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' and everything else that followed.
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
Travelling without Translation
"Kate, thank heavens."
"Hello Beverley," greeted Kate, stopping in Caroline's outer office to talk to her girlfriend's secretary who, if the greeting was any indication, was finding Caroline a bit hard work this afternoon.
"She's been running late all afternoon and threatened expulsion for the next pupil that delayed her."
"I see. How late is late?" asked Kate, trying not to smirk as she eyed her girlfriend's office door with interest.
"She finally finished her meeting with the Bursar about ten minutes ago," explained Beverley as they both instinctively eyed the clock on the wall that showed the current time was 3.42 pm, "he was supposed to be done by 2.45pm but there was an incident "
"I heard. Do you want me to ?" Kate left the specifics of her question unspoken since, if she was strictly honest, she wasn't exactly sure what she was offering to do.
"Brave the lioness' den? Let me give her a warning so she doesn't expel you by accident," joked Beverley, pressing the intercom button, "Caroline?"
"Expulsion! I warned you!" came the immediate response from a rather tinny sounding Caroline.
"I'm sending Kate in," said Beverley simply, giving Caroline no opportunity to argue as she cut the intercom line, "all yours Kate, I'll stand guard."
"Thanks, I think " and, with a quick grin in Beverley's direction that was meant to convey gratitude at the support from outside the door, Kate slipped into Caroline's office and shut the door firmly behind her.
"I know, I know, I'm horribly late " began Caroline, currently standing in the middle of her office, heels kicked off, shirt untucked and sleeves rolled up as, with her back to the door, she was evidently trying to sort out half a dozen things at once, " and you're here so we can leave and I'm not ready " she continued, holding up a paper to stare at quizzically as she tried to decide if it could wait until Monday or, more realistically, Tuesday to read when " ooof!" she exclaimed as two cold hands slipped around her waist and under her shirt.
"Relax " encouraged Kate, knowing she wasn't going to be listened to, so trying to reinforce her message with an open mouthed kiss pressed to the nape of Caroline's neck.
"But I'm late and the train and " continued a clearly crestfallen Caroline who was starting to look forlornly at her desk even as she did instinctively reach to wrap her arms over Kate's and lean back into Kate.
"We have time " murmured Kate, punctuating her opinion with a gentle nip of a kiss to Caroline's ear, her now warmer hands not moving from Caroline's waist.
" the weekend was supposed to be a break " continued Caroline, only to realise that, rather than listening to her panicking, Kate was actually rather absorbed in kissing her neck which, as Kate knew far too well, was one of Caroline's weak points and would quickly see the blonde reduced to a pliable puddle of goo, " the taxi " sighed Caroline eventually, starting to turn around in Kate's embrace so that she could at least look at her girlfriend if not reciprocate some of the actual kissing.
"Is not coming until 4.15 " explained Kate gently, relaxing her grip on Caroline's waist enough to let the blonde turn around so they were facing each other.
"But " Frowning, Caroline recalled what she'd remembered of their discussion about their travel arrangements which, in a division of tasks, Kate had organised.
"You volunteered that you'd asked Beverley to keep your afternoon clear past a quarter to three so you thought you could be ready by 3.30," started Kate, seeing a look of comprehension start to appear on Caroline's face, followed quickly by another frown.
"And I assumed, didn't I? I never asked "
"Oh Kate, I'm sorry " apologised Caroline, dropping her head forwards in despair as she realised she'd been so selfish, prompting Kate to reach up and gently coax her girlfriend to look up at her.
"Don't be if it had mattered I'd have told you," explained Kate easily and genuinely, completely relaxed as, from her perspective, it was a perfectly easy and straightforward mistake to have made. "What matters now is that you've got 10 minutes to calmly sort your desk and briefcase and twenty to change before we finally get the taxi to the station."
"I don't need twenty minutes to put on jeans," protested Caroline, already starting to pull out of Kate's grasp in order to start quickly and methodically sorting through the papers on her desk into two piles, one for leaving behind until next week and one, much smaller pile that she'd reluctantly but dutifully take to work through on the train, "five is plenty!"
"Which gives me fifteen to help you take that skirt and shirt off!"
"We are not having sex in this office!" declared Caroline firmly, turning round to look at her relaxed and amused lover who was now leaning against the bookcase, "at least, not in the next twenty minutes," she amended, suddenly finding her mouth dry as her traitorous brain provided some rather enticing images from their early night the night before.
"Good to know, eight minutes," reminded Kate, enjoying the flirting but keeping a close eye on the time nonetheless.
"Slave driver," groused Caroline, obediently resuming her desk tidying, "can you grab my gown please?"
"Sure William text?" asked Kate as she grabbed the academic gown from the coat stand and started the battle to fold it into something vaguely neat and square.
"Yes apparently someone has reminded the Senior Tutor about me and so William was summoned this morning to have the Ordinances explained to him. Since I don't want some young upstart playing head teacher," Kate wisely refrained from laughing at the unnoticed irony of that statement, "and making a name for themselves by fining William, I'll give in and wear my gown in Chapel on Sunday, seeing as I've got it already," explained Caroline, absent-mindedly giving three mental cheers for Kate's happy acceptance of the quirks and conventions of her old university (not that Cambridge was any less quirky or arcane), unlike her very almost ex-husband who would have made it his moan of the weekend.
"Let's go with no," decided Caroline, picking up her sorted stack of reading that really, really had to be done over the weekend and turning to face Kate.
"Nope, just need to put this in my bag and get changed." Seeing the quirked eyebrow and delighted smirk on her girlfriend's face, Caroline quickly qualified her plan, "and no, you're not helping!"
"But " Kate attempted to look innocent.
"Nope! Go, sit over there and keep your hands to yourself!" instructed Caroline, pointing to her desk chair, entertained by Kate's good humoured mock anguish, "meaning don't mess up my papers," amended Caroline, belatedly realising how a mischievous Kate could have interpreted her instruction.
"I'll be good," laughed Kate, obediently sitting in Caroline's desk chair and perfectly content to make small talk whilst Caroline changed, although she made no attempt to conceal her enjoyment of the free show she was getting.
"What time's the train?" asked Caroline, realising that, under Kate's unabashed and almost wolfish scrutiny, maybe she was going to be the one having a challenge keeping her hands to herself.
"From Harrogate? 4.45 we should miss the kids."
"On a Friday? Hopefully I've had enough of the little blighters this week to last me a month."
"News travels fast."
"Actually no. I was teaching 7T next door."
"Oh, sorry." Caroline winced at the memory it wasn't the highlight of her week, not least because it was going to give her an almighty mess to fix, next week.
"I don't know it was rather impressive, even from next door. What actually happened?" asked Kate, curious to know what hideousness had befallen one of her colleagues.
"Romeo and Juliet decided to do a rather more literal re-enactment of love's young dream than even Shakespeare had intended, certainly for 2.30 on a Friday afternoon," summarised Caroline, her voice slightly muffled as she pulled her top down over her head, the shirt long since discarded.
"Explains the cat calls and wolf-whistles then; who was Juliet?"
"Let me guess, Romeo was Jackson Brough?"
"Bingo, how'd you know?"
"I'm the lucky one who keeps catching them in the organ loft."
"Of course! Well, I'm seeing their parents on Wednesday morning."
"Do they know that yet?"
"Who, the parents? Yes Beverley made the appointments earlier."
"No, Jackson and Tamara."
"I do believe they had already been sent home for the afternoon by the time the details of the appointments were confirmed," said Caroline sweetly, pulling on her boots.
"You're occasionally very, very evil how'd you get them to stop?" asked Kate, intrigued, having had to concentrate too closely on maintaining order in her own classroom of eleven year olds to be able to then pay any further attention to what was happening next door.
"Apparently, my mere presence is enough to douse any thoughts of passion," started Caroline, only to laugh when she saw Kate vigorously shaking her head, "if you are a room full of cat calling teenagers that is, as the crowd fell silent. After that, a simple 'When you have a moment, Miss Randall and Mr Brough?' served to separate the young lovers."
"You really are magnificent," laughed Kate, getting to her feet now Caroline was changed and most distractions were once more out of sight and reach.
"Smooth talker you ready to go?" checking she'd got everything she wanted in her handbag.
"I'm ready if you're ready," observed Kate, resisting the urge to point out it had been Caroline they'd been waiting for.
"In which case, shall we?" suggested Caroline, putting her black coat on, ready to head out of her office, clearly eager to start their weekend.
"In a minute."
"Okay " Caroline recognised the look in Kate's eye as she reached out to put her arms around Caroline's waist, a move Caroline immediate mirrored.
"Hi." Caroline's lips instinctively parted as their foreheads brushed against each other before, in a now familiar and well-choreographed move, they tipped their heads in opposite directions enabling lips to gently meet in a slow, loving kiss.
"Ready to go catch a train or two?" asked Kate when their lips parted.
"I'm sorry I was late and stressed."
"Probably need to apologise to Beverley not me," pointed out Kate reasonably, not letting go of Caroline's waist, "for someone who likes plans, you do run late rather a lot," the teasing was kind and familiar, bringing a tentative smile to Caroline's face.
"Not my fault."
"Whose class was it?" Kate had meant to ask earlier but Caroline's choice of underwear had distracted her.
"When?" Kate wasn't the only one easily distracted.
"Romeo snogged Juliet?"
"You'll not believe me."
"Josephine Connors." It was cruel to laugh at a fellow teacher's misfortunes but, after the anguish she caused for Lawrence, Kate was actually quite amused at how many missteps the English teacher was seemingly making at the moment.
"Forgotten anything?" asked Kate when she'd stopped laughing.
"How'd you know?"
"Because " Caroline punctuated her explanation with another kiss in between each of her list of points, " Lawrence is away my mother knows how to contact me Alan has promised to stop her contacting me unless it's a real emergency I'm going to visit William and you're going to be right there with me for the whole weekend."
"Okay then," and, with another quick kiss (they really were rather nice), Kate stepped back, breaking their embrace in order to pick up her coat and bags, actions Caroline mirrored before, when they were both finally sorted, she opened her office door.
"Taxi's just arrived, have a great weekend."
"Thank you Beverley, and I'm sorry for being a brat earlier have a good weekend," encouraged Caroline, just managing to stop herself reaching to take Kate's hand when she remembered it was still only just past 4 and there were still a fair few students about. Whilst it probably wouldn't undermine her position as Headmistress if a few students saw her holding hands with her girlfriend (because yes, she was that scary), Kate's authority was harder to maintain, with, as the afternoon's incident had shown, disorder only being a few seconds away from every teacher's classroom given enough unruly teenagers, and to provide extra ammunition for the little brats really wasn't fair of Caroline.
"See you both Monday, no need to apologise, you didn't actually expel anyone," and, with a final smile and goodbye from Kate to Beverley, the two teachers set off to start their journey down to Oxford, both looking forward to their weekend's break and opportunity to see William again.
Apart from the occasional flash of bright light as the train rushed through a station, the world beyond the window could have been anywhere and the rest of the first class carriage could have been filled with an entire class of Sulgrave Heath (as opposed to the four business travellers and three grandparents it actually contained) and Caroline still wouldn't have been distracted from studying her girlfriend. Kate's suggestion of travelling by train to Oxford had turned out to be particularly brilliant as, despite technically taking a bit longer than driving would have done, it had created a stress free start to their weekend away, with the train 'taking the strain' exactly as the adverts had once promised. Now, two hours into the journey from Harrogate to Oxford, Caroline had tackled most of her work and was beginning to feel their weekend starting. Just as she was about to start squinting to try and bring whatever Kate was reading into focus, not so curious as to be bothered to reach for her reading glasses, she felt a tickle on her right ankle.
"Hey!" she protested quietly, poking Kate gently in the leg with her other foot which had been comfortably resting in Kate's lap ever since Caroline had accidentally kicked Kate in the shin for the fifth time, a kick that had prompted Kate to encourage the blonde to kick off her shoes and stretch her legs out properly, Kate's fingers soon tracing random patterns on them.
"You're staring," said Kate, seemingly engrossed in whatever it was she was reading.
"Okay " In spite of her attempts to ignore her, Kate really couldn't maintain the pretence of reading her book, so put it down on the table between them, meaning quite coincidentally, that she now had two hands free and in need of occupying, " what you studying?"
"This very pretty woman."
"Oh?" amused, Kate went along with Caroline's playful mood as she instinctively started to work her organist's strong fingers into the arch of the right foot resting in her lap.
"Mmm, amazing she is, and pretty " continued Caroline, enjoying the unexpected treat of a foot rub.
"So she's pretty amazing huh?"
"Well, that too, but she is amazing and it would be really great if she could learn to accept the fact that she's gorgeous." As Caroline expected, Kate looked down at the table for a split second when she heard the compliment, " but in the meantime her girlfriend will have to just keep telling her how wonderful she is."
"Caroline " protested Kate, finding her girlfriend's unexpected spontaneity in what was technically a public place a touch overwhelming.
"What are you reading?" Caroline changed the subject quickly, not wanting to make Kate any more uncomfortable.
"Seriously, what are you reading?" joked Caroline, unable to see the book name clearly on the spine and finding the book's plain burgundy cover singularly uninformative.
"Seriously, Proust," repeated Kate, smiling as Caroline reached forward and, taking care to mark Kate's place with her finger, picked up the clearly well-used book and put on her glasses so she could look at it.
"You really are reading Proust " agreed an amazed Caroline as she looked at the title page before turning to look at the page Kate had got to, " and it's in French." Shaking her head in amazement, she held the book in her lap and, peering over her glasses remarked, "my 19 year old self is so jealous of me right now."
"She is? Why?" Kate wasn't entirely following Caroline's reasoning, but it was very entertaining and somehow, an entirely appropriate conversation to be having in the nearly deserted railway carriage.
"Because I'm on a train, going to Oxford, travelling with my amazingly pretty and pretty amazing girlfriend who's reading Proust, in French, for fun and it's not even volume one!"
"And that was your girlfriend fantasy when you were a student?" Kate was trying, really trying, not to laugh.
"Well, and a college scarf," shrugged Caroline, returning Kate's book carefully to the table, "what's so funny about that?" she asked, tossing her glasses down next to the book.
"Nothing," gasped Kate, finally losing her battle with the giggles so, unable to look at Caroline's ridiculously good poker face, she distracted herself by putting on Caroline's reading glasses, pushing them right up onto the bridge of her nose, " God you're blind!" she exclaimed uncharitably, before starting to try and dig herself out of the hole she'd dumped herself in, " I mean "
"Do I really look at people like that?" Caroline was not in the least bit offended but instead a mixture of amusement and horror coloured her tone as she saw Kate staring wide-eyed at the world.
"What? No, more like this " teased Kate, pulling the glasses down nearer the tip of her nose and peering over them, although the lack of a fringe did slightly alter the effect.
"God you look good in glasses " Caroline almost looked regretful when Kate took them off, the strong prescription in danger of giving her a headache.
"Haven't you got some work to do?" asked Kate, resuming her earlier impromptu foot rub, recognising Caroline's reluctance to focus on anything else.
"Nope, done it all."
"Really? I'm impressed," either that, thought Kate, or she'd be listening to Caroline complain at how much she'd left herself to work through on Monday.
"I always was a good student," preened Caroline lightly, only just resisting the urge to stick her tongue out to emphasise her point.
"I can imagine," and Kate could, all too easily, picture a younger version of Caroline courtesy of Celia's photograph albums which had appeared one Sunday, much to Kate's delight, Lawrence's amusement and Caroline's mortification.
"You were probably always in the library?"
"Not always, I spent a fair bit of time in the Chapel."
"Oh?" Caroline hadn't ever been particularly interested in organised religion although she ticked the Church of England box every time she was asked and sang all the hymns in assembly; she was reasonably confident Kate wasn't that different.
"Organ practice kind of hard to do without the actual organ."
"Ah. Will you play for me sometime?"
"You hear me play all the time," observed Kate, thinking of all the school events she'd played the organ for.
"It's not the same," corrected Caroline, the steady rhythm of the train and Kate's hands starting to make her drowsy.
"Tired?" Kate's hands stilled as she took in the, in her biased opinion, rather adorable sight of a 'dopey Caroline'.
"Hmm, a little," agreed Caroline, clearly fighting her body's wish for a nap.
"Have a nap then," encouraged Kate, gently shoving Caroline's feet off her lap, knowing Caroline had been up very late on Wednesday night getting both herself and Lawrence ready for their weekends and last night, whilst they went to bed early, hadn't exactly been restful but was very relaxing.
"No, I don't, I mean " Caroline knew from how whiney she was starting to sound that she probably should have a nap but she'd never really managed to comfortably sleep on trains or planes and whatever small benefit she might gain from the nap would be majorly offset by her sore neck bringing on a headache.
"Here," said Kate suddenly, gently tossing her scarf (cashmere/silk blend in a dark green rather than scratchy striped college style) at Caroline before she took advantage of the near deserted carriage and moved from her seat opposite Caroline to the empty one next year, " snuggle up and snooze," she encouraged, holding up her arm so that, as they so often did when spending an evening watching TV with Lawrence, Caroline could tuck herself up against Kate's side, using the amiable linguist as a pillow.
"Mmm, thank you," said Caroline drowsily, almost asleep as she shuffled into a comfortable position.
"Mmm " and, just like that, the exhausted Headmistress was asleep, leaving Kate to, after a moment of thoughtfully scrutiny, return to her novel, her girlfriend asleep in her arms.
"Sleep well," she whispered as she turned back to her page, Caroline unwittingly now fulfilling Kate's student girlfriend train-travel fantasy
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