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).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ncruuk[at]gmail.com

Some Dances in Harrogate
Small Talk

By ncruuk


"Hello William? It's Kate, everything okay?"

"Hi, yes, great, why?" Pleased to hear Kate's voice, William abandoned his studying and turned down his music, happy to have the distraction from his first essay of term.

"Your text – 'can you call but don't tell Mum'," explained Kate, realising that the knot of worry she'd endured through Year 8's Italian lesson had nothing to do with their ability to prepare for the end of year exam.

"Oh, sorry, not what I meant," rushed William, embarrassed at having caused Kate to worry, "I want to talk to you about Mum's birthday."

"Ah… you're not planning anything involving a surprise are you? Only Caroline…"

"…hates surprises, I know," agreed William, once again marvelling at how well Kate appeared to know and understand his mother, especially when she clearly knew things his father had always ignored or never bothered to learn.

"So?" prompted Kate, leaning against a radiator which miraculously, was not icy cold whilst she waited for William to get to his point, hopefully before the end of the mid-morning break.

"So I wanted you to know that, and you don't have to if you don't want to, but, if you wanted to, come visit I mean, I would be around."

"What about your exams? Don't they start then?" queried Kate, liking the idea but concerned in case William didn't really want them visiting and was instead offering out of duty.

"Mum's birthday is the Friday, my first exam's the Tuesday… but what I don't know by the Friday after three weeks of solid revision isn't going to appear in a weekend of cramming, so I thought…"

"Thought that a visit would be a nice idea," agreed Kate, liking his logic but instinct told her this wasn't entirely William's idea, "thank Matt for me?" she teased, knowing without needing to see him that he was now blushing.

"I will, wait, how did you know?"

"I remember you revising for your A-Levels. You didn't exactly believe in study breaks as I recall," explained Kate, remembering the hours William spent shut away in his room, prompting numerous calls and texts from Caroline as she worried about him.

"I might have a few other interests now," admitted William shyly, recalling that period, but also remembering that 'revision' was one of his only escapes from his father, something that he didn't feel the need to share with Kate.

"How is Matt?" asked Kate slyly, knowing Caroline would appreciate the update.

"Stressed. His exams start the same day mine do but he's already panicking about some stuff. Do you think it would be okay if he hung out with us, assuming you come visit?" asked William, seemingly forgetting that they'd all spent a week together less than a fortnight ago without any injury (other than Lawrence's pride when he'd taken a day or so to master not falling over on his skis).

"Not taking his own advice?"

"No, and generally stressing. I don't really know what to do with him," admitted William quietly, clearly concerned for his boyfriend but uncertain how to help to restore some sort of balance and calm.

"Why don't you give him Caroline's number?" suggested Kate cautiously – whilst she might not help Matt in terms of knowing the answers, at least she might be able to emphasise with his nerves and help him calm down.

"Mum's number?"

"Your mother does have both an undergraduate degree and PhD in Chemistry from Oxford," reminded Kate patiently, deciding she wouldn't mention William's forgetfulness – Caroline was already sensitive as it was about people forgetting she was anything other than 'the Headmistress'.

"Oh, yeah, thanks. You think she'd mind?" asked William, already reaching for his laptop to email Matt.

"Course not, now, you sure about us coming to visit?" checked Kate, glancing at her watch and realising that the mid-morning break was nearly over and that 10F's battle with irregular French verbs was almost upon her.

"Absolutely, I mean, only if…" William found himself tongue-tied.

"Only if Caroline and I actually want to come and we leave your brother at home?" guessed Kate, knowing exactly what William was worried about – a moody Lawrence was not going to make for a restful pre-examination weekend for William, nor a birthday 'treat' for Caroline.


"Don't worry, I have a sister remember?" teased Kate, now acutely aware of the time, "look, I have to go teach, but I'll talk to Caroline and see what she thinks, but I think it's a lovely idea," decided Kate, already thinking of ways she could treat and spoil both of them, "so thank you for offering."

"It will be brilliant, and thanks for the idea of getting Matt to talk to Mum, I'd forgotten she's a chemist!"

"Try not to tell your Mother that please!" encouraged Kate, only to hear the end of break bell sound, "but now I really have to go, good luck with the revision!" and, break time over, they both returned to their immediate present, all thoughts of possible birthday weekends in late May postponed for a little while at least…

Shutting down her computer, a weary Caroline pushed her feet back into her heels and shuffled the last remaining reports that she needed to read into two piles that she would eventually shove into her briefcase as 'light' reading for the evening. Glancing at her watch, she was shocked to discover it was almost 6pm, with the lengthening spring evenings deceiving her into thinking it was earlier than it actually was and the school, which had been so noisy a couple of hours earlier, was now almost eerily deserted as, still only in the first week of the 'Summer' term (she'd told the Bursar she didn't care what the calendar said, the thermometer said it was cold enough to still have the heating on), few students wanted to linger after classes had finished.

Pulling on her coat, she automatically checked her phone to see only one text message, from Lawrence, which she'd half read earlier confirming he'd gone straight home from school on the bus. Relieved not to see any fresh dramas from either her very present mother or not ex-enough husband, Caroline shoved a pile of papers into her briefcase and left her office, heading for her car, only to detour at the last minute to see who, if anyone, was still in the staff room. To her surprise, there were two staff present, Kate and Jennifer Robertshaw.

"Burning the tea time oil already Jennifer?" asked Caroline kindly, ignoring her lover for the moment to instead talk to the elderly librarian and unexpected champion of their relationship at the start of the school year.

"Trying to get a head start on the exam timetables."

"They out already?" Caroline was confused; she hadn't remembered them being issued by the Exam Boards.

"No, but I'm building the pinboards," explained the librarian, gesturing towards the large table that was covered in old-fashioned cork noticeboards, "and it looks like we should plan on needing to use a couple of classrooms as well," declared Jennifer, neatly cutting the cord she'd finished pinning down on one of the boards, "as we seem to have quite a lot of extra time and odd module combinations." >

"I'll look into it," promised Caroline with a weary sigh, mentally adding it to one of her many to do lists.

"Don't Caroline," said the librarian, only to look up at the headmistress to see a frown developing, "I mean, don't look into it now. Wait until we have the timetables and I've worked it all out. Every year I see the ever longer examination list and look at the list of pupils needing special examination conditions and I think we'll need several rooms but somehow, by the time I've finished with these," here she gestured to the pin boards which, Caroline knew from her predecessor, was the way Jennifer Robertshaw had been planning the exams (both end of year and external) for Sulgrave Heath for almost forty years, "the Hall and Gymnasium seem to be enough."

"Oh, so why…" Caroline was confused, relieved that she didn't have to worry about more exam space yet but confused as to why the experienced librarian had even said anything if she didn't intend for Caroline to do something about it.

"Small talk Caroline," explained Kate gently, coming to stand next to her lover, certain that, of all the staff, Jennifer was probably the one individual Caroline wouldn't mind seeming 'human' in front of.

"Ah, oh." Frowning, Caroline reconsidered her earlier conversation with the librarian, "okay." She didn't entirely get it but was content to trust Kate.

"Never thought of a spreadsheet Jennifer?" asked Kate conversationally, knowing Caroline would join in again in her own time.

"Twenty years ago a maths teacher, can't remember his name, well, he tried to show me but I didn't like it. This system works for me and, until someone volunteers to take it from me, this system is how it will be done," came the robust declaration.

"I think she secretly enjoys it," stage-whispered Caroline, glancing at Kate, prompting a smile from her lover and a chuckle from the lady in question.

"Do you do wedding reception seating plans?" Kate's question earned her a startled look from Caroline before she quickly schooled her features.

"One or two in my time, why?" Having seen Caroline's startled expression, and sensing that she was being trusted with something quite private by having a conversation with the pair of them as partners not colleagues, Jennifer resisted the urge to make any tawdry suggestions or quips.

"Celia, Caroline's mother, she's getting married, at some point, and something tells me planning the wedding reception's going to be a battle," explained Kate, surreptitiously watching Caroline to see how she'd react.

"To put it mildly!" agreed Caroline, "although heaven only knows when and where they'll actually get married, never mind have a reception. I'm not strong enough to ask," said Caroline, causing the Librarian to smile – the Headmistress clearly had little comprehension of how formidable she could seem and it was sounding like much of it was inherited.

"You will," said Kate simply before asking, "you not going home tonight Jennifer?" knowing it was unusual for her to be here this late.

"My nephew's coming for a visit – his train doesn't get to Harrogate until 6.50 so I thought I'd walk down to the station from here."

"And I've kept you late chatting," realised Caroline, concerned that it was now probably a little later than the librarian had intended, "why don't I run you down there now?" she offered, "it won't take a moment…"

"But I thought…" confused, Jennifer looked at Kate, clearly thinking that Caroline had come looking for Kate, perhaps to take her home?

"I've still got another half hour or so of marking to do before I can escape," explained Kate before adding, mainly for Caroline's benefit, "and my plan was to then run home – I'm much better at running somewhere than I am doing pointless circuits."

"If you're sure Caroline?" checked Jennifer, conscious that time was advancing and she knew better than to reject genuinely offered help, especially when, looking at the clock on the wall, it was clearly needed if she wasn't to have to rush.

"Of course, in fact, why don't you head out to the car as I've just realised I've left my glasses on my desk." Caroline reached in her coat pocket and pulled out the car key, "I wouldn't mind but they're my spare pair so I don't have any glasses at home."

"You need a chain then my dear," laughed Jennifer as she gestured to her own reading glasses, "I'll see you at the car then, good night Kate," and, with a slightly too knowing smile, the librarian left the staff room, Caroline close behind.

"Caroline?" asked Kate, confused.

"I need to get my glasses…"

"I'll come with you," said Kate, quickly realising it wasn't a ruse and her lover did genuinely need to go back to her office.

"You okay?" asked Caroline, slightly puzzled by Kate's behaviour but nevertheless pleased to have even a couple of minutes of Kate's company.

"Mmm, yes." Kate realised Caroline still didn't understand, "Jennifer and I both misunderstood your comment about your glasses."

"You did? How?" Baffled, Caroline paused to find the key to her office before unlocking the door so they could both enter, although she didn't bother turning on the light, knowing precisely where her glasses were, resting on that other pile of reports she'd meant to take to flick through.

"Because neither of us thought you'd forgotten your glasses and both of us thought you said it as a ruse to create an opportunity for this." Kate stopped speaking and, gently running her fingers down Caroline's cheek, leaned in for a slow, tender kiss, a kiss Caroline willingly participated in.



"Oh, I see. Jennifer thought I wanted to do that?"

"Yes. I did too."

"Ah. I must remember that," concluded Caroline, before leaning in and initiating a remarkably similar kiss, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they were still standing in her office doorway, "do you really have another half-hour of marking to do?"

"Before I go on my run? No, but I didn't want Jennifer trying to make you wait for me."

"Oh." Caroline paused, clearly wanting to ask something but not succeeding in finding the correct words.

"I do however have eighteen mock A-Level Italian papers to mark this evening," began Kate, deciding to help out her clearly tongue-tied lover, "which I put on the back seat of your car at lunch."

"So you're running to my house?" asked Caroline, brightening: since their return from the skiing holiday, Kate had only stayed over that first night, with the rest of the week and most of the weekend occupied for both of them with end-of-school-holiday chores and duty visits to parents and siblings that had left little opportunity to relax together. And she wasn't thinking about last weekend as, lovely and wonderful as most of it was, she still couldn't quite get past that telephone call from her still not-ex-husband.

"Uh huh, if you'll have me?" Kate watched Caroline's face in the half light of the evening carefully.

"Always…wait, you said you were running home?"

"Home to you, and Lawrence," confirmed Kate before lightly stepping back from Caroline, "who will be wondering where you are," she said pointedly, not wanting Caroline to dwell on the significance of her definition of 'home', at least, not whilst they were stood in her office doorway with a librarian in the car!

"I'm going, with my reading glasses!" said Caroline, striding over to her desk and grabbing the forgotten glasses and the extra reports – if Kate had all those exams to mark, maybe she'd manage to force herself to actually read the reports properly.

"See you in an hour," and, with a final smile, Kate headed back to the staff room to tidy away her almost finished marking – the ten minutes or so she had left to do could keep until the morning – the lure of Caroline's house, of home, was just a little too strong…

The End

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