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
Standing the doorway of the kitchen, Caroline paused to watch. She'd never watched her kitchen before, never studied its space, never noticed its shadows, never appreciated its illumination before now, but then, before tonight, she'd never watched Kate McKenzie sit at the central workbench, one foot tucked under her as the other foot coiled possessively around the stool leg. Then again, she'd never been jealous of a stool leg before.
"I know you know I'm here," she said finally, not moving from her position, leaning against the doorframe, reasonably confident it was now too cold, wet and late for either her mother or son to disturb them.
"How?" asked Kate, not moving.
"Because you've not turned a page for two songs," observed Caroline, unsure how long had really passed but knowing the quiet music playing on the radio had changed style a couple of times.
"I could just be a really thorough marker," suggested Kate, still not turning around, some undefinable instinct telling her that 'something' would be ruined or broken if she did.
"Then you were taking short cuts for the last three students," said Caroline simply, betraying how long she'd actually been stood in the doorway watching her lover in the kitchen.
"Caroline?" Once Kate realised that Caroline had been standing in the doorway for almost half an hour, Kate turned her head to look in confusion at her lover.
"Pardon?" Kate willed herself to count to three, slowly, rather than react, knowing that what Caroline thought she was saying didn't always come out right.
"Home, this house " repeated Caroline, still stuck firmly yet apparently happily in her doorway position, smiling in what Kate could only subsequently remember as 'radiantly', " you you ran home."
"I didn't notice, well, I did, notice the words, earlier, in my office? I heard the words but I didn't, the meaning, didn't hear the meaning " Caroline paused to collect her thoughts and her wits, almost distracting herself from what she wanted to say when she noticed how the soft down-lighting appeared to make Kate glow. "Lawrence, William and me, we're your home?"
"Maybe the garden shed?" suggested Kate, her eyes watering as she realised she was watching the pieces come together for Caroline who, true to form, recognised the gentle, slightly sarcastic teasing for what it was.
"I'd have thought the Spanish villa that there was never quite the time to visit," joked Caroline, her vision blurring despite her glasses (her best ones, not the spares) resting squarely on her nose.
"I like your mother "
" in small doses."
"That's all you're ever getting of mine," teased Kate, not sure how she was going to look Celia in the eye next time she saw her."
"But I've not seen all the baby pictures!"
"And you never will."
"You look good, in my shirt " noticed Caroline, suddenly changing tack when she recognised the soft blue shirt Kate was wearing as the one Caroline herself had worn at the weekend and had left on the chair in the bedroom her bedroom the bedroom in her house that they shared their bedroom in their home, " you need to move in."
"What?" Three breathe two breathe one
"My mother, she was right here, you, me the boys we want you here, I want you to be here, in my shirt, at our table " Running out of steam, Caroline looked perplexed at Kate, as if expecting to be told she'd got it wrong.
"Here, come here please?" asked Kate, gesturing for Caroline to come closer.
"Why?" Whilst Caroline's 'flee' response had faded, at least as far as Kate was concerned, her 'fight' could, at times, still be a little too close to the surface.
"Because romantically, I want you in kissing range," explained Kate gently before adding in a very different tone, "and practically because my foot's gone to sleep," which was accompanied by her untucking her 'dead' leg and trying not to wince too much.
"Oh!" And, as if through some invisible force, Caroline's reticence and fight was gone, replaced with a love and concern that few saw and Kate felt privileged to receive, as Caroline was suddenly at her side, helping her to stand and recover some feeling in her foot. "Better?" she asked eventually, unwilling to let go of Kate's waist and hand until she knew her lover was more comfortable.
"Magnificent," declared Kate, before gently claiming Caroline's lips for a slow, tender kiss, a kiss that went nowhere but expressed everything Kate felt about her baffling, challenging, loving, caring, magnificent Caroline.
"Why do I think that wasn't about helping you stand?" asked Caroline eventually.
"Because it wasn't, not exactly," started Kate, quickly cutting off Caroline's expected question with another brief kiss. "Home, I ran home, to this kitchen, my marking, our family " Kate pressed another brief kiss onto Caroline's parted lips, " your shirt, which I'll always steal but only once you've worn it first " Kate paused to see if Caroline was going to interrupt. She wasn't. "Caroline, my magnificent Caroline you don't need to ask me to move into this house to make this our home."
"I'm already here."
"Forever?" asked Caroline shyly.
"Forever's a might long time," remarked Kate softly, caressing Caroline's damp cheeks with her knuckles, "but it sounds just about perfect."
"Did you just quote Prince?"
"That's what you took from that statement?" asked Kate, amazed but not surprised somehow, Caroline wouldn't be Caroline without comments like that.
"Course not," agreed Caroline, reaching forwards so she could kiss Kate again, "you're too young to remember Prince," she teased, earning her a playful stuck out tongue from Kate, "but I've got plenty of time to educate you."
"Forever?" asked Kate, resting her forehead against her lover's.
"It's a mighty long time," whispered Caroline, brushing her knuckles across Kate's cheeks before threading her fingers in Kate's hair, "but it sounds just about perfect," she agreed before kissing her amazingly pretty and pretty amazing love once more, after all, there wasn't any rush, not now they had forever
"If this was a Richard Curtis film, we'd be in the middle of the credits " joked Kate gently, thoroughly enjoying the warm embrace they'd been settled in for minutes or seconds or hours.
"Yes, right " Sharing Kate's reluctance but recognising the practicality, Caroline took half a step back so she could see Kate more easily. "Have you got much more to mark?" she asked, remembering the original question she'd planned on asking Kate when she first came through to the kitchen.
"A few, but once I've finished this one," here Kate gestured to the one she was less than halfway through, "I only have two more I need to do tonight."
"Oh." Caroline did a poor job of not looking crestfallen as she worked out this probably meant another half an hour or so of marking for her lover.
"You done?" Kate knew Caroline's evening had been filled with, to her mind, a horrible mix of Ofsted reports and papers from the Bursar.
"Yes, at least, as much as I can stand," admitted Caroline, becoming conscious once again of the headache that had formed during her enforced 'homework' session.
"Headache?" guessed Kate, taking a moment to study Caroline and, in doing so, noticed the tell-tale clues (for her at least) of the headache showing in Caroline's eyes and shoulders.
"Mmm," agreed Caroline, wanting to snuggle up with Kate again, if only because that seemed to be helping her headache, which was starting to make her feel far from well.
"Why don't you go have a bath?" suggested Kate, knowing that a hot bath sometimes helped Caroline's headaches, "and I'll be up in a few minutes when I'm finished?"
"Sounds lovely " mumbled Caroline, tucking a strand of hair behind Kate's ear, clearly no eager to move.
"The sooner you go, the sooner I finish," teased Kate, knowing Caroline's dilemma.
"I'm going " protested Caroline, not really moving.
"Okay then." And, knowing she had to decide for both of them, Kate willed herself to break free of Caroline's loose embrace and resume her seat, before deliberately picking up her red pen. Pausing for a moment in order to try and remember what exactly she'd been marking, she heard Caroline's quiet, contented-sounding sigh followed by the soft sounds of her sock clad feet setting off to the bedroom.
Smiling to herself, Kate gripped her pen tighter it was time to concentrate as, this not being a Richard Curtis film, the work still had to be done. Still, as she thought briefly before finally managing to fill her mind with the A-Level Italian set text, this was better than a film this was real, this was home, this was for a mighty long time: this was for forever.
" no problem Sylvia, you've done the same for me on more than one occasion," said Caroline, glancing at her watch and realising the sunny spring evening had again seduced her into believing she hadn't worked as late as she actually had, even before Sam's mother rang her to ask for some help.
"Do I need to come by and get his cricket kit tonight?" she asked as, mind made up, she began to shove the papers on her desk into vaguely tidy heaps it would all be here again in the morning when it would hopefully make more sense, if only because the weekend was one day nearer.
"If you're sure? I'll leave a note for Beverley and he can just leave his kit and weekend bag in my office first thing." Computer shutting down, she reached down for her briefcase, unable to do anything more to aid her escape until she'd finished her telephone call.
"No problem good luck with the lawyers and doctors, bye." Hanging up the phone, she stood and, with one final dissatisfied glance around her office at the piles of paperwork, she picked up her briefcase and headed for the door, still slightly puzzled as to how time had managed to get away from her. Pausing to lock her office door, she heard the faint sounds of the hall piano being played maybe it wasn't quite home time for the Headmistress after all
Even if Kate McKenzie didn't have a sixth sense when it came to knowing if her girlfriend was watching her (last night in the kitchen included so what if it took a few minutes for her to notice Caroline's presence? It was late, she was tired, and thinking in Italian ), the sound of her confident stride echoing through the deserted corridors gave her away. Smiling to herself, the talented pianist continued playing the piano but let the melody gently drift away from the Chopin Nocturne that she had been playing to something rather more contemporary, making it perfectly clear to Caroline that she'd been 'spotted' even though she had thought she'd stayed out of Kate's eye line when she'd tip-toed into the back of the Hall.
"You can come closer " called out Kate when she realised Caroline hadn't yet got the hint that she was a welcome distraction and didn't need to hide in the corner of the hall.
"I didn't want to interrupt " began Caroline, pausing to put her bag and jacket on a chair.
"You're not " corrected Kate, reaching the chorus of the song she'd started playing, a chorus that caused Caroline to roll her eyes.
"Funny " she quipped sarcastically, approaching the large concert grand that she'd last seen Kate playing in the school concert at the end of last term.
"Not original?" asked Kate, playing the chorus of 'Sweet Caroline' again, not really interested in faithfully following the stanza of the song.
"Actually, I've never been serenaded on the piano with it " admitted Caroline, stepping up to the piano and looking at Kate through the 'frame' of the open piano lid.
"I'm not sure I'm serenading," said Kate, wincing slightly as she found herself guilty of over-thinking what she was playing and in the process hitting a few wrong notes.
"I've always wanted to lean on a piano " mused Caroline, glancing down to look inside and see all the hammers move as Kate put a few ornamental flourishes into her playing whilst she waited for further inspiration as to what she might play next.
"Go ahead I won't put you in detention," teased Kate, repeating the ultimate threat that was echoed by every teacher every time they came across students in the school hall during the day, especially if they even looked at the piano, never mind touched it.
"What's this song?" asked Caroline finally, struggling to immediately place the lyrical melody that Kate was drifting into despite humming along with it for a few bars.
"Umm " It had been on the tip of her tongue, as long as Caroline didn't ask her. Unfortunately, the minute Caroline had asked her, not only did her fingers stumble and miss a note or two, but the name of the song flew out of her mind, causing Caroline to smile.
"Ask a silly question, ruin the moment " she observed, resting her head on her hand, content to just let the music Kate was playing surround them.
"Is this a moment?"
"You, a piano " Caroline was sure she was demonstrating the sort of sappy grin usually favoured by love-struck teenagers but couldn't actually bring herself to mention it.
"Ah, it's a moment "
"Is that a bad thing?" Caroline took a slow, even breath or two, willing herself to wait for Kate's answer rather than launch into a panic.
"Far from it " confirmed Kate, gently shifting key a couple of times before finally, her fingers remembered what her brain couldn't, she started to play the song that said everything she always wanted Caroline to know but never quite managed to find the right words to let her know that she most definitely had a crush on Caroline.
"How did you know?" asked Caroline when Kate was coming to the end of the song, her fingers drifting into the final chords, not sure what, if anything to segue into.
"Know that this is one of my favourite Gershwin songs?"
"Just lucky " shrugged Kate, looking down at the keyboard when she felt herself blush, something Caroline was too observant not to notice.
"And?" she prompted gently, grateful that the deserted school meant they were pretty much guaranteed to be interruption free.
"And true," mumbled Kate, using her fingers to say with the melody what her dry throat wasn't particularly keen on letting her say
"And I've got a crush on you too," sang Caroline softly, reminding Kate that her lover was far more talented a singer than the blonde let anyone know.
"You were looking for me?" asked Kate eventually when she ran out of notes to play.
"Followed the music, you were a bonus."
"Home?" suggested Caroline, knowing that her back wasn't going to let her lean on the side of the piano indefinitely.
"Absolutely," agreed Kate, closing the keyboard lid, preparing to stand up.
"I feel I should warn you though," began Caroline conversationally as she stood up straight and began to close the piano lid, hoping the creaking was the instrument and not her.
"You are coming home to World War Three."
"I am?" Kate was intrigued what could Celia be up to that would have disturbed the domestic peace so drastically in under twelve hours?
"I need Lawrence to tidy his room Sam's staying from tomorrow night for a few days."
"I'll take cover in the kitchen with my marking everything okay with Sam?" Kate's voice contained genuine concern she didn't know Sam Bothman all that well from the classroom but had got to know the quiet, studious boy who was Lawrence's best friend rather well during the week they'd spent on holiday during which time she'd taught both boys to ski.
"Sylvia rang me just now she's got some power of attorney thing for a cousin who's been on life support after a car accident some time ago. The doctors think it's time so she has to go all a bit horrible really, not helped by the cousin being in Truro so she's going down there tomorrow for a few days."
"And Sam's staying with us?"
"Sam's staying with us," confirmed Caroline, helping Kate put the heavy fabric cover over the now closed piano, noticing the warmth swell in her chest at Kate's use of the word 'us'.
"Blackadder marathon tomorrow night then?" suggested Kate, picking up her bag and coat which she'd left on the floor next to the piano.
"Sounds like a cunning plan," agreed Caroline, pleased that Kate didn't need to detour via the staff room.
"As cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University?" teased Kate, keen to lighten both their moods ahead of getting home to do battle with Lawrence and his very messy room.
"No, for that we need to include ice cream, will you drive?"
"Sure you okay?" as Kate took the proffered car key, she looked in concern at Caroline.
"My back and piano leaning aren't a good combination, apparently," explained Caroline, reluctant to admit to being so 'creaky'.
"Maybe you just need better technique?"
"And how do I get that?"
"Practice? I know a pianist who'd be willing to play, since you'd look a little daft leaning on a silent piano."
"Now that's a cunning plan!" laughed Caroline, stepping out into the bright evening sunshine, suddenly feeling like her piano leaning days weren't behind her after all
"Home?" double checked Kate, crossing around to the driver's door as she used the key fob to deactivate the Jeep's central locking.
"Home." And, with a truly relaxed smile on her face for the first time since breakfast, Caroline carefully and a little stiffly into the passenger seat maybe whilst Lawrence did battle with his room there'd be time for a bath?
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