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Do you need anybody? (I need somebody to love)
The end credits roll on some film Charity's not really been paying attention to. She's been far more focussed on how comfortable she feels just spending time at Tug Ghyll on a grey Tuesday afternoon. Her head is on a cushion in Vanessa's lap, her legs bent to fit on the ridiculously small couch. Vanessa's left hand has been running through her hair, scratching lightly at her scalp, for most of the movie. Her right hand is held loosely in Charity's own, resting on her hip.
They've not exactly had an easy go of it, lately. So this time spent together, without any heavy conversations or stressful expectations, is a welcome break. Unfortunately, it can't last. Not today at least. Charity groans, squeezing Vanessa's hand and releasing it as she turns over to bury her face in Vanessa's stomach.
Soft fingers caress the side of her face and she turns enough to open one eye and look up at Vanessa's confused smile.
"What's up?" she asks, sweeping Charity's hair behind her ear.
"Oh, nothing," Charity sighs, her words muffled against the front of Vanessa's jumper. She turns onto her back so she's fully looking up at Vanessa. "It's just I could see this shift far enough tonight, that's all."
Vanessa's hand comes to rest on her midriff, fingers sliding between the gaps in the buttons to lightly stroke at the skin of her belly. She makes a sympathetic noise. "Can't you swap with Chas? We could have a night in. Bottle of wine, takeaway, sorted."
There's nothing that Charity would rather do. But she shakes her head. "Can't. It's her and Paddy's 'date night'."
Vanessa's forehead and nose both crinkle adorably. "On a Tuesday?"
"Paddy's tighter than a duck's arse and you get in cheap at the pictures on a Tuesday."
"Ah, right." Vanessa lifts a strand of Charity's hair, straightening the curl from it and letting it spring back. "Is there no-one else who could cover for you? Marlon?"
"Oh, Marlon thinks he's being taken advantage of and is working to rule at the moment. I think he's trying to unionise Victoria." Charity rolls her eyes. "As if I couldn't get a hundred other stooges who can heat up oven chips."
"Oh, come on, that's not fair!" Vanessa says, with a reproachful laugh. "His food's great."
"Yeah, yeah, it's alright I suppose."
"What about Vic or Rebecca?"
"Both away on some spa thing Vic got on Groupon." Charity sighs and shakes her head. "I've got to hand it to Victoria; she's really putting in the hours with that girl. Living, working and socialising with someone who can barely remember what day it is? She's got more patience than me, I'll tell you that for nothing."
Vanessa laughs then, a proper laugh that makes her whole torso shake, which in turn makes Charity's head bounce a little. She catches Charity's glare and puts a hand over her mouth. Charity lifts a single eyebrow in question, although she knows fine well why Vanessa's laughing.
"Charity," she begins, her voice warm and fond in a way that makes Charity's chest feel too small for the stuff that's inside it. "Gordon Ramsay stuck in traffic's got more patience than you."
"Listen to the cheek of you!" Charity scoffs. "And anyway, since when are you so in favour of me trying to get out of shifts?"
"I'm not. It's just...well, these last few weeks have been really tough for you, haven't they?" Vanessa says, cupping Charity's cheek, pressing a thumb to her lips when she goes to interject. "And yes, I know, you can handle it. You've been handling it your whole life. But all this talking and thinking about it is bound to be hard on you. So forgive me for thinking that maybe you deserve to be looked after for a bit."
Charity covers Vanessa's hand, pressing a kiss to her thumb before sliding it away from her mouth to rest on her chest. The urge to fight against Vanessa's words lessens with every passing day. It's always been her standard response; she doesn't need anyone. She doesn't need looked after. She can look after herself. But being with Vanessa has made her realise that being looked after doesn't have to mean giving up control. It can be as simple as taking the time to making someone smile when they're having a bad day. Or bringing them a slab of Galaxy when they're on their period. It doesn't have to come with the darkness and obligation Charity previously associated with it. "That so?"
"Yeah, that is so," Vanessa confirms. "And I've not always been there for you in the way that I sho-"
"Ness," Charity interrupts, drawing the name out as she sits up, turning to face Vanessa. She reaches out to brush the tips of her fingers over her cheek. "Don't, please. We've been through all that."
"No, I know, I just want to show you that I-" Vanessa cuts herself off, her eyes going wide. "I could do your shift for you!"
"What? You?" Charity laughs, leaning in and brushing a kiss over Vanessa's lips. "Yeah, good one."
"No, I mean it," Vanessa says, putting both hands on Charity's cheeks and pushing her away, holding her face in place as she continues. "You can have the evening to yourself. To relax, or have a bath or whatever."
"And tell me, Ms Woodfield, what experience do you have of working behind a bar?" Charity asks, adopting a posh accent, as if she's conducting an interview.
"I worked in a pub for a bit when I was at uni," Vanessa says. She sucks in a breath through her teeth. "Although, I did get sacked after a week for pouring a drink over a punter who nipped my bum."
"Anyone who nips your bum in my pub gets their fingers broken," Charity tells her. And then, as an afterthought. "Except me." She shakes her head. "And you think a week pouring cheap vodka in a students' union means you can single-handedly run the Woolpack, do you?"
Vanessa rolls her eyes, letting go of Charity's face. "It's a Tuesday night, Charity. You'll be lucky if there's more than Pearl in for her evening sherry." She takes Charity's hands and squeezes. "I know how to work a till. And a card machine. There's a price list on the wall. I sit at the bar watching you often enough to know where everything is."
"Not sure it's really the location of the glasses you're looking at when you're watching me, is it, buttercup?" Charity asks. She's not sure why, but she's kind of getting swept along with this idea. The mere thought that someone wants to do something, for no other reason than just to make her happy, is fairly intoxicating. She shakes her head. "Ness, I can't ask you to do my shi-"
"Did you ask?" Vanessa shakes her head. "I offered. It's not as if I'm run off my feet at my own job these days, is it? This'll keep me on my toes." She leans in close, bumping Charity's nose with her own. "And you deserve a night to yourself. Please, please, let me do this for you. It's just a tiny thing."
Charity rolls her eyes, swallowing past the sudden pain in her throat. If Vanessa notices her eyes are shinier than usual, she doesn't say anything. Right enough, she's used to Charity wailing at the drop of a hat these days. "Oh, fine then," Charity finally manages. "If you're that desperate to get your hands on my pumps, who am I to stand in your way?"
Vanessa's smile is brighter than Doug's Christmas light display and it chases just a little more of the darkness away from Charity's heart. "Brilliant," Vanessa murmurs as she leans in and kisses Charity, long and sweet before pulling back. "Listen, why don't you head over now and let Chas know what's happening, and I'll get changed and be along at your back?"
"Changed?" She'd expected Vanessa to just come over as she is. The jeans and yellow jumper over a blue button up shirt seem fine to her. She wiggles her eyebrows. "Ooooh, into what? You gonna go the full Bet Lynch? All leopard print and cleavage?" She grabs Vanessa by the waist, dragging her onto her lap. She places her mouth next to Vanessa's ear. "Because if that's the case, babe, then I will be propping up that bar myself."
"That a thing for you is it?" Vanessa wraps Charity's arms around her waist, covering them with her own. "The Bet Lynch look?"
Charity tilts her head, considering the question. "Not particularly, no." Her brain is running through the many fashion disasters in Vanessa's wardrobe. "But I'm pretty sure most looks could become a thing for me, so long as they're on you."
Vanessa turns as best she can to look at her, eyes slightly wider than normal. "Did I detect a compliment, just then?"
"Might've done," Charity concedes, hiding a smile. She rolls her eyes. "Listen, I think if I can fancy you in that abomination of a jumper with the wooly frilly bits down the front, you're pretty safe to assume I would fancy you in anything, yeah?"
Vanessa squints at her. "I think there was still a compliment in there somewhere." She shakes her head, with a smile. "Anyway, I was more of a Tanya Pooley girl, myself."
"Eh?" Charity frowns, thinking back over their conversation to see where this came from.
Vanessa's eyes flit around the room, a light pink tinge appearing on her cheeks. "Barmaid in the Rovers in the 90s." Vanessa clears her throat. "Anyway-"
"Remind me again how it slipped your notice that you fancied women?" Charity says, shaking her head, unable to stop an indulgent smile from spreading across her lips.
Shrugging, Vanessa sighs, looking down. "I dunno. It just...never occurred to me."
"Until I came along, yeah?" Charity asks, tipping Vanessa's head up with two fingers under her chin. "Then you just couldn't deny it any longer."
"Well, until Rhona came along, I suppose," Vanessa muses, breaking out into a smile at Charity's indignant scoff. "But yes, you were definitely the last nail in the coffin of my heterosexuality."
"And don't you forget it, lady," Charity whispers, pulling Vanessa into a kiss.
After spending a good fifteen minutes convincing Chas that this isn't a wind up, Charity heads back through to the living room and settles herself on the couch, picking up the remote and turning the TV on. She flicks listlessly through the channels, not finding anything to pique her interest. She finally leaves it on a reality show where boys and girls with varying levels of fake tan are screaming at each other in a restaurant. The door opens and she turns, freezing in place when she sets eyes on Vanessa.
Her girlfriend is wearing a very short black skirt with sheer tights and black stilettos. Her top is also black, with silver sparkly strands running through it, and v-necked. The V plunges into Vanessa's cleavage in a way that seems to point to some mystical treasure. Vanessa catches her looking and does a twirl.
"Well, will I do?" she asks, setting the carrier bag in her hand down on the coffee table.
Charity stands and moves into her space, hands fitting around her hips and sliding up her sides. "Bet Lynch eat your heart out." She leans in to capture Vanessa's lips, but makes contact with her cheek instead. She frowns.
"I've just applied this lippy," Vanessa says, with a shake of her head. She covers Charity's hands and gently removes them from her hips. "Now, I've brought a couple of things to help with your evening." Turning, she bends to reach the contents of the bag and Charity gains a whole new appreciation for this skirt.
"I've got you a couple of magazines," Vanessa plants them in her hands with a grin. "And a bag of Maltesers, 'cause I know you love biting the chocolate off first and then eating the inside bit."
"I do love the inside bit," Charity agrees, raising an eyebrow and getting a shake of the head.
"And I brought this bubble bath from mine," Vanessa holds up the half-used bottle. "'Cause you said you liked smelling of it." Vanessa tilts her head to the side. "I was going to bring wine, but you live in a pub so…."
"Thought of everything, haven't you?" Charity says, her lips pulling into a smile at the thought Vanessa had put into this.
"I just want you to have a nice night," Vanessa says, going up on her toes and leaving a barely there kiss on Charity's cheek. "Now, I better head through. Don't want Chas to yell at me for being late for my shift!"
"That's a rite of passage around here, babe," Charity says, returning the excited wave Vanessa gives her as she head back out to the front.
Shaking her head, she drops one of the magazines on the table and keeps the other one, picking up the Maltesers before curling up on the couch. A whole evening with nothing to do stretches out pleasantly in front of her, courtesy of her amazingly thoughtful girlfriend.
She's bored. So bored.
She tried reading the magazines, she tried watching the telly. She had a bath, which was quite nice, but it didn't pass all that much time. She even tried napping, but she couldn't quite make herself fall over into sleep.
And after a while, she figures out why; she's missing being with Vanessa. Well, that's easily fixed. She'll just go through and sit at the bar and sip a G&T while watching Ness bend over to get glasses and stuff. That'll brighten her evening up to no end.
She heads through to the pub only to be met with a scene of minor disaster. Tables are brimming with empties, there's a skirmish going on over at the dartboard about scoring, something that looks like blood, but she hopes is tomato juice, is spilled all over the floor. And Moira is behind the bar serving a very disgruntled looking Jimmy.
"Where's Ness?" Charity asks, coming up to stand beside Moira, surveying the scene and praying that Paddy shelled out for dinner so that him and Chas would have had to go to a late showing. Because Chas in her current state of mind might actually murder her for this.
"She's in the cellar. I sent her to change a barrel and said I'd look after the bar for a bit," Moira says, handing Jimmy his pint with a nod.
"Oh right, Saint Moira to the rescue again, eh?" Charity says with a roll of her eyes. She hopes Moira can hear the gratitude under the sarcasm.
Moira turns to face her, a knowing smile in place. She gestures at the mess. "I'll make a start on tidying thi-" She whips her head around to the blokes at the dartboard, whose voices are getting louder. "Right," she bellows. "You two, call it a draw and have a rematch, okay? Or you'll both be out on your necks. Got it?" The men nod quickly. Moira turns back to Charity who raises her eyebrows.
"Such a lovely way with people, you have, Moira." She starts to walk backwards, pointing a thumb over her shoulder. "Well, looks like you've got everything under control here so…I'm gonna go and check on Vanessa."
"Yeah, she's been gone a wee while," Moira agrees. "Oh, and Charity?" Charity pauses, waiting. "She really did try her best here." She smiles that smile that Charity hates. The one that says 'I know things I shouldn't know'. "It might not look like it, but she was knocking her pan out trying to show you she could do this."
For once, no retort comes to mind and all Charity can do is nod. "I know." She turns and heads through the back before she says or does anything soppy that Moira can go back and tell Cain about. She'd never hear the end of it. As she heads down the cellar steps, a voice echoes out.
"Stupid barrel!" There's a loud clang. "Ow!"
Charity closes her eyes and shakes her head, rounding the corner to see Vanessa rubbing her foot.
"What did that barrel ever do to you?" she calls out. Vanessa spins around at the sound of her voice, her face the picture of distress.
"You didn't go in the bar, did you?"
"I did," Charity confirms with a nod. "That was tomato juice on the floor, yeah? I mean, there hasn't actually been a murder or anything?"
Vanessa covers her face with both hands. "Oh God, I'm so sorry, Charity." She shakes her head and lets her hands drop to her sides. "I'll clean it all up, I swear I will. If I can ever get this stupid barrel connected."
Charity moves closer to Vanessa, placing her hands lightly on her hips and urging her to move. "Shift over." She takes the dish towel out of Vanessa's hand and quickly and efficiently connects the barrel up to the line. She stands up, wiping her hands. "There. Job done." When she turns, her heart clenches at the sight of a lone tear running down Vanessa's face. "Hey," she whispers, reaching up to intercept it with her thumb. "What's all this for?"
Swiping at her other cheek, Vanessa blows out a shaky breath. "I wanted to do one nice thing for you and it's all just…I'm sorry."
"Right, enough of that, lady," Charity says, tilting Vanessa's face up with both hands on her cheeks. "You did do a nice thing for me. You've done loads of nice things for me."
"But...I was trying to make up for not being there for you when I shou-"
Charity kisses her to shut her up. She draws back slightly. "Enough. You have nothing to make up for." She grabs Vanessa's hand and drags her over to the seat they'd spent the night in when they got locked in here. She sits down and pulls Vanessa down so that she's sitting sideways in her lap. She leaves her arms loosely around Vanessa's waist and Vanessa picks up one of her hands, playing with her fingers.
"So, guess what I learned tonight?" Charity leans in, as if sharing a huge secret, lowering her voice to a stage whisper. "Having a night to myself wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be."
Vanessa quirks her head to the side, her huge mournful eyes making her look like a curious puppy. "Oh? How come?"
"Well," Charity confirms. "Turns out that the bit I like most about not working is that I get to spend time with you."
Vanessa's eyes grow wet again, but this time there's a smile to accompany the tears. "Really?"
"Really," Charity confirms. "So when you say you want to do something nice for me, I don't need pampering or you to do shifts for me. I'm happy doing what we did this afternoon. Lying on your couch watching a film I'm not even sure was in English."
"It was set in Glasgow."
"Well, there you go, then." Charity smiles, making sure Vanessa's looking into her eyes before she continues. "That's all I need from you, Ness. Just that. Just you."
"You've got me," Vanessa whispers, lifting a hand to her face. "You've had me for a while now."
"Then there's nothing to worry about, is there?" Charity presses her lips to Vanessa's, feeling her sigh against them, some of the tension leaving her body.
Vanessa ends the kiss, leaning her forehead against Charity's, looking into her eyes.
"I barred Gerry by the way," she mumbles, through a yawn.
"That's fine. What did he do?"
"I got fed up of him looking down my top instead of at my face when he was ordering drinks."
"Blimey. If we barred everyone who ogled Chas' knockers we'd be out of business in a week." Her eyes drop to the low neckline on Vanessa's blouse. She traces the edge it with a finger, enjoying the shaky breath Vanessa draws in. "And you can't blame the lad for looking. They are especially spectacular this evening." She dips her head, pressing a soft kiss to the top of Vanessa's right breast, before doing the same to the left.
"Ch-Charity. What are you doing?"
Vanessa's voice is unsteady and Charity smiles against her skin. "Would've thought that was pretty obvious, babe," she murmurs, continuing to press kisses the length of Vanessa's neckline.
"But...but there's...what about the bar?" Vanessa's protests are weakened by the hand that's pressing Charity's head closer to her chest.
Charity lifts her head and gives Vanessa a wicked smile. "Moira's got everything under control. And you know she likes to lord it over everybody so we might as well let her, eh?" She winks. "And anyway, I don't know about you, but this chair is making me feel very...nostalgic."
There's only a brief moment where Vanessa looks conflicted, her eyes flicking to the cellar stairs. But when Charity's hand moves to cup her breast fully, her eyes close and she leans into the contact. "Is the door locked?"
"Nope," Charity squeezes the flesh under her hand gently. "Are you bothered?"
Vanessa's breath hitches when Charity's thumb brushes over her nipple. "N-no." Charity bends her head and licks a trail up between Vanessa's breasts. "Oh God." A hand grabs the back of her hair and tugs and she finds herself looking into darkened blue eyes. "No matter who comes down that stairs, we are not stopping, got that?"
A spike of arousal shoots through Charity's abdomen and she shifts her hips underneath Vanessa's weight. "That's...pretty hot, babe."
"Yeah, well, we've had enough interruptions to last a lifetime," Vanessa says, leaning in and kissing Charity, nipping at her lower lip.
"You'll hear no arguments from me," Charity murmurs, surging up to kiss Vanessa, one hand creeping up her thigh underneath that tight skirt.
Charity ignores the little part of her brain that really hopes Moira needs a box of crisps in the next ten minutes.
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