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
"I mean, how difficult is it to find all his rugby kit when I asked him to find all his rugby kit?" asked an exasperated Caroline collapsing onto the couch and half wishing Kate was with her in person rather than on the end of the phone.
"Because he's a teenage boy?" suggested Kate, smiling at Caroline's frustration.
"You're laughing at me "
"I'm not!" protested Kate, breaking out into a broad grin in spite of herself.
"Do not argue with the triple superpower, it's infallible when it comes to detecting being laughed at."
"Triple? And stop pouting," countered Kate, giving up with any pretence and actually laughing.
"Headmistress, mother and girlfriend, and I wasn't pouting " began Caroline, only to be interrupted by Kate's own infallible 'superpowers',
"Not buying as girlfriend, teacher and big sister, I'm very experienced in pout detection and, since I can't kiss you, it's pointless."
"Am I very kissable when I pout?" asked Caroline, abandoning any denial plan now Kate had brought up kissing.
"Extremely, but fortunately you don't do it when the boys are around or we're at work," stated Kate, blushing at what she was admitting to but knowing that Caroline wouldn't abuse her newly discovered power too much.
"How's your marking going?"
"Quite a subject change."
"You're there and I'm here with my son who I could HAPPILY STRANGLE!" The last past was shouted for Lawrence's benefit as he ran back upstairs, having clearly just found yet more dirty rugby kit that he hoped his mother would magically make clean and white.
"Ok then, subject change " laughed Kate, " marking's going I think I might set a personal record tonight," explained Kate, eying the stacks of exercise books that covered her dining room table, "needed a new red pen."
"That bad?" asked Caroline, wincing in sympathy, even if intellectually she knew that a red pen could and would run out at any point and bore no relation to how much marking was being doing in an evening. She had always been very grateful that the science syllabuses had rarely felt the need to require essays be written.
"No, generally not bad, but I try to explain why I'm marking the way I am, which sometimes goes on a bit " admitted Kate, knowing she was well known for her 'margin notes'.
"I happen to know most of your A-Level students try to deliberately finish their essays on the first lines of a new page so you'll have plenty of space to write comments," explained Caroline, recalling some of her chats with the A-Level students that were her privilege as Headmistress.
"I find that hard to believe," blushed Kate, no better than Caroline at receiving compliments from her girlfriend but nevertheless quickly rifling through the essays she'd already marked.
"How many?" asked Caroline, knowing exactly what Kate was doing.
"How many essays finish in the top few lines of a fresh page? Eight."
"You've 11 in your A-Level group?"
"How'd you know that?"
"You mean aside from my stalker-ish girlfriend tendencies that mean I still want to know everything about you?" teased Caroline, wondering how she was really going to answer Kate's question and again, wishing she was sat next to Kate on the couch and not curled up alone, with her girlfriend on the other end of the phone.
"Aside from that, although I'd go for caring and loving rather than stalker-ish."
"I had to explain my decision not to have two sets to the Governors."
"Why? I mean, can you tell me now or do I need to make an appointment?" asked Kate, taking care not to sound defensive or panicked, merely curious. It was one of the very few and fortunately, extremely rare moments of tension that could creep into their relationship, and arose from Caroline's desire to be totally supportive of Kate as her lover whilst being a fair and professional Headmistress with a star teacher called Kate McKenzie. As a result, just occasionally, topics were deferred for discussion in Caroline's office.
"No, it's nothing really, it's something I probably do two or three times," began Caroline, tucking her feet up underneath her as she settled more comfortably into the couch, working out what words to pick next.
"Talk to the Governors about me?"
"Yes." Not mentioning that it was two or three times a year seemed like a smart move.
"Caroline, I'm sorry, I never realised," began a now panicked Kate, only to be cut off by Caroline who suddenly understood Kate's misunderstanding.
"It has nothing to do with us, our relationship."
"Nope. Sorry, I'm explaining this badly."
"You're sure?" Kate was biting her lip, not yet convinced her girlfriend wasn't just being nice.
"Yep, at least, I am now, maybe I wasn't totally certain the first time." Caroline winced at how clumsily she was expressing herself she wasn't exactly succeeding in trying to reassure Kate with a simple, clear and concise explanation.
"Umm, ok?" Kate was totally confused by prepared to hear Caroline's explanation before she started majorly panicking again.
"Have you ever read the prospectus?" asked Caroline, finally working out where the start of this explanation was.
"Not recently, I mean, when I applied sure but since then? Should I?"
"No! I was just wondering if you remembered reading about the class size commitments, for A-Level and GCSE?"
"In the prospectus, we talk about how 'reasonable sized classes' and creating 'focussed learning groups' and other clap trap that's code for 'you're buying small class sizes so your kids don't have to fight for teacher attention," explained Caroline, clearly a bit jaded by education-industry jargon.
"Right, I remember that bit," confirmed Kate, remembering it was one of the many points that had encouraged her to apply for the job, "but then I think every teacher does "
"Or should do," groused Caroline, momentarily distracted with the 'whinier' members of her staff room, prompting Kate to laugh again, "don't repeat that!"
"Repeat what?" asked Kate, feigning innocence, "so, prospectus promises of small class sizes "
"Right. Although we never quantify to the parents how big is too big, the Board of Governors does. If GCSE class sizes get above 20, we have to split or stream, unless I want to overrule them, in which case I have to make my point to them and get their agreement," explained Caroline, wondering if Kate would make the connection.
"I had 22 for Italian GCSE three years ago."
"And I explained to an agreeable Board of Governors that my new modern languages teacher who had excellent references and a First in French and Italian from Cambridge would provide a better overall tuition experience for those 22 than if half were given to someone else who had less Italian." Caroline, reluctant to name names to Kate (as she had done to the Governors), hoped she'd managed to explain herself reasonably coherently.
"Oh. We weren't going out then," was all Kate could think to say, still rather overwhelmed with what Caroline had done so quickly after Kate's arrival at the school.
"No, but I think I was already smitten."
"I was patient, and we got there eventually," grumbled Caroline good-naturedly, knowing that there wouldn't have been anything change in their relationship any sooner as the boys would have been too young and her marriage too intact for her to have considered acknowledging what she was feeling enough to think about.
"What's the A-Level limit?" asked Kate, intrigued in spite of her better judgment did she really want to know how many times Caroline had advocated in her favour in front of the Governors?
"8," whispered Caroline, wondering if Kate was going to be mad.
"You can't count too well," was all Kate said, knowing Caroline must have advocated in favour of larger class sizes for her at least seven times over the years.
"You're not mad?" Now it was Caroline's turn to be nervous.
"Why would I be mad?" Clearly, tonight was the night for Caroline to continually confuse Kate.
"Because I'm a wicked slave driver making you teach large classes?" asked Caroline with just a hint of bitterness, recalling some more challenging discussions with some teachers over the years on this topic.
"Because you're a good headmistress who cares about your students as much as your staff I'm supposed to be mad?" countered Kate, wishing she was able to reach out and touch Caroline and give her reassurance in person for all her confidence and ability to reign supreme over the school, Caroline's doubts and demons were still not fully chased away, despite their joint efforts to chase them well away.
"How did we even get onto this?" asked Caroline, trying to change the subject before her emotions outstripped her resolve.
"Legitimising your freaky stalker knowledge about my marking," teased Kate, happy to lighten the tone although she mentally noted to try and steal a confidence boosting kiss during tomorrow.
"I can't help it if your margin notes are famous!"
"And now you're making me paranoid about my marking!" joked Kate, knowing her marking habits were too ingrained to be altered.
"But in a good, 'I'm famous for it' way."
"If you say so " Kate didn't sound convinced.
"I do!" declared Caroline, laughing.
"Ok then, I'll be good paranoid," promised Kate, smiling at her girlfriend's antics.
"Good. Seriously, how is your marking going?"
"Okay I should be done by midnight," said Kate, glancing at the clock which said a quarter to nine.
"Oh Kate " Caroline glanced at her own watch and realised Kate had probably already done about three hours of marking and had the same again to do, " and I've kept you chatting."
"Don't apologise, you've been perfect," corrected Kate before continuing, "I can't chop and change marking between languages as easily as I can in the classroom you rang just as I'd finished all my French marking; I needed a break before starting on the Italian."
"Are you sure? Because I feel bad "
"Don't if you hadn't rung I'd probably have ended up watching crappy TV and you're far better company, not to mention this marking marathon is in a good, mutual cause."
"It is?" Caroline was intrigued, not least because it made her realise that Kate was far too experienced and skilled a teacher to regularly give herself such an unbalanced evening of marking that had to be done.
"I won't have any marking to do until Tuesday evening "
"Tuesday as in Lawrence doesn't get back from the rugby tour until Tuesday?"
"That's what I'd heard," teased Kate, knowing she'd have to end this phone call soon, for both their sakes otherwise not only would her marking not get done, but neither would Lawrence have all his rugby kit sorted.
"They leave at lunchtime tomorrow "
"Can you be packed by tomorrow morning?" asked Kate suddenly, an idea forming.
"I can be " agreed Caroline, starting to mentally plan what she'd need.
"Stay? At mine?" asked Kate shyly, far more familiar with going and staying at Caroline's rather than hosting Caroline for the obvious reasons of Lawrence and William (when he was home).
"If you like " confirmed Kate, trying desperately to sound nonchalant.
"I'd love to," murmured Caroline, starting to feel giddy in anticipation of 5 consecutive nights with Kate, only for a shout to intrude their moment's peace. "Lawrence is calling," she explained, half understanding her son's garbled question about gum shield as he thundered down the stairs from his room.
"Go solve his problems," encouraged Kate, resolutely picking up her red pen, ready to tackle 8T's attempts at understanding Italian verb tenses, something that really would be easier to teach in Italian if her colleagues in the English department could actually explain to the students what a verb tense was in English first.
"See you tomorrow?"
"I'll pop by your office after Lawrence's tour has been waved off," said Kate, remembering a free period she had immediately after lunch.
"Not before?" asked Caroline, raising a hand in Lawrence's direction to signal he could wait a moment before launching into his questions.
"You won't need me as a human handkerchief before."
"Brat!" Lawrence's eyes went wide at hearing his mother call whoever she was on the phone with (he assumed either Kate or Granny, more likely Kate) that he wasn't used to her being cheeky.
"But you love me "
"Yes, I do," confirmed Caroline, trying not to blush in front of Lawrence at how sappy she was being.
"Lawrence there?" asked Kate perceptively.
"Wish him luck from me?"
"Will do," promised Caroline, knowing she really did have to go and solve Lawrence's problems if she wanted any time to pack for her own adventures.
"Good night, love you," repeated Kate, reaching for her first test to mark, dreading what she was going to find.
"And you, night," said Caroline quickly, hanging up before she lost her nerve and started behaving like a teenager, waiting for Kate to be the first to hang up, before turning her attention to her son, "now, have you tried looking in the dishwasher for your gum shield?" only for him to turn on his heal and head for the kitchen clearly, a mother's work, like a teacher's, was never done!
"Hello?" called out Kate, taking advantage of Beverley's absence from Caroline's outer office to manage to get into Caroline's office without having to decline the offer of a cup of tea.
"Hi." Caroline put down her pen and pushed back from her desk, giving her room to stand up and cross to meet her girlfriend half way across her office.
"How'd it go?" asked Kate, scrutinising her girlfriend's face for any evidence of hastily reapplied make-up.
"Fine for both our sakes Lawrence slumped down in his seat so I had no idea where he was and I delivered my classic 'it's about the taking part not the winning but please, please, please make sure you beat them all' 5 minute speech before waving them off from under an official school umbrella," summarised Caroline, reaching out for the edges of Kate's coat, intending to steal a kiss.
"We have official school umbrellas?" asked Kate, backing away from her advancing girlfriend.
"Only a few, and I'm only given one when they want to take photographs for the magazine or prospectus," groused Caroline, wondering why Kate wasn't making it easy for her to steal a kiss.
"No Beverley, no guard dog."
"I'm continually regretting having had a career-long policy of having an 'open-door' for staff and students that's now so bloody open I can't shove it shut occasionally so I can kiss you in my own office," grumbled Caroline before stepping back and perching on her desk, white knuckled hands gripping its edge.
"I'm not." Kate contradicted her statement by blatantly ogling Caroline's long legs that were now stretched out in front of her, complete with previously discussed 'fabulous' shoes.
"Why do I find that hard to believe?" asked Caroline, only for any attempt by Kate to respond to be interrupted by a notional knock on the already opening door that Kate could have sworn she shut behind her.
"Caroline, here's your tea, oh, Kate! Did you want a cup?" asked Beverley, Caroline's extremely efficient and totally unflappable secretary who's only real fault was a compulsion to offer everyone in Caroline's office a cup of tea.
"No thanks Beverley, I'm not stopping."
"Okay then, well, I'll be right outside," said Beverley, as she now always did when it was just Kate with Caroline which was, as far as Caroline could tell, the only acknowledgment or comment her secretary would ever make about their relationship.
"You were saying?" prompted Caroline, taking a sip of her tea whilst deliberately crossing her right leg over her left, enjoying how Kate was watching her.
"Right, yes, well," Kate consciously pulled her focus together and, paying close attention to Caroline's face explained, "I'm very glad you have spent your career with an 'open door' policy, because if you hadn't, not only do I think we wouldn't have been able to become friends in the first place, but I would now also be wondering who else you might have been spending time with in your office doing this," and, in two swift strides, Kate was right in front of Caroline who, having had the foresight to put down her tea mug, found herself rather effectively pinned to her own desk by a rather determined Kate who proceeded to embark on a thorough kiss that saw Caroline's shirt untucked as curious hands sought warm skin to caress and had Caroline quickly making some very interesting and, fortunately, quiet noises of pleasure.
"Sorry, I "
"Wow, can we do that again?" asked Caroline, reaching up to caress Kate's cheek once her brain finally realised there wasn't actually anything stopping her moving her arms.
"I'm not sure it would be the same if you knew it was coming," observed Kate before whispering, "thank God you're quiet!"
"That was " Caroline licked her slightly swollen, dry lips as she tried to find a word, inadvertently drawing to Kate's attention how bruising the passionate kiss had been.
"Sorry " repeated Kate, looking nervous, not entirely sure what had come over her during that kiss.
"Absolutely unexpected and totally fabulous," decided Caroline, reaching out and pulling Kate in for a, by comparison, very tender and almost chaste kiss, "thank you."
"You're magnificent," declared Kate, bestowing her favourite and, in her own opinion, most perfect compliment on her lover, "I love you," earning her another gentle kiss from Caroline.
"And I love you, my wonderful, darling Kate," echoed Caroline, resting her forehead against Kate's, their entwined hands resting in Caroline's lap as, for a perfect moment their world was totally still except for their even, rhythmic breathing of shared air.
"You should tuck your shirt in," said Kate eventually, reluctantly pulling her head away from Caroline's when her neck started to protest.
"In a minute," agreed Caroline, not wanting to erase the last piece of tangible evidence of that kiss until she absolutely had to, "why have you got your coat on?"
"Because I'm popping home in my free period, since I have no marking to do," said Kate, taking half a step back to give Caroline just a little bit of space, "stopped by to see if you wanted me to take a bag over," she continued, shoving her twitchy hands in her coat pockets, trying desperately not to look round Caroline's office for evidence that Caroline had actually packed for their few nights away from her home in case the blonde had changed her mind.
"Do you mind?" Caroline pushed off her desk and moved towards the coat stand where two bags were waiting tidily.
"Wouldn't have offered if I didn't," came Kate's straightforward response as she considered the two bags with interest: why did Caroline need two?
"I packed separately, for the nights at yours and the nights in Oxford " Caroline tried to conceal her own nervousness by methodically checking all the fastenings were secure on the bag she was going to give to Kate which also meant she had her back to her, "I was wondering if maybe, well, that is " Caroline's flustered stuttering came to a half when she felt Kate's hands on her hips encouraging Caroline to straighten up from her crouched position.
"Close your eyes," whispered Kate, her voice soft in Caroline's ear, "take two deep breaths." Kate felt her hands rise and fall as Caroline followed her instructions, "and ask me what you want to ask, knowing I'll probably say yes."
"Can I leave the bag I don't take to Oxford at yours so I have some clean work clothes to wear when I stay over?" Caroline's eyes popped open the minute she'd finished her question, still surprised she'd found the courage to ask the question she'd realised she wanted to ask Kate since last night only she'd managed to do it with only tea and Kate as encouragement, rather than the large glass of wine she'd anticipated needing.
"Yes." Kate's easy agreement belied the butterflies in her stomach doing a spontaneous dance of joy, "I'll even make some space in the wardrobe for them," she teased, before pressing a warm kiss to Caroline's jawline which served as an excellent distraction for Caroline who therefore managed to not notice Kate efficiently tuck her shirt back into her skirt until the final shirt tail.
"How is it that I find you dressing me like a toddler arousing?" she asked as she reluctantly turned to face the now respectably distant Kate who looked seemingly unaffected by their intimate few minutes.
"Because I do too?" suggested Kate, reaching out to take the proffered suit bag.
"What time do you finish tonight?" asked Caroline, trying to re-establish her professional equilibrium ahead of her next appointment or interruption.
"I have choir practice until 5.30, how about you?"
"Department Heads until 5, I think " Caroline frowned as she tried to remember her diary before giving up and asking, "do you want to come claim me when you're ready?"
"Sounds like a plan," and, with an easy smile that turned into a broad grin when Caroline blew her a kiss, Kate opened the office door and, with a polite "Dr Elliot's back on duty" directed to Beverley who immediately made a beeline for Caroline's office, set off to make the quick walk home to deposit Caroline's bag ahead of her last lesson of the afternoon, leaving Caroline to resume her endless war with school paperwork, fuelled by Beverley's cups of tea and the occasional daydream about a musical modern languages teacher and her kisses
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