Actions

Work Header

Euphoria

Chapter Text

The sun was setting, the reach of it’s golden rays diminishing every moment, but for now it was more than enough lighting. It made Ann’s face bathe in gold, giving it a beautiful luminous shade from the moment they stepped out of the carriage they had taken from church. Ann’s face was flushed, pink from their activities in the carriage. When she, her wife, felt Annes gaze on her she turned and smiled before her gaze returned forward. They walked in a slow, comfortable pace, they were in no hurry. There was no one outside as they crossed the green acres of Shibden, so Ann took the opportunity to lace their hands together, intertwining their fingers. Anne could feel the new ring against her fingers. They had finally done it. They had finally married, and would start their life together.

“You’re staring.” Ann said when Annes gaze didn’t leave her face. “Well you’re my wife. And you’re very beautiful. Why shouldn’t I stare?” Ann raised a brow. “You told me I was only pretty in a certain light.” Her delicate hand squeezed Annes. “This must be one of those lights then.” Anne said, refusing to admit that Ann always looked amazing, in any and all lights.

“Is that so?” Ann stopped, making Anne stop as well and turn to her. “Lucky you that we’ve reached our destination. Now you may do with me as you please.” Ann said with a growing smile as she nodded to the Lister estate that was just a bit away, amongst the green acres of Shibden. “I take it your family will be waiting for us?” she asked. Anne moved her thumb over Ann’s delicate chin and lightly kissed her cheek. “I think my family is smart enough to understand our need for privacy.”

She started walking again, Ann staying by her side as they walked the last bit, their hands still intertwined. They reached the estate, and modest as it was, Ann still admired it a few moments before tugging her hand to walk inside.

“Come on then, mrs Lister.” Anne smirked. It caused Ann to beam, and her wife swore it was the most beautiful sight ever. Before Ann knew it Anne moved behind her, quickly sweeping Ann off her feet, lifting her into her arms. Ann clung to her neck and chuckled, kissing her as Anne took the first step into the house. Maneuvering to close the door with one hand came with some difficulties when Ann kissed her, but Anne finally managed to shut the door. Ann parted and moved her lips to the lobe of Annes ear, nibbling it for a second. “Carry me to the bedroom.” She whispered.

Anne grunted, but managed to carry Ann up the stairs into her bedroom. She placed Ann down gently on the big bed, down on the pillows and moved above her. Ann exhaled sharply and smiled, tugging the scarf around Annes neck to bring her closer and brought her in for a kiss. Anne kissed her back, but parted way to soon, causing a groan from her wife and Anne smirked. She closed the door before removing her hat, coat, boots and vest and then returned to bed, straddling Ann and she slowly moved off her golden belt. Ann made an impatient sound again and Anne smirked, slowing down only to tease her. She unbuttoned the white and gold dress, moving Ann’s arms out of it and gently slid it off her, having to move up a bit and when she got it off completely it landed carelessly on the floor.

She looked down at her, unable to keep herself from kissing her again, putting her hands to use to untie Ann’s blonde hair, setting it free, the curls running down her shoulder. She parted but Ann grabbed her collar and pulled her into another kiss. It was deepened immediately, tongues meeting eagerly, and Anne’s gentle touches soon changed, becoming more careless, ripping seams in Ann’s white under garment in her desire to get it off quickly. The air felt almost electric, and certainly grew hotter by the second.

Ann moved her legs up, clenching them to Annes sides and she tugged in the collar of her shirt, but Anne quickly moved the hands away and they found their home in her neck instead, willing her closer.

They broke the kiss when they started running out of oxygen, and whilst Ann gasped for air her wife placed her lips at her neck, trailing down to her shoulder, then collarbone. They trailed all the way down to her chest, kissing down between them, her fingers moving up Ann’s thigh, finding a way between her body and Ann’s, whose felt glued together. As Anne smoothly entered her with her fingers, Ann’s patience for being quiet run out and she began moaning, and soon even louder as Anne thrusted her fingers enthusiastically.

Annes body moved with her wifes in their pressed together state, Ann moving against her fingers, begging her for more, and Anne followed her demands, moving faster. Ann tried to kiss her, but the state she was in wouldn’t allow it, breaking from Annes lips when she moaned. Beads of sweat glistened over her body, and Anne knew Ann wasn’t far as she tensed, arching her back and neck, before every muscle in her body seemed to relax, slumping down on the bed, her legs that had previously clamped onto Annes sides now relaxing, and Anne smiled, moving them down and she moved to lie next to her, moving the cover over her exhausted wife.

She could see that she wasn’t far from sleep but fighting it, wanting to hold on to this perfect moment. “It’s okay.” Anne whispered. “We have the rest of our lives right? Get some sleep.” She kissed her forehead, and Anns conscious slipped away.

She didn’t sleep for long. Anne had written in her diary before undressing and changed into her bed clothes, releasing her hair. She was just about to fall asleep herself when Ann woke up.

“Mm.” She curled into Anne and left kisses on her shoulders. “Anne..” She said in a playful voice. “I want you.. don’t sleep.” Anne opened an eye to take in her happy wife. “Tomorrow, I need to sleep.” She mumbled, realizing it was the first time she had turned down the opportunity to please Ann.

“Alright.. I guess I can just play with myself.” That made Anne take action, moving her hands over Ann’s. “I don’t think so.” She said demandingly and Ann looked at her surprised. “What?” She chuckled. “Well, you’re mine, and mine alone.” The explanation that Ann wasn’t serious about her comment never left her lips, instead she chuckled. “You’re jealous of me.. with me? It’s not like it’s adultery.” Annes over lip curled up. “I’m the only one who should make you feel that pleasure. I won’t share that with anyone, not even you.”

“But..” Ann started, but didn’t even know how to debate with that logic. “What if you’re away on a long business trip?” She asked and Anne looked at her sternly. “Then you wait. And it will be worth it.” She said confidently. “Have you ever done it before?” She asked and Ann shook her head. “Good. I want it to stay that way.” Anne kissed her bare chest.

“You’ve been with so many girls.. and I’ve only been with you.” A pow of jealousy overcame Ann as she thought about what was probably a long line of attractive women Anne had slept with. Anne had told her earlier that Ann was her first, but Ann didn’t need long before connecting the dots between the clues, and when she confronted Anne about it she had been truthful.

“You are my last, the one that matter.” Anne comforted her with and she nodded. “What about..” she hesitated. “About what?” Anne asked. “Well.. have other girls been with you.. the way you’ve been with me? the way I haven’t been with you?”

The few times Ann had made attempts at toutching or taking care of Anne, if her hands tried to stray under her fabrics, Annes hands were always there to lead them away. And a small part of Ann had always been grateful, thinking she’d be bad at it anyways, and she didn’t want to disappoint or let down Anne.

“No.” Anne said and Ann looked her in the eyes, examining her. “Why not?” She asked, and Anne moved up to her side. “Let’s just say I’m a giver.” She said in a tone that marked the end of the conversation, and she moved on top of Ann, moving a hand down but Ann caught it. “No. This isn’t how I meant I wanted you.” She said with more confidence than usual. “ I meant.. I want you. I want to see you.. taste you.”

Anne looked at her for a moment before shaking her head. “No.” Ann moved up in a sitting position and cupped her face. “We’re married, Anne. Don’t you trust me?” Anne swallowed, thinking about all the things Ann had given up and overcome to marry Anne, and she knew if this was truly what she wanted.. she deserved it.

“I do.. I’m just not comfortable..” She struggled to find the words to explain but even with all the words she knew, she fell flat. How could she make Ann understand that the thought of someone seeing her body, and someone controlling Anne the way she controlled others by knowing just how to please them, how to make them beg, and tremble, made her skin crawl.

Every time she had gotten even close to allow this with another woman she quickly retracted, and most women didn’t complain since they liked getting pleasured far more anyways. Maybe because then they could pretend they weren’t really interested in women, just in pleasure, and it made marrying men easier for them, but Ann had married her.

Ann, watching her with a concerned frown, brought her closer and planted a brief kiss on her lips. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. I just want you to experience the euphoria I get from you. And I want you to share all of yourself with me.”

Anne stroke her cheek and nodded, taking a deep breathe. “Just tell me to stop and I will.” Ann said and looked her deep in the eyes with such devotion and admiration that Anne could do nothing but nod. Slowly Ann’s hand dropped from her face and down to the brunettes nightshirt, unbuttoning the top of it, more of Annes shoulders and neck revealed, and her collarbones, and more of her skin than Ann had ever seen before. The buttons stopped right over her chest, and Ann slowly kissed her collarbone, tracing her bare skin with her lips.

Anne closed her eyes, enjoying the feeling despite herself, despite feeling vulnerable, a feeling she strongly despised. Ann lifted her wife’s arms up into the air, slowly hiking the shirt over her head and sent it sailing down on the floor. She knew Anne wore a corset beneath her clothes, that much she had revealed to her, but she had taken it off for sleep. She had a low cut tank top and under pants on covering down to her thighs and half way down to her knees and Ann smiled.

She stroke her bare arms and kissed her jaw. “You look beautiful.” She said, her wife looking down when she took a hold of the bottom of her tank top and scooted it up, exposing her stomach, and Anne didn’t stop her or tell her no as she lifted it over her head.

Their gaze met and Annes, usually either unreadable or filled with warmth, or the occasional heartbreak at their difficulties, was now filled with uncertainness, but still stoic and powerful in her ways, the brown eyes appearing like melted chocolate and for a moment Ann drowned in them before they closed.

Ann however felt oddly calm and certain, but then Anne always made her braver. She wondered for the thousand time how she could be so lucky, she knew she didn’t deserve Anne, yet sometimes she found herself wondering if god himself had sent Anne to her.

Her mouth traveled down the older womans chest and to the peak of it, and she was surprised to hear her moan when she put her nipple in her mouth for a moment before her lips traveled down again, encouraged by the sound. She looked up at Anne, leading her head to the pillow so she lay down before continuing her travels over her body, kissing up and down her arms, legs, stomach, in a desire to touch every inch of the womans body.

Every now and then Anne would make approving sounds, and Ann decided this was, if possible, even better then when the tables were turned. Despite herself Anne seemed to have relaxed, letting herself enjoy the attention to her body, until Ann’s hands moved down to her under garment, and Annes eyes snapped open and she seated, taking Ann’s hands away from them.

“Okay.” Ann whispered, leading her down to the pillows again. “Don’t worry.” She returned to her previous actions, kissing her body all over until Anne had seemed to relax again, then she moved up, lying completely on top of her now, and kissed Annes lips, softly but with a hunger behind it that drove it more intense, Ann opening her lips just enough to let Annes tongue in and she moaned.

Ann’s hand traveled to her chest and massaged them, Anne moaning into the kiss, tugging slightly in Ann’s blonde curls, making the kiss more heated and sloppier, teeths nibbling on lips and tongues moving rougher, and as Anne was caught up in the moment, Ann started moving her body in a slighty grinding, rubbing motion and Anne soon mimicked her motions.

Ann had no experience or knowledge in what to do, but her body took over, almost sensing what Anne needed, like their needs engulfed into one, and whenever they parted for air, Annes mouth would go to her neck, and Ann’s lips finding her earlobe, nibbling and tugging in it slightly with her teeth.

Her hands moved down to Annes hips, moving them up a little, towards her, and she moved up, her leg pressing between Annes, moving it in a rubbing motion, and Annes lips broke from her wifes neck when she started moaning. She didn’t try to move Ann away or make her stop, because she didn’t want to.

Her wives moans, the heat between them, and the kisses planted on her neck had affected Ann too, her thighs slick and her breathing heavy, but right now was all about Anne, and finally seeing her wife in pleasure was euphoria all on it’s own.

They continued for the better part of the night, at moments Anne was unsecure, but moving in her pace, making sure she was comfortable, Ann managed to blow away her insecurities as her fingers moved between her legs, then her tongue, orgasm after orgasm. Anne gave as good as she got, Ann’s own state not having gone unnoticed, and after a while they even used their bodies to fight, both eager to be the one pleasing the other, both their fingers inside the other at the same time, their bodies a tangled, sweaty mess. All the jealousy from before had blown away, because in the way it counted for Ann, they were each others first, and they’d get to spend the rest of their lives with each other.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Since they had been up until the early hours of the morrow, when exhaustion finally claimed them and they went to sleep, they slept in all into lunch time, when Anne was waken up by a loud banging on the bedroom door. She quickly put on her undergarments and nightshirt.

She opened the door and her sisters hand was caught mid air in a knock. “Finally up are we? Do you have any idea of what time it is?” Anne took a peek at the sun outside and guessed that it was around noon. “That’s correct. We had lunch an hour ago.” Anne had the urge to slam the door in her face but restrained the thought.

“Ann and I will join you for lunch tomorrow then, sister. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Now if you could be a peach and ask the staff to get us bathe water and a hearty lunch brought up here?” Her sister looked like she was going to explode with anger, and Anne would be lying if she said it didn’t bring her some pleasure.

“Fine, but only if you promise you will join us for lunch tomorrow. We are having a guest then, and it is important you make an appearance.” Before Anne could ask if it was another one of her sisters suitors she scurried off, probably to avoid that very question. Anne closed the door and returned to the bedroom, where her lovely wife was just waking up, stretching slightly and looked up at her with a beaming smile. “Last night was.. amazing.” Anne confessed and Ann seated to give her a kiss, and Anne admired her view.

Before their wedding encounters had always been under skirts or night gowns. She had never seen Ann fully naked before, and to get the full vision now brought back memories from last night and she smirked.

“I should get dressed. The time must be quiet late.” She said but Anne held her put. “We’re taking a bath first.” She said and Ann smiled and leaned her forehead against hers. “Sounds good.. I definitely need to clean up before being amongst people.” She let out a small giggle.

Anne showered her in kisses and moved a hand through her beautiful, loose hair. If it was up to her Ann would always let her hair hang naturally, at least at home.

Soon there was a knock on the door and Anne got up from the bed, Ann quickly putting on her nightgown and followed Anne to the door. Eugenie came in, carrying a large copper bath filled with water, straight out from the stove where it had been boiling. Anne offered to help but Eugenie seemed awfully stubborn to make it on her own, so Anne simply pointed her to the spot where Eugenie placed it down.

“Tu peux partir maintenant.” (You can go now.) Anne said as Ann joined behind her and stroke her shoulder. “Devrais-je reveneir plus tard et aider avec le corset?” (Should I come back later and help with the corset?) Eugenie asked, wiping her forehead. “Pas besoin, je la ferai.” (No need I’ll do it.) Ann said.

Anne looked at her surprised, she didn’t even know that Ann knew french. Then again, she’d had the time to study, so she probably knew more languages than Anne, although so far she hadn’t put them to use. That would change now, on their honeymoon journeys. Anne was going to show her the world, from France to Switzerland first, but then they’d go where the wind brought them, or where Ann wanted to go. Anything she wanted, she would get.

Eugenie walked out with an arching back and Anne turned to her wife and kissed her. “Ready to get in the bath? It’ll be tight but we can both fit.” Ann nodded, both undressing what little clothes they had on, Anne fetching a dish of soap and two towels from the other room. She got in first, then Ann, her back pressed against Annes stomach, her head resting in the crook of Annes neck.

“Mm this is nice.” Ann said relaxed, and Anne kissed her neck, taking the dish soap and tracing the soap over Ann’s stomach and thighs, leaving a lathered substance after it’s trace, and Ann closed her eyes and enjoyed Annes very thorough cleaning of her body. Afterwards they dried themselves up, Anne moving a towel through Ann’s beautiful hair, admiring it.

“Alright turn around.” Ann said and located Annes corsett, Anne doing as she said as Ann fitted the corset in over her chest and torso, tugging it tight together and started tying it up, pulling the strings with surprising expertise. Her gentle hands on her hips, feeling so the fabric lay right, and the feeling of the corset tightening as she worked on the strings felt soothing, and soon she was all tied up, and looking herself in the mirror.

Even in just a corset and underpants, with her hair flowing free, she wasn’t as feminine looking as most other women. She remembered the white dress she wore on the queens ball, how out of place she felt, and she felt gratitude swell up her chest, Ann never asked her to be anyone she wasn’t or dress differently, she loved her for how she was.

She glanced at her companion in the mirror. She hadn’t said it back yet, tho at this time Ann surely must know how Anne felt about her. Moving her thoughts aside, she turned back and kissed Ann’s cheek. “Thank you. I’ll help you with yours.” She said and Ann handed her the corset, lying on the floor still since last night. “We need to go to crows nest today.. we never did fetch my belongings.”

Anne nodded as she focused on the strings of the corset. “Of course dear. You are well aware you might meet some of your curious cousins or neighbours? If you’re not ready for that I can send my groom to fetch your things.” Ann shook her head, helping holding the corset in place as Anne strung it, playfully pulling a little too tight and kissed her bare shoulder, and Ann looked back over her shoulder with a smile, Anne taking the opportunity to seize her lips in a short kiss.

“No, I want to do this. Nothing they have to say will make me doubt my choices. No matter what they think, you’re the best thing that has ever happened to me. And I want to live here, with you, and if they gossip, so be it.”

Anne looked surprised at her change of spirit. It was true she seemed different, that day at the hilltop, running to her to tell her she wanted to be her wife. Maybe their time apart had done her good. But for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, Ann was hers now.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

When they were both dressed up properly and had a decent meal in their stomach, Anne called on the groom to prepare their journey for the crows nest. “Are you nervous?” Anne asked as they pulled in outside of Ann’s old home. “A little.” Ann admitted. “But it doesn’t matter. “ They got out and looked around, heading for the door and ther servant opened for them.

“Alright, I think the best is to put all things you want with you now together and we will fit as much as possible with us, and the rest the groom will come back for.” Ann nodded and as they entered her home they started gathering up her belongings, Ann blushing as she packed her sewn bunny. It was silly, but before Anne it had been her closest thing to comfort in the night. She had always imagined she’d give it to her children later, but.. she shook her head and moved on with the work.

“Is there any furniture we might make use of in shibden?” Ann asked, seating in her bed. “Well if there is any furnitures you’re fond of, absolutely.” Ann looked down at her bed, holding memories of many good nights with Anne, but also bad nights, of nightmares and loneliness. They’d make new memories in the bed in shibden.

“No, there’s nothing.” They gathered up the rest of her belongings, she had already spent two nights at Shibden now, the night she returned, before their wedding, she had spent in a guest bedroom in the estate, a wall separating her and Anne, keeping them from talking and touching. But now nothing would come between them again.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

After everything was gathered from crowsnest, luckily without any run ins with Ann’s relatives, they returned home and unpacked her belongings. She had brought a few of her favorite paintings, some by her but mostly by other artists, and Anne graciously let her hang them wherever she pleased, following Ann with a nail and hammer as they put up painting after painting. Anne also brought her closet, her puffy dresses wouldn’t have left much space for Annes clothes in the closet.

Part from that, it was mostly art supplies, clothes, a few jewelries and trinkets, books and a few games she had with her, and her letter set that she placed in the drawer of the desk that Anne had in the corner of her room. And that was it. 29 years of her life cooped up in her home summarized in a few boxes.

When everything had found its place in their new home, Anne brought her close, cupping her face, silently looking into Ann’s eyes, making no attempt to talk or move, just being content in the moment, both women thinking how they could be so lucky to deserve such a wife. When Anne, after a few moments, made no motion to kiss Ann, she pushed their lips together on her own accord, moving her arms around Annes waist who deepened the kiss, the taste of her lips the sweetest in the world, none of them wanting to break it but after a few moments Ann had to part to take a few deep breaths. Anne smiled and traced Ann’s bottom lip with her thumb, her puffy lips, rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes making Ann look more beautiful than ever.

“So.. mrs Lister..” Anne started. Officially Ann’s last name was still Walker, but it made no difference to them, and Ann smiled at the name. “When do you want us to begin our travels? We can wait a little bit, if you want, or I can make arrangements for us to leave in just two days.” For once she let Ann decide and set the pace, now that they were married there was no urgency, no fear of losing her driving Anne to impulsive actions.

Ann thought about if for a moment, thinking how she really should deal with her relatives first, how france and the world could wait, but then again couldn’t her relatives as well? She could send them a well worded letter explaining that she was traveling, as she was sure her sister would soon send a letter to the crowsnest that would expose Ann was no longer present in Scotland, and deal with everything else after their travels. She just wanted to focus on Anne, and be away from all the nosy glares of Shipden. “Two days sounds good to me.” She smiled and left a peck on Annes lips. “Now come on, I don’t think your family would be pleased if we missed two meals in one day.” She said and tugged Annes hand towards the door.

They walked down into the dining room of the estate just as the servants was placing the last of the food on the table, her aunt and uncle and Marian looking up, pleasantly surprised. “Well isn’t it the newly weds.” Her aunt said, nodding for them to take a seat at the two empty chairs and they did, the servants filling their plates with food.

“I almost thought you would stand us up again.” Marian said pleased. “Of course not. Now are you going to tell me more about this visitor we’re having tomorrow?” Anne asked mildly curious. “Oh just a friend of mine.” Anne raised a brow. “You don’t have any friends.” She said amused, Marians expression souring, and Anne received a pinch in the hip from her wife. “I mean.. none that I have met..” She said and took a forkful of potatoes. “That’s why I want you to meet him. So wake up on time tomorrow.”

Anne raised a brow at the “he” but didn’t say anything.”Of course, you can count on me.” She said and sipped her wine. “Or well, us. Ann will be there as well.” If Marian was displeased with it, she didn’t show it. Good. “So Ann, my Anne tells me you are excellent at backgammon. Maybe we shall play for a match after the supper?” Her aunt asked and Ann nodded enthusiastically. “I’d love that, ma’am.”

The rest of the supper was filled with just the sort of small talk Anne despised, but Ann seemed to be enjoying it, so Anne kept her complaints to herself. After dinner Anne went to talk to her groom quickly about accommodations for the future journey before joining the rest in the family room. After watching the backgammon match for a minute it was clear that Ann was holding back, probably too polite to want to win over the old woman, and Anne smiled, wondering how she could be so kind and thoughtful. In some ways Anne and Ann were complete opposites, yet they worked so well together. Perhaps that was why they worked so well together.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

After a while everyone retrieved to their own quarters, the newlyweds settling down in their couch in the cottage, Anne sitting casually and reading a book whilst Ann was drawing in her sketchbook. She went to the last page of it, tracing the torn edges that was all that was left of the drawing she had made of Anne in Scotland and glanced at her wife.

“What are you reading?” She asked curiously, Anne going back to the cover to read the title out loud, “Theory of the Constitution.” Ann cuddled up closer to Anne, leaning her head on her shoulder. “Read to me.” She asked as she flicked to a bare page in her sketch book and started drawing, and Anne started reading aloud, her hands every now and then tracing down Ann’s back or neck, or gently moving her nails over her arm, an action Ann highly enjoyed.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Next morning there was a harsh knock on the door. Anne had told Euginie that she was responsible to make sure they got up in time. “I’m awake.” Anne called and the knocks stopped and she heard steps walking away. Anne cracked an eye open, seeing only limbs and golden hair. She moved her head up a little, realizing her face was resting in Ann’s hair, with her arms and legs wrapped around the body of her delicate wife, who was still asleep. She seated, rolling her to her back, deciding to give her a pleasant wake up call.

She slid to the floor on her knees, lifting and parting the legs of her buck naked wife, thirstily placing her face between them, putting her tongue to work instantly. It took only seconds for Ann to wake up, her eyes wide as she looked down at her wife, blushing deeply, before she closed her eyes again, moaning quietly. Before long Ann groaned, demanding more friction, her body on fire when Anne teased her, slowing down, and Ann huffed, seating in frustration. Anne took Ann’s hips, lifting her off bed , getting off her knees to lie on her back on the floor, placing Ann on her face.

Ann moaned happily when she realized Anne was through teasing, and the second knock to make sure they were getting ready in time never came. Anne knew the Shibden walls was thin, and she imagined her loud wife was enough to keep everyone away from their door.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Ann and Anne joined the Listers for lunch, properly dressed, tho considerably late and with telltale smiles on their faces. Fortunately enough, the guest didn’t notice their flushed state, and even less drew to conclusions about it.

“Oh, so this is the infamous ms. Lister.. and you must be a friend?” He looked Ann’s way. “This is Ann Walker. I didn’t hear your name.” Anne said in a casual tone as she seated, rolling an orange in her hand, her and Ann shooting small glances to each other as the servants filled their plates.

“I am James Earlmont, of the Earlmont family. We live close to the east Halifax border, though it is a bit away.” Anne raised a brow. “If you live a bit away from the border you do not live by the Halifax border, do you? Don’t answer that it’s rhetorical. My sister says you’re a close friend of hers. How did you meet?”

James chin seemed to fall all the way to the floor and it was a moment before he could compose himself, Anne ignoring the angry glares from her sister. “In Halifax, shopping, ma’am.” James answered when he got his chin off the floor. “Don’t call me ma’am. What do you do, mr Earlmont?” She asked, her father and aunt quiet, Ann watching the conversation closely. “He is in the coal business. He said he could help you with the problems you’ve been having, Anne, so show some courtesy. And he is my friend.” James didn’t seem to like the word ‘friend’ but didn’t say anything to contradict it, and Ann frowned, she hadn’t been informed of any problems with the coal pits. “Well, mr Earlmont, I have a row of professionals in my corner, I don’t need some amateur in my business. And if you befriended my sister to get in good with me then you should know it did not work. Excuse me, I will take my leave.” She rose abruptly from the table and left the people around it in an awkward silence.

“What got you into the coal business?” Ann asked politely, wanting to go after her wife but felt it would be too rude.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

After a lengthy lunch Ann could finally leave the table, and she walked outside in the search of her temperamental wife. She found her sitting under a tree, looking up at the branches and leaves as if it was telling her a story, one of her journals tucked between her leg and her arm, lying casually down her body.

“You didn’t make it long at lunch.” She said and seated next to her, her curiosity taking control over her and she glanced down in the page of the open journal, only to find it written in some language or code she could not decrypt. “I’m sorry I left you there.” Anne said, closing the journal and putting it on her side and took Ann’s hand instead. “It’s fine. But why didn’t you tell me you had problems with your coal business?” She asked and brought Annes hand to her lips and kissed it,

“The problems is we have no more money to continue and I’ve lost..” Ann interrupted her. “I’ll give you the money you need.” She offered but Anne shook her head. “That’s why I didn’t say anything. You’ve had enough fortune seekers in your life. This marriage is not a transactuall thing, Ann. And I wouldn’t want you to think that.”

“I know that, Anne. But Shibden is my home now. And I want to put my money to use. I want to help with the coal. And I know you’ve talked about wanting to expand Shibden.. We can do that too. Not that we’re wed, it’s our money, right?” Anne smiled widely and kissed her cheek. “If you’re certain..” Ann nodded. “I am.”

With Ann’s money, they got the work on the coal pits started that very same day.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The same day, right after the afternoon tea, Ann was sitting on Anne’s desk chair, her letter kit up on the desk, as she was writing eagerly. One letter to her sister, telling her of the plans she made with Anne to travel, telling her that if she sent a reply Annes aunt would forward it along. In the letter was an apology to her husband, but only for shows sake. She hoped he wasn’t too hard on her, so in the letter she wrote that her sister had no hand in Ann leaving them, and she thanked him for the hospitality, even though the despise she held for the captain had only grown.

One letter for ms Rawson, thanking her for her help and friendship in her hard times, and the last two out to the old mrs Rawson and to her neighbour Eliza, stating that she would be traveling, and that she had moved out of the crows nest, for good. When all four letters was crafted and prepared she handed it to the groom.

She returned up to their sleep chambers and walked up to Anne, sitting on the small couch reading from the same book as yesterday, but Ann could see she was much further along now.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who reads as much as you.” She said and seated in her lap, Anne putting the book down. “Well I am one of a breed, that much is certain. But then, so are you.” Ann pondered whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. “How so?” She asked, in need of more details. Anne wrapped her arms around her pulled her higher up on her lap, kissing her nose.

“Well you’re so kind. Even to people who doesn’t deserve it. And your laughter? Like a thousand small bells, clinging pleasantly in my ear. And your many talents, and the way you so effortlessly take my breath away.” Ann smiled, glancing down embarrassed.

Anne always found so many nice things to say about her. It was a big step from being called an invalid or weak. Chewing on her lips, Ann wondered, not for the first time, how she possibly would make all off this up to Anne. Remembering how bad Ann had made her feel she was hit by a pow of guilt, but they were together now, and Ann would make sure Anne stayed happy all the way into old age, and longer still.

“Are you ready for our departure tomorrow? Remember we leave at first sunlight.” Anne said, bringing Ann out of her thoughts. “Well. I haven’t packed yet. I wouldn’t know what to bring, really.” Anne chuckled, motioned for Ann to get up and rose herself. “As an experienced traveler, I suppose I can be of some assistance. Come on then, we should get it done right away.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Next morning, all the bags were packed, and the servant had packed them breakfast to eat in the carriage. Anne hugged her aunt tightly before letting go, hugging her father shortly and even wrapped her sister into her embrace. “Good luck on your travels.” Marian said, smiling at Ann. “I’m certain you’ll have a great time.” She said and patted her shoulder. After their final goodbyes, and more than one reminder from Anne that if her aunts health got worse they should contact them, they were off, leaving Shibden in their carriage, the married couple lacing their hands together and Ann smiled, her heart beating hard. She was more than ready for adventure.

Chapter Text

Ann smiled excited, looking herself over in the mirror. They had just arrived at Paris, cleaned up and packed up, and Anne had told Ann to get changed and prepare for a night out. Anne walked out from the other room and looked her over, moving behind her and wrapped her arms around her. “You look beautiful.” She nibbled on her earlobe, her hands on the fabric over Ann’s stomach. Ann blushed, like she always did when she was being complimented.

“Good enough for Paris?” She asked anxiously. “Paris is lucky to have you.” Anne convinced her, turning her around and pulling her into a gentle kiss. When they parted Ann looked her over, Anne was wearing a blue coat and white shirt, with a gray vest and skirt. She didn’t remember Anne wearing black a single day since the hilltop, at least not in majority. Her hair was neat and flawlessly put as always, and there was a big smile on her face, a smile that caused butterflies flying in Ann’s stomach.

“Well then, let’s go. Will we need the carriage?” Anne shook her head. “I was thinking we could walk.. The france scenery is really one of a kind.” She grabbed her top hat and led Ann to the hallway. They were staying at the house of an old friend and her husband, but the two were currently on travels , so part from the few staff members they had left behind, the house was empty.

They made their way out to the streets of France, Ann’s eyes big and shiny with awe as she took it all in, the small shops, most closed now, lining the streets, the empty cobble streets leading in a dozen different directions, the gleaming river to their left. They crossed the small bridge and walked into an alleyway, music coming from further ahead and soon the restaurant front came into view.

Candles were placed outside it to lit up the place, a man in frock waiting to usher people in. The music from inside was from a live violin player, and through the windows there were dozens of beautifully set tables, only one or two empty, people talking as they enjoyed the meal, candles and a hand full of roses spread throughout the place, paintings on some of the empty walls.

They were approached, and they took off their hats and coats, which the man quickly hung up before showing them in and to a small table, set in a white lace tablecloth. In french the man explained that they’d shortly get menus and Anne watched as Ann looked around, soaking it all in.

“This is amazing. Do you go here often when you’re in france?” Ann asked, taking her gaze from the harmony of the restaurant. This restaurant really pleased all her senses. “Mm, no, actually. My friend just recommended it in her one of her letters before she went off to her journeys. Do you like it?” Ann nodded enthusiastically. “Maybe we could come here again before we leave Paris?” She asked and Anne smiled. “Of course.”

Her hand inches closer to Ann’s, lying casually on the table, and she grazed her fingertips with her own. Ann looked down at their hands and blushed, inching them further out to Anne but jerked away her hand when a man arrived with their menus.

“Je vous remercie.” (Thank you) She mumbled and buried her head in the menu. She didn’t really care what people thought of her relationship with Anne.. well maybe a little.. but she never knew how people would react to their closeness, and she didn’t want to get thrown out or embarrass Anne. And she was so used to being on high alert with her back in Halifax, when a discovery by the wrong people could be devastating. She remembered when Eliza had walked in on them, how her heart had felt like it was in her throat, pumping fast. Terrifying yet.. a little exciting.

She forced her thoughts away from the topic and glanced at Anne, who was watching her over her own menu and she smiled when her gaze was returned. “What were you thinking about? You looked very deep in thought.” Ann’s cheeks flushed pink again but she smiled. “Well.. you, mostly.” She cleared her throat before Anne could tease her about it. “So do you see anything you like?” She glanced down at the menu then back up at Anne.

“Mm defenetly..” She smirked and Ann’s eyes widened. “I meant food.” She chuckled. “Well I think we know by now what my favorite thing to.. eat.. is.” Ann’s cheeks flushed an even brighter pink. “Anne.” She pressed her lips together to stop a smile. “Stop being silly.” She said, looking back into the menu, but when she glanced up again Anne was still watching her. “Stop it!” She said, the man heading back to the table.

“I’ll just have what you’re having.” They ordered, Anne asking about the best fitting wine for their order and the man soon returned with a bottle and two delicately designed glasses. He poured up two glasses before leaving them be and Ann took a small sip. She didn’t usually drink wine or any type of alcoholic beverage, but this was a special night, and Ann didn’t see the harm in a glass or two. The wine had a bitter undertone but tasted sweet still, and Ann took another sip.

“Did you like it? I thought you’d prefer a sweet one but I can ask for another one.” Anne offered but Ann shook her head. “I like it. How do you know so much about wine?” She asked curiously. “I lived with a friend of mine where he made wines for almost a year. I helped make a few, stepping on some grapes and such. He told me all about it, he is very passionate about it.” Ann frowned. “You had your feet in grapes? Wasn’t that going to be made into wine?” She asked and Anne chuckled. “Well yes Ann, that’s the point. Stepping on grapes is a part of the process in making wine.”

Ann looked down at her wine glass. So someone had their feet in her wine? Or well, the grapes that made the wine.. It didn’t seem too sanitary, but if Anne drank wine then it must be fine. “Oh.. I had no idea.” Cautiously she took another sip. “You have so many talents and experiences.. I will never understand how you don’t think of me as dull.”

Anne glanced around before reaching out and stroke her cheek gently. “You are the furthest thing from dull, Ann Walker. Do you think I would have married a dull woman?” Ann smiled, looking up at her. “No. You’re right. But you’ve had such a full and adventurous life. Of all the women you must have met I’m still amazed you wanted me.” She met Annes gaze, full of light and emotions. Anne made her feel different, like she was more then the mousy invalid everyone else had said she was. She made her feel special, in the best way. But still, she had no pretense about how amazing Anne was, and how lucky she was to have her. She looked down at her ring and stroke it with her thumb happily.

“Trust me, you stand out in any crowd.” Anne said lowly as their appetizers approached, a green creamy soup, with a platter of grapes and cheese and bread for them to share. “You need to try this.” Anne said, buttering a cheese on top of some white bread. Ann took it, taking a small bite. “Mm!” She said enthusiastically, taking another bite, the cheese watering her mouth as she chewed it. Anne made herself one and ate it rather quickly. “This cheese is truly one of a kind.” She said and finished it, preparing herself and Ann two new ones. “Here.” She held out a grape and Ann glanced around before quickly eating it from her fingers, her lips grazing Annes fingertips.

Hungrily they finished the appetizers, the main course arriving quickly as well, and Anne explained it was called “Bouchees a la Reine” which was a chicken dish inside of a vol-au-vent, which was practically a bread bowl.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The food was delicious and they enjoyed the food and the night to its fullest. When they got back to where they were staying they were both a tipsy and giddy from the wine and the amazing night they’d had, and in a haze clothes were flying off, sloppy kisses trailing up and down each others bodies, body parts rubbing against each other, lips placed on eyelids and shoulders and limbs. They fell asleep tangled into each other, a pile of sweaty body parts.

Anne woke up early the next morning, studying her wife in silence. When Ann did wake up, she placed a quick kiss on her forehead. “I will go buy us some breakfast from the pastry chefs, since my friend brought her master chef with her. But wait here, I will be back within minutes.”

Ann barely mustered a nod and fell back asleep. She wasn’t as used to the effects of wine as Anne. Anne walked out across the street and placed her order, glancing around as the man packed everything up. She noticed a tailor just two windows away and checked it out discreetly.

Ann was still asleep when she came back, and she had the servant left behind prepare the breakfast table, and the scent of freshly baked bread traveling through the house seemed to awaken Ann’s senses. Anne quickly took the other bag she carried and walked into another room. When she came back out Ann had fully waken, sitting and rubbing her eyes. She took Anne in, it took a moment before she realized what was new.

She looked her over with slightly widened eyes, she still wore her usual vest buttoned over a white long sleeved shirt, but instead of her usual practical skirts she wore pants. Just the type of pants man wore, pleased and striped, fitting her a little tighter maybe, going down all the ways to her boots. “Oh.. you look..” She looked up and saw a rare sight. Anne Lister, nervous. “Yes?” The brunette asked, waiting anxiously for the rest of Ann’s sentance. “Amazing! Pants really suit you.” Anne was caught off guard when Ann grabbed her wrist, pinning her down in the bed and rolled half on top of her.

“So well I can’t decide if I want to rip them off or not.” She traced the fabric around Annes slender waist. “I’ve never seen you in pants before.” She said, definitely pleased with this new look. “Yes well.. I’m glad you like them.” Anne smiled relaxed and pulled her into a kiss. “Come on. It’s time for breakfast.”

They walked into the dining room on either side of the table, the servant placing the last things on the table before leaving and they loaded their plates, and they ate their breakfast with lustful and playful gazes traded over it.

The travels they had planned would be filled with visiting Annes friends and go to social events in different cities across France and Scotland over the three months they had planned to be away from Halifax, but these first days in Paris it would just be the two of them, and they planned to make the most of it.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

They spent the rest of the day shopping and sightseeing, taking in several breathtaking views. Anne, though she wouldn’t admit it, even to Ann, had been nervous about going out in pants, but people hadn’t paid much attention to them. Maybe they in their hasty encounters mistook Anne for a man, or maybe because they just didn’t care.

They walked through the Champs-Elysees, a long walk laced with stores and restaurants, and visited the Louvre Museum. Ann got some color on her face, and when they were back at the house Anne kissed her new freckles and her hands as they were perched on the couch before Anne began rubbing Ann’s back to relieve some discomfort for her, stray kisses landing on Ann’s shoulder and back when Anne found herself distracted by her wifes smooth skin.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The two weeks in Paris went by in similar fashion, with shopping trips, looking at the marvellous views Paris had to offer, going to restaurants or ate in, playing cards or backgammon, a few days spent completely in bed, learning more of each others likes, Anne more comfortable with Ann then she could ever imagine being with anyone.

They traveled to Rouen on the fifteenth day, where they were staying at an old friends of Annes again, but this time the family would be in, the married couple and their three sons.
They had arrived just in time to freshen up before dinner, and when they joined the family at the table all gazes were on them. “So how was Paris? Was it your first time miss Walker?” Mrs Henstrum asked politely and Ann nodded energized. “Yes. It was wonderful! So many nice views and places to visit, the people so polite.. though I am sure I will like it just as much here. Thank you so much for letting us stay here Mrs Henstrum.” She said and the wife nodded. “Anything for an old friend. Speaking off, Anne, you got a letter. It arrived this morning. I’ll see to it that you get it first thing after dinner. It wasn’t from your family though, so no worries on that front.”

Anne nodded and Ann glanced at her. She knew she had a very thorough letter friend who wrote to her often, but that was all she knew about it. It was probably her though, if it wasn't from the family.

After the dinner Anne got the letter and seated by the window in the room she was staying in. (They had gotten seperate rooms, but they were next to each other so sneaking back and forth between them shouldn’t be hard.)

She opened the letter and red the scribbled notes that led all the way to the bottom and spilling into a new page.

“My dearest Fred. Your insurance that ms Walker was a closed chapter in our last travels was not entirely convincing, yet I must admit I was surprised when you wrote me off the news. I shouldn’t have been though, I could tell there was something different about this one from your behaviour. And though my heart bleeds for myself, I am happy for you. I know how you have longed for someone to call your own. And even with our differences and our petty arguments, you know what you mean to me. I give up, I will no longer covet what you cannot give me..”

Anne red the remaining letter and folded it up and put it in her suitcase. Writing letters to her past lover was not an activity she was going to spend her time with now, she would write a response to Marianne when she was back in Shibden.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The newlyweds continued their travels, throughout east of France and into Switzerland. Visiting friends, going to balls and events, sightseeing and enjoyed as much privacy as they could squeeze in.

A little over two months after leaving Paris, they were enjoying the end of their stay with one of Annes very dear friends, one who knew about her inclinations to the fairer sex. They had gotten a shared room which was appreciated, and they were getting ready for tonight's ball, the last event they’d attend before going south of Scotland for a last week of privacy before heading back home.

Ann looked herself over in the mirror nervously. Her dress was even puffier than her usual ones, But the sleeves were much shorter, the dress lower on her neckline, and the color was a modest blue. Anne approached her. “You look lovely.” She smiled, tracing the fabric over her shoulder. “I got you something. Will you wear it for me?” She took a box from a desk drawer and Ann accepted it, opening it to find a beautiful pearl necklace inside with matching earrings. She handed the box to Anne who lifted it up and placed it around her neck. She clasped it in the back and started kissing down her neck as Ann put on the earrings. “It’s lovely, thank you.” She turned around and placed a gentle kiss on Annes lips. “But don’t get any ideas, we need to go.” She chuckled when she saw Annes gaze roaming down her dress. She took her hand and tugged her out, Anne allowing her and squeezed her hand.

“Are you nervous?” She asked and Ann nodded. “A bit. Don’t wander off and leave me alone for too long alright?” Anne smiled, stroking the back of her hand with her thumb. “Alright.” They walked down the corridors, laughter and music and muffled conversations already heard. They passed some guards and walked into the ballrooms.

Ann looked around with wide eyes, this was certainly a world apart from her life at the crows nest. She was overcome with gratitude for Anne who had brought so much into her life and she squeezed her hand. “Should we dance?” She suggested and Anne nodded and led her to through a doorway to a room full of dancing couple, a few people in the corners of the room watching the dancers. They made it to the middle and joined into the dance, Anne leading Ann with certainty and they chuckled at the more vigorous movements like skipping about.

After only one dance Ann felt her heart beating fast, and they left the dance floor for a small break. Anne led her to meet some friends of hers, introducing her to Dukes and Princesses, Lords and Ladies. Ann particularly took a liking to lady Stefania, they talked about painting and France. Stefania had similarly to her been rather shielded from the social life until she married Lord Foster. They were busy discussing their favorite artists when Ann felt Anne getting antsy by her side.

“I think we’re going to go dance some more.” Ann said hesitant, biting her lip. “Of course, don’t let me stop you. I hope we meet again before the night is over.” Ann nodded but made no move to leave. “Maybe..” Stefania began. “We could swap addresses. We could write to each other.. if you’d like.” Ann beamed and nodded, and they decided that their grooms would gather the others collective address on the morning.

“You took rather a liking to her. Need I be jealous?” Anne asked and Ann chuckled, nudging her ribs with her elbow gently. “You’re being silly.” Anne chuckled. “That’s a new word for me to be associated with. I’ve been called many things in my days.. never that.” Ann frowned. She had heard some of the people whisper behind Annes back, calling her by a mans name, or referring to her as a gentleman.

She hadn’t told Anne, knowing it would only bring her pain. Though Anne had many masculine tendencies, like the way she’d dress and act, and she’d never let herself be limited by her sex, Ann knew that Anne still valued her femininity, but in a different way than others, but still validly. And people referring to her as a man or thinking she was one hurt her, all though god knows she would never show it intentionally.

“Well you are silly.” Ann answered, and the married couple shared a warm glance and a smile. They joined the dance floor, amongst the couples dancing minuet step. They parted, performing the steps forward, then their palms met in the middle in according to the dance. They shot each other playful glances, both struggling not to lace their fingers together as usual. They stepped in a circle before repeating the steps, feets perfecting performing the small steps required, their palms warm against the others.

The rest of the night continued in the same fashion, dancing, socializing, eating. It was truly a night to remember. They stayed late, over half of the guests had left, but they stayed, talking to the people remaining. Anne had gone to say goodbye to an old friend when Ann got roped into a conversation. “Of course my sister, twenty three, got married only a month ago. That’s the perfect age for marriage, I’d say.” One of the men glanced at Ann. “What about you Ann? When are you settling down? If I heard correctly earlier you’re twenty nine?”

Ann fidgeted, the never ending question at any social event. She rubbed her finger, the black onyx ring hidden in her room. Herself and Anne had decided that was for the best, not to draw attention, but she missed the feeling of it, and she wished she could wear it, show the world that Anne was hers and that she was proud to have someone so amazing.

“Yes you’re correctly informed.” She held back a sigh, wishing to leave the conversation but that’d be rude. “What’s the issue then? No offers, a pretty girl such as yourself?” Ann fidgeted, rubbing her empty finger. “Um..” She bit her lip, the eyes of all three men now on her, waiting for a response but she couldn’t bring herself to give them one, she just wanted to be swallowed whole by the earth.

“I’m sure you could get several offers just from this very ball. Mr Southen here is a widow, he’s been looking for a pretty young thing to run his household.” Ann looked up at Mr Southen, a man nearing fifty, his gaze neither apologetic or wavering as he took her in.

Ann heard steps and she drew a sigh of relief when Anne joined her by her side, she must have heard their conversation closening in.

“She’s not a piece of meat sold to the highest bidder, mr Chamberly, and mr Southen you better take those eyes off her. Ann here has been offered plenty of marriage proposals, from men much finer than yourselves, but it is not every woman's goal in life to become a man's property. Come on now, Ann, we should leave, no one worthy of our time is left here anyways.”

Anne laced an arm around Ann’s and pulled her away. As they walked away Ann heard mr Southen say “what a waste” to his chums. “Thank you.” Ann mumbled to her wife, who was escorting her out of the ballroom and into their own sleeping quarters. “I shouldn’t have left you alone in the first place. Are you alright?” She asked, stopping and turned to Ann. “I’m fine, I just.. I didn’t know what to do.” Anne smiled gently. “You need to start sticking up for yourself, Ann. This world can be cruel, and here you are, heart on your sleeve, without a mean bone in your body. You already know people will take advantage of that. They have.”

Ann glanced around to make sure they were alone and stepped closer, wrapping her arms around her and rested her head against her chest. “But now I have you to protect me.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ann woke up from a nightmare with a small gasp, a hand quickly moving up to her throat. She hadn’t had a nightmare since.. since before visiting her sister. She recalled the nightmare, she had clawed at her throat, chains had wrapped tightly around it, and around her wrists and legs, tying her to the ground, and all she could see was the sky, lightning striking around her. She remembered the voice carried by the thunder. She knew it was god. The cross around her neck had twisted in her sleep, and the chain had moved tight around her neck. She took the cross, untwisting the chain.

The message had been clear. Her feelings for Anne was a test, one she was meant to rise above and proof she was walking his path, but she had failed. Ann struggled to slow her breathing. She hopes it was just a dream. She thinks it was just a dream, encouraged by the necklace wrapped hard around her neck. Anne had said that god didn’t test or play games. He made every single person, and our nature and inclinations, and going against them would be against his will. The bible and prejudice was made of humans, but we were made of him.

But in the darkness of the night, Ann’s body clinging to Annes sleeping form and she watched her face, relaxed and innocent looking in it’s sleeping state, Ann decided it didn’t matter. She came to peace with the chance that she might spend her eternity in the afterlife burning in the flames and sulfur of hell, because for however long she had left with Anne, it was worth it.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

When Anne woke up next morning, she noticed Ann had placed her head on her chest, her arms around Annes body and their legs entangled. She studied her sleeping form for a minute, considering their conversation last night. Anne had to protect her, keep her from getting hurt. Anne had heard the remarks whispered behind her back about her “masculinity” but she was used to it. But when she realized that Ann heard them as well, but not saying anything to not hurt Anne, her face set in anger over the things they said, she remembered what Marianne had said, about getting mistreated just for being with her. She didn’t want that to happen to Ann.

It would be good for them, the two weeks by themselves, before going back to Shibden. Ann’s eyelids fluttered open, and she looked up at Anne through her black long lashes. “Good morning.” She whispered in a sleep heavy voice. “Good morning wife.” Anne said and kissed her head. She liked saying it, and she knew Ann loved hearing it. None of them cared that it wasn’t legally binding. In their eyes, Ann was mrs. Lister, and their unity was as strong, or stronger, than any legally bonded pair.

Annes gaze traveled down, seeing the ring sparkling on Ann’s fingers. She must have woken up in the night, and put it on. It made her smile. Anne reached for her journal, she had been otherwise occupied last night to write. She moved quickly, placing slender letter after letter on the page. Ann peaked over her shoulder, seeing nothing but the last sentence. It was written in code, which Ann knew meant she was writing about her or private details about business. Ann guessed it was about her, and their tireless activities in bed last night. Anne called it “grubble” to Ann’s amusement, but she had no idea why.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

They had one last breakfast with the family they were staying at and then got in their carriage. They’d now travel to the border of Switzerland, so when they were traveling home it wouldn’t be quite as long a journey.

They were staying at a friends summer cabin, where they’d be completely alone except for their groom and Eugenie. The place was small, but big enough for the four of them, it still had two floors, and their help would take the bottom one.

They shared a bath directly after arriving and changed into fresh clothing. Ann opened the game cabinet and chose a deck of cards. “Let’s play?” She suggested and they settled down at the table to play. It was looking like Ann would win when Anne found an efficient way to distract her, her bare foot going somewhere it shouldn’t, and just a few hands later Anne smiled victorious.

“Cheater.” mumbled Ann. Anne was a lot of things but a gracious winner was not one of them, and she smirked, teasing Ann about it. “Give me a rematch and we’ll see who the real winner is.” Ann asked but Anne quickly put away the cards. “No.. I’m not feeling it.” Ann raised a brow but said nothing. Instead they settled down, Anne writing in her journal and Ann crafting a letter for her new friend and one for Annes family, and one to her own sister, mentioning the adventures they had experienced on their travels.

They sent dinner in, and they spent the entire evening in their room, a change of pace from the recent traditions of spending them socialising with friends.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
But their last week in scotland went by way too fast for both peoples liking. It wasn’t long until they were back in the carriage, and back in ‘shabby little Shibden.’

Chapter Text

Ann stepped cautiously out of the carriage and looked up at the Shibden estate. She already felt more at home here than she ever had at crows nest, but she had been dreading going back, knowing she had to deal with everything now. The tribe and their questions and opinions.. she didn’t care what they thought, really, but the whole ordeal would be exhausting, she was tired just thinking about it. It could be postponed but soon she couldn’t hide from them any longer. Anne stepped out after her and they walked up to the entrance of the Shibden estate, their groom taking care of their bags and the carriage.

“I know it isn’t like the white and gold palace in France or the mansions there, but we can go traveling again soon. Rome this time.” Anne said as she looked at her. “This is much better than some flashy palace Anne. I was just thinking about my relatives.”

Anne glanced sideways at her. “Ah.” She nodded. “Yes they have to be dealt with.” She strode up to the door which opened just in time and she waltzed by the servant, going directly up to her aunt, Ann staying on the lower floor. Anne and her aunt had a very close relationship and they’d probably want a moment alone.

“Ann! I thought I heard the carriage.” Ann turned to Marian. “Oh, yes we just came. Anne is saying hello to aunt Anne.” The two shared a hug and Ann smiled. “Yes, well me and father are a bit of second citizens when it comes to those two. Why don’t you go wash off I’ll ask for some tea and crumpets, and the two of you can tell us all about your travels, if you’d like.” Ann nodded enthusiastically and walked up to her and Annes room, a water pitcher and bowl coming up only moments later, Marian must have ordered it for her.

She took off her hat and scarf and washed up, feeling much fresher when she came downstairs. Everyone was already sitting around the table including Anne and aunt Anne, and when Ann seated the servants started pouring tea up.

Ann reached for a cookie at the same time as Anne and their fingers collided. Anne smiled, her fingers lingering. “Go ahead.” She then said, scooting the plate slightly more to Ann but took the cookie she had reached for. If they had been alone Ann would have taken it, eaten half before feeding Anne the rest. But they weren’t in private so Ann took one of the identical cookies instead. “Thank you.”

Annes father Jeremy started talking about what had happened in Halifax when they were away, but Ann’s thoughts drifted when she saw Anne eating her cookie slowly, seeing her mouth move, the tip of her tongue moving out to clean her mouth of any stray crumbs. Jeremys voice sounded as if it was far away, through some distant tunnel. It wasn’t until Anne noticed her gaze and raised a brow that Ann snapped out of it and blushed, forcing her focus on listening.

As expected nothing worth noting had happened when they were gone, except for an old widow passing away, a pastry chef raising his price of bread with a shilling and a marriage between two people Ann hadn’t heard of before.

“That’s a relief, that all is well with everyone.. err.. except for the widow.” Ann said awkwardly, Anne shooting her an amusing look. “Yes well never a dull moment here.” Anne said with an eyeroll. “I know Halifax isn’t Paris or Denmark but it’s your home Anne.” Her father said. “Yes, sadly.” Anne said and leaned back.

“A letter came for you whilst you were away. From Mrs Lawton.” Jeremy said and Anne sighed. “Ah, yes. She sent me a letter early on in our travels, she’s probably wondering why I haven’t responded. Eugenie please fetch the letter, is it in my office?” Jeremy nodded and Eugenie scurried off. “Maybe you could read it after tea.” Marian suggested. “Better to get it over with right away, I think.” Anne said and Eugenie came back with the letter and her letter opener and Anne ripped it open with the sharper side of the blade and red the letter quickly, skimming through it. “Mm. Ah.” She said as she red. “What is it?” Ann asked.

“Seems she is coming to visit. The week after this one, so in three days.” She said and handed the objects back to her lady maid. “Is she out traveling?” her aunt asked. “No she’s coming all this way to, as she put it, ‘meet your funny little friend that keeps you so occupied you can’t reply to my letters.’ Anne rolled her eyes again and Ann bit her lip, had she talked about her a lot to this friend?

“Well seems Mariana is herself. I’ll make room preparations for her in my old room. Or well.. Eugenie will.” Anne said with a shrug before taking another cookie. “I think I am quite full of these. Join me for a walk, won't you Ann?” She rose. “But you were going to tell us all about your travels.” Her aunt protested. “At dinner, we’ve both been trapped in the carriage for so long I think we both want to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. Ann?”

Ann hesitated, not wanting to be rude but rose. “That sounds lovely, actually.” She left the table with a silent apology before they walked out. “Come, I’ll show you the best route for a walk.” Anne said and led her to the empty green lands of Shibden.

Ann linked their arms together and glanced at her. “So.. your friend Mariana.. have you known each other for long?” Anne nodded. “Maybe too long. She’s.. a very close friend, but she can be bothersome.” She replied with a sigh, leading Ann down to the waters. “How so? Do you have a troubled history?” Ann asked curiously and Anne nodded. “But let us talk no more about her. We should enjoy the view instead. Shibden is really quite beautiful.”

They walked in silence for a while, Ann looking with eager eye at the gleaming water, the full trees and enjoyed the fresh air. There hadn’t been much of nature on their travels so it was refreshing. Anne started talking as they headed back, about changes she wanted to reinforce, and the history of Shibden. When they returned inside they shared a long hot bath drawn by Eugenie, washing each other as they did on their honeymoon.
____________________________________

Ann woke up early next morning, lying in bed thinking for a good while before Anne woke up, but soon she turned impatient and turned and kissed Annes cheek. “Time to wake up.” Ann said and kissed her neck. “Mm I’d rather stay in this dream..” Anne said with a grin and Ann chuckled. “Mm I bet.” She replied and kissed her chin before sitting, pulling Anne with her who opened her eyes at last.

“Why don’t we ask them to send our breakfast up? we can spend the morning in bed.. just you and me.” Ann glanced at her, hesitating. “I don’t want to be rude Anne.” She said but Anne shook her head. “You’re not. And I’ll say I’m the one who want us to eat in private. I insist.”

Ann nodded and Anne ordered up some breakfast, Ann getting up to get dressed. “Sit, let me take care of you.” Anne said and Ann seated on the edge of the bed, Anne moving her gentle and nimble fingers through her hair flowing free over her shoulders, moving it into a loose braid before taking the cream by the night stand and started rubbing it into Ann’s back, leaving kisses on her shoulders.

Ann seemed to relax a bit but remained quiet, and Anne breathed out, nervous. She prayed almost every day that Ann’s health wouldn’t get worse, that she’d remain happy, but sometimes she could see a shift in Ann, and she knew she had troubled thoughts, and at times she would wake up from nightmares. She never heard voices again, or got as bad as.. it had been before going to her sister, but Anne knew she wasn’t completely well. She decided to take her to the doctor again as soon as possible, but it would have to be after Marianas visit.

“Do you think my mother would approve of.. us? me?” Ann asked suddenly, her voice absent and weak. Anne frowned, opening and closing her mouth. She pulled Ann into her lap who looked up at her. “Do you?” she asked again, her eyes shining and Anne nodded.

“How could she not? You’re perfect. And any mother, or parent, should want their child to be happy.” Ann nodded and rested her head on Annes chest. “I love you.” She mumbled and Anne nodded. “Quite right you do.. And.. I love you too.”

Ann looked up at her surprised. Anne had never said it out loud before. She had showed it, with her actions and the way she took care of her and the things she’d say so Ann had never worried but she had never heard it. She grinned and pulled up to meet Annes lips, enthusiastically pushing Anne to the bed on her back and kissed her. Anne kissing her back and cupped her face, chuckling when they parted and she left kisses on Ann’s freckles which made the petite blonde to laugh as well.

______________________________________________________

 

Next morning Anne reached for her wife and was disappointed to find nothing but empty sheets. She opened her eyes, rubbing them so she could see properly before seating and her eyes widened when she took in the sight. Ann was sitting in a chair she had brought to the foot of the bed, drawing it seemed like. But she was wearing Annes clothes, her gray pants she had bought on their travels and a white shirt with her hair falling free, spilling down her shoulders. The sunlight from the big window hit her perfectly and Anne watched her in awe. She preferred her women more feminine, but she would be lying if she said Ann didn’t look amazing in her clothes.

“No moving, you’re destroying my painting.” Ann pouted, having noticed Anne waking up from her peripheral vision though she never looked up from her sketchbook. “Are you drawing me?” Anne asked, scooting up to take a peek. “Yes.. but I need my muse to remain still.” Ann looked up at her sternly but couldn’t help but smile and give her a quick kiss. “There. Now go back to bed.” Anne considered arguing but did as she said. “I wish I could draw like you.. you’re certainly a vision I want to frame right now.” Anne said as she lay down in her previous sleep position.

“Sleeping people don’t talk.. but thank you.” Ann grinned, drawing with careful motions, finishing before putting down the sketch book and rose, walking up to Anne who pulled her into bed. “Mm.. I guess I’ll have to rely on my memory.” She looked her over.

“If I knew you’d like this so much I’d have stolen your clothes sooner.. though I don’t compare to you in them, trust me.” Anne kissed her quickly. “I don’t trust you.” She teased before kissing her again, only parting to douse kisses on her jaw and chin, soon kissing her lips again. Ann kissed her back and deepened it, wrapping her arms around her neck.

 

They lay both happy and relaxed, cuddled close, the odd kiss or stroke landing in different places, until they felt they had to go up, to both their dismay.

Ann changed into one of her dresses and put her hair up, Anne getting dressed in her standard black skirt. She preferred the pants, but Halifax was a small town, and the more she stood out, the more backlash Ann was in danger of experiencing.

“Good morning!” Aunt Anne said with a smile, all already gathered by the breakfast table. “Good morning everyone.” Ann said flushed and smiled, Anne pulling out a chair for her and she seated. “How did everyone sleep?” She asked, starting to eat when her stomach growled and she blushed. “Good, good. What about you dear?” Aunt Anne responded as Marian and Jeremy simply nodded a reply, and Ann smiled. “Wonderfully, thank you.” She said and sipped some tea.

“Yes well this is derivative and all, but I have rents to collect. See you all later.” She left a kiss on Ann’s head before walking into her office to fetch the necessary equipment before heading out, Jeremy following.

_______________________________

“Well she seemed very friendly, but maybe she just wanted to be my letter friend to be nice?” Ann looked between the Lister women nervously. She, Aunt Anne and Marian had seated in the couch of the company room, Ann telling them some more about the honeymoon trip. “Oh I doubt that. I bet you’re a very skillful letter writer.” The aunt said ensuring and Ann smiled. “I suppose I’ll craft a letter tonight.. who knows maybe we will be as close as Anne and her letter friend are.” The other two women shared a look and Ann opened her mouth to question it when Marian talked instead. “Anyways, you should accompany me to Halifax first thing tomorrow, we could get some new stashes.. and maybe look at hats?” She proposed and Ann smiled. “I’d love to.”

“Love’d to what?” Anne asked, entering the room with graceful yet quite steps as usual. “That went quickly.” Ann said surprised. “Mhm. Now what would you love to?” She asked, seating at the back of the couch and took an apple from the fruit bowl, taking a bite. “I’m going shopping tomorrow with Marian.”

Ann said, waiting for Annes reaction as she chewed. “Oh. Well, as long as I’m not obliged to go with.” Marian winced and rose. “Yes well we all know no force in the world would make you spend time with your family.” She said and walked out of the room. Anne raised a brow and Ann pressed her lips together.

“Oh don’t mind it dear it’s just their way, sibling squabble and all that. I’m sure you were like that with your sister.” Aunt Anne said, Ann getting a sad expression over her face and she bit her lip. “Um, no, but yes it’s fine I’m sure.” She leaned back and Anne patted her shoulder. “Forgive me, I think it’s time for me to take a nap.” Aunt Anne said and took Ann’s hand and squeezed it before letting go and walked out of the room. “Wouldn’t kill you to spend some more time with your family.. especially your aunt, she might not have long for this world you know.” Ann said but received only a look that meant they were not discussing this as an answer.

“Why don’t we go to the study? I’ll let you thrash me in backgammon.” Anne smirked. “Let you?” Ann raised a brow. “Well I did win the last time..” Anne said, going ahead to the office and Ann followed. “Because you cheated!” Anne smiled devilishly at her but didn’t reply, just cleaned away a bit to find a place for them to play. “What’s this?” Anne asked, finding a rough sketch, and a list next to it. “Oh, that.. it’s my plans for Shibden, that I was talking about on our walk. It’ll take a while until I can begin on them properly though.. right now I’m not quite there financially.”

Ann nodded, looking the sketch over one last time. “What is going in here?” She traced a tower. “Oh.. I’m indecisive. Maybe a library.” Ann smiled. “I like that idea.” She said before she placed it to the side to begin the game.

_______________________________________________________

The rest of the day went by fairly uneventful, they spent some time with the family but mostly found excuses to be alone, mostly by Anne’s desire.

After breakfast next morning Ann and Marian had headed into town. “Is there anything else you want to look at Ann?” Marian asked when they had bought some fabric to make scarves and stashes, and a new belt for Ann. “No, I’m not much of a shopper in all honesty.” Her eyes scanned something in the window in one of the store fronts, a black pair of cufflinks, and it triggered a memory from her and Annes trip.

It was their last night in France, and Ann had arranged so they’d get the dinner and night for themselves. They had spent the day with Annes friends, celebrating her birthday, but the night she wanted the birthday girl all for herself. She had prepared a dinner, placed on the small table in their chamber, candles litten for atmosphere. She had been wearing Annes favorite dress of hers, the blue one, and Ann had looked dashing in a dark blue outfit. Anne entered from the hallway of their chambers, they had a bedroom, a bathroom, an office of sort and a social room all to themselves, which is where Ann had set up.

“Happy birthday love.” She said and tugged her down to the table, Anne looking at the set up and then at her. “What a lovely surprise.” She kissed Ann’s cheek. “Well it’s the first birthday of yours I get to celebrate.. I wanted to enjoy it a little on my own. With you. And I got you a gift, I didn’t want to give it to you in front of your friends.” She moved a small box out from behind a napkin and Anne, smiled. “Have anyone told you you’re really too kind?” She took the box and opened it, Ann biting her lip nervously. “Do you like them?” She asked, looking down at the cufflinks she had gotten Anne. They were black, with a golden embedded ‘L.’ because she knew she took great pride in her last name. “If you don’t I can return them or change them, I’ll get you something better or..” Her rambling was interrupted when Anne put her lips on her for a short second before parting. “They’re perfect. Thank you.”

“Ann? see anything you like?” Ann was brought back to reality and turned to Marian. “No, sorry. I was just thinking about our trip. Both mine and Annes birthday passed.. I was just thinking of hers. I got her a pair of cufflinks.” Marian nodded. “What did she get you?” She asked, Ann smiling, a small blush spreading on her cheeks. “Oh, it’s a secret. She’d be cross if I told anyone.” Marian raised a brow but dropped the subject and they continued walking through Halifax to pick up any needed supplies.

They returned to Shibden in time for tea time, everyone seating around the table. “How did shopping go?” Aunt Anne asked and Marian filled her in on what they bought, Ann feeling a foot nudge hers and she looked up to see Anne smiling innocently at her.

“Did Eugenie make the arrangements for mrs. Lawton? She’s coming tomorrow right?” Jeremy asked when the conversation died down and Anne glanced at him. “Yes, everything is set up. She didn’t say what time she’s coming but I made sure there will be enough food at every meal just in case.”
Ann glanced at her wife, she was nervous about meeting the esteemed Mariana, worried Annes closest friend wouldn’t like her, or approve of her. Later at night, when the couple were getting ready for bed, Anne rubbing her back as usually, Ann bit her lip. “Does Mariana know.. about you know..?” she asked, Annes movement stopping for a moment before she continued. “She knows, and the secret is safe with her, don’t worry.” She felt a kiss on her shoulder and relaxed, relieved she wouldn’t have to pretend with one more person.