misty presses her lips together in thought, a small hum vibrating inside her mouth. “He was nice, I guess.” She shrugs.  

Her somewhat lack of a real answer has Cordelia’s frown growing.  

“Look, don’t feel pressured because of what Madison would think, or any of our other friends.” She pauses, then sucks in what she hopes is a big, brave breath, and speaks. “Or the idea that being in high school means you have to have a boyfriend. You said that you don’t care what anyone else thinks – " 

“I don’t.” Misty says. But Cordelia doesn’t believe her; she’s beginning to think that Misty cares an awful lot about what people think of her, about  one  thing in particular.  

She continues in her serious speech. “You don’t owe anyone anything, Misty. If you didn’t like kissing him, then don’t do it again. If you don’t want to talk to him, then don’t.” She realizes that she’s skewing the conversation, just a little, in favor of the outcome she wants. Painfully so, she tries to balance her words. “If it is what you want, then a couple of texts can’t hurt.” 

There may be a strain in each syllable, because she can see the way Misty’s head tilts in something akin to concern. She can see the girl swallow, watching the lump’s descent down her pale throat. “So, you think I should?” 

Maybe her resistance to the idea got lost in translation. Now, all she can do is try to keep the heartache from her expression. How have they got here? With her on the cusp of encouraging Misty to talk to a guy? But she guesses that’s what friends are for, even if it is breaking every tendril of muscle in her heart.  

“I think you should do whatever makes you happy.”  

This forces Misty to just simply stare at her, scrutinizing Cordelia in a way that makes her shift in unease.  

When she can’t bear it any longer, she clears her throat. “You better get to track. You’ll be late.”  

Misty nods, but there is no concern about tardiness in that moment. All of that disquiet is reserved for Cordelia, who starts mumbling something about going to the library and working on some homework. “I’ll see ya later.” Misty says tenderly, still clearly weighed down by her predicament.  

Cordelia tries to satiate all the negative feelings with a wide smile. “Yeah. I got stuff to make linguine for dinner again.” And that feels nice, and stupidly domestic, like they are some couple. Like it’s normal that they’re going to go home and eat a homemade dinner together.  

Her own smile following, Misty sighs shakily. Maybe she’s thinking the same thing as Cordelia, and is thrown off by the idea. “Yeah. Can’t wait.” She throws a glance down the hallway. “Guess I’ll go work up an appetite by runnin’.”  

She laughs now, finally at ease.  

In her retreat, she feels a burning gaze on her the entire time. Only, her mind is usurped by something else, something small and inanimate, but holds more weight that a scrappy piece of paper ever should. In the whole hour and a half she’s in the library, she barely gets any work done, drowning internally at the idea of Misty messaging that guy.  

...

“So,” Misty's eyes are trailing over the pile of ingredients that are half open, packets wrinkled from use, and all shoved into somewhat of a neat bundle to make room for the cupcake tray that Cordelia is filling with the uttermost care, “are we tryin' to feed an army here?” 

Already,  the kitchen is filling with the sweet smell of baking brownies and a tempting pile of cookies sit neatly on the cooling rack. They smell amazing, too. Enough to make her mouth water and a voice in the back of her head insist that she try one. It's well and truly ignored, despite the grumble in her stomach, so that she can smile up at Misty. “Of course not.” She chuckles.  

Incredulity follows, morphing into a pretty smirk. “There's an awful lot of stuff.” 

“Well yeah, it's a bake sale.” She insists with a growing twinkle in her eyes. Misty is sat on the kitchen island, her legs dangling down below her in a ripple of movement. “And it’s for charity,” She adds. 

Misty shrugs, glancing around the organized mess again. “Guess so.” 

With flour covered fingers, she reaches into one of the wrappers and sneakily snatches some chocolate chips. The crinkling gives her away, forcing Cordelia to regard her with a raised brow.  

Misty smiles playfully, as though daring her to say something. It makes her stomach twist, her heart race, and she watches as those small pieces of chocolate disappear behind plump lips.  

She almost spills the batter on the counter. 

If the Cajun notices, she doesn’t say anything. She seems rather content in simply being a spectator, surrounding by a plethora of small snacks to nibble on, even if they’d already eaten pizza when they got back. Even while Cordelia concentrates, she still keeps some of her attention for Misty, as always. 

Right now, the girl is sat admiring the house plants that sit in the kitchen window, blinking against the late sunshine that streaks through the glass. The yellow glow sits serenely on her skin, begging for more of Cordelia’s heed. With lips puckering together, she forces herself to finish separating the batter out between cases.  

Soon, Misty sighs in a tranquil manner. As the days have gone on since their conversation Monday, her worries appear to have eased. At least, as far as Cordelia can see. She doesn’t know if Misty has text James, and a part of her wants to live in ignorant bliss.  

There’s a light thud as Misty jumps down from the island, slowly meandering over in her direction. She feels that presence beside her, like a shadow over her shoulder. Misty smells awfully pretty today, like freesias and jasmine, adding another sense of allure to the girl. The lingering continues, until Cordelia finds a smile crawling onto her lips.  

“What are you doing?” she practically giggles. 

She dares a glance over her shoulder, finding Misty smiling too. “Just watchin’.” 

Her movements still, the batter beginning to droop from the spoon like a stalagtite. “What’s so interesting about this?” she poses, definitely teasing. She knows that she shouldn’t, but her will grows weak from time to time, especially around Misty.  

Cordelia convinces herself in an all too rehearsed manner that the pink on Misty’s cheeks is from the heat of the room. “I like bakin’.” She gives way as an explanation, giving a small shrug. Her hands are held behind her back, but she hovers closer. If she took another step, she’d practically be leaning her chin on Cordelia’s shoulder.  

With her rapt audience, Cordelia finds herself taking far more care.  Heat settles in her stomach delightfully. “If you like it so much, then why have I done most of this?”  

Misty reacts to her playful grin with a gentle smile of her own. “You look like you got it all under control.” 

“I specifically remember you saying that you’d bake something one day.” She swallows, and adds without thinking, “for me.” 

There’s a pause, then Misty bows her head almost shyly. “I did.” 

“Well, I’m still waiting.” She laughs. “I cook for you all the time.” 

She scoffs, humor filled. “Not all the time.” Her accent wraps around the words, thicker in her mock offence. Cordelia loves times like this; she adores the peaks and lulls of her southern cadence.  

“I’ve cooked dinner for you three times this week. Your family are going to start thinking that you don’t eat anything at all.”  

Sweet laughter fills the air. “You know I normally have somethin’ to eat at home, too?” She says, moving from behind Cordelia to stand almost in front of her, between the older blonde and the counter. It forces Cordelia to still, eyes locking onto Misty’s where they transfix her.  

Disbelief wraps around her own words. “How are you so skinny?”  

Misty is already popping another chocolate chip into her mouth, then shrugs happily.  

“Will you stop eating my ingredients?!” she insists, any annoyance giving way to chuckles that let Misty know she’s not really mad. Reaching for the bag, she moves the sweet items out of Misty’s reach, much to the protest of the Cajun. She sets a look on Cordelia, brows lowering into a straight line and gaze nothing short of a smoulder.  

She mustn’t know what she’s doing, because it lasts longer than Cordelia thinks she can cope with. The only relief she gets from the pool of arousal in her lower half is when the oven timer loudly announces the brownies are done.  

As it is, she’s kind of frozen in the spot, so Misty stands straight and smiles her way. “I got it.” A hand brushes her shoulder on the way past, sending electricity surging down her arm.  

This gives her to opportunity to finish the cupcakes, turning to see Misty carefully pull the hot brownies from the oven. Inhaling deeply, Misty grins. “Damn, these smell good.”  

“Good.” She grins, “maybe I’ll let you have one.”  

She spins, mouth falling out. “Just one?” 

Shaking her head in endearment, she helps Misty to get the brownies cooling and raises the oven temperature for the next batch of items. All the while, she feels that thoughtful gaze on her. She turns. “What?” 

“Nothin’.” Misty replies hurriedly. 

Her eyes narrow. “You were watching me. Do I have something on my face?”  

“No.”  

There’s a temptation to continue, to push and push until Misty comes out with it. Instead, she ducks her head in her own moment of contemplation.  

When she lifts it again, Misty is rifling through the open packets once more.  

Cordelia sighs, nearing the girl. “I just told you to stop eating everything.” Mirth is plastered over her words, drawing Misty’s attention toward her with a light smile.  

“I thought you wanted me to bake for ya?” she turns, everything about her expression inviting and enough to have Cordelia’s smile growing, too.  

She leans in closer, unable to stop herself. Her hands wrap around Misty’s upper arm so she can bring herself flush against the girl. “What are you making?” Excitement begins to fill to the room. She spies some yeast in Misty’s hand, a quizzing expression making itself at home on her face.  

Misty appears to revel in it, encouraging the girl to work at a faster pace. “You’ll see.”  

That doesn’t leave Cordelia much of a choice other than to observe. She plays some music on her phone at Misty’s request, watching as tuneful hums come from the girl who works diligently. She is intent as ever, strong hands moulding together what appears to be some kind of dough. The sticky substance is kneaded repetitively, coating every inch of her arms, her wrists, and somehow ending up in a few strands of her hair. 

“How are you doing this without a recipe?” she chuckles after a few minutes of comfortable silence, now that Misty’s ball of dough is smoothing out between her fingers.  

She continues the steady movement as she answers. “I’ve made these more times than I can count.”  

Fondness fills in the lines of her features. “Yeah?”  

“Hmm. My mom taught me how to make ‘em.”  

Cordelia stills at the mention of Misty’s mother, eyes warily drawing over her, relieved to see no sadness tinging the girl’s expression. “That’s nice. Did you bake a lot with her?” 

“Yeah. She used to say it was one of the only things that would keep me still.” Her smile grows. “Plus, I like eatin’ the stuff afterwards so that helps.”  

“That is the best part,” she agrees.  

She begins to scroll absentmindedly through her phone, peering up every so often to look at Misty with a smile gracing her lips. It’s almost akin to watching her garden, the way she focuses so hard, her nose wrinkled up and lips puckered delicately. Cordelia finds her attention stolen by her hands though, working away with strength and skill, and to her own horror she finds herself being jealous of the dough under Misty’s ministrations.  

Shaking her head ever so lightly at her own foolishness, she focuses on her own baked goods. The cookies are cool by now, so she boxes them up, leaving out one each for the pair to try, while the cupcakes are rising happily in the oven.  

Intent on keeping her eyes from staring dumbly at Misty’s hands, she sets about making a buttercream. It’s another sweet aroma in the air, so much she fears she’s going to be overwhelmed by them all. Her mouth waters, even if she’s full from dinner.  

She adopts her amicable chatter to take her mind from it. “Hey, did you get any college letters yet?”  

Misty pauses, lifting her gaze. “Two.” She says, “kinda working up the courage to open them.” Her smile falters, only briefly, before she stares right at Cordelia. “What about you?”  

“Yeah, just a few. Not heard back from USC though. That’s the one I’m kinda hoping on.”  

“Is that the one where Fiona went?”  

A nod follows. “Hmm.” She wonders what it would be like to go to the same college as her mother, the place her parents met. The same place that Fiona swears moulded her into the woman she is today. A terrifying woman, but one that Cordelia thinks is worthy of admiration, most of the time. How she wishes she had her mother’s resolve. 

As Misty continues, now moving her dough into a bowl and covering it with saran wrap, Cordelia is pulled from her thoughts. “Wouldn’t it be weird goin’ to the same place as your mom?”  

She pauses, then shrugs. “I don’t know. Guess I’ll find out if I get in.”  

“I just want to hear from UCLA.” She confesses quietly. “Real bad.” Her smile that follows is one of those half ones and a series of tiny chuckles follow. “It’s givin’ me anxiety just thinkin’ about it. Don’t even know if I’ll be able to open the letter when I get it.”  

Cordelia sighs, knowing that feeling all too well. An idea pops into her head, one that bubbles hopefully inside of her. “Hey, why don’t we open them together?” She poses. “When we both have them. I think I’d feel better if you were there.”  

She doesn’t give a shred of thought to the idea that one of them might not get into their preferred college, or both of them, but instead focuses on the fact there is a  chance  they could. And that would mean they’d both be going to LA. With that, a whole host of possibilities flitter about her excitedly.  

The most dangerous one being that she could convince the Cajun to be her roommate, and scenes like they’re in now would become the normal every day.  

Misty practically jumps at the idea, bouncing on her feet until she’s nearing Cordelia again. “Yeah. Let’s do that!” Her arms wrap around Cordelia in a loose hug, just for a few seconds. “We can be each other’s good luck charms.” Those words shouldn’t be enough to send the older blonde into a spiral, but they are. She longs for Misty’s arms as they withdraw.  

“Yeah.” She agrees.  

Though her arms are no longer embracing her, Misty lingers. “Told you, you always know the right thing to say.” 

Transported back to the conversation from a few days ago. In that moment, her expression must change, or her posture, or even the air that sits around. Because Misty pulls back with a perceptive stare, fixated on her. “What?” she laughs nervously.  

“Oh, just thinking.” she shrugs.  

Misty’s brows rise. “About?” When silence lingers, Misty nudges her slightly. “Hey, you said we were gonna be honest with each other.” She uses the promise to her advantage, grinning. “So, spill.”  

“Honestly?” 

The Cajun gives a series of hurried nods.  

She clears her throat. “I was thinking about the other day.”  

“What about it?”  

Misty’s sudden shifting is obvious, features beginning to droop with concern. She’s all too eager to put that to rest, reaching out until her hand connects with Misty’s arm. “You seem happier today.” she points out in earnest.  

Surprise is evident on her face, a delicate kind of surprise that warms the palette of her skin.  

Her chest heaves with a drawn sigh. “I am happier.” She says, “Monday was. . . I was just overwhelmed, I think. A lot happened and my head was kinda all over the place.” Misty smacks her lips together thoughtfully. 

“And it’s not now?” 

“Nah,” she says, “it still is. But I don’t feel so crappy right now.” 

With a pained smile, she squeezes Misty’s arm in what she hopes is comfort. It works, she thinks, because Misty doesn’t wear that air of dejection about her. “Good.” She announces. Even though its small, it is still something.  

All she wishes now is for Misty to be able to make sense of her thoughts, to be at peace with them, whatever they may be. Her arm hand rises to catch Misty just below the elbow. Her touch is faint and soft, and as either hand migrates lower on the sensitive skin of Misty’s arms, she sees her visibly shudder.  

Misty doesn’t shy away from her hands, but rather sways that little bit closer and brings with her that flowery scent. “Thanks, Delia.”  

“What are you thanking me for?” she chuckles.  

The Cajun peers down, eyelashes fluttering against her porcelain cheeks. She is looking at where they are joined by Cordelia’s firm hold, and Cordelia follows suit in her study. In turn, she grins at Misty’s messy fingers. Dough stubbornly clings to them, while flour has travelled all the way up her forearm.  

She no longer waits for an answer and speaks once more. “You should probably wash your hands.” She grins, “before you get everything covered in flour.” Already, some of it has made its way onto the lower half of her dress.  

“Hmm, guess so.”  

As she remains still, Cordelia’s expression grows in perplex.  

Until, that is, Misty smirks in a way that sends her heart aflutter. “Kinda need you to let go of me to do that.” 

Instantly, her face flashes red. The embarrassment burns, forcing her to reel back from Misty and look in the other direction. But Misty takes it in her stride, retreating to the sink and allowing Cordelia her moment to calm down. She hears the sound of the faucet running, and Misty muttering under her breath as she furiously scrubs under her fingernails.  

She busies herself with checking on the cupcakes, twisting in Misty’s direction as her actions take longer than she’d expected.  

The Cajun is observing where dough has attached itself to the ties on her wrists, stuck to all of the microfibres of the fabric with apparently no desire to let go. Misty’s frown persists, and no amount of scrubbing works to remove it all. She watches the struggle in sympathy, then feels words slipping from her lips without the opportunity to be filtered. “Do you want me to wash those for you?” 

Misty’s damp hands snap down beside her.  

A sigh flows from Cordelia; she thought they were past this.  

“I - um. . .”  

She worries her lip between her teeth. “I was just offering. . .” 

But Misty seems to deliberate, sensing the way that Cordelia is slipping, just so slightly. After a beat, she nods. “Actually, if you could.” Her eyes move about, reluctant to settle on anything. “If this stuff goes dry, I ain’t ever goin’ to get it out.”  

And that’s when fingers are reaches for the ties, awkwardly trying to tug them apart.  

Once again, Cordelia finds herself stepping in. “Here.” She breathes, “let me.” She isn’t sure if it’s a question or not, and Misty doesn’t really answer, so it mustn’t be. But neither does the Cajun move away as Cordelia begins to take away the flour covered material in a slow series of movements.  

As the black is taken away, it quickly reveals the alabaster skin beneath. It feels almost too intimate to be true, the world too still for all of those few seconds. She doesn’t comment on the cuts that are now on show for her to see, that Misty has allowed her to see. Misty is watching her carefully, and in turn she looks to her wrists, a thumb gazing over the newest cut, maybe a week old.  

She ignores the tightness in her chest and tries to remind herself that they look a hell of a lot better than the first time she’d seen then.  

Blinking the water away from her eyes, she lowers Misty’s wrists from her caring hands. “I’ll be right back.” She says, making her way to the laundry.  

Misty nods, pulling in a shuddering breath. Like she’s been holding it for the past few minutes.  

When Cordelia gets back, having settled her racing pulse in the small reprieve of the walk to the laundry room, she finds Misty sat on one of the kitchen stools, staring down at her own wrists in upset. Her head snaps up as she hears Cordelia’s footsteps.  

“Come on,” she smiles softly, wanting to take Misty’s mind off it. And her own, too. “Help me clean up?”  

She does. And despite the previous hint of sadness in the air, light begins to fill the room once more. They talk of school and plan to go to the botanical gardens, and sit eating the cookies that they’d made together earlier that night. She watches the crumbs gather in the corner of Misty’s mouth, resisting the urge to wipe them away.  

But as she’s in the middle of that thought, Misty is jumping onto her feet and readying to finish her own baking. Turns out, she’s making beignets, filling the insides the chocolate and soon frying them while licking her lips every so often. 

Completely in her element, she is smiling once more. And she  does  look happier, Cordelia thinks. Especially as she’s dusting the finished pastries with powdered sugar and pushing one toward Cordelia with anticipation in her pretty blue eyes.  

Cordelia basks in her happiness in that moment, surrounded by her own. It grows when she takes her first bite of the hot beignet, getting a mouthful of sweet dough and soft chocolate that coats her tongue. The way that Misty regards her, not a falter in her gaze, slows her chewing and halts a response.  

She wishes that the Cajun would look at her like that all of the time.  

“Do you like it?” She asks nervously.  

After another few seconds of chewing, she smiles around a swallow. “This might be the best beignet I’ve ever had.” She insists, not a shred of a lie.  

“Oh, you’re just sayin’ that.”  

She shakes her head, grinning. “No, I mean it, Misty.” One more bite follows, larger this time, and another appreciate hum. “It’s incredible. It was definitely worth the wait.”  

Misty just looks like all her Christmases have come at once. She proudly takes a bite of the pastry she made for herself, still watching Cordelia. “I’m glad,” she decides. And they smile at each other over the island, a smile that says more than words ever could. For a moment, she wonders how lucky she is to have Misty as her best friend.  

Even if she already feels full, she squeezes in another one of the beignets because they’re just so good. Her stomach sits heavy the entire drive to Misty’s, but she’s smiling either way. Tonight has been a good night.  

The sky above them, a hazy sea of pinks and purples that try to pull her attention away from the road. Misty is quiet, calm, though she does turn to her mid-way through the drive and gives a nervous smile. “So, I threw that guy’s number away.” 

“Oh?”   

She wants to say more; so, so much more. Only, that would give all of her feelings away far too easily.  

Turning briefly, she catches Misty’s gaze. “You were right.” 

“I was?” 

“Yeah, I don’t think I wanna see him again.”  

Cordelia breathes the longest sigh of relief she’s ever given in her life.  

“And I certainly don’t want him to kiss me again, sober or drunk.”  

She nods. Outwards, she stays neutral, but there’s a party beginning to sound in her pleased mind. She continues with more words that she hopes are wise, that can maybe satiate any worry Misty might be having from her bad experience. “I’m sure one day you’ll find someone that you’ll enjoy kissing.” Cordelia offers, then adds with a growing smile that she wishes would reach her eyes as she thinks of Misty kissing someone else. Someone that isn’t her. “Fireworks and all.” 

So focused on driving, she doesn’t see the way that Misty is staring at her with intense longing. “Yeah.” She agrees quietly. “I hope so.”  

She does look to Misty now, just as her eyes are darting away. A hand reaches out to squeeze her knee. And that’s it. All they need. The small act of support has Misty smiling again. 

The radio covers the silence, not the normal stuff either would listen to, but enough for her to tap her fingers against the steering wheel to. 

By the time they’re a few minutes away from Misty’s, surrounded by dense swampland, the Cajun speaks. “Cordelia?” 

There are those nerves again, hijacking her words. She tilts her head at her. “Hmmm?”  

“Did you wanna come around for dinner some time?” Misty asks, all kinds of timid.  

Cordelia balks, doing a double take to see if she heard the words right. “Dinner?”  

“Hm.” She nods. “I asked my Daddy. An’ he’s okay with it, and my sister said she’d make somethin’ nice. You said you wanted to come. . .” She looks to her with glistening eyes that catch the setting sun in them. “I just thought it would be nice.”  

“You’re inviting me to your house for dinner?” she asks a second time, just to be sure. The mind can play some cruel tricks. 

Misty laughs, though it doesn’t ease her obvious nerves, and Cordelia doesn’t try to question why she’d be nervous of such a thing. Because it might lead her down the regular path of overthinking. She bites her lips to keep the biggest of smiles from them. That same smile that would so easily give away how happy the question has made her.  

Instead, she gives a soft grin. “That sounds nice.” More than nice. It sounds perfect.  

Her eyes brighten. “Yeah?” 

“Yeah.” She nods.  

The two of them stare forward, both grinning like idiots.  

Cordelia breaks the silence after a few moments. “Although you’re definitely going to have to teach me who is who in your family now.”  

Misty’s laugh, so pure and fond, has Cordelia thinking this might be the best day she’s had in a while. Later that night, she might query why Misty’s doing this all of a sudden, why now is the time to invite her. But as it is, right now she’s just going to bask in the moment.  

Chapter Text

By the time her car pulls up in front of Misty’s house, she is battling a growing ball of nausea in her stomach. She parks up next the mud covered range rover, lingering in her cool car for a moment just until she can untangle her fingers from the steering wheel. Stop making a big deal out of this. It’s just dinner.  

Even so, she appraises her appearance in the small overhead mirror, knowing that it’s very rare she’d put so much effort into looking nice for any old dinner. Her lips purse together, painted with pale pink lipstick. Is this too much? She almost considers wiping it off, until a glance at her watch urges her to get a move on.  

Her walk up to the front door is slow, lasting – it allows her thorough observation of the world around that surrounds the quaint home. The nature is akin to most of the area, with high trees and tangling shrubs. The cicadas chirp invitingly, then she hears the flutter of wings every so often. It reminds her all too much of the Cabin. She breathes that in with a smile, despite her unsettled stomach.  

This is the closest she’s ever been to Misty’s home, she realizes. It almost feels too surreal for a second, a figment of her imagination. Her feet carry her slowly to the screen door, walking past potted plants and what looks like the parts of a rusted airboat. Under her weight, the few last steps up onto the porch creak, and then she’s there. Swallowing the thick lump in her throat with no shortage of anticipation.  

She searches for a doorbell, but comes up short. This forces a shaky hand higher, poised to knock. That is, until a shrill barking noise has her jumping backwards. Between the barks, she can hear frantic sniffing on the other side of the door, then the rattle of paws against a wooden floor.  

The barking continues, loud and insistent, until a voice carries over it. 

“Someone shut those damn dogs up!”  

Cordelia hesitates, then makes to knock again. The last thing she wants to do is be loitering out here in the heat of the mid afternoon.  

Her ears ring from the yaps, and for a moment she’s grateful that her mother had never succumb to her youthful desires to have a dog. She is definitely more of a cat person. Just as her knuckles find the wooden frame, a more familiar voice sounds. “Scout!” Misty’s voice is soft and firm at the same time, and it sets butterflies free in her chest. It gets louder. “What is all the fuss about?”  

The dogs’ scratching must alert Misty with their insistence, because the next thing she knows Cordelia hears the handle rattling under a touch. Soon enough, it opens to reveal her friend, a vision in a flowing cream dress that cuts off just at her calves, to show off where her shoeless feet press against the floor. She smiles widely the second her eyes fall upon Cordelia, running a hand through her hair nervously. The action almost skews the dark red headband that sits neatly amongst the curls, and Cordelia resists the urge to tell her how stunning she looks. 

Instead, Misty speaks. A kind of breathless joy in her words. “Delia. You’re here.”  

She hurries to open the screen door where it squeaks on the rusted hinges. As she does so, one hand holds back the larger of the three dogs that stand to attention at her feet. All of them are wagging their tails excitedly, noses straining to reach out and sniff at Cordelia. The sandy colored mastiff fights against even Misty’s strength and she groans. “Gumbo, c’mon. Back inside.” 

He whines earnestly, especially when the other two are given free rein to greet Cordelia. She freezes on the spot, eyeing them warily. The smallest one, a long legged beagle with a curly coat, continues to yap at her. “That’s enough.” Misty says, warningly, and the creature stops, but still loiters around Cordelia.  

She’s about to greet Misty when she feels a tongue swipe across her fingers, flinching back and head snapping down to the last dog, a shaggy looking husky cross with floppy ears and a stumble in its walk. “Um,” she begins unsurely, “hi.”  

Misty barks out a laugh at her stiff posture, shaking her head ever so softly. “He ain’t gonna bite you, don’t worry.” Her voice is strained as she holds back the larger dog, Gumbo, who seems all too intent on saying hi to her. She takes a step closer, sucking in a breath, before giving Misty a questioning glance. “He’s just too friendly for his own good.” She says, “and you don’t strike me as the type who wants to get knocked down by a hundred and sixty pound dog.”  

She laughs, blushing at the very idea. “No. Not today.”  

Even so, she nears him. Cordelia specifically remembers Misty telling her how this one is her favorite of all the dogs, and so she instantly finds herself wanting to get in his good books. A hand stretches out, met by a drooling muzzle and a far too friendly tongue. 

Cordelia fails to hide her cringe, because Misty is giggling all too prettily. “You really ain’t an animal person, are ya?”  

“I like animals.” She insists, quietly, continuing to feel a little lost amongst the three interested dogs.  

Misty holds the door open further, her own nervousness beginning to show. “Well, you comin’ in or what?” There’s a half smile, a twitch on her lips, and Cordelia follows with ease. Her heart strums a quickening beat upon entering Misty’s home for the first time, not at all knowing what to expect. 

“Duke, Scout, get in.” Misty nudges the other dogs inside with the side of her foot, and then the door is closing behind them. It’s final then, the moment solidified. This certainly feels like a milestone in their friendship, and that‘s enough to have her heart choosing a steady and pulsing beat. 

Cordelia pauses in what appears to be the living room. She spots a couple of couches and a TV, but the room is filled with other signs of life. Children’s toys stacked in the corner, a PlayStation sitting pride and place in the middle of the TV stand alongside a few games.  

She stares, silenced by interest, and continues to peer around in wonder. Beside her, she can feel the way that Misty buzzes with energy, definitely more on edge than normal. Even so, she hovers near Cordelia like a shadow, warm and sweet smelling, with the occasional brush of her side.  

The smallest dog, Scout, hops up easily onto the couch, wagging its tail in a wild manner while it tries to figure out the newest house guest. As it does so, it almost knocks a picture frame to the floor. Misty waves the dog down, throwing an apologetic glance to Cordelia. “They’ll calm down, I promise. Just ain’t used to that many new people.”  

“It’s okay.” She laughs, wondering why her own voice is so hushed. Like she’s too scared to make an impression in this novel environment.  

Other voices are near, echoing against walls and filling the house with noise. Alongside the dogs and outside hum of the swamp, it’s a far cry from the silent home that Cordelia has grown used to. Misty looks in the same direction as her, then back at her friend where she appraises her in a way that has Cordelia lightheaded, especially as those eyes linger on her lipstick. Yeah, it’s definitely too much for just dinner. 

Misty’s smile widens either way. “You wanna put your bag in my room?” she asks, staring to the way Cordelia is clutching at the strap. 

She nods eagerly, heart swooping at the very idea of going into the Cajun’s bedroom. Misty releases Gumbo, nudging him in the direction of another doorway. He only spins, his sights set on Cordelia. The cold nose rubs against her forearm, taking in every drop of her scent. The hairs on her arm prickles under his ministrations.  

She bites her lip with a smile, then grows braver and stretches out fingers to stroke the strangely soft ears. That’s all the mutt needs for acceptance. He leans into the scratch with a somehow endearingly cute expression and then flops to the floor, exposing his muscular tummy to her. “Aw.” Misty beams with pride. “He likes ya.”  

That’s a small win in Cordelia’s book, one that has her growing more at ease by the second. At least that’s one of the dogs won over. Now to work on the rest of the family, maybe. As if winning their approval is important. But it kinda is, in her head, anyway.  

Misty rubs his belly until he’s satisfied and then rises back to her feet again, gesturing for Cordelia to follow. “This way.” She says after a tiny, barely noticeable pause, where she’s clearly sucking in a sharp breath.  

She leads her the short distance across the room and into a narrow passageway. At the end, a door sits ajar, inviting them in. Misty’s name is painted in pretty cursive over the chipped paintwork, intricate enough for Cordelia to halt and admire it fondly. Behind her, ears catch the patter of twelve dog feet in their pursuit.  

“Nuh uh.” Misty shakes her head, blocking their entrance. “Ain’t enough room for you guys, too.”  

She knows she’s totally anthropomorphizing, but the dogs seem rather sad at that announcement. Either way, she’s granted access, and can’t share in their upset. Misty ushers her in first, closing the door behind the pair of them.  

Cordelia feels that familiar freeze in her muscles, keeping her anchored in the middle of the room. Not that there’s much space to work with. Between the bed that’s squished against the furthest wall and the small dresser, there’s barely enough space for the two of them to stand comfortably inside.  

So, it’s not surprising when Misty sits to on said bed, momentarily peering out of the small window beside it. Just enough to allow light into the space. When Misty doesn’t speak straight away, she takes the opportunity to continue her observations. She finds a faint frown reigning over her lips when she peers at bare walls save for a cross over the head of her bed; nothing like Misty's cabin.  

Her schoolwork is a skewed pile on the dresser, unopened college letters sit at the very top – a reminder of their impending adulthood. Nearby, open boxes of jewellery and trinkets beckon her. Cordelia listens with ease, a curious smile curling on the corners of her lips. She's sure that Misty has worn some of this jewellery before, but others are novel to her, collecting dust in their storage.  

A small, pensive hum asks for her attention, and she turns to give just that to the patient girl waiting on the bed.  

“You know,” Cordelia starts, “I always imagined your bedroom as different to this.”  

Misty’s own smile is fleeting, but she does give a curious tilt of her head. “What did ya think it would be like?”  

“Posters everywhere. Art. Plants.” Her shrug is joined with the widening of her smile, into a caring grin as she lets her eyes glisten over in her friend’s direction. “Just more you. It’s. . .” She continues, “it’s kinda bare.”  

“We ain’t lived here for that long.” Misty tries, as if just under two years isn’t long enough to truly make somewhere home.  

This is where Cordelia sets her with a look. Not judging, but definitely lined with disbelief. 

Misty shrugs, smoothing out the bed sheets. “I don’t really spend that much time in here. To be honest.” And she believes that, sensing that the small room would be all too stifling for the Cajun, who flourishes in the wake of wide open spaces and waves of fresh air around her.  

She lowers her bag onto the bed finally, and smiles down at Misty; her head is filled with pleasant images of Misty surrounded by nature, enchanted by its touch. And vice versa. The outside world entices her through the window, where she twists her head to peer out. “It’s a nice view though,” she points out, admiring how the glass gives way to a picturesque view of the swamp’s edge, where dragonflies dance about the reeds.  

Though she doesn’t sit down, she hovers near Misty’s still body and simply takes in the moment. For a while, she was beginning to think she’d never be here.  

Not surprisingly, she finds Misty bouncing her legs up and down rhythmically against the floor, pursing her lips together in thought. Despite Misty’s frantic air about her, Cordelia finds a sudden calm in her own demeanor. She thinks she could be in a dumpster with Misty and completely at ease. Misty does eventually manage a smile at Cordelia’s words. “Yeah, can’t complain. Like I said, this is way better than sharin’.”  

A grin finds its way to her lips, as if she understands the pain of sharing a room with a sibling. As it is, she has no comprehension in sharing or siblings.  

Growing tiresome of the tight surroundings, or maybe the stifling air, Misty jumps onto her feet. “C’mon, let’s go outside.”  

“Outside?”  

“Yeah,” she laughs, “dontcha wanna meet the rest of the animals?”  

Both know that it’s not really her thing, seeing as her trepidation around the dogs had been all too clear, but Misty is swaying back and forth excitedly. And fingers are curling around hers. That surreal swell returns inside of her with a vengeance. In one subtle movement, she pinches the skin on her elbow, allowing the sharp pain to remind her that this is definitely a tangible reality.  

Cordelia chuckles at her enthusiasm, so strong that it envelopes around her. “Okay then.”  

She allows Misty to lead again, for once enjoying the sensation of being able to go with the flow and cast away her controlling needs. They retreat back through the living room, where a figure now sits on the couch. Misty’s hand drops from hers in an instant; Cordelia pretends not to be hurt by the cold that now sits on her skin.  

“Hey, Tommy.” Misty greets half-heartedly.  

He grunts something in response, too lost in whatever game he’s playing. Misty appears perturbed by his rudeness, though doesn’t push, and rushes in the direction of another doorway. It doesn’t allow Cordelia much time to continue her second study of the room, gut clenching slightly when she spies hunting rifles in a locked cabinet.  

Misty is sweeping her into a kitchen before she can dwell on that. There's more noise, more life, as she finds the sister she’s met before standing over a large pot and stirring vigorously. The scent of food fills the room, seemingly strong enough to lure Misty closer. Even Cordelia feels her mouth water in its presence.  

“That smells good, Nell.” She says, standing eagerly close with all but drool falling from her lips. It mirrors the way the two of the bigger dogs now sit at Nellie’s feet, all three of their hungry expressions matching. Gumbo’s tail flops up and down against the floor when he spies Cordelia. 

“Hm. It’ll taste good, too.” Eyes drift from where she’s cutting up chicken to Cordelia standing awkwardly to the side. “Oh, hi Cordelia.” She’s smiling, and she seems far more care free than the first time they’d met.  

Cordelia finds herself warming to the woman this time, even if she is swatting Misty’s advancing hand away from bell peppers. “Hello.” She replies, far too polite. Too robotic. Misty twists to give her a weird look, like she’s never heard her speak like that before. It’s not her, it’s the damn nerves.  

“How are you doin’?” 

She clears her throat, trying to find her normal voice. “Good, thank you.” Close enough. More cordial than her previous response. A smile eases onto her lips, in turn seeming to allow Misty to relax again. “And you?” 

Her well-mannered approach appears to amuse Nellie, who gives a smirk and an easy shrug. “I’m doin’ alright.” Nellie’s eyes drift over to Misty, whose gaze hasn’t left Cordelia for a good few moments, and her smile widens. “Hope you like jambalaya.” 

“Oh, yes. It’s one of my favorites.”  

“Good.” She nods her satisfaction, sweeping her wavy hair behind her and tying it out of the way. A thin layer of sweat lines her forehead from the heat of cooking plus the muggy air that floods the kitchen. The woman peers at Misty. “It won’t be long, why don’t you go set the table?”  

Setting the table, turns out, isn’t a grand display of mats and glasses and lines of well-organized cutlery. Instead, it involves gathering mismatched bowls that she helps Misty carry outside. When she gives her a look of question, she receives a small smile. “The table inside ain’t big enough for all of us. Plus, it’s cooler out here.”  

The explanation is enough, and Cordelia thinks it’s actually quite quaint to sit on their long porch that lies only metres away from the swamp. Slightly elevated, it gives her a pretty view over the murky waters, allowing her to see the way the scum creates winding patterns on the surface.  

As she leans on the wooden fencing in admiration, Misty comes to stand next to her. Her arms fold in front on the railing and her back tilts forward. “You really like the view, huh?”  

She turns with a smile. “It’s peaceful.”  

Clearly trying to negate her words, shouting and barking from inside disrupts said peace. Misty’s face twists into somewhat of an apologetic grimace. 

“And beautiful.” Cordelia continues, insistent on sharing her appreciation of the place despite the interruption; her fond appraisal of somewhere that is so deeply rooted in Misty’s being. Almost like the nature is an extension of the girl in front of her – the vibration of life like the hum of Misty's voice, the blue sky the same color that glows back in her bright gaze.  

Her heart swoons with love for both Misty and the nature that she so dearly adores. That Cordelia loves too, more so because of the Cajun. 

The swamps always welcome her with open arms, and she'd like the think the same of Misty, too. She turns, peering at her through hooded, contemplative eyes before glancing back at the water. “I can see why you like it out here so much.”  

There's no indication of movement, no noise, no motions caught in her peripherals. Yet suddenly she feels the bare skin of Misty’s upper arm against her own. It's warm and unexpected, and it creates such a hypersensitive buzz in her own skin that she can feel every tiny, light hair that brushes up against her.  

Continuing to stare ahead, Misty doesn’t comment on their closeness. The same intimate setting that she's initiated, but she’s sighing out her content.  

Somehow, with the wind twirling around them in a delicate dance, it feels dare she say. . . romantic. It emulates a dance of their own, one that she wishes wasn't so one sided. 

But with the Cajun nearby, she can pretend. And that's almost as good as the real thing. Maybe. Delusion is a great thing with the right intentions. Misty is smiling her way, and said delusion aims to convince Cordelia that the simple action contains an unconditional love in it.  

Her gut tightens. “It is beautiful.” Misty agrees, voice a low hum that fills Cordelia's ears like the prettiest of songs. “If there's one thing God is good at, it's makin’ beautiful things.” There's a small tilt of her head, finding its way in the direction of her friend.  

She warms under the attention, even if she's focusing her eyes to watch bugs skittering across the water's surface. “You forget how quiet it is out here until you're out of the City.”  

“It won’t be quiet for long.” One half of her mouth twitches, mirth twisting up the corners. She twirls on the spot, so her back is against the wooden railing and she's staring over at the house with pursed lips. “I hope you're ready for the rabble.” 

A laugh jumps from her lips. She wraps fingers around the splintered wood, thinking how she misses the feel of Misty pressed flush against her. “They can’t be that bad.”  

Misty is grinning, then following with her own series of soft laughs. “I'll let you be the judge.” 

She takes the opportunity to observe her again, to ask questions without words. But Misty doesn’t hear them, or so she guesses. Cordelia decides to indulge in a more forward approach. “Is this why you never invited me around before?”  

Her forwardness forces Misty to still, eyes darting downwards. Although Cordelia had spoken the question in teasing, all smiles and pink cheeks, she supposes there is a seriousness lurking beneath.  

“You come to the cabin all the time.” She rolls her eyes, deflecting. 

“That's different.” Cordelia replies in an instant, gaze growing heavier. “That's not your home. This is.” 

Even so, she recalls the bare walls of Misty's bedroom, comparing them to the poster and ornament laden ones in her cabin, and it only serves to complicate the Cajun even further. Misty opens her mouth to speak, but struggles to follow through with her intention. 

Cordelia embraces the embers of nerves beginning to flame in her stomach and nudges Misty’s side. “Did you not want me to meet your family?” She laughs, then adds quietly. “Are you embarrassed of me?” 

Perhaps her joke is ill suited for the moment, because Misty doesn’t partake in her humor. “’Course I ain't!” she insists, words loud and assured, and enough to scare a rustling creature from the nearby bushes.  

The sincerity wraps around her like a tight hug, almost suffocating. She grins within its embrace. “I’m only joking.” Cordelia admits softly, watching the way Misty visibly relaxes. 

“You're here now." She shrugs, like that explains all she needs to know. 

If only it were so simple. 

She hums her agreement, breathing in the sweet air around them. “I’m glad I am." 

“Me too.” 

Misty's smile is gorgeous as ever, and brimming with appreciation. When maybe she lets too much tenderness spill into her expression, she continues with a chuckle. “Mainly ‘cause Nellie is makin’ my favorite dinner. The one she does when she wants to impress people.” 

“Oh.” She raises a brow. “So, you’re just using me for food? I should have known.”  

“I would never.” Misty backtracks with delight shimmering in her eyes. “Just a happy bonus. My favorite food.” She shuffles that slightest bit nearer to Cordelia, almost shy and definitely with a hint of vulnerability about her that the older blonde doesn’t understand until she continues speaking. “And my favorite person. A pretty good day, if ya ask me."  

She appears to wait on baited breath on for Cordelia’s response, wanting to look in her eyes and simultaneously anywhere but them.  

Thankfully for her, the wait is short lived. “Are you just saying that because I told you that you're my favorite?” Her brow is high again, questioning, and a smile floats on her lips even if her heart is racing rapidly. 

Then there are long arms slinking around her shoulders. Misty is close, so close, and she seems even hotter than before. Her skin sears against Cordelia’s in a wonderful way, enough to pull every last drop of air from her lungs. “I said it ‘cause it's true.”  

Their eyes lock; in that moment she feels like an open book for Misty to read every word of. She wonders how on earth Misty hasn’t realized her feelings by now, for they're so transparent that she thinks the entire school knows. Misty’s gaze is deep and near, pulling her in where she can’t resist.  

Cordelia finds herself leaning in closer, will power lost. Because she really wants to kiss her, surrounded by this beautiful world, and staring at an even more beautiful Misty. It’s as if all rationality has fled from her mind. This is Misty’s home, not the seclusion of the cabin. There are more consequences to consider than being rejected, mainly that being that Misty’s family would have some rather negative reactions to her kissing the girl right here on the porch.  

Stop it.  

Her internal screams go ignored by the yearning to feel Misty’s lips against her own, for the burst of joy and happiness and excitement that one feels for a first kiss. And she’s getting closer, all the time reprimanding herself for even daring to do this. But Misty isn’t moving. She's still, eyes almost closed, and lips parted to allow out shallow, shaky breaths.  

She’s staring at Cordelia’s lips, too.  

Arms loosen from the older blonde’s shoulder, though she’s relieved when the burning touch doesn’t stray. Rough, delightful hands find purchase just under Cordelia’s elbows. She shudders, transfixed, almost under a spell, and definitely a few seconds away from losing all inhibitions and kissing her best friend.  

She is so clouded with emotion that she doesn’t dare to think why Misty’s own lips pucker together expectantly, and she makes no effort to retreat from Cordelia’s advance.  

Until her brain jerks back into reality like a slap to the face. Cordelia smiles shakily, twisting her neck so she stares down to the thick grass below them, and away from where Misty is grounded to the spot.  

Her withdraw couldn’t come at a better time, it turns out, for the back door opens not seconds later. Once again, Misty is tugging all touch from Cordelia, stepping at least a foot away from her. Frustration replaces the serenity that had encompassed the older blonde, especially when she turns to peer up at her wide eyed friend.  

“Oh, hi Daddy.”  

Cordelia stills, having never thought it possible for her muscles to be so tight. The tendrils tense painfully, but she forces herself to twist on the spot, to set eyes on her friend’s father.  

And he stares right back at her.  

Her stomach knots. She wants to look away, but she doesn’t. Think like Fiona. She would cower in front of no one, and Cordelia is determined to follow suit, even if there’s a quiver down her spine. Misty’s father is definitely a formidable presence, tall and stocky, with well rounded shoulders. His blonde hair is short, speckled with different shades of gray that his beard also sports.  

He casts the smallest of glances to Misty, smiling at her. “Hey, Peanut.” Just as quick, Cordelia is under his attention once again. “You must be Cordelia.”  

She nods with a strained smile. “That’s me.” 

“Nice to meet you.” With the old husky by his side like a loyal shadow, he steps forward and holds out a rough hand. Cordelia resents the sweaty nature of her own palm, but still reaches out to shake his. The action is strong, his grip tight, but there’s a half smile on his lips.  

There’s a moment where she thinks just maybe she’ll be able to relax. Despite the fact that she can see Misty anxiously observing from her peripherals, rolling on the balls of her feet. “Thank you for having me for dinner.” She says, summoning her politest and strongest voice.  

“Our pleasure.” He nods simply, reaching into the pocket of his jeans to pull out a packet of cigarettes before setting his sights of Misty. “Did ya ask her if she wanted a drink?”  

Her eyes widen slightly, seeming to only just then notice the humid air around them. “Oh, no. Not yet.”  

Her father moves toward her, the dog still at his heel with his mouth open and panting. “Come on, Peanut. She’s our guest.” There’s a tenderness in his voice as he speaks to Misty, a soft hand on her shoulder, and Cordelia wonders whether he’s as domineering as she’s convinced herself.  

Nodding quickly, Misty gives a sheepish smile. “Right. Sorry. Guess I just got distracted.”  

“It’s fine, really.” Cordelia pipes up, heart swelling at the expression Misty sends her way.  

“Nonsense.” His thick fingers wrap around one of the cigarettes, a lighter also produced from his pocket now before he lowers his gaze on Misty once again. “What do you want? Water? Iced tea? We got some real nice lemonade.”  

She loosely holds her upper arm with one hand, then shrugs softly. “Lemonade would be lovely.” The idea of something sweet to fight against the growing heat has her throat parched within seconds. When his eyes linger on her, she smiles once more. Braver this time. “Thank you, Sir.”  

Smiling again, wider, in almost a charming way, he regards Misty. She’s stood waiting for his words, lips a thin line and eyes intent, and he quickly gestures toward the kitchen. “Go on,” he says, “you heard her.”  

Hesitation sits over her like a heavy rain cloud, but she follows his orders and pads back into the house, the entire time craning her neck so her eyes don’t move from Cordelia. That is, until she’s stepping back inside. With Misty gone, she finds that knot in her stomach twisting even tighter and more complicated.  

She's alone, with Misty’s father, and a quake in her heart that she fears might never go away. Is this what Misty felt alone with Fiona that morning they had breakfast? The same bursts of nervous sweat, the weight on her chest? She rubs her thumbs anxiously over the middle of her palm, and casts eyes in his direction again. 

With the end of the cigarette perched between his dry lips, he slightly twitches his brows. “You mind if I smoke?” 

Cordelia shakes her head no, leaning further against the railing as if to root in her reality like the flowy trees that surround the abode. Smoking reminds her of Fiona, and altogether disgusts her, yet she finds herself watching, nothing short of transfixed, as he lights the end and it sparks a bright orange with his first inhale.  

The sweet scent of nature begins to be usurped by smoke, but she fights the way her features twist unsurely. She has more important things to worry about, like the fact that he keeps peering her way, thoughtful and intimidating. There’s some of Misty in his face, she thinks – the slim lines, the blue eyes, the way that emotions float across it without the need of filtering.  

Only, he doesn’t stare around at the world in the same enarmored way that his daughter does, with hope and appreciation. His eyes are aged. Not just from the wrinkles that sit in wavy lines around the corners, but deep within his irises. There are stories in there that she doesn’t know him well enough to pursue.  

“So, you’re Misty’s friend, huh?” 

She jumps at being spoken directly to, feeling more of a timid mouse than the fierce lion she wants to be. “Yes, Sir.”  

Raspy laughs follow, and he speaks like he needs to clear his throat. “The name is Christopher. You can call me Chris.” He moves to sit himself on the chair at the head of the table, legs stretching out and crossing over one another. “No sir. I may be old, but I don’t want to feel it.”  

She nods, almost dutiful. Then smiles. “Okay.”  

Her response may leave little room for follow up. Even so, he persists, and this keeps Cordelia on her toes, brain moving a mile a minute. “Misty's never brought a friend home, ya know? No friends, no boyfriends.” Another drag follows, long and leaving him with hooded, satisfied eyes. A wry smile follows. “Just animals.”  

Fondness fills every line in her face. Maybe even a little bit of intense love that she feels for this man’s daughter. She hopes he doesn’t notice. “She does love animals.” She laughs. 

“A little too much, if you ask me.” He scoffs, the humor lost on him. Cordelia’s smile falters then. Anger sits on her brow, lips parting with some retort that gets stumped the minute the door opens again. “I can’t tell you have many half dead animals she’s tried to save.” 

“She cares a lot.” Cordelia says, bordering on defensive. Protective even. He continues his regard, reaching out his spare hand to lazily stroke the dog sat by him.  

But there is no time for his rebuttal, and she’s glad for that, because Misty is returning with a large glass in her hands and a dainty smile pushing its way onto her otherwise pale face. The reasoning for that is answered rather quickly when there are others behind her.  

The rest of her family, she supposes. She sucks in a sharp breath, standing straighter, and for once having her attention stolen away by other people than Misty. On her heel come two people that she recognizes, Tommy and Nellie, but two strangers. The woman, the spitting image of Misty, only a good few years her senior, plumper and with shorter hair, arrives first; then a man, carrying the baby that she’s already met in his muscular arms.  

Out of all the adults, he bears no resemblance to the family, with brown eyes almost like her own and even darker hair. On his face, pillow lines sit across, and those eyes sleepily hit the sun. Still, he holds the baby tightly against him.  

The four of them are laughing, loud and rambunctious, and Cordelia feels herself shrinking slightly. More ready to observe than just partake. Then Misty is in front of her, smiling in that way that only Misty seems to smile at her, and she’s at ease once more. She wishes she could take hold of her hand. So, so badly. To hell with judgement.  

She doesn’t, and only bitterly stares at Misty’s fingers clutching the glass.  

Holding it out, she smiles. “There ya go.”  

“Thanks.” Her voice is ever so quiet, causing Misty to stare her with that look again. Like she can read every thought going through her mind.  

“C’mon, grub’s up.” Nellie is grinning, placing down the serving pot on the center of the table and crowing proudly like a peacock.  

The sheer size of it shocks Cordelia, only ever used to cooking for one or two, rather than eight. “Oh, we got the real good stuff tonight.” From her side, the other woman is smirking. “Who are we tryin’ to impress?” 

Nellie is gesturing in Cordelia’s direction, eyes flashing over too. “We got a guest. So, you best be on your best behavior before you show us all up.” 

“Oh, a guest?” Her eyes twinkle wickedly. This must be Sylvia, she guesses. Her suspicions are confirmed when the woman’s gaze is met with Misty almost standing protectively in front of Cordelia. “To what do we owe the honor?” 

On the chair, Christopher has finished his cigarette, and chimes in while he crushes it in the ash tray before him. “Leave Misty’s friend alone, Sylvia.” He warns.  

Her mouth puckers together in mocking. “I didn’t know Misty had any friends.”  

Misty bristles in annoyance. A hard glare finds itself on Sylvia, whose smugness only grows as Tommy snickers beside her at Misty’s expense.  

Perturbed herself, Cordelia finds herself speaking boldly and without apology. “Misty is my best friend.” She insists with a firm set jaw. “And she has  lot  of friends.” Pupils move from their initially shocked faces to where Misty stands with a delicate, half smile on her pretty thin lips. They settle there, wanting to look at her friend rather than anywhere else.  

Even if she isn’t looking, ears pick up the remaining laughter from Misty’s two siblings, then a yelp from one of them as Nellie clearly jabs them with her elbow.  

“Can’t you all just get along for five minutes?” Christopher asks, rubbing at the heavy skin around his temples. “You’re givin’ me a headache already.” 

“Oh, come on, Pa. Mist loves it really.”  

Misty’s eyes darken and her arms are folding across her chest haughtily. “You know I don’t.”  

Her friend begins nearing the table, eyes asking for Cordelia to follow. Which she does, all too easily. While Misty takes the seat next to her father, she reaches out to grasp the one beside her, stilling when another hand takes hold of the plastic back.  

Following it with her eyes, she finds that arm belonging to her brother. Her mouth falls open, words growing far too timid.  

Beside her, Misty comes to her rescue. “That’s where Cordelia’s sittin’.”  

“That’s my seat.” He grumbles with a stubborn tug of his mouth. A hand runs through his shaggy hair as he tries to cool himself against the sticky heat. “I always sit there. Everyone knows that.”  

“Well, not today.”  

He throws a glance down toward the end of the table, where one chair sits abandoned between the baby and Sylvia. “Aw, you ain’t gonna make me sit on the broken one, are ya?” His expression twists in annoyance, but Cordelia keeps her grip firmly on the chair. No way is she sitting anywhere other than by Misty’s side.  

Misty seems just as insistent as her, rising back to her feet as though to challenge her brother. Even if he is taller than her, she doesn’t give in.  

From behind her, there’s another sigh. “Go on, Tommy.” Christopher orders.  

“But Pa – " 

“I don’t wanna hear it. Let the girl sit where she wants.”  

Cordelia flushes slightly under being the center of attention. All eyes are most definitely on her, even from the other two dogs that have clearly followed the smell of the jambalaya that sits patiently to be divided between the group. Tommy locks eyes onto Cordelia’s unrelenting ones, but doesn’t bite this time.  

With a lasting sigh, he lowers his hand and retreats to the furthest chair on the table. It is tugged out unceremoniously with a shrill scrape that rings in her ears. She doesn’t let that saddle her with any guilt. Not a spec of it. Because she’s lowering herself next to Misty, who smiles over and ever so briefly brushes her fingers along Cordelia’s arm.  

She tries to hide her shiver by shuffling her chair nearer the table, wishing she didn’t feel so out of place. The last time she’d sat down for a family dinner like this was. . . well, she can't even remember.  

Across from her, Nellie finishes fussing the baby and reaches for the serving spoon. Filling it with a heaping amount of the rice dish, she looks to Cordelia expectantly. When she only stills, the girl laughs. “Well, hold your bowl up.” Any impatience is shadowed by amusement in her smirk.  

“Oh.” Cordelia gives a tiny smile, grabbing the bowl with both hands and doing as she’s asked. It grows heavier when the scoopful is added, but the delicious smell seems all too strong now. Her stomach growls in appreciation. She once again ignores the attention she’s under, keeping her head high. “Thanks. It looks lovely.”  

Nellie grins. “It was our Meemaw’s recipe. Still the best one I ever had.”  

“Can ya hurry up?” Sylvia butts in. “Some of us have been workin’ all day.”  

“You don’t think lookin’ after a baby and cookin’ for all of you is work?” Nellie sends a pretty gnarly stink eye her way, jaw setting. “’Cause let me tell you, it ain’t no vacation.”  

“And you think what I do is?” 

Tommy laughs, at the same time receiving his own portion of the food. “Please, like you know what hard work is, Sylvia.” Those scornful laughs drift over the sounds of the swamp, harshly so, where they are aimed at the perturbed Sylvia. Cordelia longs to hear Misty’s soft chuckles instead. When she turns to her friend, she gets an eye roll in response.  

The conversation follows in much the same route for the next few minutes, until the final dish is being filled. “Why am I always last?” Misty asks with a pointed look. 

“If you went first, there wouldn’t be any left for anyone else.” Sylvia remarks with a smirk. 

Misty frowns, all but glaring. “Har har. I don’t eat much more than any of ya.” Her words are negated by the fact that her portion brims over the plate, makes Cordelia’s own seem tiny in comparison. She resists the urge to chuckle at her friend, but Misty must catch the way she’s looking at her because the Cajun softens instantly.  

She’s just about to tuck into her food when a leg nudges into hers. Either that, or one of three dogs loitering under the table could have easily been one of the culprits. Although Misty is staring at her still, giving a soft shake of her head and clearing her throat.  

Cordelia just about remembers where she is, finding everyone’s attention aimed toward the head of the table. For now, their squabbling seems to have stalled, and she knows only one thing seems to have the power to stop that. Christopher sits straighter, seemingly even taller despite being sat down. He commands all of her focus, even tugging it from Misty briefly.  

When he speaks, it’s low and with purpose, a rehearsed set of words flowing from his lips. “Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts.” His eyes are closed now, just like everyone else’s. Apparently, she hadn’t got the memo, as hers had initially been wide open, ever so inquisitive. They half close as he continues, while her hands mimic the motions of everyone else, whose are joining together for the prayer. “Which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ, Our Lord.”  

The world seems so still in this moment, only the prayer filling the air around them on the gentle evening. Through the small slithers of her eyes, she sees Misty peek one blue one open at her, that side of her face tugging into a grin. Her insides melt under its warmth, and she grins back, all too clearly the lovesick fool that she is.  

Thank God everyone else’s eyes remain firmly shut. 

“Amen.” Christopher says after a beat, echoed by the rest of the table.  

And that’s when most of the politeness seems to wear off; she watches the family begin to devour the food with so much fervor that she’s never going to question Misty’s table manners ever again. Forks hurriedly scrape against bowls, mouthfuls disappearing like the family has never eaten a decent meal in their life.  

She feels like she’s getting left behind with her more delicate approach, tongue wrapping wonderfully around the flavorful dish. “This is wonderful, Nellie.” She compliments over the sound of the others chewing. The name falls unsurely off her lips, not used before, but she tries to keep the smile lingering there. 

The others slow, as if not used to conversation until the plates are cleared. “Why, thank you.” She beams, a genuinely pleased look floating across her features. Even if she’s trying to encourage the fussy baby to have his own spoonful. “I hear you ain’t so bad a cook yourself.”  

At this, Cordelia turns to Misty. An aura of bashfulness overcomes her, those thick eyelashes fluttering against pale cheeks as she glances back down at her food with a smile. She tries not to let the idea of Misty talking about her to her family let her get carried away. That’s what all friends do, right? It’s totally normal.  

Still, her heart’s song picks up in beat, her face growing hotter all too quickly.  

She pulls in a breath to her weak lungs. “I’m okay.”  

“She’s just bein’ modest.” Misty laughs, “she’s the best.”  

The man beside Nellie raises his bushy brows. “Better than Nell? I don’t think so.” His accent isn’t as thick as theirs, but there’s definitely a twang there. 

Misty shrugs, trying to act nonchalant even if there’s a passion in her voice. “Well, Cordelia is. She makes all this real fancy stuff. With ingredients I bet you ain’t ever heard of!”  

Misty’s heartfelt compliment has her smiling wider than she ever thought possible, especially when aimed towards her family. Hearing herself spoken of in such high regard by anyone, particularly Misty, is enough to have happiness wrapping her in a comfortable embrace.  

Her leg brushes against Misty’s, a quiet signal of something she isn’t quite sure of. The Cajun must feel it, for her eyes grow that little bit bigger, all soft and sparkling in that way she adores. She never thought this would be a moment in her life, watching Misty and her sister’s husband arguing who is a better cook. But here they are.  

When that grows tiresome, Misty stares at her empty bowl. “Can I have seconds?” she asks shamelessly, staring to her father this time for permission. Cordelia catches the way Tommy chuckles and rolls his eyes.  

“Hold on there a second, Peanut. You ain’t asked if Cordelia wants any more yet.”  

Misty twists in her seat, staring at Cordelia who is still on the last few mouthfuls of her own portion.  

“Oh, this is enough, thank you.” She smiles. Even if she had wanted more, which she doesn’t due to almost being full, she'd never deprive Misty of a second helping.  

The Cajun grins and jumps to her feet so she can fill her bowl with more food. In her haste, some of it drips onto the table between the two of them. Before she can even register what’s happening, Gumbo rises from his seat on the porch and seizes the opportunity with his front feet perched easily on the table.  

She initially jumps, having not expected the large dog to push between them, but finds herself laughing as he desperately tries to lick the spillage.  

Unfortunately, it seems to be only her and Misty amused by the act. “Gumbo.” His ears fly back at the harsh talk, flinching so quickly that he clumsily drops from the table.  

“It's fine, Daddy.” Misty starts softly, almost an apology.  

“I thought I told you to keep that mutt away from the table.” He says in accusing, ire flashing through the leathery skin on his face when the dog tries to jump up again, clearly having not learned his lesson. 

Misty catches him just in time, pushing him down with a groan. “No, boy.”  

“Get him out of here.”  

She tenses. “Daddy.” 

With a wave of his hand, he dismisses any of her arguments. “I want that thing tied up. If he ain’t gonna learn any manners, then he's gonna have to stay in his kennel.” 

Cordelia watches the way that Misty's face drops, her eyes swimming with sadness. Fingers curl softly around the dog’s scruff, stroking him to keep the animal from jumping up a third time.  

“But he hates his - " 

There is annoyance in her voice, no more than she'd give Fiona, and it clearly gets picked up by everyone else at the table. 

Christopher’s eyes darken. “Are you arguin' with me?”  

She doesn’t like the way an uncomfortable air suffocates them now, the others watching this time with no hint of amusement. Instead, they are rapt with attention, like someone waiting for a bomb to explode.  

Tilting her eyes up on Misty, she half expects a retort. She’s so used to her arguing with Madison these days, that she knows Misty can be a volatile person under the right conditions.  

But the girl is only staring at her father, seemingly smaller than she’s ever seen her before. She ducks her head, then says in a meagre voice. “No.” 

“Good.” He bites, then tilts his head to the dog. “Now, go tie him up." 

There may be reluctance in her movements, but Misty does as she’s told. With a gentle command, she ushers the large dog away from them and down the side of the house where Cordelia's eyes can no longer follow. She suddenly finds herself unsure of where to look altogether, though settles on Nellie sat across from her; definitely the kindest face by far.  

Tension slips from around them, and the clatter of glasses and cutlery bring the table back to life. She misses Misty’s absence for every second that she's gone.  

“So, Cordelia.” Oh God. Her throat dries, and she tries to satiate it with a large gulp of her drink, locking eyes with the owner of the voice. “How much is Misty paying you to pretend to be her friend?” 

She blinks profusely at the question, not able to hide a shred of offence from Sylvia. 

“She's not paying me anything.”  

Sylvia opens her mouth to speak again, clearly enjoying herself, until eyes flicker just behind Cordelia to where her father is sat, and she clamps them closed again.  

“Ignore her.” Nellie offers quickly, glaring over at her sister. “God knows we all do.”  

She gives a timid smile in return.  

And she's ever so grateful when it's Nellie that keeps on speaking. “So, how do you like it here?” 

“It's nice.” Cordelia says in earnest, “it's definitely quieter than where I live.” 

“Misty said you live in the City.” 

A nod follows, then a smile. “Yeah. I live over on Prytania Street.” 

She senses the way most of them still, their interest piqued. For a moment, she wonders just how much Misty has shared with them about her. Tommy speaks around a mouthful of food, but not in the endearing way that Misty doesn't. “Ain’t that where all those fancy house are?” 

The subject brings an air of awkwardness about her. “Um, I guess so.” 

“You got rich parents?”  

“Tommy!” Christopher cuts in. 

He holds up his hands in mock surrender. “I’m only askin’. She gotta have rich parents if she lives there. Have ya seen those houses?” 

“Feel free to ignore Tommy, too.” Nellie is giving a liberal roll of her eyes. “Honestly, it's like he don’t know how to act around normal people.”  

“I was simply askin’ a question.” His blue eyes set on Cordelia. “You ain’t offended, are ya?”  

Pursing her lips together slowly, she tries to decide the most diplomatic answer to give. To her relief, it isn’t needed, as Misty rocks back up sans the dog. Even so, she has a slump in her shoulders.  

Ears catch the end of the conversation, because she's offering Cordelia clear apology, a daring hand making the briefest of contact with her shoulder. “Why are you offendin' Cordelia?” she demands to know, voice definitely a warning.  

“You never told us she's rich.”  

Misty scoffs, a disbelieving smile on her lips. “That's ‘cause it ain't any of your business.” 

But he continues, not deterred by the two pointed looks he's receiving from his sisters. “No wonder you go over to that house all the time. Probably got butlers and shit waitin’ on you hand and foot.”  

Her mouth tugs into a scowl. “That ain’t true.”  

“Isn’t it?”  

The vexation on her face grows under his taunting, her fingers clenching together where they sit next to her uneaten second helping of food. She looks straight past Cordelia to her brother, eyebrows knotting into one tense line. “No. I’m not just friends with her ‘cause she has money.” Her words are thickly spoken, with an intensity that she always adopts in times like this.  

Beside her, Cordelia shifts in her seat. Misty catches it, briefly sending a look her way that she struggles to decipher, even as Tommy grows relentless and makes to respond.  

She wonders if it’s always like this, if the squabbles and comments are constantly falling from their lips. Jibing just to get some sort of reaction. They know Misty, just like she does, and they seem to have just the right talents to get under her skin. As if it isn’t already hot enough, she can sense the anger burning from Misty’s direction.  

The girl has gone quieter now, more thoughtful, even if she seems grateful that the conversation has transgressed to her brother’s day at work rather than questioning her friendship with Cordelia.  

Without thinking, she is reaching out toward Misty under the table. Her touch is a graze at first, tentative, until she sees the way Misty appears to light from within. She increases the pressure then, as if on instinct. Misty’s forearm is warm to touch, moving ever so slightly toward her. When their eyes meet, she offers the sweetest smile she can.  

It seems to speak to Misty, who stares back at it with thought etched into her face until her own smile follows. She doesn’t tug away from her now, maybe because their connection is hidden under the table, or that the others are distracted with other conversation. Cordelia can’t shake the feeling that it means more than what she sees at first glance.  

Misty’s hand twitches, the tip of her tongue pokes from between her pink lips. She lifts her gaze, letting it skitter about like a nervous lamb, but there is nothing nervous about the way her fingers suddenly wrap around Cordelia’s. They intertwine quickly, like it was meant to always be that way, and Cordelia can’t help the delightful grin that reaches all the way to her eyes.  

She looks to her, eyes curious, and fluttering against the low streaming sunlight.  

Her friend is wearing that smile again, the one that fights for a place on her lips. And it basks under Cordelia’s scrutiny. All she can question is why, what does it mean. That feeling persists, a feeling that she’s missing something.  

A sigh crawls through the tiny gap of her lips, a sigh that carries all of her convoluted thoughts away with it. For now, she just enjoys the feel of Misty’s hand in hers.  

It remains for the next few minutes, a sense of calm around the otherwise exuberant energy that the dinner carries. Every lull and drop in conversation is filled with the start of another, with teasing and inside jokes, but Misty is silent for the remainder of it. Cordelia recognizes the process all too quickly, how she loses the Cajun to her own thoughts.  

She squeezes Misty’s hand then, giving a tiny tilt of her head. A question maybe. Misty answers with a half shrug that doesn’t really say much else.  

When Cordelia lets her eyes navigate around the table again, they slow on Nellie. Not because she’s talking, or moving in a particular way to garner interest, but because she’s intently watching the two of them with growing interest in her dark pupils. She freezes, trying not to give any outside signs of a reaction, or the fear that sits heavily in the pit of her stomach.  

Nellie’s eyes persist, and so does that stifling panic that dries the entire length of her throat.  Fuck . Maybe Misty can’t see her unmistakable feelings, but what if her sister can? Air struggles to fill her lungs as anxiety holds them hostage with its weight. She busies herself with sipping at her drink, fingers slipping from Misty’s.  

How could she be so stupid, to do something so obvious like that in front of her family of all people? She wants to lower her head into her hands to hide the shame. Only, that would serve to further perpetuate the display.  

Beside her, Misty doesn’t seem upset. Not at her, anyway. She begins to finish off the last of her food, much slower than her first bowl, while every so often letting her gaze lift to Cordelia. It burns just as much as Nellie’s, and she can’t bring herself to look back at her.  

...

“You’re actin’ weird.” Misty points out as they walk further away from the house, where laughter grows quiet, replaced by the evening serenade of nature. In the distance, she hears the slow calls of cattle.  

Cordelia sighs. “No, I’m not.”  

Face pinching together, her friend slows her walking. In turn, this forces Cordelia to copy her actions and their paces quickly match. “You are a terrible lair, Cordelia.” Her words are straightforward, accompanied with that unwavering stare.  

She finds her head bowing slightly to look at her feet. An easier thing to pay attention to.  

Misty continues to watch her, to wait even in the absence of a response. And, just as Cordelia is inundated with thoughts, so does the Cajun seem to be. Her own stern inner dialogue reminds her of the promise she’d made to be honest with Misty, the one she’s been breaking ever since she made it.  

Realizing she’s not going to get anything from her friend, Misty’s heaves in a breath and continues in their intended direction. She has way too much energy for someone who has just eaten three helpings of food, leaving Cordelia in her wake. The older blonde rushes to catch up with her, the uneven ground catching at her feet.  

Not too long after, a barn comes into view and stands proud amongst the tree line. Cordelia scrunches up her nose at the smell that grows stronger with their paces, until it’s the only thing that infiltrates her nostrils. Turning to her, Misty raises a brow and half smirks.  

“What?” she laughs.  

“You’re lookin’ a little lost, City girl.”  

The chuckles ease the weird aura around them, just slightly, and she responds with a gentle shove on Misty’s bicep. “I am quite happy where I am, actually.” Her retort is tight with her own humor in it.  

Misty grins, easily moving to unlatch the large wooden door that separates them from the animals. She half hangs against it once it’s opened, watching Cordelia with that seemingly always present contemplation. “You gonna tell me what’s wrong?”  

Oh, so clearly she’s not going to let it go.  

Hesitation takes over her, no stranger at this point. It gives Misty pause. “Nothing is wrong.”  

“Then why are you bein’ so quiet?”  

“I'm thinking.”  

Her head tilts, hair catching against the imperfections in the barn door. It sits frizzy in the humid air, never having looked more like a mane than it does now. ”’Bout what?” Her eyes flicker unsurely, just for a second, “are you regrettin’ coming here?”  

Such an abrupt question has her head spinning, a tingle shooting down her spine in worry. “No.” she doesn’t miss a beat. “Of course not.” She moves so she’s leaning against the unopened side, the metal hinge digging into the muscles of her back. “Your family have been lovely to me.” Mostly

Misty’s expression falters. “They’re a lot, I know.” 

“They’re nice.”  

Misty makes a noise, that doesn’t quite sound like an agreement, but she doesn’t push it. Their familial relationship seems all too complicated for her to understand, especially when the only family she has is her mother and a grandmother that she sees once a year. “You don’t have to lie to me.” Her friend offers a wry smile, the corners of her eyes crinkling prettily. 

“I’m not.” She gives a shake of her head, then offers another exhale. One that makes her chest all kinds of tight. “I just- I was thinking about you, okay?” 

Playfulness appears on her features, if only to offer a carefree guise where is panic flooding her features. “And what exactly about me are ya thinkin’?” 

Cordelia only stares at her.  

She grows impatient all too quickly, give a low hum of Cordelia name that jerks her back to reality. “You're different here.” She eventually says, adding with a constricting throat. “Around your family.” 

Oh.” 

Shifting, she switches weight from one foot to another. “You think so?”  

“It’s not a bad thing.” Cordelia says, with a shrug. “I guess everyone is a little different when they’re at home.” She watches as Misty gives a slow nod, but it unsettles her, and she isn’t quite sure why.  

Her mind is still working, the cogs moving in a steady rhythm as they ponder a whole host of ideas. The same notions that she begins to openly share with Misty. “Then I got thinking that you're different at school, too.” 

Now, Misty lets confusion cloud over her expression. Her hand rises up beside her, gently following the grain of the wood as though to keep part of her brain distracted from the vulnerability of the conversation. 

Cordelia aims to correct the uncertainty quickly. “And then there's you when it’s just the two of us. . . it's kind of like there are so many of versions of you.” She explains quietly, gut clenching at how Misty’s eyes stare back with the evening sky caught in them. “I guess I’m just wondering which version is the real one.” 

“What? Like I’m lyin’ to everyone?” She infers, an annoyed twitch of her eyebrows. 

“No,” Cordelia frowns, shaking her head. “I just mean. . . I don’t know.” 

There's a defensive flare of Misty's nostrils, but she doesn’t push the subject. She seems to sense Cordelia’s recoil backwards, the regret that tinges the air. She bows her head for a second, a hand pushing away loose hairs from her face. When she lifts it, she gives a gentle nod in the direction of the barn’s inside. “C'mon, lemme show you Axel before they all go to sleep.” 

Maybe the deflection should irritate her, but she honestly finds a sign of relief following the sever in such a serious conversation. Where it had come from, she isn't quite sure. Just as she's accused Misty of having so many alternates, turns out the Cajun brings out a rather musing side in her.  

She smiles eventually, and takes Misty's outstretched hand to follow. Inside the dark barn, the heat ebbs slightly. Even if sunlight pokes between the wooden slats.  

Cordelia isn’t exactly well versed in animals, but she at least recognizes the ones inside. From the clucking chickens that are nestling into straw nests higher up, to the pigs sprawled out just to her right. But Misty pushes forward to the back, where she can just about focus on large shapes with her adjusting eyes.  

Inside, the smell is by far worse, and she holds a hand up to her nose without thinking. Upon seeing it, Misty only grins and rolls her eyes.  

After tiptoeing around the straw and things that she'd rather not question, she finds Misty in the furthest pen, scratching under the neck of the calf that certainly isn’t as small as she remembers in the photos. “Hey boy.” She says lovingly. “I got someone for ya to meet.” 

This is where to turns to Cordelia, frowning at seeing her stood at such a distance from the stinky animal. “Get in here.” She chuckles, biting at her lower lip. 

“I’m okay.” 

“Delia.” She says her name with the same fondness she'd just spoken to the young bull with. “You gotta say hi properly. Now come on!” 

“What if he hurts me?” 

“Fortunately for you, he's already had a full City girl for breakfast, so he ain’t hungry.” 

She takes a step forward, her expression an attempt at reprimanding, but failing miserably. “That's not funny.” 

Misty shrugs, still grinning serenely.  

That beckons her closer and she dares one more move, though the heel of her shoes catches in a crack on the floor. It sends her stumbling forward and almost into the calf itself. Only for Misty to save her at the last minute, most definitely laughing at her now. Cheeks grow pink, lips pressing together when her hands steady themselves on Misty's strong shoulders. “You okay?” the Cajun chuckles. 

“Just fine.” It may be intended as a grumble, though the light nature of her friend spreads all too easily, and she's smiling, too.  

She's now practically face to face with Axel, whose nose twitches and shifts in wake of the new person. Cordelia tries to step back when he sniffs curiously at her blouse, lips reaching to wrap around the material, only Misty’s arm is still holding her by the small of her back and there's no retreating.  

She does, however, gentle encourage Axel away from Cordelia for a moment. “Hey, that's no way to greet a lady.” 

If anything, Misty calling her a lady ignites the familiar heat, the yearning for closeness and touch and love in a way she fears may never happen.  

The Cajun looks to her, encouragingly, so confident in that moment. Cordelia likes her like this. “Are ya gonna stroke him or what?” 

She blinks. “Um. . .” 

“Here.” Misty offers her no options, yanking her hand up and placing it just under the neck of the animal in front of her. His fur, like dark chocolate, is warm under her fingertips, coarse in some parts and soft in others.  

Cordelia feels a faint smile growing on her lips, especially when she notices Misty is still holding onto her hand with a solid pressure. This encourages her further, where she eventually grows some confidence and scratches nails through that thick fur. Axel leans into it, trying to get her hand higher and higher until it sits at the back of his ear.  

When it does, he practically shudders in delight, eyes closing contently. It's actually kind of cute, she thinks.  

“Look how happy he is.” Misty announces after a long beat, where she's been so close to Cordelia that the girl had forgotten how to breathe.  

“Yeah. . .” 

Misty's fingers drift from over hers, knuckles massaging Axel's chin. “This is his favorite spot.” She announces, everything about her tender and adoring. Cordelia thinks the girl is one step away from embracing the animal and never letting go.  

“I didn’t realize they like head scratches so much.” She chuckles.  

“Oh yeah. When he's out in the field, he'll sit with ya for ages.” Misty says. “It's nice.” As always, her happiness only seems to be temporary. “I’m gonna miss him when he goes.” 

Cordelia throws a glance over her shoulder, hand stilling. The calf impatiently nudges her more in protest. “Goes?” she asks.  

“Well, yeah.” Misty says like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. 

She tilts her head. “What do you mean?” 

Misty's azure eyes cloud over, hazy with tears. She observes Cordelia with a frown, then sighs. “Well, he's a boy, ain’t he?” 

“So?” She blinks. 

Her pointed stare sharpens. “So.” Anger and frustration seep into her words. “When he gets big enough, he'll go to auction and probably. . . ya know.” 

Realization fizzles over her, clenching at her heart. Suddenly the unshed tears in Misty’s eyes make sense. “Shit.” She frowns, supposing she'd never given thought to the idea that some of things she eats used to be a living and breathing animal. 

With her fingers brushing over soft fur, guilt coats her insides.  

“Yeah.” Misty agrees. And now she does leans closer to Axel, her head falling just against his shoulders. “Sometimes I wish I could leave the door open and set him free. But he's so little. He wouldn’t survive out there on his own.” 

Cordelia observes the pair, the ghost of a smile on her lips. “He isn't little, Misty.” 

“You know what I mean.” She mumbles.  

“Right.” A nod comes, then a clench in her chest as she once again experiences Misty's intense love for all the innocent creatures that she encounters. If only she could love herself as she does these animals.  

Reaching out in a delicate touch, she makes contact with Misty's shoulder. The Cajun relaxes. “He ain’t ever done anything bad to anyone.” She says. “How is that fair?” 

“Sometimes bad things happen to good people." She finds it a bit weird, speaking of Axel like he's a person. Not an animal. But maybe she isn’t talking about the bull at all, maybe she's hinting at something else entirely.  

Misty eventually loosens her grip on him, one final ruffle through his fur, and steps back. By now, Cordelia is backing away, making eye contact with the other cattle and animals that call this place home. The smell hasn’t grown weaker, and the heat only serves to make a sticky layer of sweat stick above her forehead.  

So much so, that when a chicken flaps its wings above them, and feathers float down alongside dust, a scattering of them refuse to leave the skin.  

Misty giggles, stepping forward to brush them away. “Now you’re gonna stink of chicken.”  

“Oh thanks.” 

“There are worse things to smell like.” 

She folds her arms together. “Like what?”  

“Chicken shit.”  

Misty laughs mischievously, hands lowering to her sides when she's finished. She regards Cordelia now, all tears a thing of the past. Her gaze is soft and gentle, like a serene lake that you want to dive right into on a hot summer's day. 

That urge to kiss her comes again, strong in its passing. It is becoming harder and harder to ignore.  

Misty’s fingers graze hers. “C'mon, we should probably get back. Don’t want all the animals pissed at me for keepin’ them up late.”  

She chuckles. “No, we can’t have that.” Still, the idea of being near Misty’s family again has her nerves resurfacing. Especially Nellie. Certainly after the way she'd been watching them.  

Misty locks up the barn with ease, saying goodnight to the animals in a way that Cordelia watches in both amusement and pure adoration. The last few offerings of sunshine are creeping behind the treeline, leaving only shades of dark blue in their path. There are the makings of stars, she thinks, but when she turns to Misty on the walk back, the Cajun is staring to her with a scrunched up face. 

“What?” She probes.  

Misty visibly gulps, though eases into a smile that screams of vulnerability. “You were right, you know.” 

“I’m always right.” She jokes. 

There’s a jab in her side, just at the ticklish spot that makes her give a strangled squeal. “I’m bein’ serious, Delia.” 

Urgency suddenly seeps into her expression in a way it never has before. It makes her slow, attention lost on everywhere but at her friend. “Go on.” She's smirking, more to cover the fact that she has kind of forgotten how to breathe in the wake of such severity is Misty's eyes.  

“About there bein’ different versions of me.” She says, all hushed.  

Cordelia leans in closer, both relieved and terrified to be back on this subject.  

She finds words suddenly difficult to source. Not Misty. Reluctance no longer holds hers in the back of her throat and they sound over the chirping cicadas. “You’re always right.” She sighs out, “sometimes I feel like I am lyin’ to people.  Like I’m not the real me.” 

“The real you?”  

And just who is the real Misty, she wonders. When all the secrets and lies are out, what exactly will her friend look like to her. All she knows is that she'll love her regardless. 

Misty stares to the ground, idly kicking at a pebble that is half stuck in the dry dirt. “Yeah.” 

“What's so scary about the real you that you can’t show anyone?” She asks, kindness wrapping every syllable in her word. Cordelia also goes for the tactile approach, not knowing if it’s Misty or herself who needs it, and curls fingers around Misty’s wrist gently.  

Misty continues to stare down. “Nothin' scary.” She insists. “Like, I aint killed anyone if that’s what you’re asking.” 

A light snort forces its way out of her mouth, and she warms at the tiny smile that it pulls from Misty. “Think I'd still be your friend ever then.” She insists.  

“Good to know.”  

After another few beats of quiet, of their own footsteps rustling the grass, she dares to ask another question. “So, which one is the real you? With your family, or at school? With our friends?” Inquisitiveness keeps her eyes light, forcing Misty to stare at them now.  

She peers down at their touching hands, and breathes out in a heavenly manner. “This is.” 

“Hmm?”  

This.” Misty confirms. “You and me. When it's just us, I feel like. . . like. . .” 

In a weak whisper, she pushes. “Like?” Her heart is sat in her mouth, ready to spill all her feelings over to Misty.  

“Like maybe everythin' ain’t so bad. You don’t look at me like you expect me to be somethin' else. You look at me like I’m. . .  me .” 

She may be talking about Cordelia’s gaze, but she finds herself considering the opposite. The way Misty is looking at her is so interwoven with emotion and care that it startles her for a second. She thinks to before, how she'd almost kissed her, how Misty had made no movement to halt it. Had she even realized Cordelia’s motives? Surely, there was no mistaking it.  

And then this now, such a confession, under the crisp night sky. She wonders if Misty is trying to tell her something, maybe something she's even too scared to admit to herself. But is that just the hopeful thinking of a lovesick idiot? 

To convince herself that Misty is gay and potentially harboring feelings for her gives hope. And hope is a very powerful thing. Something that she finds herself clinging on to.  

She locks eyes with Misty. “You only ever have to be yourself with me.”   

That gaze that stares back have tears returning with vengeance. 

Now, she pulls her in for a hug. One that Misty easily reciprocates, with a tight hold and a head on Cordelia’s shoulder. If her lips accidently graze Misty’s hairline, neither of them say anything about it.  

Although the circumstance isn’t desirable, Misty’s touch, as always, affects her in way she never thought possible. Her closeness is intoxicating, her tiny breaths hitting the sensitive spot of Cordelia's ear. She shivers when fingers graze just under her ribcage, frowning when Misty pulls back. “Are you cold?” 

She shakes her head. Just deeply in love.   

Misty returns to where she'd been, in the crook of Cordelia's neck, and they walk back like that, even if it’s rather awkward with her height.  

The second she spies the light of Misty’s home, all touch is gone. She sighs, and this time Misty catches it. She borders on apologetic, but doesn’t say anything.  

Gumbo greets them excited from the small kennel he's tied to, now with the company of the other dogs. This time, Cordelia offers a gentle pat after Misty's far more excitable greeting.  

They pass Nellie and her husband on the way in, the small family still sat on the porch, whispering to one another with their baby asleep over her shoulder. Nellie’s eyes volley between them, in that way that makes Cordelia nauseous again. 

“Have fun?” She has her legs stretched out on the railing, leaning back against her husband. 

Misty nods. “Yeah.” 

She raises a brow. “You remember to lock the barn door?” 

“’Course. I’m not an idiot.” 

The two make their way toward the back door. “I wouldn’t go in there if I were you.” Nellie laughs, “they were all hollerin’ at the TV loud enough for China to hear.” 

“Guess we'll take our chances.” She doesn’t take Cordelia’s hand, but she does gesture for her to follow with one hand holding the door open. Inside, the artificial light stings at her eyes and she spies the pile of dishes waiting to be cleaned on the side.  

Misty walks straight past them, opening the fridge and staring at the few things inside. “You hungry?” 

“No.” She laughs. “How can you be when you ate so much at dinner?” 

A grin is flashed her way, seizing at her heart. Misty returns with a handful of grapes, then walks past Cordelia while brushing up against her. “Let's go.” 

“Where?” 

“To my room.” She draws, in a way that is clearly more enticing than intended. 

Said walk takes them back through the living room, where Tommy has resumed his spot on the couch. His face is scrunched up with intensity, fingers moving expertly over the PlayStation controller. “Ah, yes! Gotcha.” 

Whatever game he is playing sounds explosive and violent, and not dissimilar to the ones that Hank would play when she'd hang out with him. She shares Misty's disinterest, following her keenly through the room, even past family pictures that she yearns to stop and stare at.  

“Fuck, no, no, no.” His voice grows louder, even when Sylvia's own carries from an adjacent room for him to shut up. “Die, you fuckin’ faggot!”  

This slur causes her to still, but not Misty. She just keeps on walking, rushing almost, until she's at the sanctuary of her own room. He continues in his verbal assault, with gay, queer and fag all flowing easily and deprecatingly from his lips.  

Cordelia hates the way it makes the pit in her stomach feel more like an abyss. She scrambles for Misty’s room then, closing the door behind her.  

It doesn’t stop the noise.  

“Sorry ‘bout him.” Misty says, “he ain’t got a lower volume.” 

That’s the least of her worries, and unease prickles at her skin. “Does he always say stuff like that?” she questions, because how could she not? 

Misty is swept up in a morose air, before she shrugs. “I try not to listen.” She is suddenly on her knees, reaching under the bed to tug at wires. “I got my headphones, and Stevie.” Her shrug implies that's all that's needs, but Cordelia wishes she could give her so much more. 

She doesn’t say anything else. What can she say? Something that Misty doesn’t already know? Most likely not.  

With a slump in her shoulders, she makes to sit down beside Misty on the bed and tries to ignore how small the room feels. It leaves little space for her thoughts, the ones that are growing stronger day by day.  

Beneath her, the mattress is stiff, but she leans comfortably into Misty’s side and offers reprieve in the form of a tiny smile. “Thanks for inviting me, Misty.”  

She shrugs. “It's okay.” 

“Only took you a whole year.”  

Cordelia's laughter is forced, surely. She understands, she thinks, more of Misty now than ever. And for that she's grateful, even if there have been some not so enjoyable aspects to the evening.  

“Patience is a virtue.” Misty chimes in with a quiet voice, though when she turns to Cordelia there is an upwards tug of her lips. 

“Yeah. It was worth the wait.” 

“You're just sayin’ that. I know what my family are like.” 

Their hands find each other, and she's not sure who initially starts the contact. Neither does she care. “I don’t mean them.” 

That’s when Misty is looking to her in question again, trying to solve the enigma of her words. It must be all too difficult for her, seeing as she's shaking her head and chuckling. “So, you’re gonna be all cryptic, huh?” 

“Figured it was my turn." She smirks. 

This summons a similar expression from Misty, one that grows more devilish by the second. Cordelia is so enraptured by the way it morphs that she doesn’t see Misty's fingers circling around her pillow and clutching it tightly within. Until it's too late, that is.  

It swings in her direction, knocking her backwards with a whoosh of air flowing from her lungs. She sits up again, the victim of whiplash. “What was that for?” 

“Revenge.” Misty laughs airily, still holding her weapon. “For the morning after the party.” 

The memory sits vividly in her mind, but the present moment calls for her attention. Because Misty is clearly ready to strike again, eyes glistening. In a quick move, she reaches for the smaller of the pillows and holds it up to protect herself. It does the trick, allowing her a second for her own swipe at Misty, colliding with her side.  

It bolsters her smirk, where she gathers onto her knees and tugs the pillow over her head to gain more momentum in its swing.  

This time, it hits Cordelia on her forehead, creating a wind that surges through her once straight hair. She yelps and shoves her away with one hand that fails in its task.  

She’s there again, hovering over her, and relentless in her task. Cordelia uses anything at her disposal to keep the Cajun away, but she's strong and stubborn, and apparently really intent on winning this pillow fight. When she's too close to swing said pillow, a hand is finding Cordelia's side, just under her ribs. 

Deep, belly laughter is summoned from within her, so loud that Misty pulls back with a wondrous smile. “I didn’t know you were ticklish.”  

“No.” She gasps, struggling to pull herself into a sitting position and protect her sides. “Misty, don’t.” It’s a soft order, one that is all too easily ignored as Misty purposely pokes at her now, eliciting more giggles. “Stop it.” 

The sensation is both delightful and torturous, the touch enough to have a pleasant hum in the lower half of her body. She thinks of Misty touching her in other places, then scrunches her eyes shut. She can’t think about that. It’s not fair. Even if Misty’s hands are persistent, and oh so welcome on her body. 

Soon, she must take pity on her, leaving Cordelia a breathless mess on her bed. Misty is panting, too. Maybe from all her laughter. Her eyes are wide saucers, cheeks painted a pretty pink in the heat of room.  

“That wasn’t very nice.” Cordelia finally says, sitting herself straight and ignoring the tingle throughout her entire body.  

When she peers back at Misty, the girl almost appears paralysed in the spot.  

She leans her head with a light frown. “Misty?” 

“I gotta go to the bathroom.” She announces, quick and nervous. Cordelia nods her understanding, watching her stand in a hurry. Her gait may seem swayed, but she rushes toward the door. As if unable to help herself, she turns and looks at Cordelia one more time, a strained smile on her face.  

Cordelia tries not to think about Misty’s flush face or her soft, parted lips, or the fact that suddenly she thinks Zoe and Madison may be right about her. 

She sighs, hoping to placate her desire to over think by checking through her phone. Only, it’s not in her pocket. Panic shoots through to her core, hands patting against all and any pockets, then searching through her bag. 

In one last ditch attempt, she flattens them over the rumpled bed sheets where she finds nothing. Then, over the sound of her frazzled thoughts, she hears it vibrating. The noises come from beneath the bed, against the carpeted floor, and she assumes that the phone must have slipped out of her pocket moments ago. 

She lowers herself to the floor, on hands and knees, setting her sights to the mess of items underneath the bed. It reminds her a little Misty’s locker, with things carelessly thrown in. Only now, her phone is amongst those.  

Her arm reaches as far as it will go, finding first unpaired shoes, then a charger, and finally a phone. She smiles to herself, beginning to tug it back. In her haste, she brings with it an armful of items that scatter about the floor messily.  

“Damn.” She pockets her phone and then makes to push them back under the bed, not wanting to give Misty the impression that she's snooping when she does return.  

But then her eyes are stopped by something, and suddenly she is snooping. She shoves away the single sheets of paper, covered in drawings, that sit atop of a magazine.  

Cordelia scoops it between her fingers with no hesitation, casting one anxious glance over her shoulder to make sure that she's alone. The name isn’t recognizable, but from the image on the front, it’s pretty clear what the magazine entails inside.  

Even so, she quickly flips through the pages, face growing paler by the second. “Shit.” She hears herself saying aloud, then repeated in a hushed tone. 

Eyes widen, her tongue hits heavily at the roof of her mouth as she tries to keep her focus. But it wants to reel, to lose control for just a few moments. 

How else is it going to cope with the fact that Misty has a dirty magazine full of naked women? 

“Fuck.” She says again, just for good measure, as all of her doubts about Misty's sexuality go flying out of the tiny window. 

Chapter Text

Her number limbs somehow have an immeasurable weight to them keep her glued to the spot.  

Staring. 

That’s all she can do. If she had any capability of movement, she'd maybe pinch herself. As it is, her muscles refuse to budge. Only the pupils in her eyes exert with effort – so desperately straining and shocked and trying to make sense of what's right in front of her. Like it's some sort of puzzle.  

But it's not. It's very, very simple. Misty has lesbian porn hidden in her room, and it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out what that means.  

Her fingers clutch the paper, wrinkled from use. They tighten on it like it's the only thing keeping her anchored into reality right now.  

She doesn’t know what to do. What to think. How on earth is she supposed to approach this situation when she knows the consequences? The ending is already decided; it's apparently up to her to fill in the middle of the story. Unfortunately, she's rather indecisive these days. 

The only thing frightening enough to whip her into action is when she hears the flusher going, following by the scuffle of approaching footsteps.  

Scurrying to hide the magazine back where it had been, she just about manages to regain somewhat of a composure before the door creaks open. Misty is smiling again, the ease seeping back into her personality. 

Cordelia wishes she could say the same for herself; she's about as tight would as a spring right now. Teaming to release, to speak, to do anything

Her capabilities flounder and struggle, and her eyes, burned with the images from the magazine, find Misty's. “Why are you on the floor?” She drawls, smirking. It hangs lower when she spies Cordelia's flustered appearance. 

“I dropped my phone.” She pushes out, too quick. Too strained.  

At least she isn’t lying, and that makes guilt sit less thickly to the lining of her stomach. Misty moves closer, only having to take a couple of steps to close the gap between them. In that time, she convinces herself that her friend can tell the slight differences in the room, that she can hear the raspy way Cordelia's breath pulls through her teeth. She always seems so in tuned to the small changes in the air, so why not now? 

But Misty is sitting on the bed, forcing her to crane her neck in order to stare up at her. “You are so clumsy.” She chuckles, not unkindly. Her eyes dip down to the phone, lay abandon in favor of what she’d found – and now hidden from view. “You ain’t broke it, I hope?” 

Biting her lip, she shakes her head, and wonders if she'll ever be able to let her eyes match Misty's stares. She can’t; the fear that she'll see those images burned back in her retinas paralysing her to the spot.  

There’s a long beat. Her brother's hollering continues in an increasingly frustrated manner. Sensitive ears catch the huffs that Misty displays in response. 

Cordelia swallows against a scratchy, dry throat, and steadies her own respiration.  

“You comfy down there?” 

She blinks profusely, as if Misty’s words were blurted out in another language. 

Bewilderment hijacks her features, doing a not so delicate dance across the girl's expression. Eyebrows rise gently in question. 

“I - " 

Misty's sudden laughter is a stark sound against the blood pulsing around her ear canals. “What’s wrong?” Even through the humor, she can hear the concern in her voice. It lies dormant; quiet and patient. 

“Nothing.” She squeaks. 

Her heavy arms move languidly to pull herself upwards by the bed frame, where she tries not to let herself flush under Misty’s peering. She fails. But then she’s sat next to her friend, back against the cold wall, and legs dangling down next to hers. Everything is wrong. She looks to Misty in what she fears is pained love. I don’t know how to help you.   

She resists the desires that plague her mind, those that tell her to wrap Misty in her arms and embrace her protectively. Like they might be able to keep her away from the dangers of the world. Cordelia stares down to the mattress beneath them, to where Misty's secret remains hidden away. Her insides run cold at the thought.  

Heart aching, she watches her from the corner of her eyes. A pensive state washes over her. It spreads to Misty, who hums and vibrates with unsaid thoughts. Does she tell her what she found? The last time she'd confronted Misty over the cuts on her wrists had gone so badly that the idea stalls in the early stages of development. Still, she thinks, they'd gotten through it, hadn’t they? Sure, their friendship got rocked, but it’s not always plain sailing. Sometimes you've got to get through the storm to find dry land.  

She opens her mouth to speak, the words lingering between her lips.  

But Misty beats her to it, tilting her way ever so slightly. “You wanna go home or somethin’?” She rolls the material of her dress between her fingers.  

“No.” She shakes her head. “Why would you think that?” 

“I dunno. You've gone all weird again. Like before.” Her head dips, taking her gaze alone with it, but that doesn’t stop Cordelia from catching the quirk of Misty’s lips. “You thinkin’ about me again?” 

The nonchalant way it's asked totally contrasts the spasm it sends Cordelia into. Strangely, it's not panic or strangled replies that follows. But short laughter. “Always.” She reaches over and takes that fidgeting hand in hers. “You live rent free in my thoughts.” 

“I pay you in friendship, don’t I?” 

“Hmm.” She starts, mind half on their conversation and the other half deliberating her choices. The split in contemplation begins a chronic headache at her temples. “Guess so.” 

Misty’s head snaps up now, eyes flashing slightly wider. “ Ya guess so? ” Rather quickly, she senses the humor in Cordelia's own expression, the same humor she's using to try and ebb away the tight feeling in her chest. “Oh.” She relaxes. “Thought you were sayin’ my friendship ain’t good enough for a second there.” 

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” She lets a smile push its way to her lips.  

That hand around Misty's squeezes around the cold one, fingers half curled. It almost reminds her of how they'd held hands under the table at dinner, how the act has felt so intimate and new. “Good.” She says sweetly. 

But the joy in her face falters as Tommy's yelling continues to slip in from under the door. It's not the only noise disturbing their peace; on one wall, loud music pulses against her ears, and the other side brings with it hushed voices and a fussing baby. Misty frowns, being forced into action by the symphony of disruptions.  

She sits upright, leaning on her knees, and reaches over to the floor where her own phone and earphones wait patiently. Yanked up in an instant, Misty is by Cordelia's side. Warmth and softness accompanies her, as the material of her dress rubs up against Cordelia's bare arm.  

Any questioning the older blonde may have dies when Misty begins to scroll through the many music albums to find the perfect one. When she does, surprisingly not Fleetwood mac this time, she turns back up to Cordelia with a timid smile and offers out one of the earphones. It's taken without thought and slipped in where gentle music usurps the noise of the family home.  

Cordelia is grateful for it, eyes closing contently for a moment. Apparently though, the nearby family had served as rather effective distraction, for now her mind swoops back to the rather pressing matter at hand.  

She'd been staring ahead with unfocused eyes for a few moments, but as Misty once again successfully holds her thoughts, she lets her eyes gaze over to her.  

Misty is staring right back. She half expects her to look away, to have that bashfulness flooding over her features. Not this time. The way she relents makes the coil in Cordelia's stomach grow tighter with each passing second. With little consideration for her actions, she shuffles on the bed, leaning  backwards ever so slightly. Her arms move to find Misty’s shoulders, trying not to catch the wires of the earphones.  

Leaning into her touch, Misty lets herself be pulled back. Her head catches just under Cordelia's shoulder, hair tickling every bit of exposed skin in a tantalising sensation. Cordelia hopes Misty doesn’t feel the way her breath catches. If she does, she gives no indication of it, and embraces the hold that Cordelia offers. “Hmm,” the Cajun grins, and then whispers over all the other noise. “You're real comfy.” 

The words dance over Cordelia's collarbone, past the delicate skin of her neck. Their heat and affection scorch her skin. She giggles. “Glad to know.”  

Misty grows more pensive, just for a second, then sighs. “When do ya gotta go?” 

She runs a shaky fingers through Misty's hair, indulging where she shouldn’t. “I can stay a little longer.” 

“Yeah?” 

A hum follows, then her lips twist wryly. “Although I am rather keen to get this chicken smell off of me.” 

Misty's laughs are as delicate as drizzle. “You smell just fine.”  

She flushes on instinct, praying that Misty can’t see it in her proximity. Words become quite redundant after that, for the pair quickly settle into the position and lose themselves in the joy of just each other's company.  

Cordelia doesn’t recognize the music playing, but it brings a smile to her lips. Just as do Misty's appreciative hums as she combs fingers tenderly through her hair.  

This is nice, she thinks. Perfect, almost.  

But the only thing preventing that perfection being reached is the elephant in the room, the questions suffocating her lungs. Sat here, like this, she can convince herself that all that dormant hope might have a chance, that maybe the idea of her and Misty being more than friends doesn’t need to be wrapped in such a shroud of melancholy.  

Because the evidence is sitting right beneath them. And then it flows in the way that Misty snakes an arm around her waist, holding her tighter than she’s ever been held before. Like she's a lifeboat amidst a tempestuous storm.  

Only, Cordelia wishes she knew how to approach the truth. The idea of confronting Misty right now returns, even if it does crush her chest with anxiety. What would she say? Oh, so I happened to find your lesbian porn, let's talk about that. Her teeth grind together in nerves, and a sigh pushes through the tiny gaps. There is no easy answer, she fears. All she wants is the right one for Misty, one where she's not going to retreat and withdraw at the very idea of someone calling her gay.  

Her own arms tighten, and the music no longer calms her.  

Misty's weight seems to have grown heavier over her few minutes of contemplation. She twists her neck to see her eyes closed. “Misty.” She says, hushed. “Are you asleep?” 

There's a beat, then a quiet “nah.” Another pause, a more thoughtful one that brings with it an earnest statement.  “I like my room better when you're here, ya know?” 

It is spoken so softly that she almost doesn’t hear it, but the second those words drift into her ears, she is grinning like a fool.  

Misty continues in that same honest streak. “I was real nervous about tonight.” 

“Why?” She probes, straightening. Misty feels the shift and opens those soft eyes in her direction, still leaning against her.  

“I just was." 

There's a whole host of reasons why, Cordelia thinks. From hearing that it’s the first time Misty has ever brought a friend home, to knowing the girl's trepidation at her family being on display. Yet, it's none of those that apparently burden the Cajun, and she all too easily lets the real reason fall from her parted lips. “I wanted my family to like you.” 

She pulls in a sharp breath while her fingers slow on Misty's scalp. “It doesn’t matter if they like me or not,” she starts diplomatically, despite her heart clenching at the idea of not gaining their approval.  

“But I want them to.” She presses her lips together thoughtfully, then sighs. “I want them to know how amazin' you are.” 

As always with any time Misty compliments her, it sends her heart into overdrive, coursing with adrenaline and no lack of love. “Thanks Misty.” She says gratefully.  

Misty continues to stare at her. “You’re my best friend.”  

“I know.” Laughter pushes where nerves fight her words. “And you're mine.” The easiness of the moment lulls her into content, to a world where things she wouldn’t normally say creep out behind her chuckles. “I love you.” 

Even if she wants to run and hide the second the confession is uttered, it's pretty difficult with Misty glued to her side like this. So she stills, and waits. Then waits some more. As she does, she tries to count every erratic beat of her chest.  

Misty doesn’t share the tightness of her muscles, instead pulling back ever so slightly to take Cordelia in fully. There's a half smile on her lips that sits there so stunningly she wishes it would make home on the spot. Azure eyes meet hers, then dip in favor of staring at the floral patterns on Cordelia's blouse. 

“I love you too.” She mumbles, words just for Cordelia. She’ll keep each and every one of them with fondness.  

The moment is bittersweet, Misty’s words both enough to enhance how besotted she is, but also serve to remind her that they are spoken in friendship. It’s not the love that she so craves. 

Maybe one day it could be. Maybe if she could be brave enough to tell Misty what she knows. Things might change, for the better. She forces herself not to consider that they might change for the worst, shooing that negativity intently.  

She stares to Misty, who is continuing to smile at her before that head returns to Cordelia's shoulder with a content sigh.  

So close to the Cajun like this, setting every nerve of her body on fire, she thinks that she just might be willing to take a risk on maybe. 

... 

Her indecisiveness lingers all throughout the visit, and even as Misty walks her the short distance back to her car. She insists that she doesn’t have to, but the girl refuses, standing with her until they hover by the vehicle.  

Darkness has fully blanketed over the sky now, allowing only moonlight to guide their way.  

Seeing Misty bathed in its glow is almost enough to calm her mind. Almost. The second her friend pulls her in for a tight hug, that voice appears in the back of her mind again.  

Tell her you know. Tell her!  

“Are you okay?” 

She blinks, finding Misty has pulled away and now regards her with furrowed brows. “Misty, I - " Cordelia cuts herself short, nauseous. This feels all too similar to when she'd tried to confront Misty about cutting herself. That same guilt swills now. How has she not learned her lesson? 

But Misty is tilting her head and letting a smile hang on her lips. “Cat got your tongue?” 

Faint laughter follows. “I've had a really good night.” She deflects as courage slips from her grasp.  

“Yeah, you survived my family.” Her nose crinkles with her grin. ““You deserve a medal.” 

“I'll be waiting for it.” She grins, basking in joy rather than the thick air that she was swallowing moments ago. Clearing her throat, she locks eyes with Misty. “I'll see you Monday then?” 

She nods eagerly. “Uh huh.” 

Unlocking her car, she opens the door and then considers climbing in. As she does, she can feel Misty's eyes on her the entire time. “Don’t forget we have another biology test.” She adds quickly. 

Misty's liberal eye roll summons a series of chuckles. “How could I?” Then, under her breath, she mutters. “I'm sick of tests.”  

“Just think,” she starts in daring hopefulness, “this time next year we could be doing tests as college students.”  

She sighs, fingers holding onto the top of the open door. “That's kinda scary.”  

“I know.” She agrees, even if she is grinning. The idea seems to be stealing air from her lungs, because when she looks to Misty she feels short of breath. But she doesn’t have a moment to dwell on it as she catches sight of the time. “Well, I better go before it gets too late.” 

Misty nods, even if her lips part, poised to speak. She hangs on for a moment before turning on the engine, doing so when nothing comes of Misty's movements.  

And as she finally drives away, with the sight of her friend in the rear view mirror, she wonders what on earth she's going to do. 

... 

This is what brings her to Fiona late on Sunday night, with a quake in her bones and sweat sitting heavily on her palms.  

Her mother is sat in the dining room, surrounded by documents, and with the laptop screen reflected in her glasses. When she spies Cordelia, she slows in her movements, but doesn’t stop. 

Cordelia lingers, that edge all too evident in her expression and easy for someone as shrewd as Fiona to pick up. Her mother heaves in a sigh, then snatches the glasses from her face and gives Cordelia a pointed look. “Well, come out with it then.” 

She licks her lips nervously, stepping further into the room. “Can I ask you something?”  

This stumps Fiona. Understandably so. Cordelia doesn’t remember any time she's ever sought advice from her mother, and surely the way she bounces with pensive energy is a little jarring. Even so, Fiona takes it in her stride. “I suppose so.” 

That’s all the invitation she needs to park herself in the chair right across from her mother, staring intently.  

“My, you're keen.” She comments, setting a dark look on the girl at the way she'd scraped the chair across the expensive floor.  

She finds herself biting at her lip, worrying the sensitive skin.  It gives a few moments to gather her words as she sits under Fiona's withering eyes. “I don’t know what to do.”  

Fiona's light skin suddenly becomes thick with lines of confusion. “About?” 

“Um. . .” 

“Jesus Christ, just say it.” The lack of delicate patience makes Cordelia bristle, but maybe it’s a push that she needs.  

“It's about a friend." She blurts out. 

Fiona fully takes her attention away from her work now, twisting ever so slightly so she can lean her chin in her hand as she observes her daughter. “Go on.” 

“I – I. . . suppose I found something out about someone.” She says, hating how her mouth is starting to run dry. “Something that they don’t want anyone to know. . .do I talk to them about it?” 

Fiona offers merely a shrug, curt and decisive. “Well, why wouldn’t you?” 

The way that her reaction is so quick, needing no time to ponder where Cordelia has spent two sleepless nights infuriates her. How did she not inherit this trait from Fiona?! Instead, she finds herself frowning and slumping ever so slightly. “Because I’m scared.” 

“Scared?” She repeats, scoffing. “So?” 

Cordelia tries to keep herself straight under the judgemental regard, but it’s hard not to shrink. The idea of fear to her mother is clearly absurd, but she knows it to be all too true; how it churns easily in the depths of her stomach. “So,” Cordelia feels her jaw tighten, “what if I tell them and it ruins everything?” 

Now, Fiona does take a moment to contemplate, eyes shining with knowing. “What would it ruin?” 

The scratchiness of her throat makes her eyes water. She suddenly finds herself unable to answer, lost in the idea that telling Misty the truth is disastrous. 

“Cordelia.” Her mother pushes, as authoritative as ever.  

“I’m just really scared.” She repeats, hating how her voice heightens an octave in her upset.  

The judgement shifts to something else. Pity? Sympathy? One of which she’s very rarely seen excluded from Fiona. “Look, I’m not exactly a good example for this, but I think you need to tell her the truth.” 

She looks to the table. “But what if she hates me?” Cordelia pictures the way that Misty looks at Madison when she even hints at her sexuality, and she would do anything to never have it aimed her way. 

“Oh please. That girl worships the ground that you walk on.”  

Cordelia’s head snaps back up, where she looks to her mother through the wateriness. “What?” 

“Misty.” She states. “That  is  who you're talking about, right?” 

“How did you know?” 

There’s a head shake and an eye roll. “Honestly, you are so dense sometimes, Cordelia. I wonder if you're actually mine.”  

She ignores the jab of hurt that sends between her ribs, and continues her scrutiny of the woman in front of her. She tries to catch every subtle eye movement, how her lips twitches. It’s an expression of knowing, and she wishes she would share in that knowledge with her.  

“What are you talking about?” 

“Oh lord.” The hand that was on her chin now lets her forehead settle in it just for a moment. “Are you blind?” 

“No.” She grumbles. 

Fiona pauses, now letting amusement settle on her features. “I’m not so certain.” 

“Can you stop being so damn cryptic and just tell me what you mean, mom?” 

“Hey. Don’t you talk to me like that.” A pointed finger is sent her way, a warning. But Cordelia still sits with dark, befuddled eyes and a weight about her. “I'm just trying to help.” 

“Well then help.” She dips her head. “Please.” 

Fiona leans back, sucking in a long, drawn breath. “Tell her.” 

She winces. “You think I should?” 

“What have you got to lose?” 

“Did you not hear me when I said everything?” She emphasises in a hiss. All too many consequences are offered from her brain, and she doesn’t like a single one of them. 

Another pointed look, one that tugs the annoyance from Cordelia. “How about this then?” She begins to pose. “What have you got to gain? The both of you.” 

Cordelia freezes with her thoughts, on overdrive as always. She doesn’t dare tell her mother that if everything miraculously worked out that it would be more than everything. It would be all she's ever wanted. That doesn’t seem necessary to say out loud; maybe Fiona can reach into her mind and tug that notion out of there. Because she's smiling, not in the smarmy way that Cordelia sees aimed at acquaintances of the family. This is a true and genuine smile that makes Cordelia look at her mother in a different way. 

“Thought so.” She now smirks. 

“What if - " 

“Stop with the what ifs and this and that.” She slowly waves it away with a hand. “Sometimes, Delia, you've got to do things that scare you.” 

And scare her it does, but Fiona's words do take root, like a tiny seed that settles inside of her and clutches away. She urges it to stay, to be with her even when her mother physically can’t be.  

She doesn’t make to protest now. She only sits and digests the advice in a sobering manner, even while Fiona grows bored and returns back to the work at hand. As Cordelia makes to stand, her eyes lift and she calls her name in an uncharacteristically gentle manner. “I wouldn’t worry so much if I were you. Your friend would never hate you.” 

“Why would you say that?” She questions, quiet and curious.  

Eyes narrow. “Because she's very clearly in love with you.” 

The room suddenly shrinks, the heat in the air amplifies and swamps the insides of her lungs. As time comes to a standstill, Cordelia contemplates the idea that she might never have a steady heartbeat ever again. “What?” she chokes out.  

“So you are that dense.” She rolls her eyes, reaching out for a cigarette as if she's the one who needs a stress relief from this conversation. 

Cordelia continues to gawp at her. “I - she's not. . .she. . .” 

“Sweetheart. I love you. But you are an idiot.”  

As she speaks, Cordelia is steadying herself on the nearest wall and feeling a weakness in her bones. “You think Misty is in love with me?”  

“Cordelia, the girl practically lives here. And the way she looks at you. . .” 

This isn’t like when Madison says these things, intended to taunt and get a rise out of her. They're spoken with honesty, with a tone that says “how the hell haven’t you realized?” Perhaps she's been as oblivious as Misty has been her to feelings. Or maybe Fiona is wrong. But she finds herself hoping and praying that she isn’t.  

She wants those words to be unequivocally true and, all of a sudden, she finds the desire to tell Misty the truth all too tempting.  

Cordelia leaves then, returning to the safety of her room. Her thoughts follow her. They hold a different weight to them now, one that seems all too arbitrary to try and comprehend. But try she does. Words echo around her skull as she lays on the bed, making her think and think until everything is jumbled.  

All but one thing.  

Fiona's comment. She's very clearly in love with you.   

Is she? Is Cordelia really so oblivious to this, or has she just willed herself not to see it? To ignore the glances and the smiles and the lingering touches. Why would she do that? Why would she forcefully bypass the thing that she so desperately wants?  

But the more she thinks about it, the more she realizes that maybe the thought of Misty reciprocating her feelings is terrifying.  

Once they're both out there, there is no going back, no retreat to a cushy friendship. It’s all or nothing. And maybe she’s scared that Misty’s situation might push her toward the latter. 

She shudders at the thought, trying to lose herself in studying. 

Still, in the back of her mind, there is some resolve, she thinks. A decision, finally. It makes her tremble like there's an earthquake inside her, or maybe a volcano. Seeing as an eruption certainly seems imminent.  

All she knows is that she's going to do it. She is going to tell Misty what she knows, and maybe they can figure out the rest from there.  

But she’s really, really fucking petrified. 

And it’s that fear that carries her into a restless slumber on that Sunday night, with contradicting dreams of what her confessions could potentially bring for their future.  

Chapter Text

Monday brings with it just as much anxiety as she’s been expecting, so much that she skips breakfast and makes to hurry to school. Just as she’s slipping shoes on at the front door, she halts. The mail is already there, sat in the basket where it awaits some attention, and the sight of one letter in particular makes her nerves sky rocket.  

She snaps out a hand to grab it, shifting the USC letter between her fingers to gauge the weight, to somehow see if she can tell its contents just by holding it. A part of her wants to rip it open right there and then, until she remembers her promise to Misty. It forces her movements to still, though her eyes still burn into the paper.  

The envelope is placed neatly in between one of her textbooks. Saved for later. Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after.  

Cordelia isn’t quite sure how many heart pulsing activities she can cope with in one day. 

Even if it is out of sight, the letter sits on her mind the entire way to school, and acts as a reprieve from what else she has to do. What she’s going to make herself do, despite the abyss that her insides are currently experiencing. She hurries into school with the hopes that people and work will keep her mind occupied. That is, until she takes the cold, deep plunge into talking to Misty.  

She hasn’t even decided  where  she’s going to do it. At school, or in the safety of a more secluded spot?  

Any thought is tugged from her mind as she hears someone calling her name, then smiles to find Zoe just beside her. “Hey.”  

“Good weekend?”  

This gives her pause. In the span of two days, she’s come to the revelation that Misty is most probably gay and possibly has feelings for her. She gulps, then nods. “Yeah, it was nice.”  

Zoe leans against the row of lockers, watching her. “Did you do anything fun?” 

“Oh, you know me. I just studied and did some gardening.” She turns away from Zoe to pull books from her locker, then adds quietly. “I went to Misty’s house for dinner, too.”  

Her friend’s smile grows into an irreplaceable grin. “Ah. Well that makes sense now.” 

“What does?” She asks, face twisting in confusion. 

“Why Misty is walking around like it’s the happiest day of her life.”  

Cordelia feels her book slip from her grasp at that, plummeting to the hard floor where it clatters for all to hear. She mumbles a curse under her breath and crouches down to grab it. Zoe's eyes are intent on her still, but she avoids them. She avoids what Zoe is hinting at altogether, the same notion that Fiona suggested to her last night. “You okay?” Zoe smiles gently, caring.  

“Yeah,” She laughs in turn, shrugging. “Butterfingers, you know?” 

She nods, unable to deny that. 

And thankfully, all thoughts of Misty are relieved for now, as she swoops into questions about their trigonometry homework. Not exactly her favorite thing to talk about but it does the trick. She successfully gets through the morning with only a lingering worry saddled on her shoulders. Not enough to weigh her down, but noticeable.  

She gathers a quick lunch on her way to the classroom, stomach gurgling from a lack of breakfast. Coco walks by her side, jabbering on about a party she and Madison had snuck into over the weekend. “You should have come!” She announces giddily. 

“It's okay. It doesn’t exactly sound like my thing.”  

“Oh, don’t be a bore.” Coco laughs, nudging her gently 

She scoffs. “I am not a bore!”  

They slow in front of the classroom, where her fingers begin to curl around the handle. “You are choosing to garden in your lunch hour.”  

“What's wrong with that?” She finds herself bristling at anyone mocking her hobby.  

“I just - it's kinda what an old lady would do.”  

Offering a roll of her eyes, she opens the door only slightly. She can hear movement in there already, and assumes it’s Misty. “Thanks, Co.” Her dry response comes, earning an apologetic smile from her friend. 

“I don’t mean it like that.”  

She chuckles, not offended. Not really. Being surrounded by plants and nature is far more appealing than the shenanigans that Coco and Madison appear to get up to on a weekly basis. “It's fine.” A soft shake of her head follows. “My mom always says I'm an old soul at heart.” 

Coco's face scrunches with a smile, and she takes that opportunity to bid her goodbye. She enters the classroom in haste, finding Misty over by the chrysanthemums with her head tilted slightly in the direction of the door. She snaps it forward when she sees her, and summons chuckles from Cordelia. “You can stop listening.” The older blonde says, “she's gone.” 

“You're not boring.” Misty confirms for her after a beat, placing down trimmers to face her fully, a hand on her hip.  

Cordelia grins in appreciation. “You might be the only one that thinks that." 

“Don’t make it any less true.” There’s an assurance in her words that Cordelia enjoys, that she aches to keep in her heart. She finds herself staring at Misty for too long, all her repressed thoughts and intentions making themselves known again. 

“Thanks.” She says with a timid smile. Misty stares at those lips for a few seconds, she notices. Has she ever done that before? The embers of fire begin to burn in her stomach. Cordelia finds herself suddenly hyperaware of every twitch in Misty’s muscles, of where her pupils migrate to. Maybe Cordelia's scrutiny grows too intense, seeing as Misty turns back to the plants with pink cheeks.  

Fuck

She dares to dream that maybe Fiona is right for a second. Even if it’s not love; even just a crush. That’s something. And she clutches onto it with all she's got. Slowly padding across the room, she sits herself down at the bench next to where Misty is working.  

Staring back at her are empty food wrappers, and she finds an affectionate smirk following. “Hungry?” she pokes up a brow. 

Misty only grins back, tilting her head and showing a lack of sheepishness. “Not anymore.”  

With a gentle smile, she begins to eat her own lunch with her gaze kept firmly on Misty, even if she tries to use the guise of her phone. She knows that she just needs to start talking, to take that first step, but anything that her brain can come up with only seems lame and ill prepared. Not the heartfelt words she wants to let Misty know that everything is going to be okay. 

Misty is humming away, gardening and singing with all the grace of a cartoon princess. Her hair, for once, is up, set in a long braid that curls over her left shoulder and a few strands hanging loosely around her face. Enough to take Cordelia's breath away. Her words, too, apparently.  

But then there's a drop in the calming noises from Misty, and Cordelia focuses her otherwise starry eyes on her friend. “You're starin'.” Misty says, teeth catching hold of her lip. 

“I'm not.” She pulls back, mystified, and wearing a deep growing shade of pink.  

“Do I have somethin’ on my face?”  

Cordelia sucks in a shuddery breath. “No.” 

The Cajun tears her gaze away, still smirking. If only she knew how such an expression is causing a flutter in Cordelia's chest. With it, she successfully forces out the words that the older blonde had been too scared to let loose. “Can we talk?” She says, noting how they fly out with haste, probably enough to send anyone into a panic.  

Anyone like Misty, whose eyes widen in confusion. “Talk?” 

She gulps. “Y – yeah.” 

“Sure.” A tongue darts over her lips nervously. “About what?” 

“Not here.” Cordelia decides on reflex, ignoring the question. For one, a glance at the door shows this is a far too public place to have such a serious discussion, and two, if she begins to hint at her intended topic, she fears Misty might back out. “After school,” she continues with the attempt of a reassuring smile that Misty stares to blankly. 

There is hesitation, more uncertainty, but Misty can’t seem to deny her what she wants. “You'll have to wait until I've finished track.”  

“That's okay.” Cordelia continues her theme of hurried words, of breathlessness. And Misty stops in all her movements to regard her with a paling expression.  

Her fingers reach for the nearest object, a lone pen, and rolls it between them. “Is everythin' okay?” She’s watching her carefully, even if those eyes appear like they want to scurry.  

“Of course it is.” She tries to make the calm in her voice meet her expression, but it doesn’t, and Misty appears more concerned with each passing second. “You don’t need to worry.” 

The words are fruitless, both know. 

Misty’s lips twist into a humorless curl. “Are you gonna tell me that you're leavin’ me for a new best friend?”  

A strangled noise fights against her constricting throat. “Yes." She jokes, because that’s far easier than the truth. “I’m trading you in for Madison.” A smirk is flashed Misty's way, alongside a joking shrug. “Sorry, Misty.”  

The tension slips from her muscles, then she reaches out to push at Cordelia's shoulder. “Don’t you dare.”  

She laughs, wondering how the world can feel so light and yet so heavy at the same time. “I wouldn’t. I promise. Can you imagine being Madison's best friend? I'd lose my mind.” 

Giggling at the idea, Misty scoots her own stool closer to Cordelia and perches herself on it. Even now, she sits higher than the girl, but her eyes peer down at her food. “You gonna finish that?”  

“I was planning on it.” She chuckles, watching the disappointment skittering across Misty’s azure eyes. That is all the convincing she needs to rip the sandwich in half and hold outside bigger piece to her friend. “Here.”  

“You are the best, Delia.” Misty grins around a generous mouthful. Some crumbs fall from the corners, but her hand sweeps up to push them back in between her lips. They hold her as a rapt audience, and when Misty catches, that blush returns. 

That's twice now. Cordelia begins to debate if she's color blind and has never been able to notice the transformation in hue on Misty’s face before. She half stands, reaching for the watering can that hasn’t been used yet and decides that her mind is best kept busy. The plants greedily gulp at the moisture, having spent a whole two days with a lack thereof.  

“Who do you think is gonna look after the plants when we're gone?” Misty suddenly poses.  

Cordelia turns, heading tilting softly. Her hair falls around her face like a waterfall. “Some of the younger girls in the club will do, I suppose." 

A look of distaste follows, summoning chortles from the older blonde. 

“What are you looking at me like that for?” She smirks. 

Misty shoves the last bite of food between her lips, talking as she chews thoughtfully. “What if they don’t look after the plants right?” 

Some bigger, half chewed crumbs escape now, but Misty catches them in her hand.  

Her question gets skipped over in favor of Cordelia tutting. “You are so gross sometimes.” She laughs, ever so fondly.  

“What do ya mean?” 

She’s smiling back, unsure of why she's brought joy to Cordelia’s eyes, but seemingly proud nonetheless. Misty wipes her mouth with the back of her hand in one long sweep. “You're not supposed to talk with your mouth full.” Cordelia points out, far more well spoken than she'd intended it to be. She gapes at the thought that she sounds like her grandmother. 

“It ain’t hurtin' anyone, is it?” 

“Still gross.” Her teasing grows stronger, a heat tickling across her own cheekbones.  

“Anyway,” Misty begins redirecting the conversation back to the club. “You didn’t answer my question.” 

Pausing, she takes a second to focus her mind, which grows fuzzy with emotion as always in Misty’s wake. “What question?” 

There’s an impatient quirk at the corner of her brow, a narrowing of eyes. All carry a lightness that lets Cordelia know she isn’t really annoyed. “What if they ain’t as good as you are and all the plants die ‘n stuff?” Her shoulders, blanketed with a floral, black shawl, begin to slump. “I can’t bear the thought of that happenin’.” 

Cordelia stills, sighing. “It won’t happen.” When she turns, she finds Misty stroking the leaves of a tomato plants and grins in admiration. Why is Misty so damn adorable?  

Blue eyes find purchase on hers. “You swear?” 

“Yes.” She stops watering the foliage near her and tiptoes back toward Misty where fingers hover over those slouched shoulders. “It’s not just you and me who are capable of watering them you know?” It’s meant to be playful again, to pull a smile from Misty’s lips, but it only seems to add contemplation to the mix.  

“Yeah, sure. Anyone can water ‘em. But that's not just it, is it?” 

She doesn’t speak, but her inquisitive smoulder encourages Misty on, even if she shifts on the spot and lets a nervous smile take rein on her lips. 

“They gotta love the plants, too.” She explains, “And talk to them. Give them the right nutrients and air, and just make sure they're happy. All that sorta stuff.” 

“Misty.” She can barely keep the delighted grin at bay. It grows wider, teeth flashing, and her heartstrings are played like an instrument. “You are talking about the plants like they are children.” 

“Well, they kinda are, ain’t they?” 

“Hmm?” Cordelia has momentarily let her gaze drop to where the drooping shawl reveals Misty's bare shoulders, pale and littered with pretty freckles.  

Misty continues, unaware of her wandering eyes. “The plants,” she confirms, “they're like babies.” A pregnant pause gives time for Misty's eyes to settle on the bench in front of them. “Our babies.” She laughs tightly, then shrugs. “Guess I’m gonna be sad to leave them.” 

“If you want to take any of them home with you,” she smirks, “I won’t say anything.” 

Another shrug follows. 

“What's wrong?” Cordelia squeezes those shoulders in a comforting way, she hopes. It’s hard enough for Misty to notice and twist to look at her.  

“It ain’t the same if it's just me.”  

She moves to sit next to her, but her hands linger on her upper arm now. And she can feel the heat pulsing from Misty; it makes her want to never let go. “You want me to take some too?” She chuckles. “Keep them away from the inexperienced hands of other students?”  

Her eyes half close, gorgeous and glowing, and caught out by Cordelia. “Maybe.” 

That laughter grows, seeming to make the life around them grow brighter and stronger; maybe Misty is right. Maybe the plants do need them. “But how are we gonna decide who gets what?” She continues, losing herself in the joke that has Misty giggling by her side. “Are we going to have to get joint custody over the plants?” 

“Sure.” She agrees, all too easy. Mischief remains in her own gaze. “You can have ‘em through the week and then I’ll take them for the weekend.” Leaning closer, Cordelia can see every freckle and blemish over her otherwise smooth skin. “On holidays, we can take turns.”  

“Why do I have them for longer?” 

“You got more money.” She decides. “Plants are expensive.” 

There is no denying that. Even so, she feels how her lips twist with the want to smile and smirk, and form words of utter love to her friend. In the end, she laughs, and nudges their shoulders together gently.  

It causes Misty to straighten ever so slightly.  

“When did we become people whose lives revolve around their plants?”  

Misty’s mouth parts with a retort, gaze flashing wider. She appears wonderfully bewildered. Cordelia jabs her side again, harder this time, enjoying the feeling of Misty's flesh beneath her touch. “I'm joking.” She leans in closer, too close, because Misty is giving her a look she’s seen too many times before. The same one where she can’t seem to tear her gaze away from Cordelia. Like always, it brings a simmering of heat to her stomach, airy bubbles floating up her throat. But for once, she wonders if it's doing the same to Misty, too. 

Does it sear her insides with love that Cordelia sometimes feels drowned by? Fiona seems to think so. But Cordelia continues to stare, her face evolving in a way that it appears she’s trying to figure out a complicated math problem rather than observe her friend.  

When her eyes refocus, Misty hasn’t budged an inch. Her expression, too, remains stationary on her features.  

She pulls away then, her fingers grazing the skin of Misty’s arm and causing an audible breath. That sound falls on her ears in a hopeful manner; it forces her to think of things she doesn’t want to delude herself in.  

Standing, she increases the gap between them and moves from the heated space around Misty. She thinks perhaps getting carried away with fanciful conversation isn’t exactly the best idea. That being so, Cordelia embraces a far more mundane approach.  

“Hey, did you study for the test next period?”  

Not looking at Misty, she doesn’t see her expression change. But she does hear the quiet, “no,” that follows.  

It surges her into a spin, setting eyes on her friend. “Why not?” Exasperation seeps into her voice; Misty’s terrible study habits are all too frustrating sometimes, and she’s beginning to think the girl would never pick up a textbook out of school if she didn’t make her do it.  

Misty laughs, on her feet as well, but working on the opposite side of the room. The synchronization is done without thought, which is helpful, seeing as Cordelia’s mind is distracted on sending a pointed look to her friend. “I’ve been busy.” She shrugs. “Plus, it’s super borin’ stuff.” 

“You still have to try.”  

She makes a noise close to a grumble. “You sound like Miss Pembroke.”  

There is nothing feigned about the offence that washes over her features, how eyes grow impossibly wide and her mouth forms a large ‘o’. Cordelia can feel the strain in her eyes as she narrows them at Misty. “You take that back.” 

A slightly muddied finger points at the Cajun; a warning.  

One that Misty doesn’t ignore. Instead, she acknowledges it with a smirk and a hand sliding to her thin hip. “Or what?” She gives a tilt of her head, eyes darkening in a way that makes Cordelia’s heart sit at home in her throat. Being on the receiving end of such a look freezes her in the spot, and gives Misty the impression that she’s won. Smugness wraps around her. “Thought so.”  

It may irk her briefly, but she’s playing the long game.  

And when Misty isn’t looking, she uses the watering can to aim a spurt of water in her direction. She gives a noise close to a shriek, but is always up for a fight, whether it be soil or water, and before Cordelia knows it she is sprinkled with water droplets herself. 

Their laughter fills the room with joy, chasing away any impending talks of seriousness.  

When they finally make it to biology, both with dripping hair and fond, glowing smiles, they earn a few funny looks.  

But it doesn’t stop her smiling, especially as she catches Misty’s peeking glances every so often in the middle of the test. 

… 

Some lengthy time in the library gives her to opportunity to dry off, but it does leave her with a cloudy head. It’s filled with history dates and calculus, and all the dull things that she needs to memorize for her few remaining tests.  

Safe to say, when she sees Misty, a smile of relief splits across her face. The Cajun may give her a headache in a very different way, but it’s one that’s familiar, one that she thinks she might feel lost without.  

Sweat sticks to Misty’s forehead, even as she wipes it with the bottom of her shirt. It exposes a lean tummy, one that she leers at for longer than she should. The only distraction she gets is when Misty’s exhausted voice carries through the hallway. “Ya ready?” 

As ready as I'll ever be. She swallows the thickness in her throat, and nods.  

Swinging her heavy bag over her shoulder, Misty continues her scrutiny of the worry lines that sit atop Cordelia’s forehead. “Where did you wanna go?”  

“Um, I was thinking a walk. Maybe.” She looks down, wondering how on earth to make this seem like less a big deal as it is. Already, her erratic nature is beginning to spread to Misty; she spies how her fingers clutch onto the backpack strap for dear life. “There’s a new ice cream place.” 

Misty’s eyes light up.  

Well, at least if her heart gets broken, she’s going to get ice cream out of it. Not quite a deal breaker. But something, she guesses wryly.  

They begin a thoughtful saunter to the car, not much to say. Like they’re both building it up for the talk to come. But their peacefulness is disrupted in a rather jarring moment as she hears a particularly irritating voice. “What’s up, losers?” 

Misty is groaning before she can even turn to see Madison. When Cordelia follows suit, she is at least relieved to see Zoe and Mallory with her. They’ll succeed in watering down the coarse soul that Madison is. Maybe. She prays. “Hey guys.” A series of other greetings follows, and she opens her mouth to ask why they’re all still at school too, but Madison beats her with another question of her own.  

“And where are you two going?”  

Beside her, Misty stays quiet and puts her attention on placing her things into the footwell of the car. This way, it appears she can ignore all and any of Madison’s taunting.  

Unfortunately, it leaves Cordelia taking the full brunt of it. Her face pinches together in annoyance. “We’re just going for a walk.” She says, bristling in defence. But those words are a mistake, and she realizes that the second that pass through her lips.  

“A walk?” Madison smirks, eyes volleying from one to the other. “Where was our invitation?”  

Misty is moving to stand close to her side now, arms wrapped around her front as she sets a withering look on Madison. She seems to have some willpower over her clear irritation, seeing as she directs her next words at Cordelia softly. “C’mon, let’s go.”  

It’s a clear sign that her presence isn’t needed or desired. As always, that only seems to tempt Madison further. “I’m being serious.” She laughs, eyes sparkling with something wicked that makes Cordelia narrow her own at her. “It’s the perfect day for a walk, don’t you think girls?” 

When she flashes her gaze back at the others, they both teem with apologetic eyes. “We can go somewhere else. . .” Mallory begins, ever the mediator.  

“But we’re all friends, right?” A bright grin is flashed at the pair by the car who seem all too eager to climb inside. “You don’t mind if we join you, right? The more the merrier.”  

Cordelia hesitates, skin prickling with unease from both the conversation and the late afternoon sun. “Um. . .” 

“It’s not like it’s a date we’re interrupting, jeez.”  

The word date is enough to send her mind into a spiral, to have the other shifting awkwardly on the spot because of how many times she’s reprimanded them for jokes like that. Very rarely do they happen in front of Misty anymore, but when they do it’s usually Madison, and it’s always enough to send a cold shiver through her heart.  

She peeks an eye in Misty’s direction, where the girl simply glares at her frenemy as though she’s willing her to suddenly combust. It would certainly solve one problem. But she guesses they wouldn’t be so lucky.  

Madison knows what effect she’s having; she seems to thrive on making the air around them thicken until neither can breathe. “It isn’t a date,” she sneers, “right?”  

“No.” Cordelia’s quick response has Zoe sending her pity eyes, so strong that she can’t bear to look at them. Instead, she lets eyes drift to where Misty is furiously shaking her head no. Between the two of them, they seem to be a picture of denial.  

“Great. Let’s go then.” 

“Madison, we should let them – " 

A hand in Zoe’s face silences her, even if she smacks it out of the way.  

The brunette groans. “Why are you such a bitch?”  

“Oh, you love it.” She holds her handbag higher, beginning to strut forwards. Lips spread wider as she pushes past Misty. “I call shotgun.”  

She’s already reaching for Misty’s backpack to shove it out of the way, holding it like one would hold a dirty diaper. The Cajun lunges forward and snatches it from her manicured hands. “Hey, I was sittin’ there.” Accusation sits heavy with her accent, anger blazing in her pupils. She all but shoves Madison out of the way to stand protectively in front of the seat.  

This, of course, amuses the girl to no end.  

“Can’t you learn to share, swampy?” 

Cordelia watches how her expression hardens, the lines in her forehead like cracks in a statue. It’s a stand off, and neither want to lose apparently.  

She finds herself uncharacteristically impatient, her usually long fuse cut short. “Do I need to slap you again?” she says, only joking the slightest bit.  

“You’re awfully violent at the minute, Cordy.” Even so, Madison moves from where she is sneering at the Cajun to settle dark eyes on Cordelia. “I like this side of you.”  

Rolling her eyes, she holds in a second groan. “Just get in the damn car.” Any hopes of Madison relenting are now ebbing away, and she lets the unwilling idea settle around her like a bad smell. She looks to the others, too, because there is no way she is letting it be just her, Misty and Madison. One of them would definitely not survive the ordeal, and her money is on the conniving one of the group.  

But there are no casualties, at least not as the five of them eventually walk along the river line after their trip to the ice cream parlour. All too keen to keep away from Madison, Misty hangs back with Mallory. Cordelia tries her best to keep casting glances in her direction, annoyed and anxious, and wondering when on earth they’re supposed to have their serious discussion when their friends are blocking it from happening.  

She sets an icy look on Madison, one that doesn’t even waver under the hot sun.  

The girl is oblivious, sniggering at her own story of giving blowjobs to a college student who’s in line to play for the  New Orleans Saints.  Boasting is in her nature, and at one point Cordelia turns to Zoe with an eye roll. When her talking finally comes to an end, Madison sips on her cold bottle of water. “Well, this is boring.”  

Cordelia tilts her head. “What is?”  

“This.”  

“Walking?” she blinks.  

“Yup.” Her fingers twitch around the side of the sunglasses, readjusting them on her head. “Who the hell does this shit for fun?”  

“There is more to life than parties and blowjobs.” Cordelia scoffs. She peers around at the small part of the world they’ve found themselves in, where the river flows in a gentle lull to one side, a breeze spreading in the opposite direction. It sends ripples and curves along the shiny surface, the same surface that reflects the line of blossom trees by the sidewalk. For the first time in an hour, content eases around the edges of her soul.  

It’ll only fully permeate her aura once she’s back with Misty, she thinks – alone.  

Zoe pipes up from her other side. “I like it out here. Me and Charlie used to come here.”  

“Oh god.” Madison pulls the smile from Zoe’s lips with her harsh tone. “Here you go with the ex – boyfriend shit again.”  

“I’m allowed to bring him up.”  

She finishes her drink, about to throw the bottle to the ground before Cordelia intercepts her with a rather hard stink eye. After that, she holds onto it until they near a trash can. “Well, that stuff’s depressing. Can’t you talk about something more interesting?” 

“Like what?”  

That wickedness floods across her angled features again. “Like why Cordy and Misty wanted to go for a walk really?” That grin returns, wry and knowing, and Cordelia wonders how the hell everyone seems to know her business before she even gets to it herself.  

She quickens her pace, as if hoping to run from the probing. “I can spend time with my best friend, can’t I?” 

“Wait.” Madison feigns offense with a soft gasp. “We’re not your best friends?!” 

Cordelia heaves in a sigh. “I’m beginning to wonder if even friends is a strong word for what we are, Madison.”  

She tuts. “Always so serious.” Now, she walks in closer, voice hushed like she’s only just realized she can have some form of tact. “So, seriously, spill.”  

Blinking, she suddenly finds the asphalt beneath her shoes mighty interesting. “Spill what?” 

“You are so lame.”  

It’s hardly difficult to deny, but she’s not going to give Madison the satisfaction of agreeing with her, so she offers an empty laugh. “And you are unbelievable.” 

Only serving as a compliment, Madison grins. There’s a long passing of silence, other than the hum of car engines and the murmurs of the two behind them. Further away now. When she dares to glance up and turn on her heel, she sees Misty has stopped Mallory to point out a frog by the river’s edge. Instantly, her face lights as she appraises her friend lovingly.  

Not a hint of subtleness about it, Madison chokes on her own laughter. It only halts when Zoe jabs an elbow into her side.  

There seems to be some form of deity above taking pity on her, sensing how her guts tangle and knot until she is physically wincing. Because Madison’s phone vibrates and takes her attention away altogether. Her and Zoe slow, half listening to her zealous conversation about plans to move to Hollywood straight after graduation.  

Zoe twists her head toward her. “Fifty dollars says she’s back home with her ego knocked in a month.” 

Her lips twist wryly. “I’ll take that bet.” She lets her eyes drift toward Madison; no matter what she thinks of the girl, there is a tenacity to her. “She’s too stubborn to come back. She’ll at least stay out there a couple of months.”  

“Guess only time will tell.” Zoe chuckles, then adds with a lasting breath. “I’m sorry that we butted in on your walk. You know what she gets like.”  

“It’s okay.”  

It’s not. It really, really isn’t. Just as she thinks she’d be mentally prepared to leap into the conversation with Misty, Madison has been a cog in an already malfunctioning machine.  

The brunette’s eyes wrinkle at the side, disbelieving. “So, it really just was a walk?”  

Yes.” She lies, exasperated. “Misty and I both like nature. Is it a surprise that we like to walk?” 

She remains quiet, a thoughtfulness dormant in her expression. To Cordelia’s relief, she doesn’t push the subject.  

And to her even bigger relief, Madison flounces back in their direction with her phone in one hand and a cigarette in another. “Come on, Benson. This blows. I have made us plans elsewhere that doesn’t include getting bitten to fuck by bugs.”  

Cordelia doesn’t bite back, simply because she is heaving in a sigh of relief at the idea of Madison leaving. With her, she takes Zoe and Mallory, who doesn’t seem too thrilled with the new plans, nor does she want to intrude on her and Misty. She watches the three of them turn the corner with a smile that grows when she sees a blue jay flitter across the skyline.  

It distracts her almost enough that she doesn’t notice Misty’s eyes on her for a second.  

When she does notice, said smile is irreplaceably bigger. “Hey stranger.” Misty drawls, grinning. In her hand, she holds a half empty slush, the outside of the cup littered with condensation. The same color of its contents sits on Misty’s lips, a deep blue that could rival the prettiness of her eyes.  

“Hey yourself.”  

Misty has another sip, revealing an equally blue tongue that draws Cordelia in with no resisting. “Thought they were never gonna leave.” She confesses. 

“Me too.” There’s a hint of chagrin in her tone, but all the tightness is beginning to relinquish its hold of her muscles. Especially when Misty makes to link arms with her. That brings with it a different kind of feeling, the familiar one of being winded by her simple touch.  

Leaning into her, Misty chooses the far easier decision of simpler conversation. “Did ya see the frogs?” She slows their pace, turning to point to a shrubby part not too far back. 

She shakes her head, moving to push back some loose strands behind her ear. Misty watches the migration of her fingers with sparkling eyes, and that’s enough to have her nerves tiptoeing over her heart muscle.  

“Oh.” She seems genuinely sad about that. “We can go back to ‘em if you want.” 

“It’s okay.” Steadying hands keep Misty from fully rotating, and their path remains forward. The Cajun turns to her, questioning, until she spies the grave way that Cordelia’s expression shifts, how a gulp sits half way down her throat. Her blue lips part ever so slightly.  

“You wanted to talk.” She remembers, as if Madison’s rude interruption had pushed that information from her brain. Either that, or she’s just as trepid as Cordelia and chooses not to think about the implications of a talk. Both know they are rarely good. Almost never.  

Cordelia’s voice is quiet. “Yeah. If you’re still up for it.” 

The way her eyes dip lower give her sudden hesitation away. “Hmmm.”  

“That doesn’t sound very convincing.” She jokes, strained and a pink creeping across her neck. There are too many temptations right now. Ones that beg her to call the thing off, insisting that it’s easier just to cover up her new knowledge, that only bad things are going to come from this. But she swallows those bitter thoughts and lets them die in her stomach. They quieten against the racing of her blood through frayed nerves.  

“Just, you make me nervous when ya get like this.”  

She pales. “Like what?”  

Misty is smiling, though there is nothing joyful about the action. It’s almost like it’s a reflex intended to put Cordelia at ease, though it only succeeds in the opposite. “You know. All quiet and overthinkin’.” 

“How can you tell that?” she ponders quietly, furrowing her forehead downwards.  

As if that’s evidence, Misty points to it. “’Cause you do that. Get all these wrinkles on your head.” 

Blanching, she forces herself to smooth out the skin and runs fingers over it just to be sure. “Are you saying I look old?” 

“No.” She giggles. “You just have this expression. An’ your eyes go unfocused. You can practically see the thoughts moving across your face.”  

Cordelia flushes under the attention, letting Misty lead her in a slow meander down the street with the river trickling beside them. “I didn’t think you noticed stuff like that.” the idea of Misty successfully recognizing her quirks and precursors brings with it a heat of love, and a swill of hope. Soon, she wonders if that hope might be the death of her. 

Eyes crinkling with a smile, Misty nods. “I told you, you are like an open book.” 

Not open enough.   

For Misty seems to let the most obvious of her feelings fly right over her head. Maybe in ignorance, or perhaps intentionally. Her heart clutches when she considers the latter.  

But this walk isn’t about her; it is yet to be focused on the Cajun herself. And Cordelia’s suspicions that are beginning to stifle every cell in her lungs. “Yeah, I must be.” A wistful sigh falls from that tight chest. “Sorry.”  

“For what?” 

She gulps. “For making you nervous.”  

Misty stills, the color draining from her own features and making the artificial blue stain all more evident on her lips. She takes wide eyes from Cordelia to peer across at the river. ”’S okay.” If anything, this seems to put them both in a weird state, auras pulsing with energy that neither have the desire to comment on.  

Observing Misty again, she inwardly curses at her own lack of nerve. This whole thing was her idea and it isn’t exactly fair to work up Misty’s expectations with nothing to show for it. She sucks in a breath, tightening her hold on the Cajun. It gives her a semblance of strength, even if it is temporary in nature. “So. . .” she begins.  

How the hell do I start this? Teeth grind together in contemplation, jaw beginning to cramp after a few seconds.  

Blue eyes find herself again, more beautiful than every ounce of nature around them. “So.” Misty echoes. Succinct, impatient; it most certainly begs Cordelia to just get on with it and stop holding her emotions at ransom.  

They slow over an ornate bridge, where she moves to clutch the stone wall. Maybe it’ll ground her to reality. Maybe it won’t run away when she finally spits out her newest revelation. Twisting, she lets it dig into her back and peers over at Misty, bathed in a halo of natural light that shimmers across her porcelain skin.  

Misty’s lips twitch. “Are we gonna talk then?” Her voice adopts a low hum that reverberates in her very core.  

It gives her no choice. She's got to do this. Face the consequences. Even if they damn well scare the shit out of her. Cordelia reaches out her spare hand and makes contact with Misty’s forearm, brushing tips across the skin. Peering down, Misty watches with hooded eyes. Concern etches across the corners of her face, hides in the way that her fingers make to curl out Cordelia’s outstretched hand.  

“Before I do,” she says, offering a shuddery breath. “You have to promise me something.”  

There’s a bit of a side eye there. She’s not quite sure where Cordelia is going, and in all honestly, neither is the older blonde. “I guess.”  

Her hand tightens around that silky skin. “No matter what I say, I want you to be calm, okay?”  

She watches the way Misty shifts her weight from one foot to the other, the other set of fingers making to run anxiously through her hair in a calming swoop. Only, her hair is still up in a braid and she’s stumped by that, letting it fall down awkwardly to her side. “What’s wrong, Cordelia?” She seems to have jumped to the worst conclusion, unsurprisingly.  Cordelia is hardly an image of calm herself.  

“Nothing.”  

“Then just say it.” She demands, adding. “Please.”  

“I. . .um -” 

Cordelia.”  

It’s whispered out, yet it may as well be a boom of volume for all the effect it has. Their eyes lock; in her peripherals, she can see how Misty’s breathing grows heavier. But Misty’s gaze beckons her as always, it begs for more, for the truth. Because that’s what they’ve promised to each other. Does Misty know how much she’s been lying to her since then?  

No, not lying. Just simply withholding her onslaught of feelings. And confessions, and just everything.  

She tries not to let guilt swamp her, the notion that she’s a bad friend for keeping these things from her. The truth is that she did it for the benefit of their friendship. To clutch onto it with as much strength as she’s got for fear that honesty will rock it to its very core.  

Yet there’s no hiding now.  

Not with the way Misty is looking to her, enrapt and anticipating, and so stunningly gorgeous that she fights against nausea. “I . . .” Words begin an ascent up her throat; it may be rocky and slow, but it’s progress. She encourages them as much she can. “I. . .” 

This is it. The dreaded moment, one that’s kept her from peaceful slumber for days, one that she urges to be over just as quickly as it’s arrived. She licks at dry lips, the lingering taste of her strawberry ice cream on them. In front of her, the Cajun waits with the gaze of innocence, of someone who doesn’t know her world is about to be flipped upside down.  

That guilt pangs inside of her once more, harder this time.  

“I -” Her third attempt to start the sentence has more resolve, the decision shadowing over her because she knows there’s no going back from this.  

She's only distracted  by movement below, just under the bridge, followed by hurried moans and a scramble of limbs. Cordelia blinks, torn from the heady air that fills the space where her brain should be. “Is that Hank?” she splutters out.  

Having twisted on the spot, she leans over the wall of the bridge and confirms that it is her ex-boyfriend, lips attached to some sleeze as they make out with such fervor that she can’t take her eyes away for a few seconds. She wills herself to look away, waiting for that emptiness to grow in her stomach. Maybe even jealously. Neither come, and it leaves her more bewildered.  

Misty closes the gap with one long stride, taking a leisurely glance before her nose crinkles up with disgust. “Gross.” She mutters.  

“Yeah.”  

Cordelia isn’t sure why her voice is so airy, lost amongst the other sounds that the world offers, but Misty appears to read it as something else. Her gaze narrows down at Hank, definitely pissed, then back to Cordelia, all questioning in those eyes gone. They shimmer in ire now, in an awe-striking way. So absorbed in them, she barely notices when Misty reaches to yank the lid off of her drink, now mostly melted from their walk.  

As she does blink back into reality, she frowns. “What are you doing?”  

There is no answer, at least not one with words. Misty tilts as far as she can go, holding herself upright with one taut arm and then tipping the contents of the plastic cup downwards.  

Eyes flashing wide with panic, she calls out her name. “Misty!”  

Too late. Two screams follow, one shrill and the other befuddled. “What the fuck?” Hank’s rage is unmissable, bellowed out in their direction and echoed by the hollows of the bridge. “Are you fucking kidding me?”  

She dares a glance, just one, moving a hand to prevent laughter on her lips at the sight of him drenched in the blue slush. Enough time for him to notice the movement, and step back to pursue the source of the slush.  

Cordelia jumps back in an attempt to skew his vision, to hide her face, before she feels a hand in hers and a voice dangerously close to her ear. “Run.”  

The command is easily followed. With a barely contains squeal, she sets off into a sprint alongside Misty.  This makes her blood surge around her body in a different way than a few minutes ago; there is giddiness and exhilaration, and she finds laughter bubbling over her lips without even needing to think about it. 

Beside her, Misty is laughing too. Deep and breathless, as she practically pulls Cordelia's pliant body along the sidewalk.  

The pair aren’t exactly subtle, on the cusp of cackling by the time they eventually do slow. Cordelia can feel her frazzled hair, her hot cheeks that Misty peers at through thick eyelashes and causes her to grow even more crimson. It's a reminder of the intended reason for the walk, but the brief pause in the seriousness leaves her muscles light. Even if her calves ache from the sudden sprint.  

For Misty, it has clearly been little exertion. Though short, shallow breaths come from her. She throws an obvious glance over her shoulder just to ensure they aren’t being pursued.  

Cordelia links their arms again, hanging languidly against Misty with a wide beam. “I can’t believe you just did that.” She exclaims.  

There's a twist of lips, proud and stubborn. “He totally deserved it and you know it.” 

“He cheated on me months ago.” She's still grinning, watching her friend with interest. 

“Still deserved it.” Misty shrugs, all nonchalant. “He’s a dick.” 

She hums her agreement, even if she still fights to get her lungs back into a calm rhythm. Her fingers clasp higher around Misty’s arm, and when she looks down their legs are some how in synch with their movement. Such a simple realization has her grin growing stupidly wide. “Can you imagine if I was still dating him?” She ponders aloud, insides tightening at the very idea. Regret very much tinges all of her memories when she thinks of him; why she ever dated that idiot is beyond her. 

So close, she can feel how Misty winces. “I'd rather not.” She grumbles, voice barely audible when it’s followed with a huff. If Cordelia is really trying to delude herself, she’d consider her sudden change of attitude a hint of jealousy.  

She finds herself apologizing again, soft like the evening’s breeze.  

“So what were ya sayin’,” Misty begins timidly, “before that asshole appeared?” 

The smile slips from her face, followed by the clearing of her throat. It's suddenly as though she has memory loss, because all the openings to this conversation she's rehearsed fly from her brain. Frustration sits tight on her lungs, lips pursing into a straight line that gives no offering of happiness. There she goes, putting Misty on edge again just by panicking for no reason.  

And she goes to do it, to take the bullet. To start with the simple words “I know, Misty,” but something gets lost in translation. A copying error in her brain. 

What instead comes out is another thing that's making her fret ever so intently. “I got my letter from USC.”  

“Oh.” Misty frowns in confusion, though it fights to curve upwards. Her brows dip down together as she regards her friend. “That is what you wanted to talk about?”  

No

She nods.  

Her inner thoughts make quick work of berating her cowardice, forcing her shoulders to slump and heart to ache. Misty pulls in a breath and smiles, dare she say, relieved. “You opened it?” 

“We said we were going to wait for each other.” Cordelia reminds her gently, staring to the ground as they walk. Still in synch. When she glances back up, Misty is admiring the varying shapes of clouds that grace the sky.  

The Cajun is nodding. “I know. I got mine. Was beginnin’ to think yours was never gonna arrive.” A teasing sits in her dipped brow. “Like you'd forgotten to apply.” She laughs at the way Cordelia’s expression shifts in shock at the accusation.  

“I most certainly did not.”  

“I know.” She grins. “It’s just taken forever.” The implication has her swallowing slowly, with thought. “Do ya think that’s a good sign?” 

Cordelia shrugs, not wanting to give it another shred of thought. She's already beating herself up for backing out of one thing – the last thing she needs is another reason to fuel her self loathing.  

“Should we open ‘em then?” 

Their eyes meet, both a swirling mix of terrified. 

She squeezes Misty’s upper arm, forcing a strained smile onto her lips. “Yeah. We should. Is yours at home?” When her friend nods, she sighs. “Well, let's go pick it up.” 

“Can we go to the cabin?” Misty ponders, an air of timid about her.  

Cordelia pauses, more out of interest than anything else. 

It urges to Cajun to continue. “Just makes me calm, is all. Plus I don’t wanna open the letter in your car.” Her smile adopts a humorful nature. “I might cry, and I don’t wanna do it there.” 

“Please don’t cry.” She chuckles, moving to wrap an arm around Misty’s shoulder. In a comforting way, she insists to herself. Nothing to do with how Misty leans in until their heads touch for just a few moments. I should have told her. She thinks ruefully. There's still time. This isn’t a once in a lifetime opportunity, even if it damn well feels like it.  

She shifts, moving away from Cordelia slowly. “Can’t make no promises. It’s kinda scary.” Eyes narrow sceptically. “Gee, you seemed so scared about this whole talk I thought you were gonna tell me you're dyin’ or somethin’.” 

Cordelia can’t bring it in herself to look at Misty, so she doesn’t, and follows with a half hearted, “yeah.” 

All she can think is that she’s still lying to Misty, still denying them both things that she's only ever dreamed of.  

The real fear is that she's never going to be able to stop lying.  

… 

“You go first.” 

“No, you go." 

Misty shakes her head, eyes brimming with unease. “You.” 

They're both sat on the floor of the cabin, but she can’t find herself caring about the uncomfortable wood underneath as she's kinda preoccupied with freaking the fuck out. Misty seems to be going through the same trouble, her legs shaking even as they're crossed. 

Across from her, Misty worries her lower lip between white teeth. “I didn’t think it was gonna be this hard. 

“Me either.” Their eyes meet, and for once she lets her honesty creep in. “I’m really scared, Misty.” 

The Cajun softens at that, smiling sympathetically and reaching out to take hold of her hand with her own cold one. She doesn’t say anything, but that is enough. 

Cordelia continues with a groan after a few more moments of them staring at the envelopes and refusing to open them. “God, why is this so hard?” 

She already knows the answer to that, of course, though maybe it'd sink in better if she heard it out loud. Misty doesn’t give her that option, but she does push herself onto her taut legs and make for the drawers in the corner of the room. After some rummaging and muttering to herself, she returns with a bottle in hand. Its amber contents swish invitingly, and it clatters against the floor as Misty lowers herself down again. 

Laughing nervously, Cordelia can’t seem to look anywhere but at the Cajun. “What is that?” 

“Just drink it.” She says. “Nothin' like a bit of liquid courage.” 

She balks, all kinds of surprised. “Where did you even get that?” 

Misty is making easy work of unscrewing the cap and downing a large sip of whatever liquor she's come into ownership of. Around the bottle neck, those blue stained lips smirk. “I have my ways.” 

When she looks to her friend now, there is a certain awe warming her gaze.   

The bottle is offered out, but she hesitates, fingers lingering half way. “I – I have to drive back.” She reasons, even if she really wants to. Even if her mind is desperately trying to remind her of what happened the last time she inebriated around Misty.  

Misty smoulders in her direction, sending a jab right to her core. No one ever looks at her like this other than Misty, like it's a special expression reserved for the older blonde. She returns it with her own darkening gaze, eyes growing blacker at Misty’s response. “Stay here.” 

She glances around the room, licking at anxious lips. “I don’t want to impose.” 

Misty laughs delicately. “You ain’t.” 

“But we have school tomorrow." 

Her head leans to one side. “And?” 

“Well, I need to shower, and change my clothes and - " 

“Please stay, Cordelia.” 

Her breath hitches at the quiet demand, at how Misty's half open eyes are staying her way in longing, and how her lips are still stained blue from her slush. Cordelia’s love makes itself known again, strong and unapologetic, and sitting right on the edge of her tongue. 

It comes through fondly in her reply. “Okay.” 

In less than a second, Misty slips back into smiling again, taking another swig of the drink. She slowly lowers the bottle to her side, holding it against her bare leg.  

Cordelia watches her again, staring straight past the doom inducing letters to think about another dread inducing thought. Too many voices stir in her head, all of contradicting ideas, and she doesn’t know who to listen to. When they begin to make her forehead throb, she lifts a hand and gestures to the bottle. Misty hands it over with a half smirk and twinkling eyes. As expected, the undiluted alcohol is a shock to her system, leaving a burn in its train. She takes another gulp, hoping the ease her initial reaction. 

Blinking over at her friend, she finds she has reached forward and fingers curl around her UCLA letter. Her uneven breaths fill the room. There is no music now, no other sounds. Just them, and the dancing heartbeats that await the news.  

“Let's do this.” She says, savoring every last drop of courage that appears to hijack her words. Cordelia isn’t quite sure where it originates, but she's ever so grateful for it when Misty smiles at her. 

Then, she pauses, and her lips (so blue and so inviting) part into a tiny circle. She stands again, reaching for Cordelia’s bag, which only serves to confuse the older blonde. 

Said confusion floats away as she spots her glasses in Misty’s hands. Right. She always forgets to put those on. Cordelia reaches out for them, only for hands to be smacked away by ringed fingers.  

Misty sits before her on her knees, a picture of concentration as she leans forward and carefully places the glasses on her face  for  her. She sits ever so still, scared that movement will halt the moment. Even when she's succeeded in her task, her hands linger just over Cordelia’s ears and play with loose hair. She can barely feel the sensation, because she’s too busy staring into Misty’s eyes. Merely inches away from her, that gaze sits like an open door and seemingly begs her to enter. Her own eyes widen, now focused with glasses on, and she winces at the sheer emotion that Misty always manages to evoke. How it sucks her in like a vacuum, stifling and freeing at the same time. 

“T – thanks.” She whispers.  

Misty leans back, just a little, and draws back her hands with her. “You gotta be able to read if you get in or not.” She says, voice shallow with fear at the reminder that they still have letters to open.  

She reaches for her own, and Cordelia follows in suit. 

Another shared look, both in the same boat. It seems the road to adulthood is as daunting for everyone as it is for her. She reaches for the alcohol again, and melts under Misty’s smirk. 

After a beat of sense silence, the Cajun all but growls. “God, I can’t take it anymore.” And with that, she begins ripping the envelope open.  

Cordelia grounds herself with slow, timed breaths. She wills the floor to stay still, for the world to maintain its calm, and she does the same. Her approach is more delicate, following the lines of the envelope and carefully unfolding them. The letter slips out with her hands, the college crest staring back at her and stealing her last few remaining ounces of air.  

Well, it's now or never. 

Unfolding the paper, she holds it out slowly and successfully reads the first three words.  

Dear Miss Goode.  

She wants to stop, to give herself a moment's reprieve, but it’s like she's strapped to a rollercoaster. And no matter how much she fights the bounds, it is going to keep moving. Just as her eyes do over the crisp, white paper.  

She just hopes she isn’t going to throw up, caught that nausea is pretty stubbornly fighting right now. 

But it begins to subside, paled in comparison to her other emotions. Always so strong in their introduction. So insistent on making her feel all she can. She holds her breath as she continues, her chest feeling tighter with every passing second. But it is without reason. I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted for study the University of Southern California. . .  

She blinks, then rereads the sentence with a budding excitement on her chest.  

The words remain the same, not some cruel joke from her mind. Elation makes quick work of usurping all her anxiety, and she’s sure that she makes an excited squeal, but she doesn’t care. Not one bit. Because she’s done it. All of her studying and hard work have paid off and she’s fucking done it! 

She lifts her gaze, poised to speak with the news when she spots tears in Misty’s eyes and the color draining from her face. 

No

Her heart sinks, hitting her stomach in a painful manner. 

No, no, no. Misty's lower lip wobbles. Fuck

Just as hope has begun to create a blissful image of what her life could be, reality is always there to knock her back a peg or two. She lowers her own letter to the floor, crawling over the squeaky boards the short distance to Misty where a hand is placed on her shoulder. “Hey, it's okay.” She starts, tender and comforting, despite the shattering of her own heart. “It’s fine. It doesn’t matter.” 

Misty blinks against the tears, and lifts azure eyes to meet her own pitying ones. 

It's like a punch to the gut, guilt laden and despair filled.  

She can’t stop herself. Arms instantly reach for Misty and pull her unresisting figure into her embrace. Tight. Loving. “I'm sorry.” She murmurs. She knows how much this meant to Misty. The girl might pretend she doesn’t care sometimes, but sometimes Cordelia thinks she cares more than anyone else she knows. She fears this may be another blow in her already difficult life.  

Misty sits frozen in her arms. 

It only makes for her to envelope her that little bit stronger. 

There is a length of time of just that, where the lack of the usual music suddenly seems deafening and the walls of the cabin are smaller than ever. 

Only Misty’s disbelieving whisper breaks the silence. “I got in.” 

From where she has burrowed her face into Misty's hair, she frowns and draws back in a tiny movement. 

“What?” 

Her eyes are lost, dizzy, but she blinks and locks them into Cordelia's where they sit merely inches from another. 

“I got accepted.” She repeats, leaving her lips parted, brows knotting together like she isn’t quite sure.  

Cordelia isn’t aware of her own movements, but she can see how her hands move to hold either side of Misty’s face. She memorises her expression, so beautiful in her incredulity. “You did?” Somehow, she sounds even more excited for Misty than she did for herself, and maybe she is. Pride floods her features, keeping Misty watching her with those watery eyes.  

“Yeah.” She breaths, accent thick and tempting. 

As she continues to stare, watching the migration of the corner of Misty’s blue lips into the most serene smiles, she wholeheartedly thinks that this might be the best day of her life. That things are finally starting to come together for pair.  

“We're both going to LA.” She announces giddily, still holding onto Misty’s face. She considers never letting go. “Oh Misty, this is amazing!” 

Misty brings her hands up, one curling around Cordelia's and the other sitting just atop her thin wrist. “It's somethin’, huh?” 

“Do you know what this means?” The words are flowing from her with ease, aided by her grin and the warmth inside. For a few moments, she doesn’t think about the trials they’ve been through, or her pesky feelings, but only about the fact that her best friend isn’t going to be separated from her by another state. “We get to be together. We can even get an apartment together.”  

Misty is nodding, just as keen. Her wide eyes take in the full sight of Cordelia's enthusiasm with reverence. “Looks like we don’t have to decide who gets custody of the plants.” She chuckles, half smirking and sending shivers down the older blonde’s spine. 

She loses herself in the idea of living with Misty, of being with the one person who she feels most comfortable with. Who she loves more than anyone else. 

Her eyes stay intent on Misty, and the Cajun's on her. They both still, so near. Trapped in their own bubble of celebration and appreciation, and love.  

Not just hers. 

She can see the shift in Misty's gaze, how it flickers downwards for just a second. Maybe she thinks Cordelia won’t notice, but she does. She's suddenly noticing lots of things she was blind to before. 

And in that moment, something changes in her. She isn’t sure if the euphoria is messing with her head, or if the alcohol Misty gave her was way stronger than she thought. 

But she tired of being a coward. 

On that decision, she takes an even bigger leap than opening her college letter. She closes the gap between their lips in one swift move, holding Misty steady with fingers just under her chin. Her heart swoons at the connection, rattling in its confines.  

Misty’s lips are like soft clouds against hers, bitter from alcohol, but somehow sweet, and she tastes like blue. Like that tangy hit from her slush. An addictive flavor that keeps her firmly against those lips with eyes scrunched closed and a racing heart. Her fingers curl around her golden hair, pulling her nearer in her desperate need to deepen the kiss. She doesn’t let rational thought even cross her mind. She is enjoying this way too much; she wants it to last forever. 

And when those once frozen lips begins to push against hers in earnest, she sighs into them, and thinks maybe this could last forever. 

Chapter Text

If you spoke to Cordelia on any given day, you’d think she has quite a vast vocabulary. Most likely the result of parental and self-induced pressure to prove herself as much as possible. It helps her give off the image of a smart, well put together young adult.  

But everyone slips, right?  

In that moment, all expansive knowledge of verbs and nouns disappears from her brain, and anyone listening to her thoughts would think her a bumbling idiot. 

As all she can think are words in the area of;  

Fuck.  

Shit.  

Is this real? How can this be real!?  

And, on repeat in varying degrees of panicked and elated, is the phrase, oh my god, oh my god

Because her lips are on Misty’s, and Misty’s on hers. She can feel her hands still cupping either side of the Cajun’s face, keeping her steady. Scared of letting her go.  

For the longest of times, Cordelia had only thought moments like this were possible in the confines of her imagination. How there's no way she'd feel Misty's probing lips against hers, or her thin fingers crawling through her hair and pulling her closer. As if they could get any closer. Still, her heart yearns for that intimacy, that affection, and it wants everything from Misty in that moment.  

She peeks her eyes open, just a slither, to observe the stunning Cajun half way through the longest few moments of her life. There’s a calmness to her expression, a moment of relief, and Cordelia thinks she's never looked more beautiful as she does now. All weight thrown from her shoulders.  

There's a thumping in Cordelia’s chest that fills her ears with a steady pound, so distracting that she almost doesn’t hear the small noise that tumbles from Misty's mouth. Akin to a mewl, she wants to record it and play it over and over until she dies.  Arousal swims within her, lighting every part of her body on fire. In particular, the ones lucky enough to feel the pressure of Misty’s touch. Her skin prickles and throbs with delight at the sensation. With it comes a more carnal desire, her body desperate for more, more, more, growing in greed now that a barrier between them has been demolished.  

Through those eyes, she can suddenly see blue ones staring back at her. Fingers that were one second ago scraping ever so delicately on her forearm now cling with all they've got, like they’re in the middle of a storm and Cordelia is the only thing to keep her from flying off into nothingness. With that tight hold comes another shift, less favorable this time. The sweet lips jerk away from hers, leaving her with only the memory of bliss on her own, now cold and lonely.  

Cordelia blinks, staring into the expression of her friend. Misty's grip on her might say that she's physically in the room, but her mind is gone. Her glassy eyes reflect Cordelia's own features, frazzled and smiling faintly even if there is a fear beginning to seed right in the pit of her stomach. 

“Misty.” She whispers, hoping it will break her of the mystified way she appears to be lost in the moment.  

When Cordelia repeats her name once more, swallowing thickly and leaning forward on her knees, Misty finally checks back into the room. 

That doesn’t mean that Cordelia is any less concerned, especially as she heaves in a series of short, nervous breaths. Her eyes flash that little bit wider, enough for Cordelia to see the panic in them. She maybe even senses regret, and that's enough to have her once full heart seeping right there out onto the hardwood floors.  

No longer is Misty a serene form before her eyes. Instead, she’s a picture of alarm. Especially when she quickly withdraws her hands to place them on her head, eyes closing, lips tight and shaking like they’re trying to hold in tears. “Fuck.” Her muscles refuse to sit still, legs bouncing rhythmically until she can’t even seem to stand the idea of sitting and jumps to her feet. “Fuck.” She repeats, just for good measure, and sets off into an erratic pace by the bed. 

Cordelia stands, too. She watches unwillingly, simultaneously wanting to help and also give Misty the space that she needs. 

One decision wins, encouraged by the need for answers and resolve, and she wants to know why Misty kissed her back. Air loiters in her throat, stinging the sensitive skin the longer it stays there. When it does triumph through in the form of words, they are emotion filled. “Misty, you need to calm down.” 

She doesn’t. In fact, that order sends her into more of a tizzy, now repeating more profanities under her breath. 

Cordelia's face pinches together in thought, a hint of exasperation. She gingerly pads forward, eyes glued to Misty for the entire approach. She can’t look away, not as Misty works herself into a full blown panic. Over the fact that they kissed. It stings right between her ribs to see Misty reacting in such a way, when she'd so easily reciprocated the kiss in the moment. There had been little thought to kiss her back, but now it looks like those thoughts are returning with vengeance. And are hellbent on clouding Misty’s mind. 

Maybe it's the fact that she can’t watch Misty suffer anymore or her own selfish need for intimacy, but she's reaching out her hand and placing it on the girl’s shoulder. “Hey.” 

Nothing can prepare her for the rejection she feels as Misty flinches, turning to regard her with wild eyes. “Delia.” She splutters out. Her arms are now wrapped around herself in a tight embrace, ready to stop all her bad feelings and agitation, and blood flow, apparently.  

As much as she wants to replace those arms with hers, she practices some restraint and sets a soft (only slightly heartbroken) pair of eyes on Misty. “It's okay.”  

Her head in shaking, which sets ripples of movement in her golden hair, like the prettiest of waterfalls. Cordelia doesn’t get the time she wants to admire it. “It's. . . I didn’t mean to. . . Cordelia – I’m not - " 

“Misty.” She isn’t sure how she summons such firmness in her words but she's glad for it. “I know.” 

The Cajun sucks in a breath. “What?” 

There is no running from the truth now, no letting it slip between her fingers and be stolen by other words. Cordelia gulps, gaze intent. “I found your magazine." She whispers aloud, like it's still a secret. It isn’t. No matter how much Misty may want it to be.  

Mouth falling slack, Misty only gapes at her. She must have exerted all her energy from the pacing, because now she stands deadly still. She'd think the girl had been turned to stone if it wasn’t for the swell of emotion that make home in her gaze.  

The silence persists. She hates it; she despises every second of its existence, and works to end it, even if it means continuing the delicate conversation. “The one under your bed. I – I found it by accident and I’ve been trying to talk to you about it. But I was just scared.”  

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She reeks of stubbornness, all too reluctant to admit anything. 

Cordelia sighs, her grasp falling gently from Misty’s shoulder. She wants to touch her again, on the hand, the arm, but she doesn’t think she can deal with another negative reaction. “The one full of naked women.” She deadpans, eyes narrowing. “You remember that one?” 

Refusing to look at Cordelia now, she has a firm set jaw and an air of deflation about her. “That ain’t mine.” 

“Jesus Christ.” She says on reflex, resisting the urge to groan and lets angry words fly from her lips. “Are you going to tell me the sky isn’t blue next?” 

“Well, actually - " 

“Misty.” Her eyes tire in their watch where they flicker over the girl's expression, spying deep lines of worry and tight muscles. “Will you stop?” She does touch her now, facing the inevitable flinch, and wraps a caring hand around Misty’s upper arm. “Please.” 

There’s a danger to the response, one that makes the world around her seem electrified in a not altogether good way. Misty does a slow blink, deep breathing still blaringly obvious. “Stop what?” 

“Lying.” 

It’s a rich statement, coming from her, but it's too late to retract it.  

“Delia, please.” The begging in her voice is desperate; she's heard it like this before. In their first fight, the one that had Misty storming from the room. Her heart clenches at the idea of that situation repeating itself. 

This brings her own tears poking at the corners of her eyes. Never before has she felt so inept at doing something, so helpless. Misty is watching her again now. Fighting against a watery shimmer in her eyes, she decides that she's going to ignore that demand. “You kissed me back.” She says, filling the room with the irrefutable evidence in those strained words. 

She doesn’t deny that.  

It doesn’t make the pain in Cordelia’s chest lessen. Especially when she spies the weakening of Misty’s defences. How her fight falters in the wake of upset, until there is no fight and her face crumples into a teary mess. “I’m not - " She starts, only for breath to hitch and more tears to flood down her cheeks. “I can’t be gay.” 

Cordelia has Misty in her arms without even thinking about it and, to her sheer relief, there is no attempt to push her away. “Hey, it's fine. It's going to be fine.” 

“But I can’t be.” She insists, voice regaining some of its assurance. “It's a sin.” 

Closing her eyes, she sighs against the shaking body of her friend. There’s a distaste that hangs in the air at those words, a reluctance that stems her at the idea of tackling those religious views. She wants to be delicate; to have a touch of consideration for Misty's upbringing and belief system. But it's wrong. It’s hurting her friend. And the very idea that Misty believes kissing her back is a sin makes her insides twist and wretch with disgust.  

“Did it feel sinful?” 

Misty stiffens, shrugging out of Cordelia's arms to observe her with pensive eyes. She wipes at her own with the back of her hand, sweeping tears across the expanse of pink skin. “What?” She sniffles. 

Her lips push into a thin line. She places a hand just over her heart, silently asking it to calm down. “When we kissed, did it feel sinful?” 

Strangely enough, this is what sets off her retreat. She steps back, eyes glued to Cordelia the entire time, until legs hit the bed. When they do, she clutches onto the headboard and hesitates.  

The pause allows her to hear other noises again, the movement of water outside, the rustle of trees. None loud enough to steal the attention away from her friend.  

“What did it feel like?” She pushes. 

Misty's lips spread apart, just a little. But the response is stifled when she slams them shut.  

When she does find an alternative, she hits back with a question of her own. “Why are you doin’ this?” 

“Because I lo – I care about you, okay?” 

She frowns, gaze moving to the floor. Maybe guilt was hidden in her eyes, or maybe she just couldn’t bear to look at Cordelia any longer. 

“I’m sorry.” 

Cordelia does a double take. The apology gives her whiplash, like she really is in the middle of a storm. “What for?” 

She's teetering on the edge again, and when Cordelia peers to her hands, she can see the way that her fingernails are digging so sharply into her forearm that there's no doubt it's painful. Nausea grows at the sight, particularly when she remembers Misty uttering words of having to punish herself. She hadn’t known then, but now it’s all too obvious that her sexuality is the reason for said punishment. Bile pushes dangerously against the back of her throat, angry. Just as furious as she is, at the situation, at Misty’s family, at the world; anyone who’s actively taken part is making Misty feel like she's wrong for being exactly who she's meant to be. 

She is by the girl's side then, tugging away that hand. “Please don’t.” Cordelia says softly.  

Misty blinks at her, then down at the marks left in her flesh. Different shades of red and purple stare mockingly back at the both of them.  

“You don’t have to apologize for anything.” Cordelia continues, voice brimming with love and care, and what she hopes is comforting enough to get through to the Cajun.  

“But I’m upsettin’ you.” 

“It doesn’t take much.” She gives an empty laugh. 

Those persistent eyes watch even as Misty shuffles and fidgets. “I’m fuckin' everythin’ up.” 

“Misty - " 

“I always ruin stuff.” She's angry again, so irate that Cordelia can hear it nastily lacing her words. “I’m such a bad friend.” 

Cordelia bristles at such an opinion, shocked and appalled, and ready to knock it right from Misty's head. She grabs hold of her again, holding her just like she had done moments before they'd kissed. Only, the tension between them now is fuelled by more than romance. “Don’t you ever let me hear you say that ever again.” She says in a low warning, gaze boring into Misty.  

She can feel the way that Misty initially stiffens at the actions. But her tenseness isn’t sustainable, and her muscles relax moments later as she stares back, listening. Cordelia can only hope that the words sink in.  

“You are the most amazing, kindest person I have ever met in my life, Misty.” Her hold is so tight. She urges her own hand to loosen and only succeeds in keeping the Cajun in an unrelenting grip. “You have to believe me.” 

A shuddery breath follows. “I want to.” 

“You should.”  

Being so near to Misty again is a real test of her will power. How she fights the urge to litter her unconvinced expression with kisses is beyond her. Somehow, she succeeds, and her reward is that Misty remains grounded under her touch.  

“I know that this is hard, Misty. And you're scared and - " 

“Cordelia,” she huffs, appearing awfully tired in that moment. “I told you, I'm not gay.” 

A beat.  

In which all she can do is regard Misty in an unwavering stare. 

“I don’t believe you.” 

There's a calm in her voice that negates the disconcerting way her heart jumps about her chest.  

“You were the one that kissed me.” Misty accuses, trying to pull away now. 

Her eyes narrow. “And you kissed me back." 

She releases her hold on Misty, stepping back slowly to give them both space, to allow the tension filled air around them to dissipate. It doesn’t.  

“I was confused.” Misty tries. She drops down onto the bed, pulling up her legs and wrapping arms around them. “You always confuse me." 

Cordelia is unable to hide the flinch in her expression. “So, you’re saying it's my fault?” 

“I am sayin',” Misty starts tersely, “that I was confused and that’s all there is to it.” 

“That's bullshit and you know it.” 

Misty wipes a single tear from her cheek.  

Even in its presence, Cordelia feels that frustration again. She wants to scream cathartically out into the dense swampland until her lungs lose their last ounce of air. “Why do you have to be like this?” 

Twisting her neck, Misty regards her with a failed attempt at looking disinterested. “Like what?” 

“So damn stubborn.” 

“You're callin’ me stubborn?” She jumps to her feet, the lines of her jaw twitching in vex. “That is real fuckin' rich, Delia.” 

“You won’t even admit that you're gay.” 

“I - I’m not.” 

“Well gee, all the evidence suggests otherwise.” The sarcastic drawl of her response further plucks anger from Misty. In turn, this surges the same emotion through Cordelia.  

And she hates it. She doesn’t want to be angry at her ever. Yet here they are. Angry and shouting and finally exploding from unsaid words. 

“So you found a magazine? So I kissed you back for like, one second.” She is scoffing, eyes darting about nervously. “It don’t mean anythin’.” 

Yes it does, Misty.”  

Misty still refuses to meet her eye. 

“It means everything.” She sighs, just exhausted from this. From all of it. It's been too arduous a journey, but she can’t give up now. Not so close. “I tried to ignore what was right in front of me because I was scared about what it meant, but I can’t anymore. And neither can you.” 

“Why are you so insistent, Delia? What does it matter to you?”  

Cordelia pales at the emptiness in Misty's voice, but a response is already primed on her lips. “Because I like you okay? As in, I think about you all the time and all I’ve wanted to do for the last six months is just kiss you!” Misty seems taken aback by the sincerity in her words, as well as the sheer volume. She wouldn’t be surprised if Misty’s family had heard them miles away. But she continues, shoulders slumping as she speaks. “And I think you like me too.” 

Misty's head snaps up.  

She seems way too small in that moment. “Cordelia - " 

“Tell me that you don’t.” She demands, too proud to back down now. 

Misty makes a noise close to a squeak. 

Tell me.” 

She doesn’t, but neither does that make Cordelia feels any better. 

Especially as Misty stands and pushes past her, searching for her things that are strewn about the room. “I can’t do this.” 

Spinning on her heel, Cordelia is kept frozen by the shock of her relinquishing the fight. “Misty.” She begs. She can’t go. She can’t just leave .  

“No.” With the letter that had once brought them joy shoved quickly into her backpack, Misty clings into it tightly. “I can’t, Cordelia.” She glares, but it hides a certain brokenness about her. “You don’t understand- I can’t be like this. I can’t like you. I’m sorry, I am so, so sorry.” There is sincerity to her apology, a crack in her voice, and everything just hurts. “I just fuckin’. . . can’t!” 

“Misty, please don’t freak out.” 

“There's nothin’ to freak out over.” She says in her defiant insistence. 

Cordelia debates whether to go for that scream she so desperately wants, or if she should hit something instead. Both animalistic urges seem all to tempting in the moment.  

Now it's her turn to drop to the bed, crying. What if she never gets through to Misty? What if this is a hurdle all too high for them to tackle? She watches, nothing short of desolate, as Misty makes for the door.  

“You're just gonna go?”  

Halting, she clearly is facing an internal battle. “What do you want me to say, Cordelia?” 

Her words are strangled by clear upset. “I just want you to be yourself. Your true self. Like you said you are with me.” 

She lingers, throwing a glance over her shoulder. And this is where Cordelia can spot that she’s crying, too. “I really am sorry, Delia.” 

“Yeah.” She agrees, in a hollow manner that Misty at least has the decency to look ashamed at. “Me too.” 

This forces a pause from Misty, and she thinks just for a second that she's going to take back everything she said. That she's going to sweep Cordelia up in her arms and say what she so desperately wants to hear. Because can feel it, even hidden beneath the anger and the annoyance; she'd felt in the way Misty had so keenly returned her affections in the kiss. 

And she can see it now in those convoluted eyes.  

She cares. 

That’s not enough to give Cordelia what she yearns for, and she's forced to watch Misty leave again. This time feels more devastating than the last, more final. 

When the door closes, she falls into a heap on the bed, letting her heartbreak settle over her like rain clouds. Not even the fact that the sheets smell like Misty help to ease the pain. In fact, it only encourages it more, for she wonders if it's the last time that she'll truly be able to experience it. 

... 

Her house is quiet when she tiptoes in early the next morning, heading straight to her room where a hot shower might be enough to wash away the earlier night. 

She throws her college admission letter on her desk. As she stares at it, she so desperately wishes for that elation to return to her that she'd once felt reading it. She tries, she really does, but now it's been forever stained with that argument. 

Catching sight of herself in the mirror, she practically recoils. She doesn’t recognize the person staring back. In all honesty, she doesn’t want to. All desires focus on transforming back into her old self, whoever she is. Easier said than done, and even after a shower and a full face of make up, she feels hidden. In a costume intended for others. She sighs, debating if she even goes to school that day, seeing as it’s the easiest option. Such an idea is quickly reprimanded.  

Pull yourself, together. She can’t hide in the face of rejection. Adversity can serve to help better herself, to learn and grow, and figure out how you can forget about a broken heart.  

She hopes, anyway.  

But on that thought, she forces herself to get ready for school, and she wonders if Misty's heart sings the same song of melancholy. 

... 

It's as if the universe is determined to make her snap, she thinks as she tries the third pen that refuses to work. She curses and mutters spiteful words at the plastic as it only digs into the paper, leaving no mark.  

“Will you just work?” She grumbles. 

She almost loses herself so much in perturbance and throws it across the room. But she doesn’t. She continues to glare its way. Stupid pens. And it’s not the pen’s fault; it is what the pen represents.  

That being that life is kind of shit right now.  

Because every time she sees Misty it is a bitter reminder, a knife twisting in her gut. No matter how brief the sighting, or quickly she averts her gaze to stare elsewhere,  anywhere . Turns out the pain is inevitable. So why bother fighting it?  

She must look a real story of self pity, abusing pens with her face scrunched up in annoyance, because Zoe is suddenly speaking to her. “Is, uh, everything okay?” 

“Just fine.” She mutters. 

The pen is haphazardly thrown to the side, and to her great relief the fourth one works. She continues her work, trying to draw thoughts away from a certain Cajun. Of course it is pointless. A fire taking root in the classroom couldn’t steal her attention. She can feel the heat of a gaze on her, following the source to see Zoe watching. “What?” she shifts slightly. 

“Nothing.” She smiles in a sheepish way, writing slowly. “Just, you seem a little angry, is all.”  

Oh, you have no idea.  

She shrugs. “I am perfectly fine.” 

“O – okay.” 

Even so, the unsuspecting inanimate objects around her receive the brunt of her anger most of the lesson. As soon as the bell rings, she is practically storming out of the room to avoid the curious eyes of her friend.  

Because she knows if she falls victim to that, she’s going to tell her what happened. And then it's all going to come flooding back. 

She just wants to forget.  

The universe hates her though, remember? And she sees Misty on the way to her next class. Stilling their gazes lock in a silent “Can we fix this?” like she hadn’t left Cordelia crying by herself in the cabin last night.  

She keeps on walking, because she doesn’t know the answer. 

... 

Lunch poses a similar problem, in which she can spot Misty sat with their friends at the table before she approaches. The sight of those blonde curls, those slumped shoulders, has her halting on the spot and spinning on her heel. 

She isn’t that hungry anyway. 

Solace is found in the classroom fawning over plants that only yesterday Misty had called their babies. Just like in the cabin, things slowly but surely remind her of the girl, and suddenly the solace changes into something else, something that makes her heart ache. 

... 

“Fucking hell. Zoe was right. You look awful.” 

Tactful as ever. 

“Thanks, Madison.” She gives her a strong side eye. 

“Not a very romantic walk then?” 

That smirk sits there, calling and teasing for Cordelia to wipe it off with one good slap. She doesn’t, sadly, and her stony silence is a pretty good indication that she’s right on the money. 

She leans in, growing more interested. “Did you have a fight with your little swamp rat?” 

Cordelia winces. “Don’t call her that!” 

“Touchy.” 

“She is not a swamp rat.” She seethe, channelling her pent up anger at Madison and using her as an effective outlet. “She's a fucking person.” A complex and delicate person whose childhood has helped her grow right into a state of denial. Cordelia sighs wistfully at that thought, wondering if the girl ever had a hope in hell.  

Madison looks reprimanded for all of one second before continuing her inquisition. “Are you gonna tell me or what?” 

“Why would I tell you anything?” 

She scoffs. “Seriously? I’m your friend, Cordy.” This earns her another look, one that she tuts and rolls her eyes at. “I’m being serious for once, you ass.”  

“And here I am thinking you’re just here to mock me again.” She bites. 

“Everything I do,” Madison announces, “is done with care and thought.”  

She continues her reading now, not emotionally ready to deal with these jibes in the state she's in. Most of the day, she's felt tears hiding in her gaze, felt a lump permanently glued to the back of her throat. The last thing she needs is Madison being well,Madison

“Hello, earth to Cordelia.” Fingers click impatiently in front of her face. 

Sucking in a low grumble, she grinds her teeth together. “You're still here?” 

She tugs the book away from Cordelia and sets a withering look on her. “Stop deflecting. Will you just tell me what happened between you and trailer tra – Misty?” Her question is followed with a pause, making it all too clear that she doesn’t want to talk about it with her hesitancy. And in the way she's curling in on herself. Something that Madison easily perceives with a twitch of her brow arch. “Come on. I won’t tell anyone else.” 

“We both know that’s not true.” 

She scoots closer, boring dark, nosy eyes onto Cordelia in a way that makes her fidget on the spot. “Jeez, this is harder than I thought it would be. Clearly something has happened.” 

There isn’t even any energy left in her reserves to deny that blaringly obvious fact. And she can feel her face shift, hiding nothing. She’s an open book, that’s what Misty always says. Is her heartbreak written over every crevice of her expression? “I don’t want to talk about it.” 

Glee fills her pupils. “Oh, so shit did go down. “ 

“Madison, I really don’t want - " 

“What’s the point in hiding it? It’s come out eventually, right?” She cocks her head slightly to one side, giving Cordelia all the scrutiny she can muster. Which, for the record, is a lot. Even though it's not normally her go to, she finds herself fidgeting; her leg shaking. She only stops when she realizes it’s something that Misty does all the time, and any reminder of the Cajun brings with it the familiar sting in her chest. “Misty will just tell us.” 

“I really doubt she's going to tell anyone.” Cordelia counters, her dejection obvious. 

Madison leans back in the chair, somehow seeming taller in that posture even if Cordelia sits higher than her. She fidgets again, cursing her restless spirit in that moment.  

She isn’t surprised to see that tell tale smirk sitting on the girl's face, accented with pink lipstick. “So who kissed who?” 

Cordelia blanches, every process in her body coming to an abrupt halt upon the blunt question. Breathing, heart rate, you name it. She suddenly becomes incapable of anything other than losing herself in her spiral of thoughts. She twists her neck to stare at Madison, so smug and impatient, but with a flicker of something behind her eyes. Caring? Surely not. Madison is incapable of any emotions that involve the welfare of others. 

That may be so, yet an answer begins to form against her lips. “I kissed her.” She whispers. And she kissed me back. She's going to keep saying that until she's blue in the face, because it happened. It was an actual decision for Misty to kiss her, confused or not. No one forced her to.  

There's a stronger tug of her lips upwards. “And?” 

It all comes flooding back, memories flashing by with no remorse for her struggling emotions. The tears that have been threatening to fall spot their moment, gathering in the corners of her eyes. “She got really scared. And we fought. Then she left.” 

“Fuck.” For the briefest of seconds, she doesn’t seem to be revelling in their misery and a half frown sits on her thin lips. “She left?” 

“Yup.” Cordelia replies in a succinct manner than insists she's had enough of this conversation. 

Unfortunately for her, Madison hasn’t. “What did she say?” 

This causes her to still, a tinge of discomfort filling her at the idea of sharing their intimate conversation. “She said enough.”  

“Oh come on, you gotta fucking tell me.” 

“I really don’t.” 

She looks pissed, like a child who's just been told no.  

“Fine,” she stands, “I’ll go ask Misty.” 

As she makes to stand, Cordelia summons the fastest reflexes she's ever had and yanks her back into the seat with a clatter of noise. “I swear to god Madison!”  

She’s laughing, no sign of contrition at her mocking. A hand pats her in a condescending manner. “I’m joking, you idiot. You think I really want Swampy to cry all over me ‘cause she is gay and repressed? No, thank you. She hugs way more than is socially acceptable.” 

The words make a slow amble into her mind, sitting there as she figures out what to do with them. It seems Madison has been aware of this longer than anyone else, a fact that quite honestly irritates her. Where would they be if she'd just listened to the stupid hinting and been braver months ago? Maybe in the same situation. Maybe not. The thing about hindsight is that you can’t do shit about what’s happened.  

It leads her on another branch of her thoughts, of what she wants to happen. Her stupid mistakes might litter the past, but the future is a clean slate as of right now.  

And just how does she want to decorate it? 

With pining and moping? Pain, arguments? No, she doesn’t want any of that. Her desires are swivelled toward the cautious optimism that she could get through to Misty. If anyone is going to do it, it’s her, right? The pressure of such a task daunts her. It sends a spark down her spine, through all her extremities. How is she supposed to make someone love themselves? At one point she thought that maybe she could love Misty on her behalf. Which she does. She wholeheartedly loves the Cajun with a longing so deeply interwoven in her soul that she sometimes wonders if she could ever love anyone else. 

But maybe that’s not enough. Misty needs to experience that intrinsic feel of self worth. She needs to know that she’s worthy of her own love.  

“I don’t know how to help her.” Cordelia whispers out, surprising even herself with the airy intonations in her voice, like she's lost amongst a vast skyline. 

Madison scoffs. “Are you kidding me?” 

She winces at the harsh way the words are aimed in her direction. “What?” 

“Misty flat out rejected you and you're sat here thinking about how you’re going to make it up to her.” Incredulity follows, then an eye roll, and she sets a look on Cordelia that she'd like to swipe away. 

“She didn’t reject me." 

She kissed me back, goddammit!   

“And yet you’re not with her right now, being adorable little lesbians who sit gardening together like the losers you are.” 

This heaves a sigh from her. For the glimpse of heart she saw from Madison, it's now been inundated with crass statements, all of which leave her feeling worse off than before. 

And now with even more things to think about. Great. As if her brain wasn’t already on overdrive before. 

“Let me give you some advice.” 

“Please don't.” 

She glares. “I am fucking great at advice, Cordy. And what I’m going to tell you will work.” Cordelia offers a look of disbelief, lips pursing together as she readies herself for what will surely be a plan she won’t like. Leaning in closer, Madison half whispers. “You simply just ignore her. Give her the cold shoulder. Don’t even look in her direction, and then one say she's going to realize that she can’t live without you. And voila, you'll be together.” 

At such a suggestion, her stomach knots. “I can’t just ignore her.” 

“Why the fuck not?” 

“Because she's my friend.” And she's hurting, and what kind of a person  does  that.  

“Ugh, you two are possibly the most frustrating people I’ve ever met.” She’s making to stand, fluffing up her hair and setting a dark gaze on Cordelia. “Don’t say I didn’t try to help.” 

Her so called “help” get disregarded the moment she leaves. Cordelia may be feeling a lot of things right now, none of them particularly good, but never does she want to make Misty share in that misery, either.  

... 

Needless to say, she is relieved when the day is over and she hurries to her locker to shed the weight of all her books. If only she could rid the other weight she’s saddled with. With a great deal of haste, she finishes her task and slams the locker closed, jumping as there is a figure behind it who definitely wasn’t there a second ago.  

Unfortunately for her, it is another person that she really doesn’t want to talk to.  

And he’s pretty damn pissed.  

“Hello, Hank.” She says curtly, pressing her lips together and making to do a beeline around him.  

It doesn’t work. He pretty much slams a palm against the locker, blocking her initial exit and leering over her with an aura nothing short of belligerent. She sighs, raising her gaze from the doors behind him to the darkness in his eyes. “Is there something you’d like to say?”  

“Did you throw a fucking slushie on me and my girlfriend?” 

The memory flashes through her mind, the only thing to bring her a moment’s joy on this trying day. She fights against a growing smirk and shakes her head. “Nope.” Changing direction, she tries to turn on her heels and leave that way. He catches it before she can, practically jumping in front of her. Dragging in a tight groan, she glares at him. “Will you move?”  

His jaw tenses. “I saw you.”  

“Look Hank, I didn’t throw anything on you or your newest bit.” 

“You are such a fucking liar – " 

Suddenly she feels a presence by her side, a flash of blonde and an intimidating air that even makes her shrink that little bit. In front of her, Hank’s eyes dart from Cordelia to the newest part of the conversation, who enters with a growl of, “don’t you talk to her like that.” Misty. It’s the most perfect timing, as if Cordelia has somehow sent out a bat signal to the skies to let the girl know that she’s in a rather unfortunate predicament.  

Misty receives a glower from Hank, who stiffens and turns slightly away from her. “This doesn’t concern you, Day.”  

“Well, I ain’t leavin’ so. . .” She seems to stand taller, chest puffed out, and if they weren’t in an awkward limbo of their friendship, she would tug her over and kiss her in that moment.  

She turns, just slightly, to see the determination in Misty’s pale face. That gaze travels down to where her fists sit clenched by her side, flexing and relaxing every few seconds. “What? Are you her fucking bodyguard or something?”  

No reply comes from Misty, but her stony silence is answer enough. Cordelia steps forward. “I don’t need protecting, Hank. Now if you’d kindly go away.” She makes to push past him against, their shoulders barging against one another and when he goes to grab her arm, she can sense the shift in Misty.  

But her reflexes are faster than the Cajun in that moment, perhaps desperate to prevent a fight that would no doubt end up in Misty getting in trouble. She shrugs away Hank’s touch, fire in her gaze so strong that he doesn’t try again. In her peripherals, Cordelia can see Misty’s flaring nostrils, her irate breathing, and she grabs for her hand to pull her away from the situation. 

To her great relief, there is no resisting from the girl.  

And when they round the corner, it allows them both to take a breath. She leans herself against the wall, head beginning to thump, then lifts her eyes to the girl. Who is staring right back. It unnerves her, that intensity.  

She’s learned that you never know what you’re going to get with it, and that headache increases in earnest. “Thank you,” she whispers.  

“S’okay.” Misty shrugs, scuffing one foot against the scratched, squeaky floor. “You didn’t need my help.”  

That makes the aid feel even more important. 

“Still,” her soft reply comes, “thank you.” She could spot the twitch in Misty’s lips a mile off. Thankfully, up close, she gets a front row seat. It stirs familiar feelings deep within.  

But they are stifled with the growing silence. The more Misty stares, the more she wants to climb out of her own skin and hide from the uncomfortableness. This is all just too much. After their fight, and spending the whole day avoiding each other, now this. It’s just  so  much.  

Misty licks her lips, pupils low and eyes half closed. “Can we talk?” 

That searing fear blazes through her. She hates how she hesitates, because it seems to put Misty all the more on edge, but she doesn’t want to do this.  

When words fail her, she nods.  

There’s an evident breath of relief from Misty, who sets into motion first. Looking over her shoulder, her eyes quietly ask Cordelia to follow her. And as she’s found out, she’s just so damn powerless when it comes to Misty.  

A low, thoughtful walk leads them to the gardening classroom. Where sunlight beautifully shines through the windows and bathes the plants, where a sweet aroma fills their nostrils, and where she stands in the middle with what feels like her heart hanging on her sleeve.  Misty leans against the desk, observing her. Those eyes cover every inch of her body, like they haven’t seen each other for years, like she’s trying to discern any noticeable changes. The only change is that her hopes are dashed, drawn from her body and leaving a hollowness in her expression. When she meets Misty’s eyes, she wonders if she can see that.  

A frown hangs on Misty’s lips, so maybe she does.  

It doesn’t encourage her to speak, and soon the pair drown in their own silence. Maybe it’s because there’s too much to say, too much riding on this, and one wrong move could have it crumbling right to its foundations.  

She closes her eyes eventually, rubbing at her aching temples. “Will you please say something, Misty?”  

“I’m sorry for leaving.” Misty confesses. “I just didn’t know what to do.”  

This causes her to stiffen, her own frown curving in vexation. “I was really mad at you last night.” She says, honestly. She wants to be honest, all the time. Even if it means Misty has a crestfallen expression.  

She steps forward, a hand reaching out, then catches herself and lets it drop to her side. “Are you still mad at me?”  

She allows her shoulders to move with a shrug, not ready to delve into exactly what it is she feels right now.  

Misty visibly swallows, then sighs. It’s an act of exhaustion, of someone who seems to have been fighting their whole life. She’s still fighting; maybe against something that she’ll never win. “I can’t even begin to tell you how sorry I am.” She says through a teary voice. “I never want to hurt you, ever.”  

Trying to hide exactly how much the girl has dug a knife in her heart, she peers away and wipes at her eyes. Misty whispers an apology again, but it falls on deaf ears.  

In her dangerous optimism, she tries something else. “I don’t want to lose you, Cordelia.” Every syllable is strained, like maybe she has lost her already. “You don’t know how much you mean to me.”  

Those words should be what she needs to hear, they should fill the cracks in her soul, but if anything they make this whole situation harder. “I know.” She replies thickly. Watching her every movement, Misty’s eyes are wide as saucers. They catch every flicker of sunlight and make a beautiful display of blue and gold. “I know why you’re scared, too. I know what your family will do if they find out, Misty. But I’m beginning to learn that sometimes you’ve gotta face your fears.”  

She bows her head, fingers playing with the hem of her wrist ties. “I can’t be what you want me to be.” Misty decides eventually, every bit as broken as Cordelia feels.  

There it is. A finality.  

Cordelia feels her love begin to wither inside of her, leaving her heart a desolate wasteland.  

Tears force their way over, a hand lifting to partially hide them from Misty. It’s a fruitless attempt, because the pain lingers in the way her posture changes. Shoulders falling, head lowering, and knees taking on a weakness she’s never felt before.  

But then there are arms holding her up, a body against hers; the lilt of Misty’s soft and anguished voice. More apologies follow, heartfelt. Altogether unwelcome. She doesn’t want her fucking apologies.  Yet she can’t pull herself from Misty’s arms. Maybe there’s a selfishness to the way she clings onto her, or maybe she fears she might never get this opportunity again. So, she lets her hold her, and cries and sobs, and decides that the world can be an awfully cruel place.  

When Misty no longer repeats the same words over and over, and when Cordelia manages to gain control of herself, they pull apart slowly. Reluctantly. Misty’s hand lingers around her shoulder. She sets a look on Cordelia, one that makes her feel like there’s a series of mini tornados wreaking havoc inside of her.  

“I still want us to be friends.”  

Eyes scrunching closed, Cordelia tries to steady her breath.  

Perhaps this is enough for Misty to realize her words. “I know it’s a lot to ask of you,” she says, so fucking quiet and unsure, and scared. “I know it’s selfish, okay? But I can’t imagine not being friends with you.”  

Cordelia doesn’t think it’s for her to decide if it’s selfish or not, because she’s be asking the same if it were the other way around. She’d be begging to keep some semblance of relationship, even if it meant ignoring her feelings. Desperate for them to reside.  

But they’re so strong now, so raw, and just looking at Misty makes her hurt. Air flows from her lungs in a shuddery manner. “I - I. . .”  

Misty’s grip tightens on her, the anticipation of the answer too crippling.  

“I need some time.”  

She blinks.  

“Oh.” Stepping back, she withdraws her touch, and Cordelia thinks this could be the beginning of the end. There’s a palpable change in the air, a rift between them. Bigger than any she’s felt before. “Right.” Misty nods, swallowing around a thick lump. “Of course.”  

The older blonde still can’t meet her eyes.  

She runs a hand through her straight hair, sniffling. “I just. . . when I look at you, I. . .” I want to cry.  

Misty is opening her mouth again, whether to let more apologies tumble or something else to fall out, she doesn't know. But she can’t hear any more of it. Emotionally spent, she just wants to go home, to be alone. And not even Misty’s presence can calm her in that moment. “I don’t know how long.” Cordelia confesses. “We’ll just. . . we’ll see, okay?"

Although her brows might knit into a tight line, Misty nods and agrees.  

Even so, there is something going on in her eyes, it’s all too clear. She is jumpy again, filled with energy that wants to do something. Cordelia doesn’t have to reserves to find out what, not after the last twenty four hours. She musters the saddest of smiles and aims it at Misty. “Get home safe.”  

Normally she’d drive Misty; the idea of being in a confined space with her is terrifying, and so she disregards the idea despite her guilty chest.  

And as she leaves, she tries not to overthink, she really does. But it’s a nervous habit, a toxic trait; she wonders over and over if time really can heal all wounds.  

… 

Her bed is a sanctuary, one that she climbs into straight after a shower, not even toying with the idea of food. She curls up under the covers, hugging a pillow to her chest and watchingPS – I love you because at least if she cries at that, she doesn’t feel so stupid.  

She ignores all the texts of her friends that night, even the increasingly concerned ones. Surely by now Madison has blabbed to them about the events that have transgressed. Their worry is touching, but the idea of being pitied now is not what she needs. She has enough self-pity on standby to wallow in for some time.  

What she needs is something to focus her mind on, but schoolwork doesn’t hold her attention long enough, and the house is empty. With Fiona on a work trip for the week, she can’t even go back to her for advice. Not that the first batch of it has served her particularly well. It’s just, her mother’s approach to life is so sure, so fearless, and it makes her envious every single day.  

Once the credits begin to roll down the screen, she groans and pulls herself from the cocoon of soft sheets. Straightening out her wrinkled clothes, Cordelia trudges downstairs with a request from her grumbling stomach. She doesn’t feel like cooking, but she’s knows she’s got to eat something.  

Just as she’s rifling through the fridge, a noise startles her. It takes her foggy mind a second to realize it’s only the doorbell.  

Frowning, she peers her head in that direction. She isn’t expecting anyone.  

Intent on ignoring it, she continues her search for food, only for the ringing to become more persistent, more frantic, and she slams the fridge door closed with a, “fine, I'm coming.”  

All the while on the approach, her interest grows and her frown deepens. Who on earth could it be at nine on a weekday? But her question is answered when she opens the door.  

Eyes bulge wider. “Misty?” 

The Cajun stands on her stoop, just as nervous as when she left her hours ago. Maybe even more so. Her hair seems frizzier, the mane of a ferocious animal that radiates in her frantic energy. When their eyes lock, she falls into an eerie stillness, and succeeds in pulling the air from Cordelia’s lungs.  

Confusion prevents her from feeling any of that heartache. And real, genuine concern.  

“What are you doing here?” 

Her arms cross over her chest, but the words hold no accusation. She resists the urge to reach out and take hold of Misty.  

She almost expects another prolonged silence; what she gets is an instantaneous reaction, Misty’s lips jerking open with heartfelt words.  

“You were right, okay?” she insists, “you’re always right.”  

Cordelia feels her mouth run dry, that languid nature sweeping over her again. Leaning against the doorframe helps her to keep steady.  

Misty doesn’t notice, seeing as she’s too busy spilling her heart out in front of her. “I like you. I’ve always liked you. And it fuckin’ terrifies me, but I can’t lose you, Delia.” She closes her eyes, seeming so summon every ounce of courage. Hearing those words has a symphony of joy singing through her, a great relief that might be enough to wind her. Warmth settles inside of her, enough to brings tears of joy and a swell of love. 

She is so lost in her delirious triumph, she almost doesn't hear the next few words. But thank god she does. 

“So, fuck bein’ just friends.”  

“What -” 

She isn’t given the opportunity to finish her question. Not that she cares. Misty all but leaps forward and drags her in for a kiss, far more feverish and yearning than the first time their lips had met. It initially shocks Cordelia, so much that Misty pulls back to make sure she’s okay, the entire world caught in her gorgeous eyes.  

Catching her breath, she feels her fingers slipping around Misty’s waist tentatively “A - are you sure?” Please be sure, please be damn sure.  

Misty answers the question by joining their lips once more, her approach slower, like she’s taking the time to enjoy the feel of Cordelia’s on her own. Cordelia smiles against her lips and tears against Misty's own cheeks. She's never known happiness like this, felt jubilation so strong, as if her heart has grown wings and sweeps about in celebration. Maybe the world isn't such a cruel place after all. 

Chapter Text

Cordelia smiles widely as she stretches her legs, because that motion brings them closer to Misty's. Whose legs are also strewn out over the covers at pretty angles that she takes a moment to admire. She rakes her studious gaze the full length of Misty's body, for once having no need to keep it hidden.  

The freedom is strange, but really damn welcome. And when that gaze migrates upwards, she finds Misty watching her with a serene smile of her own. Her hair gathers under her head on the pillow, thick and luscious curls that Cordelia finds herself playing with. They’ve been lay like this for a while; at some point, with a foggy mind and fireworks in her chest, she'd managed to close the front door in the midst of the kissing. Misty's ministrations had moved from hurried, to relieved, then eventually to chaste and caring kisses that had made every part of her being sing.  

When they'd naturally drifted, both with puffy lips and unfocused eyes, she'd taken Misty's hand to lead her in a tumble up to her room. Sure, there’d been more kissing on the bed, like they're making up for lost time, but eventually the two had stilled. Just taking in the sight of one another, seemingly through a different set of eyes. Even now, there's a quiet about them, comfortable and nice and theirs.  

That’s what this moment is. The opportunity to breathe in the very idea that denial and the games have been thrown aside. And that they can just be them. Best friends, who care an awful lot about each other.  

Misty's eyes close as the sensations in her hair continue, moving higher until fingernails are scraping through her scalp. ‘Hmm.” She makes a quiet noise, still enough to send ripples of love through Cordelia. Urges fill her, but the strongest one is to close the tiny gap between them and kiss Misty's forehead. She does, feeling a dizzy kind of breathlessness in the way that Misty regards her softly. “What was that for?” she asks with barely open eyes. 

Cordelia beams, all kinds of happy. “Just because I can.” 

And that’s reason enough.  

Because they’ve finally admitted that the way they're compelled to each other is way beyond the bounds of friendship. She doesn’t quite question what they are exactly just yet, but there's time. That idea has her sighing happily out into the room. 

Misty leans further into her touch, a hand lifting and grazing over the one that Cordelia has idly near the pillow. She traces circles along the delicate skin, like she's painting an intricate canvas. It's strange, how they feel exactly like them and yet completely different at the same time. How long have they sat here gazing at one another? She doesn’t know. How much longer could she do it? Forever.  

“I can’t believe this is really happening.” Cordelia says after a beat, drawing more of Misty's attention to her expression.  

The Cajun’s smile reaches every corner of her expression - it radiates in her gentle aura. “Me neither.” 

“I’ve thought about this for so long.” 

There’s an interest in the gaze that watches her now, silent questions.  One makes itself known. “Did you really mean it when you said you'd like me for months?” 

She flushes under the words, hushed and serious. The extent of her obsession with Misty is something that only she has ever truly known, not even their friends know how much she's stolen her thoughts in good and bad ways. “I did.” She breathes. 

Tilting her head slightly, she gives this half smile. Faint wrinkles appear in the corner of her mouth, a dimple sitting adjacent to them. Cordelia wants to tell her how beautiful she is, and those words would flow out if Misty doesn’t start talking. 

“What about that other girl?” 

Cordelia can sense the way color drains from her face. The reminder of her feeble attempts to tell Misty the truth. “Come on, Misty, we both know I was talking about you the whole time.” There’s a shyness to her voice, an “I can’t believe it's taken us so much to get here" but Misty disregards it with a smile. 

Tugging teeth try to stop it from growing to its full potential. “I wish I’d realized at the time.” Her face twists then, like she's just eaten a lemon. “The thought of you likin’ someone else was just terrible.” 

She blushes, again. But there's no effort to hide it. She leans in nearer, practically lay on the same pillow as Misty. “Were you jealous?” 

The teasing comes from somewhere deep inside her, shining through in her smirk that Misty stares at with parted lips. They then wrap into a tight pucker, gaze narrowed gleefully; the bed springs sound as she moves to balance on one of her arms. “That would be tellin’.” 

Her movement means that she's hovering over Cordelia now, keeping the older blonde paralyzed on the spot. Fingers loosen from Misty's thick tresses and migrate to sit in the crook of her elbow. “You so were.” She grows bolder in her approach, coyness wrapping around her words.  

When Misty looks to her now, there's a delicate noise on her lips. Not quite words, not really decipherable. But damn enticing. “Shut up." Those words are muttered, alongside an eye roll, and Misty gently pushes at her arm.  

She shoves her back, still wearing her grin, and squeals as it sets Misty into action. Sitting higher, she frees a hand and prods it into Cordelia's side. The same side that she's recently discovered summons hearty laughter right from Cordelia's core. Thin fingers poke and tease until her sides hurt from laughter, and pleas rattle from her lips. “Misty, stop it!” She chortles, finally finding purchase in that offending hand and keeping it still. Struggling to find air, her next few words are strained against her throat. “You are terrible.” 

Misty smirks, staring down at the firm way Cordelia keeps her at bay. But it doesn’t last, that light in her face. Just as the setting sun is inevitable, there's a way that the carefree nature of her expression fades. It seems Misty, an extension of the nature she so much adores, has just as much a fleeting hold on her own emotion.  

She breathes deeply, chest puffing out as she does. A beat of silence follows, where Cordelia watches from her recline on the bed. “I was jealous, ya know?”  

Cordelia halts in her teasing now, sensing that shift, and she pulls herself into a sitting position. Knees knocking against Misty's, she gives a faint smile. “Well, now I do.” Laughter follows, just as subtle as her smile. 

It all feels so silly, the way they've tiptoed around the truth for so long, living oh so stubbornly in the land of denial. Only, the real reason lingers about them, in the dormant worry that refuses to leave Misty's eyes no matter how much she smiles, or in the way her cross necklace catches the light every so often. A reminder. A warning? Cordelia wishes she wouldn’t dwell on it, but she does. She always will. 

Her unfocused eyes remain just there, the gold cross reflecting in her gaze. Maybe Misty catches on, seeing as there's a thoughtful twist of her lips before she looks away, refusing to meet Cordelia’s eyes. 

Cordelia gives an eventual blink. In that movement, she notices Misty still wearing her gym clothes and frowns. “Why are you still in those?” 

“Um.” A pause, as if she hadn’t even realized. “I ain't gone home yet.” She says after a glance downwards.  

Reeling back, she regards her with pursed lips. “What?” 

Misty drops her hand from its fidgeting on her necklace and smooths fingers over her thighs. “After our talk at school, the last place I wanted to be was at home.”  

There’s a delicate shrug then, the curving of lips downwards. At the mention of that moment in the classroom, Cordelia shares in the despair that Misty exudes. In those few minutes, she'd never felt so broken, so lost in a world she thought she was getting bearings of.  

She reaches out fingers and sweeps them down the length of Misty’s arm, where they still just by her wrist. “Where did you go?” 

“Oh,” She begins quietly, half committed to the response, “I just ran.” 

“Where?” Her confusion must be palpable in her tone, as Misty peeks upwards with a head tilt and watches her carefully. 

Another shrug, then her fingernails are digging into the pale skin of her thighs. Cordelia silently tugs them away and intertwines them with her own. “Anywhere.” Misty confirms sadly. “Runnin’ helps me clear my head sometimes. So, I did an awful lot of it. An’ the more I ran, the more I thought. Eventually I realized I was headed toward your house. That I wanted to see you, even if you were upset with me. Then. . . well, ya know what happened.” 

She does. 

The frazzled Misty that appeared on her doorstep over an hour ago may have disappeared from the girl in front of her, but she lives on in Cordelia's memories. “You ran that whole time?” She balks. 

Misty nods, a solemn act accompanied by the tightening of her fingers around her own.  

After a moment of staring, she contemplates all the things she could say. Most serious. Nearly all questions. But heaviness is an unwelcome visitor in this conversation, and she wants to be happy, just for a few hours. For Misty's sake.  

Leaning in closer, she appraises her in disbelief. “Misty, you must be starving.” Amusement begins to seep back into her friend's expression, so she continues in hope. “This has got to be the longest you've ever gone without food.” 

Misty glares playfully, failing to shove her when their hands are so intricately connected. A swoop of affection soars through her heart as she uses the momentum of the movement to tug Misty in closer and steal another kiss.  

It catches them both off surprise, such a simple act. One that many people might take for granted. Not her. She knows the sacrifices that have been made to get here. When she's pulling away, she catches the pink of Misty's cheeks and the content in her eyes. “I can’t believe you chose me over food.” She laughs. “I feel honored.” There’s the start of a response, but she cuts her off as her hands slip away. “Come on, I’ll order us something to eat.” 

She bounces on the spot, all tension having slipped from her expression. “Ooh, can we get pizza?” 

Fondness is evident in her smile, and she hopes Misty can feel every ray of it aimed toward her. “Yeah, sure.” She peers up and down at Misty again. “You can go shower if you want. I bet you want to get out of those clothes.” 

A relieved nod follows, then a hand is reaching up to run through her hair, dishevelled from Cordelia’s ministrations. “Can I have a bath instead?” She asks sweetly. 

“Do what you want.” Cordelia grins. “Make yourself at home.” 

Those words are a bit redundant, she thinks, because after seeing Misty in the habitat of her own home, she knows that she acts differently there. How the real Misty is confined to the tiny bedroom that bares nothing of her personality on its empty walls. For just a second, she wonders if Misty ever truly feels at home anywhere.  

But movement interrupts that thought, and Misty is standing. She cranes her neck so eyes don’t lose sight of the stunning girl in front of her. The same girl whose face is pink and eyes are twinkling, and she stares to Cordelia with such adoration that she wonders if she’s worthy of it.  

Misty makes to pad to the bathroom, but there’s a conflict. One far less disturbing than the ones she’s usually going through. Because her legs slow, a glance thrown over her shoulder. Teeth chew on her bottom lip in musing, and before Cordelia can even begin to question it, Misty is retracing her steps to stand before her on the bed.  

No warning given, she captures her lips in a kiss that initially surprises Cordelia, but one that takes her all of a few seconds to melt into. Soft lips glide against hers, parted just a little, where Misty’s breath mixes with her own unsteady ones. Closing her eyes, she deepens it, lost in the warmth and the fragile way that Misty cradles just under her chin. She’s never been kissed like this before, like she’s something precious. It makes her insides soften to jelly, the hairs on the back of her neck stand at attention.  

When Misty ever so slowly pulls away, she considers pulling her back in and never severing the connection of their lips ever again. This just feels so right

Misty keeps those deep blue eyes on her, smiling. She doesn’t say anything. The kiss had said it all.  

And Cordelia can’t stop herself from grinning, so much that her cheeks ache in earnest. She gently nudges Misty in the direction of the bathroom. “Go on.”  

The tiniest slither of reluctance sits in her pupils, but she does as she’s told. Moments later, Cordelia hears the faucets turning. Then the shuffle of movement of tiles as Misty removes her clothes. Red hijacks her cheeks, her ears, at the idea of Misty being naked on the other side of the door. As if she’s never been in this situation before.  

She sucks in a breath, forcing images of Misty’s porcelain skin from her wandering mind, and focuses on ordering some food for them. Her own stomach continues its grumble, now without Misty as a distraction. It painfully shrinks in on itself, and she satiates it slightly with a glass of water.  

As she waits, the last few hours begin to hit her. She feels lightheaded, delightfully confused, and she's all too ready to wake up from this dream on any given second. 

She can hear the soft movement of water from the bathroom, seeing as the door is still slightly ajar, then Misty's tuneful humming. Her kiss from moments ago still clings to her lips, making home right in the corners. The more she thinks about it, the more she realizes that she misses those lips. After so little time. Self indulgence demands that she seek them out again. She wants to. All she desires is Misty, Misty and more Misty, and she wonders if she's going to succumb to said greediness. 

The rollercoaster of the past couple of days swirls around her mind at an unforgiving speed. It’s possible she has experienced every emotion known to humanity within such a small span of time, and it shows. Her mind aches; exhaustion tugs at each of her muscles. She thinks she might even need a new heart from all the stress the poor thing has had to endure. 

Even so, right now it sits in a slow, steady beat. It may be weathered and battered from an ongoing storm, but it’s still working. And it still beats for one person in particular. 

Cordelia eyes the door once more, eyes glistening with love. What had changed Misty's mind in such a short span of time? What had been the final decision to coax her over the edge? She doesn’t know. What she is sure of is that she's oh so grateful for it. 

When her eyes drift away, she remains lay on her bed and stares up at the ceiling. All the while, her thoughts are, as ever, consumed by Misty, and the overwhelming happiness she'd felt when the girl had kissed her so passionately in the doorway. 

She may wear this smile for the rest of her life. 

... 

Misty eventually emerges from the bathroom, smothered by Cordelia's robe, and staring with nervous eyes. She already has fresh clothes sitting out for her, and Misty's lips widen when she sees them.  

She gets dressed in record time, returning in some loose shorts and a baggy, gray sweater. The sight brings Cordelia from her laying position so she’s sat up, leaning on one arm and admiring Misty’s figure with smouldering eyes. 

The Cajun catches it this time, an air of coyness growing about her. She runs fingers through damp hair and raises a brow. “What are you lookin' at?” 

Caught out, Cordelia chuckles at her own lack of inhibitions in that moment. A few kisses and she's ready to practically pounce on Misty. “You just look nice, is all.” 

“Nice?” She rolls on the balls of her feet. As eyes glance down to them, Cordelia smiles upon seeing sparkly nail polish on her toenails.  

“Pretty.” She corrects, allowing herself to be bolder.  

Misty's eyes may widen at that, like she's not quite used to such a compliment, but a warmth takes hold there. She halts in her fidgeting and makes her way to the bed where her weight lowers the mattress. Her presence brings with it a waft of coconut and bergamot. Before she is even settled, Cordelia has arms wrapped around her slender shoulders and she ignores the water droplets that gravitate from the bottom of her hair.  

“Missed you.” She mumbles out. 

Misty stares, a half smile on her lips. “I was only in the bathroom.”  

“Still.” Cordelia shrugs and decides that her feelings are valid. “I missed you.” She gently pushes wavy tendrils of hair from her face. “Do you feel better now?” 

Nodding, she leans into the embrace. It’s something so simple, being close to another person like this. But the intimacy keeps her grounded, it sits heavy on her chest in a way that she thinks her heart may burst.  

After a beat, Misty draws back in Cordelia's arms and appraises her like a piece of art, admiring every brushstroke and color combination. She feels all but naked in front of her. “You look tired.” Misty comments, lips pressing into a tight line. 

“I didn’t sleep very well last night.” 

Sadness carries in the way lines suddenly appear on her face, how her brows dip into one curved line. She struggles to hide her guilt. “I’m sorry.” 

With all the firmness she can muster, Cordelia shakes her head. “Don’t be.” 

“But Cordelia, I - "  

“It’s fine. Everything is fine now.” 

She says that like she believes it, like there aren't other forces out there who will be hellbent on ruining what they have. But she's awfully good at convincing herself, and for a brief moment, she does believe that everything is fine. 

Misty appears less convinced. At least she doesn’t retreat from Cordelia's touch. Instead, she uses it to keep herself anchored in reality. “What's gonna happen?” She asks thickly, visibly gulping. “With us?” 

Now, that is a question. A big, insurmountable one that she wishes she knew the answer to. 

That uncertainty is evident in her eyes, her shaky draw of breath. Misty watches her carefully either way, like she holds all the solutions. Her chest clenches with sudden pressure. “I’m not sure Misty. All I know is that I like you and – and I like this.” She gestures at the intimacy that has raised her heartbeat. “And I think that if you like it too, that’s all that should matter.” 

She nods, ever so slowly. A hand migrates slow across Cordelia's and leaves a ticklish trail in its wake. “I like this.” She agrees.  

Another breath, less hurried than moments ago. “Good.”  

That wandering hand finds a point to hold onto, just under Cordelia's elbow. Nails dig in, not painfully, and hold it down. “But what about my family?” 

Cordelia winces, a familiar chill filling the depths of her bones. “What about them?”  

Her lack of real concern, or maybe fear of showing it, forces a hard look from Misty. Eyes narrow, cheeks hollow out, and she gives a lasting sigh. 

“Delia. C'mon. Don’t tell me you’re not scared of ‘em finding out either.” 

“I am trying not to think about it.” 

If possible, that expression grows even more rigid. “Well, it’s all I can think about.” She emphasizes. “You don’t know what they’re like.” 

She thinks of her brief encounter of the Day's, and how it’d almost had her tiptoeing back into the closet. “I do under - " 

“No, you don’t.” Those words are barked out, but she's not angry. At least not at Cordelia, and so the older blonde allows her to continue with ears straining to catch every emotion in her southern cadence. “You don’t hear what they say, Cordelia. Ever since I was a kid, they’ve made me think that bein’ gay is the worst thing someone could be. That God couldn’t possibly love someone who does such sinful things.” 

The disconsolate shimmering of her eyes is like a stab to Cordelia's chest. She drags Misty as close as she can, until the girl is nestled against her chest. “You are worthy of so much love, Misty.” No hesitation, no lacking of passion. Just heartfelt words. That she hopes gets through the thick layered damage to Misty's mental worth.  

Misty’s arms slink around her waist and hands lock at the small of her back. “You think so?” 

“I think you need to stop beating yourself up for something that you can’t control.” 

“My Daddy says that succumbin’ to sin shows a lack of character.” It’s mumbled against her neck, vibrating painfully on her skin. 

At the words, Cordelia closes her eyes. “How can loving someone be a sin?” 

Misty doesn’t say anything to that. As it is, she's only become a pliant, heavy weight in the older blonde's arms that shifts every few seconds. 

Their conversation hints of problems to come, of how they're not out of the woods yet. But she's exhausted from the journey so far, and she doesn’t think she's ready for much more just yet.  

She can feel heat radiating off of Misty, starting to frizz the top of her hair. Said heat must be a result of her constantly turning thoughts, maybe enough to rival Cordelia's overthinking. After a pregnant pause, Misty eventually speaks. “I just wish they'd understand.” 

Cordelia doesn’t give her pointless replies of “maybe they will" because they both know that’s a lie. She heaves in a sigh, one that fills her chest with bitterness. “Me too.” 

Lips find purchase on Misty's hairline, a chaste kiss placed against it.  

“We're just going to take this one day at a time,” she affirms into the quiet room, “let’s just be us. And we can worry about other people later.” 

Those words are enough to have Misty’s eyes on her once again, warm skin tugged from hers and leaving ice in its wake. “Just us.” She smiles. Eyes search Cordelia's face again, trying to gauge the effect that the conversation is having on her friend? Girlfriend? Whatever they are. Shifting onto her knees, she pushes herself up and steals another kiss from Cordelia, eyes closed and lost in the feel of it. That familiar flutter flurries around Cordelia’s insides, especially when Misty speaks. “I like kissin' you.” Her tone is delicate, hushed and oh so honest. 

Despite the heavy air, a light smirk pushes onto her lips. “Well, I like when you kiss me.” 

Misty bows her head, smiling in a coquettish way with rosy cheeks. “You were right.” Humor tinges the syllables of her words, followed by an insistent nature.  

“I’m always right.” Cordelia grins. 

“But you are.” She holds onto her fingers, admiring the sapphire ring that sits there. Her smile adopts a wry nature. “It’s kinda annoyin', actually.” 

Nudging her with a half perturbed smirk, she raises a brow and begs for more of an explanation. 

To her relief, Misty offers one. “When you said that one day I’d find someone who made me feel fireworks when I kissed them.” Her eyes have lifted, as intense as ever, and only hold Cordelia in their sights with no lack of reverence. 

It’s a confirmation of everything she's hoped for, of affections so strongly reciprocated that she can almost forget the things they have to worry about. She reaches out, a hand brushing through Misty’s hair, then lowering to caress the delicate skin of her cheekbone. “I’m glad I was right about that.” She says, just as quietly. Then adds, with a flick of her tongue over dry lips, “and I am even more grateful that it’s me who makes you feel that.” 

Their lips press together once more, so many kisses gifted and taken now that the walls are torn down.  

As she deepens it, the swell in her chest increases wonderfully, the weightlessness about her makes her feel like she’s floating, and the way lips push against her have her grinning into the kiss. Their noses brush against one another, followed by the clashing of teeth, and she finds herself leading the actions without thinking. Hands roam Misty’s muscular back, firm yet soft, over the shirt. But she needs more, so much more. 

And that’s what leads them in a lower migration, finding the hem of that baggy sweater and slipping underneath. At the first feel of exposed skin, her body all but spasms excitedly, and heat pools between her legs. 

Unfortunately, it forces Misty to still under her ministrations, something catching in her throat. 

Eyes still closed, Cordelia has to swallow her content and makes way for the wash of guilt. “Too much?” She whispers out, peeking one eye open into a slither to see how Misty, though flustered, has that trepidation setting into her features. 

Her hands slip out from under the sweater, already lamenting the loss of contact. “A little.” Misty winces, then adds. “’m sorry. I just. . .that – it’s all a little much.”  

She may not be able to hide her disappointment, but she understands. Even if the point between her legs cries out. Cordelia shakes her head. “It’s okay. I got carried away.” Her smirk returns. “Did I ever tell you that you're really pretty?” 

Misty laughs, all low and delicate. “You mighta mentioned it.” 

“And you better believe it.” Watching Misty carefully, she well and truly hopes that she does.  

Any reply Misty might has is cut off by the doorbell calling out through the house, forcing her to stand. As she does, Misty’s hands linger on hers. Chuckles hum in her throat. “Come on, you are hungry, aren’t you?” 

“Ravenous.” She says emphatically, letting Cordelia tug her to her feet.  

With hands intertwined, they make their way downstairs. Even in the late hour, the sun is only just setting, and leaves a hint of orange just along the horizon. She admires it for a second before accepting their food with a smile and using her foot to close the door behind her. As she turns, Misty is right there. “Let me.” She insists, taking the boxes from her with a smile. 

Cordelia grins, feeling a little dizzy from such wonderful smells of take out food that she knows is awfully bad for her, but she really doesn’t care in that moment. Because soon she finds herself sat with it all scattered out onto the coffee table and Misty pressed against her side. The TV is turned on, more for background noise than anything, and the faux fire adds to the ambience.  

She's always loved to be cosy, whether it’s snuggled up with a good book, or sat listening to rain while she's cocooned in bed. This beats both of those, because Misty is near her, and smiling and chewing happily on pizza. And she just really, really loves her.  

“Mhm. I’m so hungry.” The Cajun announces as a piece of pizza disappears in approximately three bites.  

Cordelia watches, amazed. Incredulous. The next bite of a piece has mozzarella stretching between thin lips and the pizza, eventually snapping to then cling to Misty’s chin. As Cordelia rolls her eyes, Misty only grins around the food, before throwing in a couple of fries to her mouth. 

The next piece is gone, but she does take a moment to gulp at her soda until half of it is gone. Cordelia watches its decent down her throat, licking her lips at the ripples of movement down that supple skin. Turns out, even Misty drinking is enough to turn her on. 

But thankfully a distraction comes from her arousal, in the buzzing of Misty’s phone. She struggles around the food for a second, making a moan that Cordelia memorizes in all its beauty, and she reaches to look at the screen.  

Following a forceful swallow, her face pinches together into a frown. “Nellie is callin' me.” Confusion is palpable, and it spreads to Cordelia, who itches with curiosity. 

“Well, are you going to answer it?” 

Misty wipes the grease away from her mouth, then presses the button to do just that. “Hey, Nellie.” 

She pauses, the sound of a muffled voice carrying over so Cordelia can barely make out what the words are.  

“No, I’m at Cordelia's.” Misty says. “Yeah, I went straight there after track.” The lie comes out so easily that Cordelia almost believes it herself, until she remembers the events that have transgressed that night. “Mh huh. We're just studyin’.” 

There’s no hiding the way she's watching Misty, and as the Cajun catches her, she gives a strange smile that seems out of place.  

Her sister continues talking to her, beckoning a response. “Yeah, I’m fine.” She then rolls her eyes. “ Yes , I’ve had somethin' to eat.”  

She takes handful of crispy fries, shoving them in between words. “I know it's late.” Misty says after a beat, eyes flashing over to the grandfather clock in the corner, before she adds. “Actually, I was gonna stay here.” She gulps. “If that’s okay? It’s just a long way for Cordelia to drive and we got school tomorrow anyway an’ – yeah, she’s got a spare bedroom.” 

Cordelia’s interest peaks in tenfold, and she'd give anything to hear the other side of the conversation. But Misty is wrapping it up in haste with promises to her sister, ones that she clearly doesn’t intent to keep. 

Because Cordelia knows there is no way they are sleeping in separate beds tonight. 

And she echoes that sentiment to Misty the second she hangs up. The Cajun laughs. “I know. I just. . . I don’t want her gettin’ all weird about you again.” 

She freezes, muscles seized by panic.  

“Again?” 

Misty tilts her head, her eyes tight in the corners. “Yeah,” she muses, “she was askin' all kinds of stuff about you after you came for dinner.” 

Though Misty seems less fazed, Cordelia grows more anxious by the second. Seeing as she remembers the way Nellie had regarded them at the dinner table, how she'd felt caught out and under a glaring spotlight in that particular moment.  

Against a dry mouth, she forces out her question. “What kind of stuff?” 

“Like if you had a boyfriend, an’ then askin’ about your other friends.” She drifts off, blinking in bafflement at the clear tightening of Cordelia's muscles. “What's wrong with ya?”  

She feels a hand on her thigh, the heat of an intense gaze, and she lets her anxieties scurry into the back of her mind. Nellie can’t realize. She couldn’t possibly know. . . Cordelia fights against a frown, and wins. A half smile sits triumphantly in its place. “Nothing. I’m fine.” As if to prove it, she continues her eating and shuffles in closer to Misty.  

She accepts the response through thoughtful eyes, scrutinizing Cordelia for a moment. As she gives in, she sighs. “I can stay, can’t I?” 

“Only if you’re sleeping in my bed.” She smirks.  

Her forwardness shocks Misty for all of a second, until she is grinning in response. “Well, ‘course I am. What kinda sleepover would it be if we were in different rooms?” 

Cordelia giggles at her soft expression, and lets herself be consumed by that happiness again. She's learning to enjoy it while it lasts. 

“Where's your mom, anyway?” Misty asks after a few minutes. 

“New York.” Her rehearsed response comes, eyes never leaving the TV. 

There’s a pause, maybe to observe her or perhaps to inhale more food. “For how long?” 

She shrugs. “A couple of weeks.” 

Sympathy twists on Misty’s expression. “That’s gotta suck.” 

“It’s okay.” Cordelia says, a distinct lack of emotion about the whole situation. “I’m used to it.” 

That pity doesn’t shrink in her eyes, so Cordelia chooses not to look at it. “Hey, did you at least tell her about USC?” 

“Not yet.” She breathes, then adds with a hollow laugh. “I kinda had forgotten about all of that, actually. I need to call her.” 

There’s a nod in understanding, and she wonders if Misty had told her own family about her impending future. If they’re proud of her. But Misty doesn’t mention that. All she does is lean closer with a smile settling like fallen leaves on an autumn floor. “Can you believe we’re both goin' to LA?” 

The joy in her expression now is genuine, all too transparent. She'd never really gotten her moment to bask in their hard work, seeing as she'd kissed Misty and all that.  

She mirrors Misty’s movements, until their faces are merely inches apart. “I can’t believe it, but I’m glad we are.”  

“I prayed for it, ya know? God musta took pity on me and finally let me have somethin'.” Misty chuckles. 

“Or,” she offers, “we both worked really hard and deserve to go to LA.” With a loving grin, she adds. “Together.” 

The fake flames of the fire dance in Misty's eyes, just as hot as the love she sends rippling through Cordelia. “Maybe.” She laughs, and tucks hair behind either of her ears. “Can we really get an apartment together?” 

“Yes.” It doesn’t take a second of thought.  

Misty beams so brightly that it almost blinds her. 

“Can we get a dog?” 

This response takes slightly more time to find its way out, mostly because she isn’t expecting it. “No.” She laughs, letting it die on her lips as sadness seeps into Misty’s eyes. Her mouth quirks in upset. 

“What about a cat?”  

“Misty - " 

“A fish?” She bargains in desperation. 

Cordelia rolls her eyes in amusement. “We're not getting a pet.”  

Sure.” She scoffs in disbelief, then stuffs a piece of crust into her mouth and speaks around her chewing. “I’ll convince ya.” 

“No, you won't.” 

Her gentle smirk says otherwise, and Cordelia enjoys its place on Misty’s lips.  

In that moment, she really wishes they weren’t months away from college, and that the pair were already in the comfort of their own apartment. 

Still, this isn’t so bad. The house to themselves. On the eve of heartfelt confessions and sweet kisses. Their eyes lock; she wonders if Misty is thinking the same thing. Either way, her cold hand slips into Cordelia's and both sit, intertwined, on the older blonde's lap as they recline to idly watch the TV. Her thumb brushes over Misty’s fingers, all her rings gone in that moment. Its tender attention on the skin moves to her palm, then follows the unique imperfections in her skin to just below her wrist.  

Misty mewls at the feeling, a shiver noticeable in her arm. But she starts to withdraw as Cordelia gets higher, and the older blonde has perfected the meaning of that action. She sets a hard look on Misty, relinquishing no control as she takes hold of her arm and lifts the sleeve of the sweater higher to take sight of what Misty is hiding.  

And her decision is pretty justified, seeing as her wrists sit with zig zag cuts, more ferocious than Cordelia has seen on her yet. The dark scabs sit amongst a crimson outline, offensive and mocking against her beautifully pale skin.  

Misty makes to tug the sleeve back down, but Cordelia stops her with one firm hand. “It’s okay.” She says. It’s not. It’s really, fucking not. A morbid fascination keeps her eyes enrapt on the image in front of her, but she does manage to catch how Misty shakily breathes in front of her.  

“I’m sorry. I – fuck.” She closes her eyes, and her wrist sits limply in Cordelia’s hold. “I didn’t want to. I just. . .” When her gaze does return, it’s an abyss of emotion. “I can’t help it sometimes.” 

It stings like a hive of wasps have just been set free inside her chest, but she forces her expression to remain steady. She chases tears away with the notion that it’s not going to do anything to help. “Why didn’t you call me?” 

Misty blanches, then focuses on the caring way Cordelia is brushing her thumb over each cut, like it might magically heal them. “I’d just walked out on ya. The last thing you woulda wanted was me callin’ you up ‘cause I wanted to do somethin' stupid.” 

“It’s not stupid.” She affirms, annoyance in her voice. “You just said you can’t help it.” 

Misty sighs, a gaunt appearance flowing over her in those moments. “Don’t mean it ain’t dumb.” 

“People cope in different ways.” She insists, wishing she could think of a less harmful outlet for Misty to do her coping with.  

The Cajun remains silent, and Cordelia finds it all too stifling. The sight before her eyes. That self hatred brimming from Misty. Her own guilt for not having been at her beck and call. But she can’t always be there, she reasons. It doesn’t make her feel any better. She lifts that wrist in a slow motion, dragging Misty’s gaze with it, and then presses a loving kiss to the wounded skin. It’s a hopeful act, where she doesn’t quite know what she’s hoping for. She does it again, littering kisses along each and every one of the cuts until Misty tells her to stop.  

But she doesn’t. 

She watches with unshed tears in her azure eyes, held at ransom by her upset yet seemingly touched by Cordelia's gesture.  

There's a grimace on her face, though; one that causes her to halt. “Am I hurting you?” She questions quietly.  

Misty shakes her head, a tear making an escape then. As her wrist drops from Cordelia’s weakening hold, she seems to need another connection. She inches nearer, kissing at the plump skin of her cheek. “I’m sorry.” She says. “I’m sorry for this.” Another kiss. “For not telling you about my feelings sooner. And for gettin’ scared when you kissed me.” Her forehead drops, clashing against Cordelia's with a bump. “I’m sorry for everythin'.” 

She feels it then, the flow of tears dropping from sad eyes. Cordelia grabs Misty by the shoulders, her own face hard to counteract the softness in Misty's. 

“Stop apologizing.”  

Misty’s breath hitches with her tears, a choked noise following. 

Frustration bubbles inside of her. “You're allowed to feel hurt, Misty. You’re allowed to freak out. You don’t have to say sorry for feeling things,” She watches her carefully, then adds tenderly, “especially to me. I know how hard this is for you.” In return for Misty's kisses, she gives a set of her own. Down her jawline and across those now salty lips. “I am so proud of you.” 

The girl jumps back in shock, face twisting together like a convoluted set of vines. “Proud?”  

“Yes.” Cordelia laughs at her bewilderment through a low chuckle. “I wish you knew how brave you are.” 

She glances downwards. “I don’t feel it.” 

With her index finger, she coaxes Misty’s gaze back up and locks their gaze. “You will. One day.” 

“How do you know?” She whispers. Desperation is evident in her voice. 

Cordelia smirks in spite of the heavy air pushing through her lungs. “I’m always right remember?” 

The way that Misty regards her now, lips graced with a relieved smile, makes every bit of hurt worth it. Especially as the Cajun tugs her in for another kiss, with longing and yearning that she is no stranger to.  

And in that moment, she begs that she really is always right. 

Chapter Text

Cordelia wakes with bleary eyes and dry lips that she smacks together slowly. Any attempts to move are met with an unyielding grip on her. It confuses her at first, that weight. The slight twitching of something on her waist. Until she lets her pupils focus and they find purchase on the beautiful form in front of her. The events of the previous night come surging back into her mind with the speed of a lightening strike.  

It's just as electrifying, and would most definitely be enough to knock her off her feet if she wasn’t lying down. 

Those memories fill her mind delightfully. 

Misty kissing her.  

Finally confessing her feelings. 

And then the following few hours of what she can only call bliss. That elation still keeps her almost weightless this morning, worries cast away with her past self.  

She grins at the sight of Misty before her, slumbering all too prettily in a mess of hair and tangled limbs. Some of which have managed to wrap around Cordelia like they're meant to be there. Any magnetic pull that may have drawn Misty to her subconsciously tugs at Cordelia too. She inches in nearer, lips widening when it brings warmth to every available bit of skin. 

Misty makes a noise at the movement, but doesn’t wake. Instead, she stretches out those long, sinewy arms and legs with a half groan that lingers on the edge of her lips. Said stretch is like the push and pull of waves upon sand. Just as Cordelia starts to miss the close contact of that hot skin, it returns. Tighter, insistently holding on where it would never have dared before. It catches just in the dip of her waist, with a gentle strength that does nothing to keep arousal from making a sudden appearance inside of her. 

She shudders delightfully, inching ever nearer until there is no distinguishable space between. A content sigh flows from her lips at the contact, especially when Misty produces another sound. Just as enthralling. It makes a happy weight sit on her chest, and she wishes life could always feel so serene.  

Maybe it’s her subtle movement, or perhaps Misty is just finely tuned to her, because she is suddenly fluttering eyes open. Her pupils dart about for all of a few seconds until they decide to focus on Cordelia. The Cajun squints over at her, the way someone would peer at the morning sun. Not able to handle its brightness and beauty, but so desperate to capture just a slither of it.  

She gives a slow blink. When she notices the position of her hands on Cordelia, she sucks in a sharp breath, but doesn’t move them. “Mornin’.” She crows, in that raspy way that Cordelia loves wrapped around her accent. 

“Good morning.” They are barely inches apart, practically one form, so this feels like the best morning.  

Misty stretches again, her eyes closing this time. It gives Cordelia the opportunity to appraise the faint red pillow lines on her cheek with a half grin. “I don’t think I ever slept so good in my life.” 

“Well, you woke me up talking in your sleep again.” She giggles, poking at Misty's side as the girl is mid yawn and halting the action.  

She doesn’t even look sorry. Instead, there's an easy joy on her features. “Can’t help it.”  

“You were mumbling something about gnats.” 

Confused, Misty gives a tilt of her head and an incredulous stare. “I don’t really remember my dream.” Her growing smile pinches at the corner of her eyes with faint wrinkles. “I slept like a baby." 

“I know.” Chuckles prettily fill the morning air, dancing about them like petals flowing in the wind.  

Misty's combine with hers before she scoots nearer, that arm holding Cordelia so tightly that she couldn’t get away if she tried. For the record, she really doesn’t want to. Even in the stillness, her pulse negates the calm by beating as if she’s running a marathon.  

It quickens further when Misty’s feet nudge against her leg and bring with them a jarring, icy touch. “Misty.” She hisses. 

Panic chases away the serenity to her features. Drawing back, she regards with her wide eyes and teeth worrying her dry, lower lip.  

“What's wrong?” 

Cordelia's laughter, though a little delayed, puts them both back at ease. She drops her head against Misty's shoulder, smirking. “Your feet are freezing.” 

She catches a tut from the girl beside her. “Anythin' else you wanna complain about?” Sarcasm coats her words that, and she can feel the way Misty’s fingers twitch around her waist.  

Her face twists with an impish grin. “I’m not complaining.” 

Turning up to Misty, she finds amusement twinkling in her eyes. 

“This is nice.” Cordelia affirms. Then decides that it's not a good enough description, and adds over the sound of twittering birds outside. “I like waking up with you beside me.” 

Her confession is heartfelt, raw. Something she's wanted to say ever since the first time they shared a bed.  

Misty adopts a shyness, eyes flickering down to the sheets below them as she smiles to herself. “Even if my feet are cold an’ I talk even my sleep?” 

“Especially then.” She giggles, not missing a beat.  

She thinks Misty may be experiencing a similar swell of affection that she has; her entire expression lights up like a sunrise. Without warning, Misty rushes forward and delivers a sweet kiss. One that maybe she's a bit too sleepy to appreciate in all its glory. But she reciprocates, deepening the action until the bleeping of her alarm rudely interrupts. 

Any intentions of ignoring it don’t last very long. Its irritating announcement sits in her ears, refusing her a moment to enjoy the kiss as much as she wants. With a groan against Misty’s mouth, she pulls back and blindly reaches back for her phone. After a few moments of fumbling, she successfully grasps it and silences the alarm. 

By the time she returns attention to Misty, the Cajun has sat up and is pushing askew hair from her face. Cordelia reaches out fingers, playing with the ends in a sleepy, and happy, haze. 

But then Misty is sighing, an action that makes her entire chest puff out and then cave in on itself. “I don’t wanna go to school.” 

Brows knotting together, she lets question fill her expression.  

“Can’t we just stay here?” Misty asks of her, making to interlace her fingers with the ones currently toyi