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And Gathered You a Handful of Stars
By thegirl20


She's trying to find the mistake in the list of coordinates she's been checking for the past two hours when Rhona swings by and plants herself on the edge of her desk. Vanessa looks up and smiles.

"Come to give me a hand?" She throws her pencil down and stretches her arms over her head, feeling her spine protest at having to realign itself. "I'm going cross-eyed, here."

Rhona glances at the maps strewn all over the table and shudders. "Not likely." She crosses her arms and leans down, urging Vanessa closer with her head. "You'll never guess what Nicola told me about the new girl."

Vanessa's eyes stray to the woman in question, sat at a desk at the far end of the room. She turned up in their hut a few weeks ago, all sultry eyes and bright red lipstick and frocks Vanessa's only seen pictures of in magazines. She's right glamorous and Vanessa's been too shy to talk to her, beyond saying 'hello' when Ms Woodall brought her around to introduce her. Right now she's reading something, but she's leaning back in her seat, twirling a pencil in her left hand like it's one of them posh cigarette holders that film stars use. Even her name sounds exotic. Charity.

"No, I probably won't," Vanessa says, dragging her eyes back to Rhona. "So you best tell me, eh?"

"Well, she was talking to one of the lads in Hut 2 and he reckons she'd been recruited-" Rhona looks around and leans in closer. "-straight out of prison."

The way Rhona's voice drops to a whisper when she says that word causes a spike of panic to run through Vanessa, even though it's got nothing to do with her. Rhona clearly thinks it's scandalous enough to not say aloud. Vanessa sits up straight, fiddling with the ruler she'd been using to keep her place. "Is it Jimmy that's feeding her this again? Why does she keep listening to that great pillock?"

"'Cause she fancies him, I imagine, despite what she keeps saying." Rhona rolls her eyes. "But...don't you think it's possible? I mean, she's obviously got dodgy connections, going by those ciggies she flashes around. And the nylons."

"Oh, Rhona." Vanessa bends over her work again, effectively dismissing Rhona. "As if we haven't all taken a pair of nylons from a bloke at the dancing now and again."

"It's not now and again with her though, is it?" Rhona persists. "All those frocks. And she wears expensive scent, too."

"Been sniffing her, have you?" Vanessa asks, finding the thought more than a little unsettling.

"No! I was standing behind her in the canteen queue the other day."

"Well, I don't think we should be judging her based on some nice clothes and whatever Nicola'heard off Jimmy of all peop-"

"Miss Dingle."

Both Rhona and Vanessa jump at the volume of Ms Woodall's voice. Mostly everything is conducted in whispers in Bletchley Park. They look over to see Moira approaching Charity's desk. Charity just lifts an eyebrow.

"Can I help you with something?"

Vanessa bites her lower lip at the tone of her voice. It's bordering on insolent, but not enough to be picked up on it. Moira stops and leans down close to Charity, whispering now. There's no way to hear what's going on, but that doesn't stop Vanessa watching. Charity's looking up at Moira, nodding along, the hint of a smile on her face despite the fact she's clearly being told off for something. Vanessa follows the shape of her mouth along her jaw, tracing the strong line up to her ear, disappearing into unruly blonde hair that's always threatening to escape the strict updo that they have to wear. Vanessa wonders what she looks like with her hair down, spilling over her shoulders like a waterf-

It hits her that she's doing it again and the realisation causes her to knock a pencil off the desk. She bends to pick it up, scolding herself for these thoughts that seem to spring from nowhere and when she's not expecting them. Taking a second to compose herself, she sits up again, just in time to see Moira stand up straight.

"Is that understood, Miss Dingle?"

"Yes, Miss Woodall."

Moira turns to walk away and Charity crosses her eyes at her back. A laugh erupts out of Vanessa's mouth and she slaps her hand over it. Charity's eyes snap over to meet hers. She tilts her head and smiles.

"Girls." She jumps and swivels to find Moira standing by her desk, Rhona gets to her feet, eyes on the floor. Moira looks between them and shakes her head. "Less gossip, more work, please."

"Yes, Miss Woodall," they drone in unison, like naughty schoolgirls. She nods and strides away, back to her office.

Vanessa chances another look over at Charity and finds that her gaze is still focussed in her direction. Charity winks, setting Vanessa's heart off at a gallop that would rival a Grand National winner.

"Careful, Ness." Rhona murmurs.

"Eh?" Vanessa turns back to her work, picking up her ruler and finding her place. She frowns up at Rhona. "I don't know what you mean."

Rhona looks over at Charity pointedly before meeting Vanessa's eyes again. "Just...be careful." She heads back over to her own desk and Vanessa watches her go, her stomach twisting. She swallows and tries to get herself to focus on her work. She absolutely can't look at Charity again. That would be the wrong thing to do. She mustn't entertain these...odd obsessions she gets from time to time. It's wrong, and it's unhealthy and...and Rhona's right. She should be careful.

Without even realising she's lifted her head, she looks over at the other woman. Their eyes meet and Charity quirks an eyebrow at her. Vanessa looks down immediately. And smiles.


A few days later, she finds herself on the midnight shift. She bloody hates the midnight shift. All of them do. As the night wears on, everyone gets grumpy and irritable. Vanessa sometimes wonders if they make more mistakes on this shift, which is a terrifying and awful thought.

The rows of numbers in front of her are blurring and she rubs at her eyes, trying to clear them. After a moment, she sits back in her chair and sighs. A quick glance around tells her that Pearl's nowhere in sight; the nightshift manageress isn't quite as strict as Moira. Some of the girls have caught her kipping in the office. Or, that's how the stories go, at least. She stands and stretches, tapping Kerry on the shoulder.

"I'm just nipping out for a breath of air." She nods towards the office. "Tell Mrs Ladderbanks I've gone to the loo if she asks."

"Will do." Kerry winks. "Just like you'll not mention that I was paintin' me nails for ten minutes earlier, eh pet?"

"Deal. Be back in a bit." Vanessa quickly makes her way around the desks and to the side door of the hut, stepping out into the night. The cool air washes over her and she rubs at her arms to ward off the shiver she knows will follow.

"Didn't have you down as a skiver."

Vanessa's whole body reacts, spinning and stumbling backwards, hand over her heart. A figure steps out of the shadows, the end of a lit cigarette bright in the darkness. Vanessa's eyes adjust and she realises who it is.

"You gave me such a fright!"

Even in the dark, she can see Charity's eyes dance. She takes a draw of her ciggie and holds the smoke in for a moment, tilting her head up to the sky to blow it out. "Think I was some big lump of a German here to carry you off and have my wicked way with you, did you?"

"No, I-" Vanessa's cheeks grow hot, despite the cool air. "I just...didn't think anyone was out here, that's all."

Charity tilts her head. "You're not from round here, not with that accent."

"Yeah, well...neither are you." Vanessa sticks her chin out.

Nodding, Charity looks her up and down. "Leeds?"

"Wakefield." Vanessa wraps her arms around herself. "You?" She can't quite place Charity's accent, though it has definite Lancastrian undertones.

"Been all over, me." Charity blows out another cloud of smoke. "Originally from Hotten, though." She raises her eyebrows. "Look at us, eh, couple of Yorkshire lasses living the high life in the arse end of wherever this is."

"Buckinghamshire," Vanessa answers, automatically.

Charity goes into her pocket and pulls out a packet of ciggies. "Want one?"

"Ta." Vanessa doesn't smoke as much as some of the other girls, but she's not going to turn down one of Charity's fancy French fags if it's on offer. She takes one from the packet and waits while Charity gets her lighter out, flicking it. Vanessa quickly moves to cup her hand around the flame, conscious of the blackout regulations. She leans in, puffing on the fag until it lights and Charity snuffs the flame out. They stand in silence for a moment and Vanessa tries not to think about how her skin is tingling from where her fingers brushed Charity's.

"So, what you in for?"

"Hmm?" Vanessa looks over at her in confusion. "What?"

Charity gestures to the hut with her cigarette. "Why'd they recruit you to work here?"

Vanessa hesitates. There's posters all over about talking too much, even to colleagues here at Bletchley. Careless talk costs lives and all that.

Charity shrugs. "Fine then. Don't tell me. Wasn't really interested anyway."

"No, it's just...I...it's nothing special." Vanessa scuffs her feet, rubbing her arms again. "I'm alright with maps and that."

"Must be more than alright, buttercup."

Vanessa presses her lips together. "How about you?"

Charity laughs while exhaling, turning it into a cough. "Oh, don't tell me you haven't heard?"

"Heard what?" Vanessa asks, hoping the answer isn't any of the things she's heard.

"About how I'm a criminal mastermind?" Charity wipes at her lower lip with her thumb. "How I got early parole if I agreed to use my big brain for good instead of evil?"

"What? Really?" Vanessa barks, having not expected Charity to actually own up to it, if this was the case.

"Don't be daft." Charity drops her cigarette and steps on it, crushing it out. "D'you honestly think they'd let common criminals get their mitts on the kind of stuff we see in there?"

"Right. Course not." She looks down, feeling like an idiot.

"I was, uh...working for someone." Vanessa notes how her voice changes on 'working', filing it away. "He had connections. Noticed I was good at crosswords and brought some blokes around to speak to me. Next thing I knew I was on the train heading down here."

"So, you're good with puzzles?" She nods, there's a few of the girls who were brought in for that. "Figuring things out?"

"So they say. Kept mumbling stuff about 'lateral thinking'." Charity shrugs and winks at Vanessa. "Must've been all them times I had to get myself out of scrapes when I was younger."

She walks down the couple of steps, her shoes making no noise when she steps onto the grass. "Where are you going?" Vanessa hisses, looking over her shoulder at the door. "Mrs Ladderbanks will have your head if she finds you're not at your desk."

"If she wakes up long enough to notice, you mean?" Charity whispers, walking backwards. "I'm just exploring a bit, that's all. Not had a chance before now."

"It's the middle of the night!" Vanessa casts another look behind her, stubs out her own cigarette, and follows Charity, jogging a little to catch up with her.

Charity bumps her shoulder. "Afraid of the dark, are you?"

"No." Vanessa looks around, just about able to pick out the big house in the distance. "Just not stupid enough to go wandering alone in it."

"But I'm not alone, am I?" Charity says, the tone of her voice making Vanessa feel warm in some odd places.

Vanessa settles for huffing as they keep walking, getting further and further away from the huts. A few times she considers suggesting turning back, but she doesn't want Charity to think she's afraid, or a goody two shoes.

Charity surprises her by breaking the silence. "Your mate won't be too happy if she finds out you're taking moonlit walks with me. Don't think she likes me much."

"Who? Rhona?" Vanessa finds herself flattered that Charity took the time to notice any of this. "She worries. But she'll definitely not be happy if you get me murdered out here, I'll tell you that much."

A hand slips around her elbow, tugging until she's pressed against Charity's side. Warm breath on her ear makes her shiver. "Best keep you close then, hadn't I?"

Whether it's the proximity, or the cold, or the fag she had which seemed much stronger than her usual brand, Vanessa feels a bit lightheaded. She sucks cold air in through her nose to try and clear the feeling, but it doesn't shift and Charity still hasn't let go of her arm.

"Maybe we should-" Before she can suggest any alternative course of action, the air raid siren wails into life.

"Bloody hell." Charity tightens her grip. "C'mon, we better get back."

Vanessa pulls her to a halt, pointing in the other direction. "There's a shelter closer than the one by the huts." She starts to drag Charity by the hand. "It's for the grounds staff. It's just over here. See!"

The Anderson shelter is a barely visible lump over by an old shed. Vanessa lets go of Charity's hand and heads down the steps, opening the door and stumbling inside, catching herself before she falls onto the bench. There's a noise behind her and the space is illuminated. She turns to see Charity standing with her lighter held up, surveying the scene.

She curls her lip. "God, I hate these things."

"Just get in and shut the door, will you?" Vanessa says, grabbing a candle and heading back to Charity just as the door slots into place. She holds the candle up and Charity lights it. Vanessa waits for the flame to take hold and then uses the candle to light a few more, setting them on the shelf before taking a seat on the bench, arms folded over her stomach. The noise of the siren always makes her feel sick. It always makes her think of people crying over their loved ones.

The siren stops. The silence that follows is always more frightening than the noise itself. When you're waiting to hear the buzz of planes or worse; explosions.

After a moment, Charity comes to sit beside her. "Moonlit walks, candlelight." A nudge to her arm. "Sure you're not trying to court me?"

Panic turns Vanessa's insides to ice and it's a few seconds before she can force a laugh through her tight throat. "Don't be daft. I'm not...I'm not like that."

Charity looks at her for a long moment, her eyes hooded like a cat's. The edge of her mouth flickers and then she shrugs. "Hmmm." She leans back against the wall of the shelter. "I've been taken classier places on dates, mind you. And worse ones."

This line of conversation makes Vanessa very uncomfortable and she stands back up, moving to fiddle with one of the candles. "I thought there'd be a paraffin lamp in here at least." The siren starts up again, but this time it's the long, continuous note of the 'all clear' signal. Vanessa lets out a breath. "Oh, thank goodness."

"Bloody false alarm." Charity stands up and dusts off her skirt, heading to the door. "No chance to slip back in without Ladderbanks noticing now."

"Bugger." Vanessa hadn't considered that. Too busy worrying about being blown to bits by a German bomber. She frowns at Charity's back. "What's the hold up?"

"Door's jammed." She jerks the handle and pushes. "It won't budge."

"Don't be ridiculous." Vanessa prods Charity out of the way. "Let me see. You can't be doing it right. You've got to put your shoulder into it."

Charity lets out a laugh and steps aside, gesturing to the door. "Yeah, okay Tiny Tim, you show me how it's done, eh?"

Vanessa throws her shoulder against the door. Twice. Pain radiates down her arm, but the door doesn't move. She turns around and puts her hand on her hips. "It's jammed."

"Isn't that what I just said?"

Charity rolls her eyes and sits down, leaning back on the hard bench as if it's a chaise longue, displaying herself in the flickering candlelight. Vanessa's chest grows tight; she can't stay here all night with Charity doing that. She turns and bangs on the door.


"Nobody's going to hear you, you know." Charity pipes up from behind her. "You've dragged us out into the middle of nowhere."

"Me?" Vanessa gasps. "It was you that was blathering on about 'exploring'." She shakes her head. "They'll notice we're missing. Someone'll come looking."

"In the pitch black? Don't think so, sweetheart." Charity sighs, sitting up and hiking her skirt up her leg.

"Wh-what you doing?" Vanessa asks, pressing herself against the door as more of Charity's leg is unveiled.

Charity looks up at her and grins, pulling the skirt up further to reveal a hip flask secured in her stockings. She pulls it out and unscrews the top. "Looks like you and me are stuck here for the foreseeable, doesn't it?" She tips her head back and takes a swig, wincing and wiping her mouth, before offering it to Vanessa.

"We're on duty!" Vanessa hisses, as if someone might be listening. "We could be disciplined! Sacked!"

"Listen, Nessie, we're here until the morning at least. Nobody's going to be wandering around outside after that alarm." She shakes the flask in Vanessa's direction. "Might as well keep ourselves warm, yeah?"

"Don't call me Nessie. My Granny's called Nessie. Makes me feel ancient." She pushes away from the door and sits down on the bench, a good foot away from Charity.

"Right then, Vanessa," Charity drags out the 's' sound, making Vanessa's stomach fall like it had done that time on the big dipper in Blackpool. "Are you having a drink or not?"

Snatching the flask, Vanessa glares and takes a far bigger swig than she intends to, coughing at the burn in her throat. Charity pats her back and takes the flask from her.

"It's the good stuff." She takes another drink. "Nicked it out the bottle in Moira's office."

"What?" Vanessa looks at Charity with a mixture of horror and admiration. She'd never be brave enough to do anything like that. "She'll kill you if she finds out."

"She's not going to notice. Filled it up with cold tea. Looks exactly the same." She takes another swig.

"It won't taste the same though, will it?" Vanessa shakes her head. "She'll notice when she drinks it."

"I think it's just there for show." Charity rolls her eyes. "Remind us all how Scottish she is." She holds the flask out again for Vanessa to take. "Come on. Live a little." She gestures to the sky. "Who knows when it'll be real bombs raining down on us? Life's short these days. Might as well get a little bit of joy out of it, eh?"

She can tell Charity means to sound frivolous and carefree, but there's something around her eyes that undercuts that tone sharply. Vanessa recognises it from the mirror. Something deeper than sadness or loneliness. It's the part of herself that she covers up with bright smiles and colourful clothes. If she's upbeat and cheerful as she goes about her daily business, then people won't know that there's a hole inside of her, they won't even think to ask. That's what she hopes, at least.

Accepting the flask, she takes another drink, watching Charity's face. She wonders if Charity's sadness is prompted by the same thing as her own; by knowing she'll never be able to love as she wants to. Not freely, any road. Only ever behind closed doors, away from prying eyes. She tips her head back and gulps down more of the alcohol, ignoring the burn.

"Oi! Steady on, lady." Charity's fingers touch her hand, guiding the flask away from her mouth. "Don't want you getting completely bladdered on the offchance someone does come looking."

Vanessa huffs and wipes her mouth. "I was just looking for a bit of that joy you were talking about, that's all."

Charity sighs. "Yeah, well…tell me if you find it, eh?"

She's not sure how long they sit, passing the whisky back and forth, making idle conversation. It's much easier than she thought it might be. Usually she gets nervous around strangers. Well, that's not entirely true; she gets nervous around attractive women and talks too much in an attempt to distract herself from the fact that she thinks they're attractive. But she's finding the conversation is flowing and she's actually enjoying herself. As much as she can do when worried out of her head about what's going to happen when they get found here, that is.

"So, you courting that bloke from Hut 2?"

Vanessa frowns, her nose scrunching up. "What bloke?"

"Big lad. Gormless looking." Charity seems very interested in the outside of her flask all of a sudden. "Seen you talking to him in the canteen a couple of times."

"Who? Jimmy?" Vanessa laughs at the very thought of it. "God, no. Nicola'd kill me for a start."

"Not him." Charity rolls her eyes. "The bloke with the curly hair."

"Oh! Daz." Vanessa sits forward, leaning her elbows on her knees and clasping her hands. "No. Not…not really. I thought he might ask to take me out, but he hasn't." She sighs. "I think he's shy."

"I think he's daft."

Vanessa looks over her shoulder. Charity seems as surprised at what she'd said as Vanessa is.

"Oh, yeah?"

"He is if he thinks he's gonna get someone better than you."


"Don't get excited. I've just got eyes, that's all." Said eyes trail all the way down Vanessa's body and back up. "I'm surprised you made it out of Yorkshire single. No big strapping farmers up there trying to get a ring on your finger?"

"I never, uh, took much notice, really." Vanessa swallows, plucking at her skirt. "I was never all that bothered about lads and that, when I was younger. Me mother were always on at me about it. 'You'll never find anyone to marry you if you carry on like you do.'"

"And how did you carry on?" Charity says, sitting forward.

"Not like she expected a daughter of hers to behave." Vanessa shrugs. "I liked being outside. I liked books about animals and nature. I used to ride my bike for miles and miles." She closes her eyes, almost able to feel the wind on her face. She used to love those days, where she was far from home and away from the oppressive stare of her mother. On days like that, she felt like maybe she'd be able to escape properly, one day. Shaking her head, she offers Charity a bashful smile. "S'why I'm good with maps, I reckon. I used to plan out where I'd go if I could just...run away."

Charity smiles. "That's quite sweet, actually."

Vanessa blushes, glad of the lack of light. She shrugs. "Anyway, slim pickings at the moment, isn't it? The good ones are all away." It's her standard excuse; the one she gives to Rhona whenever she tries to point out blokes at the dances in town.

"Oh, I don't know." Charity lifts an eyebrow. "Plenty of decent folk left. Depends what you're looking for, I suppose." Again, Charity's eyes roam over her and a shiver runs through her body. Charity frowns. "You cold?"

Rubbing her biceps, Vanessa nods, even though parts of her body feel like they're on fire. The lie seems like the easier option. Charity pushes up from the bench and picks up one of the candles, moving to the back of the shelter. "There must be something around here to- ah!" The candle flickers as Charity bends to pick something up. Setting the candle down, she shakes whatever it is a few times and holds it up. It's a soldier's jacket. "Here, slip this on."

"I'll get lost in that!" Vanessa protests. She plucks at the jacket, then yanks her hand back. "What if it belongs to a dead bloke?"

Charity lowers the jacket, shaking her head. "Why would a dead bloke's jacket be in a bomb shelter in Bletchley, you daft cow? Someone's obviously nipped in here for a quick knee-trembler and then had to scarper." She holds it back up. "Look, just put it over your shoulders or summat." Vanessa turns and lets Charity slip the jacket onto her shoulders. She sniffs at it, gingerly, and then shivers again when Charity's fingers trace over the back of her neck. "Oh, hey, there's this to go with it, look." Before she can turn and see what 'this' is, a helmet is plonked onto her head. It's far too big and comes low down on her forehead, covering her eyes. This provokes a cackling laugh from her companion.

"Charity!" She shoves the helmet up, scowling.

Charity's mirth slowly fades as they stare at each other in the flickering light. She moves closer, grasping the jacket's lapels and pulling it more fully onto Vanessa's shoulders. "This is quite a good look on you."

"Give over." Vanessa tries to laugh, but it's difficult with Charity this close. The movement makes the helmet fall down again. "I look ridiculous."

"No, you don't." Charity pushes the helmet up and off her eyes. "Well, you do a bit."


"But if that jacket was a bit smaller and you had the trousers to go with it, you'd be right handsome." Charity flutters her eyelashes. "Like them heroes you see at the pictures."

"The men, you mean?" Vanessa frowns. "I...I'm not-"

"I've seen you looking at me, you know." Charity says, her tone making it sounds like they're chatting over the price of potatoes in the greengrocers. "When you think I'm not looking."

"I-...I don't-" Charity's eyes flick to hers, sharp and dangerous, and she takes a step backwards. "I just...you were new and I-"

"I didn't say I didn't like it, Vanessa." Somehow, Charity's hand has come to rest on the back of her neck, her thumb stroking along her jaw. Charity tips her head to the side and smiles. "I like it when people notice me."

"Well, you noticed me too!" Vanessa jabs a finger into Charity's chest. "You noticed I'd been talking to Daz in the canteen! And if you saw me looking at you, then you must have been looking at me!" She grins, triumphant, but it drops when Charity just shrugs.

"Proud of yourself for working that out, are you?" Charity flicks her tongue out, touching the tip of it to her upper lip for a moment. "Question is...are you brave enough to do more than look?"

Vanessa's eyes drop to Charity's lips and she's more aware than usual of how loud her breathing is. She wants to kiss Charity, that's very clear in her mind. But everything she's ever told herself about what she wants and what she can have are at war with her body and she shakes her head. "No."

Charity slips her finger under Vanessa's chin, tipping her face up and causing the helmet to slide over her eyes again. It's removed and thrown to the side and then Charity's lips are on hers. She barely has time to get used to the feeling before Charity pulls back and smiles. "Lucky I'm braver than you then, eh?"

The jacket falls off her shoulders as she reaches up to cup Charity's face, guiding her lips back to her own. Charity's hands find her hips and pull her closer. The sensation of their bodies pressed together so intimately, with all of Charity's curves fitting against hers like a jigsaw, is almost too much. Vanessa pulls away, trying to regain control.

"What's wrong?" Charity murmurs, moving with her. Vanessa turns her face away, closing her eyes when Charity nuzzles her cheek.

"This! This is wrong!" She draws her head back to see Charity. "I-isn't it?"

Charity's lips are covering her own before the words are even fully formed, warm and soft and oh, so gentle. She squeaks in protest when Charity pulls away, but she feels a smile against her mouth, followed by a whisper. "Does it feel wrong?" Vanessa shakes her head, afraid that if she speaks, Charity will realise this is all a mistake. Charity's hands slide up her back and tug her in again. "Remember what I said about life being short and finding a bit of joy wherever you can?"

"Mmhmm." Her own hands are fluttering around, touching and moving on, unsure of where to land.

"Well, looks like we found a bit, yeah?" Charity smiles. "So let's enjoy it before someone comes along and opens that door and gives us a right bollocking for abandoning our posts or summat daft."

"That's not summat daft. That's-"

"Vanessa." Charity lifts an eyebrow. "You know what they say about loose lips round here."

Vanessa frowns. "That they sink ships?"

"Exactly." Charity's eyes dip to Vanessa's mouth. "So, me stopping you yapping by giving you something else to do with your mouth is actually me doing my bit for the war effort, when you think about it."

A smile catches Vanessa unawares. "That what you'll tell Miss Woodall in the morning, is it?"

Charity wrinkles her nose. "Let's not talk about old starchy drawers right now, eh?" She grins and presses her lips to Vanessa's in a chaste kiss. "Not when we've got much more interesting things to be getting on with."

Her voice is doing some very interesting things to Vanessa and she supposes they're the kind of things she was supposed to feel when she was fumbling in bus-shelters with lads. She tilts her head. "Maybe you'd better kiss me again, then." She shrugs. "For the war, and that."

Charity grins and leans in. "Once more unto the breach, dear friends."

When their lips touch, she closes her eyes and the rest of the world begins to feel very far away. Codes and bombs and sirens be damned. The only thing that matters is this moment and this woman and this kiss.

This little bit of joy.

The End

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