DISCLAIMER: Not mine. I promise I'm only borrowing them and will return them to their rightful owners whenever they ask for them back. My imagination took a flight of fancy.....my bank account stayed empty. (Not mine, no profit, just some day-dreaming I wrote down - everything belongs to the BBC and Sally Wainwright).
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is gentle fluff - it has neither angst nor high drama but gently potters along and is almost certainly a little bit sugary and 'neat', but that's what this pairing triggers for me and I make no apology. It is self contained, but there will be more self contained one-shots in the same 'story canon' of 'Some Dances in Harrogate'
STORY CANON POINTS: To make things work, I've decided Kate went to Cambridge University (to compliment Caroline's Oxford University pedigree) and William is now there himself. Lawrence is about 14 and in his last year before embarking on the two year GCSE courses (UK school years 10 and 11). John is still being brattish but the divorce is progressing to plan and very much 'off screen'. I assumed (based on the references to A Level exams, that the first series ended in June/July and that therefore, this story arc starts about 8 months later.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ncruuk[at]gmail.com
Some Dances in Harrogate
"Mum?" The quiet afternoon was interrupted by Lawrence's shout from the hall.
"In here love," called Caroline, instinctively reaching out to place a gentle hand on Kate's shoulder, encouraging her to stay lying across the couch with her head in Caroline's lap.
"Mum... oh, hi Kate," said Lawrence, standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, causing Kate to tense again, thinking his awkwardness was down to her.
"Turn?" encouraged Caroline, "You're ok," she continued, prompting a quick flash of a cheeky grin as Lawrence collapsed into the armchair.
"So..." began Lawrence, consciously looking at both his mother and Kate.
"So?" prompted Caroline, wondering what he wanted to talk to them about.
"Parents' Evening," said Lawrence quickly, suddenly looking uncomfortable.
"Parents' Evening," agreed Caroline, turning and looking out of the window at the rain soaked garden, "do you want me to ask someone?" she finally asked, knowing he was well within his right to want his father there, but maybe her mother, or Alan?
"I don't want Dad..."
"Okay..." Caroline controlled her voice so hopefully he didn't pick up on her relief at that but she couldn't mask her concern and then relief from Kate who had felt Caroline tense only to then relax on hearing Lawrence's reluctance to include his Dad.
"Do you have to be there, as Miss McKenzie?" he suddenly asked, startling Kate who was still only just getting used to the verbal shorthand that seemed to exist between Caroline and her children, William in particular.
"When is it?" asked Kate, stalling for time as she sat up properly much as she appreciated Caroline's willingness and determination to be appropriately open and natural about their relationship in front of her children, she wasn't comfortable conversing with Lawrence in a horizontal position.
"This Tuesday?" Kate clarified tomorrow saw the start of parents' evening fortnight, with every evening except the two Fridays occupied for Caroline. For the rest of the teaching staff, they had the odd night off if they didn't have any teaching contact with that night's cohort.
"I'm not there as Miss McKenzie, no."
"Would you come as Kate please?" asked Lawrence, suddenly shy.
"Are you sure?" Kate didn't know what to think.
"Yes. After Mum, you're the person I want."
"Is that ok with you Caroline?" Kate was acutely conscious that the blonde at her side had stayed uncharacteristically quiet during this exchange.
"Perfect," croaked Caroline, unable to say anything else.
"Cool, thanks Mum, Kate!" and, as rapidly as their afternoon quiet had been disturbed, it returned as Lawrence headed upstairs.
"What was that about?" asked Kate eventually, wanting to get their conversation started again so that they could return to their lazy afternoon.
"What was what about?"
"The turn thing?"
"Oh before they can sit down in here in muddy clothes they like me to accept they are clean-ish."
"You're laughing at me."
"No, smiling at you."
"Smirking at me."
"Thinking you're cute."
"Cute?" Caroline's tone was indignant.
"Adorable," corrected Kate, leaning in and gently kissing her.
"Adorable you say?" asked Caroline when their kiss ended, "are you sure?"
"Yes, because I can just picture you being all headmistress-y in your own sitting room."
"You can picture me being headmistress-y? Is that a word?"
"It's a good word," confirmed Kate, echoing their conversation months earlier about the word 'wired' the day after Celia disappeared temporarily.
"Not controlling, bossy, demanding " The litany of adjectives John had thrown in her direction the last time they had met still came to hand far too easily.
"Headmistress-y," corrected Kate, smiling before leaning in to bestow another tender kiss on her wonderfully complex love who was slowly having a lifetime of hurts and wounds healed.
"I don't see the difference," said Caroline finally, trying to keep the promise she made all those months ago in the garden about actually trying to let Kate into her world in such a way that Caroline also understood it was their world, a world where they were both equals.
"This house needed a headmistress then," began Kate, picking her words carefully she never wanted to trash-talk John but, at the same time, she knew she had to try and be truthful, "it was a home for three unruly schoolboys, one of whom never grew up."
"John," acknowledged Caroline, recognising that analogy now: not only had John's behaviour during their separation and current divorce proceedings shown her exactly how immature and self-absorbed his conduct was, but Celia, with Alan's help, had also shown her through their relationship and what Celia could now explain about her relationship with Kenneth, that really, she had married a man exactly like her father.
"This family doesn't have a headmistress anymore, it has a Mum," finished Kate, wiping a tear from Caroline's face.
"I've changed, haven't I?" asked Caroline softly, recognising the truth in Kate's words.
"Changed back to the wonderful person you were growing into when you were at university."
"You've been speaking to my mother?"
"Maybe " teased Kate, glad to see some brightness coming back into Caroline's eyes.
"You do realise she doesn't know all the stories?"
"I know, but she's told me enough "
"Enough to wonder what might have happened if I'd gone to Oxford not Cambridge."
"You're younger than me!"
"Not by that much you would have been finishing your PhD."
"DPhil " teased Caroline, referring to her doctorate the way Oxford does as opposed to the Cambridge convention.
"I'd probably have been seduced by the sophisticated post-grad," continued Kate, enjoying their teasing.
"And I'd have been smitten with the exotic young beauty "
"Don't call me that!" protested Kate, not feeling remotely exotic, reaching out to place her hands gently on Caroline's hips.
"Exotic " breathed Caroline, leaning in for another kiss only to be startled when Kate started tickling her.
"Hey!" she giggled.
"Don't call me that!"
"Not fair," wheezed Caroline, finally giving up in her attempts to tickle Kate and instead made to grab Kate's hands, "you're not ticklish."
"Not there, no," qualified Kate, allowing Caroline to pull her forwards so they were lying together on the sofa.
"But you are ticklish?"
"In places, yes. And no, I'm not telling you just now," said Kate, anticipating Caroline's next question.
"Amazing," said Caroline, running her fingers through Kate's long dark hair and watching the emotions and doubts flash through Kate's eyes, "really, really amazing," she repeated eventually, before leaning in for another kiss, relishing the emotions she experienced when they were cuddling and kissing like this it wasn't without passion but it was an intimacy that wasn't sexual, kisses that communicated a shared understanding and emotional connection, kisses that were sustaining and vital in and of themselves and not a pre-cursor to sex (although those kisses were also fabulous).
"I'm still somewhat shocked," began Kate eventually, when their quiet afternoon peace had returned, admittedly now with the added counterpoint of two teenage boys' stereos making the house shake just a little.
"You don't have to do parents' evening," began Caroline.
"No, I want to," interrupted Kate, meaning it, "it took a lot for him to ask me for help it's kind of him to let me share in the praise."
"It's always been harder for him than for William," Caroline eased her fingers under Kate's shirt just enough to find the warmth of skin, helping her to keep calm and relaxed as she remembered the recent years and the juggling act between headmistress and mother.
"Because of the dyslexia?" queried Kate gently, remembering that first Scrabble game she'd played with William and Lawrence on Caroline's birthday.
"Hmm, a little, but more about me being the Headmistress," Caroline sensed Kate was about to interrupt, "sshh, I mean being the actual headmistress, not headmistress-y," she qualified before continuing, "when he was struggling, before it was clear it was dyslexia, he found it difficult to talk to me about it as his mum because he thought he was getting his teachers in trouble with the headmistress."
"That must have been upsetting to discover, how did William tell you?"
"How did you know it was William?" asked Caroline, amazed at Kate's accuracy.
"He's a sensitive boy who's growing up into a caring and responsible you man who " Kate trailed off, not wishing to go down a conversational tangent just this second.
"Who we will talk about after we've finished talking about his impressive younger brother," hedged Kate, feeling Caroline's smile and cheeky pinch to her hip.
"William told me Lawrence wasn't enjoying school but was scared to tell me in case I though he was telling me I had a bad school," explained Caroline slowly, remembering those difficult few days when she'd felt like a horrible mother whose son was too scared to talk with her.
"What did John do?" asked Kate, curious about how he'd behaved before the marriage hit the final low point with him moving out and in with Judith.
"Much the same as recently drank his way through the wine rack and characterised me as a career-driven, cold-hearted bitch."
"All of which is untrue," whispered Kate, pressing a soft kiss to Caroline's neck, which was the only bit of her in kissing range.
"Until you arrived in all our lives, it was William and me helping, but William mainly "
"Because of the job?" asked Kate, learning another complex part of Caroline's troubled juggling of her roles as mother and headmistress.
"A little, but more because it wasn't science," Caroline trailed off as she remembered the start of her teaching career, "that was my field, Chemistry was my subject."
"Is your subject," corrected Kate gently, remembering some of their conversations when Caroline had patiently and passionately explained her research, her favourite experiments to teach or just explained whatever popular science programme they bumped into on television.
"I think you're probably the only person in the staff room who even thinks I might have a subject, nevermind taught it," commented Caroline bitterly.
"Something else to talk about another time and correct," suggested Kate kindly, already with half an idea that she thought Caroline would agree with.
"I enjoyed English and Languages, was good at them but Science and Chemistry specifically? That fascinates me and so, when Lawrence was struggling, I tried, I really tried but "
"But you were his Mum and a Chemistry teacher, not an English teacher, " or his Dad, observed Kate, but she kept that to herself, understanding what Caroline would have found it difficult to help Lawrence but also understanding why it had been hard for Caroline to understand and accept, especially with John's unsupportive comments.
"Sounds silly now, doesn't it?" asked Caroline, recognising how obvious the issue really was not everyone can teach or explain everything, nor was it a realistic expectation for something just because they were called 'Mum'.
"Totally understandable, and it all worked alright, didn't it?"
"Better than alright, as you'll find out at parents' evening."
"Oh god, I'm going to parents' evening!" Kate felt her heart start to race and her stomach twist as she realised what she'd volunteered to do.
"Sshh " soothed Caroline, feeling Kate's body tense in her arms.
"Are you going to be ok?" asked Kate suddenly, surprising Caroline.
"Me? Why wouldn't I be?"
"It's quite a statement," started Kate, easing herself up into a sitting position, causing Caroline to frown, "I want to be able to see you," she explained, stroking Caroline's cheek in a reassuring gesture.
"The staff room and the Governors both know about us," said Caroline, trying to understand why Kate was calling it a 'statement'.
"You really are ok with this?" repeated Kate, in awe of how calm Caroline was.
"Yes I was more nervous about what would have happened if he hadn't wanted you," admitted Caroline, uncomfortable about bringing John up, only too conscious he was her baggage to deal with, not Kate's.
"Huh?" Confused, Caroline waited for Kate to clarify.
"Stop thinking John's only your burden to carry. We're in a relationship, with each other, and that means we both share the good bits and the less fun bits."
"No buts you come with me to see my father, I help your son with his homework, we have Sunday Lunch with Alan and Celia, you rub my feet whilst I'm doing my marking, we both have a pint with Gillian, we both wish William would call you more often and we both share the irritation that John's behaviour generates."
"You don't rub my feet," teases Caroline, the only comment she can think to make that won't make her burst into full on tears in response to Kate's little speech.
"Because it's a self-inflicted pain, and because you always want a neck rub," teased Kate, happy to revisit the old argument for a lazy Sunday afternoon, this was become quite intense one way or another.
"But they're fabulous shoes, you always," Caroline pauses, not sure whether she's bold enough to continue.
"Ogle your legs? Naturally, because they make you look glorious."
"Glorious?" It wasn't the word Caroline was expecting.
"You have no idea how sexy you look, striding around school in them."
"Really why do you think I stopped going to Assembly?" asked Kate, blushing slightly as she realised her mouth had slightly run away from her.
"I thought it was because you didn't have a form to supervise, wait, you used to go before, when you didn't have a form."
"Uh huh, I stopped?"
"Two days after your mother asked me to play the organ at their wedding." Kate was certain she was blushing bright red now.
"Two days after " Caroline paused as she remembered that evening, when her mother had gone and apologised to Kate and then brought her round, the night the boys had both gone and stayed with friends, the night they'd had the house to themselves " why two days after?"
"Because the next day I went to assembly and was so distracted I almost forgot my lesson."
"You have a thing for my legs when I'm wearing my heels?"
"Aren't you going to applaud me for realising standing like a love-struck teenager in Assembly drooling over you wasn't a professional thing to do?" countered Kate, her face flaming.
"I probably should," pondered Caroline, stretching her nylon clad leg out in front of them, attracting Kate's attention.
"Minx!" teased Kate quietly, her earlier stress about going to Lawrence's parents' evening temporarily dissipated.
"Uh huh, what are you going to do about it?" queried Caroline, leaning in towards Kate, intent on kissing her.
"Oh no you don't," countered Kate quickly, leaning back so her lips were just out of Caroline's reach.
"Huh? Don't what?"
"Kiss me, like that!"
"Oh?" Caroline looked crestfallen.
"Because it's half past three on a Sunday afternoon, your sons are upstairs, William's train is in a couple of hours and I still have 8G and 10J's marking to do, not to mention you've got half a briefcase of work to review still."
"So if you kiss me like that now, I'll end up taking my marking home after dinner."
"Stay the night?" asked Caroline hopefully, understanding Kate's reasoning and acknowledging the pragmatism they shouldn't really retreat to her bedroom now, especially if it was going to mean enforced separation later in order to prepare for the week.
"Love to," agreed Kate, confident enough in their relationship now not to start asking if the boys would mind they'd made it incredible clear on more than one occasion that they really didn't, although both ladies were adamant that quiet, romantic love-making was more fitting than loud, passionate sex that was what Kate's house was for.
"I'm glad it's you going to his parents' evening," repeated Caroline, threading their hands together.
"Rather than John?"
"Rather than anyone, other than me," admitted Caroline honestly.
"You know everyone will be by your office during Tuesday to tell you what they're going to say anyway," pointed out Kate, understanding that Caroline's fears lay as much in people's perceptions of her as a Mother as much as anything else.
"And he will tell me everything, even the bad stuff they've always both been very good at that," agreed Caroline.
"But it's not the same, I understand that."
"I know you do. Are you really going to be alright though?" asked Caroline, almost awestruck at the compassion and caring Kate had for the boys as well as Caroline who knew she wasn't always easy to be with.
"I think so it's not like the staff don't know, and some of the parents have seen us at his sports matches, but I'm sure I'll panic some more nearer the time."
"How is it now, in the staff room?" Caroline's intended caring earned her a quizzical look, prompting her to rethink how to phrase her question. "As your girlfriend," Caroline punctuated her opening rephrasing with a soft, chaste kiss to Kate's lips, "who gets to retreat to an office when not striking fear and dread into everyone who meets her," she deliberately exaggerated, knowing Kate would start to protest, giving her an excuse to cut her off with another kiss, "I'm curious to know how work is for you and whether you're having any issues with your colleagues, especially as I have no idea how bitchy this current crop of teachers really is."
"Doesn't Beverley tell you the gossip?" asked Kate, referring to Caroline's efficient but sometimes intrusive secretary.
"No, but then she never really has."
"It's ok, better after " Kate paused, wondering what to tell Caroline, but deciding to focus on telling her girlfriend, not her Boss' Boss, " after William spoke to them."
"William? My son William?" Caroline was speechless.
"Apparently, he went and saw Gavin, before he went off to Oxford and asked him to call all the staff together, only ones to miss it were us two."
"What did he say?" asked Caroline, amazed at her son's bravery, only to jump slightly when said son started to speak from the doorway.
"I asked them to be as fair to Lawrence as they'd always been to me and to therefore also be fair to you and not gossip or snipe about your relationship. Lawrence was always going to have someone teasing him about the divorce and his mum having a girlfriend I wanted the staff to realise it would only be worse if they were fuelling the fire by gossiping about the Headmistress."
"What happened next?"
"Michael Dobson shot his mouth off apparently," volunteered Kate, curious about how long William had been standing in the doorway.
"So I asked him if he'd got anywhere when he'd tried to blackmail you Mum, especially since he was Kate's friend. Mrs Aspinal was furious."
"Does that explain why I was one Geography teacher short last term?"
"Probably," retorted William, earning him a wry smile from his mother and a chuckle from Kate.
"What else did you say?"
"I asked Mrs Robertshaw what she thought."
"Smart move she rules that staff room the same way she rules the library," concluded Caroline, not sure if she should laugh or cry at her son's bravery and tactical nous at involving the iron-fisted elderly librarian in the issue.
"She asked me if Kate visited," as his mother started to pull a face he held up a hand to forestall her interruption, "and asked if Lawrence liked her, and asked if I was worried about anything now I was going off to Oxford."
"What did you say?"
"Yes, yes, yes, but it had nothing to do with Kate as long as Kate was with Mum and Mum was happy." William looked apologetically at Kate, "I sort of assumed you'd let Mum know if you weren't happy."
"I will," agreed Kate quietly with half a smile, remembering that cold early summer's day when she'd done exactly that in the garden sitting on the bench with Caroline whilst John looked on.
"What did Mrs Robertshaw say?" asked Caroline, now convinced she'd start crying any moment.
"What she really thought about Dad, which wasn't much and that she thought Kate was lovely and that, if I was happy to leave home and go to University more concerned about Kate leaving than staying then everything was fine by her and the staff should get on with their own miserable lives."
"God I love that woman!"
"In a crotchety aunt sort of way," qualified Caroline, enjoying the mock indignation from Kate and smirk from her son.
"You're forgiven," teased Kate before she stood and went over to William, "thank you. You didn't need to have done that, but you are a remarkable man for doing so," and, conscious that she was making the shy young man nervous, she quickly hugged him and muttered 'thank you' again before continuing to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and give Caroline a mother-son moment, "I'll put the kettle on."
"Did it work?" asked William nervously, slightly surprised it had taken this long for his intervention to come to his mother's attention.
"Yes, it sounds like it did certainly Lawrence hasn't said anything about being teased or bullied and Kate and I keep a close eye on him."
"Are you mad?"
"No proud, amazed," Caroline wasn't sure what words to use. She wasn't sure she was that brave as a headmistress, nevermind as an 18 year old.
"I didn't mean to eavesdrop I came looking for you both and heard and, well, it wasn't really Kate's story to tell."
"Everything ok?" asked Caroline, suddenly afraid for what he might have to tell her did he hate Oxford?
"Yeah, great. You mind if we wait for Kate? It's sort of news for her as well as you."
"Sure, but let's go find her," suggested Caroline, correctly guessing Kate's absence was primarily motivated by a wish to give Caroline a moment with William rather than an actual thirst for tea.
"I'm in the College Choir," was all William said, prompting a broad grin from Kate who had encouraged him to audition in the first place.
"That's brilliant, well done William." Unsure what else to say, Kate waited for Caroline's reaction, which was a crushing, congratulatory hug for her son.
"Umm, there's a Palm Sunday service at the end of term, I'm going to sing a solo, it's the weekend Lawrence is away on his rugby trip, so, well, would you both come?"
"To Oxford, for the weekend?" asked Caroline, blinking in amazement at her son's behaviour, again.
"Both of us?" asked Kate, her thoughts echoing Caroline's William was a truly remarkable young man.
"We'd love to," replied Caroline and Kate simultaneously, causing William to grin.
"Great. I'll go pack, my train's in an hour." And with that, he left the two stunned women as abruptly as he'd joined them.
"Did he just, I mean, are we?" stuttered Caroline, reaching for Kate.
"Did your son, who kicked our bitchy, gossipy colleagues into line, just invite us to have a weekend away together, to see him sing his first solo? Yes," summarised Kate, equally stunned by his generosity. It would have been much easier and completely understandable if he'd only wanted his mother to go.
"Darling, darling boy " said Caroline, running her fingers across Kate's, in awe of her willingness to have a relationship with her boys.
"Takes after his mother," was all Kate could think to say before she leaned into kiss Caroline gently, tea forgotten.
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