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'.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ncruuk[at]gmail.com
Some Dances in Harrogate
There were, knew Caroline after a fair few tearful nights wrestling with these truths, a number of things she would do differently were she ever to find herself abandoned by the father of her children again. Some of them, like not filing for divorce immediately, or kicking him out of the house permanently rather than permitting him access to the spare bedroom for a couple of months, were major decisions the consequences of which were, she now knew, in the grand scheme of things, largely irrelevant now, more than a year after his affair with Judith had begun. Some however, were smaller, less weighty decisions, decisions she'd taken on a whim, but decisions that had consequences, and it was these consequences that she had to live with on a daily basis that caused her frustration and early morning hypothetical debates with herself.
"Come back to bed " mumbled Kate, only moving enough to open her eyes and spot Caroline standing by the closed bedroom door, two mugs of tea in her hands.
"Didn't know you were awake."
"Wasn't really, until the door closed and you still weren't here," said Kate, her voice muffled by the pillow she was snuggled into a poor substitute for her absent girlfriend.
"Sorry " Caroline was clearly still distracted by something as she put both mugs of tea down on the bedside table.
"What's the matter?" asked Kate as, sensing Caroline was mulling on something, she rolled onto her side so it was easier to talk to her, automatically pulling the bedclothes up from her waist, significantly reducing the amount of her on display, much to Caroline's disappointment.
"You've ruined the view," she pouted, even as she was stepping out of the random t-shirt and pyjama bottoms she'd pulled on in order to go make their tea, referencing the fact she could no longer admire Kate's long naked back which, bathed in the spring sunshine streaming through the curtains, had contrasted so invitingly with the cream bedclothes.
"You're improving the view." Kate shamelessly ogled Caroline's naked body, a body Caroline had initially been nervous of revealing to the younger Kate out of fear for the reaction from her younger, fitter, less middle-aged girlfriend. Now, almost a year since their first tentative acquainting touches and caresses, whilst Caroline still wasn't particularly confident in her own body's appearance without the benefit and assistance of clothes, she was now confident in Kate's reaction which, when she really thought about it, was all that mattered. "You are coming back to bed?" checked Kate, wondering why Caroline was stood by the bed.
"Trying to," confirmed Caroline, eying the bed next to Kate with distaste.
"Why? Oh!" Spotting the problem, Kate flicked back the bedclothes to reveal the Elliot family cat which had, once again, taken advantage of Caroline's visit to the kitchen for their tea and curled up under the bedclothes exactly where Caroline now wanted to lie. Sliding her hand under the snoozing cat, Kate easily lifted her up and, rolling over, smoothly deposited the surprised feline in a patch of sunlit floor by the side of the bed, well away from Caroline was taking the opportunity to reclaim 'her' rightful spot in bed with Kate.
"Comfy?" asked Kate eventually when, after a fair bit of pillow shaking and bedclothes wrestling, Kate was lying on her back with Caroline, her head propped up with one hand, lying alongside Kate.
"Mmm, for the moment," agreed Caroline, leaning forwards so she could reach Kate's lips and share a long, lazy kiss.
"Good morning," said Kate eventually when their kiss came to a natural conclusion.
"Hello." Caroline leaned across again and initiated another leisurely kiss, her free hand drawing abstract patterns along Kate's collarbone before reluctantly, she had to end the kiss and let her head fall onto the pillow they were now sharing, her arm unable to comfortably support her head any longer.
"Fancy seeing you here," teased Kate, turning onto her side so it was easier to maintain eye contact.
"Thought I'd stop by " joked Caroline, shifting so they were lying in a familiar position with their legs entwined, arms resting loosely on each other's waists above the covers.
"Mmm " It was Kate's turn to initiate the languid kiss that was all about love and connecting with each other just as they were in the moment now, rather than as an initiation for something more passionate, " come here often?" quipped Kate automatically, only to start to giggle when she realised quite how daft it was, asking that question of Caroline given it was her bed they were currently lying in.
"What?" Caroline hadn't spotted the joke yet.
"Come here often " repeated Kate, getting her giggles under control.
"Is very cheesy, and slightly rude," agreed Caroline, still not seeing what was making Kate so amused, though she hadn't had her first cup of tea yet, which wasn't going to help her ability to participate in witty banter.
"It's your bed," explained Kate, knowing the humour wasn't going to survive the explanation.
"Caroline " Caroline's non-response sobered Kate immediately, "everything okay? Are the boys? Your mother?" Suddenly the delay in coming back to bed and Caroline's slight distraction made a certain type of sense to Kate.
"What? Yes, they're fine " It took Caroline a minute to work out why Kate had been jumping to all those various conclusions before she realised why, " I was thinking about the cat, well, the divorce too, but mainly the cat."
Kate was totally lost but, at the mention of the divorce, she decided she really needed to finish this conversation in short order, possibly with the benefit of a cup of tea, so, with a quick kiss to Caroline's nose she suggested, "shall we have the tea while it's hot?" before they both started repositioning themselves until, sat up against the headboard, mugs of tea in hand, Kate asked, "the cat?"
"Mmm, the divorce really, but yes, the cat."
"Caroline." Kate was going to need a more detailed explanation.
"I was jealous of the cat, am jealous of the cat," she admitted quietly, relieved she could focus on her mug of tea and avoid Kate's curious gaze.
"Because every time I leave the room, by the time I've come back, she's in my spot next to you, whether it's the bed or the couch." She knew she sounded petulant and childish but didn't care.
"And every time I move her," said Kate, not seeing the major problem.
"If you're awake," grumbled Caroline, taking a sip of her tea.
"I think," said Kate reasonably, trying desperately not to inflame the situation by either laughing at or suggesting to Caroline how cute she was being right now, "that I'm missing the major part of this story?"
"When Lawrence was old enough to go to nursery school, John got a kitten because he I don't know was angry with me for not wanting to stay barefoot and pregnant for ever? Maybe because the house was too quiet " Kate blinked, not quite expecting the explanation to start that far back or for it to reveal that it was John who had been pressuring Caroline for children, " but we had a cat, which didn't particularly like me and I certainly didn't like it, something which amused John no end. Anyway, it got older and sick with something, I don't know what " Caroline paused as she tried to remember what some of the details were but couldn't, " and I thought that was the end of cats, and it was, until John came home with another kitten, some story about his researcher's cat having an unexpected litter."
"You didn't believe him?"
"I did at the time but now? I wonder if he wasn't just being deliberately annoying. I'd just been appointed Headmistress at school and he'd not got some extra funding or something there was shouting " Caroline trailed off as she remembered that awkward term and a half when they'd been preparing to move from Leeds, where her last school had been, to Harrogate. The move hadn't affected John in any way, with York (where his lectureship was) just as accessible to Harrogate as it had been from Leeds.
"And you still don't like cats?" asked Kate finally, pulling Caroline back to the present.
"Nope, and that cat hates me," confirmed Caroline, absentmindedly rubbing a scar on her arm from one of her earliest battles with this latest cat.
"Okay, so next time the cat's in the way and I'm asleep, come around this side of the bed and either wake me up or just get in," suggested Kate easily, understanding now why extracting a contented car from the warm bedclothes wasn't something that was ever high on Caroline's to do list.
"You think I'm crazy."
"No, sensible: took my sister six trips to Casualty to understand that the cat just didn't want to play with her, ever."
"Six trips but " Caroline had only met Kate's sister once, but she'd seemed intelligent and sensible enough.
"She was four."
"Ah." Satisfied, Caroline sipped her cooling tea, trying to imagine what Kate must have looked like at that age.
"Stop trying to picture me as a four year old."
"Because it's weird, and you know my mother will send you pictures if you ask." Kate had long ago resigned herself to the fact that she could have no childhood secrets from Caroline as her mother was only too eager to share them all, with photographs where possible, now she'd got past the shock that Kate wasn't ever going to find herself a 'nice Nigerian gentleman' to settle down with.
"True, but I try not to ask," said Caroline, knowing how much she hated it when Celia got the baby pictures out.
"Why does the cat sleep in your bed then?" Kate was puzzled if Caroline and the cat had issues, it didn't make sense, unless, "did it, when John was " Kate couldn't bring herself to finish that statement.
"God no! And before you ask, that bed's in the spare room now has been since before my birthday," said Caroline, not recalling ever mentioning her little furniture rearrangement.
"I know William mentioned it once."
"He did? Why?" Not that she minded, after all, he had helped her move the beds around but how on earth had it come up in conversation?
"He mentioned it when, in a roundabout way a few months ago, he wanted to tell me that the divorce had nothing to do with me and that you'd already decided you were no longer in the marriage long before you actually said anything, all because you'd changed the beds around. He did wonder why you didn't just buy a new mattress," recalled Kate, smiling at the memory.
"That's something else I'd have done differently," muttered Caroline, putting her now empty tea mug on the bedside table.
"I don't follow."
"Earlier, the cat made me realise wondering if I'd got the big decisions right, about the divorce and so on, wondering whether I could have done things differently so that it might have been, I don't know, quicker or easier or calmer " Caroline turned so she could now look at Kate who, clearly confused as to what had triggered this introspection early on a Sunday morning, was at least listening calmly, not inferring from either Caroline's words or body language that this musing had a detrimental impact on their relationship, " and I realised it wouldn't and I should stop wasting my thoughts. The divorce was always going to be exactly how it is, and wondering what else might have been is pointless."
"You worked all that out from the cat?" Kate's question caused Caroline to laugh.
"No, the cat made me realise I'd been reliving the wrong decisions, and it was the little ones that were actually causing me problems, and no, you were never a little decision."
"I think I'll take that as a compliment," joked Kate, finished with her tea mug and so putting it on the floor, "I still don't understand what this has to do with the cat."
"One morning after John had buggered off to Judith's, I got up to make some tea and left the bedroom door open. When I came back, the cat had taken up residence."
"And you didn't stop her."
"No I started talking to her and it's not like I ever anticipated using both sides of the bed again." Caroline trailed off, not really sure what else to say, conscious it all sounded a bit silly now.
"A little decision," said Kate, shuffling back down the bed so she was once more lying down.
"That I'd take differently knowing what I know now."
"And the bed?" Kate was curious.
"I wouldn't swap it with the spare room one," said Caroline resolutely, copying Kate and moving down and across the bed so she was once more lying close to Kate.
"No?" Kate had given up trying to predict what Caroline was going to say next.
"No I'd get a new, more comfortable one delivered " mumbled Caroline, started to become more interested in her naked girlfriend in said bed than the bed itself.
"Caroline?" Kate's voice was husky as Caroline's lips and fingers began to distract her.
"Want to go bed shopping later?"
"Shops don't open for hours " breathed Caroline as she slipped her leg over Kate's hip and began trailing kisses along Kate's collar bones.
"Oh good " and, conversation and cat forgotten, they resumed their indulgent lie-in, happy to postpone all decisions large or small for another couple of hours or so .
"Mmm, almost," confirmed Caroline, shifting across the bed slightly. It was, intellectually she knew, not possible for one brand new pocket spring to be any more or less comfortable than another, but her back wasn't convinced.
"Take your time," teased Kate, having a pretty good idea what position Caroline was going to end up in.
"Hello." Caroline was finally still.
"I'm comfortable now."
"Yes." Smiling, Kate gently eased her arm across the bed a little so that she stood a chance of still having feeling in her hand in the morning.
"You're laughing at me."
"How am I laughing at you?" asked Kate, immediately schooling her features so the amused grin was replaced with a more serious expression.
"Your brain is."
"I wouldn't dream of laughing at you, not even on the inside," reasoned Kate in a mock serious tone, knowing Caroline knew Kate knew she was teasing her.
"Oh really?" Caroline started exploring the bits of Kate that were in easy reach of foot and fingers, drawing a brief gasp from Kate that wasn't the good sort of gasp.
"I'm buying you bed socks," she declared as a particularly cold foot wrapped itself around a warm calf.
"You have a thing for wool?"
"More like I don't have a thing for cold feet " said Kate carefully, trying to focus in spite of the maddening caresses Caroline's fingers were currently casting across her stomach.
"Only being friendly," observed Caroline, her fingers moving further up Kate's torso, " I don't have to be, if you aren't feeling friendly " It was Caroline's turn to adopt a mock-serious tone.
"Nope, friendly is good," agreed Kate, slipping fingers under the hem of Caroline's pyjama top and feeling out the warm skin of Caroline's lower back.
"Friendly is good " sighed Caroline, as their conversation was quickly abandoned for far more pleasurable activities ..
"Comfortable?" asked Kate for the second time since they'd taken advantage of the empty house and gone to bed early.
"Mmm, almost," confirmed Caroline before she finally settled, "now I am. You?"
"I think we can declare the new bed 'christened' " observed Caroline cheekily, tracing lazy patterns on Kate's stomach.
"Definitely," agreed Kate with a laugh which earned her a dirty look, "what?"
"Sated girlfriend trying to snooze here," quipped Caroline, gently emphasising her point with a poke to Kate's stomach for emphasis, "rumbling pillow not helpful don't want to dream about erupting Caribbean volcanoes again," she teased, remembering her confused waking in Oxford the other weekend.
"Sorry " Kate couldn't help but laugh some more, especially when Caroline started making little 'hmph' noises and muttering about goose-down not being so noisy, only for Kate to suddenly wonder, "Caroline?"
"Why did we spend 45 minutes worrying about the nationality of the pillows?" asked Kate, remembering the agonies they'd gone through trying to understand the difference between the various types of feather pillows.
"What?" The topic change threw Caroline.
"If you always end up using me as your pillow " began Kate, smiling when she felt Caroline snuggle into her even more given Caroline's loathing of the cat, it did amuse Kate whenever Caroline was very cat-like in her behaviour, " why did we spend so long deciding between Hungarian or Siberian goose-down pillows?"
"Simple " began Caroline, starting to lose her battle with sleep, lulled to sleep by the wonderful cocoon of new bed and Kate she was wrapped in, " .they didn't stock Nigerian."
"Pardon?" Confused, Kate waited for Caroline to elaborate, but that never came the blonde was fast asleep, possibly dreaming of Caribbean islands with well-behaved volcanoes, assisted by her one-of-a-kind, not for sale anywhere, top of the range Nigerian pillow .
Return to Last Tango in Halifax Fiction
Return to Main Page