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'Homosexuals Need Not Apply'

Chapter Text

Spring 

 

Having sex with a woman as a woman is usually not something that happens without careful consideration. That we at some point fall into bed with one specific woman might be a bit of fate or fortune or five drinks at happy hour. But that we fall into bed with a woman in the first place seldom happens until we've firmly processed what that might actually contain, in depth.

So that there would be something left in it to surprise Dani was, well it was surprising. She knew her body well enough to know how it responded to certain stimuli. She knew how and what would send her flying. That kissing and lips across her jaw, neck and chest would make her wet was not a surprise. That Jamie's hand stroking her a certain way would set her off was not hard to understand or imagine. But there were quite a few new things she had no idea would be so...satisfying. And no matter how much time she had spent thinking about what sex with a woman would be like, and lets be honest it was a lot, there were things that had passed her imagination by completely.

Such as the thrill of feeling Jamie's wetness against her own thigh, to have her traces on her skin. That was a reality her mind hadn't even been able to envision the grandeur of. Neither was the empowering feeling and sensation against her tongue as she used it to apply pressure to that small bundle of nerves that would get Jamie's hips to buck into her. Not to mention the electric tingle in her palm as she traced stiff nipples with her lifeline. These were things she was not prepared for. And there were a lot of these things, small things in themselves, but adding up until she would stare at her reflection in the mirror unable to stop the laughter from forming.

Reaching this point hadn't been easy and Dani would be the first one to admit she would not be leading any Pride parades in any kind of future, but looking at her reflection, looking at that smiling woman – she was finally content and proud of the person she saw. And maybe most surprisingly of all was the realisation that homosexuality wasn't a burden to carry, it was a gift to treasure.

 

***

 

“I like your ear,” Dani said and traced the outer rim of it. In the background the open fire was crackled. The days had finally begun to turn warm, but the evenings and nights still clung to the cold of winter and a fire at the end of the day was still a most welcomed thing.

“You only like me for my ears?” Jamie turned slightly, her head resting on a pillow in Dani's lap and her legs slung over the armrest of the sofa. Around them the house was quiet and seemed to almost be slumbering.

“No, I like your nose too.”

“That's it? That's all you like me for?” Jamie teased.

“I like your moles too, especially Casio.”

“Casio?”

“Yeah, this one,” she bent over and placed a kiss on her neck on top of the mole in question.

“You've named my moles?”

“What if I have?”

“After a Japanese wristwatch?” She chuckled. “And they say romance is dead.”

“No. It's short for Cassiopeia. I've named them after constellations.”

“Seriously?” Jamie gave her a tiny disbelieving smile. “What's this one then?” She pointed to her hand.

“Libra.” She paused before she leaned over again, this time to place a kiss on her nose. “That one is Circinus.” Dani leaned back again and let her thumb caress Jamie's eyebrow, enjoying the way the other woman's eyes fluttered shut as she did so. “That's Leo Minor,” she added.

“Is there a Leo Major?” Jamie asked as she opened her eyes again, now with pupils wide enough to go for a swim in.

“Yes,” Dani pushed her shirt up and skimmed along the hem of Jamie's jeans. “This one,” her fingers caressing. Jamie's skin erupted into goosebumps in the wake of her dancing fingers.

Foot steps plucked their attention from one another and made them both look out towards the entrance to the foyer, standing in the hallway was Mrs Lloyd. Briefly there was a reflex that wanted to be triggered in Dani, the one of flight. She felt a twitch through her limbs, like an ingrained need to recoil from the body in her lap, as if it represented danger, as if she had done something wrong. She recognised it for what it was and stayed where she was.

“Good evening, Mrs Lloyd,” Dani greeted her formally. Her palms began to sweat, but she kept them on Jamie's body, she refused to cater to her own internalised homophobia.

“Evening,” she nodded in return. “Viola is fine.”

Dani felt Jamie shift slight within her arms, but didn't look down at her face instead she kept Viola's gaze and gave her a smile, a very sincere if somewhat surprised one.

Jamie gently disentangled herself from Dani and sat up. “I need a smoke –“ She looked over at Viola and a hint of uncertainty could be found on her face. “You want to come?” Jamie finally asked Viola.

The woman seemed almost as genuinely astonished at the question as Dani. “Was heading that way myself,” Viola admitted. “Sure.”

“Dani?” Jamie wondered, putting her hand on her thigh briefly to catch her attention.

“No, I'm fine. I'll stay here.” A thought manifested in Dani's mind and refused to go away. “Viola...we – we were thinking of sharing a bottle of wine, would you – do you want to join us?”

Jamie looked over at Dani with a raised eyebrow which she pretended she didn't see. Maybe she did have complicated feelings towards the elusive Mrs Lloyd, but perhaps she never had given her a chance either. If what Hannah had told them about her past was true, maybe it wasn't so difficult to understand the woman's frosty exterior and curt behaviour, all things considered. She didn't seem to have anyone in her life, hiding away in her room, barely sharing space with the rest of the household. That had to take it's toll on a person. Not that she had entirely dropped the idea Jamie had planted in her head, because there was something in the way she did look at Jamie that made repressed lesbian seem very plausible in Dani's mind. But beyond that she was probably as socially awkward as Dani had initially suspected. The longer you go without human interactions the harder it becomes to navigate. No human being should have to endure that against their will.

Viola looked as startled as Jamie by the offer and her face went through a myriad of expressions before it landed back on the blank one she seemed to use as a mask to hide behind. “I would like that.”

“Get your filthy habit out of the way and I'll get us some glasses and something red,” Dani told them with a shooing motion towards the door.

 

***

 

Dani sat in the kitchen, back straight, painfully straight and she stared at it. Such a mundane looking thing, but the way it made her feel was full of daggers and hurt. She had taken it apart, ripped out the guts of it and spread it across the kitchen table. She had then frantically tried to put it all back together in, stuff it back where it came from and curb the feeling of being mocked, of being taunted.

“What's that?” Jamie asked, Dani hadn't even heard her enter the kitchen.

“Guilt.”

“It's funny because it sort of looks like a parcel.”

“It's guilt in a box,” Dani clarified.

Jamie stepped over and looked into the box. “Looks like a fair bit of other shit too.”

“My mother sent me-” Dani sighed. “Knitted oven gloves and an embroidery that says 'no place like home' and she doesn't knit or embroider. Then there are all these pictures of my cousin's and their families, there's even a family photo of the O'Mara's in there.”

“Can I see?” Jamie wondered as she leaned on the back of Dani's chair.

“Why would you want to see the O'Mara's family Christmas photo?”

“I want to know what know what Eddie looks like in case he ever tries to steal you back,” Jamie said with narrowed eyes and a clenched jaw, making a mockingly threatening face at Dani.

Dani flipped through the photos and took out the one in question, pointing towards a man with curly dark hair and big glasses. “This is him.”

Jamie leaned closer. “He's so tall,” she said with a frown.

“Then go for his knee caps, because I have no intention of being stolen back, so I will trust you to prevent that.”

“Trowel through the patella it is.” She pulled back and looked at Dani's face. “I take it you're not pleased with the gifts?”

“It doesn't come from a place of caring, it's meant to be a guilt trip making me feel bad about not coming home for Christmas and it's sort of working.”

“Do you wish you would have spent Christmas back in the States with your mum?”

“No, not at all. But that's why the guilt trip is so effective. I feel bad for not feeling bad about it,” Dani complained.

Hannah stepped into the kitchen looking distraught which stopped Jamie's reply on her tongue.

“What's wrong?” Dani asked.

“It's-” Hannah looked up with a pained expression. “Owen called, his mother has passed away.”

 

***

 

That they would all attend the funeral was not something they had to discuss, it was a given. That the decision would be controversial or cause any stir didn't even occur to any of them. But as they all got to the church there were a lot of looks, a lot of turned heads and a lot of tongues that flew back and forth. And perhaps it shouldn't have been so surprising, because they were a pretty secluded bunch up at the manor, seldom finding reason to visit the village. Also together like this, Dani had to admit they were somewhat of a conspicuous bunch. Hannah with her natural poise, Mrs Lloyd who strode into any space like an ice queen, then there were the well-dressed but wide-eyed children, and then there was Jamie with her larger than life attitude. Plus there was her, with her loud American accent and Dani also knew there was absolutely no way she could hide what she felt for Jamie as she looked at her, which might catch people's attention too. Together they were quite the crew, so a turned head or two made sense.

By the time the funeral was wrapped up and everyone had relocated to the Winchester, the village's one pub and general meeting place, the curiosity had gotten the better of many of the locals and looking wasn't satisfying enough. Dani felt like she had been bombarded with questions from an endless stream of older women with sharp eyes and even sharper tongues.

It had begun to be a bit tiring, but least the children seemed to enjoy themselves. Dani kept a watchful eye on Miles through the window, as the boy had found a group of kids his own age that were playing with some kind of plastic miniature toys in front of the pub. Flora on the other hand followed a young curly haired boy around as they ran from room to room looking to be deep conversation. Despite the circumstances both Miles and Flora looked happy and excited about being around children their own age and Dani realised she needed to find a way for them to socialise more with other children and not just the adults up at the manor.

Her train of thought however was interrupted as yet another curious old woman with snow white hair and bright eyes took a seat at the table next to theirs. “Haven't seen you in some time, Viola. Still kicking the bricks in that ivory towers of yours?”

“I hear you are your old vital self, Agnes,” Viola turned towards her, but her face gave away no emotions and in no way prepared Dani for what was to come.

“The world won't get rid of me that easily.” She spoke the words as if they were both meant as a threat and a promise. “So who's this then?” she threw her head in the direction of Dani, one eye narrowing as she studied her. “Another one to add to the collection up at Spinster Manor?”

Dani choked on the air and started coughing violently. “You alright there, dear?” the old woman asked, for the first time actually directing her words at Dani.

“Fine, thank you, " she said once she got her throat and lungs back under control.

“American,” she narrowed her eyes further and made a strange little sound in the back of her throat which could have meant anything.

“Don't be disrespectful Agnes, this is Miss Clayton.”

“Dani, to most,” she reached out her hand. Agnes eyed it suspiciously, as if she might catch either the accent or hepatitis A through C from the limb, but she took a gamble and extended her own.

“So what's your tragic backstory?” she wondered as she began to unpack yarn and knitting needles from her oversized purse.

“Do I have to have one?” Dani asked with a little laugh, not sure if the woman was being sincere or making fun of her.

“All you pretty ladies holing up in that manor. With yer sad eyes and mysterious pasts. It's like the Wingraves are running a retreat for wayward damsels.” She eyed her suspiciously again.

Flora luckily took that very moment to interrupt as she came running over. “I see you've found a friend,” Dani said and gently pushed a rebellious strand of hair behind the girl's ear as she came to a stop in front of her.

“That's Philip. He lives here. He lives in a pub!” She was so excited that had she had seams then they would have been bursting. “Can I take this off?” she pulled at the cardigan she wore over her dress.

“Of course,” Dani agreed.

Flora twisted herself out of the shirt in one quick motion and practically threw it at Dani before she ran back to her new playmate.

“Watch it!” Jamie admonished her as she nearly bowled her over in her hurry. A sorry flew in the air behind Flora, but she didn't have time to look back.

“How much sugar have you fed that one!?” She set the drinks down on the table. Pushed a gin and tonic towards Viola and placed two pints in front of Dani.

“None, but she's found a new friend.”

“She could use that,” Jamie said as she slide in next to Dani resting her arm behind her. “You won't believe it!” she added in almost the same breath.

“Believe what?” She took a sip of the very forgettable lager.

“That white haired old man over at the bar –“ Jamie pointed towards a man who looked back at them and gave a small wave and a big smile. “His name is Larry.”

Dani laughed and placed her drink back on the table. “Was he lecherous?”

“Nah, he seems like a pretty decent bloke.” She put her lips to the glass and wet them briefly against the foam. “His son-in-law works at a pig's farm up the road from Bly. He thought he might hook me up with some manure.”

“Only you would be happy about that,” Dani said with an affectionate smile, she reached down beneath the table and softly caressed Jamie's thigh mindlessly.

She suddenly heard a loud clearing of a throat that cut through the chatter in the pub like nails on a chalkboard. “So--” Agnes sucked her teeth. “Odd girl not wayward damsel.” She sniffed in a way that made it sound like an exclamation point. “Who's this then?” she squinted over at Jamie.

“Agnes,” Viola warned in a sharp tone. “This is Jamie, she's the one that's been taking care of our grounds.”

“By the looks of things she handles more than that.” She tapped the side of her nose and gave Viola a pointed look as if she was letting her in on a newly discovered secret.

With a confused look on her face Jamie looked over at Dani who gave a small shake of her head. She leaned over Dani and extended her hand. “Jamie.”

Agnes grabbed the hand and turned it palm up, then turned them over and then looked back up at Jamie's face. “Hm,” she hummed to herself. “You look like a solid one. For a northerner,” she said with another sniff masquerading as an exclamation point.

“Thank you?” Jamie replied hesitantly as Agnes finally grabbed hold of and shook her hand.

“A little rabbity maybe, but solid enough,” she nodded. “So what brought two odd fruits like you to Bly?”

“Work,” Jamie said carefully.

“They've been here for the past year, Agnes, so don't chase them away now,” Viola answered for them. “They answered the ad after Miss Jessel...went back to London.”

“It's not every day you come across a wanted ad for both gardener and teacher in one.” Dani said with a playful smile aimed at Jamie.

“So you knew each other before that place? You didn't turn odd up there at that queer place?” Agnes wondered in a tone that would have taught KGB a thing or two about interrogation.

Dani wanted to bury her face in her palms and she felt how Jamie stiffened next to her. “We were odd long before that,” Dani replied diplomatically in the old woman's own language. “The reason we applied was that they were looking for a couple, so it seemed like the perfect spot for us.” The last part said as a challenge aimed at Agnes.

“What?” Viola asked glass frozen halfway to her mouth.

Dani looked over at her frowning. “What?”

“Why do you think we were looking for a couple?” Viola asked as she placed her drink back on the table.

“Because that's what it said in the ad,” Dani replied, frown deepening.

“Why would we put that in there? That would have made it incredibly limiting,” Viola said shaking her head.

“The ad very specifically said 'Professional Couple Only',” Jamie leaned forward and rested her elbows on the table, lines of confusion on her forehead.

“Then there must have been some sort of mistake along the way. Explains why there were so few applications.” Viola looked off into the room. “Maybe we lucked out in the end. We were so pleased when we got your joint application, saved us finding accommodation for two.”

Dani made a noise that was somewhere in between a cough and a laugh.

“Don't fucking believe it,” Jamie chuckled.

“What?” Viola asked.

“Nothing. We're just very glad you gave us the opportunity. Some people wouldn't have.” Dani replied, trying to smooth things.

“Maybe your relationship is...unorthodox, but I sincerely doubt being hard working is in any way linked to who's in your bed at the end of the day.”

Dani took it back, every bad thought she have had about the woman. Mrs Lloyd was one of the decent ones. Her thoughts were however cut short by the old woman again.

“That's a lot of bull Viola and you know it. I'm not going to trust you to to even take my rubbish away if you've got Mike Thrum in your bed at the end of the day.”

“Who's Mike Thrum?” Dani wondered with a choked laughter.

Agnes' eyes lit up at the chance of gossip and she turned to Dani like a predator having spotted prey.

 

***

 

The day had dragged on into evening and it was early night before everything was settled at the Winchester. Viola and Hannah had taken the kids back to the manor and somehow Dani and Jamie had been left in charge of handling Owen, making sure he got home safely. Somehow the minor detail that he was the only one who had stayed sober and with access to a car had turned the tables and he was now the one in charge of getting them home. Jamie had collapsed in the back-seat and two minutes into the drive was firmly asleep. The radio was playing softly in the background, but the volume too low for them to make out songs only rhythms.

Dani looked at Owen in the rear-view mirror, the paleness of his face, the lack of expression, it worried her a little. Seeing anger or hurt or grief would have been reassuring, but this expression that seemed to be the essence of nothing was scary.

“How are you?” Dani asked him, leaning her head on her arms as she hung halfway into the front seat.

“Confused.” He admitted with a sigh. “She was my mother and now she's not there.” He paused for a moment. “Everything about her had been linked with so much pain for so long that now – I know she meant the world to me, but...I've put that love away. I've kept it in storage. Because every time the phone rung my heart froze. Every time I opened the door to her room I held my breath.” He paused and his face began to transform, the slack jaw and empty eyes were beginning to fill with pain. “Now the worst thing has happened and everything goes on like before. The world isn't a new colour, we're not even on a new chapter, I'm not a new man. It's Wednesday, Bly is still...Bly. But now...I find it hard to remember where I put my love for her. I don't know where I put that box.” Tears were streaming down his face by now.

Dani realised her own tears were flowing freely as well.

“So how do I go on from that?” he asked with a sob.

“I don't know.” She wiped her cheeks. “I wish I could tell you.”

The radio kept playing and the tires were loud against the road and for a good five minutes they both cried their own silent tears while Jamie went on sleeping peacefully.

“I think you should stay at the house tonight,” Dani eventually added.

“I--”

“Stay with Hannah.”

“I wouldn't be much company.”

“Isn't that for her to decide?” He shrugged and she changed tactics. “Where do you want to be tonight?”

He wiped away his tears. “With Hannah.”

“So then ask her if she wants you to stay.”

“You make it sound easy.”

“It is. It's incredibly easy, but it takes insane amounts of courage to actually do it.”

He met her eyes in the mirror he gave her a washed out smile. “Problem is we're not all as bold as you, Dani Clayton.”

She scrunched up her face at his words. “I don't know if that's the word I'd use to describe myself.”

“Why not?”

“It doesn't feel like it fits.”

“Why not? You live your life by your own standards.”

“You mean I'm gay.” She sounded tired.

“I mean the way you live your truth. I don't know what it's like, but I know people are assholes about anyone remotely different. I can't hide from those assholes, but you could, if you wanted to. But you don't. You don't shy away from people knowing what Jamie is to you.”

“I –“ She tilted her head with a little shake. “To me it's more important she knows what she means to me than that some stranger don't sneer at me.”

“Like I said, bold.”

Dani felt a bit uncomfortable in their discussion so she decided to veer them back onto the former topic. “Ask her. Ask her if you can stay.”

Owen swallowed hard, but nodded. The rest of the drive was spent in silence.

 

***

 

The day had been long, a lot of conflicting emotions now swirled around inside her. She ached for Owen and his loss. Then there were all the looks and questions, all the words bouncing around echoing inside of her. The curiosity, mostly benign, but some questions, some words that could potentially hurt if she allowed them. To add to all of that was the realisation that the only reason they even were in this place to begin with was due to a typo or a mistake. Some human being had made a mistake and the result of that was she now had a job she enjoyed, a found family in which she felt cared for. And on top of all of that she now got to share a life with a woman she felt everything for. All of this because of a mistake. If she hadn't been so tired she thought that maybe there was something profound to be said about all of that.

There was a tentative knocking at their door, Dani pushed the covers back before Jamie stepped in from the bathroom her face still wet from having been scrubbed clean. “Stay, I'll get it.”

Jamie opened the door to reveal Miles in his pyjamas. His eyes were rimmed with the pinkness of shed tears, his face a mixture of shame and pain.

“You okay there, dust rat?” Jamie asked and reached over to rub his back reassuringly.

“It's stupid,” he said and sniffed back a sob. “I'm not a kid.”

Dani pushed the covers down again and made a move towards them. “What's stupid?” she asked.

“I had a nightmare - “ His gaze fell on the floor. “I'm scared,” he admitted in a tone that made no doubts about how ashamed he felt about it.

“How is that stupid? That's the bloody point of a nightmare,” Jamie told him as she gently moved him into the room, guiding him towards the end of the bed.

He looked up at her and the tears were still so close to the surface his eyes shimmered like polished steel in sunlight. “You're not supposed to...to let it scare you when you're an adult.”

“That's a load of shite,” Jamie sat down on the edge of the bed and motioned for him to join her, Dani sat down on the other side of them. “I'm adult enough and I sometimes wake up screaming.”

Disbelieving he looked over at her.

“What's that look for? If you don't believe me, ask her, she's the one that has to hold me when I wake up.” She tilted her head in Dani's direction.

Miles looked over at her with a questioning expression, clearly not ready to buy into the idea of adults or Jamie in particular suffering nightmares.

She nodded. “We all have nightmares occasionally. Being scared is – it happens to all of us whether we're two months old or ninety-five.” She paused to let her words sink in. “Want to tell us what it was about?” Dani asked softly.

He looked down at his hands, opening and closing his fist in what Dani realised was an exact imitation of Jamie's mannerisms. The thought of how easily we influence those around us, especially children, briefly touched her mind in a whirlwind of amazement and fear. We know our actions have consequences, but how often do we actually consider the reach of those consequences before we act?

“I dreamt about my parents.” His voice hitched as if there was a sob threatening to escape alongside the air in his lungs. “But I had forgotten their faces and it made them angry.” Dani put her arm over his shoulders and hugged him towards her. “It made them so angry they needed to hurt us.”

“You know my dad died when I was a kid,” Dani told him. “That was a very long time ago now. Sometimes it can be hard to remember his face, but I can always remember him.”

“But we're supposed to remember their faces aren't we?”

“I don't think we necessarily have to remember what they looked like, we remember their stories and we remember how they hugged us, how they loved us. And maybe at some point we do forget.”

“Besides, forgetting isn't a bad thing, earthworm.” Jamie placed a kiss on his hair before ruffling it self-consciously. “Our brains will twist us up and try to scare us with things that aren't there, things that will never happen and things that are honestly stupid. Whenever it happens give your brain the v's and forget about it.”

Maybe Dani didn't entirely agree with the notion of teaching kids to flip anyone or thing off, but the statement and Jamie's earnest tone made her smile despite herself. And the way she felt Miles body relax under her arm made her think it was exactly the right thing for him to hear.

 

***

 

At Flora's insistence they were having a picnic and it did feel like the perfect day for it. The air was warm and welcoming and the scent of fresh flowers beginning life again made for pleasant fragrances. It was a stark contrast to the heavy atmosphere that had settled in the wake of Owen's loss. A bit of natural light and the outdoors seemed to have mellowed everyone's moods and it felt more than a bit like a turning point. It felt like the first day of summer and as if the world held nothing but promises and potential.

Even Viola had been persuaded to join them for cucumber sandwiches on a blanket next to the lake, which if you forgot about it's history made for a pretty idyllic spot. It hadn't taken long before Viola faded into the background and disappeared back into the house however, but she had made an effort and Dani thought, or well she imagined at least that she looked a little bit happy. She hoped so at least.

The kids had the same amount of patience and had taken to skipping rocks on the tiny little lake as soon as the last crumb was swallowed. The only one who seemed content in relaxing was Colin who had promptly curled up into a ball and fallen asleep. Dani looked at him longingly and couldn't help to think he was onto something.

“Oi! Leave the fucking ivy alone!” Jamie yelled after Miles who had tired of the lake and was running in the direction of the house. Flora chased after him.

He looked back at her and threw his hands in the air. “I know, you only bloody tell me every time I get close to the house.”

“Watch your fucking language, little man!” Jamie warned him.

“Someone should do something about that tongue of yours,” Dani said with a smile as she leaned back, resting on her hands behind her back.

“Are you really the one to complain about my tongue?!” she replied and made Dani blush profusely. “Thought as much.” She smirked at her. “Where'd Owen and Hannah go?”

“They went for a 'walk',” Dani said making air quotes with one hand.

“That's what they call it?” Jamie raised a knowing eyebrow.

Dani smiled at her and laid back on the blanket, staring up at the sky briefly before she let her eyes fall shut in contentment. It didn't take long until she felt fingers trace her skin along the neckline of her dress, her smile grew wider. The sun was momentarily blocked and her nostrils enjoyed Jamie's scent before she felt her lips pressed against her collarbone, slowly questing towards her neck. As they ghosted past the lobe of her ear she heard Jamie's gentle voice say, “At some point we need to come out here without the audience.” She shivered pleasantly at the implication.

Almost reluctantly Dani opened her eyes and was met by the visual of Jamie resting on her elbow leaning over her with the softest of expressions on her face. It made her feel like she must have swallowed a Golden Retriever, because her chest was filled with a ball of dumb, fluffy unconditional love. “This is a very good day.”

“It is.”

The buzzing of a bee was loud against the backdrop of easy breaths and silent sunshine.

“You know Owen is talking about leaving,” Dani mentioned as she toyed with the buttons on Jamie's shirt.

“I know.”

“What about you?” she asked.

“What about me?” Jamie scooted even closer.

“Do you want to leave?” Dani's hands stilled against the fabric of the shirt.

Jamie looked down at her surprised. “I haven't really thought about it.” She proceeded to do just that. “Why would we?”

“I don't know. See the world. Do something different.”

Jamie tilted her head and repeated the question back at her. “Do you want to leave?”

She caressed her fingers up Jamie's arm. “Right now I really like where I am.”

“Partial to where you are as well,” Jamie leaned over and kissed her, slow and lazily, savouring the unhurried moment. As they pulled apart Dani stroked Jamie's jaw and let her thumb drift across her lips.

“You don't have any plans?” Dani asked.

“I spent so long just getting through the day that plans have always seemed – like something other people had.”

“Now?”

“I don't know. Maybe. What about you?”

“I heard that maybe, so don't pretend you didn't say it. Tell me.”

“I don't know.” She rubbed her neck before she placed her hand on Dani's hip. “It would be cool to travel. Maybe see more of the world than one damp corner of it.” There was a pause as she looked up and out across the lake, returning her eyes to Dani she added, “And I'm not buying that someone who spends so much time thinking about everything hasn't thought about her future. So?”

“I – It's silly, maybe.”

“What? You want to raise Alpacas and open a cheese-ry on the Scottish moors?”

“What's a cheese-ry?” Dani laughed.

“Fancy place that sells cheese, I don't know do I?!”

“No, I don't want to sell cheese.”

“Then how silly can it be?!”

“I'd like--” Needing a bit of reassurance she let her fingers curl around the warm skin of Jamie's wrist, enjoying the grounding sensation of their physical link. “I would like my own home. I would like a place that was mine, a place where I was – home.”

“I guess your American dictionary is different from ours, because that's not what silly means – a place where you get to set the rules, that sounds a bit like a dream.”

“Yeah, it does, doesn't it?”

“Is that something you want – now?” Her tone was careful and maybe a little insecure.

“No, right now I like us here. There are a lot of good days here.”

“There are,” Jamie agreed. “What about one day at a time and see where that takes us?”

It was so easy to get hung up on the past or obsess about the future that you sometimes could forget what an adventure the now was if you allowed yourself to live it. So as far as plans went, this one sounded pretty perfect to Dani.

“I would love that.”