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.
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, in February no less
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ncruuk[at]gmail.com
Some Dances in Harrogate
My Funny Valentine
"What do you think love?"
"Mmm?" Celia's question made Caroline realise she'd let her attention wander so, feeling guilty for not paying closer attention to her mother, she apologised, "I'm sorry, my mind wandered, which was rude. You were saying?"
"Everything alright love?" Frowning, Celia took a sip of her tea as she studied her daughter who was clearly ill-at-ease about something.
"Oh, yes, fine." The automatic response fell easily from Caroline's lips, lips that were instinctively forming her 'headmistress' smile, a smile designed to reassure any mother's fear any mother except her own.
"Is it the boys? Their good-for-nothing father?" Celia's rapid-fire questions confirmed she hadn't bought Caroline's smile for one second.
"The boys are fine William said he was going to ring you to thank you for the biscuits: you sent him biscuits?" Caroline just about managed to stop herself saying 'that's not like you' although her tone clearly implied it.
"You'll laugh at me." Defensive, Celia took another sip of her tea that really was now far too cold to drink.
"You will, but I'll tell you anyway. One of the boys on his staircase? His grandmother sent him a cake; apparently he couldn't stop bragging about it for days."
"So you made some biscuits for William?" Caroline still wasn't convinced.
"Course not I bought a couple of packets from Marks' and put them in a tin: it was William's idea his friend, Matt I think he said, anyways, his nan lives in London she sent some biscuits from Fortnums in an ice cream tub!" It was so wrong and yet, realised Caroline smiling, so right.
"You're not perfect " she finally commented, pulling a face as she realised how cold her tea was as well.
"No love, I'm not," agreed Celia, pleased, for what felt like the millionth time, to see her daughter relaxed and happy, so like her Granddad had been.
"But you're very entertaining. Do you want another pot? This one's stone cold."
"Only if you'll tell me what's bothering you love. I worry for you, when you're not happy." The quiet admission from her mother caused Caroline to pause, a sudden weighty significance attached to this next pot of tea, assuming they had it.
"Tasha?" She called, finally catching the eye of one of the tea shop waitresses who, when not working her Saturday shift was one of the Sulgrave Heath Prefects.
"Yes Dr Elliot?"
"Can we have another pot please?"
"Of course Dr Elliot, I'll bring fresh cups too." And, with a bright smile, the girl cleared their cold tea away, leaving mother and daughter alone once more.
"You know her?" asked Celia, stunned by the exchange.
"She's a Prefect, doing her A-Levels she's applying to Oxford to read Maths."
"Will she get there?" asked Celia, considering the hitherto faceless waiting staff in a new light.
"Maybe I'm not sure she wants to go for the right reasons yet," mused Caroline thoughtfully.
"What do you mean?" Celia had barely paid much attention to William's own university application process, nevermind showing an interest in Caroline's job, but that was changing slowly, as she herself was changing, thanks in part to Alan.
"She's applying to go to Oxford because she wants to make her mother happy."
"I never wanted you to go to Oxford," began Celia, remembering those moments like they were yesterday and consequently missing Caroline tense, clearly preparing to fight, " no, that's not right. What I mean is I never wanted you to go to Oxford more than anywhere else. I was just happy you were going to College I don't think I ever really realised how, how special you were." Celia paused, making sure Caroline was paying attention," and for that I'm very sorry."
"I know Mum, but it doesn't matter," reassured Caroline, leaning forwards so she could give her Mother's hand a squeeze. Before she could say anything else, Tasha had returned with their tea.
"My daughter tells me you're applying to go to Oxford," declared Celia, earning her a groan from said daughter which caused Tasha to smile.
"Yes, that's right, I am, Mrs " Tasha knew not to call Dr Elliot's mother 'Mrs Elliot' but she couldn't remember what William's grandmother was called.
"Dawson. She went to Oxford," continued Celia, nodding towards Caroline, knowing better than to call her 'Caroline' in front of one of her pupils, "but you already know that. I still haven't really got used to it, you know? She went to Oxford, twice! My daughter two degrees from that university, that so many people around the world have heard of, but it doesn't matter, not to me she could have gone to Leeds Poly for all I'd care " Celia considered the slightly confused but nevertheless attentive girl who stood clutching her now empty tray, " my point is, all I wanted was for her to go to College once was nowt but her that made it to Oxford twice."
"I understand " began Tasha cautiously, thinking about what she'd just learnt about Dr Elliot's mother.
"Do you?" Celia wasn't going to let the girl off lightly, not with her future being so affected by it.
"I'm applying to Oxford "
"But do you want to go? Really?"
"Whenever someone asked me, I'd say 'my daughter wants to go to Oxford' she'd say she wanted to go to Oxford why do you talk about applying? Are you only interested in administrative tasks?" It was short and sharp and so very, very like her mother, and the effect it was having on Tasha intrigued Caroline such that she wasn't trying to intervene anymore.
"I want to go to Oxford Mrs Dawson," declared Tasha after a moment, a new resolution in her voice as she considered what Dr Elliot's mother had said.
"Because I can't imagine not going anywhere else."
"You might not get in," observed Celia mildly, starting to pour the tea now it had had a chance to brew.
"And that's okay, as long as I tried, properly."
"Have you been trying properly Tasha?"
"No Dr Elliot not really, but I'm going to," decided the girl, looking at her headmistress with a new determination in her eye, "I do want to go, because it's what I want, not just because it's what my mother wants."
"I'm sure that's not true love," commented Celia.
"My mother is quite something," said Tasha diplomatically, impressed with her headmistress' poker face.
"As is mine," agreed Caroline, breaking into a smile before adding, "go make an appointment to come see me on Monday we'll get you back on track."
"Thanks Dr Elliot; it was nice meeting you Mrs Dawson."
"You too love, good luck." And, with a nod, mother and startled daughter were left to enjoy their tea.
"I can't decide whether to throttle you or invite you into school as a motivational speaker."
"Oh, well, neither you're just being silly," dismissed Celia, refusing to take Caroline seriously, "now, what's got you tied in a knot?" Remembering Celia's bargain, Caroline took a deep breath and, reminding herself of Saturday afternoons at the kitchen table talking about anything and everything with her mother whilst her father watched the football, started to just talk
"It was you, talking about Valentine's Day, it got me thinking and worrying what if I get it wrong, whatever it is? I've not had to think about Valentine's Day for more than twenty years, I mean, I was married for god's sake " Caroline took a gulp of too hot tea, " which I know is nothing compared to you but it's easy for you, you've got Alan, lovely Alan who, if you cook him dinner will turn up with flowers and wine and will probably dance with you afterwards "
"And?" Wisely, Celia kept any comments about Caroline's really rather sensible (and unexpectedly provided) plan for her to herself, recognising that now was not the moment to turn the conversation away from Caroline.
"And I'm 46 years old with a wonderful girlfriend I don't know how to spoil, a teenager upstairs, a mother and her boyfriend, sorry, fiancé, in the downstairs flat and somewhere in between a school to run!"
"I see." And, amazingly, when it was summarised like that, Celia really did see, well, most of it, "what's school got to do with it?"
"We both have parents' evening that night."
"Okay, but you can still, I don't know, get her a card or something? Anyway, why does it have to be you organising something? She's the taller one."
"Pardon?" It was a logic Caroline couldn't argue with, Kate was indeed an inch or so taller than her, but it didn't exactly make sense.
"How do you know Kate isn't planning something?"
"I don't." Caroline understood her mother's point now, "but that's not the point I want to do something, I don't want to ignore it or make her think I assumed she'd do something " Unfortunately, talking about it hadn't helped alleviate her worries in anyway.
"I think you need to remember you hate surprises, and that she loves you, silly you with all your worries about assumptions and plans, and that you love her " Celia marvelled at how different Caroline looked the moment she mentioned Kate directly and positively, not talking euphemistically or abstractly about the woman her daughter was clearly in love with - her daughter looked younger, brighter, happier, " you need to remember what Valentine's Day is about, really, and talk to her, before you wear yourself out worrying."
"And what do I say o great wise one?" joked Caroline, seeing the sense in her mother's words.
"That Lawrence will order takeaway for you to collect on your way home from school? If you're really lucky she might dance with you after, does she know how to jive? Alan jives beautifully " It had taken Celia a long time, over twenty-five years in fact, to be able to be in a position to make a joke about her daughter dancing with another woman, but then it had taken even longer, over fifty years probably, to be able to even think about her dancing with anyone Kenneth wasn't exactly the dancing type, proving that time changed people as well as circumstances.
"What would I do without you Mum?"
"No idea love, now, drink your tea parking's going to run out soon."
"You can go right in Kate," encouraged Beverley, immediately arousing Kate's suspicions. Normally, any attempt to pop by Caroline's office unannounced during the school day was met with always token and sometimes genuine resistance by the efficient secretary who fought a constant battle with Caroline's diary.
"Oh?" Kate wasn't fooled, "what's happened?"
"Nothing out of the ordinary " Beverley couldn't do 'relaxed and breezy' if her life depended on it, and they both knew it, " the agenda for the next Governor's meeting's just come out."
"Okay " Kate was none the wiser but, unless they were suddenly in the middle of an episode of Doctor Who with all the Governors now revealed as Daleks, it sounded like Caroline's mood was probably manageable.
"You've got twenty minutes gives me a chance to finish sorting out this filing," stated Beverley, gesturing to the piles of paper around the office that she was clearly struggling to get into some semblance of order. Still confused by Beverley's reaction, but nonetheless extremely grateful to have so much time with Caroline, Kate seized the opportunity and, with a brief knock on the Headmistress' door, slipped into the office.
"What oh, hello " Pleased by the interruption, Caroline pulled her glasses off.
"Hi, you okay?" It wasn't what Kate had planned on saying but then Beverley's behaviour had thrown her off her stride a little.
"No worse than usual, why?" Caroline pushed her chair back from the desk so she could stand up.
"Usually I have to negotiate my way in, unless you're in a mood."
"And you're the sacrificial lamb?" Amused, Caroline crossed her office so she was nearer to Kate who, clearly still assessing the situation, was only just inside the now closed door.
"Mmm, or kryptonite," agreed Kate, moving to meet Caroline halfway, " you really okay?"
"Yes nothing major's happened this morning, just a new Governor throwing her not inconsiderable weight about," explained Caroline, standing inches from Kate.
"Metaphorical or literal?"
"A bit of both she's an 'organisational efficiency' consultant as well as Tasha Spellman's mother, wants to reduce everything to statistics and targets," continued Caroline, studying Kate's face as she reached for her girlfriend's fingers, " will make the next Governor's meeting a bit feisty, since half of them can't count nevermind comprehend relative percentages. I thought the Bursar was going to cry when I showed him the analysis she wants him to present even words of one syllable won't help most of them get it."
"He was just here?"
"Uh huh " Caroline was starting to lose interest in talking about the Bursar.
"That explains why I've got twenty minutes "
"Really? That is good to know " agreed Caroline, leaning in to kiss Kate, only to be frustrated when Kate leaned away, out of reach.
"But nothing. I came to talk to you about something and if you kiss me I'll forget," explained Kate, taking a full step backwards, putting her out of Caroline's kissing range but only millimetres from the door.
"Okay, but you're not leaving without a kiss or my mood really will deteriorate," teased Caroline, leaning on the edge of her meeting table, suddenly conscious she'd accidentally backed Kate literally and metaphorically into a corner, "unless you wanted to see Dr Elliot?" she asked, worried she'd misunderstood the purpose of Kate's visit.
"Nope, definitely a girlfriend conversation," confirmed Kate, taking a deep breath, "it's about Valentines' Day I it's also the Year Ten parents' evening, which we're both at."
"How many of them do you have to see?" As Headmistress, Caroline was resigned to the fact that she would have to always see every pupil and their parents, at every parents' evening, but for subject teachers like Kate, the evening's workload was always far more variable.
"Most of them there's no overlap between my French set and my Italian class, not to mention a few more sing in the choir and are claiming it as a music credit."
"Ouch that's going to take a while," sympathised Caroline, completely ignoring her own evening which would be just as long if not longer than Kate's.
"Year Ten always does."
"Remind me to schedule Year Eight for Valentine's Day next year?"
"Usually the quickest no new parents to reassure, no GCSE option conversations to start, no life limiting bad news to deliver, just short, sharp updates on little Johnny," summarised Caroline, making Kate smile.
"You got plans for next year's Valentine's Day?"
"I hope so you?"
"Plan to, yes. It's this year's I'm more worried about," admitted Kate, getting around to what she'd originally stopped by to talk about.
"Oh?" Caroline felt herself gripping the edge of the meeting table tightly in an attempt to appear outwardly relaxed.
"Yeah, see, I was married for ten years, so I haven't done one for years " confessed Kate, remembering Richard's awkward attempt at flowers and romance in their first year of marriage, " twelve in fact."
"Twenty-two years since my last Valentine's Day, I think."
"Ah " Kate felt a weight being lifted once she realised Caroline had been having similar thoughts, " no pressure then?"
"None at all," promised Caroline, deciding Kate was too far away and quickly crossing her office and resting her hands on Kate's hips. "Why don't we do the parents' evening and then go back to mine for something to eat with Lawrence before mixing each other a soothing honey and lemon for our sore throats and spending the rest of the night not talking, together?"
"Can the not talking include a sleepover?" asked Kate, liking the sound of Caroline's plan.
"I was hoping it would " whispered Caroline, wondering if she'd be able to have that kiss now or whether Kate still had things on her mind.
"It's a date," agreed Kate quietly, unable to say anything else as her lips were quickly covered by Caroline's it was time to practice some of that 'not talking' .
Exhausted and slightly hoarse, Caroline walked down the corridor towards her office, the final parents spoken with and the parents' evening finished. Earlier, although not that much earlier, she'd spotted Kate leave the school hall, clearly finished for the evening. It had been a long parents' evening at the end of a long fortnight of parents' evenings, with Lawrence's one feeling months ago, rather than just over a week ago. Making a final, work-related mental note to look at the sequencing of parents' evenings for next year in the morning, before she'd forgotten the torture of this year's cycle, Caroline entered her office and, shutting the door behind her, collapsed against it, finally 'off-duty' and therefore allowed to acknowledge the bone-deep weariness she'd been ignoring up until now.
"Hi." Immediately though, that weariness was forgotten as she found her second or even third wind as Kate's greeting, whilst welcome and familiar in terms of tone, with a hint of gentle humorousness infused with expected end of day weariness, was significantly quieter and hoarser than Caroline had expected.
"Does it hurt?" asked Caroline as, academic gown tossed over a chair, she crossed the room so she was standing in front of Kate who was leaning against the radiator, taking advantage of the residual warmth that still lingered in it from earlier in the day.
"No," whispered Kate before clarifying, "not when I'm whispering; talking properly hurts."
"Then stick to whispering," suggested Caroline, running her hand over Kate's forehead, "you don't feel like you've got a temperature anything else hurt?"
"Not really, just generally sore," whispered Kate, reaching for Caroline's hand, hoping to encourage her girlfriend closer even if intellectually she knew she should probably be keeping her distance to minimise Caroline getting whatever bug she'd picked up whilst Year Ten parents were tough, their list of known side effects didn't include dizziness and body aches.
"Soup and sleep then?" suggested Caroline, taking a step closer so that their joined hands rested easily between them without having to stretch their arms.
"Sounds nice not very romantic," whispered Kate sadly, instinctively responding when Caroline gently coaxed her into a hug, Kate's throbbing head (which she hadn't admitted to) resting automatically on Caroline's shoulder.
"What's unromantic about having the girl of my dreams in my bed with me?"
"I'm sick " mumbled Kate, only to have to cough, before grumpily adding, " and getting sicker "
"And I'm in love as well as lust with you," reminded Caroline, taking advantage of their embrace to rest her hand inside the collar of Kate's shirt to feel the back of her neck and revise her earlier opinion about Kate's temperature she definitely had one, "were you resting your head against the window?" she asked, conscious that Kate was fading fast as she began to become a deadweight in Caroline's arms.
"It was cool " Kate's mumble was almost indecipherable as she attempted to snuggle more deeply into Caroline's embrace, an attempt that failed spectacularly as all she was actually doing was leaning more fully on her girlfriend who nearly fell over before she managed to steady them both.
"You've got the flu darling," decided Caroline, shifting their combined weight so that she could lean Kate back against the radiator.
"No, just a cold " protested Kate, reaching for Caroline again, only to frown when she failed, partly because her arm felt too heavy to lift but also because Caroline nimbly moved out of the way.
"Where's your bag?" asked Caroline, quickly moving around her office shutting down her computer and grabbing their coats.
"With yours," whispered Kate, closing her eyes in an attempt to lessen her headache.
"Come on then," encouraged Caroline a moment later, both bags on her shoulder and their two coats clasped in her hand, leaving her left side and arm free for Kate to lean against. Instinct told her not to bother trying to introduce Kate to her coat but use it as a blanket once they'd got to the car, "let's get you to bed."
"Mmm " Caroline wasn't sure how Kate had meant that noise, which was somewhere between a moan and a groan, to be interpreted, but either way, Caroline met little resistance from her when she wrapped her arm around Kate's waist and started walking them across her office.
"My head hurts " whispered Kate as they slowly walked down the deserted corridor.
"I know " agreed Caroline, keeping their pace slow and steady so that Kate didn't get too exhausted too quickly.
"I'm sick "
"Yes, but that's okay, you'll get better "
"It's Valentine's Day "
"Yes it is."
"And I'm sick " Kate sounded so miserable, but Caroline couldn't work out whether it was the acknowledgement she was unwell or the fact that their Valentine's Day wasn't going to end with the traditional hearts and flowers that was causing the misery.
"But you'll get better," said Caroline amiably, easing them through the double doors that indicated they were past halfway towards the car.
"You need to take me to my place "
"Why?" Caroline had no intention of doing that, but a conversing Kate was an awake Kate who was walking towards the car she had no idea what would happen if she had an argumentative Kate or a silent Kate, and didn't plan on finding out.
"Cos you'll get sick."
"Can you remember this morning?"
"Mmm snuggles " mumbled Kate, almost incoherently Caroline decided it was probably wrong on many levels to think that her girlfriend was cute and adorable when she was this sick.
"And do you remember last night? Complaining you had a sore throat from parents' evening?" Ten more strides, so thirty more of their little shuffling steps, and they'd be at the car.
"Honey n Lemon " agreed Kate drowsily, her head landing on Caroline's shoulder as her exhaustion started to catch up again.
"You were already sick then "
"So?" Kate wasn't following what Caroline was saying.
"So if I'm going to get it I've already got it."
"Oh " Caroline could almost hear Kate's brain turning as she carefully tried to work out what that meant whilst trying to concentrate on walking with Caroline towards the door. "Oops?" she finally concluded.
"No oops " corrected Caroline gently, squeezing Kate's waist gently, " wouldn't have it any other way "
"Am going to my place " insisted Kate weakly as Caroline gently propped her up against the wall just inside the school door.
"No, you're not " corrected Caroline, standing in front of her and stroking her warm cheek before putting a finger on Kate's lips to stop her whispering interruptions, " because I love you and you're sick and there's only one place I want you to spend Valentine's Day "
"Not my place?" asked Kate carefully, trying to reach for Caroline's face but settling for her hip instead when her arm protested at having to lift that high.
"Not your place," confirmed Caroline quietly, smiling at her increasingly sleepy girlfriend who needed to get into a soft, warm bed, preferably with some soup and paracetamol inside her first.
"Where then?" Kate's head was starting to throb again, in fact, she could see two Caroline's if she blinked, which was nice or not. Which one did she kiss?
"My place don't move," instructed Caroline firmly, risking a quick kiss to Kate's lips before stepping away, leaving her propped firmly against the wall, "I'll just put the stuff in the car."
"Okay " Blinking, Kate was content to stay where she was leaning as she tried to work out which one of the two Caroline's she'd been looking at had kissed her, " Caroline?" she whispered, wondering where her girlfriend had gone.
"Yes?" The cold, crisp night was the sort that made you believe you could hear every pin drop and so Kate's whisper sounded loud as Caroline was just coming back in from the car, their stuff dumped on the back seat, passenger side door open ready for Kate.
"It's Valentine's Day " repeated Kate, frowning.
"Yup," agreed Caroline, standing in front of her, ready to help her into the car.
"We had plans "
"Still do " said Caroline, pulling a pliable Kate into her arms ready to repeat the shuffle that had seen them find a reasonably steady walking position.
"But I'm sick "
"Your point?" Sticking with the winning strategy of a conversing Kate was a conscious and therefore ambulatory Kate, Caroline was content to keep the dialogue going as she started them walking the final steps to the car, reasonably confident that the moment she'd got Kate settled in the car she'd probably fall asleep.
"No it isn't." Caroline carefully guided them down the three steps at the main entrance.
"It isn't?" Kate was confused again, but then it wasn't taking much where'd the second Caroline gone?
"The plan, as I remember it " began Caroline, arriving at the passenger door and preparing to help Kate climb in, " started with hot drinks and food at my place, which we're still doing " she turned Kate around so her back was facing the car, " then some not talking, which you're definitely still doing " she teased, punctuating her comment with a playful tap on Kate's nose as she gently pushed her backwards so she was leaning against the seat, " followed by a sleepover " Caroline helped Kate push up so she was sitting on the elevated seat of the Jeep, " which I predict is going to last for a few days " she continued, helping Kate turn in the seat and hand her the seat belt which the drowsy linguist automatically started pulling on, " so the way I see it," she finished, stroking Kate's cheek again, before leaning in for a gentle kiss, "is that our plans work out just fine."
"I love you " mumbled Kate, her heavy head resting against Caroline's forehead.
"I know you do, and I love you too " confirmed Caroline, cupping Kate's face with both hands partly out of loving instinct but also to help Kate back into the seat so she could close the door, after pressing another kiss to Kate's worryingly warm lips, " why don't you have a nap on the way home?" she suggested, preparing to close the door now Kate was out of its way.
"Okay " Kate's eyes were already shut by the time Caroline had the door closed, her body having no more strength to fight sleep with now Caroline wasn't keeping her awake. Making her way around the front of the car, Caroline paused to watch Kate sleeping in the seat as she pulled out her mobile phone.
"Lawrence? It's Mum slight change of plan yeah, I was right she's got the flu "
Finishing her phone call with her son, Caroline got quietly into the driver's seat, marvelling at how Kate, despite being half asleep reached out for her hand as she reached for the gear stick.
"Go back to sleep darling " she encouraged as she turned the engine on and prepared to drive home.
"Happy Valentine's Day Caroline " came the whispered response, Kate already fast asleep again by the time she'd said her name, bringing a smile to Caroline's face before she pulled out of the parking space.
"Happy Valentine's Day darling " she whispered as she drove away from school, knowing she'd be back in far too few hours, probably after a disturbed night of sleep as Kate's fever hopefully peaked and broke. It wasn't what she'd have planned but somehow, for her first Valentine's Day in over twenty years, it still felt pretty perfect, after all, she was going to end the day with the girl of her dreams in her bed, and, as much as she hated to see said girl sick, somehow, that didn't matter one bit after all, they could try again for the 'perfect' Valentine's Day next year and before that? Well, there was a whole year to practice
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