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' and will make more sense if you have already read 'Invitations'
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
"How we doing?" asked Kate as she and Lawrence stood to the side of the school hall, letting other pupil-parent combinations move around them.
"All done, apart from Mum," said Lawrence, looking at his list of who they had to see and when he wasn't to ever know that Kate had compiled her own copy and memorised it, wanting to be prepared for which of her colleagues she had to sit down with in a 'parent' capacity.
"Alright she looks like she's got a queue," said Kate, standing up on tiptoe in order to see the table at the far end of the hall where Dr Elliot was sat behind a small sign saying 'Headmistress'.
"She doesn't mind if she doesn't see me in my slot," explained Lawrence, unknowingly echoing Caroline's own explanation to Kate earlier in the day.
"So, how about we let your Mum use your slot to get back on schedule a bit and go get some take-away?" suggested Kate, sizing up Caroline's queue and recognising some 'wafflers' from past parents' evenings who, even with the benefit of Lawrence's slot, were going to make it difficult for Caroline to make up time.
"Really?" Lawrence was impressed take out was a very rare event in the Elliot household, a genuine treat, so to be rewarded on parents' evening with it was an added bonus for the fourteen year old.
"Sure we'll go get some Chinese and camp out in your Mum's office. Have you got a book or something?" asked Kate, knowing better than to define the 'something' as homework, whilst mentally timing the line waiting for Caroline and deciding they had enough time to collect the takeaway via the Elliot household if Lawrence had forgotten to bring anything.
"No, I forgot," admitted Lawrence sheepishly, remembering his mother quite clearly reminding him to make sure he had something with him to keep him occupied in case they ended up having to wait for her. Was this going to mean the end of the takeaway treat?
"Ok, so we take a detour home to grab it," decided Kate, quickly realising Lawrence's oversight not only gave her an added opportunity to spoil Caroline, but was also not a mistake worth punishing and therefore risking a fight over for all his generally good behaviour, Lawrence was still a teenager and moodiness was not something Kate was interested in experiencing this evening, "I'll just go let Caroline know our cunning plan."
"Can I go say hi to Sam?" asked Lawrence, reasonably politely, gesturing to his best friend who was patiently waiting with his parents to see his mother, not wanting to get on her bad side, which was almost as scary as his mother's.
"Sure by the door in ten minutes," said Kate, anticipating her one minute conversation with Caroline would take much longer to accomplish as she could see at least 3 members of her choir between her and Caroline.
"Deal," agreed Lawrence, disappearing into the flow of people moving around the hall, leaving Kate to make a slower, more decorous transit of the Hall which fortunately, Caroline spotted and managed to engineer her conversation with the parents of a new student to a close just as Kate appeared.
"I'm sorry Mr Jenkins, Mrs Jenkins would you excuse me for one moment before we talk about Josh's brilliance in the Debate Club and Hockey team? I just need to speak with Miss McKenzie," and, with a graceful ease that belied the stiffness she felt from sitting for two hours in a far from toasty hall, Caroline rose from her chair and took a couple of steps away from the next set of flattered parents and blushing Josh so their conversation was not overheard.
"You're magnificent," complimented Kate, shoving her hands in her pockets to stop her reaching out and touching Caroline, "but I actually came to tell you Lawrence and I are done, apart from seeing you so we're going to get Chinese takeaway and wait for you in your office."
"I could kiss you," was all Caroline said, keeping a tight grip on the folds of her academic gown so she didn't reach out and pull Kate into an heartfelt embrace that really wouldn't have been particularly appropriate or Headmistress-like.
"You've got one hour," said Kate grinning, "before your dinner starts getting cold."
"Thank you," and, with a sheepish grin (that was the mirror image of her son's and even more cute, thought Kate) when her stomach let out a traitorous grumble, Caroline turned her attention back to Mr and Mrs Jenkins one hour, eight more sets of parents, she could do this.
One hour and five minutes later, Caroline strode down the corridor to her office, a glance at her watch confirming that they had just over an hour until the caretaker would be knocking on her office door to signal he thought she should be home, a knock which always coincided with his 10pm final lock up. Entering her office, she was greeted with the unexpectedly wonderful sight of plates of hot food on her desk and a glass of red wine on the mat that normally saw a mug of tea.
"Hey," said Kate quietly, looking up from the plate she was just putting spring rolls on.
"Hello," Caroline shut the door and leant against it, kicking off her heels as she took in the sight of her wonderful girlfriend and son.
"Hi Mum, Kate said I could start," explained Lawrence, pausing in his demolition of what looked like sweet and sour chicken with plain rice.
"Smart Kate," agreed Caroline, hanging up her academic gown and taking the clip out of her hair, a symbolic gesture that she hoped would help to alleviate her headache.
"Headache?" asked Kate sympathetically, coming to stand in front of Caroline offering a glass of red wine in what looked suspiciously like one of her wine glasses from home.
"Mmm, thank you," Caroline accepted the glass and stole a quick kiss, confident Lawrence wouldn't object, being spectacularly unobservant if there was food in front of him, "a bit of one, but it's already starting to go."
"Liar," teased Kate, gesturing towards the desk, "I promise I merely moved the piles, I can put everything back exactly."
"She's got a little diagram and everything Mum," volunteered Lawrence, earning him a whispered 'traitor' from Kate who was amused at his willingness to betray her neat-freak tendency.
"This is wonderful, you are wonderful, you're both wonderful," declared Caroline, taking in the family scene, "where am I sitting?" she asked, not wanting to assume she was sitting at her desk chair and automatically relegating Kate to a guest chair.
"Do you want more duck or lamb?" asked Kate, naming two of their favourite dishes which she'd split between their two plates.
"Umm, quack?" joked Caroline, earning her a snort from Lawrence which reminded her that, despite being a teenager, he was still her little boy at heart.
"Grab the big chair then Boss," encouraged Kate, gesturing towards Caroline's desk chair as that was the plate that had fractionally more duck on it, not to mention being far more comfortable than the guest chairs or the hard wooden chair Caroline had had to sit on for the duration of parents' evening.
"So " began Caroline, once both she and Kate had eaten a few mouthfuls of their dinner, " who's coming to complain to me tomorrow about my horrible son?" teased Caroline, pointing her fork at a smirking Lawrence who was used to the joke that started every post-parent's evening discussion with his mother and promptly launched into an entertaining monologue about the evening whilst Kate and Caroline continued to eat, with Kate contributing occasionally, much to both Mother and Son's delight.
"Tired?" asked Kate gently as they slowly walked down the deserted corridor some 45 minutes later, Lawrence having gone on ahead to unlock the Jeep.
"A little," agreed Caroline, reaching for Kate's hand, "thank you," she added, giving Kate's hand a confirming squeeze.
"For dinner? No problem hopefully your office won't smell of Chinese tomorrow," replied Kate, just glad they'd all managed to eat before anyone got cranky from hunger.
"For everything for being a normal person for Lawrence to go to parents' evening with, for putting up with me, for dinner, for for everything," Caroline ground to a halt and turned to look at Kate who, in the half light of the unlit corridor, illuminated only by the streetlights shining through the windows, looked thought Caroline, like she was glowing, "I love you." It wasn't the first time Caroline had said it, but it was the first time she'd said it outside of either of their houses.
"I love you too," confirmed Kate, leaning towards Caroline, only to be met halfway as the blonde also leant in for the kiss.
"We're getting good at that," whispered Caroline when they finally parted.
"Cos we keep practicing," agreed Kate, unable to resist stealing another kiss from her unusually pliable and seemingly sleepy girlfriend.
"Mmm, can we practice some more later?" asked Caroline as they set off slowly down the corridor again, conscious Lawrence was waiting for them in the car.
"I've still got some marking to do," warned Kate, remembering the stack of exercise books she'd collected earlier in the day that really needed to be marked tonight if she wasn't going to have a horrible night later in the week.
"Oh." Caroline's face fell slightly on hearing that as she'd been about to wonder if Kate wanted to stay was it very wrong of her to be jealous of her own son for getting to spend the entire evening with her girlfriend?
"Yeah, and I left it on your kitchen counter earlier when we stopped by to get the wine," explained Kate, confirming the mystery of the wine glass, relieved to see the smile appear on Caroline's face as the blonde realised this meant she was staying the night Kate had been worrying she'd been too presumptuous despite Caroline's repeated invitations to stay over whenever she liked.
"Good night George," called Caroline suddenly, seeing the Caretaker ahead as they approached the school main door and could see Lawrence standing by the car, looking up at the stars.
"Good night Dr Elliot, Miss McKenzie," called the caretaker, the older gentleman smiling kindly in their direction and unfazed by their joined hands he'd always liked the modern languages and music teacher and he'd never seen Dr Elliot look so relaxed and, well, human until this relationship had started, which could only be good for the school.
"I'll drive," said Kate quietly, opening the front passenger door for Caroline whilst Lawrence clambered into the back of the big vehicle.
"Thank you for everything," repeated Caroline, struggling to remember ever feeling this spoilt, earning her a gentle smile from Kate before she headed around to the driver's side and pointed them in the direction of Caroline's home.
"He asleep?" asked Kate when Caroline appeared in the doorway, her glass of wine that she'd taken upstairs with her still half full.
"Almost, he's reading for a few minutes first," said Caroline, still finding it strange that her son, for so many years almost phobic about reading a book outside of his school work, was now actually enjoying reading books of any sort before he went to sleep.
"You have a good chat?" Kate was careful not to intrude on mother-son matters but was equally keen to know if they had managed to talk more seriously about parents' evening than their entertaining but reasonably superficial conversation over dinner as she knew how difficult it was for Caroline to have to cope with not being allowed to be Lawrence's mother at school event because so often she had to be the headmistress first.
"Wonderful more of what he told us over dinner and he's already thinking about his GCSE options, so we talked about that, which was nice," Caroline lingered by the end of the couch, unsure whether Kate had finished her marking yet.
"I've got two more to mark should be done in five minutes or so," said Kate, correctly guessing Caroline's unspoken question and gesturing to the two exercise books at her side.
"Want a top up?" Caroline picked up Kate's empty wine glass which, when full, had contained Kate's first glass of the evening, having shared Lawrence's Coke at dinner in order to designate herself their driver for the evening.
"I'd love one," agreed Kate, reaching for her next book to mark, "if you pour slowly, I'll be finished by the time you're back," she estimated, looking forward to some 'Caroline time' as she dubbed it. Whilst she genuinely enjoyed the company of the boys, either on their own or with Caroline, it wasn't the same as when the two of them were spending time together without company or interruption.
"Sure, don't rush," said Caroline seriously, knowing how easy it was to mess up the final marking if you allowed yourself to become distracted thinking about what you were going to do after you'd finished it was especially embarrassing when it was work done by the younger classes that was usually very black and white to mark, making every mistake by the teacher gleefully discoverable, "still ok with red?"
"I'll be right back," and, on that note, Caroline headed into the kitchen where she poured the remainder of the bottle Kate had opened earlier into their glasses before getting a large glass of water which she drank in one go, the cool water blissful against her hoarse throat which was starting to suffer from the intensive talking session parents' evenings always were for her, and she was only on number two of eight!
Thirst quenched, she headed for the fridge, pleased to see that the leftovers from Sunday's family lunch with William before he went back to Oxford hadn't been polished off by Lawrence and, with a spoon in her pocket, Caroline carefully picked up the two wine glasses and her treat and returned to the sitting room to find Kate putting her final exercise book down on the 'marked' pile.
"Done, oh, let me help you." Kate leapt to her feet and rescued the two glasses of red wine from Caroline's hand.
"Thanks, do you fancy some music?" asked Caroline, heading towards the stereo system, wondering why she even asked as Kate always answered,
"I'll never say no to music, it's how you ended up with so many choirs!"
"Jazz?" Caroline spied an Ella Fitzgerald CD that was appropriately mellow and matched their mood.
"Perfect," agreed Kate as she gently pushed the sitting room door closed Lawrence's bedroom was right at the top of the house and they would only be playing the music quietly but nevertheless, he did have school tomorrow and didn't need to be disturbed.
"Come here?" asked Caroline a moment later, propped up in the corner of the couch, gesturing for Kate to use her as a backrest.
"I was going to give you a neck rub," began Kate, pointing towards the cushion she'd put on the floor in front of the couch earlier.
"Let me spoil you first? You've been spoiling me all evening," entreated Caroline, almost wishing she still had her reading glasses on so that she could peer over them in an attempt to persuade Kate.
"If you insist." Kate's smile echoed her teasing tone as she crossed back to the couch and, after making sure both wine glasses were in reach, settled down against Caroline in what was a familiar position only to feel something . " is that a "
"Spoon in my pocket? Yes, I forgot!" exclaimed Caroline, pulling the offending item out of her pocket and showing it to an amused Kate, " what? Why are you laughing at me?"
"You're magnificent," repeated Kate, echoing her comment made back in the school hall.
"So you keep saying, but it's quite undeserved," said Caroline, struggling like always to accept Kate's compliments.
"So I shall just keep reminding you of your magnificence," stated Kate reasonably, looking at the brandished spoon, "is this some cutlery fetish you only now feel comfortable sharing?" she asked, unclear why the spoon had been in Caroline's pocket in the first place.
"What? No! Don't be stupid, it's for the chocolate mousse."
"I've done this all wrong," started Caroline, getting flustered which was yet another of the litany of small things that were gradually starting to emerge as Caroline continued to relax and have relationships with other people (but particularly Kate) like 'normal' people did as she had once described it, things that generally first appeared around Kate or William, things that generally only endeared her even more to Kate.
"Then start again," suggested Kate amiably, standing up so that Caroline could get comfortable again, this time without the spoon in her pocket. "Okay?" she asked, once Caroline had positioned the blanket on the back of the couch and had her wine glass, spoon and Tupperware box all in reach.
"Almost," confirmed Caroline, patting the couch in invitation for Kate to snuggle into their familiar cuddling position which saw Kate lying against Caroline, legs tangled together. As invitations went, it was one Kate always quickly accepted.
"This is nice," said Kate after a few moments once they were settled, Caroline's fingers tracing lazy patterns on her arm and stomach, her neck being gently caressed by the even cadence of Caroline's breathing, the quiet hum of Ella Fitzgerald singing about a still distant 'Summertime' in the background.
"One thing can make it better though."
"I thought we agreed, no sex anywhere except your bedroom," teased Kate, unwilling to admit quite how readily she would break that (very sensible and necessary) rule as she mourned the loss of Caroline's teasing caress of her stomach through her shirt.
"Ahem, only two things could make this better, one of which we will revisit next time I stay over at your place," amended Caroline, "and that is chocolate," she announced, as, with an air of triumph, she managed to open the Tupperware box one handed and extract a spoonful of chocolate mousse which she now presented to Kate who obediently ate the mouthful.
"Mmm, did I tell you enough on Sunday how wonderful this is?" asked Kate once she's licked the spoon clean, enabling Caroline to have some herself.
"You might have mentioned it, once or twice," agreed Caroline, remembering Kate joining William and Lawrence's general chorus of approval for the homemade dessert.
"What for? It's only some leftovers."
"No, for this evening."
"I should be the one thanking you "
"I never really told you how grateful I am that you let me be a part of your life with the boys," explained Kate, snuggling deeper into Caroline's body as if to make sure she couldn't disappear.
"How could I not?" asked Caroline, genuinely confused Kate was a vital part of her life, the boys were an essential part of her life it would be exhausting trying to separate them.
"Umm " Not expecting Caroline's viewpoint, Kate was at a loss for words, only for Caroline to find some for both of them.
"Is that something 'normal' people would have done? Kept you in a boys' free corner? Why? I mean, it's part of what I am, part of who I am, and anyway, you'd already met William and Lawrence at school, so it's not like I could pretend they didn't exist oh, did I just assume " Caroline's monologue ground to a halt when she realised she'd 'been just like a man' and assumed Kate would be part of her family's life and not just her life.
"No, you didn't assume, you were true to you, and it's that that I'm so very grateful for." Suddenly regretting their comfortable snuggling position as it made it impossible for Kate to see Caroline's face, Kate sat up, taking care not to elbow her confused girlfriend, and turned to look at her, unable to resist kissing her gently before trying again to explain what she had meant. "Tonight made me realise, in a good way, that I've always been a part of your family's life, ever since your birthday and that first game of Scrabble, as well as being a part of your life, and that's something that is very special and I hadn't been expecting when I first wanted to kiss you. It wasn't something you had to share with me, but you did even though it couldn't have been easy with our jobs and the divorce and I'm still a bit scared of your mother Sshh " Kate forestalled Caroline's interruption with a finger to her lips, "but you did it anyway and with your usual magnificent confidence that just meant it happened. I spent all day panicking, not about parents' evening but about why I wasn't panicking about it and that was how I realised, well, really noticed what I already knew, that you had let me get to know your family as well as you, that the boys had let me become part of this family as well as part of you, that I've been able to fall in love with all of you and all parts of you. I love you."
"You are part of this family, you are part of me," confirmed Caroline, catching a stray tear on her thumb as it tried to escape down Kate's cheek, "I wouldn't have it any other way. I love my boys and would do anything for them except hide you from them, because I love you the way I've never loved anyone before and I don't want to lose this feeling. You're stuck with us, if you'll have us?" asked Caroline, smiling at Kate who was still tearful but was also smiling.
"Is that a proposal?"
"What? No, I mean " Caroline paused as she reviewed what she'd just said, grateful Kate wasn't panicking or talking just yet, "if you mean is it me asking you to be a part of my world and my family's world for a long, long time, then yes. My mother's 80th is in four years' time, we won't mention my 50th, but there's Lawrence's 18th, both their 21sts, graduations, weddings maybe, grandchildren hopefully all these dates I want you to plan for, with me, so yes, it is a sort of proposal."
"I accept your sort of proposal," whispered Kate, "and when the time comes, we are definitely mentioning your 50th," she teased, before threading her fingers into Caroline's hair and pulling her into a searing, passionate kiss, a kiss that Caroline happily reciprocated and soon became another and another until finally Kate could stand it no more and informed Caroline she was taking the chocolate mousse, minus the spoon, to Caroline's bedroom.
"Will I need to change the sheets in the morning?" asked Caroline as, taking Kate's hand, they quickly turned out the lights and checked the front and back doors were locked.
"Only if we do it right " taunted Kate before running nimbly up the stairs, leaving Caroline to chase (quietly) after her
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