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 that follows.
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
"Granny rang this morning," said William as the waiter left, leaving them with a pot of tea for mother and son and a cappuccino for Kate.
"Did she?" Caroline asked innocently, not fooling Kate.
"Wanted me to tell you she was sorry, for not thinking and for interrupting " William paused whilst he poured the tea for them, " and hopes you don't hate her."
"That it?" Accepting her cup from William, she waited as he got comfortable in the depths of their shared couch, Kate electing to take the potentially more sensible decision to sit in the armchair on Caroline's left.
"Umm, mostly, though she is going to text Kate, once Raff's taught her how to text on her phone this afternoon. She also promises not to call you again until you're back I think she's trying to apologise, but she wouldn't tell me what for," concluded William, observing the two women closely, noting the look of indignant anger lurking in his mother's eyes and the slight sparkle of amusement in Kate's as she looked at his mother, "what did Granny do?"
"Something she knows she shouldn't have done." Caroline didn't feel like elaborating, possibly because the thought of actually retelling the (censored) morning's events to her eldest son, without blushing , felt like something she needed more than tea for.
"What did Granny do to you Kate?"
"What makes you think it was me?" asked Kate, trying to dodge the question but nevertheless impressed at the astuteness of the observation.
"Because Mum's still upset and angry with Granny if Granny had done whatever she did to Mum, she'd only be angry and you wouldn't be amused by Mum."
"Good point," agreed Kate, smiling at Caroline before elaborating, "but your Mum isn't really upset with your Granny, well, not anymore," which was something Caroline had to agree with, something that made William relax slightly, although not as much as Kate had anticipated.
"And you're not going to tell me what Granny did?"
"Not at the moment, no!" laughed Caroline, glancing at Kate to see if she'd spotted William's nervousness as well.
"And you're not going to let me guess?"
"God no," confirmed Caroline, taking a sip of her tea allowing Kate to pick up the conversation.
"Ready for tomorrow?"
"What? Yes "
"Sure? Because you seem a bit " Kate couldn't decide how to verbalise this sense she had that his nervousness wasn't what she remembered seeing ahead of his school concerts, " everything okay?" she asked, wondering what it was that made him suddenly struggle to make eye contact with either her or Caroline.
"Are you seeing someone?" asked Caroline gently, gaining that sudden burst of inspiration that sometimes only mothers can find.
"How'd you feel if I was?" William's tone was challenging as he unconsciously mimicked the exact words Caroline had used when he'd asked the same question of her almost a year ago.
"Fine, if it's someone that deserves you." Caroline kept her voice gentle and warm as she deliberately parroted back to him his words from that same conversation.
"Umm, okay, I mean, yes, but " William stumbled, his gaze never lifting from his tea.
"Is it Matt?" Maybe sudden bursts of inspiration were not the preserve of mothers, with Kate joining in the conversation carefully.
"How'd you know?" asked William softly, looking directly at Kate, his eyes wide with nerves as he frantically tried to work out how she'd guessed so accurately, not yet feeling brave enough to look at his mother.
"You're a lot like your Mum." As far as Kate was concerned, that was the highest form of compliment she could give; as far as William was concerned, it was the highest form of praise he could receive and it was enough to make his face start to relax into a genuine smile.
"You do mention him quite a bit," added Caroline, wondering what Kate meant but focussing on her son for now, "he sounds nice," she encouraged, wondering if he'd open up a little more now he'd seen neither her or Kate were angry or upset.
"Does he have a last name?" coaxed Kate gently, abandoning her cup of coffee.
"Jones, Matt Jones."
"Is he Welsh?"
"No." William put his tea cup down and took a deep breath before looking straight at Kate, "Nigerian, on his Mum's side."
"Seriously I know you don't believe me " he pulled out his mobile phone so they could see a picture of them.
"What does he do?" asked Caroline, looking at the picture of the two of them, standing side by side, Matt clearly just finished playing a very muddy game of rugby, "besides rugby?"
"2nd year Chemistry keeps muttering about moles " William watched as his mother passed his phone to Kate who, much to his confusion, started laughing.
"Oh my " she finally said in between laughs, just as his phone started ringing, the number coming up as 'Matt', before she quickly sobered when she saw his face, " why don't you invite him round now, save you worrying about lunch tomorrow all the way through your solo," she suggested, realising laughing wasn't the best thing to have done as she handed the phone back to him, " we'll even explain why I just laughed," she promised, putting her hand on top of Caroline's, which was now resting on her knee.
"Matt? You are? We're just beyond I'm coming " and, with a sheepish look at his mother, he was soon out in the hotel lobby, gone to retrieve Matt who was evidently just arriving.
"I shouldn't have laughed."
"It's funny I should have guessed ."
"You okay?" asked Kate, quickly moving so she was now sharing the couch with her girlfriend, inadvertently meaning the boys would have to each take an armchair.
"I'm not surprised, I've always known I think "
"He's his mother's son," confirmed Kate, resting her hand supportively on Caroline's knee, "had to get his best bits from someone," she teased, still a little bit amused by all the coincidences they shared with the younger couple.
"Mmm John's going to flip."
"Tomorrow's problem," said Kate succinctly, rising to her feet as she saw the pair appearing, "and anyway, Matt's bigger than John," she concluded as she pulled Caroline to her feet.
"Oh my hi! You must be Matt! I'm Caroline "
They'd soon abandoned their drinks in favour of a walk along the river in the bright spring sunshine and had quickly paired off once it became obvious that a stilted 4-way conversation wasn't going to work.
"Isn't it usually rugby on Saturday afternoons?" asked Kate, strolling along the riverbank with William, Matt and Caroline a few yards ahead of them.
"He's not playing this week."
"Oh?" Kate turned to look at William, concerned.
"Broken thumb he's a bit embarrassed so he keeps his left hand in his pocket," explained William conspiratorially, looking at Kate with a nervous grin, "but don't say anything."
"How'd he break it?" Kate guessed it wasn't a rugby-related injury but didn't dare speculate how he might have broken it.
"Fell out of bed." Maybe it was because she wasn't his mother, or maybe it was because he was just generally gaining in confidence as his age started to catch up with his maturity, but it didn't feel difficult to tell Kate that now, standing by the river in the sunshine, " I might have pushed him " he admitted, blushing as Kate started laughing.
"No wonder he's embarrassed," agreed Kate, trying to picture the 6'6" Matt being knocked over in any way by the much slighter William, "tickle fight?"
"It's not my fault I'm ticklish!" protested William, blushing even more.
"You're so like your Mum " teased Kate, putting her arm round his shoulders in an attempt to reassure him that she wasn't laughing at him, as they started walking once more.
"How'd you both meet?" asked Caroline, hearing Kate's laughter on the breeze and having to resist the urge to turn and see what the joke was.
"Music shop we were both trying to buy the same CD," explained Matt nervously, feeling like he was talking to a Headmistress rather than William's mum, despite the fact they'd been making small talk for 10 minutes or so already.
"Relax I'm only a headmistress to my pupils and William's father," reassured Caroline, picking up on the young man's familiar anxiety all too easily, " and I can be far scarier as his mother " she teased, pleased to see a brief smile flash across his face in spite of his attempts to look serious and responsible, "what was the CD?"
"I don't even remember now, exactly, but it would have been something choral or organ music you can't exactly get organ recitals on iTunes."
"That's Kate's influence on him," agreed Caroline, smiling instinctively as she remembered the hours William spent with Kate during the summer holiday whilst he waited for his A-Level results getting her to explain how the school organ worked and introducing him to more of the music she was so familiar with.
"But you can get Gorillaz " muttered Matt, causing Caroline to look at him in confusion, not having anticipated the apparent non-sequitur, " on iTunes he also has Gorillaz," explained Matt, clearly still amused by what he thought was a weird combination.
"That's probably my fault," Caroline started to instinctively hum 'Clint Eastwood'.
"Not what you'd guess?" she asked, pleased to see he was finally becoming less nervous.
"More Ella and Etta maybe a little Miles Davies and Louis Armstrong?"
"And you're right, but you have to remember I am surrounded by teenagers too, and anyway, I like the non-rap bit of that 'sunshine in the bag' one " explained Caroline, her humming giving way to distracted singing as they strolled along, confirming to Matt that this wasn't an elaborate bluff she did actually like the song.
"You do know it's about drugs?" he asked, intrigued he'd not met many headmistresses before, certainly not any that were as non-headmistress-like as William's mother seemed to be, making him belatedly realise that his own parents had been right teachers were only teachers some of the time, they were people all of the time.
"I was a student here in the late '80s," observed Caroline mildly, turning to look at him before adding with a grin, "and there are some things a boy's boyfriend doesn't need to know about said boy's mother!"
"Got it!" he laughed, realising what she wasn't saying and therefore almost missing what she had said, "you called me his boyfriend "
"Well you are, aren't you?"
"Yes, but " Matt wasn't sure what he wanted to say.
"But you weren't expecting me to just accept it and call you what you are?" she asked kindly, understanding more than he could ever know.
"Umm " Matt ground to a halt, dumbstruck. Where was William?
"Hey, it's okay," encouraged Caroline, putting her hand on his arm, " look at Kate "
"She's nice," agreed Matt, watching William and Kate approach, deep in conversation about something or other, "he talks a lot about her."
"She's wonderful and I'm biased and I'm glad " Caroline stopped herself, realising she was in danger of gushing.
"Everything okay?" asked Kate, realising they'd arrived just as Caroline had stopped talking and Matt wasn't looking entirely relaxed.
"Mmm, swap partners please William," instructed Caroline, letting go of Matt's arm and replacing herself as the one with an arm around Kate's waist.
"Caroline?" asked Kate quietly, having a reasonably good idea what she wanted to say and understanding why she'd waited until Kate was with her.
"They need to know."
"You want me to?" asked Kate, knowing how difficult Caroline found it to talk about John's negative behaviour.
"No, I'm fine."
"Mum?" William was confused and getting nervous again.
"Matt, you seem like a lovely guy who makes William do something other than read books all the time. William, I like your boyfriend, I can't not like your boyfriend, well, I can and I will, but it has nothing to do with Matt and everything to do with you not being three anymore oh god." Caroline ground to a halt again, alarming William.
"My mother I understand how she feels," said Caroline, looking utterly appalled at the thought and causing Kate to smile at her shocked girlfriend.
"You'll get over it."
"You're not Celia."
"Get over what?" William still was confused but mentioning his Granny wasn't helping his nerves either.
"The fact that you're no longer a toddler," said Kate succinctly before, with a sly smirk at Caroline's frozen face then stage whispered, "the fact that you might possibly, one day, have sex "
"Oh." William blushed and Matt laughed before shutting up quickly at the look on his boyfriend's face, "wait, what does Granny have to do with this?"
"We had a bit of a moment this morning " explained Kate, her attention focussing on Caroline who was gradually recovering.
"Granny rang to ask me to apologise to Mum and Kate for something she did to Kate but she wouldn't wait, she rang you, this morning, when "
"NO!" Caroline rejoined the conversation, blushing violently, just as Kate muttered, "not exactly," causing William to blush and Matt to start laughing.
"The point is " stuttered Caroline, trying to restart the conversation she'd intended to have before she'd been distracted, only for Kate to give her a reassuring squeeze and say what needed to be said.
"The point is William, your mother is "
" so happy you're happy," finished Caroline, smiling at her son, before warning, " your Father will hate Matt."
"I'm not telling Dad," said William quickly.
"And neither am I. Matt, it's nothing personal but his father will never like you, so I wouldn't even bother worrying about trying."
"Gay Nigerians aren't his favourites, and we're not changing that anytime soon, are we?" asked Kate mildly.
"No Ma'am, I, uh, mean Kate," stumbled Matt, making both smile.
"Not to mention the Chemistry, he never really understood that either " mused Caroline before asking, "you are real? I mean "
"Yes Mum, he's real and yes, it is weird," agreed William, smiling slightly as he finally fully relaxed as he recognised his mother and Kate were genuinely comfortable with his relationship and accepting of his reluctance to mention this to his father.
"Okay then. So, Matt, you going to join us for lunch tomorrow, after the service?"
"Umm." Matt paused to look at William who grinned a little, " thank you Dr Caroline, that would be great."
"Good, well, this cold can't be good for the voice."
"Don't you have an essay to write?" prompted Kate, gently intervening before the stand-off between mother and son could become too entrenched.
"He does," confirmed Matt, wrapping his arm around William's shoulders, "and he keeps putting it off."
"You're supposed to be on my side!"
"She was using the teacher look!"
"Kate was not! And anyway, you weren't even taught by her!"
"Okay boys " laughed Caroline, amused by their antics, " we won't ask any more questions about homework."
"Or broken thumbs," added Kate, enjoying seeing Matt squirm a little, sharing William's embarrassment.
"See you tomorrow? You are going?" asked Caroline, suddenly realising she might be at risk of making an assumption about Matt's plans for the morning.
"Yes, if I finish my tutorial work."
"Perhaps we could sit together then," suggested Caroline even as she was reaching out to pull William into a brief but tight hug, conscious they would all benefit from some time and space to absorb the morning's introductions.
"I'd like that," agreed Matt, shaking Kate's hand, not sure about hugging her yet.
"Good, 10 o'clock?" checked Caroline, not letting go of her son.
"Yes Mum," In response, William squeezed her even tighter and whispered, "thank you."
"I love you," she whispered back, returning the tight hug with a final squeeze of her own before, by mutual agreement, they both eased back.
"See you tomorrow Kate," said William awkwardly, stepping out of his mother's arms.
"Come here," instructed Kate, pulling him into a hug, pleased when he went willingly they didn't hug often but it always brought a smile to Caroline's face when they did, "well done," she whispered, giving him her own vote of confidence.
"You don't get to escape Matt," Caroline gestured to the big guy to give her a hug, "just go gently on me " she teased, making him chuckle as he followed her instructions, " welcome to my family."
"You okay?" asked Kate a couple of minutes later when, final arrangements made, William and Matt had set off back towards their colleges and Kate and Caroline had resumed their walk, finally walking arms linked with each other.
"He's growing up so fast."
"He's just like you."
"That's what worries me."
"Why?" Kate refrained from pointing out that, in her opinion, Caroline was pretty near perfect.
"He's not speaking to his father, at all, hasn't done since the divorce started."
"Did he before?"
"Before the divorce began?"
"Umm " Caroline thought for a moment, never having considered William's relationship with his father as having distinct phases of 'before', 'during' and hopefully 'after' the divorce, having only focussed on worrying about the 'during' phase thus far, " no, not really. Odd, now I think about it, given John being the English lecturer " she resisted the temptation to sarcastically highlight his professed but never displayed open-minded, liberal views.
"He is 19," reminded Kate, sidestepping having to talk about John by highlighting that, already 18 when the separation really became permanent and irreversible, William did have some more control of his relationship with his father than Lawrence had.
"I know, I just worry that he felt forced to pick between us, I mean, I love that both of them have stayed with me "
"If anyone did any forcing, the way I see it? It was John, who forced the boys to stop seeing him by behaving such that neither could cope," said Kate carefully, remembering the tears and confusion John's behaviour had created in the early days of the separation, before the lawyers had become fully involved and some calm had been introduced, " and William? He was always going to be this William if he " Kate paused, suddenly acutely aware that she couldn't say what she needed to say without potentially insulting Caroline, only to decide that she had no choice, " took the opportunity life gave him to be exactly who he wanted to be rather than what he felt he had to be."
"Like me you mean?" asked Caroline, reaching for Kate's hand in an attempt to convey that she wasn't angry or upset, just trying to make sure she understood.
"It's a different world, for William, for us, for Matt " Kate trailed off, instinctively remembering some of her own university experiences and some of the choices she had made for 'a quiet life'.
"Is it, really?" Caroline's question pulled Kate back into the present as the firm tug on her hand pulled her down onto a bench so she was sitting close to Caroline who instinctively snuggled into her side.
"You're thinking about the hotel, last night."
"Maybe a little " Caroline's partial denial was unconvincing.
"That was one person," started Kate, who had been wondering when Caroline would revisit their check-in experience.
"A horrible person," recalled Caroline, remembering with a shudder the receptionist who, on realising 'Dr C. Elliot' was a woman, had started trying to re-book them into two standard rooms and cancel the flowers and wine that Caroline had so carefully organised, adding insult to injury by apologising for the 'disgusting' mix-up.
"Who, unlike a few years ago, is now in trouble with his employer for behaving like that to you, to us."
"How do you know" Kate's calmness and confidence was starting to rub off on Caroline but still, the scientist in her wanted some quantified or evidenced explanation.
"Because we have to believe that's how society now behaves, otherwise we become paralysed with fear," said Kate thoughtfully before adding in a lighter tone, "and I checked to made bloody certain this morning when you were outside meeting William."
"Course I did I knew how upset you were."
"You're amazing," declared Caroline, leaning in to kiss Kate's cold lips in thanks, oblivious to the dog walkers and joggers going past them.
"You're pretty incredible," Kate initiated another kiss, "you really okay? About William? And you are allowed to freak out you know "
"Think it's in the mother's handbook, in the chapter called 'normal people do it'," joked Kate, studying Caroline's face before adding seriously, "he's your son, who's told you he's gay and is going out with a black guy you're allowed to blink," reassured Kate, reading Caroline too well to miss the small hints that something was bothering her but not quite able to pinpoint exactly what was the real issue.
"He wouldn't have told me if he wasn't sure, and Matt seems a nice boy, and I really don't care about the gay " Caroline smiled as she reached up with cold fingers to stroke Kate's cheek and added, " or the black but I'm just so so scared for him." Finally saying what she was really feeling was all it took to shred her remaining composure and she buried her face in the crook of Kate's neck, her arms snaking around Kate's waist as the tears came.
"Sshh " soothed Kate, not in the least bit surprised at Caroline's reaction, shifting on the bench slightly to make it easier to hold her lover.
"I'm sorry," sniffed Caroline eventually when she was composed enough to lift her face up.
"You're all wet?" Caroline reached out to touch the scarf Kate was wearing that now had a very obviously wet section which was also streaked with makeup.
"Don't be silly, and don't apologise," instructed Kate softly, wondering if Caroline would explain what she was feeling without Kate needing to coax it from her.
"It's just, I'm happy, for him, really happy and proud but " Caroline's tumble of words stopped and, frowning whilst she chewed her lip, Caroline attempted to start again but couldn't find the words.
"But people are naïve and bigoted and make comments that are hurtful and mean," said Kate finally, catching the final tears on Caroline's cheeks with her fingertips, "and William's your little boy."
"He's not big like us," agreed Caroline, consciously refusing to let herself recall some of the more negative comments they'd occasionally overhead during their relationship thus far.
"Which gives him some advantages as well as the disadvantages you're already thinking of," pointed out Kate reasonably before continuing, "he's got a Mum who loves and understands him, a boyfriend who will be there to make sure he notices the real world going past his window," Kate was pleased to see a smile starting to appear, " a brother to tease him and friends who won't be surprised," she finished, not needing to point out exactly how different it had been for Caroline and Kate, coming to their relationship with each other more than twenty years later than William having had to cope with understanding themselves more than twenty years earlier when, in both situations, the world was very different.
"You forgot you."
"You forgot to include you on his list of things he's got on his side."
"Ah, you mean insight into how to cope with crazy Nigerian families? I'm sure Matt's are perfectly sane and sensible," said Kate, deflecting the compliment.
"You mean so much to him, you know that don't you?"
"He means a lot to me too."
"You're his " Before Caroline could define or label Kate's relationship with William, Kate beat her to it.
"I'm his Kate, and I'm Lawrence's Kate too."
"And mine, you're my Kate " agreed Caroline, leaning in for another kiss, her emotional equilibrium regained, at least until the next loop-the-loop arrived in the rollercoaster that seemed to be her life in all areas except Kate.
"My bum's gone numb." Kate's spectacularly unromantic declaration caused Caroline to burst out laughing.
"Come on then " And, having pulled Kate to her feet with her, their moods lighter and their partnership even stronger, they resumed their casual stroll back along the river, holding hands and being exactly what they wanted to be, two people in love, enjoying an afternoon's walk in the spring sunshine.
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