DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
ATHOR'S NOTE: 1. I have stolen heartsways' patented Naked Talking In Bed set up for this. But I informed her I'd stolen it so it's fine. 2. Anyway, she stole my cow first. 3. I hope you all appreciate the restraint I showed in not calling this 'Make the yuletide gay'
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To scotangelina[at]yahoo.com
From now on your troubles will be out of sight
"What's Johnny getting from Santa, then?"
Vanessa's still getting used to this post-coital conversational side of Charity. It surprised her the first time they'd slept together; she'd expected Charity to be the roll over and go to sleep type. But she's unexpectedly chatty after sex. The conversation can range from whispered confidences in the dark, to the mundanities of life as a single mother. Like now, they're curled together in Vanessa's bed, Charity pressed against the length of her back, skin warming her own where they touch, and she's asking about Johnny's Christmas presents.
It takes her a minute to get her brain to shift out of the happy, sleepy, post-orgasmic bliss she'd been in to answer the question.
"Errrr, loads of Paw Patrol stuff. He loves Rubble." Vanessa stifles a yawn against the back of her hand. "I dunno what Tracy's got him, but she's assured me it makes a lot of noise." She turns over so that she's facing Charity, pleased when Charity's arm remains wrapped around her. She loves these moments, when neither of them have to rush off anywhere and they can just lie together in soft lamplight, enjoying the closeness. She runs her hand up Charity's bicep and back down, fingers hooking around her elbow. "How about you? Finished shopping for your lot?"
Charity rolls her eyes. "Not even close. Usually Debs and me do a day in town where we go for lunch and I buy her something she likes, but she's been too busy with this Tom for us to set anything up." Charity's eyes move to a spot over Vanessa's shoulder. "So I don't know if that'll happen. Might just need to get her vouchers."
For someone whose walls are as high and fortified as Charity's, it's frighteningly easy to see when she's hurting. They're not really in a place where Vanessa can offer an opinion on Debbie's abandonment of a Christmas tradition, even though she has one. Instead, she slips her hand under Charity's arm, pulling her closer by the waist and shifting so they're sharing a pillow, their noses brushing gently together.
"What about the other two?" she murmurs, hoping they're safer ground.
"Moses is sorted. Most of his stuff is at Ross' place, so I can never keep track of what he's got and what he hasn't, so I just give Ross money and he goes and buys whatever he thinks. Makes more sense that way." Charity tries to pass this off casually, but she can't hide the sadness in her eyes. One child won't make time for her and the other she doesn't know well enough to buy presents for. Vanessa strokes the small of her back with her fingertips, unsure of what to say. As fast as it had come, the haunted look disappears and is replaced by an excited smile. "Oh, but I was going to ask your advice about Noah's present, now I come to think of it."
"My advice?" Vanessa half frowns, because she can't stop herself from mirroring Charity's smile. "I'm not sure I'm the best person to-" She stops and bites her lip. She knows, she just knows if she says she doesn't understand teenage boys, Charity will make a comment about Kirin that's supposed to be a joke, but it'll hurt and Vanessa will get defensive and they'll argue.
"No, you are the best person in this case," Charity continues, without noticing Vanessa's slip. "He's been going on at me for ages about a dog and I've been clear with him he's not getting one. So recently he's changed his tune and has been talking about, of all things, a pet rat." She wrinkles her nose and Vanessa can barely stop herself from kissing it.
"And are you thinking of getting him one?" Vanessa asks. "Or are you looking for me to give you reasons not to get one?"
"Well, it would be smaller than a dog, wouldn't it?" Charity states. "And it would stay in a cage, in his room, and I'd never need to go near it."
Vanessa laughs softly. "In terms of looking after, yeah, I suppose it's less demanding than a dog. And they get a bad rap, rats."
"Yeah, strange what wiping out half the population of Europe will do for your social standing," Charity observes, widening her eyes in false shock.
"They're friendly little things for the most part. Wily and intelligent. And cute." Vanessa presses Charity's nose, making her go cross-eyed. "Bit like you, actually."
"Ignoring, for the moment, that you just compared me to a rodent," Charity says, tickling Vanessa's bare side and making her squirm away, only to be pulled back against Charity. "I s'pose I'm thinking that getting him a rat will shut him up about a dog and I won't have to do anything for it."
"And it could teach him responsibility," Vanessa says. "So if you see that he can keep it clean and fed, that might show he'd be responsible enough for a dog in the future."
"In the very distant future when he has his own place, d'you mean?" Charity shrugs. "He can do what he likes then."
"You're such a meanie," Vanessa says, yawning again, smothering it against Charity's shoulder this time.
"I'm pathological, right?" Charity's voice is low and rough and right by her ear and Vanessa laughs to cover up any other reactions her body might decide to have. She's knackered and really doesn't want to let Charity work her up again.
"Yep." She pops the 'p' and then presses a soft kiss to Charity's throat, settling down with her head on Charity's shoulder. "I know the manager of the pet shop in town pretty well. I could come with you and help you pick one out? Maybe get you a discount?"
"Out in public with me? In the daylight?" Charity sucks in a breath. "Big step, Ness. Sure you're ready for that?"
She hadn't actually realised what she was offering until Charity responded. Her heart immediately starts to thump in her chest and she pushes herself up on an elbow so that Charity won't feel it. She looks down at her, the challenging smirk she expected is in place, but there's something behind it that she can't quite name. Her mind flicks through the implications of this shopping trip. It's hardly a big deal. She goes shopping with Tracy and Rhona all the time, and it's not going to be any different from that. It's not like they're going to have a huge neon sign above them saying 'Lesbians'.
It could be quite nice. It might go a little way to making up for the fact that it looks like Charity won't get her day with Debbie. They could do lunch in a pub and see the Christmas lights and-
She's startled out of her thoughts when Charity's finger traces over her lips and she focuses on her face, quirking her eyebrows in a question. Charity narrows her eyes. "You're grinning and staring off into space. I thought I'd broke you."
"No, I was just thinking that-" She smiles. "-that a day in town with you would be nice."
"I get a whole day?" Charity inhales in a fake gasp. "Well, aren't I lucky?" For all the sarcasm, Vanessa can tell she's pleased.
"Yeah, you are actually." Vanessa leans down and kisses her, long and slow, before returning to her previous position, cuddled against Charity's side. The adrenaline spike from her impromptu date invitation has done away with her tiredness for the moment. She splays her hand over Charity's belly, fingertips dancing along silvery stretchmarks she's starting to know by heart. "So, what's a Dingle Christmas like, then? I mean, I've heard rumours, of course."
"Rumours, eh? So, I assume, in your head, it's a cross between an MMA match and an orgy?"
Vanessa laughs at the description, shaking her head. "There or thereabouts."
Charity chuckles in the back of her throat, turning to press a kiss against Vanessa's forehead, her lips moving against it when she starts to speak again. "Not so much these days. It's pretty tame, to be honest." Something shifts. Whether it's Charity's breathing or something else, Vanessa can't tell, but something's different. "Speaking of Christmas, I take it you're going to Tracy and David's, yeah?" Vanessa inhales to respond, but Charity's already rushing on, her words running into one another. "I can probably sneak away after dinner if you can do the same. We could curl up on the couch at yours and watch some bad Christmas telly? Share a Terry's Chocolate Orange? What d'you think?"
Nerves are clear in Charity's voice and Vanessa immediately feels guilty for what she's going to have to say. She lifts her head and meets Charity's eyes, curling her hand around her hip to soften her words. "I...I'm actually spending Christmas at home. I invited Rhona over, said we'd spend it just us and the kids."
"Oh, right." Charity smiles, too big and bright to be real. "Well, no matter. It was just a thought. I'll make do with the Dingle do. Wouldn't want to miss Uncle Zak getting drunk and maudlin over Alfie, eh?" She fakes a yawn so big her jaw almost cracks. "Anyway, we should probably get some sl-"
"Don't do that," Vanessa whispers, lifting a hand to Charity's face, as if she could wipe away the falseness with a touch.
"Do what?" Charity asks, playing obtuse.
"Pretend you don't care."
Charity rolls her eyes. "Ness, it was just a suggestion. I'm a big girl. I'll get over the rejection." She says the last part with an exaggerated tremor to her voice, her lower lip beginning to protrude. She sniffs a couple of times and Vanessa shakes her head.
"There was no rejection," she points out. "All I said was that I'd invited Rhona to mine. I never thought for a second that...that you'd want to see me on Christmas. You're completely welcome to join us." She's far more thrilled than she has any right to be that Charity wants to spend Christmas evening with her. And without any mention of sex, either.
"I don't need a pity invite," Charity sneers. "Anyway, I wouldn't want to get in the way of your cozy little Christmas date with Rhona."
Vanessa lets out a frustrated groan, conscious that Johnny is asleep in the next room. "It's not a 'pity invite'. Didn't you just hear me say that I never thought you'd want to spend Christmas with me? If I had, I'd have suggested this weeks ago."
Charity's frowning up at her, confused. "Ness, I spent most of my evenings with you. Why would Christmas be any different?"
"Well," Vanessa begins, a little thrown by the simplicity of the question. "Christmas is different, isn't it? It's a family thing, usually, and I knew all your lot did a big thing together so I...I just never thought." Never allowed herself to hope that this thing they're dancing around could actually be on its way to becoming something more.
Charity lets out a long sigh, looking at the ceiling. Vanessa's hand is still resting on her abdomen and she scratches lightly at the skin to get her attention back. Those green eyes shift and meet her own, gleaming in the low light.
"Me coming over to sit here with you and Rhona is a bit different than us going into town. You know that, right?"
"How d'you mean?" Vanessa asks, her heart speeding up a little at the realisation that Charity's considering it.
Fingers thread through her own on Charity's stomach and Charity gives her a lopsided smile. "Little bit harder to explain away why someone you barely acknowledge is showing up at your house on Christmas day, cupcake."
The sudden coldness in Vanessa's gut has less to do with the thought that Rhona will find out about her and Charity, and far more to do with the sad expectation in Charity's eyes. She's waiting for rejection. Something loosens inside Vanessa when she realises that she doesn't want to hide anymore. She likes Charity and she's really excited to see where they're headed. And they can't go anywhere hidden away like this.
"I wouldn't try to explain you away," she says, her voice rougher than she expected it to be. "I-I'll tell Rhona...I'll tell her about us."
Charity lifts an eyebrow and she turns onto her side, facing Vanessa, their joined hands falling to the bed between them. "Oh yeah? And what will you say about us?"
Vanessa smiles. "Well, I suppose I'll tell her that I've been seeing someone I like for a couple of months and that I want to spend Christmas with them." She dips her head and looks up at Charity. "Because I do. I know I've..." She shakes her head. "I've been the one insisting on all the sneaking around and I'm sorry that-"
She's cut off when lips cover her own, warm and soft and firm. "Ness," Charity whispers, against her mouth. "It's fine. Don't get upset."
Vanessa sighs, rubbing her nose against Charity's cheek. "No, I've been selfish and it's not fair." She pulls back a little to look into Charity's eyes, squeezing her hand. "Please come over on Christmas. I would really like it if you did."
There's a long moment of silence where Vanessa's lungs feel too big for her chest, then Charity rolls her eyes. "Fine." She shakes her hand free and points at Vanessa. "Tell Rhona she can have a bit of my chocolate orange, but I have to draw the line at cuddling her in front of the telly."
Vanessa lets out a bubbling laugh of relief. "I'm sure she'll survive."
"Well, now we've sorted all this out, can we go to sleep? I'm knackered and you've been yammering on for ages."
"It was you that started yapping about Christmas!" Pushing Charity's shoulder, Vanessa shakes her head. "I was nearly asleep before!" She turns over and switches off the lamp, smiling when Charity's arms snake around her waist and pull her close again in the darkness. She settles back against her, humming when Charity kisses her shoulder.
"I think you're remembering that wrong," Charity mumbles. When Vanessa goes to protest again, Charity's finger comes to cover her lips. "Go to sleep, Ness."
Vanessa smiles and kisses Charity's fingertip. "Night then."
Vanessa lies awake long after Charity's breathing becomes deep and even, excited and nervous about what Christmas will bring. She hopes it's something that lasts far beyond the festive season.
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