DISCLAIMER: These characters are property of Southern Star Entertainment and Channel 7. No copyright infringement intended. No ownership claimed.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is an alternate Series 8, set from episode 301. It dips a little into the Beth plotline, but otherwise, it generally departs from the Series 8 timeline.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Hidden Geographies
By giantessmess

Part Three

Terri was ignoring her. That much was obvious. Work provided an outlet for the misery-wallowing she was prone to. Charlotte let herself be absorbed by all the minute and complex intricacies of Emergency Medicine.

They avoided each other, but in a different way than previously had. Charlotte felt like she was being ripped out of her skin, when they accidentally met each other's eyes. Terri's non-expression. Mostly, she saw Vincent a hell of a lot more. He seemed to have mellowed in the two weeks that passed. Two weeks, since the fight. Two weeks without being anywhere near Terri. Now everything around her seemed as rough as a shell, layers and layers crafted into a new Terri she couldn't touch.

Dinners with Vincent.

He seemed to be attempting to undo the damage.

"How are things with you and Terri?"

She shrugged, playing the same game he had with Grace.

"I don't want to talk about it with you. Just drop it. Ok?'

Not that there was anything to talk about.

Although, according to some of the gossip making it's way around the E.D, that was a different story.

Charlotte didn't know how their relationship had become common gossip fodder. It wasn't Frank. Vincent would never do such a thing. Would Terri? It did the rounds. It felt like a really stupid person. It didn't even seem to notice that Terri and Charlotte weren't even speaking to each other anymore, much less sharing a bed.

"Well, I think it's unprofessional, dating someone you work with."

It was in the middle of the ward.

Jessica Singleton could always be relied upon to have an opinion on anyone's personal life.

"How can you say that?" Dan said back, amiably. "You're dating an ambo."

"Oh please, Dan. It isn't the same thing."

"I say good for Terri. I mean, if it's even true. I'm not sure I can believe that of her."

"Well, how were we to know if she was a lesbian?" Jess interjected.

Dan turned to the paramedic, who had just finished transporting a patient in. She'd heard the conversation, but was pretending she hadn't.

"Cate. What do you think?"

Cate shrugged. When she realised she was unable to avoid replying, she sighed.

"I think it's a rumour. And even if it isn't, it's none of our business."

She walked away. Jess sighed, and rolled her eyes at Cate's back.

Von eyed her warily, before walking off.

"Drop it."

Jess pulled a face, turning back to Dan.

"And anyway, I bet I know why you're so approving. You're such a guy."

He shrugged and smiled. "What? I like the idea of two women together."

"Gross. You're disgusting, Dan."

Charlotte always made sure she walked into the area, when they were still mid-sentence. Just so she could see the horrified expression on Jess's face, when she realised Charlotte had heard it all.

"Do you have a problem Jess?"

Jess would mumble or mutter or shake her head, as if unable to remember proper motor functions.

"Good." Charlotte would say sharply. "Get back to work."

It made her feel better to have someone to be furious at, even though Jess was an easy target.

Anything to stop her hating Terri. It ripped her up inside, seeing Terri Sullivan deal with all that gossip. And for what? For her? It would have to be hard, nurses whispering 'lesbian' as she walked past with her patient charts. But Terri, as always, was full of surprises. She only glared at them, the same as Charlotte did. And basically, she told them where to go. Charlotte could only smile when she encountered these moments, before trying to quickly hide that she'd been listening.

Solitary lunchbreaks were the thing, these days. Charlotte sat on a bench outside, in the hospital grounds. A few pathetic plants and too much cement, and they have the audacity to call it a garden. For some reason, Nelson sat next to her. She tried to smile casually, at his serious expression.

"Well, I'll assume you've heard the rumours, then?"

"Everyone has."

He looked angry. It was nice to know that there were a few people up for defending Terri. Baffling though, that being thought of as a lesbian was the worst kind of insult.

"Of course, you don't believe them?" she questioned.

He huffed.

"Oh, God no. Total rubbish. I've known her for long enough."

Charlotte gave him a look, because he was staring at her in an insinuating way.

"Yes, Nelson?"

"This isn't fair to her," he glared.


"All this gossip. You know that, don't you?"

"What the hell? Well, how do you explain these rumours?" Charlotte challenged.

"I think you're in love with her, Charlotte," he said it slowly. Not unkindly. "I just wish you wouldn't, I dunno, drag her into this."

Charlotte seethed.

"Nelson. Christ. Would you lay off?" She glared. He looked so goddamn cocky.

"For your information, Terri is- " She stumbled. "Well, was."

Was what? Her lover? Partner?

"My girlfriend." She shrugged. Nelson's eyes darted to her. Not quiet believing.

She shot him a look.

"Oh, don't get all excited. It's not like we're still together. She's in a shit with me. We aren't even talking."

Nelson reacted to her shaky voice.

"Charlotte, I'm sorry." He shook his head. "You're serious?"

Charlotte rolled her eyes, and took a deep sip of her coffee.

"God," he breathed, taking it in.

"Yeah. I really screwed this one up. Last time I let a straight chick seduce me."

He let out a laugh, almost in relief.

"Well, at least now I know why she goes weird whenever we talk about you."

Charlotte looked at him.

"What? She talks about me?"

He shrugged.

"She just asks after you. Constantly. How I think you're doing. Whether or not you seem tired, or upset."

Charlotte sighed. "I'd think she'd hate me, after all this."

Charlotte allowed herself to be distracted by other people's problems. Vincent worried her. She had to leave it open during conversations, spaces and silences for him to spill it. She waited for reasons for his behaviour. The way his expression contorted, avoiding her inquiring looks. Then she made the discovery that they had the same night off.

"We're going out this week," she informed him. "Like out out."


"Nightclub out. You know, Vin. The place with all the alcohol?"

"Charlotte, please."

His protests were half-hearted. Nothing she couldn't bat away.

She thought maybe the night out would help her get Terri out of her head. Avoiding someone all day at work for three weeks or so was more tiring than actually fighting with them.

She had too high expectations. A straight bar and Vincent stewing in his misery, but trying to conceal it. Still, she tried to be optimistic. At least she was away from work. Even fighting off come-ons from guys left her amused, rather than irritated.

"I'm gay." She grinned. You'd think she'd get sick using it like a punchline.

Vincent was in a sombre mood. He seemed to have spotted someone in the bar who was making him twitchy. His expression followed their movements.

"It's Beth Chandler."

"It's who?"

No dancing. A lot of laughs he was. Half the time, he refused to even move from his seat. His hands made his drink sweat through the glass. He may as well have been sitting in a chair, at home. When the accident happened, he almost seemed relieved. He could default back to 'doctor.' Nice and professional. And safe. It was just some bar fight. Not a nice injury, though. Charlotte watched Vincent's eyes dart to a woman in the gathering crowed. She suppressed a sigh, turning her full attention to the patient, sprawled on the dance floor.

After forsaking the night off, they headed back to Vincent's place. Charlotte did a quick search of his kitchen cupboards, and liberated the most expensive-looking wine.

"We need this after tonight," she said slyly. He smiled, like the sheer act of trying to look happy was worse than a chore.

When they sat back in his living room, he told her about Beth. And suddenly she realised how desperately they'd be needing that drink. Not a short conversation.

He struggled to find the words.

"It just happened."

"So….she's what? Stalking you?"

They both had dark circles under their eyes the next morning. Work was always interesting on limited sleep.

Terri approached her, during lunchbreak. Outside. Charlotte and her new best friend, the bench. She wished she'd managed a few more hours of bed rest. Vincent's tragic life was still hurting her brain.

"Everyone knows," Terri shrugged, sitting next to her.

Charlotte managed to contain her bewildered look, before sighing.

"Yeah, I know. Bloody obvious." She risked giving Terri a mischievous look. "I think Jess and Dan even have a bet going on us."

She was surprised when Terri laughed.

They were silent for a moment. Charlotte wondered if this meant they were actually on speaking terms again, but she couldn't catch Terri's eye.

"She's coming to Sydney, you know."

Charlotte pulled a face.


"Who. Bron. Next week. New job. Different hospital, thank God."


"I thought you'd like to know. She mentioned it in her last letter."

Terri shrugged, but she didn't look at all calm. Her voice sounded hollow.


"I expect she's finally going to bite the bullet. Profess undying love for you." Terri sighed. "Or something."

Charlotte took hold of Terri's hands, she didn't care who saw her at this point. She waited for Terri to look at her.

"Did you tell her, Terri?" Terri gave her a look, so Charlotte hissed out a breath. "About us. Did you tell her?"

Terri glared. "God, and what would I say, Charlotte? I mean, what exactly is this?" She muttered. "Me, chasing after you like some idiot? You should have told me, about Bron. That you were still so bloody in love with her."

Charlotte groaned. "Christ. Not this again. I don't wanna call Bron. Can we have a conversation that doesn't involve her, for once?"

Terri stood up.

"You aren't doing a good job of denying it."

Charlotte tried to follow her. Terri shook her head.

"I'm sorry, Charlotte." Then she smiled, for some reason. "About spreading the rumours. I don't know why I did it."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"It wasn't on purpose. Initially." She shrugged. "I guess I was angry at you. I mean, it kind of slipped out. And I just sort of, decided….not to deny it."

She let out an abrupt laugh at Charlotte's expression, before looking away uncomfortably, and walking back into Emergency.

It was Bron who called her.

After a brief and clumsy conversation, Charlotte agreed to a dinner date. Date. No, god. That wasn't what it was. She tried not to think about what it meant. She tried not to think.

It felt like the same Italian restaurant she'd gone to with Vincent. She could imagine the indigestion already.

Bron was wearing a plain outfit. Self-consciously casual. She gave Charlotte a hesitant smile.

"God," she shook her head. "I can't believe you came."

She'd dyed her hair a tinge of red. It was longer. Two or so years older. But she was still Bron. Charlotte tried not to stare at her too intently. But she found herself leaning in. Bron exhaled a nervous breath, as Charlotte kissed her. The moment was short, easily dismissed as a quick nip between friends. But Bron had that glazed look, the kind of smile that Charlotte had only seen when they'd gotten drunk together.

Charlotte swallowed and looked away, kicking herself.

Well, that was brilliant.

They were led towards an out-of-the-way table.

"Good to see you," Bron managed, meeting her eyes.

And suddenly, the intimacy level plummeted. They said all the expected little phrases. How have you been? Gee, it's been a while, hasn't it? Was the flight tiring? No, I guess it isn't a very long way. All the fluff that doesn't really mean anything. It lasted through most of the meal.

Charlotte wasn't sure if she was anxious or bored.

She hesitated, letting herself look at Bron properly. For once, she was going to be confrontational.

"Terri," she paused clumsily, over the name. "She told me you left him."

Bron closed her eyes.

"Bloody Terri."

"Yeah, bloody Terri. I don't know why she kept your secret, Bron." Charlotte said, slowly. "But you must have been damn convincing."

Bron looked at her.

"Charlotte…I'm not sure what to say. I don't have a bloody clue." She laughed nervously. "God. She seemed kinda pissed at me in her last letter. What else did she tell you?"

"She said…." Charlotte sighed, not looking at her. Come on, out with it.

She'd wanted this. How many times had she imagined the possibility? She'd become an insomniac over of it. Night after night, running their conversations over and over in her head. Their dead friendship. Or undead romance. Nothing romance.

She remembered it like a movie, now. The way Bron looked so surprised, when Charlotte pushed her to the bed, kissing her neck. (And then how she'd laughed, like she finally got the joke.) The way Bron smiled, peeling her clothing off layer by layer, oddly graceful for someone who was meant to be drunk.

We were just drunk, ok?

Whatever you reckon. We should all retain our reflexes so damn well. There'd be less drunk-drivers, veering off the side of the road.

Charlotte had never stopped thinking about it. She just kept torturing herself and her stupid fucking heart.

And now it was true.

It was true. It could be true. And she couldn't believe it didn't mean the same thing anymore.

"Charlotte, are you ok?"

Charlotte took in a deep breath.

"Bron, Terri…well, she said you loved me. Or did love me. Used to love me..."

She wished she could stop herself from stumbling over the words. It was hard enough saying both of their names in the same sentence, like it was the most natural thing.

Bron's expression melted to shock.

"I'm going to kill her."

"Not before I do." She looked at her intently. "Bron-"

"Yeah, I know, Charlotte. I know-I know." Bron was shaking her head. "I'm a shitheel."

"You're not a shitheel."

"I bloody am. You don't need to be so nice about this."

"You're a noodle."

Bron looked at her, smiling pleadingly.

"Please. Shit. I'm trying to make a confession here. I mean, I was such a bloody coward."

"No you're not, you-" Charlotte hesitated, trying to keep her breathing steady.


Charlotte made herself say the words. "So Terri was telling the truth then?"

So many parts of her ached. She shouldn't have come. She shouldn't be thinking about this, and thinking about Terri, and hurting over them both. Maybe the trick was to see who hurt her the most? Or was 'love' the person who tortured you the least? Maybe Charlotte really knew nothing about anything.

Bron's eyes searched hers, she took hold of Charlotte's hands.

"Charlotte, I don't know what the hell I'm doing here. I know I've screwed you around. So much..."

Charlotte tried to steer the conversation away.

"How did you…leave him?"

Bron sighed. "Ben?" she closed her eyes.

"I mean, what did you tell him?"

Bron smiled without her eyes. Charlotte had forgotten how she did that, smiling just to smile. Even when she twisted inside, with those messy 'real' feelings. The two of them were so alike.

"First time I came out to anyone. God, I thought it would kill me. You know? I'm just glad there weren't any kids."

She tried to gage Charlotte's expression.

"Why aren't you getting angry? Throwing plates? Please, anything. Charlotte. Don't be quiet. Don't be nice."

Charlotte smiled. Her stomach buzzed, feeling Bron's eyes on her. God. The way that woman was looking at her.

"It's been over two years." She said it softly, to remind herself. To remind them both.

Bron's face fell. "I know."

Charlotte bit her lip. She hated this.

"I'm kind of….God. You wouldn't believe it." She shook her head. "I'm kind of in a complicated, well… relationship. I think I might be in love with her."

She rolled her eyes, realising it was true.

God. It was true.

"It's bloody crazy." She tried to joke. But her voice came out, sounding choked.

There wasn't a word for the way Bron looked then. Charlotte only saw it cross over her face. Something cold, not exactly angry. It slipped away, as she composed herself. Charlotte watched her squeeze her eyes shut. Then Bron nodded, leaning back in her seat. She held a hand to her face.

"Bron, I'm sorry." She sighed. "Please, I'm so sorry."

"Hey no," Bron's voice was scratchy. "I suspected as much. I mean…I went off and married. Doesn't make it seem like I'm pining after someone." She managed a smile. That empty bloody smile. Their eyes met.

Bron held her gaze.

"You're still fucking stunning. By the way."

Charlotte gasped, unable to stop herself. She swallowed.

"So are you."

They paid the bill, and Charlotte walked Bron to her car.

Bron turned to her.

"Is she…" She shook her head. "I shouldn't ask. I just hope she isn't, well-"

"Another straight girl?" Charlotte smiled, ruefully. "Yeah. She is."

Bron braved a mock-glare.

"You still think I'm straight?"

"Hardly seems a fair assumption, anymore." Charlotte sighed. "Bron. I wish…"

"No, don't."

"If you'd called. If you gave me any bloody indication."

Bron closed her eyes.

"No. It doesn't matter. I'm not doing this shit again," she took out her car keys, her hands shaking a little. "You're seeing someone."

"The straight girl."

Bron smiled, leaning against the car.

"So what's your straight girl like, then?"

Charlotte took a breath, taking in the smell of petrol fumes and car exhaust. She stared at the sky.


Bron nodded. Charlotte sighed, trying to find words that would fit Terri. She wasn't like anyone.

"She's so….unpredictable. She outed herself by spreading gossip at work. No clue why. Pretended it was these two idiot nurses. She flirts non-stop. In public. Even when we're fighting. "

"She sounds like you."

Charlotte laughed. "I guess."

Bron looked at her. "At work? You mean Emergency?" She shook her head. "Terri didn't say anything. I guess she isn't too perceptive."

Charlotte let out a laugh. Bron stared at her. Great. Now she had to say something.

"I doubt Terri's been giving you very good advice, lately. She's furious at me."

Bron shook her head. But then her lips twitched into a smile.

"Shit……and she thinks we're?…Oh shit." She looked at her. "She must bloody hate me." She laughed. "Terri's a lesbian?" She searched Charlotte's face, to make sure she was serious.

"I didn't say lesbian."

"Well, whatever-"

"You're enjoying this, aren't you Bron?"

Bron was smiling.

"Small comforts." She shook her head. "God, and I bet it took her, to make all the moves?"

Charlotte nodded.

"Typical." Bron tilted her head "How long for?"

"Only about four months."

Bron took it in. Charlotte couldn't tell if she was about to smile, or burst into tears.

"God. Terri. The entire department?" Bron seemed impressed. "Everyone. Just like that?"

"I dunno. I guess. She's barely talking to me as it is. I think she did it to piss me off."

Bron shook her head.

"Shit, I wish I was more vindictive." She stared at Charlotte, her eyes filled with something that caused Charlotte's breath to falter.

"I can't believe I'm giving you advice. For chrissake. Charlotte, just have a good think about this."

"Bron, I didn't ask for any bloody advice."

Bron sighed, running her hands through her hair. She looked tired, suddenly.

"You're a shithead."

"I'm a what?"

"Why the hell would this woman out herself just to annoy you? I'm sure you'll clue into it soon."

And with that Bron shook her head. Smiling tiredly, she got into her car.

Charlotte cornered Terri after work. She was walking out of Emergency, with her eyes downcast.

"I get the feeling you want some kind of horrible, public scene."

Then Charlotte noticed all the staff members, exiting out of the doors behind her. She hesitated. Terri took in her expression.

"No. Charlotte, I'm over this rubbish." She tried to brush past.

"You do, don't you?

"Just - look…I don't know what I want," she said, bitterly. "I had no idea what I was getting myself into."

Charlotte persisted, ignoring the feeling of dread. Public bloody scene.

"Give me a break."

Terri glared at her, her face revealing too much.

"You had dinner with her. Or you saw a movie. Or maybe it was a picnic? Terrible weather for it." She stared at Charlotte, lowering her voice to a hiss. "Is she good fuck, Charlotte? Is she better than me?"


"Go home. Just stay away from me."

Charlotte didn't know what to do with herself. Terri was actually crying, now. Her shoulders shook from the sobs.

Charlotte hesitated, then she closed the distance between them. Terri's face flooded with confusion, before Charlotte pulled her into the kiss. Brushing her hands through Terri's hair, she ran kisses down her neck. Her skin tasted like tears. Terri kissed back, pulling Charlotte close. Her grip would probably leave bruises. She always held Charlotte so tightly, like she was afraid she'd disappear right in front of her. Charlotte slowly disentangled herself; she wrapped her arms around her.

Terri didn't look like she would ever stop smiling.


She knew half the people in the car park were watching. She didn't care.

They found their way to Charlotte's house, falling into old habits, before they could stop themselves. Terri had Charlotte's top off quickly. Kissing her everywhere. Her lips were hot and forceful. Her hands grasped Charlotte's breasts. It was like their bodies had no memory of being apart. This wouldn't solve anything. Charlotte breathed, managing to pull herself away.

She began to put her bra back on.

"What are you doing?" Terri gasped.

Charlotte looked at her. "I don't want to just…use you. Don't…"

She felt Terri's hands run along her back.

"I want you…"

"You don't have to…"

Terri met her eyes. Then she sighed and slid off the couch. She reached for her jacket. Her keys. Charlotte had no idea what to do with Terri's expression.

"You and Bron…"

"Terri, I just had dinner with her." This was getting ridiculous. "You think I'd actually do something like that to you?"

"It isn't cheating, if this isn't a relationship." Terri challenged, forcing an arm into her coat, angrily. "If we're just messing around here. I mean, isn't that what you want?"

Charlotte held a hand to her face, realising how tired she was of this.

"Shit. Do you want it, Terri?"

"I missed you." Terri looked at her. Her eyes fell. "Look, I've been going crazy."

"You came out to the entire department. " Charlotte didn't trust that these words weren't somehow a lie. "I mean, you actually…you just-"

"I didn't want you forgetting about me so easily."

Terri glared at her, suddenly bold. No, she was furious. Her eyes flashed. Charlotte realised how little she understood this woman.


"I didn't want you to have a nice clean break. You were so good at hiding me."

Charlotte stood up, crossing her arms.

"Hiding? I was trying to protect you."

"Oh? From the big scary gay rumours?" Terri threw her keys down again. The violence in the action surprised Charlotte. Terri was shaking her head, like she couldn't believe the idiocy she was witnessing.

"Charlotte, do you think I'm oblivious? What, did you suppose I kept forgetting I'd fallen in love with a woman?"

The room seemed a little warmer, all of a sudden. Charlotte couldn't speak. She saw Terri close her eyes, regretting her last few words.

"Terri," Charlotte took hold of her arm, feeling the sheen of nervous sweat on Terri's skin. "Why didn't you talk to me, tell me it bothered you?"

Terri's eyes were dark, she shook her head.

"For all I know, I was a one-night stand. A mistake, and you were just keeping me around for…God, I don't know what."

She looked so vulnerable there. Her coat half-on, her voice small. Charlotte wanted to scoop her up and hold her.

This woman actually loved her.

She didn't trust her own voice anymore. When Charlotte didn't reply straight away, Terri pulled back irritably.

"Well, you obviously still have feelings for her."

Charlotte had to think for a second.

"What? Bron?"

How could she have forgotten Bron? Her eyes traced Terri's face, bewilderedly.

"You're jealous."

Terri pulled her jacket on properly. She looked away.

"I can't believe I'm making such a fool of myself." She wrapped her arms around herself, protectively. "What were you even doing with me, Charlotte?"

Charlotte wanted to hold her, so badly. Wanted to kiss her.


When she reached out, Terri brushed her away. Charlotte threw her hands up.

"Oh for fuckssake….I'm in love with you." She muttered. Then she let out a breath, marvelling at how irritated she sounded.

"Jesus, that was romantic. Sometimes you can be so idiotic."

"I am not idiotic." Terri glared. "Oh, for goodness sake, just stop acting like you're the real lesbian. I mean obviously you're sleeping with someone."

"I don't act like– what?"

"Stop acting like you're having this relationship all by yourself. It doesn't make you brave, Charlotte. Honestly, I can't – look, you aren't even looking at me."

"That's because I can't believe you just said that." Charlotte gaped. "Where the hell did this come from?"

But suddenly Terri had run out of things to say.

"Wait. You...love me?"

"Yes, I did say that," Charlotte muttered, falling back onto the couch irritably.

"I didn't…." Terri didn't seem able to form a sentence. "God."

They both gaped at each other, the awkwardness settling in on them. Until Terri laughed.

"Well, aren't we the picture domestic bliss?"

"Oh yeah. A lesbian bloody postcard."

Terri rolled her eyes, as Charlotte pulled her close, kissing her forehead. Charlotte's mouth twitched into a smile.

"I can't believe what a shithead I've been. Did you think…"

She shook her head.

"How could you think I'd just…I mean, you had no idea I actually gave a shit?"

Terri couldn't help smiling. "That's one way of putting it." Then she looked around the room curiously. "Hang on…I can't believe it. You bought new curtains? We've only been broken up for a few weeks."

"You're a good influence. Next thing you know, I'll be putting bloody lace doilies on the bedside tables."

Terri mock-glared.

"Alright, very funny. You know they're antiques. Wedding presents. I can't very well chuck them out….And actually," She tilted her head up. "I think you even gave me some of them."

Charlotte smiled, not sure if she was even meant to be smiling. She still wasn't comfortable, joking about things like this. Terri's wedding. Mitch. Her co-worker. Her rival. No, not a rival. Have some bloody respect. He was dead, after all. And she wasn't. He was the love of Terri's life. She'd just have to settle for being a love.

It was good enough, for the moment.

Terri held her face. "What are you thinking about?" She caressed her cheek. Charlotte closed her eyes, as Terri kissed her softly.

When they parted, Charlotte cupped Terri's face with her hands.

"I can't believe this is us."

Terri raised her eyebrow, slightly. "Who would've thought... Are we…an us?"

Charlotte's mouth twitched in amusement. It always surprised her, when Terri managed to sound that innocent.

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure we are."

"Please say you want to be."

Charlotte kissed her slowly. Then she tilted her head at Terri's glazed expression.

"You never thought I was the marrying type, did you?"

Terri let out a relieved little laugh, swallowing the tension that had been building in her throat.

"No. I didn't think that."

She pulled back, trailing her hand down Charlotte's arm. Charlotte wished she could know what was going through Terri's mind.

Terri just smiled, her eyes flashing amusement.

"So it's settled? We'll both stop being childish."

"Grown-ups." Charlotte felt her heart speed up. "Agreed."

Terri led her down the hallway, pausing at the bedroom door, to kiss her. They fell asleep, in Charlotte's familiar bed. Curled up together.

It wasn't always easy. Work and home. Mornings. Evenings. Dinners. Paperwork. Oh, the ingredients of life.

Terri still hadn't told her family. Her mother. Or her sister. But they didn't exactly gather around the tree at Christmas, or call each other up to swap recipes. They didn't talk.

And she wasn't sure how to initiate the revelation. Balancing stilted small-talk with, "I know it's a sin, but…"

It wasn't worth the pain it would cause her. Or Charlotte.

Still, she had to say something eventually. She would.

Sophia made up for the gap left by Terri's family. She invited them both to dinner every couple of weeks. It gave Terri a buzz, 'meeting' Charlotte's sister. Being introduced to her, all over again.

"This is Terri, my partner."

As if she was an entirely different person.

Sophia always made them stay for desert. Searching her sister's face for approval. Charlotte would mutter later, that Sophia was attempting to feed her to death, to make up for lost time.

"Buying my love with home-made deserts."

But Terri always caught her smiling, after they left.

Charlotte didn't seem to mind it.

Jack began talking to Terri again. Actual talking, not just sterile work banter. He'd even met someone new. Or said he had. Sometimes Terri wondered if he was bitter. She couldn't help it. She'd heard people mutter it, when they thought she was otherwise occupied. Terri Sullivan, turning gay rather than being with him. Is that what Jack thought? Terri wasn't about to give him or anyone else a lecture on the complexities of sexuality. She tried to drop the word 'bisexual' as much as she could into conversation. Both relishing it and feeling guilty, as she saw him fidget. But he always made the effort to ask her,

"So, how is Charlotte?"

Even though he saw her at work all too frequently. Maybe her fears were just a little dose of paranoia.

Work. It was strange. Gossip fades and resurfaces, and fades again. Just when she thought it was over, Jess or somebody would start another rumour. But they were never malicious, and everyone else seemed to get their fair share of it. Gossip is like that. It doesn't change how you feel when you fall asleep at night, next to the woman you love. Whatever details they got wrong, she wasn't lying anymore. She didn't have any secrets.

Charlotte was one of those people who could drive you crazy in one moment, and turn you into a rose-petals-and-champagne romantic the second after. Certain things stopped mattering. She could do that to you. Make you want to call in sick for work, and figure out what you were missing, before you learnt what made her gasp. Or snicker. Before you figured her out. It made Terri's head spin.

When they bickered for the fourth time or so, about something mundane. Like dishes. Or blanket-hogging, she remembered what it had been like before. Not knowing all these little facts and stories, (like why Charlotte could say 'where are my underpants?' in six languages). And all the other bits and pieces. The silly and important things, that tied them both together. Made them something different, then what they were separately.

It's funny. Sometimes, life just conspires to make you happy.

The End

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