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What Katie Did

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Thursday’s were the best day to work. Quiet enough throughout the day that stock could be replenished well enough ready for the weekend rush, but still with a steady stream of customers to ensure the day passed quickly.

Yes, Katie loved her Thursday shifts. But ultimately, she wasn’t fussy, she enjoyed all her shifts. In fact, it was a wonder to her boss how a young woman could be so content with her life, just working in a little shop, selling bread and milk. But Katie never complained, not when it was manic and busy, or when business was so slow, she found herself cleaning shelving units to pass the time.

“Here, Kate,” Her manager approached her where she stood at the front of the shop, reorganising the display on the end of the aisle. A chocolate promotion which a colleague had set up on the nightshift and had done a pretty shabby job of it. He passed her a box of King Size Dairy Milk, “Are these what you were looking for?”

“Perfect, thanks, Daz,” She grasped the box from his hands and turned back to her display. She stood back for a second, then pulled her box cutter out on its retracting cord and tore her way into cardboard.

The shop was nothing special. A small convenience store owned by one of those bigger supermarket chains. Katie had been working there almost three years, just part time. Enough hours to pay the bills, but not so much that she didn’t get any time with her family. But she loved it. She loved the variety of customers. The commuters first thing in the morning, just going about their day. She liked to wonder where they were all headed and what they did for a living. Then the regulars, the old dears who liked to stop and talk. She loved to listen to them and hear their stories. She’d often remind some of her younger store colleagues that many elderly people live alone and that might be the only conversation they have all day. A little kindness never hurt anyone.

Her constantly upbeat attitude to her work, of course made her popular with her customers and co-workers alike. Many of the regulars knew her by name and asked after her on the rare occasion she was not working her usual shift.

“Looks good, you’re a diamond,” Daz stood behind her, admiring her work.

“You always say that,” Katie shoved his shoulder gently, and laughed, “You should save the compliments for when you’re really desperate.”

“Funny, Kate,” He turned to stride to the back of the shop before stopping short, “I don’t need to ask if you’ll be alright on your own for half an hour? I’ve got some stock taking to do out back.”

“I’ll ring if I need you,” Katie nodded. She flattened the now empty box and held it out to him, “Can you stick this out back? I’m going to get on the till.”

She gave the shop a once over, checking down each of the small aisles before setting herself up behind the till. She straightened her navy uniform, and then busied herself tidying the counter top. The sound of the electric sliding door opening caught her attention, and the sound of the rain hammering down outside filled the shop.

The customer stopped just far enough away from the door, so it shut behind them, and yanked the hood of their rain coat down. Katie recognised them immediately. She’d have probably recognised them from their height and build alone had she been paying more attention. It was the stores local celebrity.

Tom Hiddleston, Katie knew only lived a stone’s throw from the shop. He’d been a fairly regular customer since before she even started working there. Of course, owing to the shops affluent location in North West London, he wasn’t the only famous face that frequented the store. But he was by far the nicest.

Katie watched for a second as the man got his bearings, and then as always, he turned and shot her one of his famous smiles, “Good Morning!”

“Is it? It looks atrocious out there,” Katie quipped, and he laughed, nodding.

“You got me there,” He told her, “You’re right, it’s ghastly, you’re much better off in here.”

“Did you leave your little doggy at home today?” Katie remembered Tom’s lovely Cocker Spaniel that he normally tied to the post outside and asked her to keep an eye on whilst he did his shopping. She peered out, but he wasn’t there today.

“Yes, he hates the rain, won’t set a paw outside.”

“Well I can’t say I blame him,” Tom chuckled again, in a low ‘eheheh’. Then, as per normal, he nodded politely, and headed down the aisle in front of him. Katie smiled to herself, he really was quite lovely.

She wasn’t a fan, not that she didn’t like his work, she just had very little time to indulge in her own hobbies. But she didn’t live under a rock either. Everyone knew of Tom Hiddleston’s reputation as one of the few remaining ‘true gentlemen’. Although Katie knew nothing more about him other than he liked his milk semi-skimmed and his bread Warburtons Granary, he’d never been anything other than polite, and friendly, and she didn’t doubt the media’s portrayal of the actor.

“Have you been busy?” Tom’s voice interrupted Katie from where she’d started unpackaging cigarettes and restocking behind the counter.

“Oh no,” She shook her head, “Not busy today, never is on a Thursday.”

“That’s alright then, well actually, I’m sure you prefer it a little busy.”

“I do, it keeps things interesting,” Katie picked up the bottle of wine he’d placed on the counter and scanned it, “Eight Pounds ninety please, special occasion?”

“Excuse me?” Then he realised she was talking about the wine, “Oh, no, no…well I suppose…my Mum’s coming over for dinner this evening.”

“Oh, that’s lovely!”

“Yeah, we don’t get much time together, so I said I’d cook for her.”

“Making anything nice?”

“A tentative Lamb Tagine.”

“Oh, very adventurous!”

“For me, yes, normally I’m a Bolognaise or Roast Dinner kind of person. Keep it simple.”

“Oh, come on, a roast dinner isn’t simple, all the timing and stuff.”

“Do you enjoy cooking?”

“I prefer eating, but yes, I don’t mind cooking.”

Just then, the door slid open again, and another customer came in the shop. Katie waved, “Morning!”

“Well, I shouldn’t keep you, have a nice day, Katie,” He grinned, “I hope you don’t get caught in the rain on your way home.”

“Thanks, I hope your Tagine is a success, you’ll have to let me know.”

Then he was gone. That was a standard conversation between Katie and most of her regular customers. Exchanging general niceties and wishing people a nice day. But that was the first time Tom had used her name. She wondered for a moment if she’d ever told him at any time, or if he’d heard one of her colleagues speaking to her. But she was mostly in the small shop alone, her boss normally dealing with stock or other managerial tasks out back in the office. It was only when she glanced down and her name tag caught her eye, it struck her. He’d purposely looked for her name, so he could address her formally.

The thought made Katie’s tummy flutter a little. Alright, so she had a little bit of a crush on her customer. Along with the rest of the female population.

But that’s all it was, a silly crush. Who could blame her? He was obviously gorgeous, even in his puffy North Face Rain coat, and tatty jeans, you’d have to be blind not to appreciate his sharp jaw, and cerulean eyes. But he was also a charming, kind man who seemed to have every woman he met swooning at ‘hello’.

Katie had been fine with having a crush, up until this point. It was harmless.

But now she knew how her name sounded upon his lips.

 

*

Tom almost slammed the bottle of wine on his kitchen counter, giving Bobby cause to yip loudly at the noise. Shucking off his rain coat and slinging it over one of the stools at his breakfast bar, Tom cursed himself under his breath.

“Fucking idiot!”

He’d used her name. She was going to think he was one of those creeps that leered over counters to check their servers name badge, so they could repeatedly address them by their name. He’d heard from friends who had worked in shops that this was just about the most annoying thing any customer could do.

The truth was, Tom didn’t need to lean over the counter to check her name badge. He’d clocked it about a year ago. That was when he first really noticed the pretty woman at his local store.

Of course, he’d seen her before, they’d exchanged ‘hello’s’ and ‘have a nice days’ for probably two years prior. It had been not long after he came out of a pretty rough break up. Well no, the break up had not been tough, but the media attention it garnered had been unpleasant. He’d been stressed, massively. His PR had been on his back about the damage the attention could cause to his career. He was dealing with a minor heartache and a massive headache. He’d been having a particularly bad morning, and he was craving a strong cup of tea, when he realised he’d run out of milk. He’d stormed down to the shop just footsteps from his front door, and the first thing he heard was a cheery ‘Morning!”

Katie had been up on one of those round stools designed for shelve stacking. She had a huge trolley of stock beside her and was a little breathless. Clearly up to her eyeballs in work, but rather than continue with her stacking, she hoped down and grinned at him.

“You look like you could do with something a bit stronger than milk today.” He’d laughed at that, because he realised he must have looked incredibly miserable and pissed off. But rather than shy away like most people, she continued to chat away cheerily, “Jack Daniels is on special, a litre for twenty-three quid. I might buy two!”

He’d watched, bemused as the bubbly girl almost bounded behind the counter and waited for him to approach with his milk, and a pack of milk chocolate hobnobs because he needed a sweet binge. She picked up the biscuits and waved them at him, “These will work too! You know they’re on buy one get one free, you should grab another packet.”

“If I buy them, I’ll eat them,” At the time he was meant to be losing a bit of weight for an up coming role.

“Nonsense look at you, you look like you could do with a decent lasagne.” It was the first time in weeks he’d truly laughed, and he walked home with a smile on his face. The next time he’d seen her he’d been sure to check her name badge and ever since then he’d made a point of talking to her each time he visited.

She was pretty. He couldn’t ignore it. He couldn’t really vouch for her body, because her frumpy shop issued uniform did its best to conceal most of her assets. But it couldn’t completely hide her generous bust. The navy t-shirt she wore stretched across her chest but lay baggy everywhere else. She was tall, for a woman he thought. In her flat black shoes, she came to just about his chin.

But her face was what really caught his attention. Fair skin and dark chestnut hair, which was always tied up in a pony tail for work. But it swung around behind her as she bounced around the shop. Her eyes were hazel, and she sometimes wore glasses, which he liked, and she had a lovely mouth. Lips pink but not too thick, and she was always, without fail, smiling.

That was what drew him in. Her smile. He knew it was genuine because it reached her eyes. But it wasn’t just for him, it was for every single person who entered her shop. She had a cheery smile and greeting for everyone who crossed her path, and that was just a breath of fresh air.

It was silly, he knew it. She was just a woman who worked in a shop. He knew absolutely nothing of her, other than her first name. But he’d found himself thinking of her sometimes.

Normally it was when he was getting a little stressed or over worked. He’d think of her smile, or her voice and feel calmed by it. He hated to admit when he’d felt lonely and insecure, he’d thought of her pretty lips and how they might feel against his.

He’d all but decided the only thing he could do was bite the bullet and ask her too dinner. But that was easier said than done. Whilst she was working, how on earth could he just walk in and ask her out? As friendly and chatty as she was, it was clear she loved her job and in that respect was very professional. He doubted she’d entertain the idea of having any sort of personal conversation whilst she was working.

Tom knew he was acting like a teenager with a crush. He’d even found himself making excuses to go to the shop and see her. She must have thought he really liked milk, because right now there were four pints in his fridge, and he probably had five or six loaves of bread in his freezer.  

But he couldn’t even find it in himself to feel bad about his behaviour. He was human after all. He might have had hundreds of thousands of women fawning over him, but he still had insecurities and fears of rejection. How could he just ask someone out when he knew literally nothing about her? In his sensible head, that was just asking for trouble.

Chapter Text

Closing her laptop, Katie hummed contently. An email confirming twelve new subscribers to her Snapchat this week. That was almost an extra two hundred pound a month income. Yes, business was good, and it meant Christmas would be easier this year. She might even be able to get the twins the bikes they’d been wanting.

To celebrate she’d decided to post a couple of bonus snaps for her users. Unfortunately, she realised she was now running late for the school run. Katie hastily tore the lacy bralette she was currently wearing over her head and found some more practical underwear.

Once suitably covered in thick leggings, a knitted dress, boots, coat and scarf to protect from the harsh November chill, Katie called Pink and attached the happy Labradors lead. “We’re going to get the twins, Pinky,” She told the dog, ruffling her ears with a gloved hand. She slung her bag over her shoulder, and they left the flat.

The children attended a state primary school which was just a five-minute walk from home. It wasn’t the best school in the area, but it wasn’t bad. Given the area of London in which they lived, there wasn’t really such thing as a bad school. But the best part was, that five minutes the other side was the south entrance to Hampstead Heath, and Willow Road Playground. This meant Katie quite often coincided collecting the children, with Pink’s walk and managed to tire the kids out in the playground. By the time they got home, they’d often eat dinner, read their school books, bath and go to bed without argument.

The twins bounded from their class into Katie’s arms, and they began their walk north to the park. They both talked over each other excitedly, as they told their Mum about the Christmas play which they’d already started rehearsing.

When they reached the park, Katie let the twins through the metal gate into the playground. She remained outside the fence with Pink, finding a bench nearby in a position where she could keep an eye on the kids, but also with enough space to throw the ball for her Labrador.

*

Tom hadn’t been paying that much attention to the path in front of him. He had his earbuds in, and his scarf pulled up around his face, and tatty baseball cap pulled down low over his eyes. It was only when he felt Bobby tug on his lead a bit harder than normal, that he looked up and called his dog to heel.

“Bobby enough,” he said firmly, tugging back on the lead. But as usual the young dog ignored him. He saw why when he looked up properly. Bobby wanted to make friends with the Chocolate Lab playing fetch with its owner on a nearby bench. The dog trotted over when it noticed Bobby, and Tom slowed to allow them to sniff one another.

“Hello,” A surprised greeting came from the dog’s owner and Tom frowned for a moment, assuming it was likely a fan, or someone who at least recognised him. But then the woman on the bench stood up and he realised who it was. Katie, his Katie from the shop. He tugged his earbuds out, so they came to dangle loosely round his neck.

“Oh, Hey!” He knew he sounded just as surprised to see her.

“Let me guess, you didn’t recognise me in my civilian clothes?” she grinned, and he approached her slowly.

“Sorry, no, how are you?”

“I’m good, haven’t see you in the shop for a few days.”

“I’ve been away for work, I got back last night,” Tom explained his absence, then turned his attention to the dogs, and bent down to ruffle the labs ears “Who’s this?”

“This is Pink,” Katie told him, and he raised a questioning eyebrow, as he stood up back to her level, “Don’t ask, the kids named her.”

“You have kids?” The words fell from Tom’s mouth. He’d not contemplated the fact that she may well have a family. He knew she wasn’t married, because she didn’t wear a ring. He double checked her hand with a quick glance regardless, but she was wearing gloves. No, he’d never seen a ring on her hand. He was sure of it.

“Yeah, two,” She pointed behind them to the park, where he could make out a couple of children up the top of the climbing frame. Whilst her head was turned, he took the chance to check out her ‘civilian clothes’ as she’d put it. Thick black leggings and a thick black double-breasted coat which flared out from the waist and came down to her mid-thigh. She wore chunky black ankle boots which laced up, and then on her head she had a burgundy knitted beret. Her hair was loose underneath, but tucked into her scarf, with whispy bits flying around her face in the breeze. If he’d thought her pretty before, that had attraction had increased drastically. Then she turned back to him.

“How old are they?”

“Seven.”

“Both of them?”

“They’re twins,” He felt a bit stupid, of course they were twins if they were the same age. ‘Good going, Cambridge boy’ he silently chastised himself.

“Where did you go?”

“Hmm?” Oh, dear lord, he really was making a pig’s ear out of this whole thing. He was suddenly feeling very aware of how stupid he was sounding, and probably how awful he looked. She looked lovely. He on the other hand, wore old joggers which he was sure had a few holes in, along with an even older hoody, layered with his dog walking coat, complete with muddy paw prints. Then to finish the look, he’d lazily pulled on a pair of his old running trainers.

“For work? Anywhere exciting?”

“Oh, yeah, New York, just for a couple of meetings. Managed to meet some friends for dinner too, so that was nice.”

“I love New York, it’s no London though.”

“No, it’s not,” Tom agreed, then he cleared his throat, considering making his excuses and dragging Bobby home. But Katie didn’t seem to notice his awkwardness, instead she was just her usual cheery self and she seemed happy to chat. This was the chance he’d been looking for, an opportunity to find out a little more about her, “What are their names?”

“Zach and Lucy,” Katie responded straight away, “Do you come here a lot? We’re here after school nearly every day, but we’ve not seen you out before.”

“I do, but normally much earlier in the day, although it’s less busy this time of year.”

“Of course,” Katie nodded, apparently understanding what he was getting at. He normally walked Bobby before the morning school run, when there were less people around. Less chance of getting recognised.

“Mum, mum, mum!” Suddenly Katie’s attention was drawn from him as the two children, a spitting image of their Mother, both with her dark hair, and fair skin ran to the metal railing, “Can we have pizza tonight?” They both pleaded in unison.

“Not a chance,” Katie told them firmly.

“Mum!” Again, their voices echoed each other.

“No pizza tonight, you’ll eat enough rubbish with your Dad this weekend. I’m making Stir Fry,” Katie’s tone brooked no argument, “Now you’ve got five more minutes and then we’re going home, go and play!”

Tom couldn’t help but chuckle as the two young children grumbled, but didn’t argue any further, and ran back towards the apparatus.

“They’re great,” He told her, “They look just like you.”

“Thank god!” Katie responded, then she shook her head, “Sorry, that was awful of me.”

“I take it he’s not in the picture?”

“He’s in their picture, when he wants to be. Not in mine,” She clarified.

“It’s horrible when that happens.”

“I think there is just always something or someone more interesting to do,” Katie shrugged, “I know it’s not uncommon, not easy for them though.”

“Or you, I should imagine.”

“I get more of them to myself, so I’m not complaining,” She grinned, seemingly unbothered by the line of conversation. Tom wondered how she was so happy, it was admirable that she appeared to make light out of every situation, “You know, I’m keeping you from your walk.”

“I don’t mind, really-” Tom stopped and took a shaky breath, “Actually, Katie, I’m kind of glad I bumped into you out of work.”

“Oh?”

“Well yeah…I…erm, sorry, this is going to sound really weird.”

“I’m all about weird,” Katie smirked, and Tom managed to smile at how bright her eyes were. She had almost an innocence in them, as she waited for him to speak again.

“Well…I’d been wanting for a while now, to erm…to ask you for dinner?”

There was a beat of silence, the smirk still playing on Katie’s pretty lips, but her eyes did widen in surprise. If Tom wasn’t mistaken, they sparkled in excitement, “Really? Me?”

“Yes, you,” She’d not even accepted his invitation, but Tom already felt the weight lifted. Months of repressing the urge to ask her in fear of rejection, and now he was sure that even if she said no, he’d be happy that he’d just plucked up the courage to ask her.

“As a date?”

“Well, that’s my intention, but if that makes you uncomfortable-”

She cut Tom of quickly, a wide smile now on her lips, “No, no, I’d love to go on a date with you…Tom.”

“Oh god, I really made a mess of this, didn’t I? I didn’t even properly introduce myself. Just assumed you knew who I was…I mean you know I go into your shop, but…yeah…fuck it,” Tom stumbled over his own words, feeling like a complete tit. There he was, addressing her by her name, that he’d learnt from her name badge, and taking for granted that she knew his name, without even telling her. Granted she did, but that wasn’t the point at all.

“Tom, it’s alright, I said, yes, didn’t I?” Katie was laughing.

“You did.”

“So…”

“So yeah, erm, great!”

“Would you like my number?” Katie looked like she was trying to keep a straight face, and Tom was suddenly glad of the scarf he was wearing, because he could feel the heat creeping up his neck. He was really messing this up.

“Oh, that would help wouldn’t it,” Tom fished his phone from his coat pocket, he unlocked the screen and handed it to Katie to put her number in, “Are there evenings which work better for you? Any food you don’t like?”

“I’m easy, the twins go to their Dad’s every other weekend, but my Mum’s only down the road if I need a babysitter. I’m allergic to Shellfish. But otherwise I’ll basically eat anything you put in front of me.”

“That’s great, so erm... I’m actually free tomorrow evening. Is that too soon? Sorry, I probably sound really-”

“Tomorrow night is good for me,” Katie said quickly, she realised Tom’s nerves were getting the better of him. She was flattered, having a man getting all flustered over asking her out. She was surprised, definitely; but also delighted. She’d have never guessed lovely Tom had been wanting to ask her out. She’d have never considered making the move herself, not because she was scared of rejection, but it just seemed incredibly unprofessional to start making moves on your customers, especially the famous ones.

“That…that’s great, Katie. I’ll try and book something up, and I’ll text you to let you know what time I’ll be there to pick you up,” Tom felt himself relaxing again. She’d said yes, she wasn’t changing her mind. She wanted him to take her out.

“You don’t have to pick me up, I can just meet you somewhere, I don’t mind-”

“If I’m taking you on a date, I intend to do it properly. So, I’ll be picking you up from your front door, and dropping you back there safely at the end of the evening,” Tom insisted. Katie didn’t argue further, instead she just smiled, and nodded.

“Alright, I’m looking forward to it.”

“Me too,” The pair stood in silence for a moment, before Tom remembered himself, “I’m sorry, I’ll let you get on, it’s starting to get dark, and you’ll want to get the kids home for tea. See you tomorrow.”

“Alright, bye, Tom.” Katie said, with a little wave.

“Bye Katie,” As Tom gave Bobby’s lead a little tug and started walking away he heard Katie calling the twins, telling them it was time to go home. He couldn’t stop smiling. Had he known she would be so open to his advances, he’d have asked her out a long time ago. His heart raced. Now he just had to work out where he would take her.

*

“Mummy, who was that man you were talking to?” Lucy peered up at her Mum as they walked home from the park. The sun was low, and it was even colder now. Katie kept her children close to her as they walked under the streetlights.

“Oh, it was just someone Mummy knows from work.”

“He had a really cute doggy,” Zach added.

“He’s called Bobby,” Katie remembered, from one of the occasions Tom had asked her to keep an eye on his dog, from her place behind the counter.

“I think Pink liked Bobby,” Lucy said, in her usual matter of fact way.

“Was the man your friend, Mummy?” Zach asked, “Because I think Pink would like to play with Bobby more. She must get lonely not having any friends.”

“She has you and Lucy!”

“But we’re not dogs!” Zach argued.

“Well, that’s true. I’ll ask Bobby’s Daddy next time I see him,” Katie immediately wondered why she’d said it. Both Zach and Lucy would hold her to that, and she knew it. Tom had asked her for one dinner, and suddenly she was considering Dog walking dates with the kids.

But she couldn’t help it. She was excited. It had been a long time since she’d been on a date, even longer since a man had wanted to properly wine and dine her. She had a feeling that’s exactly what Tom planned to do.

One thing Katie knew for sure, is that she fully intended to enjoy whatever Tom had in store for her. No matter where it went or what Tom’s intentions were, it’s not every day your ‘silly crush’ turns out to be not all that silly.

Chapter Text

“So, where did you meet this chap exactly?” Katie had been cagey when she asked her Mum if she would sit with the twins the next evening. She wasn’t sure if she should tell her Mum exactly who she was seeing. She wasn’t sure her Mum would even know who Tom Hiddleston was.

Even so, her Mum could be a gossip, and the last thing she wanted was for her Mum to go mouthing off to her friends that her daughter was dating a celebrity. She’d see how it went first, and cross that bridge at a later date.

“He’s just someone who comes into the shop sometimes,” Katie leant over the mirror in her bedroom, applying mascara carefully, “Please don’t let the kids stay up too late, they can’t watch telly later than eight thirty, or I’ll never get them up for school.”

“I know, I know.”

“You say that, but every time you let them walk all over you.”

“What’s his name?”

“Tom.”

“Is he good looking?”

“Yes.”

“Does he know what you do?”

“He knows I work in a shop, and he knows I have two children and a dog. I don’t know him that well,” Katie rolled her eyes and stepped back to check her appearance, she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. She knew where this was going.

“You haven’t told him about Sadie then?”

“I hardly know him, Mum, and it’s not the sort of thing you bring up on a first date,” Katie huffed, “Can we just get through dinner first?” Katie didn’t have to look at her Mum to sense the disapproving glare, “I’m not hiding it from him, bloody hell, Mum.”

“Fine, fine!” She held her hands up and shook her head, “I’ll say no more!”

“Please don’t, now do I look okay?”

“You know you look beautiful, you’ll knock his socks off.”

“Maybe,” Katie shrugged, and hummed to herself thoughtfully. She’d not gone over the top, Tom had told her too be ready for seven o’clock, and there was no strict dress code. She was glad he’d told her that, because she’d been a little worried he might take her to some top London restaurant. She wasn’t sure how comfortable she’d be with that. But then part of her wouldn’t be surprised if he simply took her to Pizza Express, or another similar and perfectly good chain restaurant. She didn’t know much about Tom, but he did seem quite down to earth. It was one of the things she liked about him.

Katie gave herself a quick squirt of her favourite perfume then headed into the living room, where the twins were sprawled out on the sofa watching television.

“Right, I need you two to be good for your Nan, do as she tells you. No TV after eight thirty,” Just then the buzzer went, “Right, that’s him.”

“You look so pretty, Mummy,” Lucy squeaked as Katie picked up the entry phone off the wall.

“Hi, come in, ground floor, last door on the left, I’ll be a second,” She took a shaky breath, feeling nervous for the first time since Tom had asked her out. What if they had nothing to talk about? After all they had very different lives. Hers was dull in comparison. Katie shook her head, to shake off her nerves and went over to give Zach and Lucy a kiss goodbye. Then she pecked her Mum on the cheek. “Right, Mum keep them in here, and please do NOT come and try and say hello. Just…yeah… don’t embarrass me.”

“Have fun, Kate,” Her Mum instructed firmly. Katie nodded and headed for the door, just as there was a knock. She picked her bag up off the coat hook and flung open the front door.

“Hi!” She burst out, a little too enthusiastically.

Tom stood the other side of the door, looking a little surprised at her outburst. But he didn’t seem at all perturbed by it, as his shoulders seemed to relax, and his lips curved into a smile as his eyes drank her in, “Hello.”

“Will I need a coat? I wasn’t sure, I didn’t think we’d be outside much, but now you’re wearing one, maybe I should…erm,” Katie frowned and stopped talking when she saw Tom looking past her, and grinning. It was when he lifted his hand and gave a little wave, she spun around. Two little faces peered around the edge of the living room door, “I told you two to stay with Nanny, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“You’re the man from the park!” Zach piped up.

“With Bobby!” Lucy added.

“That’s right,” Tom responded, with a soft chuckle in his voice.

“Where is he, didn’t you bring him with you?” Zach was trying to push around his sister to see into the hallway behind Tom.

“Ah, no, it’s way past his bedtime. He’s at home asleep,” Tom explained with a chuckle.

“Right, we should go…” Katie tried to get out the house, taking a step into the doorway.

“Mummy said we could all go to the park so Pink and Bobby can play!” Lucy exclaimed, excitedly.  Katie wanted the ground to swallow her up in that instant, and she couldn’t meet Tom’s eye, as she turned back to her children.

“I didn’t make any promises. Now get back in there both of you,” She pointed at the lounge, “Mum! Can you control them please, I’m going!” With that Katie ushered Tom further back into the hall and slammed the door shut behind her, finally looking at him, “I’m so, so sorry.”

“It’s alright,” Tom was chuckling away.

“I didn’t…I mean…they have a bee in their bonnets about Pink being lonely because she doesn’t have any doggy friends, and-”

“Katie, stop,” Tom said quickly, “From the mouths of babes. It’s…well I think it’s quite funny.”

“Well I’m glad you’re getting a laugh at my expense,” Katie finally smirked, and they started walking down the hall.

*

Tom took in Katie’s appearance, able to see her figure properly for the first time. He was not disappointed, although he felt sure very little about Katie could disappoint him. She wore black trousers, long floaty ones which synched in at the waist and she had it teamed up with a plum coloured, long sleeved blouse which was tucked in. The ensemble showed off her lovely shape, a perfect hourglass. She looked soft and he admired the feminine curve of her belly, and how her brown hair, which he could now see reached her shoulders, had a natural wave. It bounced as she moved.

“You look lovely, by the way,” He said shyly, when they stepped outside, “I should have started with that really.”

“Oh, thank you,” Katie turned and looked up at him, “You look great too…oh, is this us?”

A taxi waited just on the pavement outside the purpose-built block of flats in which Katie and her little family lived.

“It is,” Tom told her, stepping forward to open the car door and allowing her to climb in first. He got in after her and they buckled in. The car moved off without instruction, Tom had already told the driver of their destination for the evening. The pair fell silent as the cab began its journey down the road. Tom wrung his hands together in a nervous gesture and stared straight ahead. Then he felt Katie’s hand touch his gently, and his head shot round so his eyes could meet hers.

“Are you going to tell me where we’re going then?” she withdrew her hand now she’d got his attention.

“Oh well, it’s a pub actually,” Tom revealed, “A nice one, in Hemel Hampstead. The Bricklayers arms. It’s about an hour away, is that okay?”

“That sounds lovely.”

“I thought a pub is normally a safe bet, varied menu, something for everyone.”

“I think a more comfortable atmosphere too, especially this time of year, all cosy, with crackling log fires,” Katie mused out loud.

“Oh, you’ll love this place,” Tom told her, feeling more confident with his choice of restaurant. He’d not opted for a place in London, because it was difficult to take a woman out to dinner without being recognised. The pub was discreet, he’d been before, although never on a date. He’d called the owners and they’d been very accommodating in promising a table tucked away in a little alcove, away from the view of prying eyes.

They fell into a comfortable conversation as they travelled. Mostly idle talk, of how mild the weather had been for November, and Tom told her a little bit about his time in New York. She had listened avidly and asked questions, all the right ones, not too invasive, and nothing about his job.

It felt like almost no time had passed at all when the cab pulled up outside a pretty pub, lit up on the outside. It was remote, idyllic and looked postcard worthy. Tom climbed out the cab and held out a hand for Katie. He thanked the driver and then escorted Katie into the pub, where they were swiftly met by a waiter and taken to a table, which was, as promised tucked away around the corner from the bar. A little fireplace crackled, and the place was already decked out in tasteful Christmas decorations. Garlands lined the low oak beams, and red candles on the table.

“Oh, this is lovely, Tom!” Katie praised him on his choice, “It’s very romantic.”

“Well, that’s sort of what I was going for,” Tom didn’t meet her eye.

“Are you nervous?”

“I haven’t been on a date for a very long time.”

“Me neither.”

“And you’re really pretty.”

“My heads getting bigger by the second, don’t be nervous, Tom. If it helps, you’ve done really well so far, meeting me at my door, driving me out to a beautiful country pub, I’ve not been romanced like this… well probably never.”

“Never?” Tom’s eyes widened, “Not even… surely…?”

“Nope,” Katie shook her head

“Well that’s a dying shame. But I’m honoured to be your first.”

Katie laughed at that, a proper belly laugh, and just like that Tom finally relaxed into the evening, realising for the first time, Katie wouldn’t be there if she didn’t want to be. She was enjoying his company, and she was suitably impressed by his efforts. It was going well.

Tom ordered them a bottle of wine, pleased that Katie had told him she preferred red. After much deliberation they both decided on soup to start, having the age-old discussion about it being the ‘safe’ choice, but it was also winter and there was nothing nicer than a bowl of homemade soup.

“So, have you always lived in London?” Tom asked, when their soup bowls were cleared, and wine glasses refreshed. He’d finally relaxed enough to start finding out a little more about the beautiful woman he’d taken to dinner.

“Yup,” Katie nodded, “My flat, where I live now, was my Nanna’s place. Me and Mum moved in with her when I was about twelve, when Mum and Dad divorced. When Mum remarried she moved out, but I stayed and when Nanna died she left the flat to me.”

“That was lovely of her…I’m sorry though,” Katie held her hand up and shook her head.

“No, no… she had a really incredible life. It may have ended sooner than she wanted, but she’d really lived it, you know? She used to travel the world when she was younger. She was one of them people…she didn’t have any regrets. She made me promise not to mourn her death, but to celebrate her life, so please don’t be sorry.”

“She sounds like an amazing woman.”

“Mum says I have her spirit.”

“Do you see your Dad? You said your parents divorced when you were twelve. That’s how old I was when mine divorced also,” Tom knew it wasn’t the happiest line of conversation, but it was a common ground.

“Sometimes. He lives in Scotland with his new wife, and family 2.0,” Katie gave a little eye roll, “Yeah, he occasionally remembers me, and his grandkids exist, and pops down to say hello.”

“It’s rough when that happens, I sort of understand. I’m quite close with my Dad now. But when him and Mum broke up, I was mad. I was away at school and it was tough. We didn’t talk properly for a long time. It’s only now that I’m older, I understand what happened,” Tom explained, “Where in Scotland does your Dad live. My Dad’s Scottish.”

“Glasgow, my Dad’s Scottish too, Glaswegian through and through.”

“So, we’re both half Scottish,” Katie laughed again, at Tom’s very convincing Scottish accent.

“Oh god, you’re good at that. Mum used to laugh at me so much when I was little, because I used to try and copy the way my Dad spoke. I’m pretty sure my speech was drastically delayed because of it!”

“No brothers or sisters then?” Tom asked, gathering from what she’d told him, she was an only child.

“Only if you include my Dad’s little brats. You?”

“Two sisters,” Tom nodded, “Sarah, my big sister, lives in India with her husband, she’s a Journalist. Emma is younger than me, she’s in London with her partner and their two girls.”

“Are you close?”

“Really close. More now that we’re older, when we were younger we just used to annoy each other. They used to give me hell, being the only boy, I was teased incessantly.”

*

The waiter came over with our main courses. Tom had opted for the lamb, whilst Katie chose the chicken, although she regretted it a little when she saw Tom’s. He topped up their glasses again.

“So, how long had you been wanting to ask me out, because I’ve got to tell you. If you’d so much as dropped a hint, I was completely oblivious,” Katie asked, picking up her glass and taking a sip.

“You really want to know?” Katie nodded, “Well, I first noticed you, I mean properly noticed you about a year ago. Every time I see you in the shop I leave in a good mood. You know you’ve got a really positive air about you, that just rubs off on people. You have the prettiest laugh, and sometimes I hear you when I’m getting my milk or whatever, and I just wanted to hear it more. I wanted to see if I could make you laugh like that.”

Katie’s eyes sparkled, and she smiled at Tom, “That wasn’t the answer I was expecting. That’s very sweet of you, Tom.”

“I think if I hadn’t seen you yesterday in the park, I’d have never got the courage. I was hesitant to ask you out because I didn’t know anything at all about you…I have to be a little bit careful.”

“I understand,” Katie nodded, but didn’t say anymore. She didn’t want to get into Tom’s career, or his celebrity status. That was a conversation to be had at another time. If he wanted to see her again.

“Can I ask about the twins Dad?” Tom sounded a little wary with this question, but Katie didn’t mind. Of course, he wanted to know what the deal was there. She had nothing to hide.

“Well, there’s not much to tell. I found out I was pregnant a week before I graduated. I went to an Arts University. Matt did Fine Art. He was the classic tortured artist, of course in my naivety I was drawn to this dark and mysterious guy. He’s a bit of a loser, hops from job to job, woman to woman, still dreaming that he’ll be the next Damien Hirst,” Katie shrugged, “I think I realised the second I found out I was pregnant, that I’d never be able to rely on him.”

“That must have been really hard?”

“I had a lot of support from my family,” Katie explained, her voice light.

“What did you study at Uni?”

“Textiles, I wanted to be a Costume Designer, once upon a time. For theatre… I wasn’t bad either, I got a first, I even had a job lined up at Glyndebourne Opera House,” Tom almost wasn’t surprised by this revelation. He’d known there was something more to Katie, than just being a single Mum and a shop girl.

“Why didn’t you pursue it?”

“Because the second I had Zach and Lucy, the only dream I had was to be the best Mother I could be. It didn’t seem important anymore. I don’t regret it. I know that must be quite difficult for someone like you to understand,” Tom shook his head slowly.

“No, I think I do. You’ve clearly thrived, you are doing an incredible job.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you want pudding?”

“Do you have to ask?”

After a scrummy dessert of Sticky Toffee Pudding for Tom, and a Winter Berry Crumble for Katie, they finished off the bottle of wine, and when they stepped outside the cab was already waiting. Katie had not seen Tom make any calls, as his attention had been on her the entire evening, so she knew he must have pre-arranged their pick up.

Katie decided, at some point throughout the evening that she really liked Tom. Possibly more so because of how nervous he’d been about the date. About taking her out and making a good impression. He was so sweet, and down to earth. He’d been so open, happy to talk about his family and his interests outside of work. She had thought he might be a little guarded until he knew her better. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Once they’d got passed the serious stuff, families and of course, the conversation about the twins Dad, the topics had become lighter. Katie learnt that Tom had a great sense of humour, clean and clever. They’d both laughed so much, and Tom seemed to delight in the fact that he was the reason she was smiling

As he had promised, when the taxi pulled up outside her building, Tom escorted her from the car and right to her front door.

“I had such a lovely evening, Tom. Thank you,” Katie told him sincerely. He practically beamed with pride.

“Me too, I’m so glad you agreed to come out with me. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in ages,” Tom agreed.

“Oh, me too!” Katie bit her lip, wondering if she should ask if he would see her again. They’d had a great time, but she couldn’t expect it. Maybe he’d just wanted company for the evening. There was a chance he didn’t want anything more at the moment.

“Well, erm…I guess I should say goodnight, so you can relieve your Mum of her babysitting duties,” Tom shifted from foot to foot, obviously not knowing how to end the evening. A streak of nervousness was returning.

“Yes, well…goodnight!” Katie said, brightly, desperately trying to hide the disappointment tugging at her insides. Then to her surprise, Tom stepped closer, lay a hand on her elbow, and brushed his lips over her cheek.

In a moment of boldness, and doubting she would get another chance, as Tom went to pull away, she reached up and wrapped a hand around the back of his neck and pulled his face back to hers. It wasn’t a full-on kiss. She gently caressed his lips with her own and he didn’t pull away, he returned the kiss with the same level of affection.

When they pulled apart, Katie smiled sheepishly, and Tom arched a playful eyebrow, “Well that was a nice surprise.”

“Well, I figured I would take what I could while I have it. Just in case you get home and decide you never want to see me again,” Her tone was light and joking, but Tom could see through it.

“Oh Katie, I can guarantee I most definitely want to see you again,” Tom grinned, and Katie nodded eagerly.

“Well, Goodnight Tom.”

“Night, Katie, I promise I’ll call you.”

Chapter Text

Katie didn’t hate her ex, per se. But right now, she was pretty, damn close.

It wasn’t the first time he’d let his children down. Hell, she’d lost count of the number of times Matt had called her in the week running up to his weekend asking to swap, or simply not turning up on the Friday evening to collect them. But this was the first time he’d done it, and she’d actually made some plans of her own.

Pissed off didn’t even begin to cover how she was feeling right now.

Things with Tom had been going well. Really well actually.

The day after their first date she hadn’t expected him to call, although she had a good feeling that he would eventually. She’d realised quite early on into their evening that he was quite keen. To a point where he was visibly holding back and trying not to come on too strong. But she was delighted when a modest, but still beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived for her, along with a card.

Thank you for a lovely evening – Tom.

True to Tom’s word he did call her. But he waited until after the weekend.

Since their dinner and then receiving the beautiful bouquet, Katie had been floating around with a little bubble of excitement in her tummy. She couldn’t wait to see Tom again. Granted it was early days and she wasn’t sure what would come of it, but she was certainly enjoying Tom’s approach.

She’d often in the past, found herself in relationships with people who either played it a little too cool, or simply weren’t into her as much as she them. Tom wasn’t coming on too strong, but he was making his intentions known. He was making it obvious that he liked her and that felt nice. It felt good for once, to know exactly where she stood.

He waited until after the weekend to call her. They arranged to go out on a weeknight again, as Tom’s weekends could be busy with different events that he was committed to attend. Although he told her he was due some real time off in the run up to Christmas.

Their second date was a comedy night down a local pub. This time Katie insisted on meeting him there and he was a little relieved. He didn’t want to have that conversation with her yet. But arriving together would give the media a field day if he was photographed. He didn’t want to put that on her now, not so soon. But he knew he would have to have that conversation at some point.

They had another wonderful evening. This time wine was replaced by beer and once the acts had finished, they tucked themselves into a quiet corner and spent more time getting to know one another. Although they’d arrived separately, they left together and once again Tom walked her to her door. But this time he was the one who made the move to kiss her. No preamble, he cupped her cheek in one hand and had pressed his mouth to hers.

The second kiss was a little more heated than the first. Katie had responded by wrapping her arms around his neck and pushing herself into his body. When the kiss came to an end Tom had smirked and said, “Just in case you get inside and decide you never want to see me again.”

After the second date, Tom didn’t waste his time approaching her about a third. In fact, the next morning he strolled into the shop, and found Katie stocking up the biscuits, and asked her if she would join him for afternoon tea the following week. He drove her out to a Country Retreat near Windsor and they enjoyed an afternoon of tea, cake, and laughter.

Katie wasn’t tiring of him, and he certainly wasn’t tiring of her. If anything, the opposite. The more time they spent together the more eager both of them seemed to see each other again. But Katie realised that Tom had been putting all the effort into arranging their dates, so when he dropped her off home after their third date, she decided to ask him to accompany her on a forth.

“I was wondering,” Katie started, as Tom pulled into one of the visitors parking bays outside her building, “If you might be free at the weekend?”

“I’m free from lunchtime on Saturday,” Tom nodded, “Did you want to do something? We could go out somewhere?”

“Well the twins are at their Dad’s, I wondered if you’d like to come to mine, I could cook for you?” Tom noticed the hint of a blush in her cheeks. This certainly signified a step forward in their relationship. Going from dates in public places, to just the two of them, together in Katie’s home. Tom wasn’t about to turn her down.

“You know, that sounds great.”

“Really? Well, let’s say Saturday, at about 7ish?”

“Well, if the twins are away, why don’t we meet earlier? There’s a Christmas Market in St Alban’s, we could drive out there for the afternoon, then go back to yours and you can cook us dinner? Or I could help? Then we’ll watch a film.”

“Oh, I’ve heard about that market, yeah that sounds great!”

“So, I could pick you up about midday?”

“Absolutely!”

“See you Saturday then, Katie.”

“Aren’t you walking me up?” Katie had flashed him one of her irresistible, playful smiles.

“Of course, how else am I going to get my goodbye kiss?”

*

Katie managed to eventually get hold of the twins Dad, roughly two hours after he should have collected them for the weekend. His excuse? He forgot it was his weekend, he was at an Art Festival in Gothenburg. Katie was livid. Zach and Lucy were inconsolable.

Eventually, she’d calmed them both down, with promises of a lovely weekend with her, and that they’d see their Daddy the next week (she hoped). She’d made hot chocolates and settled them into bed with a story.

Katie took a few calming breaths before deciding it was best to call Tom straight away to tell him know they’d have to cancel their plans.

“Katie, hello, Darling,” It was noisy wherever Tom was, and she remembered him telling her he was attending some Charity Gala.

“Sorry, Tom, I completely forgot you were out, I’ll text you…”

“No, no,” The background noise faded, and Tom had clearly stepped out somewhere quieter, “Is everything okay, love?”

“No, everything’s to shit, I’m afraid I’m going to have to cancel on you for tomorrow, Tom.”

“Oh…”

“Matt didn’t turn up today. He…forgot, apparently. He’s in bloody Gothenburg, although I’m not sure I even believe him right now.”

“Oh, Darling. I understand.”

“It’s so bloody unfair!”

“I know.”

“Zach and Lucy are so upset. They don’t understand, so I’ve promised to do something with them tomorrow. I don’t know what, I just…sorry, you don’t want to hear all this. Can we rearrange? I’d ask my Mum, but I don’t feel I can leave the twins this weekend.”

“Hey, Katie, love, please don’t worry about me, you don’t need to explain yourself. I know Zach and Lucy come first.”

“Thanks, Tom.”

“You know…I’m not sure how you’ll feel about this, so say no if you don’t want to. But…that Christmas Market has a Grotto and Reindeer. I’d be more than happy to take all of you?”

The breath caught in Katie’s throat. Bless him, “Oh, Tom, you don’t have to do that!”

“I know I don’t have to. I’m offering. I’d still like to see you, and if you’re alright with it, I’d like to help you give Zach and Lucy a fun weekend. I know we’ve only been on a few dates. I promise to behave myself-”

“I don’t doubt it,” Katie giggled.

“So, is that a yes?”

“It’s a hell yes!”

*

To be honest, Tom had been a little tipsy when he’d suggested a family day out with Katie and her children.

Not that he regretted asking in the slightest. Just had he been sober, his sensible head would have stopped him and told him he was taking liberties and moving things along too quickly. They’d been on three dates, he knew it was too soon to be properly introduced to her children.

But when Katie had said she had to cancel, the thought of waiting any longer to see her again just seemed unbearable. He understood why she needed to cancel and he wasn’t about to make her feel bad about it. But he had some choice words for her unreliable ex.

But to his complete incomprehension, she’d been delighted by his suggestion, and didn’t seem concerned about him meeting her children in the slightest.

But now he just had to remember that really, this wasn’t a date.

The last few weeks had been incredible, he couldn’t stop thinking about her. They’d been having so much fun. She was keen too, she didn’t hide her affection. They’d kissed a few times now, but he still vividly remembered how she’d instigated it that first time. The way her fingers had grasped his neck and she’d pulled him into her. How her lips felt against his, so soft and gentle. Afterwards he’d still been able to taste a hint of the cocoa butter lip balm which he’d seen her apply in the car.

On their second date, she’d reached for his hand as he’d walked her home. After their third date, he was quite sure had her Mum not been indoors babysitting the children, she’d have had him come in. He’d not been counting on it, and he certainly didn’t want to rush the physical side of their relationship. But Katie made it perfectly clear that she liked him, just as much as he liked her.

He wasn’t worried about impressing her children. Tom knew he was great with kids. His two nieces adored him and being a Marvel veteran, he’d spent a decent amount of time at children’s hospitals, and similar.

He was concerned however, about how he should act with her in front of them. He’d promised to behave himself, but without knowing exactly what they were at this moment, it was difficult to gauge exactly what was allowed. Would she allow him to hold her hand? That seemed like such a small, insignificant thing, but he craved it completely. He craved her affection.

He knew it was too early to call her his girlfriend. He could only assume they were exclusive, they’d not discussed that side of things. But he was quite certain he was the only man she was seeing.

He knew they needed to talk about it soon though. Although three dates was still considered early days in most cases, he was running out of ideas of where he could take her which would not garner any media attention. He needed to prepare her for that, but up until now his celebrity status had been avoided. Which he wasn’t complaining about in the slightest, it reinforced to him that she was simply interested in him, Tom. Not Tom the Actor. Nevertheless, he knew he would need to discuss it with her soon.

He needed to speak to Luke first and foremost. His publicist and long-time friend had no idea that he was dating someone. In fact, Tom had only confided in his Mother. The simple reason for this is because historically, the second Tom mentioned a woman to Luke, panic would flare in the man’s eyes and he was there preparing for the media onslaught. He was not prepared to put Katie through that. Certainly not before he was sure where things were going. He knew where he wanted them to go, but he needed to know she wanted the same. She had more to consider – her children.

Which is why, when he got into his car late the next morning, on his way to pick up Katie and her twins, he dialled Luke on his hand free.

“Tom.”

“Luke, my friend.”

“Why do I get the feeling you’re about to ruin my weekend?”

“Why would you think that?” Tom momentarily felt affronted by his friend’s assumption to his reason for calling.

“You’re calling me at eleven thirty on a Saturday morning, you’re supposed to be having downtime now until the new year, I wasn’t expecting to hear from you for at least a week, so I’m guessing something is up?” Luke listed off his reasoning, and Tom let out an audible sigh, “So what’s wrong?”

“Well, nothing’s wrong, exactly.”

“Okay, so what situation are you currently in, which could go tits up?”

“For fucks sake, Luke!” Tom almost laughed, “Am I that transparent?”

“You’re that predictable.”

“What are you doing?”

“What?”

“Today, are you and Nick busy?”

“We’re staying with his parents for the weekend.”

“That’s nice.”

“Spit it out, Tom.”

“Okay, well I just wanted to give you a heads up, I’m going to a Christmas Market with a friend today, and her two kids.”

“A friend?”

“Yeah, I just thought…well I doubt there will be a huge media presence in St Alban’s, but should any photos crop up, I didn’t want you to panic.”

“Which means, I should panic.”

“No, no, you just know how people jump to conclusions. I just wanted you to know the story first. In case someone recognises me, takes a photo, you know the drill.”

“How do you know this friend?”

“She’s just erm…someone I’ve been out with a few times. We’ve known each other a while, she ah…works in that shop on the corner, near me,” Tom waited.

“For Christ’s sake, Tom!”

“Oh, stop being so melodramatic, Luke. I don’t have to tell you every time I take a woman for dinner. Which is all it’s been by the way, a few dinners.”

“And suddenly it’s a family outing?”

“Well, I sort of didn’t think that part through properly.”

“I’m guessing nothing I say is going to make you change your plans?”

“No. I actually like this woman, Luke. She’s…normal.”

“I’m not sure there’s such thing as normal, Tom. Can I at least ask her name?”

“Katie.”

“Katie…”

“Smith.”

“Katie Smith?” Tom could almost see Luke rolling his eyes.

“That’s her name, yes,” Tom knew this would annoy Luke. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d gotten Nick to use his contacts in the police to run a background check, but there was probably several thousand Katie Smith’s living in London.

“The name she’s given you, or the name you’re giving me?”

“Have I ever lied to you, Luke? It’s the name on her driving licence.”

“Okay, okay, I believe you,” Luke released a long breath, which Tom could clearly hear, throughout his hands-free system, “And you’re sure she’s genuine.”

“Certain.”

“How old are her children?”

“Seven, twins, a boy and a girl.”

“Where’s the Dad?”

“I don’t know exactly where, but he’s involved, he sees them alternate weekends.”

“Alright, we’ll talk more on Monday. Thanks for the heads up. Enjoy your afternoon.”

“You too, thanks Luke.”

“It’s no problem, Tom. Just please be careful.”

“When am I not?”

“I’m not going to answer that.”

Chapter Text

“Zach, you do not need to bring Spiderman, Lucy hurry up!” Katie huffed at the effort which was getting two seven-year olds to leave the house. “Pink, you be a good girl, we’ll be back later!” She ruffled the Lab between the ears.

“I want to bring a toy,” Zach whinged, standing by the front door, one shoe on and a collection of action figures tucked under one arm.

“You don’t need to, and you’ll probably lose it, and then there will be tears. Lucy come on!” Katie dropped to the floor to help her son with his second shoe, whilst plucking the toys from his grasp and throwing them atop the shoe rack in the hall.

“I was lining up my Squishy’s ready to show Tom!” Lacy appeared from the hall. At least she was ready, in her pretty lilac winter coat and fur trimmed boots.

“I’m not sure Tom will want to see your Squishy’s,” Katie shook her head.

“Are we going by train?”

“No, Tom is driving,” Katie moved to stand and picked her sons navy duffle coat off the peg and handed it to him. She slung her bag over her shoulder, just as her text tone went to signify Tom was waiting outside, “Now, you two need to promise to behave today, it’s very nice of Tom to offer to take us all out. Zach that means no kicking the back of the car seats, Tom has a very nice car.”

Finally, she was hurrying the children down the hall and out to the little designated parking area, where Tom was standing by his car, back doors already open ready for the children.

“Wow! It’s a Jaguar!” Zach bounced on the spot for a second, then moved full pelt towards Tom, “You have the coolest car.”

“Thank you, it’s quite nice isn’t it?” Tom chuckled, allowing the little firecracker to clamber in the back seat.

“Oh, you have booster seats!” Katie was a little surprised, she’d not even thought about car safety, not having a car of her own. Her Mum had seats in her car, she should have borrowed them.

“I’ve got two nieces, I had these at home,” Tom explained, grinning at her, as she walked the slightly more withdrawn Lucy to the other side and started buckling her in. Tom shut the back-passenger door his side and walked back round to the driver’s side where Katie was just closing the door by her daughter, “Hi.”

“Hello,” Katie smirked, and enveloped him in a warm hug, “Thank you so much for this, although you might regret offering by the end of today.”

“I’m sure I won’t,” Tom shook his head, as she let go of him, “I do need to tell you something before we get in the car though.”

“Oh, that sounds ominous,” But Katie’s smile didn’t fade at her words, her tone was light and joking.

“Well, I know we’ve not really had this discussion, but I’ve had to tell Luke…that’s my publicist, about this afternoon. Just in case I get photographed or anything. It’s more for your protection than mine,” Tom explained, and held his breath, waiting for her reaction.

“Shit, I’d not even thought about it… is it going to cause a problem? We can always stay in…” Katie trailed off, a flicker of worry in her eyes.

“No, no, I’m okay with this, if you are.”

“Yes, I’m okay with it, as long as Zach and Lucy are safe.”

“Well, for the time being I’ve told Luke I’m just spending an afternoon with a friend and her children. If they were to end up in a photo they are young, their faces would be blurred…yours might not be.”

“Okay.”

“Are you sure you’re alright? I’m so sorry to spring this on you. It’s unlikely I’ll be bothered anyway. I just should have thought of it before…but you sort of make me forget that part of my life.”

“Is that a good thing?”

“Yes, it feels good.”

 

“Tom, Mummy said there was going to be Reindeers,” Lucy piped up from the back seat.

“That’s right, and Father Christmas will be there,” Katie smiled to herself, watching Tom glance in his rear-view mirror towards her daughter. He was great with children, she could tell. Just by the way he was smoothly handling the bombardment of questions.

“Will I be able to stroke them?”

“Well I’m not sure about that. We’ll have to wait and see,” Tom explained, “I’m not sure if you’ll be allowed.”

“I’m going to ask Father Christmas for a bike,” Zach announced loudly.

“Me too!” Lucy squeaked.

“Mummy says it’s…im…im…” Zach faltered, unsure of the word his Mum had used.

“Impractical. We live in a flat. We have nowhere to keep them,” Lucy added, “Although, I’d love you to both have bikes.”

“We could keep them at Nanna’s,” Zach suggested.

“Or Daddy’s house, he had a garden,” Lucy suggested.

“I wouldn’t call it a garden,” Katie mumbled under her breath. “I think you should both just wait and see what he brings you.”

“We’re doing a play at school, Tom!” Zach announced loudly.

“Wow is it a nativity?” Tom was so enthusiastic.

“Nope, it’s a Christmas story about a Robin!” Zach answered, then proudly added, “I’m the narrator!”

“Well that’s a really important part!” Tom glanced at Katie and grinned.

“I’m the Robin,” Lucy’s voice was quiet, Katie knew her daughter was really nervous about her part in the play. It was the main part, but the teacher had given it to her, because there was no speaking.

“Oh, so I’m sharing a car with the star of the show?” Tom made a big show of being starstruck.

“Mummy, can we practise later, for Tom?” Zach asked, putting on a sweet voice.

“We’ll see, it depends what time we get home. You might have to go straight to bed after dinner.”

“But it’s Saturday,” Zach whined.

“We’ll see,” Katie shook her head and chuckled.

“Mummy’s made a Trifle!” Zach told Tom, “She makes the best Trifle.”

“I love Trifle,” Tom smirked, and shot another side glance at Katie.

“I’m doing a Roast,” Katie explained, “It shouldn’t take too long, I’ve prepped all the veg, and I’m doing a ham, so that’s quite quick.”

“That sounds lovely.”

 

Soon enough they arrived at the market. It was held in a big field just outside St Alban’s, across several marquis. One for Christmas crafts, one just for food goods, which the twins loved, because there were lots of tasters. Then one in the middle, were you could buy mulled wine, and cider, sit, eat and enjoy the festivities. There were carol singers, and that was also where the grotto was situated.

It was lovely inside the marquis. Lights strung up around the edges and Christmas songs played from hidden speakers. For the first time that year, despite it being the first week in December, Katie began to get in the Christmas spirit.

“I might get some of these Chutney’s for Mum and Graham, they love this sort of thing,” She explained to Tom. They’d spent a good few minutes, sampling all the different homemade goods.

“I’m thinking the same,” Tom agreed, “My mum loves local produce, she’s always at some farmers market or another.”

“The honey was good too, I’ve not done a hamper before, but I’m thinking it’s a good idea,” Katie mused, selecting several jars.

“I’m doing one, I’ll get some of that fruit cake also,” Tom grinned, “And some cider for Dad.”

“Muuuummm, can we see the Reindeer’s yet?” Zach whined. The market wasn’t quite as interesting for the kids as it was for Tom and Katie. However, Lucy was less vocal about it, as usual she just clung to her Mum’s side.

“In a minute poppet, I’m just getting a few bits here, have you tried the honey?” Katie quickly showed Lucy and Zach where they could get some tasters on the stall and grinned over at Tom, “Diversion tactic, food always works.”

Once they’d chosen their jams and chutneys, they all made their way over to the Reindeer. Lucy was delighted that she got to stroke them, and have her photo taken with them. Afterwards they headed to the grotto, and both of the children got to meet Father Christmas. This, Tom insisted on paying for, despite Katie’s insistence that it wasn’t his responsibility to pay for the children. “My treat,” He’d told her firmly, as he handed the money to the ‘Elf’ greeting them at the entrance of the Grotto.

Afterwards, they enjoyed hot chocolates, and Katie had a mulled wine, before having another browse around the craft stalls, where Tom insisted upon buying Katie a pair of inexpensive, Christmas earrings. They were a little silly, with bells and tinsel on, but pretty, nonetheless.

“If you like them, let me get them for you,” Tom had laughed slightly at Katie, as she admired the handmade costume jewellery.

“I’ll only wear them once!”

“That doesn’t matter if you like them. Besides last year I saw you wearing sparkly antlers at work…”

“But I feel bad that you keep paying for stuff.”

“I wanted to take you out today, so I want to treat you. I’m getting the earrings,” Without further argument, Tom had beckoned the lady behind the stall and told her which ones he’d like to buy.

The afternoon flew by, and by the time Katie and Tom loaded the twins back into the car, along with their purchases, it was just getting dark outside and both of the children could barely keep their eyes open.

 

*

 

It was the first time Tom had been inside Katie’s ground floor flat. Until now, he’d only seen as far as the hallway from the front door, when he picked her up that first time. Now he followed her into the Living Room.

The children pulled their shoes off in the hall and he followed suite. He watched Katie fondly, as she helped her children with their coats, hanging them up and telling them to put their shoes away neatly.

“Take your coat off, make yourself at home,” Katie instructed him, then disappeared through a doorway, and several seconds later Pink appeared, sniffing around him in greeting. Katie came back out, just as he was hanging up his coat, “Come through, sorry I just had to sort her out, she stays in the kitchen when I’m out.”

As Tom walked through the flat he was taken by surprise by its sheet size. He hadn’t expected the it to be so spacious, the Living Room was larger than his own. It also screamed family home. It was neutrally decorated with a big corner sofa. Crates of toys lined the far wall, and some colouring books were out on the coffee table. It was spotlessly clean, but there was that organised chaos that you expected from a busy family dwelling.

“Sorry about the mess, I did try and tidy up,” Katie explained, straightening a throw on the back of the sofa.

“This isn’t a mess,” Tom told her, “You have a lovely home,” But he wasn’t really looking at the room anymore. It was the first time he’d seen Katie that day without being bundled up in her thick winter coat, and scarf. She wasn’t dressy, and she was clearly wearing her comfortable wardrobe. But Tom thought she looked lovely. She wore black skinny jeans, and had bare feet, he noted her toenails were painted a very festive shade of red. On her top half she had on a plain, dark green, long sleeved top, it fitted snuggly and combined with the close-fitting jeans showed off her shape very well.

“I’ll get the food on, you can come through here if you like, the kids will occupy themselves for a bit. I’ll get you a drink,” Tom nodded, following her into the kitchen, unable to stop his eyes fixating on the sway of her hips. She turned around more suddenly than Tom was expecting, and he knew he’d been caught. She arched an eyebrow at him, a smirk playing on her lips.

“Sorry, I was staring, I shouldn’t have-”

“You’re apologising for checking me out?”

“Well, yes…at least for being to obvious about it. Not for actually…you’re gorgeous, Katie.”

“Charmer,” Katie peered past him, into the living room, then met his eyes once again, “Come here,” She held her arms open. Tom didn’t hesitate, he walked straight into her embrace, and ducked his head to brush his lips over hers, “I’ve been wanting to do that all day.”

“Hmm, me too,” Tom hummed his response against her mouth.

“Thank you for a wonderful afternoon. Zach and Lucy really enjoyed themselves…so did I.”

“I’m glad. I had a great time too. Your children are a credit to you.”

“They’re my world,” Katie told him, finally letting go of him and turning her attention back to cooking dinner. Tom perched himself on a stool at the breakfast bar and gazed around the room. Drawings and certificates adorned the fronts of the cupboards. Tom smiled, he could tell this was a very much loved and lived in home. It felt comfortable.

“Can I help you with anything?”

“You can sit there and look pretty.”

“Seriously,” Tom laughed, “Shall I make us some drinks, where do you keep the glasses?”

“You’re a guest, I’ll make the drinks,” Katie insisted, opening a cupboard. She fetched out two glasses and two plastic beakers. “I’ve got water, squash, diet Pepsi, Lemonade, and some…questionable apple juice.”

“Just water would be good, thank you,” Tom laughed, as Katie screwed up her nose and poured said Apple Juice down the sink. Water in hand, Tom watched Katie happily, as she put everything on to cook, and then set dining places at the breakfast bar.

“I’d set up the table, but it’s currently occupied with Christmas Cards,” Katie explained.

Tom was enjoying the domesticity. He realised he could be quite happy and comfortable with this lifestyle. He fully believed that men and women should play an equal part in any relationship, and he abhorred men who thought a woman’s place was in the kitchen. But he had to admit, seeing Katie potter around, checking on the roast potatoes, and mixing batter for her Yorkshire puddings, made him feel quite warm and fuzzy inside.

Katie dished up the food and called the twins into the kitchen. It felt oddly natural, and extremely nice to all sit together and eat a proper home cooked meal. It reminded him of his childhood. Before his Mum and Dad separated, all sitting together for Sunday Lunch, laughing around the table.

He wondered if this is where he’d been going wrong in the past with relationships. Dating women in the industry had never worked for him. Clashing schedules, fleeting dates, hotel hook ups. It could be exciting to start with, but it was always short lived. He always knew at the start it was destined to fail, despite how much he liked the woman in question. Even his last proper girlfriend had only lasted a matter of months. He’d liked her, a lot. Despite her own celebrity status, she was down to earth, and fun. But it didn’t last because although she was not willing to alter her own schedule, she expected him to alter his.

The normalcy of Katie’s little family was a breath of fresh air. He knew this is what he’d been craving, missing. Did it matter that Katie already had children of her own? Not to him. Did it matter to him if she didn’t want any more in the future? He didn’t know how she felt about that, and it was too early to have that conversation, but at thirty-seven years old Tom had come to terms with the fact that it might never happen for him.

“Tom, are you Mummy’s boyfriend?” The suddenness of the question, coming from quiet little Lucy’s mouth, had Tom choking on the water he was drinking.

“I…erm…” Tom looked to Katie, helplessly.

“Tom is my friend, Lucy,” Katie told her.

“But, I heard you telling Nana that you kissed after you went for dinner, Mrs Green says grown-ups kiss when they love each other,” To his credit, Tom laughed, and Katie never one to get embarrassed chuckled also.

“Mrs Green is sort of right, people kiss when they love each other. But friends can kiss as well,” Katie explained, trying not to outrightly laugh at her child’s innocence on the subject, “And you shouldn’t be listening in on mine and Nana’s conversations.”

“Kissing is gross,” Zach announced.

“But Mummy, you used to kiss Bella,” Tom looked to Lucy, eyebrow raised at Katie’s daughters, accusatory tone, “She was your girlfriend!”

“Well yes, but…” Katie glanced up to see Tom’s somewhat surprised expression, “Listen, if you’ve finished eating can the two of you go and get in your pyjama’s. It’s your bedtime, and if you’re quick I’ll come and read you a bedtime story.”

This seemed to work, and Tom watched as both children obediently hopped down from the table and took their plates and left them by the sink. He looked at Katie who made eye contact across the table. He couldn’t work out the expression on her face. Not embarrassment, perhaps a little bit of sheepishness.

“So, you’re erm…” Tom started, not exactly sure how, or if he should be asking.

“I’m sorry, that’s not exactly how I planned on telling you. Not that its some big secret, it’s just…it sort of seems like the kind of thing you don’t bring up on a first date.”

“No, absolutely,” Tom agreed.

“I would have told you though. I mean, I know you well enough to know you’re not going to have an issue with my sexuality…at least in general.”

“Katie, I’m not bothered at all by it. Surprised, yes. But who you’ve been with in the past is irrelevant, male or female.”

“I’m not ashamed of it.”

“You shouldn’t be,” Truthfully, Tom was extremely surprised by the revelation that Katie…swung both ways. So, to speak. He’d never dated anyone who did, but in todays society he knew it was becoming more and more common. He was informed and open minded enough to know her sexuality did not change the person he’d come to know.

Tom hopped down from his stool and walked around the breakfast bar, so he could get closer to her. She didn’t move from her seat as his hands came to rest on her hips. He dipped his head and brushed his lips over the patch if skin just below Katie’s ear.

“Tom,” Katie almost whimpered. She turned her head and met her mouth to his. They kissed for a moment.

“I’m crazy about you Katie,” He murmured against her lips. Katie hummed in response and pressed her mouth back to his.

“I’d have never have guessed,” Katie nipped his bottom lip and let out a breathy giggle.

“How long until the kids go to bed?”

Chapter Text

Katie loved her children, but sometimes hated the pitfalls of being a parent.

How it really put a dampener on her sex life for starters. Or there lack of one.

She was desperately horny. But it wasn’t like she wasn’t capable of getting herself off, in fact there really was no problem there at all. Katie loved sex, was more than comfortable with her sexuality, and knew how to keep herself well and truly satisfied. But it was not the same as having a partner to enjoy it with.

Having Tom around was like dangling a carrot (although from the grasp she got on Saturday night, what he had tucked away in those worn, tight black jeans was substantially larger than your average carrot!).

Up until Saturday night, she’d been enjoying Tom’s company so much that she’d not even got to thinking about the sexual side of their relationship. There hadn’t been the opportunity, and she’d never been the type of woman to jump into bed with someone on the first date. But then, once the washing up was done and the children were asleep, a few sweet kisses turned into a session of quite heavy petting.

Tom had been the one to pull back. Not to stop things exactly, but to check she was sure. It was then she realised there was no way she could sleep with Tom, whilst her children were in the next room. Certainly not when he was unable to stay, and she didn’t want their first time to be a quick fuck, followed by a hasty exit.

Katie put some distance between them and admitted they’d both got a bit carried away. To give Tom his due, he fully understood, and agreed that when they slept together, he wanted to be able to wake up next to her the following morning.

Even so, what had transpired between them up until that point had been good. Incredible even. She’d not been with a man in so long and had forgotten how nice it felt to be held in a masculine embrace. There had definitely been some groping. She’d encouraged Tom’s hands on her body, and he’d not wasted anytime getting a hand under her top and dragging the fabric of her bra down to release a breast from its cup. He’d kneaded her in his palm and plucked at her nipple as they kissed.

Now it had happened, and now she’d had a taste of things to come, she couldn’t think of anything else.

“Lucy and Zach liked Tom then?” Katie glanced up at her Mum from where she folded laundry from the tumble dryer into the basket.

“They did,” She nodded

“Don’t you think it’s a bit soon to go introducing them?”

“Well, we’re just friends at the moment,” Just friends who make out like randy teenagers when the kids go to bed, “It was a lovely day, obviously the kids don’t know any different.”

“Does he know?”

“Hmm?” Katie hummed, acting innocent by her Mum’s question.

“Have you told him yet?”

“No, not yet. I will though. I just feel things are still really casual. I want to get to know him a bit better first before I trust him with that part of my life. It’s very personal, I want to be certain he’ll understand,” Katie sighed loudly, wanting this line of questioning to stop.

“Well there’s not a lot to understand Katie. It’s quite simple.”

“But it’s timing, Mum!” Katie raised her voice, “I tell him too soon, he runs scared, too late and I’ve betrayed him. I just want to date for a bit longer. When I feel things are getting serious, I promise I’ll tell him. Right now, it’s not hurting anyone, or affecting him. He doesn’t need to know.”

“Alright.”

“I’m just enjoying this, Mum. Please can I just have some happiness. It’s been so long since I’ve met someone whose company I’ve enjoyed as much as Tom’s. He’s really lovely, I like him,” Katie stopped when she noticed her Mum smiling.

“You do seem happier,” Her Mum agreed, “You’re always smiling, I don’t remember a time when you’ve not been smiling. But you just seem…I know now. Contented?”

“You’d like him Mum. He’s just such a nice man.”

 

*

 

“When do you go to your Mum’s?”

“Christmas Eve,” Tom and Katie had decided to meet midweek. Wednesday, Katie’s only weekday off work, whilst the children were at school. They were taking the dogs for a long walk on Hampstead Heath. It was bitterly cold, and both of them were bundled up in their winter clothes. The weather meant that the Heath was practically deserted, and Tom revelled in the fact that he could hold Katie’s hand in public, with very little threat of being papped, “I know it’s silly, but I’ll miss you. I’ll probably call you every day, do you mind?”

“Not at all,” Katie grinned at him, “I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”

“I’ll be home New Year’s Day, are you working?”

“No, I worked all last year, so I’ve got Christmas and New Year off.”

“Lucky, are the twins with you?”

“Christmas day they are, they spent last Christmas with their Dad. We’re going to Mum and Graham’s. They’ll go to their Dad’s New Years Eve,” Katie explained.

“Are you going out?”

“No, I don’t normally do a lot New Years Eve. Just have an early night I expect. Or I’ll spend it with Mum,” Katie smiled and shrugged, “What about you?”

“Same, Mum’s not said much, but the last few years I’ve been across the other side of the world, on shoots. It will be nice just to spend some quality time with my family,” Tom smiled fondly, and Katie could tell he was excited about his time away.

“What are your plans…in the New Year?” Tom could see Katie was hesitant to ask, maybe she didn’t want to sound like she was planning too far into the future. But she also wanted to prepare herself for where their relationship could lead.

“I’m in London for the foreseeable future. I’m doing a film early next year, a Shakespeare adaptation and it will all be shot here, then in the summer I’m doing an open-air theatre tour. That’s basically as far as I’ve got,” He looked to Katie, who looked back encouragingly, “I also hope I’ll be seeing a lot more of you.”

“I hope so too,” Katie laughed at this.

“I may not see you again before I leave,” Tom had already told Katie that he had two parties to attend at the weekend. Then a busy week running up to Christmas Eve. He’d been hoping he would be able to at least make one evening available for her, although it was now looking unlikely.

“That’s okay,” Katie nodded, “I don’t expect you to cancel plans you’ve made before we even met. I’ve got my work Christmas Party on Friday anyway, then as long as the kids go to their Dad’s this weekend I’m going to have a nice cosy evening on Saturday. I’ll stick on Love Actually, drink a bottle of red wine, and probably order a pizza.”

“That sounds perfect, I’d much rather do that with you, than attend this do.”

“No, you wouldn’t, you get to see all your friends and get drunk. Don’t tell me you aren’t looking forward to it.”

“I am, but I just can’t get enough of you Katie. I can think of so many things I’d much prefer to do with you… or to you…” Tom trailed off and shot her an apprehensive look.

“Tease.”

“Fine one to talk, you were getting pretty handsy on Saturday night. Not that I’m complaining by the way,” Tom chuckled.

“So, when are we going to have sex?”

Tom wished he could say he was taken aback by her bluntness. But the more he got to know her the more he realised that sweet, lovely Katie usually did say what was on her mind. More often that not it was sweet compliments, words of praise or gratitude. She was funny too, often telling him stories of things which had tickled her or sending him random texts about something she’d seen at work. He learnt she was a people watcher, the actions of other humans fascinated her. The way she looked at the world was so refreshing. There were so many bad things going on, but she plucked out all the things we should be grateful for and celebrated them.

Up until Saturday night, he’d been careful to keep his sexual desires on the back burner. He was all for taking it slow and getting to know someone better first. But it didn’t mean he didn’t want to, and Katie’s enthusiasm on Saturday evening had set something off. Now her direct question had further fuelled that simmering flame in the pit of his belly. Suddenly his jeans felt a little too tight, and the denim was rubbing uncomfortably. He was grateful the coat he wore fell low enough to cover that part of him. It still didn’t make walking with a semi any easier.

“Ehehe,” Tom chuckled, “Eager, are we?”

“Don’t tell me you’re not?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe. Well I guess… it will probably do us good to have a breather over Christmas. Don’t you think? I don’t want to squeeze you into an already manic week, like an afterthought. I want to be able to take my time with you, without worrying about having to be somewhere, or being up early in the morning,” Katie was nodding, a little smile playing on her lips, “So perhaps in the new year, you could spend an evening at mine? See if you could get your Mum to have the kids overnight? Probably more reliable than their Dad,” He hoped that wasn’t too bold of him to say.

“Yeah, you’re right,” She nodded, “As much as I wish we had more time now. I don’t want to be pressured either. Thank you for being so…fucking nice about it. Many men wouldn’t be as patient.”

“Most men don’t appreciate something truly special when it smacks them in the face.”

*

Katie truly loved the run up to Christmas. Especially the week before, when everyone was in high spirits, looking forward to time off work with their families, and the over-indulgence of food and alcohol.

But most of all, she loved cosying up with a good Christmas film, whilst she wrapped presents, eating mince pies, and enjoying a bottle of wine.

The twins Dad had managed to keep his word. He turned up at five o’clock on the dot Friday evening to collect his children. Katie had then enjoyed her work Christmas Meal at a local Thai Restaurant, and some drinks at a local pub afterwards.

Saturday morning was spent doing some last-minute Christmas shopping with her Mum and intermittent texting with Tom. They’d been sharing their accounts of their respective evenings and sending soppy messages to one another. Her Mum made more than one comment regarding the stupid smile on her daughters’ face.

Back home, Katie had worked through some correspondence from her subscribers, and updated her page. She spent a bit of time making up for her lack of online activity the previous weekend.

Once she wrapped up with work, she decided it was time for some self-indulgence. A nice bubble bath and spending some quality time pampering herself. Then she ordered a pizza and sat painting her nails a festive red glitter.

Katie settled on her living room floor. She wore her comfiest Christmas Pyjamas with little Reindeer’s all over them, a thick, fluffy dressing gown and red fluffy bed socks. The pizza was out on the coffee table, the wine was open, and her Love Actually DVD played on the television.

She was having the best time. Contentedly enjoying the movie whilst she wrapped the twins presents. The bikes which they had been told were ‘impractical’ were hidden at her mums. But she still had done stockings, and a couple of smaller gifts. Lego and a lifelike looking toy dinosaur for Zach, some Num-noms (whatever they were?) and a do it home Science Kit for Lucy. Which is why she was a little disgruntled when her entry phone buzzer went.

It was just getting to that good bit of the movie, where Colin Firth jumps on the plane to Portugal to confess his love to the beautiful Aurelia. She reluctantly put the film on pause and scrambled up to answer the door.

“Hello?”

“It’s Tom,” His voice sounded a little breathless, although it was about three degrees outside, so they might have been why.

She frowned to herself, what the hell was he doing here? She pressed the entry button, “Come in.”

By the time she’d wrapped her dressing gown securely around herself, and opened her front door, Tom was just reaching her flat.

“Hey,” he grinned at her.

“Erm…hi,” Katie couldn’t help but beam at him, and his slightly windswept appearance. He wore a suit, which was navy and double breasted, with a dark red tie, and slim fit trousers. He wasn’t wearing a coat and he must have been freezing, “What are you doing here? I thought you had a party.”

“I was at the party,” Tom nodded, “But, I wasn’t enjoying myself. Not that it wasn’t a good party. I just kept thinking about you…and how I didn’t think I could go a fortnight without seeing you. So, I left early.”

“Oh.”

“Are you going to invite me in?” Tom smirked at her bemused face.

“Of course,” Katie stepped back from the door, and without warning Tom strode forward and swept her up in his arms. She wasn’t a petite girl, and a bit too sturdy for him to take her full weight. But he had no difficulty lifting her enough to slam her against the hallway wall and smash his lips against hers. He waved one hand out to the side to slam the front door behind him.

“Tom!” Katie squeaked, as he let go of her long enough to gasp for air, “Are you drunk?”

“I only had two drinks,” Katie arched an eyebrow, and kissed him again. He tasted good, sort of like biscuits and caramel, probably from the rich dessert he’d recently eaten at whatever fancy party he’d been at. There was no trace of alcohol on his breath. She smiled and mumbled against his lips, “You missed me that much?”

“I’m going to throw something really corny out there and tell you I miss you every time I say goodbye.”

“That is really corny.”

“I know.”

“But I miss you too,” He still had Katie pressed against the wall, and she’d at some point wrapped one arm around his back, whilst the fingers of her other hand combed through the lengthy curls at the back of his head.

“I didn’t interrupt anything did I? You weren’t too busy?”

“Only a steamy threesome with Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.”

Tom’s brow furrowed, before he realised what she was talking about and laughed, “Love Actually?”

“Hmm, my favourite film of all time, ever.”

“Well I’m sorry to gate crash your hot date, but you and I have some quite pressing matters to attend to.”

“How long have you got?” Katie was hesitant, following their conversation earlier in the week. As much as she’d missed Tom, she still didn’t want their first time together to be rushed. Despite the thrumming between her legs, and the fast beat in her chest, which were both urging her to drag him into her bedroom, and rip that very expensive looking suit from his body.

“All night, Darling,” Tom’s words were all the reassurance she needed, as her fingers fisted in his curls and she pulled his face back to hers and caught his mouth in another scorching kiss.

Chapter Text

Tom found himself very quickly dragged along the hall to the second door and into a room, which he could only assume was Katie’s bedroom. He didn’t get much chance to really take in his surroundings. Between pausing for more kisses and simultaneously being quickly divested of his jacket and tie.

He was vaguely aware of his legs hitting something, and falling backwards, and then Katie was on top of him, astride his waist looking a little triumphant that she’d managed to overpower him with such ease. Just seeing her like that caused an impatient groan to escape his lips. If he thought she was gorgeous before, the prospect of her being such an assertive lover drove him wild.

She’d somehow also found time to shuck off the hideous pink fluffy dressing gown she’d been wearing when she’d answered her door to him and he was greeted with the sight of the cute set of Christmas Pyjamas she wore underneath. She wasn’t wearing a bra, that was obvious as he could clearly see the shape and movement of her breasts free under her t-shirt and her nipples straining against the cotton.

He gripped her hips when she ground into him, whilst leaning forward to capture his mouth once again. As she undulated against him again, he practically growled throwing her off, and onto her back next to him. He rolled so he was fully on the bed, and Katie started fighting with the buttons of his shirt. He waited until she’d undone enough buttons then fought it over his head. His wrists getting briefly trapped in the cuffs. Katie tugged the fine fabric from his hands and they laughed as she fell back on to the bed when she finally managed to release him.  He unbuckled his own belt very quickly and removed his own trousers, shoes and socks, leaving him just in his black boxer shorts, and Katie decidedly over-dressed.

Katie knelt up in front of him, giving him a playfully seductive smile, as she very slowly and deliberately lifted her top over her head, freeing her breasts and bearing herself to him.

“Fuck,” The word escaped Tom’s lips in a breathy whimper. He’d known she was gifted in that department. It wasn’t the reason he’d originally been attracted to her, but they were certainly a bonus. He prided himself on being a gentleman, there were so few left in this day and age, and he never leered. But he was also a man, a boob man, and right now he was struggling to draw his eyes away from Katie’s perfect assets.

“I take it you like what you see?”

“Yes,” Tom’s voice was a breathy croak, as he managed to bring his gaze back up to her beautiful face, “I feel so lucky.”

“It’s nothing to do with luck Tom. We’ve both earnt this,” She slunk back down next to him, kissing him soundly, whilst letting one hand trail down his chest, settling low on his belly.

Tom didn’t waste any time getting his hands on her. Primarily those breasts. He kneaded them in his hands, rolled and plucked at her nipples until they formed stiff, pink peaks. He learnt very quickly that this was one of her weaknesses and his attentions turned her to putty in his hands. He managed to take back a little control over the situation. His mouth left hers and worked along her jaw and down her neck, nipping her pulse point and drawing a gasp from her.

Her hands found his shoulders and gripped tightly. He let his exploration of her body move south. Katie automatically rolled onto her back, when his hand found her waist, and then smoothed over her soft tummy. She sighed when he slipped his fingers under the waistband of her cotton pyjama bottoms.

Tom kissed her again, reassuringly when he touched between her legs, parting her folds with his fingers. He was pleased to find her gorgeously wet, and from what he could make out, very bare. Shaved wasn’t necessarily a preference for him. He liked whatever made a woman most comfortable, but right now everything he was discovering about Katie, and her body was driving him crazy. He ran a finger experimentally along her slit. But when he reached the top, he felt it. Something hard, and distinctly metal. He hadn’t expected it, and by no means a prude, the sheer surprise caused him to rip his hand out from her pyjamas and stutter a slur of apologies at her.

Tom realised within seconds, that Katie was no longer clinging to him in wanton passion, but her face buried against his chest and she was shaking, her breath puffing against his bare skin. She was laughing, hysterically.

“Katie?”

“Oh god…” She trailed off, looking up at him, still trying to stifle her giggles, “I’m so sorry, Tom. I should have warned you. I didn’t even think!”

“You erm…is it a piercing?” Tom raised an eyebrow. He was nearing forty, and far from a shrinking violet. He’d heard of genital piercings, for both men and women. The idea had never appealed to him, and he’d never seen one on anyone else. But he was of a curious nature and wasn’t repulsed by the idea.

“It’s a vertical, clitoral hood piercing” Katie managed to explain, once she’d got control of herself, “And I’d have mentioned it, but this was all very sudden.”

“Okay,” Tom nodded, suddenly realising they were no longer touching. She’d moved back giving him a little space. He needed to remedy that, he didn’t want Katie thinking he was put off by it. He most definitely was not, the fact that he was still painfully hard was total evidence to this point. He reached out to Katie and with a hand on her hip pulled her back to his body, “Can I see?”

“Erm…yeah?” Katie sounded bemused, and he felt a bit stupid. That was what it had been leading up to. Now he was asking politely to see her most intimate area. Tom realised he needed to relax a little. Otherwise he was in serious danger of turning what had started out as a hot as fuck evening, into a medical examination.

*

Katie knew Tom was a bit flabbergasted. She couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty, she knew perfectly well that Tom was not the sort of man who would have much experience with the more…unusual body modifications. Although, in her experience most men…and women liked it.

Tom grappled with himself, and she knew he was trying to get the mood back. So, without further ado she rolled back, lifted her hips and shimmied off her pyjama bottoms exposing herself to him completely.

She grabbed his forearm and dragged him back to her body, meeting his mouth in a brief, but passionate kiss, “Here…” She said, tearing her mouth away and drawing his attention downwards. As seductively as possible she trailed her hand downwards, between her breasts, over her tummy to her centre, and used her own fingers to part her folds.

Tom’s eyes followed her movement in rapt fascination, and she didn’t miss his small intake of breath when she flicked a finger over the little metal ball sitting over her clitoris. She ran her fingers over it, “It’s a bar…” She started to explain, “It starts here,” her finger touched the tiny stud adorned with a little white crystal just about a centimetre above her slit, “It goes through, and comes out here,” She touched on the tiny ball again which was just under her clitoral hood. When her finger touched on it, her body twitched at the sensation… it never got old.

Tom nodded, his eyes fixed on what her fingers were doing.

“Are you freaked out? Be honest.”

Tom immediately shook his head, looking back to her face, eyes locking with hers, “Not at all, surprised yes, freaked out, no…it’s…kind of…hot, actually.”

“Yeah?” Katie was smirking now.

“Yeah!” Tom was a little more enthusiastic this time.

“Well then…as you were,” Katie encouraged, playfully.

Katie was relieved when Tom didn’t waste any time, he was over her in an instant. His lips smashed against hers in a bruising kiss. He worked his way down her body, his mouth paying extra attention to her breasts, nipping at her flesh and swirling his tongue over her nipples. His attentions were sending currents straight to her core.

Katie spread her legs to accommodate him, as Tom slunk down her body. She had to prop herself up on her elbows, keen to watch him, as he explored her thoroughly. He glanced up at her, and shot her a beautiful smile, as he gripped her under one knee and slung her leg over his shoulder. The movement caused her elbows to buckle and she landed on her back with a huff and a giggle. But that was very quickly broken by a moan from her own lips, when wetness encompassed her womanhood. Tom parted her folds with his thumbs and ran his tongue right up her centre, flicking over that little metal ball, nestled against that little bundle of nerves, “Oh god…”

“It’s Tom,” He mumbled against her, only pausing his ministration for a fraction of a second to make the smartarse comment. She just about managed a choked laugh which sounded more like a disgruntled sob.

She had to give Tom his due. She hadn’t expected him to dive straight in there with the oral. Not after his initial hesitation upon discovering her piercing. No, not hesitation…surprise. She was expecting him to do a bit more with his fingers first and maybe be a little apprehensive about touching it. But right now, he seemed to be taking a great amount of pleasure flicking the stud each time his tongue circled her clit and using it to his advantage. He caught on very quickly.

With one leg braced over his shoulder, he brought his other arm up and rested it over her stomach to hold her in place whilst his tongue continued its assault. The fingers on his free hand dipped down to her entrance, and Katie whimpered, and she felt her muscles contract hard when his fingertips circled the edges, only dipping in momentarily, and withdrawing at her bodies reaction. Oh, he knew exactly what he was doing.

Katie was close. She threw her head back and screwed her eyes shut. Her hips fought against Tom’s light restraint, bucking against his face whilst he continuously flicked over her clit with his tongue and his fingers dipped teasingly into her once again.

“Do that again and I’m done for,” She just about managed to gasp out. But he didn’t tease again, instead this time he thrust two fingers in to her, and pressed them as deep as possible, expertly finding that rough little spot. And she was reeling. Her jaw went slack and her back arched upwards, her breath coming out in short gasps a she rode out her release.

Tom only let go of her her when her body relaxed, and he crawled back up, making a show of wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.

“Wow…” Katie trailed off, reaching out for him. She caught his arm and tugged him on top of her, so she could kiss him thoroughly. His lips were swollen, and his chin and beard wet and smelling beautifully like her. She nuzzled against the course, damp hairs, humming contentedly.

“I’ve got to admit,” Tom started, kissing her again before continuing, “You’re quite the surprise, Katie Smith. I had you marked as being such a good girl.”

“I am a good girl,” She pouted, her eyes sparkling, “Even good girls like having their pussy licked from time to time.” His eyes widened, and he laughed at her filthy mouth. She kissed him again, relishing the taste of herself still on his tongue, “You taste so good.”

“Dirty girl,” Tom teased against her lips.

“Hmm, you don’t know the half of it, Hiddleston.”

*

Tom quickly found himself on his back and was once again shocked at the strength Katie possessed to move him at her will. She was dragging his boxers down his legs, finally freeing his aching cock from its confines, and discarding the offending article on the floor.

She crawled back up his lean frame, dragging her breasts over his stomach and chest, but avoiding touching him there completely. Tom exhaled slowly, arms pressed to his sides and fists clenched, when Katie dipped to his neck, and grazed her teeth to his pulse point where she sucked hard. Tom grunted in response, bucking his hips up, desperate for some kind of friction.

Katie giggled against his flesh, and moved her attentions south, licking and nibbling along to his collarbone. Her fingers followed a different path, starting on his opposite shoulder, she traced the defined muscle of his bicep, to his inner elbow, then down his forearm, and when she reached his hand she took her time. Still working her mouth over his chest to his sternum, her fingers followed the dips between his knuckles, she forced his hand open and when her mouth reached his stomach, she laced her fingers with his.

Tom was mesmerised. He was sure he’d never been touched like this before by a woman. With such mindfulness. It was this peculiar feeling of being so turned on he might combust, whilst being so relaxed the bed might well swallow him up. When Katie’s hand finally wrapped around his length, and he felt the wetness of her tongue lap gently at his tip, he allowed his eyes to flutter closed, and give into the sensations she was creating entirely.

She licked, sucked and kissed. Palmed his balls and alternated her mouth with firm strokes of her hand. He didn’t realise how close he was, and the feeling that he was about to come hit him suddenly. He opened his mouth to say something, but Katie released him before he had the chance and pulled back entirely. Almost like she’d been more aware of the intensity of his pleasure than he was. Never had he been so caught up that he’d nearly blown his load without warning. Not even as a horny teenager.

“Alright?” He was only vaguely aware of the question, and when he opened his eyes, Katie’s pretty, hazel ones were staring into them, “You were frowning?”

“No…no…I…I…” He was speechless, possibly for the first time in his entire life, Tom was completely lost for words. She kissed him gently, then sat up completely. He watched her, almost in a dream like state as she leant forward and opened the drawer of the unit next to her bed and rustled about, before withdrawing a familiar square, foil, packet.

“I’ll let you do the honours, I’m rubbish at putting these things on,” That was when Tom came too completely. Of course, he’d not even come. He’d sort of forgotten that part. He’d been so satisfied by her treatment of him that the fact he’d not actually climaxed was lost on him. Although his cock, still rock hard and resting against his lower stomach, was obviously, painfully aware of the fact.

Tom shuffled back, and sat up a little against the headboard, and took the packet from Katie. He made fast work of ripping it open and rolling the condom on, doing the standard check that it was on right, no damages, and enough give at the end.

“How would you like me, darling?” Tom had finally found his voice.

“From behind, and don’t be gentle.”

“Alright,” Tom nodded, as he climbed to his knees, and Katie was positioning herself on all fours in the centre of the bed. He couldn’t help but chuckle when she leant her top half down, and wiggled her bum in the air at him, “But I warn you, I won’t last long like this.”

“Neither will I.”

“I thought you wanted this to last?”

“You said we had all night. Sooner we get this round over with, the sooner you can have some recovery time and we can go again,” Katie looked over her shoulder, eyes bright and clearly excited about the prospect of ‘going’ all night.

“Fuck Katie, you really are a horny little bitch, aren’t you?” Tom baulked for a second, not quite believing the vile words that had just left his own mouth. But it was quickly forgotten when the next sentence left Katie’s lips.

“Just hurry up and fuck me.”

Wordlessly, Tom knelt up behind her, one palm spread on her lower back, he dipped his fingers between her legs. She was even wetter than before, practically dripping, so when he removed his fingers and lined himself up, he slid in with little resistance. He stilled when buried to the hilt, taking a moment to enjoy her heat and the way her channel clenched involuntarily around his shaft.

Katie ground back impatiently against him and groaned at the contact. So, he didn’t want to waste another second. Both hands sought purchase on her hips and he drew back and without pause slammed back into her, setting his thrusts at an alarmingly fast pace.

Katie’s hands fisted into the sheets and her face buried into the mattress, muffling her screams and Tom realised within seconds she was coming. Her inner muscles contracted tightly around him, he had to grip a little harder to beat the resistance his thrusts were being met with. She wasn’t joking when she said she wouldn’t last long this way, but neither was he, and her climax tipped him very quickly over the edge. With one last thrust, he buried himself as deep as possible, and let his orgasm wash over him.

Chapter Text

Tom was still asleep when Katie woke up. Far from any romantic embrace, both were sprawled across the bed, sheets somehow tangled at their feet and completely naked. She’d realised it was the morning chill which had caused her to wake. That and the desperate need to use the toilet, and drink about a pint of water to relieve her incredibly dry mouth.

She’d gotten up, and arranged the duvet carefully over Tom, so as not to wake him. Although he looked completely out for the count, she didn’t want him to feel the chill she had. Then she went and dealt with the other issues which had woken her.

Katie proceeded to grab a quick shower in the bathroom down the hall. Just to freshen up, and then put the kettle on. By the time she returned to the bedroom, with two steaming cups of coffee, Tom was sort of propped up on one arm, looking at her bleary eyed.

“I was about to come and find you,” He told her with a sleepy smile. She couldn’t help but grin at his dishevelled appearance. His curls unrulier than ever, where sticking in all directions. At some point last night, he’d removed his glasses, and he was squinting at her a bit now. She also didn’t miss the scattering of pink marks from his neck to his collarbone and felt quite smug to be the cause. She hoped he wouldn’t mind. He’d certainly enjoyed receiving them.

“No, don’t get up. I just made us some coffee,” She walked round the bed and set a cup down next to him, “It’s only just gone nine.”

Tom nodded vaguely, and she felt him watching her as she made her way back to what was apparently her side of the bed. She set down her coffee, and unfastened the belt of her dressing gown, letting it drop to the ground, revealing she was completely naked underneath. His eyes roamed her body unashamedly, as she crawled back into bed and tucked herself under the covers, wasting no time in pressing herself up against him. When she leant up to kiss him, he eagerly returned the gesture.

“Mmm Katie. Last night was incredible, you’re incredible.”

“Don’t give me all the credit, Tom. It takes two people to achieve what we did last night.”

“You make it sound like we should shake hands and congratulate ourselves on our successful enterprise.”

Katie hummed, and nuzzled in closer.

“You really surprised me last night, Katie,” Tom had woken up a little more now, and Katie could feel his hands wander her body, down her back, and to her bum, “I had no idea you were so…wild.”

“I like sex,” Katie answered simply, “Being enthusiastic about it is not a chore for me. I wouldn’t consider myself especially kinky, just…confident.”

“Well there are certainly no complaints over here,” Tom chuckled, then without a beat, “Did it hurt?”

Daisy frowned, and it took a moment to grasp what he was asking about, “Oh, erm…that…well yes. It fucking hurt.”

“May I ask why? Although it’s very…pretty. I do struggle to comprehend how anyone could do that to themselves.”

“Well I didn’t do it, a nice lady called Melissa did,” Katie snarked.

“You know what I mean.”

“I know,” Katie shuffled up a little, and sat so she could reach for her coffee, “It’s hard to explain, I don’t know if you’d understand.”

“Try me.”

“Okay…well… it’s sort of the feeling you get when you put on a really sexy set of underwear. No one can see it under your clothes, but you know. You’re carrying on with life, doing your day to day, but somehow you feel better about yourself, sexier, more confident, like you can conquer anything. You somehow walk with your shoulders back and your head held a little higher. It’s like that…all the time,” Katie explained, looking at Tom over the rim of her cup, “I’m not sure there’s a male equivalent for that. But I suppose it makes me feel powerful.”

“No, no, I sort of understand that.”

“I read a lot into it before I got it done, it was something I’d thought about for a while. Yes, having it done was probably the most agonising pain I’ve ever felt in my whole entire live. But it was over in a second, and it healed quickly. I’ve never regretted it, and the obvious benefits of it, it feels fucking incredible.”

Tom chuckled at this statement, but his line of questioning wasn’t done, “Are you aware of it at other times?”

“Sometimes,” Katie nodded, “When I squirm in a chair, car journeys or any sort of transport which can jolt you around a bit…oh rollercoasters are a whole new experience. But everyone is different, some aren’t as sensitive to it as I am. It’s not like I’m getting off every time I get in a car. But yes, it feels nice…you’re really fascinated by this aren’t you?” Katie laughed at the rapt expression on Tom’s face.

“I am,” Tom admitted, turning a little sheepish, “I’ve never seen one before, or known anyone to have one…well not to my knowledge.”

“Never?”

“No.”

“Not even in porn? Lots of porn stars have it done!”

Tom laughed at that and Katie frowned when he shook his head, “I don’t watch porn Katie, I don’t think I’ve seen anything that constitutes as porn since I was in my late teens.”

“What?” Katie was incredulous, “I feel for once in my life, a bit out of touch. In my frame of reference, all men look at some form of pornography, even if its just some dirty pictures, you must have a really good imagination!”

“I do,” Tom nodded and laughed, “Is it that hard to believe? You know I’m a feminist, I rally for women to have the same opportunities as men. They should never have to degrade themselves in order to make their way in life.”

“I see,” Katie nodded, setting down her coffee, and snuggling back into his side. She nuzzled her face to his chest and hummed. It was an attempt to hide her expression from him. Tom’s intentions were pure. But the subject was an area of life which he was clearly quite uneducated about. He believed a woman exposing herself in any way to the benefit of men, was a last resort, a way to make ends meet. He didn’t consider that these days most women, and men in the industry were there by choice. Because they enjoyed it. But she knew she couldn’t tell him that, her knowledge would raise too many questions and she was not ready for that conversation yet.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve gone a bit quiet.”

“You’re just such a…good man, Tom. So wonderful.”

 

*

 

“That was just what I needed, I was famished,” Tom declared, as he finished his last bite of the bacon sandwich Katie had prepared for him. She’d offered him the use of her shower, which he’d gladly accepted. When he entered the kitchen, in his boxers and shirt from the night before, He’d been delighted to find her pottering about, preparing a late breakfast in little more than a big baggy knitted jumper, leaving her legs bare.

When he’d first woken up, it had taken him a few minutes to get his baring’s. He was exhausted and ached in places he didn’t know existed. Katie was certainly a firecracker in the bedroom. He wasn’t sure what time they’d finally succumbed to sleep, but they’d made love three times, before calling it a night. She was insatiable.

But now, she was his sweet little Katie again, preparing him breakfast and looking completely at home as she put her griddle in soak, and shot him a grin over her shoulder.

“I thought you’d probably require some sustenance. We both used a hell of a lot of energy last night,” Tom rolled his eyes, and chuckled, “When do you need to leave?”

“Well, I’ve got dinner with Luke and Chris tonight, sort of a Christmas thing before I head to Mum’s. We do it every year…but I’ve still got to pack, and I know I’ll be home late from Luke’s, so I suppose I really should go home before I go there,” Tom explained, then he let out a resigned sigh, “I wish I didn’t have to go.”

“Me too,” Katie walked around the breakfast bar and he relished the feel of her arms wrapping around him and giving him a gentle, affectionate squeeze.

Tom picked up his second cup of coffee of the morning, and gazed around the kitchen, his eyes landing on the empty dog bed in the corner. It was only then he realised the absence of the happy chocolate Labrador “Where’s Pink?”

“Oh, at Mum’s. I was wrapping presents last night and she goes nuts for wrapping paper. Like seriously loses her shit. So, Mum said she’d keep her out of the way.”

Tom chuckled in understanding, remembering what Bobby was like on his first Christmas. The pair fell into a comfortable silence, whilst Katie cleared away the few breakfast things, then leant against the counter to drink her own coffee.

“Perhaps, when I get back we can…erm…well maybe I could introduce you to Luke. We’ve avoided talking about it, and I don’t want to ruin the time we have left together before I leave. But I also want you to be my girlfriend, I don’t want to be scared to take you out. So, I need you to be prepared for what that means.”

“I thought I was already your girlfriend?”

“Oh? Well I just thought…we’ve not spoken about it, and I wasn’t sure how you felt about that part of my life.”

“I don’t know, Tom. I won’t be sure how I feel about it until I’m sharing it with you. But what I do know is that I like you, and I want to be with you. I’ll deal with whatever accompanies that. It’s not like I don’t have my own baggage.”

“Zach and Lucy aren’t baggage.”

“Not for me, but most men would consider another mans children such. I’m so lucky you don’t, I appreciate that. But to me, you are just Tom, not a celebrity. More than that, acting is your job, and your career, obviously I’m proud of that. You’ve succeeded in being what you want to be. But to me, that’s not what defines you as a person,” Tom swivelled on the breakfast stall, and Katie placed her hands on his knees, pushing his legs apart so she could stand between this. She leant up and brushed her lips over his in a chaste kiss. His eyes fluttered closed and he exhaled a contented hum, “You are wonderful, and kind, and passionate. You’re funny and sweet. Caring, clever, the best company. You’re a wonderful friend, and the most recent revelation, an incredible lover.” Katie beamed at him.

Tom laughed heartily at her last assessment of him. He raised his hands and cupped her face in his palms, and leant in to kiss her soundly, when he pulled back, he looked her in the eye and said, “You’re perfect, Katie. I’m going to miss you so much.”

“I’m going to miss you too,” Katie returned his kiss, “But…I do understand why I will need to meet your publicist eventually. It’s for your sake, as well as mine, and I need to consider the twins. I don’t want them subjected to anything. I don’t want to hide either. I know the only way we’ll be able to do ‘normal’ couple stuff is by doing things your way.”

“So, we can arrange something in the new year?”

“As long as I don’t have to wait to ‘officially’ be your girlfriend until then.”

“No way,” Tom shook his head, “You’ve said it now, you can’t take it back.”

“Good, I don’t want to.”

“So, that’s it, we’re officially official?”

“It would seem so.”

“You know,” Tom glanced over his shoulder at the clock on the cooker, “I don’t have to leave for another couple of hours at least. Maybe we should…celebrate?”

“You know, Mr Hiddleston. I do like the way you think!”

Chapter Text

Christmas was wonderful. Katie did have a truly lovely time with her little family.

But she also couldn’t help but feel slightly relieved on the morning of New Years Eve, when the twins Dad pulled up outside to pick the children up to spend the rest of the school holidays with him.

Yes, it had been lovely. But exhausting.

On Christmas Eve the children had a little party at their friend’s house. She’d spent the afternoon which she’d have rather have spent preparing for the next day, having to listen to other Mum’s gossip and moan. That wasn’t Katie’s scene, not that she despised the other school Mum’s, but she hated the negativity which seemed to monopolise the conversations. By nature, Katie was not a negative person.

Christmas Day had been mayhem. Enjoyable mayhem, but mayhem nonetheless. Zach and Lucy had loved their presents, both insisting on taking their bikes out for a ride. Fortunately, they were having dinner at Katie’s Mum’s, so she allowed them to ride there, as the paths were quiet. But the house was chaos, what with Pink going loopy over the wrapping paper, and a host of new toys taking over the living area, Katie was pleased to close the door on it all when they’d headed to her Mum’s.

The period between Christmas and New Year had been a mix of quiet and busy. Katie had kept regular contact with Tom, talking on the phone most days, and when they didn’t they were always texting. Despite the fact that they’d only really spent little more than twice a week in each other’s company before he went to his Mum’s, eight days felt like a lifetime.

It was the sensitive stage in an early relationship, where you want to be with that other person all the time. But you still have responsibilities which you had before the relationship and it’s too early to make drastic changes to your life.

So, Katie filled her days. She worked most mornings, except the Bank Holidays which her manager had insisted she take off this year, due to her hard work. She deserved a break with her family. They had a pre-planned trip to see a Panto. Katie managed to catch up with a couple of old friends from her University days. Her Dad also made an impromptu visit from Glasgow. The twins, of course, were ecstatic to have their Grandad turn up on the doorstep.

As always Katie made the best of it all. Texting Tom to tell him about her Dad and the ‘guilt presents’ for Zach and Lucy, and a bottle of the most rank, slutty perfume for her. It had definitely been picked up from behind the counter at his local Savers for about eight ninety-nine.

So, yes, Christmas had been lovely. But she wasn’t sad to have a little break from the twins, even if only to get the house in some form of order again, before the new term started.

She’d waved them off and taken Pink for a walk around Primrose Hill. Then just as she walked through her front door, her phone started ringing. Her stomach turned immediately, expecting it to be Matt with some excuse about having to bring the kids back. But to her delight it was Tom.

“Hello, baby!” she answered the phone cheerily.

“Oh, Baby? That’s a new one isn’t it?” Tom laughed at Katie’s term of endearment to him, that was such a very non-Katie thing to say.

“It felt like a baby kind of moment, you have no idea how relieved I was when I saw it was you calling?”

“Yeah? Who were you expecting?”

“Well, Matt picked the kids up like an hour ago, and I just had this awful feeling he was going to find some excuse to bring them back.”

“Would he do that?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“I actually called you for a reason,” Tom made a swift change of topic.

“Oh yeah? Not just because you couldn’t last another day without hearing my voice,” Katie teased.

“Well there’s that too,” Katie smiled to herself, he was always so sweet, “I assume your plans for tonight haven’t changed drastically since we last spoke?”

“Nope, I’m probably going to head over to Mum’s around six, just chill out there. No big parties for us, probably won’t even stay up to see the New Year in.”

“Okay, well, I’m not sure how you’ll feel about this, but I wondered if you’d like to come here and spend the evening with me and my family?”

“Er-”

“I know it’s really soon, but… well I’ve missed you so much, and Mum’s decided to throw a little thing last minute, after Sarah turning up to surprise us. It was Mum’s suggestion really. There’s plenty of room-”

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

“Yes, I’ll come and spend New Years Eve with you,” Katie clarified, “But only if it’s okay with your family. I don’t want to gate crash the small amount of time you and your family get together.”

“Not at all, you’re more than welcome.”

“Okay…well I need to check Mum can have Pink tonight. What shall I do? I’ve no idea where I’m even going?”

“Can you get the train? You’ll need to go from Liverpool street, I’ll text you the details. It’s about two hours I think. I can meet you at the station.” Tom explained.

“Alright. I’ll call my Mum now,” Katie’s heart raced. She knew she probably would have seen Tom as soon as he got home the next day anyway, but the idea of seeing him even a day earlier sent ripples of excitement through her, “I also hope you realise the second I tell my Mum I’m meeting your family, she is going to get the hump, and demand to know when she can meet you!”

“I’ll happily meet your Mum, whenever you want me to. If she’s anything like her daughter, I know she will adore me.”

Katie scoffed “She’ll think you’re too good for me.”

“Stop it now,” Tom admonished her hint of self-deprecation, “I can’t wait to see you.”

“Me neither.”

As soon as she hung up, Katie was on the phone to her Mum. Although she wished she’d allowed herself a little bit of time to gear herself up for that conversation. Over the phone, her Mum was calm, although she did question the whole ‘meeting the family’ and whether it was too soon. But she wasn’t one to sway her daughter’s decisions. It was when Katie dropped Pink off that her Mum really laid into her.

“So, it’s quite serious then? You and Tom?” Her Mum stood half in front of the door, signalling that Katie was not going to rush out without having ‘that’ conversation.

“It’s getting that way, yes,” But Katie was non-committal.

“Why won’t you talk to me about this? Is it because of Bella?” Katie rolled her eyes. Her Mum and her ex-girlfriend had not seen eye to eye. It wasn’t just a case of clashing personalities, but Tanja believed the woman dating her daughter to be an unstable influence in her grandchildren’s lives. They already had a flaky father, and she gave Katie a hard time about it.

“No, it’s not because of Bella. You’d like Tom. He’s wonderful.”

“I take it you’ve still not told him?”

“No,” Katie sighed, resignedly. She knew she had no decent argument now, “Everyone I’ve ever been out with has already known. I don’t know how I can just…blurt it out.”

“If you’re not careful Kate, you’ll pass the point where you can tell him without it being like you’ve kept it from him.”

“I know.”

“Don’t ruin your time because of it, but I like how happy this man makes you. So please, when you get back. Tell him.”

“I was actually thinking…well… I might give it up.”

“What? Close down the channel?”

“Yeah. I mean… I’ve been doing it a while, I’m not getting any younger,” Katie shrugged, truthfully, she’d not considered closing down the Channel until faced with the thought of Tom’s reaction to her ‘other’ job.

“But you love it?”

“I know, but-”

“You love Tom more?”

“I don’t love him. I mean…It’s too early for that. But I like him too much to jeopardize what we have. Tom’s job…well… he’s in the public eye. So, if things get serious I’ll need to quit anyway, won’t I?”

“He’s famous?” She’d only told Tanja he was an actor, no specific details.

“Relatively.”

“Oh Kate, you do know how to get yourself into these pickles. Listen, ultimately, it’s your decision to make,” Katie nodded at her Mums words, “If he likes you as much as you like him, well, he would accept you no matter what you do for a living. He would listen to your reasons and support you. You say he’s a good man, there’s no reason for him to throw things away over this.”

“You’re right, Mum. I’ll talk to him when we get home.”

 

*

 

Tom stood outside the little Train station, a few feet away from the barrier. He was bundled up in his thick winter coat, and scarf, but still wrapped his arms around himself, and bounced on the spot in attempt to keep himself warm.

Katie had text him when she changed trains at Ipswich and he knew she’d been about half an hour away. He’d bounced out of his chair, and excitedly told his Mum he was going to pick her up. But in his eagerness, he’d arrived almost quarter of an hour early and was now waiting for her in the freezing cold.

The suggestion to invite Katie to spend New Years Eve with the family had been his Mum’s idea that was the truth. What he’d omitted to tell Katie is that the suggestion was made, because Diana Hiddleston was sick to the back teeth of her Son spending the entire holiday moping about, or with his head in his phone texting his new girlfriend.

“I’m at my wits end Thomas. The only time you’ve smiled this entire week is when you’ve come off the phone to her!” His Mum had told him, a stern look on her face.

“That’s not true. I spent an entire day playing with the girls. I was smiling then!” Tom knew he was being petulant. But he had made the effort with his two nieces.

“Well I won’t have you ruining the party tonight! Your sister is home, we don’t know when we will see her again.”

“I know. I promise I’ll cheer up. I just…really miss her.”

“Hmm,” Diana Hiddleston hummed, and watched her son thoughtfully as he’d continued pouring himself some cereal and filling the kettle, “You really like this woman, don’t you?”

“I thought I’d been making that quite obvious,” Tom joked. He knew he had it bad, and so did everyone else in the household. His younger sister, Emma, had even started ripping into him about being ‘in love’ and fake swooning every time Tom mentioned Katie. And that was quite often. He’d waxed lyrical about her since the day he’d arrived at his Mother’s house. But only now did Diana seem to clock onto the fact that this wasn’t just some fleeting infatuation.

The last time she’d seen her son this head over heels for a girl was almost ten years ago. That particular relationship had been Tom’s most long term to date. Over two years and that only ended because his career was taking off. He was kind and fair and utterly heartbroken. He knew he was too young to settle down and he had to make a choice. He knew if he didn’t choose his career he’d end up resenting the woman he loved. She understood, she was an actress also. By nature, those in the acting profession had the tendency to be a touch selfish. It was a tough industry to break into and you didn’t get to where Tom had by being sentimental. You had to be out for yourself.

Since then he’d really avoided getting serious with woman. He’d still dated, of course. He was far too nice to risk breaking someone’s heart. So, he’d avoided it, sometimes purposely choosing women based upon their looks alone. They’d all been perfectly nice people, but no qualities in which he might potentially fall in love with. He’d known then he’d make a rubbish boyfriend. He’d spoken to his Mum about it on countless occasions. Of course, from the outside that did make him look like a bit of a player, with brief romances lasting no longer than about three or four months. But none of those women had a bad word to say about Tom.

Diana knew that Tom had been ready to settle down for a couple of years now. Tom had thought perhaps the last girl he’d brought home was ‘the one’ but a mother’s intuition told her she wasn’t. She was too young, not ready to settle down in the slightest, and Tom didn’t like her as much as he thought he did. She was nice enough, but Diana knew what Tom liked most about her was how the girl in question had dragged Tom into her life and made him the centre of her world. Her very big world.

But in the end Tom had worked it out for himself. He was not the centre of her world and he never would be. He’d been okay about it, possibly even a little relieved.

But this new woman, by the way Tom spoke, sounded perfect for her son. Grounded, normal (whatever that was) and her world was very small. Tom wouldn’t get lost in it. That’s what he needed, someone, not somewhere he could call home.

“You should invite her this evening,” Diana’s suggestion sounded more like a decisive order.

“Excuse me?”

“Katie. Call her and ask her to come here. I’d like to meet her, god only knows the next time the whole family will be together. The next time Sarah might be here could very well be for your wedding at this rate.”

“She doesn’t drive.”

“She can get the train.”

“It’s a bit…I’m not sure she will want to. It’s a bit soon isn’t it?” But Tom was torn. The suggestion of Katie spending New Years Eve with him. Being able to kiss her at Midnight and see in the New Year together. He couldn’t think of anything he wanted more. He was so sure she’d say no, but he had to at least ask. So, he’d called her.

The train eventually pulled into the station. Tom waited as patiently as he could as the group of passengers just disembarking the train filtered through the barrier. For a minute he couldn’t see her. Then a bulky businessman in a heavy coat, and briefcase in hand stepped out the way, and he saw her behind, putting her ticket into the gate.

She looked up as soon as the gate opened and saw him immediately. Somehow, it had only been a week, but he’d forgotten just how beautiful she was. She wore that lovely thick winter coat he liked, with the scarf and knitted beret. He could just about see the hem of a green dress, paired with thick black tights and a pair of brown Chelsea boots. She had a weekend bag slung over her shoulder and clutched a potted Poinsettia in her arms. When they locked eyes, her strides widened, and she made short work of closing the gap between them. Until she stopped dead in front of him.

“Hi!”

“Hello.” Tom grinned at her. Then watched as she dropped her bag to the icy ground and carefully set the plant next to it. Before standing and nearly knocking him off his feet as she threw her arms around him and smashed her mouth to his. His hands instinctively moved to her face and he held her in place, as her lips parted against his and he took advantage, plundering her mouth with his tongue, hers moving against it messily.

When they eventually parted, they were both breathless and Katie started giggling, still holding onto Tom tightly.

“That was a lovely hello,” Tom said, once he’d caught his breath.

“I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too. So much.”

They kissed again, more briefly this time, then Katie said, “Shall we?”

“We shall,” Tom let go of her and picked up her bag and the plant, “What’s this for?” He asked as she took it from him but let him carry her bag for her.

“It’s for your Mum, I was always taught to never meet a new partner’s Mother empty handed. I’m dating her baby boy. I’ve got to make a good impression.” Katie stated, and held up the plant proudly, “Poinsettia!”

“Okay,” Tom was laughing, “Not sure where to start with that, but I guess I should point out I’m nearly forty, not her baby boy anymore-”

“You’re nearly thirty-eight, and you’ll always be her baby boy. No matter how old you get.”

“Right…and well…as I was going to say. You don’t have to give her anything. Just be yourself and she’ll love you as much as I do, or…I mean…I’m not…fuck,” Tom stumbled over his words, mentally chastising himself, “The erm…car’s this way.”

Katie grinned and took his hand, “It’s fine, Tom. I know what you mean. Don’t worry,” They started walking, “And when am I not myself?”

They reached Tom’s car and he opened the door for her, then he threw her bag on the bag seat, and she held the Poinsettia on her lap.

“I’m afraid it’s a bit more travelling. Mum’s is about twenty minutes away.”

“That’s fine. Means I get you to myself for a bit. So, who’s going to be there exactly? Give me an idea of what I’m in for,” He could feel her eyes on him, as he drove. He knew she was smiling, just by the melody in her voice.

“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to be a bit mad. Mum’s there, and her partner David. Emma and her husband Jack, the girls are with her in-laws for the night. Like I told you on the phone, Sarah turned up out of the blue the day before yesterday, Yakov couldn’t make it sadly. My Aunt Chrissie, and her husband Michael, and I think Mum’s invited her neighbour Beryl, they’re really good friends…and the dogs.”

“Mustn’t forget the dogs.”

“Are you really alright with all this? I know it’s really soon to be meeting the family, and there are so many of them-”

“If I wasn’t alright with it, I wouldn’t have said I’ll come. Stop worrying. As adorable as it is when you get all flustered and nervous, I don’t want you to be like that because of me. I’m actually really looking forward to meeting them all, you speak so fondly of them.”

Her words immediately put him at ease and Tom reached over the console to take her hand and squeeze it gently.