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I promise I'm worthy (to hold in your arms)
Vanessa scrubs at her face, trying to get rid of the thick make-up she'd needed to hide behind. Bile rises in her throat as flashes of the evening come back to her. Poor Daz's face as she'd burst out crying and left him in the van, mumbling apologies as she slammed the door closed and ran home. She can still taste the beer from his kisses and hurriedly squeezes some toothpaste onto her toothbrush and brushes her teeth. Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she pauses; she looks a right state.
She finishes up in the bathroom and gets into her favourite fluffy jammy bottoms and a big hoodie that's probably Kirin's. She's about to crawl into bed and try to forget that this day ever happened when the doorbell rings. She considers ignoring it, but ends up trudging down the stairs in case it's a work thing. She opens the door to find Charity standing on her doorstep. Just when she thought the day couldn't get any worse.
"What do you want?" Her voice is flat.
Charity's eyes meet her own, and there's a surprising lack of challenge in them. "Can I come in?"
"Why? D'you wanna use the phone? Maybe there's some folk in Hotten that didn't hear your little announcement earlier."
"Look, I've come to apologise, okay?" Charity looks at her feet, crossing her arms over her chest. "I...I shouldn't have done what I did."
This is unexpected. Wordlessly, Vanessa stands to the side and lets Charity into the house. Once the door is closed, they end up leaning against opposite walls in the hallway, watching each other.
"I thought you were here to apologise?" Vanessa finally says, since it seems Charity's not planning to say anything.
"Uh, I did apologise." Charity seems genuinely confused.
"Just now. At the door."
"No. You said you'd come to apologise. That's not the same as actually apologising."
"God you're picky, aren't you?" With a deep sigh and a roll of her eyes, Charity continues. "I'm sorry for telling everyone you were gay. That wasn't my place and I shouldn't have done it. Okay?"
"Why did you, then?" Vanessa shifts, still uncomfortable with that label. "Not that I-." She swallows. "Not that I am... gay ."
"Bi, then, whatever," Charity says, shrugging as if she doesn't realise that these words she's so carelessly applying to Vanessa cut her to the core. That she's spent most of her life avoiding them being thrown her way.
"Look, darlin', you're not straight, alright? And the sooner you stop denying it, the sooner you'll feel a whole lot better about yourself." Charity points at herself. "You don't see me running around having a crisis about sleeping with you. We had sex. It was fun. That's all it has to be."
Vanessa ignores the part of her that's pleased that Charity had fun. And the part of her that's disappointed that that's all she thinks it was. "You didn't answer my question. Why did you tell everyone we'd slept together?"
"Because I didn't li-" Charity presses her lips together and shakes her head, and Vanessa desperately wants her to finish that sentence. The next one is, unfortunately, more considered. "Because you were putting on an act with Daz. A big, cringeworthy act. Mostly for my benefit, I suppose. And you shouldn't have to do that."
"How do you know it was an act?" That's a stupid question. It was clearly an act.
"Uh, you went to vet school, babe, not RADA." Charity lets out a short laugh. "I think the only one who couldn't see it was an act was your-" She makes air quotes with her fingers. "- date . And even he's not that stupid, so he must've been blinded by wishful thinking."
Vanessa turns away, blinking back tears. She made a fool of herself in front of the whole village to prove something to herself that deep down she knows isn't true. She's such an idiot. She hardly registers the two footsteps it takes for Charity to be standing in front of her. A gentle finger on her chin turns her face back and she can feel herself blushing at the tears that have escaped. She quickly wipes at them with her sleeve and sniffs.
"Hey." Charity's voice is soft; softer than she's ever heard it. She chances a look up into her eyes and sees genuine compassion there. "C'mon now. That bloke is not worth your tears."
"I'm not crying over him." The protest is quick to leave her mouth and she can't get it back.
"What you crying over, then?"
Charity's thumb is now tracing up and down her jaw and it's really, really distracting. Vanessa lets out an unsteady breath and shakes her head. She can't say the words. Not here, not to Charity. It's one thing to talk about it with Rhona, but quite another to admit it to Charity.
"Shall I guess?" Charity dips her head to catch Vanessa's eye. "Is it because...with me, you didn't have to put on an act?" Vanessa looks away again, but Charity's firm hand on her cheek brings her back, forcing her to make eye contact. "Is it because it felt good to be with me?" Vanessa remains silent, though she can feel her body start to tremble as Charity leans in, her nose brushing against Vanessa's. "Is it because you're scared to admit that you liked being with me? Because there really is no denying it, babe. I was there. No acting required."
Vanessa can barely think with Charity's warm breath caressing her lips. "That's...I...I don't know "
"But, you said you didn't want to do this anymore..." Charity continues, rubbing her nose against Vanessa's cheek before starting to pull away. "so I should probably g-"
Vanessa yanks her back in by the lapel of her jacket and crashes their lips together. She's gratified to hear the squeak of surprise that Charity lets out, but quickly gets lost in the kiss. It's not like their previous kisses. This one is hard, and demanding, and Vanessa's in charge of it. She turns, pulling Charity with her and slams her against the wall, deepening the kiss. When she finally pulls away, Charity looks dazed. Vanessa finds herself a little breathless and she leans her forehead against Charity's to allow both of them to recover.
"I hate that it's all so easy with you," Vanessa whispers, her eyes still closed.
"I'll try not to be insulted by that."
Vanessa lifts her head, biting her lip. "No...but, really. I hate that I want this...want you . It's ridiculous. Right? And we need to stop doing it. Right?"
Charity frowns. "I think you'll find you kissed me this time, sunshine."
"I know! You were just...so...and I just " A noise of frustration escapes from her throat. She wonders why Charity hasn't pulled away from her. She's not being exactly complimentary right now. She takes a chance. "What do you want out of this? Really? What are you getting out of it?"
"Yeah, still trying not to be insulted." Her voice is light, but Vanessa doesn't miss that her smile is half-hearted, her eyes dim, and she realises that she's not kidding. Charity is actually insulted by the insinuation. "Maybe I just wanna kiss you?"
Vanessa lifts a hand to Charity's cheek, her heart speeding up when Charity leans into her touch. "But...why?"
"Why not?" Charity sighs. "Look, if it makes you feel any better, it's got nothing to do with your dad, right? No matter what he thinks. He's not even on my radar."
"Good," Vanessa nods, her fingertips exploring Charity's cheek, enjoying the sensation of soft, stubble-free skin. She leans in and brings their lips together in a gentle kiss. Charity's hands go to her hips before sliding around to her back and pulling her closer.
"Jesus, you are a really good kisser," Charity mutters when the kiss ends.
"So you keep saying." Vanessa steals another tiny kiss. And another. Then a longer kiss that has her pressing the length of her body against Charity's. Charity's hands begin a slow descent and end up on her backside, squeezing lightly. Her body is already thrumming with arousal and this new touch sends it into overdrive. She turns her face away from Charity's lips. "Wait. Wait."
"What? Wait? Why?" Charity is clearly confused by this turn of events.
"We can't just end every single conversation we have by having a snog and a shag."
"Why not? Sounds alright to me." Charity winks and squeezes her arse again for emphasis.
"Because it's not achieving anything, is it?" Vanessa sighs, placing her hands on either side of Charity's face so that she can't lean in and distract her with more kissing. "It's not...it doesn't help to make things any clearer if we just keep falling into bed with each other."
Charity raises her eyebrows. "I think it makes it perfectly clear that you want to fall into bed with me. Which pretty much does away with your 'I'm not gay' notion from earlier. So I'd say we've achieved a fair bit in your little journey of self-discovery, wouldn't you?"
"So, wanting to sleep with you means I'm off men completely, does it?"
"Babe, I don't give a monkey's if you like men or not. Pick one set of privates or stick with both. Bisexual, trisexual, pansexual, any new sexuals they've come up with recently. Doesn't bother me."
"So it wouldn't bother you if I told you I slept with Daz earlier tonight?"
Charity's forehead scrunches up and Vanessa swears she sees hurt flash across her face. "You're kidding, right?" She turns her face out of Vanessa's grip and pushes her away by the hips. "You never."
"What if I did? What difference would it make?" Vanessa's not sure why she's picking at this scab. "It's just sex, right? A bit of fun. Isn't that what you said?"
Charity's smile is slow and predatory. "Oh. So that's what's bothering you."
"Nothing's bothering me." Vanessa folds her arms, cursing the burning sensation in her eyes. "Of course all you're after is a quick shag and the occasional fumble in the cellar."
Charity presses her lips together, like she's trying not to laugh. "You're welcome to fumble in my cellar as occasionally as you like, cupcake."
"Yeah, go on, laugh at me." Her voice quivers far too much. "Whatever. Just go. Get out."
"Jesus Christ, where is this coming from?" Charity moves back to stand in front of her, hands on her hips. "One minute you're all 'I'm not gay! I like men!' and the next you...what? Want to date me? Want to make googly eyes at me across the bar in The Woolpack? Sit in the back row at the pictures and hold hands?"
"What if I did?" Her heart is properly racing now. She's not even sure where this is coming from, but the answer feels pretty important. "What if I...what if I asked you out on a date? Would you still be happy to accompany me on my 'journey of self-discovery'?" Her eyes are blazing into Charity's. She wants to look away, but she can't. Charity, for her part, doesn't break the eye contact and actually seems to be considering Vanessa's question.
"I suppose that depends, doesn't it?" Charity says.
"On what?" Vanessa's starting to feel sick, because she doesn't know how she'll react to any answer she gets.
"On where you're planning to take me." A dark eyebrow creeps up Charity's forehead.
"I...hadn't thought that far ahead," Vanessa confesses, her mouth going completely dry. She just asked a woman on a date. She just asked Charity Dingle on a date.
"Maybe you should have a think, then. Have a really good long think." Charity nods her head until Vanessa nods with her. "And when you've thought long and hard about what you just asked me means, come and ask me again, alright?"
"O-okay," Vanessa stutters, surprised by the response. She'd expected an immediate rejection.
Charity looks at her for a long moment, worrying her lower lip between her teeth. "Did you really sleep with Daz tonight?"
She briefly considers keeping up the ruse, but she shakes her head. "No. I was going to...well, I tried to. Kind of." She clenches her eyes shut and her cheeks flush with embarrassment. "But I...I just couldn't. Poor sod. I left him there all...ummm-"
"Oh, you didn't!" Charity's laugh makes her open her eyes. "You blue-balled him?"
"I didn't mean to! I just " She wrinkles her nose. "I couldn't."
"Well, as I already told you," Charity says, moving closer. "I think you can do better."
"And you're better, are you?"
"Well, you didn't jump out of my bed." She tilts her head. "Not until the morning after, anyway."
"Nah, you're fine," Charity says, with a dismissive wave. "Now that I've heard what happened to Daz, I'm pretty flattered you stayed the whole night."
"Oh, don't!" Vanessa slaps her arm, lightly, but can't help joining in with her laughter. "I feel bad enough as it is!"
Their laughter peters out and they're left in vaguely comfortable silence. Charity puts her hands in her pockets and raises her eyebrows. "Well then. I should probably leave you to all this thinking you've got to do, eh?"
She should probably agree. No, she should definitely agree. And yet, she finds herself reaching for Charity's arm to stop her from heading towards the door. Charity turns to face her fully, a knowing smile on her lips.
"Or," Vanessa says, drawing the word out. "You could stay and I could start thinking in the morning?"
"Yeah?" Charity asks. "You sure? Harder to run out and leave somebody when it's your own house."
"Shut up, you," Vanessa says, and then she shuts her up by covering her lips with her own.
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