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up a winding stair

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There is a crack, a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in. / That's how the light gets in. / That's how the light gets in.

They’ve moved Cosima, now that the cure is pumping its way through her bloodstream. She gets to stay in the mansion. She spends most of her time in Revival – the house gives her the creeps, all taxidermy and pinned specimens – but at the end of the day one of the folks at Revival will come and escort her back to the mansion. Usually it’s Mud. Mud is constantly trying to get Cosima to talk about what it’s like, being in the mansion, seeing him, seeing Rachel. Cosima doesn’t say that she never sees either of them – but it’s true. Westmorland is a ghost. Rachel is an enigma. Cosima sits in the mess hall and eats fresh meat and veg and watches the lights in the house go on and off and when it’s over she goes to her room and lies in her bed and doesn’t hear a single sound.

She’s been thinking about Delphine. Delphine left her for Sardinia – all Cosima has of her now is the note in the bottom of her bag and the cure that is swimming through her. Delphine’s cure. Sarah’s egg, Delphine’s cure; all of the people that Cosima loves, knitting her back together.

Only it was Rachel’s hand on the needle, wasn’t it. That’s the problem.

It keeps happening when she is on the edge of subconscious – it’s just that Cosima’s brain gets confused, a little bit, because she was so expecting Delphine to hold that needle. She keeps thinking about Delphine. She lies curled up in that enormous bed and she thinks about Delphine, Delphine’s hand smoothing Cosima’s hair back from her forehead, Delphine’s lips pressed against the space between her ear and neck, Delphine murmuring je t’aime, je t’aime, Delphine sliding the needle in. Her hands warm on Cosima’s bare belly. Shh, she breathes, relax, and she puts her gloved hand on Cosima’s arm, and Cosima opens her eyes in the dark. Her pulse hammers. Her ears echo with the sound of her own voice, one octave wrong. Her own eyes gleaming from her in the dark, the feeling of Delphine’s lips and hands sending her belly sparking with the wrong kind of warmth.

Rachel’s hand holding the needle. Not Delphine’s hand. It was Rachel.

They orbit around each other in the cavernous hallways. Cosima is terrified; if Rachel sees her, how could she not know exactly what Cosima has been dreaming about?

Exactly what Cosima has been dreaming about: the warmth and then the cold of the needle, something unfurling through her veins and spreading petals out. There, Delphine says, good girl, Rachel’s tongue curling around that last syllable. She presses her hand to Cosima’s belly and the cure blooms bright and red, vivid as poppies, vivid as the blood on Cosima’s lips, vivid as Rachel’s—

Cosima wakes up. Behind the heavy curtains in this velvet incubation chamber, dawn is sliding pale fingers against the windowsill. She is utterly awake, like all the sleep has been scraped out of her; she sits up, feels her dreads falling around her shoulders. Someone is probably awake in Revival. They’re – feeding chickens, or something. She can find something to do, even if everyone in Revival is creepily obsessed with Cosima not overworking herself. Now that she’s carrying the cure she’s like the Virgin Mary; no one will touch her.

Maybe she’ll go down there anyways. Being a martyr is better than being alone.

Cosima pulls on clothes, tries to shake off the dream, fails. She watches the light stroke the walls and she shivers before she pulls her heavy coat on and heads out into the hall outside her room. She walks down the stairs, through the house; it’s still empty. She wonders if Rachel is dreaming. She wonders what Rachel is dreaming about. She presses her fingers to the wall as she steps down the staircase, curls and uncurls her fingertips over the smooth white tile.

Downstairs, in the foyer, dawn light stretches lazily across the carpet from an open door. When Cosima passes by the door on her way out, she skids to a halt – Rachel is sitting on the floor inside. She’s meditating, or something. Her eyes are closed. Her posture is relaxed. The light touches every part of her face, brushing gold down her cheekbones.

Then she opens her eyes. “Cosima,” she says. “Good morning.”

“Uh,” says Cosima, standing in the doorway. “Hi?”

Rachel stands up, with visible difficulty, before Cosima can move into the room or back into the hallway. She lingers in the doorway, feeling like an idiot. Rachel makes her way to Cosima; her limp is visible. “How are you feeling,” she says, head tilted to the side.

“I’m fine,” Cosima says, curling her hand around the doorframe. “Haven’t started, y’know, bleeding from the uterus. Again. So that’s – good.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Rachel says softly. She is close enough to put her fingertips against Cosima’s arm, and a smile ticks up the corner of her mouth. (It’s the third time Cosima has seen Rachel smile in her direction.) (She didn’t think Rachel was capable; it’s terrifying.) “You’ve been a ghost,” she says, chastising. “I told you, there’s no need to be frightened.”

Rachel went mad, Sarah breathes in the back of Cosima’s brain. But Sarah is on a boat safe home, and Rachel is here and looking at Cosima like she’s the most interesting person Rachel has ever seen. Her hand is politely warm on Cosima’s arm, and no one in Revival will touch her, and—

“I’m not,” Cosima says. “Frightened.” She smiles at Rachel before she can figure out whether or not it’s true.

Cosima and Rachel, walking through Revival. Cosima can’t stop staring at Rachel as they go – she’s good with the people in the village, keeps reaching out to touch hands and flash that awful, sincere, shining smile at everyone who’s willing to receive it. She’s getting mud on her boots. She is willing to get mud on her boots. Charlotte, inside the school, meets Cosima’s eyes; the sharp fear tucked behind Charlotte’s irises is Cosima’s only reassurance.

Cosima doesn’t realize they’re making their way to the clinic until Rachel tries the handle, says with surprise: “It’s locked.”

“Oh,” Cosima says, “yeah. They sort of sent Delphine to Sardinia, so.”

“Ah,” Rachel says, looking at Cosima with such soft sympathy that Cosima has to look away. “That must be difficult for you.”

“Yeah, well, it sucks for everyone,” Cosima says, stuffing her hands in her pockets and swaying on her feet. “I guess she was the only one working at the clinic and I’m not allowed to go near it in case someone’s illness skews the results, or something, so everyone’s shit out of luck.” She looks at Rachel. “Kind of funny that in a village that seems totally dedicated to curing diseases, there’d only be one doctor, huh?”

Rachel’s face is a polite mask. Her eyes are still burning with sympathy, the only points of life in her face. “I’ll talk to him about bringing in more doctors,” she says softly. “If this is worrying you.”

She pronounces him like Him. She pronounces you like it’s the single important word in her second sentence. Rachel’s eyes are the only points of life in her face. Rachel, Cosima, and Westmorland are the only points of life on this island, in the web of Rachel’s mind.

“Yeah,” Cosima says, “maybe you should do that.”

Rachel stands there, unmoving. Around them Revival goes about its bustling life and it doesn’t touch them at all.

“I know she gave you a key,” Rachel says. “Will you unlock the door, please.”

Does Rachel know what Cosima has been dreaming about? How could she know. How could she not know. Cosima’s hands, in her pocket, curl around the sharp silver hope of her key. The last time she touched Delphine; it bites into the edge of her thumb as she presses her finger to it.

“Cosima,” Rachel says. Cosima pulls out the key and unlocks the door.

Inside, the clinic is unchanged. The chair is still sitting where Cosima brought it out for Sarah; the bottle of ibuprofen rests on the table, the bloody tampon-bandage sits in its bowl. Rachel ignores them, starts opening and closing cabinets. Cosima, Sarah whispers, coiling like smoke in the back of Cosima’s mind. Cosima, Cosima—

I know, Cosima thinks. Rachel went mad. When Rachel has her back turned Cosima stuffs the tampon in a shelf under the table. She’s sorry. When Rachel turns back around Cosima is leaning on the chair, drumming her hands on its back.

“What exactly are you looking for,” she says.

Rachel brandishes a needle. “Blood tests,” she says.

Shit. “Do you even have the resources?” Cosima says weakly.

“He does.”

“I bet,” Cosima mutters.

Rachel is stepping closer. Much too close. “I promise,” she says, “that no harm will come to you here on this island. I won’t let it. This new future is yours, just as it is mine.”

Cosima hitches in a desperate breath, clenches her hands into the back of the chair. “How can I believe that,” she says.

“Believing is easy,” Rachel says, smiling for the fourth terrible time. “All you have to do is stop fighting so hard against it.” She puts her hand on Cosima’s shoulder, guides Cosima to sit down in the chair. “Everything can be so easy,” she murmurs, rolling up Cosima’s sleeve. “We can work together. We can make a cure. You can have everything that you came to this island to achieve, Cosima.”

She stops rolling the sleeve up, thumb pressed to the very edge of Cosima’s dandelion tattoo. “Just trust me,” she says.

You need to trust someone, Delphine says. Her eyes so wide and earnest. Her lips curved in the faintest hint of a smile.

Cosima blinks. Delphine is gone. Rachel is swabbing the inside of her arm, taking her silence as agreement.

Is she wrong? To take Cosima’s silence as agreement?

Rachel slides the needle in, again. She doesn’t tell Cosima to relax but Cosima hears her voice anyways, just another whisper sliding through the air like smoke. Cosima’s blood fills the vial. She keeps breathing, in and out, another shuddering breath.

“There you are,” Rachel says, pulling the vial out and capping it. “Good girl.” In the crook of Cosima’s arm a drop of blood blooms bright and red, vivid as—

Cosima wakes up at dawn again. Delphine’s lips linger against the shell of her ear, whispering something Cosima doesn’t want to hold onto. In the dark, without her glasses on, the only thing she can see is the bright needle-thin slice of light underneath the curtain. She closes her eyes and it pulses against her eyelids; she gets out of bed to leave it behind her.

Someone creaks through the rooms above her – Westmorland, must be, she’s never seen anyone else in this house. Cosima takes the stairs down. The door is open, again. The light brushes against the carpet and Cosima walks right through it, lingers in front of the open door.

Rachel is meditating and her eyes are closed. Her mouth is slightly parted, like she’s being touched, like she likes it. Her hands are folded in her lap. Her feet are bare and she’s cross-legged and watching this feels horribly wrong. Everything about this island feels wrong. Cosima misses Delphine and it feels like the opposite of the way Rachel looks; it feels like a constant, violent motion.

She has been standing by the doorway for too long, but Rachel won’t open her eyes and see her. Cosima goes out into Revival.

The clinic is still dark and shuttered. People look at Cosima when she looks at the clinic, and she can’t tell if their gazes are filled with hope or disappointment. She flips her key over and over in her pocket and doesn’t go in; instead she floats around Revival, receiving the enthusiastic smiles people keep giving her and mirroring them back uncertainly. She picks up an orange from the mess hall and unpeels it as she goes. When she digs her thumbnail in it spurts a stream of juice into the air, and when she presses her thumb into the fruit itself it pulps under her finger. Too soft, too sweet. She would throw it away but she’s already into it, now, so what’s the point?

She ends up drifting aimlessly towards the hut she woke up in, like if she opens the door to it Delphine will be inside and waiting for her. Instead, the second she puts her hand on the handle, Mud pops up behind her.

“Cosima!” she says breathlessly.

“Jesus Christ,” Cosima says, and drops the handle.

“You’re over here,” Mud says, sounding astonished. “Gosh, Cosima, you got lost, huh?”

“What?” Cosima says, before Mud grabs her hand and drags her across the camp. It’s the first time someone has touched Cosima since – well, since. She resists the urge to twine her fingers with Mud’s, just for the sake of holding onto someone.

She sees their destination when it is too late to avoid it. “Oh,” she says, “no no no, Mud, that wasn’t—”

“Hello, Mud,” Rachel says, beaming. “I see you’ve found Cosima.”

“Yes,” Mud breathes, and then startles and drops Cosima’s hand. She looks at Rachel, like a kicked puppy. She wrings her hands together. “She was lost!” she says, pleadingly.

“I can see that,” Rachel says. She’s looking at the desperate wringing of Mud’s hands. The moment stretches, cruel, before Cosima holds out the last few slices of her orange and says: “Hey, you want these?”

“Yeah, sure,” Mud says, instantly cheery again. “Can’t waste food, right?” She grins. Too easily given, too big; just the press of Cosima’s finger would crush it entirely. Too sweet. Mud pops the orange out of Cosima’s hand and then swallows a slice, expression unchanging. (Too sweet.) She waves cheery fingers at the both of them and then vanishes again.

“You can’t be wandering around,” Rachel says, sounding motherly in the worst and itchiest way. “They’re all worried about you.”

“Yeah, well,” Cosima says, “what else am I gonna do?”

“You’ll find something, I’m sure,” Rachel says. She smiles.

There’s a smaller, leather-bound copy of On the Science of Neolution in this house – it was tucked away between a shadowbox full of bat skeletons and an array of geodes – and Cosima is sitting in her bed and reading it. Knowing that Westmorland is alive puts the whole thing in a weird light – she couldn’t even excuse his viewpoints knowing that they belonged to a dead man, and now that he’s alive and moving through this house she hates them even more. She builds elaborate scaffolds of arguments she could bring to him; she doesn’t know his face, but she can imagine it nodding. You’re right. I hadn’t considered that argument before.

God, no, of course he wouldn’t say that. What an idiot. Cosima puts the book on the nightstand and shoves her glasses up so she can dig the heels of her hands into her eye sockets. She misses Sarah. Sarah must be home by now – she’s reconnected with Siobhan and Kira, her leg is healing, she’s so pissed at Cosima for not answering her phone. She’s stomping around the house, she’s saying—

But this is just like Westmorland: it dissolves. Cosima knows Sarah’s face intimately, but she can’t quite picture the smile she’d like it to have.

She closes her eyes. Sarah blurs into Westmorland blurs into Delphine’s hands on her shoulders – I’m back from Frankfurt only wait, no, it’s Sardinia this time, she’s sitting on Cosima’s lap, she’s the right size and it isn’t as gangly as it always was before, she’s smiling, I won’t ever leave you, you thought I did but I wouldn’t, not ever, she puts her fingertips up against Cosima’s arm—

A polite knock at the door, and Delphine is a blur is a memory is gone. Cosima opens her eyes. Aloneness is hollow in her belly again, like that needle going in. She sits up, settles her glasses, steps across the room to the door.

Rachel is standing on the other side of it, because Rachel is the only person on this goddamn island who would knock at Cosima’s door in the evening. “I hope I’m not interrupting,” she says.

“Nothing to interrupt,” Cosima says, leaning on the doorframe. “So what’s…up.”

Rachel raises her eyebrows slightly. Cosima bounces against the doorframe. Rachel wants Cosima to invite her in, and Cosima is thinking about vampire stories. Stalemate.

“The results are in,” Rachel says, “from the tests. I was hoping we could compare them with your lived experience, in the hopes of forming some idea of how the cure is progressing.”

Rachel’s hands are empty, folded in front of her. Her fingernails are painted silver. Delphine’s were dark red, when Cosima first knew her, and then for a little while bright red. She hates that she’s thinking about Delphine in past-tense.

“You don’t have the results,” she says.

“No,” Rachel says, stretching the syllable like taffy in her mouth. “It seemed a shame to carry them all the way up here when there’s a perfectly serviceable parlor downstairs.”

“Oh,” Cosima says.

Rachel tilts her head to the side. “You’ve been isolated,” she says. “I’m sure it must be disconcerting, being away from your sisters for so long. And then the unfortunate departure of Doctor Cormier.” She tilts her gaze down, eyelashes long enough to shade her cheekbones with shadows. She must be wearing false ones; their eyelashes aren’t that long. She looks like an oil painting that might be hanging somewhere in this house. Contrition in Chiaroscuro.

“And whose fault is that,” Cosima says.

“Please,” Rachel says softly. Her eyes move, sharp as a needle, back up to Cosima’s eyes. It’s so sudden and full of intent that Cosima startles despite herself. They’re needles, she swears, Rachel’s eyes are needles but her voice is so soft and she said please.

“We’re on the same side now, you and I,” Rachel says. “Let me help you.”

She stands there in the dark, sharp-eyed, soft-palmed. Cosima remembers with the force of a blow to the head that Rachel is also alone. She’s never seen Rachel not alone, actually. Fuck. This is inevitable, this is falling, this is gravity, there is the smallest crack in Cosima’s heart where she’s sympathetic and that’s enough for the light to get through.

“Fine,” she says, pushing off the door. “Let’s walk into your parlor.”

Rachel smiles at her over her shoulder as the two of them head down the hallway, catching the reference, seemingly pleased at it. “You give yourself very little credit,” she says. “I don’t think you’d fall for easy flattery.”

That right there is flattery, Cosima thinks.

I’ve already fallen for it, Cosima thinks.

“I would say the same thing,” she says, “but you’re basically already the spider in that poem, so.”

“I’m not going to eat you, Cosima,” Rachel says, her hand touching the small of Cosima’s back before it’s gone again. “What can I do to make you stop worrying?”

“I don’t know,” Cosima says, suddenly exhausted. She wishes Rachel’s hand was back against her spine. She wishes she had an answer, a way for Rachel to make her stop worrying. Stop fighting so hard against it, Rachel had said. They go down the stairs. Cosima could make this so easy. This could all be so easy.

They sit in the parlor, lit by oil lamps – pools of amber light in the dark. Rachel spreads Cosima’s blood and bones out on the table, and touches precise fingertips to data points, and understands. They talk about Cosima. They talk about the cure. The night grows late. It’s easy. Cosima forgets to miss Delphine and then it hits her suddenly and she feels guilty. She barely even knows what she feels guilty about, but it sticks to her ribs and scratches.

“I have to sleep,” she says, apropos of nothing and in the middle of a surprisingly intricate discussion about the ethics of cryonics. (They’d gotten off-track, severely, and she doesn’t remember how.) “You have – data, right, the cure is – it’s working.” She stops, looks at her hands. Swallows. “It’s working.”

Rachel’s hand covers both her hands on the table and Cosima yanks her own hands away, fast. She looks up. Across the table Rachel is just looking at her, melancholic and knowing. “Yes,” she says. “You’re going to get well.”

The solid weight of it. The reassurance in a simple statement of fact. It’s like a drug, she could tell Rachel. I’ve been chasing it my whole life, god, since I was seven years old— but the odds are good, she realizes, that Rachel already knows. When Cosima was seven years old she learned about dinosaurs. When Rachel was seven years old she learned about Cosima.

“Hey,” she says, fumbling the word out, “what are you doing, in the – at dawn, or whatever, when you’re just like – sitting on the ground?”

“It’s meditation,” Rachel says. “I find that it soothes.” Her eyes drift deliberately to the anxious knot of Cosima’s hands.

Cosima says: “Can I, uh.” She also watches her hands.

“Of course,” Rachel says. “Will you be able to wake yourself before dawn, or shall I come fetch you.”

Cosima’s skin knows just how Rachel would wake her, and how it would be gentle, the sound of her voice and the press of her fingertips to the exposed skin of Cosima’s shoulder. “I’ll be up,” Cosima says. “Can’t wait to find my inner peace in the skeleton room.” She cracks a weak smile.

“His taste is eclectic,” Rachel allows. She gives the echo of a smile back to Cosima. “But he chose me. And he chose you.”

Rachel looks at Cosima like she expects some sort of confession. “Good night,” Cosima says instead, a harried fumble, and ducks out of her chair and back into the hallway. The house creaks under her as she climbs the stairs, getting closer in every way to dawn.

Her alarm goes off. She lies there in the dark. Imagine it: being settled, being soothed. Cosima stands up, shivers, pulls the curtain open just a bit to let the pre-dawn light into the room with her. She gets dressed. The house is grey, filled to the brim with dishwater-light. In the room adjacent to the foyer Rachel is sitting in a chair by the window, paging through a book in the soft light that comes through the lace curtains. When she sees Cosima standing in the doorway she closes the book; a puff of dust flies up, haloing her. “Hello again,” she says.

“Here I am,” Cosima says, stepping in through the door. A stuffed hawk eyes her distrustfully from under its bell jar. Cosima can also see Rachel watching her from out of the corner of her eye; she keeps looking at the hawk instead. “Teach me your ways, sensei,” she says without looking.

Rachel exhales through her nose warmly; the corner of her mouth curls up. “On the ground,” she says, sliding down to the carpet. Cosima bites the inside of her lip, once, hard, and joins her. Sits cross-legged. She hadn’t put on shoes. When they sit across from each other, the two of them, their feet could be exactly the same.

“Hands in your lap,” Rachel says. “Concentrate on the cycle of your breathing. Close your eyes.” Cosima follows the directions obligingly, waits, and then opens her eyes again. Across from her Rachel’s eyes are closed and her eyelashes are – they are – she must be wearing fake eyelashes, she must be, there’s no other way they could be that long. They must be fake. “The idea,” Rachel says, “is mindfulness. Existing inside of the moment. Feeling yourself exist in the moment.”

The light brushes against Rachel’s hair and Cosima watches Rachel’s chest rise and fall, rise and fall. She’s the only living thing in this room; everything else is dead, stuffed flesh, naked bones. Her fingers curl up against each other in her lap. In, out. In, out. Here you are in the moment – it can hold you.

Cosima swallows, looks towards the window, looks at her own lap, lets her eyes close. In the distance Revival must be moving itself into the future second by mechanical second, but in here Rachel’s inhalations and exhalations are the only sound. Cosima feels her fingers touch her fingers. She follows Rachel’s breathing: in and out, no breaths shuddering at all.

She sinks lower into the depths of her mind.

Rachel’s hand is on Cosima’s shoulder, and Cosima’s eyes are open, and the quality of the light outside has changed. Morning – not dawn anymore. “Oh,” she says, settling back into herself and hating it. “Shit.”

“You fell asleep, I think,” Rachel says, sounding more amused by it than anything.

“No,” Cosima says, “no, I was awake, I was just—” She wants to go back. She doesn’t want to be here anymore; she wants to be where she was, which was somewhere deep as the ocean and just as cold. Her body exists around her again, with all of its aching – better now, now that the cure is swimming through her, but still. Such aching. There’s no anchor to follow down without Rachel, though, so Cosima rubs at her face and stretches her neck. “Wow,” she says. “I can see why you do that every morning.”

“Mhm,” Rachel sighs, a purring breath of a sound. Cosima stands up and they are the same height. Rachel has a single dark mole on her cheek; Cosima doesn’t look at it.

“Thanks,” she says.

“Of course,” Rachel says. She tilts her head to the side, just a bit, enough to send her hair swinging around her face. “Tea?”

They have tea. Cosima watches the dregs of her cup, looks for omens, finds none. “Rachel,” she says. “I really want to be doing something.”

“You are doing something,” Rachel says, sounding politely surprised. “You’re—”

“Not going to get cured faster by sitting in a plastic bubble,” Cosima says. “Come on, boss, put me to work.” The last sentence comes off her tongue with a startling intimacy, like Rachel is someone she could make that sort of joke with. Cosima’s hands twitch on their cup. She can’t risk looking at Rachel; she looks at Rachel. Rachel shows no signs of being scandalized. Cosima looks back down.

At the edge of Cosima’s vision, Rachel is thoughtfully tracing her finger around the edge of her teacup. “There are – plans,” she says. “Things in motion. Do you understand.” Cosima looks up and sees Rachel looking at her, utterly intent.

“What things,” Cosima says.

Rachel’s eyes move to the doorway behind them, almost too quick to register, and then move back to Cosima. “In time,” she says, lifts her teacup to her mouth, takes in more tea. Her eyes are steady on Cosima through the entirety of the action. She lowers the teacup down. Cosima’s mouth is dry; she lifts her teacup up, like they’re balancing scales, like she’s making them even like this. The tea seems like it should be bitter. It’s perfectly sweet. Either it’s just this sweet naturally, or Rachel knows exactly how Cosima takes it.

“Rachel,” she says. “I cannot deal with this vague tidings bullshit.”

Rachel sighs through her nose, looks away. “Well,” she says. “I would offer you the clinic, but I’m afraid Revival is still – concerned, about you risking your health.”

Before Cosima can say anything Rachel’s teacup is clinking against its saucer, and she is standing up and carrying both cup and saucer to the sink. “I’ll meet you at the door,” she says, and pads – still barefoot – out into the house. Cosima is left with her cup and the silence. She gulps down the rest of her tea, feels it warm her, puts the cup and saucer in the sink and goes to find her boots.

The Children of the Revival school has kids of all ages in it, and they all blink at Cosima and Rachel when the two of them walk in. Charlotte has her head down, rereading that awful storybook she showed Cosima before; it’s useless, though, because Cosima was her twenty years ago. She recognizes the set of her shoulders. It’s whispering a feeling, loud enough for Cosima to hear.

And if Cosima recognizes it, Rachel must too – but she doesn’t indicate it. Her hand is on the crook of Cosima’s elbow, gently steering her towards the front. “Hey,” Cosima says, “grad school got interrupted by the whole cloning conspiracy, but I did graduate elementary school, promise.”

“Hush,” Rachel says, and brings her to the front. Immediately her posture shifts; her smile blooms broad and citrus-sweet. “Isaac,” she says.

The man at the front of the classroom looks visibly awed, like he’s going to fall on his knees any second now. “I didn’t know you knew my name, ma’am,” he says.

Rachel’s head tilts to the side, easy. “Of course I do,” she says chidingly. “You’re just as important a part of Revival as I.”

The two of them talk. Cosima watches Rachel from the side and from the side – not from the audience, where she can be hit by the spotlight of that smile – it feels like a joke she and Rachel are sharing together: the idea that this is true. She’s comforted by the falsehood of it. If they left here together Cosima might say I can’t believe he fell for it and Rachel would tilt her that other smile, that smaller one, that truer one. Cosima shifts from foot to foot, feels strange without a cough to fill the space. Her throat is peacefully bloodless; it’s a peculiar comfort.

“So it’s settled,” Rachel says.

“What?” Cosima says.

“Teaching science?” says the man who is apparently Isaac, sounding utterly terrified at the idea that he might have gotten it wrong. He looks at Rachel. Rachel looks at Cosima. Cosima feels heady with the power of it, though this is small – she could say no, and Rachel would say no, and it would break Isaac’s heart.

“Yeah,” Cosima says. “Hell yeah, dude, I love helping kids with this stuff. Can I talk to Our Lady of the Fountain for, like, just a sec?”

Isaac opens his mouth to say something and Cosima ignores it, pulls Rachel over to the side of the classroom. Outside everyone in Revival goes by, staring openly at the two of them through the places where the walls should be. Cosima smiles broadly at some of them, waves, and then turns to Rachel. “When I said I wanted to be doing something,” she hisses, “I didn’t mean—”

“You can’t be in the clinic,” Rachel says, “unless you want all of Revival up in arms. You don’t want to be in the house. I am trying to accommodate you, Cosima. This was all I could think to do.”

Her eyes are wide and round. Every word out of her mouth hits the perfect place between exhausted, affectionate, irritated, angry. Cosima believes her.

“Okay,” she says. “Okay. Fine. Yeah. Ms. Niehaus. It’s good.”

Rachel’s face collapses into relief like a tent, like falling down. “Is it,” she says.

“Yeah,” Cosima says, and – surprisingly – believes herself.

In the dawn light Cosima breathes Rachel’s breaths and goes so far down she forgets everything. Her body exists in the moment but she isn’t her body; she is flying above her body, she is down below her body, she is swimming in an ocean so deep she can’t see the bottom of it.

Rachel touches her. She wakes up again.

All the children in Revival are learning about dinosaurs; Cosima has made a makeshift model of a meteor strike out of her leftover apple from lunch and a lot of hope. It was a hit, literally and figuratively. Right now she’s going around the room and giving each kid one-on-one time.

Which means she and Charlotte are huddled in the back of the room. “Are you alright,” Charlotte says, looking far too solemn for someone this young.

“Yeah,” Cosima says, “yeah, yeah, I’m fine, I promise.”

“Cosima,” Charlotte says, “what’s happened to Susan.”

Rachel hasn’t mentioned Susan. Susan hasn’t been in the house. “I’m sure she’s fine,” Cosima says absentmindedly, putting her fingertips against Charlotte’s arm. “And the cure – the cure is working, Charlotte. We just have to find a way to reproduce it and—”

“I thought Delphine went away,” Charlotte says, brow furrowed.

“She did,” Cosima says, blinking and remembering. The hole in her has closed up and now it’s open again, aching, raw: Delphine went away. Delphine left her here on her own. Delphine is gone. Cosima feels like a fruit split open, a soft thing transformed into a meteor strike. “I meant, uh, me and Rachel. I think there’s some sort of plan. Once the cure – does its thing.”

Charlotte’s brow furrows more. “I don’t think she wants you to get better, Cosima,” she says slowly.

“She put the needle in herself, Char,” Cosima says, rubbing her hand up and down Charlotte’s arm. “She’s as invested in this as I am.”

“Okay,” Charlotte says doubtfully. She lets out a wracking cough and thank god, thank god, selfish but thank god that this is not Cosima anymore.

Cosima doesn’t have a tissue, doesn’t have anything to offer her. Charlotte finishes coughing and frowns at the back of her hand, wipes it off on the inside of her skirt with an uneasy grimace. “You can tell me about dinosaurs now,” she says, “if you’d like.”

“You sure?”

“Did they all go extinct?” Charlotte says. “Did any of them survive?”

“Well, sort of,” Cosima says. “They evolved. Y’know the chickens in the coop?”


“Those used to be dinosaurs. But they changed really slow over a really long period of time – that’s evolution – and eventually the most desirable traits, the ones that were best for them, those ones won out. And now they’re chickens.”

“And we eat them,” Charlotte says.

“Yep,” Cosima says.

Charlotte still looks upset. “So they shouldn’t have changed,” she says. “It didn’t end up mattering, did it?”

“They did make it thousands of years longer than everyone else,” Cosima says, the corner of her mouth curling up into a smile.

Charlotte’s eyes intently dart back and forth between each of Cosima’s. “Cosima?” she says. “Are you evolving too?”

“What?” Cosima says, but before she can Isaac calls her name from the other side of the room and Charlotte’s mouth goes flat.

“Never mind,” she says. “Thank you for the lesson.” She opens up the book on her table – something about blood diseases, god, what are they teaching these kids – and Cosima goes uneasily over to Isaac. She can’t see the chickens from here but she thinks about them anyways: sitting in their coops, plump and complacent and waiting for the bright light of a meteor falling down on them.

Night falls and Cosima makes her way, alone, to the mansion on the hill. She refuses to wait for an escort; she stuffs her hands into the pocket of her jacket, drags her thumb across the teeth of the silver key over and over again until her thumb is smeary with blood. It’s the only blood she’s lost in days.

She’d forgotten about Delphine. It’s only been a few days, surely, since she’s thought about Delphine—

God. “Only a few days.” Days since she’s thought about Delphine. Cosima moves up the stairs towards the lights of the mansion. She remembers the small star of Delphine’s bullet wound, how it had felt against her lips. She remembers Delphine’s palms on her face. She remembers how earnest Delphine’s eyes had been, but she doesn’t remember why they were earnest or what Delphine had been saying to her. She’s sure it was important. What was it?

What was it? That thing Delphine had said, the promise she surely must have made. What was it?

Cosima steps inside. She doesn’t remember. She pulls off her boots, in a sort of dull haze, and floats into the kitchen. The kettle is warm. She pours herself hot water. She adds a tea bag. She does not remember Delphine.

“Cosima,” says a soft voice from behind her, and Cosima’s heart does a hopeful jump before she realizes that’s not how Delphine’s voice sounds. She turns around. Rachel is frowning at Cosima’s mug of tea, a polite concern that folds up her face. Cosima looks down and sees that her thumb has bled all over the mug.

“What’s happened,” Rachel says.

“I forgot to miss Delphine,” Cosima says, and then she’s crying. The world blurs into a collection of soft shapes that can’t hurt her. Rachel’s hands are over her hands, pulling the mug from between Cosima’s fingers; Rachel’s hands are on Cosima’s arm, Cosima’s back, guiding her to the first-floor bathroom. Rachel’s hands are cleaning the shallow cut on Cosima’s thumb, Rachel’s hands are bandaging it. Cosima lets the world keep blurring and blurring. She lets Rachel handle everything, all of it. Don’t worry, says Delphine in her dream, only that wasn’t what she’d said. It was Don’t be afraid, right? That was it?

They are sitting on the chairs in the parlor. Rachel’s hand is stroking her forehead, like Cosima is a child who’s come down with a fever. Cosima is still crying.

“Oh, Cosima,” Rachel says softly. “I know how frightening this must be for you. I promise that you will get used to it.”

How, Cosima thinks, but the word is a lump in her throat. Horror of horrors: she coughs, once, just the smallest scratch of blood on the hand that Rachel just cleaned. She watches it. Rachel procures a handkerchief from somewhere, wipes the blood off. Her other hand has moved from Cosima’s forehead to her shoulder, and is now rubbing circles against her upper back.

“I think you’ll grow to like it here,” Rachel whispers, like a confession, like a promise. “I did.”

Cosima leans into Rachel’s hand. Her heart rate slows. Her breathing slips into Rachel’s breathing, like all of that meditation has just been practice for this one moment. She watches the handkerchief vanish into Rachel’s pocket, and then Rachel’s hand comes back to Cosima. She tilts Cosima’s chin up with her fingertips, leans forward, and presses her lips against Cosima’s lips.

It doesn’t feel romantic. It doesn’t even feel like a kiss, really; it’s just flat pressure, like Rachel’s hand still making that same circular path on Cosima’s shoulderblade. Rachel’s lips stay against Cosima’s for a few moments, lingering, and then Rachel leans back. There isn’t even a question in her eyes. She lifts her hand off of Cosima’s shoulder—

—and Cosima leans forward and smashes her mouth back against Rachel’s. She isn’t even thinking, at this point, but her whole body is one long line of need and she needs: this. She hunches over the edge of her chair. She thinks please, a continuous echo of please, and then Rachel’s lips part against hers and Rachel kisses her.

And then it’s like a switch has flipped, like Rachel has committed; she holds Cosima’s face in her hands, tilts her head to the side, and kisses her. She licks her tongue into Cosima’s mouth, along the sharpest points of her teeth, the inside of Cosima’s mouth, her tongue. Her thumbs drag circles over Cosima’s face. Rachel could eat her alive and Cosima would let her; if she let go Rachel would catch her, dark and open and bottomless as the sea. She covers Rachel’s hands with hers—

And Rachel leans back. Her hands tenderly fold over Cosima’s hands, put Cosima’s hands back in her lap. “Shh,” she breathes, and leans forward again. She whispers let me take care of you against Cosima’s lips and then she kisses her again, slow and sweet as honey.

Cosima closes her eyes. She drowns.

Rachel’s room has an enormous window that takes up part of the wall, and Rachel doesn’t draw the curtain over it. Starlight, dawn light, and then the sun comes in and floods the room with shining.

Cosima can meditate anywhere, turns out, as long as she has something to breathe to. She lies on her back in Rachel’s bed. The sweat dries sticky on her chest as she sinks lower and lower and lower. She swims deep enough that she can see her guilt, twisting like a lamprey in the dark, and then she goes below it and it’s gone. It’s nothing. She doesn’t want to feel it, so she just doesn’t feel it at all.

Cosima opens her eyes. The inside of her chest is rounded out and smooth, a path carved by glaciers. Her mouth tastes like Rachel. She rolls over to the side and watches Rachel dream, the muscles under her new eye twitching and scratching. Besides that she is utterly still. She hasn’t left; she’s still there. Cosima lies there and watches Rachel, in case she leaves, but when she drifts back off to sleep Rachel hasn’t moved at all.

Cosima wakes up again and immediately makes a noise that is something like ungnyeuh. The window is still open and the light is harsh in the room, so bright it burns even when she closes her eyes to it. She fumbles for her glasses, realizes they aren’t where she usually puts them, remembers she’s in Rachel’s room, rolls over – Rachel isn’t there. “N’gunh,” Cosima says, sits up. She has no idea what time it is. She’s never even been in this part of the house before – there’s so much taxidermy in this room, birds frozen mid-flight behind glass. The meteor already came; Cosima was asleep, she missed it hitting. She gets out of bed, pulls her clothes on and wanders sleepily in the vague direction of her room.

After the bright flood of Rachel’s room, Cosima’s room feels stifling. She opens the curtains all the way and then collapses on her bed. Fuck, she thinks, remembers the truth of it, laughs to herself. She keeps getting sun-bright flashes of the night before as she changes into clothes that don’t smell like – well, the night before. Her dreads are starting to unravel, this far into her time on the island; she hasn’t tried to reform them again, so her hair is a wild mess of almost-curls over her back. She pulls it back into a loose ponytail and goes downstairs to the kitchen.

On the way there, in one of the other rooms, she sees Rachel sitting on a couch and reading On the Science of Neolution. (How many copies are there in this house?) In retrospect Cosima realizes it’s the copy Rachel was reading the last time Cosima saw her. She is almost unsettled by this, but then Rachel looks up and her face cracks open with something like joy. “Cosima,” she says, her mouth settling easy around Cosima’s name.

“Rachel,” Cosima says, and steps into the room. Rachel slides over on the couch and pats the seat next to her; Cosima takes it, and Rachel cups the back of Cosima’s neck with her hand so she can lean forward and kiss her. Cosima can hear the sound of herself humming in the air, and she doesn’t know which mouth its coming from. Rachel breaks off the kiss. “Good afternoon,” she says, warm and wry.

“No,” Cosima says. “Wait, really?”

“I thought it best to let you sleep,” Rachel says, and closes the book to put it to the side.

“What,” Cosima says weakly, watching Westmorland’s name wink silver at her from the cover. “No bookmark?”

“I don’t need one,” Rachel says, pressing her fingers into the cover with a spectacular tenderness. “Have you read it?”

“Yeah,” Cosima says. “I really—” I don’t get it, she wants to say. Why are we following him? Why are you reading that book, over and over again? She watches Rachel’s fingers stroking the cover. She swallows it down. “—got into it,” she says, after a pause that lasts a century.

“You don’t believe in him,” Rachel says.

“I don’t know what I believe.”

“I didn’t either,” Rachel says, her head tilted away from Cosima to stare at the book. “I was so angry, Cosima. I was so lost.” She looks back at Cosima and smiles, so sweet that Cosima can almost taste it. Could taste it, probably, if she wanted to; she doesn’t. “He gave me purpose,” she says. “All I had to do was open myself to it.”

Her hand settles on Cosima’s thigh, warm, fingers curling in and spreading Cosima’s legs a little wider than they were before. She isn’t even looking down; she’s just looking at Cosima, leaning in just enough to be close.

“I want to get it,” Cosima says helplessly.

“I know you do,” Rachel says. Cosima can smell her perfume; it’s the only thing she’s breathing in.

“Can you explain it to me?”

“Of course,” Rachel says, and smiles.

Cosima doesn’t leave the house much, these days. She lies in Rachel’s bed and rereads On the Science of Neolution until she can hold every word of it in her mouth. Outside her window, day changes to night and back again; somewhere Mud is living the same life she’s always lived, somewhere Charlotte is changing into something that can survive this. In the mornings Cosima meditates and loses them. She loses everything, until Rachel wakes her up again.

The two of them curl together. Rachel opens up Neolution in front of her, her fingers scalpels, her mouth its own precise surgery. Like this, she says, her hands coaxing Cosima’s hands. In Rachel’s bedroom, the two of them and the light all touching each other. Like this. Cosima does it. She wants to be touched and she is touched. She wants to be noticed and she is noticed. She wants to be admired and she is admired. She wants to be loved and she is

Awake in Rachel’s bed, lying on her back and watching the ceiling as Rachel’s fingers card through her hair. Cosima feels small bright stings of pain at her scalp as Rachel keeps freeing her hair from the loose remnants of its dreadlocks. She doesn’t complain at the tugging.

Rachel says her name. Cosima doesn’t answer, so Rachel can say it again: “Cosima,” and then the sting.

“Mm,” Cosima answers.

“I’m going back to the mainland tomorrow,” Rachel says, and now Cosima tilts her head to the side. Rachel is lying on her side and looking at her, fingers tangled in the mess of Cosima’s hair. Her own hair is slightly mussed from sleep and if Cosima wanted to reach out and touch it she could probably touch it, she’s sure Rachel would let her. She doesn’t reach out and touch it.

“Wait,” she says, as it settles. “Tomorrow?”

“I want you with me, Cosima,” Rachel says, and Cosima’s whole chest floods with light.

“Oh,” she says. “Uh, really?” She hates the way her voice cracks, how – still – unwilling she is to believe that she is wanted. Rachel’s been trying to teach her that this is not true. Cosima still has a hard time believing in it. Delphine’s fault, really, for leaving her over and over again. She used to be Cosima’s everything, probably. But that was a long time ago.

“Yes,” Rachel says. “Really.”

So of course Cosima says yes. So of course they get on a helicopter, Rachel helping Cosima on first because Rachel doesn’t limp anymore. Cosima watches the island drop away from her, the entire land spread out below her like something she could take or rip or burn. She feels the warmth of Rachel’s gloved hand on her knee. “Why now,” she says, the words crackling through the headset.

In the sky, under the roar of the rotors, there’s no need for any of those polite sounds – any pretense of misunderstanding. Rachel does not say mm. Instead she says: “Do you remember what I told you,” and Cosima turns to look at her. “About our plans.”

“Well,” Cosima says, “I remember that they were in motion.”

“Congratulations, Cosima,” Rachel says. “It’s time to start working on your cure.”

The whole DYAD building has been redecorated – it’s all white, now, bright enough to send shards of light splintering through every room. Rachel’s hand still lingers in the small of her back, the only touch they’re allowed under the gaze of unfriendly eyes. She brings Cosima to a laboratory high high up – the opposite of the basement Cosima used to work in.

“Yours,” Rachel says. The equipment is all brand-new. It’s been ages since Cosima has seen anything half this bright; she feels like a kid in a candy store, with all the white plastic and chrome. Cosima wanders deeper into it, feels Rachel at her back. “I selected the equipment myself,” Rachel says. “If anything is inadequate, please let me know.”

“Yeah,” Cosima says, “’course,” and then she turns around and walks back over to Rachel.

“Thank you,” she says. “Seriously, this is—”

Rachel stops her with a hand on her face, thumb stroking idly against Cosima’s lips. “Make us well, Cosima,” she says, and smiles. Cosima knows Rachel can’t kiss her here – she wants Rachel to kiss her – Rachel does not kiss her. She steps back and heads for the door and Cosima is alone in the lab. The ghost of Rachel’s touch lingers on her face. She turns to the equipment. She loses herself to it.

Hours pass; outside the windows Toronto goes about its life, buildings lighting up one by one. The laboratory in the DYAD building stays exactly the same. No one comes in or out. Cosima dreams herself a cure and builds it with her hands. They’ll all get better, all of Cosima’s doubles will get better, Cosima holds them in the palm of her hands and she can fix or break them.

Maybe when she has the first needle of it she can roll up Rachel’s sleeve, press her thumb to Rachel’s arm, say—

Wait. Cosima looks at the data again. They gave her a sample to work with, not the new stem cell line but something else; she’s been looking at stem cell growth kinetics, but she just decided to run a PCR and – and. There’s something in the pattern of the loci that’s familiar to her. How could it be? She’s never seen this sample before.

Cosima flips through her notes – they were on the table when she came in, Rachel brought them there – and slows when she reaches the older section. Cosima and Delphine and that one precious tooth. Kira’s tooth. Cosima looks from the notebook to the clinical list of familial markers on the other side of the table. They’re exactly the same.

It’s a mistake, probably. Cosima swings herself away from the table, wanders over to stare out the window. The city hums to itself underneath her, so much busier than she’s used to. It’s probably a mistake. Cosima can call Rachel up and say – say something, probably, and then Rachel would say something back, and it would make so much sense, and Cosima could go back to the science. She just wants to go back to the science. She wants to make a cure, more than anything, and also she wants to make the other Leda subjects well.

If Cosima calls Rachel, Rachel would be disappointed in her. Rachel wants, so desperately, for Cosima to believe in her. For Cosima to believe in this. What would it mean, if Cosima called her now? If she doubted? Would Rachel still want her? If Rachel didn’t still want her: who would?

Cosima backs away from the window. She turns into the harsh fluorescent light of DYAD, and she goes back to work.