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so, no one told you life was gonna be this way

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She’s running.

Oh god, she's running. In painful heels, and a wedding dress that hosts tattered ends; the once pure white material gathers dirt and dust and whatever crap lies on the street.

But dammit she keeps running.

Cordelia pants for air, humid as they push toward the ends of summer, and her body drenches with sweat. Despite the hot day, that runs cold as fear dominates it.

She continues to run, wedding dress flying through the wind that her own momentum creates. Away from her mother, away from Hank; away from a fate that up until an hour ago she had all but accepted.

Yet here she is, pushing open the door to a nearby coffee shop and practically pressing her whole weight against it, clammy hands and air. A bell announces her arrival. Most people would be ignored, she supposes, in the hustle and bustle of this seemingly busy store.

But not her. Obviously not.

How often do ragged brides burst through these doors? Not very often, if the wide eyes and bewildered stares of the other patrons are anything to go by.

What are you doing, Cordelia?

Of all the places to be, this is certainly not where she'd expected to flee. Her apartment could have worked, but she shares that with Hank, and it’s filled with photos and things and memories that are all him.

She winces, and suddenly inhales the scent of rich coffee that climbs up her nostrils. It hits the back of her throat, close to heaven, and there she closes her eyes for a second hoping that maybe some deity can fix her life for her. When they don’t, she lifts the front of her satin gown higher to avoid tripping over it, then rushes for the counter.

“Just give me something strong.” She demands of the cashier, barely out of high school from the looks of it.

He gawks at her attire, enough to draw a hiss from within her.

Shaking hands sit flat on the dark counter. “Today would be nice.” After that, she bites her own tongue, realizing that she sounds all too much like her own mother. How awful! Her eyes widen, brain spasming as though hit with volts of electricity. What is Fiona going to do when she finds out she's gone?

“Oh God.” She mutters under her breath, suddenly ice cold with implications and consequences.

Here, her entire body slumps forward where it contorts in on itself. Now that adrenaline begins to ebb away, there is space in the chasm within for something else. What makes home there? Panic, of course. Overthinking. Two of her worst habits, as kindly mentioned by her almost husband Hank.

Is he waiting for her? Shit, he'll be waiting for her. At the alter, waiting and waiting, for nothing.

She's here, amidst strangers, the bitter scent of coffee all around her, and judgemental looks from every direction. Yet she'd rather be here, even with that cold sweat running the length of her back.

The coffee arrives, an espresso that she downs in pretty much one gulp and then pleading chocolate eyes ask for another.

Until a pressing matter comes.

“Do you want to pay for that one first?” he awkwardly points to the empty cup, barely a few drops left.

“Oh.” She jumps, fluttering eyelashes. “Yes, of course.” Pushing back dishevelled hair, and cringing at how damp it is, she then reaches downwards. Only for horror to rise within her.

She doesn’t have any money.

She’s in a wedding dress; of course she doesn’t! Why would a bride have the need to be carrying around her credit card?

Well, to buy coffee for one. And now realization is hitting her like crashing into the icy surface of a lake. Eyes spreading wider and heart picking up the beat, she once again readies herself to bolt and be on the lam from not one, but two situations.

And then she hears a voice that has been absent for so long that she doesn’t quite believe it at first. “Cordelia Goode?

She pivots on her teeny tiny heel, and settles a relieved gaze upon the blonde. “Oh my gosh, Coco, is that you?”

The woman stands barely a few feet away, all coiffed and put together, and certainly having a better day than Cordelia. Never mind. She leaps toward her anyway, irrespective of how desperate it makes her appear. Welcomed into her touch, Cordelia sighs ever so softly. “It’s so good to see you.”

“Jesus, look at you.”

“Ah,” she begins dryly, as though she doesn’t want to burst into tears. She does, for the record. “Well, it’s no Gucci, but it’ll make a decent price on eBay."

Her joke lands stiffly, awkward in nature, and her discomfort appears in heated cheeks as Cordelia spots that not only is Coco gaping at her, but three other women sit within the perimeter.

Behind her, the barista clears his throat. With lips forming into an ‘o’, she winces and pouts in Coco’s direction. A move she usually saves for Hank – it works here, too. Coco flashes a card toward the boy, sliding it across the counter. She turns attention back to Cordelia, “come on sweetie, come sit with us.”

She’s still trembling, turns out, as Coco leads her by the hands to the corner of the establishment where eclectic and worn armchairs face an even older couch, big enough to squeeze three people on.

In her time of need, she’s allocated an armchair just for herself as people shuffle to accommodate her. That gaping continues.

Cordelia shifts under the attention, returning it to Coco with this ginger smile. Fingers run through her hair (ruined, by the weather) which snags on her nails (also ruined, as she’d climbed out of the bathroom window).

Awkwardness takes hold, all the while Cordelia finds herself still breathless and dizzied, and altogether under the influence of pulsing adrenaline.

“Well?” Coco pushes.

She sucks in a breath. Here we go. “Well, what?”

“You just flounced in here like a hurricane on a wedding dress and now you’re gonna act all dumb?”

“I – ”

Anything else is halted from passing her lips. What could she possibly say to justify what she’s done?

“What is going on? Last I heard you were all loved up and marrying Hank Foxx – on your way to some pretty fine looking inheritance. . .”

That’s right; Coco only knows the basics. Rumours, what her mother wants the world to see. And the reason that Coco doesn’t know just how shitty her relationship with Hank has become is because the two haven’t spoken in an awfully long time. Something close to a few years now.

“I ran away.”

She winces, eyes scrunching closed as though she can’t bear to look at herself.

“You left?” Eyes bulge in surprise – not Coco’s, but everyone’s.

Cordelia ignores them and pouts pathetically. “I couldn’t do it, okay? I couldn’t marry him. I – shit, he’s gonna be at the alter. He’s gonna be waiting for me. . .” The reminder hits her with the weight on an elephant on her chest. Downright suffocating. Or maybe that’s the fact that she can’t even breathe in this dress. Still, there’s panicking to be done. “Oh my.” She grabs onto Coco. “He’s waiting and I’m not there.”

Try as she might, there is no guilt. Just panic. Pure, unparalleled panic.

“No shit, Sherlock.”

Now, Cordelia cradles her own head in her hands, touching at stray hairs that droop down either side of her face. “I can’t believe I did this.”

Those words are hollow, faint. But emote only a smidgen of what she’s feeling.

She’s grateful as another coffee is brought to her by the barista. The hot liquid acts as a calming agent that settles her fraying nerves. And soon, her legs stop shaking.

It doesn’t stop her thoughts from going over and over and over around her brain until she is inundated.

“Wow.” One of the woman dare to join in. “This guy must be a real dick, huh?”

Cordelia blinks at the brunette, at first stammering over her response. “Hank? He. . .he’s fine. Just – I don’t think he’s. . .the one.”

“And you realized that an hour before you married the guy?” Another asks in surprise, a dryness to her voice.

“Queenie!” Coco chastises.

The woman’s hands are held up, dark eyes narrowing. “I’m just saying.”

Cordelia may feel rather put off by the statement, annoyed even, but she can’t deny the fact that it’s downright true.

She feels the weight of a hand on her left shoulder, against the puffy sleeve of her wedding dress. “Just ignore them, sweetie. They are about as sympathetic as a blade of grass.”

For a second, there is a shyness in her as she regards the three woman. Certainly all wearing a different shades of contemplation, with some more judging than others. The timidity surprises even herself though. She isn’t a shy person, not ever.

Then again, she never thought she’d abandon someone on their wedding day. So, looks like she’s learning a lot of novel things today.

Her self appraisal is cut short.

“Gosh, I haven’t even introduced you. I got sidetracked. . .understandably, but Delia.” She softens at the use of her old nickname. “These are my friends. Queenie, Nan and over there is Mallory. And this, guys, is Cordelia Goode.” The blonde smiles, with almost a fondness there, and Cordelia embraces the safeness she feels with her. “We went to College together.”

“Ah, so you did Coco’s bogus nutrition course, too? Nan smirks.

It sets Coco off with the ease of a match to gasoline. “It was not bogus!” The desired effect has the brunette snickering.

Their tease comes easily, built on years of friendship, and Coco’s exasperation is clearly all part of the ruse. Cordelia envies said ease; lunches with her own “friends” are a labored affair of nothing more than pained conversation.

Already, she feels herself relaxing in the presence of these women.

Especially as Mallory continues with more japes, now nudging at Coco with a widening grin. “Aw, don’t let them get to you. You give people great advice.”

“I’ll have you know that my advice has been published.”

“Yeah.” Queenie scoffs. “By your Mom. Because she felt bad for you.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“We’re keeping your ego in check, babe.”

Coco gives a liberal roll of her eyes in the very Coco way that Cordelia remembers when they’d been friends. Why ever had they drifted apart? One quick glance down at her hand offers the answer; there sits her engagement ring. A bitter reminder that she’d all but fallen for Hank and left her friends in the wake of it all.

She swallows that guilt and peeks up at the woman. Older, a more matured set of angles to her face. But still Coco, and still just as enthusiastic.

“So,” Mallory joins in with a tentative push toward answers. “What exactly is your plan?”

“. . .plan?”

Amusement, with a healthy amount of concern twinkles in their eyes. Cordelia bows her head, just like she does when under the scrutiny of her mother's scathing looks.

She feels equally as gormless for a second.

Mallory chuckles. “Yeah – I assume you’re not in a rush to get back to your fiancé. . .”

It dawns with the heat of a blistering sun; her skin prickles under the attention. “Oh, I – I.” Her mouth opens and closes. “I could. . .maybe. . .” Then, she says a statement that brings a fresh bout of nausea. “I could go live with my mother. Wait no, she’s already gonna kill me for this, or I’ll kill her more likely if I have to live with her.”

The more and more she thinks with these escalating thoughts, the more she questions what she has done.

She hasn’t just left Hank at the alter; she has flipped her entire life upside down!

“I – crap.”

And with that resigning sigh, she drops her head into her hands, muttering out pathetically. “What am I gonna do?” She considers the dwindling options, the troubles ahead, only to be offered salvation from one of the strangers who are all ears to her woes.

“Hey, Co. Didn’t your roommate just get a new place?”

A pause. Brief silence.

Coco visibly gulps and speaks with the hint of reluctance. “Yeah. . .”

She shifts that hesitation away when she spies the sudden way that Cordelia’s eyes light up, the hope that lives within. Funny, how such a notion is far more tolerable than living with her own flesh and blood. And, estranged friends or not, Cordelia is unashamed to say she’s currently pouting the woman’s way. Eyes flicker wider, encompassing a whole host of emotions.

She hopes and pleads in silence, her heart caught in her throat.

A sight she must be, in a bedraggled wedding dress hair askew, and adopting a melancholy about her that is maybe too difficult to deny.

Coco shares a glance with her other friends, twitching fingers together.

Then, she gives a lasting sigh.

...

“Through here is the bathroom. I use it at 6am sharp every day, so please be an accommodating guest and work your schedule around that.”

Cordelia nods along slowly, struggling to absorb all of the information. In the back of her mind, she is instead thinking about Hank and the fact she should call him, and the way Coco rearranges the towels really isn’t something she cares to hear about.

Stood in the large apartment, she stares around at the fittings, the furniture, all inherited from Coco’s grandmother who used to live here. “You can get to the fire escape through the window – Queenie likes to sit out there. She’s just across the hall actually, with her roommate. So if I’m ever not around, you’ll see another friendly face.”

Cordelia smiles, nothing short of genuine.

“Thank you, Coco.” She clutches at the damp material of her dress nervously, flicking her tongue between dry lips. “I really appreciate this.”

“Well, I couldn’t exactly let you live with your mother.”

Cheeks puffing out, she laughs.

“Is she still. . .?”

“Fiona?”

Her dry words earn this inquisitive glance. Cordelia shakes her head, with it sending her veil fluttering behind her in the still air. “She’s worse.” Chuckles follow, even if devoid of humor. The woman may be laughing, but it doesn’t cover the gnawing sensation inside.

“Oh damn, serious?”

“As a heart attack.”

“Jeez, well then,” Coco offers another smile, a hand on her shoulder, and now with Cordelia actually in her home, she appears to have come around to the idea. “Come on, let me show you your room.”

For the first time that day, Cordelia feels somewhat close to herself.

...

That content doesn’t last.

“Yes, Mom, I know. Well, I’m sorry that I embarrassed you in front of all of your friends – I’m sorry. No. Fiona, listen to me.”

She speaks intermittently between the small lapses in Fiona’s reprimanding. Spoken to like a child, an imbecile; two things that Fiona far commonly refers to her as.

“Do you realize what you have done?”

“I can’t marry him.” She emphatically says. Then, for good measure, adds. “I don’t love him.”

On the other end of the line, she hears a sharp hiss. An inhale of breath, readying for much unfavorable things to drop from Fiona’s lips. “I don’t give a shit if you love him or not – do you know how much money I spent on this wedding?”

She rolls her eyes, continuing to pace back and forth around the quaint bedroom. “Yes, I – ”

“And do you know what this is going to do to the business? You stupid girl, you have ruined everything.”

“Mom.” She tries, hiding her hurt.

“Don’t you try and ‘mom’ me like that’s going to fix this damn mess.”

As she berates, her steady and angered voice grows deeper with rage, and forces Cordelia to hold to phone further away from her ear. If only to save her sensitive hearing.

“How exactly do you want me to fix it?” She asks, resisting the urge to rip out her hair. The same hair that is still coated in product and fallen awry since the run from the church.

Boy, she’s ready for a shower. To get out of this dress. How she yearns for her own soft and fluffy pajamas, but she has none of those here. Not in this room (her room, she guesses) and instead all the way across town.

Looks like she’s gonna have to settle for whatever Coco can muster up.

First things first, she has an enraged mother to appease. “Can’t you just look at things from my point of view for just a second?”

“No.”

“You are so frustrating!”

“And you, Cordelia, have really outdone yourself in the disappointment department. Huh, at least you excel at something.”

Cordelia rubs at her aching temples, knowing there and then that she’s never going to hear the end of this. Fuck, she needs a drink.

...

The shower comes first.

A hot, steamy encounter with the floral scented bathroom where she stands in the spray for much longer than needed. Each second is a cathartic cleansing of the day from her skin.

Sadly, the memories deep down cannot be washed away. They teeter on the edge of a constant threat to bring tears, maybe.

Not that she’s sad she hasn’t got married. In fact, the lack of a wedding brings with it this awfully big sense of relief. Because she doesn’t love Hank, and maybe she hasn’t for a long while (she really needs to call him).

Even so, her hands tremble despite the heat. Her heart sits brimming with things she can't understand, pushing it past its limits.

And she uses her lengthy shower time to decide just what she is going to do.

She doesn’t have a job, a permanent place of her own. Hell, she doesn’t have a credit card this isn’t connected to Hank or Fiona in some way. This is something the experts would call ‘well and truly fucked’.

Cordelia tries this new look with unease, wearing it as she would someone else’s clothes. Ill fitting and unfamiliar, it leaves a shiver on the skin it touches.

But hey, adventure is exciting, right? That’s what people say. People far more daring than her.

Shutting off the water, she stands for just a few minutes to shrug off the residual droplets. She reaches for a towel. Soft, but not as soft as hers at home. Well, ex – home. It wraps just as easily around her thin body and soaks up the water.

After she’s patted her body dry, she rubs her long locks between the fabric and sighs out her satisfaction. Clean, refreshed. Still terrified.

She hurries past the mirror, grateful that it still has a healthy layer of steam clinging to it, and searches for her pajamas. “Shoot.” She grumbles, realizing she didn’t bring them from the bedroom.

The towel is wrapped around her naked form, and she pokes her head out of the door to find no one in the lounge. That gives her opportunity to rush across and get dressed.

Well, in theory.

“You’re not Coco.”

The low voice startles her, has her pivoting in her heels with gusto and attention faced toward the source. Another woman, stood with her hand grasped on the open fridge door and the other held plainly at her jutted out hip.

She’s like nothing Cordelia has ever seen before, in a series of flowing and tassled layers that in no way match but compliment each other nonetheless. The top layer, a black and blue shawl, sits weighed down by a hefty amount of shining blonde curls. They just about hide her envious host of necklaces; gemstones and crystals, and silver that glistens under the lamp lights nearby.

What is most transfixing isn’t her clothes, but the serene smile she’s wearing. All too friendly, too easy. Like they’ve known each other in a past life and their inevitable reunion is finally here. "You must be Cordelia then. . ."

Cordelia visibly swallows and tightens her hold on her towel. More so when the woman subtly allows sapphire eyes to droop that little bit lower. They jolt back up as Cordelia speaks.

“That’s me.” She laughs awkwardly.

The routing in the fridge continues, until the woman resurfaces with a carton of orange juice and a handful of small tomatoes.

One is placed between plump lips.

Cordelia blinks at the strange confidence she oozes, held in the spot by it. She isn’t too intimidated that she can’t speak. “And you, random woman in Coco’s apartment, are?” she pushes.

“Oh.” This soft syllable flows across the room, all silly and sheepish. “Right.” Now grinning and inching closer, the woman reaches out two hands toward Cordelia. Both wrists are weighted down with bangles and threaded bracelets in all colors. “I’m Misty.”

Cordelia takes said hands with one of her own, allowing it to be shook enthusiastically. “Misty.”

Before any more information can be drawn and unravelled from this woman, Coco bursts from her own bedroom. Just as Cordelia had been earlier, she is in a heated discussion with someone else on the other end. “Look, I don’t care what excuses you have. No, you listen to me.”

Her tone is so domineering, so shocking, and Cordelia blinks at the woman. She’d forgotten about this side of Coco.

“I want this sorted by the time I get into the office, Claire. If it’s not, heads will roll, I swear to Jesus Christ himself.”

At the dramatics, Misty catches Cordelia's gaze, then rolls her eyes. As though they’re friends, like they’re in on a joke together.

But Coco is hanging up the phone and groaning profanities under her breath. “Why do I work with amateurs?” She casts her gaze across the room, where Misty has hidden the tomatoes between lips and they now puff out her cheeks like a hamster. “Misty, I know that you eat my food. You don’t have to hide it.”

Said tomatoes are swallowed and attention turned elsewhere as Cordelia finally gets her information. Coco comes to stand at the table, gathering items in her bag.

“I see you guys have met. Misty lives across the hall, but apparently they don’t have anything to eat there.” She eyes Cordelia. “I thought I gave you some clothes?”

Her cheeks darken with heat. “You did. I just. . .” She lamely points to the bedroom door.

“Ah, you got cornered by Misty. She’s got a talent for that.”

“I ain’t cornerin’ anyone.” Misty protests in between gulps of orange juice. “I was just given her a proper introduction like my Momma taught me.”

Coco scoffs and sets a look on the curly haired woman. “A proper introduction. Sure. And now that you’ve seen her half naked you probably have your sights set on her to be your rebound girlfriend, but sorry baby, she is unfortunately heterosexual.”

This begins a series of emotions across Misty’s pale features, but then she’s rolling her eyes again. Across from her, Cordelia is pinker than she remembers being in a while.

It is a reminder, however, that there is nothing but a towel between her and complete nudity with her company.

“I’m just gonna. . .” She starts awkwardly, tiptoeing away.

Her pace quickens the further she goes, until she’s crossing the threshold and soon finds soft carpet between her bare toes. There, she turns, finding herself moved by some inexplicable force.

That force, turns out, appears to be another gaze, an altogether magnetic lure of blue eyes. Although Misty is talking to Coco and amicably nodding along, she is looking elsewhere. Looking right at Cordelia.

Even when caught out, her smile only widens.

With an awkward return of the action, she tucks wet hair behind her ear and rushes into her makeshift bedroom. Only as the door is closed, does she realize that she’s been holding her breath.

She slowly pads over to the bed, cold under her touch, and lets one question sit on her mind as she peers over at her ruined wedding dress.

Have I made a mistake?

Chapter Text

Voices sound on the other side of the door; laughter and friendly banter to the point where she hears Coco snorting out her giggles. Cordelia lays for just a moment, staring up at the cream ceiling.

Her first morning in a new existence, and she’s still testing the waters.

For one, it’s weird to hear any noise in the morning. To hear anything other than her own thoughts. She slowly pulls herself into a sitting position, stares at that door that keeps her at bay from pretty much complete strangers, and then sighs.

You can do this.

So, she forces herself to. Awkwardly tugging at the loose pajamas, she decides that it is better to give her thoughts some company. When alone, they run the risk of spiralling.

Any subtle entrance is denied as the hinges of said door creak. All heads turn to her, too many sets of eyes for. . .7am. Cordelia gapes. Normally, she wouldn’t dream of being up so early, and would typically only meander about until her mid morning yoga class. Damn, she’s gonna have to stop her classes!

“Well, look finally joined us.” Coco smirks, but then adds in a softer tone, “did you sleep okay?”

Not at all. “Yeah.” She nods, then finds herself peering at the other two woman curiously. Both helping themselves to any food presented on the small, glass table.

“Oh, you’ll get used to them being over here.”

Queenie continues eating her breakfast at the small table. “I’d eat at mine, but Misty spent the whole night burning some stinky shit and now I can’t eat without wanting to gag.”

The others laugh along with ease and understanding but Cordelia, a stranger to this routine, wrinkles her brow. “Burning what?”

“Oh, something for a spell.”

Now, perplex grows in tenfold. “Excuse me - a spell?”

“Damn white girl thinks she’s a witch.” Queenie rolls her eyes, then deadpans over a mouthful of toast. “You get used to it.”

“As in, wearing a pointy hat and flying a broomstick kinda witch?” Cordelia asks with this disbelieving tug of a smile. Misty certainly hadn’t appeared like that when she’d met her. A little unique, sure, but nothing outrageous of the sort. “Are you joking with me?”

Coco nudges her side with a smirk, then continues in the process of applying her lipstick in the reflective microwave door. “You have all the questions this morning, don’t you?”

“I – ”

“Forget about Misty, what are you gonna do today?” she draws back, placing a hand on her hip over a black pencil skirt.

Cordelia balks, falling prey to more staring. Queenie has stopped chewing, and Mallory pokes her head up from where she’d been jotting down in a notepad.

“Did you talk to your husband yet?” she asks. “Oh, wait, not husband – fiancé.” Another apologetic cringe. “Ex – fiancé?”

“Hm.” Cordelia tugs out the remaining chair and drops herself to it miserably. “I don’t really know what he is anymore. . . I tried to call yesterday but it went straight to voicemail. Then his Dad picked up the next time and that was a whole thing.” She waves away the memory with distaste on her tongue. “I just – all night I kept thinking about his reaction when he found out I’d left and I – I. . .”

The words die into nothing, but are still waited on with anticipation. Her messy life, it seems, is entertainment for all.

Queenie shrugs. “I say don’t even call him at all. Not exactly like he knows where you are.”

“She can’t do that!” Coco exclaims in surprise.

The same shock is shared by Cordelia, even if the idea of it all makes her queasy. “I owe him an explanation at least.” She absently spins her engagement ring around her finger. “Maybe I’ll feel better then.”

“Just you wait and see, Delia. Things will work out for the best. And hey, when they do, you can join us in the real world.” A wry smile is offered, “it sucks.”

“Gee, you’re making me feel really good about this whole thing.”

Coming to walk behind her, Coco squeezes her shoulder. “It’ll be fine. And just remember, you could be living with your mother right now.” Before Cordelia can react any further than blanching, she starts again, “did you want any breakfast?”

“I’m not really hungry.” She says.

She shrugs and continues her routine of getting herself ready, all the while the other two women delve back into their own tasks. “Suit yourself.” Just like that, an easy silence follows. It’s a kind of comfortable that Cordelia enjoys, a lack of forced interactions that have her chest sighing out softly.

It’s nice.

Those niceties end the second the front door bursts open. With it, the hurricane that is Misty scurries inside. In a baggy sweatshirt that reaches her knees and bare feet padding against the wooden floor, she rushes for the kitchen. “Hey,” comes a breathless greeting, a flurry of golden hair as she’s suddenly crouching to rummage in the nearest cupboard. “You got any basil?”

Coco raises a brow. “No, you took the last of it.”

Her nose wrinkles in annoyance, head shaking. “What about bay leaves?” When that comes up short, she lets her southern cadence jump an octave, “dill?”

It earns a groan from her roommate. “What the Hell you doing over there now?”

“Just,” she freezes, then gives an attempt at a nonchalant shrug, “stuff.” Slamming the doors closed, she pushes herself up on toned legs.

“You know there’s a store right down the street.” Mallory offers helpfully, smiling over at the woman.

To which Queenie scoffs and laughs away such silly notions. “That would involve her having money – and we all know this bitch still ain’t paid me her half of the rent.” A pointed glance is sent Misty’s way, falling on seemingly deaf ears as she hurries to ascertain certain items. She locates a jar of honey with a bright smile, a beam of satisfaction, and Cordelia peers at her in wonder.

Misty had heard the not so subtle jab, and turns to lean herself on the counter. “I’m workin’ on it - I got five clients today.”

“Woowee, big day for Misty.” Coco chuckles, “hey, speaking of work, when am I gonna get my free massage that you keep on promising me.”

Misty raises her brows. “Free?”

Only for the jar of honey to be pointed out. “You take my food. I get free massages. That'a our deal, Day.”

Easy laughter flows from the curly haired blonde, coiling around the jar protectively. “Fine, fine. You win. But you’re gonna have to wait until my actual payin’ customers ain’t hirin’ me.”

“Won’t be long then,” Queenie teases, earning a rather sharp pair of eyes aimed her way.

“You want a free massage or what?”

Hands are held up in mock surrender, “I am joking, I’m sure you are a wonderful masseuse with magic hands.”

To her own surprise, Cordelia finds herself staring at Misty’s hands. Drawn without thought. Maybe it’s just her bleary morning mind, easily persuaded in such a stupor. Either way, Misty’s fingers wrap firmly around the jar, not a single one devoid of rings in all shapes and sizes. This woman has more jewellery than Cordelia and that is saying something!

“Magic hands?” Queenie repeats, eyes shining with mirth in this dangerous kinda way that makes Cordelia nervous. Under her breath, the dark haired woman mutters, “that’s clearly not what Olivia thought.”

Suddenly, the pleasant morning changes.

Shadowed by rapidly approaching storm clouds, Cordelia finds herself thrown for a curve ball when a viscous air fills the kitchen. She volleys eyes from one woman to another, trying to gage what, why, and who the hell Olivia is. Until she spots the way Misty’s expression falls, hurt all too evident in her eyes. That vulnerability lasts for only a few seconds before a frown is hoisted right up and sits under the guise of a vehement anger. Pushing herself off the counter, she stands straight and proud, then negates that with a certain something in her voice. “I’m gonna, uh, go.”

“Misty.” Queenie begins upon the woman’s retreat for the door.

Nothing. Only the sight of hunched shoulders walking away from them.

“Misty, I was kidding, come on!”

The door slams behind her. Coco takes a long gulp of her coffee. “You shouldn’t have said that,” she sing songs into the mug.

“It’s been three months. . .she can’t still be hung up on her!” Queenie throws her hands up in annoyance, but is already standing with the scrape of a chair.

“You gonna go apologize?”

“Unless I want her cursing me in my sleep, yeah.”

Cordelia furrows her brow, watching the door close once again. She’s torn between desperately wanting to know, and remaining on the intrepid line where she knows it isn’t any of her business.

Still. . . “What was that all about?”

Coco pushes a coffee in front of the woman, which doesn’t touch in favor of waiting for an answer. Misty’s crestfallen expression sits on her retinas, and suspicions are soon confirmed.

“That was it being abundantly clear that Misty still isn’t over being dumped by Olivia.”

The idea of someone dumping the attractive blonde seems strange to Cordelia, but she accepts the information nonetheless. “Oh, what happened?”

Mallory and Coco share a look.

“Now, that is a story for another time.” Coco begins, “but you’re probably safer not mentioning that name.”

“I wasn’t planning on it. . .in case you didn’t notice, I’m kind of in the middle of my own mess.” Finally, she takes hold of that coffee and practically inhales the first gulp. It brings a vibrancy to her insides that shakes off the early hour.

“It’s all fine. I’m sure Hank is going to be oh so keen for your little chat today.”

Cordelia senses the sarcasm, and curses it away in the back of her mind. “If you carry on, I’ll drag you along for support.”

“What are you gonna say to him?” Mallory poses curiously.

“I – ” She starts with such unprompted confidence and then, it just fizzles. Dissipating outwards as thoughts detangle before her. “I don’t know.”

“Sorry for climbing out of the bathroom window on our wedding day might be a good way to start.”

“Coco.”

“Sorry, but I was coerced into this by my controlling mother?” She tries instead.

Cordelia rolls her eyes. “Will you stop?”

“Sorry, but I’ve decided I wanna experiment sexually and you’re just not doing it anymore with your plain vanilla missionary.”

“Coco!”

She smirks, adopting an aura of smugness. “Am I wrong?”

Here, Cordelia is coaxed into a corner by the accusations, with her back firmly pressed against the wall. Her lying has always been transparent as glass, nothing to match the astuteness that Coco has when it comes to this sort of stuff. So Cordelia tries to keep her spluttering to a minimum and stifles any incriminating reaction. The pink that crawls across her cheeks betrays her.

Coco’s smirk blossoms upon shiny, red lips.

With a proud tilt of her chin, Cordelia shrugs. “I’m not going to dignify you with an answer.”

“Oh honey, you already did. And believe me, as soon as this is all cleaned up, I am going to find you way more adventurous men than Hank Foxx.” The promise is firm, excitable; a possible opportunity to be a matchmaker having Coco fall giddy. “Believe me, there is a whole world you’re missing out on.”

It feels like a stab at her fiancé (ex. . .dammit!), at Cordelia herself, and she quickly finds her head bowing. “I don’t want the whole world.” She admits, far too vulnerable for this time in the day. “I just want. . .more, you know?”

Mallory’s smile grows, as does Coco’s. Outside, as if the sun is eavesdropping on their conversation, the world glows a little brighter.

“We get that.” Coco nods.

Cordelia tiptoes around her own words. “That doesn’t sound too corny?”

“Come on, you always were a hopeless romantic. I’m sure we can organize you running into some guy’s arms dramatically into the middle of the street as it rains.” That ribbing continues, just like they had done many years ago.

Suddenly, she feels age shook from her bones. Her spirit loses some of its heavy load, and her smile is genuine. “Shut up.” She mutters, going for another gulp of the coffee. “Not like you don’t want that either.”

“Sweetie, I get wined and dined on a daily. The least I can do is throw a bone your way.”

The flutter of laughter bubbles up her throat, soon falling freely. She doesn’t remember the last time one of her mornings had been like this. Already, in Coco’s apartment, she can feel herself spreading roots.

They beg to take hold.

...

Cordelia feels awfully refreshed after her morning shower, cleansed and sweet smelling, and hopefully masking the fact that her insides are in nothing short of turmoil.

Such panic reigns within that she struggles with locking the front door on her exit. Even with the key fitted neatly in the lock, no amount of twisting, turning, or bestowing profanities, does the job.

In the end, she loses her dwindling patience and kicks at the wooden frame.

“Ow, oh crap!”

In hindsight, she should not have done that while wearing pumps.

Just as the throbbing in her toes reaches a peak, she is dismayed to find a spectator to her misfortune. “The door done something to piss you off?”

Gasping, she spins on her good foot and drops the keys in the process. Misty stands there, a bemused twitch of her lips.

She is dressed, too, this time in a short, sleeveless flowery shirt, and a floor-length flowing skirt that is held up by a golden belt. Her pale tummy pokes out just above it, and her cheek appears to be smudged with some sort of gray ash.

“Um.” She twists back around to the door, allowing for sheepishness. “You weren’t supposed to see that.”

“Oh, it can be our little secret.” Misty grins, tongue poking out between a set of white teeth. Here, she lowers herself to grab the abandoned keys. As she moves in nearer, there is a distinct smell of lavender, tainted by the singe of burning. “Think you’re havin’ a hard enough time without people thinkin’ you abuse doors too.”

It's a silly joke, an almost lame one, but Cordelia finds herself reacting to it in kind. “Yeah,” she laughs, rubbing a hand awkwardly over the smooth skin of her wrist.

Misty stares at that, at her; the distinct lack of speech is scarily noticeably, so much so that Cordelia doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. Far from fazed, Misty’s lips spread wider. She finds the right key and makes quick work of jiggling the door locked. “See?” She offers, shifting to the left to show Cordelia, “you gotta lift up the handle and hold it to the right like that when ya twist it.”

“Oh, Coco didn’t say.” She takes the outstretched keys, then adds. “Thank you.” Another awkward laugh; she’s never been too good at meeting new people. “I’m lucky you were here.”

Misty’s eyes brighten in this intriguing kind of way. “You might have been there all afternoon,” she teases.

“Well.” Cordelia clears her throat, “that’s actually preferable to what I’m about to go do.”

Someone must have filled in girl in on her entire series of miseries, seeing as Misty’s lips part into an understanding ‘o’. In the heat of discomfort, Cordelia cracks her own joke. “What’s the likelihood of you helping me do that, too?”

“Oh, I’d love to, but I have a client I need to get to.” Spoken in seriousness, genuine. If she were free, would she have come? Cordelia frowns slightly in the first sign of befuddlement.

It only grows as Misty speaks. “I do got something for you, actually.”

“For me?”

Her head cocks to the side, cheeks all rosy pink and eyes glistening. “Yeah, wait here. I’ll go get it.”

She hurries back into her own apartment, the door slightly ajar so Cordelia can just about peak in. She tries not to, hearing how her mother would scorn her for such nosiness, but the lure of this strange character is too much.

Before she can really make out much of anything, Misty is back, and breathless, and beaming. “Hold out your hand.”

She may be unsure, but she does.

Her outstretched palm soon meets a cold contact, a surprising weight, and she glances down to where Misty has dropped a green rock in it.

Cordelia blinks.

“It’s um, it’s a rock.” She comments with what kindness she has, even if she doesn’t exactly know why she’s holding this. Does she look particularly starved of rocks?

Misty rolls her eyes, smirking. “It’s a crystal, Cordelia.” She reaches up her pointer finger to following the swirling patterns of green that remind Cordelia of nature, freshness and, sort of, Misty. “Malachite – helps bring in good fortune and I. . .well, I figured it might help ya with. . .all your husband stuff.”

“He’s not my husband,” Cordelia corrects softly, in a whisper.

Misty jumps right over that. “I charged it for you. An’ this mornin’ I cast a spell that usually helps me keep a clear head and stuff. I hope you don’t mind.”

“You cast a spell on me?” Cordelia clarifies in surprise.

Misty blinks. “Not on you. Just - for you.” Upon seeing Cordelia’s reaction, her muscles visibly tense. “Is that – that’s too much isn’t it?” It’s like a dawn of thought, like someone else’s words are clouding over her and threatening to ruin the genuinely kind gesture.

Already her hand is reaching for the crystal. “Here, I’ll take it back, m’sorry, I was just tryna help – ”

“No.” Cordelia quickly coils her fist around the small item and lets it sit there comfortably. “I – that’s really sweet Misty. Thank you. You didn’t have to do anything for me.” Her brow crinkles. Why did she do this? “But I appreciate any bit of help that I can get. I am going to need it, believe me.”

“Well, I don’t envy you.” Misty laughs, even if there is the slightest break in the facade. “That sorta stuff – it ain’t easy.”

And she is reminded of this morning, of the warnings given. Despite the burning words that sear the tip of her tongue, she keeps questions at bay and just nods. “You’re right. Well thanks again.” She lifts the crystal up slightly in acknowledgement.

Misty grins and nods, too. And that sits on Cordelia’s mind the entire walk out of the building.

...

It’s weird, walking up to her own apartment, knowing fully well that it isn’t hers anymore. Her things may remain, held as prisoners of her actions, but this hasn’t felt like home in a long time.

She puts one hand in her pocket and curls it around Misty’s crystal as she stands at the door. Poised to knock, she waits and waits, then waits some more when the idea gets all too terrifying.

Oh God, what is she going to say?

She’s wrote out a whole speech in her head, all eloquent and articulate, and hopefully with the least amount of stabs to Hank’s heart. He's already had enough of that, surely.

Her own chest twinges. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

With sweaty palms and irregular palpitations, she groans out annoyance at her own indecisiveness and finally knocks on the door. The wait for it to open is painfully long, enough for her muscles to seize in stress. Then, footsteps sound, the familiar gait of the man. On the other side, latches and chains are removed, and she holds her breath. It doesn’t release when the door opens, when she stares into the face of Hank with pillow marks on his cheeks and an unshaven face.

Freedom is only found for the air as she sighs out words. “Hi Hank.” The crystal is squeezed again.

“Cordelia.”

Gulping, she nods. “Yup.”

His eyes darken. “Did you want something?”

“Hank.” She steps further in to prevent him slamming the door in her face, eyes drawing down at his wrinkled pajamas. “Look, I just want to talk.”

“I think you made it pretty clear, Dee.”

She winces at her nickname, but takes another step. Now, she’s technically inside and feels sickened at the sight of her home from the past three years. “I want to explain.”

“What else is there to say?” Hank watches her steadily, with a belligerent twist of his lips. Understandable, really, even if she hates the sight of it. Putting on her big girl pants, she makes it all the way to the center of the living room and tries not to look inherently out of place. Hank sighs, wilts his head with a sigh, and closes the door after her. “You’ve got ten minutes.” He appears nervous for a second, but quickly shrugs that off.

“That’s fair.” She nods. Here, emotion reigns supreme the longer she looks at him. For staring into the eyes of the man she’d once promised her life to reminds her of the person she is, the woman she isn’t, and maybe poses the idea of who she ought to be. The speech is started simply. She doesn’t say any of that, though, and instead shrugs off her cardigan where she lays it over the chair of the couch. “Jeez, it’s hot in here.”

He only glowers back.

Preparing for impact, she bites the bullet. “I’m sorry, Hank. The way I dealt with this was – ”

“You mean leaving me standing at the alter like an idiot? Yeah, Dee. . .that felt really good.”

I’m sorry.”

Hank grits his teeth together, circling around the stand around the other side of the couch. “Are you? Are you? You embarrassed me in front of my entire family – ”

“I know.”

“In front of my Father’s business partners – ”

“I know!”

He huffs, chest puffing out sharply. “You broke my heart, Dee.” And there, just when she thought she’d be picking up the pieces of Hank, she finds her own chest aching.

Shame hangs on her like coiling vines. “I know.” She lifts her soft, brown eyes and drops herself to the couch. It’s always been too hard for her liking, but today it’s like a slab of concrete beneath her. “Look, I can’t change what happened.”

With flaring nostrils, he peers away. His legs take him over to the high windows, to peer out at the sights as though they could calm his blood.

Cordelia continues in hopes that he is still listening. “I just. . .isn’t it better that I realized now and not years down the line?”

“I wouldn’t congratulate your timing if I were you.” He bites out.

She swallows her own irritation at his tone. He’s hurt, he’s allowed to be. With that, there will be the inevitable hint of bitterness. “I should have done it sooner – I’ve been. . .for the past couple of months, I’d had, well, doubts.”

“Doubts?” he turns, breathing out in a strained way.

Her skin crawls as though layered with worms and cicadas, and lots of other wriggling insects. “Well, we weren’t exactly perfect, were we?”

“Perfect? Dee, I told you, there’s no such thing as perfect. We have work on being together.”

Sighing out her troubles, she goes for another word. “Happy,” comes the correction, “were we happy?”

He recoils as though she's said something utterly horrid, like her words are laced with venom in place of a sad resignation. Hank moves forward and drops beside her. A respectable distance is kept between the pair, but their knees point into one another.

Reaching out for her hands, he speaks tenderly. “I was happy. I was going to marry the love of my life.”

Another jab, this time to her coiled intestines.

Sadness wells in her eyes, found in the gold speckles of her irises like a chocolate galaxy. “Hank.”

“We can still do this.” Her hands are squeezed, even if she makes no move to indicate her feelings in return. The engagement ring burns her skin, digging right down to the bone. “We can give this a go. You and me, we’ve always been good, Dee.”

A lie, she thinks. Maybe a delusion that she’s rode along to for a while.

Now, her heads are free of the clouds and thoughts lucid as can be. In those thoughts, there is the weighty realization that she might have wasted the last three years of her life.

Cordelia yanks her hands back. “We can’t. . .this isn’t going to work, Hank. It can’t.”

“Why not, baby?”

She cringes at her velvety soft voice, trying hard. Trying too hard. Like chasing after a train once it’s already passed the station.

Her shame is worn for all to see. That melancholy in his gaze is a result of her actions, his pain something done by her hand. Not only has she brought turmoil to her own life, but Hank’s has been thrown to the dogs, too.

And, for just a weak little moment, she can feel something stir deep within. An unbearable pity and sympathy that makes her want to jump back in his arms, to promise that they can fix this broken record. Like he’d said, everything takes work. With the right work, maybe she would feel the burst of excitement. . .

As it is, right now all she feels is nauseous.

“Don’t you love me?” He pushes, a strange reverberating nature of his words. That means that she has to suffer its echo for far too long.

“Of course I love you.” She says.

It instils him with maybe something stupidly offered; hope. And Cordelia regrets those words the moment they’re said.

He shuffles nearer until their knees are knocking. “You are my everything, Dee. My love, my world, the first that I think about when I wake up in the morning. . .tell me that you don’t feel the same way.”

I don’t.

“Hank.”

“I can forgive you, okay? You just got cold feet, that’s natural, it happens to everyone. Hell, even I almost had a little slip, but then I remembered how good we are together.”

His honey coated words are set up as bait, but she never takes them. Sweetness isn’t luring enough, doesn’t hold enough tempt. She squirms in his proximity – she certainly hadn’t been prepared for this to be thrown into the conversation.

Maybe Misty’s crystal does bring luck, though, as a noise from the bedroom quickly distracts them both. Movement, a slight fall.

She doesn’t think much of it. Sometimes when the windows are open, a particularly strong gust could dislodge a photo frame or two. But she glances at Hank, spies the draining of blood from his features, and suddenly she is glancing over at the door again. “What was that?”

“Oh, nothing. That damn stray cat that keeps trying to get in through the window.” Hurried, strained. Cordelia doesn’t buy it for a second.

She jumps to her feet and moves the familiar path to her bedroom, bolstered by the fact that Hank cries out her name in panic.

And it all falls into the place the second she swings the door open. A gasp tumbles from her lips, a heat travels the length of her body. The sight of another, extremely naked, woman in her bed is just the icing on the damn cake.

Cordelia’s world is quiet, but not silent. With a pressure filling her head, she impatiently waits for the eruption, for the swell of anger and disbelief and downright dismay. She locks eyes with the red head, now sitting up and holding the sheets over her bare chest. Then, she turns, hands shaking with not upset but a show of fury.

Her eyes land on Hank, having fallen silent in his shame, and she wonders if she killed him, could her mother afford the bail. Of course she could, and the idea is awfully tempting.

He rushes up to her, hands lingering just around her hunched shoulders. “Don’t.” She commands, startling him. “Don’t you fucking dare. Oh, you’ve got some damn nerve, haven’t you?”

“Dee – ”

And she barely remembers spinning around to slap him, but it must happen seeing as he holds his red cheek in shock.

She very much considers going in for a second go.

...

“He did what?”

Cordelia answers Mallory’s aghast words with her own angered scowl. “He slept with someone else. On our almost wedding night.” Leaning forward, she drops her head into her hands. “Oh my God, I can’t believe I actually apologized to him. I’m such an idiot.”

“You are not an idiot,” Coco says. “He is just an asshole.”

“Who I almost married.”

She pats her shoulders. “But you didn’t.”

“But I almost did.”

“Come here, sweetie.” She enjoys the touch of the half hug, leans into it even, and then gives the twitch of a smile as Coco continues, “did you want another muffin?”

“Co, I can’t eat my feelings away.”

“You could always just go throw it at him.” Mallory suggests.

“Oh, now that is tempting. But I already threw his grandmother’s urn at his head.”

Their small corner of the coffee house is suddenly filled with silence that has her ears ringing. And she gets it. God, is she ashamed of that particular move, but it had happened through no control of her own limbs. “You didn’t.” Coco breathes.

Cordelia winces and nods. “I really did.” She can still hear it crashing against the wall.

Then, where she prepares the body for judgement, a deep bellied guffaw comes. “Gee, Delia. You are so much more fun than I remember you being in college. Only wish I could have seen the look on his face.”

“The look on who’s face?” Nan appears with a steaming pink mug, the distinct smell of a mocha filling the air.

“Hank’s. Cordelia has had quite the afternoon.” Mallory offers.

“Well,” she sidles up to the woman and flashes her eyes excitedly. “Spill then.”

Cordelia ignores the rather blaring familiarity to being in High School once more, and shares the story a second time around. Reactions of shock are earned in the same spots, sympathies hitting her when needed and, just like the others, Nan laughs at the ending.

She giggles too, even if it feels kinda of naughty. Kind of wrong. It’s exhilarating in a unique sort of way.

“This day didn’t really turn out how I imagined.” She confesses as she stares at the passers-by through the window. So many strangers, so many lives just ambling about. Cordelia blends right in with them, not special in any kind of way. Here, she isn’t Fiona Goode’s daughter, or Hank Foxx’s fiancé. She’s just Cordelia, and she likes that.

Her smile widens, a thought popping into her mind; maybe Misty’s spell had worked. Maybe it had shrouded her in good vibes and positively. Things she’s been awfully deprived of.

She’ll have to thank her the next time she sees her. Which, she realizes softly, Cordelia hopes is soon.

Idly, she reaches down, hand wanting to smooth over the smooth crystal that had been a token of luck gifted to her. The kindness of a stranger. But there’s no cardigan pocket to search through and, as such, no crystal.

Cordelia’s heart stops.

Because she suddenly remembers where she’d left it. “Damn.”

...

She moves so fast that her legs burn, but she doesn’t care. As she walks, eyes scour the streets for any sign of Hank’s car nearby.

It’s not there, a blessing maybe.

Either way, she scurries to get back inside of the building, dragging Coco in her wake. “I don’t understand. What are we doing?’

“I left something here.” She explains.

“So?”

Cordelia rolls her eyes. “It belongs to someone else and they need it back.”

She stops them both in the hallway, maybe trying to talk sense to prevent them having to return to the scene of some rather tumultuous moments. “Delia, just replace it with a new one. Nothing is worth going back in there. Don’t you have any pride?”

“I – ” Her forehead wrinkles as she frowns. “It’s not that easy. And I’ll be quick, I promise. Look, the spare key is just here. We will be in and out before you even know it.” She’s already reaching over the doorframe to where she knows it’s kept; something she and Hank had constantly argued over.

“If we get the cops called on us. . .”

“We won’t.” She speaks with some conviction, almost like her heart isn’t racing zealously. Lightheaded and gulping adrenaline with every breath of air, she looks around one final time then eases the door open. Returning twice in one day isn’t exactly what she’d had planned, but here she is nonetheless.

And she rushes for the sight of her cardigan still wrapped up on the couch. One quick squeeze of the pocket shows the crystal to be safe and sound, allowing her a breath of relief. Itching to leave, she grabs Coco’s upper arm. “Come on.”

The other blonde is admiring the mess made from Cordelia’s fit of anger. “Remind me never to piss you off, okay?”

Hurry up.”

Coco does follow, smirking as she swipes a twenty off of the coffee table on her way. Pissed at Hank or not, Cordelia raises a brow at her. “What? Consider it a contribution to starting your new life. He’s helping you, in a way.”

“Put it back.” She orders.

“Oh, don’t be a bore.”

Just as she’s about to object that very statement, there are nearby voices. Recognizable ones. Hank, for sure. How could she misplace that? To her horror, she realizes he’s just outside the door and covering their one exit.

“Fuck.”

“Please tell me you’re rich enough that you guys have two front doors.” Coco pales, her words a harsh whisper.

Cordelia is beginning to back away, skin laced with a panicked layer of sweat. She shakes her head. “Wishful thinking there, Co.”

“I don’t want to panic you, but what the fuck are we gonna do?” She begins, very clearly past the threshold of panicked.

It initiates Cordelia into a burst of action, surprising even herself. Where normally she'd think and plan, and worry, today she works on instinct. Said instinct has them both rushed to the nearby window, which is thrown open hastily so they can jump out onto the fire escape. Instantly, the warmth of the wind hits them, wraps around they clothes, and Cordelia grips onto the Cardigan in her hand for all its worth.

“Ugh, I hate heights.”

Cordelia glares at her. “We don’t have a choice, move.”

They do, running and rushing down the creaking metal frame to escape the apartment without anyone none the wiser to their antics. Her head pulses, heart leaps, and Cordelia can’t believe that she’s done this. It isn’t her, this person. There is nothing calm and calculated about these actions, and yet they take control of her bones with ease.

That is, until she slips on the last hurdle and stumbles down onto her leg with a groan.

It leaves her lay on her back, glancing up at the meandering clouds with spots in her vision. Pain surges around her ankle, but she ignores it when Coco’s head leans over her. “Jesus, are you okay?!”

No. She isn’t. Not at all. “I’ve hurt my ankle.” Cordelia replies, strangely devoid of upset. In fact, she sounds rather pleased with herself. And the more seconds that draw on, the happier she is, until laughter has escaped her chest and usurped her body, and it is the only thing she can manage to do.

Coco may stare at her like she’s crazy, but she just keeps on laughing.

...

A plate of the pasta is placed in front of her, steaming delightfully under her nose. From where she is sat with her ankle rested up on the spare chair, comforted with a pillow, she grins. “Thank you, Coco.”

“You are gonna give me high blood pressure.”

Cordelia smiles around a mouthful of the food. “It was a momentary lapse in judgement. It won’t happen again.”

“Cordelia, in the past 24 hours you have ran out on your own wedding and technically broken into your ex’s apartment. I think this is more than a lapse.”

Her actions spoken aloud maybe sober her for a moment. “Well, when you put it like that. . .”

“You have changed, Cordelia Goode.” She announces, but not in contempt. Instead, Coco is smiling.

Cordelia smiles, too. “I have to admit – it was kind of exciting, wasn’t it?”

“No more escapades for you, missy. You’ve had quite enough adventure for the month.”

She’s rather inclined to agree that, offering a content little nod. More of the food is eaten, followed with hums of approval. This is a life that she could get used to, sans the throb in her ankle.

One thing she still finds weird is the open door policy.

Once again, their front door swings open and in walks Misty lugging a flat table against her side. Beneath a couple of groans, she quickly has it leant against the couch and sets about greeting them. “What you guys up to?” She questions, eyeing over the food.

Coco rolls her eyes. “Leftovers are in the pot. Go get yourself some.”

There is no need to tell her twice and she’s quickly scooping a hearty amount of food into the dish. She soon rattles through the fridge and returns with a beer in her other hand. Cordelia watches her swig it, coming to join them at the table.

“Good day?” Coco asks.

Misty finally spots Cordelia’s unfortunate position. “Better than yours.” She says, then takes on the sight of disappointed. “Guess my crystal wasn’t charged enough to work, huh?”

That reminds Cordelia, who is reaching for the tiny item to hand it out to her. The sight of it again has her smiling, the green and creamy swirls like constellations in the sky. “Actually,” she begins, musing and brow creased, “I think it did work, in its own way.”

She may look a sight, but she doesn’t even remember a time where she's felt so good.

Misty takes the crystal from her, inspecting it – and then Cordelia – with a frown. “But you’re hurt?”

“I’ll be fine.” She smiles.

Beside her, Coco offers a scoff. “I think she's on the cusp of a breakdown, Misty. We might need something stronger than a rock to keep her under control.”

Misty eyes her again, this time grinning. Admiring her like she’s some unruly force of nature, like she’s a once in a lifetime event. Their eyes meet, a connection quickly made, and Misty does nothing to hide her emotions. “I can figure something out.”

As she tilts her head back to gulp again at her fizzing beer, she lets blue eyes relent on Cordelia. And now, Cordelia doesn’t shy away from it.

She adopts the ease that Coco and her friends seem to wear around each other. She adapts it for herself to sport. “Thanks again,” she say, “for the spell. It’s nice to know that people are looking out for me.”

Misty's smile is more surprised, but just as sweet in nature. “I always got your back.” She says, then smirks. “Now, tell me how on earth you did that.”

“Will you get me some ice for it first?” She questions when the throbbing steadily peaks. “Please.”

Pushing out a laugh, Misty nods. “Only ‘cause you said please.” Her smirk is playful, dancing on her lips.

And although wearied, Cordelia at least has some answers, maybe some closure. Perhaps even some new friends, too.

 

Chapter Text

Cordelia slowly walks up the stairs of the apartment building, the actions nothing more than muscle memory as she's certainly not co concentrating. Not on that, anyway.

She blinks, realizing that she's by the door already. How did that happen so fast? A shaky hand reaches the door, unlocked as usual, and pushes it open. There isn’t the same chaos she'd left this morning, where Queenie had been arguing over which of the batmans had been the hottest.

Dissension has evolved, giving way to the gentle murmur of conversation, to the tv lightly played in the background. Trouble is, any cover to the horror that sits plainly on Cordelia’s face is gone. Coco spies her from the corner of her eye, begins the workings of a smile.

And then she notices Cordelia’s expression.

“Fuck, what’s wrong?”

She drops the knife she’d been chopping carrots with in a rattle and rushes over to the girl. Hands find, and lead, Cordelia to a seat at the table.

She still doesn’t speak.

Muscles move as if detached from her body, her empty head refuses to work, but she’s at least aware of two more people corralling on either side. “I – ”

Blurry eyes spy both Mallory and Misty, equally concerned, speculation caught in their shared gaze.

“Um, my. . .”

She again, only for the shame and embarrassment to hit her once more with such intense speed that she’s glad to be sat down. Her world still feels rocky, utterly unstable, and she sucks in a deep breath of humid air. Oh, this is it. This is karma finally coming to snag the earth from under her feet and watch her stumble. If Karma has a pseudonym of Fiona, that is.

Finally, she spits it out, and ends the mystery of her misery with crocodile tears. “She cut off my credit card!

The quiet is certainly chased away, all thanks to her, and she can no longer hear the buzz of the television in the back of her mind.

“Wait, you’re still gonna pay me rent, right?”

“Coco.”

The blonde has the decency to at least look slightly apologetic. “. . .or something more comforting.”

Said role, however, has already been claimed by Misty. Who hovers nearby, casting any thoughts of personal space far, far away. “Hey, it’s gonna be okay.”

“No it’s not!” she cries out miserably.

How cruel things seem, how uprooted her once simple life is, and how she knows this to be the consequences of her own decisions.

Cordelia curses that, rues her impulsiveness. But then she blinks away tears in her chocolate eyes to find three people staring at her with genuine concern. And she wavers. Surely this is what she wanted, right?

“You don’t have any money whatsoever?”

The memories of impulse shopping, clothes and drinks pass through; all things to help cover her guilty conscience. “Money? You wanna know how much money I have?” Cordelia starts, letting her shock give to spiralling. Manicured hands stretch for her handbag, rifling through the contents. “I have five. . .teen dollars and – twelve cents, a health bar coupon, a half eaten pack of oreos and. . .an apple with a lipstick stain on it.” Her shoulders slump, body giving way to glumness and here she laments, “I am so screwed.”

“Delia.” Coco jumps in, perching herself on the end of the table and placing her hands on Cordelia’s shoulders. It effectively moves Misty’s fingers out of the touch, and the woman appears miffed for all of a few seconds. Then, the concern floods back. “This is a good thing.”

“How is being poor good?”

“You’re twenty four, don’t you think it’s time you stopped living off of your mother?”

She pulls a face, her skin most likely red and blotchy. Sniffling, Cordelia sheds the last of her tears and wipes soft fingers just under her eyes.

Coco continues in an inspiring push to the woman, “haven’t you always hated living under her thumb? Having to do everything that she says?” The words are true, blatantly so, and yet she finds herself silent, digesting them. “Isn’t that why you ran out on your wedding?”

Wincing, she turns away.

“As liberating as being away from Fiona is, there is the small fact that she had money. And money pays for things.” Cordelia has no control over the next words that come out of her lips. “Nice things, like organic food and good clothes.”

“Well then,” she rolls her eyes, “get your own money.”

Cordelia gulps, as though the very notion is some other worldly idea. “My own money?”

“Yes, sweetie. It’s what us poor people do to get by,” she deadpans.

“How – how do I do that?”

“There are these new fangled things called jobs.”

Her sarcasm earns a huff from Cordelia, a pointed glare aimed right at Coco. There is no backing down from it, and she only crosses arms along her chest. “I know what a job is.”

Mallory, to her right, gives a small laugh, “really?” She soon holds in a groan as Misty elbows her.

And Cordelia feels her blood run cold with a dreaded realization.

“You all just this I’m some spoiled rich girl, don’t you?”

The words are spoken incredulously, with just the hint of upset because they do; it sits in their eyes, the uncomfortable way in which they react to the question. Even if they try their very best to shoo away such an idea. “Don’t be silly.”

“You do!” She escalates, meaning her voice jumps higher than it should, that she is holding in hot tears that stick to her eyelashes, “you don’t think I can do this on my own, just like Hank, like - like Fiona.”

“Hey, we never said that.” Misty, rather in the defensive amidst the sympathy that oozes from her. Cordelia rather thinks it’s the comparison to her ex and mother that coaxed such a reaction, but she doesn’t say.

“Misty – ”

“We’ll help you,” she now smiles, “you got a big, fancy degree, right? Surely it won’t take you long to get a job.”

Cordelia’s head snaps up, and she uses a nearby tissue that Mallory holds out to wipe at her eyes. As she pulls it back, there are great splotches of mascara. Great, now she’s going to have to redo her makeup. Look at the bigger picture, Cordelia. “That’s right,” she breathes, “I do have a degree.”

“And what exactly do you plan on using art history for?” Coco says, bringing Cordelia down a notch or two.

“I could, um, I – I’m sure there’s something. . .”

In all honesty, when she’d gone to college, it had been less about the idea of learning something new and instead leaving her mother’s house. Sure, her major had been interesting, and the parties and sorority just as much, but she’d never thought it to be her future. No, her future had become one thing and one thing only the day she’d met Hank. As soon as Fiona had learned who he was, reminiscent of if she thought he was an ass or not, Cordelia had her future ripped from her grasp and puppeteered by forces beyond her control.

She sighs, a miserable sigh. “Okay, now we’re back to - I’m screwed.”

Once more, the women retaliate with encouragement and morale, and offers that make Cordelia’s little icy heart thaw, just slightly.

 Misty watches her with a soft smile. “I could teach ya how to do massages. It’s real easy, plus you don’t gotta pay taxes.”

The kind suggestion has Cordelia easing on the spot. “Oh, I’m not very good with my hands.”

Coco, very unsuccessfully, hides a laugh behind her hands at that particular statement, and it takes all of three seconds for Cordelia to hear it in her own head. Clear as a bell ring, transparent as air, oh so naive.

To her side, Misty is wearing a smirk that she’s never seen before. There’s light in her eyes, leftover from mirth, surely. “Well, you can always learn.” She laughs, coy and teasing, and drawing color into Cordelia’s cheeks.

“I didn’t mean it like that!”

 Coco pushes playfully at her shoulder, “come on, Delia. Focus.”

“I am focused.”

Maybe. Sort of. For the brief, strangest and most unexpected moment, she finds her eyes drawn down to Misty’s hands. Thinking about how she’d teach her, would she massage her to demonstrate; her tense muscles suddenly cry out. God, she’s stressed, really stressed, body keening over the idea of a massage and –

“You say that as you zone out.” Coco points out wryly.

Cordelia can’t regard the way that Coco is staring at her because, well, she’s still looking at Misty’s hands. Wait, what? She blinks furiously to push that image from her mind (she tells herself it’s because she’s admiring the woman's all to pretty rings) and her head snaps up.

Her strange delay is cause for concern, apparently. “Are you okay?”

Coco interjects with a sigh. “Unfortunately Mal, in Cordelia’s world – getting your credit card cut off is like a death. She’s gotta mourn.”

She’s just about to negate such a dumb comparison, only to decide that maybe there’s some truth in it and, oh god, how awful is that? There are people out there truly suffering and she's crying over this. What an imposter to her pain.

Annoyingly, that brings in a fresh batch of tears, and maybe they see it as upset over the “passing” of her card, a sever in a relationship, but Cordelia just feels downright ashamed for a second.

She isn’t allowed to wallow in self pity, not for another second, and Coco begins rattling on about making her a resume, handing it out that very afternoon. Mallory joins her fluster of action, reaching for her laptop.

“Guys, you don’t have to – ”

“We do.” The brunette smiles, “now it would really help if you have any experience.”

The cloud of stress sits atop her again. “Uh. . .”

“Exaggerate!” Coco insists to Mallory, “isn’t that what you reporters do?”

“If by lie, you mean – ”

Their small, and still amicable bickering, becomes muffled in her ears. A thought cast away when something altogether more distracted by the swish of movement around her.

Misty, who has moved to replace where Coco had set across from her, now pinches at the air and throws away what she catches. This movement continues, bracelets clanking together, face pinched with concentration. It holds Cordelia rapt, tears dried out, but altogether confused.

She sucks in a breath as Misty’s hand moves particularly close to her neck. “Hey, Misty?”

“Yeah?” The woman barely bats an eyelid, on a pivotal mission, it turns out.

Cordelia may be unsure, but she’s still smiling at least.

“What are you doing?”

The action slows but doesn’t come to a full halt. And Cordelia quickly gets used to wayward hands in her personal space. Pupils follow their route as she awaits an answer.

Misty gives her a look, as though she’s missing out on a joke. “I’m cleansing your aura,” she shares, then smirks, “you’re awful tense.”

“Maybe that is because I don’t have any money.”

Saying it our loud solidifies it again, and sends her woes up in the air.

True to form, Misty continues pinching them away with the uttermost care and throwing them in the direction of the open window. “Yeah, welcome to the club.”

Cordelia scoffs, “not a club I ever saw myself being in to be honest.” She then sighs, knowing that words can’t really explain the knot in her chest.

“Oh, you get used to it.” Misty’s endearing voice almost makes it seem like she will. “Plus.” Eyebrows jump upwards with the sight of excitement; as she speaks, it is all kinds of hush, Misty leaning in, “now you ain’t got a bank account, the government can’t track all the stuff you do.”

She freezes, and stares, and tries to piece together this woman. Hard to do when hands flutter all over the place. Pleased with her work, Misty flattens a palm on either of her shoulders, then grins. “There, much better.” Suddenly, she’s on her feet, pointing toward the apple. “You gonna eat that?”

Cordelia shakes her head dumbly, then watches as Misty picks it up. Her skirt is used to clean the lipstick from its shiny skin before she takes a big bite.

Some of the juice begins a decent down her chin, and Cordelia forces herself to glance again. Misty’s retreat to her own apartment has her slowly ambling over to the couch. She drops down next to Mallory, a little slow, but knowing that she feels much, much better. Strangely. She watches her friends, stares where Misty had been, and feels the veil of something close to camaraderie.

It makes her hopeful little smile grow wider.

...

“How many have we handed out?”

Cordelia stares at the pile, doing the math quickly. “Forty eight.”

“And that,” Coco groans as she sits down on the couch, “is where we’re gonna call it a day.” She tilts her head in Cordelia’s direction, rubbing at sore calves. “Hey, go get me a coffee, will you?”

“Oh sure, I’ll pay with my monopoly money.”

Coco glares, having no time for her attitude or dry response. “Of course, Coco. I would be honored to, especially considering you’ve just walked around for three hours with me, dodged a rogue Chihuahua and scuffed your nice work shoes.”

She sighs. “Fine. Sorry.” Cordelia leans in for a half hug, “thanks, I owe you big time.”

“Better.” Her friend decides as a twenty is thrown in Cordelia’s direction.

Coffees are quickly ordered, and their weary bodies rested in the coffee shop. Here, the relaxed ambience and dimmed room has the hectic day pushed away. With hope, she can forget it about readily.

Not that Coco wants to let her.

“So,” she smiles, “I have a question.”

Reclining into the musty chair, Cordelia sighs and sips at her drink. “What was that before?”

“Gee, you’re gonna have to be more specific there.”

She takes the hint, and leans into Cordelia. Here, she rests her chin on her hand to allow for a knowing look. “You were looking at Misty all weird.”

“Was I?”

Cordelia may play dumb, but it doesn’t deter further questioning. “Yes, and you know you were, don’t lie to me, Cordelia.”

“I – just. . .” Think, Cordelia, think! The last thing that anyone needs to know is that she had a minor lapse in well. . .something. She doesn’t really know herself, but all she does know is that it’s a result of merely the nightmare she’s been through. “I think she’s interesting. You know the kind of people in my old friend group, Co.” She hides behind her coffee mug, the steam tickling her nose. “Misty is – the complete opposite of those.”

“You can say that again. Misty is the definition of unique.”

“Yeah,” Cordelia agrees fondly, a smile creeping onto her lips.

Coco hones right in on it, thinking, solving. While Cordelia may believe she’s a closed book, there are clear forces working to pry the pages open.

Forces, however, that are stopped with the arrival of others. Misty being one of those.

“How did job searching go?” Mallory asks kindly, removing the strap of her laptop bag as she sits down.

“It happened.”

Coco groans, “Tessa the terror chased after us, too. Thanks to this one.” She points to Cordelia with an eye roll.

“I didn’t know there was gonna be some crazy dog in the alleyway!”

“And this, my dear, is why we don’t wander down them.”

“Aw.” Misty has returned, holding a green tea and a muffin that she chews on idly. “I like Tessa. She’s only bit me twice.” There’s a collective headshake, a chorus of laughter that Misty is none the wiser to.

Despite this, Cordelia has attention drawn away and to the object next to Misty’s seat. “Is that a guitar?”

The woman jumps slightly, spinning in her boots. “Oh, yeah. It was my mom’s. I taught myself to play it.”

“Do you know any popular songs?”

Misty basks under the attention, even if she seems a little surprised by it, and gives a toothy grin. “Well, I know some Stevie – ”

“Don’t get her started.” That show of nuisance comes from Queenie, groaning at the very idea. She has nestled herself into the solo armchair but appears to begin a rather intense glaring content with her roommate.

Eventually, Misty breaks it in favor of Cordelia. “I mostly do original stuff.”

“Oh, like what?” Then, she adds with a proud smile, “I actually used to play the violin in High School.”

“My songs are about lots of things. Um. . .” She plucks up the guitar, idly tapping at the wooden case. On the strap, Cordelia can spy badges and broaches attached to every inch of fabric. “There’s one called yellow snow, beach bandits – that’s about the time a crab stole my underwear at the beach.”

No one else bats an eyelid, but Cordelia stares in this exciting show of what the hell is she talking about?

“Little Green friend.”

She blinks. “Are you friends with. . .small, green people?”

Misty bursts into giggles, head shaking the silly suggestion away. Around her, golden hair flutters even with the absence of wind. “Nah. I wrote it for Pablo.”

“Pablo?”

“Her frog.” A chorus comes, less enthused that maybe Misty would like if her expression is anything to go by.

“Oh, right.” Cordelia responds, actually somewhat relieved. Why? “I thought Pablo was some ex or something.”

Queenie laughs next to her. “Yeah, Pablo’s aren’t exactly Misty’s type.”

Misty rolls her eyes, but doesn’t say anything. And instead begins an idle strum of her guitar. “Hey,” she says to Cordelia, “do ya wanna hear ode to the bagel?”

She ignores the stink eye she gets from Coco to nod. “Sure.”

Misty practically bounces on the spot, setting the guitar up in just the perfect position where fingers sit ready to pluck at strings. She hesitates, just for a second, then clears her throat, “so chewy and round, I’m glad to have found. . .the perfect solution to bread.” The notes are simple, soft, and Cordelia finds herself grinning at the lyrics, only to notice that Misty is deadly serious. There, she loses herself in utter amusement. “We met after the eve, the birthday of Steve, but now poor Steven is dead.”

Cordelia’s eyes widen, something not missed by the others. Apparently they are no stranger to the song, to such interesting lyrics.

But Cordelia was right. Misty certainly is unique, and she thinks that she really, really likes it.

...

“Heard anything yet?”

Cordelia resists the urge to hide under the nearest pillow, but instead curls further into the couch.

Her roommates sighs. “I’ll take that as a no then.”

“I’d like it very much if you kindly didn’t mention it.” She speaks politely, but jabs her thumb in annoyance as she changes the channel. Some dumb reality show that keeps her brain from having to do any working whatsoever.

Reaching for the nearby blanket, she slithers it from the couch and nestles within.

On her way past, Coco tugs at the corner. “You’re not gonna find a job on your butt, Delia.”

“No, but I am gonna eat this chocolate bar.” She’d like to say that it’s wholly calorific, but the bar is from one of Coco’s stash. As such, the diet food brings very little satisfaction.

“If you are still there when I get back,” she begins as she’s wrapping a light scarf around her neck, “I am going to drag you out myself.”

Cordelia sighs. “Just let me have a bad day.”

“All you’ve had is bad days since Fiona cancelled your card. Remember Delia, I love you, but I can’t pay the bills with love.”

Here, that guilt does appear at play again. “I know, I know.” She makes to turn off the tv. “Guess I could phone around again.”

“Now, there is the proactive woman I know!” Fully ready, she pauses for just a second at the door. “Look, if worse comes to worse, I can always see if you can be hired as a receptionist or something at my work.”

“Ugh, a receptionist.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers, Goode.”

The reminder of her situation certainly does pull the gravity from her feet. She huffs out, hoping the wrinkles on her forehead don’t become permanent.

Before she can retort, the option is gone, hurrying through the door with a “bye”.

Cordelia sighs, staring where she’d just been. She glances around at the apartment, a place that she is slowly starting to call home. Rising onto her feet, she takes the blanket with her into the kitchen and meanders aimlessly. The only thing she wants to do is walk out her thoughts, to tire them so. It takes the woman on a steady pace about the apartment, from kitchen to living room, then her own bedroom. She smiles at the string lights Mallory gave her, sitting neatly above her bed, at the borrowed clothes from Coco, and said smile only wavers upon stopping at her wedding dress.

Still hung on the back of the door, still haunting her.

As if aware of this, her phone begins to ring and disturb those very thoughts. She absently finds it from her pockets and hits answer. “Hello?”

“Hey, Dee.”

Already, distaste sits in her mouth. “Hank.” She hums out, unimpressed. “Called to apologize?”

Whatever high horse she may be on is shot and pummelled to the ground. “I heard you were having money problems.”

Fuck.

“And who did you hear that from?” She asks primly, voice tight.

“Your mother.”

“You hate my mother – why were you talking to her?”

On the end of the line, she hears a scoff. No surprise there; Fiona is a constant sore subject in her life. “Because I was asking how you were. Believe it or not, I still care about you.”

She practically reels at the very notion, feet angrily taking her back into the main set up of the apartment.

She spots Queenie there, ogling at Coco’s magazines. “Oh yeah, you must have really cared about me when you had another woman in our bed!”

“Cordelia.”

“Must have been really difficult to forget about me, right?”

His exasperated sigh can be heard. “Will you just listen for once?”

“No, Hank. You don’t get that opportunity anymore. And if you think you were going to swoop in like some hero, then think again.” She huffs, tongue laced with bitterness. Oh, she’s still hurt by his actions, but more enraged than anything.

“You don’t have to be so proud – ”

“I don’t need your help, Hank Foxx. I’m doing just fine without you.” With that lasting sentiment, she hangs up, dispelling him from the apartment. Sadly, the throbbing in her forehead doesn’t disappear in the same way.

But his words have set off actions in her, a series of consequences where her body refuses to sit still. She thinks and thinks, nostrils flaring for all to see. Well, for Queenie to see. The woman is also witness as Cordelia haphazardly throws on her boots and jacket in a fit of rage (neither cooperative, and are victim to many profanities).

“Damn girl, where are you running off to?”

“To get a job!”

Queenie goes to speak, only for her mouth to flap open and closed in the midst of whirlwind Cordelia.

And Cordelia barely pays attention on her mission down the stairs. She almost knocks oven poor little Miss Johnson in their hall, then Misty who is carrying her excessively large massage table up the stairs and balancing a bag in the other hand.

To top it all off, she pushes at the door that clearly says pull. She doesn’t scream, but you bet she wants to.

...

And the job gods appear. They briefly poke their heads through the clouds, watch her with pity and then sprinkle what could be seen as luck her way.

Cordelia wonders if working at a burger joint is what she would have called lucky two months ago.

Between the grease and the customers, and a very rude boss who leers at her for longer than he should, she’s just about ready to explode.

“I hate working.” She announces miserably as she enters the apartment later than she’d hoped. The smell of a day’s work still clings to her skin, her uniform, and she aches to get rid of it.

But there are people here, people with interesting conversation. People who don’t stare at her boobs like they are their next delicious meal.

Cordelia perches herself on the end of the couch and sighs. “Do I really have to do this for the rest of my life?”

“If you want to eat and have a bed to sleep in, then yes.”

“But – but it’s not fair.”

Misty, with her legs stretched out over the coffee table, paints her toenails happily. “Well, that’s capitalism for ya. You know, we should all just move to the woods and live in tents.”

“Ew, no, bugs.”

“Bugs are good.”

Coco frowns deeply, running nails over her skin as though it itches all over. “Not when they’re near me.”

Inching nearer, Cordelia isn’t enthused by either of their ideas. “Hm, I’ll skip on the woods. I just want a hot bath and some wine.”

But before that can happen, an envelope is flung her way. She catches it clumsily, “what’s this?”

“Your half of the rent.”

Needless to say, Cordelia’s eyes bulge at the numbers. “Are you kidding me? What, are we renting the entire apartment block?”

“Delia. . .that’s how much it cost.”

Her heart rattles in its chest, refusing to believe such a thing. “But. . .” Oh great, the headache is back, “but, I don’t understand.”

“Wish you’d got married now, huh?”

All she can do is stare at the numbers, refusing to accept them as fact.

“Queenie, don’t.”

“I’d marry a rich guy, just sayin’.”

“Yeah, but Cordelia didn’t love him,” Misty joins in, voice a long drawl. She lifts her focused eyes from the blue polish on her pinkie toe to peer at Cordelia, “right?”

Queenie usurps any answer she has. “What has love got to do with it?”

But right now, Cordelia has neither love nor money. Just an awful lot of throbbing veins in her forehead.

Coco watches her with interest, slowly prying the envelope from her hands. “Go have your bath, sweetie. You don’t have to worry about that right now. Plus, you stink of grease.”

She nods, faintly. Thoughts merely an echo

But even the scolding hot water of her bath doesn’t calm her nerves like usual, nor the large white wine that Mallory throws into her hand not long after she emerges.

And the second her exhausted little body crawls into bed, it succumbs to sleep like never before. Preparing itself for another crappy eight hours of work, for a pittance of a wage.

As she sleeps, numbers roll down the back of her eyelids, haunting her every dream.

...

It doesn’t really get better.

She finds her groove, a little; she figures out that if she smiles the right way and loosens just one more button on her shirt then the tips roll in a lot faster.

That doesn’t mean that she likes it, or any of her co-workers and, my God, people are rude. Complaining for the most minor of inconveniences. But Cordelia plasters on a smile, swallows her true thoughts, and does her best.

She doesn’t need Hank, see? Or her mother, for that matter. Even though they’d both laugh at the sight of her. In this uniform, in this stained apron, with a pencil behind her ear and a throbbing in her feet. This will all be worth it. A delusion maybe, but her friends say so, and they seem happy.

Mostly, anyway.

Then again, none of them work here. And Cordelia could sigh out her troubles all day long to anyone that would here.

Today, it is Nan and Mallory, who sit and nod dutifully as she tells them how she fell into the refill machine and got syrup drenched in a whole ridiculous affair. “It was even in my bra!” She groans, “it stained it purple.”

“Sounds like a day.”

Cordelia sips at her water (because coffee is just too damn expensive) and peers around the room. “It’s been a week.”

“If you hate it so much, why don’t you leave?”

“I don’t really have a choice.”

Nan rolls her eyes. “You always have a choice, dummy.”

“What she means is,” Mallory begins is a far more diplomatic way, “no one is forcing you to stay. There are loads of jobs out there.”

“You are forgetting that I have no experience and that means not a single place wants to hire me.”

“Come on, you know that’s not true.”

Cordelia takes a longer sip, then lowers the glass back to the table and crosses her arms. “It is. How does that work anyway? People want experience but no one is willing to give you experience! It is ridiculous.”

“Yeah, that’s life. I had to do an internship for a year.”

She turns her head with a frown. “A what?”

Mallory shrugs, a half smile at her face at the confusion. “Basically a job without the wage.”

“How is that fair?”

“It isn’t.” Nan supplies, smirking. “We told you, the real world sucks.”

“I didn’t quite believe you.”

Now, she really, really does.

...

Crappy or not, she notices, there are things that leech out all the bad and replace it with good. A simple act of kindness, a good deed. She feels that when she falls asleep on the couch to find Coco has put a blanket over her, or if Queenie surprises her with her favorite muffin at the coffee shop (lemon and poppy seed; enough to make her drool) and today she finds herself with probably the biggest gesture yet.

One that starts as she walks side by side with Misty up the stairwell. The Cajun starts slowly, testing the waters. “Um, how’s everythin’ going at work? With the tips and stuff?” She bites at her lower lip nervously, eyes dipping over to Cordelia.

“Oh, well it was going okay, but Scott just hired an airhead with a 32EE and strangely, I am nothing in comparison.” She gives a scathing shake of her head, a hiss in her throat. “Men are gross sometimes.”

Misty’s laughter is contagious. “Yeah, well I ain’t gonna argue with you there.”

She turns, suddenly a bit of curiosity popping into her mind. And she shouldn’t say it, not really, but she does. “I mean, maybe you get it more than me. Tipping an attractive girl more. . .”

Misty stops, then pulls a face. “Big boobs don’t mean a girl is more attractive.”

“Ah,” She smiles, and that damn inquisitiveness drags her words out again, “then what does?”

Those three words are enough to have the usually confident Misty spluttering on her syllables. “Well, I uh, I don’t know. . .really, attractive women just – you just know.”

Cordelia gives a kind smile. “Sorry, I’m putting you on the spot, aren’t I? No one ever makes me describe my taste in men.”

“If they’re all like Hank, maybe I don’t wanna know.” Misty smirks, but there’s something else to her tone that Cordelia can’t quite place.

They reach their doors, but neither make to go inside. Misty wrings hands together behind her back, head lowered in thought for just a second.

“Um, how short are you – of your rent?”

Cordelia feels her entire face scrunch up. “Why?”

But then Misty is opening the door to her apartment, gesturing for Cordelia to follow. “Come on.” She smiles, and Cordelia does with ease.

It’s not the first time she’s been in their apartment; she still peers around, either way. After all, watching both unique styles meld into one is interesting, and she grins at every reminder of Misty.

Today, she gets to go further. With the door to Misty’s room wide open, she spies a series of eclectic items that she wouldn’t attribute to anyone else. All aged, all with a story, and all placed in some sort of tidy chaos.

In the corner, a vivarium is set up, filled with lush greens and browms that are highlighted beneath the UV lighting.

The bed is layered with unfolded clothes, the sides littered with crystals and incense burners, and Misty fits right in the middle. At this moment, she is knelt on the floor with her lengthy arm pushed beneath the mattress.

Cordelia hides a giggle between her hand. “What are you doing, Misty?”

“One sec,” she grumbles, face flat against the sheets in her concentration. Then, “ah ha!” She starts moving backwards, wiggling her butt as she does so, and then brings herself to her knees.

From thing angle, Cordelia gets just a flash of the green bills in her hand. Her eyes widen, unsure, as Misty licks her finger and then counts them one by one. “Misty.”

"Hush.”

She sighs, then tries again. “Misty, is this some – ”

“Two hundred would be enough, right?”

“Two hundred for what?”

Misty stands, blowing a wispy bit of stray hair from her face. It flies up and over her head, “for your rent.”

Her heart just about drops through her chest from surprise. “What?” she stares, utterly bewildered, at the money held out before her, and she makes no move to grab it. Misty pushes it closer. “I can’t take that.”

“Why not?”

“Because you need it.”

She’s already shaking her head. “I’m fine.”

“Just the other day you were saying that you barely had enough to buy food.”

The curly haired blonde gives a forced laugh, rolling her eyes. “I was exaggeratin’. Come on you need it more than me. I can get more clients if I need to.”

“Misty, I am not taking money off of you.”

This time, she huffs. Teeth drawn in tighter, and a flash of something in her normally soft eyes. “You don’t gotta be so stubborn.”

“Touché!”

“Will you two keep it down? I am trying to nap!”

The pair are instantly silenced, staring at one another amidst a battle of wills. Cordelia can feel her chest rising and falling in a deeper flow every time. But Misty won’t let her eyes relent, so she struggles to calm those breaths. She’s watched, the sole recipient of such intensity, and it makes her feel all kinds of weird.

Still, she does make a move.

Even if it is reaching toward Misty’s outstretched hand and curling the other woman’s fingers around her own money. “Listen, I appreciate this, I really do. You don’t know how many morals I have to ditch to get two hundred dollars in tips.” Misty gives a timid, little smile, “but it’s your money, and I’m not taking, okay?”

“At least take like, fifty?”

“No.”

She raises her brows. “Twenty?” Biting at her lip, she shakes her head. “Ten? Consider it tip.”

“You’ve never even been to my work.” She finds herself giggling, but altogether touched at the suggestions.

“Well, maybe I’ll just come in and tip you every day until you have the full two hundred.” She decides smugly, a smirk to her lips, that very quickly falters as soon as Misty notices their hands are still joined. Hers tug away rapidly.

Cordelia tries not to react to that, and counters with her own idea. “Then I will simply bring it back here and hide it under your mattress again.” A grin follows. “You should probably think of a better place to hide your money, you know?”

She shakes her head, “I like it there. I know where it is.”

Cordelia drops down onto the bed slowly, allowing for a pensive expression to take hold. “I’ll be fine for rent,” she decides, “if I do a few extra shifts, maybe.” As a scandalous idea falls through, she snickers, “or I could just do a few shifts without my shirt on, right?”

Misty, at first, seems shocked by the statement, then eases back into her confidence. “Where exactly is this place again, did you say?”

“You have already seen me in a towel!” And here, Cordelia finds herself blushing, attacked by heat like leeches on her skin. She sits straighter, confused, then meets eyes with Misty who is still giggling. If anything, that weight on her chest gets worse.

Misty comes to sit down beside her, shoulders rising as she sighs. “I wish I could help ya with the money,” She admits, “can’t say I didn’t try.”

She anxiously twists her engagement ring, moving it back and forth so quickly that her finger might get friction burn. “I’ll think of something. . .”

The woman tilts her head thoughtfully, chewing at her bottom lip. “You know, whenever I was desperate for cash, I’d just take somethin’ to the pawn shop.”

“The pawn shop?”

“Oh yeah, they’ll take just about anythin’. Gotta be careful that they don’t pull a fast one on you, though.”

“Sounds like you’re the expert.”

Misty nods, then gives a sad smile. “I used to live on the streets, so. . .”

“What? No way!”

“Yes, way.”

She stares straight ahead, a little lost for words, definitely aghast, and suddenly wishing she could pull Misty in for a tight hug. She settles for a hand squeezing hers. “That must have sucked.”

“Ah, things get better. I know that more than anyone.” This time, as she stares at Cordelia through impossibly long lashes, that kindness radiates easily. “So believe me when I say it will for you, too.”

She sucks in a breath, a lump in her throat. “Thank you.”

And maybe she believes her, a little.

...

Misty’s words stick with her most of the night, as she settles down with a book, as she stands brushing her teeth, and it’s only when she’s doing her nightly skin routine that she sees it.

The flash of her engagement ring.

And it flashes even more brightly the next day as she slams it down on the counter of the nearest pawn store.

“How much for this ring?”

 

 

Chapter Text

Working, turns out, doesn’t get easier. Her boss remains a creep, the customers rude and demanding, and her poor body just isn’t built for a life like this.

What does differ (only slightly) is the retrospect that she’s much more suited for afternoon spa days, late morning yoga classes. The biggest strain in her life – other than a rocky relationship with Hank – had been brunches with her mother. Now, she gets to serve and slave away to people doing just that, and she gets to do it with a forced smile upon her lips.

Oh, if only Hank could see her now. He’d have a thing or two to say. All of those words coated in a slathering of smugness.

But hey, at least she’s home; another impossibly long day drawn to an end. Only three sodas were spilled on her during this shift, so she counts her blessings as she trudges up the stairs.

Even though her key is poised and ready, she doesn’t need it (she never does really, with the revolving door of people) and today she finds Queenie hurrying over to her door. “Hey rich girl.”

“You have to have money to be rich,” she corrects pointedly.

Only to have a fierce stink eye in return. “You got money for your ring – Coco said.” Said eyes flitter over her uniform with a frown, “still don’t get why you work at that place.”

“Because,” she sighs, having taken awfully quick to the realization that she actually has to consciously save money, “it won’t last forever.”

“Hmmmm, you should just blow it all on a crazy weekend. You’re single now, girl, live a little.”

She’s already shaking her head, both at the suggestion of splurging away. And two, at the idea of trying delve back into a love life. “It’s not when been a month since I was about to get married. . .”

Queenie shrugs, but does push the door open for them both. “Go on.” She smiles.

Returning it, Cordelia quickly enters and shrugs off her boots. Instantly, her feet sigh in relief, pressure removed, and she readies herself for a calm and relaxing evening.

“Oh my god, you are just the cutest.”

Coco’s squeal is unprecedented, only at octaves available for dogs to decipher. As such, Cordelia winces about five seconds into the room.

Who, exactly, she's talking to is quite the mystery to the wearied woman. Misty is there, curled up in the armchair with a book in her hands. Coco has her back to Cordelia, focusing downwards. Beside her, there sits a brunette that the woman doesn’t recognize, and so she slows herself as curiosity grows.

Then, she hears the tiny squirm. Spots wiggling arms; at the sight of the baby, her lips widen until they ache. “Oh, who is this?”

There is very little contemplation between going for a shower or greeting their guest. Straight away, she is plonking herself on the couch beside Coco, while Queenie resides in the second, smaller, armchair with a bag of chips. Out of the corner of her eye, Cordelia sees Misty silently asking for some with an outstretched hand, but as it is her attention is kept glued to the spot.

“This is Leo,” Coco crows, “the cutest baby in New Orleans, I swear.” She continues to gush and gape at the wide, brown eyes. “Hey there, gorgeous.”

Cordelia can’t help how she leans closer, catching a whiff of the baby scent. It has her heart pumping, a feeling of brooding that swamps any rational thought. “How old is he?”

“Getting close to three months now.” The brunette offers, brushing a hand over his teeny tiny finger.

Cordelia makes a noise that isn’t close to human, and doesn’t regret it one bit. “Oh. I love babies.” She all but swoons. As she should. There is nothing in this world cuter than a baby – that fuzzy euphoria that the little boy brings is crushed a little by the reminder that she’s now a good few steps away from getting her own baby.

Coco snorts out laughter. “I told Zoe you’d love him.” She nudges Cordelia, “she’s always been a baby nut.”

“I can’t help it. They’re just so small and precious.” Even as she speaks, she reaches out to gently squeeze where his toes curl over. “Just look at these.” Her heart quickens, akin to palpitations at this point.

Zoe grins like any proud mother would as she gentle strokes the wispy hairs at the crown of his head. “Do you want to hold him?’

“Yes.” She’s breathed out before the last word is fully uttered, much to the amusement of the room.

“But it’s still my turn!”

Coco’s protest is met with a gape from Queenie. “Ain’t you been holding him for an hour?”

“And?”

The girl shares a look with her roommate, offers an eye roll. She may be less enthused by the infant, but Misty ever so occasionally smiles over at him with the kind gaze that so often graces her features. Such an adoring look, an appreciation for life and its simplicity, until she lifts her light blue eyes and catches Cordelia staring.

Misty practically beams.

This subtle little heat is suddenly fanned her way, from a destination unknown. In the midst of the heat, she finds a wiggle in her stomach, putting it down to the fact that the baby is now being placed with care into her hold.

“Well, today definitely just got a million times better.”

It really has.

Crappy job or not, she can find happiness from within. She peers from the little button nose (that she totally boops) from one friend to another. Chocolate eyes slowly settle for their final spot; on the curly haired blonde on the other side of the room.

“I didn’t realize you had a Godson,” she mentions to Coco as more, generous, amounts of white wine hit her glass.

Cordelia sips at it, eyes closing in content. Showered and changed, she wears loose joggers and a sleep shirt. She tilts her head in Coco's direction as she awaits an answer. “I do – it's so much better than having your own kid.” A smirk sits on her lips. “I can hand him back when he poops.”

At this, Cordelia chuckles and rolls her eyes. “Yeah, sounds about right.”

“I’ve just got my nails done, why would I want to change a diaper?”

Well, she certainly can’t argue with that logic, and so she doesn’t. She does, however, have another glug of the sweet liquid in her hand and follows Coco over to the couch.

The woman chats as she pads about, “oh, you should have seen him when he got his first shots! He screamed the entire time.” She pulls a face at the memory, cringing.

“Coco, he’s a baby.”

“Yeah,” Queenie adds, “plus, who likes getting needles stabbed in their arms?”

There’s a hum of agreement, a general consensus that injections are far from desirable. It allows for a lull, not a bad thing. Just a moment as thoughts reign over words.

If anyone is going to put an end to the thinking, she isn’t surprised for it to be Misty. “I don’t get what the big deal about shots these days is,” she queries aloud with a mystified smile on show, “I never got any and I’m just fine.” Eyes drop back down to the soft pink crystal passed from one hand to another in a show of fidgeting.

It takes a second, but the room falls into a sharp silence. Queenie dips her brow, Cordelia frowns until wrinkles appear, and Coco even lifts the controller to pause the TV all in preparation for her questioning. “You never got vaccinated?”

Misty shakes her head, then continues throwing the crystal. In her position, she is ever so relaxed, reclined on the spot, but she grows visibly tenser when she finally registers the tone of the room. “What’s the matter?”

“Girl, your parents never got your shots!?”

She sits up, clutching the crystal tightly in her palm and throwing bare feet beneath her body. “Oh, come on, you don’t need ‘em.”

Queenie’s shock has worn off, dissolving into laughter. “Damn, next you’ll be telling us that it’s a government plan to put trackers in us.”

The joke doesn’t earn its desired laugh, certainly not from Misty. She frowns, giving a tiny shrug of her shoulders. “How do you know they ain’t?”

“Oh puh – lease, Misty.”

“You don’t know what they put in them.”

Coco puts her hands up in lieu of a white flag. “Let’s not get started on another one of your conspiracy theories.”

Scoffing, Misty haphazardly crosses arms across her chest. “They could be true.” And it’s clear to her that she has at least two opposers to her thoughts, two people rather keen on discouraging such an idea. In a last ditch attempt, she meets eyes with Cordelia where she resembles something close to a helpless puppy.

It is, sadly, a puppy on the street that Cordelia would have to hurtle right past. She bites her tongue, just for a second, and reluctantly speaks. “Misty, you know. . .you should really get them.”

“See? Listen to Delia – her mom is a Doctor so she knows what she’s talking about.”

Misty’s face has grown far more stoic, eyes sure and narrowed. “Well, I’m totally healthy.”

“For now.”

A tiny, decorative pillow is aimed Queenie’s way, and almost hits her. When it doesn’t, the woman only becomes more miffed. “Y’all are just overreactin’.” She grumbles, “I have made it twenty four years without gettin’ any shots. Plus, my Momma used to say they’re full of all kinda chemicals. . .” Her distaste is shown in a curled up lip and a shake of her head. “I’m not puttin’ that in my body!”

“Your mother tied herself to a tree for three days to protest 5G satellites. . .”

Misty blinks. “Yeah?”

“Maybe she isn’t the best source on science, sweetie.” Coco tries, only the slightest bit of patronizing pushing through.

It strikes more annoyance in Misty, who has slumped back in the seat. Her hair fans out around, long trails of golden waves that Cordelia finds herself jealous of. She is an observer to the furrow in Misty’s brow, the tightness in lips, but it eases after a moment or so. “Can we talk about somethin’ else?”

“Yes.” Coco claps her hands together excitedly, now happy to have the conversation switched. A smile grows on Cordelia’s lips and, just for a second, she’s transported back to college where the girl would rush in with a whole boast of excitable news. Today is no different. “My work is having a party next week and guess who got some plus ones?”

“If it isn’t you, then this story sucks.” Queenie taunts.

“Of course it’s me!”

Coco scans about the room as she tries to take in the general consensus. “So, what do you think ladies? Get all dolled up, spend the night dancing our troubles away?”

“Why were you looking at me when you said that?” Cordelia sighs, a finger following the rim of the wine glass slowly. She lets her gaze dip as there are suddenly three intense pairs of eyes on her, but eventually she does glance back up to catch Coco’s withering look.

The woman reaches over and rubs at her arm. “Of all of us, babe, you are most in need of a good night.”

“This is what I’ve been trying to tell her!” Queenie insists, jumping straight onto team convincing.

“I’m fine.”

All in all, considering everything, she doesn’t think she’s doing too bad at all, yet apparently there are rather vocal thoughts of exactly what she’s doing wrong locked and loaded her way. “You need a good drink.”

Cordelia makes an obvious glance downwards. “What do you think I’ve got now? Juice?”

“No, Delia – come on, a real drink. You'll love it, I swear.”

“I – ”

“Just you wait there.” Coco holds up a finger that puts a rather rapid end to her forming response, “and let me utter some magical words to you. Open. Bar.”

Queenie’s face splits into a grin. “Count me in, Coco.”

“Whoo, yes. Misty?”

“Sure, guess a few drinks won’t hurt. Question, do they take song requests?”

Now, it’s Coco’s turn to roll her eyes. “If you wanna listen to Fleetwood Mac, you do that while you get ready – we’re gonna have songs that you can actually dance to at the party.”

Misty’s mouth falls open, a confused little half smile on the pale lips, “you can dance to them. . .”

Whatever qualms may find Misty have to take a back seat as attention is given to the last woman. Cordelia, who shifts softly under said scrutiny and sighs. “Co, I dunno if I can even get out of work in time, plus get ready, and then I’ll be tired.”

“Oh, cry me a river – you need this.”

And she’s torn, emotions dragged to either end of the spectrum. She remembers Coco’s drinking, the advice of a rather bad (and pushy) influence, but she also recalls the fun they’d had. Laughter over everything and nothing; it could be just like old times. Or, it could well and truly suck, and only solidify that her leap into true adulthood is just an endless plummet.

Cordelia sighs out her conflict and ignores the burn of Coco’s gaze. “I will think about it.”

“Yay! You won’t regret it if you come, I swear! Plus, you need to get out there and show off that hot ass. You are single now, Delia.”

“So people keep telling me,” She adds dryly.

Access the room, Queenie smirks, much in the way that Coco has; glistening eyes and perhaps plans behind them. Laughter rises to meet both, chuckling away at their good intentions. Said giggles fade ever so slightly as she catches a tiny falter in Misty’s expression, one that is chased away and buried deep down between a smile.

“Anyway, I am getting ready for bed.” Coco announces, downing the last of her wine, “I have a very important client tomorrow and I need my beauty sleep to look my absolute best for him.”

“Um.” Cordelia starts, eager to flip the magnifying glass around. “Him?”

Coco doesn’t quite blush, but she isn’t subtle, either. “That’s right.”

“And is he quite handsome?”

“I – never really considered it. . .”

“Oh my God, you liar.”

She is all but running away, knowing in her eyes. “Goodnight guys!” Coco squeaks. Laughter fills the room where she had stood, embracing them in a subtle way that Cordelia is learning to enjoy.

Soon, it is followed by Queenie’s yawn, who stands and swings arms to release them from their stiffness. She announces her own plans for sleep, then peers to Misty expectantly. “You coming?”

“Nah,” she speaks in a relaxed manner, maybe herself on the cusp of tiredness; those feelings are fought. “I think I’ll stay a little longer.”

“Suit yourself.”

With a shrug, she is headed out of the door that softly clicks behind her and then, quiet prevails. Cordelia gives a long exhale, shaking away the long day, the excitement of seeing the most adorable baby. Though her muscles try to convince her that bed would be most preferable right now, she finds her body anchored in place.

The solid hold she has on the couch wobbles when a form comes to sit beside her. Misty, having dragged a plushy blanket and the remaining bag of chips, grins at her. “Want any?”

She squints her sleepy eyes open. “Hm, I wouldn’t dare take your food away.”

“Oh, I think they’re Queenie’s.” She announces with little care, then throws a couple in her mouth with some crunchy bites. “They’re good.”

As Cordelia keeps her breaths slow and steady, she thinks she could just about slip away into sleep. Until Misty keeps on talking. “How was your day?”

She makes a noise as way of her answer.

“Ah.” Misty wipes at her mouth with the back of her hand, then scoots closer.

“Hm, yeah.” In a deadpan, she grumbles out. “Hank called again.”

“Oh – what did he want?”

Cordelia throws her head back, eyes fully closed for just a second as she curses her predicament. “I don’t know, I didn’t answer.”

Something glints behind Misty’s eyes, the same way a buried treasure glistens so wonderfully to its finder. Cordelia discovers herself wanting to dig deeper for its meaning. Misty twists herself on the spot, facing completely forward now and playing with one of her many rings. “Bet he’s regrettin’ losing you.”

“Yeah, well. He can keep on regretting it. Besides, the asshole cheated on me, so. . .” Her bitterness leaves a nasty taste in her mouth, her chest, as it coats inside. Sure, she’d been the one to effectively end the relationship, but to find that out the day after had certainly unsettled the already crumbling terrain beneath her.

Then, Misty dips her brows and scrunches her nose, and offers this genuine affection in her tone. “I can’t believe he did that to you.”

“That’s Hank. . .”

“Yeah, but – to you.”

The last bit of emphasis throws Cordelia, who lifts her head and regards Misty with a frown. It might be the late hour, she’s sure it is, though she ought to check. “What do you mean by that?”

And this has Misty giving a shy smile, eyes on Cordelia’s for as long as they dare. “Well, come on, you are not the kinda person someone cheats on.” In a quick moment of realization, she adds with wide eyes, “not that I’m sayin’ anyone deserves to be cheated on but you. . .you’re. . .”

She leans in closer, smiling almost teasingly. “I’m?”

There’s something strange about Misty as she breathes out the words with a fond smile. “You’re kind – and sweet,” she sighs, “an’ beautiful.”

Where these had been the foul lingering of Hank, Cordelia is gifted a surprising burst of happiness. “You think that?” She asks, just to be sure, even if Misty is dripping with enough sincerity that she could gather it in a bowl and sell it for profit.

“Course I do – I get good vibes about people.” She grins proudly.

“Thank you,” Cordelia says. “I know that my life is a little up in the air at the minute, but I’m glad I met you guys. You’re all. . .you’re all so welcoming.”

There she is again, practically bounding with joy, and this time she’s reaching over to squeeze Cordelia’s hand. “We’re glad to have ya. Me especially.”

“Oh.” Easy giggles float freely from her lips, “and why is that?” If there is something different about the way she speaks to Misty here, neither dwell on it.

“I told you, you got good vibes – almost like, light, the good kind.” She’s smiling, almost tenderly. Misty had slipped into the expression with no fight, just an organic and almost instinctive tug of her lips. Cordelia appraises it, deciding in this moment that Misty is beautiful, too. Particularly in the haze of the few lamps, with sleepiness held on her pale skin, and her own kind nature exuded. “Plus,” the woman decides happily, “you bring me fries back from work sometimes an’ I like that.”

Cordelia produces something close to a snort. “Well, then I’ll keep on doing it.” This has her leaning in, nudging Misty playfully, and she doesn’t miss how the woman glows that bit brighter.

After a few seconds, both seem to relax into their position on the couch, Misty’s head angled ever so slightly toward her.

Eventually, over their soft muttering about the TV show and life in general, Misty speaks surely. “You should really come next week, ya know?”

“Yeah,” Cordelia chuckles, “and you, Misty Day, should go get all your shots.”

“I’m bein’ serious!”

Eyes bulging wider, she tries to be more authoritative. “So am I! Do you know how bad some of those diseases are?”

“Cordelia,” she groans, very much with the petulance of a child that has the older blonde smiling. Misty reaches to move the blanket around her, ever so carefully wrapping it around the two of them. She hadn’t asked Misty to, but she doesn’t move away. “Just hush and watch the TV.”

She bites back a smile. “Fine.” Even still, she doesn’t listen to Misty’s order and finds her brain focused on convincing the girl out of her stubborn views. She’s so absorbed in that task that she doesn’t notice Misty glancing at her from the corner of her eyes every few moments.

“Just one.”

“No.”

Cordelia huffs out, pointed eyes on the blonde. “Just hear me out, okay? I have been reading about vaccines and - ”

“It ain’t happenin’.”

Just as Cordelia holds onto her own stubbornness, Misty has an equal amount to share and, oh, she does.

She’s sat directly across from her, having already ruined the girl's mood as she's interrupted a moment between her and a delicious looking brownie. Lifting her brows, Misty dares her to keep speaking.

If there’s one thing Cordelia is at the moment, it’s brave, and so she takes up the challenge. “Look, I know you have your opinions on this, but if you just look at the facts – ”

“I appreciate your concern, but no.”

“Why not?”

Turns out, that opens a whole can of worms. She can feel the entertained eyes of Nan and Mallory who watch the back and forth with everything sans a bucket of popcorn in their hands.

The big surprise, however, is that Cordelia thought she’d been prepared about the subject, only to be put to shame as Misty takes to the small stage in the coffee shop. She sits there comfortably, wiggling her butt on the stool, before her throat clears. “This, er, first song is about how vaccines are lies, so yeah, enjoy.”

Cordelia wants to drop her head into her hands. She almost does, just for a second, but locks her neck muscles in to place. Nan snickers to her right, “looks like you’ve really ticked her off.”

There once was a man, lets’s call him Gene, he thought it’s good to go get a vaccine. Much later that night he felt some kind of funny, got this weird feeling all up in his tummy.” Misty pauses, almost for dramatic effect, with fingers hovering over the strings. “Didn’t take long for Gene to be gone, all buried in a great big box. But wait, ain’t shots good? Putting poison in our blood, hey, least we don’t got chicken pox. La, la, la, la, la, la.

Turning to the other two, a pale faced and taken aback Cordelia sighs. “Why do the people always die in her songs?”

She wipes at the sleep that resides in the corner of her eyes, gently letting the world come into focus. Or as much as it can without the contacts.

It is no surprise to Cordelia at this point when she finds Misty sat at their kitchen table as she inhales a bowl of cereal. “Hey.”

“Mornin’,” comes out between mouthfuls.

Cordelia pauses, and debates, and one side totally wins. “Hey, did you think any more about what I sa – ”

“Nope.” Misty shakes her head decisively.

As the older blonde slumps, she wonder if she should push some more, if it’s too early for such a talk. A yawn rattles through her, and she very much knows it is. So, she plonks herself down next to Misty, deciding it’s a debate for another day.

The minute she’d seen a group of twelve walk in, her heart had dropped a little bit. Teenage boys, nonetheless, who’ve been loud and rambunctious ever since setting foot in the door. Cordelia groans under the weight of the tray as she carries their drinks over, chest clenching when one had threatened to topple over.

It doesn’t, to her great relief, but the sound effects offered from the boys certainly hadn’t been needed. Or welcome.

“You better be good tippers,” She growls under her breath as she rushes off to collect the last couple of burgers that wait at the counter.

On her way past, she encounters her boss who grins her way. “Working hard, Cordelia?”

“Oh, always.” She pours out sarcastically, “this work really is fulfilling.”

“There’s plenty of other jobs out there for you if you don’t like this.” He comments, a barely veiled threat dangling precariously between the two.

It knocks her back into forced amicability, a smile pushed to her lips. “I was only joking.” She lies, grabbing the hot plates and wondering if her poor fingertips will ever recover from this experience.

“I need you to work Friday and Saturday night by the way.”

“But I was supposed that be on the day shifts!”

He steps back, taking a moment to glance down at her and her, thankfully, still clean uniform. There is no hiding the way he ogles at her breasts so she purses her lips together and tries not to react. “You know how it is, things change. I need you in, okay?”

“You can’t just change my shift like that.”

The dark haired man gives her a look, a ‘come on, get real’ and she resents the very sight of it.

That leering gaze lifts up, widening with interest. “Hey, look alive. You got a new table to wait on, go earn your wage.”

I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.

Cordelia spins on the spot while still holding the two plates. She almost drops them upon seeing Misty sat at one of the tables in the far corner. Her massage table is awkwardly pressed between the wall and the opposite chair, tilting in a dangerous angle. With speed and haste, Cordelia has the burgers at their desired table and then hurries over to where the blonde is. Why her heart thumps all of a sudden is a mystery to her, but then she’s stood in front of Misty and grinning, so that leaves little time for decoding.

“What are you doing here?”

“Well, firstly,” Misty starts, “to give you these back.”

From her small hemp bag, Misty produces crinkled vaccine pamphlets that Cordelia recognizes all too well.

“Ah, they didn’t make for an interesting read then?” Regret might hang in her words, but maybe she’s starting to accept defeat. After all, she can’t control everything in her life. These few weeks have certainly made that blaringly clear; why should she be able to control this?

“Where did you get so many?”

She shrugs, casually sitting herself down next to Misty after one quick glance over at her distracted boss. “The hospital.”

Misty wears this thoughtfulness, though doesn’t push. She sighs. “Any chance of gettin’ something to drink?”

“Sure, what do you want?”

She quickly takes her drink orders, grinning when food is suddenly thrown in too, for good measure. Part of her wants to return straight to Misty, but to her annoyance other tables gesture her over, more people show up, and it’s a good fifteen minutes before she returns.

“Sorry,” she breathes, sitting instantly this time. It’s awfully nice to take the weight off of her feet.

Misty smiles over, taking a sip of her beer and then letting the bottle clink against the table. “S’okay. You’re busy.”

“Only three more hours to go.” She jokes, giving strained laughter that Misty easily picks up on. But Cordelia beats her to continue the conversation as she speaks. “So, why are you here really? You could have given me these back at home.”

“Hm, can’t a girl just want somethin’ to eat?”

She gives a wry smile, “you must have walked past a lot of food places to get here. With that, no doubt.” The awkward and clunky massage table is gestured to.

Misty merely laughs and shrugs. “You’re overthinkin’ there, Delia.”

As if that isn’t catalyst enough for a rampage of thoughts, it is also the first time that Misty has ever referred to her by that name. Normally Coco’s go to, far better than the nicknames Hank ever gave her, and spoken with a familiarity that she likes.

Despite the conversation, she smiles.

And when her boss isn’t looking, she definitely sneaks Misty a donut that she eats in four mouthfuls. Such a sight has Cordelia with deep belly laughter that requires her sides to be held.

She may have lost her small battle, but she’s certainly gained a friend.

“So,” Cordelia presses not long after dinner and as Coco cleans the dishes wearing the most ridiculous pair of rubber gloves, faux fur trim and all, “how has work been recently?”

“If you’re asking how things went with a certain man,” she begins in smugness, “you’ll be happy to know that we worked very closely on our new recipes.”

She bursts into a grin. “Oh, really?”

“Yes. James happened to have a lot of amazing ideas.”

A pause.

“And he was an even better kisser.”

“Coco.”

She stops where she was wiping the table to turn to her friend, completely aghast. “You kissed him at work?”

“Don’t be such a prude, Delia. Are you going to alert the church elders next?”

“Oh, har har.”

Coco throws a smirk over her shoulder, then begins shrugging off the gloves. “I highly recommend it for you. Queenie was right – the sooner you get out there, the better.”

She rolls her eyes, shaking her head. “The idea of dating another guy is like, the least of my priorities right now, Co.”

“Who said it had to be a guy?” The woman sidles up to her, a knowing smile.

“What?”

Her friend tsks, “come on sweetie, you’re hot. Seems rude to limit yourself to one gender.”

She doesn’t have a response straight away. After all, it’s in her nature to edit each and every one of her thoughts. Being with a woman is something she’s never actively sought, but then again she doesn’t shy away from the idea. It's simply an unknown world to her. “Right,” she begins, “and do you have a specific woman in mind for me?”

Totally meant to be a joke, it mutates into so something else in wake of Coco’s reaction. “I might.”

“Who?” Cordelia splutters.

“That’s for me to know and you to find out, now go take this bowl back across the hall, will you?”

The piece of crockery is placed quickly into her hands, dragging them down in an instant. “Yes, ma’am,” she gives a dutiful nod and does just that.

She gives a few raps on the door where it doesn’t take long for someone to appear. Queenie spots the bowl in her hand and reaches out for it. “About time.”

Headed back for the kitchen, she begins a retreat though leaves the door open almost as in welcoming. Cordelia takes it as such and timidly steps into the apartment.

Not too far away, she can hear the faint and dulcet tones of music, no doubt wafting in from Misty’s bedroom.

As though carried by the notes herself, Misty appears in the doorway. She’s wearing a pair of tiny shorts and a vest top, with long hair tied up for once in this messy bun. In said bun, sticks out pencils and paintbrushes. “Oh, hey Delia.” There it is again, and Cordelia feels a warmth inside.

“Hi.”

She doesn’t question why the woman is there, but instead she carries on with her business. That being searching through the drawers and cabinets until she finds a tub of salt. Cordelia gives her a questioning eyebrow rise, to which Misty shrugs. “Need it for a spell.”

“You set the curtains on fire again and we are not friends, Misty.” That’s Queenie, jumping in with her warning that Cordelia would definitely head.

The Cajun seems less bothered, coming to a slow walk just before Cordelia. Here, she leans against the back of the couch and stretches out impossibly long legs that Cordelia finds herself admiring in jealously.

“I was gonna come find you, actually.” Misty confesses.

“Me?”

“Yeah.” She stands straighter, rolling on the balls of her feet and wearing maybe this little apologetic set of features. “I’m sorry ‘bout bein’ a bit rude to you over all the shots stuff – Mallory told me I seemed a lot off and I don’t ever want you to think that I’m mad at you or anythin’.”

She reels with surprise, then speaks softly. “It’s fine, Misty. I was pushing it. It’s your body at the end of the day, you should decide what goes into it.”

Nodding her agreement, Misty is suddenly fidgeting her hands together. It’s then that Cordelia notices them devoid of rings, thinking how strange a sight that it.

“About that. . .”

She furrows her brow, letting the embers of curiosity be fanned and burst to life with the tiniest, flickering flame. “Yes?”

Misty appears torn, a rare sight, but she doesn’t keep it confined for long. “So, I read some more about vaccines. . .and I think – maybe, you’re kinda right.”

She instantly wants to celebrate her win, to jump about giddily, but she doesn’t. All she allows for is the corners of her mouth to quirk and twitch.

Maybe Misty notices this, feels her desperate desire to do more than stand stationary, but she doesn’t comment on it.

Instead, there is a sheepishness about her, in the way she idly scratches at the back of her neck. Glancing around, she makes sure the coast is clear before she speaks. “Maybe there’s a couple that I ought to get to, you know, just be safe. . .”

“Are you sure you want those trackers going in you?” Cordelia teases where she can’t help herself.

Only to receive a playful push from Misty. “My Momma used to swear by that!”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

This gives way to an even longer pause where Misty looks as though she’s ready you jump out of her own skin.

“Delia, look I – I’m kinda. . .scared of needles.”

The very idea is utterly ridiculous. Misty, who carries herself with strength and confidence, scared of a tiny needles. Silly or not, she oozes with sympathy. “That’s okay. Everyone is scared of something. You know that I am terrified of wasps.”

Offering a small laugh, Misty nods. But she still hasn’t fully rid herself of those nerves that look a strange color on her.

“Yeah, right. So.” Eyes flitter across the room. “Do you think – if I went. . .would you come with me?”

She doesn’t even need a moment to consider it. “Of course I will, Misty. You don’t even have to ask.”

Relief settles over her like rain pouring from a heavy cloud. “Ah, okay. Great. Thank you.” She glances over, looks like she wants to pull Cordelia in for a hug, but doesn’t.

And Cordelia almost wishes she had.

This is how she ends up in the doctors office merely a couple of days later with nothing short of a terrified Misty sat on the bed.

The girl is eyeing up the needles, this pale and harrowed expression that shares her struggles.

Cordelia sighs. “Just don’t look at them.”

“What if it hurts?”

The Doctor smiles as he places on rubber gloves. “If you relax, it won’t hurt at all.” His eyes move from Cordelia to Misty, “now, are you ready?”

She looks far from it, but nods either way and holds up her sleeve as he uses an alcohol rub on her upper arm. It stiffens her more. Maybe it’s the cold, maybe the anticipation, but she certainly isn’t happy.

Cordelia moves on instinct and holds out her hand. “Here, hold it if you want.”

Peering up, Misty is the sight of innocence. These wide, shining eyes and smooth features, and an audible sigh as their fingers intertwine with one another. Misty’s grip is tight, almost painfully so, but she guesses she can grin and bear it considering the circumstances.

And she really does. As the first shot goes in, Misty scrunches up her eyes, turns up, and clenches onto her for dear life.

She might loses feeling in her fingers for a few seconds, though she finds herself speaking through it. “You’re doing so good.” Cordelia whispers in the most soothing voice she can muster.

Misty catches it, peaking one eye open and staring back at Cordelia with such intensity that she almost doesn’t notice the second shot going in. All she can do is continue to hold her hand, to talk in reassurances, and that seems enough to get her through the ordeal.

“I can’t believe you convinced her.” Mallory chuckles later that evening as Misty waits at the counter for her green tea. The “I was brave today” sticker had been a joke from Cordelia, but she wears it with the uttermost pride on her chest.

“Well, all you need is the right information,” Cordelia shrugs, as though it was that easy. It certainly didn’t feel so. “Plus, I bought her an ice cream afterwards.” Her eyes stay on Misty, remembering how happy she’d been at the sight of the sweet treat, “nothing a bit of positive reinforcement can’t help.”

The group falls into laughter, just in time for Misty to reappear with her drink. She sips at it slowly, but wears a pout as she nestles herself into the corner of the couch. “My arm hurts – you didn’t say that would happen.” Even now, she wears the cotton bud and tape on her arm like she’s got some sort of war wound.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t fall off.” Coco jokes.

Misty, in her naivety, turns to Cordelia in horror.

In turn, she sighs. “It is not going to fall off. Ignore them.”

“What if I can’t play my guitar ever again?”

“You will be fine, don’t you trust me?” She leans in that little bit nearer, nudging Misty’s side and taking care not to knock her arm. On her part, Misty is smiling in this endearing way and making Cordelia want to sweep in a lot nearer. She pauses, almost frowning, and wondering if anyone else noticed. 

“I trust ya,” Misty announces, dragging her from those thoughts.

Cordelia smiles.

“But if my arm falls off, I might have to rethink that.”

She rolls her eyes so hard that they almost roll to the back of her head.

Chapter Text

“Hurry up! The taxi is on its way.”

Cordelia groans at the sound of Coco banging on her door so hard she's scared it could fall off. The force is enough to have her hand falling from perfect position and almost ruining her eyeliner. “Dammit.”

Louder, in the direction of her obnoxious roommate, she adds. “I’m going as fast as I can!”

“Not fast enough!”

Rolling her eyes is reaction enough. She swallows down the nerves daring to fan in her tummy, hoping they disappear as the time goes by. They don’t. They only get worse. This stupid work party isn’t her first choice, but between Coco and Queenie’s insistence that she needs to take the stick out of her butt, and Misty’s soft insistence that she’ll have fun, well, here she is.

Standing in front of her mirror and attempting to recognize the person beneath. Signature make up or not, she senses the change, sees it in her deep, brown eyes. Is this what everyone else sees? The temptation to stand in front of the mirror and study the new intricacies of herself is strong as ever.

But then someone else is banging on the door. “Come out, Cordelia. If you make us late, Coco might combust.”

She lets out a mighty huff as thoughts are disrupted and cast inside into dust. One final glance at the mirror, a ruffle of hands through wavy hair, and she’s ready. Not before grabbing her clutch.

Clearly everyone has been sat waiting for her, as her entry into the lounge brings silence at first. Then, Coco sighs. “Finally, you started getting ready four hours ago.”

Cordelia pauses, a little sheepish. Her distractions had come in the time she’d spent convincing herself she didn’t want to go and, as such, concocting a layer of excuses. None of which would fly with Coco. “Well, I’m ready now,” she grumbles, glancing around, “wait, where’s Misty?”

As though as cue, the bathroom door opens to reveal the very woman. “You know what you should get, Co? The toilet paper with little notes on so you got something to read when you pee – oh, you’re ready.” She aims a rather potent beam Cordelia’s way, eyes sweeping right across her in one swift movement. “You look amazin’.”

Peering down at her black cocktail dress with shoulder cut outs, she smiles at the compliment. “Thank you, so do you.” Then, with a spluttering of those nerves returning, she adds. “Not that you don’t always look nice.”

Misty grins and offers a twirl of her deep green dress, a shimmering material that makes her seem almost magical. She may wear that, may adorn even darker make up around her eyes, but she exudes a light that Cordelia basks in as she continues to stare. At long legs, at curls that seem even more enhanced and shiny and wild, and at Misty’s eyes that catch onto hers.

Her stomach clenches, only for her to jump a little in shock when Coco touches her arm. The woman is checking her phone, giving an excited squeal. “Taxi is here, let’s go. Time to party.”

Just like that, she’s being shoved out of the door. No time to regret her decision. No, Coco just won’t allow it.

“This is going to be so fun.” She starts as they’re nestled in the cab. Cordelia is squished in the middle, between Queenie who is glued to her phone and Misty who keeps leaning forward every few moments to ask for the radio station to be changed.

Cordelia worries her lower lip, insisting over and over that it will be fun. Just like old times. And hopefully, this time Coco won’t call her the next morning from some random frat house begging to be “saved from these disgusting boys”. Her fret must be far too obvious, a sight for all to see, as Misty suddenly leans in and whispers. “You don’t gotta look so worried.”

“Habit,” comes her dry mutter.

Misty gives her a knowing look, had maybe been expecting it, and is suddenly reaching to unhook the silver necklace she wears, one of her many crystals dangling from the end. The delicate purples of the stone shimmer upon movement, especially when headed Cordelia’s way. “Here.” Misty speaks even after she has begun playing the necklace on the other woman, “you can wear this.” Despite her initial surprise, and the awkwardness of fitting on a necklace in their close confines, Cordelia smiles.

Fingers reach down for the cool crystal, smoothing her thumb over it. “Amethyst?” she asks, an educated guess.

Misty appears impressed either way. “Yuh huh.” She is awfully close. “Good for keepin’ ya calm.”

“Might need about ten of these.”

“Sadly I’ve only got the one with me.” Misty cocks her head to the side a little, one corner of her lips tugged up. Pretty. That’s the word that flies into her kind, sitting there with stubbornness. And Misty is pretty, so why is she focusing on that so much?

She gives her head a soft shake as though to refresh it. “Thank you.”

“Anytime.” Misty watches her, stares for what seems a truly long time. In this moment, Cordelia experiences this weird sort of paralysis; nervous, sure, but something else. But she’s released from it as Misty’s eyes widen excitedly and she jumps forward with a hand clutching the driver’s chair. “Hey, can you turn this up? I love this song.”

Once Cordelia gets her breath back, she finds her grin hard to chisel from her lips.

With an internal pep talk (that only includes a few profanities) and Misty’s necklace as a calming beacon, she faces the party with all she’s got.

Thankfully, most of these people don’t know her, the sticky situation she’s found herself in and so, it means the mention of Hank is something she doesn’t have to fear.

She helps herself to some fruity cocktail, one that has her taste buds dancing. Smiling into the glass, she returns back over to where Mallory and Queenie are watching Coco practically swinging from a man’s arm.

“Hm, so that is her work make out buddy?”

“Better than her last venture.” Mallory comments, “at least this one isn’t married.”

Queenie butts in with a pointed, “that we know of.”

This has Cordelia pulling a face, studying the light haired man for any signs of infidelity; a great cover up that seems all too common. For a second, she’s bitterly reminded of things she'd rather forget. Of cheating husbands and an ache in her chest. She practically chugs at her drink in response and prays for distraction.

“We shouldn’t judge really,” Mallory chuckles, “she’s doing better than all of us. At least she’s with someone, kind of.”

The three watch, a shared sense of longing, perhaps.

“I don’t think I’d wanna be with a guy that clearly waxes his chest.” Queenie comments, snickering into her drink. She turns to Cordelia and nudges her, “what about you? Was Hank much of a manscaper?”

It has Mallory giggling instantly, maybe too falling into the land of tipsy. She leans in with shining eyes and waits expectantly.

Cordelia, rightly so, blanches and offers a small wince. “I don’t wanna think about that.”

“Oh come on, give us the goss, girl.”

“Not about Hank.”

“Then what about someone else? Anyone you have your eye on?”

She is shaking her head even before the sentence finished, putting an end to all of the nonsense. Honestly, it’s like they’re back at High School all over again. “No.”

“Seriously, girl?” Queenie makes her disbelief known. Now, full attention is drawn from Coco’s antics and toward Cordelia. She shifts on the spot in turn, lowering herself to the nearby seat tentatively – she may need to scurry away from such a conversation, after all.

Peering down, Cordelia adopts a quiet tone, a pensive thing; straying from the vibrant party theme. “I just. . .don’t want to rush into anything.”

“You don’t have to date them. You could just have a one night stand.”

If anything, she pales even further and refuses to make eye contact with either woman. “I’m not that kind of person.” As wonderful and liberating as some may claim that to be, Cordelia requires more than just the physical touch – she needs feelings, emotions, a connection that transcends touch.

“Maybe you become that person. Aren’t you all about changing right now? A fresh start and all that stuff?”

Mallory laughs at the statement, shaking her head incredulously, “I don’t think she means that sort of change.”

Might help her relax a little.” Queenie sing songs under her breath.

“Hey!” The statement has her head swiveling on its axis. “Are you saying I’m upright?”

The awkwardness that lingers in wake of that is not the most pleasant, but a certain blonde wafts in and dispels it with ease as she wiggles her butt between Mallory and the seat. “This place is the best. Do you know how many free samples I got?” Misty grins around the group.

In her hand, the bag bulges and rattles, and Cordelia grins over at the woman fondly. In contrast, Mallory's eyes widen in concern, “where did you get those?”

“I dunno.” Misty replies idly as she also plucks a beer from her stuffed bag. Using the edge of a nearby table, she removes the cap in a swift and efficient move that Cordelia would miss if she hadn’t been watching for those two seconds. The curly haired woman shrugs, “some closet.”

“I don’t think you were supposed to take those. . .”

“What did you get?” Queenie asks excitedly, far less reprimanding and increasingly curious at all the goodies that she may partake in. There are no qualms from Misty who happily displays her cache.

“Coco isn’t going to be happy that you took things for her work.”

Misty scoffs, reaching to take a swig of her beer, “the closet was open. They woulda locked it if they didn’t want anyone goin’ in.”

“Oh, Misty.”

Not a single care is given, and the conversation quickly led elsewhere. “What were you guys talkin’ about anyway?”

The smile from Cordelia’s lips jumps ship. Especially as it means the spotlight is once again on her, this time with Misty present. And okay, she can maybe take the focus from the other two women, the jibing, the smirks, but the idea of talking about this in front of Misty makes her want to crawl out of her own skin and run away.

“We’re trying to convince Cordelia that she should hook up with someone.”

Misty pauses, flitters eyes all over the place, and certainly doesn’t share in the humor. “Oh, that again. You should just let her decide by herself. It ain’t actually been that long since. . .well, you know.”

Those words, spoken with no lack of annoyance, are music to Cordelia’s ears. “Thank you,” she breathes, gaining a tiny bit of smugness now there’s someone fighting her corner.

“’Sides,” Misty continues in complete earnest, “there ain’t anyone here good enough for her anyway.”

Cordelia’s eyes widen, having not expected such a compliment. But, come to think of it, that’s exactly the sort of thing that a kind soul like Misty would say. As a result, her smile widens and only the slightest bit of pink makes way onto her neck.

“Oh,” Queenie smirks, “you think so?”

If Misty understands the implications of her coy tone, she makes no move to show that. Another glug of the beer is taken, and then she fiddles with some of her rings. For just a moment, she peers up toward Cordelia, to where her own necklace hangs prettily against the black of her dress, and this timid smile finds a place on her lips.

“Guys, guys, what are you hiding in the corner for?” Coco appears with a flourish of energy. Enough to knock any unsuspecting person from their perch, and the four women just about remain grounded. “Go out there and mingle!”

She emphasizes her words with flailing hands, ushering Queenie first onto her feet, then Cordelia. “This is a party, after all and – ”

She’s reached Misty, where suddenly that overpacked bag is clocked.

Misty commits to her nonchalance. “A girl gotta eat.”

“I – ugh, fine just have it. But you, are going to come with me.”

The instant that Coco has an arm wrapped around the upper part of Misty’s, the taller woman is freezing and digging heeled boots into the ground.

From the group, a chorus of ooooohs chime through. “Misty’s in trouble.” Queenie snickers.

“She is not in trouble,” Coco rolls her eyes, not for a second releasing her strong grip on the confused woman. “But she is going to meet Sophia, right?”

Eyes bulge in recognition. “Now? Jeez, you’re springin’ this on me.” With her free hand, she is nervously grabbing at the material of dress, fussing and finessing in a way that seems so out of character for her.

“Yes, now. She’s here, and I’ve told her lots of wonderful things about you – and she totally said she thinks you’re hot so - ”

“Coco.” Misty begins, voice strained.

A finger is waggled in her face. “Nope, you promised me.”

“I – ”

“Sweetie, it’s been over four months since Olivia.” At the very mention of the name, Misty winces and closes her eyes as though in physical pain. Allowing for the slightest bit of sympathy, Coco pats her arm. “Talk, that’s it. Introduce yourself, tell her about your frog and music and conspiracy theories. Oh, please tell her about your conspiracy theories.”

All but glaring, Misty lifts a brow.

“Fine, talk about what you want.”

“I will,” She grumbles stubbornly, only to realize that she’s inadvertently agreed. Coco gives a squeal so high pitched that a few people turn to study her.

She jumps happily, and yanks at Misty’s arm. “Come on, let’s go.”

A hand is held up, putting a halt to that insistence. Those tangible nerves remain, but it’s apparently nothing that chugging the rest of her beer can’t fix. It takes all of about ten seconds for Misty to down the entire bottle, eyes going crossed for just a second. Coco smirks. “That help?”

“Nah.”

“Oh, hush, you’re great at talking to women.”

Already, they’re on the move again. Queenie and Mallory offer tiny cheers of encouragement, only for Misty to roll her eyes. They may be slightly troubled, hardened by a her annoyance, but that blue melts the moment they make to walk past Cordelia.

The woman had been silent during the entire exchange, but now she touches the necklace and grins sheepishly over at Misty. “You need this back?” she jokes, wondering if it’ll help to calm her obvious nerves (why is it bothering her that Misty is nervous about talking to another woman?)

Misty pauses, dipping her head for just a moment. “You keep it.” A sigh. “Looks better on you anyway.”

If Cordelia experiences a sweep of joy, Misty doesn’t get to witness it for long as she's prisoner to Coco’s plans of matchmaking. Nor does she get to see how Cordelia’s thumb fondly brushes over the smooth and pretty crystal.

She goes to take another sip of her drink, only to find it empty. When did that happen?

Mallory and Queenie appear at either side, wearing matching smiles. “Come on, let's take advantage of that open bar.”

Turns out, Coco is a busy body with many plans that night. Not only does she have a match for Misty, a dark haired woman that Cordelia has spent the last ten minutes studying from her perch at the bar, but she also sends Mallory off with one of her workmates and soon flitters over to find Cordelia. “Delia, baby – why are you sitting here by yourself?”

Arms sweep around her from behind and drag her into a long hug that has Cordelia choking on her own giggles. “You okay there, Co?”

“No, I’m exhausted from having to work my magic on all you guys. Speaking of which, that is Queenie over there talking to Malcolm, which leaves only you, my sweet.” She has moved in front of Cordelia, curling hands around her own and offering this pout of her red lips.

“Me? Oh, I’m your final challenge, I see,” She mutters dryly, though shows no signs of annoyance with her following smirk.

“I’ll find you someone just as amazing as you.” Swinging their arms together, she is certainly the sight of tipsy; pink faced and enthused. Enough to have Cordelia laughing in spite of the conversation. “I just want you to have a good time.”

“I am having a good time,” she smiles, “really. It’s nice to be out. . .thanks for inviting me.”

“Oh, I can do better than an invitation. I can find you the man of your dreams.”

Coco certainly is a broken record, and she specifically remembers that line being uttered many years ago when they were in college. How strange, to be here years later. But you know what? She wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.

Her friend leans over the bar, whispering to the worker who quickly brings over two tequila shots. “No, oh no – not happening.”

“Oh, quit your whining.” It is placed in her hand quickly, so fast that some spills over her fingers and leaves a sticky residue.

Well, looks like there’s no fighting it, so she reluctantly lifts the glass and clinks it with Coco’s. Mirroring the woman’s actions, she soon has the warm sting down her throat and all the way to her stomach, but the mix of alcohol that she’s already had softens the blow. A little. It’s still gross as hell.

Her face must say that, for Coco laughs and nudges her side. “You still hate tequila?”

“With a passion.”

“How about some vodka next time?”

Next time?

Deeper giggles this time, low and numerous, where Coco hugs her again, arms moving languidly. “You wanna meet this guy then?”

Her stomach practically lurches. Strangely, the question isn’t the catalyst for such a reaction, and instead the reason sits at the other end of the bar. Where Misty sits laughing at Sophia, eyes squinted, slightly closed and head thrown back in such a stretch that her long neck is exposed. The other woman moves in, manicured hands finding the inner part of Misty’s elbow, grazing, then holding. Staying there for far too long to be a coincidence. Then, there are ringed fingers on top of that, returning the touch.

And Cordelia tries to pull her heart back into her chest but it’s pretty insistent on its decent.

“Delia?”

Fingers are snapped in front of her face, forcing her to blink back into reality. “Sorry.” She says, voice thick and scratchy, and certainly not hers.

A knowing look settles on her, disappearing just as rapidly. “I can find a woman for you if that’s more of interest. . .”

“No!” Woah, where did that panic come from? “I mean, no thank you – that’s not. . .I don’t. . .”

“Are you okay?”

She glances back over at Misty and the beautiful brunette, and pushes a tight smile onto her lips. “Sorry, think it’s the alcohol. I don’t remember the last time I drank so much.”

Coco nods, soothes a hand up her arm. “You wanna get some fresh air?”

That idea sounds awfully wonderful, one that she agrees to readily. Wobbly feet carry her from the building, out onto the balcony where warm air is somehow refreshing and a view offers distractions from the bustling people. True to her nature, Coco stops to talk to practically everyone, a true social butterfly that Cordelia watches with admiration.

Her own conversations are there, just far more reserved. Allowing her the opportunity for reflection, to clear her boggled brain. It gives her a break from the people, the expectations (whatever plans Coco has of match matching). The one thing that she can’t seem to elude is something that she’s too scared to really think about – that niggling feeling right in her gut.

She’s no stranger to it, not by a long shot, but why it has appeared is a mystery to her. Surely, she not jealous, right? Why would she be jealous? It just doesn’t make any sense to her.

Logical or not, she finds herself turning on the spot, eyes scanning through the expansive window to where the two women had been sitting. They’re gone now, something that in itself has her chest tightening and a myriad of follow ups infiltrating her brain.

“Hey.”

At the sound of the deep voice, she startles and blinks across at the suited man joining her by the balcony. “Cordelia, right?”

“That’s right.” She nods, an added smile for effect.

“Sebastian.”

“Ah, you must be the Sebastian that I’ve heard about all night.” She glances around for a meddling Coco to find she has disappeared into the crowd, and so turns eyes back to the man.

He flashes a smile of perfectly white teeth. “I hope so. Coco mentioned you, but I honestly didn’t realize you’d be so beautiful. I – can I get you a drink?”

Even if her head is already awash with alcohol, she stands ready to rid the bitter taste of that jealousy from her blood. And so, she gives a firm nod, clutching onto that necklace one more time “Sure.”

His smile widens before he gestures for her to go ahead, a hand soon hovering at the small of her back. Cordelia does just that.

“Wait, you ran?”

She bows her head, pink faced and soft spoken. “Oh yes, straight out of the bathroom window and to wherever my legs would carry me.” Hearing it out loud brings a different color to her actions, “in hindsight, I could have dealt with it a little better. . .but this way I wouldn’t have ran into Coco.”

Oh, and how different things would be.

“Well, that’s true. Still pretty badass.”

“Try telling that to my ex.” She sips at her wine, smacking lips together thoughtfully. “He wasn’t so impressed.”

Sebastian tilts his head softly, still wearing the lingering hints of humor. “No, I can’t imagine he would. But hey, everything happens for a reason, that’s what I always say.”

Those words sink in slowly, with little resistance. “Hm, that’s a good way to think of things.”

“Actually, it’s something that I probably adopted after my own divorce.”

Surprise flitters through in her voice, and the woman sits straighter. “Oh?”

“Coco didn’t mention that then?”

Cordelia shakes her head, then laughs against the rim of the wine glass. “But who am I to judge?”

“Yeah, it’s kind of a messy story. No running away at the alter, but not something I ever saw. When you first get engaged, you think – this is it, this is forever. . .and four years later it’s, well, not.”

Cordelia’s features tug in understanding. “Things change. People change.” She knows that all too well, how nothing is permanent, how you can promise a life to someone and yet it can pass just as winter changes to spring.

He heaves in a long breath, accepting, and Cordelia smiles. “You’re right. I’ve learned that the hard way.”

The statement leaves room for probing, maybe. An invitation closer. But does she dare? Sometimes her own experience is painful enough, something she tries not to dwell on; doing such a thing to another soul saddles her with guilt.

And yet, in a great contrast, she goes for it. “Did she – who was the one that. . .”

“It was kind of mutual.”

“So, no crazy ex who, er, climbs out of bathroom windows to get away from you?”

He laughs, shuffling on the seat and somehow ending up closer. “Afraid not. Although I think your story makes for better telling. A little bit of drama never goes amiss.”

“Don’t know, I could do with less drama.” She admits. “I’m not really the kind of girl who does those sorts of things – I honestly don’t know what came over me. . .”

He teeters closer again, this time his eyes are brimming with interest. “Well, what kind of girl are you?”

Suddenly, the amicable conversation switches, intentions clearly layed out before them. She can’t blame him really, for that forwardness. It’s a confidence that she often lacks. But there’s something. . .off about it all.

Yes, he’s handsome (very much so), of course, he’s kind, and so far he has had nothing but compliments aimed her way.

Cordelia feels the quiver in her smile, the inner turmoil. Gosh, she’s so out of practice at this. Is it her? Is she the problem? The odd cog in the machine that doesn’t fit quite right, or could there be another posing problem?

Inwardly, she sighs. A great act that sweeps through every suddenly tense muscle in her body and yet, outside she remains pokerfaced.

Or so she thinks.

“Is everything okay?”

Cordelia freezes, and forces her jaw to unclench. “I’m sorry?”

He’s frowning, eyes raking over her and counting the clear signs of discomfort. “You just seem a little. . .”

That word dies on his lips. Maybe it never is intended to make it to fruition, but she speaks either way and attempts to bring her voice somewhat into normality. “I’m fine, totally fine. Just – actually, I need to use the bathroom. If you’ll excuse me.”

“Right, ‘course. I’ll be right here.”

She smiles at his politeness, grabbing her clutch and tucking it under her arm. Eyes are et on her as she leaves; strangely, the burn eludes to more than one pair but she never locates the second set.

Not that her mind can really focus on such a quest. It is spinning by the time she reaches the bathroom, gently sliding past a group of giggling women in the corner to sit herself in a stall. Time comes to a halt in there, a tiny capsule where she sits and thinks, throws her head back until eyes are blinded by the florescent lighting.

For just a moment, she ignores her tipsy state and decides on some deep soul searching. Feelings and sensations that she only allows herself to feel in this solitude. Confusion is first and forefront, waving its figurative arms to get her attention. She’s crazy, right? This attractive, well mannered and (not to sound materialistic, but) rich man has done nothing than show interest in her for the past hour. A keen interest, too, if she’s still in tuned to that sort of stuff.

But, nothing.

Not quite single flicker, a passing flame. Just, unignited kindling and this weird sensation that there’s something the matter with her.

Okay, Coco is a little much with all of this, but she’s good at this sort of stuff. She can easily find complimenting souls, giving them a coaxing push in the right direction. For the record, she’d disapproved of Hank and why hadn’t Cordelia listened to her?

Maybe she ought to now. To go back out there and force these pesky feeling of doubt away. It must just be shaking off the cobwebs of not dating for so long, surely. That’s it. She’s just out of practice. It’ll all come flooding back with time. What has she got to lose?

Still, she sits. Lead laden legs don’t budge, and her thoughts persist in their befuddlement.

“Come on.” She chants, “just go back out there. Talk to him.”

Another few minutes passes, and she finds her reluctance to move growing.

With a great huff, she makes to rush out of the cubicle, only to almost collide into none other than Misty. Both give noises of surprise, Cordelia covering a hand to her beating chest.

“Oh gosh, sorry.” Misty grins. “Wasn’t expectin’ you to come barrellin’ out of there.”

“No.” She glances back at the door. “I don’t know what came over me. . .”

She joins where Misty is washes her hands at the sink, lifting eyes to absorb the reflection in front of her. Perhaps the cracks of her nerves are beginning to push through, but she thankfully spots none of that. Make up is mostly in tact and hair still bouncy and curled.

Smiling in relief, she shifts eyes over Misty. Her chest clenches at the sight of a frown on her lips, certainly surpassing sad. “Misty?”

The Cajun switches it instantly, though she can’t do the same with her eyes. “It’s fine, I’m fine. I dunno what Coco said to you but – ”

“She hasn’t said anything. . .did something happen?”

Misty purses her mouth, retaining stories within. Yet it’s evident that they want to be spilled, shared and dissected maybe, though Cordelia wonders whether she’s the one to do that. After all, she’s only known the woman for a few weeks. Surely her other friends, her closer friends, are more suited for the job?

She catches sight of that downtrodden expression.

Well, would you look at that; her hand is quickly tangling around Misty’s and dragging her away from any spectators. Cordelia’s inner turmoil is forgotten, as is the party, Sebastian. All she focuses on is how to extract the upset from her friend.

They end up at the furthest point of the balcony, behind dry planters and where the music barely reaches. Misty’s protests had started strong, but soon died after a few moment. Now, she embraces quiet.

Enter Cordelia.

“You don’t have to tell me what’s wrong, but we’re staying here for a while.”

Misty lifts up her head, fingers tapping against the railings of the balcony. “You’re gonna stay with me?’

“That’s right.”

She visibly gulps, lick at her lips where most of the lipstick has faded. Cordelia thinks she looks prettier without it anyway. “What about that guy?”

“What guy?”

“The one you were talkin’ to. . .”

How embarrassing – in the space of fifteen minutes at most he’s been banished from her thoughts. She doesn’t even entertain the idea of returning to him, not when there is much better company on offer. “Sebastian? Oh, one of Coco’s ventures.”

Misty nods, kicking lightly at the floor with her boot. Then, eyes lift and admire where the sunset had been occurring not too long ago. Now, different shades of dark blue meld into purples and blacks, and the sky dances in the abstract painting.

“As lovely as he is, I don’t think it’s going to work out. . .”

Her head snaps right up, eyes glistening like the stars that night. “You don’t?”

Cordelia shakes her head, shimmying in closer when she feels a chill run down her spine. With the dwindling sun, a coolness has made itself known, but Misty’s nearby body soon cures that.

The same woman who sighs and makes to lean on her elbows now and she curls her body over the railing.

Cordelia mirrors it. “That doesn’t sound like a good sigh.”

More silence, where she wishes she could climb inside Misty’s mind and figure out what on earth is happening in there to cause such a crestfallen expression. The desire to embrace her, merely just for comfort, is all too strong especially with the alcohol running through her veins. In their proximity, the best she manages is placing a hand over Misty’s on the railing.

At the very least, the woman smiles, albeit kind of sadly. “I thought I was ready, ya know?”

“Ready?”

Misty rolls her eyes. “for datin’.”

“Ah.”

The imagine of Sophia flashes into her mind, apparently a cursed imagine that Cordelia works rapidly to rid. “You didn’t like her?’

“She was great.” Misty confesses, nose cringing up in confusion and making her freckles move that little bit closer. “She was beautiful an’ funny, but. . .but. . .”

“But?” Cordelia pushes with a smile.

“She wasn’t Olivia.”

And that statement hits her like an oncoming train, making her feel as though she’s just been shoved over this balcony and landed ungraciously at the bottom.

Despite the nausea in the throat, she asks more. She needs to, and she doesn’t know what. “What happened with her?”

Misty blinks her way.

“Everyone is pretty tight lipped about it.”

“Yeah – guess that’s on me. I didn’t exactly take it well, bein’ broken up with.”

She squeezes the hand in hers, adding a gracious nod. “That’s understandable, Misty. Break ups are hard, you don’t have to tell me that.”

“You weren’t the one who got dumped.”

It is lacking in malice, yet certainly holds potency and a solemn nature that has Cordelia breathless. Wanting to apologize, for what?

She puts on her brave face and pushes through. “Why?” Why would anyone break up with you?

Misty laughs, all wry and dispirited, and clearly trying to cover up where pain pokes through at any given moment. Yet her vulnerability is something she can hide, not from Cordelia at least. “She, uh, said I was too needy. Too clingy, wanted to spend too much time together – I dunno, I thought that’s what couples were s’posed to do.”

And there is no mistaking the single tear that suddenly rolls down Misty’s porcelain cheek. That’s it, to hell with trying to reserve herself. “Come here.” Cordelia twists them, has Misty in her arms with ease, and smiles at the way she embraces her back.

“That’s a dumb reason for breaking up with someone – loving someone a lot isn’t a bad thing.”

Misty nods rapidly, and allows for more tears.

“You deserve someone who loves you back just as much, Misty. Do you hear me?”

She catches the hitch of a breath, then trembling little words. “What if I don’t ever find that person?”

They pull apart, ever so slowly, but Cordelia doesn’t release her grip. She lifts up a hand and gently tucks some of Misty’s hair to the side, admiring the tear tracks on her cheek that reflect the moonlight. She’s so beautiful, even in her sadness. “You will, I know it.” Then, she leans in closer, voice a hush even though there is no one within earshot. “Olivia is an idiot for breaking up with you, and one day she’ll regret it.”

Misty's eyes go wide as saucers, chest becoming impossibly still as Cordelia smiles at her. “Y – you think?”

And Cordelia offers more kindness, more words from her thumping heart. “I think someone would have to be crazy not to want you.”

The way Misty smiles is slow at first, a lasting event that holds her enrapt for a good few moments until the precious curve of those lips is something to marvel at. And she does.

She finds herself smiling right back, under attention eyes of Misty. The Cajun squeezes their joined hands, then frees one and lifts it to wipe at her face. Cordelia jumps in, using her thumb to brush away stray tears. “She’s not worth crying over.”

She really, really hopes that Misty believes her.

But there’s a rapid change of subject that has Cordelia a little whiplashed. “Don’t you need to go back to that guy?”

And so, she counters it with a coy question of her own. “Don’t you need to go back to Sophia?”

Misty’s teeth nibble at her lower lip. She turns, almost shyly, and returns to her perch on the balcony. “I think I prefer it out here.”

Keeping their hips flush, Cordelia remains by her side. “Mind if I keep you company?”

“Oh, I was countin’ on it.”

Grinning, Misty takes her turn to place her hand on Cordelia’s now, even going as far as intertwining fingers where they sit on the balcony railing.

“Coco is gonna be so mad that we’ve ditched her set ups.” Cordelia laughs in order to dispel the growing tension in her chest.

“Worth it.” Misty tilts her head to the side. “Plus, Sophia said her family go huntin’ – what kinda insane people do that?”

Although Cordelia smiles, she finds words struggling, a suddenly innocent bout of nerves overcome her. Especially as Misty reaches out to fiddle with the necklace, to admire it with her free hand. “Hm, the purple really does suit ya,” she decides happily.

Cordelia nods, feeling anything far from relaxed and stress free in spite of the crystal’s presence.

But then Misty is turning and now appraising another sight, the joy returning to her features. She really hopes that she's helped in that little feat.

As she stares at their joined hands, she can convince herself that maybe she has.

 

Chapter Text

It’s no surprise when she’s dishing up her dinner and the door pops open. As though Misty can follow the scent from any destination, no matter how far. Today, she has her massage table, and slowly leans it nearby the door.

Cordelia gives her a look. “You know that you have your own apartment, right?” She can’t help her face splitting grin. “Across the hall.”

All she receives is a shrug and a smile. “Whatcha cookin’?”

“Lasagne.” She sighs, reaching for another plate without even having to ask Misty if she plans to partake. In fact, she’d ensured that the meal is vegetarian just to accommodate her; the Cajun leans close and prods her own portion, just in case, then smiles happily. “Is that enough for you?”

She uses the spatula to point at the food, and Misty hovers just at her shoulder. “Hm, a little more. Your lasagne is my favorite.”

The compliment is simple, easily spoken, and yet has Cordelia succumbing to a rush of warmth on her face. She hides it by brushing some hair loosely in front and moving over to where she mixes the salad together. None the wiser, Misty sits at the table and momentarily checks her phone, but acknowledges Cordelia with a smile when she joins her.

Taken in an instant, the salad is scanned for tomatoes and cucumber slices, but the leaves pushed aside. She rolls her eyes, holding in remarks about pickiness. Instead, Misty has her own questions. “Where’s Coco?”

“She’s gonna be late. Got caught up in some meeting.”

She nods, a mouthful of the hot pasta. “An’ you ain’t in work late?”

“Obviously not,” Cordelia chuckles. “It was dead so I got off earlier than normal, which I was grateful for because I managed to drop an entire tray of drinks behind the bar.” She gestures to her bandaged hand, “with only a slight casualty.”

Small or not, Misty is honing in on it with care and concern. “Gosh, are you okay?” Ignoring her food, she reaches over and takes hold before Cordelia even has a moment to protest. Inspections are carried out, hums and nods following. “You seriously need another job.”

“Please don’t remind me.”

Misty wrinkles up her noise, distaste clear in her features. “You hate it there. Least do somethin’ that you actually like.”

“I – I don’t know what I like,” she admits, “or what I’d be any good at. . .and besides, my résumé is shockingly small in case you haven’t noticed.”

She snorts out her laughter, slowly letting go of Cordelia’s hand and lowering it back to the table. “Any place would hire ya. You always sound super smart.”

Cordelia pauses, eyes widening with surprise. “You think so?”

“Oh yeah, maybe you should go be a professor or a teacher.”

“I don’t think it quite works like that. . .” Either way, she’s touched by Misty’s faith in her, that smile refusing to budge from lips. It grows as Misty hums appreciatively over the food she’s chewing on. “If all else fails, you can be my personal chef.”

Here, she flashes a smirk, eyes that almost smoulder long enough for Cordelia to get trapped in them. She stumbles on her words so hard that all she can get out is a lame, “. . .y – yeah.”

Misty only laughs some more, stabs at the food with the uttermost enthusiasm. “’Fraid I couldn’t pay you much though.”

“Ah, that does makes things a bit difficult.”

“Yup, don’t get an awful lot of money in my job.” A statement that may leave some pale faced. Not Misty, who smiles and bobs her head, and seems all too cheery regardless.

Cordelia pauses, realizing she hasn’t even touched her own plate since they sat down, that her food grows colder with each passing second that she talks to Misty.

“Hey, you free this weekend?”

It is almost shameful how fast she responds to that simple question. “Yes.”

The embarrassment floods waxes and wanes in growing peaks as Misty continues to smile. “Aw great, I actually needed a favor. . .”

“A favor?” She blinks, gaping with this almost vacancy hanging over of her expression.

Misty might regard her oddly for a second, yet she’s far from deterred. “Yeah, I need a pet sitter.”

“But Misty, we’re not allowed pets in – ”

“For my frog,” she reminds, a playful smile appearing. “He ain’t no bother. Queenie usually checks on him, but she’s away, too – an’ Coco refuses to go anywhere near Pablo.”

It makes more sense within seconds; she certainly remembers the mention of said animal, but what she fails to recall is something that has disappointment coating her insides.

“Where are you going?”

“Oh, just on a hike for a couple of days. It’s a full moon – there’s this lake that I gotta go to, get this particular water. It’s a whole thing.”

“By yourself?”

Misty’s smile suddenly wavers, a wobble that is soon fought and retightened until there is a dazzling display of teeth. “I don’t mind so much.”

If only she’d tell that to the deepest part of her eyes, where sadness suddenly swells as though desperate to be seen. Cordelia clenches the fork in her hand, staring, fighting the dryness in her throat.

“Anyway,” Misty shakes her head, smiling dozily, and breathing some fresh air into the room. “Could you watch him?” Another bite of food is funnelled between lips in a way that Cordelia thinks she wouldn’t find interesting on anyone else. Why does Misty doing it hold her uttermost attention?

As such, she only half hears the statement “Him?”

“. . .Pablo? My frog?”

“Oh, right.” She’s all but pink, the sight of sheepish; a fool of any kind, and yet it earns this genuine grin from Misty. “Of course, I will.”

That smile goes impossibly wide, and the sun may have already began its descent, but the room glows as though bathed in golden rays. “Thanks, I appreciate it.”

“It’s no probl – ”

She is on her feet, a familiar sight at the fridge where she yanks at a beer from the door that only ever seems to disappear when Misty’s there. “I’ll think of somethin’ to repay ya,” Misty decides.

 “It’s fine.”

She’s already holding up a hand, layered with a pretty serpent ring, some silver bands, and an intricate piece with a black gem in the center. They glisten for focus that Cordelia happily offers. “I will pay ya, I promise. I just am a little. . .low on the money side o’ things.”

“Is that why you’re here eating our food?” Cordelia finds the teasing comes from nowhere and far too easily.

If it catches Misty off guard, she doesn’t show it. “The world is a much better place when people share,” she announces wisely, finishing off the last of her meal.

Again, she studies this. Only for Misty's words to literally slap her back into reality.

“Ain’t you eatin’?’

“I – yeah, course I am.” A delicate slice of the food is placed in her mouth, chewed on for longer than necessary.

Misty chuckles at her, regarding the woman oddly and never letting her smile waver. Cordelia’s very much grows to match it.

...

“You wanna hold him?”

“I – what if he’s slimy?” she cringes at how silly she sounds, childish even, and she can easily spy that Misty is holding the creature with no trouble.

Yet, she hesitates.

Misty continues to cup the shiny, pale frog carefully between her fingers. “He’s soft. And he won’t jump – he's real lazy, just likes to sit and think.”

“Think about what?”

“I dunno. Life, I guess.”

Her thumb reaches up, gently caressing the bent leg of the frog. Barely stirring, he gives an obvious blink and shifts on the spot.

The simply movement has Cordelia reeling back as though he’s going to launch himself at her.

“Jeez, he ain’t gonna attack you,” Misty rolls her eyes.

She’s beyond the realm of embarrassment, but does pad forward once more. “I know, I – ” She catches sight of beady eyes, staring right into hers, and that frog is definitely planning something.

His chest stretches out awfully wide, then shrinks in on itself again. “You gonna hold him or what?” Misty smirks, daring. Maybe she can sense Cordelia’s trepidation, see how her gaze dips back and forth in a show of nerves.

She swallows those down and cups her palms together. “Fine.”

“Don’t say like it’s such a chore.”

That teasing has her chest clenched.

“But – ooof.”

A weight is transferred onto her, strange and unfamiliar, and causing her muscles to come to a total freeze. The other reason for that, perhaps, is the pair of hands gently hovering just under hers and lingering in touch. Misty’s hands, to be exact, that stay right underneath. As though she’s frightened to move away just in case something goes wrong. Cordelia relishes in the touch before the frog’s movement distracts her again.

He twists around, regarding her with his strange eyes.

Misty’s hands remain.

“Um, hello?” Cordelia greets awkwardly.

It has her friend bursting into laughter, as though the curt introduction is the most hilarious thing in the world. “You never had animals before, huh?” She questions shrewdly.

She pauses and splutters, and lets her tongue roll over words that are too shy to come out. Her own fluster bewildered the woman, enough that she doesn’t manage to speak until Misty takes the frog back with a knowing glance.

Their hands graze again, and Cordelia wonders when that certain part of Misty had become a focal point in her life.

“S’okay, you got a whole weekend with him to learn how to talk to animals.” She smiles over her shoulder as he’s placed back into his lush vivarium. “You don’t gotta take him out. But he dows like to listen to music.”

She blinks, though does locate her voice again. “Music?”

“Yeah, he likes Dolly Parton.”

That, in itself, is said with all seriousness, and yet Cordelia is grinning and giggling. “How do you know that?” She steps in closer, her shoulder nudging Misty’s. “Did he tell you?”

The teasing earns this puckering of Misty's lips, a twitch where she tries to hide her own smile. Both stare down at the creature, who now contently stood with his head under a constant drip from one of the water features. “He don’t gotta tell me.”

Cordelia’s own content makes itself known with a sigh waiting patiently in her lungs.

Leaning forward, Misty scratches Pablo’s forehead like one would a cat. “He’s my lil prince, I just know what he likes.”

From anyone else, she’d be calling that bluff in its nonsense. Rolling eyes, huffing out disbelief, anything really to discredit such a statement. Not Misty, not for a second; she looks to her, and she believes that nonsense in a heartbeat.

...

It’s late when she tiptoes across the hall – where she expects quiet, the distant buzz of a city exists. In the dark apartment, she finds Coco with a bottle of wine and her erratic phone glued to her hand on the couch. The buzzing is ignored upon seeing Cordelia, the item turned on silent. A big feat from her friend, but one that she appreciates.

“Tough day?” she smirks, gesturing to the wine.

Weariness holds her tone ransom. “You have no idea.”

Cordelia steps in further, trying to ignore the fact that she feels this wonderful sense of content that has evaded her for long enough.

It doesn’t go unnoticed. “And where have you been?”

“Oh, Misty was just showing me her frog.”

Coco snorts and laughs, and adopts the smirk of all smirks. “Is this some kind of euphemism?”

Swatting her head from behind the couch, Cordelia groans. “Will you stop? Please get this idea out of your head.”

“Well, I don’t know, Delia. Just weird that I work awfully hard to get you both extremely compatible dates at my party – yet when I come to check up on you I find you both staring lovingly at the moon. . .what am I supposed to think?”

She blanches at the memory, still hears the ringing of Coco’s shrill reaction in her ears. “We were talking.”

“About the moon.”

Annoyance floods through her first at being back here again, bound to this conversation that Coco can’t seem to grow tired of. “So?”

“The moon, sweetie – you know who else used to look at the moon with Misty?” She raises her brow, eluding an answer. Cordelia can already feel the name boiling her blood.

“I’d rather not know.”

“Why?” Oh, she is enjoying that far too much, and leans towards Cordelia with carefree giggles. “You jealous?”

She throws the nearby pillow in Coco’s face. It effectively knocks her off balance, earns a gasp, enough of a drama to have Cordelia drowning in laughter too. “I don’t like this idea that you’ve convinced yourself of.”

“But I like this idea,” she whines, pouting and squinting eyes half closed.

“You – I, you what?”

School girl teasing quickly turns into something else, evolving as their age has, and a severity shackles her to the couch. While Cordelia may appear a little whiplashed, Coco sighs out against curled lips. “Come on, admit it, you’d make a cute couple.”

She's already twisting away, trying to dismiss herself from those ideas and thoughts, and suggestions that are absolutely ridiculous.

“Me and Misty?” she gawps, breathless. “She’s my friend.”

“You stare at her an awful lot.”

“This is crazy – ”

Coco is smirking and offering in a deadpan, “you stare at her hands even more.”

I do not!

Arched eyebrows stare back at her.

“I have no idea what you are suggesting.”

“Oh, I think you do.”

Whether Cordelia does understand or not, (she totally does and the idea has her insides freezing with this awfully tight pull) she does her best to keep comments restrained.

She can’t do this, not in front of Coco, who gossips and meddles, and transforms the natural flow of things for her own benefit. The idea of her friendship with Misty under the hands of a certain puppet master has her panicked.

“Coco, stop it.”

There’s this long drawn pause that allows Cordelia to gather some of her thoughts, almost. Neatly tied together, she has sense of her world, steadies the vibrating emotions within.

Then Coco decides to speak again. “It’s okay, sweetie.” Some of that wine is sipped at again, this smugness shadowing her face. “Misty stares at you, too.”

Cordelia just about combusts on the spot, shocked and disarmed by the comment. Worst of all, she feels excited. “Really?”

“See!”

She frowns uneasily. “See what?”

“You were smiling.”

“Were not!”

Coco sweeps an arm around her, bringing her closer into a hug where bodies are flush, cheeks smashed against one another. Her wine induced strength surprises the woman, so much that she can merely squeak out said shock.

They’re so close that she can hear the thoughts rattling her head.

One escapes. “Oh my gosh, you like her.”

Cordelia's eyes scan the room like some nervous woodland creature; is there no end to this?

“You’re blushing, look at you.”

She rather abruptly jerks herself away from the hold, rapidly shaking her head. “I am not – I just, it’s hot in here and you’re all excited, and it’s been a long day – ”

Giggling in the neck of the wine bottle, Coco practically kicks her feet in delight. Such an innocent sight, one that has her smiling despite that fact that secrets she didn’t even consider could be spilling out. “This is amazing.”

“She’s my friend. That’s it.”

“Hmmm huh.”

Coming in from another angle, she sighs and tries once more, “I’ve only known her a few weeks.”

“Time means nothing, Delia.”

“I – I. . .” Dammit. “She sweet, okay?” Those words easing from her lips come as a surprise, but there they are. Solidified in the syllables. “And before you get carried away, I am going to get ready for bed.”

Just as she’s starting to stand, hands outstretch in her direction. “No, no, sit down and tell me about your feelings for Misty.”

“I don’t have – ”

“Fine, your ‘maybe’ feelings.”

“Goodnight.” She bites out, hurrying to the door in a whirlwind of irate that merely entertains Coco. The door is given a rather abrupt close behind her. Just for a moment, she stays there, back against the painted wood.

She leans until head back until crown meets contact, eyes closing, a slow and languid breath summoned from her lungs. The conversation is replayed over and over again in her mind, leaving her fingernails digging into palms, teeth pushed together in a clenched line.

Those thoughts are cast away, but not for long; they follow her into a troubled sleep, downright stubborn, and she wonders why her own brain decides to torture her so.

...

When she finds Misty, Coco, and Mallory in their kitchen the next morning, she almost wants to run back into her room.

Misty smiles in her direction and scoots her chair to the side to make more room for Cordelia.

“Jeez, you look awful, Delia.”

She rubs at the sleep lines across her high cheekbones and makes a noise toward Coco. “I didn’t sleep very well.” She hurries for the pot of coffee. “Nothing a ten hour shift can’t fix.”

While she’s met with sympathy from Misty and Mallory, Coco offers no such thing. She watches, and thinks, and exudes some very pointed looks that Cordelia chooses to ignore.

“Hey, I got a spell that might help.” Misty begins.

“Really?”

Her sweet enthusiasm is contagious, shedding a layer from Cordelia’s bad mood. “Yeah,” she bites at her toast all too keenly. “Gimme ten minutes. I’ll get it ready for ya, it’s real easy.”

“Misty – ”

“Can't have you goin’ to work all tired, can I?”

Coco’s eyes widen delightfully. “We really can’t have that.”

Any sly intonations are missed by the Cajun, thankfully, and so Cordelia continues to glare at her roommate.

All is paused when Misty comes and goes in the space of a few minutes, grabbing Cordelia by the hand to lead her across the hall. Here, there are candles, the pungent burning of sage, and a smiling Misty in front of her.

Despite herself, she smiles, too.

...

While she finds herself not as tired at work, she is certainly distracted.

So much that she doesn’t notice how the soda machine has become a water feature until it's too late, and she has to scramble to fix it.

Even then, her thoughts don’t all retreat.

...

“Where is it that you’re going?” she asks Queenie with a smile over their coffees. The woman has a large and overflowing bag next to her, higher than the arm of the couch.

“LA. It’s this big birthday celebration – all of the girls at the salon are going.”

“Oh, that’ll be fun.”

She smiles and nods, “We’ve had it planned for months – can’t believe it’s finally here.” Every so often she checks her phone, perhaps the time, and then glances right back up at Cordelia.

This time, she laughs when she spies the notification. “As usual, Misty has left packing to the last minute and is now panicking.”

Cordelia snorts out a laugh at the very idea. It’s strange to imagine Misty flustered at all, when she’s usually a gentle yet confident presence.

“You think she’d learn,” Queenie mutters dryly.

“Has she always been so. . .?” Wonderfully chaotic.

She doesn’t say that, but maybe Queenie infers it.

“Oh, yeah. That girl is built different,” she announces rather quickly, bringing a smile from Cordelia. “But hey, as far as roommates go she’s okay. Plus she’s got better with rent – I now only have to nag her every couple of months.”

“Well, that’s good.” She chuckles.

Queenie’s just about to speak when her phone buzzes again. She grabs it, gives the screen half an eye and then sighs. “She’s got distracted. Is now sending me pictures of that damn frog with a cowboy hat on.” Though Queenie may roll her eyes, there is a certain amount of fondness there, and Cordelia wonders exactly how close she and Misty are.

But the woman’s words finally register. “She’s what?”

Queenie sighs, typing out a message as she speaks. “You heard me,” she chuckles, “the girl is crazy – she’s got an Instagram for that thing.”

Her eyes bulge in a wonderful mixture of shock and amusement. “An Instagram?”

“If you’re ever having a bad day, I suggest looking,” she smirks, “you won’t be disappointed, I swear.”

The phone once again demands attention, this time earning a grated sigh from her. “I gotta go, she can’t find her camping things and is having a crisis.”

“Oh.”

She slowly sips at her coffee, all pensive and musing.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“No offence, Cordelia, but if you show up there is even less chance of Misty getting packed in time.”

And with that little comment left to mature and sit with Cordelia, Queenie is gone. She frowns after her, deciding whether she just get up and follow. But she instead sits and sits oh so thoughtfully on her coffee.

Unfortunately, those thoughts that flitter about are of the unwanted kind again. She has enough problems in her life, okay?

...

“I’m gonn miss you so much.”

“Misty.”

She continues regardless and moves so her nose is practically touched the light green frog. “You are just the darn cutest thing I ever saw.”

Softer. “Misty.”

“You best behave for Cordelia – she's doin’ us a favor here.” Pablo blinks up at her, stationary as ever, and she wonders if Misty can sense any sort of connection in that gaze.

Leaning against the wall, she laughs out her incredulity at the idea of a frog being treated in such a way. When Misty had shown her the pillow he likes to sit on, complete with his name stitched into it with shiny, green thread, she had been speechless.

Now, she’s merely amused and giddy at this sight.

She moves over to the woman, holding onto either of her shoulders. “Misty, you keep saying how late you are. Please put the frog down.”

Reluctance sits heavily in her stiff arms. As she turns to Cordelia, there is something close to tears. “Sorry, I’m just – I’m gonna miss him.”

“I know.”

Those hands on Misty now make a slow movement up and down. If it soothes her, she doesn’t say, but neither does she break to be free of that touch.

“Promise you’ll take care of him?”

Their eyes meet, and both glisten in different ways. “I promise,” comes her warm counter.

Enough for Misty to believe its sincerity.

She nods, and smiles, and it only takes another ten minutes of goodbyes before she is out of the door in a rustling of heavy bags. Cordelia is left holding the keys, watching her retreat, and in charge of apparently the most previous thing in Misty's life.

She gulps.

...

On her first three checks (out of paranoia more than anything), she finds him sat atop mossy rocks and staring at the wall.

“Good,” she breathes out shakily. “You’re fine, good.”

He flicks a tongue over one eye and continues to vacantly stare.

...

“Come on, you need to come out with us!” Coco is one step away from pouting and stomping her foot like a child denied something. Oh wait, there is the pout, now to just wait on the foot stamp.

Any time now.

Cordelia fans the flames with her sigh, reclining into the couch. In her hand, she holds a book that she’d been contently enjoying when her roommate had barrelled in. “Just because it’s a Friday night doesn’t mean I have to go out.”

“Ugh, yes it does.”

She gives her a hard stare. “I’m busy.”

Coco continues moving back and forth between her room and the kitchen, shouting the entire way. “Oh please, busy with what?”

“. . .things.”

The woman comes to a complete halt. Half dressed, she has tangled hair and is currently make up free. That means it’s apparently easier for her to convey her annoyance. “You need to do better than that, sweetie.”

“Important things.”

“Adding ‘important’ to the front of it does not make it better!”

She lowers her book in annoyance, all but slamming it closed. “It is important, though. I’m taking care of Misty’s frog, remember?”

A stony silence fills their normally amicable apartment. She can see the tension on Coco's forehead, the utter disbelief. Then, as aghast as she could be. “I’m getting ditched for a frog?!”

“Misty’s frog,” she corrects, as though that makes a difference.

And Coco is then raising an eyebrow, giving her that look. The very scathing one that has her nerve retreating in terror.

“. . .what?”

“You are being ridiculous. You can leave it alone for a night. It’s not going to die.”

Cordelia winces. “I can’t do that.”

“Do I have to drag you out with my bare hands?”

She is shaking her head, rolling her eyes in a great display of defiance. “Misty loves him, and I promised I would make sure he was okay. I can’t do that if I’m out drinking in some. . .some bar.”

“Oh, Delia. You are a frustrating little thing.”

The bickering continues, and only ends when she hurries off with the excuse of checking on the pet one more time. Coco groans and mutters profanities under her breath, and Cordelia closes the door in her face.

Misty’s bedroom is far more calming, serene – other than the beeping of a thermostat, it’s awfully quiet.

The refuge would be great if it didn’t remind her of Misty no matter which inch she stares at. Suddenly, she finds herself yearning for her company, needing her sweet cadence to fill the air.

“For God’s sake, what is the matter with you?” She laments aloud and curses the strong pull inside of her.

The same one that has her scrolling through her phone to pull up the last text chain between the two. hey u got a ladel?

Um check our kitchen?

Nvm got one now 😌

She smiles at the simple exchange, remembers how she’d wanted to talk more but had restrained herself after the convincing that it had been late hours, that she'd been tired and didn’t want to bother Misty either.

Now, she can’t battle that urge; at least she’s got a good conversation starter.

Hi, just wanted to let you know that Pablo is doing good and I hope you’re having a great time 🙂

She smiles as the text is typed out, eyes glancing over to the frog. He has done a half circle turn so his eyes point straight out toward Cordelia. They do so in an almost hypnotising way, demanding her attention.

Cordelia gives it, deciding he is better company than Coco at the moment.

She ignores the abrupt flutter in her chest when she’s spotted that Misty has replied. aw im glad! tell my lil prince i miss him and will be back soon 🥰 thank u again, u r the best!

Grinning, Cordelia rereads the message a few times, before peering back up to the her.

“Your mom is pretty great, isn’t she?”

She can say that hear safely, where the only prying ears belong to the amphibian, where no one else could possibly judge, and where maybe any prickling little feelings might remain in this room.

...

“Where are you going?”

“To give Pablo his breakfast.”

Coco smirks and carries on cutting up strawberries for her health smoothie.

...

You know what, I think you’re right. I just played 9 to 5 for Pablo and he definitely looked like he enjoyed it. The text is typed out quickly, with teeth tugging at her lip in thought over just the right words to say.

As it has been over the past 24 hours, Misty’s keen response follows. Well duh i raised him to have taste.

Then, a second later. Is he eatin okay n stuff? seems happy??

Before Cordelia can work on replying to that, Misty has more to add.

Oops almost forgot to ask how u r. my favourite pablo sitter.

If anything, this has Cordelia practically bouncing on the spot. It’s a little strange, being in Misty’s room without her still. But she manages, and quickly words about forming a response.

Never questioned his taste levels for a second 😌 he is fine, eating just about as eagerly as you would (side note; feeding him the flies almost ended in disaster but it’s fine now) and we are having a great time. Sat, in your room, listening to Dolly Parton. Occasionally Stevie Nicks, in your honor.

Stay there as long as u like. he appreciates the company 💕

The invitation to remain here is a welcome one, and Cordelia is certainly tempted with the idea. She finds herself glancing around ever so slowly. In here, she finds conflict.

One, it is Misty’s room. It holds secrets and intimacies that she’s yet to learn about the woman, all here on display. The desire to study every item to within an inch of its life is burning mightily strong.

Just as the idea of going too far frightens her. In no world does she want to betray Misty’s trust, to intrude on her life when she’s not ready to share things.

Those feelings fight, brewing quite a storm inside of her. She simmers them by tiptoeing over to the vivarium, then bending down to admire Pablo.

An interesting pet, if she does say so herself. Interestingly, not out of place with Misty. She narrows her eyes, contemplative. He is kind of cute, she supposes. In his own unique way.

Although he doesn’t do particularly much, there is something quite relaxing about him. Maybe that’s what Misty likes, too. An almost effortless existence with the little creature.

On the table next to his home lies tubs of fruit flies, fresh supplies, cleaning equipment. All standard, expected. What she isn’t prepared for is the small box of even smaller hats and accessories.

“She doesn’t. . .” Cordelia starts to whisper out. Any restraint flies out of the window now and she curiously opens the box with a click. Fingers brush against all the items, from a cowboy hat, to a chef's hat, even a shiny, small crown that glistens from below. There are more, so many more, and she can no longer contain her laughter as she spots a green (and tiny) feather boa.

She snatches her phone up instantly and sends a photo to Misty. What is all this!?

A link is sent her way in lieu of an answer. The Instagram page opens all too quickly. Already, the name has her grinning – Princepablothefirst

“Oh my god, Misty.” She giggles aloud, especially as her scrolling brings her through a plethora of images. One after the other, of Pablo in different positions modelling each and every one of those hands, usually perched on Misty’s hand. His profile pic demands attention; him proudly wearing his little crown. And – “Yup, she put the feather boa on you.”

She glances at it again.

“How do you look good in it?”

The little frog, as it so often does, stares into nothingness.

In the midst of her scrolling, Misty’s name appears in her notifications. What do ya think? ☺

I have no words Misty

Is that gud?

Cordelia drops herself to the bed in a fit of giggling, relishing in the fact that it smells like Misty. You dress your frog up in little outfits

. . .yeah?

He is a FROG!

And the text she gets in return has her heart blossoming with this wonderful stretch that she wants to keep forever. he's my bby delia

She really, really has no words.

...

And when she tells Coco about it later that night, the woman merely rolls her eyes and chuckles. “She’s never shown you those pictures before?”

“No.”

“Well, makes sense – seeing as Misty is normally preoccupied when you’re in the room.”

Her face falls, the knife in her fingers slips and just narrowly misses taking off the end of her nail. “Coco!”

“I didn’t do anything.” She smirks from across the room.

“You. . .you – ”

She appears to Cordelia’s side now, leaning up against the refrigerator where magnets are knocked. “I would tease you some more, but you’re holding a knife so just know I am keeping a lot in.”

“There is nothing to keep in.”

“Sure there’s not sweetie.”

Her false response has her glaring, and Coco grinning, and certainly no in between.

Coco pulls a carton of pressed juice from the fridge and sits herself slowly to the table, the entire time watching Cordelia. Those eyes burn to the back of her head, so piercing that she eventually has to abandon her task of chopping carrots and return the glance. “What?”

“What time is Misty getting back then?”

“Um, late tomorrow morning.” She answers it idly, without thinking, without realizing that Coco is waiting for such a sure answer with a grin on her lips.

“Bet you’re excited to see her, right?”

“I need a new roommate!” Cordelia declares for all to hear.

It only makes things worse, and the blonde jumps up from the chair with a shrill scrape of the legs. “Oh, oh – I can arrange for you and Queenie to switch rooms!”

Cordelia closes her eyes, throws her head back and groans out all of her irritation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even come close to helping.

...

“I’m late. I’m late. I’m so, so late!”

Mallory gives her a look, laughing as Cordelia rushes past. “Sorry, I missed that. Are you late?”

“My alarm didn’t go off!”

She continues in her fluster of movement, rushing to the bathroom so she can brush her teeth hurriedly. At the same time, she comes through her hair and attempts to throw it up into a high pony.

Speeding past Mallory again, the woman barely glances up from her laptop this time, but does watch Cordelia throw item after item into her purse.

“Goddammit, I hate being late. This is the worst.”

She yanks her keys from the back of the door, checking her appearance once last time. Her make up is touched up, neatened, and then she all but flies toward the door.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?”

Hand poised on the doorknob, she frowns and spins to face Mallory. Although there is the hint of humor in her smile, it certainly is a more gentle type than she’s been accustom to.

Still, she blinks and frowns. “What do you mean?”

Mallory lifts a brown set of eyes and lets them dance with amusement. “Pablo?”

“Pablo.”

She repeats this very much in her hazy stupor, where a lack of coffee means that she hasn’t really found her footing on that particular morning. As the seconds pass, the line of Mallory's mouth twists further upwards and sleepy thoughts trickle into realization, Cordelia suddenly gasps. “Pablo.”

“I can check on him if you – ”

“No, no, I got it.” She insists as she grabs for the spare keys to Misty’s apartment.

She skitters the small threshold over the hall and barrels into the woman’s room. Out of breath and out of time, she glances at the disinterested creature.

“Morning!” Cordelia quickly checks the temperatures, ensures that there is plentiful water, and reaches for the food. The same stuff that is hurriedly thrown into the door that she clicks open.

He moves a little at the sight of the flies, probably displaying the most energy she’s seen yet.

But there’s no time to sit and admire that, as she catches sight of the time and just about spasms on the spot.

“My boss is going to kill me.”

The very idea has her barely getting herself out of the door before she locks it, throwing the spare keys blindly back into her own home (“You almost hit me, Cordelia!”) and then sprinting her way toward work.

...

Restocking the condiments and napkin holders is a welcome break from serving. For one, it means she isn’t running around like a headless chicken and two, she gets to do so out of sight from her boss. That rather little wonderful loophole allows her to check her phone every so often.

She does, smiling at her good morning texts from Misty, ignoring all and any contact that Hank tries to make with her, and then sending Coco a list of grocery items to pick up.

Considering she is at work, she is almost happy.

Of course, that all comes crumbling to its foundations with one quick message. At first, the sight of Misty’s name on her notification is enough to have her grinning; it takes of a few seconds to change that.

hi um where is Pablo?

She almost drops the ketchup sachets in her hands and then rereads it. Nope, still says the same thing.

Turning on the spot, she uses her apron to hide the rather obvious texting. Sadly, nothing can cover the frantic beating of her heart. What?? He was there this morning.

well he’s not there now. . .pls tell me this is some kinda joke.

Cordelia thinks she’s just about ready to throw up. She runs, literally runs, to the bathroom and past the confused faced of her coworkers, not that she cares.

Her shaking fingers make to find Misty’s number before the phone is up against her ear. It takes barely a second for it to be answered. “Delia.” Is she crying. Oh god, she crying!

“He was there when I checked on him, I swear. I said hi, I checked his home was fine, I opened the door to put in some flies and – oh my. . .I didn’t close the door!”

The realization hits her with as much velocity as a meteor colliding with an unlucky planet. She is literally knocked from her feet, leant against the small cubicle wall.

“Misty, I – ”

“You left his door open?” The ferocity in her tone certainly isn’t expected, though deserved, and Cordelia wince at its presence. Oh, she could cry too!

A hand sits atop her head in the panic, holding frazzled thoughts in. “I’m sorry, I was in a rush and I must have left it open and he – oh god, he’s got out. I’m so sorry, Misty. It was an accident, I swear, I – ”

“I’m gonna look for him.” Misty says, something brewing in a sinister and quiet way; it has Cordelia gulping on any other words she’d intended.

The call is severed just like that, and no matter how many times she calls again, she gets no response.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Cordelia cries out her troubles in solitude, banging a fist against the wall.

“Cordelia, get out there. The bathroom isn’t a break room for you to make personal calls.”

Anger rises to meet her frenzied back.

“Cordelia!”

She is typing an apology now, praying that it gets through to Misty that way, that she can feel the absolute shame hanging from her at having done something so stupid. God, what is she going to do? What if Misty can’t find him? What if she has well and truly screwed up?

The door rattles on wonky hinges. “Cordelia, out.” She ignores it. “Get off your phone and come out, now.”

She furrows her brow, allows the muscles in her neck to seize in their annoyance.

As her name falls carelessly from her boss’ lips one more time, she can’t bite her tongue any longer. “Fuck this.”

...

By the time she reaches the apartment block, she is the sight of a dishevelled mess – out of breath, one shoe soaked from where she’d ran through a puddle, and some of her knotted hair hanging in loose strands.

Her own apartment is ignored for Misty’s. Certainly uninvited, she bursts in, through the lounge and toward the ajar door of her friend’s room. Here she goes, ready to grovel and apologize and make amends. “Misty, I am so, so, sorry.”

The blonde jumps from where she’d been say on her bed, guitar in hand and gently strumming. At Cordelia’s outburst, fingers roughly fall upon the strings and release a dreadful sound.

“Delia.” Her eyes go as wide as saucers. “Ain’t you supposed to be at work?”

She nods, coughing and spluttering still. No matter how her dry throat heaves for breath, it fails to gather enough. “I – I’m – ”

Throwing the guitar to the side, Misty stands and guides her to the bed. “Breathe.” She orders.

But Cordelia doesn’t have time for any of that nonsense. She’s downright riddled with guilt over the idea of anything bad happening to Misty’s pet, at the expense of her actions, no doubt, and the more she thinks about it the worse she feels and – “You found him.”

Two sets of eyes move to the (now) closed vivarium, where Pablo sits clinging to the glass as though determined to make another escape.

Misty gives a sheepish shrug. “Yeah, he was under my bed.”

Wincing, she gathers what air she can find around her and readies herself for another bout of rambling.

“Misty – ”

“How come you’re here and not workin’?”

She opens her mouth to speak, but find no words come. Misty continues to watch her, unsure and with building suspense. It isn’t Aided by the fact that Cordelia is still wearing her work uniform, and looks a sight for sore eyes.

“Long story.”

Misty raises a brow – it's only then that Cordelia truly takes a send to appraise her and spots that she has some kind of stray leaves tangled in her hair. “Care to tell it?”

As she reaches forward to pick out those leaves, she sighs. “I kind of quit.”

“What?” Misty reels back from their close proximity, blinking profusely at the woman.

That idea should make Cordelia terrified, lost even. If anything, it fills her with a wonderful amount of relief. “You were right, I hate it there.”

“But it’s your job.”

“Yes.” They are suddenly sat shoulder to shoulder, both staring down at hands test they fidget together individually. “He wouldn’t let me leave to help you – even when I said it was an emergency, and he was a total ass. I just thought. . .I deserve better than that.”

There is no hesitation in the way Misty looks to her, softer than a cloud. “You really do.” Cordelia’s gut tightens in a different way than it had when induced by panic; something else welcomes that clench in her chest.

“I honestly couldn’t be more sorry Misty,” she continues, “if anything would have happened to him, I don’t know what I’d do, I – ”

“You can stop apologizin’.”

She sighs again, a distraught little thing.

Misty gestures to the vivarium. “Look, he’s fine.”

Although as Cordelia continues to regard the frog, she can’t shake away the feeling that he might not have been.

“It ain’t like it’s the first time this has happened. He may look innocent, but Pablo is a little Houdini.” And suddenly, the thick air clears to something that doesn’t choke Cordelia. Especially as Misty dares to smile.

Yet she still acts as though it isn’t deserved.

A hand sits atop hers. “I’m not mad at you, Delia – you didn’t mean to do it. Plus, you kinda look like you’re gonna cry. . .”

She hitches her breath. “I almost did!”

“Gee, ‘m sorry. I was just scared.”

“No, I’m the sorry one.”

There she is, going for the sincerity, the heaviness again.

And Misty only scoffs out a laugh. “Okay, we could spend the next hour tellin’ each other that we’re both sorry, or we can just forget ‘bout this and get on with our lives?”

The idea of so easily brushing past it is so foreign to Cordelia. To forget and not to dwell? What a concept. One she finds herself nodding along to as Misty’s squeezes her hand.

But then her touch is gone and she's moving over to grab the frog. He perches happily on her hand, then hops toward the pillow that she offers out for him. There he sits, under both of their watchful eyes.

“So what, he just sits there with you?”

Misty shrugs, “usually, yeah. He’s real chill, I told ya.”

Just as relaxed as he, Misty reaches for her guitar again. It give Cordelia the opportunity to redo her hair, to flatten the crinkled material of her apron, and to the ponder the decisions she’s made already on this hectic morning.

She watches Misty, and experiences a throb in her brain as she tries to wonder how the girl can forgive so easily. Then, blue eyes lift, catch her staring. They quickly roll back. “What’re you worryin’ about now?”

Her face must say it all.

Misty leans in nearer, daringly close. So close that Cordelia holds her breath and refuses to move because it both scares and excites her at the same time. “Listen to me, I don’t hold grudges. Ain’t no point – don’t need that bad karma. All in all, you did me a favor.”

Cordelia nods dumbly.

“And, I figured out how I’m gonna pay ya back.”

“Oh, how?”

Misty smiles, the face of happiness and giving, and eluding to something really wonderful about to come out of her lips.

“I’m gonna give ya a free massage.”

Cordelia, for just a second, is utterly speechless, and surprised, and oh god, why is her heart thumping so much?

 

 

Chapter Text

The hazelnut coffee is a delight to her tongue, and Cordelia sips at it with a gentle smile. Even if her task at hand sucks, even if she can’t believe she’s doing this again in the space of a couple months. She has nice coffee, that's got to count for something, right?

“Then, he grabbed me in his arms and he started kissing me neck and. . .”

Oh, that’s right. She’s also got Coco retelling her latest sexual adventures for anyone within a three block radius to hear. In their little group sits her, Coco and Mallory. Every so often, she catches eyes with Mallory, shakes her head, and then drops her gaze back down to her task.

“And oh my lord, his di – ”

“Coco!”

She stops, hands halted in their description for all to see. “Oh, don’t be such a prude.”

“I am trying to concentrate and you are hear describing things I don’t want to hear about.”

“Penises are wonderful things, actually,” She announces without a shred of shame.

Cordelia wears it all for her; pink faced and agape, with embarrassment pinching her features together. She glances around, wondering if there are any poor witnesses to the crass conversation, and Coco only groans.

“We so have to loosen you up, sweetie.”

“I don’t want you to set me up again.” She grumbles.

This elicits an eye roll. “You did not take full advantage of my wonderful matchmaking skills. If only you handing ditched Sebastian for Misty, maybe you would be rather. . .relieved, if you know what I mean.”

“Wait, you ditched him for Misty?”

Coco pats Mallory’s hand. “Don’t get too excited, they are both in blatant denial and possibly my biggest frustration in life.” She sends a look over Cordelia, perhaps a challenge that she certainly considers rising to.

Instead, she takes another gulp of her drink. “I’m not listening.” She sing songs.

“I cannot wait for the day that you tell me you have feelings for her, I am going to get “I told you so” printed on a t shirt and parade it around.”

At the very idea, Cordelia scoffs. “Never going to happen.” She now busies herself in staring at the notifications on her phone and hoping some new ones pop up. As if by magic one does. Only, it’s from the one person that could add flames to this already out of control bonfire.

So she has to be sneaky, tilting her phone just the right way as she replies. The device, she may hide, but what she struggles to conceal is the way her lips curve prettily upwards.

As such, Coco creeps in. “Who ya texting?”

“No one.”

“I’m sure I just saw Misty’s name.”

“Whose side are you on, Mal?”

The woman holds up her hands in surrender, though is definitely still grinning at the embarrassment that Cordelia tries to keep under wraps.

“Oh, romance is in the air. I can see it now, you and Misty skipping off happily into the distance.”

“Oh for – ”

“Holding hands, whispering sweet nothings, being adorable little lesbian moms to Pablo.”

“Well, mom and step – mom.” Mallory corrects, “Olivia was the original mom, remember?”

Cordelia’s head swings around in her direction, mouth hanging open. To which Coco gives a smug tug of her lips and cocks her brow up. “You seem to get awful testy every time we bring up Olivia.”

Just the name brings scorn in her eyes.

The woman leans forward, “Olivia, Olivia, Olivia.”

“Are you trying to rile me up?”

“Yup, is it working?”

Cordelia shakes her head. “And you guys don’t get annoyed over the fact that her ex broke up with her for totally dumb reasons?”

“Oh, shit, she spoke to you about her?”

There’s genuine, palpable surprise in her tone, the taunting now dragged away and hidden amongst the cobwebs. Coco shares a glance over at Mallory, sharing their intrigue.

“I – well, yes she did.” If she’s haughty about that, she tries not to be. But she’s already a little on the defensive, and it’s a mere side effect.

“Hm huh.”

“What?”

“Hm huh.”

She resists the urge to grab Coco and shake the words out of her. “You are the biggest bane in my life.”

Grabbing her cheek and squeezing it, Coco eases into her smugness. “Oh sweetie, you will find that living with me is the best thing that’s every happened to you.”

There are many, many things to say to that, but they all get a little too shy, maybe for the fear of giving Coco any more ammo to play with. She glances at her phone again; there’s an unread text from Misty, one that she is dying to read. Unfortunately, she’s in the presence of scrutinising eyes and has to be left in wonder. Her tongue nervously flicks between her lips, a sigh following. “Well, as great as this has been, I have a stupid amount of jobs to apply for and I’m going to do that in the safety of my bedroom – away from this.”

She gathers her things, downs the rest of her coffee and very much appreciates the buzz of caffeine it offers. “You can’t run away from me!” Coco announces, “I know where you live.”

The giggling of the two women is left behind, a hasty wave thrown in, and her phone reached from her pocket. She stops just outside the door, the echoing of the bell still in her ears. Already, she’s smiling before the text is even read. oh yeah, you totally need some obsidian. might keep your mom away 😌

Cordelia laughs aloud; if only there could be something powerful enough to hold such a force at bay. As it is, she is still pestering Cordelia to get together for a brunch, a catch up, a couple of hours to have it solidified how much of a disappointment she is.

Those thoughts are edged away as Misty sneaks in another text before she can reply. anyway, i still owe ya that massage??

Her heart stops, having a quick break from beating when instead she can panic. The massage, that very one that is on her mind constantly. Why? It’s just a massage; Cordelia has had them countless times, she loves them. In fact, it’s one of her favorite things that currently money constraints don’t really allow for.

So why is she freaking?

She glances up, around, as though the passersby in the street might catch a glimpse into her internal thinking. Nothing to suggest so, but maybe they just have good poker faces.

What she does catches is Coco and Mallory watching her from the far glass window, and they notice, too. Within seconds, they begin acting out kissy faces to her and pointing to her phone. Her lip reading isn’t impeccable, though she does catch a certain name on them.

“For God sake.”

Feet moving into action, she stomps down the street and leaves her tension behind her. Or tries to. Sadly, it seems interwoven into her muscles. Jeez, maybe she does need a massage.

Either way, she peers down at Misty’s message and sighs.

I’ll see when I’m free and let you know 🙂

When in doubt, stall. Maybe not how her mother would deal with things, but it’s how she intends to.

...

 “What is that?”

Cordelia’s eyes bulge at the amount of alcohol going into the blender, alongside some fruity mix and ice. Across from her, Queenie shrugs “It’s my specialty.”

Before Cordelia can get the next word in, the small machine begins a blitz of great volume. Enough to wake the entire neighborhood.

Enough to draw Misty from her bedroom. “Queenie, I’m tryna do a spell he – oh, hey Cordelia.” Any annoyance on her features slips away.

She smiles widely over at her. “Hi, Misty.” A playful nature takes over her. “Any fun spells you’re playing with?”

“Oh, you should never play with spells.”

Cordelia’s grin widens.

“That’s actually how my cousin lost her pinkie toe.” She nods in all seriousness, padding further into the room. Her cotton dress flows around her calves, swaying this way and that, and managing to transfix Cordelia.

Queenie isn’t affected as such, narrowing eyes. “Excuse me?”

Any concern or delving is waved away as the wind steals the leaves. Misty smiles, “bad magic – I told her not to mess with it. Anyway,” she changes her focus, where it naturally finds the other blonde. “How’s the job search goin’?”

“Ugh.”

Her brows rise as the grins. “That good, huh?”

“I’m beginning to think that this whole ‘making it on my own’ idea has its drawbacks.”

“Aw, you’ll be fine. You got us.” Misty squeezes her arm as she walks past, then eyes the concoction in the blender giddily, “now, I want some of that.”

“I’m not finished yet.”

“Then hurry up.”

Queenie shakes her head, though does begin tilting a hearty amount of white rum within, enough to have Cordelia’s head aching at just the sight.

Unfazed, Misty uses a pair of strong arms to pull herself up onto the counter and get comfortable. Her feet wiggle back and forth, ankle bracelet on show. “You figured out when you’re free yet?” Misty smirks, head clocked to the side.

“Free?” she repeats blankly.

The woman tsks, then bobs her head in acknowledgement. “For the massage.”

At the very mention of the word, the blender bursts back into life. By accident, apparently, as the lidless contraption sends the raspberry red mix shooting toward the ceiling in a grand display for all to see.

Just as shocked as they are, Queenie's hand tries to block the carnage and merely ends up a gloopy mess.

“Jesus.” Misty holds a hand over her chest, panting a little. “What was that for?”

Spinning on her socked feet, Queenie stares between the two. “You’re giving Cordelia a massage?”

“. . .yeah.”

Cordelia, she’s ashamed to say, is just as red as the mix in the blender, and on the ceiling and close vicinity (is there some on Misty's cheek?)

“It’s a thanks for petsittin’.”

“Ah.”

“You’ll still gets yours.” Misty nudges her with the tip of her toes. “I told ya, you just have to ask.”

“I wouldn’t want to take away Cordelia’s turn.” She says, words that on paper sound kind, amiable, and yet come with sly intonations.

Misty lets them slip by, putting the pressure over to the blonde. “So, did you have a day yet?”

Her eagerness is sweet, welcomed; Cordelia knows that her tense muscles will appreciate it oh so much, but she also knows that Coco has been begging Misty for this very open opportunity in her own calender. Has Misty’s schedule miraculously been freed up? A niggling feeling in her chest says otherwise.

But then Misty is gazing at her with those eyes, reminiscent of the finest jewels and whoa – did she really just think that?

Blinking, she focuses on something other than those sapphires and has an awfully hard time as Misty chuckles. “What? You scared of massages or somethin’?”

Apparently the perfect time for Queenie to interject. “Maybe she’s just scared of your magic hands.”

Her laughter is met with the almightiest of glares from Misty, a flash of worry as eyes flicker at her newest friend, and Cordelia’s aching chest prods at her from the inside. Fix it, her brain says, relating to the awfully sad drop in Misty’s facade.

“No, no – not at all. Gosh, I’ve just been so busy. . .”

Misty certainly doesn’t believe her, and unknowingly slumps a little. Though her body is perked right up once more by the appearance of Queenie holding out a wooden spoon that is offered to her. Atop it, her alcoholic abomination waits. “Here, try it.”

There is no hesitation from Misty, who opens her mouth happily and completes the taste test. “Oh shit, that is good. Gimme a glass.”

Queenie rolls her eyes, but does offer out the very item that Misty gulps at.

To say Cordelia is horrified would be an understatement. “It two in the afternoon. . .”

Misty stops, gives her a look, “time ain’t real Delia.” Then, she continues her appreciation of the drink. “Hm.” Wiping her lips messily with the back of her hand, she raises her brows. “So?”

Watching the scene merely had Cordelia weakening at the knees as though Misty cast a spell on her. She makes note to get herself checked those knees at the doctor, but returns the gaze. “So?”

As Misty smirks, her tongue visibly twists, already stained from the drink. “You’ll think of a day?”

Words, turns out, are difficult to form in the wake of something distracting. The source of her distraction? Something she doesn’t even want to admit to herself. Thankfully, she is saved by some unknown force.

Sniffing at the air, Queenie is overcome with a frown. “Why can I smell burning?”

“Aw, damn.” Misty flies from her perch, drink in hand, and rushes to her room. “My spell!

Then, she’s gone. Just as quick as a flash of lightning, and Cordelia certainly feels as though she’s been hit. Apparently, the aftershocks continue in the form of Queenie. Silently, she stares and judges, and stares some more. Arms are tight across her chest.

She moves her weight from one foot to the other, a bubbling of nerves within. “What?”

“You are sure getting into something now, rich girl.” She cringes at the nickname, though is more concerned by her very suggestion.

“What do you mean by that?”

Queenie merely smirks into her glass, beginning to step away.

She follows. “Queenie, Queenie, what’s that supposed to mean?”

The answer never comes.

...

“And, who do you want to work for us here at copying Ltd?

She holds in any outward signs of annoyance, even if her manicured nails do pinch a little at her thigh. This is the dreaded question, the worst part of the interview process. In very few realities does she want to work here, but the capitalist push for money means she has no choice.

“Well,” Cordelia begins, rubbing at the knot that has appeared at the back of her neck, “this is a great company with a wonderful reputation.” Bullshit. “It would truly be an honor to be part of this team, to really make a difference by. . .by. . .by making copies of things.”

He hums, and jots down her words while she keeps an obviously fake smile plastered right to her lips.

In the stuffy office, she begs for air conditioning. The closest that she gets is a barely open window, a tiny desk fan that isn’t even pointed in her direction.

And, as he starts to speak some more, she finds attention diminished, head a cloud of nothingness. Only thoughts of how clammy she feels, of how this is a total waste of time, and how this guy definitely has lettuce stuck in his teeth.

“Alright,” he clasps hairy hands together, “shall we go through your past experience?”

Oh, this won’t take long.

“Yes. Lettuce – no, let’s do that.” She catches her mistake quickly and, to her relief, he doesn’t seem to notice.

Her heated face worsens, her mood slumps, and she stares at the window with her hopeful naivety that maybe the right job is just waiting out there for her. But amidst the sea of jobs like this, how is she going to find something that she’s actually good at?

...

“No, no, no!”

The screeching is heard before she enters the apartment. Actually, she stands outside, deciding if she wants to go in. She could just turn around, lie low in the coffee shop until whatever is inside comes to an end.

Well, that choice is stolen away as the door opens either way, and out comes Mallory. She sets wide eyes on Cordelia. “Good luck.”

Her curiosity peaks, along with concern. “Anything I can help with?”

I hate men! Stupid, selfish creatures!

Mallory winces, offering an awkward smile as she pulls the door closed. “Let her get it out of her system – she needs to vent.”

Nodding, she sighs. “Wait, where are you going?”

“Work called me in.” Mallory shrugs, “I tried to get out of it, but they’re a little overwhelmed and Coco said it was fine. But now that you’re here, there are extra tissues on the counter and I will be back with fresh cookies in a couple of hours.”

“But she won’t eat those. . .she’ll start listing how nutritionally unviable they are.”

“Cordelia,” she deadpans, “she’s a heartbroken woman, she will eat the cookies.” Grabbing her by either arm, Mallory offers a firm nod. “Don’t let her call him again, for the love of God. I’ll see you later with reinforcements.”

And there she goes, leaving Cordelia whiplashed on the stairwell. She clears her throat, gathers plenty of oxygen, then lets the door creak open. Not a match for the wailing inside.

Poking her head around the corner, she soon spies Coco looking rather well less put together than normal. Heart dropping in sympathy, she scurries inside.

“Delia.”

The pathetic, little voice flows out. She sees a blotchy face, stained with mascara. Cordelia has never moved faster. “Oh, sweetie, come here.” When in doubt, an embrace can go a long way, so she holds Coco close and rests her chin on her forehead as she girl nestles into her.

Just like old times.

Solidified with Coco’s next words. “Boys suck.”

“I know.” She gently pats her arm. “I’m here.”

Her nose is soon buried into Cordelia’s blouse, all snotty and wet. She doesn’t (tries not to) care and brushes fingers through her hair.

“I thought he liked me.”

“Shhh, forget about him.” A disgruntled noise follows, “you’re way too good for him, anyway.”

The girl gives a series of self pitied nods.

“And you are better off without him.”

Coco sniffles.

“Plus – ”

Mallory text me!” Misty bursts through the door the door like a brazen bull, an offering of items in her hand and this wild look in her eyes. “I got ice cream and vodka an’ we’re gonna burn some lavender – it’s all gonna be fine, Co.”

At the sight of more aid, Coco pouts happily, letting a fresh batch of tears fall through. A hand reaches out, stretched for Misty’s hand . When they connect, she yanks the girl down to the other side of her and essentially initiates a Coco sandwich.

“Wait, I need to get a spoon.”

I love you guys.”

With a sad smile, Misty rests a head in her shoulder. “Love ya too.”

“Yeah, me too.”

The display of affection has the already fragile woman crying some more. She is soon calmed with sweet items, a large knitted blanket that they somehow manage to wrap over the three of them as they watch whatever television Coco's heart desires.

She vents between the commercials, cries an awful lot more, and holds them so tight that Misty has to ask for permission to go to the bathroom. But they encourage the odd smile out of her; Cordelia tells stories of her own failed relationships, Misty makes up a song on the spot that it all too ridiculously cute and, before they know it, Mallory is back with Nan and pizza in tow.

The hungry women stand, circling the food with eagerness.

A break gives her the chance to stretch her legs, to change into loose and fad comfier clothes, and to apparently be cornered by Misty in the doorway of her own bedroom.

She jumps as she spots her there, where the doors sits slightly ajar. “Oh.”

“Don’t worry.” Misty smiles, “I wasn’t peaking.”

“Good. . .not that I think you’d do that – you’re not a creep or anything.”

Her sudden awkwardness surprises the two of them, though doesn’t faze Misty in any lasting way. “So,” she begins, rolling on the balls of her feet, “I’m free Tuesday.”

She drops the comb that she’d been running through her hair, where it bounces and springs, landing right beneath her dresser.

Misty raises a brow.

“Everythin’ okay?”

“Fine.”

She steps in a little nearer, noticeably closing the door behind herself to offer the two of them a little privacy. They’ll need it, especially to stop Coco sniffing out any interactions that they engage in. “So, you’re free then?”

“I – ”

“I mean, don’t feel pressured, ya know? I just wanted to say thanks, but I kinda get the feelin’ you don’t want one. Which, yeah – that’s cool, not everyone likes massages.” She doesn’t stops to pause for a breath, words quickening, “an’ I get that. Or maybe you think it’ll be weird ‘cause we’re friend but I’m real professional so just. . .what I guess I’m sayin’ is you don’t gotta have one. I just – I thought it would be nice, ya know?”

Her rambling is met with a lovely slice of guilt right through Cordelia.

“Misty.”

“Kinda feels like you’re stallin’, Delia.”

She bows her head, tucking hair behind her ears. Just as she gathers and neatly places words together in her brain, Misty is smiling sadly and continuing. “You just have to tell me if ya don’t want one, I can pay you back some other pay.”

“No, Misty – I – ”

Why are her hands so clammy? And why is there a lump camping out in her throat?

Suddenly, those piercing eyes lock right in her direction, unrelenting, and Cordelia splutters out more words. “I just, maybe I have convinced myself that it’s a little weird, I’ve never had a massage off a friend before.”

“The awkwardness goes away after a few minutes. . .”

She drops herself to the bed, thoughtful, and Misty tiptoes closer. “You sure?”

As Misty lowers herself, the bed dips lightly on the edge. “Oh, I promise. An’ I’ll even let you decide what music you wanna listen to.”

Laughter finds her easily now, and she relaxes, sort of. While her muscles may ease, there is still this weird tension in her chest, and it grows whenever she glances Misty’s way.

“If you don’t like it, we can forget about it and never do one again.” She tilts in with a grin, something that makes Cordelia want to mirror.

She smirks, both bewildered and giddied by the flutter in her chest. “You seem pretty eager?”

“Don’t like owin’ people things.” Misty shrugs, as though it’s that easy. And Cordelia doesn’t manages to catch the flash of a nervous tongue nipping out to lick her lips.

As such, she’s too busy making what appears to be a monumental decision, but don’t ask her to explain why.

“Tuesday?” She asks, just to be sure.

Misty nods, sitting far more erect and letting the sights of premature hope through.

After a long pause, Cordelia sighs and releases the pressure from within; she still experiences a breathlessness regardless. “I can do Tuesday afternoon.”

She’s met with a grin, then a high five. Misty only returns her attention to the door when they hear Coco’s voice burst through. “Oh, I’m just gonna die alone!

“We best go back.”

A nod of agreement comes.

Misty holds the door open for her, waits with this soft smile. Like she’d stand waiting there forever, if given the right thing to wait for.

Following moments later, she finds that she’s smiling, too.

...

Okay, so despite the fact that Cordelia has had many messages before, she’d forgotten the very important step.

One of the first ones really, one merely to prepare yourself for the massage. In short, the getting naked part. She blinks over at Misty, who has put energy and time into making her bedroom oh so relaxing. With candles and swaying music Cordelia picked out; aromas waft around, a bit of vanilla, a hint of jasmine, and the stench of fear radiating from Cordelia. “Excuse me?”

They’re standing either side of the massage table where Misty’s hands are firmly planted down. Today, they are devoid of her many rings.

She is smirking, Cordelia is not.

“I said,” Misty repeats, voice thick with mirth, “you can take your clothes off and put them over there.” She points down, “I set up a towel for ya.”

“I’m gonna be naked?”

“Well, I can massage you over your clothes, but you ain’t gonna get the full benefit. . .”

She turns away, sheepish. Of course, she knows that.

“You can keep your panties on,” Misty says, a tone that guises another emotion, “if you’re feelin’ uncomfortable.” Then, she creases her head, brows rising, “but I ain’t gonna look. I can control myself around pretty women, ya know.”

Oh god, that’s too much information at once for her to actually compute. If she were a poor machine, she’s be shorting out, puffs of smoke erupting from within, spontaneous sparks. All Misty maybe is witness to is a twitch right in the smallest corner of her eye.

Misty points to the door. “Should I. . ?”

Nodding hurriedly, she stands and waits until Misty is behind said threshold. For a second, she waits for the audible click, the sign it definitely won’t open.

Then, she stands. That’s the easy part really. Being in Misty’s bedroom is easy, until you’ve got to strip down naked in there. Or, to her panties, at least.

Maybe it’s her shaking hands, or the short wire in her brain, but those lacy panties slip off with the rest of her clothes. Habit, she tells herself. She refuses to buy what she’s selling there, but does find herself doing an awfully good practise of said stalling again.

In her rather conscious few moments, she’s reached for the towel and wrapped it neatly around her body. She avoids glancing at the many mirrors, at the reflective surface, at the strangely prying eyes of Pablo the frog.

Then, clearing her throat, she calms her raving heart and speaks out. “Um, did you want me to lie down on the table?”

“’less you wanted the massage standin’ up, yeah.”

Misty is giggling again and she’s embarrassing herself, so she hides that ultra pink face in the oval hole of the table. Before she summons Misty back in, she finds arms and legs moved; they rearrange in this terribly awkward display where she doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. As though she doesn’t understand the concept of massaging.

Maybe the woman can hear the indecisive creaking of the table, for she soon knocks on the door and has Cordelia almost plummeting off it in her fright. “Are you ready?”

Tugging the towel neatly over her backside, she chokes on her own breath.

“Y – yeah.”

There is barely a gap between that and Misty’s return. Cordelia waits, eyes wide as they stare down at the carpeted floor, and it seems to take an awfully long time for anything to be said; or that could just be her own mind stretching out each second beyond its limits.

After an eternity, trained eyes pick up every steady (or not quite so) breath that Misty offers in the tiny room.

“Um, do you want me to cover you up more or. . .?” Strain, yup, there’s a tangible strain in her vocal cords, a dryness to her voice.

Cordelia frowns. “Oh, that’s what I’d normally. . .”

“Okay, great.” She can be felt hovering over to her left, a strong presence by any description. “Great, great, great. I’ll just - are you comfortable?”

Trying her best, but comfort still evades her. “I’m all good.”

Misty sighs. “Great.”

She keeps firmly to her spot, arms stretched out beside her. If only she could be both mentally and physically prepared for the next question thrown at her. “So, where do you want me to touch you first?” Misty catches her misuse of words, snapping back in with a correction. “Massage, massage.” She’s taken a step back, messing with the jars of oils set up. “I meant massage.”

Cordelia chuckles, hoping it sends tension flying away. “Um, my back is kind of tense, and my shoulders. . .if you start there.”

“I can do that. Any preference on oil?”

She shrugs so the woman can see. “Not really. Whatever you think is best.”

That decision takes a lot of time apparently. When she does dare a peak from the table, a curtain of her own hair blocking her vision, she spies Misty stating ay the jars and tapping her lips thoughtfully. Her other hand, balled into a fist, sits on her jutted hip. “It’s fine, really.”

Misty grins sheepish at being caught out, eyes flickering away from her friend. On more instinct now, she grabs the middle jar and moves to Cordelia’s side.

There is an audible squelch as oil is spread between her fingers, moving back and forth on thin hands. Then, right near Cordelia’s ear. “I’m just warmin’ it up for ya – nothin’ worse than cold hands.”

Cordelia experiences the start of a shiver, cut off when hands hover closer to her. “All you gotta do now is relax.”

“O – okay.”

And those first few moments of anticipation are endless, like waiting for a storm. A building pressure, the promise of something awesome, excitement hanging in the air. Then, lightening strikes, fingers touch the meaty part of her shoulders, and Cordelia may as well convulse.

The touch is so tentative at first, both of their breaths held. She’s tense, that’s for sure, but not just from current life affairs; this knot in her muscles is another matter entirely. One apparently related to the blonde leaning above her.

Fingers push down, deeper, harder, and then spread across her muscles from the center outwards. Cordelia bites her lip at the initial feel, the way those hands move from the top of her spine and follow the entire length until the reach just above her buttocks. The same movement is repeated, a lengthy stroke of both hands that brings with it some of Misty’s weight softly on top of her.

It may as well be all of it, for how Cordelia struggles for air. She tries to focus on the calming notes of the music, on the dimly lit room, but how can she give anything else attention when a certain set of hands are on her?

“How’s that?”

Heavily. “Um, it’s good.”

“Okay.” Misty replies, voice a soothing whisper that she must adopt for her other massage clients. She finishes one final length of her back (and Cordelia swears that she migrates lower this time), then resets at her shoulder blades.

Where there is already tingling and a kneading of muscles, those finger gently ease away. They push out from her spine, spread into the shoulder blades, and Cordelia really has no doubts of it they’re magic or not. Even jokingly called so – she knows that statement to be true because god, she doesn’t ever remember a massage feeling this nice.

Her legs shift and fingers dig into her palms as Misty teases out a stubborn knot of muscles. She bites her lip, somehow in pain but enjoying it? Does that show in the rest of her body language?

“Am I hurtin’ you?”

“Not at all. It feels good. I’m just – ”

Misty’s deep, low laughter cuts her off. “Yeah, you’re real tense. I can feel it.”

Oh. Oh?

What else can she feel? And why does Cordelia find herself caring about that? She thinks of their position, if Misty is plagued with curiosity. Maybe her eyes might drift, wander – it could be intentional, after all. The things they could see, if at the right angle, if given the chance. The curve of her breast from the side, the muscles in her thighs; one slight nudge of the towel could lead to more of her on display. . .

Cordelia’s eyes widen from where they’d closed in appreciation under one particularly pleasurable rub of those hands. Those thoughts, those things, aren’t welcome in her mind.

Not when they suggest Misty is some uncontrollable woman taking advantage of their positions. When in fact it’s Cordelia knee deep in inappropriate thoughts.

The next of which push through as Misty’s hands literally tap dance down the bump of her spine. This feels so good. She is amazing.

“How long have you been a masseuse for?” Cordelia asks. Bringing back the mundane mention of work might cool her off a little, offer some reprieve.

That isn’t in the stars. “Four years. But you don’t need to talk. . .just relax and feel. . .”

Oh, she is feeling alright.

Feeling the growing heat along her skin, feeling the residual sigh of well touched muscled and, worst of all, feeling something else. Something she hasn’t felt in a long while.

It starts right at her belly and trickles to her core, which suddenly throbs. She recognises its presence in seconds. No. No, no, no, no.

It can’t be that, can it?

She can’t think that about Misty. Though, to be quite blatant, her body isn’t really thinking as much doing. And it certainly reacts in kind to the blossoming feelings within.

Cordelia, victim to her own shock and embarrassment, jerks up a little. Her head falls out of the hole, neck craned at an awkward angle. From here, she can spot Misty halting in her motions and frowning heavily at her. “What’s wrong?”

“Um. . .”

The woman steps back, confused and regarding Cordelia with this look. Does she know? Can she pick up the scent of wayward arousal?

“Sorry, that bit was, er, a little sore.”

Misty’s soft smirk follows. “I’ll be more gentle then.” She slowly gestures for Cordelia to get back into position before beginning a new move, one where hands seem to sweep right over her ribcage and far too close to Cordelia’s for her to remain stoic, quiet.

She squeaks out her surprise, then offers this low groan that she wishes could be mute. Silent or not, Misty can surely feel the vibrations in her chest as she massages over the back of it. Her warmth must spread to the woman, too; her frenzy sitting an additional picture to frame.

Misty works along each rib, descending each time, until Cordelia is cursing the fact that she has ran out of ribs to follow. She wants more, she wants lower, and maybe she wouldn’t mind so much if a hand did slip beneath that towel that hides all of her dignity.

Whatever dignity remains, however, as Misty’s thumb digs right into her thick muscle and practically wiggles around in this most wonderful way. Here, the embarrassment appears. “Oh, Misty.” Cordelia, you idiot. She’s all but ready to superglue to lips closed.

Those hands falter, but don’t stop. She repeats the action, a little closer to the middle of her back, and extends her weight further forward. That touch brings that most euphoric stretch in the muscle, has it cheering for all its worth.

And more noises falling from Cordelia.

She tries to confine them, she really does, but they fight tooth and nail to make it past the barricade of her lips. Unfortunately, they win.

Maybe she can save this. “That feel so good.” Abort, abort, she cannot save this! Why would she say that?

If she had control of her way too relaxed arms, she would give herself a slap. That could knock her back into reality, though does she really want to go back there? It’s hard and jobless and altogether stressful. Here, she is warm and relaxed, and under the care of possibly the most wonderful hands she’s ever known. Holy shit, Queenie was right. These hands are no joke.

Misty laughs, right above her ear. Less affected by Cordelia, or perhaps just far better at hiding it.

She’s yet to learn how to read the woman, especially without being able to spot the visual cues as she currently starts at the floor. But she wants to learn, oh boy does she, and it’s that realization that has her heart thumping, her head dizzy. It’s a little too warm in here now.

Another sweet spot is hit. “Oooooh.”

“. . .” Then, all breathy, “do you like that?”

Cordelia just about dies on the spot. This is not happening; they are not doing this. They – “Yes.” She bites at her lip and pretends she has control, even if the heat between her legs says otherwise. “Maybe a bit lower?”

Hands obediently follow the small of her back.

The music around them slows, but her pulse races beyond comprehension. “Lower?”

Misty hesitates briefly, inching that little bit further down where she meets the barrier of the blue towel that sits across her soft skin. There’s a tense moment as they both hold their breath.

“A little more?” she gulps, on the cusp on combustion.

“I’m at the towe – ”

“You can move it, it’s fine.” What is she doing? Is she so starved of touch that she’s exploiting Misty’s innocent massage for a swap of intimacy? Oh this is pathetic, it’s ridiculous, and as Misty’s hands sink into the muscle just at the top of her buttocks, she decides that it’s also heaven.

...

Cordelia is in a haze as she crosses the hall. A big, dopey haze where she wouldn’t know up from down.

You know what she’s also in? Yes, that’s right. A panic. Because it’s easy to convince her that the feelings could be temporary, her thoughts a passing fancy. What is harder to deny is the physical wetness between her legs that she as she’s headed for a (cold, thank you very much ) shower.

She gapes at it like it’s the first time it’s ever happened to her.

“This is not happening.”

Her shower is rushed, annoyed, as is her move to get into some comfortable clothes. She seeks company in the television, in distraction, but finds Coco instead.

“You feeling better, sweetie?”

From where Coco’a preparing the start of dinner, she shrugs. “All good, considering.”

A pause.

“I wonder if Misty’s feeling alright though. . .”

Cordelia’s eyes flash wider at the very mention of her name, at the woman whose bedroom she’d all but rushed out of to seek distance. “What do you mean? Of course she’s fine.”

Slowing, Coco reaches for a carrot to chop. “Oh.” There’s something about her voice that Cordelia really doesn’t like. Not one bit. “I don’t know, I went over there not that long ago. . .”

She clutches to the side of the counter.

“. . .I heard these really strange noises coming from her room. . .”

Her heart abandoned its parachute and free falls the rest of the way to the floor.

“But actually, it didn’t sound like Misty. . .”

I am screwed, I am well and truly, royally, screwed.

Coco turns to glare wickedly at her friend. “It sounded an awful lot like you, Delia.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“Did you sleep well?”

The seemingly straightforward question comes with a smirk aimed at Cordelia from the corner of Coco's mouth.

She keeps her own tightly closed.

Like that will deter her friend. Oh, it doesn’t, not by a long shot. “You know, I think I heard you moaning Misty's name in your sleep.”

The scandal of it all. “I was not!” Cordelia's eyes scold like they’ve never scolded before. After all, she'd remember if Misty had not only infiltrated her normal reality but her sleep state, too. And yet, part of her wonders if that had happened because. . .well. . .she – she should not be thinking things like that no matter what Coco dictates.

Beside her, the woman opens her mouth again. “Stop it.” She beats her to it.

“Stop what?”

Shaking her head, Cordelia keeps a low growl in the threshold of her throat and instead glares. It coaxes Coco, apparently, who nudges into her side. “What?” Coco pushes.

“Stop. . .I told you, nothing happened.”

“Agree to disagree.”

Her smugness only serves to irk, and it certainly does, until Cordelia is a strained mess of a person. “You are making it awkward on purpose.”

Coco merely scoffs. “Sweetie, I think it’s the sexual tension that’s making it awkward.”

She doesn’t know whether to scream or walk away, or grab the nearest item and whack Coco over the head with it. Instead, she wrinkles her brows with such deeply embedded lines that they could fossilise that way. “There is no sexual tension.”

None whatsoever. Nothing. Merely two people who may not have been friends for long but certainly click. And that’s fine, that’s perfectly normal. The way her mood lifts upon seeing Misty is what happens between all friends, is definitely not unheard of, and totally platonic.

The two pause as the door clicks open. Lo and behold, who else would it be but the second half of the pair under scrutiny?

Her eyes hone for Cordelia straight away, then flicker to something else. Anything else, it seems, and the older blonde clears her throat. “Hey Misty.”

“Oh, hey.” She runs a hand through curls that are damp; the raindrops that make unique patterns against the window would explain that. In her arms, she lugs around the table. The same one that Cordelia had lay upon herself two days ago. Is she envious of the other people that get to do the same instead of her? Surely not. Maybe. (Just a little).

Her lips spread into a wide smile despite the jealousy that silently curses her. There’s a softness to her tone that makes the room seem calmer. “Good day?”

“I’ve had better.” She shrugs.

If Coco wasn’t in the room, maybe she'd hurry towards her to offer further condolences, but all she can manage is a sad bow of her head. “Oh, what’s wrong?”

“Nothin’ much, just Pablo ain’t himself today and I lost my phone somewhere, and my favorite food stand was closed again ‘cause of rats.”

“How about you stop eating at places where rats also choose to dine?”

Misty’s eyes darken over towards Coco. Who blatantly ignores the glare and smirks.

“I’m sure there are way we can make your day better,” Coco chimes, both in a friendly way with the addition of a sultry flick of her tongue that Misty frowns at.

Her nose wrinkles. “How come you look so weird?”

“I’m just thinking.”

Misty drops herself to the table and reaches for the plate of almost eaten cookies that Cordelia had snacked on in her hyper stressed state. “You’re always up to no good.”

Not as berating as Cordelia, but definitely holding something there. What if Coco teases Misty, too? Does she? It’s something that Cordelia has never been witness to (thank you, every deity up there) but it is far from beneath their meddling and love loving friend. As much as a fear as that is, striking within her chest from with in some auto – attack, Cordelia sticks to rationale.

Coco is always softer with Misty, more delicate. Evidently, her break up had been a more sour event that Cordelia’s own. Maybe that’s enough to earn that little bit less pestering.

Oh, what Cordelia would give to have it stop, just for a day.

“Me?” the woman in question laughs, moving around to Misty and squeezing at her side. “I’m only up to no good when it involves the best for my friends – ooh, you’ve got a leaf in your hair.”

That is plucked out, Misty smiling gratefully. She lets the quiet encase them as Coco rummages through the fridge. Cordelia, unable to control herself, keeps eyes trained on her friend across the table.

Misty catches that, returns the favor, and grins. Rather than call her out (and Cordelia is so sure that she’s going to with this coy glint in her clear eyes), Misty sighs. “Your day goin’ any better?”

She snorts out a laugh. At herself, mostly. “Just spent the morning reading rejection emails. Nothing like an ego boost.”

“You’ll be fine.”

“Hm.”

Her non committal hum has Misty rolling her eyes softly and shaking her head. She fusses out her hair again, a mane amidst the humid air. To Cordelia’s own surprise, she wants to run her own fingers through it. Why? Such a silly thought. Silly, silly, silly. But her hair looks so pretty, just like Misty, and some gnawing temptation sits at the back of her head.

She ignores it as Misty speaks. “Someone will hire ya, believe me. You’re smart an’ and all that – maybe you’re just too good for the places you’re applyin’ to.”

Too good.

Never before in her life has she felt too good for anything. Yet Misty says it with such belief, like that could be the only solution.

Cordelia releases a trapped sigh and runs her nails in circles on the table top. The ends are blunt where she’s absently chewed as of late. “Now you’re getting carried away. But, uh, thank you.”

Behind them, there is the rattling of things within the fridge, a muttering under breath. Part of her wants to know just what Coco is concocting in that mind of hers, but an even stronger part of her hopes to never find out.

So, when work calls and she hurries to the fire escape to take said call in private, Cordelia certainly is grateful. Even if it leaves her a mere duo with Misty, and they haven’t been alone together since the massage. Eyes dip in the need to do something; to stare at Misty’s hands, as it is. Stop doing that. When will this wayward obsession leave her? They’re just hands, right?

Misty clears her throat. “Um, you okay?” Ah, welcome back awkwardness. Let’s roll out the red carpet for its return, seeing as it appear intent on staying.

“I’m fine.”

The creak in her tone indicates that she, in fact, is not fine.

Once more, those hands continue to charm and allure her silently. She wants to grab at her own head, to shake away inappropriate thoughts and lude ideas. What is happening to me?

Just as eager for answers, Misty is biting at her lip unsurely and continuing a survey of the woman. “You sure?”

“I’m. . .”

“Cordelia?”

Why is she looking at her like that? And why is she so damn pretty? Even following the flustered work day, Misty is an absolute vision in the middle of the room. A star that every object yearns and begs to orbit; Cordelia included.

Even if what she has to offer is all but lame. “I’m – a little embarrassed, actually.” She begins and opens up a whole can of worms that wriggle out with a wicked display of discomfort. Her gut twists, the air grows drier, and Misty frowns.

Somehow, the latter is the worst bit. “Embarrassed?”

“About yesterday.”

“Oh.” She blinks, glances down for as long as she dares, or is capable of. Not very long, apparently. “What about it?”

Is she really playing dumb? Surely, Misty remembers. She’d been there, hadn’t she? Amidst the noises and the touching, and the way Cordelia had melted beneath her hands, and – Jesus, she’s looking again. . .

Get a grip. She can’t. How she tries (she does, really) but there’s a powerlessness that has taken her. Seated precariously in a raft, she is carried by hectic rivers, a wild stream, and no frantic paddling can take her back where she came. Worst of all, the path ahead of her is too hidden, too dense. Her head suddenly pulses, blurs.

“Well, I was, er, I realize that some of the. . .noises I made – they might have. . .they. . .”

Never before has she been so tongue tied, but Misty appears to have said organ in the most intricate of knots. It worsens upon seeing her eyes widen with understanding, this adorable innocence cascading across her features.

Cordelia carries a noticeable tension in her neck, where Misty suddenly stares. A stress that she could easily persuade out with a few strokes of her hand and – stop it, Cordelia!

“Look, Cordelia – ”

“I’m sorry if it made you uncomfortable.” She blurts out, rushed and the sight of panic.

It is taken in the Cajun’s stride. Misty lets her gentle appraisal evolve into this warm and welcoming smoulder, and Cordelia enjoys that far more than she should. “C’mon, you don’t think ever happened to me before?” She raises her brow, knowing. Teasing. Is she?

It wouldn’t be uncharacteristic of her, if she is. “It has?”

Misty lets giggles free fall. “Oh, yeah. It was weird the first time but then I kinda figured it means I’m doing a good job, huh?”

Once again, she’s reminded that Misty does in fact massage other people, and that ridiculous envy resurfaces. She merely nods. Her fingers continue their circles on the table, bigger, then smaller, a tighter curve. A distraction from all these feelings that she is cursed with.

“I didn’t react much ‘cause I didn’t wanna make it awkward. . .” She shrugs, with far more ease than Cordelia could even hope to have. And yet, a suspicious amount of ease. When Cordelia feels the inevitable gravitation of her pupils to Misty’s hands, she finds them wringing together.

“Yeah,” she breathes, “I’m glad you didn’t.”

She nods. “Right. Woulda been weird, huh?” Then, after this long pause where both move their gaze around like some paranoid prey animals, Misty adds. “Seein’ as we’re friends an’ all.”

Her heart ices over with this awfully strange sensations. “I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that none of your friends have ever made those sort of noises during a massage before?”

“Um.” Misty’s face pinches together in amusement. “Nah.”

“Oh.”

“Means I did my job though.” She tries to pull the weirdness out of the room.

Cordelia throws it right back in. “Yeah, you did make me feel really good.” Why is she saying it like that? “I mean, you’re a good masseuse.” A compliment that’s well earned, and yet it burns her very cheeks to admit it as though she’s praising Misty about some other, rather more intimate, skills.

And all the woman does is flash those soft eyes her way and give this slow curve of her lips. “Thanks, I’m glad I made ya feel good. . .”

Oh god.

“You’re always so stressed.”

She feels back in the seat a little, the front feet ever so slightly breaking their contact from the wooden floor. Offence may be seen, and Misty only further intensifies in her giggles.

Cordelia turns away, watching where Coco paces the small length of the fire escape with a hand flailing around in the air. “It’s been a busy couple of weeks.”

“It’s gettin’ better though, right?”

“What?”

Brimming with sincerity, Misty now stops where her thumbs had been twiddling as one movement. “Livin’ here. . .with all of us. Is it better than livin’ with that guy?” If she wants to creep in closer and sense the change in tone there, she fights it. She squabbles and berates herself for thinking perhaps Misty ends the sentence with clear disdain.

Without having to think, or focus on that, she already has her answer. “Of course I’m happier.” She smiles, and it is mirrored by the woman sat across from her. It appears as though Misty’s hand has a mind of its own and has crept nearer with the stealth of a ninja.

It sits inches away from Cordelia’s.

“Ah, I’m glad.”

“Yeah,” she smiles, “me too.”

Just as surely as the sun rises again for a crisp morning, there is the unspoken staring contest that the two are currently in the middle of. Cordelia fears there may never be a winner, as something stronger than a desire to win holds her in that moment.

“Can I ask you somethin’?”

Cordelia holds her breath. Which makes it altogether more of a struggle to cast her thoughts in the form of words. Corralling the frenzied ones backwards, she speaks. “Sure.”

That invites this tender smile from Misty, slanted. She likes that. This woman breaks free of the already set mould; she doesn’t shy away from uniqueness, from non – conformity, and even the way she smiles it so inherently Misty that it wouldn’t look right on someone else.

“You, uh, you think some time we could. . .”

Alert, alert, is Misty about to ask her out? Her skin is suddenly super porous, allowing for a clamminess that she hasn’t felt since High School. This pleasant numbness hijacks her muscles, keeps her there. Where else would she want to be?

This is meant for her, she thinks, as she glances at Misty through her lashes and plays the role of anticipation well. It’s a world of excitement, of racing hearts and dumb little nerves, and a world where Misty very well might be about to ask her out.

Maybe it’s a world where she’d say yes, too.

If she ever really sits down and figures out just what it is that’s changed in her, why she finds this woman so charming, and why the idea of spending some (romantic) alone time with her is awfully thrilling.

“I was just – it’d be nice if we – ”

And then storm Coco just so happens to burst back in. “Honestly, that company would crumble without me – I am the pillars holding it up most days.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she spots Misty’s rapid deflation, how hands are dragged back toward her torso and rings played with

“What happened?”

“Someone has lost a shipment of snack bars.” She throws her hands in the air, “totally vanished without a trace! Ugh, this is not what I needed on my day off.”

“Coco to the rescue, huh?”

Shaking her head, she grumbles and shows a varying display of resentment for her co-workers, no matter how temporary it is. “I’m putting out fires all over the place,” Coco announces, then not so subtly flickers eyes between the two women and readies herself with someone else.

“What you need,” she starts and dampens any poised words, “is a nice glass of wine.” Already, she is on her feet and headed to the cupboard. Past Misty, who is quiet and wearing knotted brows and biting at her lips and – Cordelia tries to focus on not focusing on those lips.

Coco rubs at her forehead. “I need the whole bottle.”

“That can be arranged.”

She swats at her with the back of her hand. “Stop tempting me.”

The half full glass is insistently held out toward her, and Coco takes it with a sigh. She glares at her glass as though the liquid represents all of her wrongdoings. “Work sucks.”

Cordelia’s lips twitch. “Wouldn’t know,” she deadpans.

It earns her a severe glance.

Joking she may be, but it’s no laughing matter. Jobless and husbandless (and mostly certainly her mother’s biggest disappointment), she experiences the clench of her chest.

Then, she’s reminded just what she's substituted those things for, spies two friends in the room with her. In her own apartment, away a life she’d never wanted. Suddenly, the horizon seems that much brighter. Coco pouts childishly at her and Cordelia rolls her eyes – very much with fondness. “Anything we can do to ease your stress, Co?”

Those words trigger something that she isn’t ready for, that no one could plan or produce, and that come on reflex. “Maybe one of Misty’s massages might help.” She smirks. “You sounded pretty relaxed.”

“What?”

At the sound of her name, Misty has snapped her head around and frowns in their direction.

Cordelia has to fight to desire to coil hands all around Coco’s mouth and prevents anything else from coming out. Oh god, why would she say that in front of Misty? She’s about as subtle as an avalanche and, what’s worse, there is no fallacy in her words.

Misty makes a noise close to a scoff, “will you leave her alone?”

“Oh yeah,” Coco gently nudges Misty, “you would take her side.”

“Shut up,” Misty laughs with an eye roll, for a lack of any good comebacks, and flashes eyes over to Cordelia for just a second. And maybe it's just wishful thinking, but she feels something. Something reciprocated. Her smile widens even under the watchful eye of Coco.

...

Another dip into her savings, a sinking tug in her stomach. But she’s fine, she’s doing okay. After all, she still has a decent amount, thanks to Hank’s ring.

She’s doing better than Misty, at least, who she spots rushing past her the third time that week as Cordelia picks up her mail.

“You need to get a new phone,” she sighs, much like a mother berating her child. “Or at least an alarm.”

Misty only flashes a grin. She moves so fast past the other woman that a tiny gust of wind is summoned. “Ain’t got the money.”

Most likely a truthful statement, seeing as the girl has been over at theirs more often than not the past few days to get dibs on any food they have going surplus. Like some hungry stray. One that Cordelia finds herself wanting to bring inside and spoil with attention.

Cordelia opens her mouth to speak, but Misty is yanking at her wrist. Here, her eyes bulge upon the time that she spies on her friend’s watch. “Shit. I gotta go.”

“Misty – ”

She wants to talk to her. Well, when doesn’t she? In this particular instance, there is a subject in mind. One that has had her tossing and turning at night with her damn indecisiveness about the other day. About their conversation back at the apartment.

Where’s she’s willing to put money on the fact that Misty was going to ask her out. The signs and signals had been there, the breathiness in her tone, the shy smiles, an energy that had clouded the room with all its kind of exciting weirdness.

It is weird, isn’t it?

Her having these thoughts about Misty; her friend. Never before has she experienced this attraction to a friend, a woman no doubt. Is she. . .gay? Is that what these feelings are? Because as much as she loves Coco and Queenie and Mallory, this is – this isn’t the same.

Even now, after their brief encounter, she doesn’t want Misty to go. The sun of her presence has already brightened her morning, and the idea of getting dragged back into darkness has words hanging on her lips. Any words. Anything. Mostly, those damn questions, voices.

Which beg for a more serious conversation than either of them might be ready for at nine in the morning.

Misty’s eyes are growing wider by the second, darting down to Cordelia’s watch. “I really gotta go,” she says, so emphatic, and yet remains glued to the spot as Cordelia remains with her clear itch to speak her mind.

She does speak, but not the deep thoughts that swill about her brain. “Go get to work,” she says softly, clutching onto the envelopes in her hand a little too tight. “I’ll see you later.”

Misty nods, studying her a little strangely, though not enough to deter a smile.

“Alright.” Those lips spread wider and she pauses, “you sure there wasn’t anything else?”

Cordelia swallows against a constricting throat. “Go on, you’ll be late.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Misty grins, giving a mock salute that Cordelia rolls her eyes at.

Yet she watches her leave. Oh boy, does she. With loose, golden hair in her sights, this easy smile given in farewell, and an adorable wave that she offers in return.

She stands, and observes, and has to lean herself again the nearest wall for support when her knees soften far too much. A long sigh escapes her lungs.

Then, Misty is gone. Her heart slows, her fingers that are held over it relax from their death grip on the poor, unsuspecting envelopes. It weakens too much, in fact, as the mail goes scattering to the floor.

“Shoot.” She hurriedly crouches, pink faced as a neighbor had witnessed the entire thing. “Oh, hi. Morning.” Nothing to see here, I’m just having a panic.

God, did she really just do that? Is she so affected by Misty? Holding the mail once more, eyes flickering to the door, Cordelia bites at her lip.

Maybe she is a little bit gay, at least, when it comes to Misty. And maybe this is a tiny, miniscule crush that isn’t so small anymore.

...

“Wait, Co is still talking to him?”

Cordelia gives Mallory a look. “She thinks I don’t know, but I heard them last night.” Unease stretches the length of her spine, “either the wall between our rooms is very thin, or Coco is rather loud.” A scoff follows. “I fear both.”

“Well,” Mallory begins, in a surprisingly coy tone. “I’ve heard rumors.”

“You gotta stop her seeing the guy,” Queenie warns from where she’s reading over the menu items. The small bistro is far from busy on their rainy afternoon, and Cordelia can already feel the palpitations beginning at the sight of some of the prices. But she hardly could say no to her friends when they’d asked. Besides, it’s a welcome break from, well, the senseless need to overthink everything.

Queenie’s advice is met with a folorn sigh. “It's her decision to make.”

“Yeah, well it’s a dumb one.”

“I don’t get why everyone is so obsessed with each other’s love lives.” Cordelia mutters, a general comment. That perhaps isn’t general at all and relates to a certain situation.

Mallory and Queenie share a look, extracting those thoughts easily. Turns out, Cordelia has no poker face.

“You can hardly blame us when you are screaming out sex noises in the middle of the day.”

Cordelia reels back, shocked; her head swivels around to make sure that no one else heard such a lude comment. No one, thankfully. Her secret is safe. Or, at least from the eight other patrons in the room.

Her clear scandal earns giggles from the two women. “You should know better than to sleep with Misty when Coco is around.” Mallory begins, raising a brow, like she’s set a honey trap for Cordelia to gather information.

It works, without so much as any more temptation. “We did not sleep together!” she hisses.

“Coco sent us a video of the noises – ”

“I am so going to kill her.”

Queenie sips at her drink until it runs dry, leaving a slurping around the table. Just like nails on a chalkboard, it has Cordelia wincing and clenching teeth together. It is not helped by the fact that conversation change has her on edge once more. “Sounded like you were really into her, rich girl.” The glass hits the table, empty save some condensation. “Don’t you have masseuses where you come from?”

“Misty is very good.” She argues, effectively putting her foot in her mouth. To avoid making any direct eye contact, she fidgets, taking the time to rearrange the cutlery in her sights.

Of course, both giggle at her.

“Funny, I don’t remember making any noises like that when Misty massaged me.” Queenie wears a shit eating grin, then reclines all too smugly in her chair.

Flustered, Cordelia reaches for her own drink. While refreshing, it does nothing to eliminate the grainy dryness from her throat.

“Can we talk about something else?”

“We’re just joking,” Mallory says, reaching over to squeeze her hand. Though solidified with those words, Cordelia isn’t ready to attest to it. This certainly doesn’t feel like a joke.

As such, Cordelia provides an indignant noise.

“Boo, you’re boring.”

“My love life is not here to entertain you guys.”

Delight sits simultaneously on their expressions. Before Queenie can chime right in with a blatant disregard for Cordelia’s wishes, Mallory seems to remember something. The woman jumps a little, sat erect, and smiles over at Cordelia, “well, maybe it is, so to speak - I actually have a proposition for you. . .”

Cordelia is already feeling the shift of her expression, of annoyance in the corners and lines.

“No, no,” she waves a hand in the air, “this isn’t about Misty.”

“Well, you seem to make everything else about her.”

“It’s about work, actually.”

Surprise appears in her eyes. “Oh, your work?”

“Well, yours, maybe – if you like this idea.”

“And why do I have a feeling that I might not?”

Mallory pffts, “Look, and don’t be mad at me, but I was just talking to my boss about your. . .situation.”

“Situation?”

“The whole climbing out of the bathroom window on your wedding day.”

“Thanks for the reminder.” Cordelia grumbles, especially upon seeing the amusement it brings to Queenie.

A hand is held up, gaining her attention back to the soft spoken brunette. “No, but he loved it – he thought it was really interesting, actually and different.”

Cordelia’s stomach knots at the memory. “Oh, well thank God he liked it,” comes her sarcasm.

“He wants you to write an article about it.”

The statement has her stunned into quiet, with any remarks dying on her lips.

Mallory’s smile widens, daring to be smug about the opportunity that she’s lay on the table before them. “You’ll get paid for it.”

“Yeah, but – I. . .isn’t it a little, embarrassing?”

A snort comes from Queenie. “Think you got bigger things to be embarrassed about.” The glisten in her eyes forebodes of what is about to come, and Cordelia braces herself as best she can. “Oh Misty,” she says, “your hands feels so good.”

“That’s enough, thank you.”

“You’re lookin’ awful tense there, Cordelia.” She winks, smirking away at herself and clearly needing no entertainment but her own.

“Anyway.” The conversation is steered elsewhere by Mallory, who widens her eyes in the name of pleading. “My boss really, really likes the idea, and he’ll like me more because of it. Which, when considering the taco incident, is a big win.” Cordelia reminds herself to investigate that later on, but for now it goes untested, especially since Mallory has more to say. “So, if you do this, not only do you get paid, but also you are doing a good deed.”

“A good deed?” she quirks her brow.

Nodding with an easy smile, Mallory adds. “Think of all the good karma you’ll get from it.

The very idea has her laughing, and simultaneously thinking of Misty who is constantly performing small acts of kindness to keep her “karma in check”.

Before either can sense where her thoughts have wandered, she puffs out her cheeks thoughtfully. “How do I know if I’ll be any good at writing?”

“Oh, don’t worry, Coco said the writing in your diary is quite detailed.” Just like that, Mallory switches from innocent to just as teasing as the others.

And it has Cordelia spiralling on the spot.

“How does she know about my diary?”

Upon spotting the paling of her features, Mallory laughs into her hand. “I was kidding, Delia. But nice to know you do have one.”

“With something that you clearly don’t want anyone else reading,” Queenie grins.

“Oh, for god’s sake.”

She makes to stand, annoyance written on her features for all to see.

Instantly, the two other women begin a round of protests and bargaining. “No, no, don’t go. We’ll stop, we promise.”

“I’m going to the bathroom,” She corrects, a little stiffly, though makes to the far side of the bistro where the solitary bathroom offers her a small reprieve.

She is in such a hurry to be alone that she slams the lock closed a little too hard, then sits herself on the closed seat. There’s no real rush in this moment; she just needs a second, that’s it. To sit and think, and breathe ever so slowly out of her mouth.

Mallory's proposition is certainly a matter of interest. Something worth considering, right? But God, is sharing her entire experience in detail really a good idea? Who would want to read that? What if Hank read it? Or her mother?

She huffs out her indecisiveness and throws her head back to stare at the neatly tiled ceiling. Just near, there is a tiny window; not as big as the one she’d frantically crawled out of on a particular day, but close enough for memories to come flooding back.

With memories are emotions and, with them, a wave of nausea.

Reaching for her phone, she distracts with sorting through the notifications. To her disappointment, and yet no surprise, she is frowning at the lack of anything from Misty. That woman really needs to get a new phone. Like stat.

It’s only been a few days, but Cordelia misses each ridiculous little photo she gets of the frog, or every update as to how Misty's day is going. Silly, right? Waiting eagerly to hear that Misty is excited about finding a reduced carton of orange juice. But maybe it’s not so silly, and maybe Cordelia would like that back, very much, thank you.

What she settles for, a little sadly, is peering over the last few texts sent in their chain.

look outside now!!!

Cordelia had, and she’d instantly brightened at the sight of a blood moon. A fleeting sight, one that she’s only read about in books. She’d been so entranced that she’d almost forgotten to reply to Misty, and had dropped eyes to her phone to see another message appear. isnt it pretty??

You text me at one in the morning to let me know that? Even as she’d typed, there’d been this irreplaceable grin on her lips, her side leaning against the window silly.

didnt want u to miss it

It is beautiful 🥰 That had been said in earnest, once more admiring the red moon; a rare opportunity gifted by nature. But, like most things in nature, finite in existence. The moon had disappeared. Misty's texts, however, had continued. At least for a little while.

What are you doing up so late?

Misty’s name had flashed up seconds later. couldn't sleep

Her yawn disrupted by the news, she’d frowned and quickly dropped herself to the bed. With droopy eyes, her own hurriedly typed message had come. Are you okay?

all good i got my music and im currently watchin cat videos

Seconds later, one of those videos had been sent over, showing just the sort of hijinks that the average cat gets up to. Cordelia had laughed, imagining Misty doing just the same.

The text chain stops pretty much around there, leaving her with the faintest of frowns as she stares at it and considers sending a message even knowing Misty’s phone is mysteriously AWOL.

It is a wistful sigh that rattles her chest now she pushes her phone back into her pocket, does her business and decides maybe she’s been gone long enough.

Not wanting to arouse any more suspicious than already lingers around her, she hurries to gather her things and reaches for the lock.

The lock that stubbornly remains in place.

Brows dipping, she tries again; she gives the door a small tug and hopes that it dislodged whatever the problem is.

Nothing.

A sinking feeling ploughs through her muscles as another rattle of the handle proves fruitless. “Um.” She purses her lips together. Is she being an idiot? It’s just a lock, right?

That is still very much locked.

Harder, with the makings of a tiny grunt, she tries again, and then once more. “Come on."

It doesn’t.

“You little – ” A well placed bang on the wood does nothing other than draw a weak little, “ow,” from her lips as she shakes away the pain.

As the minutes pass, and her struggles pursue her, she comes to the dreadful realization that she is stuck. In a toilet cubicle of all places.

Well, damn.

The window in the corner mocks her, too small. Still taunting. Cordelia embraces the sensation of falling with no ground beneath her and drops her forehead to the bathroom door.

“Great,” she laments to herself, “just great.”

Why is nothing ever easy?

 

 

Chapter Text

Cordelia has never considered herself a particularly lucky or unlucky individual; just the right amount of back and forth that every adult is subject to. Right?

Well, no. Not today. Not yesterday. And certainly not for the past couple of months where all the troubles in the world have gathered to conspire against her favor. When bathroom doors are working against you, rock bottom isn’t too far away, surely.

No amount of rattling or groaning or profanities does the job to unstick the blasted thing.

To add to her growing frustration (and panic), there is pretty stagnant air, humid and tight in her chest.

“Why me? Why me?” she laments for no one to hear.

Until there is someone. Or, the outer door sweeps open and a melodic click of heels on each individual tile. Cordelia’s heart leaps in the meager space of her chest as she considers her options.

She holds her breath, and listens to the new person. Can she recognize their footsteps, their own breathing pattern? She waits for a telltale voice, something to give it all away, and she prays that it isn’t a stranger.

“Cordelia?”

Well, that clears things up.

The voice is that of a savior, one that brings back hope that she isn’t doomed to wither away in this cubicle! She sighs out her relief. “Mallory, oh god, you don’t know how happy I am to hear your voice.”

A pause comes from the woman, unsure, as she attempts to piece together the situation. “Did. . .something happen in there?” She speaks with a slight cringe in her voice, an unwillingness like perhaps she doesn’t want to know the answer.

Before she dies over the suggestion that she’s having some toilet related disaster, Cordelia reels herself in and rattles the door again. “I’m stuck in here, Mal. The door won’t open.”

Another pause. “You’re stuck?”

“Yes, that’s why I just said I was.”

“Ohhh.” She has the makings of mirth in her voice. “Queenie thought you were too scared to come back.”

Her mouth opens and shuts rather undecidedly for a few moments before she finds just the right reply. “I – of course I’m not scared.” Reluctant might have been a better word, but she doesn’t offer it out. “Now, can you please help me get out of here?”

“Um. . .”

“Mallory!”

From outside, the racket of someone fiddling is heard and scrutinised for the sound of success. That never comes. “I don’t really. . .”

“Please hurry up, I don’t want to be in here any longer.” Fifteen minutes is certainly long enough and, in that entire time, the panic within her hasn’t thought to relent. Instead, it just wraps around the woman like a nice cosy panic blanket.

The door continues to stay locked, and she resists the urge to kick it.

“Can’t you do it?”

“I don’t think so. Wait, I’ll go get Queenie.”

Her eyes bulge. “No, no! Please don’t involve more people in this.”

“It’s fine, she can help. Plus, I’m going to tell her anyway. . .”

“You what?” She gives an emphatic tug of the door that only quakes on its hinges.

Then, Mallory has the audacity to laugh at her situation. “Well, of course I’m going to tell her.”

Embarrassment burns at her cheeks, and any protests would just be fruitless, wouldn’t they? She groans and grumbles, and decides she certainly is drowning in misfortune at the minute.

Mallory’s footsteps begin to retreat further away, signalling her exit as the outer door swings. No amount of calling her name after the woman stops her.

And oh, she tries.

She flashes eyes at her phone again, hoping it distracts from her predicament, but there is nothing new to draw her brain away. Nothing at all. Seems about right, in the grand scheme of things.

Although the door does creak open again, and her savior returns. “Mallory, thank God. It honestly feels like hours have passed and not minutes.” Dramatic, yes, but utterly warranted.

While she waits for laughter, for some sort of acknowledgement, the air grows cold with a looming silence.

“. . .Mallory?”

Cordelia pauses, ears straining for the familiar lull of her tone. It never comes, only leading to a gentle onset of bewilderment. She had said she’d be right back.

Footsteps continue, the air thick with something. Despite that, she swallows the remnants on her pride (hardly a struggle) and calls out in the room. “Mallory, are you there?”

Once again, she is met with nothing. Other than a nervous pang to her heart. Is this some sort of trick? A joke? She’s never exactly been the best when it comes to practical jokes anyway, and the very real fear that she is stuck has her chest in a spasm.

Cordelia needs to see. A vantage point, as it is.

There is only one thing to offer that. This is how she finds herself precariously climbing atop the toilet seat and speaking out her annoyance. “Mallory, you can’t just leave me in here because you think it’s funny, I – ”

Her tone, the clattering of her movement, grinds to a halt. It isn’t Mallory staring back at her. From where Cordelia peeks her head over the top of the stall, fingers pressed into the cold frame, she finds a complete stranger.

Who almost drops the lipstick in surprise upon seeing Cordelia pop out like some territorial gopher.

Their eyes meet in the mirror, the awkwardness thicker than anything Cordelia could ever imagine.

“Um.” She blinks, and succumbs to the sinking embarrassment. “Hello.”

A scowl is given, alongside a judging look. Well, would she expect anything less? What kind of a person amicably chats away while they’re supposed to be doing their business? Cordelia knows how she must look, and it certainly isn’t in the good graces.

So she is far from surprised as the woman scurries away with a final scathing glance. Something is muttered beneath her breath and, thankfully, missed by Cordelia’s prying ears.

I must look crazy.

That’s an inevitability, and one that is clarified as she does see her friends. Both appearing through the door and already smirking at the sight of her.

“Guys, please get me out.”

The two share a look.

“Well, this is certainly an interesting turn of events.”

Her voice lowers, and her grip tightens. “Queenie.”

“Do you think this is karma for running out on Hank?” she snickers, “getting trapped in a bathroom.”

“This isn’t funny!”

“Oh, but it is.”

Before Cordelia can as much as say anything else, a camera is pointed directly at her in this unfortunate predicament. “No, no, don’t you dare. . .”

Grinning, Queenie is suddenly typing furiously. “Coco is gonna lose it when she sees this.”

She resists the urge to out her own hair, to stomp her feet like some petulant child.

“Will someone please get help? I am literally standing on a toilet right now and the smell in here is getting worse by the second, this is not dignified.”

“Yeah,” Queenie agrees with her chuckles, “but it’s funny.”

Eyes bulge, as does a vein suddenly poking out of her forehead. “Guys.”

“Fine, fine.” Mallory begins, certainly the sight of more pity. Her hand lingers on the door, laughter dying with the start of seriousness. “I’ll go get someone who can actually help a d won’t just take pictures.”

Thank you.”

“Wait!”

Two heads snap instantly toward Queenie, simmering in her own scheming. Those mischievous eyes have Cordelia’s heart straining to feel anything other than nerves. For her part, Mallory merely looks confused. Soft eyes flicker from Queenie, to where Cordelia’s head pokes over the stall, and back again.

“What’s in it for us to help you?”

Here, she crosses her arms ever so neatly. In a smug manner, too, where she gives a leisurely lean to the nearest surface and smirks over at Cordelia.

Who all but splutters out her response. “You’re supposed to be my friends.”

“Yeah, yeah, save us the lecture.”

“This is ridiculous, you know I’d help you.”

“And this,” Queenie laughs, “is where we’re different people.”

As distraught as she feels herself becoming, there is a mediator in the form of Mallory. The woman shakes her head, wears sympathy in her round features. “Come on, don’t be mean.”

“I'll get you help if you answer a question for me,” Queenie decides quickly.

“What?”

“Don’t look at me like that, this will be fun.”

“I think we have very different definitions of fun.”

Dark eyes twinkle. “Oh, I’ll bet.”

“If you don’t stop, I will climb out of this thing.” She says, threatens, as though she is willing to drop whatever dignity she has left and also summon an amazing show of strength.

“Please do.”

She is already lifting her phone again, ready to catch the very actions in an immortalized existence; one that can surely be laughed at over and over.

Cordelia exhales slowly, slightly defeated, though does let her features twist into a glare. She considers yanking at some toilet paper and throwing it in something close to a tantrum.

“Alright, that’s enough.” The tip of Mallory’s foot begins pushing the door further open. “Let’s put her out of her misery.”

“Wait, don’t you want to know the answer?”

Laughter tentatively falls from her lips and onto the off gray white of the tiles below. “What answer?”

“To my question.” A liberal eye roll follows.

“Queenie, I think you’ve wound Cordelia up enough.” That goes without saying. On cue, her chest constricts with worry.

“Oh, not nearly enough.”

“I think I hate you right now,” Cordelia mumbles. Jokingly. (Maybe).

“You know who you don’t hate. . .” All wait on bated breath for her to spout out a name, and it comes as a surprise to literally no one. “Misty.” Even their reflections in the mirror roll their eyes at predictability of it all.

But Cordelia reels back so quickly that she almost loses balance on her lavatory perch, and has to right herself quickly. “This is getting absolutely ridiculous.”

“We will let you out if you tell us how you really feel about her.” She crows out and raises a brow, dares Cordelia to call her bluff.

A hand gently rests on Queenie’s shoulder. “Hey, I think this is called blackmail. . .and I don’t think we should do that. . .”

“Don’t you want to know?”

Of course I want to know.”

Queenie locks eyes onto Cordelia who watches on in a dismal mix of horror and a blush (she can’t help the fact that Misty’s name turns her a deep share of coral pink, okay?).

“Time to share.”

Her face hardens. “No.”

And it cues Queenie to heave in a long sign. “Well, she'd said her piece. Come on, let’s go eat.” With that, she begins yanking Mallory out through the squeaking door and sending Cordelia into a frenzy. “Bye Cordelia.”

“Wait, are you kidding me?”

“Have fun in here. You’ve got your phone to keep you entertained, right?”

Her voice cracks in disbelief. “It’s almost dead.”

“Ah, shame.”

“You get your butt back in here or I’ll – ”

“Jeez girl, you are so high strung. Relax a little.” Queenie is far more at ease, humor set upon her features.

“I am stuck in a cubicle,” she pushes out, right through the corner of her mouth so the words are muffled by her annoyance.

“And whose fault is that? You answer my question and you are free as a bird.”

It shuts her up in a second, where lips clamp closed, where she thinks about all of her choices that ended up manifesting this very moment in her life. And, with a great, ginormous sigh, she bites. “What is your question?”

Queenie doesn’t miss a beat, with a hand held firmly to her jutted hip. “How do you really feel about Misty?”

The room falls silent. Water dares not leak from the faucet, the extractor fan only whispers out its work and Cordelia stops her own breathing just so it can’t possibly aid as a distraction.

She should have seen it coming, so why is she surprised?

Something else she is? Goddamn bright red. And nervous, and suddenly staring down at the way her hands hold onto the doorway for dear life. There may be no talking her way out of this one.

Queenie clears her throat, and even Mallory has given up dissuading the woman, maybe too intrigued by what is to come. “Well?”

“I, um. . .she. . .” Oh my god, pull yourself together!

“Hm huh.”

“I – ”

They are waiting for one thing and one thing in particular; Cordelia isn’t a fool to consider anything else. And what changes by giving them their desired sentence? What possibilities does it create? More importantly, what does it make her admit to herself?

Having bordered on the threshold of denial, maybe there is a small chance that. . . “Look, I – I, please don’t make this a big deal, but if you must know, I think I kind of, maybe, have a crush on her. . “

And where silence had fallen like a fresh blanket of crisp snow, a tornado arrives to flutter it away in the sound of giddiness. “Wait, you’re serious?” Mallory, all wide eyed, seeks a confirmation.

She may feel nervous, a little dumb, (like she’s currently in high school), but currently she’s smiling. “I think so.” Cordelia nods. It feels nice to say it, relieving – her feelings shared with the world.

“How big a crush we talkin’ here?” Queenie pushes, not quite satisfied. She’s happy, sure, though something else lingers. A protectiveness. It’s this rare sight that catches her off guard, and eludes to more. She has her own questions then, of how close Queenie is with Misty, of how the two met, ended up living together.

She isn’t gifted the time to pursue those as Queenie hurries her up.

“I – I don’t know, I just. . .there’s feelings.” Lame. So, so lame, but Cordelia never grew up around emotions, and anything she’d tried to bring into her relationship with Hank had fallen flat. Excuse her if she isn’t the most proficient at emotion.

“Feelings?” Mallory all but skips forward excitedly.

“As in, you wanna date her,” Queenie deciphers, “or you want to fuck her?”

Cordelia puts her foot down. Quote literally. It rattles the lid of the toilet she is still stood on. “I answered your question. Now, get me out of here.”

Finally, her prayers are fulfilled, and she is sheepishly saved by one of the workers who apologises and apologises with the promise of a meal on the house.

Cordelia couldn’t care less about free food (her bank account will thank the situation) although she is more preoccupied with the elephant in the room finally having been identified.

And as Queenie helps herself to her fifth cocktail, she reclines and smirks. “I knew you liked Misty. The two of you sit staring intensely at the other all the time.” She slumps on her straw until there’s no liquid next. “It’s kinda weird, actually.”

She rolls her eyes. “Duly noted.”

“I think it’s sweet.”

“Sweet? I thought they were ready to rip each other’s clothes off the other day.”

Mallory guffaws into her hand, she too on the other side of tipsy. “They probably were.” Cordelia neither confirms or denies, knowing that there is no winning to this conversation.

Especially not as Queenie adopts a serious tone. “You have my blessing to ask her out, but I swear, if you screw her over in any way – ”

“I would never do that!” She draws back, aghast.

Queenie merely smirks. “Good, now drink your mimosa, this shit is free. We gotta milk it. Thank god you got stuck in there right?”

What she gives in return is the most pointed glare, the worms of exasperation and, as she draws the sweet drink to her lips, she wonders just how all of this happened.

...

 And subtle, her friends are not.

They stumble back through the apartment hallways in a gaggle of giggles. Cordelia is included here, unable to quite code which order her legs should go in.

But Queenie jumps in again to break the haze of joy carefreeness that she briefly wears.

“So. . .”

It takes her a few seconds to realize it is her being spoken to, and her head slowly tilts to one side. “So?”

“Are you gonna ask her?”

Cordelia blinks, even if her heart paces a little. “Who?”

“Come on,” Mallory giggles. “You haven’t drank that much and you know who we are talking about.” Their steps begin to slow. One because they are fast approaching the apartment doors and two, the intensity of the conversation brings them to a natural halt. She curses herself for the demure way her body responds, like something shying away from a blistering sun above. Only, the heat here is from another oncoming interrogation.

“I’m beginning to think it’s the only subject you guys can come up with,” Cordelia gives back with a wry smile.

“Oh hush girl, we are only helping you make good decisions.”

She half grins, tummy fluttering with nerves. “And you think this is a good decision?”

“I think you best ask Misty before other hot lesbian scoops her off the market.”

It’s weird, just for a second, how the statement hits her. The idea of her liking girls, just like Misty, that other girls could be into Misty, ones who are way more confident and suave, and could serenade the woman with all the eclectic things she adores. Cordelia experiences the flourish of utter jealousy, enough to have her jaw setting.

It is spotted instantly by a cackling Queenie. “See? You don’t want that. So you know exactly what you need to ask Misty?”

“Ask me what?”

The southern drawn is oh so distinct, oh so Misty and oh so terrifying.

Cordelia practically frenzies on the spot though tries to keep her reaction to a minimum. Despite the chaos in her body, she plucks bed gaze away from her two snickering friends and pivots on her heel to lock eyes with the Cajun.

Misty is clearly fresh out of the shower, with wet curls tied up in a messy bun and the odd few escaping from her hair tie. She excuses a sweet smell, a strong hint of jasmine, and her skin shines even in the dim hallway.

Cordelia could stare forever, and she almost does.

“I – you. . .you – ” She tries and, upon seeing the most glorious blue eyes, panics. “Did you find your phone yet?”

The disappointment in the air is palpable.

Mallory’s shoulders droop, Queenie rolls her eyes, but Misty gives an innocent shake of her head. “Not yet.” Then, her soft pink lips twist into this pretty smirk. “Heard you had quite the afternoon?”

“News spreads fast, I see.” She retorts dryly, reaching for the door of her apartment. The others follow, including Misty who begins shrugging on an oversized sweater that has pictures of cartoon bees on it.

“Least you got her.”

Cordelia throws her bag down on the kitchen table. “Help is a very strong word for what they were. Neither were exactly a Knight in shining armor.”

She sets herself up for it, she really does, and the tease falls out with no qualms. “Maybe Misty would have been better at saving the damsel in distress.”

Her eyes widen, signalling a silent stop it, and thankfully one that Misty misses. Seeing as she’s too busy checking for what food is on offer in the refrigerator. Nothing, if her tangible disappointment is anything to go by.

She, instead, returns with some OJ and begins pouring it into a glass.

The general vibe of the room is relaxed, happy. Cordelia manages to hide away her hints of nerves and focus on the positives. That the alcohol she’s had has certainly eased her into comfort.

She reclines in her seat on the couch, smiling, laughing when Coco appears from her room and begins grilling about the incident. Though she may momentarily be the butt of the joke, the humor isn’t malicious. Just. . .friends, that’s it. And she doesn’t remember the last time she’d had a friendship circle quite like this one.

...

Being at Mallory’s work is strange, even if Mallory still acts as the same kind entity she’s grown to admire. She’s led between a long hallway, from beige door to beige door, each with a tiny translucent window right at the top and names etched neatly beneath.

The one that they care about is a Quentin Fleming, a small figure with white hair and a knowing smile against wrinkled lips. “Well, come on in,” he talks in a slow, charming manner, whittling down any of Cordelia’s nerves.

His office defies the normal rules, and minimalism is met with trinkets and keepsakes that Cordelia finds herself peering around at.

“You’re just the woman I wanted to see.” He leads her to a chair, padded and soft, and gestures for her to sit graciously. “I’ve heard so much about you, about your story.”

Scampering to the other side of the desk, he plants himself in his own seat, comically large for his small frame, and smiles over at her. By this point, his fingers are criss crossed together and make a strong place for his chin to be rested as he holds eye contact.

“Well, it isn’t exactly something I planned. . .but these things just happen.”

He produces a laugh, a high pitched thing that reminds Cordelia of a cooing bird. “I’ll say! And boy, we love these kind of stories here. Drama is what our readers zest for, let me tell you.”

At the use of such a word encompassed to her life, Cordelia clears her throat, shifts legs a little, but nods either way. “I’m not much of a writer. . .”

“My girl, this will write itself!”

She really, truly, hopes so.

“All you need to do is tell your story.” He shrugs emphatically, stout fingers held in the air. “That simple, that easy. I wonder.” Eyes scrunch shrewdly, a fist coming to knock on the desk between them with a thud, “just how many people would adore to here this story. You should have seen my reaction, truly. Affairs of the heart are, after all, so human, and that’s why we like to read about them.”

He speaks to fluently, with zeal and a vibrancy that beseeches the boring decor of the outer offices. It is clear to see why this man, too, writes many of the popular articles.

“I’m not sure how I’d even approach it.” Cordelia hesitates, the seeds of doubt appearing.

“We’ll do a draft, of course. No pressure. Let’s say. . .six k?”

She pauses. “. . .Six thousand?”

That number in itself seems both impossibly small and large, and she wonders just how she can put a relationship - a whole three years of her life - into that.

...

She laments to very same thing to Coco and Nan over coffee.

“It’s a opportunity though,” Nan shrugs, “plus, it’ll be a good read for all of us.”

She scoffs and blows the steam from her cappuccino. “You guys already know the whole story. Nothing to add.”

“Don’t skimp on us, Delia.” Coco grins. “There’s gotta be more.” A wicked glint passes across her pupils. “Did you leave him because he didn’t perform very well. . .sexually?”

“You are gross.”

“People want to know this stuff.”

“Not about Hank and I, they don’t.” Cordelia decides with a nose stuck in the air. Even she doesn’t want to relive those moments.

Misty seems to have gained an awful sense of timing, for she approaches them from the entranceway just as those words are uttered. Instantly, her face scrunches up in disgust, even if she hurries to hide it.

“Watcha talkin’ about?”

Coco nudges an embarrassed Cordelia in the side. “Cordelia’s big article,” she announces giddily, “if she can write it well, that is.”

“Aw, I don’t doubt that she will.” Misty drops down on the opposite side of the couch, where Coco finds herself the barrier between the two women.

As if realizing that, she stands and mutters something about getting more coffee.

“Hey, when you go up there will ya check the lost and found?”

“What is this? Are you starting to miss technology?” she teases.

Misty tsks, then rolls her eyes. “It’s kinda hard to book clients when I ain’t got any way to call ‘em.”

“Then buy another phone.”

“But I have one. One will all my contacts and clients an’ photos that are only on there.” She emphasises her point with wide eyes, then a lasting sigh. “Wish I knew where it was.”

Her pout is mirror by Coco, who gives a friendly tap under her chin. “You’ll find it, sweetie.”

“Hope so.”

Coco chuckles. “I’ll ask about the lost and found, and I’ll even get you a tea.”

“You are an angel.” Misty chuckles.

“Well, I try.”

Her retreat leaves just the three of them. While Nan occupies the large armchair and scrolls through her own set of messages, Cordelia notices the way the air changes. Does it always do that? When Misty is there, anyway? From the corner of her eye, she sees Misty scoot herself closer.

The loose yellow cardigan she wears is stretched under the movement, then snaps back just as quick, but Cordelia has attention drawn away by the flowers decorating her hair. Real, plush, and adorning her hair like some impeccable crown.

She forgets to breathe for a second. “Hey,” Misty beams.

“Where did you get those?” Curiosity gets the better of her, and she points up toward the blue and purple scattering.

“Oh.” Misty lifts a hand to them, a soft smell following. “I went for a walk through the park this mornin’.”

“They’re pretty.”

Misty’s smile widens. “Thanks.”

They fall into quiet, not uncomfortable, but not their usual content. And Cordelia very much puts it down to the fact that she has openly admitting her budding feelings for the woman. She doesn’t remember ever living through such nerves before with Hank. Misty’s proximity is making her feel like she’s soared around on a roller coaster and is far surpassing windswept. She breathes in, gaining a waft of sweetness; it is echoed in all of Misty’s movements, in her tender features.

Before her, the woman gives a lop sided smile and cocks her brow up in question to the staring.

And Cordelia, to her sheer embarrassment, really doesn’t know what to say. Instead, she just blurts out a series of words in hopes that they find a coherent order. “We should go to the park some time.”

They are spouted so quickly at Misty that the woman blinks profusely. Flutters of curled and delicate eyelashes. “Um, yeah.” She chuckles, the tops of her cheeks this wonderful kind of pink. Surprised she may be, but Misty eases into it far quicker than Cordelia could. “That’s fun.” There’s this pause, where she presses her lips together and darts eyes around the interior of the coffee shop. “All of us?”

No, no, no. Just them. Walking and chatting aimlessly, maybe even daring to hold hands, to stand flush. (For Cordelia to be the one to decorate Misty’s hair with her choice of flowers).

“Well, I just thought - ”

“Here you go, sweetie.” Coco returns with two mugs in her hands. “No sign of your cell, but it’ll turn up.”

Cordelia resists the urge to glare at Coco. Is she serious? Is she waiting around the corner for every moment that something could happen and bursting in to unceremoniously disrupt it? For someone so invested in their relationship, she certainly is good at cockblocking it.

But the moment is fleeting, eyes dragged from one another.

And the last Cordelia thinks about it is watch Nan, a silent witness to it all, smirking to herself.

Cordelia really hopes that this gets easier.

 

 

Chapter Text

How do you ask someone out? How do you do that? It is with great shock that Cordelia realizes she's never had to before, not with her few relationships being led by guy, and the past few years she's been trapped with Hank. So, no, she isn’t adept at this. She isn’t skilled or knowledgeable, and every time she even tries to ask Misty out, she gets nauseous or tongue tied. It doesn’t help that when she sees her there is a lift of excitement within, a burst of sparks. Is that normal? This giddiness? She supposes it'd be there with Hank, maybe, in this far more dormant form.

Only, there’s something simply about being in Misty’s presence that is enough to paralyze her with these sensations. And that is new. Totally strange, and downright exciting.

“You look nervous.” Misty points out one morning over a late breakfast. To busy herself, Cordelia had made fluffy pancakes and a fruit salad, and clearly the scent of food has drawn her friend within the apartment.

Cordelia sips at her orange juice for a long while, trying to gather just the right answer. “I’m waiting to hear back from Quentin. . .I sent him a rough draft last night.”

That isn’t what bothers her, but Misty believes it so she leans into it. “I’m sure it’s great.” Over a bite of pancake, she peers up, “can I read it?”

Cordelia stalls. “You want to read my article?”

“. . .yeah, ain’t that what friends do?”

“But,” she chuckles nervously, “it’s not that interesting actually, just the story of mine and Hank's relationship.”

“It’s interesting enough for someone to wanna put it in their magazine.” Misty shrugs, gives this crooked smile and then lifts her brows higher, “so that’s good enough for me.”

Cordelia pushes her plate away slowly, refusing to make eye contact for a second. The idea of Misty delving further into past relationships is. . .a little unsettling really. It’s one thing to be vulnerable in front of an anonymous audience, but to do so in front of her crush? Yeah, that’s a big step.

Still, that’s the least of problems. The great, big, gargantuan complication in her life remains – that she wants to ask Misty out and she is just so damn terrified at the idea.

The thing is, Cordelia has been doing an awful lot of scary things these recent months, so why not add another to the agenda?

Peering to Misty, she smiles at the woman who uses strawberries and chocolate sauce to make a smiley face on her final pancake. “That’s art right there.” She chuckles at her own words, and saves no time in dismantling said “art”.

“You’re silly.”

That has Misty laughing all the more, then she scoops up a large bite with her fork and holds it out. “Wanna try some? You didn’t eat much.’

“Because I’m nervous.”

Misty pulls a face, eyes darkening with intensity. “That’s why you gotta eat. It’ll make you feel better.”

“What are you – ”

Standing up slightly from her seat, she nears with the extended fork. “Eat.”

“You – ” Misty sweeps the food inside the mouth before she can say anything else, chuckling at the way Cordelia’s face scrunches up. “Hey.” That is spoken around the food that she chews on simultaneously. Unable to stop herself, she lets a few crumbs fly from her lips that she catches with her hand. The sweetness of the strawberry piece lifts the fluffy pancake.

“Good, huh?”

She pouts, swallowing the food thickly. “I don’t need feeding like a child, Misty.” Even so, she’s maybe laughing too, and shaking her head at the woman’s antics. Already, Misty is trying to scoop up another filling piece. “That’s enough, thanks.”

This delightful smirk follows. “This is for me, actually.”

“Oh.”

“What?” she points one brow up. “You changed your mind?” Her tone changes, taking on this teasing tone that has Cordelia squirming her legs together. She likes it more than she should; the tongue in her cheek, the low murmur of words – how Misty’s eyes change as though with different intent.

She has only ever seen this Misty when it’s the two of them and she really, really likes it.

Just ask her.

“No, I’m full. I just. . .” she fades off, watching where some chocolate syrup gathers against Misty’s lips. Every part of her wants to reach over and help clean it off, but she keeps hands to herself, restrains them by literally sitting on them and holds in a sigh.

Too bad Misty doesn’t. Hers sings of slight impatience. “You look like there’s somethin’ else on your mind.”

“Me?”

Her head cocks to the side and a mischievous flash of her eyes follows. “You see anyone else here?”

Though she rolls her eyes, there is no true annoyance.

Misty visibly swallows her food and then stills, with these gorgeously wide eyes and a childlike innocence in her features. “Are you gonna tell me?”

“There’s nothing. . .”

“Aw, come on. I thought we were friends.”

Friends. A positive word for most; one that makes Cordelia inwardly wince as she's beginning to realize just how much she wants to surpass the friendship barrier with Misty.

“We are friends,” she agrees with a tiny nod and a smile, then straightens out her skirt even though there are no wrinkles to be seen.

“Then tell me.” Misty pouts. For the record, it is impossibly adorable and Cordelia almost succumbs to it with ease.

“No.”

Misty points the fork prongs in her direction as she speaks. “And to think, I gave you a free massage.” At the very mention of it, Cordelia all but bursts into flames and finds herself nibbling at her own lip as distraction. Her muscles twitch in the ghost of Misty’s touch, those gliding hides, that wonderful pressure. . .

She rallies her sense back together, jolts herself back into reality and laughs, even if it is awfully strained.

“You are awfully persistent, Misty Day.”

“Well,” Misty gives the guise of nonchalance even if she is clearly itching to find out what’s the matter, “guess I just care too much.”

“I like how much you care.” Cordelia blurts out, without so much as a shred of thought. Stupid, stupid. There really is no pretence of composure around Misty, is there?

The others would snicker, give her this side eye. Misty doesn’t do that, she doesn’t aim to make Cordelia feel bad at all, and the way her nose wrinkles up with her fond smile has Cordelia pretty much in cardiac arrest. “Well, thanks. Now spill.”

“Misty.”

“I ain’t goin’ ‘til you tell me.”

“You don’t – ”

Leaning back in her seat, Misty lifts a hand up behind her head and idly plays with her hair. “Got no clients today, I got all the time in the world.” The last part is emphasized, cheeks widening with her smug grin.

“And if I still don’t tell you?”

“Oh, I’ll just ask Coco.”

Cordelia barks out a laugh. “And what makes you think she knows?”

This is where an “are you serious?” glance is locked and loaded in her direction, and it hits with a heat in her chest. “Delia, she knows everythin’.” Misty reclines further, relaxed and carefree, though her eyes do flash wider as she giggles out. “Sometimes I’m scared she can read my thoughts, too.”

“You should try living with her!”

Misty erupts with laugher just as Cordelia does, and their giggles fill where seriousness had edged around the conversation. “Believe me, I have been there, got the T shirt an' all that.”

“Wait,” Cordelia comes to an abrupt halt, “You lived here. . .with Coco?” She blinks profusely until her eyes hurt.

“A long, long time ago.”

“Are you serious?”

Misty nods and then droops her eyebrows into this dark little smoulder. “Totally – I’m the reason why there’s a dent in the wall behind the headboard.”

At that particular detail, Cordelia chokes on the juice she'd been sipping and feels the heat of tears in her eyes. Placing a hand over her constricting throat, she gets out. “Do I dare ask?”

The blonde in front of her smirks, head tilted to one side as though very much daring Cordelia to probe further. For a second, it’s like she wants her to, like she’s desperate to share exact details, or maybe she’s enjoying the fact that Cordelia’s cheeks are growing pinker by the second.

“Hey, hey, stop deflectin’ – I was asking about you.”

“Ah, you got me.”

They grow silent. Comfortably so. Like the could communicate in a series of subtle body movements and glances for the rest of times.

Words, however, are that little bit more efficient. “So?” Misty starts, knuckles lightly tapping against the wooden table.

“You’re really not gonna let this go, hmm?” Her voice is sturdy, but on the inside she trembles.

Misty rests her chin on her hands and waits, her silence an answer in itself.

“Ugh, fine.” She gives in, so, so easily. Because it’s Misty, and she thinks maybe Misty could convince her of an awful lot if she fluttered her eyelashes at Cordelia in just the right way. “If you must know,” she sighs, “I’m – I. . .I’m in a situation.”

“Ooh.” Tilting forward, she swallows the anticipation in the air. “A situation? Do tell.”

Cordelia stops and purses her lips together, and thinks just the right thing to say. Well, the thing she ought to say is there, at the forefront of her mind; it kicks and fights for freedom, and Cordelia almost lets it slip. It would be so easy, right? To just suavely and confidently come out with it, to have to upper hand and be the one with the power. “Have you ever really wanted something and, um, had no idea how to go about it?” Or not. Or she can just be a big, big chicken and go all cryptic rather than use her straightforward words.

Misty exhales, but there’s something knowing about her expression, through the glisten in her eyes. “Well, what is it that ya want?”

You.

Those blue crystals stare back. Potent, beautiful, cutting right through Cordelia. God, how is she supposed to ask this hot woman out when she could without a doubt have say girl that she wants?

But when their eyes lock, she feels something. This mutual pull, this attraction – reflected in Misty’s gaze in an undeniable truth.

“Something I’m too scared to lose.” Cordelia confesses, bringing down the light-hearted teasing a rung or two and sitting them just sort of severe.

“An’ why is that?”

She feels the fall in the expression, the sigh cast around her lungs. In the end, she can only answer honestly. “Because it means a lot to me.” Then adds. “More than I can say.”

Misty sits straighter, brows knitting into one as she thinks and decodes, but none of her puzzle solving skills are shared with Cordelia. Yet. “I see. Well, that’s a big deal, huh?”

“I – if it all went as planned. . .I think it would go really, really well.”

It returns, an eclipse of Misty’s sure expression, a cheeky smile. Like she can read Cordelia’s very mind. She can’t, surely. Or she sure hopes not. As Cordelia is currently deep in the fantasy of just how wonderful it could be to date thus woman, and her soul is rather uplifted at the thought.

“If it goes wrong?” Misty pushes in a whisper.

It leads to a visible wince from Cordelia. “I really don’t want to think about that.”

“No – guess not.”

“Right.”

Misty’s adopted smile goes from sadness to hope. “I wouldn’t worry about it going wrong.”

Very much with bewilderment, she appraises Misty in a way that demands more in explanation.

It isn’t. Why would it be? That would be far too easy. The thing is, she senses this difference around them, a change in the winds, as it were. Their eyes meet and, though Misty is silent, the world is awfully loud in the moment. Good loud. Like when listening to a favorite song at ear splitting volume and absorbing every drop of it. “I shouldn’t?”

Biting at her lip, Misty’s voice is noticeably lower in this. . .this totally hot way that makes Cordelia want to scream out. “Nah, not at all.”

And she’s trying to tell her something, isn’t she? Maybe. Perhaps. Right? She listens to the erratic strum in her heart, wondering if it’s trying to communicate with her via morse code. Unfortunately, she can’t decipher that. All she has left to work on is the coquettish way that Misty studies her, like she’s enjoying the obvious bout of nerves that Cordelia wears.

With her breakfast now finished, Misty begins a slow stand. “Maybe whatever it is that you want would want you back.” Spoken so simply, with such certainty.

Cordelia’s body pulses with surprise, a heat rising within and raging like an uncontrollable bonfire. “Really?” she breathes out, far surpassing a breathless giddiness.

Smiling prettily for the both of them, Misty nods. “All you gotta do is ask.”

This is it. The perfect entrance, a tension filled build up for the both of them can enjoy being wrapped up in, and it’s certainly the opportunity to ask Misty out. Seeing as Misty is pretty much asking her to ask.

So she gathers the words, she delicately places them in her head in what she hopes is a sweet and tempting proposal, and she readies them to be shared with a waiting Misty.

And then their great buffer steps into the room.

“You guys would not believe the morning that I’ve had.”

Coco says, for the third time putting a grind to any of their plans. The third and final time. “No!”

The woman stops in the door, the bags in either hand swinging with the momentum of her entrance. “What?”

“Do you have some sort of radar?” Cordelia exclaims, only for Misty’s eyes to flash wider, for a dizzying smile to chase away her momentary surprise.

For a mere few seconds, Coco is nothing short of bewildered, plus a little miffed at being called out for the unknown. She splutters over her words, brows lowered into a taut line. “What on earth are you talking about?”

Oh, so, so much. Enough for her to want to grab Coco by the shoulders and evict her from the apartment until she finally manages to ask Misty on a date. This was the perfect moment, with courage swimming in the side lines and ready to go.

At Coco’s words, she tries not to let her head explode. Difficult really, as it pulses and throbs.

But Misty stands, a look exchanged between the two woman. As she settles on Cordelia, she nears and rests her hand on the back of the chair that the woman situates. Close to Cordelia. Too close. At their proximity, she tenses and inwardly sighs, and considers just blurting out the question with an audience.

Misty is the one to speak first. “What you got there in your hand?”

After the initial surprise, Coco relaxes the further she steps into the room and places down a bedraggled plant onto the kitchen counter. “It was twenty cents at the store – made me think of you.”

“A dead plant made you think of Misty?”

“It’s not dead,” Coco grumbles, though turns to Misty who has rushed over and already inspects the thing that certainly clings to the tendrils of life. Leaves and roots receive a thorough scrutiny, and when Misty accidentally gets some stray mud just on her cheekbone, Cordelia stares and stares until surely she’s burned a hole in her skin. “Is it Misty?”

“Hmmm, I can save it.” She purses lips together with a firm nod.

“See.”

The smug little twist in her direction from Coco has Cordelia rolling her eyes.

“I’ll be back.” Misty announces as she cradles the long leafed plant and tucks it under her arm. Crystal blue eyes move over to the woman sitting at the table with a half frown. “Thanks for breakfast, Delia.” Her own smile simmers with heat. “It was delicious.” Said heat lingers, grows, and Cordelia experiences a searing burn to her skin.

But then Misty is gone, the world cooling, and only Coco to converse with.

Said woman stares at her like she has lost her mind. Maybe she has. Maybe this crush has sent her rather loopy. “Breakfast was delicious, was it?” Coco smirks.

“Stop talking.”

“Why so rude?” She finally begins unloading her many, many bags. “Especially after I spent the morning finding a perfect outfit for you to wear to Fiona’s party.”

Her heart comes to an abrupt halt. “Her party? Oh shoot! I completely forgot about that.” And she totally had, or more pushed the specific piece of information from her brain in unwillingness. The reason? Well, this annual affair is basically Fiona’s chance to show off a whole plethora of things, such as her wealth, her belongings, her newest cosmetic procedure of the season. Up until recently, it'd also been her opportunity to boast Cordelia. Not in pride of her achievements, her personality, or any of her good qualities, but merely there fact that her only daughter was engaged to Hank Foxx, the son of a very successful banker and business owner.

Was.

This year, she won’t get paraded around like some trophy wife, to partake in dull and mundane conversations with her mother’s friends.

Because, well. . . “You know I’m not going to that, Coco.”

“Nuh uh, you are.”

“Am not.”

The frustrated blonde across from her looks to be one step away from throwing one of those bags in her direction. “You are even if I have to dress you myself and drag you there.”

Cordelia begins to process of tidying up from breakfast and peering longingly at the plate where Misty’s pancake had sat. She lets an abrasive sigh push inside of her. “Why do you care if I go?”

“You are my friend.” Coco emphasises.

A friend who keeps ruining my shot with Misty.

“And?”

“As you friend, it is my duty to ensure that you stick it to your mom and show her just how well you are doing since freeing yourself of her regime.”

“Oh yeah, single, jobless and childless – I’m sure she’ll have a podium waiting for my speech on success.”

A finger is pointed her way, a warning glare added. “None of your negativity.”

“I can think of a lot of things that I would rather do than go to her annual shit show.”

Rounding the table to near her, Coco loosely wraps arms around her friend. “You should go, you’ll have fun.”

“Fiona and fun are mutually exclusive events.”

She puffs out her cheeks at Cordelia’s stubbornness. “Then let us come, you get a plus one, don’t you?”

“Ah yes, my mother's way of mocking my lack of a relationship.”

“So? Rub it in her face. Bring your friends instead.”

Cordelia draws back, half smiling and voice ever so soft. “You guys?”

“Why not?”

Here, she pokes her brow and tries to stifle laughter at the idea of Fiona’s shock. “Hm, she wouldn’t be happy about that.”

“Exactly.”

“And it would be funny. . .”

“There you go!” she squeezes her with a hug. “Your friends are always willing to piss off emotionally manipulative parents for you – actually, it kind of comes in the contract.”

She turns to stare directly at her, to wonder how she can go from firmly pressed at Coco’s interruption to wanting to return her embrace with all her might. This woman can seriously have her yo – yoing sometimes.

But she does love her. She’s a saving grace, a true confidant and, without her, Cordelia doesn’t know where she’d be right now.

Even if she’s still sure that the woman is sat in wait every time her and Misty so much as dare to think about one another.

Merely the mention of Misty has her body itching with impatience, an intolerable sensation within. She clears her throat, gently pulling away from the woman. “Thanks, Co.”

“Any time.” She kisses Cordelia’s cheek, “I would do anything for you, even when you’re being an idiot – which, for the record, is a lot, Dee.”

“Why, thanks,” she mutters dryly through grated teeth. The exasperation does nothing to cloud over Coco’s expression.

“Oh, let me show you the outfit!”

“Um, I. . .”

“Don’t worry,” Coco grins, “I had your best assets in mind. This dress will really show off the girls - it could be a great opportunity for dating.”

Barking out a laugh, Cordelia isn’t even shocked any more. “You think going to the grocery store is a great opportunity for dating.”

“I believe in serendipity! Love will find you when you’re least expecting it.”

She chuckles, those sounds bubbling together delightfully. “Fine, I’ll have a look, but I – just give me a few minutes, okay?”

With the beginnings of a frown, Coco narrows eyes at her. “Why?”

“God, you are so nosy.”

“I like to know things. There is nothing wrong with that.”

Wanting or not, she leaves Coco with a certain lack of knowledge and makes her way out of the front door. Here, she is faced with another door, a dark green that stands higher than she ever remembers it being. “Deep breaths, deep breaths.” She tells herself, rather than doing, and then subsequently does. Just to help, she tries to shake the excess nerves from her very finger tips, even if they clutch on with all they’ve got.

She hasn’t got much time before Coco comes looking for her, ready for an apartment fashion show, she’s sure.

Though her hand lifts, it doesn’t knock. She inwardly curses herself, lets the word coward echo around her head like a bouncy ball.

Nope. Not today. She’s sick of being a coward. She ran from Hank, and she’s not going to run from this.

Even if she feels like she’s going to throw up.

Knocking is a forgone action, where she instead bursts inside and closes the door behind her with her back. Over by the window, Misty almost drops the small cup of water she'd been tipping gently over her many shapes and sizes of plants. “Delia? Is everythin’ okay?”

She, at first, stumbles over her words. But then does find a firm grasp on them. “It’s fine – it’s good. Really good. I feel good.”

Misty looks far from convinced, though she supposes barraging into her apartment is cause for concern, especially if she can catch even the smallest decibel of her pulsing heart.

Her eyes widen as Cordelia steps forward, or more stomps, and there’s purpose in her eyes. She knows that time is of the essence, that if she doesn’t think and just does then this will be much, much easier. For once, she does rid herself of those pesky thoughts, then she comes to stop inches away from Misty. The blonde had been bent over the flowers, but now stands at her full height, those couple of inches on Cordelia. Her eyes beg for explanation, for words, for something, widening in a way that compels Cordelia in further. She can’t resist them, those hypnotising spheres and god, Misty is just the most beautiful person she's ever met.

Stomach twisted into something that must surely resemble a cat’s cradle, she gulps down the nausea. Fuck it. She’s doing this.

Willyougooutwithme?”

Her proposal, hurried and hopeful, dangles between them, on show for all.

“. . .Say again?” Misty asks of her, lips spreading wider playfully as though she just wants to hear those words in a manner of more clarity. Just to enjoy them, to soak them in.

She sucks in this lasting breath. “Will you go out with me, Misty?”

“Like. . .” Now she’s grinning and leaning herself against the nearby wall. “On a date?”

“Yes. A date.”

Misty is quiet for a few moments, enough to make Cordelia’s fear expand to every crevice inside of her.

Then, with a chuckle, she breaks the silence. “Well, it’s about time you asked me.”

Eyes bulge wider. “You – I tried, but, but. . .Coco.”

“Yeah, she’s a pain in the ass.”

“I’ve wanted to ask you for the past couple of weeks. . .I guess, I was scared and I thought you were going to ask me, maybe.” Hands wring together, clammy and warm, only to be under another touch seconds later.

Misty laughs sheepishly. “I, uh, was. Then, I figured I’d let you figure it out yourself.”

“What? Why?”

Now normally Misty wears this innocence about her, this childlike wonder of the world and Cordelia adores to see that. Right now, the woman adorns a shade of wisdom that is just as intoxicating. “Coco said you’ve only ever been with guys.”

“She did.”

“I wanted to let you take the first step.” Misty insists, “even if it was just about killin’ me.”

“Killing you? Every time she interrupted us I was ready to rip my hair out.”

More laughter drifts, just as easily as crunchy, golden leaves in the fall. Their hands wrap around each other’s that little bit more, and Cordelia decides that she likes this. More than she could ever imagine. If hand holding can make her so ecstatic, anything further is going to be euphoric.

Another smile is flashed her way. “So.” Misty rolls on the balls of her bare feet. “A date, huh?”

Cordelia flushes pinker. At least she still has the ability to talk. “Yes.” She wishes she could photograph the serene smile Misty wears and stare at it forever. “I, um, might be out of practise.”

“It don’t matter. As long as you’re there, I’ll have a great time.”

A softened heart beats timidly, afraid to speak over Misty. But boy, is she excited. And relieved. So, so relieved.

She has a date. Damn, she has a date.

Then, suddenly, Misty's laughter is back and so melodic and sweet. "Jeez, do you need to sit down, you look like you're gonna throw up?"

"I - yeah, maybe." 

Led by strong hands, she finds herself nestled by the couch. Their eyes meet, smiles shared, and she gets to enjoy a few moments of bliss before Coco comes to find her once more. 

Yet the woman is none the wiser to her plans with Misty. She enjoys their secret, for now.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

She wakes with a buzz in her blood, nothing short of a full musical coursing through her brain in all its glee, and she wears the brightest of smiles.

Why? Well, why not? Outside, the breeze looks inviting; the figures on the streets all walk with a bounce in their step.

Adopting her own, she is up and showered in a show of vigor, flouncing past Coco with a flash of a smile. The woman eyes her suspiciously, wearing a fair share of shrewdness. “Someone is awfully happy.”

“It's a nice day.”

Coco lifts a brow, offers an unconvinced hum. “People aren’t just ‘happy’ because it’s a nice day.” She grumbles, apparently in serious need of a coffee. Then, eyes flash wider. “Did you get laid?”

She responds with her own shocked grunt of a noise. “No.”

“Did you get a special. . .toy?”

Her head spins and a jolt of horror finds her chest. “What – no. . .I – what does that even. . .Coco!”

“I’m just asking.” The woman smirks, “no need to be so tense.” Even that seems to spark a wondrous idea in her head, to which she practically bounces on the spot. “Maybe you could ask Misty to give you another massage.”

She’s closed in on Cordelia, a hand on either shoulder, though they are promptly shoved out of the way.

“Be quiet.”

“That isn’t a no.”

She swats at Coco to get her away. “Don’t you have work to go to?”

“Oh, but this is more fun!”

Scoffing, Cordelia shakes her head in the beginnings of ire. She thinks of Coco’s excitement, her encouragement – if she ever finds out that her and Misty have a date set up in a mere couple of days, she’d surely lose her mind. That idea has Cordelia giggling inwardly, how she has some power. The power of knowledge, that is. And she could just free it right now, send Coco’s world into a cataclysm.

She doesn’t.

Hiding her smirk, she decides such a moment is saved for the future. Besides, her and Misty aren’t technically a thing. Not yet. No more than semi flirtatious glances and lingering stares. . .

Yet soon, soon, they could be so much more, and that very idea had Cordelia ready to float away like she’s brimming with helium.

“Where are you headed to, anyway?”

She pauses, feigns nonchalance. “Just some shopping.”

“What for?”

“What is this – an inquisition?”

Coco places hands on her hips and gives a liberal roll of her eyes. “Excuse me for taking an interest in your life. All you’ve done the last couple of weeks is stayed holed up writing your article about Hank. Which you still haven’t let me read.”

“I don’t even know if it’s any good – ”

Holding up a hand, Coco silences her in an instance. “I don’t care if it’s good, I just wanna know what the sex was like.”

“You don’t need to know.”

She makes a perturbed little sound that flutters right into Cordelia’s ears. “Of course I do. That’s what friends do. . .talk about this stuff – I specifically remember telling you every little detail when we were in college.”

Cordelia cringes in memory, though with a smirk forming on her lips. “Whether I asked for it or not,” comes her dry response.

“And yet I’m having to drag this out of you like you hold government secrets.”

She barks out a laugh. “How do you know I don’t?”

“Because you are a terrible liar, and an even more terrible friend for not telling me.”

Throwing her bag down onto the table, Cordelia sighs. Fingers absently play with her house keys within, rolling them along her palm. Back and forth. Back and forth. “Why do you want to know?” Her brow is pointed upwards in question. “Do you plan on sleeping with him?”

She may as well have asked Coco if she plans on eating dog poop for how disgusted she appears, though is it shook off quickly. “I merely want to know what competition we’re working with here. I know a lot of guys – ”

“I really don’t want your leftovers, Co.”

The idea brings a wave of discomfort and bad thoughts, and she’s already trying to shove them out with no grace period whatsoever. Besides, the walls are pretty thin and she’s heard just how successful Coco’s sexcapades have been. No way does she want a turn in that.

In her hurry to rush away from thought of her friend’s love life, she returns to her own, to conversations had, to a particular comment that sticks out in her mind like someone waving a big red flag that’s on fire.

Before she knows it, said questio is flying our with no filter. “Hey, speaking of that sort of stuff. . .” Don’t ask her, don’t ask her. “There’s this dent behind my headboard. . .” She watches the realization trickle on Coco’s suddenly smug little face. “You don’t know anything about that, do you?”

The room is warm, or maybe just her face, and she already knows the answer but maybe hearing it from someone impartial (sort of) will help her make sense of it. Not that there’s much to make sense of. Just – she’s been thinking about it a lot, and about Misty and those consuming thoughts are maybe making her brain go kind of fuzzy. It isn’t like her, to become so flustered, yet here is the proof negativity that.

Coco clicks her tongue, eyes dark with mischief. “Know about it? Misty practically broke the entire wall.”

“Oh.” Hot, so hot. Her face, that is. Not that the idea of Misty against a wall and. . .there her mind goes again, running off with possibilities. “So it was Misty?”

With a shit eating grin, the woman stares at her. “She told you, then?”

Cordelia begins rifling through her bag for no reason other to avoid looking into the gravitational pull of Coco’s gaze. “Uh, yeah, in passing.”

“I bet she did.” There are barely contained chuckles in her response. Coco is enjoying this way too much, from the story that fights to be released from her memories, to the way that Cordelia is clearly nervous and curious and trying to hide both of those rather clear feelings. She moves closer, rather quick, smirking. “And if you think her massage was good, maybe you should try getting a massage from her in bed.” Her eyebrows waggle suggestively. “I heard quite the review that night.”

“I – ”

“‘Misty, oh Misty, yes - that’s it!’”

An explosion of emotions occur within her and, honestly, she doesn’t think she’s survived the blast. With pink cheeks, she considers the possibility that one day she could utter – or scream – out those words. For now, she keeps herself in check. More to deter Coco. “Do you have to do that?”

She laughs and gently shoves at Cordelia. “It isn’t like you’ve never said that to her.”

Ah, called out. Nowhere to hide.

Though Coco takes some form of pity and says her farewell as she mutters about getting ready for work. Which leaves Cordelia feee, finally.

She heads straight out of the door, only to run into none other than Misty herself as she hoists her massage table out of the front door in a cumbersome display. What a lucky patron to be receiving a massage from Misty very soon, but Cordelia only experiences her jealousy for a moment.

Misty isn’t shy about the way she lets eyes wander, delight set deeply inside of them upon appraising Cordelia. It makes her stomach twist and knot and coil in the best way. “Hi.” She grins.

“Hi.” Cordelia parrots, lost in her own sea of content at the brief meeting. In a loose striped sundress, Misty remains in the spot. Staring, smiling. Her hair is pulled into one long braid that sits over her shoulder, and there are flowers plaited within the golden locks. “You look pretty today.” She says, no word of a lie.

Misty tilts her head to the side, smile widening. “I’d say the same, but I always think you look pretty.” It is said with such ease and lack of nerves that Cordelia wants to know her secret; her own compliment had been given with a tiny tremble in her words. Misty one ups herself. “Beautiful, even. Always.” She gestures down the hall. “Can I walk ya out?”

It seems awfully silly, that suggestion. Like they’re somewhere fancier, instead both of them conveniently leaving the apartment block at the same time. But she nods either way, chest full of something she hasn’t felt in a long while.

“Busy day?” She points to the massage table now squished between Misty’s side and arm.

“Oh yeah – real busy. Plus I’m tryin’ out some new songs later at the coffee house.” An air of gentle pride surrounds her. “I think apple pie bath tub is gonna be a real winner.”

Her eyes squint in confusion. “I. . .”

“Weird dream.” Misty brushes it off with a shrug.

“Ah.”

The woman next to her holds up a finger and smiles enticingly. “We ought to listen to our dreams though. They tell us the important parts of our subconscious.”

Cordelia snorts, walking slower as to allow as much time as possible with Misty before they reach the main door. “I used to have a recurring dream that I was stuck inside a giant sock.” Her pupils narrow in questioning. “What do you think my subconscious is telling me?”

“Hmm.” Misty’s faces scrunches up in this adorable way with her pressed thoughts. “Probably that you should be wary of real big socks.”

She grins, then laughs, all in this smitten way. But they’ve reached the door, the outside world is calling them. And Cordelia wishes she could grab Misty’s hand and rush her in a date right this second. “Wise as ever, Misty,” she teases. “I’ll see you later then?”

Cordelia takes a moment to appreciate the few seconds where Misty appears something close to shy. It doesn’t happen very often; in fact it’s a rare little sight. And one that she relishes with an aching in her chest. She leans in nearer, her mood certainly improved from her encounter with Coco. Misty, she’s this calming presence, the human equivalent of lavender, and Cordelia sometimes just wants to get wrapped in her. “Of course.” She gives her own nervous smile. Nervous, but skimming around a giggly teenager. “I’m gonna go get something to wear for Friday.”

At the mention of their upcoming date, Misty settles back into her confidence. “Oh, really?” They’ve stopped at the door, effectively blocking it for anyone else for a good few minutes now, so she isn’t surprised when a gentleman practically pushes himself between the two with a hurried “excuse me”.

Drifting right back toward one another, Misty leans against the doorframe and lets her eyes darken. “Anythin’ in particular planned?”

She shrugs, but senses an opportunity. One to get back some semblance of control and confidence over a woman that literally turns her insides to jello in the best kind of way. “I don’t know – was thinking something. . .low cut.”

With barely any time to think, Misty’s eyes dip down to her chest. Ogling for sure, before hurrying back to Cordelia’s face. The woman knows that she’s not exactly got the most impressive set of breasts, nothing to show off over, but she’s never had any complaints before, and Misty certain seems entranced at the idea. Swallowing thickly, the blonde across from her gives a slow and calculated nod. “That’d be. . .you’d look great, really great.”

“You think?”

Misty gives a series of rapid nods, then offers a lopsided smile. “I mean, you could show up in a trash bag and I’d still think you’re the prettiest girl in the whole room.”

“Well, a trash bag might be more my budget.” She smirks, biting at her lip. An action that holds Misty’s gaze for a good few seconds.

“I’m gonna go before I lose myself in fantasies.” The woman insists, a playful tone to her words.

The very idea of being the core subject in one of Misty’s fantasies has Cordelia on cloud nine, and she reluctantly nods. “Yeah, go bring home the bacon.”

Misty pauses, bewildered and amused. “But I’m a vegetarian.”

“It's a saying,” she rolls her eyes, gently nudging with her elbow. “I’ll see you later.”

“It’s a date.”

“With all of our friends around?” Cordelia questions, wondering if the growing tension between the two women is going to be noticed by said friends. God, just being close to her has Cordelia dizzy, befuddled – lost in a cloud of such sensations and feelings. She can barely contain herself, even with no witnesses around. Other than Mrs Jackson that shuffles through the pair with a stack of wonky packages so high that they stand taller than her.

“Okay, then a pre – date.”

“A pre – date?”

Misty gives a toothy smile, then nods. “A warm up to our actual date.” She acts casually, convincing of anything. “That’s a thing.” Cordelia isn’t so sure, but hums in agreement.

“Sure.”

“It is.”

“Go to work.” With a fond roll of her eyes, she watches as Misty follows her order, beginning to walk in the opposite direction to her.

“Have a good day, Delia.” She insists, then let’s eyes flash darker. “An’ have fun shopping.”

Oh, she really will.

...

“No, Fiona, I – yes, I am listening but you asked me a question.” Her tone is enraged, perturbed. Every time she talks to her mother it is like she’s been cast back into adolescence. “Yes – no!” Cordelia rolls her eyes. “I am not going to embarrass you.”

“Oh Delia, I don’t you ever plan on embarrassing me – I think it just happens.” Fiona then adds, a smarmy act to her tone. “All by itself.”

Cordelia grips onto the dress she’d be eyeing up and uses it to as a squeeze toy for all of her anger, so much of it. Neatly packaged and wrapped and sent into the unsuspecting material rather than Fiona's way. “If you think that, then why let me come in the first place?”

The woman’s hiss can be heard down the other end of the line. “Because you are my daughter and after that shit that you pulled with the wedding, I think I am owed something, don’t you?”

One more squeeze of the material. Teeth bite the inside of her mouth.

“Plus, I said so.”

“Right, and that means it must happen.”

“Exactly.”

Cordelia sighs. “Sense the sarcasm, mother.”

“You are coming and you are going to smile and laugh and make excruciatingly dull small talk with anyone that comes up to you. You have the family name to consider, remember?”

She throws her head back, eyes closing. “How could I forget?”

Around her, the general hum of the store is a grave difference to the spa music that she can hear from her mother. A day of many tribulations for her, apparently.

Fiona continues, leaving Cordelia stuck between a rock and a hard place as she listens to the woman's rant while wondering just how pissed she’d be if Cordelia just hung up. It is a theory that she’s closer and closer to testing.

As the slow stream of resentment trickles away, she begins to slither eyes open. They wince, slightly, under the initially bright lights, and then adjust.

Only to find a friendly face staring at her.

Cordelia smiles back, pointing to the phone where the rants and raves continue in their enthusiasm. The only thing that her mother has ever put her heart into; reminding Cordelia just how much she screws up.

As Cordelia rolls her eyes and makes a sound of exasperation, the woman in front of her grins.

“Mother?” she mouths.

Cordelia places her hand over the speaker and scoffs. “Can you smell the disappointment?”

The woman before her titters, and waits a little impatiently as the conversation continues. In all honesty, Cordelia doesn’t even remember how it started, just why she'd called Fiona in the first place, but she very much regrets that decision.

Just as she’s becoming ankle deep in insults once more, she feels a frantic and repetitive tap on her shoulder.

She gently bats it away.

Persistent, the tapping becomes worse, obnoxious, and she turns to Nan with a frown. “What is it?”

Fiona’s humorless laugh is sharp as a knife. “Do you really think you can talk to me like – ”

But Cordelia finally sees why her attention was beckoned, why Nan requires it so, as the small brunette is suddenly pointing across the store. “Isn’t that your ex?”

At the sight of him, Cordelia practically curls up in dread, in this sticky feeling of discomfort. What’s worse, he isn’t alone. No, he’s got another little side bit, a different one – she recognises her as the au pair from down the street.

“Fiona, I gotta call you back.” She doesn’t give the woman the opportunity to argue, with her cell slammed back in her pocket and something close to a scream hiding in her throat. First one menace in her life, now another. Haunting her.

She glares across at the man, then back to Nan who watches, enrapt. “How do you even know what he looks like?”

“Coco showed up photos.”

A groan is confined. Of course she did.

“You are so out of his league.”

At that, she allows for the twitch of a smile. “And yet, he gets woman after woman.”

Nan watches the scene with curiosity, smirks to herself as Cordelia dips behind a sales rack when Hank happens to look in their general direction. A little pathetic maybe, but anything to avoid an encounter when she’s already in a terrible mood.

She hasn’t even found the right dress for Friday! This is a disaster.

Leaning in closer, Nan fixes the distress she wallows in with a rather ingenious, and tempting, idea. “Hey, let’s put women's underwear in his bag.”

“What?”

Already, she is being dragged toward some of the frilly sets of panties. “Imagine both of their faces when security stop them with these.” She giggles at the idea, nose scrunched up.

Cordelia gulps. It’s so wicked, so bad, and yet she’s reaching out for them.

Hands move across the hem. “But how are we supposed to even get them in?”

“Leave that,” she begins cockily, “to me. You just be ready to put them in when I give the signal.”

And while she’s wholly unprepared, Cordelia is suddenly uplifted with laughter as Nan saunters off to cause a distraction.

She is rattled by more belly hurting giggles when Hank has to explain to his newest girlfriend why he has the laciest underwear hidden at the bottom of his bag.

“Okay, so I’m officially never going to mess with you.” Cordelia announces as they walk out of the store, still dressless, though happy nonetheless.

She tilts her head to the side and presses lips together smugly. “You should be scared of my prank powers.”

“Believe me, I am.”

“Hey, you didn’t get anything.”

Her breath is stolen from her, panic lacing her words. “I – um, was just looking around.”

“Hm.”

Cordelia half closes her eyes and studies the woman. She sounds far from convinced, even if she doesn’t say much else, and Cordelia senses that there is more in that conniving brain of hers.

Thankfully, she appears to be on the right side of it, readily agreeing when Nan suggests coffee.

“Misty is playing some new songs tonight.” She tells her, reigning in her giddiness. It’s silly, such a small thing to get excited over. Nan grins either way.

An entire blush encompasses her face.

They make it there before everyone else, finding their usual nook free. Seats are saved, others relaxed into, and she has a warm honey tea waiting for Misty upon her arrival.

As it is exchanged, their hands brush. So simple. She fears the explosions within. What she fears worse is Nan’s eyes on them the entire time.

...

Never before has Cordelia been so excited to see the sun rise compared to that particular morning. Most people say their wedding is one of the happiest days of their lives, but she’d woken up on her wedding day with the overwhelming urge to vomit. This, this is way better, and much more gentle on her stomach.

There are nerves, sure, but the good kind. As in, “I can’t believe this amazing thing is about to happen” rather than “I don’t want this to happen.” She does – oh god, does she.

She can barely manage to eat any of her breakfast when her insides are swarmed with these warm butterflies. And her shower takes a decidedly long time when she finds herself scrubbing and preening every part of her body, leaving smooth and supple skin that she kind of (most definitely) wants Misty to feel.

The steamy room is left behind her, a towel hiding her modesty. Which is certainly lucky as, upon entering the main apartment, she finds it no longer quiet.

“Finally! She emerges.” Coco dramatically shares with the group, and then pouring some leftover wine into her mug. It may only be 3pm, bur Cordelia has heard all about the antics of her work this week, and the shipment that got sent to England rather than New England, then the power cut that meant Coco had to climb sixteen flights of stairs. Oh and, of course, the two dates with something close to losers that have left her lamenting her lack of romance. Cordelia would be lying if she said she hadn’t laughed at the story of one of them sending Coco videos of a certain. . .thing helicoptering, but she had. As she covered her eyes and prayed to never be scorned with the sight of such.

She prays that negative luck hasn’t rubbed off on her, or Misty. Or anything that they plan to do. Not that she knows the plan other than Misty giving her a time.

That’s she's way ahead of right now. But better to be prepared than rushing, right?

Apparently Misty doesn’t live life by such ideas, and still sits in joggers and a vest at the table where she looks to be playing some card game with Mallory. Cards are grabbed, others discarded, and a series of profanities falling from both their lips.

Upon hearing Coco’s announcement, said game is halted, eyes finding her. Finding and inspecting, appraising, studying – whatever you could call the relentless way that they hold on her figure until Misty realizes what she’s doing.

Suddenly, she stares at the cards in her hands like they hold all the answers to the universe.

“I wasn’t in there that long.” Cordelia huffs as she stomps across the floor, leaving a few droplets in her wake and drying the ends of her hair with a scrunched towel.

Coco makes an incredulous sound. “I’ll be surprised if there’s any hot water left in the building.”

“Says you, with your hour long showers!” Cordelia responds gruffly, even if hers could have been something close to that region. . .

Never mind, she rushes to get to her room either the intentions of using many lotions and enticing perfume, and anything to have Misty practically drooling (as she considers that, she smiles to herself at the silly idea, that she really, really wants to happen).

She softly plays music in the background, has candles adding to her calming atmosphere, and tells herself that tonight is going to go fine. Coco is leaving for dinner with her cousin soon, and taking Mallory too. So it’ll be just her and Misty, just the two of them.

That very idea has her smiling, imaging things that haven’t even happened yet. But could, if her imagination is accurate enough – maybe she has the power of future sight and is foreseeing a whole host of wonderful things.

Or maybe she’s just romanticizing it all rather prematurely in her head.

She finishes drying out her hair, then combs through it until it sits in straight and neat tendrils. Her hair products are pushed about on the bed, looking for just the right one, only to find it mission. “I. . .where is it?”

Looking again, and again, she comes up empty once more.

Then, a shrill laugh sounds through the ajar door and she makes the instant connection. “Coco.”

A phrase muttered under her breath, for only her ears, but certainly one that is rather emphatic and well felt.

Pulling her robe tighter around her body, she moves out and hurries for the woman’s bedroom. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“Stop stealing my things!”

That is all she has to say, enough to have Coco huffing indignantly in her seat. Attempting to string together some defence for the others to hear. When Cordelia returns with her hair mouse back where it belongs, in her hands, she finds herself locking eyes with Misty again.

The anticipation grows, the giddiness begins to nestle like some little creature making home within. It still hasn’t really sunk in that she’s going on a date with her friend, and maybe it won’t ever do that.

“Ooh, twenty three – I win!” Mallory declares happily.

To a Misty that is lost to another world entirely, and twists herself back in the right direction. “Huh?”

“Pay attention while I beat you.” She grumbles.

Coco joins in with her own quip. “She was too busy staring at Cordelia.”

There she goes again, about as subtle as a gun, and both parties involved roll their eyes. Not that it isn’t true, but it seems to have set off a switch in Coco and no one had the opportunity to reset it. “I still can’t believe you’re going on a date with someone that Fiona say you up with – of all the guys I found for you. I am supposed to be your friend and, let me tell you, the level of betrayal here is absolutely scandalous.”

“Co.” She begins softly.

“You have lost your right to call me that.” She huffs, turning in her chair so quick that it scrapes again the hardwood floor. “At least for the next twenty four hours.”

“You are being ridiculous.”

“Hmmmf.”

Mallory gives an apologetic grin. “It’s no use, Cordelia. She’s as stubborn as a mule.”

“And acts like an ass sometimes,” Misty teases with a snort, even if it earns her a kick under the table.

Before any more dissention can occur, the door bursts open and in saunters Queenie the biggest smirk on her lips. She doesn’t greet them, but moves to stand right behind Misty and watches as she shuffles and deals cards for the next game.

The blonde frowns after a while, turning to watch her in question. “Am I supposed to know somethin’ here?”

“Well, I was going to say that I am the best roommate but you already know that.”

“Not doubted it yet.” Misty says into her hand of cards. Then smirks again, “better than Co.”

“Is today some sort of hate Coco day?!” she exclaims.

Misty chuckles and twists back to Queenie, who continues to smile, eyes glistening. Then, as if some sort of magic trick, a shiny object is produced and displayed in her palm, aimed at Misty.

And it takes a second for it to be distinguished, though soon everyone, including Misty, realize what it is. “My phone!” she announces, barely able to remain on her feet. Reaching for the small item, Misty cradles it between her fingers and goes to unlock it. “How does it still have battery? I lost it so long ago.”

“I charged it for you.” Queenie pulls out the fourth chair and planks herself down on it. “Told you, best roommate. You owe me, so now you can stop doing yoga naked, please?”

“No promises.” Misty half heartedly responds, scrolling through the many notifications that are there. “Oh my gosh, I can finally update Pedro’s Instagram. His fans will be so worried.”

Cordelia smiles, moving forward without really thinking. Curiosity, she supposes, of wanting to see just what has been missing in Misty's life. Although the woman isn’t exactly the most materialistic, or not at all, really. But there are messages waiting for her (Cordelia even spots her own name across the screen for a second) and many other notifications.

“Borin’, borin’, bo – oh.”

Mallory blinks at her. “What?”

The woman pauses, biting at her lip. But in a way that indicates uncertainty, wariness. With fingers that shake a little, she glances upwards, readjusts herself on the chair so she looks uncomfortably erect and then claws a hand through her hair.

“I got some voicemails.”

“From who, girl?”

Those fingers in her hair tighten, tense, and from Cordelia’s view, it appears a painful move. “Um, they’re from Liv. . .”

At the mention of Misty’s ex girlfriend, the room falls painfully silent and Cordelia experiences a pang in her chest. Not some mediocre thing, but a real stab that slices through with ease.

If she forgets how to breathe, it’s totally warranted.

“I. . .” Misty continues, “Why would she. . .I don’t – what do you think they say. . .?”

Her friends gather around her, maybe pushing the paralysed Cordelia a little out of the way so they can keep Misty grounded with gentle hands and soft words.

Coco, in all her usual Coco – ness, is momentarily soft. “Hey, sweetie, it’s fine. You know what, I bet it’s nothing.” Her hands reach to receive the phone from Misty.” She probably just called you by acciden – ”

“No.” Misty is already shaking her head and her eyes quiver a little too and maybe Cordelia can spot the beginning of tears in them. “She wouldn’t do that. . .she. . .she – ”

“Just delete them.” Queenie insists.

The woman drags her phone closer in a show of protectiveness. “I. . .”

It brings with it a shift in the room, the sharing of concerned faces, the general stiffness in the air. Coco, for all her dramatics, has true care in her eyes. “Sweetie, remember what happened last time – remember what it felt like going through that. You. . .” She hesitates when Misty stands there literally looking like a puppy someone has kicked.

Cordelia wants to move forward, to embrace her and wrap her in her arms, but as it is she is paralyzed and forced to be a mere spectator to the dismay that fills the moment.

“You shouldn’t open up old wounds, Misty. Come on.” She reaches for the phone once more, appearing slightly more desperate this time. Like it’s a rather serious action needed, like she’s trying to save Misty from herself.

Continuing to stare, Cordelia opens her mouth to speak. Nothing. What would she even say? Misty has voicemails off her ex and that is never, ever a good sign.

“I know.”

“Then pass me your phone, I’ll delete them for you.”

Misty blinks back at her, eyes all shimmering like the surface of a pretty lake. One whose calm has been destroyed.

She glances down at her phone, bites at her lip,. The contemplation is clear, the struggle everlasting. For a moment, light is at the end of the tunnel, the small device headed toward Coco’s outstretched hand.

Then, she backtracks last minute and jumps to her feet with the screeching of the chair.

“Lemme just listen to ‘em once.” Misty mutters hurriedly, voice changed. Hollow yet thick.

But there is no analysing it when she all but scurries from her friends, clutching the phone, clinging to the past, not without an apologetic pause where Cordelia stands. Here, their eyes lock, more hardships and decisions made. Where Cordelia can’t speak, neither can Misty summon her voice, and there are tears in her eyes as her dipping head is suddenly making its way for the door.

What Cordelia isn’t ready for is the stampede of girls headed after the Cajun, all voicing similar concerns.

“What is happening?” She asks Coco in her daze. She may fully well know what’s happening, but it helps to have someone else say it.

“Misty is about to do something really, really dumb.”

Her stomach drops.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Misty.”

“Misty.”

Coco is the leader of the pack that gather around the girl's bedroom door. The closed door, that is. The locked, closed door.

It doesn’t take any sheer amount of problem solving to figure out exactly what that means. Said door is banged on unrelentlessly by a woman who's patience may wear thin, but her concern skyrockets. “Misty, open up!”

“No.”

Muffled it may be. Sure, it certainly is. And as Cordelia watches the scene before her in the bubble of bewilderment that she currently calls home, she wonders if this falling feeling with ever give in. Her feet shuffle on the ground, as though checking the solidity. While the ground may not move, her insides host a storm. One she is ill equipped for.

“Misty Day, do not think that I won’t break this door down.”

It’s a bold tactic, and one that Misty sees right through.

After a moment’s pause, they hear a daring. “Go on then.”

Coco holds in a groan, spins on the spot, and addresses her audience. “Can someone tap in? I am about to lose my mind.”

Where expects herself to be the first one there, to swoop in with all that condolences and sweet words and support for her friend, she finds just like in her own apartment, she doesn’t know hat to do. Misty’s ex is a tricky business, a situation that she’s sure has many twists and turns than a rollercoaster. Cordelia has never particularly liked rollercoasters – they move too fast, they throw her all over the place. First and foremost, they make her feel nauseous, just like now. A swill of sickness that could plague her for days.

Though her mouth opens and the body is willing, her spirit has been dampened by this whole thing.

Against her silence, Mallory jumps in. Her approach is calmer, though still firm. “Misty, you know this is a bad idea – don’t you remember what you said?” A pause, where Misty doesn’t fulfil her part of the script. “You swore that you were done with her.”

Queenie juxtaposes the gentle tone with her add on. “You told me I could slap you if you ever fall for her shit again.” She’s half joking, even if there is certainly some serious there. There is no doubt in Cordelia’s mind that the woman is more than ready to knock some sense into Misty over this whole situation.

On the other side of the door, there is movement. Just the slightest bit.

All four women wait on bated breath, no more than Cordelia.

The grumbling of movement ceases. Then, nothing.

Even if she wants to, Coco can’t hold in her groan. “You know that we will wait out here until you come out. Just like last time. We are your friends, Misty, and we are telling you what is best.” Annoyance dissipates into genuine worry, where she throws her head back on the couch that she’s residing in and closes her eyes. “Please just delete the voicemails.” She says, not loud enough for Misty to hear, really. But certainly enough for Cordelia too.

Cordelia, who is inundated with so many questions that she could be weighted down forever. She worries her lip between her teeth, wanting to ask each and every one, but more importantly desperate to know that Misty is okay, that she isn’t about to go down some dangerous rabbit hole to the past.

The closed door seems bigger than normal, a looming presence, and her insides churn readily. This isn’t right. They were supposed to go on a date and have the time of their lives, and this was supposed to be different.

At the idea of a ruined evening, her chest clenches. But no less at the idea of Misty alone, in her room, dwelling over the hurt that she’s received.

Twisting back to the group, she finally finds her words. “What. . .what do we do?”

“Hope you’re prepared to wait,” Mallory says apologetically.

Well, her plans for the evening are ruined anyway so. . .

“That’s it? We just wait for her to come out.”

Coco’s frown deepens, and she runs her fingers over the fat set lines on her forehead with annoyance. “That is what we did last time.”

“Last time?” Almost silly to ask, when the answer is ever so obvious, isn’t it?

“When Olivia broke up with her.” Queenie offers in a doleful manner, having come to sit next to Coco. The women, it seems, have gathered all of their momentary panic, and set about a plan of action instead. One that involves merely waiting Misty out.

She blinks at the barrier of the door once more. “She’s really just gonna stay in there?”

“Well, until she needs to eat, or pee.”

A great sigh flows from Coco. “Last time she threatened that she was gonna pee in a bucket. But we did get her out eventually.” Her face pales as she recalls the incident. “It’s Misty, she barely lasted a few hours without food.”

The very idea has a pang in her heart. Misty, such an open person, so willing to help out everyone else, and yet she is probably drowning in her own loneliness right now. Said solitude might be brought on by herself, but that still doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.

And she won’t have it.

Setting her mouth into a firm line, it sets off a tightening in the rest of her muscles. Determination settles with no resistance and, while the others park themselves on the couch ready for a long wait, Cordelia is stomping to the door.

Her knock is firm, though not angry. Just enough of a rasp that the other’s heads stand at attention. She half expects them to tell her it is no use, that so early this could be a lost cause; they don’t. The intrigue renders then silent, mere spectators.

Said silence allows for the knock to be hears. So close to the door, she hears a shuffle. Yet it isn’t Misty coming to open it. Not as she’d hoped. When music suddenly blasts from speakers within Misty’s room, Coco rolls her eyes liberally and throws herself backwards.. “Oh, here we go again.”

Cordelia winces a little over the obnoxiously loud sound of some anguished singer that she doesn’t recognize. She knocks again, not letting that be the end of it.

Okay, her and Misty have known each other the least amount of time. Sure. But it doesn’t feel like that. It’s as though their friendship has spanned years rather than months, and maybe, just maybe, she could can get through to her.

“Misty.” Cordelia calls through in a gingerly manner, ever so soft.

Nothing. Dejection sweeps over her. All the while, she refuses the meet the eyes of her friends. Those that probe and make no effort to hide said probing.

To her disappointment, it stirs no response in the only friend she wants it to.

“Misty, I – ”

“It’s no use.” Coco announces, for once skipping over the dramatics, the exaggerations. She sits with a sombre slump of her shoulders. “We just gotta wait it out.”

And the very idea has Cordelia wilting into a pile on the couch next to them, limbs all tangled and knotted, readying her for a stationary evening.

Misty’s door doesn’t open, and the music only gets louder.

...

They try, they really do.

Nan is the first one to attempt her method, one of utter temptation. A coaxing, as it is, when she appears with fresh take out that smells wondrously to the hungry group.

Makes sense, really – if there’s anything to tempt Misty, surely it’s going to be food.

Said bag is held right at the door, a hopeful knock on it. “Misty.” She sing songs.

“Are we luring her out like she’s some feral animal?” Mallory wonders aloud in a hushed tone, to a group who all watch with great interest.

“I got your favourite!’ Nan shouts, “tofu burger and sweet potato fries. Extra pickles. Even a box of cookies.” For added effect, she adds some “ooohs” and “hmmms” just to share the apparent deliciousness of the food on offer.

No budging.

Nan frowns, but isn’t fully deterred.

“Come get it while it’s hot!” She even wiggles the bag from side to side.

Misty does not. As such, shoulders sag in disappointment.

“Yeah,” Queenie scoffs, “I wouldn’t come out for that shit either.” Her face twists in horror. “Tofu? Bleugh.”

“Well, have you got a better idea, genius?”

She rolls her eyes. “No.”

“Least Nan is trying,” Mallory sighs.

“And I spent a whole ten dollars on that.” The woman grumbles, “no good deeds go unpunished, huh?” Dark eyes find the unyielding door once more. “It looks delicious, Misty. You must be really hungry, right?”

To no one’s surprise, Nan is decidedly talking to herself. Even if the music seems that slightest bit quieter.

“Fine, fine. I’m just gonna leave it here. . .by the door. With no one guarding it. . .”

Coco is now the one to question the plan. “What are you doing?”

Backing away from the now abandoned bait, Nan shrugs. “She could come.”

“And what? You’re gonna catch her with a big net?”

“I – ”

“This is stupid.” Queenie decides in a blatant show of impatience. “I say let’s just take the door off its hinges and drag the phone off her that way.”

“You and what tools?”

She glares Nan down, then adds. “Misty is a lesbian, there’s bound to be some tools in the apartment somewhere.”

“Oh yeah, because that’s how it always works.”

“Guys, let’s look at the bigger picture here – ”

Coco’s interruption isn’t well received as the two are already throwing themselves deep into some bickering, all on account of their friend.

It’s a moment where Cordelia zones out again, lost to her thoughts and the ‘what if’s and the ‘how did this happen’, but she, too, fall victim to someone halting the process.

Mallory has apparently seen the vacancy in her eyes. Leaning over, the brunette nudges her gently. “You good?”

It has her jumping back into the moment, where arguing reigns supreme and fills the entire apartment. “Oh yeah, I’m. . .I’m fine.”

“No one ever says that and means it.”

The truth that may be, but was else is she supposed to say? She’s not fine, the opposite of fine, actually. Is she supposed to tell Mallory that she is currently drowning in a sea of disappointment? That she’d built hopes so impossibly high and had to watch them crumble when she’d least expected? Worst of all, she’s sad for Misty, hurt for her and also, hurt by her. But that’s selfish, right? Thinking of herself in a time like this. God, she is though. She resents the very emotion stirring, yet the image of Misty choosing to walk away burns her retinas.

“I’m fine.” She repeats, choking on the lack of emotion shown in her words.

Mallory may be about to push it, but the timing is ruined by something else. Or someone, she guesses. “Um, guys?”

Having heard the commotion, maybe Misty had sensed the moment to make her move. All of them turn their heads toward where Mallory points at the barely open door where a hand snatches it like some ambushing predator and yanks the bag of food inside in the flash of a few seconds.

The slam of the door afterwards is felt by all.

“Well,” Mallory begins in cautious optimism. “At least we know she’s eaten.”

A rather disgruntled silence follows.

“. . .I want my ten dollars back.”

“Guess we are waiting her out.” Mallory announces, reaching for the nearby magazine and preparing herself for an apparent long wait ahead.

...

They take turns, sitting in the very spot. A watch, albeit a very full one. Cordelia doesn’t move; as the seconds pass she can feel her once coiffed hair succumbing to gravity. She knows her make up loses its sheen and freshness.

She leans back, letting the shaggy side of a blanket fall against her.

“You can go, you know.” Mallory smiles. “I got this.”

Wringing her hands together, she shrugs. “It's fine, she needs us, right?”

There is a solidarity in that statement, such clarity, because it’s true. And being needed is a sensation you can’t really explain, like the pollen needs its buzzing bee, or the ship a sail to soar it against the waves. Without them, they are stuck.

Is that what Misty would be without her friends?

Cordelia admires their comradery, their loyalty. She ponder if they’d do the same for her, then turns away with a soft smile as she decides that of course they would.

“I thought you have plans tonight?”

The inquiry is met with a hissing exhale, like a tiny spiracle bursting with air. It stings her teeth. “Well, I – this is more important.”

Mallory shifts in the spot, then tiredly blinks over at the door “I thought she was over her. . .”

She wants to speak, to agree. Nod along like she has any idea of just what had happened in all its entirety. But thinking leads to a dull ache in her chest, a chronic thing. She wants to agree, to know for definite that Misty's feelings are no longer harbored for Olivia, that they were longer evicted as a stowaway. But here they are, on separate sides of a door, and with the illusion shattered.

While her heart may sink as though encased in quick sand, Cordelia dares to speak. “What were they like. . .they – her and Misty?” she can’t even say the girl’s name, not without spiders crawling the inside of her skin in an itchy assault.

Mallory gives her this pitying stare. “You really wanna hear about Misty’s ex?”

No. Yes. She yearns to know every little of the story and yet, none of them whatsoever. She wants to know, to feel, to understand perhaps.

Because Misty changed.

The second she saw that name, contemplated her options. Usually such a confident and charming individual, she’d burrowed right into a shell of herself and is yet to pop back out.

“I just. . .want to know, I guess.”

Mallory stops. For the longest of time, she just gives this forlorn stare, a tired thing. It may just be pushing into the late evening, but there is no lack of darkness beneath her eyes. “Well, Misty was in love with her.”

She knew that bit, of course. Or figured it out, at least. Misty is the kind of person so love so unconditionally that it brings no surprise in Cordelia’s eyes.

Her chest expands slowly with her next breath. “And Olivia?”

The woman before her shrugs, lips in a crumpled like. “She said she loved her.”

“But she didn’t?”

“I’m not sure.”

Cordelia sits the sight of perplex. It is better than displaying her tearing heart. “What do you mean?”

Any conflict of telling Cordelia the truth seems to fizzle away, and Mallory adjusts herself in her seat so she is facing her directly. Her voice takes on a severity, hushes so maybe no one else (Misty, only a room away) can hear.

“I just got weird vibes off her.”

Cordelia can’t quite swallow the lump in her throat, so she embraces the stifled feeling instead. Her expression alludes to wanting, needing, more information.

And Mallory gives it to her. “Misty was besotted, she was. . .something close to obsessed I guess. I think, for her, that was it. She wanted to be with Liv and get a happily ever after.” She pauses, letting hurt flood across her face in respects of her friend. “And I think for Olivia, Misty was just someone that happened to give her the attention she wanted.”

Her stomach swoops with disgusting. “That’s awful.”

“I do think she cared about Misty, but she’d complain about how much Misty wanted to hang out, or if she surprised her with a gift.” Head shaking ever so slowly, she presses those lips together again in thought. “Like I get that some people don’t like PDA but she’d roll her eyes if Misty even wanted to kiss her in front of us.”

Now here, Cordelia takes an insurmountable strike of energy to keep herself in her seat. For two very good purposes. One involves rushing into Misty’s room to just embrace her and insist that she deserves so much more than a half committed asshole and two, to stop herself from finding Olivia’s apartment and giving her a piece of her mind.

“I – I don’t know what to say.”

The urge is ever so strong, but she stifles it. At the sight of maybe that fury unable to keep fully confined – her fists clench and her nostrils flare ungraciously – Mallory finally settles on a sad smile. “I know.” She agrees.

“Misty wanted to be with someone like that?”

Why? Why? It doesn’t strike Cordelia as anything the Misty she knows could desire at all, but the Misty she knows is a different one that dated Olivia. Her gaze lingers to the door. Or so she thinks. . .

Could she revert back? Slip into old habits? Her heart aches for her, for the revenge of apparently dormant pain. If only she could take it away and saddle it on her shoulders too.

With a great sigh, Mallory grave voice continues. “Look, I didn’t know her when they got together, you’d have to ask Coco about that.”

“I – Misty deserves better than that.”

“Oh, believe me, we were all secretly celebrating when Olivia broke up with her. If, uh. . .if she hadn’t done this.”

“She did this before?” Cordelia asks, ever so redundantly. But it feels almost assuring to hear it again, to know her mind isn’t playing tricks on her.

“Yup. Kinda shut down. Didn’t want to talk to anyone, didn’t want to do anything. Took us weeks to get her anything back to her normal self.”

Cordelia experiences a sharp tug inside. “You think she’s gonna be like that again?”

They both pause, listening to Misty’s cathartic music that plays to soothe her soul and equally frays at Cordelia’s.

But where there’d been a sad acceptance, Mallory suddenly shakes her head. Slowly at first, a tiny back and forth, before she speaks. As she does, she appears to talk right into Cordelia’s core. “No, I think this time will be different.”

This time, the “why?” does slip from her lips easier.

Mallory doesn’t have an answer for it, just the beginnings of a hopeful smile.

...

Queenie finds Cordelia fast asleep on the couch at a far too early time, jarring her awake when she accidentally walks into the kitchen island. “Damn.”

As she stirs back into consciousness, the dim settings certainly don’t help. “Misty?”

She remains with a blank face. “Guess again.” Moving to fill a glass from the faucet, she studies Cordelia as she plumps and squishes the surrounding pillows. “You got drool on your face.”

“Oh.”

Quickly wipes away, she remains some composure, settles back into her surroundings, feels the familiar sadness as she realizes that nothing has changed.

Still, she enquires. “Any luck?”

“Nope.” The ‘p’ is popped.

Her regretful sigh pushes through, blossoms twice the size around the room. “How long do you think this is going to take?”

“I’m not sure.” She announces. “Misty can be pretty stubborn when she wants to be – believe me, I’ve lived with her almost a full year.”

“Hm.”

“Somethin’ bothering you?”

“Besides the obvious?” Cordelia deadpans with a brow in the air.

It leads Queenie to peer over at Misty’s room with a sigh. “While you were asleep, Coco pretended she saw Stevie Knicks outside.” Her head shakes softly. “Misty did not fall for it.”

“No, I can’t imagine Coco’s acting skills are up to scratch.”

Queenie pauses from where she is rifling through the drawers in the kitchen to smirk over at Cordelia. “You don’t think so?”

A scoff is emitted from her lips. “I’ve heard her try to fake an orgasm.”

“Well, when everything isn’t shit, I will be bringing that up again.” Queenie snickers, though any mirth that encompasses them soon is drawn away by their rebounding situation.

Cordelia tiredly moves, eyes straining to stare down aa her fingers play brush over some sort of stain on the couch. “I just want Misty to be okay.”

Now, Queenie isn’t always the first to jump towards comfort or sympathy, but she does allow something close to flicker across her expression. “We’ll knock some sense into her.” Her features soften. “Literally, if I have to.”

Despite the weight on her chest, Cordelia smiles.

Only for it to fizzle away when she spots the lighter that has found its way into Queenie’s hands. The brunette drags a chair from their small, plastic table and drags it nearer to the center of the room.

It is certainly a puzzle, and one that she finds herself no longer able to understand. “What are. . .”

“Desperate times,” Queenie groans as she stretches her arm up and up, as far as if will possibly go. Here, it lands right under the smoke detector. “Call for desperate measures.” All too quickly, a flame bursts into life and tickles the sensors with its heat while a wide eyed Cordelia watches on.

Unsurprisingly, the alarm soon cries out as designed, an awful screech that has her lifting her hands up to her ears and covering them over.

“Queenie!”

Her outburst is ignored as Queenie continues to deliberately set off the alarm, only to hop down a few seconds later. She sets her sights straight for the door, that she knocks on with a thunderous amount of rasps. “Apartment’s on fire, up you get.”

Cordelia can’t quite believe what she’s seeing. Not that she can really focus with the alarm having dragged her from the ebbs of her sleep.

She stands too, a little wobbly on her feet, and just about catches the disgruntled response of Misty. “I can’t smell no smoke!”

“Not yet.” Queenie plays along, “but if you wait too long then who knows.”

But it’s all as transparent as Coco’s apparent ploy to get Misty out, as fruitless as everything has felt these past few hours. The two roommates begin an exchange of bickering. Both sleep deprived and frustrated, some not so amicable words are exchanged.

Soon enough, she spies Queenie tugging at her own hair in annoyance.

“Fine, burn to death. See what I care.”

“Fine.”

Queenie’s eyes blaze. “Fine.”

She storms back toward her own room, slamming the door closed and leaving Cordelia stood in the middle of the room while under attack from a piercing noise.

As she stumbles up onto the chair herself and presses every button in hopes of finding the reset, she wishes that life had the very same button.

Sadly, it doesn’t.

...

The door bursts open with a bedraggled and fizzing Coco at the helm of the chaos. She barely says hi to Cordelia, and Queenie who works on her early breakfast at the stove, as she goes straight for the door.

“Misty!” she yells.

Nothing. Just like the past few hours. No sign of life, other than when she’d snuck out at 4am as Mallory had been half asleep and apparently too out of it to recognise the blurry figure before it’d scuttled back in.

Nope, she continues to hide. And lament. Swimming in her own solitude in a way that saddens and frustrates Cordelia.

They’re here. All of her friends. Such a support system, yet Misty hides herself away.

From where she is nestled up on the couch using one of Misty’s shawls as a pillow, she blinks over at Coco. “S’ no use.” Cordelia mutters into the soft fabric.

It is ignored and Coco continues to let steam pour from her ears. “Come on, out.”

There has been little of Misty’s voice, but they do hear a muffled, “no.”

Coco’s face reddens. “You owe me so much! I just had to pretend to be you and massage an eighty year old woman so that you didn’t lose your job!”

Such an image brings giggles to the air.

Queenie almost drops her spatula from laughing. “You are a better friend than me.”

The door is rattled on its hinges once more, enough the wake the entire neighborhood. Cordelia braces herself for the incoming noise complaints.

“Misty Day, did you hear me?”

Apparently, she did.

For the first time in hours, they hear something other than melancholic notes and get the creaking of floorboards.

Cordelia sits straighter, eyes widening with anticipation. Then, there she is. Stood in the doorway with ratted hair, bloodshot eyes. Her slight frame is drowned by ripples of baggy clothing, and she spends a minute or so smoothing a hand over her pallid skin.

The room falls into an unsuspecting silence as dark eyes stare Coco down.

“Co – ”

“There were wrinkles!”

Misty’s upper lip stiffens. “I didn’t ask ya to do that.”

Placing her arms tightly across her chest, Coco matches her stance, rises to it. The stubborn woman certainly isn’t ready to back down at all. “A ‘thank you’ would suffice.”

Misty’s head drops slightly, maybe in shame. Maybe she knows how ridiculous she is being, or maybe she just can’t stand to look at Coco in that moment.

Unfortunately, her head dipping and slightly angling to the side brings her in the path of Cordelia. Which, in all honesty, seems far worse than anything Coco could throw her way

While she may owe one friend a thank you, Cordelia might deserve an apology. One hangs there on parted lips, against the strained noise she produces. In twinkling eyes, Cordelia sees there is regret, but Misty is still split in half, and she doesn’t know how to put her back as one.

Either way, words never make it into fruition.

“Did you listen to them?” Coco demands.

Blinking, Misty's haunted eyes answer it.

The whole room collectively breathes a disappointed sigh.

“I – I had to.”

Coco’s switch once again flips. She’s such an intensity, a flame that is either alive and burning, or singed out. No in between. Right now, the embers vanish and her anger seeps away like a black wisp. Once again, she is the sight of sympathetic. “Misty, you don’t want to go down this path again. . .”

“I just – she – ”

“She broke your heart.” Cutting, maybe a little too sharp, if Misty’s obvious wince is anything to go by. “Are you really going to let her do it again?”

Forehead creasing, Misty gives a vehement shake of her head. “I ain’t gonna do anythin’ with her.”

“But you’re thinking about it.”

Apparently, she can read her like an open book, as Misty clamps her lips closed.

Queenie has now stopped cooking, deciding that this deserves her full attention. “Damn girl.” Sat adjacent from her, Cordelia watches the scene as one would a tumultuous storm – in horror, and in knowledge that things won’t be the same again. Coco speaks of heartbreak, and she can relate maybe. Not quite a shattered heart, yet painful enough that it could mirror the symptoms.

The Cajun frowns at being called out. “No.”

“If you get back with her after all the ice cream that I bought you, I’m gonna kick your ass.” Queenie decides.

She drops said gaze again. “I’m not – we’re not. . .you guys are just bein’ dramatic.” She twists, finding Cordelia again. This time, in their awkward eye contact, she whispers out, “we’re not getting back together.” Kind of too little, too late. The damage is already done, and scar tissue remains, doesn’t it?

Cordelia clears her throat, unsuccessfully hides her discomfort. As much as she’d wanted to help Misty, to aid a friend with support just like the others, this hurts. To be pushed aside, to be second best. Well, that’s what she’s been her whole life. A disappointing daughter, a distant wife, and now, a second choice.

Her words are bleak. “What did the voicemails say?”

She doesn’t know why she asks, but then again, she isn’t sure of a lot of things. Maybe it’s a form of self harm, just to dig the knife that little bit deeper. Could just be the desperation to hear the very words that haunt Misty, that haunt all of them by extension.

For a few seconds, her question leaves Misty stunned.

They all watch as she stands in that doorway, not knowing quite what to do with herself. Hands play with the hem of her shorts, then move to clasp one forehead tightly. “She – she misses me.”

“Bullshit.”

Queenie’s interruption has the Cajun’s face splitting with sadness and anger. “Hey, you don’t gotta – ”

“Misty, you are gonna fall for her again and get your heart stamped on, all the while she’s laughing about the fact that she has you wrapped around her little finger.”

Eyes flash darker, colder. “She wouldn’t do – ”

“She is not good for you.”

“I don’t need you to tell me what’s good for me.”

“Like it or not, Misty, we are the ones who care about you. Olivia might put on a good show, but she would never wait a full day and a half just to make sure you’re okay.” Coco joins in, turning this into a two on one where Misty may be outnumbered though still stands tall. That is until the next line is summoned. “You know Cordelia has been here pretty much the whole time, right? Stuck on the couch waiting for you. Queenie called in sick today so she could stay here and, it bears repeating, I just had to massage the loosest skin I’ve ever felt in my life.” She shudders. “I might be scarred from this experience.”

Misty sucks in a breath. But doesn’t say anything. It’s like she is completely at a loss for any words whatsoever.

From across the room, Cordelia spots more signs of discomfort. Where she digs nails into skin, where she averts her gaze every which way. Her guts begins to sink in worry, and she slowly rises onto her own feet that stand steady whereas Misty’s shift from left to right.

“All we are asking, is that you listen to us, sweetie.”

“Olivia isn’t a bad person.” She says quietly.

Cordelia advances without thought, a few steps, her heart soft and pliable, like another wrong word could make it melt away.

“I’m not saying she isn’t,” Coco begins, “but she isn’t good for you.”

The hurt is evident on Misty’s face, where her eyes are suddenly watery, her cheeks growing pinker with upset. “She – she said she loved me.”

She can’t see Queenie, but she can hear her mutter some profanity under her breath. Maybe she would curse too, if her chest didn’t ache so. And it’s stupid, totally and utterly stupid. She isn’t dating Misty – they haven’t even out together, they’ve never kissed. But there are feelings and chemistries, and inside her chest where excitement had bene it now all blows up in her face. The aftermath is a minefield of sorrow. They’d almost been something, her and Misty. But not this Misty, not the woman holding in tears over the past.

Cordelia moves closer and studies the new Misty before her, and wishes she was familiar with her.

Having noticed her new proximity, Misty catches her breath, holds in the tears even harder. This time, she manages to say it. “I’m so sorry, Delia. I think I’ve ruined everythin’.”

“Um, I think we all deserve an apology.” Coco butt’s in haughtily.

But they don’t know, they don’t understand. Cordelia feels close to tears herself, throat scratchy with emotion. She doesn’t know what to say now, how to evoke any of the things she feels, what to share with Misty without it making matters worse.

Maybe the timing just isn’t right. Maybe it just isn’t meant to be. Starting a relationship with someone still hung up on their ex is a terrible idea, right? She knows this, and yet she still considers the possibilities.

The tension grows thick as Misty waits for a response that might never come.

It’d be okay, she guesses, if there weren’t any witnesses. Unfortunately for them, there are two that stand curiously around them.

“Wait.” Coco begins, pointing between the two. “What do you mean? What is going on?’

Their eyes lock again, something close to despair found in Misty’s amongst the regret.

Cordelia clears her throat and looks away. “Misty and I were supposed to go on a date last night.”

“What?”

“Well, finally.”

Both answers initially show their giddiness at the idea, until reality sets in. Until they realize said date deflated like a lead balloon, because Misty has been holed up in her room for hours and Cordelia sat waiting outside in sweatpants and a bubble of fret.

Now, Coco looks angry. “Now I don’t normally resort to violence, but I am three seconds away from slapping some sense into you, Misty Day. One.”

“I wasn’t thinkin’ straight!”

“Two.”

Her voice goes raspy as she tries to defend herself once more. “I wasn’t gonna do anythin’. . .”

“Three.”

It all seems to catch up with the woman, who looks awfully tired beyond repair, whose eyes are stormy and tempestuous, and who suddenly bursts into heartfelt tears. “I – I’m so stupid.”

With that, she throws herself in Coco’s arms and cries deeply into her shoulder. The blonde has no snarky comments about her shirt getting wet, or the sniffling noises that are no doubt invading her ears.

All she does is wrap arms around her friend and hush her gently. “It’s gonna be okay,” she says.

Over Misty’s shoulder, she lifts her gaze and catches onto Cordelia’s. It demands the full story, secrets that has been stifling Cordelia, and she supposes there’s nowhere to really hide from them now.