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(you are) the peace of my soul

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Cosima has lost count of the number of times she had this conversation before. It’s been, a lot of times, since she got really active in the support group the college runs, for LGBTQ+ students.

It’ll be okay. Take a deep breath. You’re save here. Come in if you like. You don’t have to, but you’re always welcome here. We’re happy to see you and so glad you’re with us. You can come by anytime you like. No one will laugh at you, you’ll be alright. We love you and we’re here for you, anytime.

Then again, she’s not entirely sure when the last time was that she had to made it five times, in variations, to the same person.

The brunette draws a deep breath, watching the back of the blonde that’s sitting on the concrete steps up to the community center. She wipes her hands on her skirts and starts approaching slowly.

“Hey,” Cosima offers a cheery greeting as she sits down, leaving some space between herself and the blonde. She stretches out her legs, her nose crinkling when she realizes how much shorter they are, compared to the blonde’s.

Cosima leans back, bracing her weight on her hands behind her back. Looks up into the slowly darkening sky. It’s getting late, she thinks. It won’t be long until the lamps come on. Cosima crosses her legs at the ankles, contemplating her options.

“The hair looks great,” she remarks, watching the blonde. The other woman reaches up, running her hand through her curls. Bunches them up briefly, before letting go and allowing them to fall back down. They are just a little longer than her jawline now. It looks, looks great. Much better than the wigs.

Not that, that wigs are bad. That’s not what Cosima thinks. She gets that they are important. Incredibly important. They can be an immense help, in making someone feel at home, in their own body. Can help with figuring all of this, this stuff out. And they’re a great tool for people that, for whatever reason, cannot commit to present as their gender full time.

This girl, pardon, this woman, however, she’d seemed, more insecure with the thing than without it. The first two times Cosima saw her and she wore it. Before her hair started to grow out and curl and the cut it had been in had no longer been recognizable, thanks to the thickness of her curls.

“Thank you,” the blone murmurs, making Cosima do a double take. Nice voice, she thinks, wondering if complimenting her on that would be, out of line.

It’s higher than the very first time she heard her speak, but lower than the last two. Sounds more comfortable. Less strained. More, natural.

That’s, that’s good, Cosima thinks. That she’s finding a way, to be herself, within the limits of her body. Isn’t trying to push it beyond its limits, in a way that might cause damage.

“Can I,” the blonde begins, before swallowing thickly. Clears her throat before tilting her head back a little, to look up at the sky. Cosima does the same, her eyes finding a lone star, just a moment before the outside lamps come to life.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” Cosima nods before tilting her head. “You can always ask. I do reserve the right not to answer overly personal questions, but you’re free to pose them,” she answers.

She firmly believes in there being no stupid questions. Not when it comes to, to this. To members of their own community. Cosima does take issue with members outside the rainbow acronym asking invasive questions, or just basic ones that they could have gotten answered with one simple Google search. She’s not here to educate cisgender straight allosexual people, especially not when it’s things that they could easily learn from the Internet or books, if they really cared about this. About being a good ally. Being an ally, it means educating yourself on the community to claim to be an ally to. If they’re not willing to do even that little, well, Cosima can piss on their allyship.

She hears the blonde draw a slow breath. Thinks she might be bracing herself, could be trying to find the right words.

“If there was, a switch,” she starts, her brows dipping slightly. She did a good job, with the makeup, Cosima thinks suddenly. It’s, understated, but there. Brings out her features, the big eyes with that mix of green and brown that always makes her wonder which color it is she has listed in her ID.

“A switch?” Cosima echoes with a tilt of her head, intrigued where this is heading.

“Hm,” the blonde nods. “Yes. A switch where, if you flicked it, you would wake up the next morning, completely normal. Would you, if you had the opportunity, would you…”

“Would I flick it?” Cosima finishes for her. The blonde swallows thickly before nodding.

“Yes,” she confirms. “Would you, use the switch.”

Cosima draws a deep breath. Closes her eyes for a moment, allowing her lungs to hold in the air before she lets it out in a measured exhales.

“That depends,” she allows. “That switch… what exactly does it do?” she inquires. Watches as the blonde frowns at her.

“There is two options, aren’t there?” she poses. “One, I flick the switch, society changes. Everything I am, my sexuality, my romantic attraction, it’s no longer an issue. I’m accepted just as I am, right here, right now,” Cosima says before pursing her lips.

“The, second option,” she continues, “it’s that I change. I flick the switch, and I’m suddenly attracted to men. Or, since I am thinking we’re talking about you, actually, the second option would mean that you’re able to feel at home, in your old body. With the sex and gender assigned to you at birth,” she explains.

The other woman ducks her head, rubbing her palms over her thighs.

“Which one are we talking about?” she asks.

“The, the second one,” the whispers, making Cosima let out a low hum.  

“Then no,” the brunette shakes her head. “I wouldn’t use the switch,” she tells the other woman. “Because as far as I am concerned, I am normal.”

She hears the blonde let out a scoff at those words. It stings, her reaction, but Cosima doesn’t blame her.

It took her so long, to get to this point. Years and years, of active work, on her own biases, on the internalized ideas she has, that were drilled into her by a society that sees being cisgender and heterosexual as the norm and anything else as “other than”, as different. As, in some way, defective.

“I know, I know,” she sighs with a shake of her head. “But this… I worked hard, for this,” she continues, her brows dipping into a frown. “I’ve worked fucking hard, to accept myself the way I am. There’s so much internalized shit I’ve had to examine and try to get out of my head. About myself and my attraction and sexuality, until I finally got here. Where I know I am normal, I’m not a freak, what I feel it not a shameful secret that needs to be kept quiet. I am happy, the way I am. I have fought for this. They don’t get to take that away from me, ever again.”

Does she have moments where she wavers? Of course. Cosima has lost count, of the times in the past where she felt wrong somehow. Where she felt that her attraction was something shameful that had to be hidden away. But at least now she knows that those feelings are wrong and that she’s not alone with her experience. She has friends like herself that she can talk to and be honest with and they will make sure she knows she’s loved and accepted just the way she is.

The blonde lets out a ragged breath and shakes her head, hiding her face in her hands.

“I wish I could say that,” she mutters, her voice muffled by her hands.

Cosima swallows, inclining her head. She wants to tell her that things will get better. That, in time, with therapy, and surrounding herself with people that are accepting of her, and love her for who she is, the blonde will get to the same point. But she just can’t make herself say it. Thinks that it would sound, like a stupid phrase, some platitude. That it might seem like she’s making light, of what the other woman is going through and struggling with. Which Cosima doesn’t want to do. She wants to acknowledge the messed up side of this, the struggle, the unfairness of it all.

She scoots closer and carefully reaches out. Rests her hand on the blonde’s back, offering her silent reassurance.

They just sit like this, for a few moments, both lost in their own thoughts, before it seems like the blonde relaxes slightly.

Cosima withdraws her hand and pulls out a name tag and sharpie from her back pocket. Offers them to the woman.

The other woman looks down at the items before taking them. Smooths out the name tag on her thigh, her thumbnail running around the edge of it as she worries at her lower lip.

“Just, as a reference,” Cosima pipes up, “we have another question mark tonight, so you need to use two. Or come up with another symbol. Or name.”

The blonde lets out a humorless chuckle as she shakes her head.

“Do you always do this?”

“Do what?”

“Spend half of the meeting sitting outside, trying to get someone to come in,” the blonde shakes her head. Looks up and meets Cosima’s eyes for a moment, before looking away again, and the brunette has to bite back a cheer of absolute joy.

She’s not entirely sure if the other woman realizes how huge that small moment just was. She’s never done that before. Met Cosima’s eyes, that is. She’s looked in her face, yes, but never head-on like this. It’s big and she feels like they should, should celebrate this.

“I’m not here to talk you into anything,” she replies with a small shake of her head, moving away slightly, to give the other woman more space. “I’m just, offering a shoulder, and an ear, if you’d like them. If not, tell me to scram, and I will,” she shrugs with a slight tilt of her head.

“But between us… I thought you might like the company. And could do, with someone gently coaxing you inside. If that’s not what you want…” she trails off, lifting her hands up in a gesture of surrender.

The blonde sighs loudly, reaching up again to run her hand through her curls.

“I don’t know what I want,” she mutters softly with a shake of her head. “Maybe I do need the, encouragement,” she allows, brows furrowing as she glares at the name tag. “I mean, I can’t even figure out a name for myself, for Heaven’s sake.”

“Haven’t found one you like yet?” Cosima asks her before wincing.

“Forget I said that,” she quickly adds, but the blonde is already looking at her, her eyes wide and sad and just, she looks so much like a damn puppy Cosima just wants to wrap her up in her arms and hug her.

“I’m sorry,” she apologizes. “There’s no, no time limit, for this. Everyone’s got their own pace.”

“But most of everyone has a name by now, don’t they?” the other woman insists before looking down at the nametag on her thighs again.

“Maybe,” Cosima allows. “I guess they’ve at least found one they can use as a sort of, in-between, I guess. One that’s not their birth name, one they are comfortable being called. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll end up keeping it permanently. Some people find the perfect name immediately, others experiment with a bunch of them.”

The blonde swallows thickly, a ragged breath escaping her. Cosima watches her worry at her bottom lip again.

“There’s honestly no name you’ve come across so far that you, connected with? None you even liked, just a tiny bit?” Cosima asks, wanting to stop the other woman from overthinking what it might mean, if she puts down a name instead of her usual question mark.

“It’s, it’s stupid,” she whispers. “Overkill.”

“Nothing’s stupid when it comes to figuring yourself out,” Cosima insists. “I’m not lying when I tell you that I’ve met trans women who went by the name ‘Elle’, and that wasn’t a stupid thing,m either. So whatever it is you have found that you like, I promise you, it’s not stupid, and I really think you should give it a try.”

The blonde swallows again, hesitating.

“Delphine,” she finally breathes, her voice barely audible. Cosima watches her clench her eyes shut, the woman trembling slightly. “I, I like, Delphine,” she whispers.

Cosima hesitates, for a moment. She fully believes in  letting everyone set their own pace. Believes that nothing good will come from pushing someone when it comes to these things. They need to happen when the person is ready for them, and Cosima really tries to provide a space and community where people feel save to take the next steps in their journeys.

But this woman, Delphine, she’s been coming here for a while, and Cosima can see how much she’s struggling. How torn she is. And something makes her think, maybe she’s just, waiting for permission. Permission that this is okay, that she can be herself. That she’s allowed to try different things. Allowed to be herself, whoever that might be. If she needs more time, to settle on a name, then Cosima fully believes that she should have it. Should have all the time in the world that she needs. But maybe, just maybe, she already has had enough time, and what she needs, is a gentle nudge.

So, following an impulse, Cosima pulls another nametag from the back pocket of her pants. Grabs the sharpie from Delphine’s hand, eliciting a soft exclamation of protest as she does.

Cosima ignores it, starting to write on the tag on her thighs instead. Scribbles the name Delphine just gave her on it, before lifting it off the paper and putting the tag onto the other woman’s chest.

“There,” she declares with a satisfied nod.

It’s crooked. She didn’t put the tag on right, it’s slanted to one side, and her handwriting is truly horrible. She didn’t even wait long enough for the ink to dry, so the last letter, the small ‘e’, is smudged nearly to the point of being unreadable.

Delphine looks down at her chest. Frowns at the tag and tugs on her shirt, trying to read the name. Cosima sees her brows dip and the blonde’s lips curve into a small smile for just a moment, before her face crumbles and she bursts into tears. Delphine reaches up to hide her face in her hands, her shoulders shaking with sobs.

“Oh Delphine,” Cosima whispers, scooting back to the woman’s side, so that their bodies are touching and she’s pressed against the blonde. Wraps her arms around the other woman in a tight hug.

“It’s okay,” she murmurs, rubbing her hand over the blonde’s back in an effort to comfort her. “It’s gonna be okay. I promise, you’ll be alright, it’ll be okay,” Cosima tells her. Repeats it over and over again as Delphine sobs, the brunette’s heart aching for the blonde.

Cosima tosses her bag onto the kitchen counter before setting her keys next to it. Leans against it with her hip as she starts going through the mail.

Bill. Bill. Oh look, another bill. Random advertisement, which reminds her, she has to make an appointment to get her eyes checked and get a new pair of glasses. She doesn’t think she needs new lenses necessarily, but the frame is pretty banged up, and before she gets a new one with old specs, she’d rather have her sight checked to make sure that these are still accurate.

The brunette shakes her head, starting to walk down the hallway, towards their home offices. Where she hopes, very much, to find the other resident of the household.

Speaking of insurance, there’s a letter from hers, and Cosima bites back a groan, before she continues through the stack. Another bill, a letter from her mom-

She pauses in her tracks at the sight of the next envelope. Carefully runs her fingers over it, her eyes widening when she realizes what’s probably in there.

Cosima hurries down the hallway, rapping her knuckles against the wood of the door to their office.

Delphine’s sitting at the desk, her head in her hands, the heels of her palms pressed against her forehead as she stares at the desk. Waiting for inspiration to strike her, or done with the day, Cosima isn’t sure.

The blonde lets out a sigh before lifting her head. Looks over to the door, her morose expression changing into a soft smile when she sees Cosima.

“Hey,” the brunette greets her, eyes flickering to the monitor. The document on which looks suspiciously empty.

Delphine said she’d be working from home for today. Wanted to get a start on working on her next article. Seems like she did not get a lot of that done, thought Cosima bites her tongue to refrain from commenting on that.

Delphine is absolutely brilliant, in her maybe just slightly biased opinion. But all jokes aside, she’s certainly one of the sharpest minds Cosima ever had the pleasure of knowing, never mind working with.

But for someone as brilliant as the blonde, it never fails to astound Cosima, how much trouble Delphine actually has with writing articles for publication. She’s usually all too happy to share credit if that means the other person will do the majority of the write-up. When the two of them had collaborated on a project, Cosima had suddenly been finding herself doing the majority of the writing, with Delphine offering some editorial inputs here and there. The blonde had blamed it on English not being her first language and struggling to express herself properly in that.

“Bonsoir mon amoure,” Delphine greets her, holding out a hand for her. Cosima’s lips curve into a huge grin as she takes it, allowing Delphine to pull her towards herself. She drops the majority of the mail onto the desk and leans in for a soft kiss as Delphine pulls her into her lap.

“Hm, hello yourself,” Cosima husks, touching her forehead to the blonde’s as they part. Delphine sighs softly, nosing at her temple for a moment, before she leans back.

“I missed you,” she declares softly. “What took you so long?”

“Sorry,” Cosima apologizes with a roll of her eyes. “I had to talk to Scott about one of the batches. Boring science stuff.”

“Something go wrong, with your experiment?”

“Not exactly,” Cosima frowns before shaking her head. “It’s not important. We can talk about it later,” she tells her, holding up the envelope between them.

“You’ve got mail.”

Delphine’s eyes widen in surprise and she reaches out with trembling fingers, carefully taking the envelope from Cosima. The brunette gets up again, stretching, and looks around for the letter opener.

“I didn’t think it would be coming for a few days.”

“Maybe they didn’t have anything else to do,” Cosima offers, exclaiming in triumph when she spies the stainless steel opener Alison gave them as a housewarming gift a few months back, when the two of them moved in with each other. Cosima picks it up and holds it out to Delphine, tilting her head when the blonde doesn’t take it immediately.

“Would you like to be alone, with this?” she asks her, searching Delphine’s face.

“Non,” the blonde murmurs softly as she worries at her lower lip. Draws a deep breath and takes the opener to slice the envelope open before carefully pulling out the contents: a letter and a passport.

Delphine sets the latter down, focussing her attention on the letter for the time being, something that causes Cosima to have to bite back a frustrated groan.

If this were her, she’d be riffling through the passport the second her fingers touched it. Would be staring at the page with her picture and name and everything on it and hugging it to her chest-

But it’s not her. It’s Delphine, and her pace has always been one of measured carefulness. She treads lightly, especially in the areas where she knows she can end up getting hurt, for whatever reason.

But Cosima wants to see the passport. Wants to see what it will look like, with the new picture, and her name, and the updated gender marker.

Finally, the blonde nods, folding the letter again and putting it into the envelope to set it aside. And then stares at the passport on her desk, as if she’s afraid it will suddenly, leap up and bite her.

“Hey,” Cosima murmurs after a few moments, reaching out to gently take the blonde’s hand. Strokes her thumb over the back of it in a soft caress she hopes the other woman might find soothing.

“It’ll be fine,” she tells her with a smile. “Better than that. It’ll be perfect.”

“What if-” Delphine starts, her voice barely audible. “What if it’s not?” she asks, brows dipping into a frown. “What if, they made a mistake? If they didn’t change it, or they spelled something wrong, and I have to go through the whole thing again-”

“Woah, easy,” Cosima interrupts the fearful rambling before it can escalate any further. “You’re, spiralling,” she tells her. “Catastrophizing.”

Delphine ducks her head at that and Cosima can hear her exhale shakily. Watches as she reaches up and pinches the bridge of her nose.

“Would it help, if I checked it for you?” she offers softly. “Make sure everything is in order?”

“No,” Delphine shakes her head. Looks up again, her shoulder squaring slightly. “It’s nothing against you, I love you. But…”

“No offense taken,” Cosima assures her with an easy smile. “It’s your thing, I understand that. Your, big moment. And I wasn’t trying to, take it from you, or anything like that. Just, offering, in case you want help. Letting you know I’m here,” she shrugs, giving Delphine’s hand a soft squeeze. She feels the blonde return the pressure for a moment, before she draws another slow, measured breath, and then lets go of Cosima’s hand.

Delphine reaches out and picks up the passport. Carefully opens it. Cosima watches her as she holds her breath and then freezes completely, for an instant. Before bursting into tears.

She lets out a soft curse and moves in, wrapping her arms around the blonde in a tight hug.

“It’s okay,” she mutters, kissing the woman’s curls. “It’s okay. We’ll get it fixed, it’ll be-”

“Happy tears,” Delphine sobs, making Cosima freeze for a second, before she lets out a relieved laugh. Feels Delphine’s shoulders shake with her own laugh and then the blonde wraps her arms around her, returning Cosima’s hug.

“I’m just, happy, and relieved, and… overwhelmed. Too many feelings,” Delphine stammers, her words drawing a soft chuckle from Cosima as she runs her fingers through the blonde’s hair.

She can definitely relate to that. Felt very much the same way, when Delphine had proposed to her a few months back. She’d been, shocked, and over the moon, and so, so happy. She loves her, loves Delphine to much. Ever since they started dating like, three years after they first met each other, Cosima has been falling more and more in love with the blonde every single day of their two-and-a-half year relationship. Maybe someone else would think it’s too soon, to propose, to make plans for getting married. But they’ve known each other for so long and the thing is, Cosima knows. She knows that Delphine, she’s The One. She’s her person, the one she wants to share the entirety of the rest of her life with.

Delphine leans back, her hands leaving Cosima’s back, and the brunette pulls back, to give her some space. Get herself together again, in a way.

“Here,” Delphine murmurs, wiping at the tears on her cheeks with one hand while holding her passport out to Cosima with the other.

She hesitates, before reaching out. Touches her fingers to Delphine’s and meeting her eyes as she carefully takes it. Looks down at the page Delphine had flipped it open to, and swallows thickly.

It’s not fair, she thinks, how someone can look this good, on a government ID.

“It’s wonderful,” she tells her with a smile and sees Delphine practically beam at her, looking as happy as… honestly, Cosima isn’t certain she’s ever seen her so happy before. Maybe when she said yes, to the proposal, but besides that?

She leans in again, to brush her lips over Delphine’s cheek before moving closer and sitting back down in the blonde’s lap. Throws an arm around her neck and tilts the passport so that Delphine can see it as well.

There it is. Delphine Adele Cormier. No more stupid birth name, no more issues with TSA, at least not over that. The wonderfully validating F right there, as well, and even though this isn’t her, Cosima nearly feels her heart burst with happiness.

“It looks great,” she tells Delphine, kissing her again as she hands her the passport. “I am so, so incredibly happy for you, right now.”

“Me, too,” Delphine nods. Traces her index finger over her name, her throat working as she swallows and more moisture brims in her eyes.

“Alright,” Cosima nods, touching her nose to the blonde’s temple. “What’s the first stamp you want in it?” she asks as Delphine slowly flips through the rest of the pages.

“I’m not sure,” the blonde frowns, hesitating. Cosima sees her cast a glance at her from the corner of her eyes, and she’s worrying at her lower lip again.

“Perhaps, France?” she asks, voice uncertain and small, and Cosima wants to hug her and tell her that they will go wherever she wants, even if it is the moon. Cosima would make that happen. Build her a rocket even.

“France,” she repeats, tilting her head. “Sounds like a great place to go.”

Delphine ducks her head, reaching up to run a hand through her curls.

“It’s, it’s just… Arnaud has been asking me to come visit, and now with the baby…” she trails off, worrying at her lip again. Cosima leans in to brush her lips over Delphine’s in a soft kiss, resting her forehead against the other woman’s for a moment.

Delphine’s brother moved to France when the two of them, Cosima and her, were still bot finishing up their degrees. She knows that Delphine has been missing him. That she feels bad, for not having met his wife, her sister-in-law, in person yet. Feels terrible for missing the wedding, as well, not having been able to travel internationally with a passport that had a male gender marker and her birth name in it. Cosima knows she has been wanting to go badly, especially since her baby niece had been born almost three months ago.

“You know,” Cosima tells her, brushing her lips over Delphine’s forehead. “I wouldn’t say no to a honeymoon in Paris.”

Delphine lets out a soft chuckle at that.

“He lives in the South,” she corrects her. “Near Marseille. Besides, for a honeymoon, we’d have to get married first.”

“Okay,” Cosima nods. “Wedding in the South of France, then.”

Delphine’s eyes widen in surprise and her jaw drops, leaving the blonde to gape at her. Cosima shrugs, toying with the hair at the nape of Delphine’s neck.

“What?” she asks. “We said we’d wait, until your name and gender markers are updated. Your birth certificate is, and so is your passport now, too. So nothing’s stopping us now, is there?”

“Cosima…” Delphine starts, her breath hitching in her throat before she swallows. “Do you, do you honestly mean that?”

“What? That I want to get married? Of course I do!” she exclaims. “I wouldn’t have said yes if I didn’t.”

“But that, that was only a few months ago…”

“Yeah, so?” she shakes her head. “Look, if you want to wait, we can. But since you weren’t there, when your brother got married, I thought, maybe it would be nice if he got to see us, tie the knot,” she shrugs before moving to stand.

“Just think about it, okay?” she tells her, leaning down to kiss Delphine’s cheek. “I’m gonna make myself a sandwich, I’m starving. You want one, too?”

Delphine just nods, still dumbfounded, and Cosima leaves her with a low chuckle, figuring that she will eventually shake herself out of her stunned state. And when she does, she’ll want to discuss details and start making lists, and Cosima thinks that she will need a full stomach to keep up with her when that happens.