Actions

Work Header

A New Start

Chapter Text

She needed to get away. She always felt their eyes and painfully kind smiles that said we are aware of what happened and we’re sorry. It must be so hard for you. We don’t know how you’ll ever bounce back from this. You’re not entirely blameless and we just feel so bad for you. Everyone knew what happened with Gemma and Simon. Everyone knew Tom had left. Everyone knew.

She had looked for him. There were police searches with the neighborhood. She even put up missing posters, but Tom didn’t want to be found and Gemma couldn’t bear it anymore. She would continuously catch glimpses of him. In the town square. Outside of the school. Everywhere she went. Thinking he’s there when it was someone else. The house, the town, the eyes; it was suffocating. She saw an opening for a senior doctor position in Sheffield. After a few interviews, she left in the dead of night. No eyes to see her go.

Gemma found a reasonable sized flat that was perfect for her. She had been in Sheffield for a month now, only meeting a few people here there. She kept to herself mostly. Polite hellos here and there, maybe a drink with a coworker once and again, but she always went home alone. Her past binges haunted her. The fact that her son knew about most it didn’t help. She felt like was a terrible mother who drove her son to make the decision he did. She’d grab a bottle of wine and cigarettes, sit in her living room, mindlessly watching television to get away from the day and the people.

Which is why she doesn’t know how she ended up, one night, in a room full of women at a ladies only party. Her coworker, Sarah, had dragged her there with the promise of fun and alcohol. Even though she kept her habits to herself, her wine and cigarette habit hadn’t died down. If anything it was worse, but she hid it as best she could. She smiled throughout the day as if nothing was wrong and left her drinking at home and only at night.

Gemma sat on a couch and was handed a glass of wine from an older woman with a kind smile.

“Thank you,” she said politely. “Is this your home?”

“Yes, Dear. I hosted the first party here.”

“Really?”

“Yes. It was one year ago today. Steph thought it would be fun to do a sort of anniversary party here for the few who still hadn’t done it along with some of our favorites.”

“Well that’s good then.”

“Indeed. And what’s your name, Dear?”

“Oh, uh, Gemma. I’m friends with Sarah over there.”

Pauline and Gemma looked towards the tall brunette woman. She was mingled in with a few people and laughing.

“Gemma. It’s lovely to meet you. I’m Pauline Spake. You let me know if you need anything.”

“Is there a place where I could smoke?”

“Out front is perfectly fine. Preferably the driveway so the smoke doesn’t blow into the house.”

“Of course.”

Pauline nodded and left, talking to the other women. Gemma smiled at a few faces here there, but sipped her wine slowly. Everyone started to take their seats with their drinks and nibbles, smiling and giggling. She felt this wasn’t the right place for her broken soul. Her loneliness slowly settled in. These women knew each other and were fond of one another. All she could think of was the alcohol in her hand and the longing for a cigarette between her lips.

Sarah sat down next to her. “Having fun?”

“I haven’t done much.”

“Well you need to mingle. You should meet Steph! She’s the one who will host the party and she’s the best at it. You’re lucky it’s he, trust me. But everyone here is very nice and it’s a fun thing the women of Sheffield do.”

“Sex parties?”

“They’re not sex parties. They’re women’s only parties for lingerie and toys.”

“And is everyone here in a relationship?”

“No. Hellie over there isn’t and there are a few others. Look, get a fresh glass of wine and go talk. It’ll do you good. You never go out.”

“By choice and the only reason I’m here is because you said we were going to get a drink. I imagined a bar, not a kind woman’s house.”

Sarah pointed to her almost empty glass. “And you’re holding it.”

Gemma drank the rest of her glass and stood up. She pointed towards the door, looking at Pauline, who just nodded. She stepped outside and took a big breath. Remembering the fuss about the smell, she lit her cigarette and walked over to the driveway. She thought to herself that she could just leave. No one would know the difference other than Sarah and she didn’t really care what Sarah thought.

She started to walk down the sidewalk when she noticed a petite woman standing in front of the garage. She was wearing a turquoise blue shirt and a khaki skirt. She was pacing around, mumbling to herself. She looked up and jumped when she saw Gemma.

“Oh!” The woman grabbed her heart.

“Sorry,” Gemma muttered. “I was just out for a smoke and Pauline asked me to do it in the driveway. I didn’t meant to startle you.”

“No, it’s quite alright. Just wasn’t expecting anyone to come out.”

Gemma just nodded.

“I’m Steph.” She held out her hand which Gemma took kindly and shook.

“The infamous Steph.”

“You’ve heard about me?”

“Yeah. Kind of the talk of the party.”

“Oh yeah. It is my party so.”

“Right.”

“Are you the new doctor in town?”

Gemma looked at her questioningly.

“It’s a small town. Everyone here gossips and you’re the only face in there I haven’t seen before so I assumed.”

“Yeah. Gemma.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“You as well.”

There was a moment of silence between them. Gemma took a drag on her cigarette, trying not to look at the girl, but couldn’t seem to look away. She was enticing and cute.

“Is this your first party?” Steph asked, trying to keep the conversation going.

“Yeah.”

“Are you excited?”

“If I’m being honest, I got dragged here by a coworker.”

“Oh no. Is it not your thing or-?”

“It’s not that it’s not my thing, but-...”

“Your husband doesn’t like it?”

Gemma smiled. “I don’t have a husband and before you ask, no boyfriend either. My coworker, Sarah,” Gemma paused. She inhaled the cigarette and huffed out the smoke, “she just wants me to go out and socialize.”

“Make friends.”

“Yes. She just doesn’t seem to understand I enjoy my privacy. I like going home and being by myself.”

“Well right. Who doesn’t?”

“Exactly.” There was a small pause. “It’s alright that I’m here though, right? Single at a ladies party.”

“Of course. Who needs a man when you can get a vibrater,” Steph stated, awkwardly.

Gemma laughed. “True.”

Another polite smile was shared.

Steph pointed towards the door. “I should, uh, I should go inside. I just, it’s funny. I’ve been doing these for a year now and I still get nervous.”

“Well from what I’ve heard, you know what you’re doing.”

“Yeah,” Steph chuckled. “I’ll see you in there?”

“Yeah.”

Steph smiled. “Good.”

Gemma nodded. She took another puff off her cigarette and flicked it to the street. She couldn’t say why, but she felt herself going back in after desperately wanting to leave. She sat herself next to Sarah on a small couch. Steph waited for her to get comfortable as the room settled. Everyone seemed to be looking everywhere, but Gemma. Her eyes were only focused on Steph.

Before she knew it two hours had passed and she had filled out a form, somewhat drunkenly, for a small bullet vibrator. She handed Steph the envelope.

“Found something?” Steph asked.

“Yeah, I guess I did,” Gemma answered.

“Did you have a good time?”

“Yeah. Wasn’t too bad.”

“Well I’ll send this in tomorrow. It will take a couple weeks to get to you.”

“No worries. I can wait.”

“Good.”

They grinned at one another, Steph still holding onto the envelope. Gemma could feel Steph’s fingers against hers. Her hand tingled from the contact and she felt a small flutter in her heart. Neither made an attempt to move as they stared at one another.

Dawn came up, breaking the tension. “Steph, Nita asked-“ she stopped, seeing the two women in front of her.

Gemma and Steph broke apart. Their small moment shattered as the room came back into focus. Steph took the envelope as Gemma put her hand by her side.

“Sorry,” Dawn answered, awkwardly.

“No worries. Dawn, then is Gemma, the new doctor.”

Dawn smiled politely. “Pleasure to meet ya.”

“You as well,” Gemma replied. “Well I better be getting home. Had probably one too many glasses of wine. Thanks for the party.”

“Glad you could make it, even if you were dragged here,” Steph said.

“Me too.”

Gemma walked around Dawn and stopped by Pauline. Steph watched her as she said thank you. They shared one last glance before Gemma stepped out.

“What was that?” Dawn asked as Steph stared at the door.

“What was what?”

“Those heart eyes you were giving.”

“I wasn’t giving heart eyes. She just helped calm my nerves before the presentation. She is a doctor after all.”

“I didn’t know you, you know, swing that way.”

“What way? I don’t swing anyway.”

“I mean she seemed into you.”

“She was just being nice. She’s new in town and doesn’t seem to have a lot of friends.”

“And maybe she wants a very particular kind of friend,” Dawn explained.

“Well that’s her choice if she does.”

“And maybe you want a very particular kind of friend?”

“Oh my gosh. What are you going on about? I was just being nice.”

Dawn smiled. “Getting a little defensive.”

Steph laughed. “Shut up.”

———————————

A few weeks had passed since the party. Gemma had settled in nicely at her office and home. She managed to go out a couple nights a week for a drink or dinner with coworkers, feeling a little more hopeful about her future in Sheffield.

It was a particular busy day at the practice for such a small town. Winter had settled in and everyone seemed to have a cold or the flu. Gemma found herself washing her hands more and more as the days lingered. The last thing she wanted was to get sick her first winter at her new job.

Gemma grabbed the next clipboard of paperwork left for her. She looked through the sheets and noticed the age of the patient.

“Sarah, this is for a child.”

“I know. The pediatrician isn’t in today and everyone else is tied up. You had an open slot. The appointment was made this morning. Kid has a high fever.”

“Yes I can see that, but I’m not a pediatrician.”

“No, but you’re the senior doctor. Emergency appointments, no matter the age, go to you when everyone else has bookings.”

Gemma stared at Sarah, who just smirked. “I think you like annoying me.”

“It is becoming one of my favorite hobbies.”

Gemma laughed. She let the pages settle back against the board as she stated, “Uh, Dean Kirke?”

“Oh, that’s us.”

Gemma looked up and was surprised to see Steph there with a little boy, but smiled nonetheless. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Steph answered, picking Dean up and holding him. She felt butterflies of excitement in her stomach.

Gemma pointed behind her and started to walk. “And what brings you here today?”

“Well, Dean hasn’t been feeling very well these past couple of days and last night his fever spiked. He hasn’t been eating much and sleeping a lot. He said he’s been achy. I had to keep him from school yesterday and today.”

They reached the exam room and Gemma held the door open for them, gesturing for them to go first. Steph sat Dean down on the exam table. She helped him take his coat and scarf off before stepping off to the side. She watched as Gemma grinned at the child.

“Hi, Dean. I’m Doctor Foster. How are you feeling?”

“Bad,” he whispered.

“Yeah?” Gemma checked his forehead. He was definitely warm. “And do you still feel achy all over?”

Dean nodded.

“Well I am going to do my best to make you feel better. Can you lay back here for me, Love?”

Dean crawled up and laid his head on the pillow. “Has he been keeping his food down when he does eat?”

“He was, except for this morning. I gave him a little bit of dry cereal just to get something in there because he barely ate anything last night and it came back up about thirty minutes later.”

“And any nausea or sickness on the way here?”

“No. He pretty much vomited all the cereal up I think.”

“Okay. Dean, I’m going to lift your shirt up and press around your stomach a little bit to check your tummy. You tell me if it hurts or is uncomfortable, okay?”

Dean nodded again as Gemma felt around for any swolleness. “And you said he had a fever this morning?”

“Yes. It was around 38.4 degrees.”

“Well that is a pretty high fever for such a small guy.” Gemma pulled his shirt down. “Can you sit up for me?”

Dean sat up a little sluggish. “Any diarrhea?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

“Any lightheadedness?”

“No.”

“Okay.” Gemma grabbed her thestascope and placed it on his back. “Dean, can you give me one big inhale and exhale.” Dean followed instructions as she moved the scope around to check his heart. “Good.”

“Mum, I don’t feel good,” Dean muttered.

“I know, Sweetheart.”

Gemma handed him a small bowl. “We’re almost finished, but if you feel the urge to, this should catch it, okay?”

“Thank you,” he said, softly.

“You’re welcome.” Gemma grabbed a thermometer. “Okay, Dean. I’m just going to stick this in your ear to get your temperature, then I’m going to check your eyes, nose and throat. Then we’ll be all done. Okay?”

Dean’s head was down, but Gemma saw the shift. “Okay. Can you lift your head for me please? I promise it’s almost over.”

Dean picked his head up and looked at Gemma. His small round glasses and heavy lidded eyes let Gemma know just how sick he felt.

“I like your glasses. Did you pick those out yourself?”

Dean pointed towards Steph.

“Mummy picked them out?”

Dean nodded.

“He was having trouble reading and it took us a while to figure out it was because of his eyes. Ever since then, he has had no struggle at all.”

“Well that’s good.” Gemma pulled the thermometer from his ear. “You do, unfortunately, still have a fever.” She lifted his head and looked at his eyes. “His eyes are a little watery, but that is to be expected. Any issues with breathing?”

“No.”

“No wheezing or congestion?”

“No. His energy just plummeted. A couple days ago, I picked him up from school and could tell he was a little off. Managed to get some soup in him and took him to bed. He slept through the night. And then yesterday, he wasn’t feeling any better so I let him stay home from school, but he didn’t have a fever. He slept in and out through the day next to me on the couch. But when he woke this morning, he had a fever and vomited so I called and was lucky you had an appointment available.”

“We usually keep a few open for emergencies like this.”

“Right. Of course you do. That makes sense,” Steph stuttered around her words.

Gemma smiled. “I’m just going to check around your throat, Dean. I do have to lay a suppressor on your tongue to really see back there, but if you feel like you’re going to be sick, I want you to tap my wrist, okay?” Gemma grabbed the small wooden stick.

“It looks like a popsicle stick,” Dean commented.

“It does, doesn’t it? It won’t taste as good unfortunately, but maybe when you’re feeling better your mum can get you a popsicle to make up for this one. Now I just need you to open your mouth for me and again, tap my wrist if you don’t feel good.”

Dean opened his mouth and gagged as soon as the suppressor touched his tongue. Gemma took it out almost immediately. “Are you alright?”

“I don’t like that.”

“No one does, Love. You hold onto this bowl. I’m just going to have a little chat with your mum.”

They walked over to Gemma’s desk. Gemma gestured to Steph to take a seat.

“So I wouldn’t worry too much. He has Gastroenteritis or better known as a stomach bug. He’ll be feverish for a couple days at most. Your best bet is to keep him under the covers all snuggled to try and break his fever, giving him fluids and maybe a little broth. If he can keep that down, I would try and give him some crackers or toast. And when he’s starting to feel better, a couple biscuits.”

“Will he need medicine or anything?”

“No. You just want to keep him as hydrated as possible with as much food as you can, but like I said, he should be better in a couple days. He could possibly still throw up today and tomorrow, he might also get diarrhea. If this occurs, slowly hydrate him about every 15 minutes, just give him a small cup of water. If he isn’t better by the end of the week, bring him back, but he should be.”

“Okay.”

Gemma could see the dark circles under Steph’s eyes and her worried expression. She reached out and touched her hand. “He’s fine. Just a little stomach bug. We all get them from time to time. Just make sure you wash your hands and sanitize the house to kill the germs, but I promise, he’ll be back to normal in the next few days.”

Steph looked at their hands for a moment before looking up at Gemma. “Thank you.”

Gemma gave a comforting smile. “It’s not a problem. Why don’t I give you my phone number that way if there are any questions or issues you can just call me.”

“No, I wouldn’t want to be any trouble,” Steph stated.

Gemma grabbed her business card, writing her personal number on the back. “It wouldn’t be any trouble at all. Just try to get some sleep when he does even if you’re laying next to him. There is nothing to worry about.”

“Thank you, Doctor Foster.”

“Gemma, please.”

Steph grinned. “Thank you, Gemma.”

“Anytime.”

They shared another smile before Steph stood up. Gemma followed, slipping her hands into her pockets. Steph helped Dean put his coat on and wrapped the scarf around his neck loosely.

“Well Dean, it was nice meeting you and I hope you feel better.”

“Thank you,” he muttered.

“Thanks again,” Steph said, holding her hand out to Gemma.

“Not a problem.” She shook Steph’s hand. “And seriously, call me anytime. I do make house calls when necessary.”

“Right.”

Steph took Dean’s hand and headed towards the door. She paused for a moment as Gemma cleaned up.

“Would you like to come over for dinner tonight?” Steph blurted out.

“Sorry?” Gemma asked, confused.

“Sorry. I, uh, I just… I know you’re new to the area and I don’t know. I enjoyed our little chat outside Pauline’s house and I know you don’t go out much and you don’t know me, but I just thought dinner might be nice to have with someone on occasion instead of eating alone so would you like to come round for dinner tonight?”

“Do you really want that stress with your sick son?”

“Right. Might not be the best planning on my part, but he’ll probably be asleep and I don’t know. We’ve been cooped up for the past couple of days. My friend Nita has a baby so I wouldn’t want them to get mixed up in these germs, Pauline has Stanley now, Dawn doesn’t seem to leave Russell’s side since they got married and I don’t know. It would just be nice to get to know someone new so I thought I would ask.”

Gemma couldn’t help, but grin from ear to ear at Steph’s babbling. “If it isn’t too much trouble, I would love to come to dinner.”

“You would?” Steph sounded surprised.

“Yeah. I enjoyed our conversation too and you seem to be the most relaxed person I’ve met since moving here.”

“After all the things that just came out of my mouth, you think I’m relaxed?”

“Maybe a little nervous, but yeah.”

“Okay. Should we say 6 then?”

“Yeah, I could do 6.”

“Oh. Oh wait, I don’t really have a lot of food at the moment because of Dean and I can’t leave him to go to the store. Do you like fish fingers?”

Gemma laughed. “What if I brought curry?”

“No I would hate for you to go through the trouble when I’m the one inviting you-”

“I don’t mind at all.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Curry would be great, yeah.”

“Good.”

“Good. So I’ll see you at 6.”

“Yeah.”

“I should give you my address.”

Gemma held up Dean’s paperwork. “Kind of already have it.”

“Right. I’ll sanitize the place too before you come.”

Gemma smiled sympathetically. “It’s okay. I’m in it all day anyway.”

“Still.”

“You just get some rest and seriously if it’s too much, just call me.”

Steph smirked. “So I’ll see you tonight then.”

“Yeah. See you tonight.”

Steph nodded and bit her lip. She picked Dean up and started walking away. Dean waved from behind, his eyes already closing.

———————————

Gemma headed home around 4:30, feeling nervous, but excited. She wasn’t exactly sure why, but she knew she wanted to look as nice as possible. She took a quick shower to clean the day off of her. She thought the last thing Steph would need with a sick child is more germs and illnesses in her home. She straightened her hair and reapplied her make-up.

After staring at her closet for what felt like an hour, Gemma settled on a pair of skinny jeans and a dark sleeveless button down. She threw on a white cardigan before putting on her coat and scarf. She took one last look in the mirror and left, locking the door behind her.

Steph was frazzled. She couldn’t figure out why she invited someone to her house after the mess she came home to. Toys and laundry were everywhere. She couldn’t even remember the last time she had cleaned the house. She calmly took Dean upstairs and laid him in bed. He was already asleep and she was just happy he seemed settled. She didn’t want to bother him. She spent the day cleaning and sanitizing her house when she noticed it was already 5:30.

Dean stirred from his bed and called for her. She took a deep breath and headed upstairs. Dean sat on the edge of his bed, crying.

“What’s wrong, Love?”

Dean pointed to the side of his bed. He had thrown up on his sheets and the floor. Steph felt her insides turn until she looked at her son. He looked so fragile and pale. She knelt down in front of him and hugged him. He was still warm and clung to his mom for comfort.

“I’m sorry, Mummy.”

“Shh. That was my mistake to not leave anything there for you. Are you alright?”

He nodded into her neck. “Do you feel like you’re going to be sick again?” He shook his head no.

“Alright, how about we get you downstairs on the couch? Then you can watch some cartoons and we’ll wrap you in a blanket.”

He nodded again and she picked him up, carrying him downstairs. She rubbed his back until his crying subsided. He settled on the couch, laying down. Steph walked into the kitchen and grabbed a bucket along with a glass of water. She placed the bucket on the floor in front of him.

“Just in case,” she whispered. She ran her fingers through his hair a couple of times and kissed his forehead. “I will be right back. I’m just going to go clean that up.”

“Is Doctor Foster coming?”

“Yeah, Love.”

“Can she check my temperature?”

“I’m sure she will if you ask her.” Steph turned on some cartoons. “Rest. Do you want any crackers?”

“No, thank you,” he said, closing his eyes.

Steph sighed. “Okay.” She was making her way upstairs when the doorbell rang.

“What?” she whispered. She looked down at herself. She was in a green t-shirt and overalls, her hair up in a messy bun. “No, no. Surely, it’s not her.”

The bell rang again and Steph made her way to the door. She opened it. Gemma stood there with an unlit cigarette between her lips, two bags of food in her hand and her back to the door. She turned around and panic seemed to arise on her face.

“I’m early,” she stated, taking the cigarette out of her mouth.

“No, it’s alright.”

“And I overdressed.”

“No you look amazing. Truly. Come on in. I just have to take care of something upstairs. I’ll be two minutes.” Steph took off for the stairs. “Kitchen is through there and Dean is sleeping on the couch. I’ll be right back.”

Gemma walked through the opening and placed the bags of food on the kitchen table. She looked over towards the television and saw the small child looking at her. His glasses were off and on the coffee table. She smiled.

“Hi, Dean. How are you feeling? Any better?”

“No.”

“Still with aches and pains?”

He nodded. “I threw up in my bed. That’s what Mummy has to take care of.”

“Ah. Hm. Should I go help her, you think?”

“If you want to.”

Dean turned his attention towards the television.

“Are you going to be okay by yourself?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

Gemma looked at him, one more time. An image of a sick seven year old Tom crept into her mind. She shook her head and walked up the stairs. She peaked around the door and saw Steph, scrubbing the floor.

“Can I help with anything?” She asked.

Steph jumped at the noise. “Oh my gosh.”

“I’m so sorry. Dean said he got sick and that’s what you were cleaning up. I thought I could give you a hand.”

“Oh no. It’s okay. You shouldn’t have to deal with this. It’s mostly liquid anyway. I gave him some juice earlier and I guess that wasn’t the right choice.”

“No. I should have told you if you gave him juice to water it down a little, but no harm done. At least you know to stick to water.”

“He doesn’t seem to want anything.”

“That’s normal for a kid with a stomach ache. No one likes throwing up at any age.”

Steph frantically scrubbed the floor before rinsing it. Gemma stepped closer to her and kneeled down. She rubbed Steph’s back a couple of times.

“He will be okay.”

“I know. It’s just, single motherhood can really be hard sometimes and I just would feel so much better if he would eat.”

“He will when he’s ready. Like I said, this is normal. We don’t eat because we have no appetite and there is that worry in the back of our minds that we will get sick so we just push it away. Half the time we feel worse because we’re not eating, but we just can’t bring ourselves to do it. But this isn’t going to hurt him. He’s going to be fine in a couple days and be back to wanting to eat everything in cupboards. I promise you.”

Steph looked up at her and nodded.

Gemma continued to rub her back before standing up. Steph threw the brush into the bucket and removed the rubber gloves. “I already put his sheets in the wash so this is the best I can do for now.”

“I think you did well. How about I let you freshen up, take a shower if you like because I know what it’s like to have to clean vomit, and then you can come downstairs to a nice warm meal. I can watch Dean while you’re doing that.”

“You don’t have to do all that.”

Gemma smiled. She tucked a piece of hair that was sticking out behind Steph’s ear. They both awkwardly stopped. “Sorry,” Gemma whispered. She cleared her throat, “I don’t mind.”

“You sure?”

“Absolutely.”

Steph grinned. “Thank you.”

“Not a problem.”

They lingered for a moment in silence before Gemma headed back downstairs. Dean was still watching the television.

“Can you see that far without your glasses?” Gemma asked, pulling food out of the bag and onto the kitchen table.

Dean shrugged. “A little.”

Gemma opened the cabinets, finding the plates and a bowl. She grabbed the to go boxes of rice with chicken tikka masala and used a spoon to scoop the food onto the plate. She then grabbed the vegetables, portioning the food to make it look as nice as possible. Once she had the table set for her and Steph, she pulled out a warm plastic container of soup. She poured some broth into a bowl and let it sit while she threw the to go bags and boxes away. She looked over at Dean, who was watching her curiously.

“Do you want to do me a favor, Dean?”

“I guess,” he answered, softly.

Gemma grabbed the bowl and a spoon. She headed towards the couch. “I know you’re not feeling well and you’ve been rather sick all day, but I think your mum would feel a lot better if we tried to get some food in your tummy.”

“What if I throw up again?” Dean’s eyes started to water.

“What if you don’t? We won’t know unless you try and how about this, if you get sick, when you’re better and if your mum allows it, I’ll buy you some ice cream.”

“On a cone?”

Gemma smiled. “Even with sprinkles.”

Dean seemed to perk at the thought of it, sitting up and resting against her. Gemma handed him the bowl and spoon. He took it and got a spoonful of the liquid into his mouth.

“Small bites and take your time,” Gemma stated. “That’s the key to not getting sick again.”

“But the bowl is really hot.”

Gemma picked it up and held it for him, getting close to his mouth when he was ready for a bite. Sometime later, a refreshed Steph walked in to see Dean’s head in Gemma’s lap and half a bowl of soup on the table.

“Did he eat?” She whispered.

Gemma looked up. Steph’s hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail, freshly done and in a jean button down shirt with jeans on. She accented it with a red belt.

“A little bit. I picked him up some soup on the way. Figured it wasn’t fair that we got to eat and he didn’t.”

“You really didn’t have to do that.”

“Well you said you didn’t have time to go to the store and fish fingers are good, but not for a sick child.”

Steph chuckled. “Thank you. That’s really, really kind of you to do.”

Gemma smiled. “Shall we?”

“Yes. I’m just going to take him back upstairs so we don’t bother him and he can sleep.”

“Okay.”

Steph lifted Dean’s head from Gemma’s thigh and carried him upstairs. Gemma poured the remaining soup back into the container it came in. She looked at the handful of pictures of Dean on the fridge. Some with Steph and some with a man she assumed was his father.

“That’s Dean’s dad, Terry,” Steph mentioned, coming into the kitchen.

“Sorry. I wasn’t prying, just putting the rest of the soup in the fridge.”

“It’s alright. Should I reheat these plates?”

“Probably wouldn’t hurt.”

“Take a seat, Gemma. You worked all day.”

“So did you.”

“I just cleaned.”

“And since when is cleaning and taking care of a sick child not working?”

“That’s a good question.” Steph turned on the microwave, heating up a plate. “My mother would say that it’s just part of being a woman.”

“Your mother and I would disagree.”

“My mother and I do disagree quite often.”

“I understand that.” Gemma eyed the last bag still sitting on the table. “I also brought a couple bottles of wine. I don’t know if you drink or not, but I figured it would be nice and the store clerk swore it would taste good with the curry so, you know, it probably doesn’t.”

Steph laughed. “Most likely not, but why not give it a go? There is a bottle opener in the drawer over there and I can get the glasses.”

Steph put in the second plate of food and laid the warm plate where Gemma was sitting. She grabbed two glasses as Gemma used the twist cap to open the bottle. “I didn’t get a fancy cork bottle. This is just easier.” They stood close to one another as Gemma poured the wine. They both could feel their body heat rising, but trying to act as normal as possible. They looked at one another for a moment before the microwave beeped, pulling them back into reality. They sat around the table and ate quietly.

It wasn’t until after dinner when their conversations started filling the space.

“I have to admit something,” Gemma said, as they got comfortable on the couch with a second bottle of wine.

“What’s that?”

“I was surprised to see you this morning with a child no less.”

“Really?”

“I just didn’t know.”

“Well why would you?”

“I don’t know,” Gemma laughed.

“A woman can’t do ladies only parties and have a child?” Steph asked, defensively.

“What? Of course she can.”

“You don’t think it’s weird?”

“What?”

“That I have this child and have done these parties?”

“What?! G-d no. I think it’s admirable. You should be proud of what you do.”

Steph smiled. “I am. I actually don’t host that often anymore.”

“No? What do you do then?”

“I’m actually the unit manager and in charge of this area’s recruits. I get them to sign up, educate them on the rules and the products. Talk to them about new releases etcetera. A salary job, benefits, paying my bills on time and not having to worry about rent. It’s quite nice.”

“Well that’s excellent.”

“Yeah.”

“How did you even get into this line of work?” Gemma asked.

“Well when Dean started school, I wanted a job. At the time I was a cleaner and cleaned Pauline’s house which is how I know her.”

“Really?”

“Yeah and then my ex husband lost his job so I had to. It was my friend, Nita, who convinced me to do it and then the next thing I knew, I was just really good at it and it kept growing around the area.”

“Well that is very impressive and I’m sure it wasn’t easy.”

“No. Took my mother months to come around, got an ex-husband out of it as well. Well, for multiple reasons really, but he hated the parties. Didn’t want me to do it and then once he found a new job, said I could quit the nonsense.”

“Sounds like a good guy,” Gemma joked.

“Oh yeah. Now enough about me, Doctor Foster.”

“No. You’re so much more interesting than me.”

“No. Tell me. Why Sheffield of all places?”

“I needed to get out of my town and to a new place. They had a job opening for a senior doctor so I applied and got the job.”

Steph stared at her for a moment and dramatically rolled her eyes. “Could that answer have been anymore boring and basic?”

Gemma laughed and shrugged.

“Where did you come from?”

“Hertfordshire.”

“And what? Couldn’t find a job in London?”

“I didn’t want to find a job in London.”

“So you moved all the way up here because?”

“I told you. I needed a fresh start and they had an opening.”

“And?”

“The rest is unbelievably complicated.”

Steph patted Gemma’s knee with her fingers. “I’ve got time. It’s only eight o’clock and I haven’t talked to an adult other than you and my mother for a few days so I would love a complicated story.”

“You first.”

“Me first what?”

“What happened with your ex-husband?”

“Caught him cheating on me with his best friend’s wife, took him back for Dean, realized my mistake when his best friend told me his wife was pregnant. They had been struggling to get pregnant for months and she was three months along. I knew it was Terry’s and told him I couldn’t.”

“Where is he now?”

“Birmingham. Still comes to see Dean every other weekend and they usually talk on the phone every night. Dean misses his dad and I hate that he has to go through this, but I do my best. I even take him down sometimes to have dinner with him. Dean shouldn’t be punished for his father’s mistake, you know.”

“Yeah.”

Steph noticed Gemma’s ring finger swiping the side of her wine glass. “You’ve been moving your middle finger around your glass for a while now.”

“Yeah, sorry. Habit when I’m thinking and I know exactly what you mean. I also have an ex-husband. I not only found out he was cheating, but that all my friends knew and lied to me about it. One friend said she only knew it for a couple of months when it had been going on for years.”

“Everyone knew?”

“Yeah. I think the whole town knew except for her parents by the time I found out. They just all lied to me for years. Acted like it wasn’t happening. Once I found out, they still continued to lie to my face for days. I found his other phone, wallet, credit card, and condoms in the boot of his car. There were pictures of him with this woman on trips with my neighbors.”

“Oh my gosh.”

“Yeah. Then he got this woman pregnant. It was a mess and I went about it the wrong way, but I didn’t know what else to do. We finally got a divorce and he moved to London for a year. It was so nice. I thought I had everything under control, but then he came back. They had a housewarming party that I wasn’t invited to, but showed up anyway. All my friends were there again. Things just escalated and after another year of it, he got his wish and I left.”

“Why did you have to leave?”

“He grew up there. All those people who I thought were my friends, were his friends. It was just bad on every level. I couldn’t take the gossip and the eyes anymore so I left.”

“And came here?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry that happened.”

“I’m sorry for you too.” Steph rubbed her thumb over Gemma’s leg. Gemma looked at it before looking back up at Steph. “So, yeah, that’s my sob story.”

“It’s not a sob story. At least you didn’t go back.”

Gemma chuckled. “No, but I did sleep with him when they moved back.”

“Why?”

“At first, I was trying to film him cheating on his new wife, but he found my phone so he stopped. We had already kind of started though and I just thought why not? I could still prove it.”

“And did you?”

“He left his tie at my house so I made sure Kate got it back in an envelope addressed to her. They aren’t together anymore.”

“Well that is very sneaky.”

“I did what I could. She was only twenty-four. I didn’t want her to waste her life with a man who was going to hurt her eventually like he did with me.”

“I know what you mean. I was going to go to school when I got pregnant. Dropped out, got married to Terry and became a stay at home mum. My only friend before these parties was the woman he cheated on me with.”

“We’ve had good lives, haven’t we?”

Steph laughed. “Yeah. I did meet someone after Terry though.”

“Oh yeah?”

“His name is Johnny. It’s a complicated story, but-”

“I don’t know. I had to work with clients all day and haven’t hung out with anyone in a couple of days and it’s only eight thirty so I think we have plenty of time,” Gemma mocked.

“Saying my own words to me now, are we?”

“I just want you to feel the same pressure as I did.”

“Oh well, you did a wonderful job.”

“Thank you. Now who is Johnny?” Gemma felt a little doubt at this new man, but pushed what she was feeling aside.

“Johnny or PC Daniels as he was known around town-”

“A cop? Good girl.”

Steph smirked. “Yeah. I loved him, but he came here from London to find his birth mother because he didn’t know he was adopted until after his father died. Turns out Pauline was his mother.”

“Pauline Spake?”

“Yes and she tried to keep us apart, but he stayed. He wanted to know who his birth father was. Pauline didn’t want him because she didn’t want to tell Mr. Spake. She has told him since and it was a strain on their marriage, but I think they’re doing a lot better now. Anyway, he stayed for a year and everything was looking promising, but he wanted to go to America. He wanted to find his dad so he did.”

“And have you heard from him?”

“We stayed in touch for a little while, but I don’t know. New country with new things to discover. We just kind of fell out, I guess.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s okay. My son keeps me here and I can’t imagine my life without him. He is the most important man to me.”

Gemma bit the inside of her cheek. Tom crossing her mind again. She shook her head, changing the subject.

“I once slept with a man a few times that was younger than me. He wanted it to be a thing and I just wanted to have sex so I started paying him.”

Steph looked surprised. “No you didn’t.”

“Yeah I did. Fifty quid every time. After the second time he felt dirty and we stopped, but it was adventurous to say the least.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah. I went wild there for a minute. Really enjoyed my freedom after my divorce.”

“Seems like it.”

They smiled at one another. Steph took another sip of her wine, while Gemma studied her. She noticed the smooth skin of her cheek, the piercing blue eyes, her freckles. She was completely mesmerized when she remembered something.

“You know, I once had an old coworker say to me that after her divorce, she moved to women and never looked back. Said they were better lovers.”

“Really?”

“She swore by it.”

“Interesting. I’ve never been with a woman.”

“No?”

Steph shook her head.

“I did it a couple times in college. I wanted to explore all my options.”

“Did you enjoy it?”

“Yeah, of course. A woman knows a woman’s body better than a man. It’s more focused on both getting off instead of just one going to town without the mere thought of you getting off. It was different, but good. I don’t regret it.”

There was an awkward silence between them and Gemma wasn’t sure why.

“Did I make you uncomfortable?”

“No, not at all. I was just thinking about it.”

“Thinking about what?”

“What it’s like being with a wom-”

Steph stopped talking as she heard footsteps. She got up to see Dean standing in the doorway.

“What’s wrong, Love?”

“I can’t sleep and I don’t feel good.”

“Do you think you’re going to be sick again?”

Dean shrugged and wrapped his arms around Steph’s legs.

“Do you mind if he sits with us for a bit?”

“No. Of course not.”

Dean climbed up on the couch and laid his head on Gemma’s lap.

“Uh, Dean-”

“No, it’s alright. He needs to sleep so whatever makes him comfortable.”

“Are you sure?” Steph asked.

“Of course.”

Steph lifted his feet and sat closer to Gemma.

“Doctor Foster?” Dean asked, looking up.

“You may call me Gemma, but only because you’re a very special patient to me.”

“Are you going to take my temperature?”

“Do you want me to take your temperature?”

Dean nodded.

“Sweetheart, Doc-” Gemma looked up at her and Steph corrected herself. “Gemma is off work. I can take your temperature.”

“I really don’t mind,” Gemma answered. “I told you I make house calls.”

“Yes, I know, but I kind of viewed this more of a date for us then you having to look after my kid.”

Gemma smiled. She leaned closer to Steph. “Is this a date?” she whispered.

“I, uh, I mean, um, I don’t really know. Just like a, uh, friendly get together sort of thing,” Steph stuttered. “Unless you thought it was a date because then-”

Gemma put her finger against Steph’s lips. “It can be whatever you want it to be.”

Steph just smiled. Her cheeks blushed with embarrassment. “I’ll go and get the thermometer.”

“Okay.”

Gemma watched as she got up. She reached forward and took Dean’s glasses off. “Probably a little more comfortable without those on, yeah?”

Dean nodded.

“Did the soup stay down alright?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. Let’s hope it stays that way.”

“Do you think I’m getting better?” He asked, innocently.

Gemma smiled. “Let’s see if your temperature gives us any indication.”

Steph came back in and placed it under Dean’s tongue. Gemma kept her eye on the time while Steph looked at her. She could tell Gemma was hiding something from her, but couldn’t place what. She watched how delicate she was with Dean and noticed how she ran her fingers through his hair a few times.

Gemma looked down at her watch. “Open,” she said before taking the thermometer out of his mouth. Dean rolled onto his back as Gemma checked. She smiled.

“You still have a little fever, but it’s better than it was this morning,” she commented.

“What is it?”

Gemma looked at Steph. “37.5. He’s back down to normal range and so far, his soup has stayed down.”

“Is that good?”

Gemma looked down at him. “That’s very good, Dean. You are well on your way to being better. Now what you need to do is sleep.”

“I can’t.”

“What if I read you a story?” Steph offered.

“Can Gemma read it to me?”

Steph and Dean looked at Gemma. She stopped for a moment almost in shock, but felt herself agreeing. “Sure. I can do that. Why don’t we get you back into bed and then I will read you one?”

“Are you sure?” Steph placed her hand on Gemma’s arm.

Gemma looked down at it and smiled. “Absolutely.”

“What do we say to Gemma?” Steph asked, picking Dean up with a groan.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Gemma followed the mother and child upstairs. She climbed as quietly as she could gathering her peace. This wasn’t a sick Tom. This wasn’t her son. She was doing this to be helpful. No one even knew Tom existed in this town. No one even knew Simon existed to the extent Steph did and she planned to keep it that way. She questioned why she agreed to do this when Dean walked up to her holding a book out to her.

Gemma snapped out of her thoughts and smiled. Steph helped Dean get comfy, snuggling up behind him while Gemma sat on the edge of the bed. She opened the book and started reading.

———————————

Gemma and Steph headed down the stairs sometime later. Dean now sound asleep upstairs.

“I should probably head out. Work in the morning,” Gemma said, softly.

“Right.”

Gemma gathered her stuff. “I’ll leave the wine for you.”

“You sure?”

“It’s half a bottle and I have plenty at home.”

“Okay.”

Gemma made her way towards the door. Steph followed. She picked her purse up from the little bench.

“Thanks for having me,” Gemma said, slipping her coat on.

“You’re welcome here anytime. And thanks for all the help with Dean. He clearly likes you and I really do appreciate it.”

“I like him too.” Gemma took a step towards Steph. “And you. I have to admit, it was nice to not be by myself for once.”

“What about drinks with coworkers? You said you do that on occasion.”

“I do, but honestly after a couple hours, I find them rather annoying.”

“And me?”

“And you?”

Steph nodded, a hopeful look in her eye.

“I think this is the most fun I have had in a long time.”

“Good. I’m glad.”

Steph looked up at Gemma with a small smile. Gemma felt her heart skip a beat. They looked at each other for a moment before Gemma leaned forward and pressed her lips against Steph’s. The kiss was light and delicate. Simple. Gemma pulled back slightly, only to feel Steph’s hand on the back of her neck pulling her closer. They met in a passionate kiss, Gemma’s arms wrapping around Steph’s waist so there was no space between them.

Gemma pushed Steph back against the French door. Steph’s hands roamed all over Gemma’s body: her back, her arms, her neck. She moaned into Gemma’s mouth, pushing her coat off her shoulders. It fell to the floor along with her purse. Steph marveled at the feel of Gemma’s thin arms. The smooth skin of her neck and cheek. Her soft lips.

Steph pulled back to look at her body for only a second before Gemma’s lips were back on hers. Steph felt Gemma’s tongue against hers and she reciprocated. Both lost in ecstasy. The heated kiss slowly died down as they caught their breaths. It soon turned into small pecks before they looked at one another.

As soon as their eyes met, they laughed. There lips pink and swollen. Gemma picked up her coat and hung it over her arm. Steph reached for her purse and handed it to her.

“When Dean’s better, do you think you could get someone to watch him?”

“Yeah. Of course. Why though?”

“I want to take you on a proper date, if you’ll have me?” Gemma reached out and took Steph’s hand. Their fingers interlaced.

Steph smirked. “I would love to go on a date with you.”

“Proper date. This was our first one, no?”

Steph nodded. “Yeah. A sick child and curry. I think it’s a good first date.”

Gemma laughed. “Well I still enjoyed it.”

“Me too.”

Gemma leaned forward and pecked Steph’s lips. “Call me tomorrow?”

“Okay.”

They made it to the front door when Steph kissed her one more time. It was hard and yet the softest thing Gemma had ever felt.

“I’ll see you soon?” Gemma asked, placing another kiss against Steph’s lips.

“Yeah.” Another kiss.

“And you call me tomorrow?” Another kiss.

“Yes.”

A few more kisses. Steph opened the door and Gemma stepped out. She looked around before placing one final kiss against Steph’s lips.

“Good night,” Gemma’s voice barely above a whisper.

“Get home safely.”

“I will.”

They smiled at one another, one more kiss shared.

“Bye.” Gemma headed down the front stairs and waved before getting in a cab.

Steph waved back and watched the cab drive away. She could see Gemma smiling. She closed the door and caught her breath. She bit her lip thinking about what just happened. She hadn’t felt this light and giddy in quite some time. She felt alive and more turned on than ever. She cleaned up the living room and washed the dishes with only Gemma on her mind. As she crawled into bed, she couldn’t help but think what more they would do together. She felt like she had a school girl crush, but she knew it was deeper than that. She hadn’t felt this way since Johnny left. She didn’t expect to feel this way and yet all she wanted to do was call Gemma now instead of having to wait until tomorrow.

Gemma smiled the whole way home. Her cheeks hurt from her excitement. She constantly traced her own lips, thinking about Steph’s. She couldn’t deny that she liked her and wanted to be around her again as soon as possible. She walked into her house and immediately went towards the kitchen. She lit a cigarette, heading for the white wine in her fridge. She thought for a moment and didn’t feel the need to have another drink. She put her cigarette out and headed to her bedroom. After another shower, she laid in bed, already waiting for Steph to call her when the phone rang.

“Hello,” she answered.

“Is it weird that I wanted to talk to you now before I go to sleep,” Steph asked.

Gemma smiled. “No. I was hoping it would be you on the line.”

Chapter Text

Steph was gathering her things around the house when the front door opened.

“Hello, Mum,” she greeted.

“And where are we off to this evening that I need to watch your son?”

It had been a week since Steph had seen Gemma. They chatted every night on the phone, but it took Dean a little longer than Gemma expected to be back to one hundred percent. He was now his old self again and Steph was ready for her proper date with Gemma.

“Out to dinner,” Steph answered.

“Dressed like that?”

“Like what?”

Steph looked down before looking back at her mother. She was in a black cotton dress, with black tights and heels. She had a belt around the waist and her hair was done. She had on a little bit of makeup to make up for the disaster she looked like the last time Gemma had seen her.

Joan shrugged at her daughter. “Where are you going?”

“The only nice restaurant to get food around here.”

“The steakhouse?”

Steph nodded, dropping her items into a small black purse.

“Is it a date? You and that PC Daniels haven’t been broken up that long.”

“It’s been a year, Mum. And I’m just getting dinner.”

“What time will you be back?”

“I don’t know, but not too late.”

“Is this a party?” Joan asked.

“No, Mum, I’m just going out.”

“With who?”

Steph thought of Gemma and smiled before remembering her mother was standing in front of her. “A friend,” Steph replied. “Dean’s tea is in the oven. It just needs to be reheated and if I think I’m going to be later than planned, I’ll call.”

Dean came down the stairs and hugged around Steph’s legs. He looked up at her and smiled.

“You look pretty, Mummy.”

“Thank you, Sweetheart.” She knelt down and hugged him. “Okay, Gran has got your tea. She just needs to heat it up when you’re hungry and I’ll be back later. Okay?”

“Okay. Have a good time. Tell Doctor Foster I say ‘hi’.”

Steph smiled. “I will, Love. Give me one more hug?”

Dean stepped forward, wrapping his arms around Steph’s neck. She groaned before letting go. She stood up and smiled. She grabbed her coat, putting it on and then picked up her keys.

“I love you, Son,” Steph muttered kissing the top of his head. She looked towards Joan. “I promise to call if I’m going to be late.”

“Doctor Foster?” Joan questioned. “I’ve heard some things about her.”

“I’m sure you have, but she’s kind and honest. She’s new to town and needs friends. We met because I took Dean when he was sick. We had dinner here and she was good with him. I don’t see what the big deal is.”

“I’ve heard where she’s come from and the news about what she did.”

“Caught her cheating husband with a younger woman? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?”

“More than that, Steph. She seems like bad news.”

“Well let me make that decision for myself,” Steph demanded. “I am an adult and I can make my own choices.”

A horn honked from outside. “That’s my cab.” Steph kissed Dean’s head one more time before shutting the door. She took a deep breath, heading down the stairs and getting into the car. She wasn’t going to let her mother ruin the night she had been looking forward to all day.

——————————-

Gemma was already there when Steph arrived. She was in black trousers with a white button down and black blazer. She had on her usual makeup, but her hair was wavy this time. She was already seated at a table and beamed when she saw Steph.

Steph couldn’t help, but smile back. She walked up to her feeling a little awkward by the time she reached the table. Neither was sure of how to greet each other after their snog goodbye the other night. They both sighed with happiness as Gemma stood up, hugging her. They kissed each other’s cheeks.

“Hello,” Gemma whispered in her ear.

“Hi.”

Gemma and Steph sat down, across from one another. Gemma couldn’t help, but notice that Steph seemed to look nervous or stressed.

“Are you alright?” Gemma asked, feeling her hesitancy.

Steph sighed. “Yes. Sorry. My mum is watching Dean while I’m with you and she just knows how to get under my skin.”

“What did she say?”

“It’s not what she said, it’s how she says things to me as if I’m still a child myself. She doesn’t seem to understand that I am a grown woman, with a business and a kid.”

“Mums are like that sometimes, I suppose.”

“Is your mum like this?”

Gemma smiled. “My parents died when I was sixteen so yes, but I was a child.”

Steph’s mouth fell agape. “Oh, Gemma.” She reached out to touch Gemma’s hand. “I’m so sorry.”

“No harm done. You didn’t know.”

They stayed like that for a moment, looking into each other’s eyes. The waiter came, interrupting their moment.

“Good evening, ladies.” He glanced at their hands, but neither woman pulled away. “Could I start you with wine or cocktail?”

Gemma smiled. “I’ll have a glass of your Merlot.”

“Very well and Madam?” He turned his attention towards Steph.

“I’ll have the same, please.”

“Certainly.”

He stepped away and they were immediately drawn back to one another. They let their hands go as they both glanced over the menu.

“Dean wanted me to tell you that he says ‘hi’.”

“Well when you see him, tell him I say ‘hello’ back.”

“He asked about you this week.”

“Did he?”

“Yes, he wants to know when he gets to see his friend Gemma again.”

“And what did you tell him?”

“I told him soon enough, I hope.”

“I would love to see him. How’s he feeling?”

“Much better.”

“Good and you?”

“Me?” Steph questioned.

“Yes, Love. How are you feeling?”

Steph smiled at the word. “Better now that I’m with you and looking at you instead of just hearing you.”

“I feel the exact same way.”

“How was your week?”

“It’s been very good, but busy. Lots of sickness going around with the cold weather.”

“I’m sure.”

The waiter returned placing the drinks in front of them. “Would you like to hear tonight’s specials?”

Gemma and Steph had no time for him as their gaze never faltered from one another.

“Should I come back?” He asked.

“No,” Gemma answered. “Please, what are the specials?”

He went through a list of options and they both settled on a steak salad, sending him on his way. Gemma reached across the table and brushed her hand over Steph’s.

“Why is it that I can’t see anyone else in this room?” Gemma asked.

Steph grinned. “I find that hard to believe.”

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t know. Just do.”

“Well it’s true.”

Steph lowered her head in embarrassment. They started with a bread and cheese plate that paired with their wine according to the waiter. Gemma placed her napkin on her lap before picking up a piece.

“So tell me about your mum. Why is she so hard on you?”

“Oh,” Steph pfted, picking up her own piece of bread, “Religion, I think.”

“What do you mean?”

“I got pregnant at twenty-one before I was married. That’s what started all of this.”

“That you were having premarital sex?”

“Yes and when I told her I was pregnant, she asked when Terry and I were getting married. He was thrilled. I was happy, but knew I would have to give up school. We got married a month later and then my mum backed off a little, but once Dean was born, she was always there. It was helpful in the beginning because she would let me sleep some nights when I was a step away from passing out because some days Dean was a very fussy baby, but now it’s overbearing.”

“Doesn’t sound very fun.”

“No and after Terry cheated on me and I chucked him out, she told me I wasn’t the first woman to be cheated on and I needed to get him back.”

“And you did?”

“For Dean. Only for Dean. There is sadness there sometimes because he can’t see his dad, but I just call Terry when that happens. I tell him to come and surprise him or let me meet him halfway so they can see each other.”

“You do all of that for Dean?”

“I have to. Well I don’t have to, but he loves his dad so much. It’s not fair to keep him away.”

“Yeah, I could see that.”

“What about you and Simon?” Steph asked, picking up another piece of bread and cheese.

Gemma felt herself become overwhelmed with nervousness. The word Tom past through her. She scratched her index finger with her thumb under the table.

“What do you mean?”

“No children?”

Gemma shook her head. “No,” she lied. She picked up her glass of wine, taking a swig. She used that time to compose herself. “No, children.”

“Did you not want them or?”

“It’s not that I didn’t want them. It’s,uh. Hm.” She paused, needing a moment to get the image of Tom out of her ever present memory. “It’s complicated. Rather not talk about it.”

“Of course. Right. Sorry.”

Gemma smiled. “Don’t apologize.”

The waiter placed their salads in front of them and they thanked him. As they ate the air around them seemed to shift. Where they once were chatty, they were now mute. Gemma tried to make a joke. “We must be very hungry with how quiet we’ve become.”

“Yeah,” Steph agreed.

After a few more bites, Gemma put her fork down and her napkin on the table to signal she was done. She looked at Steph, mesmerized by her beauty. The way she dabbed her lips with her napkin, the way she chewed. She could tell that Steph seemed worried. Gemma reached across the table and patted Steph’s hand.

“It’s okay. You know you’re allowed to ask me questions about Simon.”

“I just don’t want to pry.”

“You’re not prying. You’re asking questions. You’re getting to know me. I’m hesitant to speak and not because of you, but because I’ve always given too much of myself too quickly. I mean I snogged you on the first date when your child was sick upstairs.”

Steph laughed.

“I just don’t want to mess this up,” Gemma admitted. “I want to take my time to see what this will hopefully become.”

“And what do you want this to become?”

“I don’t know. What do you want it to become?”

Steph smirked. “I asked you first.”

Gemma sat back in her chair. “I feel like friends would be a ridiculous stopping point for us. I haven’t stopped thinking about our kiss since I left your house the other night.”

“I haven’t either.” Steph interlocked their fingers against the table.

“But I should tell you, I am a bit of fuck up. I always mess things up and I don’t want to do that with you which is why I haven’t said much. You’ve become very special to me and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.”

“Well you haven’t so far.”

“That’s the key, though. ‘So far’.”

“I trust you.”

“You don’t know me.”

“I know what I feel. I know you’ve been honest with me.” Gemma felt a pang of guilt at the word honest. An image of Tom laughing becoming so clear in her mind. “You’re good with my son. You have qualities that I like in people. So needless to say, I’m not worried.”

Gemma wanted to dismiss this conversation. She couldn’t stop seeing Tom and knew the only way to make it stop was to distract herself. She finished her glass of wine and smiled at Steph. “Would you like to come back to my place for a little bit?” She asked. She used her index and middle finger to massage the back of Steph’s hand.

“I would love that.”

“Can I show you the dessert menu?” The waiter asked.

Gemma looked towards Steph. “Any interest?” Steph shook her head no. “I think we’re alright. I’ll take the bill please.”

“Certainly, Ma’am.” He handed the billfold to Gemma, which she took with a smile. She grabbed her purse and pulled out her credit card when Steph reached forward.

“What are you doing?” Gemma asked, going through her wallet for the right card.

“Paying.” She pulled out her own credit card.

“No, it’s on me. You get it next time.”

“Let me. You paid the last time when you came over so it’s my turn.”

“I asked you out on this date so I would like to take care of it.”

Steph smiled. “But I can pay and I want to.” She picked up the billfold and slipped her credit card into it, confidently handing it to the waiter. He looked towards Gemma, who nodded.

“Thank you,” Gemma said, putting her wallet away.

“You’re welcome.”

Once Steph had paid, they gathered their coats, slipping them on and heading towards the door. Gemma gestured for Steph to go first as they stepped outside. Gemma handed her sticker to the gentleman at the valet stand. She pulled a cigarette from her bag and lit it, enjoying the taste after her wine. Steph inhaled as her teeth started to chatter.

“It’s colder than I expected it to be,” she muttered.

Gemma saw her standing there. Her arms were wrapped tightly around her body with her shoulders to her ears. She smiled and wrapped Steph into a hug, pulling her close. Steph rested her head against Gemma’s chest listening to her heart beat as Gemma took another drag. Steph looked up at her as she blew out the smoke.

“Why does a doctor smoke?” Steph asked.

Gemma laughed. “I don’t know. Habit? Stress? Alcohol?”

“Even though you know all the health risks involving it?”

“Yeah. I don’t know. Like I said, I’m a bit of a fuck up.”

Gemma looked down at her and Steph could see the sadness in her eyes. She cupped Gemma’s cheek. “No you’re not. Don’t say that.”

Gemma carrassed the hand on her cheek before pulling it down. She kissed the back of Steph’s hand. “You don’t know me.”

“I know enough.”

“Do you? Once I went to Simon’s house after he moved back from London. I knew how to get there through the backyard of his property. Don’t ask how because I couldn’t tell you. I had, had dinner with the doctor I told you about, was trashed and thought spying would be a good call. I set off the backyard lights and managed to get out unseen. Instead of going home, like I should have, I went to a club. I got completely shit faced and invited this teacher I was seeing. I didn’t think he’d actually come to a club on a school night, but he did and I tried to shag him in the bathroom. He didn’t want to because he could run into one of his students. So after he left, there was a moment where I honestly contemplated sleeping with this random guy just because he was in his twenties, said I was hot and I was plastered.”

“Did you?”

“No. The teacher came the next morning, brought me breakfast and for whatever reason was still interested in me so we shagged then.”

Steph took a small step back so she could look into Gemma’s eyes. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because I want you to know what you’re getting involved with. I went mad after I found out about Simon. My life was deteriorating and I couldn’t stop it. The only thing I could do was drink and smoke and fuck. I was no better than he was.”

“Yes you were because while you were married to him, loved him and took care of him, you didn’t cheat. Right?”

Gemma nodded.

“So you didn’t do anything wrong.” Gemma could only nod again, clenching her jaw so she wouldn’t cry about her son. About the one person she did ruin. She felt she ruined his life and that’s why he ran. The guilt ate at her every second of every day.

Steph brought Gemma’s attention back from where she was lost, thinking. “All these stories you tell me in hopes of scaring me, you should know, they don’t frighten me.”

Gemma paused as the valet guy drove up with her car. “Really?” She asked in disbelief.

Steph walked forward and placed the smallest kiss against Gemma’s lips. “Really.” Steph walked to the passenger side of the car.

Gemma took her keys, opening the door for Steph with a smile. Steph climbed inside while Gemma walked around the car. She tipped the valet service before getting in. She turned the car on and watched as Steph shivered.

“It’s not that cold.”

“You have on pants. I’m trapped in this dress.”

Gemma laughed, turning on the heat. “So how is the lady party business?”

“It’s good. It’s really good. I finally get to have a staff. Dawn and Hellie are in which is amazing, but I’m trying to convince Nita what an opportunity this would be.”

“Does she not want it?”

“I think she likes just doing parties here and there when she can for the extra thirty percent on sales. I feel like it has more to do with the nine to five lifestyle.”

“Can’t she work from home, though?”

“Yes, on occasion. The only reason I’ve been working from home this past week was because of Dean, but Dawn and Hellie have been in the office. Otherwise, while he’s at school, I’m in the office. My mum usually picks him up and I’m home by 5:30, but sometimes I knock off early to go get him. Mostly just to see the smile on his face when it’s me and not his Gran.” Steph chuckles at the memories.

Gemma smiled. “Will she be able to do that as well?”

“Of course. I can make their hours whatever they like. Dawn will do nine to five because that’s when Russell works so they’ll get home around the same time. Hellie will also because she likes the structure so I told Nita, it’s okay if she doesn’t want to work a full eight hours every day and she can still do parties. I don’t know. She has a lot going on with four little ones.”

“How many children does she have in total?”

“Five.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah, the last one was unexpected and even though she didn’t think she wanted it, she kept it.”

“I’m gathering a lot happens in this town.”

Steph laughed. “Yeah. It’s not very big so once you tell one person your secret, the news travels.”

“So I’m aware.”

“How so?”

“Sarah asked me about Simon the other day. I tried to keep it under wraps for as long as I could, but I guess it was going to get out eventually.”

They pulled up to a red light and Steph looked at Gemma. “I swear I didn’t say anything.” Gemma took her hand and kissed it.

“I know you didn’t. I was telling one of my supervisors about it because some of my past records turned up in the office from my previous place of work. I’m going to assume one of them ran their mouths. I should have expected it really.”

“That explains how my mother heard.”

“Wow. News really does travel fast here.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It wasn’t your fault. And stop apologizing. Most of this stuff happened because I allowed it to. It was only a matter of time before everyone else found out.”

Gemma pulled into a parking space. It was a new building, closer to the city limit. It was chic and seemed to be Gemma’s taste. They took the elevator up to the fifth floor and got out. Steph followed Gemma down the gray painted hallway. They stopped outside her door while Gemma fiddled with the keys.

Once inside, Gemma switched on the foyer light. Her house used to be bright and open with all kinds of color and natural light. A place that looked like a family lived there. This was rather the opposite. When she left, she couldn’t deal with feeling like she had a home. She lost her home the day she found out Simon cheated, the day she lost her Tom and she had to start putting it back together. She wanted this new place to look like it held no memories and no light. Light gray walls instead of white with black furniture and hardwood floors. She helped Steph out of her coat as she looked around.

“This is where the infamous Doctor Foster lives,” Steph exclaimed.

“I know it’s not exactly homey, but I’m still adjusting and I kind of like it’s darkness.”

Steph just smiled, taking it all in.

“Is it too much?” Gemma asked.

“No. It seems perfectly you.”

“In what way?”

“I don’t know. It hides secrets and mystery.”

“Are you saying I have secrets and am full of mystery?”

“Maybe.”

Gemma couldn’t help but think that Steph was too cute for words. So she laughed a little, turning on a lamp to show the only eccentric colors she had on her walls, a few pieces of artwork. Steph looked at them in awe.

“Do you want a drink?”

“Sure.”

“Wine okay?”

“Yeah.”

Gemma went into her kitchen which was a little brighter. Stainless steel appliances with a dark wood table. All the furniture she had in Hertfordshire stayed there. She only brought a few pieces up. What she could fit in her car. No movers, just her. She got two wine glasses down from her cabinet. Steph stepped in and smiled, her arms still wrapped around herself.

“Are you cold?” Gemma asked. “I can turn the heat up.”

“No, I’m alright.”

“You sure?”

Steph stepped into Gemma’s space, taking the glasses out of her hands and placing them on the wooden countertops. She wrapped her arms around Gemma’s waist and leaned in closer.

“So is that a no to the drink?” Gemma joked.

Steph shook her head, leaning in to kiss her lips instead. The kiss was once again light and gentle, but longer. It filled the hole that Gemma felt in her soul. The darkness of her life was always a little brighter these few times she had been with Steph. As their lips separated, Gemma kept her eyes closed for as long as she could, embracing it. When she opened them, she made eye contact with Steph.

“I’ve just been wanting to do that since I saw you at that table tonight,” Steph admitted.

“Me too.”

“And as much as I want to keep talking, I just needed to do that first.”

Gemma cupped Steph’s cheeks, placing another peck against her lips. Steph felt light for the first time since Johnny left. She rubbed Gemma’s lower back as they parted, wanting to hold onto her as long as she could.

“So you do want wine?”

“Yes.”

Gemma smiled. “And possibly a jacket?”

“I mean a jumper, pants, anything would do right now.”

Gemma laughed while pouring a bottle of wine. She handed a glass to Steph, kissing her lips one more time. “I’ll be right back. Make yourself comfortable on the couch. There is a blanket there as well.”

Gemma stepped into her bedroom. Steph walked back into the living room. It was an open concept and smaller than what she expected. She sat on the couch with her glass of wine, taking it all in. She noticed there were no intimate details. No pictures or photo albums. No magazines or newspapers. Just a couple of books.

“Here ya go,” Gemma said, holding out a pair blue drawstring sweatpants. She had taken off her blazer and button down to slip on a gray jumper.

“Thank you.”

“I also turned the heat up a little.”

“You didn’t have to.”

“Well I was worried you’d turn the color of these sweats if I didn’t. How do you survive the winter?”

“I usually don’t wear dresses.”

“Well you didn’t have to wear one for me. You’ve could have come in your overalls and I still would have thought you’d look cute.”

“Oh, Lord,” Steph laughed, “Could you imagine?”

Steph slipped the pants on, tucking the bottom of her dress into.

Gemma started laughing at her. “What are you doing?”

“Putting these on!”

“And tucking your dress into it? If you’re more comfortable, I have clothes. I can get you a sweatshirt.”

Steph thought for a minute before settling with a, “No.”

“You sure? I can hang your dress up and you’ll be more comfortable.”

“I don’t want to be a bother.”

“How would that make you a bother?”

“I don’t know.”

“My bedroom is right through there so please help yourself. Pick out whatever you want.”

Steph smiled shyly and nodded. She hopped off towards the bedroom, expecting to learn more about Gemma. The bedroom had white walls with a large queen bed in the center. Nightstands on both sides that matched the wooden bed frame. One dresser and a chair stood against the wall. But it was still bare and empty.

Steph walked into the small walk in closet, trying to take her dress off. She grunted.

“Shit… Gemma,” she shouted.

Gemma smirked from the couch before getting up. She stepped into the room.

“Yes?”

“Can you unzip my dress please?”

“Sure.”

Gemma stepped into the closet, Steph’s back to her. She moved Steph’s hair to the side and carefully unzipped the dress, letting her fingers brush against Steph’s soft skin. Steph didn’t move taking in a stabilizing breath. Gemma’s touch made her body come to life. She wanted to turn around and kiss her again, but stopped herself. Both of their breathing had picked up in that small amount of time. Gemma placed the lightest kiss on the back of Steph’s neck.

She hummed before pulling back. “I’ll let you have some privacy, but my jumpers are folded in the dresser not in the closet.”

“Right,” Steph whispered.

Gemma went back to the living room. She was flushed and used the moment to cool down, taking a large sip of wine. Steph reentered the space and smiled. She had found a cozy black sweater

“Better?”

“Much.”

“Good.” Gemma paused. “So I figured we could watch a movie or talk. I don’t know.”

Steph sat down next to Gemma with her wine glass. She continued to glance around, noticing the fridge only seemed to have a schedule on it and some takeout menus. She noticed Gemma looking at her and made eye contact. Steph scooted closer to her as Gemma laid her arm on the back of the couch. Steph leaned into it, resting against Gemma’s side.

“Can I ask you something?” Steph muttered.

“Of course.”

“Where’s all your stuff?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I love your place, but there’s no pictures or I don’t know, anything personal.”

“I didn’t feel the need to bring any of that stuff. It’s still at the house in Hertfordshire.”

“You still have the house?”

“Yeah. My friend Sian is watching it for me. I just couldn’t say goodbye to it yet.”

“But nothing to remind you of home?”

“There are few things here and there, but I don’t know. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make this place home or if it was just going to be temporary.”

“Oh, I thought it was permanent.”

Gemma could hear the disappointment in Steph’s voice. “For right now, it is. I’m happy and content, no matter what is being said about me out there.” She gestured to the city beyond the window. “All the things in that house remind me of Simon and Ta,” she caught herself, pausing, “and the stuff we did together. I didn’t need to bring those memories here.”

“That’s understandable. I only keep the pictures up of Terry because of Dean. Once Dean goes off to college, all that stuff will go into a box for him.”

“Do you miss your ex-husband?” Gemma asked.

“No. He was an angry man. Always fighting people and getting hurt or suspended from work for fighting. He was gentle with Dean, but just angry. Well maybe angry isn’t the right word. I think he was just sad. Sad and disappointed in his life that all he could do was factory work.”

“Did he ever hit you?”

“No. Never. His anger was always towards other men.”

“Maybe he’s gay.”

Steph laughed. “I highly doubt that. This would be a different situation if he was.”

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t know. If I caught him sleeping with a man, I feel like I would have been able to forgive him because he would have been living his truth, but seeing him shag Lisa, it was just…” Steph exhaled.

“Like your entire world had been pulled out from under you and everything you ever thought you knew about anything was a lie because the one person you were supposed to trust most in this world left it all behind for a quick fuck.”

“Exactly.” Steph held out her wine glass which Gemma cheered. “I had never felt the wind sucked out of me quite like I did in that moment.”

“I know what you mean. I was at my husband’s birthday party that I had planned for weeks when I found that phone. I had to put on a happy face for maybe thirty minutes and then pretended to be sick so I could leave.”

“Why do men do it?”

“My old neighbor said that all men cheat. It’s in their nature.”

“Disgusting.”

“I know.”

Steph placed her wine glass on the coffee table and turned towards Gemma. Her legs rested on Gemma’s thigh. She reached down and rested her free hand against Steph’s knee. “I think your flat is a little depressing.”

Gemma laughed. “All the dark colors?”

“And the lack of personal stuff.”

“I have my reasons for that.”

“And they would be.”

Gemma smiled sympathetically. “Something I’m not ready to share yet.”

“Okay.” Steph reached behind to play with a piece of Gemma’s hair, twirling it with her finger.

“If it helps, though, there are things here, just hidden in cupboards and drawers. For example, under my television, there are tons of records, hints the record player on my bookshelf. There are also movies and few more books. I don’t have flowers because I can’t keep a plant alive to save my life, especially right now. And I tidied before I left because this place was an absolute disaster and my house has never been this clean in my entire life.”

Steph chuckled and smiled at Gemma. “I think I would have liked the mess.”

“Well, next time I’ll leave it for you and maybe you and Dean can help me put some life into it.”

“Careful. You’ll have toys everywhere.”

Gemma thought of Tom’s stuff in their small sitting room. How he would never pick up a toy and the way Simon would pretend to step on it to make Tom laugh. She smiled at the memory before she felt the sudden sadness. “I don’t think I’d mind.”

“You say that now, but the next thing you know, you live in a toy store isle where a five year old was free to do whatever they like.”

“Better than everything clean and spotless. I rarely ever have time to clean. I tend to work as much as I possibly can.”

“That’s because you come home to darkness.”

“I thought you said you liked my flat?”

“I do. I’m just teasing you.”

“Well, I am willing to take any help I can get.”

Steph sat up and straddled Gemma’s hips, catching her by surprise. She wrapped one arm around Steph and pushed forward, putting her wine glass on the wooden coffee table. When she leaned back, rubbing both of Steph’s thighs, Steph noticed something.

“What’s this?” She asked, looking at Gemma’s nose in the light.

“What?”

“There is a tiny scar here on your nose.”

“Oh. Yeah there is.”

“What’s it from?”

She took a sharp exhale. “Simon,” Gemma answered, blankly.

“He hit you?”

Gemma nodded. “I wanted to do everything in my power to make him feel as hollow and lonely as I did when I found out what he did to me. I wanted him to know how low it felt. How awful it was. I made him believe that I took away the one thing he wouldn’t be able to live without, but it was a lie, of course. He didn’t like my reasoning and grabbed me. He pushed me into our kitchen doors. He let go and turn around and basically hit my face into the glass. A small piece cutting the bridge of my nose.”

“What?” Steph whispered.

Gemma shrugged. “I don’t know. I blacked out from the pain and when I came to, my neighbor was helping me up while we waited for the police.” She thought of her bandaged hand and blurriness of reaching for Tom.

She was in another world when she felt Steph cup her cheeks. “I’m sorry that happened to you.”

“What did I say about apologizing?”

“Is that why you came here?”

“No. That was before they left for London and came back.”

Steph rubbed her thumb against Gemma’s cheek. She leaned in and kissed the small scar. Gemma inhaled deeply, never really paying attention to it. Steph pulled back.

“Was he arrested?”

“Yes, but I didn’t press charges. He had never been violent before and I know what I said to him pissed him off beyond words. It’s my fault, but I did it on purpose.”

“What is it that he thought you took away?”

Gemma smiled. “Why are we talking about him? Or you ex for that matter? Shouldn’t we be focusing on us? Now, here, alone?”

“That’s true. We are alone,” Steph whispered.

“In my sad, depressing flat.”

Steph laughed. “Yeah and you said you wanted to put some life in it.”

Gemma smiled. She leaned forward, pressing her lips against Steph’s in a heated kiss. Steph’s arms wrapped around Gemma’s shoulders. Gemma pulled Steph to her around her waist. Their breathing picking up as one kiss blended into the next. Steph’s fingers moved to the back of Gemma’s hair, playing with it before giving it a light tug. Gemma moaned into Steph’s mouth, her back arching. She felt Steph’s hips move in a forward motion and grabbed her backside.

Gemma broke their kiss, Steph’s eyes still closed. She leaned forward and kissed her neck. Steph hummed above her, giving Gemma more room. She caught her breath when she felt Gemma’s teeth against her skin.

“Don’t leave a mark,” she whispered.

Gemma laughed. “I’m not fifteen and I’ve barely bitten you.”

Gemma sat back to look at Steph. She scooted upwards holding Steph to her. Steph shifted, loosening Gemma’s arms and laid down against the couch pulling Gemma on top of her. Their giggles filled the space before their lips connected again. Gemma laid between Steph’s legs. She slowly thrusted against Steph, getting lost in the moment.

Gemma’s hands explored Steph’s body. She ran her hand up Steph’s thighs to her breasts. She lifted the jumper to feel her soft skin. She was running her fingers over Steph’s hip bone when she felt her pull away.

“What’s wrong?” Gemma asked.

“Nothing. It’s just, I’ve never been with a woman so I don’t really know what to do.”

“Do you want to stop?”

Steph was hesitant, breathing heavy, enjoying Gemma’s touch. “No,” she paused. She kissed Gemma’s lips one more time, feeling Gemma’s hand under the sweater before stopping again. “Wait, yes. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I would never do anything to pressure you. If you’re not comfortable or-“

“I am comfortable. I love being with you. I just don’t want to make a fool out of myself.”

“How would you make a fool out of yourself?”

“I don’t know.”

Gemma smiled sympathetically and sat up. Steph followed her. Gemma pecked her lips. “You know I can teach you. It’s not that challenging.”

“I know.”

“When you’re ready, you let me know and then we’ll give it a go. Sound good?”

Steph nodded. “Have I ruined everything?”

“What? No, Love. Not at all. It’s completely understandable.” Gemma grabbed the remote and turned on the television. She laid back against her side of the couch and pulled Steph to her. They laid against one another, Gemma on her back and Steph laying her head upon her chest. They settled on a random nature documentary. Steph felt herself completely calm and relaxed laying next to Gemma.

Gemma kissed the top of head, scratching her scalp. She slowly dozed off, Steph not too far behind her.

——————————-

Gemma was running. The hotel so vivid in her mind. The emptiness. She saw his black hair at the end of the hallway and called for him. He was still a boy. He giggled at her and his smile warmed her heart. She felt at peace as she chased after him. When she turned the corner, he was gone. Panic immediately set in until she heard him call her. She turned around to see him older now. Still smiling. He gestured for her to come as he ran outside. This time she didn’t feel calm. She shouted for him as she ran as fast as she could. He was at the fence that would take him to the bank. She shouted for him again.

Steph stirred from her slumber, Gemma twitching against her.

The slightest word past her mouth, but Steph couldn’t comprehend it.

“Gemma,” she whispered, laying her hand against Gemma’s heart to hold herself up.

Gemma continued to run after him. The excitement dwindling to nervousness. She was scared. She got to the top of the bank and saw him standing there by the traffic. He waved at her, her heart pounding.

“No,” she mumbled in her sleep.

“Gem?”

“Tom,” it was barely a whisper. “Tom, please.” Steph wiped away a single tear from Gemma’s cheek.

She couldn’t move from the top of the bank. He gestured at her to come. She tried to scream for him to stop. She tried everything she could, but she was paralyzed to the top of the hill. He smiled at her one last night. “I love you,” he said. He jumped as she screamed “Tom!”

Gemma jerked awake. She didn’t know where she was or why she was so warm.

“Shh,” she heard. “It’s alright.”

Steph was now leaning over her, sitting in the small space left on the couch, rubbing her arm. Gemma sat up, her head falling straight into her hands. She groaned.

“I’m sorry. Did I wake you?”

“Yes, but that’s fine. Are you alright?”

Gemma clenched her teeth. She was on the verge of a breakdown. The sight of Tom jumping on replay in her mind, but she could feel it. She knew, wherever he was, he was still okay. He wasn’t hurt.

Steph rubbed her back as Gemma did everything she could to keep her emotions intact. She felt herself calm down, pushing her dream away. She finally looked up with a small smile.

“I’m alright. Just a weird dream. Probably from the wine.”

“Are you sure?” Steph’s voice was full of concern and eyes worried.

Gemma leaned forward. She smoothed the line in Steph’s forehead before pecking her lips. “Yes.” Steph leaned forward kissing her lips once more. They shared a brief smile before Gemma closed her eyes. She was exhausted.

“Should we go to bed?” Gemma asked, her voice full of sleep.

“I actually should be getting home. I told my mum I wouldn’t be out too late and it’s already later than I expected it to be.”

“Okay.”

“Sorry.”

Gemma smiled. “There is no need to be. I understand.”

Gemma got off the couch and pulled Steph into an embrace. They swayed with one another for a moment, moving to unheard music. A couple kisses were shared while they finished their wine. Steph called for a cab and then her mum while Gemma cleaned their glasses.

“Well just got an earload from my mother, but at least she took a nap, which I guess I interrupted.”

“Aw,” Gemma smiled, “You could have stayed all night then.”

“Yeah. I wish I could, but guess you’ll have to come round to mine for that.”

“I wouldn’t mind.”

“No? Even with a child who could wake up from a fright?”

“We all have bad dreams. I think I’m an example of that tonight.”

“Well, I would love for you to come.”

“Let me know when.” Gemma gestured to the door. She helped Steph with her jacket and grabbed her dress for her. “Stay in the sweats, I think you’ll be warmer. I can’t have you freezing out there.”

Steph laughed. “Thanks. I’ll wash and return.”

“No rush.”

Gemma walked Steph downstairs as they waited for Steph’s cab. Their fingers were intertwined the entire way down. Once outside, Gemma lit a cigarette. She knew with Steph gone, her dream would stick with her, but she continuously did everything she could to distract herself.

“So how many people do you think are going to know about us by tomorrow?” Gemma asked.

“What do you mean?”

“We held hands at the dinner table, in public, for the world to see. The waiter continuously looked at our hands which to me means, the entire restaurant staff must know by now. And I’m sure the valet guy saw us kissing.”

“Yeah, well I don’t really care if they know or not.”

“No?”

Steph shook her head. “I like you. I like being with you. You comfort me and make me happy. I’m not going to let a gossipy town ruin something good for me. They tried to run me down with my parties. If that didn’t do it, this certainly won’t.”

Gemma looked quite impressed. “Good.”

“Do you care?”

“After everything with Simon and Hertshireford, no. You also make me happy and I also am very fond of you. You make me feel peace which I haven’t felt for quite some time.”

“Good and don’t worry, I’ll deal with my mother. She probably already knows now.”

Gemma smirked. “I’ll be sure to be on my best behavior when and if I meet her.”

“Thank you for tonight. I had a really good time.”

“I did as well. Sorry about the dream scare.”

“I didn’t mind. You were just muttering in your sleep about Tom? I think that’s the name you said.”

“Was it?”

“Yeah. You said it a few times. Sounds like you were pleading with him. Do you know him? This Tom fellow?”

Gemma’s heart raced at the name. Her dream filling her mind. The memories of her son. She felt her eyes water, but took a puff of her cigarette to calm herself. “No. Must have just been one of those things.” Her breath was shaking and her voice was not as strong as she would have liked it to be.

“Are you sure?”

Gemma gritted her teeth. “Yes,” she said sharply.

It caught Steph off guard as her car pulled up. “I hope I didn’t say anything to offend you.”

“No. I just don’t know a Tom. It’s just something my brain came up with.”

“Alright. I’m sorry.”

“Please stop saying you’re sorry. You have nothing to be sorry about. Dreams happen. We don’t have control over them.”

“Right. Um, my cars here.”

“Yes.”

“So I’ll see you soon? I hope.”

Gemma exhaled the smoke with a sigh. She managed to smile. “Of course.”

“Good.”

Steph took a small step forward and took Gemma’s free hand. Gemma stepped closer, kissing her passionately. It lasted a few moments before the car honked. They both jumped at the loud sound.

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” Steph said.

“Please do.”

“Okay.”

They kissed one last night before Steph opened the cab door. “Get home safe,” Gemma said. Steph waved and the car drove off.

Gemma immediately sat down on the front steps of her building as she cried. All the pain she felt had built up and she couldn’t even move. It was silent and painful. Her eyes and nose wouldn’t stop running as she sobbed to herself. She managed to pull herself up and go inside.

Once back in her apartment, she took her coat off and looked around at her bare walls and what seemed to be like no one lived there. She went to the cabinet under her televisions and slowly, one by one, put out all the framed photos she had of Tom. From when he was a baby to last photo she had of him. Some on the bookshelf, some on the television stand. One on the side table. Her loose photos went to the refrigerator in the kitchen. A couple of small items of Tom’s were placed here and there to remind her of her home. Of her son.

Gemma went to bed, feeling like the life had been sucked out of her. She cried more to herself as she laid in her bed. A photo of a teenage boy sitting on her nightstand, taken after Simon had left for London when he seemed happy again. Content. She rolled onto her back and thought about Steph. She was cross with her that she would surely have to apologize for. She didn’t mean to be, but she felt the need to be defensive. She thought about Steph’s smile and her tender touch. The way she laughed and her blue eyes. She managed to calm herself and fall into a dreamless sleep, hugging a pillow to herself, wishing it was Steph.

Chapter Text

Steph sat at her desk, Hellie and Dawn chatting away. She stared at an order in her hand for new lingerie, but couldn’t focus on anything that was written on the pink piece of paper. It had been a few days since their date and she hadn’t heard from Gemma. It was as if she had disappeared. Steph thought of everything that she could have possibly done or said, but kept coming up blank. She wanted to see her, to talk to her, but Gemma had ignored her phone calls, leaving her phone to ring continuously. One morning it irked Steph so terribly that she debated about going to the clinic, but thought that would be rather invasive.

The office door opened and slammed. Steph perked up wondering if Gemma had the same idea as her and came to her office.

“Alright look,” Nita exclaimed. Steph’s heart deteriorated. She was happy to see her friend, but had hoped it was Gemma. She smirked none the less at the determination in Nita’s face. Nita came straight to Steph’s desk and looked down at her, Hellie and Dawn stopping mid conversation to stare.

“I’ve given it a lot of thought. I’ll come work with you guys, but I want to be able to do parties on occasion, even if it’s training someone else and I have to be gone by 2, to pick up the kiddies from school.”

Steph smiled broadly. “Welcome to the team, Nita.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah. I told you, you can work whatever hours you like.”

“Right.”

“So are you starting today?” Steph asked, grateful for the distraction.

“Yes,” Nita answered.

Steph pointed to a desk that had already been setup. It had Ann Summers stationary laying in the middle with pens and pencils. A few binders full of paperwork, a small plant, a coffee mug with her name printed on it and a welcome sign.

“When did you do that?” Nita asked, looking at it.

“When I first mentioned it. I can’t have a head office and not have my best mate working with me.”

“And what will I be doing?”

“Well Dawn handles inventory of what we have in house and what we need to order. Hellie works on the books. I want you to be our party planner slash coordinator. You always mentioned you wanted to keep doing parties. This way, it’ll be your responsibility to set the right people up to host as well as helping keep people on their schedules. How does that sound? Good?”

“Yeah. Brilliant.”

“Cool. Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Sure.”

“Get yourself settled and then we can go to the kitchenette.”

“The what?” Nita asked, slipping out of her coat. She rested it on the back of her chair.

“Dawn, Hellie? Tea?”

“Whiskey sour, if you have it,” Dawn answered, picking up the phone.

“I’m alright. Thanks, Steph.”

Nita followed Steph to the back of the office where there was a small little kitchen. A mini-fridge and a half sink, with a couple of thin cabinets.

“Do we share this with the whole complex?” Nita asked.

“No this whole part of the building is ours. They treat us right here.”

Steph turned on the kettle to boil water. Nita noticed something was off.

“Why the long face, Steph?”

“What long face?”

“This sad face I haven’t seen since Johnny stopped calling.”

“I just didn’t sleep well is all.”

“That girl already break your heart?”

“What?” Steph asked, turning around to look at Nita.

“You know you’re the talk about town.”

“When am I not?”

“Good point.” The kettle dinged. Steph washed out Nita’s mug before grabbing her own. She filled them both with water, grabbing tea bags from above her head in the cabinet. “Were you seriously not going to tell me about this doctor your shagging?”

“We haven’t.”

“Not what I’ve heard.”

“We’ve only gone out a couple times and I guess I did something because I haven’t heard from her since Saturday.”

“She’s probably busy, Love.”

“Yeah maybe.” Steph paused. She mindlessly stirred cream into her tea. “I just feel like I did something or said something, but I don’t know what. I keep racking my brain about it, thinking of everything I did and said, trying to figure it out.”

“I’m honestly kind of surprised. You actually like her?”

“Yeah, I do. A lot.”

“Like who?” Hellie asked, stepping into the area.

“A doctor,” Nita answered.

“No way! You actually went out with that doctor?!” Dawn asked, following in.

“I did, yes.”

“Well done. She’s a hot fox, that one.”

“She?” Hellie asked, surprised.

“It’s all very sudden. I don’t know. I never thought I’d be attracted to a woman, but she has this presence about her that I’m so drawn to. She’s so kind and quiet and I think a little sad about something, but I don’t know what. She’s generous and caring. I don’t… I don’t know.”

“I just didn’t think you were, uh, I mean, I didn’t know you were a-“ Hellie stumbled over her words. Dawn remembered Hellie’s feelings towards Steph and could see the heartbreak forming in her.

“I’m not,” Steph declared. “I mean I don’t know. Like I said, I didn’t expect it. I met her at the one year anniversary party at Pauline’s and then when Dean was sick a couple weeks ago, she was so gentle with him that I randomly asked her to come to my house for dinner. Then we went to the steakhouse and I went back to her flat for a while and I don’t know, it just feels right.”

“Have you kissed her?” Nita asked, taking a sip of tea with a broad smile.

“Stop,” Steph laughed. “Don’t make fun of me.”

“I’m not,” Nita exclaimed. “I’m proud of you for always listening to your heart, but have you?”

Steph’s cheeks flushed as she grinned. She bit her lip and nodded.

“I’ve never been with a woman,” Dawn stated.

“Me either,” Nita agreed.

They looked towards Hellie. She looked shocked to say the least. “Sorry, uh, excuse me.”

Hellie quickly left, Dawn calling after her.

“Is she?” Steph asked.

“Not my place to say,” Dawn answered.

“Did I offend her?”

“No. I’m just going to go check on her. Rough morning.” Dawn turned around and called for her.

Steph looked at Nita who was still smirking at her.

“What?” Steph laughed.

“Stephanie Kirke, shagging a woman. I can’t believe it.”

“We’re not having sex.”

“Excuse me, snogging a woman. Yes?”

Steph nodded.

“What’s it like?”

“Oh come on!”

“No seriously. I’ve got five kids and never had the chance to do it so now I have to live vicariously through you.”

“It’s nice.” Steph thought about the intensity she felt while kissing Gemma. How even though she stopped them from going further, she can’t stop thinking about what Gemma’s touch against her skin felt like.

“Just nice?”

“No, it’s… it’s passionate and intense. My whole body electrifies when she kisses me. But, at the same time, it’s soft and gentle. I feel protected. She has never pushed me further than I’m willing to go. We just have this connection that I always thought I’d have with a man, but this is more.”

“More how?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt this nervous to sleep with someone.”

“I mean this is a new experience. It’s probably because it’s with a woman and I’m assuming you haven’t done that before.”

“I haven’t, no, but it’s more than that. It’s not that I don’t want to. I want to sleep with her. I want to make her feel good, but I don’t want to mess it up. I just feel like, I don’t know, that we were supposed to meet. As soon as I saw her, something in me changed. She made me nervous and excited and I don’t know. I just can’t imagine not being with her.”

“Well, well, well this Doctor Foster must be pretty powerful.”

“She’s great. She really is, but I must have done something. It’s been almost a week and no word at all. She won’t even answer when I call.”

“She’s a doctor, it’s winter, gross snotty children and adults going to see her. She might just be busy and knackered.”

“Maybe.” Steph looked back down at her mug. “I hope. After Johnny left, I didn’t think I’d feel this way again and now I’m worried I’ve lost her before it even started.”

“Just keep trying.”

“Yeah.”

Nita wrapped her arm around Steph’s shoulder and hugged her. “Come on. I’m a business woman now in a windbreaker. What’s the dress code?”

Steph laughed. “Just make sure you have one business attire outfit here. That’s what I do so when I know the boss is coming, I change into it.”

“Smart.”

--------------------------------------

Gemma sat at her desk between patients. It was technically her lunch break, but she hadn’t had an appetite. She was racked with guilt over how she left things with Steph. She hadn’t bared to pick up the phone, not knowing what to say, but she missed her. She missed everything about her. She didn’t mean to be cross, but she couldn’t talk about Tom. She didn’t want anyone to know. She didn’t want people to know how terrible she felt. That’s why she left.

To help herself, Gemma constantly reminded herself that finding love was not the reason she moved to Sheffield. It was to just get away from everyone, but now she had never felt more lonely. She even tried to go out with Sarah and other coworkers, but after one drink, she felt miserable.

She stared out the window when her phone started ringing. She saw the name and immediately picked up.

“Sian!”

"Hey, how’s it going?"

“Tom?”

"No. I’m sorry. I just hadn’t heard from you and wanted to make sure you settled in nicely."

Gemma sighed. “Yeah. It’s alright.”

"Meeting people? Going out?"

“A little yeah. How’s the house?”

"It’s good."

“And you don’t mind being there?”

"Absolutely not. I did buy a new mattress though. No offense, but I know how much you were doing and thought I rather have a nice new one that only I had slept on."

Gemma laughed. “That’s understandable. It was old anyway.”

"Seriously though. How are you doing?"

“It’s been an adjustment moving North, but I’m okay.”

"You haven’t been hibernating have you. You’ve gone out and met people?"

“Yeah. A few.” There was a pause until she heard Sian gasp with excitement on the other end of the phone.

"Oh my gosh. You’ve met someone."

“What? No.”

"You have!"

“I haven’t.” Gemma paused. “How can you even tell?”

"It’s a gift. Well go on. What’s the bloke’s name?"

“It’s not… it isn’t a man.”

"You finally took my advice. I mean it should have been me you wanted to experiment with, but I told you women are better."

“We haven’t done anything other than kissing and for the record, I experimented in college so even if it had been you, you wouldn’t have been the first.”

"Am I supposed to feel flattered?"

“Look it doesn’t matter. I was rude to her the other night and I’ve been ignoring her since.”

"Why?"

“Because I didn’t move here for this. I moved here to get away from everyone questioning me, not to fall in love with someone.”

"Have you?"

“Have I what?”

"Fallen in love with her?"

“Don’t be ridiculous. We barely know each other.”

"But she makes you happy?"

“So happy. Happier than I have felt in a long time.”

"But?"

“I haven’t told her about Tom and it’s eating me alive. She has this little boy, Dean and he’s so sweet, but every time I’m with her and she talks about him, I immediately think of Tom.”

"So tell her."

“Tell her what? That I failed as a mother? That I couldn’t see my own son’s pain because I was so wrapped up in myself and ruining Simon’s life that I felt that more important? That I knew he went to you for anxiety because he couldn’t sleep. That he heard me and Simon fucking in the other room and most likely heard us every time we had sex in that house. What am I supposed to say?”

Gemma and Sian went quiet for a minute. Gemma trying to hold it together as tears fell down her cheeks.

"That you miss him."

Gemma broke down. The tears wouldn’t stop and she couldn’t catch her breath.

"Gemma, him running away had nothing to do with you. He knows you love him. You tried your hardest and one day he will show up. He just got drunk one night and messed up. He was confused and… I don’t know, Gemma."

Gemma caught her breath. She put the phone down and blew her nose. She sat for a minute before picking it back up.

“What do I do?”

"About what?"

“Steph.”

"Do you like her?"

“I do, yeah. I like her a lot.”

"Do you want to see her again?"

“More than anything. She’s the only thing in recent months that has made me feel genuinely good.”

"Then go to her. Apologize for the other night."

“It’s just. We fell asleep together on the couch, and I had that nightmare again about Tom jumping.”

"Right."

“Well, I apparently said his name multiple times out loud. I woke her up because of it and when she asked who ‘Tom’ was, I said I didn’t know. I was cross with her.”

"So apologize."

“I’ve been ignoring her phone calls. I don’t know what to say. Usually I don’t care about this kind of stuff and lying, but there is just something about her that makes me regret not being honest.”

"What are you doing after work?"

“What?”

"Sounds like you should stop by her apartment tonight with some flowers and maybe some take away. Sit down with her and just tell her."

“How do I tell her, I lied to her? How do I talk about Tom without crying?” Her voice broke again.

"Because you’re strong. Because you clearly like this girl so much that I find it a little disgusting. I’ve never seen you this worried about talking to someone before. I’ve seen you strong so I know you are. And if she is as amazing as she already sounds, she’s going to be there with you."

“Yeah.”

"So I say give it a go. She’s a mother. She’ll understand more than most."

There was a knock on Gemma’s office door. She checked the time.

“Shit, I’ve got to go. Lunch break over.”

"Alright. Will you call me sometime? Stop making me check up on you?"

Gemma laughed. “Yeah, of course.”

"Good. It feels very one sided when you don’t check in."

“Sian?”

"Yeah?"

“Thank you for everything. The house, Tom, advice, being there for me when I was so mean to you.”

"You weren’t mean to me. You were furious with Simon and wanted to make sure you weren’t going to get fucked over by me. I always liked your spunk, never really cared for Simon that much to begin with."

“Well still. Thank you.”

"Anytime."

“Bye.”

Gemma hung up her phone. She rubbed her thumb against her lips a couple of times before stepping out of the office. Sarah looked up at her.

“Long lunch break?”

“No, I was just on the phone. Give me 5? I’m going to step out for a smoke and then I’ll be back.”

“You’re the superior doctor. You can technically do whatever you want.”

“Thanks.”

As she puffed on her cigarette, she thought about Sian’s advice, debating if just dropping by would be the best option after ignoring Steph for the past five days.

--------------------------------------

Steph walked into a quiet house when she got home from work. Her arms were full of groceries as she carried them into the kitchen. Dean was sitting at the table with some biscuits while he worked on his homework.

“Hello, Love,” she greeted, kissing the top of his head.

“Hi, Mummy.”

“How was school?”

“It was alright. I just have to work on these math problems.”

“Is it going alright? Do you need help?”

“No, I’m alright.”

“Where’s ya Gran?”

“Doing some laundry.”

Steph started putting the food items away when she heard the back door open.

“Hi, Mum.”

“You’re back late.”

“It’s barely 7.” Joan made a face of displeasure. “Yeah sorry, I grabbed a pint at the pub with the girls to celebrate Nita joining the team and then had to go to the store.”

“I thought I’d help you with some of your laundry since it seemed to be piling up.”

“Thanks. How was today?”

“It was good. Got together with some of the ladies from my bridge club. They had plenty more to say about your Doctor Foster.”

Steph sighed. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“Did you know she has a-”

“Mum, the only things I want to hear about Gemma are if Gemma decides to tell me. No more. I hate how much everyone talks in this town.”

“And when were you going to tell me you were seeing her?”

Steph froze in front of the refrigerator while opening the door.

“Dean, can you go upstairs for me, Love?”

Dean nodded and headed upstairs. Steph waited until the door closed.

“And who told you that?” Steph asked, putting a carton of eggs into the cool space.

“Well it was pretty obvious from you two touching and kissing at the restaurant. And I was talking to your neighbor, Mrs. Priestly. She said she saw you two necking on the front steps of your house the other night.”

“Why can’t people mind their own business?”

“So it’s true?”

“Yes, Mum, it’s true.”

“And when were you going to tell me?”

“Why would I tell you?” Steph asked, her voice rising.

“Do you really want to bring your son up around that kind of filth?”

Steph slammed the refrigerator door closed. “Listen to yourself! You wonder why I didn’t tell you. Who cares who I’m seeing?”

“I do. Your son needs a man in his life.”

“He has Terry. Terry sees him every weekend. He still has his dad.”

“Not here, though. What if this influences your son?”

“To be what? Gay? Do you honestly think I would care if my son was gay or straight or whatever? I want my son to be happy.”

“And you think this, THIS, is what is going to make him happy?”

“He likes Gemma. She’s good with him. She’s so kind and caring with him. I can’t help how I feel about her, but I care for her deeply.”

“You will stop this nonsense.”

“Stop!” Steph shouted. “I’m not fifteen anymore. You can’t tell me what to do or who to date. I don’t care what you’ve heard about Gemma because I know her. She is honest with me. Not that it even matters. It doesn’t. I haven’t spoken to her since the night at the restaurant. I must have said something that upset her so you can be happy knowing that I think it’s over. But can’t you understand that I just want to be happy? Why can’t you understand that?” Steph’s voice broke as tears filled her eyes. “I just want someone to love me and cherish me. I thought I had that with Terry. I really did, but he ruined it all. Not only my life, but Barry’s life as well. Gemma is the first person since Johnny that I have felt a real connection to. This isn’t some fling. This was real and I messed it up. So go tell your gossipers to mind their own business and to leave me alone.”

Joan stood there, silently. It’s what Steph hated the most. It always made her feel like she was talking to a wall.

“I won’t look after your son if that woman stays in your life,” she said, calmly.

“Why would you punish my child, your grandchild, over something so stupid?”

“You’re better than that lifestyle. Your son deserves better.”

“What lifestyle, Mum? I didn’t expect to like a woman, it just happened.”

“I’m glad it’s over. I’m tired of my daughter being the subject of the town’s news,” Joan sneered.

Steph just stood there in shock. Joan collected her bag and left without another word. Steph leaned against the table and held her face in her hand as she started crying. This was the last thing she needed. She had gotten her hopes up about Gemma and missed her. And even though she was glad that the town told her mother about her and Gemma, the pain of not having her there added to her emotions. She sat on the floor and rested her head against her knees. A few moments passed when she felt two small arms wrap around her. She sniffled, but smiled when she looked up.

“I’m sorry you heard your Gran and I fighting,” she whispered. She straightened her legs out and opened her arms to her son. He sat down on her lap and she hugged him. “I love you so much, Dean.”

“I love you too.”

Steph managed to calm herself down as she clung to her son. She knew this routine. She had to put on a strong face now so he knew everything was alright. She would cry later, in her bedroom.

“Have you had your tea, Love?”

“No, Gran said to wait for you.”

“Aren’t you starving? It’s late.”

“I have my biscuits.”

“So you do. What should we eat?” Steph asked, wiping the tears from her cheeks.

“I don’t know.”

“Something with vegetables?”

Dean made a face of disgust. “No.”

“No? Don’t you want to be big and strong like Daddy?”

“Yeah.”

“Then you gotta eat your greens, Love.”

Dean smiled. “There’s got to be another way.”

Steph laughed as she cupped his cheeks. “Maybe, but this is a good start.”

Dean shrugged. He kissed Steph’s cheek before getting up, Steph following him. “Why don’t you finish these problems and I’ll sort something out, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“And I figured we could call Daddy later, see if we can maybe go meet him tomorrow for dinner halfway. How does that sound?”

Dean’s little face brightened as Steph’s suggestion. “I’d like that.”

“I know you would, Mister.”

Steph poked his sides a few times, tickling him and laughing. She kissed the side of his head and thought about dinner. The doorbell rang catching them both off guard. Steph scratched the back of Dean’s head before heading towards it. She opened the door and saw Gemma’s back to her.

As soon as Gemma heard the door open she flicked her cigarette to the street and turned around.

“Uh, hiya,” she said, nervously.

“Hey.” Steph leaned against the door frame, crossing her arms against her chest.

“I’m sorry for stopping by like this and for, uh, disappearing on you and not answering your calls. I went to a dark place the other night and I couldn’t get out of it. I’m sorry for being cross with you when you left Saturday. I didn’t mean to be. I just worry that you’re so amazing that if you like me, I’m going to take you down some shit path that you don’t deserve, but in all honesty, I’ve just missed you so much and I was going to call, but I wanted to see you, not hear you and so here I am,” Gemma blabbed. She exhaled, needing a breath after her monologue.

Steph smiled. “I’ve missed you too.”

“Have you?”

Steph nodded. She leaned forward and pressed her lips against Gemma’s. They immediately embraced, both of their stomachs filled with butterflies. They stood there with their eyes closed in each other’s space before pulling away.

“I’m sorry if I said anything that upset you the other night,” Steph admitted. “I’ve been racking my brain about it, but I don’t know. I just hope I didn’t offend you about your flat or because I wouldn’t have sex with you. I don’t know.”

Gemma smiled. “I would never be offended that you didn’t want to have sex and you didn’t say anything. It was my doing. I was just in a bad headspace. It’s hard for me to get out of it sometimes and that dream just put me off. I was confused. Look, can we forget that the ending to our night happened? Start new?”

“I don’t know.”

Gemma felt her heart sank.

“I don’t really want to start new. I mean I’m not fully ready yet, I don’t think, but eventually I would like to have sex you with you, but if we start new, we’re going to have to push that back for like at least a month and I don’t know if I want to wait that long.” Steph smirked.

“Well if that’s the case then…” Gemma paused. She needed to apologize. “I am sorry for being cross with you.”

“You weren’t cross, just cold.”

“Then I’m sorry for being cold, ignoring your calls, my immaturity.”

“You’re forgiven as long as you don’t do it again.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

“Good.” They both stood there. Steph’s arms tightening around her body to block herself from the cold. “What’s in the bags?”

“Oh, I, uh, I brought fish and chips for us and Dean, if you’ll have me.”

“What if I had said no and slammed the door in your face?”

“Then I would be eating a lot of fish and chips for the next few days.”

Steph laughed. She took a step back from the door and gestured for Gemma to enter. “Get out of the cold. You know I’m freezing standing here.”

Gemma laughed and stepped inside.

“Dean! Come say hi to Doctor Foster!”

Steph took the bags from Gemma’s hands as the small child poked his head out from around the doorframe. His face lit up as he ran towards Gemma. He looked like he was going to jump so Gemma prepared himself, picking him up and hugging him.

“Now this was the kind of welcome I was expecting.”

Steph turned around on her way to the kitchen. “I kissed you,” she whispered, mouthing the word ‘kiss’.

“Yeah, but this hug. This is a good hug. How are you, Dean?”

“Mummy and gran had a fight.”

“Did they? About what?”

“You. Mummy was really upset.”

“Was she?”

“She was crying on the kitchen floor.”

“Well, shall we try and make her feel better then?”

Dean nodded. Gemma put him down and took off her coat, putting it on one of the hooks near the door. She was in high waisted blue trousers with a black see through blouse with a black camisole under it. She followed Dean’s footsteps into the kitchen.

“Dean, Gemma brought us fish and chips for tea.”

“That’s my favorite,” he stated, quietly.

“Is it?” She asked, stepping beside Steph and wrapping her arm around her shoulders. “Are you alright? I heard there was an argument.”

“We’ll talk about it later.”

“But are you okay?”

Steph bit her lip and looked up at Gemma. Gemma cupped her cheeks, looking into her eyes. She could see Steph trying to hold everything back. “Come here,” she whispered. She held Steph against her, her back towards Dean. Steph cried silently, wrapping her arms around Gemma’s back. She didn’t know if she was crying from relief of seeing Gemma or the words her mother had said. She felt Gemma kiss the top of her head as she settled herself. She looked up at Gemma, who wiped her tears.

“It’ll be okay,” Gemma reassured her.

“I’m just happy you’re here.”

“Me too.”

Gemma kissed her one more time before they both separated, Steph trying her hardest to not look upset.

“So Dean, I know that you love fish and chips, but I would still like for you to eat a vegetable,” Steph explained, wiping her face.

“Are you not eating veggies, Dean?” Gemma asked, turning around.

“They’re nasty.”

“I don’t think so. They’re delicious and good for you.”

“How about this, you can eat the fish and chips that Gemma brought, but only if you eat something healthy first.”

“Will you eat them as well?”

“Of course we will, Love.”

Steph turned to Gemma. “What do you think is the quickest vegetable we can make?”

“Do you have broccoli?”

Steph nodded and Gemma smiled. “Leave it to me. Get these sorted on a plate and I’ll make him some.”

“Gemma, that is his least favorite.”

“Trust me.”

“Okay,” Steph said, slyly. “But you don’t know how stubborn my boy can be.”

“I think I’ll manage. I’ve seen grown men, who won’t eat their vegetables. I don’t think a child will be too much of a problem. Just need a cutting board, a strainer and a pot.” Steph got Gemma all the supplies and handed them to her. Gemma filled the pot with water and set it to boil.

“So Dean, do you have any favorite types of sauce?” Gemma asked.

“He likes brown sauce.”

“Do you?”

Dean nodded.

Gemma cut up the broccoli into florets. “And what about you, Mum? Would you like some broccoli?”

“Sure.”

The water started bowling so Gemma turned the stove off and placed the vegetable into the strainer to steam them.

“So I have a concept to get children to eat food they don’t like,” Gemma explained. “Steph, would you mind if he ate his broccoli with brown sauce?”

“Would that be good?” Dean asked.

“Worth a shot for your favorite fish and chips, right?”

“I guess.”

Gemma scooped a spoonful onto a plate and drizzled brown sauce on them. This was how she got Tom to eat his greens when he was little. He eventually didn’t want the sauce, but it was a good starting place. She put the plate in front of Dean. She grabbed two more plates for her and Steph and they joined him at the table. “One little bite,” Gemma encouraged. “Let’s see how it goes.”

Dean took one bite, chewing and swallowing.

“How was that?” Gemma asked.

“It was alright.”

“Better than just bad?”

Dean nodded and continued to eat his broccoli. Gemma looked up at Steph. “Thank you,” she mouthed and Gemma just smiled. They each finished their plate of broccoli and Steph took them, shifting the fish and chips from their containers to their plates.

“I don’t have any wine,” Steph announced. “Would you like something else to drink?”

Gemma smiled. “Tea, if you have it.”

“Of course.”

“Can I help you?” Gemma asked as Steph placed a plate in front of her. Steph smiled, leaning down to peck her lips. Dean watched them curiously.

“No. I’m alright. Thank you though.”

Steph carried the last two plates over, placing one in front of Dean and where she was sitting. Dean immediately started eating his food with his hands while Gemma and Steph used forks for their fish.

“Dean, slow down. No one is going to take your food. Chew slowly and?”

“With my mouth closed.”

“Good.”

Dean started to pace himself. Steph looked over at Gemma, who took a small bite of her food before looking up and making eye contact. Steph reached across the table, Gemma meeting her so they could touch hands. Gemma rubbed her thumb against the back Steph’s hand a couple of times.

“Why are you holding hands?” Dean asked after swallowing his bite of food. Gemma started to let go, but Steph held on a little tighter.

“We like each other,” Steph answered.

“And is that why you kiss?”

“Do you think it’s weird?”

Dean shrugged. “Gran thinks it bad.”

Gemma looked towards Steph. “Gran thinks that way about a lot of stuff. That doesn’t mean you have to think the way she does. You get to make up your own mind.”

“So what’s gay then?”

“Dean, were you listening at the bottom of the stairs again instead of going upstairs like I asked?”

Dean nodded.

“Sweetheart, I told you, eavesdropping is not nice. If someone wants you to be part of their conversation, they will let you know, but when I ask you to go upstairs, I want you to go upstairs. You didn’t need to hear that talk with Gran.”

“Sorry, Mum.”

“Yeah well next time, will you please listen?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

Steph went back to her plate of food, letting go of Gemma’s hand so she could use a knife.

“But what is gay though?”

Steph sighed. “Gay means someone who is attracted to someone of the same gender. So it’s when a man is attracted to other men or a woman is attracted to another woman.”

“Is it bad like Gran said?”

“No, Love. It’s natural.”

“So you hold hands with Gemma and kiss her because you like her.”

Steph smiled and looked towards Gemma. “Yeah, I do like her.”

“But I thought mummies and daddies were only supposed to kiss.”

“Yes, they do, but sometimes there are two mummies and sometimes there are two daddies. Sometimes they’re just friends and sometimes grownups just kiss.”

“Will I want to kiss someone one day?”

“Most likely, but that’s way far away. You don’t need to worry about kissing anyone at the moment.”

Steph smiled at him, but he didn’t seem convinced. Dean looked towards Gemma. “Are you going to be my mum too?”

Gemma paused her chewing to look at him. “No, Love. You already have your mummy and daddy.”

“Are we still going to call Daddy tonight?” Dean asked, changing the subject. Steph and Gemma seemed to sigh with relief.

“Yes. After we have finished dinner and you solve your maths.”

That seemed to settle Dean while he continued eating silently.

“Oh,” Steph said, excitedly. Gemma looked up at her. “Nita finally joined the company today.”

“She did? That’s wonderful.”

“Yeah. It didn’t take much convincing and now I feel like I have a full staff.”

“Gives you relief, right?”

“It does, but I think you being here, has given me the most.”

“I know what you mean.”

“I’m glad you came.”

“Me too.”

Dean grabbed his napkin, wiping his hands. His plate was completely empty. He smiled up at Steph.

“Go wash your hands, let me finish my tea, please, while you finish your work and then we’ll call Daddy, okay?”

“Okay.”

Dean scooted his chair back, causing it to screech. He looked sheepishly at Gemma, who smiled politely as she chewed.

“Go on, Love.”

Dean walked to the kitchen sink, turning on the water.

“Mum hates when he does that so he always looks to adults when the chair scratches.”

“Because?”

“I don’t know. I think I’m going to start looking for a babysitter though.”

The two women finished their dinner while helping Dean with his homework. Steph washed the dishes while Gemma went through the problems and helped him with his mistakes. She put the last dish on the drying rack when she heard Gemma say, “Excellent work, Dean.”

“All done?” Dean looked up to Steph, nodding excitedly. “Alright, let's give Daddy a ring.”

Dean popped out of his chair, heading straight to the phone in the hallway.

“Do you mind?” Steph asked, standing next to Gemma.

“Of course not. I came straight from work and have some paperwork that needs to be finished. I can do that while you guys talk.”

“It’ll mostly be Dean talking, but yeah that’s fine.”

Steph leaned down, kissing Gemma. She pulled back with a smile and went to the hallway. She picked up the phone and dialed Terry’s number while Dean looked on, giddy.

“Hey, Terry. How’s it going?”

Steph half listened, but work was going well for him and he had managed to get a promotion. He sounded happier than she had heard him in a long time and she felt very proud for him.

“That’s great news, Terry. Congratulations.” He thanked her. “Right well Dean is looking very impatient so here he is.” Steph handed him the phone which he took quickly. She scratched his head before going back to Gemma.

There were a few stacks of papers on the table as she worked diligently.

“Is this even allowed? To do these out of your office? I mean aren’t these records confidential?”

Gemma smiled. “Yes, but I trust you not to look at your neighbors medical information.”

“That is a lot of trust to put on someone in a town that constantly has whispers.”

Gemma laughed. She gathered some of the stacks of papers and slipped them into her bag. Steph rolled her eyes.

“I’m not going to read them.”

“I know. I just rather be with you to make up for my immaturity these past few days.” She gathered a few more. “I just have to finish these few though so I can get them in tomorrow.”

“That’s alright. Do your work. I just realized I never made your tea. Would you like some?”

“Yeah. That would be lovely.”

Just then Dean laughed from the other side of the door. Steph laughed to herself.

“He really loves his dad, doesn’t he?”

“Yeah,” Steph answered. “But he doesn’t know why we split. I didn’t want him thinking his father was some evil man. He blamed himself for a long time, but we both reassured him that it wasn’t his fault.”

“How did you manage to do that?”

“We told him that sometimes two adults just get to a point where they can’t work together anymore and being together is too stressful and unhealthy.”

“That settled it?”

“No we had to say that several times, but he’s better now. And like I said, they talk every night. Apparently Terry got a promotion in Birmingham which will help him greatly.”

“Well that’s good then.”

“Yeah.” Steph pushed Gemma’s papers away.

“No I really have to finish those.”

“Just one minute.”

Steph sat on Gemma’s lap. She cupped her cheeks as they smiled at one another. Steph smoothed all the lines of worry on Gemma’s face. They stared at one another before they met in a kiss. Gemma wrapped her arms around Steph’s waist, bringing her closer. Their kiss expressed their sorrow for the past couple of days. They separated, letting their foreheads rest together.

“I missed you,” Steph whispered. She kissed Gemma’s cheek and then her forehead, nose and lips.

“I missed you so much. I’m so sorry.”

“Now who’s apologizing too much,” Steph teased.

The tea kettle whistled and Steph got up. Gemma felt cold with Steph no longer there. “I have a reason to apologize though because I actually did something wrong.”

“Fair point.”

“Mummy!” Dean called, “Daddy wants to talk to you!”

“Good Lord,” Steph whispered. “Do you want milk or sugar?”

“No black’s good. Thanks, Love.”

Steph place the cup of tea on the table. “This is a good chance to finish your work. I’m going to send Dean up to bathe and get ready for bed.”

“Okay.”

Gemma extended her neck for a kiss which Steph reciprocated. She headed towards the hall. “Dean, go say goodnight to Gemma and then upstairs for your bath and bed. And put your school stuff in your bag.”

Dean came through the door with a big smile on his face.

“How was talking to your dad?” Gemma asked.

“Good. He wants to see if Mum will let me stay with him in Birmingham this weekend.”

“That would be nice, wouldn’t it?”

Dean nodded. He stuffed his pencil and sheet into his bag, hanging it on the back of his chair. He walked around the table and hugged Gemma.

“Night,” He muttered.

“Night, night.”

Dean opened the door and Gemma heard “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” before her voice was muffled again. She went back to her reports as she waited for Steph. Sometime had passed when Gemma signed off on her last sheet. She was just about to reach into her bag to get the work she had put away when Steph entered.

“Sorry.”

“Not a problem. I got the most important work done.”

“Good. Dean’s in bed, very excited to see his Dad’s this weekend.”

Steph walked into the living room and sat on the couch. Gemma finished her cup of tea, placing it in the sink before walking to Steph.

“You don’t sound too happy,” Gemma stated, sitting next to her, rubbing her knee.

Steph shifted and rested her head in the crook of Gemma’s neck. She curled into her and sighed. “It’s just been an extremely long day. I’m exhausted and everything feels like it has just been building up.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I’ve been distracted these past few days at work-“

“Which was my fault.”

“Not entirely, but yes, some.”

Gemma hummed and kissed Steph’s forehead. “I am sorry.”

“I know you are. It’s alright. We all deal with things our own way, but know I’m here for you and we can talk about anything.”

“I know. Thank you and thanks for not slamming the door in my face. Giving me a chance.”

Steph smiled. “You’re very welcome.”

“So what happened with your mum?”

“Well tonight, I got in around 7 and mum just started talking. She said she had more news about you, having something-“

Gemma’s heart skipped a beat.

“But I stopped her before she could finish her sentence telling her I only want to hear your information from you. Then, of course, someone told her about us kissing and holding hands at the restaurant. And my oh so lovely neighbor informed her of our snogging outside.”

“So she knows?”

Steph nodded. “She just said awful things, Gem.”

Gemma smiled at the nickname. “About us?”

“She asked me if I wanted my son to grow up around this quote unquote filth. Worried it would influence Dean as if I would ever care if my son is gay, and told me she wouldn’t watch him as long as I was affiliated with you.”

“What did you say?”

“That I wasn’t a child. How I just wanted to be happy and have someone who loves me and my son. That you’re a good person and you do so well with him.” Steph could feel herself starting to cry. She wiped her eyes. “Oh G-d, I’m going to have to find someone to pick up Dean tomorrow from school.”

“She seriously won’t do it?”

Steph shook her head no. “She’s stubborn.”

Gemma thought for a minute. “Hold on a second.” She got up and walked back to her bag at the table. She pulled out a black notebook and looked it over. “I could do it.”

“What?”

“I’m open from 2 on. I could leave and bring him here or to you at work.”

“No, Gemma. I couldn’t ask you to do that.”

“Well it’s 9 now. How many options will you have?”

“He goes to school with Nita’s kids. She could do it.”

“Steph, I don’t mind. I can even take him to mine and then you can come over for dinner.”

“Isn’t that too much?”

“No. I wouldn’t mind having both of you in my flat. I can pack some things with me and take them home so he’ll have some toys to play with or we could play a game? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t mind.”

Gemma put her planner on the table and walked back to Steph.

“You sure?”

Gemma hovered over her with a smile. “I am one hundred percent sure.” She leaned in pecking Steph’s lips.

“Thank you.”

“All you ever have to do is ask.”

They kissed again before Gemma sat back down. Steph settled herself against her. She just wanted to be a little closer this time. She took Gemma’s hand and played with her fingers.

“So, what about you?” Steph asked.

“What about me?”

“Why did you disappear like that? You could have told me you wanted some space. I would have understood.”

“I… I got scared.”

“About what?”

“This. Us. It scares me.”

“I’m mean I’m nervous about being with a woman too, but-”

“No not that. I’m scared because I didn’t move here to fall for someone. I moved here to get away from all the staring and sympathetic smiles in Hertfordshire. And now I’m here and I’m still getting the same looks because of us. I wasn’t expecting to be in the spotlight again when there is still so much you don’t know about me.”

“Someone should have warned you about Sheffield.”

“Yeah, well, someone should have told me about this incredibly sexy woman who was going to knock me off my feet.”

Steph laughed. “I heard she’s good at wooing and kissing.”

“Hmm. I would say she’s a master at both.” Gemma smirked. “But I did. I got scared and I’m sorry I pushed you away and didn’t tell you. I’m still adjusting and I just thought it would be quiet here and no one would really know who I am, but I just happened to fall for someone who everyone apparently likes to talk about.”

“Yeah well, when you get a sex party reputation, people don’t like you all of a sudden including your ex-husband and you’re mum,” Steph joked.

“You’re mum sounds like a real stickler.”

“I just wish she wasn’t so involved with my life.”

“She doesn’t have to be.”

“I know, but I like Dean to be with someone he knows since Terry and I separated, but I think it’s time for me to find a babysitter.”

“Wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

“But I just feel like my mother would have so much more to say if I told her that.” Steph sat up with perfect posture. “Stephanie, why would you want a stranger taking care of your child? That’s dangerous and unethical while I’m in your life.” Steph rolled her eyes.

Gemma held Steph’s eye contact. “She doesn’t get to have a say in your life or how you raise your child. She can put in her opinion where she likes, but ultimately, it’s your decision and she knows that. Even if she doesn’t like who you’re dating or what your son is doing, it’s still your choice to make.”

“I know. She just gets under my skin. Maybe not having her around will help me.”

“It could.”

A quietness past through the room as Steph laid her head back against Gemma’s shoulder. She continued to fumble with their fingers, thinking about what Gemma said.

“So what’s this I hear about Terry?” Gemma asked, looking at their hands.

“Terry asked if he could have Dean for the weekend.”

“Would that be a bad thing?”

Steph looked up at Gemma. “No. Dean deserves to have a weekend with his dad, but it makes me nervous. He being gone for two nights. Terry said with this new promotion, he’s managed to secure a new flat that has two rooms for him and Dean. That he has even managed to get out of the red in his finances. He wants to celebrate with his little man.”

“That’s great though.”

“It is.”

“But?”

“There really is no but. Dean has just never been out of this house longer than a night. We never really had money to travel. I guess I’m just worried for him.”

“But he’s excited, no?”

“That’s what took me so long to come back downstairs. He’s so excited. I know this is a good thing and I am happy for Terry, but worried for Dean.”

“Why though?”

“I don’t know if Terry could handle two nights alone with him. I mean they have always been close, but he’d go out to the pub for a little bit or be at work. He would get a break. I was the one who has always been here. He never seemed to enjoy the nights where I would ask him to watch our son. It was like a chore almost sometimes. I just don’t know if he can handle Dean’s excitable energy for that long.”

“Dean never seems overly excited though.”

“He’s shy. When you get to know him a little better, he can have a lot of it. But I can’t say no to Terry. I always put Dean first.”

“When are you first?”

“It’s rare.”

“Maybe you should focus on that sometimes.”

“I could, but my son is the most important thing to me. His whereabouts, his health, his heart. My whole little world is asleep up in that bed and I won’t have him for two nights. It just seems weird going to sleep, knowing he’s not in his room.”

“But Terry will call you like you call him, won’t he?”

“Of course he will and I know Dean needs this.”

“Then it’s most likely the best thing for him right now.”

“Yeah. Ugh!”

“What?”

“That’s the other thing my mom kept saying is how Dean needs a man in the house.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know! To learn manly things like farting and grunting about house work? It’s too much for me to process at the moment and I’ve already had my cry about it so we move on.”

“Move on to what?”

Steph got a gleam in her eye before leaning forward and kissing Gemma’s lips. She moved to straddle Gemma.

“You know, Nita’s heard about us?”

“Why am I not surprised?”

“She asked if we were shagging?”

“What did you tell her?”

“That we hadn’t done that yet, but that I want to.”

“You do? Because earlier you said you weren’t sure if you were ready.”

“Yeah well, I’ve got this incredibly hot woman under me and I’ve noticed features that I like about her.”

“What? My beauty?” Gemma asked, sarcastically.

“It helps, but I don’t know.”

Steph brought Gemma’s fingers to her mouth. She kissed the tip of her middle finger and winked. Gemma laughed, pushing Steph back against the couch. They settled against one another, kissing passionately, when Steph took some initiative. She untucked Gemma’s shirt from her pants, bringing her closer against her. She was surprised by how smooth Gemma’s skin was and moaned into her mouth as she felt Gemma’s hips thrust against her.

Gemma kissed Steph’s neck, unbuttoning her shirt. She pulled back to look at her, undoing another button. Steph caught her breath and made eye contact with Gemma.

“Is this okay?” Gemma asked, quietly.

Steph nodded and watched as Gemma undid another button. Gemma scooted up to her knees, to be more stable. She used both hands as she kissed down Steph’s body. She reached the last button, opening Steph’s shirt. Steph met her lips and sat up as Gemma pushed the fabric past her shoulders. Steph untucked the rest of Gemma’s shirt, pulling it over her head.

They were both winded when Steph noticed Gemma’s toned stomach.

“Wow,” Steph whispered.

“What?” Gemma questioned, looking down.

“I wasn’t expecting that.”

“What?”

“Abs.”

“Yeah well, when your husband cheats and tries to ruin your life, you find ways to work out your adrenaline.”

“I’ll say.”

“Is it bad?”

“What? No.”

Gemma laughed. “Well stop staring.”

“Sorry.”

Gemma laid Steph back against the couch. “Do you think it’s sexy?” She asked, in a low seductive tone.

Steph bit her lip, lightly scratching her dull nails down Gemma’s back. Gemma gasped, kissing Steph to muffle herself. Steph pushed up, pinning Gemma to the other side of the couch. She held Gemma’s wrist, feeling confident.

“I think it’s very sexy,” she answered, kissing Gemma’s stomach. Gemma’s back arched as she watched, Steph’s hair feeling like silk across her skin. Steph sat up, Gemma following her, wrapping her arms around Steph’s back. She kissed her way down her chest, slowly unclasping Steph’s bra. She looked up to see Steph’s head thrown back in ecstasy.

Gemma slowly pulled the straps down, off her shoulders.

“Wait,” Steph whispered.

Gemma stopped, placing the straps back up. “I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s not that,” Steph answered, pulling her bra off. “Shall we go upstairs.”

“Yeah?”

Steph nodded. She grabbed their clothing items and made her way to the staircase. Gemma not far behind her. They were laughing which Steph shushed as they got to the second floor landing, outside Dean’s door. They walked into her bedroom, Gemma closing the door behind them. She strolled and sat on the edge of the bed, looking at Steph. She clung the clothes to her body, catching her breath. The little confidence she had seemed to falter when she saw Gemma sitting on her bed.

“You alright?” Gemma asked.

Steph stood with her mouth agape, lost in thought. Gemma stood up and cupped her cheeks.

“Steph?”

She snapped out of her trance. “Yeah? Sorry. Yes, I’m alright.”

“We don’t have to, if you don’t want to.”

“No, I do.”

“But?”

“I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“In this situation?”

“No, I just,” she sighed. “I feel a little stupid that I don’t know how to pleasure you.”

Gemma smiled. “One step at a time. First,” Gemma grabbed the clothes Steph had been covering herself with. “Let’s get rid of these.” Steph nodded, letting Gemma throw them into a chair. “Second.” Steph looked at Gemma, who smiled. “Kiss me.”

Steph grinned, cupping the back of Gemma’s neck, pulling her. It started as small pecks that lingered longer and longer until Gemma felt Steph’s tongue. She hugged Steph to her as tightly as she could, both inhaling sharply. She felt Steph’s hands on her back, unclasping her bra. She struggled with it a little bit, but managed to undo it. Time seemed to stop as they pulled away enough for Steph to reveal Gemma’s breasts. She looked up at Gemma, whose face was rather stern, but had a playful gleam in her eye.

Gemma turned Steph and walked her towards the bed. Steph bent over to untuck the covers, nervous and excited. Gemma walked up behind her and grabbed her. She held her back to her as she kissed down Steph’s neck and cupped her breasts. Steph grabbed Gemma’s hands, holding them where they were as she moaned. She tilted her head, giving Gemma more access. Gemma ran her fingers down the front of Steph’s body, leaving goosebumps in their wake. She slowly unbuttoned and unzipped Steph’s jeans. She let her fingers travel inside of the top of her underwear, brushing through Steph’s pubic hair.

Steph turned around, kissing Gemma again. Gemma laid her on the bed, pulling down her pants. Steph helped by pushing her hips up. Once they were discarded, Steph sat up, kissing Gemma’s abdominals, unclasping Gemma’s pants. Gemma, cupped the back of Steph’s head, watching carefully. Steph’s fair skin was now flushed, her lips red and swollen. Steph slipped her hands into the back of Gemma’s trousers, feeling a lacy pair of shorts. She suddenly hated the idea of her cotton underwear. Gemma smirked and pulled her own pants down. She crawled on top of Steph, placing one of her legs between her’s.

“You alright?” Gemma asked.

“Did you plan this?”

“What?”

Steph smiled. “With the sexy underwear and everything.”

“No. This is just my underwear.”

“It’s very, uh-”

“What?”

Steph blushed and leaned into Gemma’s ear. “It’s doing more to me than I thought it would.” Steph bit Gemma’s earlobe and tugged it. Gemma smiled, gasping at the sensation. Steph kissed her cheek before their lips met again. Gemma kissed down the front of her body, lightly squeezing one of Steph’s breasts. She kissed between them before taking her nipple into her mouth. Steph’s hand found its way to the back of Gemma’s head, pulling her hair lightly. Gemma hissed before taking the other nipple into her mouth. Steph’s back arched as she moaned, trying to have as much of Gemma as she could.

Gemma balanced herself on one hand to look at Steph as her other hand descended down her body, into Steph’s underwear.

“Is this alright?” Gemma asked, kissing Steph’s cheek.

“Yeah.”

Gemma felt Steph’s legs widen, as she slipped her hand in between Steph’s thighs. Steph gasped when she felt Gemma’s fingers. Gemma was surprised to feel how wet she had become.

“You’re right, my underwear did do something to you,” Gemma teased.

Steph laughed. “Shut up.”

Gemma ran her fingers back and forth a couple times before focusing on the small bud. Steph moaned in her ear, lost in the sensation. Gemma could feel Steph’s thigh against herself, and used the opportunity to give herself her own pleasure against it. She slowly inserted her fingers into Steph. Steph’s head flew back into the pillow as her back arched towards Gemma. Gemma pumped in and out of her, panting in Steph’s ear. She kissed her neck, focusing on what she was doing.

“Gemma,” Steph whispered, meeting each thrust, gasping when she felt Gemma curl her fingers inside of her. “Wait.”

“What?”

“Take them off.”

“What?”

Steph stopped and reached down, grabbing the sides of her underwear. Gemma got the hint and sat back. She pulled them down Steph’s legs, letting them fall to the floor. Steph sat up, pushing Gemma back to sit on her bottom. She sat on Gemma’s lap and grinded herself against Gemma, kissing her passionately. Gemma re-inserted her fingers back into Steph. Her head flung back as a loud moan escaped herself. Gemma shushed her, glad to know she had the skills to still get a woman off.

Steph kissed Gemma’s collarbone, her hands rubbing down the sides of Gemma’s arms.

“Fuck, Gem,” she moaned. Gemma smiled, pushing her back against the mattress. She kissed down the front of her body, Steph watching with hooded eyes. She watched as Gemma descended through her pubic hair and then felt Gemma’s tongue on the most sensitive part of her body. Gemma licked broadly a few times, moaning at Steph’s taste before going back to her center. Steph grabbed both sides of Gemma’s head, her hips thrusting upwards.

Gemma wrapped her arms under Steph’s legs to hold her hips down. Steph was lost in the pleasure Gemma was giving her. She had never had an experience like this before where all her needs were met without asking. She looked down to see Gemma staring at her. She could see a small smile around Gemma’s lips before she felt a little suction. Gemma moaned and Steph could feel it through her entire body.

Steph could feel herself getting close when she felt Gemma entered her again. She couldn’t lay still, too lost as she spread her legs, preparing herself.

“Gemma,” she panted, quietly. “I’m going to.”

Gemma didn’t let up until she heard a sharp gasp from Steph. Steph felt her body come to life as she orgasmed around Steph’s fingers and mouth. Gemma could feel her against her fingers, leaving them inside of her as she kissed between her folds one more time. Steph’s entire body spasmed at the touch, making Gemma grin. She kissed her way back up Steph’s body: bellybutton, her hard nipples, her neck before meeting Steph in a warm, heated kiss. Steph was still twitching against her fingers and moaned into mouth.

Steph held Gemma’s hand, holding her fingers inside her just a little longer before tugging them out. Gemma followed her silent instruction as she watched Steph catch her breath. She laid down next to her, feeling accomplished.

“Good?” Gemma asked.

Steph turned her head and looked at Gemma. “I don’t think I have ever come that hard in my life.”

“No? That’s a shame.”

Steph shifted, sitting on top of Gemma’s stomach. Gemma could feel Steph’s wet core against her skin.

“Are you going to teach me?” Steph asked.

“Teach you what?”

“How to touch you.”

Gemma laughed. “I just did.”

“Well I couldn’t pay attention, lost in ecstasy and all that.”

“Just so lost?”

“You’re really good. I guess all that experimenting paid off.”

“It helped, but considering I haven’t done that in about twenty years, I feel-”

“Pretty proud of yourself?” Steph grinned. “I can see your pride shining through.”

“Well, I mean, I apparently just made you come harder than anyone before so.”

“Using my own words against me?”

Gemma shrugged before smiling. Steph chuckled. She rubbed herself down Gemma’s body to kiss her.

“I should warn you,” Gemma whispered against Steph’s lips.

“What?”

Gemma flipped them over. “I like to be on top.”

Steph laughed. “Is that so?”

Gemma settled herself on Steph’s hips. Steph planted her hands on Gemma’s thighs rubbing up and down. She sat up, wrapping her arms around Gemma’s waist. They kissed a few times when Steph bit Gemma’s bottom lip. She felt Gemma’s hips shift against her.

“So are you going to teach me?” Steph whispered between kisses. Gemma nodded. Steph kissed Gemma’s neck and collarbone while cupping one of her breasts. Gemma smiled, feeling Steph’s lips around her chest. She kissed so delicately and nervously until Steph took one of her nipples into her mouth. She traced her nipple down lightly with her teeth, Gemma hissing in excitement. Steph sucked and teased a few more times before looking up with a satisfied smirk.

“Would you rather me lay down?” Gemma asked.

Steph looked up at her. “I feel like I would be better at it the first time if you were.”

Gemma nodded her head in the direction of the head of the bed. She climbed off of Steph and rested amongst the pillows, pulling Steph on top of her. Gemma took Steph’s right hand and kissed her fingertips before guiding the hand down into her underwear.

“Wait,” Steph whispered. She pulled her hand out so she could help Gemma take the lower garment off. Gemma spread her legs a little bit and Steph couldn’t help, but stare.

“You alright?” Gemma asked.

Steph licked her lips with a hungry look in her eyes. Gemma took her arm and pulled her back on top of her, taking her hand. Steph let Gemma show her how to please her in the best way she could.

“That is my-” Gemma started.

“Right.”

“I’m assuming you’ve masturbated?”

“Of course.”

“Then show me,” Gemma stated, pressing a kiss to Steph’s lips, “what you like to do to yourself.” She kissed her again, cupping the back of her neck as Steph started to move her fingers in a circle. Gemma spread her legs wider, gasping at the feeling. The longer Steph tried, the more comfortable she got. She soon straddled Gemma’s thigh, rubbing herself against it while Gemma moaned from her fingers.

“Go inside me,” Gemma persuaded.

“Yeah?”

Gemma nodded, preparing herself when Steph entered her with two fingers. She moaned loudly, Steph quickly covering her mouth. Gemma moved her hips to rhythm as Steph pumped in and out of her. She felt exhilarated pleasuring Gemma.

“Good?” Steph asked.

“Yeah.”

Steph bent down, kissing Gemma’s neck. She felt Gemma turn her head, breathless. Gemma’s hands rubbed Steph’s back before grasping it as she felt Steph’s fingers curl inside of her. Gemma reached between their bodies and rubbed herself as Steph continued to penetrate.

“Do you want me to do that instead?” Steph asked.

Gemma shook her head. “No. Keep going.”

They worked together to bring Gemma to an orgasm. Gemma knew it would take long. Getting her partner off always turned her on more. She took Steph’s fingers out of her and put them back on the spot that she had been rubbing. Steph followed her as their lips locked in a passionate kiss. Gemma pulled away moaning again, holding onto Steph like her life depended on it. She bent one leg over Steph’s back, feeling Steph circle faster.

“Almost there,” Gemma moaned.

Steph soon found her own groove when she felt Gemma grip her back and her body start to shake. Steph continued until she felt Gemma twitch against her fingers. Gemma clung a little longer before relaxing and letting go of Steph. She caught her breath, Steph placing kisses wherever she could. Gemma swallowed, still reeling from her orgasm. Steph kissed up her body to her neck before kissing her passionately. Gemma moaned into her mouth, pulling back.

“How do you feel?” Gemma asked.

“Like I won the lottery.” Steph smiled, broadly.

“Yeah?”

Steph nodded. “Was it good?”

“Usually if you make a woman come, it’s good.”

“But did I do alright?”

Gemma smiled. “You did wonderfully.”

Steph giggled laying next to her. She rolled onto her side to look at Gemma. Gemma had her eyes closed, smiling and taking steady breaths. She looked over to Steph and laughed.

“I see that confident smirk,” Gemma commented.

“I’m just proud of myself.”

“You should be. You were very good.”

Steph bit her lip. “Thanks.”

“I’m knackered. I should probably head home soon.”

“What? No, stay. You drove here and it’s late.”

“I know, but what about Dean?”

“Grownups have sleepovers.”

“You sure? After the gay conversation at dinner.”

“Absolutely. I don’t want you driving this late and besides, I want my cuddle.”

“Your cuddle?”

“Yeah, laying together, naked, post sex bliss.”

Gemma laughed. “Yeah that does sound pretty good.” She paused for a moment. “You sure it’s alright?”

“Yes, Gem.”

Gemma shifted to her side, taking Steph’s hands in her. They smiled at one another before sharing a kiss. “Is it alright if I shower in the morning?” Gemma asked.

“Of course. You can borrow a shirt too if you like.”

“Okay. I do have an early start. Have to be at the clinic by 8 at the latest.”

Steph smiled. “You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to.”

“No, I want to. I’m just letting you know.”

Steph sat up and grabbed her alarm clock, setting it for 6:30. She laid back down on her back. “There you go.”

Gemma cuddled up to her and kissed her shoulder before reaching across her chest. “Thank you.”

“You really are knackered.”

“You wore me out,” Gemma answered.

“Will you stay with me when Dean’s gone?”

Gemma smiled, sympathetically. “Of course I will.”

“Thank you.”

Gemma nodded, closing her eyes. Steph kissed her forehead before falling into slumber.

—————————-

Gemma woke with a jerk. She blinked a few times remembering where she was. Steph was sound asleep, her head pointed away from Gemma. She watched Steph for a minute. The comforter covering her chest, her pale soft skin and her parted lips. They way she was breathing deeply in her slumber and her hair in a messy bun on the pillow. She smiled briefly before remembering why she was now awake. She dreamt about Tom again. The same dream she always had. She was on top of the bank and watched him jump without being able to say his name until everything went black.

Gemma sat up slowly and sighed. She looked over at Steph’s nightstand. The clock read one in the morning and she knew it would take time before she would be able to sleep again. She carefully got out of bed, grabbing her underwear and blouse. She headed downstairs and went to her bag, pulling out a pack of cigarettes. She grabbed her coat and boots, slipping them on as quietly as possible.

Once she was covered, she opened the back door. The air was crisp and she cursed herself for not putting her pants on. She smoked her cigarette slowly, letting the nicotine soothe her. Trying her hardest to get the images out of her brain. Her dream was occuring more than usual and she knew it was her guilt for not telling Steph. Once she was done, she flicked it into the fresh layer of snow that had occurred while they were upstairs and closed the door.

Gemma stood in the kitchen for a minute. She got the rest of her items together that she left on the table and put them away, but it wasn’t enough for a distraction. She found Steph’s tea options in the cupboard and boiled a pot of water. She grabbed a mug, steeping a cup of peppermint tea. She walked around the living room, glancing at pictures of Steph and Dean. Terry was in a few and her mother in a couple others, but it mostly just the two of them from birthdays to Christmas to family. She smiled at them, but she was still lost in her thoughts. Tom flashed behind her eyes again. She ended up looking out the window, taking sips of the warm liquid, thinking about Tom. Where was he? Was he okay? Did he have a job? A girlfriend? Anyone? Was he happy and relieved to be away from her? She cried silently to herself, wiping a tear away from her cheek.

Steph rolled onto her side and reached out for Gemma. She felt around for a moment, when she realized no one was there. “Gem?” She called out, groggily, but there was no response. She opened her eyes only to see an empty bed next to her. She sat up quickly and rubbed her eyes. “Gemma?” Still nothing. She got up and slipped into some flannel pajamas. She checked on Dean, who was sound asleep in his bed before heading downstairs. She noticed Gemma’s coat and boots weren’t there and felt an immediate sadness until she walked into the living room.

Steph saw Gemma, lost in thought, by the window, illuminated by the street lamp outside. Gemma stood there in just her underwear and shirt. Steph looked back to see her coat on the back of a kitchen chair, her boots next to it on the floor and a pack of cigarettes on the table. She looked back at Gemma and felt relieved that she was still there. Steph didn’t think she had ever seen anything more beautiful.

“Gem?”

Gemma jumped, grabbing her heart. “Jesus.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry. I thought you were asleep.”

“Well I was, but when I turned over and reached to touch you, it was empty. I thought you had left.”

“No, just a weird dream. I hope you don’t mind that I made some tea.”

“Of course not. Help yourself.” Steph walked towards Gemma. “Was it the same dream from the last time?”

“Yeah it was. I’ve been having it a lot more recently.”

Steph walked up to her and rubbed her back. “Come on. Let’s go back to bed. I’ll make the bad dreams stop.” She pulled on Gemma’s arm, but she wouldn’t budge.

“There’s uh, there’s something I haven’t told you,” Gemma stated.

Steph felt nervous. “What?”

“Do you remember the name I said when you woke me up the last time?”

Steph thought for a minute and nodded. “Tom, right?”

“Yeah. Steph, I lied to you. I do know a Tom.”

Gemma looked at Steph. Steph could see the sadness in Gemma’s features. She caressed her face. “Well who is he?”

Gemma sighed as her eyes started to water. “He’s my son.”

Steph backed up a little bit. Every emotion passed through Steph’s features. “What?”

“Your mother was right. I do have something or rather had someone.” Gemma paused, her lip trembling. She took a steady breath. “I have a sixteen year old son named Tom.”

Chapter Text

Gemma stood still next to the window as Steph walked towards her. She felt all her pain and agony welling up the closer Steph got. She had wanted to hide this. Hoped she could, but as Steph got nearer, she knew she couldn’t hold onto it any longer.

“I lied to you. I do know a Tom.”

Steph was now standing in front of her, showing so much concern. Her forehead was wrinkled with worry. “Well, who is he?” Steph asked, cupping Gemma’s face in her hands.

Gemma sighed as her eyes started to water. She gritted her teeth, not wanting to cry. “He’s my son.” It was barely above a whisper as she choked on her tears.

“What?” Steph stepped back to look at Gemma.

“Your mother was right. I do have something or rather had someone.” Gemma paused, thinking of every word she wanted to use delicately. “I have a seventeen year old son named Tom.”

Gemma couldn’t hold onto it anymore. She placed her cup on the windowsill as she sank to her knees and started to sob. Steph processed her words, completely caught off guard by what Gemma had said. She looked down at the woman on the floor and her heart immediately filled with grief as she went down to her own knees, holding Gemma to her.

Gemma felt Steph’s arm around her and tried to fight them off. She didn’t want sympathy. Not for what she did to her boy, but Steph held on tighter.

“Shh,” Steph whispered, rubbing her back and trying to soothe her the best she could. She started to notice the things about Gemma that made sense. Her mystery, the darkness behind her eyes, her empty apartment. She suddenly understood why she was so good with Dean, but hesitant at times. She had lost her son and Steph couldn’t even fathom what that must feel like as she held Gemma in her arms.

Gemma sobbed silently against Steph’s chest, every image of Tom flashing through her memory. His smile after a soccer match, playing with Simon, his laugh, him calling her a “nerd” every time he asked her a question about the human body, and then the pain. The agony in his face at moving in with Simon, being rejected by Simon, giving her fifteen year old a bath. His brokenness and the hurt in his eyes.

“Gemma,” Steph said in a quiet tone. Gemma shook her head, not able to speak. “Okay, hold on.” Steph let her go and Gemma felt herself trying to reach out to her, but stopped. She bent over herself, trying to calm her breathing.

Steph came back with a box of tissues, holding them out to her. “Gem,” she said. Gemma wouldn’t look up, holding her hand out to Steph. Steph took it and Gemma pulled Steph to her, wanting to be nowhere else, but with her. Steph continued to rub her back. Gemma finally managed to calm herself. She sat up, wiping her face, grabbing a tissue to blow her nose.

“I’m so sorry, Gemma. Why didn’t you say?”

“I left Hertfordshire to get away from it. Everyone staring or smiling sympathetically when they didn’t know the story. They just knew me as some crazy woman trying to get back at her ex-husband. But when I lost Tom, that was it, I couldn’t do anything else there. The missing flyers haunted me at every step even though my friends and I put them up. I still look at his missing page everyday, hoping something turns up-“

“Wait,” Steph whispered, “I’m confused, Love. I thought he was-“

“He ran away. He felt like he had no one. He had some trouble at school so he thought he had lost that, his friends were mad at him over this incident, he believed his dad was going to kill himself… And I didn’t see any of it because I was so self centered at trying to ruin Simon’s life that I missed everything. We both missed every sign of his depression.”

Gemma continued to cry, curling herself into a ball on the floor. She laid her head in Steph’s lap. She took steady breaths and closed her eyes while Steph ran her fingers through her hair. It soothed her enough and she felt herself falling back to sleep.

“Gem?”

She opened her eyes. Steph noticed the shift in Gemma. The nothingness behind her eyes.

“It’s late. We should go back to bed.” Gemma sat up, wiping her cheeks. She couldn’t do this. At least now Steph knew she had a son. That was good enough for her. She couldn’t bear losing Steph because of all of this too.

“Talk to me,” Steph said, stopping her from standing. “I know it’s late. I know we’re both tired, but at the same time…” Steph shrugged. “I can’t force you to talk, but this seems to be too much to hold onto. I mean I’m shocked, but not totally surprised. But talk to me. Don’t keep this bottled up when I’m here.”

Gemma stood up, not looking at her. She sighed, glancing around the room. She felt drained, defeated, but awake. She grabbed her cup of tea and walked to the couch. She sat down, silent tears falling down her cheeks. Steph didn’t move from her location on the floor as she watched her. Gemma stayed quiet, debating with herself. It was late and she did have to work in the morning, but Steph was right. She was there and she had kept it inside far too long. It wasn’t just the time they knew it each other. She never talked about it to anyone. Even when people would try to, she wouldn’t say a word. Sian was the only one she felt she could talk to, but only would when she needed a moment to express herself.

Gemma looked at Steph and took a sharp exhale. She leaned forward resting her elbows on her knees and clasping her hands together.

“I was sixteen when my parents died in a car crash. The only person I had to live with was our neighbor, Mary. She was good to me and treated me fairly, but after a year, I left and moved to London. It was the same thing. Everyone knew I had lost my parents and they always wanted to express how good they were. What nice people they were. Made comments about how much I probably missed them. I got away. I couldn’t get over their death because no one would let me forget it. When Simon moved back to Hertfordshire, my fifteen year old son said that I was lucky that my parents died when I was young. He was in so much-“ Gemma stopped as more tears flowed. -“So much pain and neither Simon nor I noticed because we were too wrapped up in destroying each other.”

Gemma paused for a moment, trying to calm herself. Steph got up and took Gemma’s mug, placing it on the coffee table. She kneeled in between Gemma’s legs and rubbed her arms.

“What did he mean?”

“Simon and I hated each other and we managed to put our son in the middle of it. He had gotten in some trouble at school. It’s… uh… it’s a long story.” Steph didn’t seem to mind and she stared into Gemma’s eyes. “You remember when I said that I made Simon believe I took away the one thing he could not live without?”

Steph nodded.

“It was Tom. Now you understand why he got so angry? Why he?” Gemma pointed to her nose. Steph reached forward, sitting up on bended knee. She wiped a tear from Gemma’s cheek before kissing the small scar on her nose. Gemma looked at her with bewilderment. She scooted back against the couch, afraid of the tenderness. Hoping after everything she says, Steph won’t leave. Steph sat back and took Gemma’s hand. Gemma sighed.

“He left with Kate for good. For two years we never saw him. They had gone to London. Tom and I were good. Our relationship got stronger and he trusted me. He had so much trust in me until Simon came back.” Gemma choked on her words, closing her eyes.

“Gemma.”

Steph sat on the couch next to her. She pulled Gemma to her. “I went crazy. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Simon was gone. I thought I had won, but he told Tom something that I wasn’t aware of until a couple weeks later. Tom left me to go live with Simon and Kate. I couldn’t figure out why. He wouldn’t answer my calls. He wouldn’t even look at me. He hated me.”

“I don’t think that’s true.”

Gemma sat up so she could look at Steph. “No, it is. The day after he left, that night I got plastered in that club where I almost shagged that guy.”

“Yeah.”

“Well I had started that night at a coworker’s house because Tom went to see her at the clinic and I wanted to know why. I quickly figured out that she knew Simon. She had asked him about a position at the clinic and he said that she should take it and that I would be leaving soon. So I asked her to dinner under the pretenses of getting to know her better, but in reality I needed to know why Tom went to her. She eventually told me after realizing that I wasn’t the one with the problem. That Simon was the one with the issues. She actually helps me out a lot, Sian. She’s, um, at my house there, in case Tom turns up. But anyway, I left her’s and went to Tom’s friend’s house because I knew that’s where he’d be. But when I got there, Tom wasn’t there and I was drunk and stupid and probably scared the shit out of this child, this teenager, but Tom wouldn’t talk to me. Simon wouldn’t talk to me. No one would tell me what was going on.” Gemma paused, letting more tears fall. Steph wiped them with the back of her hand.

“I questioned his friend about why he left and after badgering him, while drinking his parent’s wine, I learned he hated me. That Tom had told Max, his best mate, that he hated me. And that’s why I went out to that club. I wanted to forget everything and anything because I was convinced I wouldn’t see my son again. That he would never speak to me again.”

“So what happened?”

“Tom got in some trouble at school and then had a huge fight with Max at Simon’s new job. He got drunk at their, Simon’s and Kate’s housewarming party and he was there with his friend, Isobel. They were kissing, it led to more, she said stop and he held her down and wouldn’t let go until he did. He didn’t rape with her, but I don’t know all the details. I spoke to Isobel and she said she was okay and that he was crying. I don’t know. But Kate found out about it and didn’t want Tom around their daughter so made Simon kicked him out. He ran off on his bike, but I found him at the place we always went when we felt troubled. We decided to leave, but it just wouldn’t stop.”

“What didn’t stop?”

“I couldn’t… I couldn’t let Simon take away everything from us. Our home, Tom’s school, Tom’s life so we left to a hotel on the outside of town while I told Tom I would take care of it and get his father out of there. It took time and patience, but I managed to get Kate to leave him which means he lost everything: his money, his job, his home, his wife, his child, his money, his car and I thought he would be smart and just leave, but he didn’t.” Gemma exhaled. “So I told him to take the hotel room that I had and to sort himself out. This whole time, for whatever reason, I knew Tom was struggling with all of this, but thought he was okay. I thought he’s better now because he’s not with his dad, but our connection was still broken. But when he said that I was lucky that my parents died, I realized what Simon had said to him. He knew Simon would never leave us alone. That he’d always come back. But that night I figured out what Simon had said to him to make Tom not like me. To hate me. To not want to look at me, talk to me or feel any connection towards me.”

“What?” Steph asked.

Gemma reached out for her tea, but Steph leaned forward and grabbed it for her. She knew she really didn’t know Gemma that long, but the sadness that always lingered just behind her eyes had taken shape. Steph could see how small she really felt. When Gemma started to sob again, Steph leaned forward, wrapping her arms around her, holding her and kissing her cheek. Gemma shook her head no, too distraught, but Steph refused to let go, holding her by the back of her neck and head. She rocked them slowly from side to side when she finally felt Gemma grab her and clutch onto her. Steph noticed how quietly she cried.

“Just let go. Gem,” Steph whispered.

Gemma managed to break out of Steph’s hold. She laid down, resting her head on the arm rest. Steph swiped her hair back out of her eyes and handed her a new tissue. Gemma took it, catching her breath. She had already let go so many times. She just wanted her Tom back.

“Do you want to stop?” Steph asked.

“No. I just need,” she didn’t finish her sentence and waved.

“What? Water?”

“I need a cigarette.”

Gemma got up and walked to the kitchen, slipping on her coat, but Steph stopped her before she could put on her boots.

“Wait. Gem, let me get you some pants.”

“I’m fine.”

“Gemma,” Steph said, sternly. It seemed to snap her out of her haze.

“Yeah. Alright.”

Steph went to a basket of clothes that had been left by the stairs. She pulled out Gemma’s sweatpants and held them out to her. “I finally washed them.”

Gemma felt herself smile. “How about my jumper?”

“I’ve got that too.”

Gemma took her coat off. Steph walked up to her, holding it. She put the sweater on the table and grabbed the bottom of Gemma’s shirt. Gemma put her arms up as Steph lifted it up and over her head. She took the blouse, handing Gemma the sweatshirt. Gemma slipped on both items of clothing, while Steph hung her shirt over the back of a chair. Once Gemma was dressed, she looked at Steph, who was already staring at her. She stepped forward and placed a kiss against her lips.

“Thank you,” Gemma whispered.

They stayed in each other’s space for a minute. The room completely silent as snow fell outside the window. They looked up at one another and Gemma stared into her blue eyes for a moment.

“Seriously, thank you,” she repeated.

“For what?”

“I don’t know. Letting me in, listening, comforting me. I just…” Gemma’s voice cracked.

“Shh.” Steph brought her in for another hug. “Go smoke. I’d join you, but I’d freeze.” Gemma managed to laugh at that. “I’ll make you some fresh tea, okay?”

Gemma nodded and stepped outside the door. She felt insane for unloading all of that onto Steph, but at the same time, relief. She was remembering everything and how it happened. It was too much, but she continued to smoke her cigarette.

Steph was baffled. She hadn’t realized how much pain Gemma had gone through and realized how much she was in. She knew something happened that made her move to Sheffield other than wanting a change, but she would have never guessed this in a million years.

Steph heard the back door open and the brisk air that followed Gemma in. She handed Gemma a warm cup of tea, grabbing another one for herself.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

They walked back to the couch and sat. Steph was about to speak when Gemma sighed.

“After Tom was born, I suffered from postnatal depression. I was barely around him for the first year of his life. Breastfeeding, even while pumping, felt almost impossible. I assumed poorly that Simon would never tell him that this first year of his life was spent mostly with his father and grandmother, but it was.”

Gemma leaned forward again. Steph followed, scratching the back of her hair.

“One time I made the mistake of telling Simon that I wished Tom was dead. It wasn't true, obviously, but the depression was horrible and I wanted to kill myself or Tom,” she hesitated, “Simon told him, my beautiful boy, that I said that. That’s why he left. That’s why he wouldn’t look at me. That’s why he hated me. But when Simon kicked him out, he was defeated.”

“So what changed then?”

“I paid more attention to him. As much as I could while I tried to end Simon, but everything escalated. Simon threatened to kill himself if Tom didn’t come with him after Kate left. I found them at the hotel Tom and I were staying before. My son was absolutely petrified as Simon contemplated jumping in front of a car. I just, I missed it all. I knew it was there. I knew he was depressed and had anxiety and yet I didn’t do anything to help him. I let my son be miserable. I was only focused on myself and I miss him so much.”

Gemma started to cry again. “It’s alright,” Steph whispered.

“No it’s not. Simon made us go to breakfast as a family after he tried to jump in front of a car and it was just shit. That’s what Tom said. ‘We’re all just sitting here feeling like shit’ and we were. Simon wanted to eat so he could say goodbye to Tom. He talked about how when his dad died he was sad, but then felt relief. I sat there letting my ex-husband say goodbye to his son because I was going to help him commit suicide and have him out of lives forever.”

“What?”

“I told you, Steph. I’m a fuck up. I just fuck up. It’s why I disappeared because the last thing I want to do is ruin your beautiful family. Destroy that gorgeous little boy you have upstairs.”

“Gemma, stop. You’re not going to do anything.”

“You don’t know that,” Gemma whispered. She wiped her nose sniffles.

“You didn’t do anything to provoke this. It just happened and yes, it’s messy and yes I’m sure I’m missing pieces to this story, but Gem, it’s not your fault and I’m not worried about you being around Dean. I’ve never worried about that, okay?”

Gemma peaked at her and nodded. A small lull passed before Steph asked the one question she had been curious about.

“So what’s this dream?”

“After stopping Simon from committing suicide-“

“You did?”

“I wasn’t going to let my son grow up without his father. No matter how upset he was, I know how much he loves Simon. And it would have been one more thing Simon would have done to screw with me. I wasn’t going to let Tom lose him. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself. So when I stopped him, I thought it was fixed. He was going to stay at the hotel for a couple days and sort something out for himself. When I got back to the car, Tom was gone. I called him and his phone was left on the passenger seat. I ran to the bank where he had been with Simon and saw a car with a policeman. I thought Tom had jumped. My heart stopped when I realized it had just been a ticket violation, but he was gone. He just disappeared exactly like he wanted. He talked about leaving and moving for a fresh start. So my dream is I think he’s leading me to him. Sometimes he’s smiling and happy, but other times it’s just him crying. And he tells me he loves me and then jumps. I always wake up to the sound of me screaming his name.”

“And the same thing tonight?”

Gemma nodded. She nudged Steph, who scooted over to her. Gemma rested her head back into Steph’s lap and rolled over to face her. She looked up as Steph cupped her cheek.

“It’s alright,” Steph reassured. “It’s okay.”

Gemma nodded, but couldn’t stay quiet anymore. She had been holding back everything to seem as strong as possible, but now it was too much. She bawled on Steph’s lap, Steph never letting go of her. She did everything she could imaginable to help Gemma calm down. They stayed like that for some time. Steph knew that she had been probably holding this in for longer than she could imagine. She felt like Gemma had, had no one to talk to. As if she was almost isolated in life.

Gemma’s tears subsided. She looked back up at Steph, who smiled sympathetically.

“Please don’t do that.”

“What?”

“Smile like that. I don’t want sympathy. It was my fault.”

“Honestly, Gemma, I think you did all you could in that moment. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.”

“Please.”

“Simon is just as guilty as you are. He pushed him too.”

“Yeah. He did more by telling him that. I love that boy with all my heart. And he cried so much those last couple of days. I had to give him a bath one night because he was just sitting in the tub crying at the hotel. His father was never there for him. Not like I was. He just wanted to win and prove that he was capable of taking everything away from me.”

“What did you want?”

“To protect my son. To give him the happiness and life he deserved. I might have had my depression and yes it was bad, but once I got passed it, I never put him aside. I did everything I could to make sure he had a good life.”

“And you have no idea where he is?”

“No. I only have a theory, but I don’t know.”

“What?”

“We had a neighbor, Anna. She was very close to Tom and he felt like it was the only person he could go to when he needed to talk to someone. She moved shortly after Simon came back to Edinburgh. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up there with her.”

“Have you called her or asked?”

“No. He said I’d never see him again, but I hold to hope that I will.”

“You will, Love. Just give him time. Maybe he has to prove something for himself, you know?”

“Yeah. I have instinct, you know? When you can feel something is wrong or something bad has happened.” Steph nodded. “I haven’t felt that at all. I know he’s safe and okay. In my heart of hearts, I know he’s happy.”

Steph looked down to see Gemma’s eyes were closed. It was the calmest she had been in the past hour. “Hey, come on. It’s late. Let’s get back into bed. I’m sure there is more to tell, but it can wait another night.”

Gemma nodded, not budging. Steph shifted, waking Gemma from her stupor. She slowly sat up, taking a moment. Steph scratched the back of her head and kissed her cheek. Gemma smiled, taking Steph’s hand, kissing it. They stood together and headed towards the stairs, fingers interlocked.

Steph walked up before her, checking on Dean one more time as Gemma went into the bedroom. Steph pulled Dean’s comforter up to his shoulders and kissed his head. She thought of Gemma and sighed.

“I love you, Dean,” she whispered. Dean shifted a little in his sleep, making Steph smile. She kissed his head one more time before exiting, back to her room. Gemma was already resting against the pillow, seemingly asleep. She had curled into herself, her eyes watery. Steph sighed and walked around to the other side of the bed. She snuggled up to Gemma, wrapping an arm around her waist. Gemma took her hand and held it above her heart.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“Why?” Steph asked.

“Keeping that from you, interrupting your sleep, your life, all of it.”

“You haven’t interrupted anything. My opinion of you has not changed Gemma.”

Gemma shifted onto her back, her hand still with Steph’s. Steph sat up resting her head against her hand.

“Why?” Gemma questioned.

“Because you did what you could. His decision to leave had nothing to do with you. He made that decision for his own reasons no matter what you’ve made yourself believe. He felt like he was an adult and needed to do that for himself. But that doesn’t make you a bad mother. No matter what happened with Simon and you.”

Gemma sighed, turning to snuggle against Steph. She took a deep inhale, letting Steph’s scent calm her. Steph rubbed her back.

“Are you alright?” Steph asked.

Gemma nodded. “Thank you.”

“It’s what I’m here for. I care for you and now I know you better.”

“Yeah.”

“And none of this scares me.”

“Not even me being around Dean?”

“Out of everyone in my life, I trust you most with my son.”

Gemma opened her eyes and looked towards Steph. “Why?”

“Because I know you wouldn’t let anything happen to him. You wouldn’t be careless or forgetful. You’d make sure he was okay.”

Gemma felt her heart warm at the comment. She scooted closer to Steph so her face fit perfectly into the nape of Steph’s neck. She placed the lightest kiss against her skin. Steph smiled, kissing the top of her head. She could feel Gemma’s body relaxing as she stared at nothing. She rubbed her back a few times, going over all the things Gemma had told her. She felt like some of it was missing pieces and she wasn’t really sure how she felt. But her feelings did for Gemma did not change. In fact, she felt like Gemma talking to her had enhanced their relationship. There were no more secrets that she was aware of. She looked down at Gemma to see her asleep and for the moment, this was good enough for her. They could sort it all out another time, but for now, sleep was the most important thing.

———————————

Gemma awoke to an obnoxious sound coming from Steph’s side of the bed. She moved only an inch before she realized that she and Steph hadn’t broken apart in their sleep. She felt herself still completely protected in Steph’s arms with one around her waist and the other under her neck. Steph turned onto her back, reaching her one arm out, hitting the snooze button, creating stillness in the room once again. She rolled back to Gemma, her arm returning to her waist.

“I have to get up, Love,” Gemma whispered.

Steph groaned and stretched. “No,” she mumbled. Gemma smiled and kissed her neck. “I really do. I have work, remember?”

Steph’s eyes were still closed as she shook her head, not breaking her embrace.

“I can’t be late.”

“Kiss,” Steph spoke so softly that all Gemma could do was laugh.

“What?”

Steph laid on her back, blinking her eyes open. Gemma’s heart skipped a beat as she saw her beautiful blue eyes looking at her in the early morning light. Steph smiled, hazily, only half awake.

“Kiss me,” she whispered.

Gemma’s smile only grew. She hadn’t enjoyed waking up to someone since Simon. I mean there had only been a couple instances where she had. Neil was for blackmail and she couldn’t leave that room fast enough, guilt filling her even though she got what she wanted. James just never worked for her, no matter how hard she tried. Waking up next to him felt like there was more weight on her shoulders, but Steph. She honestly didn’t want to get up nor leave the comfort of her arms. She didn’t feel annoyed or agitated, she felt relieved.

Gemma looked down, placing a small kiss against Steph’s lips. Steph reached up bringing Gemma’s lips to her in a heated kiss. Gemma moved to straddle Steph’s hips as they continued their good morning kisses. Steph felt Gemma lifting her shirt up which she allowed when the door popped open.

“Morning, Mum-“ Dean stopped speaking when he noticed Gemma. Both women froze, luckily still covered.

“Dean, I was just about to tickle your mum. Want to help me?” Gemma asked.

“No you weren’t!” Steph squealed as she felt Gemma’s hands on her stomach. Dean grinned jumping on the bed and tickling Steph’s side which led to Steph and Gemma tickling him. They all laughed together. Gemma couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so happy.

“Go downstairs, Tigger. I’ll be down to make you breakfast in a moment.”

They waited for Dean to leave before looking at one another. Gemma still on Steph’s hips.

“I forgot how easily kids can interrupt you in the morning,” Gemma commented.

“Yeah. It’s annoying sometimes especially when I wish I could have you right now.”

“Oh really?”

Steph nodded.

“Well what about tonight?” Gemma bent down kissing Steph’s neck.

“Can’t. We’re going round to yours, no?”

“Right. Well we could come here,” Gemma mentioned, “instead of mine.”

“I kind of want to go to yours though.”

“Okay. I could drive you two home afterwards, wait til you get Dean upstairs and then come in.”

“You want to shag me that bad, huh?”

Gemma smiled. “Yeah, I really do.” They met in a heated kiss. “You?” Gemma asked between a kiss.

Steph cupped Gemma’s backside, grabbing her closer. “Yes, I do.”

“Good.”

They heard a noise from downstairs. “I should probably go feed my impatient son.”

Gemma laughed. She pecked Steph one more time before getting up. She took her shirt off and headed to the bathroom. “Oh and I should let you know.”

“What?”

“Well my flat might look a little more homey than last time.”

“What does that mean?”

Gemma smiled, walking into the bathroom. Steph bit her lip and headed downstairs. Dean was already at the table.

“What do we want to eat, Sweetheart? Eggs and bacon? Cereal? “Toast?”

“Cereal.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” Steph reached for a bowl and the box, placing them in front of Dean.

“Mummy, why is Doctor Foster here?”

“She stayed here with me last night.”

“Will she be doing that a lot?”

“Not if you don’t want her to. Why?”

Dean shrugged.

“Are you okay with her staying here?”

Dean nodded. “She’s fun.”

“But do you feel okay with her being here?”

“Yeah.”

Steph put the milk on the table and kneeled down in front of him. She placed her hands on his little knees and smiled at him. “I want you to understand what’s going on. I care for Gemma very much and she cares for me as well. We are seeing one another so you might see her here more often than not, but if you don’t like that or it makes you uncomfortable, then you talk to me about it. Alright?”

“Will the other kids make fun of me?”

“For what?”

“You being with her?”

“No. As long as you don’t go gabbing about it. Gemma and I are in just seeing each other, but we’re not ready to tell people yet, I don’t think.”

“So is it like a secret?”

Steph made a dissatisfied face, but shrugged. “I guess in a sense. Remember what I’ve told you about keeping our secrets though, yes? That they’re private.”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“Gemma and I will tell people if we want to, but only Gemma and I.”

Steph stood up looking for a more reasonable breakfast to make for Gemma.

“Does Daddy know?”

Steph turned around to look at Dean. “No, Love and I would appreciate it if you kept that from him too. I will tell him when I want him to know. Alright?”

Dean nodded, pouring cereal into the bowl. Steph watched him be as careful as he could. “Love, we can talk about this too, what Gemma and I are, if you like. You can always ask me questions about it. I know it’s a lot for a little one to understand, but I won’t hide this from you. You’re a big boy so you deserve the truth. So anytime you have a question, come to me or Gemma and we’ll talk about it.”

Dean nodded, taking a bite of his cereal. Gemma came down the stairs looking fresh and happy in her trousers and jumper. Steph had never seen so much light radiate from her. She walked into the kitchen, eyeing the small child.

“Morning, Dean. How’d you sleep? Good?” Dean nodded, continuing to eat. “Good and you?” Gemma walked up to Steph and kissed her cheek.

“Very well. You?”

“Probably the best I’ve slept in months.”

“Good. What can I make you for breakfast?”

“Cup of coffee?”

“Sure and?”

“A bit of toast is fine, if that’s alright.”

“Yeah, not a problem.”

Steph grabbed the bread while Gemma shuffled through the papers in her bag. She organized her things, slipping her cigarettes back into her bag. Steph handed her a cup of coffee.

“Thanks, Love,” she whispered taking a sip.

“Aren’t those bad for you?” Dean asked.

“What?”

“Cigarettes.”

“Yes, they are very bad for you.”

“Do you smoke?”

“Uh, yeah, I do, unfortunately.”

“Why?”

“Don’t know. Just a bad habit.”

“Daddy used to smoke, but Mum told him to not do it around me anymore so he doesn’t.”

“Well I would never smoke around a young person.”

“Neither does his daddy. Unfortunately, he smokes at other times,” Steph whispered, placing a plate of toast in front of Gemma. “Butter? Jelly?”

“I can get it.”

“No, it’s alright.”

“Yeah butter would be great.”

Steph walked to the fridge and grabbed some for Gemma when she remembered, “Dean, Gemma is going to pick you up from school today.”

“What about Granny?”

“She has something to do and didn’t tell me until late last night so Gemma’s going to do it today. You’re going to go with her to her flat and then I’ll come after work. How does that sound?”

He looked at Gemma. “Do you have any toys?”

“No, but I figured we could take some of yours with me in my car and then you’d have some toys there.”

Dean nodded, finishing up his cereal.

“Want to go round up a couple so Gemma can take them with her?” Steph asked.

“Okay,” Dean answered. He got up from the table and hugged Steph around her legs. She smiled, returning the hug and rubbing his back. He headed towards the stairs.

“So I should be able to get to the school at 2:30, is that good?” Gemma asked, taking a bite of toast.

“Yeah that’s perfect.”

“And you’re sure he’s okay with this? I don’t mind coming here and cooking something.”

“No, it’s fine.”

Dean came back and handed Gemma two cars and two action figures, smiling. “That’s all you want me to bring?” Gemma asked.

“Yeah.”

“Okay. They will be waiting for you in the car when I pick you up.”

“Okay!”

Dean seemed a little perkier than he had a few moments ago which made Gemma feel better about the situation. “Dean, time to get ready for school,” Steph stated as he popped back up the stairs. Gemma put the toys in her bag before looking at her watch. Her eyes widened.

“Oh, I’ve got to go.” She bit a final piece of toast before slipping on her boots.

“Do you want me to give you a lift?” Gemma asked, putting on her coat.

“No we’ll be fine.”

Gemma made her way to the door, Steph following behind her with a black bag.

“You might want this,” she suggested. Gemma noticed it was her bag that she had left at the table.

“Yeah, I might.”

“Are you sure you’re okay with picking up Dean? Last chance.”

Gemma laughed. “Yes, I’m totally capable. What time will we see you?”

“I should be done at work at five so half past?”

“Sounds good.”

They smiled at one another before sharing a kiss. Gemma rested her forehead against Steph’s. “Thank you, again, for last night.”

“Which part?”

“What do you mean?”

“The listening bit or the sex?”

Gemma laughed. “Well definitely the sex,” she joked. Steph chuckled as well, kissing her again. “And the talk. I’m sorry I kept that from you for so long.”

“Not that long. It’s only been a month since we met, not a year and I understand. It’s a hard thing to talk about when you left to get away from it, but I am here for you, Gem,” Steph reached up and cupped her cheeks. “You’re not alone.”

Gemma grabbed her hand, taking it and kissing it. Steph slipped on her coat near the door as Gemma opened it. She turned around and smiled at Steph, who was stepping into a pair of trainers.

“I’ll see you tonight?” Gemma asked, standing on the landing.

Steph nodded coming to the door. She placed her arms loosely on Gemma’s shoulders and felt Gemma’s hand grab her back, holding her.

“Any requests for dinner?”

Steph shook her head no, leaning into Gemma. She smiled, kissing her heatedly. Gemma reciprocated, dropping her bag to the porch, bringing Steph closer to her. They heard a door open, but ignored the sound; too lost in one another to care.

Steph realized it was her neighbor when she cleared her throat. Steph pulled back, biting her lip.

“Good morning,” Mrs. Priestly said.

“Good morning, Mrs. Priestly,” Steph answered, still looking at Gemma. Gemma chased Steph’s lips, just about to give her another peck when-

“It’s mighty cold,” Eliza commented causing the two women to fully separate.

“It is winter,” Steph mumbled under her breath, making Gemma laugh.

“Alright, I’ve really got to go. I’ll see you tonight at mine where the neighbors are less nosey.”

“Yeah.”

Gemma glanced towards the woman before leaning in to give Steph one more peck. Steph smiled into it. Gemma pulled away. “Bye, Love.”

“Bye.”

Steph was about to close the door when she heard Mrs. Priestly.

“I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Eliza Priestly.”

“Pleasure. Doctor Gemma Foster.” They shook hands as Steph watched from the porch. “As much as I’d love to stay and give you more to gossip about to Steph’s mother, I am rather late for the clinic. Lovely meeting you, though.”

Gemma walked to her car door and looked up at Steph. She winked with a playful grin before getting in and leaving. Steph took a glance at Mrs. Priestly with a polite smile and wave before going back inside to get ready for the day herself.

———————————

Steph walked into the office with a little skip in her step, hoping no one would notice. The three women were already there working away.

“Morning,” she said with a smile.

They all replied, but it was Nita who caught her eye. She blushed as she put her stuff down on her desk and walked to the kitchen for a cup of tea. She wasn’t in there three seconds before Nita entered.

“Someone seems in a much better mood today. Must’ve heard from that doctor.”

Steph couldn’t stop smiling. “She came round last night with dinner for Dean and me. It was a good night, a little stressful and a little confusing, but definitely good.”

“Why stressful?”

“She opened up about some personal issues of hers that she had been holding in. I’m glad she told me, but it was a lot to handle at one in the morning.”

“Do you not remember?”

“No, I remember. It was a lot though. I just wish there was something I could do to help her.”

“Well what’s it about?”

“You know I’m not going to tell. She moved because people were in her business and they are here too, but I will say that this morning, when she woke up, she seemed so much more at ease and happier. Like there was a new light bursting from her.”

“This morning?”

Steph nodded, grabbing her mug from the sink. She smiled again.

“You little minx! You shagged her.”

Steph laughed. “Yeah, I did.”

“Well go on! How was it?!”

“It was…” She paused, thinking of the right words. Her smile faltered.

“Oh no. Was it not good?”

“It was incredible.”

Nita sighed becoming just as giddy as Steph. “What’s it like?”

“No!”

“Come on! I told you, I have to live through you so tell me.”

Steph laughed. “Okay. Okay. I don’t think anyone has ever made love to me like that before.”

“What ya mean?”

“When she was touching me, it was so soft, but demanding and she met all my needs. I’m used to having some of them met and obviously I’ve had orgasms, but nothing compared to last night at all. She was just so attentive to my body and not aggressive at all. You know, not a man grunting on top of me.”

“Well that’s great! Did she use one of our toys?”

“No. They weren’t necessary.”

“Oh really? Got a good mouth on that one, does she?”

Steph looked up, surprised. Nita just winked. Steph smiled, raising her eyebrows excitedly and left the kitchen. Nita just laughed. “Fingers too?” Nita shouted.

Steph chuckled, sitting at her desk. Nita followed and took a seat on the corner of Steph’s desk. “Did you give her a round?”

“Of course I did.”

“And?”

“Why do you want so many details about my sex life?”

“Because I didn’t even know you fancied women and now you’re here, all giddy, after a night of shagging.”

“Well I didn’t know I did either, but there is just something about her.”

“Her air of mystery?”

“No, she doesn’t have that anymore. Now that I truly know why she moved here and that she trusts me enough to tell me what she did, I feel even closer to her. Last night was an experience that I don’t ever want to forget whether it was the sex or her confiding in me.”

“Did you say sex?” Dawn asked, looking up from a magazine in her hand. Her eyes were wide as a smile crept up on her lips.

Steph rolled her eyes. “Oh no.”

“You shagged the doctor?”

“Do you see what you’ve started?” Steph asked, looking up at Nita.

“They’d find out anyway.”

“Well they will because Mrs. Priestly saw us kissing this morning when I was telling Gemma goodbye.”

“Is that your nosey neighbor?”

Steph nodded at Nita. “She already told my mother too.”

“No,” Dawn exclaimed, coming to her desk. Hellie looked up from her desk, but continued working. She kept her ear open to listen to the conversation, even though she didn’t feel like engaging.

“Yeah, but it’s alright because now I don’t have to tell her and well she’s not exactly happy about it, but what can I do? She was actually awful about it.”

“What do you mean?” Nita questioned.

“She told me she wouldn’t take care of Dean if I was associated with her because I shouldn’t bring my son up around such filth.”

“What the bloody hell does that mean?”

“I honestly don’t know, Nita, but I let her have it anyway. I was tired of her breathing down my neck.”

“Sorry to hear that,” Hellie spoke, all three women giving her their attention. Hellie tried to think of something else to say as she stood up. Nothing was coming to her and she felt uncomfortable. She grabbed the pack of cigarettes on her desk. “I’m going to pop out for a smoke.”

They all watched as Hellie left and Steph couldn’t help, but feel some sadness. She knew something was off. She was about to go and join her when Nita asked.

“Do you want me to pick up Dean after school?”

“No, Gemma’s going to do it. Take him back to her place and then I’ll join them for dinner.”

“So you have all this planned out, do you?” Nita teased.

“She’s just really great.”

“I’ve heard she’s a little intense,” Dawn added.

“She’s not. She really isn’t. I’ve now seen her in so many different lights and she just, she gets me. She understands what it felt like when Terry cheated on me. She understands my hesitation and my sadness. How I raise my son and how he and I operate together. She’s just there in a way a man has never been. I don’t know how to explain it.”

“Sounds like you’re in love with her,” Nita joked.

Steph rolled her eyes. “I’m not IN love with her. It’s way too soon, but I do care for her very much.”

“And the sex was good?” Dawn asked blatantly.

Steph smiled with the memories of last night. The way Gemma felt on top of her. The way she paid attention to every detail. How delicate it was with no pressure. The intensity and intimacy. Her eyes. Her mouth. Her voice. She felt a small shiver run through her spine. “Probably the best sex I’ve ever had.”

“Magic fingers,” Nita whispered, wiggling her own.

Steph stood up, grabbed her coat and started to walk towards the office doors. “Don’t forget her mouth,” Steph said before exiting, hearing both women hoot with excitement. She laughed, making her way downstairs.

Hellie was there with her cigarette, staring across the street.

“Hi,” Steph greeted, still laughing.

Hellie smiled politely. “What are you laughing at?”

“Just the girls. They’re crazy.”

“Yeah.”

“How are you doing?”

Hellie took a drag of her cigarette. She exhaled sharply. “Uh yeah, I’m good.”

“You sure? I feel like you’ve been avoiding me.”

“No. Not at all.”

There was a lingering silence, something that usually didn’t happen between the two of them. In fact, Steph always appreciated how easy it was to laugh with Hellie.

“Have I done something?” Steph asked.

“No.” Hellie answered too quickly.

“Well you haven’t looked at me since you left the kitchen yesterday and I want to make sure you’re okay. That we’re okay.”

Hellie kept her eyesight at her feet before looking back up to across the street. “We’re good.”

“Hey,” Steph started, touching Hellie’s arm. Hellie looked down at it, her eyes a little dough like before shrugging it off. It upset Steph, but she decided to leave it alone.

“Okay,” she whispered before patting Hellie’s arm. “I’m going to go back in, but I’m here if you want to talk.”

Just as she made it to the door, she heard Hellie call out to her. She turned around to see a vulnerable person in front of her. She started walking back to her friend, ready to listen.

“Steph, when we were in school, I-“

“I know.”

“You do?” Hellie wasn’t shocked. She had expected it.

“Of course I did, but I was so obsessed with Terry that I couldn’t see much of anything else, but I knew.”

“I made you feel uncomfortable.” It was a statement, not a question.

“What? No! You never did. My gosh, Hellie, I loved and still love every moment we got and get to spend together. You have always been my bestest mate. Always! I was so sad when you left for London because I didn’t think I’d ever see you again so when I saw you at that party, I was so happy.”

“It didn’t just stop in school. When I came back from London, those feelings hadn’t wavered. I was, am still very attracted to you.”

Steph didn’t know what to say. She opened her mouth a couple times, trying to think of something.

“And I know it’s not mutual,” Hellie continued. “I just need you need to know that.”

“I mean, after the comments from your mum, I kind of figured.”

“It’s why I went to London. She thought it would fix me, but of course it didn’t. It gave me every opportunity to explore.”

“Do you think you’ll return?” Steph asked.

“No. I like it here and the company.”

“Well you were always one of my truest friends, Hellie. Even with all the Terry and Johnny stuff, you were always right there by my side to make it better. To be someone to talk to you. Who knew how it all started.”

“Which is why I was surprised by this.”

“You were surprised? It still makes me nervous.”

“But you’re not?”

“Not what?”

“A lesbian.”

“No, I’m not. I don’t know. I guess it’s fair to say, after this, that I’m bisexual?”

“So why her? This doctor?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know why my heart sings for her, but it does.”

“I know. I just wish it was…” Hellie let the sentence drift off.

“Hellie,” Steph sighed, “Are we still going to be friends if I continue to date Gemma?”

“Of course we are. It might just take me sometime.”

“Okay,” Steph stated, wrapping her arms around her body.

Hellie smiled. “Go inside, Steph. You’ll freeze if you stay out here any longer.”

“I know. The women in my life care more about my well being then the men I’ve dated.”

“It’s great, right?”

“It would be better if I knew I wasn’t going to lose you.”

Hellie flicked her cigarette and wrapped her arm around Steph. “No, Kid. I love you too much to let that happen.”

They walked back in together. “Have you ever been with a woman?” Steph asked.

“Of course. Had a pretty serious girlfriend in London for a while, but it didn’t work out.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“No, it’s alright. It’s the way it was supposed to be, but why do you ask?”

“Well because I’m wondering, uh, what it’s like to, you know?”

Hellie stared at her blankly. “I think you left a few words out.”

“Uh, okay, I had sex with Gemma last night for the first time.”

“Right.”

“And she uh, she went down on me.”

“Okay.”

“How do I do that to her?”

Hellie laughed.

“Don’t laugh at me.”

“I’m not! I swear I’m not. You’ve just always been little innocent Stephanie Kirke.” They were now standing outside the office doors. “But it’s easy. Find her clit and then just fool around a little bit, putting a lot of focus there. You just have to find your rhythm and what she likes.”

Steph’s face scrunched in concern. “What if I’m bad at it?”

“Trust your partner to guide you and tell you. That’s really all you need to do.”

“Okay.”

“This might actually be fun for me. Have you tried the toys yet?” Hellie asked, stepping back into the office.

“Oí! I can answer that. Let’s look through the catalogue to find the right fit for you,” Nita suggested. They all started laughing as Steph’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

“We do have to work, you know?”

“We’ve got all day for that. Let’s have a little fun,” Nita suggested.

“We could find you a really sexy lingerie set from the collection,” Dawn offered.

“Or a really good toy,” Hellie’s chimes in.

“Or we could stop talking about the sex and get to work,” Steph said.

They all started to laugh including Steph.

“I still can’t believe you shagged a women. Our own Stephanie Kirke,” Nita stated.

“Oh my gosh, you guys are never going to let this go, are you?”

“Not bloody likely.”

The office erupted into laughter again.

———————————

Gemma had struggled to get away from the clinic, but managed to get to Dean’s school by 2:20. The bell hadn’t rung yet so she decided this would be as good as time as any to have a cigarette. She had been thinking about last night all day and had an uneasy feeling. She thought Steph would have had more questions about Tom or more to say. She was concerned that maybe Steph hadn’t listened to it all or just wants to avoid that part of her. She can’t blame her for that and she wouldn’t.

“Excuse me?” A voice called, breaking Gemma from her thoughts.

“Yes?” Gemma answered.

There was a woman standing there who obviously worked for the school. She was in a black business suit and had kind eyes, but stern features.

“We ask that you don’t smoke on school grounds.”

“Oh, right.” Gemma dropped her cigarette on the ground and extinguished the smoke with her shoe. “Sorry about that.”

“Are you here for someone?”

“Yeah I’m picking up Dean… uh Dean Kirke today.”

“Are you a relative?”

“I’m a friend of his mum’s and I’m helping her out by picking him up.”

“Well he’ll be out soon.”

Gemma smiled. “Thanks.”

Just then the bell rang. The woman gave her a curt nod and headed back towards the entrance of the school. Gemma sighed with relief.

“Gotta be careful with that one. She’s a stickler. What were doing for her to come all the way over here?” Nita asked, stepping up beside Gemma.

“Smoking a cigarette.”

“Oh yeah, she really hates that.”

“I mean, I understand. Not the healthiest thing in the world to do in front of kids.”

“Tell that to me and my husband.”

Gemma laughed.

“I’m Nita,” Nita said, holding out her hand.

“Gemma,” she answered, shaking her hand.

“Oh you must be this Doctor Foster I keep hearing about.”

“I seem to be the talk of the town.”

“More like the talk of the office.”

Gemma smiled. “You’re Steph’s friend, right? She’s told me a lot about you.”

“All good I hope.”

“Of course it is.”

“Well it’s nice to finally meet you in person.”

“Likewise.”

“And you’re here to pick up Dean?”

“I can’t think of another reason why I’d be standing outside of a school.”

“True. He’s a good kid.”

“He really is one of the sweetest little boys.”

“Do you like kids?”

“Uh, yeah. Why? Did Steph say something?”

“Oh no. I was just curious. She keeps her mouth closed more than anyone. I think after starting our job, she realized how important it was to keep private things private.”

“That’s good.”

“Yeah.” Nita looked towards the door. “Oh, here they come. That’s my Nessa and her brother Ian.”

Gemma smiled. “They’re beautiful.”

“Yeah, got two more little ones at daycare and then Richie, my eldest, is hopefully going off to school soon. Just saving some money up for that at the moment.”

“Passed his A-Levels?”

“With flying colors.”

“That’s great.”

Nessa and Ian ran to their mom, who hugged them both. “Alright you lot, can you say hello to Doctor Foster?”

“Hi,” they both said.

“Hi,” Gemma greeted.

“Alright, I’ve got to get the babies and then head home. It was nice to finally meet you. Don’t be a stranger.”

“I’ll try not to be and it was nice to meet you too.”

Nita and the two children left Gemma, who still hadn’t seen Dean yet. She waited a little longer when he finally popped out of the door with what seemed to be a teacher. She groaned, not knowing if she could handle any news that this woman was about to say. She could tell he seemed a little distraught, but smiled sympathetically nonetheless.

Once Dean saw her, he ran to her, the woman calling after him. She walked closer to him and picked him up.

“Are you alright?” She whispered.

She could feel Dean nodding against her shoulder as he hugged her. The woman finally met up with them.

“Hi, I’m Ms. Johnston, Dean’s teacher.”

“Hello.”

“You’re Steph’s friend, right?”

“Yeah, I’m just here to pick him up.” Gemma put him down so he was standing on his own. He leaned against her. “Did something happen?”

“No. He just seemed a little blue today so I wanted to bring that to your attention. He’s usually not as quiet as he has been for the past couple of days.”

“Is his work slipping?”

“Oh no. He’s doing all of it. Just not answering questions or speaking as much is all. Could you let Mrs. Kirke know?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“Thank you.” She turned her attention to the small child. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Dean?”

Dean nodded, taking Gemma’s hand.

Gemma nodded her head and walked them to the car. She opened the back seat and Dean crawled in. She put the seatbelt around him before getting in the driver’s seat.

“Gemma?”

“Yes, Love?”

“Can we go see Mummy?”

“She’s at work, Love. But we’ll see her in a couple hours when she gets to my place.”

“Okay.”

She noticed his head hung a little low and sighed. “Maybe just a quick little pitstop at the office to say hi.”

Dean’s face brightened at the mere thought. Gemma smiled, handing him his toys before driving off.

———————————

“Dawn, have you seen the order for the new men’s collection?”

“No. I haven’t seen anything like that at all.”

Steph sighed, rifling through papers on her desk. “Where is it?”

“I haven’t seen a bill for it,” Hellie stated.

“No, it’s just a new collection. We haven’t received it yet. I have a conference meeting in an hour and we’re supposed to be talking about this because they want my opinion. I swear I saw it yesterday.” She eyed Nita’s desk and went through some of the papers on her desk. She heard the office door open, but continued to search.

“Mummy!”

Steph looked up to see Dean running towards her.

“Dean, Sweetheart.” She picked him up, hugging him to her chest. “What are you doing here, Love?”

“He, uh, wanted to come and see you. Seems like he had a rough day,” Gemma answered from the doorway. “I didn’t think you’d mind if we just popped in to say hello.”

Steph smiled. “Not at all.”

Gemma grinned. “Hi.”

Dawn looked at Hellie, who nodded in her direction. Hellie looked up, making eye contact with Gemma before looking towards Steph. “Now I get it.”

Chapter Text

Steph hugged Dean tightly. His little arms strong around her neck. She smiled, kissing the side of his head. Dawn was looking at Hellie, who seemed a little distraught. Even though she was happy for Steph, she wasn’t exactly ready to meet the infamous Doctor Foster. She took a deep breath glancing at Dawn. She could see sympathetic eyes looking at her when Dawn nodded her head in Gemma’s direction.

Hellie collected herself and nodded. She turned her head to see Gemma standing there with a big smile on her face as she looked at Steph. She noticed her height and thin body right away. She looked towards Steph and couldn’t help herself. Steph glanced at her and Hellie smirked.

“Now I get it.”

Hellie stood up and held out her hand. “Hellie Matlock.”

“Gemma. Nice to meet you.”

“And you remember Dawn?” Steph asked, swaying Dean.

“Of course. Good to see you again.”

“Hiya.”

“Well come in. You don’t have to stand in the doorway,” Steph said.

Gemma smiled at Hellie and Dawn before walking to Steph. “Hi,” she whispered.

“Hi,” Steph greeted.

Gemma pecked Steph’s lips. Hellie watched as Steph smiled holding onto Gemma’s arm. She had to break eye contact.

“What if we popped down for a smoke?” Dawn asked her.

“You don’t smoke,” Hellie commented.

“No, but I could go for a coffee at the cafe while you smoke, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Steph?” The two women looked towards Dawn’s voice. “Hellie’s gonna smoke and I’m going to get a coffee. Would you like anything?”

“I’m okay. Thanks.”

“Mummy, could I get a biscuit, please?”

“Uh, yeah, of course. You just have to ask Dawn to get it for you.” Steph put Dean down, but he hugged her legs instead. “Are you shy today? You know Dawn.”

Dean didn’t speak so Gemma smiled, opening her bag and taking out a few quid. “Would you mind getting him a biscuit?”

Dawn smiled. “Not a problem. We’ll be right back.”

Hellie and Dawn left and Gemma looked around while Steph seemed to focus on Dean. “Okay Mister Kirke, what’s going on?”

“Should I step out?” Gemma asked. “I can go sit in the car.”

“Do you want Gemma to leave?”

Dean shook his head no.

“Okay.” Steph kneeled down in front of him. “What’s wrong, Love? Did something happen at school?”

Dean continued to shake his head.

“You’re going to have to use your voice to tell me what’s wrong.” Dean shrugged. “Did he say anything to you?” Steph asked Gemma.

“No. His teacher came out with him and said he was a little blue today and hasn’t been participating as much as he used to. The only thing he asked was if we could come see you.”

“Are you okay, Love? Do you feel sick?” Steph felt his forehead and cheeks.

“No,” Dean stayed.

Steph smiled at his voice. “So why are you so down? Is it because Gemma was with me this morning?”

“No.”

“Then what, Sweetheart?”

“I miss Daddy.”

“I know, Dean, but you’re going to see him very soon and stay two nights with him. You’re going to have so much fun.”

“Can’t we go tonight?”

“No, Love. You have school tomorrow and Daddy has work, but you’ll be with him tomorrow night.”

“When will get there?”

“I don’t know. Probably 9-ish by the time I get home from work, get your tea ready and we’ll have to take the bus down.”

“Uh, I could drive you,” Gemma offered. “Less stops, better company and a quicker trip.”

“No, I couldn’t let you do that.”

“Better than taking the bus back alone.”

“But the petrol and everything.”

“Steph, I could care less about that. A bus will take a few hours. By car, it’s like what an hour and a half? We could even just stop and get food somewhere on the way down and couldn’t you leave a couple hours early? I’m done at three.”

Steph sighed.

“Please, Mummy?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Gemma answer.

“Alright then yes, please.”

“Yay!” Dean screamed, hugging Steph.

“I’m not the one you should be hugging, Tigger.”

Dean looked up at his mother, who pointed towards Gemma. Dean ran over to her and hugged her waist. She bent down and rubbed his back.

“What do we say, Dean?” Steph said.

“Thank you, Gemma.”

“You’re very welcome.”

The office door opened with Hellie and Dawn returning. They both had a cup of coffee in their hand. Dawn walked up and handed the packaged cookie to Gemma.

“Thank you,” she said, taking it. “Well, we should probably head to my flat. Do you remember how to get there? Do you want me to pick you up?”

“No. It’s not that far from here so I’ll walk.”

“Okay.” Gemma leaned in and pressed her lips against Steph’s. “Any requests for dinner?”

“Just something with v-e-g-g-i-e-s in it.”

Gemma smiled. “Not a problem. I do have to stop by the store so you sure you have no requests?”

“I’m sure.”

“Okay. Ready to go, Dean?”

Dean looked up at Steph. “Do we have to go?”

“Yeah, Love. Sorry. I have a meeting in a little bit and it’s a little too grown up for your ears, but Gemma will be there and have fun stuff for you to do.”

Dean turned towards Gemma.

“I’ll figure something out,” Gemma offered. “In the meantime, Mummy’s got to work and I’ve got to get started on dinner.”

Gemma held her hand out and Dean took it. He hugged Steph one more time. “I’ll see you in a couple hours, Love and we’ll call Daddy before you go to bed, okay?”

Dean nodded. He started to walk, still holding Gemma’s hand.

“I’ll see you in a little bit with dinner on the table,” Gemma said, kissing Steph.

“See you then.”

Steph gave her one more kiss before the two of them left the office.

“You know, I see it now,” Hellie admitted.

“What?”

“You haven’t smiled like that since Johnny left and if she can get you to be that happy again, then I’m glad you have her.”

“Thanks, Hellie.”

“And seriously, Dawn was right.”

“Hot fox?” Dawn asked.

“Smoking hot,” Hellie commented.

Steph laughed. “I know. She really is. Now, help me find this list so I don’t look like an idiot in front of corporate.”

Both Hellie and Dawn jumped up, helping Steph with her search.

———————————

Gemma handed Dean his cookie once he got buckled in. She went to the driver’s seat and started the car.

“So Dean, we just have to stop by the store on the way to my place. Okay?”

Dean nodded.

“How’s that cookie?”

“Good.”

Gemma noticed he seemed down again, which only made her nervous. She focused on getting out of her parallel parking spot, ignoring her images of a sad Tom. “I’m cursed,” she thought to herself. She tried to shake off the feeling as she drove.

A few moments later she parked at the grocery store. She got out of the car, Dean following. He held her hand as they walked inside. It made her smile, but at the same time, filled her with guilt.

“Do you have any preference on dinner, Dean?”

He shook his head no.

“Is pasta okay? With some chicken?”

“Sure.”

“Okay,” Gemma whispered.

They zipped through the market, Gemma getting what she needed and Dean following. She was looking for a certain spice when Dean called her.

“Gemma?”

“Yeah, Love,” she answered, reading through the labels.

“Can I get one of these?”

Gemma turned and saw they had a few activity and coloring books.

“Absolutely. Pick whichever one you want. Get two if you like.”

Dean smiled. He stepped forward to the small selection and chose one activity book with games and word searches and then a coloring book.

“That’s what you want?” Gemma asked, holding out her basket.

He nodded. “Thank you.”

She smiled. “You’re welcome.”

They checked out quickly and made a pit stop at a craft store to get Dean crayons and colored pencils for his new books. Gemma saw him eyeing a small toy dog along with some other animals. She grabbed a few, including the dog, without him noticing. They headed to Gemma’s and she suddenly felt nervous. A small child in her space yet again and they still had about an hour and a half until Steph would show up. She knew how to occupy children, but feared he would be bored with her.

They stepped into the elevator, Gemma letting him hit all the buttons. He seemed better than before, but was awfully quiet. She opened the door to her apartment and gestured for him to go first. He tentatively stepped in, she following and turning on a light. He looked at the large space and waited next to Gemma as she kicked her shoes off. He did the same.

“Why don’t we set you up on the couch while I cook, hm?”

“Okay,” he whispered.

Dean took his coat off, which Gemma took from him, hanging it on a hook by the door. She took the books out of the bag and handed them to him. He grabbed them and walked forward to the couch. She felt like all her parenting skills had gone out the window.

“Do you want to watch some cartoons?” She asked.

He shrugged. “I guess.”

“Okay.”

Gemma smiled at the small child before turning on the television. Dean started to walk around the room, taking in this new environment. He noticed most of Gemma’s pictures contained the same boy.

“Who’s this?” He asked, pointing to one next to the television. It was Tom’s last school portrait.

“That’s Tom.”

“Who is that?”

“My son.” Gemma laid out the books for Dean with the colored pencils and crayons. “Here you are.”

Dean walked over to the small coffee table. “I didn’t know you had a son.”

“Yeah. He’s a little older than you.”

“Does he live here?”

Gemma felt the familiar pang in her heart. “No, Love. He lives on his own.”

“Does he live far away?”

Gemma nodded. “Yeah, he does.”

“Does that make you sad?”

Gemma gritted her teeth and took a deep breath, collecting herself. “Yeah, sometimes.”

“I’m sad that my daddy lives so far away.”

“I know, Love. It’s hard isn’t it?”

Dean nodded. He stepped forward and hugged Gemma around her legs. Gemma did all she could not to cry. She squatted down so she could hug him properly, giving him comfort where she could.

“How about you color something for your mum when she gets here?”

“Alright,” Dean mumbled, pulling back.

“I’m just going to go change really quick and I’ll be right back, okay?”

Dean started to look through the different Crayons and nodded. Gemma walked past him, feeling her eyes water. She made it to her room before she started to actually cry. She let herself feel it for a few moments, quietly. She managed to calm herself while changing into a pair of jeans and a navy sweatshirt.

She wiped her eyes and walked back into the room. Dean was furiously coloring, giving her red eyes and cheeks time to cool down. She shuffled through the bags, pulling out the chicken and pasta. She’d leave the zucchini and bell peppers for later.

Throughout her meal prep, she could hear Dean laughing at something on the television or muttering to himself. It brought her a strange comfort as he occupied himself.

“Gemma?” He asked from the couch.

“Yeah, Love.”

“Do you have regular paper? I want to draw something for Mummy instead of coloring if that’s okay.”

“Yeah, of course.” She wiped her hands on a rag and opened a drawer in her kitchen where she kept her office supplies. She pulled out a couple sheets and handed them to him.

“Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome. Do you need anything else?”

Dean shook his head no.

“Is there anything you’d like me to do?”

“Can you draw a tree?”

“A tree? I can try.”

Gemma sat next to do Dean on the floor, waiting for the water to boil for the pasta. She picked up a brown and green crayon and started the trunk. She did the best she could, but felt like it would have been done better had Dean not been staring at her the whole time.

“How’s that?”

Dean shrugged. “Pretty good.”

“Yeah? Well better than bad.”

The water in the pot started to boil over the side and Gemma quickly got up to lower the burner. Dean walked up beside her.

“Can I help you?” He asked.

“Sure.”

Gemma picked him up, sitting him on the counter, next to the stove. “Just don’t touch any of the pots because they’re hot.” Gemma handed him the box of pasta. “Can you very slowly, pour this box into the water.”

Dean listened and let Gemma help him dump the box of noodles into the pot. “And now,” she said, grabbing a wooden spoon, “you need to stir it so none of the noodles stick together.” He did as he was told. “Good! Want to help me season the chicken?”

“How do I do that?”

“Well first, we wash our hands since were touching food we’ll eat later.” As he washed his hands, Gemma set out three chicken breasts on a cutting board and laid out different seasonings. She pulled out one of the dining room table chairs. Dean stood next to her.

“So you’re going to come up here,” she said, patting the chair. Dean climbed up and looked at the chicken. “Okay, so take one of these bottles and shake it evenly over the chicken.” Gemma picked one up and sprinkled it. “Like this on all three. Just lightly do it, okay?”

Dean nodded.

“Oh and if you accidentally touch the chicken, do not lick your fingers.”

“Why?”

“Just to be careful. Uncooked chicken has something called salmonella. Do you know what that is?”

Dean shook his head.

“It’s something can make you really sick if you eat it and I don’t think your mum would forgive me if you got sick on your first day alone with me.”

Gemma stirred the pasta, realizing she might have started this process a little too soon, but continued anyway, lowering the burner to a light flame. She watched Dean as he cautiously poured each seasoning.

He put the last bottle down and looked at Gemma. “Finished?”

Dean nodded.

“How was that?”

“Good.”

“Yeah? Well now we have to flip them and do the other side too. Do you want me to do?”

“I got it.”

“Good.”

Gemma used a second cutting board to cut up the zucchini and red peppers. Dean finished his part and Gemma smiled. “So now, we’re going to add a little Olive oil to the skillet and grill it on the stove top, but stay on the chair because the oil can pop up and burn you sometimes. And you might have to cover your ears bc it could get loud.”

Dean waited excitedly as the oil heated. Gemma thought of something that used to make Tom giddy with excitement around that age.

“Let’s wash your hands,” Gemma said.

“But I didn’t touch the chicken.”

“Just to be on the safe side.”

Gemma didn’t have anything he could stand on other than a chair. He washed them and reached for a towel to dry them.

“Hold on,” Gemma said. “We’re going to check the oil to see if it’s hot enough.”

“How?”

Gemma picked him up and carried him close, but not too close to the stove top. “Oil and water do not mix so the easiest way to check if oil is hot, you flick water onto it so carefully flick the water on your hand into the pan.”

She held him far enough back and as soon as the water hit, the oil cracked and sputtered. Dean erupted in laughter at it which caused Gemma to laugh as well.

“Can I do my other hand?”

“Sure.”

He flicked his other hand watching it do the same thing. He laughed again before Gemma sat him back on the chair.

“Do you help your mum cook?” She asked.

“No.”

“Why not?”

He shrugged looking at the pan of sizzling chicken.

“Is your mum a good cook?”

“Yeah.”

Gemma flipped two of the breasts and then held the spatula out for Dean. He looked up at her very excitedly, wanting to flip one. “Just be careful,” she warned.

Dean took his time, managing to get the spatula under the chicken and carefully flipped. “Alright!” Gemma praises. “You’re a natural.”

“Thanks.” Gemma noticed his cheeks flushed the same way Steph’s did and it made her smile.

“Did your son ever help you cook?”

The question caught Gemma off guard, but she managed to answer it without sorrow. “When he was about your age, he always wanted to help. Whether it was with his dad in the yard or me in the garden or cooking. But when he got a little older, he lost interest.”

“He has a daddy?”

“Of course. We’re just not together anymore.”

“Like mine.”

“Yeah. I know it’s hard, Sweetheart.”

“I just miss my dad.”

“You know he misses you just as much, right? When you don’t get to see your kids, it’s really hard.”

“Because you don’t get to see Tom?”

“Exactly.”

“Will Mummy be sad while I’m with me dad?”

“I can’t say for certain, but yeah, probably a little bit, but she knows how important this trip is for you and I think she’s happy you get to be with him for the whole weekend.”

“I’ll miss her too.”

“She knows, Love.”

There was a little lingering silence. Gemma smiled. “There’s one more bag by the door. Can you get it for me?”

Dean jumped off the chair. She could hear him bringing the bag and handed it out to her.

“It’s for you, Silly.”

“Me?”

“I saw you looking at them in the craft store and since I don’t have any toys, I figured a few couldn’t hurt.”

He pulled out different farm animals and gasped when he saw the dog. Gemma focused on dinner, but the small sound made her heart warm. Maybe she still had a small way with children. Dean hugged her.

“Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.”

Dean looked towards the couch and back at Gemma. “Do you still need help or-?”

“Go play.”

Dean skipped to the couch and Gemma felt a sense of knowing overwhelm her, smiling all the same.

———————————

Gemma was just placing the warm food on plates when the door buzzed around 5:45. Dean and Gemma both eyes the door. Dean glanced at Gemma.

“You know who it is,” Gemma stated. Dean held back so Gemma answered it. She opened the door to see Steph standing there with a bouquet of fresh flowers and a take away bag.

Steph smiled as Gemma opened it. “Hi.”

Gemma stood off to the side, allowing Steph entered. “Perfect timing.”

“Yeah?”

“Dinner is on the table.”

“Really?” Steph handed Gemma the flowers. “In case it still needed a touch of home that reminded you of me,” she explained as Gemma took them.

Gemma smiled. “They’re beautiful.” Gemma leaned in and kissed Steph before a happy Dean came straight to them, hugging his mother.

“Hi, Sweetheart. Did you have a good time with Gemma?”

“She let me help her cook.”

“She did? What did you make?”

Dean shrugged. “I helped with the chicken though.”

“Well that’s good. I’m sure it’s going to be good.”

“Show Mum your picture,” Gemma suggested.

Dean walked to the couch and Steph followed handing Gemma the take away bag.

“What is this?” Gemma asked. “Did you get a just in case meal?”

“No. It’s a surprise for later. It needs to go in the fridge.”

“Alright.”

Steph paused for a moment, noticing photographs everywhere of a boy. Some with Gemma. Some with Gemma and she assumed, Simon, but mostly of him.

“I’m just going to put these in water and this in the fridge,” Gemma said, walking into the kitchen.

“Here, Mummy.” Dean held out a sheet of paper. Steph smiled when she looked at it. She could see it was Dean between herself and Terry, but Gemma was pictured next to Steph in what seemed to be a park or forest.

“This is beautiful, Dean.”

“That’s Daddy.”

“Right.”

“Me, you and Gemma.”

“And where are we, Love?”

“At the park.”

Steph continued to smile at it, kneeling next to Dean. She noticed Gemma was holding something in the picture. “What does Gemma have here?”

“Animals.”

“Why is that?”

“Because we went to the store and she bought me some farm animals.” Dean pointed to them on the table.

“Did you say thank you?”

Dean nodded.

“I hope it’s alright. I just didn’t have anything and thought it would be something he could have here,” Gemma said.

“Yeah, it’s fine. It’s good.”

A beat passed before Gemma sighed. “Should we eat?”

“Yes,” Steph answered. “Dean go wash your hands for dinner, please.”

Dean skipped to the bathroom. Steph stood up and walked to a picture in front of the television. It was the same picture Dean had stared at. Gemma noticed, but after her small spell of crying, she didn’t want to have the conversation again.

“Are you sure it’s okay I bought him the animals? They were really cheap and he didn’t ask for them. I just saw him eyeing them and touching them.”

Steph smiled. “Yes, it’s fine. I appreciate it.”

“Shall we?” Gemma pointed towards the food.

“Yes, I just want to wash my hands.”

Gemma pointed to the sink next to her. Steph strode up to Gemma and cupped her cheeks. She stared into her eyes.

“What?” Gemma asked.

“I just really like you.”

Gemma wrapped her arms around Steph’s waist. “I really like you too.”

“Yeah?”

Gemma nodded, kissing Steph. Even though they kept it a bay, it was heated and needy. They could hear Dean coming back and separated, sharing one last peck. Steph washed her hands as Gemma poured them each a glass of wine.

“Dean what would you like to drink? I’ve got water or squash?” Gemma asked, shuffling things around her kitchen.

“I think water would be best for Dean,” Steph answered.

“Okay.”

Steph pulled a chair out for Dean and then sat herself. “This looks wonderful,” she commented.

Gemma placed a glass of white wine in front of her and a glass of water for Dean. “It’s pasta with chicken and it has v-e-g-g-i-e-s.” Gemma winked at Steph.

“I know that spells veggies,” Dean said, taking a bite.

“You do? Why didn’t you say anything?” Gemma asked.

“Because I know I have to eat them. I want to be strong like Daddy.”

Steph smiled and took a bite. Her eyes lit up as she took in the taste. “Oh my gosh, Gemma. This is amazing.”

“Really?”

Steph nodded. “I didn’t know you were such a good cook.”

“Well I had to cook for three for about fourteen years so you pick it up.”

“Well it’s very good. Isn’t it, Dean?”

Dean nodded excitedly, taking another bite. They both laughed at him. Steph reached over and took Gemma’s hand. “How was your day?”

“The usual. Mostly people with the flu.”

“Is that going around?”

“Yeah, but mostly with adults. But then again, I mostly only deal with adults. I normally do not deal with children at all. Dean was a very special case that day.”

“Was he?”

“I’m the senior doctor and was the only available, not that I’m complaining.”

“Me either.”

“How was yours?”

“Had a meeting with corporate about a new line. I think it went well, but wasn’t overall sure. I also had a polite conversation with Hellie. She had been avoiding me since yesterday when she found out about you?”

“Why?”

“She used to have a crush on me in school and I was head over heels with Terry. I knew there was an attraction, but in all honesty, I wasn’t the best of friends. I was her tutor and we did everything together, but Terry would be there too. But she was always the easiest to talk to about life because she was so relaxed and nonjudgmental.”

“But it’s resolved now?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Good.” Gemma squeezes her hand and they smiled at one another.

“Mummy?”

“Yes?”

“Did you know Gemma had a son?”

Steph looked alarmed, glancing towards Gemma.

Gemma smiled sympathetically. “It’s okay. I told him I did.”

“Yeah, I did know. Gemma told me last night.”

“Maybe someday I can play with him.”

Gemma put her fork down, taking a sip of wine.

“I think he’s a little too old to play, Sweetheart.”

“He’d play football with you, Dean,” Gemma stated. “Do you like football?”

“Yeah.”

“Well maybe one day, you two can play football together.” Gemma smiled for the small child, but Steph could see the tears in her eyes. She held Gemma’s hand a little tighter and kissed it.

“Sorry. I’m going to run to the restroom. I’ll be right back.”

Gemma got up from the table, Steph watching her leave. Dean looked at Steph with a questioning look. “It’s okay, Love. Keep eating. I’m going to go check on her.”

“Okay. Did I make something bad happen?”

“No, Love. We’ll be right back.”

Steph walked into Gemma’s room, her back towards the door. Steph stood behind her, running her hands around Gemma’s waist before hugging her. Gemma sniffled, her hands resting on Steph’s.

“Sorry,” Gemma said, choking around her words. “I’ve already done this once today after I told him.”

“No, Love. I’m sorry. Dean can be prying.”

“No, it’s not him. I left the pictures out because now you know my deepest secret and I didn’t want to deprive you of that part of my life. I didn’t tell him Tom’s gone. Just that he exists and lives far away.”

“Shh.” Steph turned her. She wiped the tears from her cheeks as Gemma calmed herself. She took a few deep, stabilizing breaths.

“Sorry,” Gemma said more clearly. “Harder than I expected it to be.”

“It’s okay. Are you alright?”

“Yeah. This is just a whole new level for me.”

“I know, but I’m here. I’m here with you. And if there is one thing I am really good at, it’s changing the subject before Dean has the chance to ask more questions. Okay?”

Gemma nodded. Steph cupped her cheeks and brought her in for a kiss. It was comforting and sweet. Steph took a few deep breaths with Gemma as they rested their foreheads together. Gemma’s stomach growled, causing them both to laugh. “Let’s go eat,” Steph said, pointing towards the door.

Gemma nodded, letting Steph guide her out. She wiped her eyes one more time, managing to compose herself for Dean.

“I’m sorry, Gemma,” he whispered as she sat down. He got out of his seat and came to her side, hugging her around her torso.

Gemma ran her fingers through his hair, hugging him. “Why, Love?”

“I made you sad,” he looked up at her through his thick glasses.

“No you didn’t. I promise you, you didn’t.”

“Finish your tea, Dean and let Gemma eat.” Dean gave her one more squeeze before going back to his chair. “Now why don’t you tell me what happened at school today that made you not participate as much.”

Dean shrugged, taking another bite. “I already told you.”

“But I feel like there is more you’re not telling me.”

Dean didn’t respond.

“Come on, Sweetheart. This isn’t like you. You usually tell me everything. I know you miss your daddy, but you’re seeing him tomorrow so there must be something else bothering you. You’re always excited the day before seeing Daddy.”

Dean remained quiet, pushing his food around. Steph looked to Gemma, who was glancing at Dean between bites. She finished chewing, wiping the corners of her mouth and took a swig of wine.

“Dean,” she stated. He looked up at Gemma. “Did someone say something to you that hurt your feelings?”

Dean shook his head no.

“Is it because I’m seeing your mum? Are you worried I’m going to be around too much?”

Dean shrugged.

“Do you think Gemma is taking too much of our time away?”

“I just thought once Daddy got a job-“

That’s when Steph realized. It didn’t matter if it was a Johnny or a Gemma or anyone else. He always hoped: “We’d get back together?”

Dean nodded.

“Oh, Love. I’m sorry. We tried, remember? But we just don’t fit anymore. We’ve grown and changed a lot over the past few years and we’ve told you, it happens sometimes. But our love for you hasn’t changed and it won’t. We both love you so much. Your dad has probably never loved someone as much as he loves you, Dean. And where he works in Birmingham, they have an office here. He’s trying to work hard enough there so he can come back and then you can see him all the time.”

“But what if that doesn’t happen?”

“Then your dad and I will work something out that is better for you, but he and I will have to talk first. I know this isn’t ideal, but it’s the best we can do at the moment.”

“I guess.”

Dean continued to push the last remaining food around on his plate. Steph felt defeated that this hadn’t even occurred to her before.

“Are you finished eating Dean?” Gemma asked.

“Yeah.”

“Okay. Why don’t you go draw your dad a picture for tomorrow? So you have something to give him when you see him and then he can hang it in his new flat. How does that sound?”

Dean didn’t really perk up but agreed.

“Can you take your plate to the sink, Love?” Steph asked. He again nodded, doing as he was told before heading to the couch.

 

Steph watched him and then hung her head. Gemma reached forward and rubbed her back. “It’ll be okay.”

“I don’t know, Gemma. I know Terry is trying to get a job here, which I shouldn’t have told Dean because I don’t want his little hopes to get up, but it’s so hard getting factory jobs here. It’s hard getting any job here when you’re middle class.”

“You worry about it when and if the time comes, but for right now, Terry is doing what he has to do, just as you.”

“It’s not fair to Dean.”

“I know. When Simon left, I mean granted we have two completely different circumstances, but when he left, I knew how unfair it was for Tom. That he didn’t get to see his father, but Tom knew the truth about what happened because I told him so he didn’t want to see him, but I knew it still wasn’t fair. A boy deserves to see his father.”

“Terry’s good to him. He does everything he can for him like getting this job and new flat. It’s not for Terry, it’s for Dean. It’s so he can go and stay with him.”

“It’ll work out how it’s supposed to, you know?”

“Yeah. Is it bad I hope Terry can get a job here?”

“For Dean?”

“Yeah.”

“No. I think it shows how much you care about your son’s happiness and well-being. And I think it’s really sweet.”

Steph smiled and leaned forward, Gemma following. They kissed each other with the smallest of smiles. “Have I told you I really like you,” Steph whispered.

“Might have mentioned, yeah.”

They shared one more peck, going back to their meals.

“This seriously is delicious.”

“Well good. I’m glad you like it. I guess I’ll be cooking for you more often.”

“I can cook for you if you like. Say Saturday night? My place?”

“Hm.”

“Empty house with no child for a little romantic evening where I have a lot of special clothing options,” Steph whispered.

Gemma felt her blood starting to boil at the thought of Steph in some sort of lingerie. “Yeah. Sounds good.”

“Good. Oh and Nita rang me at work.” Her silent, seductive tone turned back to her normal perkiness.

“I met her today.”

“So she said and told me that she couldn’t believe I bagged such a hot one like you.”

Gemma laughed. “I’ll take your word for it.”

“She said, how do you get all the attractive ones?”

“Was the copper hot as well?”

Steph rolled her eyes. “Extremely. Johnny was a gorgeous man.”

“Built?”

“Of course. Built, and tall and very handsome, that one.”

“Should I be worried?” Gemma asked, teasingly. “Losing you to some other copper with the same features?”

“No.”

“Why’s that?”

Steph shrugged. “Because you’re tall, dark, sexy and gorgeous. No one could compare to your beauty and charm.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t flatter me.” Gemma leaned in closer to her again.

“Don’t worry,” Steph whispered, following Gemma’s lead. “I’m not.”

Gemma sat back in her chair, laughing.

“Anyway, Nita says if we get back tomorrow at a decent time, she has a party until about nine and that we should meet up with the girls at the pub so they can get to know you better and make sure you’re the right fit for me.”

“Yeah, we can do that. Fair warning though, I still get really nervous around new people because of talking about, you know, the past and everything.”

“I know, but I’ll be there and they’re fun. I promise it’s always a good time.”

“Yeah, alright. Sounds good.”

Steph got up, taking her and Gemma’s empty plates to the sink. She turned on the water.

“I’ll do that,” Gemma said, standing from her chair.

“No. You cooked for us, let me wash the dishes.”

“Seriously, it’s okay. I’ll do it.” Gemma took the sponge out of Steph’s hand. “You worked longer today and had a board meeting. Go be with your son and relax. I’ll bring you another glass of wine.” Steph tried to fight, but smiled at Gemma’s kindness. She kissed Gemma’s shoulder and then back of her neck.

Gemma could feel the loss of her embrace when she heard Steph greeting Dean.

“Let’s see what you’ve drawn for Daddy.” Steph made a surprised sound at what he drew, Gemma’s grin only growing. “Dean, this is really good!”

“It’s a car like the toy he gave me.”

“I can see that! You’re such a good artist. And is that you in the driver’s seat?”

“Yeah and now I’m going to draw Daddy next to me.”

“He’s going to love that.”

“I hope so.”

“Are you excited to spend the weekend with him?”

“Yeah.”

“What do you think you’re going to do?”

“I don’t know. Do you think Daddy’s excited?”

“About you coming?”

“Yeah.”

“I guarantee he is more excited than you are.”

Dean smiled. “Do you think he’ll take me to Dudley Castle to look at the animals?”

“I bet he will if you ask him.”

“I wish you could come.”

“Well not this trip, but maybe the next one.”

Dean stopped drawing for a minute and looked at Steph. She smiled at him. “I’m going to miss you.”

Steph’s smile faltered as her eyes watered. Dean climbed up on the couch to hug her. “I’m going to miss you too, Love,” she whispered, holding him tightly. “So, so much. I’m already looking forward to Sunday when I get you back.”

Gemma finished the plates and was drying her hands when she turned around to the tender moment on the couch. Steph’s eyes were closed as she comforted the small child. Gemma felt her heart yearn for another moment like that with Tom. She was always the one that comforted him when he was sad and she missed the way it felt to protect him. To hold him and keep him safe. She looked at his picture on the fridge when she heard Steph speak again.

“Are you nervous about going?”

Dean nodded.

“Why, Sweetheart?”

“I don’t know this place.”

“Well I know, but it’s your Dad’s flat and he has a bed for you now so at least you don’t have to share a bed or sleep on the couch like you have in the past. You’re not going to be alone.”

“Is is scary?”

“Is what scary?”

“Sleeping somewhere else.”

“You mean away from home?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t think so. Gemma, what do you think?”

“Sorry?” Gemma asked, looking towards them.

“What’s it like to not sleep in your own bed.”

Dean was now snug against her. Steph eyed the couch, inviting Gemma to sit down and join the conversation. She did as she was silently told and sat.

“Well, at first, it’s going to seem a little strange, but you’ll probably be so tired that you won’t know the difference.”

“Yeah and Daddy will stay with you until you fall asleep if it makes you too nervous.”

Steph kissed the side of his head, playing with his hair.

“You’re going to have such a good time,” Gemma said.

“Yeah! You will,” Steph agreed.

Gemma looked at the car photo he had drawn. It was actually pretty good for a seven year old drawing. It even had a little detail put into it. “Tell me about this car, Dean.” Gemma wanted to try and perk him up. She picked up the piece of paper and held it in her hand. Dean scooted over to her.

“It’s a toy car me dad got me when he first went to Birmingham.”

“Is that the car you want someday?”

Dean nodded. “And Daddy said he’d teach me how to drive when I’m old enough.”

“Well that’s good and this is a very good drawing.”

“Thank you.”

Steph placed her arm on the back of the couch and scratched Gemma’s shoulder. It was the closest part of her she could reach. Gemma clasped her hand and kissed it.

“Dean, it seems like you got a lot of stuff today.”

“Just a coloring book, an activity book and animals.”

“I hope you were good and polite to deserve such nice gifts.”

Dean looked up Gemma. “He was a perfect gentleman and said thank you to everything. I think we got to know each other a little better this evening. What do you say, Sir?”

“Yeah. I liked cooking the chicken.”

Steph smirked and sat closer to them. “Oh yeah? Then you can help me cook more at home.” Steph tickled his sides, laughing loudly as Gemma joined.

“No,” he giggled. They both let up as he sat up, out of breath. He looked a little startled.

“Do you need to go to the toilet?” Steph asked.

Dean nodded and hurried out of the room.

“Did he wet himself?” Gemma asked.

“No, but probably came close or just realized he needed to go.”

Steph moved to be next to Gemma. Gemma wrapped her arm around Steph, kissing her forehead. She saw the picture of Tom on the side table as they sat in silence.

“He is very handsome.”

“Who?”

“Tom.”

Gemma followed Steph’s line of vision. She smiled at her son. “It was taken during those two years while Simon was gone. We went to visit Mary, the woman who took care of me after my parents died and a friend for a weekend. I think he liked the water.”

“He looks like you.”

“He used to look more like his father, but his hair slowly went closer to my color, but I still see more of Simon in him than me.”

“And is that Simon?” Steph pointed to a picture on the bookshelf.

“Yeah.”

“Handsome guy.”

“Could be when he didn’t think so highly of himself.”

“Yeah, well. I can say, I like this version of your apartment more than the old one.”

“Yeah? Give it a more homey vibe?” Gemma teased.

“Yeah,” Steph chuckled. “But it gives me more of you and that’s what I like most about it.”

Gemma smiled and nodded, not taking her eyes off of Tom.

“Is it hard? Having Dean here?”

Gemma shook her head no. “It’s actually given me a little relief. He’s so sweet, Steph. I would hate to destroy that.”

Steph sat up to look Gemma in the eyes. “You’re not, Gemma and you won’t.”

“Don’t be so sure.”

“I told you, I trust you most with him. If I wasn’t sure, I wouldn’t let you be around him. Right?”

“Yeah.”

“Speaking of which, I better go check on him and I’m apologizing now for any odor.”

“I had a son once. I know the smell of stinky children.”

Steph was just about to stand up when they heard the toilet flush. “Ah good. I don’t have to get up.”

Dean came skipping into the room.

“Feel better?” Steph asked.

“Yeah.”

“Good because there is a surprise for you in the fridge.”

“What is it?” Dean asked, excitedly.

“I guess you’ll just have to go find out, but,” her voice raised as she he took off, “we will go slowly because this is not our home.”

Instead of running, Dean walked to the fridge.

“What is it?” Gemma asked.

“Dean’s favorite.”

“Which is?”

Steph got up and helped him with the bag. She opened drawers until she found the silverware pulling out three forks. “Gem, do you have any milk?”

“Yeah.” Gemma was about to get up when Steph waved for her to stay.

“Dean, why don’t you go sit with Gemma. I’ll bring it to us.” She looked at Gemma. “It’s okay if we eat on the couch, right?”

“Of course.”

Dean started to run when Steph called out to him. “Oi! What did I just say?”

“Come here,” Gemma said, waving him over. She opened her arms to him and he laughed as he jumped on her. She laughed along too not expecting to pick him up.

“Dean, no rough housing.”

Gemma started to tickle his sides. “He’s fine, Love.”

Dean got comfortable on Gemma’s lap, leaning against her. She smiled. “Do you know what this surprise is?”

“Chocolate cake,” he whispered.

“Are you sure?”

Dean nodded. He picked up the small dog toy and held it tightly in his hand. Gemma picked up a few of the animals and started to talk to Dean about them. She had learned a few things while in medical school.

“Gemma?” Steph asked, opening a cabinet.

“Yeah?”

“Where are the plates?”

“Cupboard all the way to the right.”

Steph looked over to say thanks when she stopped. Gemma and Dean were completely lost in their own private conversation. She hadn’t even noticed that Dean was sitting on her lap. She watched them for a moment. Dean listened to every word Gemma was saying as she pointed to different parts of an animal she could not see.

“That’s not true,” Dean shouted with a huge grin on his face.

“It is true,” Gemma answered, poking his side.

Steph grabbed her and Gemma’s glasses, refilling them. She grabbed Dean’s cup and poured milk into. She brought them over to the coffee table.

“Can I just put these here?” She asked Gemma. Gemma looked up at her. Her face full of happiness.

“Of course,” she answered. “Where’s the surprise?”

“Patience, Gem,” Steph answered.

“Dean was asking,” Gemma joked, pointing to him.

“I was not,” he said, bashfully.

“Now, Dean, I want you to close your eyes.”

“But I know the surprise, Mum.”

“You do? Well, of course you do. It never changes. Should we make Gemma close her eyes?”

“Oh. Well? Hm… Dean already told me the surprise.”

“He did?”

“Well I asked him.”

“You two are no fun,” she said, bringing over two plates. Dean was still sitting on Gemma’s lap and graciously took his, excited to eat it. Gemma waited until Steph had come back with her own plate.

“Thank you for my surprise flowers and cake,” Gemma said, taking a bite.

Steph smiled. “You’re very welcome.” She leaned towards Gemma, giving her a small peck on the cheek.

After their cakes were digested, the television played in the background while Steph and Gemma chatted. Dean was now sound asleep against Gemma, in her lap. She held him naturally in her arms and moved in a way not to disturb him. This did not go unnoticed by Steph through their conversation.

“Giving birth to this one was actually relatively easy from what I’ve heard. No horror stories or anything. He was such a small little thing especially when Terry held him. But I was surprised because my pregnancy, on the other hand was rough,” Steph said. “He just moved all the time. He’d keep me up at night sometimes-“

“Kicking?”

“No, just squirming around. As if he was never comfortable and waiting to break free. Maybe that’s why he came a few weeks early.”

Gemma laughed. “I can see that in his personality, but I can’t imagine him being trouble.”

“Only inside the womb. He’s always been shy and quiet around people, but not around me unless he’s sad.”

“Is he sad often?”

“When Terry first left for good, yes. He slept with me for about a week in a half, wearing a shirt Terry left behind. I had never felt worse in my life. I felt like the worst mum on the planet. My mother constantly chirping in my ear.”

“I know it wasn’t easy.”

“No, but I’d like to believe Johnny filled some of that emptiness when we were together. But then he left and I kind of vowed not to date for a while. Losing your father and then a friend is too hard on a child.”

“You’ve made it work.”

Steph patted Gemma’s leg. “I’d like to think I chose a little more wisely this time.”

“Oh yeah? And what are we? Girlfriends?” Gemma asked.

“If you like.”

Gemma smiled. She leaned closer to Steph. “Do you want to be my girlfriend?”

Steph laughed. “Yeah I think I do. Do you want to be mine?”

Gemma patted Steph’s thigh. “Yeah I would.”

“Yeah?” Steph closed the gap between them as their lips met. They found it hard to kiss as they both smiled through it, giggling like young girls. “I feel like I’m in school again calling you my girlfriend.” Steph shook her head in disbelief. “I never thought I’d use that word in reference to someone I’m attracted to.”

“Me either.”

“But I kind of like it.”

Gemma’s lips curled in the smallest of smiles. “Yeah. Me too.”

Dean shifted and reached up to hug Gemma. She wrapped her arm around his back, holding him.

“I should probably get this one home,” Steph said.

“I can drive you.”

“No. You don’t have to do that.”

“I know I don’t have to, but I’d like to. You’re across town. It be cheaper than a cab.”

“As much as I want you to stay the night with me because I thought about nothing other than,” she paused, glancing at Dean. She leaned into Gemma’s ear. “All I’ve thought about is your warm mouth.” Steph paused, Gemma’s body trembling at her words.

“I’ve thought of nothing, but your taste,” Gemma replied, watching the effect it had on Steph. They stared at each other’s lips for a moment.

“Again as much as I want you to stay-“

Gemma held up her hand. “I wasn’t inviting myself over. I was literally just offering you a ride home.”

“If you drove me home, I’d want you to stay because I wouldn’t want you driving back. I’ll take a cab. Besides you’re doing enough for me tomorrow. You seriously don’t have to drive us.”

“I know, but I honestly want to. And you’ll keep me company on the way back and then we can go to yours and continue the things we can’t stop thinking about.”

Steph smiled. “And be as loud as we want.”

“And not have to worry about interruptions.”

They both looked down at Dean. “I’d like that,” Steph commented.

“Go call a cab even though I hate to see you go.”

“I know. If he didn’t have school tomorrow, I’d say let’s make him a bed on the couch and go to the bedroom, but I think that would be irresponsible.”

“Maybe a bit.”

“And I still have to pack his stuff.”

“I didn’t even think about packing.”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, go call before I hold you hostage.”

Steph nodded. She went to the phone, kissing Gemma while passing. Gemma sat, rubbing her hand aimlessly against Dean’s back. He took a big inhale, looking up towards Gemma.

“Hey, Kiddo. You’re going home soon.”

“Are you coming?” His voice was full of sleep.

“No, Love. Not tonight, but I will pick you up from school tomorrow and then your mum and we’ll be on our way to your dad’s.”

Dean nodded.

Steph came back. She rubbed her son’s back. “Dean, you need to wake up.”

He shook his head no.

“I’ll carry him down.”

“You sure?”

“Of course.”

Steph got their stuff together while Gemma stood from the couch. Dean was heavy, but she managed to do it on her own. She made sure to grab the small dog that he had dropped in his slumber and handed it to Steph.

“He seemed to really like this,” she said.

“That’s because he wants a dog and I keep telling him when he’s older.”

“Sounds like a lot of children to me.”

“Yeah.” Steph put the dog in her purse. She grabbed Dean’s coat and shoes as Gemma slipped on a pair of her own.

“You’ve got him?”

Gemma nodded, holding the small child to her.

“Can you just slip my keys into my back pocket?”

Steph grabbed them and very slowly slipped them in Gemma’s back pocket, placing a little bite to her neck and giving her backside a little squeezed. Gemma sighed, laughing a little.

“Keep that up and we’re canceling the cab.”

Steph opened the door; a proud smirk on her face. Gemma kissed her in passing. They waited for the elevator together. Gemma lifted Dean a little higher.

“Are you sure he’s not too heavy?” Steph asked.

“No. Not at all.”

The elevator dinged and they stepped on. Steph held onto Gemma’s arm.

“So I’ll pack everything tonight?” Steph suggested.

“Yeah. That’s what I was planning. I figured I would just pick Dean up from school and then we’d come get you and be on our way.”

“Yeah that sounds good. I’ll take his stuff with me to work.”

“Good.”

“You sure you don’t mind?”

“Stop asking. I seriously don’t.”

“Because I haven’t told Terry.”

“Haven’t told him what?”

“About you. About us.”

“Well why would you?”

“I don’t know, but I’m just letting you know. I’ll call him when I get home and tell him you’re bringing me, but I’m not ready to have that conversation with him.”

Gemma took Steph’s hand. “I’m fine with that.”

“Okay.”

They elevator doors opened and they stepped off. Steph and Gemma worked together to get Dean’s shoes and coat on before stepping outside. The cab was already there. Steph opened the passenger door, greeting the cab driver. Gemma cautiously placed Dean in the back.

“Bye, Gemma,” he whispered.

“Bye, Love. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Gemma held the door open for Steph. They wrapped their arms around one another.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Steph whispered, pulling back. She cupped Gemma’s cheeks, kissing her deeply. Gemma moaned as she reciprocated, pulling Steph close to her so there was no space between them. They stepped back with the shyest of smiles.

“Maybe we shouldn’t give the cab driver a show,” Gemma suggested.

“Yeah… just one more though.”

Gemma pecked Steph’s lips.

“Bye, Gem.”

“Bye. See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah.”

“Get home safe. Tell Dean good night for me.”

“I will.”

Steph leaned forward and kissed Gemma’s cheek. “Bye,” she whispered one last time. She got into the car and let Gemma closed the door. They waved to one another as the cab pulled away. Gemma stood in the cold and watched until the car was out of sight. She sighed and headed back upstairs.

The apartment now seemed empty without Steph and Dean there. She smiled nonetheless at the evening, wishing she would have kissed Steph one more time. She went to the coffee table to clean up the papers and mess that Dean had made. She cleaned up the animals first, grabbing a small ziplock bag to put them in. She took them to her purse so Dean could have them tomorrow if he wanted. She looked through the activity and coloring books to see he had done a couple pages in both. She stacked them neatly at the end of the coffee table, placing the crayons and colored pencils on top. She grabbed the blank pieces of paper when she noticed some color on the last sheet.

Gemma slid the paper out and immediately felt her tears start to water. At the top it said “To Gema”. “Close enough,” she whispered. The picture was of Steph, then Dean and then her all holding hands. It warmed her heart as she wiped her cheeks. She took it to the refrigerator to give the drawing a home, stepping back to look at it. She stared at it for sometime before heading to bed. She ignored her feelings of grief for once, holding a pillow to her chest and remembering how she felt in Steph’s arms the night before.

———————————

Dean stirred in the taxi and looked around.

“We’re almost home, Sleepyhead,” Steph stated.

Dean shifted closer to her and laid his head on her lap. She scratched his head as she looked out the window, reminiscing about Gemma’s lips against hers. Dean mumbled something, interrupting her from her thoughts.

“What, Love?”

“Is Gemma coming?”

“Where?”

“To the house.”

“No, Sweetheart. But you’ll see her tomorrow.”

“I thought she’d read me a story.”

“I think you’d fall asleep after the first sentence. Speaking of which, can you get up so we can get you inside?”

The cab pulled over in front of the house and Steph handed him some cash. She opened the door and Dean raised his head, but was still very much asleep. He managed to get out of the car, but Steph had to pick him up to get him inside. It was an easy task she had done so many times before. She welcomed her warm entrance way, wishing Gemma was next to her. She placed Dean on his feet and helped him out of his coat and shoes. He slowly headed upstairs, taking one step at a time.

“I’ll be up in a minute to tuck you in,” Steph said, sorting through the mail that had been dropped in the slot. She slipped out of her coat and boots, laying the mail on the table before heading upstairs. Dean was already sound asleep in his clothes. She knew it would be tough to do, but she grabbed a pair of Dean’s pajamas and changed him into them. He fought a little along the way, but Steph was used to doing this on her own. She finally managed as he continued to sleep now in his blue pajamas. She took his glasses off and put them on his small nightstand.

Steph went to her room to grab a small duffle bag to pack Dean’s clothes. She changed into her own set of pajamas, wanting to be as comfortable as possible after a day in her business clothes. She went through the fresh laundry to pack for Dean. A few undergarments, one pair of pants and a different set of pajamas. She went back into his room to get a couple sweaters. She felt the burden of what tomorrow would be like. Knowing that even though he was sound asleep in his own bed, tomorrow he’ll be asleep somewhere else. A place she doesn’t know. She was grateful she had Gemma. She wouldn’t know how to cope with this alone.

Steph kissed Dean’s forehead one last time before closing his door so he could rest peacefully. She headed downstairs and decided to give Terry a ring. It rang a couple of times before he finally answered.

“Hey, Terry. I’m just calling to make sure this weekend is still on.”

“Yeah! I’m excited to have him.”

“He’s excited too.”

“Good. I’ve got his little room all set up. I think he’s going to like it.”

Steph smiled. “That’s good.”

“What time should I pick you guys up tomorrow from the bus station?”

“Actually, my friend, Gemma, has offered to drive us down. We’re going to leave tomorrow around four so we should be there by five thirty, depending on traffic.”

“I don’t get off work until six, but I can try and leave early.”

“No, it’s okay. We were going to stop somewhere for tea so we’ll do that and then we can take him to you.”

“Yeah sounds good, but do I trust your friend to drive my son down here?

“Are you asking me? My friend is offering us a ride to save time and money. It gives you more time with your son tomorrow.”

“Yeah, but I don’t know her.”

“She’s a new friend, Terry. You’ll meet her tomorrow. She’s a safe driver and very attentive to Dean so I trust her.”

“Steph.”

“Terry, I’m not calling to argue. I’m telling you what’s happening tomorrow. Gemma is driving Dean and I down so you can have a weekend with your son. I have your address and I’ll meet you at your new place around six thirty. Alright?”

“Yeah. Good.” There was a pause before Terry spoke. “I’m sorry, Steph.

“For what?”

“Ruining everything for our family.”

Steph sighed. “I’m not having this conversation again, Terry. We’re in a better place now than we were before. Just keep your head above the water so you can keep your job. And then maybe you’ll get that promotion so you can move back here so your son can see you when he wants instead of having to wait until the weekend. Okay?”

“Yeah. Right.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” With that Steph hung up the phone. She squeezed the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes to calm herself. She thought about calling Gemma, but decided against it. This wasn’t something she felt Gemma needed to deal with. She got up and did her nightly routine of turning off lights and checking the locks to make sure they were secure. She made her back to her bedroom, but when she turned the corner and looked into her room, she saw Dean lying there on his side, his back to her. She bit her lip as she smiled.

“Dean?” She whispered.

He shook his head no, pulling the covers over his shoulders. She climbed into her side of the bed and laid down. It didn’t take him long to cuddle up to his mother.

“Are you alright?” She asked.

His little arm extended over her torso and she adjusted, wrapping her arm around his back. Once they both settled, Dean sighed. “I’m going to miss you, Mummy.”

“You’ve told me.”

“I want you to know though.”

Steph eyes watered. “I do, Love and I’m going to miss you too.” She kissed his forehead and scratched his back until she felt him fully succumb to slumber. She stared at him for a while, wishing he’d stop growing so fast before falling asleep herself.

Chapter Text

Gemma stood on the opposite side of her car outside the school, enjoying a cigarette. She figured it would be the only time to have one until she got back with Steph that evening. She managed to get there a little earlier and was looking forward to a weekend alone with the woman she admires so much. She heard the bell ring and a flood of children come out. She snubbed her cigarette under her shoe and walked around the car to wait for Dean.

The superintendent looked at her, knowing she just broke school rules again. Gemma just waved to her, not really caring. Gemma saw Nita’s kids run to a man she assumed was Nita’s husband. They seemed utterly delighted to see him as they jumped on him and he pretended to be a monster causing them to laugh.

“Gemma!” She heard Dean call excitedly.

Gemma turned her attention to the small boy in glasses running to her. She knelt down and held her arms open with a big smile. He hugged her tightly.

“Hello, Love. Good day?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you excited to go see your dad?!”

Dean nodded.

“Well then, come on! Let’s go get your mum and be on our way.”

Dean held Gemma’s hand as they walked to the car. Dean climbed into the backseat, Gemma waiting to close the door. Once he was settled, she got into the front seat and started the car. She reached into her bag and handed him a biscuit. His face lit up.

“Don’t tell your mum.”

“Thank you!”

“Well you are in much better spirits today.”

“I get to see my dad.”

“I know!”

Dean smiled, taking small bites out of the cookie, trying not to crumbs in Gemma’s car. It was quiet while he ate.

“Gemma?”

“Yes, Love?”

“Did you like your picture? I wanted it to be a surprise.”

Gemma grinned from ear to ear. “I loved my picture! It’s already hanging on my fridge.”

“It is?”

“Of course it is. All great artists must have their work displayed.”

Gemma watched Dean laugh through the rear view mirror. They were soon pulling over in front of Steph’s office building.

———————-

Steph was frantic. They had five women call to do parties tonight. They never liked to say no to clients and already had three of the five women come in for their evaluations to make sure each host would be safe. She had to call in Pauline Spake for extra hands and was grateful Nita was able to stay and help organize.

Dawn was furiously putting together collections for their party hosts to pick up based on their own individual party themes. Nita, Pauline and Steph were on the hunt for the last two parties; Dawn, Hellie and Pauline already offering to do one. Hellie was waiting on one of the clients to meet with them while helping Dawn with inventory and pricing.

Pauline hung up the phone. “Katie Knight is out.”

“Damn it,” Steph said.

“And you’re sure you can’t do it?” Pauline asked.

“No, I have to get Dean to his father’s tonight. It’s already been set.” Steph rubbed her face and took her hair out of it’s ponytail so she could scratch her head. “Gemma and Dean are going to be here any minute to pick me up so we have to find someone.”

“Thank you so much,” Nita said, hanging up the phone. “Alright I’ve got the two. Julia said she can handle the party in Catcliff and Sarah can do Loxley. And that’s how you get it done ladies.” She clapped her hands.

“See?! This is why your my party organizer!” Steph got up and gave Nita a big kiss on the cheek.

“Oi! Be careful. Wouldn’t want your lady coming in here and seeing you snogging me.”

“Nita,” Steph said, slapping her arm.

“So those rumors are true, Steph?” Pauline asked.

It seemed like everyone in the office stopped moving at the older woman’s question. You could have heard a pin drop, but Steph just stood up straight. She was proud of her relationship and hadn’t denied it once so she wasn’t going to start now. “Yeah they are. Her name is Gemma Foster. You met her at your house at the one year anniversary party.”

“Yes I remember her, but I didn’t think-“

Steph shrugged. “I really like her, Pauline. She’s good to me and Dean. And I’m happy again.”

It was clear Pauline was trying to figure out how this worked and whether she approved of it or not. Steph didn’t want to lose a dear friend of hers, but she was in no way, shape or form going to tell someone she didn’t care for Gemma.

“Oh come on, Paul. If you can get used to sex toys and ladies parties, you can definitely get used to two women shagging,” Nita said. Pauline looked at Nita’s smirk and immediately started laughing. The tension in the room broke as everyone started to join her. Steph was always grateful for Nita’s ability to diffuse a situation.

“Yes, I guess that true,” Pauline agreed. “And you know I hate gossip so as long as you’re happy, Dear.”

“She’s been practically glowing since they started.”

Steph smiled. “Oh, Nita. What would I do without you?”

“You’d be doing a party tonight and Dean would be one sad little boy.”

“Thank you for helping. Thank you all so much.”

“We got you,” Dawn said. “We want corporate to see how amazing our team is!”

“Here, here!” Hellie agreed.

“So what’s tonight going to be like?” Nita asked with a knowing look.

Steph rolled her eyes. “We’re going to drive to Birmingham and then meet you guys at the pub.”

“Yeah and then?” Dawn started to hump the air. “No, wait. I guess you don’t really do that. Well maybe you do, but not with a,” she paused, “What can you do for lesbians?” Dawn asked, looking at Hellie.

Hellie made a V with her fingers and brought it to her mouth, patting a couple times. Nita chuckled.

“Well there will definitely be a lot of that,” Nita joked.

“Stop,” Steph said, hitting her arm again.

“Hey, stop hitting me. I’m the reason you get to do all that.”

“Yes, I know and I’m very grateful.”

The office door opened and Dean ran through it. “Dean,” Gemma called out, stepping inside herself.

“Hi, Tigger,” Steph greeted, hugging him. She walked to her desk and pulled out a tote bag. “Let’s get you changed out of your school uniform and into weekend clothes. Do you remember where the bathroom is?” She called out to him as he sped to it.

Gemma smiled and nodded at everyone, walking up to Steph. She kissed her cheek.

“Gemma, you remember Pauline. It’s where we met.”

“Of course.” She held her hand out to her, which Pauline graciously took. “It’s good to see you again.”

“You as well, Dear.”

“Nita, Dawn, Hellie,” she hesitated, “Hello. Good to see you guys,” she said, awkwardly.

They greeted her kindly. They could hear Dean singing from the bathroom and started laughing.

“What is he singing?” Steph asked.

“I think it’s ‘Walking on Sunshine’. It was playing in the car. He’s very excited.”

Steph had a knowing look in her eyes. “Uh huh. Did you give him a sweet?”

Gemma placed her hand on the desk and looked down. She tapped her fingers a few times. “I might have, yes.”

“You do know you’re about to have a very hyper and loud child in the back of your car?”

“I haven’t seen that sight of him so I think I’ll live.” Steph laughed, kissing Gemma. “Are you ready to go?”

“Yes, I just want to put on my jeans and jumper and never wear this outfit again.”

“Long day?”

“To say the least.” Steph leaned against her desk and rubbed her face again. “Five last minute parties and we’ve been running around trying to fill them. We still have two more women coming in so we can meet them and-”

“Meet them?” Gemma asked.

“Rule number one, you never go to a party without meeting the lady of the household first. I learned that the hard way.”

“What do you mean?”

Steph smiled. “Nothing. It’s in the past.”

“Were you hurt?”

“Gemma, this was a year ago now and doesn’t matter.”

“But were you?”

Steph saw the concern in Gemma’s eyes. “Does the thought of someone hurting me upset you.”

Gemma had a look of confusion at the question. “Of course it does.”

Steph smiled and rested her arms on Gemma’s shoulders as Gemma’s hands held her sides. They leaned in to kiss one another which didn’t go unnoticed by the entire room. They were lost in their own world as it turned more passionate, desperate to be with one another again. Pauline cleared her throat.

“Oh stop,” Nita whispered. “Let ‘em snog. Go on, Girls.”

They both laughed, separating from one another. “You sound like a man,” Steph replied.

Nita shrugged. “How many times do I have to say, I’m livin through ya.”

“And why’s that?” Gemma asked.

“I’ve got five kids and a husband. I think the reason is easy enough to see.”

Dean walked back into the room and straight to Steph. “Ready!” He announced, pulling his sweater down.

“Alright. I just want to get changed and then we’ll be ready to go.”

Steph grabbed her bag and left Dean and Gemma alone with the girls. Gemma smiled politely when Dean took her hand.

“So, you ready for the weekend?” Nita asked Gemma.

“Yeah. It should be nice.”

“A childless home.”

“Nita,” Pauline spat.

“What?”

“There is a child present and we don’t need to know what shenanigans they’ll be getting into.”

“Gemma?” Dean asked.

“Yeah, Love?” Gemma replied, grateful for the distraction.

“Are you picking me up in Sunday?”

“I don’t know. Your mum and I haven’t discussed that yet. Do you want me to?”

Dean smiled. “Yeah.”

“Well, we’ll see what she says.”

“I hope she says yes.”

Gemma smiled. “You do?”

Dean nodded. “When are we leaving?”

“As soon as your mum comes back from getting changed.”

“That could take hours.”

Steph came back in a heavy, gray sweater and jeans.

“Took you longer,” Gemma teased Dean.

“Did not!” He whispered.

Steph grabbed the two tote bags folding her and Dean’s clothes into one of them and placing the other bag on top of them. “Alright, Sweetheart. Let’s get you to your daddy’s. Ready to go?”

Dean nodded.

“Is everything settled here?” Steph asked, collecting her stuff while Dean tried to hold onto her hand.

“Yeah. Julia and Sarah are both going to stop by in the next hour to get their party supplies. The two hosts should be here soon so we can meet them and then we lock up shop,” Nita replied.

“Perfect. I can’t thank you guys enough,” Steph said patting Pauline’s shoulder. “And thank you for coming down here and for doing a party. I always appreciate your help.”

“Anytime, Dear,” Pauline answered, tapping her hand.

“And we’ll see you at the pub later?” Dawn asked.

Steph looked to Gemma. She could see the want in Gemma’s eyes, but didn’t have the heart to say no. They did all work really hard for her today. “Yes. We should be back a little after nine I think.”

“Good and you know, if we don’t, we’ll understand why,” Nita stated.

Steph laughed, hitting her arm. “Stop being dirty. My kid is present.” Nita smirked, blocking Steph’s light smacks.

“Dean, can you say bye, please?” Steph asked, putting on her coat.

Dean waved to everyone as Steph grabbed the duffle bag she had packed for him from the side of her desk.

“I’ll take that,” Gemma offered, holding out her hand.

“You sure?”

“Of course.”

Steph handed the bag to Gemma while she sorted her bag. Dean took Gemma’s open hand as they made their way to the office entrance.

“Have a good time at your dad’s, Love,” Nita said.

“He will.”

Gemma smiled and nodded her head as she exited, still feeling uncomfortable. “I guess we’ll be seeing you all later.”

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Hellie replied.

They said their final goodbyes, while Dean pulled on Steph’s arm to hold her hand as well. Once they were gone, everyone remained quiet for a few minutes, looking at the door.

“Do you think we’ll see them later?” Dawn asked.

“Not bloody likely,” Nita answered.

“Why’s that?”

“Dawn, you were too busy to notice that they had a very hungry look in their eyes,” Pauline stated.

“I think they’re going to have an unforgettable weekend with no kid in that house, if you know what I mean.”

“We all know what you mean, Nita.”

“A lot of this.” Dawn made a V with her fingers and brought it to her mouth.

“Dawn! For goodness sake,” Pauline glared.

“Hellie, you still got a key to Stephanie’s house?” Nita asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“We should leave some surprises for them.”

“You want to leave sex toys at Steph’s place?” Dawn questioned. “She said yesterday they weren’t necessary.”

“And why is that?” Hellie inquired.

“Apparently that Gemma Foster has a mouth on her.” Nita winked.

“Oh goodness,” Pauline whispered under her breath as they all laughed.

———————-

Steph and Gemma were giddy as they got into the car, Dean already settled in the back.

“Okay, Sweetheart. You ready for a long drive?”

Dean nodded. Gemma got into the driver’s seat and started the car. As soon as she was out on the road, Steph took her hand, holding it on her lap.

“Mummy,” Dean cried, urgently.

“What, Love?”

“I left my little doggy at Gemma’s and I wanted to take it with me to show Daddy.”

Steph reached into her purse and pulled out the small Dalmatian. “It’s right here, Love. Gemma remembered to give it to me before we left last night.”

She handed it to him and he thanked her, making little barking sounds in the back. Both Gemma and Steph smiled. Steph kissed her hand. The car went quiet for a minute and Gemma took a moment to glance at Steph. She seemed very content as she looked out the window.

“How was school, Dean?” Steph asked.

“It was alright.”

“Just alright?”

“Yeah.”

“Did the day just drag,” Gemma said, dramatically, “because you were so excited to see your dad?”

Dean giggled and smiled shyly. “Yeah.”

“Well whatcha do?”

“We had our spelling exam today. I only missed one word.”

“Alright!” Steph answered. She let go of Gemma’s hand and held it up to Dean. He leaned forward and high fived her. “I’m so proud of you, Buddy!”

“Thanks.”

Steph turned and faced forward. Gemma wanted to reach out for her hand again. She enjoyed the comfort it provided. She rested her arm on the center console and let her hand dangle as a hint. Steph must have been thinking the same thing because a few moments later, she felt the warmth of her hand again.

“And you?” How was yours?” Steph looked towards Gemma.

“Uh, good. Yeah.” Gemma nodded, keeping her eyes on the road. Steph realized if she ever wanted more information from Gemma, she’d have to drag it out of her.

“And?”

“And what?”

“Did anything happen?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary. Colds, flus, the usual.”

Steph smiled. “You really don’t like talking about yourself, do you?”

Gemma’s smile faltered. She kissed Steph’s palm, keeping her eyes on the road. She sighed. “Not particularly, no. Not anymore at least. You’re the first person I’ve opened up to in years so.”

Steph nodded. She let go of Gemma’s hand and stretched her arm out to scratch the back of Gemma’s neck and head.

“We’ll work on it,” Steph whispered.

“Yeah,” Gemma replied.

“Gemma?” Dean asked.

Steph left her hand where it was, massaging the tension in Gemma’s neck. “Yes, Love?”

“Did you see anything gross today?”

“What do you mean?”

“At the clinic.”

Gemma smiled. “Something gross? Hmm.” Gemma thought a minute. “Someone almost threw up on me today.”

Steph made a face of disgust while a wail of “ewww” erupted from the back seat.

“Does that happen often?” Steph asked.

“More than I’d like to admit.”

“Oh my gosh, I would throw up on them.”

“Me too,” Dean agreed.

“It’s never really bothered me, but yeah I guess it’s gross.”

“But they didn’t?”

“No, they didn’t,” Gemma clarified. “And if they had, I always have a pair of backup clothes in my office just in case.”

“Gemma?” Dean asked again.

Gemma grabbed Steph’s wrist, pulling it away from her neck and kissed it. “I love it, I really do, but it’s doing more to me now than necessary and also making me tired.”

“Well that is noted for later,” Steph said.

Gemma looked in her mirror to see Dean staring at her.

“Dean, yes. What is your question?”

“What is the grossest thing you’ve ever seen?”

Steph exhaled sharply. “Dean, what’s with all the gross questions?”

“I’m just curious.”

“And he’s a boy.” Gemma caressed the inside of Steph’s knee and left her hand there. She patted it a couple of times. “I don’t know what the grossest thing I’ve seen is. I’ve seen broken bones, weird infections, bad colds, lots of stuff.”

“What’s a broken bone look like?”

“It can look a lot of ways depending on which bone you break. Sometimes it can be a really bad bruise, sometimes there can be swelling and in worse cases there is a part of your body that is bent in a way it’s not supposed to.”

“I’ve never broken anything.”

“Yeah and I’d like to keep it that way,” Steph said.

“He’ll be fine, Love.”

“I don’t know with Terry. He likes to make Dean tough and aggressive like him. I’m already worried he carries his anger gene. I don’t need Terry adding to it.”

“Have you talked to him about it?”

“Every time I drop him off. You’ll hear it all.”

“Mummy, what time will we get there?” Dean asked, interrupting them.

“I don’t know, Sweetheart, but we’re going to have tea first before we take you to your Dad’s.”

“Can Daddy join us?”

“No, Love. He’ll still be working.”

“And Dean, we’ve got about an hour to go. See? Time is already flying and you’ll be with your dad in no time,” Gemma added.

“But I’m bored,” Dean huffed.

“What would you like to do?”

Dean shrugged.

“Dean, you see my purse next to you?” Gemma asked.

“Yeah.”

“The animal toys are in there if you'd like to play with them also the coloring books and crayons.”

“Thank you, Gemma.”

“Welcome.”

“Hand me her bag, Dean, so I can get them for you.”

“They’re right on top, Steph. He can get them. My bag is heavy.” She looked in the mirror. “Do you see them, Dean? The animals and crayons are in a ziplock.”

Dean could see them and pulled them out. “Got ‘em.”

“And then the coloring book should be in the pocket behind your mum’s seat.”

Steph reached behind her and managed to pull it out. She handed it to Dean.

“Thank you, Mummy.”

“And?”

“Thank you, Gemma.”

“Anytime, Kid.”

Steph faced the front again. She looked at Gemma. Steph noticed that Gemma seemed to be a little more tired than usual and not as happy.

“Are you alright?” Steph asked.

“Yeah, just tired. Might need to stop for a coffee. I didn’t sleep well last night.”

“Why not?”

Gemma shrugged. “Had my dream about Tom so it took me a while to go back to sleep. Also my apartment just seemed empty without you and Dean there. I’m much happier here in this car with the both of you than I was last night in my flat alone.”

Steph smiled. “Me too. I got in an argument with Terry.”

“What about?”

“You driving us to Birmingham and how he doesn’t know you so how can he trust you to drive his kid the distance.”

“Does he know every bus driver and train conductor? What difference does it make?”

“That’s a good point. He’s probably more jealous than anything.”

“Of what?”

“That I have a selfless person in my life who is kind and generous enough to drive us. He’s never been able to keep a friend without fighting him or arguing.”

“How did he get you then?”

“He was charming, athletic and honestly very sweet. He didn’t have the nicest upbringing, but he did his best to take care of Dean and I. However, I don’t think he ever really thought I was much of anything.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I started the Ann Summers parties, it was evident that he didn’t think I could do anything.”

“How do you know?”

“He told me. My mother too.”

“Why would they say that to you? You have more ambition than anyone I know.”

“I guess because I got pregnant young they assumed I was only good at staying home and taking care of my kid and the house, which I did and loved every second of, but once Dean went to school, I wanted more. Terry lost his job and gave all our rent money to some idiot at the pub to get into a cab business so I had to find work.”

“And these parties were all that was available?”

Steph laughed. “I thought I was just going to be selling lingerie. Nita still likes to make fun of how shocked I looked afterwards. But I had to do something so I did this to help my family. That's when I realized things were starting to change with Terry.”

“Change how?”

“I knew I would be miserable if I didn’t do something I wanted and I was... I was just downhearted being with him and having him control me. When I saw him with, Li-“ Steph caught herself, remembering Dean was behind her, “Lisa,” she whispered, “I knew it was done. My heart didn’t want him anymore. I was done with the arguments. So now anytime he raises his voice to me, I stand my ground, but it’s still draining so that’s why, after I spoke to him last night, all I wanted to do was hear your voice.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I figured you’d be asleep and it’s petty drama that you don’t need to be involved in.”

“You can always call me no matter what. I don’t care if you saw a bug and it freaked you out. Please always call me.”

“Even if it’s three in the morning?”

“Was it that late?”

“No, it wasn’t long after we got home.”

“Even more of the reason you should have called.”

“I’ll know for next time.”

Gemma smiled. She liked knowing there would be a next time. “So is that why you didn’t sleep well?”

“It didn’t help, but Dean also slept with me last night.”

“He did?”

“Yeah and was glued to my side all night. If I moved to make space, he moved back to my side.”

“Why’d he sleep with you?”

“It’s really sweet.” Steph looked back to see Dean immersed in a coloring book. “He’s going to miss me and he wanted me to know.”

“Aw,” Gemma said, rubbing the inside of Steph’s knee. Steph looked at Gemma as she drove. She was concentrating, but Steph could see the sadness in her eyes. She thought about how much this could be affecting Gemma. Her son was only going away for two nights and she doesn’t even know the last time Gemma saw Tom. She took Gemma’s hand yet again and kissed it. It seemed to bring Gemma out of her head.

“Mum?”

“Yes, Love?”

“Did you know cows have four stomachs?”

“They do?” Steph asked, pretending to be intrigued. “Who taught you that?” She could see the smirk on Gemma’s face.

“Gemma did yesterday.”

“I learned a few things through the years,” Gemma stated.

“I would say more than a few things.” Steph kissed Gemma’s cheek and smiled. “What else did you learn, Dean?”

Steph and Gemma listened as Dean repeated most of what Gemma had said about cows, chickens, pigs and other animals. Steph would put in comments here and there, but her only focus was on Gemma. The way she would nod when he said something correctly. The questioning look on her brow when he’d tried to remember. The smile that would caress her features when he kind of got the point or missed it altogether. She could feel herself matching the expressions as she watched her. Her heart would skip a beat every time Gemma looked over at her with a grin or a laugh. The longer she looked, the warmer her body felt, the faster her heart would beat and the flutter she would feel at the smallest touch from Gemma.

“Where do you want to eat, Love?” Gemma asked. Steph had a glazed over look about her before coming to her senses.

“What?” She asked, coming out of her daze.

Gemma chuckled lowly. “Where do you want to eat?”

“I don’t know. I know Terry isn’t going to cook anything healthy for him, but it’s one weekend. What do you want to eat, Dean?”

“Hmm. A burger?” He asked. Gemma noticed the inflection was the same as Steph’s.

“What do you say, Love?” Steph asked.

“Sounds good to me.”

Once they were on the outskirts of Birmingham, Gemma suggested they look for Terry’s house first before going to dinner, that way they knew where it was. They pulled up to a small row of houses, each looking the same. The neighborhood was quiet and there were even children playing in a nearby park. It helped settle some of Steph’s nerves.

“It looks nice,” Gemma stated, as she pulled up.

“Yeah. Much better than what I imagined.”

“Is that Daddy’s house?”

“It is, Love.”

“Looks better than his old flat.”

“Much better,” Steph agreed.

“Is he home?”

“No, he’s still at work. We’ll see him in a little bit.”

“There’s a light on though.”

“Well, he must have forgot to turn it off this morning. We’ll see him soon, but for now, how about we go find some food, yeah?”

“Okay,” Dean agreed.

Gemma took the hint and off they went on a mission to find Dean a burger. Gemma decided to drive downtown to find a spot. She parked the car and helped Dean get out while Steph exited herself. Once they were safe on the sidewalk, they started walking and looking around. Dean held onto Gemma’s hand and after a while, she felt Steph’s hand take her other one. Gemma could feel the slightest of smiles stretch across her face.

They stopped outside of what seemed to be a small restaurant. They had a menu outside and they checked it to make sure burgers were listed for Dean. As they read through it, Gemma felt Steph’s other hand run along her arm. The smallest of gestures from Steph always gave Gemma a sense of pride, knowing she was the one beside her.

“Does this look good?” Steph asked, catching Gemma smiling at her.

“Yeah. It’s perfect.”

They were sat by the window and ordered their food quickly since they had already glanced at the menu outside. Steph sat next to Dean, wanting to be as close to him as possible.

“Mum, when do we get to see Daddy?”

“When we’re done with tea.”

“How long will that take?”

Steph smiled. “However long it takes. Your food will be here soon and it will distract you from the time.”

Gemma watched as people passed by outside the window, lost in her own world and thoughts. Every time she stopped on her move to Sheffield, she’d hoped she’d see Tom. A glimpse even if she couldn’t reach him. Today was no different as they sat in this little diner. Every face that passed with his hair color, her heart filled with hope, each time being drained with pain.

“Mum, is Gemma picking me up on Sunday?”

Hearing her name woke her from her spell. “Hm?” She asked, thinking Dean was talking to her.

“No. Your dad is going to drive you back on Sunday, I think.”

“Oh.” Dean seemed to deflate a little.

“Why? Do you want her to?”

Dean shrugged. Gemma noticed he was distraught.

“I mean I can, if need be.”

“No, you’re already doing so much. We usually meet halfway on the bus.”

“Well I could drive you to the bus station halfway.”

“We’ll talk about it,” Steph offered.

“Sure.”

The waitress came with their food, placing a burger and chips in front of Dean. Gemma and Steph decided to split a salad as well as cheeseburger and chips. Steph put a little salad on Dean’s plate. “Eat this for me, please.”

Dean picked up his fork, eating the salad without any complaint. Steph smiled at him, watching him eat. A beat passed and Gemma cleared her throat.

“You need to eat too, Love. You’ll need energy for tonight.”

Steph lightly kicked Gemma under the table causing her to laugh.

“What’s tonight?” Dean asked.

“We’re going to the pub to visit your mum’s friends,” Gemma said. “Might be out late.”

Steph started to eat, glaring at Gemma, who could only smirk in return. Dean ate quickly enough, ready to see Terry, even though Steph told him numerous times to slow down and pace himself.

Gemma asked for a cup of coffee to go before they headed back out into the evening. They loaded into the car and Gemma took the path back to Terry’s knowing exactly where she was going.

“Dean, I just want to remind you to not tell your dad about Gemma and I,” Steph stated.

“But I want to talk about Gemma. I like Gemma.”

“Well you can talk about her, but none of the stuff we do.”

“Like what?”

“The kissing and the hand holding. Remember what I told you when you asked what we were and how I told you I would tell your dad when I wanted him to know?”

“Yeah.”

“So promise me, you’re not going to say anything to your dad about Gemma’s and my relationship.”

“I won’t, Mummy. I promise.”

“Good.”

Gemma pulled up in front of the same house as earlier. The only difference was now a man standing in the yard with a big smile on his face.

“Daddy!” Dean shouted excitedly from the car, waving.

Dean started to grab the handle when Steph stopped him. She got out first and made sure no cars were coming before opening it. As soon as it was open, Dean bolted from the car shouting for his dad and running to him. Terry was ready, picking him up and kissing the side of his head as they hugged tightly.

Gemma got out of the car and grabbed Dean’s duffle bag. She tucked the small Dalmatian toy into the pocket, leaving the rest of the animals behind. Steph waited for her so they could walk up together as Terry put Dean down.

Terry was a shorter man with brown hair. Tough exterior, but kind blue eyes. He smiled shyly when he saw Steph.

“Hiya,” he said to Steph.

“Hey. Terry, this is Gemma, the friend I told you about. Gemma, Terry.”

Terry’s friendly grin didn’t leave his face as he held out his hand. “Right. It’s nice to meet you.”

“You too,” Gemma answered, shaking it.

“Thanks for driving my boy down here.”

“It’s not a problem at all. He is very excited to be with you.”

“Can’t blame him. He loves his dad after all, right Son?”

“Yeah,” Dean answered, wrapping his arms around Terry’s waist.

“Well we’ll let you get inside,” Steph said.

“Yeah, you must be freezing. Where’s your coat?”

“In the car. Now you know, no rough housing or fighting. I want my same sweet boy when he comes back to me.”

“I know, Steph.”

“And not a lot of junk food please. Make sure he eats something that’s healthy.”

“I will.”

“Well come on, give me a hug,” Steph said, waving Dean over. She knelt down and opened her arms which he fell into, hugging her tightly. “I love you,” she whispered, kissing the top of his head.

“I love you too.”

“And be good.”

“I will.”

She let go and smiled at him. “I’ll see you Sunday night, Love. Call me if you need me, Okay?”

Dean nodded.

“Okay. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

Gemma handed the bag off to Terry. “Thanks.”

“Have a good time,” Gemma said as Dean stepped back to his father.

“Well go on, Son. Give Gemma a hug. She did drive you all the way over here.”

Dean looked towards her and smiled. She knelt down doing the same as Steph, taking him in her arms.

“Have a good time, Kid. Your Dalmatian is in your bag.”

“Thank you, Gemma.”

“You’re always welcome. Have fun.”

“Will I see you Sunday?”

“Most likely and if not, very soon.”

Dean let go and stepped back. “Bye, Gemma.”

“Bye, Love. Have a good time with your dad.”

Dean hugged Steph one more time. “Bye, Mummy.”

“Bye, Tigger.”

Dean let go and ran back to Terry, all smiles. “See you Sunday,” Terry said.

“Yeah. We’ll work out the details tomorrow.”

“Yeah, sure.”

Terry bent down and let Dean climb into his back. Dean jumped on him and laughed as Terry started to trot towards the door like a horse.

“And make sure he calls me before he goes to sleep!” Steph shouted.

“I know the drill,” Terry shouted from the porch. One last wave from Dean and they went inside. Steph stood there for a minute with Gemma beside her.

“Come on, Love,” Gemma whispered. She wrapped her arm around Steph’s shoulders and led them towards the car. She kissed the side of Steph’s head which didn’t go unnoticed by Terry as he shut the front door.

As they drove back to Sheffield, Steph became rather quiet. Gemma understood why. Leaving your child somewhere for one night was hard especially when it was their first time away for a weekend. She reached over and placed her hand on Steph’s knee, rubbing her thumb up and down. Steph found comfort in it and sighed.

“You probably think I’m being ridiculous,” Steph commented.

“Ridiculous how?”

“It’s only two nights and they’ll fly by.”

“Yes they will, but it’s still hard. You want him home in his own bed so you know he’s okay, that he’s safe and what he’s up to. There’s nothing wrong with that, but yes the time will fly by and he’ll be back before you know it.”

“Yeah.”

“And we get to be alone for a little bit, you know? Not have to worry about a child and take the time to learn more about one another.”

“Which I am very much looking forward to.” Steph thought back to the other night. How much she craved Gemma and it had only been one night gone since they first made love. She looked at Gemma’s hand thinking about where it had been on her body. The feeling of Gemma inside of her. She felt her body flush with desire. She looked up to see an exit coming up. “Can you pull off on this exit?”

“Why?”

“Please?”

Gemma followed Steph’s request, pulling into the exit ramp. “Where am I going?”

“Just keep driving. I’ll tell you when.”

Gemma did as she was told. Steph wanted to get away from people and find some quiet air. After a few moments, she saw a small road with no houses in sight. “Pull over there?”

“Why?”

“Just do it, please.”

Gemma pulled her car over to the side of the road. Steph unlocked the doors and got out of the car. “What are you doing?” Gemma asked as Steph slammed the door. Gemma was bewildered when the back door opened and Steph crawled in. “Are you alright? Seriously, your frightening me.”

“Come back here.”

“Why?”

Steph had a glint of excitement in her eye. She licked her lips, staring at Gemma’s. Gemma watched as a sad Steph turned erotic. She bit her lip, breathing heavily without Gemma even touching her.

“I think you know why,” Steph answered.

Gemma laughed. She put the car in park and walked to the back passenger door. She opened it and took off her coat, throwing it in the driver’s seat. She laid Steph down as she crawled on top of her. Their lips met in a desperate, heated kiss as Gemma grasped at anything of Steph’s she could, not wanting to waste anymore time.

Gemma grabbed her thigh, causing Steph to moan from excitement. Their lips continued to meet as Gemma fumbled with Steph’s button and zipper. She moved to her neck and pulled the collar of her sweater so she could lick from her shoulder up to Steph’s ear. Steph was loud and it only made Gemma want her more. She slid her hand into Steph’s underwear. The backseat, however, wasn’t comfortable and Gemma needed more room, too tall to get into the right position. Gemma started to get up, but Steph pulled her back down, keeping her hand inside of her pants.

“Wait,” Gemma whispered.

“No. I want you, Gemma.”

“I can’t move well from this angle. I need you to sit on my lap.”

Gemma backed up and opened the door. Steph was about ask where she was going when Gemma tried to take off her jeans.

“What are you doing?”

“It’s getting dark, the windows are fogging over from our breath and this way you can sit on my lap and I can touch you properly.” Gemma grabbed the top of Steph’s jeans, tugging them.

“Wait, wait. What if someone sees us?”

“We’re next to a field. As soon as I get these off, I’m coming back in.”

Steph cautiously lifted her hips and allowed Gemma to take her pants and underwear down. As soon as the fabric was off, Gemma climbed back into the car throwing her pants on the floor. Gemma reached between the seats, switching the ignition off and turning on her emergency lights from the back seat. Steph sat up allowing Gemma to sit.

Steph confidently straddled Gemma’s legs. Gemma’s lips met Steph’s neck, wanting to taste her in anyway she could. She ran her hands up Steph’s thighs a few times causing Steph to become impatient. Gemma pulled back and looked at Steph for a moment as her right hand slid slowly up Steph’s inner thighs.

Their breath was quickening and it felt like an eternity when Steph finally felt Gemma’s hand on her center. Her gasp melted into a moan as Gemma grunted in response at how wet Steph was against her fingers. She rubbed Steph’s core slowly, Steph anticipating and waiting for more. Gemma brought her fingers to her lips and put them into her mouth, moaning at the taste. Steph gawked, breathing through her mouth. Gemma watched as Steph’s chest rose and fell at her heavy breaths. Once Gemma pulled them out, Steph immediately kissed her, tasting herself on Gemma’s warm tongue.

Gemma used the distraction to use her middle and ring finger to enter Steph. A sharp inhale interrupted their smooch as Steph’s head flew back. She matched Gemma’s fingers with her hips, plunging Gemma deeper inside of her.

“Lift your jumper,” Gemma mumbled. Steph did as she was told, easing it just above her breasts. Gemma littered Steph’s chest with kisses as her fingers continued to pump in and out of her. She enjoyed every sound that came out of Steph’s mouth. She was finally able to be as loud as she wanted and Steph was taking every advantage she could to do so.

“Fuck, Gemma,” she moaned, as her body continued to move. “I’m close.” Steph grasped Gemma’s shoulders, allowing Gemma to take full control, holding her back with one hand while her other hand continued its fluid motion in Steph. She could feel Steph tightening around her fingers. Steph grabbed Gemma’s hair, pulling it in her hands. Gemma’s head flung back with a gasp as she rutted against her underwear looking for any type of friction as she made love to the woman on top of her.

“Fuck,” she moaned, gyrating her hips, using them to push her fingers into Steph harder.

Steph’s arms wrapped around Gemma’s shoulders and Gemma took advantage to use her other hand on Steph’s core. She used her whole body as Steph continued to rock her hips. It only took a few more seconds as Steph moaned loudly, gripping her arms around Gemma’s shoulders, her body stilling before spasming. She clenched around Gemma’s fingers.

Steph rest her head on Gemma’s shoulder as they both caught their breaths. Gemma continued to rock her hips. A tired Steph, opened Gemma’s button and pulled her zipper down, slipping her hand inside. Gemma was dripping and sighed at the contact, wanting nothing more as Steph rubbed her. She humped Steph’s hand, knowing it would only be a matter of minutes before she came. Gemma cupped the back of Steph’s neck as they made eye contact with one another. Gemma noticed Steph’s swollen lips and red face. The way she panted as she touched her. Gemma closed her eyes, preparing herself when she felt Steph’s delicate kisses to her neck. She unbuttoned a few buttons of Gemma’s blouse, kissing the top of her breasts. Gemma gripped Steph’s naked backside, holding her tightly as her body started to twitch. She held her breath, pushing with all her might and came against Steph’s hand, clinging to her.

Steph left her hand in place as they both reeled, holding onto one another. Once they had caught their breath, Steph slowly took her hand out of Gemma’s pants and studied the clear liquid on her hand. Gemma looked at her through hazy eyes as she caught her breath, wondering what Steph was thinking. Steph debated. She had never tasted a woman before, but figured it couldn’t be any different than a man’s. She put her fingers in her mouth and moaned at Gemma’s taste, wanting her more now than ever before. Gemma leaned forward, taking Steph’s fingers out of her mouth and kissing her.

Their kisses were now fluffy and light as they pecked each other’s lips happily, relishing in their love making.

“Do we have to go to the pub?” Gemma asked, resting her head on Steph’s shoulder, still feeling little ripples of pleasure through her body.

“I want to say no, but they really did help me out a lot today and I feel like I owe everyone a pint.”

Gemma groaned and kissed her neck. Steph pulled down her jumper and smiled. “One drink, Gem and then we can go back to mine and whisk the night away in each other’s arms. Deal?”

“One drink,” Gemma stated.

“One.”

“Good because I won’t be able to wait much longer after that.”

Steph laughed and climbed off Gemma, sighing at the relief. Her hips had become quite stiff in that position. Gemma handed her, her pants and gave her one last long kiss. “We better get moving then.”

Gemma opened the passenger door and climbed out, jumping in the driver’s seat. She started to drive away as Steph redressed herself. She struggled to get her pants on in the tight space, but managed. She climbed over the center console and sat comfortably in the front seat, taking Gemma’s hand.

“Have you ever done that in a car before?” Steph asked, her whole body turned towards Gemma.

“What? Had sex?” Steph nodded. “Yeah, of course. You?”

Steph bit her lip. “I’m pretty sure that’s how Dean was conceived.”

“Really?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. We were like rabbits, Terry and I.”

“I know what you mean. Simon and I were too. I think we even did it in a church once.”

Steph eyes widen. “Seriously?”

“Yeah. If it was one thing I know we had, it was a good and exciting sex life.”

“Terry was alright. Up until Johnny, he was the only man I had ever been with.”

“Really?”

Steph nodded. “Yeah. Like I’ve said, I was hung up on him.”

“It’s kind of sweet, though.”

“How many partners have you had?”

Gemma laughed. “I won’t lie. I had a lot. I left home at seventeen and waited until I was eighteen, but I have had many sexual partners.”

“That explains why you’re so good at it.”

“Are you trying to say you’re not?”

Steph shrugged. Gemma looked towards her and cupped her chin, glancing between the road ahead and Steph. “You are really good at it.”

“Not like you.”

“What are you talking about? You make me come. I’ve had partners not able to do that at all. And I like the way you touch me. Besides the backseat was only our second time.” Steph laughed causing Gemma to chuckle. “We have plenty of time to learn and grow, but so far, I have enjoyed every touch, every kiss, every moan and every moment with you.”

Steph smiled. She kissed Gemma’s cheek before they shared a brief kiss. “Me too,” she whispered.

———————-

Nita looked down at her watch, checking the time. It was half past nine.

“Should we take bets?” Nita asked. Hellie, Dawn And Pauline gave her a questioning look. “To see if one, they come and two, when.”

“I bet they shagged in the car.”

“Dawn!” Pauline shouted.

“It’s alright, Mrs. Spake. It’s a blossoming new love. Once my Russi and I started, we couldn’t stop for a month.”

“And my husband would say that you haven’t ever stopped,” Pauline added.

“Well he’s not wrong,” Dawn said, causing the girls to laugh.

“Alright. I’ll say they’ll be here in 15 minutes, but didn’t have sex in the car,” Hellie said.

“I’m going to say thirty and they did,” Dawn answered.

“I’m not playing,” Pauline spike.

“Oh, Paul, give it go. I’m guessing ten minutes and they did,” Nita guessed.

Pauline noticed headlights pulling into the parking lot and decided if she was going to partake, she might as well win. “I say in five minutes.”

“Wow! Really? That’s like now.”

“Yeah, well.”

“And did they shag or not?” Nita asked.

Pauline thought quickly. “Oh goodness, they probably did.”

The girls all laughed at Pauline. For a woman who threw the first ladies only party and a host herself, she could still be quite prudish about things.

“Why am I the only one who thinks they didn’t have sex?” Hellie questioned. Dawn knew that look. It’s not that Hellie didn’t think they did, she was hoping they hadn’t. Dawn patted her leg with a smile.

“What do we get if we win?” Dawn asked.

“How about loser farthest away from the time of arrival buys the next round.”

They all agreed. Gemma and Steph sat outside the pub, cupping each other’s cheeks, kissing lightly.

“Do we have to?” Gemma asked.

“Yes, Love.”

Gemma ran her hands up Steph’s thighs. “And what if I told you I want you now. That you’d break my heart if you said no.”

Steph moaned, wanting Gemma’s hands to continue, but stopped them. “I’d say it's one drink and you’ll survive and then,” Steph paused, leaning into Gemma’s ear, “You can ravish me however you want.”

Gemma’s breath caught in her throat. She kissed Steph hard. “One drink?”

“Just one.”

“I’m holding you to that.”

Four minutes had past and Pauline was starting to worry she had guessed wrong when the pub doors opened. Steph and Gemma were laughing as they entered, Gemma’s arm over Steph’s shoulder and Steph’s around Gemma’s back. As soon as they entered the pub, there was a cheer from the women at a booth. Steph rolled her eyes.

“We got here as quickly as we could. Hit some traffic on the way back,” Steph said.

Gemma took her coat off and rested it against the booth. “I’m just going to go wash my hands,” She whispered to Steph.

“That’s a good idea.” Steph turned to the group, taking off her coat and putting it on Gemma’s. “We’ll be right back.”

They laughed with one another, walking into the bathroom.

“I think the traffic was their hands,” Nita smirked. “Dawn, looks like you owe us a round.”

“Yeah. Let’s wait until the love birds come out so I can buy theirs as well.”

“Now, hold on, we don’t actually know if they did shag or not,” Hellie countered. “They could just have ate in the car or something.”

“Yeah, ate each other,” Nita said, causing all of them, including Pauline to laugh.

Steph pulled Gemma into the corner of the bathroom and kissed her. They wrapped their arms around one another, holding each other close. Gemma pulled back.

“Steph?”

“What?”

“The longer we stay in this bathroom, the longer we stay in this pub which means the longer we have to wait to get home.”

Steph kissed Gemma’s neck. “I know,” Steph said composing herself. “I know. You’re right.”

“I mean I feel like a teenager making out with you in here,” Gemma stated.

“Is that a problem?”

“No. I think we’ve discovered I don’t mind public affairs, but I rather lay you down on a bed-” Steph kissed Gemma, stopping her from talking.

———————-

“I’m not crazy. They’ve been in there for like ten minutes,” Nita said.

“You don’t think?” Dawn asked.

“Only one way to find out.”

Nita and Dawn both took off towards the restroom, giddy, hoping to catch them in the action. Hellie smiled shyly at Pauline. “I guess they’re going to go figure out what’s taking so long.”

Dawn and Nita pushed the door open dramatically, only to find Steph and Gemma giggling in the corner, in each other’s arms. They jumped when they heard the door open.

“Jesus,” Steph whispered.

“Seems to be taking you an awfully long time to wash your hands,” Nita commented.

“Yeah, I agree. They’re lips are red too,” Dawn added.

“Yeah. It’s almost as if they weren’t washing at all.”

“No. Seems like they definitely weren’t.”

“Are you done?” Steph asked, pushing Gemma back to wash her hands. “I’m sorry for them.” Gemma followed washing her hands as well. “Gemma and I were just talking.”

“And snogging,” Nita said matter of factly.

Gemma just smiled. Steph had guilt written all over her face. They neither confirmed nor denied it as they dried their hands noticing that Nita and Dawn were still there.

“Alright, girls, I’m not fifteen. Gemma and I can handle washing our hands.”

“We want to make sure we actually get to see you before you bugger off for the weekend.”

“You will.”

Steph took Gemma’s hand and they all walked out to the bar. “What are you thinking?” Steph asked, looking over the bar.

“Rum and Coke?”

“I didn’t know you were a rum and Coke kind of woman.”

“Well there are a lot of things you don’t know about me, but when I drink, drink, I like rum and Coke.”

“Good to know.” The bartender came up and Steph smiled. “Hey, Charlie.”

“How’s it going, Steph?”

“Not too bad. Charlie, this is Gemma. Gemma this is Charlie. He’s been serving me my first pint since I was legal enough to drink.”

“I’ve been serving her since she had Terry buy a drink or two for her before it was legal.”

Gemma laughed. “Well it’s nice to meet you, Charlie. Any stories of a young Steph you have, I’d love to hear them.”

Charlie started to mix the drinks and smiled. “I had to clean up after her once before she was legal.” Steph rolled her eyes. “That’s when I found out I had been serving her underage, puking her guts out in the bathroom.”

“Yes, my crowning moment at the Maythorpe.”

“It was indeed. Didn’t let her come back without ID,” Charlie said, placing the drinks on the bar.

“Thank you, Charlie. How much?”

“No, that’s on my tab,” Dawn announced.

“Why?” Steph asked.

They grabbed their drinks and walked toward the group of girls following Dawn. Gemma and Steph sat next to each other on the booth, little distance between them.

“Because we took a bet,” she explained.

“What bet?”

“To see what time you’d two get here, if you did come.”

“And?”

“I lost. Said thirty minutes. But I did get half of the question right so I feel like it’s Hellie who should by the next round.”

“And what was the second part?” Steph questioned. She placed her hand on Gemma’s leg.

Dawn, Hellie and Pauline managed to look sheepish while Nita just smirked. “That you two shagged on the way back.”

“Good Lord,” Steph whispered. “Stop talking about our sex life.”

“How do you know you were successful in guessing that?” Gemma asked curiously.

“It was obvious and the fact you wanted to both wash your hands,” Dawn answered.

“I’m a doctor. I wash my hands a lot. Steph could just be following suit. If a doctor does it, then maybe I should too.”

“You know as well as I know, that’s a bunch of bull and you two shagged,” Nita stated.

Steph tried to stifle her laugh, but it only lasted so long before she erupted. She laughed so hard she was having trouble breathing, causing other people to laugh as well. Steph wiped tears from her eyes, calming herself while still giggling. She laid her head on Gemma’s shoulder.

“Well who won then?” Gemma asked when everyone settled.

They all looked towards Pauline.

“Pauline!” Steph was shocked. “I can’t believe you participated.”

“Well why not? I didn’t want to buy a round for everyone.”

“Did you get the whole question right?” Gemma inquired. “Both parts?”

“Yeah, she did,” Nita answered. Steph laughed again. Gemma placed her hand on Steph’s thigh bringing her closer.

“So come on,” Nita started, “How’d far did you get before things got heated.”

“We’re not answering that.”

“Right,” Gemma added. “We’re also not saying we did anything.”

“You don’t have to. We know the answer, right Hellie?”

Hellie glared at Dawn. “I don’t know and quite frankly it’s none of my business.”

“That’s right,” Pauline agreed.

A brief moment of silence passed through their table. Gemma could feel eyes on her and looked towards Nita, who even though was smiling, wouldn’t look away. She returned the smile and Steph sat up to take a drink.

“How were the parties tonight?” Steph asked. She kept her hands in her lap, Gemma’s hand resting above her knee.

“Mine was great. Managed to make a profit tonight,” Dawn stated.

“Mine too! Good group of younger women that were honestly just looking for new things to try out,” Hellie provided.

“And Pauline?”

“Oh quite nice. Managed to sell a decent amount and I think the women are always surprised I’m not some prude when it comes to this stuff. I think it helps some of the shyer girls.”

“I have never seen you do a party. I should go with you sometime.”

“Oh Steph, I think that would make me more nervous.”

“Why’s that? It’d be great and fun. Besides I am supposed to witness all my hosts do one party a year.”

“I don’t do that many.”

“I know, but still.”

“Mrs. Spake is really good it,” Dawn added. “She looks mad professional in her suits. I mean look at her.”

Pauline was in a blue blazer with a matching skirt, white button up and heels. “Dawn’s definitely not wrong Paul,” Steph said.

Gemma sat there quietly listening to everyone talk, glancing at Nita. She was engaged in the conversation which Gemma felt some release from, but not enough. She leaned into Steph’s ear. “I’m going to pop out for a smoke.”

“Okay, Love.”

Gemma kissed her cheek and stood, grabbing her coat. “Just going for a smoke. I’ll be right back.” As she walked towards the door, she slipped on her coat feeling the familiar box against her hip. She sighed once she was outside, holding a cigarette between her lips, searching for her lighter.

“We can help with that,” Hellie announced, stepping outside with Nita.

“Uh, thanks.”

Hellie lit her lighter and Gemma leaned in, lighting her cigarette.

“So can you guess why we’ve joined you?” It was Nita’s turn to speak.

“Because you also fancied a smoke?”

“Well yes, but more because of Steph,” Hellie answered.

“What about Steph?”

“Look, you have quite a reputation around town,” Nita stated. Gemma rolled her eyes, but nodded. “And we saw Steph through her divorce with Terry and her breakup with Johnny.”

“Right.”

“So were just trying to do the friend thing for her because we love her. Please, don’t hurt her or Dean. When Johnny left, she could only cry at night and she did for months. There were even times Dean was really upset by it, crying in her arms and she felt like she couldn’t. It took a lot out of her and I swear her eyes were red every morning when she came into work.”

“Yeah. They definitely didn’t shine like they once did.” Hellie sighed. “Like they do now.”

“And Steph hasn’t told us anything about what brought you here, but if you up and leave the way Johnny did, I would-”

“I’m not going to do that,” Gemma said. “Yes, it’s true that I came here for personal reasons and no I wasn’t expecting to end up in a relationship at all. I thought I would just keep to myself, but Steph is different and I could never hurt her or Dean. I appreciate where this sentiment is coming from and I’m glad to know she has people in her life who love her this much, but I’m not going to hurt her. Her eyes do shine and they shine so bright that I finally see light in my life again. I’m not going to give that up.”

“What’s going on?” Steph asked, stepping outside in her sweater. She immediately crossed her arms tightly over her chest. They all seem to use that time to take a drag off their cigarettes. Steph walked over to Gemma, who opened the side of her coat to wrap Steph in. They all remained quiet while Steph looked at each other them. “Is no one going to answer me?”

“It’s fine, Love,” Gemma said, kissing the side of her head.

“You guys look like you’re about to beat each other up.”

They all laughed, continuing smoking. “Not at all. I just learned how true and loyal your friends are. It’s good to know you have people like these two in your life.”

“What does that mean?”

“We want to protect you at all costs. We love you, Steph. We don’t want to see you get hurt again.”

“Yeah, what Hellie said.” Nita tried to look nonchalant, but failed. She took a puff of her cigarette instead.

“Guys, I’m going to be fine no matter what happens, alright? But don’t scare her away.”

“They couldn’t scare me away from you.”

“You think you can take me?” Nita had a huge grin on her face. Gemma smiled at her with a knowing expression. Nita laughed “Yeah, alright. You probably could. Five kids makes you tired at the end of the night.”

“Well that and she has abs,” Steph muttered.

“Steph!” Gemma laughed.

“What? It’s true.”

“I know that, but they don’t need to know.”

“I should have known. Steph’s always liked muscles,” Hellie said.

“What?”

“Terry, Johnny, they both were muscular.”

“Yes and?”

“You just have a type,” Nita explained, “Glad to know it’s not based on gender.”

Steph smiled. “To be fair and in my defense, I didn’t know she had abs.”

“Can we stop talking about my body?” Gemma laughed.

“Yes. Let’s go back in. I’m about to freeze.”

“Why would you come out here without your coat?”

“I knew you’d keep me warm.”

“Aw,” Gemma whispered, kissing Steph as they went back in. As soon as they sat down in the booth, Steph slipped on her coat to warm up, Gemma’s arm around her shoulders. The group chatted for sometime, enjoying each other’s company. Gemma mostly listened to them talk about past parties and what was going on in their lives. She was enjoying herself or at least trying to, but kept her attention on Steph, who every once in a while would look at her and smile or laugh.

Gemma agreed to another drink so Steph could buy her friends a round after how much they helped her that day. She also agreed because she knew Steph didn’t get to do this very often and wanted her to have a good time. Hellie came up to the bar, while Gemma waited.

“We can be a little rambunctious, can’t we?” Hellie asked.

“No, it’s nice. I’m glad I’m getting to know you all better.”

“You don’t seem to talk much.”

“You noticed that, did you?”

Hellie laughed. “Yeah well, when Steph’s in a good mood, like she is now, she’ll laugh and ramble for hours. To be fair, she tends to date quiet people.”

“I’m not usually this quiet. It just takes me a while to open up is all.”

“You’re hanging out with women who do ladies only parties. There is nothing at that table we have not discussed yet.”

“I believe it.”

There was a small pause before Hellie sighed. “I’m sorry if you felt ambushed outside.”

“Oh, no worries. You care about her and I think that’s the most important thing.”

“I believe Nita doesn’t know, but I did hear what happened to you with your ex-husband and son.” Gemma sighed and crossed her arms. “Sorry, my mum, Bunny, is like the queen of the whispers in this city. I mean she called the cops on Pauline during the first party and then told everyone about it.”

“It’s not a problem. I’m used to it.”

“I just wanted to say that I hope you don’t do anything like that to Steph.”

“Look, I don’t know what you heard and didn’t hear, but Simon and I were very complicated and complex. Always were. He is no longer in my life and I have no desire to ever go through that again. I admit I went a little crazy in my vengeance, but we are out of each other’s life. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I ever did that to Steph or Dean. I really do care about both of them.”

“Do you trust Steph?”

“Of course I do.”

“Because she doesn’t talk about other people’s issues. She hates it. Always has. She won’t listen to it either. I don’t know if she knows-”

“She knows,” Gemma interrupted. “She is the only person I’ve told. I trust her. I wouldn’t tell her otherwise. I know you care for her, but you don’t have to worry. I don’t know everything about her, but I feel like she’s been through a lot and I don’t want to add any stress to her. I’ve been out of the dating game for some time, but she and I just work. We click. And eventually, when I get to know you all better, I’ll be more talkative.”

Gemma grabbed three of the glasses and Hellie followed with the remaining. Steph could tell Gemma seemed a little irritated as she took the drink held out to her. Gemma handed Pauline her peach Schnapps before sitting back down next to Steph.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” Steph scratched the back of Gemma’s head. “After this drink, we’ll go home.”

“Yeah. Sounds good.” Gemma took a large gulp of her rum and Coke. Steph watched her cautiously. She took Gemma’s hand and squeezed it. Gemma looked at her and Steph could see some shyness there. She leaned into her ear.

“You sure you’re alright?”

Gemma smiled at her and nodded. Steph leaned in and placed the smallest kiss against her lips.

“I’m still here,” she whispered. “Whenever you need me.”

“I know,” Gemma responded. “I’m okay. Just don’t understand how everyone knows everything.”

“Oh well that usually starts with-”

“My mother,” Hellie interrupted. “Sorry to say. I hope I didn’t offend you at the bar, it’s just-.”

“What did you say?”

“Just that I hope she takes care of you.”

“Guys, you don’t need to worry about me and Gemma. And stop being overprotective. I have had enough of that in my life from my mum and Terry. Gemma’s a good woman. I managed to snag a good person and I don’t care what the town says. Don’t listen to that crap.” Steph smiled at Gemma. Gemma tried to hide her happiness, but Steph could see it in her eyes. “She makes me so happy. I don’t care what happened in the past because she’s here with me now.”

Gemma’s cheeks reddened as she leaned in to kiss Steph. Steph wrapped her arm around Gemma, grinning from ear to ear.

“Aw, that’s love, isn’t it?” Nita asked.

“It is. Is that what my Russi and I look like?”

“Yes, Dawn,” Pauline answered. “And I must admit, it is pretty cute.”

“And a little sickening,” Hellie added, causing the group to laugh.

Gemma and Steph ignored them as they stared at one another. Steph flattened a few stray hairs on Gemma’s head. Gemma was just ready to go and be alone with Steph in any capacity. She just wanted to have her in her arms.

“So what are the weekend plans for a motherless Steph?”

“Don’t know. Haven’t had a night to myself in six years. It will be interesting to see if I can just sleep in the morning without interruptions. But I don’t know. What do you think?” Steph looked at Gemma.

“Not my decision to make. It’s up to you.”

“Yeah. I don’t know. It’s weird. Like I feel like I should be home, tucking him in, but I’m not. I honestly think it’s just going to be really strange. Hasn’t even been gone twenty-four hours and I already can’t wait to see him.” Steph checked her watch. It was nearing eleven and she realized she hadn’t been home to hear from Terry. “I’m just going to give him a call to make sure he’s okay. Well more to make sure Terry has put him to bed.”

“Okay, Love.”

Steph got up and left the table, leaving Gemma there. “Well, what more needs to be said to me while she makes that phone call?” Gemma asked the group.

Nita smiled. “Nothing. She really is infatuated by you and if that’s good enough for her, then it’s good enough for us.”

“What I want to know is, why was I left out of interrogations and intimidation? It’s one of the best things I’m good at,” Dawn said.

“Ignore her. She’s drunk,” Pauline said.

“Am not.”

Pauline just smiled. “Dawn moved in with me a while ago before she and Russell got married. I’ve seen her in all her ways so believe me when I say, she is.”

Gemma smiled. “Doesn’t bother me and Dawn, I think the reason was, other than Pauline here, I don’t think I’d be able to take you.”

“Damn right.”

Gemma laughed.

———————-

Steph listened to the phone ring and it finally clicked. “Hello?”

“Terry? Is everything alright?”

“Yeah, it’s good. We were just watching a movie on the couch and fell asleep. I’m about to take him upstairs.”

“Is he awake?”

“No. Sound asleep on the couch. He might wake when I take him up though.”

“No, it’s alright. I just wanted to tell him goodnight and that I love him, but he can hear it tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry. I meant to call earlier, but-”

“No, Terry, it’s alright. It’s your time with him. I’m at the pub with the girls anyway. They helped me out a lot today. Felt like I owed it to them. But I’ll let you be. If he does wake though, will you tell him?”

“Yeah.” There was a pause. “Hold on, Steph.

Steph could hear talking in the background before a very tired Dean picked up the phone.

“Mummy?”

Steph smiled. “Hi, Sweetheart. Are you having fun with your dad?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. I just wanted to say I love you and sleep tight, Tigger. Tell Daddy to take you to bed.”

“Okay. Love you too.” There was another moment of silence. “Alright, I’m going to take him up so we can sleep.”

“Yeah. Thank you, Terry.”

“Anytime, Steph. We’ll call tomorrow before bed. Bye.”

“Bye.” She hung up the phone and started making her way back to the group. She was tired and ready to be with Gemma alone. She climbed over Gemma to sit and noticed she still had half of her drink left.

“Everything okay?” Gemma asked.

“Yeah. I’m just getting tired and ready to go.”

Gemma shrugged. “Then let’s go.”

“You still have some of your drink though.”

Gemma smiled. “I could care less about it if you’re ready to go.”

“Yeah?”

Gemma nodded. “It’s been a long day for you. Busy work day, four hours in a car, saying goodbye to Dean for the weekend. It’s rough so let’s get you home and bundled up.” Gemma stood and grabbed her coat, Steph following.

“We are heading out ladies,” Steph announced. “Long day.”

“Uh huh,” Nita teased.

Steph rolled her eyes, but smiled nonetheless. “We’ll see you guys soon.”

“It was great getting to hangout with you guys,” Gemma said.

They all said their goodbyes as Steph and Gemma stepped out into the cold night air. They were hand in hand, walking close to one another.

“New bet,” Nita announced. “They’ll be married in a year.”

The group watched them through the window. The word “married” made Hellie’s heart hurt, but she felt herself agree. “Yeah, they probably will be.”

———————-

Steph and Gemma stumbled into Steph’s house as their kisses became sloppy. Steph shrugged Gemma’s coat off her shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. She grabbed her shirt and started to unbutton it as quickly as possible as Gemma pulled the fabric from being tucked in her trousers. Steph managed to get it off, kissing down Gemma’s torso.

Gemma stood her up, pushing Steph’s coat off. She lifted her jumper over her head, attacking every inch of skin she could. They fumbled with each other’s pants, getting through belts, buttons and zippers. Their breath was heavy, panting at every stop, mouths open as they waited to feel each other’s lips again. Both of their pants fell to their ankles and they carefully stepped out of them.

Gemma wrapped her arm around Steph’s back, making sure there wasn’t an inch between. Steph started to push Gemma into the living room backwards. She moaned, wanting Steph to take her from anywhere she wanted. As they made their way to the living room, Gemma had a better idea. She pushed Steph towards the kitchen table.

They bumped into the hard surface and heard plastic fall. They turned to see a couple dildos and vibrators varying in sizes and shapes rolling around while a bullet vibrator fell on its side. They both stopped and Steph’s eyes widened.

“I did not do this,” she said.

“I figured as much. There’s a note,” Gemma said, picking it up. She read it aloud. “Enjoy your weekend, Lovers. Love Nita, Hellie and Dawn.”

Steph laughed and rolled her eyes. “Hellie has my spare key. I swear I’m going to kill them.”

Gemma took her hand and started walking backwards towards the couch. “Well before you do that, come thrash me like you usually do, Ms. Kirke.”

Steph abided, the toys left on the table and floor as her lips met Gemma’s and their bodies fell to the couch.

Chapter Text

Steph gasped, her back arched off the couch with Gemma’s head between her legs. Her tongue ran rapid against Steph’s core while two fingers penetrated her. Gemma held her hips down as best she could, matching every movement, but she wanted more. Her hand wandered up Steph’s chest, cupping her breast. Steph placed her hand over Gemma’s, the other lost in her hair. They had been home from the pub for a few hours and hadn’t stopped once they started.

Steph gripped Gemma’s hair, letting out a strangled cry as she came for the third time. Her body convulsed against Gemma’s hand as she caught her breath, moaning with each exhale. Gemma kissed up her body, resting her head between Steph’s breasts, pieces of her hair stuck to her skin as she searched for her own air, panting. Steph’s firm hand on Gemma’s hair relaxed as she ran her fingers through the strands.

Gemma looked up at her and smiled. Steph sighed. “I don’t think I’ve come three times in one go,” she admitted.

“Really?” Gemma asked, moving to hover over her.

“Yeah. Lucky if I got one really.”

“So we’re making up for a lot of lost time.”

“I’d say so, yeah.”

Gemma leaned down, kissing her. It was short and brief, her strong arms now too tired to hold herself up. She rested on top of Steph, still feeling the top of her wet core against her stomach as she rested between her legs. She sighed contently, Steph’s hand finding its way back into her hair.

They laid there silently, enjoying the comfort of one another. Their skin was warm and sticky, but neither one could fathom moving beyond anywhere else then where they were in that moment. Gemma kissed Steph’s skin next to her, the smallest grin gracing Steph’s face. Nothing had ever felt so smooth and soft against her.

“I should shower,” Gemma whispered. “I think you’re all over me.”

“You say that as if it’s a bad thing.”

Gemma smiled. “Oh it’s not, but I smell like cigarettes and possibly booze and now sex.”

“You want to hear something weird?”

“Hm?”

“I don’t like cigarettes. I never got into smoking and sometimes the smell on Terry would drive me insane, but I don’t know... I like the smell on you. It brings me comfort in a weird way. I like tasting it against your lips and on your tongue; the way it clings to your hair and coat. I find it comforting.”

Gemma smiled. She didn’t know why that made her happy, but it did. “I was thinking of quitting again.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well it’s not exactly good for you, is it? And I don’t want to do that around Dean nor you.”

“Well whatever you want to do, Gem, is fine by me. It doesn’t bother me. Like I said, I find comfort in it.”

“You do know I wear perfume, right?”

Steph laughed. “Yes and there is something about the sweet smell of that plus the cigarettes that I truly love.”

“And if I did quit?”

“I would be very proud of you and would do anything I can to help you.”

Gemma wrapped her arm around Steph’s waist, hugging her. Steph firmed her hand that was lazily playing in her hair.

“How do you feel?” Steph asked as Gemma ran her hand up Steph’s side.

“Knackered. You wore me out, Love.”

Steph smiled. “Should we go up to bed?”

“I’d like that.”

“Me too.”

Gemma, however, didn’t move. She was placed in a trance from Steph’s warm body and hair playing. Her eyes were closed, enjoying every touch.

“Gem? You have to get up in order for us to go upstairs.”

“I know,” Gemma whispered. “I just don’t want to.”

“Take your time, Love.”

Gemma took a deep breath before sitting up. Steph smirked at how cute she looked. Her eyes were half open and hair now a mess because of Steph. Steph sat up with a slight groan, the couch offering her back no support. Before Gemma could ask her if she was alright, she kissed her. It was simple and sweet. When Steph pulled back she saw the smallest of smiles on Gemma’s face.

“Come on,” Steph whispered, holding her hand out.

Gemma took it and let a nude Steph lead her up the stairs in the dark. They walked past Steph’s bed into the bathroom. Steph turned the shower on, putting her hair in a bun as Gemma stood there and watched. She took in all the curves of Steph’s small frame. As her eyes traced over her body, she found herself drawn to her even more.

“Earth to Gemma?”

Finally she awoke from her spell, chuckling a little bit. “What are we doing?”

“You said you wanted to shower. Figured we could do it together. Quick clean and then bed.”

Steph stepped into the shower and Gemma followed after a few moments. Steph had already started washing herself as she waited for Gemma. Gemma grabbed the soap and helped, running her hands on Steph’s sides and back. Once they had rinsed her off, she looked up at Gemma. Gemma leaned in and kissed her. It was passionate, both feeling it through their bodies. Their arms were wrapped around one another as they stood under the water in each other’s embrace. They let the hot water relax them as they swayed a little bit. Gemma kissed her forehead, holding her tight while Steph listened to Gemma’s heartbeat.

“Let’s get you washed,” Steph whispered, “Otherwise, I’m going to fall asleep standing against you here.”

Gemma laughed and took a step back. She tried to grab the soap from Steph’s hand, but Steph pulled it away. “Let me.”

Gemma sighed with a smile. Steph’s delicate hand traced over Gemma’s skin as the soap followed in the other. It was a sensual, calming feeling as Steph’s soft hands washed her body. She wasn’t used to this type of touch anymore. It had been so long since she felt comfort from someone she truly trusted as she allowed Steph to do this. It was gentle and unknown.

Gemma took a deep breath.

“Are you alright?” Steph asked.

“Yeah.”

“Tired?”

“Very much so.”

“I’ll let you finish then so we can sleep.”

Gemma nodded and rinsed off as Steph stepped out. Gemma took a few more inhales. She felt uneasy by the touch as if everything was catching up to her. She had forgotten what it felt like to be cared about and understood. No unfamiliar questions. No worried glances. No lying eyes. Steph always looked at her as if she had won the biggest prize at the fair. No sympathy or worry, just happiness. She felt carefree without sadness attached to every move she made. Her heart didn’t constantly have pain at a memory of Tom. Simon barely passed through her thoughts anymore.

“Gem?” Steph called out.

Gemma wondered how much time had passed as she stood there lost in her thoughts.. “Yeah?”

“You okay?”

“Yeah.” Gemma turned the water off and saw a towel being handed to her. She smiled. “Thanks.” She pulled the curtain back before accepting it. She cupped Steph’s cheeks and lightly traced over her lips before kissing her. The spark of lust she was now familiar with ignited through her body. She opened her eyes to see Steph grinning.

“Keep that up and I’ll want you even more in a thousand ways.”

“Then have me.”

Steph considered it for a moment, the memories of downstairs fresh, but sighed with a sleepy smile. “We have all weekend.”

“Right.”

“And one more orgasm from you might cause me to pass out,” Steph explained as she took Gemma’s towel and helped her dry off.

“Oh really?” Gemma asked, not sure why she was letting Steph do that.

Gemma put her foot up on the edge of the tub while Steph traced her inner thigh. Gemma bit her lip in anticipation, but it stopped just a few inches from her core. She looked at Steph, who was smirking. “Yes, really.”

Gemma playfully snapped the towel out of her hands to finish drying herself. Steph kissed her cheek before leaving the room to get into bed. Once Gemma felt dry and finally clean, she joined her. She was about to ask for pajamas when she saw Steph laying there naked. She couldn’t argue with that, climbing in next to her.

Gemma laid on her back. One arm above her head as the other rest at her side. She laid there stiff. Steph scooted over, cuddling up. She wrapped her arm around Gemma’s stomach, holding her close. Gemma switched her arms, the one resting now above her head and the other rubbing Steph’s back. She couldn’t sleep even though she was perfectly comfortable and tired. She felt Steph’s finger trace against her jaw and looked down. Gemma adjusted to be eye level with her. She took Steph’s hand and held it.

“This is all new to me,” she said with apprehension.

“What is?” Steph asked.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this level of softness from another person. With you, I want to be touched and not just sexually. I always want to touch you and I,” she paused, hating what she was going to say, “I haven’t felt that way since Simon. No one compared to what I thought he and I had until now so it frightens me to let my guard down and be open with someone. A part of me died when my parents did. I stopped talking about myself as much and then with Simon and all the people I thought were my friends, I just don’t trust very many anymore so all of this scares me on some level.”

“And you’re worried that I’ll do something?”

“No,” Gemma said, matter of factly. “If anything, I worry I’ll do something. What I mean is, I haven’t had feelings like this since I started dating Simon over fifteen years ago. The want of another person. After Simon and I divorced, I started dating one of Tom’s teachers. He was infatuated with me, but I think I just wanted a man there. I liked him enough, but I only wanted him to touch me if we were going to have sex. I just didn’t get excited by his touch. I honestly thought that part of me was permanently broken, but in the car earlier, I realized how much I crave to touch you. To feel you and even in the shower-” she exhaled. “I’m just not used to such tenderness.”

“You know that’s okay though, right?”

“Yeah.” Gemma looked up towards the ceiling. “Earlier you said, I don’t talk about myself and it’s true. I don’t talk about myself, but you said we’d work on it so I want to work on it with you. I want to be able to express myself better so I don’t have to leave you with a guessing game or just be stuck in my head.”

Steph sat up and rested her head on her hand. She placed her hand on Gemma’s heart and smiled. “I’d like to work on it, but I like you just the way you are and I think it’s important that you know I’m not trying nor want to change anything about you.”

“I do know that, but maybe it’s just because I haven’t felt this way in so long. For the past year, all I've felt is betrayal and loneliness. I had Sian, but that was really it after a while. I’m not used to kindness and softness anymore. I’m not used to people just wanting to know how my day was and not be sympathetic because even if I did talk about my day, they would always say things like ‘must be hard to get through your day’ or if I just happened to look tired one day there were just questions. But this is like restarting everything I thought I would never know again.”

“Well, I can reintroduce soft touches, small conversations, pry if I have to.” Gemma laughed. “But like I’ve said, I’m here, Gemma. I want to know how you’re feeling and if something bad or great happened, I want you to know that you can tell me and I won’t use any words you say against you. And if there is one night you don’t want to cuddle, you can just tell me. I won’t be angry.”

Gemma smiled. “I don’t think I could ever ask you not to touch me.”

Steph smiled. “Really?” Steph walked her fingers down Gemma’s body, letting them disappear under the sheet. Gemma smiled and gasped as she felt Steph against her center. “How about now?”

“I thought we had all weekend?”

“Yeah, well.”

“And I thought you were tired.”

“I am, but you gave me three. It’s only fair.”

“It’s not a competition.”

“Still. I want you so I think I’ll have you.”

Gemma rolled Steph onto her back. “You’re evil,” she answered, kissing Steph’s neck. Steph laughed as Gemma kissed her skin, moaning in her ear. Steph slipped her fingers inside of Gemma. Gemma’s breath hitched as she straddled Steph’s stomach. She matched all of Steph’s thrusts with her hips. Steph followed her, kissing her chest. Gemma’s hand found her way into Steph’s hair. Gemma brought their lips together in a breathy kiss. Steph curled her fingers. Gemma’s moan was sensational and Steph wanted to do everything in her power to hear that sound again.

Steph looked up at her. Gemma’s eyes were closed, lips parted, heavy breath, lost in concentration. Gemma leaned forward, causing them to lay back down against one another. Steph studied Gemma, the way her body would have little spasms here and there, how she would throw her head back at something she enjoyed, eyes always closed tight.

“Look at me,” Steph whispered. Gemma was placing bites and kisses against her neck.

“What?” she moaned, reaching between them to touch herself.

“Look at me,” Steph repeated. “I want to see you come undone.”

Gemma raised herself, hovering over her. Their noses almost touching as they stared at one another. Steph replaced Gemma’s hand. Once their eyes met again, Gemma moaned, coming against Steph’s hand. She rested her forehead against Steph’s shoulder, catching her breath before rolling over and laying on her back.

They were both out of breath when they looked at each other.

“What was the point in showering?” Gemma asked.

Steph laughed. “I don’t know. At least now, you only smell like sex.”

Gemma smiled and turned on her side. She ran her hand down Steph’s side. “Come here.” Steph cuddled into Gemma’s embrace, kissing her collarbone. “I really like your touch.”

“Do you?”

“No, I’m lying,” Gemma answered, sarcastically.

Steph rolled her eyes, but smiled all the same. It was quiet, both of them recuperating. Gemma looked towards the hallway and could see Dean’s doorframe. She realized that Steph had been worried about Dean not being there, but Steph hadn’t mentioned any of it all night. “I haven’t asked you. Are you alright?”

“Yeah, just tired.”

“Well we could have been asleep by now, but someone has exploring fingers.”

Steph gawked and looked up at her. “Are you seriously complaining?”

Gemma chuckled lowly. “No, Love. I would never complain about sex.”

“Good.”

“I meant with Dean not being here. How are you feeling?”

Steph shrugged. It was bothering her. She was pretty sure she had been using sex as a distraction, not that she wasn’t enjoying it, but it helped keep her mind ouccupied. She missed him and couldn’t wait for him to be back, but that was the thing: he would be back. She felt bad for talking about it. It was only two nights and Gemma had to fight this feeling daily.

“I mean it’s strange, but it’s not that long.” She overemphasized the word ‘that’. Gemma lightly ran her fingers through her hair and sighed.

“You can talk about it, you know?”

“It’s two nights.”

“Yeah and two nights is difficult. I remember.”

“But it’s not as bad as-“

“A year and a half, almost.”

“Yeah. I don’t want to complain about two nights.”

“Steph, you’re allowed to feel sad and talk to me about your son not being home.”

“I feel like it’s a horrible thing to feel and talk about when you’ve been going through this feeling for so long. All the what if’s and where’s. I know Dean is tucked into a bed at his dad’s new house, but Tom-“

Gemma cupped Steph’s cheeks and once again readjusted to look at her in the eyes. She traced her lips. “Doesn’t mean that you don’t get to feel it, even if it is two nights and if anyone can help you, I’d think it’d be me.”

Steph smiled. “How often do you think about him?”

“More often than not. I think I see him all the time, but never do.”

“I can’t even imagine that feeling, Gem. How do you cope?”

“I just do. I’m still alive and have to keep moving, but holding on to hope. For example, did you notice tonight that I was kind of out of it at the cafe?”

“Yeah. I figured you were just tired.”

“No. I was looking for him out the window. Whenever I’m in a new city, I’m always looking for him, hoping to see him even if I can’t reach him. I did the same thing as I moved up here. I just always keep an eye out for his hair color or height. He’s like me, you know? Tall, skinny, brown hair. So I always wonder if he possibly changed his hair color or has gotten even taller.” Gemma smiled sympathetically. “Sometimes I wonder if he’s found Simon. They were always close.”

“Even after those two years where he left?”

“When I made him leave, yes. Simon was there when he got home from school. Tom always complained about how I was always working, but I was there when he needed me. And it’s a good thing I worked since Simon was hemorrhaging all our money.”

“Did Tom know that?”

“Yeah. I told him when I told him about Kate and what his dad had been doing and why I was acting so weird. But at the end of the day, there was no point. Tom made his decision.” Gemma exhaled. She cuddled into Steph.

“Done talking?” Steph asked.

Gemma chuckled. “Just getting comfy against my favorite part of your body.”

“What? My breasts?”

Gemma kissed one. “Yeah. They’re a little bigger than I expected them to be.” Gemma kissed her nipple. “And I like them. They’re comfy.” Steph thought about it with a scrunched up face. “Like you don’t have a part of me that you like a lot?”

Steph laughed. “Don’t know.”

“My abs?”

“I think it’s your arms.”

“My arms?”

“Yeah. They’re sculpted and strong when you hold me. They make me feel safe.” Steph traced down Gemma’s arm.

“Do they?”

“Yeah. It’s comforting being in your arms.”

“Well then.” Gemma kissed her breast one more time and rolled to her back. She held her arms out and Steph sighed with relief as she cuddled into them. “Better?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you want to talk about Dean?”

“I just feel like a part of me is missing.”

“That’s because there is a part of you that’s missing. You’re used to having another soul around that makes noise and talks.”

“You make noise and talk,” Steph joked. “But I know.”

“One night is almost over. One more to go.”

Steph smiled. “And you’re here. I feel so much better with you here.” She rested her head against Gemma’s chest getting comfortable. “You’re right, they are comfy.”

Gemma laughed.

———————-

Gemma woke up the next morning with a smile on her face. The light shined brightly, but it didn’t seem to bother her. She could hear Steph downstairs as she stretched her arms above her head with a small groan. She felt relaxed and calm without anxiety. She was rubbing her eyes when she heard footsteps coming up the stairs.

“Morning,” Steph whispered.

Gemma smiled and looked at her.

“Morning, Love.”

Steph was holding a tray of breakfast and coffee. Gemma sat back, letting Steph put the tray over her lap. Steph pecked her lips once it was settled.

“What’s all this?” Gemma asked.

“Breakfast in bed,” Steph answered. She was a pink satin nightgown with a matching robe. She sat next to Gemma.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Gemma whispered.

Steph cupped her cheeks and kissed her. “I wanted to.” She kissed her again before grabbing cutlery.

“Is this a full English breakfast?”

“Yeah. Is it too much?”

“No. It’s wonderful, but-”

“But what?” Steph asked nervously.

Gemma grinned. “Can I borrow a shirt?”

Steph looked down to see a naked woman still sitting across from her. The sheet pulled up over her breasts as she held it there. Steph laughed and stood. “Of course.” Steph pulled a shirt out of her dresser and handed it out to Gemma. “Although, I would like to watch you eat like that.”

“But where would the fairness be in you getting to be dressed and not me?”

“I guess you make a good point.”

“And I don’t want to burn my breasts.” She slipped the shirt over her head and felt comforted by the scent of Steph that now clung to her. Steph grabbed a bite of toast.

“How’d you sleep?” Steph asked.

“Good. Really good.”

“Really?”

“It’s the best night sleep I’ve had well since the last time I stayed the night.” She took a sip of coffee. “And you?”

“Also good. I don’t think I moved once.”

“How long have you been up?” Gemma looked past her to see it was eleven.

“I think since about eight. Turns out my body has completely rewired itself to wake up in the morning.”

“You should have woken me.”

“Thought about it, but you looked so peaceful that I just couldn’t do it.”

“Aw.” Gemma leaned in meeting Steph in a kiss.

“I thought you were still asleep so I did come up to wake you with food and kisses.”

“The best way to wake up. Wouldn’t mind a few more kisses though.”

Steph agreed as their lips met. Gemma couldn’t move much because of the tray. She placed her hand on Steph’s thighs, feeling the silk of the fabric. She ran her hands over it a couple of times.

“I like this,” she muttered between kisses.

“Yeah? I’ve got plenty more options.”

“Do you?”

Steph nodded. “Maybe you’ll see one later.” She picked up her fork and took a bite of egg.

Gemma smirked. “Sounds good to me, but in the meantime, what would you like to do today?”

Steph shrugged. “I kind of just want to have a lazy day. Stay in sweats, relax, watch a movie, order takeout.”

“That sounds ideal. I do have some paperwork I have to do. Just signing a few things off that I didn’t finish yesterday.” She took another bite of food. “This is delicious by the way.”

“Thank you.” Steph’s smile faltered. “So do you have to go to the office?”

“No. I just have to sit at your dinner table for like thirty minutes if that’s alright.”

“Of course. I’ll just be happy you’re here.”

“Me too.” They shared one last peck before finishing their large tray of food. Gemma moved the tray to the floor and laid back against the pillows.

“Now that was a breakfast.”

“Good?”

“Delightfully delicious..”

Steph smiled. “You know I had to learn how to cook when I married Terry. I couldn’t make anything more than frozen vegetables and boxed food. I was awful at it.”

“I was the same. How did you learn?”

“My mother so with a lot of judgement, but my dad always gave me loads of compliments that helped. Terry too. The first time I made him a decent steak it was like I was serving him a Christmas feast.”

Gemma laughed. “I wanted to make Simon a huge delicious dinner for our one year so I watched cooking shows and looked up recipes. Then I realized I really liked it. Still do actually. I find it therapeutic at times because it distracts me.”

“And I just want Dean to eat something healthy and well balanced.”

“Have you heard from Dean today?”

“No. Terry and I agreed that we do calls before bed.”

“Why?”

“Well it’s mostly for Terry, but it’s so he can have a full, uninterrupted day with Dean. We try to be positive as much as we can even if we don’t get along all the time. I don’t want to Dean to be upset with his dad.”

“Even though he cheated.”

“Yes, but it gave me a new life. I know it’s weird, but Terry tied me down. I was just the happy little housewife who did what she was told and was expected to do. I would clean homes a few times a week to make extra money, but I dropped Dean off, picked him up, made tea. My life was just so routine and boring. Getting rid of him changed everything for the better for me. But he’s a good dad. He just makes stupid decisions sometimes.”

“Are you not resentful for what he did? Does it not make you angry?”

“Of course it does, but at the end of the day, Dean was always the most important thing in my life. When we were low on money, I thought about Dean. Keeping a roof over his head, making sure he had a full tummy every morning, day and night. Everything I have done and do is for that boy. Terry is more concerned about money, but not in the right way. I don’t know. He isn’t a bad father, but he is an idiot.”

“But a good dad.”

“Yes.” Steph leaned against Gemma in bed. Gemma wrapped an arm over her shoulder and kissed the side of her head. “Now, can we please stop talking about our ex husbands and enjoy our day? We’re more important than that.”

Gemma sighed. “Sorry.”

“Why?”

“Everything that involves Tom involves Simon. Before I met you, the most I would talk about was what I did at the clinic or nothing. I became reclusive. Sian was the only person who would try to have decent conversations with me. Usually I’d go home, turn on the Telly, drink and smoke until I passed out.”

“What about dinner?”

“I never had an appetite in that house. It’s why I left. I couldn’t leave the home and sell it, but I could leave for a while.”

“Do you eat more here?”

“Did you not just see me down an entire breakfast?”

Steph laughed. “I did, but I’m not with you all the time.”

“Since meeting you, I have felt like my old self again, but my old, old self.”

“Whatcha mean?”

“Pre-Simon.”

“Is it because you have no worries.”

“No it’s because for the first time in the past four years, I feel free and happy. I mean I didn’t think the word happiness meant anything anymore.”

“I mean Sheffield has that effect on people.” Steph smirked and Gemma poked her sides. She rolled over on top of Steph, kissing her, both giggling with one another.

“You’re not wearing pants,” Steph commented.

Gemma smirked. “No. I’m not.”

Steph slowly lifted up the end of her thin silk gown. “And I’m not wearing any under this.”

“No?”

“Nuh uh.”

“Well what should I do about that?”

“Don’t know. Maybe woo me a bit,” Steph whispered.

“Or kiss ya?”

“Or a kiss.”

Their lips met heatedly as Gemma helped lift her nightgown. Steph traced the dimples on Gemma’s lower back, moaning into her mouth. Gemma let her thigh fall between Steph’s legs and gained purchase against hers. Their mouths barely separated when the doorbell rang.

“Ignore it.” Steph spoke with a rushed eager tone as if she and Gemma hadn’t slept together less than twelve hours ago. She craved her. She wanted her. Gemma did as she was told, running her hands over Steph’s chest, kissing her neck. She squeezed her breast when the doorbell rang a few times.

Steph groaned.

“Who is that?” Gemma asked.

The bell rang again. It was apparent that whoever was hitting the buzzer was impatient and planning to stay until the door was opened.

“I don’t know.” Another buzz. “But I get the feeling they won’t stop.”

Steph pushed herself up to her elbows, kissing Gemma once more before snaking her way out of the bed and down the stairs. Gemma pulled the comforter over herself and laid back, waiting for Steph’s return.

Steph closed her robe to cover herself realizing a silk teddy probably wasn’t the best choice to answer her door in. She luckily cleaned the living room and kitchen before making breakfast that morning, throwing everything into the laundry basket.

Steph covered herself as best she could and pulled the door open.

“Mum!” She exclaimed, quite surprised. “What are you doing here?”

“Today’s Terry’s day. Figured it would be a good time to talk.”

“About what?”

Joan pushed past her daughter to get inside. “It’s freezing out there.” She placed her daughter’s newspaper down on the small table.

Steph rolled her eyes. “It’s winter.” Joan walked into the living room and Steph followed, trying to mentally prepare for whatever was coming her way. “What do you want to talk about?”

“You’re still seeing this woman, I hear.”

“Yeah. I am.”

“Oh Steph. This is just nonsense.”

“Why?”

“You’re better than this!”

“What does that even mean?! Better than what?”

“Eliza has told me she saw you two kissing on the doorstep one morning a couple days ago.”

“We’re seeing each other so obviously there would be kissing, Mum.”

“I can’t believe it. Everyone is talking about you.”

“Of course they are! They always are!”

“When will this stop?” Joan’s voice was calm and cold as ever.

“Who says it will?”

“This is ridiculous, Steph.”

“Why?”

“It goes against G-d.”

“So an eternal damnation to Hell for this, is it?”

“Stephanie.”

“Hello,” Gemma greeted, coming down the stairs. She quickly found clothes to put on when she heard Steph from downstairs say “Mum”. She thought about staying in Steph’s bedroom, but their tones of voice rose higher and higher. Gemma wasn’t going to let Steph go through this again. At least not alone.

She carried the breakfast tray to the kitchen and put it on the table. She walked up to Joan, her hand out strong. “You must be Steph’s mother. I’m Gemma.”

When Joan didn’t take her hand, she extended it further and waited until Joan finally accepted it. Steph watched with anticipation. She knew how strong Gemma was. Joan shook her hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you from Steph.”

“Have you?”

Gemma was all smiles as she let go of Joan’s hand. “Yes. All good of course. She says you usually help her with Dean, which is great. Working mum and all. It’s nice that she can trust family to help out in moments of need.”

Joan ignored the statement, looking towards Steph. “And who did you get to pick Dean up from school these past couple of days?”

“Gemma was kind enough to do it.”

“It’s surprising with all the sickness going around that I didn’t have later appointments, but I did move a couple to help Steph out.”

Joan never looked at Gemma, keeping eye contact with Steph. “And why is she picking up Dean?”

“Because she offered.”

“Couldn’t get anyone else to do it?”

“Well what was I supposed to do?! You wouldn’t help me!”

“I told you my reason.”

“Yes you did and it’s fueled by stupidity!”

“I’m sorry, what is the reason?” Gemma asked. She knew the answer, but wasn’t going to give anyone the benefit of her knowing.

“This is a family matter. You may leave.”

“She’s not leaving, Mum. We have a weekend without Dean and we’re taking advantage of it.”

“And,” Gemma added, “I’ve been helping with Dean these past few days while Steph is at work. He trusts me enough and I look out for him. Unfortunately, next week, I won’t be so lucky with my schedule and someone will need to pick him up.”

“Well it won’t be me.”

“And may I ask again, why?”

“Steph, I don’t like that this woman is taking care of your son.”

“Why?” Steph asked. “I told you, she’s good with him and he likes her a lot as do I.”

“I know what she did to her son.”

Gemma gritted her teeth. “Hmm,” she hummed. “Do you?”

“You tossed him out at sixteen and now have no idea where he is and you don’t seem to care. All about your ex husband, is it?”

Gemma laughed. “That’s what people think happened?” Her smile shifted in a stern, cold look. “I could care less about my ex husband after what he did to me and my son after fifteen years of marriage. And I would never kick my son out. Never. I love him with every fiber of my being. I’ve never stopped looking for him and I never will. And you don’t know anything about me. Absolutely nothing!”

“Gem-“

“And you would honestly not help your daughter out because she’s with me? Your daughter does everything she can to keep Dean happy and healthy. From what I can tell, she puts everyone before herself. But Dean, he is number one. Nothing else matters. And the fact that you claim I tossed my son out, well aren’t you doing the same thing? Tossing your grandson aside because your daughter just happens to be with a woman? You assume you know me because of what people say, but none of those people were there. No one here witnessed what happened there! So to judge me, based on fabrications is ridiculous, but to hurt your own family because of me is appalling when Steph is truly one of the best mum’s I’ve ever met.”

Joan and Steph stood there, shocked. Gemma leaned back against the dining table, taking a deep breath. She was irritated and yet on the verge of cracking. The only image present now was Tom. She might not have kicked him out, but he had certainly shut her out. She covered her face with her hand feeling it shake, taking deep breaths to calm herself.

Gemma felt the familiar arms around her shoulders. Those small, frail arms she had come to love being in. “Are you alright?” Steph whispered, with a small kiss to her cheek.

“Yes.”

Steph stepped back and Gemma smiled at her before looking back to Joan. “My ex husband cheated on me for three years. We were married for fifteen. He got another woman pregnant and destroyed my son’s happiness all to get back at me. My son left to find himself and to start anew, but I’ve never given up. I know he’s okay and for me, that’s good enough. I don’t care what people in this town say about me because I know the truth. If you want to get your information from a host of people who do not know me, then go ahead. I will continue to see Steph and help with Dean.”

“My grandson won’t be brought up around this.”

Steph sighed. “Open your eyes, Mum. He is being brought around this. He likes Gemma.” She walked to the fridge and pulled down his latest drawing. “He even draws her with his family. She teaches him things about animals. You know how much he loves animals. She entertains him. He helped her cook one time and loved it. He feels comfort from her-”

The phone rang interrupting her. Steph’s arms were crossed tightly over her chest.

“I’ll get it,” Gemma offered, leaving the two women to their own devices. She gripped Steph’s hand in passing. She shut the door and answered the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hiya! It’s Terry.”

“Terry, hi. It’s Gemma.”

“Oh. Is Stept in?”

“She’s having a bit of an altercation with her mother at the moment.”

“Oh yeah. Gotta be careful with that one. She’s nice enough, but wants things done her way.”

“So I’ve noticed.”

Terry laughed. “Well, maybe you can help me.”

“I can try.”

“Dean and I were about to head to the zoo, but I figured I’d call before that to see about plans for tomorrow. I’ve got to get up early for work on Monday so I didn’t want to be on the road too late. Do you think meeting around four halfway would be okay with Steph?”

“Yeah, I don’t see why not. I’m pretty sure she has nothing going on.”

“No parties or anything?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“Okay. Well I’ll plan on that, but I’ll call later this evening so we can finalize.”

“Yeah. I’ll let her know you rang.”

“Thanks.” There was some shuffling in the background. “Hold on a second. Someone wants to say ‘hi’.”

“Steph?!” Gemma called. She could hear their muffled argument through the door, but ignored it as best she could. Steph came through, her eyes a little red as she wiped her cheeks.

“Hi, Gemma!”

“Hi, Love. How’s it going at your dad’s?”

“Good. We’re off to the zoo!”

“You are? Well maybe you can tell your dad all the things I told you to show him how brilliant you are.”

Dean laughed. “Maybe. Is Mummy there?”

“She is, Love. Hold on one second.”

Gemma held out the phone to Steph. “It’s Dean and well technically Terry.”

Steph nodded and took the phone. Gemma cupped her cheeks and kissed her forehead. “It’s going to be okay. I promise. I am always good with parents.” They shared a brief kiss. Steph smiled. “Hi, Tigger.”

Gemma could hear a very loud and excited “Mummy!” through the phone. She grabbed the newspaper that Joan had brought in and left Steph alone to talk to Dean, walking back into the kitchen. She placed the paper on the chair, furthest from Joan, grabbed the kettle and filled it with water.

“Would you like a cup of tea, Joan?” Joan ignored her as she sat on the sofa. “She’s talking to Dean. He’s going to the zoo today apparently and seems to be very excited about it.”

Gemma put the kettle on the stove to boil the water. She picked three mugs and an arrangement of tea packages for Joan alone. She knew what Steph would be in the mood for and knew what she wanted. As the water heated up, she took the mugs to the coffee table, grabbed the bottle of milk from the fridge and the container of sugar, bringing them in front of Joan. She laid out the different teas as if Joan was a toddler, who needed to make a decision.

“What type of tea do you prefer?” When Joan didn’t answer, Gemma smiled. “You can point, you don’t have to answer me.”

“What kind of game are you playing?”

“Game?”

“With my daughter.”

“I’m not playing a game with your daughter, who, by the way, is an adult and can make her own decisions in life.”

Gemma went back to the kitchen to turn the burner off. She brought it with her and poured it into the three mugs.

“I know she can make her own decisions.”

“Do you? Because you’re judging not only her, but her son pretty harshly for something that’s normal.”

“It is not normal.”

“Says who?”

“The Bible. This is against what G-d wants. Against His will. It goes against nature. Haven’t you ever taken the time to learn that or were your parents the cause of all your troubles in life?”

Gemma bit her tongue, but felt a pain in her heart. “My parents died when I was sixteen. As far as I’m concerned, that is what goes against nature. Leaving me with no one, but my neighbor. That’s the day I stopped caring about what G-d wants. He took my parents away from me. Everyone said they died instantly, but they didn’t. They died slowly and painfully. I think that is more of an abomination than your daughter being with a woman and could you imagine that little boy having to grow up without a strong woman like Steph? And do you really want to spend the next moments of your life not seeing your grandson all because she is dating me?”

Joan looked out the window, but pointed to the black tea option. The kitchen door opened and a newly dressed Steph walked in. She was in a pair of comfy pants and a jumper with thick socks. Her nose was red, but smiled at Gemma all the same.

“Miss anything important?” Steph asked, taking the mug Gemma was holding out for her.

“No,” Gemma answered. “How do you like your tea, Joan?”

“Little milk, little sugar.”

“I’ll make it,” Steph offered. “I see your finally speaking to Gemma. That’s a nice step in the right direction. Glad to see you’re finally making an adult choice.”

“Who was on the phone?”

“Terry. Gem, would you mind driving me tomorrow so we can all meet halfway?”

“Not a problem.”

“Thanks.” She turned her attention back to her mother. “I told Dean you were here. He said he misses you picking him up from school these past couple of days.”

“That’s nice.”

“And do you miss him?”

“Of course I do.”

“Well, you can see him whenever you like or come here whenever you like. I mean, you used to do it unannounced. I don’t see why that needs to change.”

Joan glanced at Gemma, who was sipping her tea. She opened the newspaper, now officially ignoring the conversation. “I stand by what I said.”

“Dean doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. He knows Gemma and I are together. He asks questions when they come up because I’ve told him to and that he should. It’s not Dean that has the problem. It’s not me or Gemma. It’s you. You don’t want to see me happy.”

Joan scoffed. “I do, but not with her.”

“So then it is you with the problem. My happiness isn’t defined by gender or sex, it’s by people who bring me joy. Gemma does that. I know about the past, but it doesn’t scare me because she’s good for me. She listens to me. She helps me and understands me.”

“So did Terry.”

Gemma laughed. They both looked at her. “I’m sorry, but was that before or after he cheated on Steph with his best mate’s wife and got her pregnant?”

“Steph is not the only woman to be cheated on.”

“Oh, I am very much aware as it has happened to me as well, but sometimes watching your marriage deteriorate fixes the problems you thought you had. Sometimes it gives you freedom.”

“Didn’t seem to give you any,” Joan countered.

“I never said it did, but it has now with Steph. I feel better now, dating your daughter, than I have for the past twenty years.”

“You shouldn’t be around my grandson.”

“Mum!”

“Well, Joan, that’s not your decision to make, is it? It’s Steph’s. And she’s made it. So I think, this is either something you’re going to have to get over and mature about or it’ll be you in my shoes.”

“What do you mean?”

“Wondering everyday where your child is and if they’re happy as they go on with their life. Except yours will be a little worse because it wouldn’t just be your daughter’s life who you’d be missing out on, it would be Dean’s too. Isn’t it bad enough that his dad is far away? Why should he have to lose his grandmother too?”

Gemma sat back in her chair and went back to her paper. Steph seemed rather shocked, but impressed with Gemma. She had never seen someone speak to her mother that way. She could see her face behind the paper and Gemma just winked at her. The room stayed quiet for a moment as Gemma went back to reading. Steph reached out and took Joan’s hands.

“Mum, I love you. I know we have hardships and I know we don’t often get along, but I need you. I really need you. You have always done so much for me and you’ve always helped me. Even if it was just a small load of laundry, it helped. I mean you were able to move past all the parties and my career, can’t you move past this too?”

Joan sighed. She didn’t answer Steph, continuing to look out the window. She took a sip of her tea before putting it back on the table. She collected her purse and stood.

“Mum?”

“I will pick Dean up from school and bring him back here to help you. He shouldn’t be punished for the ridiculous thing your doing and that’s it. I’ll leave tea time for you, but I won’t miss out on my grandson growing.”

“I don’t want you too. Thank you.”

Steph went to hug her mother, which was rare, but Joan stepped back. “I’ll be leaving now.”

Gemma folded the paper and laid it down. She stood and held out her hand yet again. “It was nice to finally meet you and have a chat.”

Joan shook her hand lightly with disdain it seemed before leaving the two women in the living area. She quickly put on her coat and slammed the front door shut. Gemma sat back down on the chair and took a sip of her tea. She was about to pick up the newspaper when Steph sat down on her lap. She rested her head on Gemma’s shoulder and sighed.

“At least I managed to persuade her to start picking Dean back up,” Gemma said, looking at an article.

Steph smiled. “Thank you.”

“Of course. I might have lost my parents, but I’ve dealt with plenty of them in very different situations. They can be a bother, but sometimes they just need the right words spoken to them.”

Steph pinched Gemma’s chin. Gemma smirked and glanced down at her. “I knew I picked a good one.”

Gemma laughed. “You were right though, she is a character.”

“Yeah. I’m sorry she ignored you for most of it.”

“It’s okay. It’s what I’ve wanted people to do since I moved here.”

Steph chuckled. “Yeah.”

Steph readjusted so she was straddling Gemma as best she could. Gemma smiled, running her hands up Steph’s thighs. “I’m beginning to think you’re only dating me so you have someone shag.”

“Oh I definitely am.”

“Well as the lucky woman, I miss the silk.”

“You do?”

“Yeah.”

“I can go and put it on.”

“No,” Gemma mumbled against Steph’s lips. She lifted up her sweater. “There’s no need.” Steph hadn’t bothered to put on a bra and as she soon discovered, no underwear at all.

“Thought it would be easier,” Steph whispered, enjoying straddling Gemma’s hips again.

———————-

Empty food containers laid on the coffee table, while Gemma and Steph laid together on the couch. Their day slipped by with naps and endless lovemaking. Steph even told Gemma at one point that she was worried she was using sex as a distraction from not only Dean not being there, but from all the altercation with her mother. Gemma had just smiled.

“Better than alcohol or a drug.”

“So you don’t mind?”

“Mind what?”

“That I’m enjoying it, but also using it as a distraction.”

Gemma smiled. “Are you thinking about it when I’m inside of you or going down on you or kissing you?”

Steph bit her lip. “No.”

“What are you thinking about?”

“Thing I want to try, things I want to do, what it feels like, but mostly I’m just focusing on your mouth and fingers.”

“Then you’re not really distracting yourself. You’re just enjoying sex which is good becaus I have been enjoying it every time you touch me.”

Steph grinned shyly. “Good.”

Now they were cuddled in their sweats, Gemma laying in Steph’s arms. Her head rested on Steph’s stomach as she slowly stroked Steph’s side with her thumb. They were watching some old black and white film they had stumbled across while clicking through the channels.

“I think I’m going to have to sanitize the entire living room,” Steph said, looking around.

“Why?” Gemma asked, her eyes trained on the television.

“Because we practically shagged on every surface. The couch multiple times alone, that chair, even the kitchen table. My kid uses all of these things.”

“Well someone kept snaking their hands into my pants, what was I going to do?”

“Excuse me?” Steph asked.

Gemma looked up with a smirk. “What?”

“Who was the one showing me an article at the kitchen table and then got handsy?”

“You were only in your knickers and bending over, what was I supposed to do?”

“Keep your hands to yourself.”

“Was I?”

“Yes.”

Gemma pursed her lips and nodded. “Alright.” She peeled herself away from Steph and sat up on the other side of the couch. She leaned against the armrest, making sure there wasn’t a millimeter touching her. “Hands to myself,” Gemma muttered. She stole a glance at Steph, who was smirking with amusement. Steph rolled her eyes, sitting up. She adjusted and leaned against Gemma, whose arm was already coming around her shoulders. Gemma kissed the side of her head as Steph played with the fingers that rested passed her shoulder.

“I’ll help you clean the space,” Gemma offered.

“Might as well wait until tomorrow. I don’t think I’m finished with you.”

“No?”

Steph shook her head.

“I’m going to be so sore tomorrow,” Gemma stated.

“Yeah and your sweet little lips are swollen.”

“Are they?”

“Yeah. It’s like someone’s been kissing and biting them all day.”

“I wonder who did that?”

Steph shrugged before they both laughed. “Well you have bites all over you,” Gemma said.

“What?”

“We got a little rough on that table. I might have bit a little harder than I should have.”

“On my neck?!” Steph asked, clearly not happy about it.

“No! Just one or two on the back of your shoulder, but it’s winter so only I’ll see it.”

“I want to even the playing field.”

“What?”

“Leave a bite mark on you.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s fair.”

“How is that fair? Besides you like it when I bite you. In fact, I think your exact words when my hand was between your legs and my mouth was already against your skin was and I quote, ‘bite me again, Gemma’. No?”

“It might have been and yes I do enjoy it when you bite me, but in the throws of passion, you’re not going to tell someone to stop unless it actually hurts so let me,” Steph playfully tried to slide Gemma’s jumper up.

“Let you what?” Gemma said, laughing. She slapped Steph’s hands away playfully.

“Bite you.”

“No.”

“Yes. I’ll do it anyway the next time I’m on top of you.”

“You are never on top of me. You’re a pillow princess.”

“And what would you call me in the car and in that chair when I was on top of you?”

“Still getting fucked by me.”

Steph’s eyes widened while Gemma smirked proudly. “I’m going to get you for that.” Steph poked Gemma’s sides, watching her body jump in surprise. She continued to tickle her, Gemma laughing loudly, trying to get Steph off of her. She was stronger than Gemma thought she was. She failed to get her off her lap, Steph clenching her thighs tightly. Steph started to kiss her neck and Gemma moaned at first contact.

“Don’t bite my neck. I do have clients.”

“And polo necks.”

“Steph.”

They playfully fought each other until Gemma finally managed to get Steph laying on her side against the couch. They laughed together as Gemma hovered over her, holding her wrists down. “Well, well, well.”

“What?”

“Look who’s on her back again.”

“I’m going to bite you eventually.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” Steph laughed.

“Yeah?” Steph nodded, meeting Gemma’s lips in a quick peck. “Before the weekends out?”

“By the end of the night, you will have a bruise from me.”

“Are you going to punch me?”

“Maybe.”

“Then I guess I’ll have to keep you tied down all night to be on the safe side.”

“Or you could let us lay down together and I could play with your hair.”

“And how do I know that’s not a ruse to get me closer so you can bite me.”

“Guess you’re going to have to trust me.”

“Hm... Kiss me again.” Steph protruded her neck and met Gemma’s lips in a sensual kiss. They lingered near each other before Gemma sighed. “I will take my chances.” Gemma let go of Steph’s wrists and they scooted back to where they had been originally. Gemma grabbed the blanket from the back of the couch and put it over them.

“Of course you will,” Steph said, getting adjusted.

“What do you mean of course I will?”

“You love being petted; your hair being played with.”

“Yeah I do. And?”

Steph shrugged. “I like doing it. I always wanted Dean to have long hair so I could do it to his too. Not that yours is much longer than his.”

“No it’s not.”

Gemma finally rested against Steph, sighing a little. Goosebumps arose on her arms at Steph’s slight touch.

“Do you want more kids someday?” Gemma asked.

“I wouldn’t mind another one, eventually. Think how cute Dean would be as an older brother. In all honesty, if I did have another kid, I would want a little girl.” Steph smiled to herself, thinking about Dean with his sibling. “Do you?”

“To physically have? No. I mean I already messed up my own kin so I wouldn’t want to pass any of this on.”

“How do you know that was your doing and not Simon’s?”

“I don’t.”

“I bet you’re a wonderful mother. I mean I know you are because I’ve seen you with Dean. You always have shyest of smiles on your face when you interact with him.”

“No I don’t.”

“Yes you do. You don’t just lose your motherly touch. It stays and it’s so cute to watch.”

Gemma didn’t respond. She thought about a time a six year old Tom who fell outside and scraped his leg. He was crying and went to Simon first who said it was nothing, but a couple scratches. He ran inside to Gemma, who picked up immediately and held him to her. She told him, he was okay and that she would make it better. She had sat him on the kitchen counter and cleaned it, helping him through the sting of the spray, by letting him grip his hand. She bandaged the wound, her smile growing every second his did.

“Gem?”

“Hm?”

“Where did you go?”

“Just thinking about Tom. I feel like I remember more memories of him now then I did when I was with him.”

“What was this one?”

“He had been playing football with Simon outside. Our driveway was loose gravel and I don’t know why they were in the front yard, but they were and he slipped trying to get the ball. Scraped his leg pretty bad. Ran inside, bleeding and crying. I had just been watching something on the tellie and when I got up to meet him, I thought something way worse had happened. Scared the life out of me, but I cleaned him up and he was fine. We made some biscuits after that and it was settled.”

“What about Simon? What did he do?”

“Nothing. His usual response. I apparently babied Tom, but I’m a doctor. Any kid comes into my house bleeding, I’m going to help them.”

“Good to know for Dean. And how is cleaning him up babying him?”

“I don’t know. I guess men always worry that their kid will be a mama’s boy or something.”

“Was he?”

“No. He was like me though in personality. I mean when Simon came back, all this shit only happened over a couple weeks. Just craziness. But Tom was rebellious during those couple of weeks. Drinking and being stupid because of Simon. I feel like we were both being stupid actually. I just knew better and he thought he was being cool. But running away? That’s all me. Simon’s was giving up and mine is running to a new start. Thinking you have control over everything is also me. He had a few of Simon’s qualities, but he was me.”

“You said that Tom said you worked too much.”

“Yeah.”

“It seems though that you were there.”

“I was always there. No, I didn’t go to every football game and sometimes I did have to work weekends to cover shifts, but I didn’t go to games because I don’t really understand the sport and find it boring. I covered shifts because I was the senior doctor and there was no else to do it. He also would never tell me anything about football so I could learn. He liked having that with his dad. He liked that, that was their thing. But when he was upset, he always came to me. It’s only when Simon came back that he pulled away.” Gemma wiped her eye and nuzzled into Steph’s sweater.

“I often worry Dean will get tired of me.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s going to get to that stage in his life that I’m not going to understand everything that’s happening to him. About how his body is going to change.”

“Well that is what Terry is for.”

“I don’t even know if I trust Terry to do that. I think I rather have Pauline’s husband, Mr. Spake, talk to him about it.”

Gemma smiled. “Why’s that?”

“Terry can be very immature and I’m worried he’s just going to hand Dean a ‘Playboy’ and say ‘whack it out, Kid’.”

Gemma laughed. “He can’t be that bad.”

“No, he’s not, but still.”

“That’s why you come together and decide what you want to say. Tom didn’t like to talk about sex with me, but in reality what child wants to talk to their parents about it? But when he started to hit puberty, he hinted at towards me for a medical standpoint. I realized what was happening and that night Simon and I talked together about what we wanted him to know. I allowed Simon to do most of the talking, but was present.”

“Why?”

“Same reason. I wanted to make sure Simon didn’t say anything stupid and offputting. I also wanted to make sure that my son understood the difference between a yes and a no. If only I had realized how thin the walls of my house were.”

“Parents have sex, Gem.”

“Yes, but as I’m sure after today you are aware, I could be quite loud.”

“I like it when you’re loud. It’s how I know you’re enjoying it.”

“Yeah well when Dean comes back, I’ll probably quiet down a bit, but you miss thing. I don’t know how you stay relatively quiet after these past twenty-four hours.”

“I’m just taking advantage of not having a child in this house. Even Johnny and I didn’t get this much alone time together.”

Gemma smiled. “I like it.”

“Yeah?”

“In fact, I like it so much,” Gemma shifted, throwing her leg over Steph’s to straddle her. “I might want to hear it again.”

“Only if I can bite you.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes!”

“You haven’t even seen the marks on your back. Come here.” Steph sat up and Gemma lifted her sweater to get a better look. “They’re barely purple and they’re tiny.” Gemma scratched her nails down Steph’s back which elicited a hiss from Steph.

“Can we go upstairs?” Steph asked.

“Sure.”

Gemma got off of Steph’s lap and turned the television off. Gemma collected the empty Chinese containers and started cleaning up. Steph took the ones that had food left in them to the fridge. Once Gemma discarded the boxes into the trash, she washed her hands. Steph walked up behind her and hugged her. Gemma smiled catching a glimpse of herself in the window. She hadn’t seen herself smile like that in sometime and she was unfamiliar to herself. There weren’t sad lines in her features. Her eyes weren’t red or puffy. There were no dark circles. She looked content. She felt one of Steph’s arms leave her side, but was quickly back, holding out a towel. Gemma accepted it, wiping her hands when she felt a sting on her back.

“Ow,” she exclaimed. “Did you honestly just bite me through my sweater?”

“I took the opportunity and went for it.” Gemma turned around completely shocked, but Steph was rather proud of herself. “What are you doing to do about?”

Gemma quickly pinned Steph against the kitchen counter adjacent to them attacking Steph’s neck with kisses and little bites. Steph moaned allowing Gemma to take charge. Gemma knelt down, lifting Steph up and sitting her on the counter. She took advantage of Steph’s sweater already being off, kissing around her chest until she took a nipple into her mouth and moaned. Steph’s head fell back against the cabinets causing both of them to laugh.

“Well don’t hurt yourself,” Gemma muttered.

“I’m not trying to.”

“Come here,” Gemma whispered, pulling Steph to the edge of the counter and picking her up as they hugged each other. Steph’s leg wrapped tightly around Gemma’s waist. She cupped the back of Gemma’s head, smelling her neck. She uncrossed her legs and Gemma slowly let her down to her feet. They kissed each other, staying in each other’s arms. They shared light pecks and smiles as they stayed in their embrace.

“Let’s go upstairs,” Gemma whispered.

“Wait. I just wanna do something really quick.” Steph kissed Gemma’s cheek before letting go. She walked back into the living room, looking through a stack of albums. She chose one and started to play it. A light jazz song started to play through the speakers and Gemma just smiled. “We seemed to sway enough without music, so why not do it a little with?” Steph held out her hand for Gemma, who sauntered up to her. Gemma took her hand and twirled her before pulling her back in. She held Steph’s hand against her chest as they slowly rocked back and forth with one another. It was quiet and peaceful. Steph rested her head against Gemma’s chin, kissing her collarbone.

Steph pulled back, pressing her lips against Gemma’s. Their arms now wrapped around each other as the simplest peck turned heavier and lustful. The song came to an end and Steph looked towards the woman that she knew she was falling in love with. “Take me upstairs, Doctor Foster.”

“Angelis.”

“What?” Steph asked.

“Foster. It’s tainted now. My maiden name is Angelis.”

“So should I refer to you as Doctor Angelis?”

Gemma smiled. “Only sexually. Unfortunately, professionally it is Doctor Foster.”

Steph laughed. She placed her hands on Gemma’s shoulders and jumped, Gemma catching her and laughing. Gemma’s arms were strong around Steph’s body, holding her up. They looked at each other with so much love that everything around them faded. Their eyes glazed over and ready for what the night had in store for them.

“Well then, take me upstairs, Doctor Angelis.”

“With pleasure, My Love.”

Chapter Text

Gemma made it up the stairs with Steph safely in her arms. As soon as they made it to the top of the landing, she brought Steph’s back against the wall, holding her there as she kissed her neck. Steph tilted her head, wanting to feel Gemma’s lip wherever she could. Their lips met in a heated kiss, Gemma moaning into Steph’s mouth as their tongues met.

Gemma separated so she could work on the other side of Steph’s neck. “I can’t believe you carried me all the way up here,” Steph huffed.

“And you were worried about me carrying Dean.”

“I wasn’t worried. Just making sure he wasn’t too heavy and that I’m not too heavy.”

Gemma’s lips were attached to Steph’s skin. She wasn’t really in the mood to chat, but managed to anyway. “You might be lighter than him.”

“So you have me?”

Gemma pulled back to look Steph in the eyes. “You’re safe in my arms, Love. Always.”

Steph leaned forward, kissing Gemma lustfully, never wanting her to leave. Gemma regrouped and carried her to the bedroom. She kneeled down, putting Steph on the bed. As soon as she sat, Gemma squatted in front of her, taking one of Steph’s nipples into her mouth. She cupped her breast before letting her hands run along the hem of Steph’s sweatpants. They worked together to pull them down her legs. Gemma tossed them behind her getting settled between her legs, kissing up one of her inner thighs.

Steph watched how Gemma seemed to become more erotic the closer she got to the apex of her thighs. The way her kisses become messier the closer she got. How her hands would start to squeeze her legs as if she’s using her might to hold herself back from ravishing her. To give her enough foreplay before getting to what she wants. Gemma looks up at her with a sexy smirk before biting and sucking on her inner thigh. Steph’s breath catches, her hand coming to Gemma’s hair.

Gemma was so close to where Steph wanted her, but she couldn’t help but wonder:

“Do you enjoy doing that?” Steph asked, abruptly.

“What?” Gemma asked between kisses.

Steph licked her lips. “That.”

“What? Going down on you?”

“Yeah.”

Gemma smiled. “Why?”

Steph shrugged. She remembered liking Gemma’s taste in the car, but being there, in between her legs made her nervous. She wanted to give Gemma all the pleasure she deserved, but what if she wasn’t good enough.

“Do you want to try?” Gemma asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve never done anything like this before so I’m probably not very good at it. I wouldn’t want to disappoint you.”

Gemma rested her head on Steph’s thigh. “And why would you disappoint me?”

“Because this is all new to me and I don’t have any knowledge of how to do it.”

Gemma smiled with sympathetic eyes. “Well this is something you’ve never done before. You probably didn’t think you’d go down on a woman someday. It’s natural to be nervous.”

“Do you like it?”

“Doing it to you? I think the answer is obvious.”

“No, do you like it being done to you?”

“Yes, I definitely do.”

“So why haven’t you said?”

“Steph, I wouldn’t rush you to do something you’re not comfortable with or not sure about doing, but if you want to try it, we can.”

“I just… I don’t know. I want it to be good for you. I worry it won’t be. I’m worried I’m not.”

Gemma stood up confidently. She stepped back from being in between Steph’s legs and started to undress herself slowly, putting a little show on for Steph. She got her sweater over head and tossed it to the chair. She was braless and followed with her pants, letting the loose fabric pool around her ankles. She stepped out of them and walked closer to Steph. Gemma let Steph pull her underwear down, Gemma kicking them to the side. She took Steph’s hand in hers.

“The first thing I want you to realize is what you do to me.” She stuck out Steph’s index and middle finger and spread her legs. She ran Steph’s fingers through her folds and gasped at the touch, Steph looking on in aw feeling how wet she was. The clear liquid remained on Steph’s fingers as she realized Gemma was practically dripping for her.

“You do that to me. When I think about sex wth you, I automatically become aroused because of how good you are. How easily you make me come.”

Steph listened but concentrated on her fingers that was now covered in purely Gemma.

“Now,” Gemma stated, “Touch me again how I just made you do it.” Steph did as she was told, collecting more of Gemma’s wetness. “And I want you to suck on your fingers, while I go down on you.”

Gemma fell to her knees, seeing how turned on Steph was. She didn’t bother with anymore build up or foreplay as she spread Steph’s legs a little wider. “Picture the tips of your fingers as my body and taste me while I taste you.”

Steph did as she was told, sliding her fingers into her mouth as she felt Gemma’s tongue swipe through her, taking a little taste of her own.

“Focus your tongue on your finger tips. Only the tips and try and move your tongue like this.” Gemma went back and forth on Steph’s center, showing her how to use her tongue. Steph moaned, her hand sliding into Gemma’s hair to grip it. Gemma watched Steph while kneeling on the floor. Her nipples were hard, her body and face turning into a rosy pink. Gemma could feel her own excitement at what was hopefully to come.

Gemma really did enjoy going down on her. She always found oral to be the most appealing thing one could do to another person. The feeling of someone coming apart in your mouth. She loved the taste of Steph. She never could seem to get enough of it.

“Gem, fingers,” Steph panted, still sitting up, wanting to watch Gemma for as long as possible. However, once she felt two of Gemma’s fingers tease her entrance, she could no longer stay up straight.

Steph’s thoughts got the best of her. She knew why people liked oral when someone was good at it, but she honestly worried she would never give Gemma the pleasure she craved. She zoned out, worriedness taking over. All she wanted was to feel like she would be good at it, but she didn’t have as many partners as Gemma has had. How could she compete?

“Steph?” Gemma said. “Hey. Where’d you go?”

“Nowhere.”

Gemma crawled on top of her and smiled. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t feel very confident right now.”

“Why?”

“I just…” Steph paused. She wasn’t sure what the issue was at the moment, but, “I have a lot of doubt.”

“About what?” Gemma brushed the loose hairs around her face back.

“Giving you what you need.”

“What do you mean?”

“Sexually.”

Gemma smiled. “Steph, I don’t care if you go down on me or not. We can do whatever you want to try. The worst thing that can happen is I tell you it’s not working for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s you, it just means I don’t like what’s being done. And honestly there isn’t much I don’t like in the bedroom department.” Gemma straddled Steph’s stomach. “And I enjoy your touch. I enjoy feeling you inside of me, rubbing me, kissing me. I love everything you do to me. I seriously do. So you’re worrying over nothing.”

“Yeah.”

“Steph, we’ve literally had sex almost all day and all of last night. If I wasn’t enjoying it, I would be telling you. I wouldn’t be coming every time and sometimes it is so quick because I think you really are a lot better at it then you give yourself credit for. So,” Gemma took Steph’s hand again. She put Steph’s fingers into her mouth, running her tongue between the two. She then inserted them into herself, moaning at the feeling. Steph gawked, looking at Gemma with lustful eyes as felt Gemma clench around her digits. “Now all I want you to do is fuck me in any capacity. I just want to feel you.”

Steph watched as Gemma rocked her hips against her fingers, waiting for Steph to meet her thrusts. Steph sat up and rolled Gemma onto her back, thrusting into her. Gemma moaned, grabbing at Steph’s back.

“Now, who’s the pillow princess,” Steph murmured against Gemma’s lip. She smirked teasingly.

“Fuck me, Steph,” Gemma whispered, watching the raw determination in Steph’s eyes. Gemma cupped her head, bringing their lips together, moaning into her mouth. Steph moved to kiss her neck and down her chest. She sucked and nibbled on Gemma’s nipples, listening to her gasp and groan, lifting her hips towards the hand that had now stopped.

“Steph,” she whispered. Steph continued to kiss down her body. It was now or never she thought as she ran her hand down Gemma’s torso, through her pubic hair and rested between her legs.

“Any secrets?” Steph asked.

Gemma smirked. “Breathe through your mouth and if you don’t like it, I won’t be disappointed.” Steph nodded. Gemma spread her legs a little wider, her heart pounding in her ears. She felt Steph take a long swipe through her folds and her hips shot off the bed with a moan that she’s pretty sure Mrs. Priestly heard next door. She ran her hands through Steph’s hair and held her head while she felt Steph’s tongue explore the most intimate part of her body. Steph finally settled against her core, continuously moaning at the taste. Gemma gasped, trying to keep her hips still, but failing. Steph’s arms finally wrapped around them to hold her down.

Gemma was a mess between breathy “Steph’s”, gasps and moans. She forgot how much she loved this feeling. It had been a while since anyone had done this to her. She believed Simon was the last person and was glad that she waited for the next person to be the woman between her legs. She couldn’t fathom what Steph had been so nervous about. Listening to her moan as she explored what Gemma liked only made Gemma want more of her.

“Fuck, Steph! Ugh!” She was squirming when she felt Steph’s tongue toy her entrance. “Yes, Love. Yes. Yes. Please!” Gemma begged. She looked down as she felt Steph continue inside of her. Her head flew back against the bed as her back arched. Steph now wanted every taste she could find. She went back to her center, moaning.

Gemma clutched Steph’s hair. “Oh, Steph. I’m so close. I’m so-” Gemma was cut off by another flick of her tongue. She couldn’t stay still or keep quiet. Her body stilled as she pushed down, holding her breath before she felt her entire body spasm. She gasped, sitting up as she came against Steph’s mouth. Steph kept going, causing Gemma to continuously twitch before she brought Steph up, catching her breath and laying back down. She kissed up her body until she was hovering over Gemma.

Steph’s mouth was wet and her lips red. Gemma cupped the back of her neck and pulled her down, kissing her. She moaned at her own taste against Steph’s lips and tongue. Her body tingled as she pulled back, still shuddering. “I don’t know why you thought you’d be bad at that,” Gemma whispered, still reeling.

“You’re putting me on, aren’t you?” Steph asked.

Gemma turned her head towards Steph. “No. I am not putting you on. That was incredible.” Gemma turned onto her side so she could wrap her arm over Steph’s waist. She laid down on top of her, kissing her instantly.

“I guess I learned from the master,” Steph whispered against Gemma’s lips.

“No. You just needed a little more confidence. I’ve been going down on you for the past twenty-four hours. You realized what feels good for you and then did it to me with some very good and exciting extra stuff. Did you enjoy it?”

Steph nodded. “Way more than I thought I would.”

“Want me to do it to you?”

“No.”

“No?”

“I want to try something else.”

“On me?”

“No, I want you to do something to me.”

Gemma bit her lip around a grin. “And what’s that?”

“Did you ever get that toy you ordered from the party?”

“Yes.”

“Was it good?”

“Not as good as your fingers and definitely not as good as your mouth, but it did what I needed at the time. Why? Do you want to try it?”

“We don’t have to.”

Gemma smiled. “There’s one downstairs, right? From the girls? Do you want to give it a go? Try something else new?”

Steph thought for a moment. “Yeah, I kind of do. I don’t know the reaction I’ll have so better to try it when there isn’t a little one running around.”

“Well then.” Gemma crawled off of Steph and hopped off the bed. She walked out of the room, not bothering with her clothes. Steph followed her, remembering she put all the adult toys away. Most would be returning to the office on Monday. Once downstairs, Steph walked around Gemma, to a high cabinet in the kitchen. She opened it, revealing all the toys the girls had left for them. Steph rolled her eyes, but pulled out the small bullet. She handed it to Gemma, who washed it carefully.

Steph was leaning against the table when Gemma turned. She held it out for Steph, turning it on. Steph laughed embarrassingly to herself at the sound hiding her face behind her hand.

“What?” Gemma smiled.

“I’ve been selling these things for a year and I’ve never used one.”

“Never?” Steph shook her head. “Well,” Gemma scooted behind her so she could be against the table, holding Steph’s back to her front. “This is going to make your knees weak.”

“How?”

“It’s a different kind of orgasm, I think.”

“Bad?”

“What?” Gemma questioned. “No. More powerful.”

“Should we go back upstairs then?”

“Haven’t you learned tonight that you’re safe in my arms?” Gemma wrapped her arm around Steph’s torso. “And that I can pick you up and take care of you?”

“Yeah I have.”

“So,” Gemma pulled a chair over. “Put your leg up here. Take a deep breath and let me take care of you.” She held the small bullet vibrator in her hand and Steph took it. Gemma immediately kissed her neck, running her hands over Steph’s breasts. She ran her fingers through Steph’s folds a couple times before guiding Steph’s own hand down between her legs.

“Ready?” Gemma whispered in her ear. She used her teeth to pull her earlobe down. Steph moaned, searching for Gemma’s lips. They met in a heated kiss over Steph’s shoulder as Gemma helped her run the small vibrator down her body. Steph’s hand was lost in Gemma’s hair. “Right in the center, Love.”

“Why aren’t you going to do it?”

“I have my reasons.”

“Are you going to bite me again? I don’t trust you against this table now after earlier.”

Gemma laughed. “No, I’m not going to bite you.”

“Because I still haven’t gotten my opportunity to get you back.”

“Yes you did. It was against the sink. You bit me through my jumper.”

“Doesn’t count?”

“Why?”

Steph looked Gemma in the eyes. “It wasn’t against your skin.” Steph turned and kissed around Gemma’s collarbone.

“And?”

Gemma knew what Steph was about to do so she took the bullet back from Steph’s hand and used it as a distraction as she teased Steph between her leg with the toy. As soon as it made contact, Steph sucked in a breath, resting her forehead on Gemma’s shoulder. She hugged Gemma from the sensation, her arms wrapped around her tightly.

Gemma thought it was a good thing that Dean wasn’t there. Steph was louder than ever as she tried to spread her legs wider for more friction, pushing into Gemma with her hips. Gemma cupped her bottom with one hand, holding the bullet in the other.

“How strong is your table?” Gemma asked.

“I don’t know. Strong?”

Gemma leaned down to pick Steph up, pulling the vibrator away. Steph groaned until she realized what Gemma was doing. She laid on her back, holding the toy just above her center.

Steph smiled. “No, upstairs.”

“What why?”

“My kid eats here and now that I’ve thought about it, it’s kind of gross.” Steph grabbed the toy and leaned in, placing the lightest kiss square between Gemma’s legs followed by one broad lick that made Gemma’s entire body come to life as Steph bolted for the stairs. Gemma was hot on her trail as they entered the bedroom. Gemma snatched the toy back and got right back into the same position she had downstairs. This time, Steph hovered over until she made contact with it. She felt her body experience this new pleasure as she made animalistic noise of excitement that turned Gemma on more than she already was. Gemma grabbed her backside, helping her rock her hips as she felt small vibrations ripple through both of their bodies.

“Gemma,” Steph gasped, holding herself up just enough to see her. Their mouths were barely separated. “Can you feel it too?” Steph asked, barely able to speak.

“Yeah,” Gemma moaned.

“Are you gonna come again?”

Gemma could only nod as she and Steph came seconds before Gemma followed suit. Steph collapsed on Gemma, trying to catch her breath.

“Oh and I like it because if you’re already in the mood for it and kind of tired, it’s fast,” Gemma mentioned.

Steph laughed, kissing the crook of her neck. Gemma’s arms encircled her, her fingers lightly trailing over her back as both of their bodies calmed down and cooled with the air around them. Gemma kissed the top of Steph’s head.

“Come on, Love. Let’s get under the covers.”

“No,” Steph whined. “Let me stay here a little longer.”

“But we could do the exact same thing under the covers.”

“Do you know what I really want right now?”

Gemma smiled. “What?”

“Ice cream!”

“Ice cream? Stephanie Kirke, the woman who can barely handle a chill without freezing wants ice cream in the dead of winter?”

Steph sat up laughing. “Yeah.”

“Do we have to go to the store for this?”

“Possibly.”

“So you want to get dressed, go out in this cold weather and get ice cream?”

Steph bit her lip and nodded. “Yeah, I do.”

Gemma sighed. “You’re lucky you’re cute and really good in bed.”

“You’ll take me?”

“Of course I will.”

Steph kissed Gemma’s lips with the biggest smile. “Yay!” She jumped off the bed and went straight to the bathroom.

“Are you relieving yourself with the door open? Are we at that part in our relationship?” Gemma asked.

“Considering we’ve pretty much been naked around each other all day, I would say yes. Anyway, aren’t you supposed to after sex?”

Gemma came to the door. “Yes, you actually are. It cleans any bacteria out of your body. Just like you’re supposed to have pubic hair to help keep your genitals clean.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Oh yeah, it’s a big one,” Gemma answered slipping on a shirt. She walked back to the small bag she packed and pulled out a pair of underwear. She put them on when Steph came back into the room.

Gemma looked at her as she put a bra on. “What?” Steph asked.

“Nothing, just hate to see them go.”

“What? My tits? You really do like them don’t you?”

Gemma smiled. “Yeah I do.” Gemma sauntered up to her, placing light kisses on each breast.

“Well I’m hoping we’ll still sleep naked.”

“Oh we definitely will. I didn’t bother packing pajamas. I knew what this weekend was about.”

Steph laughed. Gemma passed her, kissing her hand before going to the restroom herself, closing the door behind her. Steph smiled, picking up the clothes off the floor when she noticed a brass box by the chair. As she got closer, she realized it was a double sided photo frame that was closed. She looked back towards the bathroom and picked it up. She debated about opening it, but decided not to. As the door opened, she set it back with Gemma’s stuff.

“It fell on the floor,” Steph muttered, nervously.

“You can look if you want. It’s just pictures of Tom. One of him when he was little and we were celebrating his birthday and then one of him a little older.” Gemma smiled. She walked over to the small box and opened it holding it out to Steph. “When I thought Simon was traveling for his job to go to conferences or whatever, he always took a small frame with him. When I lost Tom and moved here, it was the only way I could keep him with me and have his picture so I could look at him when I liked without having to announce to the world that I had a son.”

Steph looked at Gemma in the picture. Tom couldn’t have been more than Dean’s age with Gemma sitting behind him, at a table. She looked so happy and ready to help her son blow out his candles as he held onto her hands.

“That’s Tom’s fifth birthday and his last school photo. Sometimes I think I chose those two so I can figure out where the hell I did everything wrong and other times, it shows me the good times with the bad, but this way he is always with me.”

“And what’s this little sticker?”

There was a tiny sticker in the corner on the class of an apple with a worm. “He begged me for them after getting a good grade on his first spelling test. It was rare that I said no to him so I bought them. I found them when I was packing up his room. They were close to his bed, in between two books. I peeled one and added it to this. So there was a good memory that outweighed the bad ones.”

Steph smiled. She left the frame opened and walked to the side of the bed Gemma had been sleeping on. She placed it there and turned towards Gemma. “This way you get to wake up to a picture of your son. He isn’t a secret in my household so there’s no need to hide him from me. You should be able to be in my house and still see him whenever you want so you can leave that here if you like.”

Gemma’s eyes started to water as she took a few small steps towards her. Gemma reached out her hand, running it down Steph’s arm before clasping her hand in Steph’s. She pulled her in for a little peck. “Thank you,” she whispered. Steph nodded meeting Gemma’s lips again. “Should we go get you ice cream?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright.”

Steph skipped out of the room excitedly while Gemma stared at the photos. “Tom,” she whispered, following his jaw line in the photograph. “G-d I hope you’re safe and know that I still love you.”

Gemma met Steph downstairs, wiping her eyes.

“You alright?” Steph asked.

“Yeah.”

“Did I upset you?”

Gemma smiled. “No. If anything, I feel appreciated for the first time in a long time.” She knew in her heart that her feelings towards Steph were deepening. She had an ironic impulse to say those three little words, knowing it would be ridiculous and too soon. Gemma grabbed her keys and took Steph’s hand. It was brisk outside as Gemma noticed Steph’s shoulders shrug up to her ears. She smiled. “You sure you’re not too cold for ice cream?” Gemma asked, opening the door.

“Nope.”

Steph jumped in allowing Gemma to close it. They drove to the closest grocery store they could find, their hands together. It was a quiet ride. Gemma pulled into a parking space.

“Do you mind if we get a few other things while we’re here?”

Gemma groaned dramatically. “I guess.”

Steph smiled. “It won’t be that bad, My Love.”

“You say that now.”

They got out of the car and headed inside, their fingers clasped together. It was only nine, but the store was practically empty, making grocery shopping a lot easier. Steph filled the cart, aisle after aisle as Gemma pushed it. They made little jokes with one another by pronouncing things weird and goofing around like teenagers. There were moments where Steph saw no worry in Gemma’s features. It was the most carefree she had ever seen her and it melted her heart.

Gemma stood in front of the ice cream freezer with her finger under her bottom lip. She was debating. Steph came up behind her and poked her, causing her to jump out of surprise. Steph laughed.

“You just scared the shit out of me,” Gemma exclaimed, her hand on her heart.

“Looks like you should pay more attention to your surroundings.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Gemma said, wrapping an arm around Steph and hugging her. Steph fell into her embrace, placing a hand on her stomach as she closed her eyes for a moment. “So what kind of ice cream do we want, Love?”

“Vanilla?” Steph questioned.

“You made me drive you all the way to the market to buy vanilla?”

“Well what do you want?”

“It’s your craving.”

“Then I want vanilla.”

“I mean not chocolate or mint chocolate chip? Cookie dough?”

“No. I’m so sorry I’m plain when it comes to my ice cream choice. Dean’s the same.”

“Oh see, I think this is where Joan is wrong. The problem isn’t because you’re dating me, it’s because Dean clearly hasn’t explored his ice cream options and assumes that vanilla is his favorite because that’s what his mum likes.”

Steph hit Gemma with her hip, laughing. “Stop. I can’t help it.”

“I mean not even chocolate syrup?”

“Stop teasing me!”

“I’m not teasing you. I’m very serious. Your son needs more options. Every child needs to explore their ice cream options.”

“Then buy him one you think he’ll like, but remember he’s picky.”

“Probably because his mum makes him he eat vanilla ice cream.”

“He’s still picky.”

“Got him to eat his vegetables though.”

“For the record, he’d eat vegetables before you so I’m not going to let your ego get too high.”

“Yeah, well-...” Gemma stuttered trying to think of some kind of come back.

“Exactly.” Steph pecked Gemma’s lips, placing the vanilla carton into their buggy. She started to push it away when she felt Gemma’s hands snake around her waist. Gemma hugged her for a moment and kissed her cheek, dropping cookie dough ice cream into the cart.

“I mean just vanilla is a little sad.”

“You can keep making fun of me, but it’s good and what I want and you got something you like so can you stop acting like a child and move on?”

Gemma gawked at Steph’s smirk as she pushed the cart past her. Gemma ran up behind her, Steph pushing the cart faster. They were laughing as Gemma chased her down the aisle. As Steph reached the end, she started to slow down causing Gemma to catch up. Gemma smacked her bottom before pulling her into a kiss, Steph still laughing, her arms wrapping around Gemma’s shoulders.

“Hey guys,” Hellie said, standing there with an older woman. They separated from each other.

“Hi, Hellie. Hello, Mrs. Matlock.”

“Stephanie. Aren’t we a little old to be running around the store?”

Steph blushed, but Gemma perked up. “Why?”

“It’s childish.”

“Might be, but what’s the point of living if we have to be serious all the time. Hi, Hellie.”

“Gemma, this is my mother, Bunny.”

“Ah, the woman who spreads all the rumors about me. It’s nice to finally meet you in person. Gonna tell everyone you saw Steph and I share a little kiss in the bread aisle?” Gemma laughed. No one else responded. “Just a joke,” she said with a wink.

“I’ve heard many things about you.”

“Mother,” Hellie tried to interrupt.

“Helena, I’m just talking to our newest neighbor.”

“I’ve heard,” Gemma agreed, “But how boring is your life that makes my life seem so much more interesting? I mean to tell everyone about what you think happened to me. It’s just kind of sad, isn’t it?”

Hellie and Steph looked at each other. Both wide eyed.

“I’d watch your tongue if I were you.”

“Why? Gonna tell more people?” Gemma smirked. She took Steph’s hand. “Should we go home, Love or do you need something else?”

“No, I think we’re good, Gem.”

“Excellent. Hellie, lovely to see you as always. Bunny, nice meeting the town gossip.”

“Lovely to see you too,” Hellie answered. “Bye, Steph.”

“Bye, Hellie. See you Monday.”

Gemma and Steph walked away. Hellie looked rather impressed, but Bunny on the other hand was scowling.

“Oh, she is going to say shit to my mother,” Steph said as they started to load the groceries on the conveyor belt.

“Will she?” Gemma asked, concerned.

“Probably.”

“How bad will it be? Will she still pick up Dean? Did I just mess that up?”

“No, no. It’ll go through sources before it gets to Mum and Hellie is back there probably standing up for you.”

Gemma remained quiet, reprimanding herself as Steph paid. Gemma collected the few bags, feeling Steph take her hand as they walked back to the car. She felt like she had just reversed everything she had done with Joan that afternoon. She loaded the groceries in the back and saw Steph standing by the driver door.

“Don’t start worrying about Bunny and my mother.”

“I didn’t know they were close.”

“They’re not. Starts with Bunny and works it way out.”

“We’ve just had this amazing day together and I wasn’t really thinking.”

“What’s there to think about?”

“Dean.”

“Dean’s fine and he’s going to be fine.” Steph rested her arms on Gemma’s shoulders. She leaned in. “It’s okay, Gem.” Steph pecked her lips. Gemma’s arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her closer. They hugged for moment before kissing each other again. “Take me home, Love.”

“Okay,” Gemma whispered.

Steph could see Bunny and Hellie leaving the store. When Gemma started to back away, Steph kissed her again, smiling into it. They stayed there for a moment, Steph knowing that Bunny could see them and feeling bad that Hellie had to witness it, but she wanted to make a point. She wanted the town to know that it didn’t matter what anyone said, she knew how important Gemma was to her and she wasn’t going to let anyone scare her.

They broke their embrace. Gemma waited until Steph was in the car before getting in. As she finally become situated in the driver’s seat, she sighed, taking Steph’s hand and kissing it. The ride home was quick, but silent. The kind of quiet Steph hadn’t heard from Gemma in some time. As they walked into the house, Steph grabbed Gemma’s arm after she closed the door. Gemma shook it off, clearly lost in her own thoughts.

“Gemma-”

“I don’t want to hurt you and your family.”

“You haven’t.”

“But what if I do, Steph? I told you, I’m toxic.” Gemma plopped on the couch, her head hung low. “I knew this would happen. I knew if you stayed with me, I would ruin that little boy.”

“Gemma, what are you talking about? Dean isn’t even here.”

“But I’m the reason your mother won’t pick him up from school. And now, Bunny is going to have plenty to tell her. We had such a good day and I just fucked it up.”

“Gemma, you didn’t fuck it up. I promise you.” Steph next to her on the couch. Gemma’s jaw was clenched. She was angry with herself.

“I should go,” Gemma said, standing up.

“No.” Steph stood next to her.

“Yes. I’m just going to ruin this family like I did mine. I really am.”

Gemma made her way towards the door. “Gemma, stop.” Steph ran and stood in front of her. “Stop,” she repeated, putting her hand on Gemma’s shoulder. “Is this because of what I said? About Bunny telling my mother?” Gemma didn’t respond, standing there cold. “Gem, that was my mistake. I shouldn’t have said that and I didn’t mean it in a sense that I was worried or thought you had done anything. That woman has been telling my mother things since I was a child. Things she’s heard about other people’s kids who were in my class. Her mouth never stops talking. She’s the one who told my mother about the parties and everything, but I don’t care about what she says. I never have. I would always befriend the children my mother warned me to stay away from and she would not talk to me for a few days. Her reaction to us is the same thing. She does these things as a mind game, thinking it’s going to change me, but it never has and it never will. Gemma, this has nothing to do with us or with Dean. Okay?”

Gemma was looking at her feet, but nodded. She brought her hand up to wipe her face.

“Gemma,” Steph whispered, cupping her cheeks and lifting her face. “You never have to worry about anything that involves the older women of Sheffield. And I love how much you worry about Dean. I swear, sometimes you worry more about him than his own dad does and I find so much comfort in that. And if my mother decides, again, she doesn’t want to pick Dean up, I’m not worried about it at all. I’ve got friends who can do it. All I want right now is to eat this ice cream, curl up with you on the couch, watch something that I don’t care about and won’t pay any attention to because I’ll be thinking about you, make out a little bit since it’s our last night alone together before Dean comes back and then maybe let you take me back upstairs because for some reason I’ve become a sex addict with you.”

Gemma laughed, her shy smile growing on her face.

“Sound good?” Steph asked, holding her hand out to Gemma.

“Yeah.”

They made their way to the kitchen. “And can we work on something?” Steph asked.

“What?”

“I don’t want your response to always be silence and to flee.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“We’re working on open communication and talking so instead of panicking in your head, just tell me what you’re thinking.”

“Okay.”

Steph kissed her cheek and started to unbag the groceries and put things away while Gemma just stood there. She slipped off her coat, putting it on the back of a chair. “All I’m thinking is I keep getting in your way.”

“What do you mean?”

“When we’re here in the house, I don’t worry as much because it’s just you and me. We get to be in our own world with no stress, but there is just something frightening about encountering other people.” Gemma sat down, looking at the floor.

“Why?”

“Because I’m the reason your life is full of drama right now.”

“Gem, my life is not full of drama. This has been happening since I was little. I got up knocked up young causing a stir, then I started throwing women’s only parties. I have just always been the town rebel. And now, I’m fucking a super hot woman, who’s a doctor, who just moved into town and people have seen us kissing. It makes them uncomfortable, but not me.”

“I know you can pick your own battles and stand up for yourself. I don’t mean to intervene.”

“Yes, I can do all those things, but I like when you stand up for me. It shows me that you really do care and that I’m not alone. That you care about what’s being said about me. That you’re trying to protect me and my son. I love that, Gemma. I really do.”

“And it doesn’t bother you?”

“Why would that bother me? A lot of people don’t get that out of their relationships and I haven’t had it for so long. You don’t let people throw me under the bus. You rescue me.”

“You don’t need rescuing.”

Steph smiled. She pushed Gemma’s legs out and sat on her lap, wrapping her arms around her shoulders. “No, I don’t, but I love watching you do it without care. G-d, I wish I had your courage sometimes. I love watching you put people in their place.”

“I should watch my tongue.”

“No, you shouldn’t. Bunny deserved it. My mother deserved it. Give yourself more credit, Love. You stand up for me and protect me knowing I don’t need it and can do that myself. That is the sexiest thing anyone has ever done for me.”

“What?”

“You know who I am. I know who you are. You don’t try to change anything about me and I don’t want to change anything about you. We respect each other and I absolutely love that.”

“You do?” Gemma’s small smile reappeared.

“I really do,” Steph said, smiling, herself. She leaned in, pressing her lips against Gemma’s feeling it reciprocated almost immediately. Gemma’s strong hands held her back, supporting her. When Steph pulled back, she watched as Gemma chased her lips, giving her one last peck. “Now you have to say something nice about me.”

“What?” Gemma questioned.

“I just said a lot of nice things about you so now your turn.”

Gemma laughed. “Wow, kind of takes away what you said when you’re fishing for compliments.”

“Yeah, well, I need reassurance.”

“Do you know what I love about you?”

Steph seemed to become giddier. “What?”

“You don’t judge me. You never have, even after everything I’ve told you. You just don’t. You don’t throw anything in my face. You don’t let me cave in and you help me. You don’t want to change me. You just want to be with me.” It was Steph’s turn to grin. “It’s refreshing.”

“Good, but that was still more about you, then it was me.”

“Oh my gosh, Steph. That was all about you! Take the compliment.”

“I am, but I want more.”

“You’re greedy and yet I keep giving you what you want.”

“So another compliment.”

Gemma sighed, shaking her head and laughing. “You really want to play this game because what I’m about to say might make you skip the ice cream.”

“Try me.”

Gemma smirked. She leaned into Steph’s ear, kissing below her earlobe. She wanted to say something inappropriate, but decided against it. “You are very pretty.”

Steph blushed. “You are too, but that’s not going to make me skip ice cream. I thought it would be more than that.”

“I decided to edit what I was going to say.”

“What were you going to say?”

Gemma thought for a moment and shook her head no, biting her lip.

“Tell me,” Steph demanded. Gemma continued to shake her head as Steph started to kiss her neck. “Tell me.” She licked Gemma’s neck up to her ear. “Tell me,” she whispered one last time.

Gemma exhaled, her heart rate picking up. “There’s this gutteral sound you make every time I enter you that does things to me that no words can describe it and the only thing I can do to express it is to fuck you.”

Steph pulled back from Gemma’s neck, looking at her. She got off Gemma’s lap, taking her shirt off. She helped Gemma discard hers, pulling it over her head, walking back towards the stairs. She made a come hither motion with her finger. Gemma followed her, licking her lips.

The night was lost in ecstasy as the two women pleasured each other continuously with their mouths, tongues, fingers and one small vibrating bullet. Gemma’s back was arched with Steph between her legs. She was loud and close as she moaned at a certain swipe from Steph’s tongue. She held the back of Steph’s head, moving her hips as lightly as possible to create friction while she groped her own breast, teasing her nipple. Steph moaned against Gemma’s core, but it wasn’t an ordinary sound.

Gemma looked down to see Steph touching herself which threw her over the edge as she came hard against Steph’s teasing tongue. Her heart was pounding as she watched Steph.

“Come here,” she whispered.

“I’m so close, Gem.”

“So come here so I can do it.”

Steph groaned but slowly hovered over Gemma, kissing her, waiting for Gemma’s fingers. Gemma broke the kiss and pointed to her mouth. She grabbed Steph’s hips and pulled her forward so she was hovering over Gemma’s face.

“Are you sure?” Steph asked.

“I’ve never been more sure.”

Steph lowered herself and felt Gemma’s tongue within seconds. She moaned, leaning back against Gemma’s hips. She wasn’t able to sit still as she took a fistful of Gemma’s hair. Gemma held her hips, her eyes closed, tasting her favorite thing yet again. Steph widened her thighs, getting as close to Gemma’s mouth as possible as she orgasmed. Her body flew forward, holding herself against the wall. Gemma licked a few more times, watching her body spasm uncontrollably. Their bodies were sweaty on top of the sheets as Steph climbed off laying on the bed. They both caught their breath before slowly cuddling up to one another. Steph’s arm was snug around Gemma’s back as she rested her head against Steph’s breasts.

“It’s going to be so hard to not do this tomorrow,” Steph whispered.

“It’s going to be hard sleeping alone in my bed,” Gemma stated.

That caught Steph’s attention. “Are you not staying with me tomorrow?”

“I figured you would want time with Dean since he’s been gone these past two nights. A little mother and son time.”

“But he’ll want to see you.”

“Yeah and he will but will he want to see me in the morning as well?”

“I don’t know, but I would like to.”

“I know you would, but shouldn’t we be putting his feelings first?”

Steph sighed. “Yes.”

Gemma smiled, kissing her chest. “I think we should talk to him. See how he feels about me being here.”

“You’re right.”

“I also only have one pair of underwear left for tomorrow so unless you want me to be dirty.”

“I mean, I do, but we can wash a pair here.”

“That is true, but I’ll have to go home Monday if that’s the case.”

“I guess that’s a deal.”

Gemma scooted up so she could rest her head on the pillow. She laid her on stomach, facing Steph, with her arm stretched out. Steph turned to rub Gemma’s back mindlessly as she felt Gemma’s breath even out, her eyes closed. Gemma moved her arm to rest against Steph’s waist, also rolling over to her side, placing her head under Steph’s chin. They held each other close, Gemma drifting more and more to sleep.

“Is it crazy-” Steph started, feeling Gemma jump. “Sorry, Love.”

“No, no. Is what crazy?” Gemma’s voice was deep and full of sleep.

“No, go to sleep. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.”

“What’s crazy?”

Steph sighed. “I don’t want to be apart from you. I feel childish or like an angsty teenager, but I don’t want you to sleep at your flat. I want you to sleep here with me.” Gemma smiled, lifting her head. She gave Steph a light peck. “I know, it’s crazy.”

“It’s not crazy. I don’t want to be away from you either, but we have phones so I can call Monday night and it’s not like we’ll have to wait until Friday. I’m sure I’ll see you Tuesday. You could even come back to mine, if you like. Cook for you and Dean again.”

“Not the same.”

“I know, Love, but I would rather talk to Dean first. See how he feels.”

“I know you’re right, but I want to be selfish.”

Gemma laughed, getting comfortable again. “We can be selfish next weekend.”

“Yeah.” Steph laid there, her fingers tracing freckles on Gemma’s shoulder and back as Gemma laid more on top of her. “Gem?”

“Hm?”

“I-,” she paused, catching herself. “I really like you.”

Steph felt the smallest peck to her neck, smiling at Gemma being there, with her, in her arms. “I really like you too,” Gemma whispered before trailing off to sleep.

————————-

The sun was shining through the window when Steph woke from her sleep. Gemma’s body was still spread across her, her leg now in between Steph’s. Steph glanced over at the clock to see it was only eight in the morning. She rolled her eyes, hoping she would have been able to sleep longer this morning, but no luck. She debated about cooking breakfast, but soon found herself completely comfortable under Gemma. She listened to her even breaths while running her fingers through her hair. Gemma stirred for a moment, kissing Steph’s chest before rolling over and off of her. Steph used the opportunity to get up and start her day reluctantly. She was, however, excited to see Dean and have him home. She couldn’t deny that her weekend with Gemma was exactly what she needed and craved, but now she was ready for her sweet boy to return home. She missed his little laugh and the energy he brought into the home.

Just as she was about to get up, Gemma grabbed her arm.

“Not yet,” she mumbled, clearly still asleep.

Steph laughed and laid back down. Gemma scooted up behind her, wrapping an arm around Steph’s waist and holding her as close as possible. Gemma kissed her shoulder and then her neck, nuzzling her.

“Gem, I can’t go back to sleep.”

“Shh. Try.”

“I can’t, Baby.”

“Then just lay with me for a minute.”

“You’ll fall back asleep.”

“No, I won’t. I promise.”

“Gemma, you’re barely awake now.”

“Shh.”

“Gem.”

“It’s our last morning together without interruptions. Let me have you near me, quietly. Besides, your body is warm and I’m cold.”

Steph bit her lip and turned over to face Gemma. Gemma readjusted to hold Steph as close to her as she could. Her eyes blinked heavy as she looked at Steph, a small smile appearing. She felt her heart beating faster as she stared at those crystal blue eyes. Steph licked her lips, wide awake, feeling the same enlightenment. They both secretly knew how they felt, but the longer they stared at one another, the more they realizing it was mutual. Steph nudged in meeting Gemma in a good morning kiss.

“I think I always want to wake up to you,” Steph whispered against Gemma’s lips.

“Really?”

Steph nodded, kissing her again.

“Me too,” Gemma answered, pulling Steph on top of her. Their kisses were sloppy as the power between them shifted. Steph took Gemma’s hands holding them over her head, kissing her neck. She felt Gemma’s leg bend and just above her hip. Steph let go of her hands and they immediately wrapped around her back, holding her closely.

Steph looked up at a smiling Gemma, grinning herself. Their lips met again as they melted into one another. Their nude bodies warm under the sheets as Steph’s hand explored between Gemma’s legs. Gemma noticed Steph’s confidence and found it to be one of the most beautiful things she had ever scene. Her hair shined in the sunlight as Gemma got lost in her touch. She took the initiative so they could get off together, her fingers now entering Steph. She was greeted with that particular sound she loved as they made love to one another in the morning light.

————————

Gemma got breakfast together while Steph took a shower. Her hair was already wet from taking a shower herself. They still had a couple hours before they had to leave to pick up Dean. She was going to miss their privacy, but she had to admit, she had missed Dean. He was a presence she had grown accustomed to in Steph’s house. She worried about being in the house too often, not wanting Dean to think he wouldn’t have time with just his mum. She sipped her coffee as she looked at the fridge. Steph had hung up the picture he drew in her apartment with the animals in her hands.

Steph came downstairs, seeing Gemma look at the drawing. She understood Gemma’s concerns for her son and appreciated it. She would make sure to have alone time with her kid, but knew there would be a shift in the house without Gemma there.

Gemma felt arms snake around her waist. She held them in her own as she felt small kisses to her neck. “You really don’t need to worry.”

“Why’s that?” Gemma asked.

“Johnny never graced a drawing of Dean’s. Not once in our year long relationship. Dean was fond of him, but not enough to be on the fridge.”

“So because I’m in a drawing, I’m supposed to feel okay?”

Steph laughed. “Exactly. Gemma, he likes you.”

“We’ll talk to him thought, right?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Good.”

“Why do you feel the necessity to talk to him about it? I didn’t with Johnny other than saying you would see him more often than not.”

Gemma shrugged. “I never talked to Tom about James. I just assumed it was okay, but he didn’t like him. Said he wasn’t good enough for me. So I want Dean to have just as much as a say as we do that way there is no miscommunication. This is his house and I would hate to be the reason he feels uncomfortable.”

“Then that is what we’ll do, Love.” Steph turned Gemma’s chin, kissing her. “But until then, where’s my breakfast?”

Gemma leaned her head back on Steph’s shoulder with a laugh. “I ordered in.”

“Why?”

“I didn’t want to cook so we have croissants and I ordered yogurt, but figured I could make eggs if need be. And I got you a coffee.”

“I knew I liked your for a reason.”

“What? Coffee?”

“Yes.”

“That’s it, huh?”

“Yeah. Well that and the sex. I thought that was the deal?” Steph teased.

“I didn’t know coffee was part of the deal! I thought it was just tea and sex.”

“I added coffee to the list this morning.”

“You should have wrote it down somewhere.”

“Like where?”

Gemma smirked and fell to her knees, undoing Steph’s robe. “Maybe somewhere around here?”

“Really? You’d want me to write that there?”

“You could write it anywhere.” Gemma paused, touching the pink fabric. “I like the silk.”

“So you’ve said, but I don’t know if my body can take anymore orgasms.”

“No?” Gemma pushed the robe off of her shoulders and lifted the silk dress to see Steph had no underwear on. “So where are your pants then?”

“Upstairs.”

“And you’re telling me you came down her without them on so we wouldn’t have sex?”

“Exactly.”

“So you don’t want my mouth in between your legs right now?” Gemma watched as Steph shook a little at the comment. She ran her hands up Steph’s legs, placing a kiss against her curls. She could see that Steph was still wet, but would respect whatever answer she was given. She took a deep inhale, feeling Steph’s hand on the back of her head, holding her there. She used her hand to tease around Steph’s folds, waiting on an answer. “Yes or no?”

“Yes,” Steph whispered, feeling Gemma’s tongue between her legs. She gasped, holding onto the back of her head. “Fuck, Gem. How are you so good at this?” Gemma moaned against her core in response. Steph gripped her hair, rutting her hips as best she could without disturbing Gemma. Gemma held her still by the hips. “I need more,” Steph stated.

“What?” Gemma mumbled.

“Fingers, Love.”

Gemma stood and moved behind her. She grabbed her hips, guiding her towards the table. Steph lifted a leg to rest on a chair as Gemma entered her. Steph leaned back against her, letting the silk fall down her legs. They met in a tender kiss over Steph’s shoulder when she moaned into Gemma’s mouth as Gemma pumped in and out of her. Gemma held her up as best she could when Steph leaned forward against the table. Steph met every thrust while Gemma kissed her shoulders and back.

“Gemma,” Steph gasped. She reached down, touching herself, feeling Gemma inside of her. She came shortly afterwards, securly safe in Gemma’s arm. Gemma continued placing kisses on her back while Steph put her leg down.

“You bit me again,” she stated, still catching her breath.

“Yeah I did.”

“And left another mark.”

“Quite possibly.”

Steph turned to see Gemma smirking at her. “I’m going to get you.”

“Are you?”

Steph nodded, leaning forward, but Gemma took off towards the stairs. Steph was right behind her, following up the steps. Gemma laughed like Steph never heard before. It was an actual light hearted giggle as Steph tackled her to the bed. They playfully fought one another before Gemma succumbed and Steph made sure to leave a mark right above her breast.

“Do you feel better?” Gemma asked.

“I do.”

“Get it out of your system then?”

“Quite possibly,” Steph answered.

“Good.” Gemma gave Steph a light peck. “And for the record there is nothing on your back so I will seek my revenge.”

“Sure, sure.”

“I will.”

“Keep telling yourself that, Love.” Steph kissed Gemma’s chin as they laid with one another.

“What time do we need to leave to pick up Dean?” Gemma asked, holding Steph in arms as close as she could.

“Probably in an hour or so. Terry will call before her leaves.”

“Are you excited?”

Gemma could feel her grin. “I am very excited to have him back home.”

“Good. I’ve missed him myself.”

“Have you?”

“Yeah.”

“He’s going to be happy to see you, Gem. I know he will.”

“But he’ll be more excited to see you, I think.”

“Yeah.”

“Well should we head downstairs and actually eat breakfast, then get ready and head out?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Steph got up first and walked to her drawers. Gemma watched as she got dressed into a red and beige striped jumper and a pair of jeans. Gemma slipped into her own pair with a gray sweater as they walked back down together. They watched the news together as they ate, enjoying each other’s company and the quietness of the space. They tidied and sanitized around the apartment causing the hour to pass. They received a phone call from Terry saying he and Dean were about to leave the house.

They finished getting ready and gathered their stuff together. Gemma waited for Steph to bundle by the door.

“Ready to go back to the real world?” Steph asked, fixing her coat.

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

They shared a heated kiss before Gemma opened the door. As soon as they stepped outside, they were greeted with a familiar voice.

“Good morning,” Mrs. Priestly said, coming in with her husband.

Steph rolled her eyes. “Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Priestly.”

“And where are you ladies off to?”

“We’re going to pick up Dean from Terry’s.”

“Oh, a boy like that needs a man in his life.”

Gemma saw Mr. Priestly nudge his wife. “Why?” Gemma asked, making sure Steph got down the icy steps carefully.

“Because a boy needs a man.”

“Good Lord. I think boys are just fine being around women. In fact, it probably makes them better men, but who’s to say.”

“Well at least the boy being back will keep the house quieter.”

“And what does that mean?”

“We’ve been hearing ungodly noises coming from your house at all hours of the day. We’re hoping that won’t continue.”

“Okay, that’s enough of that. Have a nice day,” Steph said, pushing Gemma along to the car.

“What?” Gemma said, getting into the car.

“You two would have argued all day and I want to see my son at some point.”

“So you rescued me from having an argument with your neighbor?”

Steph smiled. “Yeah.”

“In that case, thank you.” Gemma and Steph shared a kiss, both the Priestley’s watching them. Gemma started the car and let it heat up as they buckled their seatbelts. They met again, Steph cupping Gemma’s cheeks, in a kiss while the Priestley’s continued to stare at them. “Wow, I’m really starting to hate reality,” Gemma mumbled, seeing them from the corner of her eye.

“I know. If we weren’t going to get Dean, I’d say, let’s go back in there and really give them noises to talk about.”

“We could just snog for a minute, lots of tongue and groping,” Gemma suggested. “I can make it look like I’m going down on you. That would probably scare the shit out of them.”

“Start that and we’ll be giving them a show of Friday night when we pulled over on the side of the road.”

“I wouldn’t mind.”

“I know you wouldn’t.” They shared another kiss. “Do you honestly think they heard us?”

“Yeah, I do. Your houses are connected. We share walls. I know they heard me when you went down on me.”

“You weren’t that loud.”

“I was pretty loud. You were even louder with the toy.”

“It felt good and don’t act like you didn’t enjoy it.”

“I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it. Don’t put words in my mouth. I’m just saying you were louder.”

“We are going to test that the next time Dean goes stays with his dad for a night. I’ll definitely prove my point.”

“Good luck,” Gemma teased, pulling Steph back in for a kiss. They smiled as they separated. “They’re still watching us.”

“Oh they’re freaks. She’ll tell my mother all about our snogging and make it seem like we did have our hands down each other pants.

“I mean, I only need one hand to drive.”

“Stop,” Steph smirked. “I’m still wet because of you.”

“Don’t tell me that or I will have to drive with one hand.”

“I prefer your car not to smell like we fucked in it while we’re on our way to pick up my son from my ex-husband.”

Gemma squinted. “Fine.”

“Now, I’m uncomfortable because of Eliza over there so let’s go please.”

Gemma backed out of the parking space. The Priestley’s waved awkwardly to them as they past. It took all of Gemma’s might and Steph’s hand to not politely flick them the V. Steph kissed her hand and smiled. She was going to get her son with Gemma. No one’s opinions or thoughts were going to ruin this day for her especially the Priestley’s.

Chapter Text

Gemma and Steph walked into the bus terminal together, holding hands. Steph checked the bus schedule and saw that they still had some time before Dean would arrive with Terry. They stood by the entrance, Steph wrapping her arms around Gemma’s shoulders, pulling her into a hug. Gemma followed, her arms going around Steph’s waist. They stayed like that for a few moments, happy to be in each other’s arms for a little while longer as strangers looked on. They didn’t notice, too lost in one another. As Steph stepped back, she placed the lightest kiss against Gemma’s lips.

Steph dragged her arms down Gemma’s in a comforting motion. Gemma kissed the side of her head.

“I thought Terry drove,” Gemma stated, finding it weird they were meeting at the bus station.

“He does, but he likes to save petrol where he can. He’s always enjoyed a ride and then this way he can actually hang out with Dean a little longer. He doesn’t have to watch the road or anything.”

“That’s nice.”

“Yeah. They usually play a game or something. I think it also makes Dean happy.”

“And you used to just meet up here?”

“Yeah, it was an easier option instead of him driving all the way over and I never had a car so.”

“Do you know how to drive?”

“Yes, but the car was in Terry’s name so when we split, I let him take it. I had no use for it. I enjoy walking downtown and catch the bus when I need to.”

“And now you have me.”

“Which is the best part of all.”

Gemma smiled. It was busy at the bus station and Gemma looked around casually, seeing if she could catch a glimpse of the face she wanted to see most in this world while Steph leaned against her. Everyone who passed caught Gemma’s eyes. The hope still building even though she knew the answer: he was gone and she’d never see him again.

They heard the announcement of the bus coming in and Steph took a small step away from Gemma. She wasn’t ready to tell Terry nor deal with him. Gemma didn’t need to hear Steph’s reasoning. She knew and didn’t really mind. So many people were already in their business that not telling one person seemed almost like a relief.

“Steph!” Terry shouted. Steph could barely see him through the crowd. She looked around, wanting to see her little boy when “Mummy” was shouted. The crowd of people cleared as Dean appeared, running towards them. Gemma looked at the small boy with glasses. She could tell he was excited to see Steph, but something seemed off with him. Steph knelt down with her arms open. He fell into them as she picked him and kissed his head. “Hi, my beautiful boy. I missed you so much.”

“I missed you too,” he said, not letting go of her. He waved to Gemma, who was still standing behind Steph.

“Hey, Kid,” she replied with a polite smile.

Steph looked at Dean and noticed his demeanor immediately. “What’s wrong, Love? Are you going to miss your daddy?”

Terry walked up and joined them, handing his bag off to Steph. “Dean, I told you not to run when you saw your mum. I could have lost you.”

“I wanted to see her,” Dean said, matter of factly.

“I know, but we were still too far away for you to do that.”

“I don’t care.” It was evident he was mad with his father as he hugged Steph again. His arms were tight around her neck.

“Dean?” Steph glanced between her child and Terry. “Well what’s wrong? Why are you upset, Love?” Steph tried to look at Dean, but he wasn’t having it.

“He’s upset because he left his toy dog on the bus and I wouldn’t let him go back to get it. I’m sure it’s gone now,” Terry answered.

“What dog?” Steph asked.

“The one Gemma got me,” Dean mumbled against her coat.

Gemma, being distracted by the new location and looking for Tom, heard her name and saw the small boy looking at her. Steph put him down and kneeled down beside him again. Gemma joined them, now realizing how upset Dean really was. His eyes were red under his glasses and his cheeks were tear stained.

“What’s happened?” Gemma asked.

“I lost the dog on the bus and I can’t go back and get it.” His eyes started to water again.

“What dog, Dean?”

“The one you gave me. The dalmation.”

“Well it’s okay, Love. I’ll buy you another one.” Gemma rubbed his arm, trying to console him while Steph held his little hands.

“I want that one though.”

“And you’re sure you brought it with you? Didn’t leave it at your dad’s?” Gemma questioned.

“I had it on the bus,” Dean stuttered, trying not to cry and failing.

“Okay. It’s alright, Love.” Gemma cupped his cheeks and wiped his tears. “Which gate did you come out of?” Gemma asked, looking up at Terry.

“Number seven. It’s way over there on the other side of the building.”

Gemma stood and took off for the gate, hearing Steph call after her.

“I’m sure it’s left by now,” Terry yelled, trying to stop her. She ignored him, making her way to the gate as quickly as possible. She noticed a bus driver coming through the entrance and smiled.

“Excuse me, Sir? Is that your bus that just came from Birmingham?”

“Yeah.”

“Excellent. My friend’s son was on that bus and he’s very upset because he thinks he has left something. Would you mind if I checked?”

“It’s locked.”

“Can’t you unlock it?”

“I could, but I’m on my break.”

“It won’t take more than three minutes for me to look. Please?”

The bus driver sighed and rolled his eyes. “Look, I know it’s silly, but for whatever reason, that toy means a lot to him. I would greatly appreciate if I could have a quick look. Please.”

The bus driver was less than enthused, but walked back towards the bus. He opened the door. “Three minutes.”

“Thanks.” She was about to step on when she paused. “Do you remember seeing a little boy with dirty blonde hair and glasses with a man with brown hair?”

“Lady, I drive a lot of people every day. I don’t pay attention. You got three minutes.”

Gemma sighed and looked at the bus ahead of her. She soon realized how difficult it was going to be find this small toy. She had no idea where they sat, if it got lodged between a seat or on the floor. She checked each seat carefully around and under. She wouldn’t leave that bus until she found it, hoping Dean wasn’t wrong and hadn’t left it at his father’s house.

Steph tried her hardest to not argue with Terry in front of Dean, but she couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t have just gone back on the bus and looked for it.

“He didn’t realize until we were out of the terminal,” Terry said, trying to defend himself. “There were people everywhere and it would have been too difficult to go back.”

“He really likes that dog, Terry.”

“Yeah I know that, but it’s a small piece of plastic that some woman I don’t know got for him. I don’t understand why it’s so important.”

“Because Gemma is a good friend and Dean has grown fond of her.”

“I told you I like her, Daddy. She’s nice.”

“I know, Son and I’m sorry, but I didn’t think the toy was so special.”

“It’s okay, Love,” Steph soothed. “We’ll see if Gemma finds it and if not we’ll get you a new one. It’s alright.” Steph rubbed his back, ignoring Terry. Dean still wasn’t fully crying, but was definitely upset by the misfortune.

“Maybe I should go and look,” Terry offered.

Steph laughed with a surprised expression. “Now you want to look? He told you when you got off the bus, Terry. You had the opportunity to do that!”

“I know, but again, I didn’t think it was important.”

Steph looked up and could see a bright and smiling Gemma walking through the crowd of people. She couldn’t help her own features as they started to shine as well.

“Found it,” Gemma announced, holding the small toy in her hand. Dean tried to reach out for it causing Gemma to close her hand around it, “But it was on the toilet floor so I’ll need some hand cleaner which I have in the car to kill the germs.”

Steph let Dean down who immediately jumped onto Gemma. She picked him up and hugged him.

“Thank you, Gemma.”

“Of course, Love.” She wiped his tears with the back of her hand. “Dry those eyes. No harm done. He’s home.”

Terry eyed them as Steph walked up to both of them. She kissed Dean’s head while wrapping her arm around Gemma’s shoulder. She wanted to kiss her, but nuzzled her nose against Gemma’s cheek instead.

“You’re amazing,” she whispered in Gemma’s ear before pulling away. “Alright, Dean. Can you say bye to Daddy so we can go home.”

Gemma put Dean down and all his worry melted as he ran into his dad’s arms. Terry kissed his cheek and hugged him tightly, apologizing for not going back to the bus. Gemma and Steph smiled at one another, letting them have their moment. Gemma noticed Terry’s eyes were watering.

“Is he crying?” Gemma asked.

“Yeah. He hates having to do this more than Dean.”

“Should I go to the car?”

“No, just wait. I’ll be right back.” She held out Dean’s bag which Gemma took. Steph joined Dean and Terry, comforting them both as best she could. Gemma felt awkward and turned her back, allowing them to have privacy as she continued to look around. A boy with short brown hair passed and then a taller teenager. She looked at everyone she could when a small child took her hand.

“What are you looking for?” Dean asked.

“Nothing in particular.” Gemma looked down at him and smiled. “You alright, Love?”

“I’m going to miss my dad.”

“You’ll see him next weekend though. It’s not goodbye forever.”

“Do you think he’ll get a job at home?”

“I don’t know, but it’s possible.”

“I hope so.”

“I know you do, Dean. All we can do is hope.”

“Ready?” Steph asked, coming back up to them, wiping her eyes.

“You okay?” Gemma asked.

“Yeah. It’s not just hard on Terry. I hate having to do this to him just as much as he hates having to do it. Go say goodbye one last time, Dean. I think Daddy needs a big hug and a kiss.”

Dean let go of Gemma. Both women turned to watch Dean kiss Terry’s cheek as he picked him up. “It’s not fair, Gemma. He should be with his dad. I know Terry messed up, but I hate what this does to the two of them.”

“Hm,” Gemma answered, trying to hold back her own tears, feeling her own guilt. She had tried to keep Tom and Simon apart from each other and after all the time that had passed, she still thinks it’s the worst decision she ever made. Even though Simon had been in the wrong, hit her, made her life a living hell, she could only think that maybe Tom would have been a lot better off if she just would have let Simon stay.

Terry walked up to them, holding Dean. “Thanks again for driving Steph over here and making sure they get home safe.”

“It’s not a problem,” Gemma stated.

“Ready to go, Love?” Steph asked. Dean nodded, hugging Terry one more time.

“It’s alright, Dean. I’ll see you next weekend.”

“Not soon enough.”

“I know, but it will fly by like it always does.”

“Bye, Daddy.”

“Bye, Son.”

An announcement for the bus to Birmingham was called. “That’s me. I’ll call you tonight, yeah?”

Dean nodded. Terry put him down and he shyly walked over to Steph. “We’ll figure out next weekend later in the week?” Steph asked.

“Yeah, sounds good. See ya, Steph. Bye, Dean.”

“Bye, Daddy.”

Gemma felt odd standing in this mix. It was easier to drop Dean off. Her thoughts consumed of Tom. How he acted after Simon left. How quiet he had become, but, at the same time, she couldn’t help, but feel grateful that he was older. Watching Dean saying goodbye to his dad was torture even for her. She looked at Steph, who wiped her cheek.

“Come on, Love,” Steph said, taking Dean’s hand.

Gemma followed, her arm wrapping around Steph’s shoulder. Steph followed, her arm going around Gemma’s back. Terry turned to look at his son one more time, but was distracted by seeing these two women seemingly affectionate with each other yet again. He watched them leave, noticing Dean seemed to be more animated now that he was with his mum and her friend.

“Well what did you do, Love?” Steph asked as they stepped outside. “Did you have fun?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah? That’s it? Don’t want to share?”

Dean shrugged. Gemma helped him get into the car, leaving the door open. She went to the boot to put Dean’s bag away and to get some sanitizer from her medical bag. She put some on her hands and then on the little dog. She smiled at the thought that Dean had been so upset about losing it. She cleaned every crevice she could, closed the back hatch and went back to the passenger side.

“Here you are, Sir.”

“Thank you, Gemma.”

“He’s all clean. I think he needs a leash so you don’t lose him again.”

“He’s too small for one.”

“Nonsense. We’ll figure something out.”

“Okay.”

“Ready to go home?”

“Yeah.”

“Then let’s go.”

Gemma closed his door. Steph stood there looking at Dean. “You think he’s okay?”

“I’ve never known Dean to be chatty.”

“He’s usually a little more talkative after visiting his dad.”

“He’s probably tired, Love and still mad about the dog.”

Steph smiled. “Thank you for going back and getting it.”

“Not a problem. Couldn’t let the little guy be sad.”

“I just can’t believe you did that for him. You barely know him, but yet, your heart was so open to just help him.”

“I’m getting to know him better and it means something to me that, that little piece of plastic means so much to him.”

“I told you, he likes you.” Gemma’s smile was small, but couldn’t be missed. “Thank you, again.”

“Of course, Love.”

Steph reached forward, pulling Gemma into a kiss. It was light and airy, but did the trick. Gemma lingered before opening her eyes, meeting Steph’s glance. Gemma opened Steph’s door, letting her get in before closing it. She walked around the car and got in herself. She shook from the cold weather.

“It’s getting cold out there,” Gemma said, starting the car. She turned the heat on and let it blast through the vents.

“So now you’re finally cold?”

“It does happen. How are you back there, Dean?”

“Cold!” He shouted, excitedly.

“Well let’s warm our tootsies.” Gemma pulled out of the parking lot and noticed Dean playing with the small dog. “Does your puppy have a name?”

“It’s Jim.”

“Jim?” Steph and Gemma questioned at the same time.

“Yeah. I mean he’s a boy so I couldn’t name him Gemma. So I thought Jim was a good name.”

Steph smiled and made eye contact with Gemma. “Told you,” she whispered, kissing her cheek as Gemma pulled out onto the highway, smiling brightly.

“So how was your time with Dad?” Steph asked, taking Gemma’s hand.

“Good.”

“But?”

“We stayed home a lot.”

“But you went to the zoo, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, but that was it.”

“Did you at least have fun at the zoo?”

Dean nodded. “I told Dad all the stuff you taught me, Gemma.”

“You did? Did he learn anything?” Gemma asked.

“I don’t know, but I was proud.”

“Of what?”

“All the stuff I learned.”

“Well that’s good, Love. Learning is important.”

Dean nodded. He rested his head against the backseat. Gemma watched as his eyes became heavier and heavier before closing. Steph was about to ask another question when Gemma squeezed her hand.

“What?” Steph asked.

“He’s asleep.”

“Poor guy. He’s probably exhausted. He always sleeps on the way home from being with Terry. I worry he doesn’t get enough sleep when he’s there.”

“Do you think he had a good time, though?”

“I don’t know. I hope so, but it’s hard to tell sometimes.”

“Why’s that?”

“He’s learned to lie and I think sometimes he lies about how he feels on these trips. I don’t know if it’s more my benefit or his dad’s or even his. He usually comes back sad because he is sad that he won’t see his dad for another week but sometimes he’s sad for reasons like today. It just all depends.”

“Kids lie, Steph. Unfortunately, it’s natural.”

“I know. I just wish I knew what really went on.”

“Have you asked?”

“No. I try to just keep those moments between Dean and Terry private so it feels special for him. Something he truly has with his dad.”

“Well, maybe you should ask.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Steph’s eyes were closed.

Gemma huffed with a smile. “Are you falling asleep on me too?”

“You kept me busy all weekend and I’m tired.”

“I’m tired too.”

“Yeah, but you offered to drive.”

“Because you asked me to.”

Steph shrugged. “Could have said no.”

“What?” Gemma questioned, tickling Steph’s side. Steph laughed, grabbing her hand and kissing it.

“I’m sorry, Gem. My kid is back so I need some rest unless you’re really upset about it. Then I will force myself to stay awake and keep you company.”

“No, it’s fine, Love. Get some sleep. If I feel the need to do it later, I’ll do it when we get home.”

Steph smiled in her slumber. “Yeah please don’t nap while driving.”

Gemma grinned. She looked in the rearview mirror to see Dean completely passed out, sleeping in the same position Steph was in. Both of their heads leaning against their right shoulder, mouths closed and even their breathing was similar. Gemma wondered if Tom ever slept the way she did. She missed when he was a boy and would have a nightmare. The way he would quietly wake Gemma without trying to disturb her. Whispers of “Mummy” with a little shake of the hand or shoulder. The way Simon always grunted about how she babied him by letting him sleep with them. When he was younger, he would sleep in between them or with Simon, but once he reached Dean’s age, it was only Gemma. Anytime he felt scared or sad, he went to her and he would stay in her arms until he felt better. Night or day. Sick or tired. It was always Gemma.

She sniffled, following the road. She really had hoped that she’d seen him at the bus terminal. Wishing fate was on her side for once in regards to Tom. She would do anything to hold him one more time. Tell him it was going to be alright. That his dad was fine. That she loves him and has never stopped worrying about him. Flashes upon flashes of memories crept up. Their family trips. Tom’s laugh. His smile. Watching him play football as a family. How animated he would become when he was a child and learning something new. The first time he scored a goal and Simon had actually been there to see it. How proud he was. And their small moments. Their handshake before bed. The way he told her things. The time he was so sick, he didn’t want to be left alone so Gemma stayed with him all night, on the couch, watching cartoons, rubbing his back until she eventually had to lay down and he cuddled into her, clutching her while crying. The way he quickly fell asleep in her arms and woke up in the same position the next morning. Simon had taken a picture of it. She wondered where that picture ended up.

The drive passed by quickly. Gemma was close to Steph’s and forced herself to calm down. She wiped her eyes furiously and did everything she could to look like she hadn’t been crying since Steph fell asleep. There was only so much she could do while driving, but managed to pull it off. She parked in the driveway and lightly shook Steph’s hand.

“Hey, we’re home.”

Steph opened her eyes. “What?”

“We’re home, Love.”

“I slept the whole way?”

“Yeah.”

“Did Dean?” She asked, looking behind her, finding him fast asleep. “Oh Gemma, I’m sorry.”

“Why?”

“I didn’t mean to sleep the whole time. I wanted to keep you company.”

“It’s alright, Steph. Sometimes we just need it.”

Steph finally looked at Gemma and she immediately became concerned. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You sure? Your nose is red and eyes are watery.”

Steph reached out to grab Gemma’s face, but Gemma stopped her. She held her hands instead, kissing them. “I’m okay.”

“Okay,” Steph whispered, knowing it was a lie. “Dean, Sweetheart.” She reached back and shook his leg while Gemma got out of the car. Dean stirred, but wasn’t having it. “We’re home.”

Gemma opened the passenger door, Dean in and out of sleep. Steph getting out herself. “Come on, Love,” she whispered, unbuckling his seatbelt. He reached out to her, the dog tightly in his hand. She smiled and bent down to get him.

“Don’t baby him, Gemma. He can walk.”

“It’s fine. Besides it’s a little slippery. Rather carry him in the house then have him slip and harm himself.”

“I think you just want to hold him because you missed him.”

Gemma smirked. “Maybe or maybe I don’t want him to fall. I’ll never tell you the answer.”

“You don’t have to. I already know.”

Gemma picked Dean up, Steph helping to make sure his head cleared the doorway. “Can you get his bag?” Gemma asked.

“Yeah.” Steph walked to the back and grabbed Dean’s bag before following Gemma up the stairs.

“Steph?”

“Yeah?”

“Are the Priestley’s seriously looking through their window?”

Steph glanced over and waved obnoxiously only to see them quickly leave the space. “Apparently.”

“What do they think we’re going to do? Snog on the stairs while I’m carrying your child?

“I don’t know, Gem. But all I can say is get used to it.”

“I really don’t want to, but for you, I’ll give it a go.” Steph placed a light kiss against Gemma’s lips, Gemma had already puckered. Gemma eyed Steph curiously as they stood there for a minute. “Can you open the door? Aren’t you freezing?”

Steph laughed and opened the door, Gemma following behind her. She carried Dean to the living room and laid him on the couch, helping him take off his coat and boots. She reached for his glasses, sliding them off his nose and putting them on the coffee table.

“Dean, Love, I know Gemma is being really nice to you, but you have to wake up. It’s the only way I’ll get you to sleep tonight.”

Dean smiled causing Gemma to grin.

“Dean, seriously. I will tickle you if you don’t wake up.” Steph came up behind Gemma, seeing his little smirk. She bent over and started to tickle his sides. He erupted with laughter and squeals, tossing and turning as Steph laughed with him. “Are you happy to be home?”

“Yeah!” Dean yelled, his arms over his head in victory.

“How happy are you to be back with your mum?”

“So happy!”

“Yay!” Dean sat up and hugged Steph. She groaned falling against the couch with Dean on top of her. “You’re getting so big! I think you gained five pounds while you were gone.”

“No.”

“No?”

“It was ten!”

Steph laughed, hugging him tightly. Gemma looked on fondly. She couldn’t get Tom out of her mind and it was eating her alive. She stood and took her coat off, taking her’s and Dean’s to the foyer. She stood there, slipping off her boots. She placed a hand against the wall and took deep steady breaths. She could hear Steph and Dean talking through the door. It warmed her heart, but she couldn’t help the jealousy she was having.

“Tom,” she whispered.

“Gem?” Steph’s voice startled her. She didn’t even know when she had closed her eyes. “Are you alright?”

Gemma smiled. “I’m always alright.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.” She stood up straight. “I, uh, I’m actually rather tired from the drive so I think I’m going to go upstairs and nap for a little bit, if that’s alright.”

“Yeah, of course.”

Gemma kissed her cheek in passing and walked up the stairs. She closed the door for privacy and sat on the edge of the bed, her head in her hands. She didn’t want to cry anymore. She was so sick of crying, but the pain and guilt she felt in her heart kept eating at her. ”You like Dad?” “Yeah.” “But you don’t like me?” “No... Not at the moment.” Gemma rubbed her head, trying to rid the thoughts. ”He says he doesn’t love you.” “He used to. He used to love me.” She laid down, curling into a ball, trying to cry as quietly as she could. She looked up to see his pictures on the bedside table. ”I love you.” Tom’s sad voice was so strong as she reached out for them, but stopped herself, rolling over to face the opposite way.

Steph rejoined Dean in the living room, concerned for Gemma, but allowing her to have her space. Maybe she really was just tired from the weekend and the drive. “So let’s talk about your trip,” Steph suggested.

“I told you, there isn’t really anything to talk about.”

“Yeah, but you went to the zoo. You love the zoo.”

Dean shrugged. Steph looked at him. “What’s wrong, Dean? What are you not telling me?”

“I just didn’t have as good of a time as I thought I would.”

“Well why? What happened?”

Dean shook his head scooting closer to Steph on the couch. She wrapped an arm around him and hugged him, kissing the top of his head. “Did you and Daddy have a fight?”

“No.” Dean paused, shrugging his shoulders again. “I just wanted to do more, I guess. We did get fish and chips though,” Dean said excitedly.

“Your favorite. Did you eat any vegetables?”

“Yeah, I did. Fish and chips was lunch at the zoo.”

“Well that is exciting.”

“Oh and Daddy helped me get something for you and Gemma!”

“He did?” Dean ran off towards his duffel in the foyer, rummaging through his bag. He came back and handed a keychain out to Steph. It was black leather with a gold plate and “Dudley Castle” was engraved.

“Oh, Dean! I love it! I will have to put this with my keys.”

“Do you think Gemma will like it? I have one for her too.”

“I think she will.” Dean ran towards the stairs. Steph ran after him. “No, Love. She’s napping.”

“I’ll put it on the pillow so she can wake up to it.”

“Sweetheart, I think we should let her be for a little bit.”

“No, no. It’ll be a surprise. I’ll be quiet.”

Steph wasn’t sure why but she didn’t try to stop Dean. She watched him climb the stairs and disappear around the banister. He opened the door very quietly, to see Gemma’s back facing him. He tiptoed around the bed when he heard a sniffle. The sound caused him to stop when he heard another.

“Gemma?”

Gemma jumped, quickly wiping her face for the young child. “Dean?”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, Love. Can I help you with something?”

Dean looked at her. His hands behind his back. He slowly hid the keychain in his back pocket. “Are you crying?”

“No, Love.”

“Mummy says when you need to cry you should and then talk about it to make it better.”

Gemma smiled. “Your mother is very smart.”

Dean climbed onto the bed. “So what’s wrong?”

Gemma felt another tear escape, but bit her tongue and shook her head. “Nothing, Sweetheart. I’m fine.” She caught her breath as easily as she could, trying to calm herself. She felt this was a private matter for her to deal with on her own. She just needed to be alone, but couldn’t say that to him.

Dean sat next to her when he noticed something in her hands. He reached for it and Gemma let him pull the small picture frame away. She watched as he flipped it over to see the pictures of Tom. Dean recognized him almost immediately and then glanced at Gemma, handing it back. “Do you miss him?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“A lot?”

“Every second of every day.”

“So why not call him and tell him that? We have phones, Silly.”

Gemma laughed for Dean’s sake, but her heart ached with so much pain. “I can’t,” she choked around her tears.

“Why not?”

“I don’t have his number and I don’t know where he is.”

“What do you mean? Did he run away?”

Gemma nodded. “He did, Love. He ran away and I don’t know where he went.”

Dean laid down so he could be face to face with Gemma. “Do you think he’s okay?”

“Yeah. There is just something that mother’s have in regards to our children so we know when something is bad and I haven’t had that feeling.”

“But it makes you sad.”

“Yeah, it does. Some days are good and others it’s bad.”

“I’m sorry, Gemma.” Gemma closed her eyes, trying to stop her sobbing. “You can cry, you know. I’ve seen my mummy cry a lot and she says I give the best hugs when she’s sad. Do you want a hug?”

“I’m alright, Love. You should go downstairs and be with your mum.”

“But you’re sad. No one should be alone when they’re sad.”

Steph slowly came up the stairs, wondering what was taking Dean so long. Once she made the turn, she saw Gemma laying on the bed talking to Dean. She sat on the second floor landing against the wall and listened so they couldn’t see her. Dean looked back down at the pictures.

“What was his name again?”

“Tom,” Gemma whispered.

“Was he nice?”

“Very nice. He’s a beautiful boy.”

“Why did he leave?”

“It’s all rather complicated, Love. But he basically wanted a new start away from me.”

“But why? You’re cool!”

Gemma smiled. “You think so?”

“Yeah and smart and pretty.”

“Thank you.”

“Did he love you?”

Gemma smiled around more tears. “I don’t know.”

“Well, he’d be silly if he didn’t.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because your his mum. You’re supposed to love your mum no matter what.”

“That’s not always the case though, Love. Sometimes parents do bad things too that make their kids not very happy.”

“Is that what happened?”

“I think so, but he left so suddenly that I don’t know.”

“And now you just miss him?”

“I do and sometimes, it just becomes too much, you know? Like how sometimes you get really sad because you miss your dad. I just wish I had the chance to see him one more time to tell him that I love him and I’m always here.”

“I think you’ll see him again.”

“You do? Why?”

“Because my Gran says good things happen to good people and you’re good people.”

“That’s very sweet of you to say.”

Dean paused. “Is it hard?”

“Is what hard?”

“Seeing Mummy and I together?”

“Yeah, sometimes.”

“Well, if you want, you can talk to me when you miss Tom. Then maybe you won’t be sad about it. I know I’m not him and he’s older, but I can try.”

“Thank you, Dean, but it’s not the same.”

“But we can try.” Dean’s voice was so hopeful that Gemma couldn’t help, but agree.

“Yeah, we can try.”

They sat there quietly for a moment. “Can I hug you now?”

Gemma smiled and nodded. Dean shot forward, wrapping his arms around Gemma, who tried her hardest not to cry again, but couldn’t help it. She held that little boy so tightly, wishing he was Tom as her tears continued to fall. Steph thought about getting up when she heard Dean speak again.

“You’ll see him again,” Dean whispered. Gemma pulled away and looked at him. “I promise,” he stated.

Gemma nodded, feeling vulnerable with this small child. “Your mum’s right. You do give the best hugs.”

“Thanks. Do you feel better?”

“A little, yeah.”

“Good because I have a surprise.”

Gemma wiped her eyes. “A surprise?”

“Yeah! Daddy helped me get at the zoo for you.”

“Well what is it?”

Dean reached into his back pocket pulling out the same keychain he had given to Steph. “They didn’t have one with any of the animals we talked about, but I got this one for Mum and thought you’d like it too.”

Dean handed it to Gemma, who took it like it was real gold. She had the biggest smile on her face.

“Do you like it?” He asked.

“I love it, Dean. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I was going to leave it on the pillow to surprise you, but you were awake so.”

“Well I absolutely love this and will put it with my keys when we get back downstairs.”

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

“Well I do want to so I’m going to. Thank you, Dean. You’ve just made my day a little bit brighter.”

“I did?”

“Yeah, you did.” Steph smiled at the comment and headed back downstairs. Gemma caught a glimpse of her auburn hair before looking back at Dean. “I’m sorry if I made you sad though.”

Dean’s demeanor changed and he hung his head. “Well, I am sad.”

“Because you miss your dad?”

“No. I miss my old dad.”

“Your old dad?”

“Yeah.”

“What’s that mean? Your old dad?”

“Promise me you won’t tell Mummy. I swore I wouldn’t.”

“I can’t make that promise, Love, but I can listen.”

“Promise me!”

“Alright. I promise.”

“Daddy’s moved in with Lisa and the baby. He barely paid any attention to me the entire time I was there.”

“So when you got there, it wasn’t just you and your dad?”

“No. Remember when we pulled up and I said the light was on?”

“Yeah.” Dean shrugged. “That was Lisa? Was she there the whole time?”

“Yeah. Daddy says they’re getting married which I don’t understand because she’s married to Uncle Barry, but Uncle Barry wasn’t even there. Just my dad and Lisa.”

“You don’t sound happy about that.”

Dean shook his head. “I don’t like Lisa. She kept saying I needed to be a big brother, but I’m not.”

“Why do you think you’re not?”

“Because that’s Lisa’s baby. Not Mummy’s.”

“Right.”

“And I had to share my room with it. She cried a lot and woke me up. I felt bad for her, but Daddy was too busy to even play football with me. All I wanted was to come back home and be with Mum.”

“So the only thing you did with your dad was go to the zoo?”

“Yeah and Lisa tried to come, but he got her to stay home.”

“How?”

“I begged him not to let them go.” Dean looked down at the keychain. “We had a good time at the zoo, but I still miss my dad because I don’t feel like I was with him.”

“Well babies are hard, Love. They require a lot of attention from their mums and dads, but I understand how you feel. It’s not fun when you have expectations for your weekend and they seem to get pushed to the side.”

“Yeah.”

“But you’re home now.”

“Yeah.”

“No babies. Well just me.” Gemma pouted her lip and Dean laughed.

“You’re not a baby.”

“You sure? I was crying a lot.”

“Yeah, but not loudly.” Dean leaned forward to hug Gemma. She wrapped her arms around his back and rubbed it. “I’m sorry this weekend was hard.”

“I’m sorry you miss Tom.”

“Me too.”

“Just please don’t tell Mum.”

“I won’t, Love, but I think you should.”

“Maybe, but not right now.”

“Why not?”

“She’ll argue with him. I don’t want them to fight. They already have today and I just want her to be happy.”

“Well then, should we stop sulking and go downstairs and join her?”

“Yeah,” Dean answered, getting off the bed and standing.

“Piggyback?”

Dean nodded excitedly.

“Good. My legs are killing me.” Gemma joked, putting a leg over Dean’s shoulder. He laughed and ducked down. “What’s so funny? I asked for a piggyback!”

“I thought you were going to give me one!”

“You one?!”

“Yeah.”

“Right. I guess that’s a better idea. Might get down the stairs safer.”

Dean agreed. Gemma knelt down and waited until she felt like he was secure. She stood up. “Next time, the ride is on you, though.”

“Deal,” he giggled.

Gemma carried him downstairs and they were greeted with delicious smells from the kitchen. Gemma walked in smiling, Dean looking just as delighted.

“Dean, I hope you let Gemma get some sleep.”

“He didn’t,” Gemma answered.

“Hey!”

“What?” Gemma asked, lowly chuckling.

“Did he at least help?” Steph asked, walking up to them.

“He did.”

“Good.”

“Now I’ve got to put this beautiful key chain Dean got for me with my keys.”

“Mum, Gemma wanted me to give her a piggyback ride.”

“I did ask and he did agree.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“You did.”

“Did not.”

“Did.”

“Not!”

“So I have two children now?”

“Maybe,” Gemma answered. Steph could tell that Gemma was in better spirits. She leaned forward and pecked Gemma’s lips. Gemma smiled as they pulled away.

“Yuck,” Dean said, still on Gemma’s back.

“Be disgusted all you like, Dean, but one day you’re going to kiss a girl or maybe a boy.”

“No I won’t.”

“No? You sure?”

“Yes.”

Gemma walked them to the foyer so she could find her keys in her purse. She put Dean down so he could stand.

“You don’t have to put it on there,” Dean commented.

“I know I don’t have to, but I want to.” She grabbed her set and started to slide it around the loop. “See this keychain will be my Jim. It’s very special to me, so whenever I’m not here and I pick up my keys, I’ll see this and think of you.”

“Not Mummy?”

“Well, full disclosure, I’m always thinking about your Mum so this,” Gemma stated, holding up the keychain that was snug on her keyring, “is what I will look at when I think of you.” Dean just smiled, his eyes shining from behind his glasses. “Should we help Mum with dinner?”

“Yeah.”

Dean took Gemma’s hand and walked her back to the kitchen. “What can we help with, Love?”

“Keeping Dean entertained while I cook you a meal.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Well it smells delicious. Are you making a curry?”

“I am.”

“Any special occasion?”

“Well it’s almost been a month since our first date-ish… our first night together and I thought it would be nice to eat a homemade curry to celebrate instead of ordering out.”

Gemma smiled. “Yeah, that sounds great.”

“And for Dean, since it was all I had when I invited you to dinner, fish fingers.”

“Yes!” Dean shouted from the couch.

“Do you not like curry, Dean?” Gemma asked.

“No.”

Gemma looked to Steph, who mouthed ‘no’ while shaking her head. “Are you sure there is nothing I can help with?”

“I’m sure, Gem. You drove a lot today and we had a busy weekend, so relax.” Steph kissed Gemma. “I’ve got this.”

They shared another kiss. “Okay.”

“Gemma?”

“Yeah, Kid.”

“Can you help me give Jim a leash?”

“You want to do that?” Dean nodded. “Sure, but we’ll need some stuff like yarn or string.”

“There’s a sewing kit upstairs from when I tried to be a good housewife. Never quite got the hang of that although I did make Dean’s beanie.”

“Did you?”

“Yeah. It was like the one thing I could make oddly enough, but have a go.”

“Want to make me a hat?”

Steph placed her hand on Gemma’s chest, above her heart. “You want me to?”

Gemma shrugged. “Could be cute.”

“Well yeah then maybe.”

Gemma smiled as they kissed one another. Dean cleared his throat, getting impatient. When both women looked at him, he pretended to cough.

“Upstairs you said? I have a very bored client who needs a leash for his dog, Jim.”

“Upstairs, the only box under the bed.”

“Thanks, Love.”

“I’ll come with you!” Dean said, excitedly. He followed Gemma to the door.

“Are you going to give me a piggyback this time? How strong are your legs?” Steph heard Gemma asked as they walked through. Dean’s giggle warmed her heart as they thumped up the stairs.

“Okay, Mister. Do you know where the box is?” Dean jumped off Gemma’s back. “Careful, Love.”

“I’m okay,” he said as he crawled under the bed. He pushed the box out, next to Gemma’s feet, before popping his head out with a smile. Gemma took the box and opened it to see an assortment of colors and textures.

“What color?” Gemma asked, taking out each spool for Dean to look through.

“Hmm,” he thought, looking over each one. “I like Red.”

“Red sounds good. He’ll match your hat.”

“Mum made it for me.”

“So she told me.” Gemma noticed a long, golden chain in the box and pulled it out, thinking of an idea. “And I think we should join her downstairs so she doesn’t have to cook dinner alone. What do you think?”

Dean smiled. “Good idea.”

“Will you help me put the yarn back in the box and put it back where you found it?”

Gemma grabbed the chain while Dean agreed, putting everything away neatly and then diving under the bed. On the way out, however, he was a little shy of the bed frame, whacking the back of his head against it.

“Ow!” He cried before slowly climbing out. He rubbed the back of his head.

“Are you alright?” Gemma asked. Dean nodded as his eyes started to well up and he sniffled before sobbing, the pain now catching up to him. “Aw, come here, Love.” Gemma knelt down and he cried on her shoulder. “I know it hurts. Shh,” she soothed, “it’s alright.”

“It really hurts.”

“I know, Love. Shh. Don’t cry.” Gemma rubbed his back repeatedly.

“Am I bleeding?”

“Let me look.” Gemma looked over his shoulder, running her head through his hair. He winced when she touched the knot that was forming. “No blood, Love. Just a big bump. Let’s go downstairs. Mum will make it better.” Gemma picked up Dean, then the yarn, and held onto the chain. Dean was still crying as Gemma made her way downstairs.

“What happened?” Steph asked as Gemma came into the kitchen.

“Bumped his head, putting the sewing kit back.”

“Aww,” Steph whispered, stepping up to both of them. She kissed Dean’s head and rubbed his back. “It’s alright, Tigger.”

“It hurts.”

“I know, but it’ll pass. Do you want a hug?”

Dean nodded. Gemma put him down and he immediately went to Steph, who held him. “I know, Sweetheart. I know it hurts, but it’s okay. It’ll pass. You just gotta be strong and I’m sure Gemma looked at it.”

“Let me look again, just to be safe.” Gemma walked up behind him and felt around his head. “I think I know what will fix the problem. The egg effect.”

“What’s that?” Dean asked, sniffling.

“I’ll show you.” Gemma made a fist on Dean’s head. “This is the egg.”

“You didn’t go to the fridge to get an egg.”

“Well, I’m a doctor so I’m always prepared. Now what I’m going to do is crack the egg.” She lightly tapped her fist. “And the yolk is going to soothe the pain.” She used her fingers to pretend as liquid was falling down his head. He laughed and shook his head.

“There’s no egg!” He exclaimed.

“No,” Gemma answered, smiling, “but how does your head feel?”

“Better.”

“See? Egg treatment.”

Steph kissed his cheek and smiled at him. “It’s alright, Sweetheart.”

Dean agreed, embracing Steph one more time before hugging Gemma. “Come on, Love. Let’s make a leash for Jim and then we’ll help Mum set the table.”

“Okay.”

“Steph, does this chain mean anything?” Gemma asked, holding out the thin gold chain that had a clasp on it. “No, not to me. Maybe it belonged to Terry or something at some point. Why?”

“Well it’s got this little clip, so if I can figure out how to get this around that dog’s neck, then Dean can clip it to his belt loop.”

“Why are you doing this for him?”

“I don’t want to have to search another bus toilet if I can help it, so I think this is a better option.”

“And it makes him happy.”

“Yeah, that helps.”

Steph laughed. “Dinner will be ready in fifteen.”

“I’ll have the table set by then.”

“And I figured that’s when we could talk to him.”

“Yeah, sounds good.”

“Okay.”

Gemma puckered her lips and Steph kissed her. A light peck against her mouth. “Alright, Dean. I have an idea. Can you get me some scissors?” Dean popped off the couch and went to a drawer near the kitchen.

“What are you looking for, Love?”

“Scissors for Gemma,” Dean answered. “We’re making a leash!”

“I know!” Steph opened a different drawer and pulled a pair out. “No running to the couch. Walk there, okay?”

Dean nodded taking the scissors from her hands and taking them to Gemma. “Thank you, Love. So your mum had this old chain here with a clasp, so I’m thinking, if I can get this around Jim’s neck, then you can clip to pants, how does that sound?”

“Good.”

“Yeah?” And then I figured, we could just wrap the red yarn around it if you like.”

“I like the gold.”

“You do? Well then we’ll keep the gold.”

“Could we make his collar out of the yarn?”

“It’s quite possible. We can give it a go.”

Steph watched them as she cooked. Gemma and Dean stayed very close to one another as they chatted. Steph noticed Gemma’s kind eyes and smile that she always had with Dean. It filled her heart with admiration and love. Dean would laugh at the little things that Gemma would say about making sure he walked him and to clean up after him. Even though Dean took it as a joke, she knew Gemma was preparing him for the realities of having a dog, if Steph ever allowed it. “I’m not cleaning up poo,” Dean shouted.

“Well you have to if you want a dog.”

“With my hands?”

“No, with a little plastic baggie, but it’s part of it, but until then, I think Jim here is all ready to go, Love.” She held out Dean’s plastic toy and smiled. She had managed to glue the pieces of yarn together to create a collar and then looped the chain around it. She clipped the chain to Dean’s belt loop. “Go show Mum.”

“Mummy, look!”

Steph gasped. “Oh my goodness, look at your puppy!”

“Gemma made the leash.”

“Did you say thank you?”

Dean shook his head and quickly turned around. “Thank you, Gemma.”

She smiled softly. “Welcome, Love.”

“And what does this do?” Steph asked, holding the chain.

“Gemma put it on my pants so now I can stuff him in my pocket and I won’t lose him.”

“Isn’t that awesome? Sounds like you’re all set.”

“I think so.”

“Could you and Gem help me set the table for tea?”

“His paws don’t move.”

“Not that Jim. My Gem. Gemma.”

“Gemma, Mum wants us to set the table.”

“Coming, Love.” Gemma neatly cleaned up the clippings around the couch and coffee table. And grabbed the scissors, walking to the kitchen. She discarded the bits of cloth into the trash can. “Where do these go?” Steph took them from her, giving her another kiss.

“I’ll put these away and everything that needs to be set is on the table.”

“Alright. Dean, want to help me?”

“Okay.” Dean stood on a chair and helped as best he could. Steph started to bring bowls of food over to the table.

“Dean, can you go wash your hands, please?”

Dean popped off the chair and ran to the bathroom where he had a small stool. Gemma used the kitchen sink to wash hers. Steph stepped up behind her. She rested her chin on Gemma’s shoulder and hugged her. “Oh and I put your dirty underwear and clothes into the wash.”

“When?”

“I collected it yesterday when I got up. Just put it in the wash while you and Dean were upstairs.”

“Oh well thank you, Love.”

“Anytime.”

They could hear Dean’s feet coming back and separated. He took a seat in his chair as Steph collected the fishsticks from the oven. “Now, careful, Dean. Let them cool before taking a bite.”

“I’m not a baby, Mummy.”

Steph was surprised. “I know, Love. Just don’t want you to burn your mouth.” She kissed the top of his head, hugging him. “You sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah, just hungry.”

“Okay. Let me get you some crisps and then we’ll be ready to eat.”

“Where do you want me?” Gemma asked.

“Across from Dean. I also found a bottle of wine.”

“I can pour it.”

“I’ve got it. Seriously. Relax.”

Steph finished setting the table, placing a glass of wine in front of her seat and Gemma’s. She served food to Gemma’s plate before her own and then finally sat.

“This looks amazing,” Gemma commented.

“I hope you like it. I’m worried. I haven’t made it in a while. Dean, how are the fish fingers?”

“Good!” He commented, dipping one into brown sauce.

“Good. Uh, Dean, Ge-“

“Oh my G-d, Love,” Gemma moaned after taking a bite. “This is absolutely delicious.”

“Yeah?” Steph smiled shyly and blushed. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” A beat past as Gemma finished chewing her food. “Sorry. Continue.”

“Should I just wait until we’re finished?”

“No, we can do it now if you like.”

“Okay.” Steph patted Gemma’s hand a couple of times before holding it. “Dean, you know that Gemma and I are dating, right?”

“Yeah.”

“And that we like each other a lot.”

“Right.”

“Okay, well we were wondering how you would feel about seeing her here more often?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well like sometimes she’d come over for teatime and some nights she’d stay here with us overnight. Stuff like that.”

“So what Johnnie used to do?”

“Yes, except Gemma brought it to my attention that you need to be apart of this conversation too and that you have a say because this is your home.”

“Basically, Dean,” Gemma added, “Does the idea of seeing me here more often bother you or does the thought of waking up and me having breakfast with you two bother you?”

“Are you moving in?” Dean asked.

“No,” both women assured. “She would just stay a couple nights a week maybe,” Steph continued. “Maybe more or maybe less, depending on the week and what’s going on.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why does she need to stay here a couple nights a week?”

“Well?” Steph questioned, biting her lip.

“Dean, you know how sad you get sometimes when you can’t see your dad?” Gemma interrupted. He nodded, chewing his food. “Well it can kind of be that way too when you’re seeing someone.”

“We just like to be together, is all and sometimes we might have a sleepover, but only if you’re okay with that.”

“Do grownups have sleepovers?”

“All the time, Love,” Steph answered.

“Why?”

“Uh…” Steph looked at Gemma, who shrugged. “To have good, quality time together.”

“Right,” Gemma agreed.

“Without me?”

“No, not without you, Dean, just… you remember when Daddy lived with us and sometimes we needed to have grown up conversations?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s like that.”

“But that’s when you fought.”

“Well, not all the time. Sometimes we just needed a moment to sort things out.”

“To argue.”

“No, Love. Just to be with one another.”

Dean thought for a moment. “But you’re not moving in?” His attention back to Gemma.

“No, Love. Not in the slightest.”

“Then I guess I’m okay with it.”

“You sure?”

Dean nodded. “Gemma can give me a ride to school when she stays.”

“Well let’s not expect her to do that, Sweetheart.”

“But I can. I can do that.”

“And you’ll read me a story before bed?”

Gemma laughed through her nose, smiling. “Yeah, if you like. Any other demands in this agreement?”

Dean nodded.

“Well? What is it?”

“It’s a secret.”

“Want to come over here and tell me?”

Dean jumped out of his chair, wiping his fingers on a napkin. He turned to Steph. “Don’t listen.”

Steph put her hands up in surrender. “I won’t, Love.” She covered her ears.

Gemma bent down so Dean could reach her ear. He cupped it before whispering, “Don’t hurt her.”

Gemma pulled away. “I won’t. I promise,” she spoke with sincerity. She held out her pinky finger. “Pinky swear.” Dean hooked it and nodded. Gemma kissed the top of his head and he went back to his side of the table. He pulled on Steph’s arm. “You can uncover your ears.”

Steph smiled. “Did you know that I think you’re the sweetest kid on the planet?” Dean’s cheeks redden with color, the same as Steph’s. “I love you.”

“Love you too.” Dean leaned into Steph.

“Go finish your food, Mister,” Steph whispered, kissing the top of his head.

“So I have a question,” Gemma stated. “For you, Dean.”

“What?”

“Would you be alright if I stayed the night tonight or would you rather have alone time with your mum?”

Dean lifted his shoulders. “I don’t care.”

“Up to you, Kid.”

“Hmm,” he pondered. “You can stay.”

“And you’re alright with that?”

“Yeah.”

Steph took Gemma’s hand, giving it a squeeze. They smiled at one another and continued on with dinner. Gemma washed the plates once they were finished. Dean dried them as best he could. Steph finished drying them and then put them away where they belonged.

“Gemma?” He asked, handing Steph a plate.

“Yeah, Love?”

“Can we build a bed for Jim.”

“Sure. What do you want to make it out of?”

He shrugged.

“Do you have Legos?”

“Yeah.”

“I bet we can make one from there.”

“But will it be comfy?”

“I think we can make it that way. We’ll finish this, hang out with your mum a little bit and see what we can do.”

“Can’t be up too late, Dean. You do have school tomorrow. Why don’t you go unpack, get your school stuff together and get your Legos while Gemma and I finish here?”

“Okay!”

Dean jumped off the counter. “Did your dad wash any of your clothes?”

“No!” Dean shouted from the foyer.

“Will you put your dirty clothes in the laundry bin then please?”

“Yeah!”

Steph laughed.

“You like having him back home,” Gemma stated.

“Yeah, I do. I didn’t even realize how much I missed him until he was here.”

“I know what you mean, but I think I’ll miss you more on our days apart.”

“Yeah?” Steph put down her plate and wrapped her arms around Gemma’s waist. “I’ll miss you too. It’s going to be weird without you here.”

“But you’ll have Dean.”

“I know, but I like having you here.”

“I know you do, but for Dean, this is good. It helps him ease into our relationship, I think.”

“And we did a nose dive into it this weekend.”

“Exactly.”

Steph pecked Gemma’s lips. “Wouldn’t change it for the world, though.”

“Me either.”

They leaned in, slowly kissing one another, hearing Dean’s footsteps approaching. They separated, going back to the dishes.

“Gemma, I’m ready,” he announced, a Tupperware full of Legos shaking in his hand.

“Alright, Love. Let me just finish here with your mum and then we’ll be right over.”

Steph took the plate out of Gemma’s hand. “Go ahead.”

“No, he can wait. Patience is learned.”

“Yeah, it is and he knows it, but I know you missed him and need him right now.”

“What do you mean?”

“I know you saw me… at the top of the stairs.”

Gemma smiled. “Yeah I did.”

“And I’ve had you all weekend. Go build a bed for his dog.”

“You sure? Because you cooked and I never think it’s fair-”

“Go.”

Gemma handed Steph the plate that was in her hand and kissed her cheek. “Alright, Dean, what color?” She walked towards him sitting on the couch, noticing his face lit up.

“I was thinking multiple colors.”

“Multiple colors?”

“Yeah, so he can have all the colors with him.”

“Well did you know that dogs only see in black and white?”

“Is that true?”

“Yeah, well actually they can see some colors, just not all.”

“I think Jim is a special dog though.”

“Yeah? Jim is very special.”

“So I think he’s so powerful, he can see all the colors!”

“And that’s why he needs a colorful bed.”

“Exactly! So I have this flat piece, do you think it will work?” Dean asked, holding up a large square Lego board.

“I think that’s perfect, but we should let him lay and see if he likes it.”

Dean pulled the small dog from his pocket. It was no taller than an inch and a half and was about two inches wide. He laid it on there, barked and pulled it away quickly. “He says it’s spikey!”

“Well I think we should lay some cotton on it once you’ve got it built,” Steph said, coming in with a bag of cotton balls.

“Will you help me, Mummy?”

“Of course, Love.”

Gemma, Steph and Dean worked together to build Jim a little bed. Steph lined the inside of it with cotton balls and Dean delicately laid him on it. They got Dean ready for bed and he fell asleep halfway through the story he picked for Gemma to read. She headed back downstairs and joined Steph on the couch, who was watching the news.

“How did that go?” She asked, wrapping her arm around Gemma’s shoulders.

“He fell asleep halfway through.”

“Aww. He’s probably exhausted from the weekend.”

“Yeah.” Gemma thought about what Dean had told her about Terry, Lisa and the baby. “I think tomorrow, once I’m gone, you should ask Dean more about his trip.”

“Why’s that?”

“Just to be safe.”

“Did something happen?”

“No, I just think he’s not telling you something.”

Steph muted the television and looked towards her. “Did he tell you something?”

“No,” Gemma said, taking a sip of wine.

“You’re not a good liar. I thought you knew that by now.”

“I think you’ll find I’m an excellent liar.”

“Okay, but if I can tell that you’re lying, then you’re clearly not good at it. What did he tell you?”

“I swore I wouldn’t tell.”

“He’s six. He doesn’t get to make those decisions.”

“Just ask him about it. He wants to tell you and I think he would be rather upset that I told you.”

“Well why did he tell you and not me?”

“Because we were just talking about families earlier when you were listening on the stairs. He told me after you left.”

“Should I be worried?”

“About him?” Steph nodded. “No. Not at all.”

“So he’s okay?”

“Yes, he’s fine. He’s good and much happier to be home. Just ask him about it tomorrow. Don’t say I said anything. He’s just working out how he feels I think.”

“Okay.”

Gemma placed her thumb on the inside of Steph’s knee and rubbed it a few times. Steph curled into her, trying not to think or worry about Dean. She looked up at Gemma and then kissed her neck. “I’m going to miss not sleeping with you tomorrow.”

“I’m going to be so bored at my flat. Might actually have to get a drink with my coworkesr which I rather die than do.”

“Why do you hate them so much?”

“I don’t hate them. They just annoy me. I can’t say why because I don’t know why. They just all do!”

“You can always come back over.”

“That’s not fair to you or Dean. You guys need your time together. It’s good that I won’t be here tomorrow.”

“Well would you like to go to my office instead? They’re going to pry into our sex life and will want to know every detail.”

“What are you doing to tell them?” Gemma straddled Steph’s thighs, running her hands up her side.

“I don’t know,” Steph answered through ragged breaths. She grabbed Gemma’s hand and played with her digits. “Maybe tell them how long and strong your fingers are.” Gemma leaned in and kissed her neck, licking just below her tongue. “Or maybe how fast your tongue moves when you know I’m close or how it feels when it’s inside of me.”

Gemma hummed, continuing to kiss her neck. She cupped Steph’s breasts, Steph’s hands already yanking at her turtleneck. They met in a heated kiss. “Upstairs,” Steph mumbled against Gemma’s lips. She stood up, taking Steph with her. They turned off the television, lights and locked the doors before quickly, but quietly heading upstairs.

Steph closed the door and immediately started to disrobe herself, Gemma’s turtleneck already in the chair with her clothes. Steph walked up to her, kissing down her chest, while undoing her jeans. Steph managed to unbutton them and slid her hands down Gemma’s backside, grabbing her bottom and squeezing it. Gemma moaned into her mouth. Steph pulled back quickly.

“We have to remember to be quiet.”

“Right.”

“So I think we should make a pact. If one of us gets too noisy, the other has to just tell us.”

“I mean, I figured that’s how it would go,” Gemma said, undoing Steph’s pants. She yanked them down, followed by her underwear, no longer wanting to wait. Steph undid her own bra before taking Gemma’s off. Clothes were now thrown around the room as they collided on the bed.

“Under the covers,” Steph panted, pulling them back. Gemma was quick to help letting Steph lay on top of her. “Should we be quick or-?”

“Quick?” Gemma inquired.

“Well in case Dean wakes up. Like what should we do?”

“We could lock the door.”

“No, I think that would freak him out if something did happen.”

“I mean he was out like a light. What are the chances of him actually waking up at this point?”

“That’s true,” Steph said, kissing down Gemma’s chest and taking her nipple into her mouth. Gemma moaned from the back of her throat. If Steph did what she was thinking she would, being quiet wasn’t going to be easy. Steph continued kissing down her body and once she reached her curls, Gemma had to stop her.

“What? Why?”

“I don’t think I’ll be able to keep quiet,” Gemma confessed.

“Well try.”

“I’m serious, Love. Your tongue is just… wow.”

“Try anyways,” Steph said, swiping her tongue through her folds. Gemma bit her finger as her hips bounced off the sheet. She would only be able to keep quiet for so long. Her head was thrown back against the pillow as Steph’s tongue continued against her core.

“Uh, fuck,” Gemma whispered. One hand was clasped around her breast, while the other found the back of Steph’s head, tugging on her hair. She felt Steph moan against her and smirked in delight. Steph’s tongue was warm against her, soaking up every part of her. She glanced down to see Steph’s auburn hair, eyes closed and her mouth working. She had never seen anything so erotic. Steph’s fingers entered her, her other hand keeping her as open as possible. She followed the thrusts as easily as she could without bothering Steph but it was too much. Steph took a break, catching her breath, using her fingers to rub against Gemma’s center. After a few thrusts, she could feel her orgasm building and came almost instantly at feeling her tongue again.

Gemma’s body shot forward, still convulsing against Steph’s tongue. She lifted Steph’s head and they both smiled.

“I thought we weren’t going to be quick.”

“Your tongue makes that very, very difficult.”

Steph smiled and kissed Gemma’s inner thigh before kissing her way up Gemma’s stomach. She looked at the bite above Gemma’s breast.

“I’m still proud of this,” she commented, rubbing her finger over it. It was dark and purple.

“That’s because you did it this morning and for the record, I never left a mark like this on you,” Gemma said through heavy breaths.

“I also miss you being loud.”

“Well can’t do that now, can we?”

Steph now hovered over her. “No we can’t. I mean we could, but I think that would make me a really bad parent.”

“Yeah it would.” Steph laughed and kissed her. When they separated, Gemma ran her finger over Steph’s lips. “I love how swollen your lips become after you eat me out. They get so red and wet.”

“Yeah?”

Gemma nodded, flipping them over.

“Well why don’t you do it to me so I can look at yours?”

“Because I rather my fingers be deep inside of you.”

“Why not both?”

“That’s a good question.” Gemma kissed Steph’s lips again, placing her thigh between Steph’s, who started to rub herself against it. “Maybe I want what I do to be a surprised instead of being directed.”

“Sounds more like a personal problem, Love.”

Gemma moaned at how wet Steph was against her leg. She let her rub herself while she littered kisses all around her breast. She tugged on her nipple with her teeth, eliciting a loud gasp from Steph.

“Shhh,” Gemma husked, licking down the front of her body. “Quiet, remember?”

“Well what are you going to do me?”

Gemma ran her hands over Steph’s breasts and down her stomach before spreading her legs wider, bringing one over her shoulder and the other flushed against the mattress. She nibbled around Steph’s inner thighs, leaving light traces of her tongue. Steph bit her lip, trying to suppress her moans the closer Gemma got to her center.

“I don’t need foreplay, Love,” Steph whispered. “Just take me.”

Gemma teased Steph’s core, brushing it over lightly when she pushed two fingers into her. “Fuck,” Steph moaned. Gemma moved back up, keeping Steph’s leg over shoulder. She kissed the inside of Steph’s knee, thrusting her fingers inside of her. She looked down to watch the motion, her fingers glistening in the light from the table. She could feel herself getting worked up again, watching her hand pleasure Steph. She let Steph’s leg fall to the bed, but it quickly wrapped around Gemma’s lower back.

Gemma leaned over her, kissing Steph. “You feel so good around my fingers, Steph. So tight,” Gemma whispered into her ear before kissing her neck. Steph groaned into her mouth. She curled her fingers inside of Steph. Steph grasped Gemma, scratching roughly down her back. Gemma pulled back to look at Steph, her mouth open and eyes closed. “You’re so beautiful.” Steph opened her eyes, both of them stopping for a minute. Gemma stared into her blue eyes and smiled. “Just so beautiful.”

It was on the tip of her tongue. Steph wanted to say it, but the moment past and she felt Gemma’s lips against hers while her fingers started to penetrate again. Steph rubbed her arms over Gemma’s back, feeling the way her muscles work in her shoulders and lower back. “Touch yourself, while I fuck you,” Gemma demanded in a hushed tone. She straddled Steph’s leg and rubbed herself against it, Steph moaning in her ear as her hand traveled between their bodies. Gemma continued to thrust into her while using Steph’s leg to get herself off again.

“Gemma,” Steph murmured. “I’m so close, Baby.” Gemma watched their hands, feeling herself close as well. It took three more thrusts of Gemma’s hand before she felt Steph come against her hand, stifling her moan as best she could. Gemma kissed Steph, still moving her hips against Steph’s thigh. Steph flexed her leg and grabbed Gemma’s back side, helping her. She watched, feeling Gemma grind quicker. She loved every second of the older woman on top of her, using her body for extra pleasure.

“Almost,” Gemma stated before her throat caught in her breath as she orgasmed for the second time. She laid on Steph, catching her breath. Steph ran her fingers lightly over Gemma’s back, rubbing around her shoulders.

“I know I can go a night without sex, but I feel like now that you’ve been here, it’s going to be difficult,” Steph stated, her eyes already closing.

“I know what you mean, Love.”

“Are you falling asleep, Gem?”

Gemma’s head was resting in between Steph’s breasts. She nodded slightly, her eyes closed.

“Do you mind if we get dressed?”

“I’m comfy, Steph.”

“I know, Love, but I’ve got a six year old who sometimes creeps in while I’m asleep especially after trips with Terry. I think him grasping the idea of dating is one thing, but I don’t want to explain why we’re naked.”

“He never walked in on you and Terry?”

“Yeah, when he was little, but it’s easier to explain that, that’s what mummies and daddies did.”

“And Johnny?”

“Maybe once, but I still had my shirt on, pushed up, but this is like a whole other level. I don’t think he understands how romantically involved we are.”

“Well I hope not.”

Steph smiled. “Please, Love.”

“I don’t have pajamas. I told you that.”

“Well now see that’s okay because I have plenty.”

“Okay,” Gemma groaned, sitting up. Steph kissed her before getting up. “Do I have to put on underwear?”

“No, Love.”

Steph threw Gemma a pair of pajama pants and a t-shirt. They got dressed at the same time, Steph getting back into bed. Gemma stayed on her back when Steph snuggled into her. She wrapped her arm around Steph as Steph rested hers across Gemma’s torso. Steph kissed her shoulder, both falling asleep.

A few hours later, Gemma felt someone crawling over and a small voice speak. “Mummy?”

Steph was now on her back, but her hand was still touching Gemma. She woke slightly. “Dean?” Are you alright?”

“I can’t sleep.”

“Come here, Love.”

Dean laid between Steph and Gemma. Steph turned on her side, holding Dean to her. She kissed the back of his head, falling to sleep. Dean looked towards Gemma, who hadn’t budge. He could see her hand and very cautiously reached for it. He held it as tightly as he could, causing Gemma to look at him.

“You alright, Love?” she whispered, rolling onto her own side.

Dean nodded. Gemma held his hand, holding it just above her chest. She kissed the back of. “We’re here, Love. You’re okay.” Dean laid his head back against Steph, but fell asleep holding Gemma’s hand, happy to be back home with his mum and his new friend.

Chapter Text

Steph’s alarm went off, waking her from her slumber. She groaned reaching over to turn it off. She noticed the snow falling through the early morning gray skies as she peaked through her heavy lidded eyes. She was about to roll over to cuddle with Gemma when she realized an uncomfortable pain in her side. She quickly realized Dean’s foot was pressed firmly against her. She moved his leg slightly to face him, but her eyes caught so much more as she blossomed into a huge grin.

Gemma’s arms were wrapped around Dean’s small torso, his back to her. His face was pointed towards Steph, but she could tell he was completely content in Gemma’s arms. Steph noticed Gemma’s nose twitch as she took in a huge inhale. Dean stretched and turned to curl into Gemma as Gemma’s eyes blinked open, rubbing his back mindlessly.

“Morning,” Steph whispered.

“Hm.” Gemma’s eyes were still heavy as they continued to flutter. She soon remembered Dean being in her arms and rubbed her face with a free hand. “Morning.”

“Still worried about my kid?” Steph humored.

“After he came in here, he still couldn’t sleep. He took my hand and I held it, but,” Gemma took a deep breath, “something bothered him and he sniffled so I soothed him.”

“He was crying?”

“To himself, I think. I don’t know why and honestly I was barely awake, but he calmed down quickly enough and we both passed out.”

“Well I’m glad you were there.”

Gemma smiled, now looking at Steph. “Me too.”

“And imagine waking up to something so beautiful.” Steph leaned in closer for a good morning kiss.

“I have all weekend.”

“What do you mean?”

“Waking up to you and going to sleep with you has been the most beautiful thing I have experienced in a long time.”

Steph bit her lip around a smile. They leaned in and kissed one another enjoying the stillness before the storm. They nuzzled their noses against one another before sharing another sleepy peck. Steph looked down at Dean while Gemma kissed her forehead. She smiled as she rubbed Dean’s back to wake him.

“Dean.” Dean rolled over and wrapped his arms around Steph, cuddling against her. “Morning, Love. You’ve got to get up for school.”

Dean shook his head no, holding onto Steph. Gemma’s eyes were closed again, her arm above her head.

“I didn’t know you were difficult to get up in the morning too,” Steph stated.

“What?” Gemma asked, clearly falling back asleep.

“What time do you have to be at the clinic?”

“Nine. What time is it?”

“Six thirty.”

“I could get another hour.”

“Yeah, but I can’t and Dean needs to get ready for school so.”

“So because I’m here, I have to get up when the family does?”

“It be nice. Then we could take Dean to school together and then you could drop me off at work since it’s snowing and then we can have a little alone time before going a night without one another.”

Gemma looked at her. “And when did you plan all this out?”

“Right now.” Steph scooted out of bed while Gemma smirked and shook her head. “Come on, Dean. Time to get up. What do you want for breakfast?”

“Eggs and sausage,” he mumbled as they walked around the bed.

Dean skipped out and into his room. Steph sat on Gemma’s side and pushed some of her hair back, cupping her face. “Want to join us for breakfast?”

Gemma laughed, sitting up. “Yeah, I do.” She leaned in, pressing her lips against Steph’s. It was needy as they pulled each other closer.

“I don’t want to go another night,” Steph whispered, resting their foreheads together.

“I know, but we’ll get through.”

“Will you stay tomorrow night?”

“Of course. If Dean’s okay with it.”

“I’ll talk to him about it later.”

“And don’t forget to ask him about the weekend.”

“Right.”

Steph kissed her one more time. “Okay, I’m going to get started on breakfast. I’ll see you downstairs.”

“Is my clean underwear down there?”

“Yeah. Do you want me to bring it up?”

“Could you? I’m going to take a shower.”

“Sure. I’ll do that while you’re in there.” A beat passed as they stared at one another. Gemma noticed her hesitation.

“What’s wrong, Love?”

“You sure he’s alright?”

“Yeah, I think so. He muttered about a bad dream or something. I don’t know. I was half awake and there was maybe an inch between the both of us and him so I think he just went to the first pair of arms that were open.”

“Did he wake you?”

“No, Love.” Gemma cupped Steph’s cheeks. “He’s okay. I think he just missed you.”

“I think he missed you too.”

Gemma smiled. “Yeah, maybe... Give me another kiss.” Steph cupped the back of her hair as they leaned in. They shared a few kisses before Gemma excused herself to the bathroom.

Steph watched her go, ogling her backside. She grabbed her robe and passed Dean’s room as his door opened. “Hey, Sweetheart.”

“Hi, Mummy.”

“Look who’s already for school and I haven’t even started breakfast yet. Did you clean your teeth?”

“No. I’ll do it after I eat.”

“Hmm. Will you remember?” Dean nodded, taking Steph’s hand as they descended the stairs. “Dean?”

“Yeah?”

“Why did you wake Gemma up last night?”

“I didn’t.”

“Well did you have a bad dream?”

“Not bad. It just bothered me. I couldn’t sleep afterwards.”

They entered the kitchen. Steph went to the fridge while Dean sat down at the table. “Well, Love, if you have a bad dream or can’t sleep, wake me not Gemma.”

“But I didn’t. She woke up.”

“Okay, but if she doesn’t wake up.”

“I will.”

“Do you want to talk about it? Your dream?”

Dean shrugged, clearly not in the mood to.

“Okay. Eggs and sausage?”

“Yeah,” Dean answered excitedly.

“Can you do me a favor? Can you take the laundry basket upstairs to my room please? It’s clean clothes. That way I can get started on breakfast.”

“Sure.”

“And don’t wait around! Gemma’s in the shower!” Steph shouted, cracking a few eggs. He returned quickly and sat at the table. Steph smiled. “So now that it’s just you and me for a little bit, how was your weekend with Dad for real?”

“It was alright.”

“Just alright? Did something bad happen?”

Dean shook his head no.

“Are you sure?”

“Did Gemma say something?”

“No, Love. I could just tell.” She turned around to face him. “I am your mum after all.”

“I know. I just don’t want to talk about it.”

“But you know it is better to talk and tell me so I know you’re okay? To get it out in the open?”

Dean nodded. “Can we talk about it after school?”

“Of course, Love.”

Gemma came down, dressed in a black button down and trousers. Her hair was still wet, but her makeup was done and she seemed to be glowing from her weekend with Steph. She bent down and kissed Dean’s head. “Morning, Kid.”

“Morning, Gemma.”

“Did you finally get some sleep?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s good.” Gemma stepped up to Steph. “And how are you?”

Steph smiled. “I’m good. Almost done with breakfast.” Gemma leaned in. “I haven’t cleaned my teeth yet.”

“Well I just kissed you upstairs so I think I can handle one more.”

“Yeah?”

Gemma nodded. Steph met her lips in a small peck that left them both speechless as they hovered for a moment.

“Gemma?”

They both smiled. “Yes, Dean?” Gemma stepped back to look at him.

“Are you going to take me to school?”

“I am. And your mother to work.” She brought her hand to her head. “Ah.”

“What?” Steph asked.

“Work. I forgot to do the small amount of paperwork I needed to do.”

“Do it now.”

“Yeah. I’ll have to.”

“It’s like someone distracted you all weekend,” Steph teased.

“Yeah, I wonder who did that?”

Steph shrugged. “Don’t know.”

Gemma laughed. She went to get her bag and returned to the kitchen sitting down. She took the stack of papers out and laid them on the table. Dean came around and leaned next to her.

“What ya doing?” He asked.

“Dean, Sweetheart, let her work.”

“It’s alright.” Gemma picked Dean up. “Come here, Love.” Dean got comfortable on Gemma’s lap. “It’s nothing exciting. I just have to sign a lot of these charts.”

“Why?”

“Because they were all my patients so I have to write these off to confirm what we discussed and that they’re visit was complete. Paperwork comes with being a doctor.”

“Should he be looking at those?” Steph asked.

“There is nothing here he can read. Everything is abbreviated.”

Steph brought a plate over. “Come eat, Dean.”

Dean jumped off her lap and sat next to her while Gemma quickly shuffled through papers, marking signatures and initials.

“Do you want breakfast, Gem?”

“Sure.”

Steph placed a plate in front of her. “Alright, I’m going to go shower and get ready.”

“Aren’t you going to eat?”

“I might afterwards. See how much time I have. Dean, don’t forget to brush your teeth and comb your hair.”

“I know.”

“Okay. I’ll be back and Gem, you’ll need to blow dry your hair.” Gemma was lost in her work, re-reading things to make sure they were correct. “Gemma?”

“Hm?”

“You’ll need to dry your hair before leaving.”

“I know. I will.”

The three of them were able to get out of the house on time, jumping into Gemma’s car. The car ride was quiet, everyone still rather exhausted from the weekend. Gemma borrowed one of Steph’s thick sweaters for the freezing air outside and the snowfall that had been unpredicted. Steph settled in a red button down and blazer under her thick winter coat. Dean was in his school uniform, but had all his warm necessities covered: hat, scarf, puffy green coat, long socks and pants. Gemma was pretty sure he was asleep when they pulled up outside the school. Steph got out of the car while Dean looked towards Gemma.

“Come on, Love,” she said, opening his door.

“Isn’t Gemma going to say ‘goodbye’?” He asked, getting out.

“Of course I am.”

Gemma turned off the car and opened her door. She walked around and smiled at him. Dean gave Steph a hug before turning towards Gemma.

“Have a good day at school,” she said, smiling.

Dean wrapped his arms around her waist. She bent over and rubbed his back.

“Are you picking me up today?”

“No, Dean,” Steph answered. “Gran is going to so look for her.”

“Will you pick me up tomorrow?”

Gemma shook her head. “Sorry, Love. I have a heavy workflow this week so I won’t be able to pick you up, but if I stay any night, I’ll take you to school.”

It was clear that Dean did not like that answer. He looked up at Steph before sighing.

“Sweetheart, we already planned to have Gemma come over again tomorrow night. You’ll see her again very soon. Why don’t you give her a big hug since you’ll have to go one night without seeing her.”

Gemma knelt down as he fell into her arms. “One sleep,” she whispered, “And hey! You have Jim right?” Dean pointed to his belt buckle where Gemma could see the gold clasp. “And I’ve got my keychain.” Gemma held up her keys. “So we have those to think about each other and you’ll see me tomorrow night, Kid. Tonight is your mum’s night and I think you two are going to have way more fun without me being there.”

“Maybe.”

Dean hugged Gemma one more time before hugging Steph again. “I’ll see you tonight for tea, Love. Have a good day.”

Dean nodded, leaving them to head inside the school. They stood and watched him for a minute, having plenty of time before getting Steph to work. He looked back and waved, smiling when they did the same, before going inside. Steph quickly got into the car, while Gemma took her time. They enjoyed a quiet ride together as they held hands through the city. Within ten minutes they were in front of Steph’s office building.

“And this is my second stop,” Gemma said, putting the car in park.

“You sure you don’t mind taking Dean to school and me to work? I know petrol isn’t cheap.”

Gemma smiled. “I like it actually. Gives me a chance to be with you a little longer.”

Steph met her in a heated kiss almost immediately. She pulled back, only enough to talk.

“I’m going to miss you.”

“Me too, but it’s one night, Love. I’m not going to war.”

“I know, but still. My house is going to be so quiet.”

“So fill it with the love and sounds of that little boy who missed his mum.”

“But you’ll be around tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I will be if you want me to be.”

Gemma kissed her one more time. They could feel the want between both of them as their lips met in kiss after kiss. The windows started to fog over from their heavy breaths as they grabbed and touched anything they could reach in their small seats in the front of the car. Steph’s hand settled on the nape of Gemma’s neck, while the other took her hand. Gemma’s free hand squeezed Steph’s thigh. Steph moaned into Gemma’s mouth when there was a loud knock on the window causing them both to jump. Steph looked over to see Dawn and Nita walking into the building.

“Good luck with that,” Gemma said, laughing.

“It’s going to be a long day. They’re going to want so much information.”

“Well don’t give them too much. You don’t need the entire town to know that you’re sleeping with the second most sexiest person around.”

“And why are you the second most?”

“Oh you didn’t know? Because I’m sleeping with the sexiest, obviously.”

“Yeah, but you have longer fingers that I swear have super powers.”

“But your mouth,” Gemma shivered. “I’m still thinking about how sexy you look in between my legs.”

Steph paused and thought. She licked her lips. “If we keep this up, not only will I be wet all day, but I won’t even make it upstairs.”

Gemma leaned in closer than she already was, running her hand up Steph’s thigh. “Maybe I want you to be wet all day.”

Steph stopped her hand, grabbing it away. “Maybe I want you to be.”

“I already am.”

Steph could feel her heartbeat pounding at the thought. She collected herself quickly and smirked. “Then I guess you’re going to have a long day, Love.”

Gemma exhaled sharply. “Then you better get out of my car because I don’t think either one of us will be leaving it anytime soon otherwise.”

Steph smiled. “I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you.”

“Call me tonight?”

“How can I not? Let me know how the chat with Dean goes.”

“I will and I know I keep asking, but you sure I shouldn’t be worried?”

“Look, in all honesty, you probably won’t be happy, but it’s really not my place to say or talk about it. This is something you need to deal with and I think Dean told me to see a reaction from an adult, but I don’t know. I wouldn’t worry too much about it though. He seems to be okay.”

“Okay. I-,” She paused. “I’ll wait for your call.”

“Have a good day at work and don’t tell them too much.”

“I won’t. You have a good day as well.”

Steph opened the car door. She leaned back in for one more kiss before getting out. Gemma waited, wishing she was still holding her hand. Once Steph was close to the building, she drove off to the clinic. Steph watched her drive away before going inside. She made her way up the stairs slowly wanting to gather her thoughts. As she reached the office doors, she took a deep breath and opened it.

“There she is!” Nita stated. Steph laughed and walked to her desk. “Look at that glow, Dawn.”

“Lights up the room, I say.”

“It suits her, doesn’t it?”

“You do look amazing,” Dawn agreed.

“Yeah. Alright. Thank you, Ladies.”

“Practically glowing,” Nita commented. Steph looked at her and Nita raised her eyebrows in a teasing notion. Steph laughed. “Well? Come on! How was it?”

“I,” Steph paused for dramatic emphasis while Nita and Dawn leaned forward in their seats. “I’m not gonna talk about it.”

“What?” They asked in unison.

“It’s my private life, Guys. Can I keep it private?”

“Must have been bad,” Dawn said, under her breath. Nita shrugged.

“Oh, anything, but bad.”

“Are you seriously not going to tell us?” Nita questioned.

“Of course I am,” Steph gushed. “Let’s wait for Hellie so I don’t have to repeat it.”

The office door banged open. “I’m here!” Hellie said, bringing in a tray of coffee and a bag of croissants for everyone. “Did you start yet?”

Steph smiled. “Just got here and waited for you.”

Hellie threw her briefcase onto her chair and handed out the coffees. They passed the bag of goodies to each other. “Alright, I’m ready!”

They gathered around their small conference table that sat next to Hellie’s desk. Each of them had a giddy expression like they were kids seeing their Santa presents. Steph didn’t say anything, smiling broadly as her cheeks flushed. She didn’t feel this excited or worried about talking about Johnny, but for some reason, talking about Gemma made her actually want to keep it private.

“I’m not going to say much,” Steph started. “I really do want to keep it to myself.”

“It was that good, huh?” Nita asked.

Steph bit her lip and nodded. “Saturday was pretty much just us and we practically were at it all day. I’ve never wanted a person so much in my life. I physically crave her and it’s so clearly mutual that we can’t contain ourselves.”

“That’s how me and my Russi are. When it fits, it fits.”

“Exactly.” Steph paused. “It was fucking amazing,” she laughed. The girls laughed with her.

“And did you?” Hellie motioned.

“Did I what?”

“Go to fanny town?” Nita said.

They all laughed. “I did.”

“What’s it like going down on a woman?” Dawn asked. “I just can’t imagine it.”

“It’s heaven,” Hellie answered.

Steph pointed to Hellie and nodded in agreement.

“And you enjoyed it?” Nita asked.

“Every second. The sounds that came out of her mouth were enough for me to never want to stop.” Steph thought back to how Gemma looked from her angle. Her legs spread wide, her muscular arms, her hands that groped at her own chest, the strong grip holding her head where Gemma watched her. The way her head would fall back against the pillow as her back arched. The sounds, her hips slightly moving and how they shook as she got closer.

“Steph?” Nita snapped.

“Sorry. I really enjoyed it more than I expected to.”

“And did you like our surprise?” Dawn asked.

Steph rolled her eyes. “I want my key back.”

“You’re telling me you didn’t use one of them?” Nita inquired. “That nice strap, for example.”

“We didn’t use the strap or any of the dildos or vibrators. I told you, we don’t need that stuff.”

“Well just because you don’t need it doesn’t mean you don’t want it.”

“There is just something about being with a woman that makes you want to feel the heat of their body’s as much as possible and you can’t really do that with toys, unless you use it right.”

“What does that mean?”

Dawn slammed her hand on the table, causing them all to jump. Her eyes wide with excitement. “They used that bullet! Told you they would.”

Steph felt the blood rush to her cheeks as she bit into her croissant. She could still feel it’s electric shocks as Gemma held it between them. The way she grunted in her ear and the smile on her face after she orgasmed. “Maybe,” Steph whispered, taking a sip of her coffee. She grinned around her cup and the entire room erupted with laughter.

“Did you use it together?”

Steph shrugged. “Gemma might have had some ideas involving it.”

“Good ideas?”

“The best ideas anyone has ever come up with.”

“You never left your bed, did you?” Hellie asked.

“Of course we did, but there are a lot of surfaces in a home and let’s just say I deep cleaned before we picked up Dean from the bus stop yesterday.”

“Couch?” Dawn questioned.

“Multiple times and the chair, once, but we were mostly clothed for that one.”

“Kitchen?” Nita’s turn.

Steph smiled. “The table saw a lot.”

“Good?”

“Amazing.”

“Bathroom?” Hellie spoke.

“My personal one, but we didn’t actually have sex in there. Other than my bed, the couch, the chair and the table got a lot.”

“Wait until Pauline hears about that,” Nita stated.

“Why would we tell Pauline about that?”

“Because I want to see her face the next time you have us all over to see where she’ll sit. She’s used to our sex talks and sells the products, but can you imagine the face she’ll make before sitting on the couch?”

“Don’t make fun of her. She’s our friend.”

“Oh I know, but still, can you imagine it?”

They all thought about it for a moment before erupting in laughter that caused their sides to ache.

————————————

Gemma walked into the office, the happiest she had ever been in Sheffield. She, herself, was holding two trays of coffee. She placed one down on the reception desk.

“You brought us coffee?” Sarah asked.

“I brought a few coffees and a few teas. I couldn’t remember what everyone liked so thought I’d get both,” she answered, pulling out her own coffee from the tray.

“You’re oddly happy this morning. Good weekend?”

“Excellent. How was yours?”

“Apparently not as good as yours.” Gemma laughed. Sarah placed her first few patients in front of her. “Hope this doesn’t ruin your morning.”

“No and in fact I’ll trade you.” Gemma reaches into her bag, pulling out her paperwork. “Signed, dated and now just need to be filed.”

“Excellent.”

“I’m going to make a quick phone call, but shouldn’t hold back time or anything. Can you knock on my door in ten so I don’t fall behind?”

“Sure.”

“Thanks.” Gemma walked past the desk, down the hall and into her office. She shimmied out of her coat and sweater, throwing her bag next to her desk on the floor. She picked up the phone and dialed the only number she knew other than her own.

It rang a few times before the phone clicked.

“Hello?”

“Sian.”

“Gemma, how are you?”

“I’m good. How are you?”

“Not too bad.”

“I just called to tell you that I think you are right.”

“Well I love being right, but what about?”

“Women.”

“Oh, shag that girl, did you?”

“All weekend!”

“And how was it?”

“Absolutely incredible.”

“I told you it would be. Did she eat you out?”

“Just getting straight to the point, aren’t you?”

“Well why else would you call me? Did she?”

Gemma bit her lip, still thinking about Steph’s mouth. “Yeah.”

“Good?”

“Amazing! Her mouth is just…” Gemma exhaled. “I don’t think anyone has ever gone down on me like that.”

“Fingers?”

“Definitely.”

“Did you go down on her?”

“Of course I did.”

“Did you like it?”

“Well as I’ve already told you, I have slept with women before so I knew I liked it then and know that I still like it now.”

Sian laughed. “Well that’s good. Toys?”

“A vibrating bullet.”

“From her supplies?”

“Uh yeah. Her coworkers slash friends left us a goodie bag of toys to mess around with, but I don’t know. We had no interest in the vibrators or the dildos. We just wanted each other.”

“It’s so you can truly feel each other. I know exactly what you mean. It’s just something about feeling a woman cum against your fingers that is just brilliant.”

“Exactly.”

”But how did you manage to do all of this? Doesn’t she have a kid?”

“Yeah. Dean was with his dad this weekend so we were left to our own devices.”

“Well, I am definitely proud of you for taking my advice and for saying I’m right.”

“You are definitely right.”

“How’s everything else?”

“It’s, um, it’s good. How’s everything for you?”

“Same old as always.”

“The house?”

“Still standing and as clean as ever.”

“And any news?” Gemma asked with hope.

“No. I would call you first thing if there was.”

“I know. Just thought I’d asked in case you had been busy.”

“Still, I’d call.”

“I know.”

“How’s everything else? Other than shagging your brains out?”

“It’s good. A little nerve racking at times, but still good.”

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t know. It’s hard for me to be around a mother and son because I miss that bond. I miss having him in my arms, you know.”

“Yeah.”

“But Dean is just such a sweet kid and I think in a way healing me a bit.”

“That’s good, Gemma. You deserve that.”

“I don’t know about that, but I still worry I will somehow ruin him or hurt him or her for that matter.”

“How would you do that?”

“I don’t know. It just lingers there.”

“Well shake that off. It sounds like you two get along really, really well and you should just focus on that.”

“Yeah.”

Gemma heard a knock on her door. “Yes?” She asked, pulling the phone away from her mouth.

“You said ten minutes,” Sarah answered.

“Thank you!” Gemma turned her attention back to the phone. “Got to go. Patients are waiting.”

“Well hey, thanks for actually calling me this time. You should come visit and bring her down. I’d love to meet her.”

“Yeah I bet you would,” Gemma smiled. “And thanks again, Sian. I know I say it every time, but it really does mean the world to me with how much you’re helping me.”

“Anytime, Gem, but seriously, come down and visit.”

“When I’m more settled, I will. I’ll talk to you later.”

“ Sounds good. Bye!”

“Bye.”

Gemma smiled at her phone before hanging up. She opened her desk drawer to look at a picture of Tom. She traced the outline of her face before putting it back and grabbing her first clipboard. She slipped on her white coat, clipping on her ID and heading back down the hallway. She shuffled through the papers as she entered the waiting room.

“Uh, Marie?” She called. An older woman with a kind smile stood up. “Right this way.”

————————————

Steph arrived home a little after six. The house was quiet as she took her coat and shoes off. “Hello?” She shouted. Dean ran to her as soon as he heard her voice.

“Hi, Sweetheart. How was school?”

“Good.”

“Yeah? That’s good. Where’s Gran?”

“In the kitchen.”

Dean was still holding on to her. “You alright?”

Dean nodded, letting go. They walked into the kitchen together, holding hands.

“Hi, Mum.”

“How was work?”

“Usual. Thanks for picking Dean up.”

“I said I would.”

“I know, but I’m grateful for it.” Joan picked up her purse as if she had just been waiting the whole time for Steph to get home. “Do you want to stay for tea? I was thinking of just making a soup.”

“No, thank you. I’ll see you tomorrow when you get home.”

“Mum. Is this how it is always going to be now? That you won’t even talk to me or be around me? Gemma isn’t even here and she won’t be tonight. You’re more than welcome to join us. I know Dean’s missed you and I’ve missed you too. You barely talk to me now and I need you. You might not think that I do, but I do.”

Joan stood there quietly as always. Dean looked between Steph and her, waiting for something to happen. He took Steph’s hand and leaned against her. Steph held the back of his head and scratched it, waiting for a reply. Joan sighed.

“I’m dealing with it. I don’t like it nor agree with it and I just can’t be around you right now. Maybe in time, but at the moment, I just can’t. I will pick Dean up because you have no one else, but that is as far as our relationship can go for the time being.”

Steph stared at her, bewildered. Joan nodded, said her goodbyes to Dean and then left. Steph gritted her teeth and managed to hold it together. At least she was trying.

“Are you okay, Mummy?”

Steph smiled and looked down at Dean. “Yeah, I’m alright. How does soup sound for dinner?”

“With cheese on toast?”

Steph’s smile only grew. “Yes, with cheese on toast.”

“I’d like that.”

“You do? Want to help me?”

Dean nodded, following Steph. She pulled out a couple loaves of bread and put them on a plate, handing cheese to Dean to put on it. He did so, handing the plate back to her so she could heat it. Steph hadn’t been in the mood to cook all day so heated up a couple cans of tomato soup. It didn’t take long for them to sit around the table together. After a few bites, Dean looked at Steph, who smiled.

“Is it good?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. Did you learn anything at school?”

“Not really. I think I learn more from Gemma.”

“You do?”

Dean nodded. “She’s smart.”

“She is very smart.” They continued to eat as Dean talked about what he learned at school. He helped her wash their dishes before jumping on the couch.

“Can I watch something on the telly?”

“Not yet. We need to talk about this weekend, Love. Gemma said you talked to her about it and she thinks I need to know, but wanted you to tell me.”

Dean sighed. “There isn’t anything to talk about,” he answered, staring at the blank, black screen.

“Well now I know you’re lying bc you’re not looking at me.” Steph reached forward and lightly pulled his arm to turn him. He adjusted, but kept his head down. “Well?” Dean shrugged, looking towards his feet. Steph knelt down on the floor so she could see his face. “What happened, Love? You were sad when we got home and this isn’t like you. You always talk to me so it makes me nervous that you can tell Gemma and not me.”

“I don’t want you to fight.”

“Fight who?”

“Daddy.”

Steph lifted his chin with her index finger so he would look at her. He looked so pitiful that Steph grew with anxiety. “Why would I fight Daddy?”

“Can’t you ask Gemma?”

“No, Love. She told me you asked her not to and she’s sticking to that. I need you to tell me what’s going on so I can make it better.”

“You can’t make it better.” Dean sounded defeated.

“Why, Sweetheart?” Dean leaned forward, falling into Steph’s embrace. Steph held him tightly. “What’s happened, Dean? Please tell me.”

Dean’s little body started to shake in her arms. “I don’t want to go to Daddy’s again.”

“Why, Love?”

“It’s not his place anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“The baby is there and Lisa.”

Steph felt her entire world stop. “What does that mean, Love?”

“Lisa lives there and I don’t know where Uncle Barry is and they shared the same room and I had to share my room with the baby and she cried all night and I just wanted to come home, Mummy. I could barely sleep and we didn’t do anything because Lisa needed help with the baby. She kept telling me I needed to be a big brother, but that’s not my sister,” he cried.

“Your dad is living with Lisa?” Steph asked, trying to keep her anger at bay.

“Daddy said they’re getting married.”

“Did he?” Dean nodded. His head was resting on Steph’s shoulder. She soothed him, rubbing his back, but she was fuming. How could she be left out of the loop. Why hadn’t Terry told her? Or Gemma? “Did he explain anything to you? Why they lived together or whose baby it was?”

“No. Daddy just said he felt bad for her and that’s why she lived there, but why are they getting married? Lisa is married to Uncle Barry.”

“She’s not, Sweetheart. They got separated like your dad and I.”

“Why?”

“It’s complicated, Love.” Is this what’s she supposed to do? Tell him what his father did? How it was Terry that broke up their family? “You don’t have to go there if you don’t want to.”

“I don’t want to. Lisa is mean and that baby is loud. She’s not my sister, right?”

Steph gritted her teeth and lied. “No, Sweetheart.”

“Will you tell Daddy?”

“Of course I will. He and I will need to chat.”

“Are you going to fight?”

“No, Love.” Dean finally sat back. His eyes were red as he took off his glasses to wipe them. Steph wiped the tears from his cheeks, trying her hardest to smile sincerely without her anger. “Are you alright?”

“I feel better now that I’ve told you.”

“Good. I’m so sorry that happened, Dean. I’m so, so sorry.”

“You didn’t know.”

“No, I didn’t because had I known, I probably wouldn’t have let you go. A growing boy needs his sleep and to have a good time with his dad.”

“We had fun at the zoo because it was just the two of us. I begged him to not let Lisa go because she wanted to, but Daddy managed to get her to stay, but that’s all I got to do with him.”

“Did you just stay in the rest of the time?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you play football or anything?”

“We tried, but not really. Lisa kept calling him into the house.”

“And was your room like your dad said or-” Dean shook his head no.

“It’s the baby’s room. I slept on a cot.”

“Oh, Love. I am so sorry.” Dean hugged Steph again and she held him as best she could, wanting nothing more than to yell. “What can I do, Love? How can I make it better?”

“Can I watch something?”

“Sure.” Steph kissed his cheek and let him go. He sat on the couch, Steph sitting next to him, turning on the television. They settled on a nature show, Dean snug against Steph’s side.

“Mum?”

“Yeah, Love.”

“Is Gemma coming over?”

“No, Sweetheart.”

“Can she?”

“Do you like her here?”

“I like seeing you happy.”

“Well I’m happy now with you.”

“You’re mad at Daddy. I can tell.”

Steph nodded. “You’re right. I am very mad at your dad and will have a talk with him, but I’m still happy you’re here.”

“But maybe Gemma can make you feel happier.”

“Yeah, maybe. You want to call her and ask?”

Dean nodded. They got off the couch and walked to the phone together. Steph dialed the number and handed the phone to Dean. It rang a couple times before she picked up.

“Hello?”

“Gemma?”

“Dean? What’s wrong, Love?”

“Do you want to come over?”

“I mean, I can, but where’s your mum?”

“She’s right here.” Dean handed the phone to Steph. “She can come over!”

Steph took the phone from him, smiling as best she could. “Hello.”

“What’s going on?” Gemma asked, knowing something was wrong.

“Dean told me about the weekend. He’s rather upset as am I and asked if you could come over so I told him to call and ask.”

“Do you want me to come over?”

“Sure. It’ll make him happy so you might as well.”

“Will it make you happy, though? I don’t want to intrude.”

“You won’t be. He wants to see you and after his not so great weekend, he could probably use all the cheering up so come over whenever you like.”

“You’re acting strange though. Are you mad at me?”

“No.” She wasn’t sure if she was lying or not.

“Okay. I just need to eat something and change. Had a long day. I’ll be there in an hour?”

“Yeah. Sounds good.”

“Do you want me to bring anything?”

“No. We’ll see you soon.” Steph hung up the phone and sighed. She rubbed her forehead, feeling irritated. She couldn’t believe Terry had put her son in this situation and that Gemma didn’t tell her immediately. Dean took her hand and pulled her back to the living room. Steph smiled.

“She’ll be here soon, Love. In about an hour.”

“Okay.”

————————————

Gemma took a quick shower and changed, grabbing a piece of fruit on her way out the door. It had been a hellish day for her from meetings to patients. She was exhausted, but there was a part of her missing while she walked into her apartment. It had been too dark and cold for her liking, even with the lights on. Tom haunted her the moment she walked in and the call from Steph was exactly what she needed. Thirty minutes later she found herself standing outside the small two bed house she had grown to love in the matter of a small time. She rang the doorbell and heard the pitter-patter of feet on the other side. A very excited Dean opened the door and she smiled when she saw him.

“Hello, Love.”

Dean jumped up as she picked him up and hugged him. “Hi, Gemma.”

“You alright?”

“Yeah.”

Gemma stepped inside, closing the door behind her. Steph peaked through the doorway and walked up to her. Right away, Gemma could tell Steph was not in the mood to be bothered.

“Hi, My Love,” she greeted.

“Hey,” Steph answered. She walked up to Gemma and as Gemma leaned in to kiss her, she was met with Steph’s cheek instead of her lips. After their weekend of love making, this caught her off guard as se pulled away. Gemma smiled at Dean one more time before putting him down. He scurried to the living room, raving about the show they were watching. Gemma waited until he went into the living room to speak.

“So you are mad at me,” she whispered.

“I’m kind of pissed at the whole situation, at the moment, but Dean wanted to see you so.”

“But you don’t want me here.”

“I want my son to be happy.”

“And what about your happiness?”

“I’m too angry at the moment to care about my happiness. In reality, I want you here when I talk to Terry, but I’m not happy, Gemma.”

“Did I do something?”

“We’ll talk about it after Dean goes to bed.”

Steph started to turn away, but Gemma grabbed her arm to stop her. “Hey, if I’ve done something, just tell me.”

Steph yanked her arm out of Gemma’s light grip. “It’s fine.”

Gemma scoffed. “It’s not.”

“No, it’s not. But right now, happy faces for that beautiful boy. We can talk about this later.”

Steph turned and walked into the living room while Gemma slipped off her coat, hanging it up on a hook. She left her overnight bag on the chair and walked into the living room, trying to act as normal as possible.

“Dean, Gemma and I bought ice cream over the weekend. Do you want some?”

“Yes, please.”

“Gemma got a different kind that she wanted you try. Do you want that or just vanilla?”

“Can I try the one Gemma bought?”

“Sure, Sweetheart.”

“What did I choose? I can’t remember,” Gemma asked, wishing she could do anything to make Steph smile.

Steph shrugged and opened the freezer door. “Cookie dough,” she answered, matter of factly.

“What’s cookie dough?” Dean asked.

Steph looked to Gemma, who stuttered before answering. “It’s, uh… it’s vanilla ice cream, which you like, with pieces of biscuits in it. I think you’ll like it.”

“Do you like it Mummy?”

“Yeah, it’s alright. Go sit on the couch with Gemma. I’ll bring you a bowl. Do you want some Gemma?”

“Uh, no thank you. I haven’t had a lot of food today so I probably should watch my sugar intake.”

“Do you want real food? I could make you a sandwich or something.”

“I don’t want to be a bother.”

Steph could see the worriedness in Gemma’s eyes. She was angry at her, but didn’t want Gemma thinking this was the end. She walked up to her and wrapped her arms around her shoulders. Gemma paused before hugging her. They held onto one another tightly for a moment before letting go. Steph kissed her cheek.

“It doesn’t bother me. Do you want a sandwich? I have turkey or I can heat you up some soup which is what Dean and I had.”

“Anything would honestly be lovely. I came over as quickly as I could, only eating an apple so.”

“Go sit. I’ll make you something.”

Steph pecked Gemma’s lips. Gemma chased after hers, but soon realized Steph was already in the process of making her dinner. She scratched the back of her head before sitting down with Dean.

“This is about safaris. Have you ever been to one?” Dean asked, pointing to the television.

“No, Love, I haven’t.”

“It’s got lions. It’s pretty cool.”

“That’s good.”

“I feel better after telling Mum, but I don’t think she’s very happy.”

“No, Love. I knew she wouldn’t be.”

“I thought you coming over would make her happier.”

“When you find out bad news, it can takes time, but she’ll be alright.”

“Will you?”

“I’m always alright.”

Gemma smiled at Dean before looking at the television. Steph came over with a bowl of ice cream for Dean and a bowl of soup for Gemma. “Do you want toast or anything?”

“No, Love. Thank you.”

Steph sat next to Gemma on the couch. Where it had once felt warm and homey, it was now cold and full of tension. Gemma wasn’t sure what to do so she ate her soup as quietly as possible.

“Is this the biscuit?” Dean asked, pointing at the scoop with his spoon.

“It is, Love,” Steph answered, not moving from her spot on the couch.

Dean looked up at Gemma, who smiled at him and nodded. Dean smiled back before taking a bite. He chewed a little bit and smiled. “It’s not bad.”

“Better than vanilla?”

Dean took another bite, clearly debating in his head and nodded. “Yeah, I like it!”

Gemma looked over at Steph, with a small grin. “Told you.”

Steph rolled her eyes, but smiled back, leaning into Gemma. “Whatever.”

Gemma kissed her forehead, running her thumb on the inside of her knee. Steph rested her head on Gemma’s shoulder, but her warmth still wasn’t there. Gemma had never felt time move so slowly as she ate her soup. They finished up the documentary while Steph grabbed the now empty bowls from the coffee table.

“Are you still mad at Daddy?” Dean asked.

Steph looked down at the bowls before looking up at Dean. “I am, Love and I’m going to be.”

“Are you going to fight?”

“We’re going to have a discussion. Do you want to talk to him before going to bed?”

Dean shook his head. “No. I’m still sad.”

“Okay then. Can you say good night to Gemma and go upstairs and get in your pajamas?”

“Can Gemma read me a story?”

Steph looked to Gemma and then made her way to the kitchen. “If she wants to.”

Gemma sighed. “Maybe you should have your Mum read you a story tonight. I think it might make her feel better.”

“No, I want you to do it,” Steph said, putting the bowls in the sink. “It’ll be a good distraction while I call Terry.”

“Okay then.”

“Dean, go get washed up for bed. Gemma will be up in a minute.”

Dean walked to Steph and gave her a hug. “I love you,” she whispered. “I’ll come say goodnight when Gemma comes up.”

He walked out of the room and up the stairs. Gemma stayed on the couch, not sure what to do. Steph turned around and faced her.

“Are we going to have a row?” Gemma asked.

“I’m going to talk to Terry first and then we’ll see what happens.”

“Can you tell me what I did wrong? I told you this morning you weren’t going to be very happy about it.”

“Yeah and I’m not.”

“So why are you mad at me?”

“No. Terry first and then we’ll talk.”

“So are you just going to ignore me until that happens?”

“I want you to read to Dean so I can call Terry and I want you to read until he falls asleep. I’m pissed beyond belief right now, Gem and I can’t even see straight.”

“And what do you want me to do afterwards? After he falls asleep? Do you want me to come down here?”

“Yes because I don’t know how angry I’m about to be and even though I’m upset, you keep me calmer than most so once he’s asleep, please come down here.”

“Alright.”

The silence lingered as Steph leaned against the counter. Gemma stared at her the whole time, not recognizing this side of Steph. She was irritated and completely closed off from everyone. She didn’t like it, but couldn’t think of what to do to make it better.

Dean announced he was ready, signaling both women to walk up the stairs. Gemma followed Steph and they both entered his tiny room. Steph went straight to him, pulling off his glasses and pushing his hair back. He sat up and hugged her.

“I love you, Sweetheart.”

“I love you too.”

“Sleep tight. I’ll be next door or downstairs if you need me.”

“Okay.”

“Nighty night.”

“Night, Mummy.”

Dean looked over to Gemma and handed her the book he wanted her to read. Steph got off the bed and watched as Gemma sat beside him, opening the book and reading the title. Dean cuddled up to her and she wrapped her arm around his little body.

“Are you comfortable?” she asked.

He nodded, laying his head against her side as she started to read. Steph took one more glance before heading downstairs. She paced next to the phone for a few minutes, taking deep breaths to calm herself. She was definitely upset and knew she wouldn’t be able to control it once Terry said something stupid. She sat next to phone and picked it up dialing his number. She tapped her finger repeatedly against the table it sat on as she waited.

“Hello,” he answered.

“What the hell, Terry?!”

“What?”

“You’re living with Lisa and this baby that kept claiming might not be yours?”

“Dean finally told you. I thought he’d blab immediately.”

“That’s not the point, Terry. You told me you got a new flat and that our son would finally have his own room at your place. His own room and he barely slept because of that baby and honestly, he’s quite miserable.”

“Well what do you want me to do, Steph? I knocked her up and I can’t leave her on her own.”

“What happened to you didn’t want it or her?”

“Are you jealous?”

Steph scoffed. “Are you serious?”

“You know I would do anything to get you back.”

“This has nothing to do with us, Terry.” The floorboards on the stairs creaked and Steph looked up to see Gemma standing there. “Hold on.” She covered her hand on the receiver.

“He was knackered,” Gemma whispered. “Fell asleep after three pages and I read half the book. He’s out like a light.”

“Thanks.” Steph went back to the phone. “Here’s the problem,” she continued. “You made this decision without me, thinking it was okay to throw Dean into that environment and didn’t consult me.”

“What is there to talk about?”

“Terry, he doesn’t even know why we divorced! He’s confused about where Barry is and how you two are going to get married.”

Gemma sat on the bottom of the stairs. Steph watching her. She didn’t feel comfortable listening to this conversation, but wasn’t sure where else to go. She wanted to be there for Steph, but had never seen her so riled up. She wasn’t sure what she could do to help.

“Steph, I have to take responsibility.”

“Now you want to take responsibility? Are you going to explain to him or should I that his dad went and fucked some other woman, got caught by me, knocked her up and now is marrying her. Is that what you want me to tell him?”

“No! I just-“

“You can’t just make these decisions. There’s a reason we have split custody! You can’t just do that to him! Your son has feelings and he’s so young, Terry. He’s six. This doesn’t make any sense to him.”

“I’ll explain it to him next weekend.”

“He doesn’t want to come next weekend.”

“What? Why?”

“Because he goes there to be with you, Terry. Not some baby-“

“His sister.”

“It’s not his sister and nor will she ever be. He doesn’t view her as his sister because he doesn’t understand that she’s your child. But he didn’t like Lisa and he said he couldn’t sleep because the baby was up all night crying.”

“She’s been sick.”

“And? Didn’t think that maybe for the weekend, she could sleep in your room?” Steph reached her hand towards Gemma. Gemma got up from the stairs and went to her, taking it and kissing her palm. Gemma sat on the floor, holding it.

“He doesn’t need his own room for a weekend.”

“Yeah? You want to tell him that?”

“Look, Steph. Just let me talk to him and sort it out.”

“He’s already in bed.”

“So put him to bed before I could even talk to him?”

“I asked if he wanted to talk to you and he didn’t. He cried in my arms tonight when he told me. Do you not care about how upset he is?”

“Of course I care. I just didn’t think it was a big deal.”

“Not a big deal? You honestly thought he’ll come to the house, Lisa will be here and the baby and it will all be okay?”

“Lisa thought it would be better that way.”

“I don’t want that woman near my son.”

“Yeah well it’s not just your son. He’s my son too.”

Steph sighed. “And the marriage thing.”

“You said it yourself. I need a wife. Someone who will take care of me. Lisa does that. She’s good with the baby and Dean.”

“Dean doesn’t seem to think so. She kept telling him to be a big brother, which he didn’t understand. I mean did you talk to him about any of this at all? Did you explain that she was your child?”

“No. I wasn’t ready.”

“You weren’t ready? And yet just threw Dean into this world he didn’t understand. Why did you even have him this weekend if you’re not ready?”

“I get him on weekends.”

“Well he doesn’t want to see you this weekend. He’s expressed that a couple of times now.”

“That’s not fair, Steph.”

“I’m doing what he wants. See? I’m listening to him, but I’ll let you be the one to explain to him how you fucked this all up so he can see that I’m not the bad guy. I’m not the reason. His idiotic father is the reason he doesn’t get to see him every day. That his own dad is the reason he can only see him on weekends.”

“I won’t do that.”

“Well then you’ll have to do something because I’m not going to be the one who breaks his heart, Terry.” Her eyes started to water. “How could you do that to him for a whole weekend? How could you not see his sadness? How are you so blind to his needs?” Her voice cracked. Gemma got up on her knees and rubbed Steph’s back. “He’s your son, Terry. He loves you. He once ran away to the factory to ask for your job back. And this is how you treat him? You ignore him for this woman and this child because of responsibility. He had to beg you to not let them go to the zoo because he wanted to be with his dad. Because he never gets to see you and wanted to be with you and he got pushed to the side.”

“Like you didn’t do that with Johnny?”

“No, Terry, I didn’t. I never pushed him to the side for anything or anyone. I listened to him. I paid attention to him. That’s what I do. That is what a parent is supposed to do. Not tell him this is how it is now and that he has to suck it up. He’s a child who needs his parents to grow, to learn, to be a better person and how is going to get that living with you Lisa and your child? When he doesn’t even understand. Tell me how, Terry.”

“I don’t know, Steph.”

“You should have thought about that. He won’t be coming this weekend.”

“You can’t do that, Steph.”

“Yes I can. He doesn’t want to so I’m not going to force him. If you want to see him for a day, you can come here.”

“I’m sorry, Steph.”

“The worst part, Terry. You’re not. I don’t think you thought about this at all. At least not enough to care or to think. You didn’t even tell me.”

“Because I knew you’d be cross!”

Steph blew air through her nose. “Am I?! I have a right to be!” Steph let go of Gemma’s hand and stood up. Gemma moved out of the way, taking Steph’s seat as Steph paced the foyer. “Just let me know later in the week if you’re able to come.”

“He supposed to come to me.”

“Well he doesn’t want to, Terry! So if you want to try and make it up to him, then maybe you should try. Just come and see if he wants to talk.”

“I want to talk to him.”

“He’s asleep and I’m not waking him for you to upset him. You can talk to him later in the week if need be.”

“This goes against our custody agreement.”

“I’m doing what’s right for him. Maybe in the future, you should think more about your six year old boy than some woman you shagged and knocked up. I’ll call you later in the week.”

Steph hung up the phone and sighed. She sat on the bottom step, pinching her nose. Her head hurt and she was exhausted, but still so angry. She closed her eyes, collecting her bearings.

“How could you not tell me?” She asked, her head still in her hands.

“What?” Gemma asked.

“Dean told you what happened. How much he was hurt and you didn’t tell me.” Steph had Joan’s tone: icy cold and monotoned.

“I didn’t think you should hear from me.”

“So if my six year old son came to you as a doctor and told you his problems, would you not tell me?”

“That’s different.”

“How?” Steph shouted. “He is my child, Gemma. He is my responsibility.”

“I know he is.”

“So why didn’t you tell me?!” Her voice was rising.

“It wasn’t my place.”

“Wasn’t your place?”

“He asked me not to and honestly I didn’t really understand the entire situation.”

“So you didn’t tell me to gain the trust of a six year old boy?!”

“I was trying to help him! To protect him.”

“Why so he’d turn out like yours? So you could heal yourself from your past troubles by being friends with my son and not caring about how this situation would affect me at all? You don’t get to make those decisions! He’s not your son!” Steph regretted it as soon as it came out of her mouth.

Gemma was flabbergasted by that comment. She grabbed her coat. “I know he’s not but I’ve seen what this does to children. So I’m sorry for not getting in the way of a family issue that has nothing to do with me.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m leaving!”

“Gemma wait!”

“You do realize when you say things like that, that I have feelings too. I thought you understood me. I thought you understood what I went through.”

“Gemma.”

“No! You think I was in this for your son?”

“What? No.”

“I didn’t move here for this! I didn’t move here to fall in… to start a relationship but it happened. I thought I finally found someone who understood me but you’re just like them, aren’t you? Ashamed to be with the woman who fucked up her own son and now thinks I’ll do it to yours!”

“No, wait. That’s not what I meant.”

Gemma walked towards the door. She grabbed the knob, but turned around. “I thought, no, you said that I care about Dean more than his father sometimes and I thought I made the right decision! I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but it was not my place to say anything! You can talk to me when you realize why I let him tell you and not me!”

Steph tried to stop her but it was too late. She was already at the door. “No, Gemma, wait. Please.”

“Why?”

“Because I didn’t mean it.” Steph’s eyes started to water. “I didn’t. I just-”

“Just what?” Silence lingered as Steph tried to collect her thoughts. “What?!” Gemma shouted.

“I was just angry. I know you’re not using Dean as a way of healing. Sometimes I’m not good with words and I say things without thinking, but-”

“That’s just an excuse.” Gemma fought the ball in her throat and willed herself not to cry. “I told you about my son. I’ve told you countless times how I worry about hurting you and hurting Dean. I thought you knew me better. I thought you knew I would do anything to make sure you’re safe. That Dean’s safe. But to say that me. You should know better.”

Gemma opened the door and stepped out. “No, Gemma. Please!”

Gemma waved her off. “You need time to calm down and I can’t be around you right now. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but it wasn’t my thing to tell. Dean didn’t want me to and I respected his wishes, but I told you, you wouldn’t like it. I told you, it would make you upset. And you’re right, he’s not my son because my son is gone. And no one will ever fill that hole that is in my heart. Not you. Not Dean. No one. So maybe I was protecting him, but it’s only because I watched my son go through the same thing and ignored it. You knew something was wrong, more than that dog being left on the bus. I didn’t intervene because it wasn’t my place and I don’t know Terry. I don’t know this Lisa. I don’t know all the facts which is why Dean needed to talk to you about it, not me. So be mad Terry and be mad at me for not telling you, but don’t forget I have feelings and wounds too. I thought what I did was best.”

Gemma continued down the stairs to her car. Steph stood in the doorway, her arms wrapped around herself, crying. “Gemma, please don’t go.”

Gemma looked up at her and thought for a moment before getting in her car and driving off. As soon as she was clear of Steph’s building, she broke down. Once she was at the bottom of the hill she pulled over, letting herself cry. After a few moments, she wiped her cheeks and nose before heading home. She shut it off and brought her cold exterior back from when she had found out about Simon.

Steph went back inside and closed the door. She couldn’t control herself as she leaned against the door and cried. She couldn’t get the image of Gemma’s face out of her mind from her own harsh words.

“Mummy?”

Steph gasped. She quickly wiped her face, knowing Dean would know instantly that she had been crying. “What are you doing up, Love?” she asked, keeping her back to him.

“I heard shouting.”

“Oh, sometimes people just shout.”

“Where’s Gemma?”

Steph sniffled one last time and turned around with a smile. “She went home. She knew you were asleep so she decided to go back to her flat.”

“But she left her bag.”

Steph looked over to see Gemma’s overnight bag. “Left it for the next time she stays over.”

“Mummy, what happened?”

Steph straightened her spine. “Nothing, Love. We need to get you into bed because it’s late and you have school in the morning.”

Steph walked up to him and held out her hand. He hugged her around the waist and she tried her hardest to not let anymore tears fall. She picked him up and he squeezed her tighter. “Come on, Love. Bedtime.” She carried him upstairs and back to his bed. She laid him down and smiled.

“I love you,” Dean whispered.

“I love you too. Night night.”

Steph kissed his head, turned off his light and closed his door. She walked into her room and collapsed onto her bed, trying to cry as quietly as possible.

As soon as Gemma entered her apartment, she didn’t worry about the lights. She went straight to her room and fell on her bed. She wouldn’t allow herself to cry as she clutched Tom’s photo to her chest.

Chapter Text

Steph stayed home from work for the rest of the week. The words she had said to Gemma were constantly on repeat in her head and she could barely focus on anything. She told the girls in the office and her mother that she was ill. Joan had asked if she needed to take Dean to her house so he wouldn’t get sick, but Steph told her no. She couldn’t bare the thought of spending more of her time alone than she already was.

Steph would take Dean to school, use her days to wallow, cry and dry her eyes, pick him up and bring him home. He had no idea that she wasn’t going to work. For each day that passed, Dean would ask Steph about Gemma constantly.

“Mum?” He asked that Friday after school.

“Yes, Love.”

“Is Gemma coming over tonight?”

“No she’s not.”

“Why not?”

“She’s busy at the clinic.” Steph gritted her teeth to suppress her emotions.

“She’s been busy every day this week and I miss her.”

“I know you do, Love, but she’s busy helping people.”

“Is she coming tomorrow then? It’s the weekend.”

“I doubt it, Dean.”

Dean sighed and looked up at her mother. Her eyes were distant and glossed over. “Are you okay?”

Steph smiled at Dean as brightly as she could. “As always. Let’s get pizza for dinner. How does that sound?”

“Yay!” He screamed, skipping beside Steph.

Steph avoided talking about her as much as possible, even with Dean. She couldn’t deal with her guilt and loneliness, but every night she gave Gemma a ring. The phone call would go unanswered, leaving her feeling completely defeated.

-------------------------------------------------

Gemma dove herself into work. Working at a twenty-four hour clinic helped her occupy her time. She worked as much as she could, taking on a few extra shifts to distract herself. She had gone that whole weekend with Steph without smoking, but now if she wasn’t inside working, she was outside with a lit cigarette in her hand. When she wasn’t at work, she sat in her empty apartment, drinking. Sarah noticed the change every morning seeing Gemma look a little worse than the day before.

At the end of the week, Gemma came in with heavy bags and dark circles under her eyes. She looked rundown.

“Are you alright?” Sarah asked.

“I’m always alright,” she answered, grabbing a stack of paperwork.

“Are you sure working this many hours is good for you? I know we’re a doctor down, but you need sleep.”

“I am sleeping. I get it in where I can. Any other issues?” She snapped.

“No, Doctor Foster.”

“Good. Can I get on with my patients?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you.”

Sarah knew that Gemma and Steph had been seeing each other. Everyone did. She assumed it had something to do with that, but didn’t dare ask.

Gemma shut down that side of her and pretended everything was normal as best she could. It’s what she did after Simon left and when Tom disappeared. She worked, drank, smoked and slept not allowing herself to feel and putting her career first.

--------------------------------------------------

A week and a half had now passed. Dean had stopped asking about Gemma. It saddened him, but he could tell Steph was struggling. He still hadn’t seen Terry since the weekend away and knew Steph was doing everything she could to make sure he was happy. She took him wherever he wanted to go. She played football with him in the park, even though she wasn’t very good at it and she was freezing. The game lasted for a short time before they had to pack it in and warm up. Their lives went back to the way it was before, except it was too quiet for him. He missed Gemma, but he missed his mum being happy more.

Steph was sitting on the couch, watching something mindlessly on the television. Dean had been in bed for an hour and was fast asleep. She held a couch pillow to her chest, trying not to think of the one person she felt like she was always thinking of as she felt a tear trickle down her cheek. There was a knock on her door that caught her off guard. She looked at the clock to see it was a little past nine. She sat for a moment, feeling a smile forming. She heard a knock again and hopped to feet. She pulled her shirt down and tried to make herself presentable.

She opened the door with a grin that soon faltered. She felt dread fill her stomach.

“Hiya,” Nita said, holding up two bags. “Am I interrupting anything?”

“Uh, no. Come on in.”

Nita smiled as she passed by, stepping into the warm house. Steph hadn’t told the girls. Hellie had started seeing someone and the focus in the office shifted to her. She would just say little things here and there like things were good because she wasn’t ready to accept what had happened. What she had done and said. She closed the door and followed Nita into the kitchen.

“I hope it’s alright that I stopped by.”

“Of course.”

“Where’s Dean?”

“Upstairs. Asleep.”

“And Gemma?” Steph clenched her jaw, trying to hold back the devastating gloom she felt at Gemma not being at the door. Nita picked up on it right away. “So how long ago did she break your heart?”

Steph tried to play dumb, but it was written all over her face. “What?”

“Oh come on. You think I didn’t notice? You’ve been miserable for the past week. We’ve all seen it. We just didn’t want to ask. What happened?”

“I broke her heart. That’s what happened.”

“How do you know that?”

“All the shit with Terry and Lisa and Dean, I lost it. And she was here because Dean wanted to see her and even though I was so angry, I let him call her and invite her over. She shouldn’t have come. We got into an argument because I was so pissed and I told her ‘Dean wasn’t her son’ and made it seem like she was only with me because of Dean.”

“Why would she only be with you because of Dean?”

“Right,” Steph sighed. “It’s her personal life.”

“So at least one rumor is true. She does have a son?” Steph nodded. “And she did lose him?”

“A lot of stuff happened, but he ran away.” Steph wiped her nose and eyes. “I just said it. I didn’t mean it. I was just amped up and wasn’t thinking. I tried to explain, but she left and I’ve never felt so empty.” Steph started to cry, tears running down her cheeks. Nita stepped forward and hugged her.

“There, there, Love. Sit. I’ve brought alcohol and ice cream.”

Steph did as she was told, sitting down, resting her elbows on the table, head in hands. She tried so hard not to cry, but couldn’t help herself. Nita got the box of tissues from the living room and placed them in front of Steph, rubbing her back. Steph looked up, her cheeks red, trying to stop herself.

“Thanks.”

Nita put the package of ice cream in front of Steph, filling a mug with wine. Steph just stared out, looking at nothing, with images of Gemma running in her head. “I’ve lost her.” Her voice sounded broken.

“You don’t know that.”

“She won’t answer my calls. I don’t know if she’s even still in town. Dean misses her so much. I just, I feel like a terrible person and a horrible parent. I keep bringing these people into my son’s life only to have him disappointed when they disappear.”

“You can’t feel that way. You don’t know what she’s doing. She could just be working a lot.”

“But I lost her and I just want her back.”

“Have you gone to her apartment or her work?”

“No. I can’t because the only way I’ll get her to talk to me is if she forgives me, but she’s stubborn and I can’t blame her in this situation. I just miss her and not in the same way that I missed Johnny.”

“What ya mean?”

“When Johnny left, I was sad, but I don’t know. It - it didn’t make me feel incomplete, but without Gemma, there is just a part of me that is missing. I don’t know what to do. It’s not fair to show up at her work when I know her job is stressful enough and her flat is her space. I don’t deserve to disrupt that. I just… I don’t know… I want her back. I miss her so much.”

Nita studied Steph. She was right. She wasn’t like this when Johnny left. Sure she cried and was upset, but even Nita could see a part of Steph was missing.

“You’re in love with her, aren’t you? Deeply in love with her?”

Steph laughed as more tears fell from her face. “I am,” she cried. “And I lost her.”

“You can’t give up so easily.”

“I have and it’s probably for the best. Besides, I have too much going on and I feel like the world is sucking me up whole. But I’ve got to get it together. I’ve got that huge meeting tomorrow with the heads and I have to be there and not look like I’ve cried every night for the past week and a half.”

“Well you can do that, you know. And you’re not alone. We all love you and we’ll help you get your girl back in anyway we can.”

“I know.”

“And Dean really does miss her?”

“Like crazy. It’s eating at him too. He won’t say it, but I can feel it.” Steph rolled her eyes. “I’m shit.”

“Give yourself a break, Steph. You said it out of anger. You weren’t thinking and it happens, but if she loves you, she’ll come back.”

“That’s my fear.”

“What is?”

“She doesn’t and she won’t.”

----------------------------------------------

Gemma sat on her small balcony bringing her cigarette back to her lips. She sat in the freezing cold in a parka, scarf, hat and thermal pants. Music played in the background, but she paid no attention to it. She was bored at every turn and everything was too quiet. She had the day off, sleeping until the mid afternoon. It was the first night where she wasn’t working; the first day with nothing to distract her from her thoughts.

Steph’s words still rang in her head. “He’s not your son!” She winced at the tone of Steph’s voice. She knew Steph had been angry and knew she probably didn’t mean it, but the words hurt just the same. She heard her phone ringing, knowing it was Steph. She fought every bone in her body. She wanted to answer it, talk to her, but couldn’t pick it up. The words on repeat were so clear that it was hard for her to forget.

She went back inside, pouring another glass of wine and sighed. She hated her apartment. She hated being there. She missed Steph. Her laugh and touch. The way Steph made her feel about herself. She missed Dean. She missed being with them. She missed the feeling of home; of family.

Gemma picked up her phone, plopping on the couch with a sigh.

“Hello?”

“Hey.”

“Twice in one month, you must be in Heaven,” Sian answered.

“Quite the opposite, actually.”

Sian paused. “Your voice hasn’t sounded like this in quite some time.”

“Yeah and I don’t know how to fix it.” She took a sip of her wine.

“Well let’s start with what’s going on?”

“If you were me and the woman you were falling for got into an argument with you about her son because you didn’t tell her something that he asked you not to and she said to you, ‘He’s not your son’, how would you react?”

“I’m assuming there is a whole backstory I’m missing.”

“Yeah, but basically she was mad at me, told me I made the wrong decision, which I might have. I’m not denying that, but then implied that I was only with her to be with her son and that he wasn’t mine, which I know.”

“Well one I can see how that hurt because it is a low blow-”

“Right.”

“But how angry was she when she said it?”

“Pretty pissed.”

“And did she apologize?”

“No. She said she didn’t mean it.”

“Which is a form of an apology, just not the physical words so do you want my honest opinion?”

“Yes.”

“I’d let it go. If she was angry and just said something without thinking, she probably didn’t mean it. I know it’s harder to do that when it hurts you.”

“Like being stabbed in the chest multiple times.”

“How long ago was this?”

“The last time you and I talked.”

“Geez, Gemma. And you haven’t talked to her at all?”

“No.”

“What have you been doing?” Sian asked.

“I dove into work and then my usual, smoking and drinking.”

“Which is what you’re doing now.” It wasn’t a question.

“As are you.”

“Yeah well. I’m not depressed.”

“Well I don’t really know how not to be at the moment.”

“Do you miss her?”

“So much.”

“Do you love her?”

Gemma sighed. “Yeah, I do, which is why I don’t know what to do.”

“If she doesn’t honestly feel that way and literally was just angry and not thinking, could you forgive her?”

“Yeah, I think I could.”

“So shouldn’t you just get over it?”

“Maybe,” Gemma answered, rubbing her head.

“And stop drinking. It’s only going to make you more upset. It’s a depressant, remember? Makes everything worse than it is especially after I’m assuming an entire bottle of wine?”

Gemma sighed. “I know.”

“And seriously, go talk to her. Get a good night’s rest and talk to her tomorrow after work. Almost two weeks without talking to the person you love is just crazy.”

“But what if this was it for her?”

“Gemma, I seriously doubt not telling her something will make her leave you. It’s not about sexual harassment or anything, right?”

“What? No! It’s about her ex husband’s new girlfriend.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes.”

“Well, look, you said she was angry. She told you she didn’t mean it. You should at least let her explain.”

“But she knows. She knows how much pain I’m in because of Tom.”

“Well were you with her to have a mother/son connection with her son?”

“Of course not.”

“She knows that, Gem. You know she knows that.”

“What if I’ve lost her? What if I’m just cursed to make people run away.”

“Well, I’m still here.”

“You’re the only person who’s stayed. Who checks in.”

“You’re the only person who allows me to do so. All I’m saying is, if you love her and want to be with her, talk to her. Has she tried reaching you?”

”I’m not sure. I think she just tried to call me before I called you.”

“Did you answer?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because I can still hear her voice so clearly. The hatefulness and the tone.”

“And you don’t think she’s thinking the same thing? She’s probably calling to apologize.”

“But do I want it?”

Sian laughed. “You’re so annoying and stubborn! Like seriously, are you fifteen? This is how children react to these situations.”

“That’s rude.”

“Is it? Because you know I’m right. Do you want to be sad and moping, drinking and working?”

“No.”

“Well then my advice would be to pick up the phone, listen to her and just see. Don’t lose someone you love because of one comment that I guarantee she did not mean.”

Gemma sighed. “I don’t know.”

“You love her?”

“Yes.”

“Yes, but are you in love with her?”

Gemma felt tears come to her eyes. “Yes. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen for someone so quickly.”

“Then don’t let her get away.”

Gemma sat back in her chair and rubbed her finger against her bottom lip as she contemplated Sian’s words.

----------------------------------------------

Steph sat her desk the next day, lost in her work. This meeting with the board was bigger than she thought and she only had a couple hours left to get everything together. She had a list of all the new ranged items that were selling and ones that weren’t as well as some of the old items that the women of Sheffield seemed to love. Hellie was working hard to get her all the figures from the past year sales, while Dawn was double checking the inventory so everything could be perfect for when they would arrive. Nita was on the phone, setting up new parties.

Steph tried her hardest to not be distracted by thoughts of Gemma. All she wanted was to make it up to her, but was struggling with how. How could she make this right? What could she possibly say to have Gemma forgive her? She wondered if Gemma even thought about her or if she simply put her out of her mind. She was also worried about Dean. He had been rather quiet and tired that morning, but insisted on going to school.

Hellie placed a fresh tea on her desk and smiled. “Ready?”

“Yeah, as ready as we can be.”

“You’ll knock ‘em dead, Steph. You always do.”

“Thanks, Hellie. How’s your new lady friend?”

“She’s good. My mother is in over her head about it, but as you know, I don’t really care.”

“Well that’s good. I’m glad you found someone.”

“Yeah,” she paused. “How’s Gemma?”

Steph sighed. “I actually don’t know.”

“Did you breakup?”

“It would seem so.”

“But how? You guys were glued to each other.”

“I said some stupid, unforgetable things to her when I was angry with Terry.”

“About him living with Lisa and not telling you?”

“Yeah. She hasn’t talked to me since. I don’t know what to do about it. I want to apologize and explain myself, but she won’t answer my calls.”

“Have you tried to go and see her?”

“No. After the things I’ve said, I feel like I’m the last person she wants to talk to.”

“Yeah, but you won’t know until you do it.”

“True.”

“I’m sure Dean misses her.”

“He does and that kills me even more. I honestly feel like the scum of the Earth and I can’t blame anyone, but myself.”

Steph’s phone rang. Everytime it did, she hoped it was Gemma, knowing it wouldn’t be. Hellie reached out for her hand. “Go and see her. The worst she can do is slam the door in your face, but it doesn’t mean you can’t talk to her through it.”

Steph smiled. “Thanks, Hellie.” She reached for her phone, answering it. “Stephanie Kirke.”

“Stephanie, hi. This is Mrs. James from Dean’s school.”

“Is everything alright?”

“No, I’m afraid not. Dean was sent to the nurse’s office and he has a very high fever. He vomited a couple of times and I’m afraid, he needs to go home. We’re worried he has the flu.”

Steph’s world stopped for a minute as she looked up at Hellie. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” She hung up the phone.

“What’s wrong?” Hellie asked.

Steph stood from her desk, gathering her things. “Dean’s sick. High fever and vomiting. I have to go pick him up.”

“What about the board?” Nita asked. “I can go get him.”

“No, he’ll need someone he really knows and trusts. I’ll call the office and see if we can reschedule.”

“Call Joan,” Hellie suggested. “Call your mum. She always helps.”

----------------------------------------------

Gemma was in her neck at the clinic going from patient to patient. The flu had started going around and there were plenty of people looking for their cure. Another patient had just left her as she rubbed her temples at her desk. She looked at the clock. She only had a few hours left and then she could go home and sleep.

She was just about to get up from her desk when her phone rang. She answered as kindly as she could.

“Doctor Gemma Foster.”

“Gemma?” Her heart sank at Steph’s voice. She had forgotten how delicate it sounded.

“Steph.”

“I’m so, so sorry to call you at work, but I need your help, please. Dean is ill at school and I can’t leave work to get him nor can I find one single person he trusts to go pick him up. Even my mum can’t get him because my dad decided to surprise her with some day trip and I don’t know what to do.” She was crying, which made Gemma feel weak to her stomach. “I know I have no right to ask, but could you please, please help me.”

Gemma tried to act aloof. “What’s wrong with him?”

“I don’t know. Someone from the school called saying he has a fever and has been vomiting. I am trying so hard to move this meeting, but it’s almost impossible and I just I need help-”

“Of course. I, uh,” she paused, looking up at the ceiling. “I don’t have a key to your house.”

“Right. Well maybe I could work something out to help you get a key to my place, but um-” Gemma could hear her shuffling papers around on her desk. She sounded desperate and Gemma knew she wouldn’t have called her for this unless she was.

“I can take him to mine. I’ll go and pick him up. You can come over and get him when your finished.”

“Are you sure?”

“If I’m the only person you have, then yes. I’m on my way.”

Steph sighed in relief. “Thank you, Gem. I can’t thank you enough. I’ll call you when I’m on my way to yours?”

“Sure.”

Gemma hung up the phone and grabbed her coat. She quickly threw it on as well as her scarf before grabbing her briefcase and doctor bag. She made her way to the lobby and stopped by reception.

“I need you to move my last appointments to someone else.”

“Gemma, you can’t be serious. We’re backed up as it is,” Sarah answered.

“Sorry, family emergency. I have to go.”

“What family?!” Sarah yelled as Gemma left through the front doors. She jogged to her car, starting it. She backed out and sped to the school as quickly as she could. She never had an interest in pediatrics, but when a child close to her heart is sick, her anxiety goes into overdrive. She was there within fifteen minutes. She parked and ran inside, looking for the office. Once she finally found it, she made enough noise to get everyone’s attention.

“Can I help you?” A woman behind the desk asked.

“I’m here to pick up Dean Kirke for Stephanie Kirke. I’m a friend of the family.”

“I just need-”

“Can I see him, please?”

“I just need your name for our records.”

“Gemma Foster. May I see him, please?”

“The nurse will bring him. You can have a seat over there. He’ll be here in a few. I just have to call her.”

Gemma sat on a bench, crossing her legs and arms over her chest. She had seen what the sicknesses going around and what it was doing to people. She had been dealing with it all week, but worried about this strain being in a child. She watched as the woman called the nurse, sitting there impatiently. Finally he walked slowly into the office. Gemma stood as soon as she saw the woman and walked towards them.

“What’s his temperature?” Gemma asked, kneeling in front of him. “Hi, Love.”

“Gemma?” His voice was small and Gemma could see he was weak.

“Thirty-eight point nine,” the woman answered.

“What happened?” she asked, placing her hand on Dean’s forehead. He was exceptionally warm and ghostly pale.

“He complained of his stomach bothering him and went to the bathroom. His teacher said when he came back, he went straight to the trash can and threw up. I went and he did eventually stop, but it took some time.”

“Come on, Love,” Gemma whispered, picking him up. He rested his head against her shoulder, nuzzling into her neck.

“He complained of lightheadedness as well.”

“Thank you,” Gemma said. “I’ll take him home now.”

“Most parents ask if he needs to go to hospital,” the nurse commented as Gemma started to leave.

Gemma smiled. “I’m his doctor. He’ll be in the best care with me. Do you have a bag or anything, in case he needs to vomit on the ride home?”

They managed to gather a trash bag for her as well as his coat and other winter items. Gemma put the hat on his head and wrapped the coat around his shoulders, her hand firmly on his back. She stuffed his scarf and gloves into her bag. She rubbed his back as they walked outside, wanting to get him into her bed as quickly as possible. Once she reached the car, she slowly opened the door, laying him down inside. He reached out for her, clearly seeking comfort. She soothed him, watching him fall asleep. She took off his glasses so he could rest comfortably.

It didn’t take long to get home. She carried him all the way up and into her flat. She sat him down, taking his shoes off. She soon realized she didn’t have pajamas or anything he could wear comfortably and sighed.

“I don’t feel good, Gemma,” he whispered.

“I know, Love.” Dean gagged. “Oh.” Gemma picked him up and quickly ran to the bathroom. He cried as he vomited, Gemma rubbing his back, trying her best to give him comfort. She got a warm washcloth and wiped his face, hoping it would help him feel better.

“Got it all out, you think?” She asked as he looked up at her.

He nodded, going back to her and holding his arms out. Gemma took him to her bedroom, pulling back the comforter. She took his sweater off before letting him lay down.

“I don’t have pajamas for you, Love, but I could get you a t-shirt if that would make you feel a little better.” Dean just nodded his head. “Okay,” she whispered. She rummaged through her dresser drawer and found a large black t-shirt. She held to him and he started crying.

“What’s wrong?” He hugged her and she let him cry, holding him. “I know, Love. I know you feel bad. I’ll make you better. I promise I’ll make you feel better. Let me help you get out of this uniform.”

Gemma helped him change, getting the shirt over his head. It hung on his little body, but she figured it was more comfortable than a button down. She stepped out while he struggled to get his trousers off. She could hear him crying while she grabbed her medical bag. She came back in and helped him get them from around his ankles. She left his socks on so his legs and feet would stay warm.

Gemma helped him lay down and sat next to him. She checked his chest and poked around his stomach lightly.

“As I was afraid. You’ve got some congestion in your lungs. I think you have the flu with a small stomach bug.”

“Is it bad?”

“No, Love. I’m going to get you some water and some juice. Trash can is here, but if you need me, just call.”

Gemma stood, collecting his shirt and pants to wash them in case any germs lingered on them.

“Where did you go?” He asked.

“What?”

“You left. We haven’t seen you.”

“I know, Love.”

“You said you wouldn’t hurt Mummy. You promised me.” He said it so matter of factly that it sent pain straight to Gemma’s heart. She didn’t know how to respond. She smiled at him, ignoring the comment.

“Get some rest. I know you’re tired.”

“I’ve missed you.” He sniffled, wiping his eyes. Gemma leaned in closer to him, kneeling beside the bed.

“I’ve missed you too.”

“And Mummy?”

Gemma smiled. “Yes. She’ll be here soon.”

“No, do you miss her?”

Gemma sighed. “I have, Love. I’ve missed you both a lot.” She kissed Dean’s forehead. “But you’re here now and we’ve got to get you better. Are you hungry?”

Dean shook his head no, closing his eyes. Gemma got up from her bed, making sure the covers were snug around him. She walked to the door when she heard his small voice.

“Will you stay with me?”

Gemma looked back at him. He had sat up, but she could tell it winded him. She walked back. Dean settled himself, laying back down. Gemma laid beside him on her back. She stared at the ceiling. She could only see Steph when she looked at him.

“Did you and Mum have a fight?”

“I’ve just been really busy at work dealing with the illness you have.”

“But you’ve been busy before.” He coughed and she quickly covered his mouth, looking at him. His blue eyes were completely clear, like Steph’s. He glanced at her.

“When you cough, Dean, you have to cover it so the germs won’t spread. Like this,”Gemma demonstrated bringing her arm up and coughing into the inside of her elbow. “Okay?”

Dean nodded. “You look like a vampire doing that.”

Gemma laughed. “Do I?”

Dean half smiled and nodded.

“Are you mad at me?” Gemma asked.

Dean shrugged. “I just don’t know why you disappeared.”

“I told you, I’ve been busy.”

“Mum calls you every night though.”

“I’ve been working nights, Love. I’ve pretty much been working all day, but you don’t need to worry about that. You just need to get some sleep.”

Dean scooted closer to Gemma and she held her arm out. He hugged around her stomach as she rubbed his back. It didn’t take long for him to doze off and Gemma stayed. She thought of Steph. The words she said, the fight, her eyes, her lips, her smile and laugh. The bewildered look on her face when Gemma left. Her tear stained cheeks. Her words. She felt her own tears starting to fall. She looked down at Dean to see he was sound asleep. She lifted his arm and slowly slid out, leaving a pillow where her body was.

Gemma closed her bedroom door and went to her bag for cigarettes. She sighed as she went out onto the balcony and into cold air. She was anxious about seeing Steph, not really sure what to do or what to say. She looked down at the ashtray as she flicked ash into it. It was packed full of old cigarettes and she hadn’t even realized she had smoked that many in such a small amount of time. She rolled her eyes, knowing that her stress was the reason.

Time passed as Dean slept and Gemma watched television. She wasn’t really paying attention, preparing herself for Steph’s arrival. What would she say? What was there to say? Does she talk about it? Should she try to get her to stay? Question after question ran through her mind, knowing there was no way to answer them. A frantic knock on her door caused her to snap out of it. She got up, preparing herself for what was to come. She checked the peephole and sighed. Steph stood there, looking around, looking just as defeated and nervous as she felt.

Gemma unlocked the door and opened it. Steph looked at her and she tried her hardest not to crumble instantly. Steph felt the same way and neither of them knew what to say.

“Hi,” Steph whispered.

“Hey.” They stood there awkwardly. “Uh, come in,” Gemma gestured.

Steph crossed the threshold and Gemma closed the door behind her. They weren’t sure how to greet one another. Gemma leaned in and Steph kissed her cheek as they hugged. They stayed that way for a minute, both missing each other’s warmth.

“I’m sorry I had to call you,” Steph said.

“Well I am his doctor.”

“Yeah, but that’s not why I called.”

Gemma nodded. She noted the plastic bag in her hand. “He’s in my bed. He’s asleep.”

Steph placed the bag on the table and walked straight to Gemma’s bedroom. Dean was asleep, snug against a pillow. She sat down next to him, pushing his hair back. “Dean,” she whispered. He didn’t budge, sleeping soundly. Gemma walked to the door frame.

“I didn’t have pajamas for him so he’s sleeping in one of my old t-shirts.”

“That’s fine. I appreciate it, honestly.”

“It’s not a problem. I still care about the both of you and you didn’t have anyone else so I’m glad I could help. It’s the same thing he had when you came to see, but unfortunately, I believe he has the flu. It’s going around so I’m sure he got it at school.”

“He said he didn’t feel well this morning, but I thought he was okay.”

“It happens, Lov-” Gemma paused and corrected herself, “It happens.”

Steph nodded. “So what should I do?”

“Same as last time. Make sure he’s hydrated. He does have a fever and he is congested. He’ll probably be out of it for the rest of the week. He was lightheaded so I’d try not to move him too much. He threw up at the school and then again when he got here. He cried a little, but I would too if I felt as bad as he did, but he’ll be alright. If he isn’t feel better by the end of the weekend, I would say to schedule an appointment at the office for Monday.”

“Okay,” Steph whispered. “Sweetheart?” she tried again.

“He needs rest, Steph.”

“I know. I just thought he’d wake up, knowing I’m here.”

“He knows. This strain of flu just affects the immune system and knocks you out.”

“Will he be okay?”

“Of course.” Gemma pointed towards her kitchen. “I can put that bag in the fridge for you so it’s fresh when you get home.”

Steph stood. “I, uh, I brought that for us. I figured he would be asleep so I was hoping we could talk for a little bit.”

“What about?”

Steph’s eyes started to water. “You know what.” Gemma nodded, going back to the living room. Steph looked down at Dean and kissed his forehead. “Mummy’s here, Love.” She followed Gemma to the couch. “I, uh, I brought a curry. I didn’t know if you had eaten or not, but I haven’t so I figured as a thank you.”

“I’m not really in the mood for food.”

Steph walked towards her, already crying. “Gemma, I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I’m sorry for all the things I said. I didn’t mean any of it.” She fell to her knees in front of Gemma. “Saying I was angry will not make up for it, I know, but I didn’t mean any of those words. I shouldn’t have had you come over. It’s what Dean wanted and he was so sad, Gemma. After everything he explained, he just wanted to see you and I was already seeing red. I’m so sorry.” Steph cried on her lap and it took all of Gemma’s might not to respond. “Please, Gemma. I can’t get passed this. I can’t believe what came out of my mouth and there is nothing I can do to make that up to you other than say I’ve missed you. I’ve missed us.”

Gemma bit her tongue, silent tears falling from her eyes. She ran her fingers through Steph’s hair. “I’ve missed us too, but…” she trailed off. She wiped her face. “I can’t get your words out of my head.”

“I can’t get them out either. I was stupid and weak.”

Gemma cupped Steph’s head so they were looking at each other. Steph clasped her wrists. “You implied that I was only with you because of Dean.”

“I know,” Steph cried. “I know and I know that’s not true. I know you were doing what you thought was right. I know you were just trying to protect him. Please believe me, Gemma. I was wrong and I used your own fears against you. I used your words against you. I have no excuses for it. I’m not trying to make them either, but I have been so empty without you. Dean has been empty without. What can I do to change this? I’ll do anything.”

“It’s not a matter of doing something, Steph. What’s done is done. I can’t-” Gemma’s words caught in her throat. “I don’t know if I can do this. You hurt me.”

“I know I did. I hate myself for it. I hate myself for the things I said. I hate myself for not only hurting you, but my child. It’s shit. I’m shit.”

Those words stuck in Gemma’s head. She pictured a vulnerable Tom sitting on that bench, crying as well, not looking at her. She looked down at Steph, falling into those blue eyes. “You’re not shit, Steph. You just said stupid things and I know you didn’t mean them. They just cut so deeply.”

Steph shook her head, getting up. She sat next to Gemma. She wiped her eyes and calmed herself. “I’ve lost you, haven’t I?” Her voice was hollow.

Gemma looked at a picture of Tom that was across from her. It was the last photo she had taken of him. She thought of all her sorrow and how much Steph filled that emptiness. How much Dean gave to her. She didn’t think she could go on living the way she had the past week, the booze and smoking, the loneliness.

“You needn’t have.” Gemma let her tears fall as she turned towards Steph. She wiped the tears from Steph’s cheeks then took her hands, squeezing them. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I wasn’t trying to be malicious or hold anything from you-“

Steph put her head down, more tears falling. “I know, I just-“

Gemma cupped Steph’s chin so they were looking at one another. “Let me finish. I wasn’t trying to be malicious or hold anything from you, but I don’t know the whole situation and honestly, I wished Dean hadn’t told me. I didn’t feel like it was my business to know. We were talking about families and about Tom. I apologized for making him sad and he said he already was. I asked why, figuring it was just because he missed his dad, not because of everything else. I didn’t not tell you to keep a promise with him. I know he’s a child and this was way over his head. All of this especially since he doesn’t know what happened with Terry. I didn’t tell you because for some reason, I didn’t see it as big as you did and I’m at fault for that.”

“Gem-“

Gemma realized she did what Simon had done to her in regards to Tom and Isabelle. She just tried to get Steph to ask the right questions. “I just, I don’t know. I should have been better and told you instead of badgering you to ask him about it. I shouldn’t have been trying to get you to figure it out so I’m sorry for that.”

“No, Gemma. It wasn’t your fault.”

“I didn’t help.”

“But you did what you thought was best.”

“I just wanted Dean to be happy. I wanted you to be happy.”

Steph nodded, her face and nose red from her sobbing. “Me too. Gemma, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s alright, Love.”

“No it’s not. You trusted me. You trusted me to tell me the reason you came here. All the horrific things that happened to you and I immediately blamed you. I said horrible things.” Steph cried into her hands.

Gemma cupped the back of her neck, bringing Steph to her. She rested her head against Gemma’s chest, Gemma holding her there and letting her cry. Gemma pulled back and smiled at her.

“If anyone knows what it’s like to talk out of anger, it’s me. I have plenty of experience with that.”

“I thought you hated me.”

“I don’t hate you, Steph.”

Steph nodded with relief, but couldn’t stop. Gemma handed her a tissue. Steph blew her nose and wiped her face as she tried to settle herself, but continuously found it difficult.

“I thought I’d never see you again,” Steph cried.

Gemma sighed, running her fingers through Steph’s hair. “You’ll find me a lot more constant than that.”

“I called every night.”

“Here or the office?”

“Here.”

“Steph, I’ve been working overtime so I haven’t gotten them.”

“Would you have answered?”

Gemma wiped more tears from her cheeks. “No, probably not, but not because I hated you or didn’t want to talk to you, but because who knows what to say after fights like this where you’re both in the wrong.”

“Me, more so.”

Gemma shook her head back and forth, as if weighing the answer before she chuckled. “Yeah.”

Steph grinned. “Dean’s missed you. It’s good to know I wasn’t exactly lying to him. I told him you were busy at work.”

“I’ve missed you both.”

“Really?”

“Of course. I’ve been working so much because there is nothing here. Just my emptiness and Tom. I’ve been smoking like a chimney and drinking anytime I wasn’t in the office. I just fell back into my depression, but-“

Steph caught her off, bringing their lips together. Gemma reciprocated, pulling Steph closer to her. It was a kiss to express their sorrow and unhappiness. To show their love for one another. To share their forgiveness.

Steph was the first to let go, whispering “sorry” again.

“Shh.” Gemma kisses her again. Dean coughed, causing them to break apart.

“Mummy,” he cried.

Steph got up, Gemma not too far behind them.

“Hi, Sweetheart.” She walked up to him, taking his hand and kissing them. “How are you feeling?” Dean coughed again and shook his head. “That bad, huh?” Steph placed a hand to Dean’s forehead and immediately looked to Gemma, who was standing in the doorway. “He’s burning up.”

Gemma walked forward and replaced Steph’s hand. He did seem to be warmer, but he had been wrapped in a sheet and full duvet. “Can you get my thermometer from my doctor bag?” Gemma asked. “It’s by the door.”

Steph went to it, grabbing the whole bag for her. Gemma noticed she seemed frantic again. Gemma grabbed her hand, stopping her. “He’s okay.” Steph sighed and nodded. “Wouldn’t matter how mad I was, I would always make sure he’s okay. Sit down and comfort him.”

Steph crawled across the bed and sat next to him. He was about to turn when Gemma told him to stay. She placed the thermometer in his ear.

“I need you to lay still, Love, okay?”

Dean didn’t move and they waited for it to beep. Gemma read it and smiled. “Same as he was before, which is good, but we need to keep you bundled in bed to see if we can’t break your fever.”

Dean started to kick the sheets away from him. “But I’m hot.”

Gemma and Steph stopped him and he sobbed. “Sh, sh, sh,” Gemma said, scratching his back. “I know you’re hot and sick, but staying under the covers is best, Love.”

Dean turned into Steph, wanting nothing, but comfort from his mom. She bent down and kissed his head, rubbing his back. “Do you want me to lay down with you?”

Dean nodded as Steph laid down next to him. “Mummy,” he mumbled, climbing on top of her.

Steph held her arms around him, holding him tight. “It’s okay, Love. I’m here.” Steph looked up to Gemma, who looked just as concerned as she did. She held her hand out to her which Gemma took. “We’re both here.”

Gemma scratched his head and smiled. “I’m going to get a cool rag for his head. I’ll be right back.”

Gemma stepped into her bathroom. She took a deep breath, willing her mind not to think of Tom. She held it out to Steph when she came back. Steph wiped the back of his neck and cheeks, hoping to ease some of the warmth he felt. Gemma took it back and ran more cold water under it.

“I managed to get him on his back,” Steph whispered on her returned. “He’s already fallen back asleep.”

Gemma placed the rag on his forehead. “That’s good. Fluids and rest is what’s best for him right now.”

“I should probably get him home.”

“Yeah or,” Steph glanced at her with a surprised look, “You brought food, right?”

Steph nodded.

“I haven’t really eaten today. I’ve been too busy and upset. Would you mind having a proper meal with me?”

Steph smirked. “Sure, if that’s what you want.”

“I want nothing more.”

They left Dean so he could sleep peacefully and shut the door. Steph started to pull the packages out of the bag, but Gemma stopped her. “Might want to wash your hands first. This flu is spreading like crazy. Did you have your flu jab?” Steph had a guilty expression. “Steph!”

“Well I meant to, but with work and Dean and well, you, I just didn’t think about it.”

“Sweetheart, you have to get it especially with Dean being sick.”

“Well I can’t right now, can I?”

“When he’s better, the first thing I’m going to do is give you the shot.”

“I’m not really a fan of needles.”

Gemma smiled. “I’ll do it diligently and efficiently. I’ll distract you like we do with babies. Well not like babies, but I’ll distract you so you don’t have to watch.”

“And how will you do that?”

“I’ll think of something. Now seriously, wash your hands with warm water and scrub while singing ‘Happy Birthday’!”

“What?”

“Good Lord. That’s how long you should be washing your hands to kill germs. I have a lot to teach you.”

Steph turned on the water. “Aren’t you going to wash yours?”

“When you’re done.”

“Why? To make sure I’ve done it properly?”

“Exactly.”

“I’m not a child, Gemma. I think I can handle it.”

“Says the woman who didn’t get her flu jab and didn’t know to sing ‘Happy Birthday’,” Gemma teased.

“Yeah. Yeah.”

Gemma laughed. She stepped up behind Steph, wrapping her arms around her to wash her hands as well. Steph’s body fell back against hers as Gemma melted into her. She took Steph’s hands into her own, washing them as gently as possible against. Once the soap was gone and the water turned off, Steph laid her head back against Gemma’s shoulder.

“I’ve missed you,” she whispered, taking in her smell of cigarettes and jasmin.

“I’ve missed you.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Shh. It’s in the past. We have to be strong, communicate better and move on.” Gemma kissed her forehead. “Let’s eat this curry.”

“I know it’s silly, but I bought it because it’s what you brought that first night. Should I be concerned he’s been sick twice now in the matter of a month or two?”

“No. I think the last time he just ate something that didn’t sit right. This, however, is definitely and unfortunately the flu with a stomach bug which should pass if it hasn’t already. So water, something with electrolytes is also good and when he’s ready, we’ll start with a piece of toast, but he probably won’t eat tonight.”

“I don’t think he had lunch either.”

“Well, whether he did or didn’t, he has thrown it up. Did he have breakfast?”

“Yeah. I made him eggs and toast. He ate all of it which is why I didn’t think he was truly sick and now he had to throw up at school without me there and-“

“Hey,” Gemma said, pulling out a chair. “It’s okay. He’s okay. It happens. Kids get sick. This will pass, Love. He’s strong.” Gemma grabbed two plates from the cabinet and placed one in front of Steph.

“You’re right.” Steph took a deep breath.

“Do you often struggle with anxiety?” Gemma asked.

“Why?”

“You just get really stressed out sometimes and I wondered if there are times where you feel like you can’t breathe or extremely nervous.”

“No. Not that I’m aware of.”

“Pay attention to it and if it gets worse, let me know.”

“Why? Do you have anxiety?”

“No, but I’ve seen what it can do to people so I wanted to make sure you weren’t feeling any of that.”

Gemma scooped the food onto the plates and Steph just watched her in aw. “What would you do if it was?”

“Prescribe you something to take care of it. To take care of you.”

Gemma bent a little lower to grab the plates when Steph pulled on her blouse. She leaned down and kissed Steph. Steph snaked her arm over Gemma’s shoulder to cup the back of her head as they met in one heated kiss after the next. They rest their foreheads together as they caught their breath. Gemma pecked her lips one last time before standing up. They smiled at one another before Gemma grabbed the plates.

“Also,” Gemma stated, putting the plates in the microwave.”

“Yeah?”

“Could we not make curry our thing?”

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well you mentioned that you made it the last time because it’s what I brought the first time we had dinner, but I would prefer it not to be our special meal. I think it should be fish and chips since that’s what I brought the first time we had sex.”

“You want our special meal to be the meal you brought the first time we had sex?”

“Yes.”

“And why not curry?”

“Because I met Simon at a bar where I was very intoxicated and he took me to get some food which just happened to be a curry and we celebrated every year. I’d get curry and he’d get a card so I rather not have that memory in my head every time we celebrate something special between us.”

The microwave dinged and Gemma served Steph her plate. “Fair enough, but do we really want it to be fish and chips? I mean Dean would love that, but I think we’re fancier than that.”

Gemma laughed. “Fancier than fish and chips?”

“Yeah, definitely. So what if we make our special food steak salad since it is technically what we had on our first proper date.”

“So once a year, you want me to make steak?”

Steph smiled. “I can make it. I promise I’ll make the steak.”

“Good.” Gemma smiled, taking a bite of her food and sighed.

“What? Not good?”

“It’s delicious. I seriously think I had a piece of fruit this morning and that’s it.”

“You haven’t eaten all day?”

“This flu is really spreading around. I think every patient I had, had it. It’s awful.”

“What happens?”

“Just a lot of congestion and fever. I had one person explain to me today that it felt like someone had slammed his head against a brick wall, someone pushing on his chest and then left him in a steaming hot bath.”

“So that’s how my son feels?”

“Quite possibly.”

“Should I be worried?”

“No, Love. He’s in the best hands with me. He’s a kid and he goes to school where germs are on everything. It takes one kid to sneeze on the ball and then another kid touches it. Kids get sick all the time and they’re not the best about washing their hands so I promise you, he’ll be alright.”

“Can we break his fever?”

“We might be able to, but I think the best thing to do now is to just relax. He’s asleep, which is the most important thing. I might wake him in an hour so we can get some water in him and I can pop out to the pharmacy to get him some cough medicine and something with electrolytes. Okay?”

Steph nodded. “I should take him home, right?”

Gemma shrugged as she chewed. “You can if you like, but it’s snowing, it’s freezing and you’re more than welcome to stay, but if you want to take him home, I will of course, give you a lift.”

“And if I stayed?” Steph’s voice was hopeful.

“I’d really enjoy the company.” Steph reached forward and squeezed her hand. “So how was your day? You had a meeting?”

“Yeah. End of the year sales reports. I tried so hard to reschedule so I could get Dean, but the board was not having it. Thank you, again, for picking him up.”

“As if I’d let him suffer.”

“I know.”

“How was the meeting?”

“It was excellent. We exceeded sales for the term and had the most parties in the surrounding areas. They want me to go to Birmingham for a few days next year to train sales reps there. They’re promising everyone a raise for their work and that includes our sellers. It was a really good meeting. Stressful, but good.”

“Well that’s great, Love. Congrats!”

“Thank you. It feels great.”

“I’m sure. What did you do before this? Were you just a stay at home Mum?”

“I cleaned at Pauline’s house-“

“That’s right. You told me that.”

“But that was it. Terry and my mum told me how I couldn’t do anything so.”

“What?”

“Yeah. It took a lot for me to do this.”

“And look at you now! Regional manager. Guess you told them!”

Steph laughed. “Yeah, I guess I did.”

“So what happened today with Joan?”

“I called her completely panicked about Dean and apparently, my father, who I love, but never does anything spontaneous decided to take my Mum on a holiday for the night so she’ll come tomorrow and watch Dean while I’m a work.”

“Well that’s good.”

“Yeah and helpful.”

“And did Terry come-?” The question kind of lingered.

“No. I talked to him later in the week and he decided he still wasn’t ready and didn’t want to come so,” Steph shrugged.

“How was Dean?”

“He was a little upset, but he’s really mad at his dad and I don’t blame him. So I entertained him the best I could in my stupor.”

“Well I’m sure Dean was grateful and happy.”

“Yeah, he seemed to be alright.

They finished up dinner. While Steph started to wash the dishes, Gemma put on her coat. “I’m just going to pop down the street and get him some cough medicine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. I should be back in ten minutes.”

Gemma walked to Steph and pecked her lips. “Do you think he’s okay?”

“Yeah, but you might want to check on him. Maybe give him a new washcloth.”

“Okay.”

Gemma kissed her once more. “I’ll be right back.”

“Okay.”

Gemma left and Steph smiled. She finished up the dishes, placing the last one of the rack. She looked a picture of Gemma and Tom that was on the fridge. They were standing next to a tree, Gemma making a face and Tom smiling. Then another from when he was younger and they’re sitting on a porch, both smiling at the camera. She studied them, trying to see if she had ever seen Gemma that truly happy. She heard Dean cough a few times, breaking her from her trance.

Steph walked into the bedroom to see Dean laying there with his eyes open as he coughed again.

“Hi, Tigger.”

“Where am I?”

“You’re at Gemma’s, remember? She brought you here after school.”

“Oh yeah.” He coughed again. Steph smiled, pushing his hair back.

“How are you feeling?”

“Bad.”

“I know. Gemma just went to get you some medicine and she should be back soon.”

Gemma opened the door to see an empty apartment. She could hear voices from the bedroom and smiled. She pulled the box of liquid out of her pocket and walked towards there, but stopped when she heard her name.

“Are you and Gemma back together?”

“I think so, but I’m not sure.”

“Why?”

“Well sometimes it can be complicated.”

“But you like her.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“A lot?”

“So much, Sweetheart, but you don’t need to worry about that. We need you better.”

“I miss Gemma though.”

“Yes, I know you do. I’ve missed her too, but we need to focus on you.”

Gemma knocked on the door. “Just what the doctor, well me, prescribed.” She opened the box and pulled out the plastic bottle. “And I bought cherry. Tom always said that out of all of them was the best.”

Steph smiled. “Cherry’s good, Love. I’ll do it.”

Gemma handed it out to her and grabbed the washcloth to wet it. “How you doing, Love?” Gemma asked. She checked his forehead and felt around his glands. Dean just shook his head no and closed his eyes.

“Hold on, Love. Let’s get some medicine and water in you.”

“No,” he cried.

“It’ll make you feel better though and you’ll sleep better because you won’t cough as much.”

Dean looked to Gemma. “It’s true,” Gemma agreed. “I’ll get you water.” Gemma left them once again with the rag. Steph poured the liquid into the plastic cup and held it to Dean. He looked unsure when Gemma came back in with water, juice and a damp cloth.

“Do you feel like eating, Dean?” He shook his head no. “Can we try a piece of toast? Just to get something in your tummy? I want to make sure you can keep it down, okay?” Gemma put the glasses on the nightstand. “Drink up, Love.”

Dean looked at the bright red liquid and shook his head. Gemma smiled.

“You need to, Tigger,” Steph said, patting his leg. He sighed and swallowed it, gagging at the taste. He smacked his tongue around and Steph held the water out to him which he took.

“I’m going to make some toast,” Gemma whispered. She kissed the back of Steph’s head before leaving.

Steph smiled, rubbing Dean’s back. He managed to eat half of piece of toast before falling back asleep. Steph sighed, wiping his forehead and cheeks before joining Gemma in the living room. Steph sat down next to her, but felt wary of touching her, hoping Gemma wouldn’t notice.

She did.

“Why are you sitting so far away? You know we’re okay, right?”

“Are we?” Steph asked.

“Of course, Love. We just need to communicate better.”

“I know.”

“And you need to stop putting all of Dean’s needs before yours.”

“What do you mean?”

“For example, you were mad at me that night, so why would you invite me over?”

“Dean thought seeing you might cheer me up.”

“But you knew it anyway. You knew it wouldn’t. You should have just lied that night and said I couldn’t.”

“I thought it could help.”

“But you still didn’t really want to see me, did you?”

Steph sighed. “No.”

“Put yourself first sometimes. I had already planned on not being there so I didn’t need to be there.”

“Yeah.” Steph seemed fine, but soon enough, broke down again. Her head fell into her hands as she sobbed.

“Steph? Hey,” Gemma massaged the nape of her neck. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m just so sorry, Gemma.”

“I know, Love. I know.”

“And had I just not asked you over, none of this stupid shit would have happened and I wouldn’t have had to go almost two weeks with a broken heart and not seeing you. I could have just been with you and told you how much I love you and how much I want to be with you, but I fucked it all up,” she rambled.

Gemma paused as Steph looked up at her. Gemma wiped her tears. “You have to let it go. It’s fine. We’re fine.”

“Are we?” Steph looked so fragile.

“Of course we are. We had a fight. We’re adults, we do that. That’s part of the deal when you get together with someone. It’s the first of many, I’m sure, but next time we won’t run. We won’t act like it’s the end all, be all. We’ll talk. We’ll get the anger out and we’ll talk even if we have to do it in the middle of the day. But I forgive you, okay?” Steph nodded, more tears falling. “I forgive you, Steph. It’s done. It’s in the past. You’re here, I’m here, Dean’s here. We’re together and I don’t want it any other way, but you have to forgive yourself.”

“It’s so hard when I can hear my own voice say those things.”

“I know, Love, but you have to let it go. I’m going to let it go. I know you didn’t mean it. You know I wasn’t trying to upset you. We have to move on from it and the best way to do that is take note. When you’re angry, you say things you don’t mean without thinking, right?”

“Yes.”

“Now, I know that. And when it comes to your son, his life, his happiness, if he tells me something, I now know to tell you if I think it will affect his health, short term or long term. We communicate more so we understand each other more. Agree?”

Steph smiled. “Agree.” Steph looked down, feeling the pain in her chest and she tried to calm down. Gemma looked at her.

“You know, I don’t think one hour passed where I didn’t think about you. Everytime I closed my eyes, there you were.”

Steph looked astonished at those words. “I know what you mean.” They paused, Steph looking at Gemma’s lips. “Can I kiss you already?”

Gemma laughed. “Need you ask?”

Steph and Gemma’s lips met and time stopped as passion ignited through their bodies. They pulled one another closer to each other. Steph laid Gemma against the couch. Gemma grabbed Steph’s backside, wanting her as close as possible. Their breath became heavier as their tongues slid against one another. A small moan came from Steph as they fought for dominance.

A cough and a groan came from Gemma’s room and they both sighed as their lips separated. “I should probably get him home,” Steph said. “I think he might feel better if he’s in his own bed.”

“Yeah, probably. I can give you a lift. I don’t mind.”

“I know, but are you sure? It is snowing.”

“Driven in it before. Let me take you home, Steph.”

Steph smiled. “Like I’m really going to argue.”

Gemma laughed. They shared another small kiss together before getting up. “I’m just going to help him get dressed,” Steph stated.

“Yeah, I’ll grab his stuff.”

Steph walked in to see Dean must have only coughed and gone back to sleep. She grabbed his pants from Gemma’s chair and slowly managed to get them on. She didn’t bother with his sweater or button down. Gemma came in with his coat, hat and scarf.

“Is he asleep?”

“Yeah.”

“Should make this a little easier.” Steph took the items from Gemma and they slowly managed to get him dressed without waking him. “Just make sure to grab the cough syrup. I’ll get a bag to put the juice in and then carry him down.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. Why don’t you go down before us with the bag and start the car so it’s warm when he gets in.”

“Okay.”

Gemma grabbed a tote bag from her closet and dropped the cough medicine in. They gathered up everything else that they needed including Gemma’s medical bag.

“Why are we taking this?”

“I take it with me almost anywhere because you never know. If it’s not in my office, it’s in my car and if it’s not in the car, it’s in my home. Emergencies happen all the time.” Gemma bent down and pulled the comforter back from Dean. He woke up, only slightly.

“Gemma?”

“Come on, Love. We’re taking you home.”

“Where’s Mummy?”

“I’m right here, Sweetheart.”

“We’re just going to get you in the car so you can sleep more comfortably in your own bed.”

Dean reached his arms up, which made it easier for Gemma to pick him up. She cradled his head, her arm under him. Steph managed to slip on his shoes. He was almost dead weight in Gemma’s arms, but she managed. They walked down together, Steph taking a few quick steps to Gemma’s car. She started it and a few moments later, Gemma joined her, opening the backseat. They worked together to get Dean lying comfortably in the back.

Gemma hopped into the passenger seat and Steph stared at her bewildered. “You said you know how to drive.”

“I do.”

“So you’re on that side and it’s cold so let’s go.” Steph got in cautiously. “What’s wrong?”

“Terry, just, he never let me drive even though he knew I knew how.”

“Well, I’m not Terry and I trust you so let’s get you home, carefully. Roads are wet.”

“Okay, but don’t distract me. I have to stay focused.”

Gemma smirked at Steph’s cuteness. “I promise you, I won’t bother you.”

The drive home was slow and cautious, but safe. Steph got out so Gemma could parallel park the car. Gemma carried Dean inside, going straight up to his room, leaving Steph to help him change. Gemma walked back downstairs, hanging up her coat as well as Dean’s. She looked around the space and smiled. She had missed it’s warmth and homey feeling. Steph came down the stairs. It’s when she realized what she truly had been missing. She knew she had missed Steph, but didn’t realize how much. Her hair, her eyes, her smile, her body. Everything had been so dark, but now as she watched Steph come down the stairs, her heart pounded in her chest. Steph passed her and she got a whiff of her scent. How she had missed everything about the woman in front of her.

“You alright?” Steph asked, putting her coat with the others.

Gemma just stared at her. Every worry she had about saying it too quickly evaporated as she stood in the space she had missed so much. “I love you.”

Steph’s heart fluttered as she made eye contact with Gemma. “What?” her voice was barely above a whisper.

“I love you,” Gemma repeated.

Steph walked confidently up to Gemma, taking her hands and kissing her lips. She pulled back, watching Gemma chase after her. Her lips puckered and eyes closed, fluttering open. “I love you, too.” Gemma and Steph smiled as they kissed on another.

Chapter Text

“I love you.”

Gemma’s words filled the space around them. She stood so tall and Steph watched as the room illuminated around her.

“What?” Her heart was beating out of her chest and she wanted to make sure she heard Gemma correctly.

“I love you,” she repeated, matter of factly.

Steph sighed and sauntered up to her. Their hands intertwined as Steph kissed her. Steph ran her hands up Gemma’s arms, over her shoulders and rested them. She pulled back and smiled. “I love you too.”

Gemma beamed as they met again in a heated kiss. Gemma roamed Steph’s body with her hands before holding Steph’s hips as their lips and tongues continued to meet. Steph pushed Gemma towards the living room, both of them moaning and stumbling about. It took a lot of work to reach the couch, but Steph sat Gemma down, falling on top of her. Their laughter echoed through the house as Gemma smiled at Steph, who was leaning over her. Her smile faltered.

“What?”

“Don’t hurt me,” Gemma whispered. “I’m… I’m not as strong as you think. I mean I am obviously, but,” Gemma paused. Steph cupping her face. “Sometimes I’m not.”

Steph’s eyes were glowing as Gemma looked into them. “I love you, Gem. I’m in love with you. I always have been.”

Gemma’s grin grew as they met in another kiss. Gemma had missed the way Steph felt in her arms. Her small frame, her body heat, her lower back, her neck, breasts. Everything. Steph missed her touch and the feeling of safety. She never felt quite as content as she did with Gemma. Steph moved in between Gemma’s legs as Gemma’s hand slid down, grabbing her backside and feeling Steph thrust forward. Gemma moaned into her mouth, Steph sighing in reply as she continued to move her hips.

A cry from upstairs broke them apart. “Shit,” Steph mumbled against her mouth before pecking Gemma’s lips. She sat up on the edge of the couch.

“Yeah, I should probably head back,” Gemma stated.

Steph looked back at her. “Are you not staying?”

“I don’t have anything for tomorrow.”

Steph smiled. “That night, you left your bag here.”

“I did?”

“Yeah so if you want to, you can stay.”

Gemma smiled. “I’d like that.”

Steph laughed, hugging her and they laughed as Gemma fell back against the couch, lips meeting again.

“Mummy!” Dean shouted from upstairs.

Steph quickly pulled back. “Right, sick kid. I’ve got a sick kid at the moment.”

Gemma chuckled, getting up and following Steph upstairs.

“Hi, Sweetheart,” she whispered as she entered the room.

Gemma went to the bathroom for another cool rag. She returned seeing Dean had thrown up again. Luckily they remembered the bucket this time. Gemma wiped his face.

“Couldn’t keep that toast down, huh?”

Dean shook his head no. Gemma smiled. She lifted the large t-shirt and poked around his stomach a bit. Nothing seemed swollen or troublesome. She checked his glands and they were a little swollen, but considering her had been vomiting, it didn’t surprise her. Steph left to go get Gemma’s doctor’s bag, coming back rather quickly.

“Thanks, Love,” Gemma greeted. She listened to his chest and sighed.

“What?” Steph asked.

“Nothing. He has some congestion, but that comes with the flu. Dean you’ll be out of commission for a little while. Can we get you to drink some water?”

Dean nodded, reaching for Gemma’s hand. She grabbed it and kissed it as Steph got him water.

“You stayed,” he commented.

“I told you, Love. With adults, it can all be rather complicated, but I think your mum and I have worked it out.”

“I hope so.”

Gemma smirked. “Me too, Kid.”

Steph came in with a glass of cold water. Gemma took it and helped Dean drink it slowly so to not mess with his stomach. Steph watched her curiously. Yes, she could see Doctor Foster, but she also just saw Gemma: a mother and a caretaker. She was continuously gentle with him and always made sure he was comfortable.

“So if you wake up in your sleep, try to remember to drink it like that, if you need it. Small sips and very slowly, okay?” Dean nodded. “We don’t want you to get sick again.” Dean shook his head. “Alright, rest time.”

“Can you read me a story?”

Gemma looked towards Steph, who nodded. “Why don’t your mum and I both read you a story?”

Dean showed a little of his healthy self as he excitedly nodded. They managed to sit around him as he curled into Steph. Steph scratched his head as she and Gemma read pages and characters back and forth. Dean was asleep by the end of it. They both kissed his head goodnight. Gemma got him a new washcloth and removed the bucket to clean it while Steph tucked him in and sit with.

Gemma returned, scrubbed bucket in hand.

“Did you clean that?” Steph asked.

“Yes.”

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“I know, but it’s alright. Used to it.”

“Still, Love.”

Gemma smiled. “It’s fine. Like I said, I’m used to it. Now we should let him rest and you should wash your hands. I would love it if I could shower.”

“Course you can. I’ll get you a towel.”

“Thank you.”

They walked out of the room together arm in arm, whispering to each other. Gemma took a quick shower, making sure to scrub her hands and body. She didn’t want to smell like cigarettes in Steph’s bed. She reached for her towel, noticing a red silk bathrobe had also been left for her. She rolled her eyes and shook her head, but a naughy smirk developed on her lips. She dried off and slipped it on, stepping into the bedroom only to be welcomed by Steph sitting on the side of the bed. She was in black, lace underwear that left absolutely nothing to the imagination.

“Do you like your robe?” Steph asked, standing up.

“I do.”

Steph ran her hands up Gemma’s arms and cupped the nape of her neck. “Do you like my outfit?”

Gemma licked her lips and grabbed Steph’s backside. “I do.”

Steph undid the tie around Gemma’s waist so she could touch her skin. Gemma was too impatient and pushed Steph back on the bed. Steph laughed, spreading her legs. Gemma took a deep breath and placed kisses up Steph’s legs, to her inner thighs. Steph watched her with hooded eyes as Gemma bit her underwear and started to pull it down with her teeth. Steph helped, lifting her hips and guiding them down with her hands. Gemma crawled back up her body and settled between Steph’s legs.

“You sure you want to do this? You’ve got a sick child in the room next door.”

Steph traced Gemma’s chest between her breasts. “I know, but I’ve missed you and I’ve missed your touch and your mouth and I don’t want anything else in the world right now other than you.”

Gemma stared at her for a moment before leaning down and kissing her. The kiss was soft, diligent, neither wanting to rush. Gemma’s hand rubbed down Steph’s body and in between her legs. Gemma moaned when she felt how wet Steph already was, thinking she must have worked herself up when she was in the shower. Gemma ran her fingers up and down a few times, Steph groaning. As soon as she focused on her center, Steph gasped. They kissed and watched each other, not wanting to break eye contact. Their kisses were small and sporadic as Gemma pleasured Steph.

Gemma used her thighs to spread Steph’s legs wider as she entered her. Steph moaned, reaching up to kiss Gemma. She cupped the back of her neck pulling Gemma down as she met every thrust from Gemma. Steph used the opportunity and touched Gemma herself. Gemma’s head flung back in ecstasy as they worked together to get one enough off.

“Inside,” Gemma whispered, resting her forehead against Steph’s. They were both panting, faces warm from each other’s breath as they kissed again. Steph inserted her fingers as Gemma’s hips followed her rhythm. They both were starting to tremble when Gemma leaned up so she could penetrate Steph with one hand while rubbing her center with the other, riding Steph’s fingers. Steph followed, doing the same. They both moaned at the sensation.

“Almost,” Steph said, watching the woman on top of her.

“Me too, Love.”

“Gemma.”

She looked down at her and smiled. Gemma’s body jerked and Steph had been holding out for as long as she could. She came instantly, gasping for air. Gemma kept her fingers inside of her, feeling Steph contract against her hand soon feeling herself orgasm. Her moan was loud, causing both of them to laugh, but neither cared at that particular moment. They had missed one another. Their touch, their sounds. They both pulled their fingers out, grunting at the loss. Gemma knelt down, immediately meeting Steph in a warm kiss as their bodies calmed.

“I missed you,” Gemma said, kissing Steph’s cheek and neck.

“I missed you so much.”

“I vow that we never do that again.”

“I second.”

They hugged each other for a while, enjoying one another, before moving to get under the covers. Steph immediately fell into Gemma’s arms, feeling them close around her. They didn’t bother with clothes. They wanted to feel the heat from their bodies. Once they were settled, Gemma kissed Steph’s forehead.

“Do you really love me?” Steph asked. “Or did you just say that for the sex?”

“Definitely just said it for the sex.”

Steph laughed. They adjusted so they could look at each other. Their hands met, clasping around one another. Gemma kissed the back of Steph’s hands. “I am madly in love with you.” Steph’s smile grew as they moved closer to one another, falling asleep.

“And I, you.”

----------------------------------------------

Gemma awoke suddenly early the next morning, Steph still sound asleep. She sat there for a moment and scratched her head before pausing. Her stomach was in pain and she quickly ran to the bathroom, knowing her symptoms. Dean had definitely had some kind of stomach virus on top of the flu and it had transferred to her as she fell to her knees in front of the toilet. She rested her head against her arm that was holding her up over the bowl. She groaned as her body heaved. There was nothing left in her and she shivered, remembering she was naked.

“Gem?” Steph called out.

“In here,” she answered with a harsh voice.

Steph walked in confidently until she saw Gemma hovering. “Oh my gosh, Gem.” She sat next to her, pulling her hair back into a ponytail. She noticed the contents in the water and flushed for her. “Are you alright?”

“I got Dean’s stomach bug.”

Steph checked her forehead. “You’re burning up, Love.”

“I’m freezing.”

Steph soon realized Gemma’s state. “Let me get you some clothes, Love.” Steph quickly left and went to Gemma’s bag, grabbing her underwear, but not fussing over a bra. She grabbed one of her sweatshirts and Gemma’s pajama pants. She walked back into the bathroom.

“Can you get up?” Steph asked.

Gemma rubbed her hands over her forehead and closed her eyes. “I honestly don’t know. I’m lightheaded.”

Steph helped her sit on the edge of the tub. Gemma shrieked at the cold against her bottom. She allowed Steph to help her to the bed. Once there, Steph assisted her with getting dressed. “I’m not a child,” Gemma grumbled.

“I know, Love, but you can barely stand.”

Steph slipped her underwear and pants up, allowing Gemma to pull up the rest. “Water.”

“What?” Steph asked, helping her lay back down.

“I need water and you need to check my temperature.”

“I’ll be right back. Let me check on Dean.”

Gemma nodded, her eyes closing. Steph noticed Dean’s bucket was empty and quickly placed it in her room by the bed. Gemma’s eyes blinked open.

“Just in case,” Steph whispered. She kissed Gemma’s head.

“I love you,” Gemma whispered.

Steph smiled. “I love you too. I’ll be right back.” Steph went back to Dean, pushing his hair back. He stirred.

“Hi, Sweetheart. How are you feeling?”

“Bad, but my tummy doesn’t hurt anymore.”

“Well that’s good. Do you want to try some toast?”

Dean shook his head no. “Where’s Gemma?”

“She’s sick with your stomach bug. She’s not feeling good either.”

“She’s still here?”

Steph smiled. “She is, but she might be contagious so I think you two should stay separated. I’m going to make some toast. You don’t have to eat it, but it's just in case you want to and I’ll get you some water, okay?”

Dean nodded, going back to sleep. Steph kissed his head and then retreated downstairs. She grabbed the thermometer and got out her breakfast tray. She filled two cups with juice and water for Dean, hoping he would be able to stomach it. She poured a glass of water for Gemma when Joan walked in.

“Hello, Mum.”

“How’s Dean?”

“Gemma says he has the flu and now she’s upstairs with some stomach bug he had yesterday, but he seems like his stomach is more settled this morning so hopefully she’ll be back to normal by the end of the day.”

“I thought you two had-“

“Me too, but she was the only one I could call yesterday to get him. She picked him up, took him to her apartment and then we headed over here around nine. We discussed the issues and agreed to do better in the future.”

Joan nodded and sighed. “Well I’m glad you managed to figure it out.”

“Are you?”

“As glad as I can be,” Joan respondes.

“Better than nothing.” The toast popped out of the toaster and Steph put it on the plate. “I won’t need you to take him to school today and I’ll have to call the girls so they know not to expect me. I’ll work from home and then I guess I should call the clinic for Gemma.”

“I can take care of them if you need to go.”

“It’s alright. I have sick days and family days for this reason.”

“I told you Dean would get sick if he stayed with you last week.”

“I wasn’t physically sick. I just- doesn’t matter. We’re good now. Dean got sick at school probably and Gemma definitely got it from Dean. Besides Christmas is in a couple weeks and we get the week off for that. Holiday pay and all. Even though we’ll have a couple parties surprisingly on Christmas Eve, but we’ve had several women offer to cover those.”

“I just want to make sure you’re getting paid.”

Steph smiled. “I am and I can work from home. Actually, do you think you could go to the office for me in a little bit to grab a few things so I can work from home the rest of the week?”

“Sure.”

“Thanks, Mum. I’m going to go check on them and then I’ll pop back down to call Nita. Be right back. There’s tea if you want some.”

Steph carried the tray upstairs, stopping at Dean’s room first, but he wasn’t in his bed. “Dean?” Steph called out. She put the tray on the floor, looking under his bed. She thought the bathroom and checked, but he wasn’t there either. She sighed, walking into her room. She stopped dead in her tracks and smiled. She should have known.

Dean was curled up in Gemma’s arms, both sound asleep. The sheets had been pushed to their feet and the comforter was off the bed. Steph pulled the sheet over them, but left the comforter where it was. She placed Dean’s liquids on his side and walked around, putting a glass of water of Gemma’s side. Steph rubbed Gemma’s arm and kissed her head. She felt Gemma reach for her sleeve.

“There’s water here, for you, Love. Toast too if you feel like you can eat it.”

“Thank you,” Gemma whispered.

“You’re welcome.” Steph went to leave when Gemma tugged on her sleeve.

“Aren’t you going to stay?”

Steph smiled. “I’m going to go call the girls to let them know I’ve got a sick family at home to take care of and then I’m going to call the clinic so they know not to expect you.”

“I’ll call the clinic,” Gemma mumbled trying to sit up. She immediately felt dizzy and laid her head back against the pillow. “Oh no. You can call.”

Steph smirked and kissed Gemma’s head. “You’re warm too, Love.”

“Can you take my temperature?” Steph took it off the tray. “There’s a plastic thing,” she paused and took a deep breath. “It’s in my bag so Dean and I won’t share germs or anything.”

“Already on there, Love.” She placed it in Gemma’s ear and waited for it to beep. Gemma didn’t move and her eyes remained closed. Steph looked at it and frowned.

“37.7, Gem. That’s not good.”

“But to be expected.”

“Well, Dean’s stomach doesn’t seem to be bothering him so whatever this is, you should feel better by tomorrow.” Steph rubbed Gemma’s arm a few times. “Get some rest.”

“Cough syrup.”

What?”

“Dean needs his cough syrup unless he already had it. He has been coughing and it will help clear his congestion.”

“I’ll get it. You tell me not to worry so now I’m going to do the same. I’ve dealt with Dean being ill before so you don’t need to worry.” Steph kissed her head. “I’m working from home today. Mum’s here so you might see her. Alright?”

Gemma nodded. “Thanks for taking care of me.”

“I always will, Love.” Gemma patted her hand. “I’ll be right back. Do you want me to move Dean back to his room?”

“No, Mummy,” he muttered. “I want to stay with Gemma.”

He rolled over, practically laying on top of her.

“Gem?”

“He’s fine. He just needs medicine.”

“Okay. Give me a few minutes. I’ll call work and the clinic and then be back.”

Steph left the room. “Dean, as much as I would love to hold you, I am very nauseous and do not want to get sick on you so I’m going to need a little space, Kid.”

Dean rolled off, but laid close to her side.

“I don’t feel good.”

“I know, Love. I don’t either, but that’s why we’ve got to rest.”

“I didn’t know doctors got sick,” he sniffled.

“Of course we do, but we’re in good hands with your mum.” Gemma took his hand and held it, closing her eyes. They both kicked the sheet down to Gemma’s feet.

“I missed you,” Dean whispered, lying on his side.

Gemma smiled. “I missed you too, Dean.”

----------------------------------------------

Steph sat on hold at the clinic while Joan made them both breakfast. The line finally clicked.

“Hi, Sarah. It’s Stephanie Kirke. I’m calling on behalf of Gemma.”

“Dr. Foster?”

“Yes. I believe she left in a rush yesterday to pick up Dean from school. Well she’s caught whatever he has.”

“Please don’t tell me it’s the flu!”

“No, no. I think it’s just a twenty-four hour stomach bug, but she won’t be in today and probably not tomorrow either.”

“So a nice four day weekend for Doctor Foster,” Sarah sighed.

“Well it’s not like she planned this.”

“I know. We’re just swamped and down two doctors now, but I’ll let the staff know.”

“Thanks, Sarah.” Steph hung up the phone. “Well they certainly weren’t too happy about that.”

“I don’t know why they would be. I’ve heard there’s a nasty flu going around.”

Steph pointed up stairs. “You mean what my son has.”

“Yes.” Joan paused. “Have you heard from Terry?”

“The last I heard was last Friday and he wasn’t ready to see Dean.”

“How’s Dean taking it?” Joan asked, placing breakfast in front of Steph.

“He’s upset, but at the same time, perhaps a little relieved. He’s still angry with him, but I know he misses him. I don’t know what else to do.”

“You could tell Dean yourself.”

Steph shook her head. “I won’t do that. Terry should be the one to tell him. I don’t want to put him against his dad.”

Joan sighed. “I don’t know why you put up with that man.”

Steph smiled. “Says the woman who said I wasn’t the first person to be cheated on and I needed to get that man back in my house.”

Joan wasn’t pleased with Steph’s snarkiness and shrugged. “Even old people like me can learn.”

Steph laughed. After breakfast, Joan headed to Steph’s office while she called Nita.

“Hello, hello.”

“Hi, Nita.”

“Morning, Boss.”

“You know I hate that nickname.”

“Yeah, but you know you are my boss.”

“Yes, but I view us all as equals.”

“View us however you like. Still the boss.”

Steph rolled her eyes. “I’m calling you,” she could hear Nita laughing, “because my little Dean has the flu and now the woman I’m in love with has a stomach bug that she got from Dean yesterday.”

“Told you that would work.”

“What?”

“You two needed to talk. Dean was sick. You had the meeting. Your mum couldn’t get him. I told you Gemma was the best answer.”

“Yes she was.”

“And did you talk?”

“I mean she’s here, in my house so I feel like that pretty much answers that.”

“Did she miss you?”

“Yeah, she did and we apologized and agreed to be more communicative in these situations so we don’t go through this again.”

“So all is well again for Stephanie Kirke?”

“You sound like you don’t want it to be.”

“No, I do. I think you’re going to marry that woman so I’m glad it wasn’t thrown away over something so small.”

“Marriage is a bit down the line.”

“Say whatever you want, Darling. It’s going to happen.”

“She told me she loves me.”

“Aww,” Steph could feel Nita’s grin, “Look at that. Love blossoming in winter.”

“Are you making fun of me?”

“No, I’m not. I’m proud of you for facing your fear of being scared to talk to her. It’s almost like Dean got sick to bring you two back together.”

“Yeah, well, like I said he has the flu so make sure your kids are washing their hands. I think he got it at school. Don’t want the baby to get it.”

“No, I don’t, but bound to happen.”

“Well look, my mum is on the way over to get a few things for me so I can work from home.”

“Is it the stack of paperwork on your desk?”

“Exactly.”

“Yeah I’ll give it to her.”

“Thanks.”

“I hope you don’t get sick.”

Steph smiled thinking about how Gemma told her to wash her hands. “I think I’ll be okay. Call if there are any questions or issues and I’ll hopefully see you Monday. I think I’ll probably be out tomorrow too.”

“I’ll let Dawn and Hellie know. It’s good to hear you back to your old self.”

“Thanks, Nita. For everything.”

“Anytime, Love. I’ll check in later.”

“Bye, Nit.”

The day went by with Steph furiously working downstairs, periodically checking in on the two upstairs. She made sure Dean got his cough syrup as instructed and let him stay with Gemma for a little bit before taking him back to his room. She wanted Gemma to be able to sleep peacefully. She continuously talked to the girls in the office throughout the day. They were all quite pleased to hear that she and Gemma were back together and mocked her about being in love. It was all in good fun and made Steph laugh. Joan popped in again to make lunch and tidy the house a bit for Steph. She was very grateful, but enjoyed her time alone.

Around seven, Steph heard the stairs creak and a very sleepy Gemma walked into the living room.

“What are you doing out of bed?” Steph asked.

Gemma shrugged, laying down on the couch and putting her head of Steph’s lap. “I’m feeling a little better. I actually have a small appetite, but I was lonely up there. I wanted to be as close to you as possible.”

Steph smiled. “Do you want me to make you some toast? Or soup?”

“Not yet,” Gemma whispered.

Steph scratched and played with Gemma’s hair, which soothed her for the time being. “I think someone just wanted me to scratch their hair.”

Gemma brought her knees up to her chest and huddled herself. “It’s comforting.”

“Mmhmm. Are you cold, Love?”

“A bit,” Gemma answered.

Steph grabbed the blanket from the back of the couch and placed it over her. Gemma’s body started to relax as Steph went back to playing with her hair. After some time, Gemma turned her face towards Steph’s stomach. “The other side needs to be scratched.”

Steph chuckled. “Want to move to the other side of the couch too? That way you can see the tellie?”

Gemma shook her head no. “I don’t need to watch television. I’m with you. It’s all I need.”

Steph leaned forward and kissed Gemma’s head. “And how are we feeling?”

“I think I want soup.”

“Soup? I could make you some.” Gemma looked up at her and Steph smiled. “Dean’s stomach thing lasted less than twenty-four hours so I wouldn’t be surprised if you felt better yourself.”

“I’m still a little dizzy, but that could be from the lack of food.”

“Want me to make it?”

Gemma smiled and nodded. “Yes, please.” Gemma sat up so Steph could move. She managed to sit up completely with only a little unbalanced. Neither one was expecting Dean to come down the stairs, causing Gemma to jump when he sat next to her on the couch.

“Dean!”

“I don’t feel good.”

Gemma pouted. “I know, Love. Get under this blanket with me.”

“Dean, Love. I’m making some soup. Do you want any?”

He shook his head no as she settled against Gemma. He rested on his knees, laying his head on Gemma’s shoulder. She rubbed his back and kissed his cheek. “You’ll be alright, Love. It’s going to take some time to get the flu out of your system, but in a week’s time, you’ll hopefully be feeling better. Have you taken his temperature? He’s still really warm.” Gemma asked Steph.

“It was the same a few hours ago.” Steph glanced over to see Gemma holding Dean to her. Gemma’s eyes were closed and Dean’s nose was snug against her neck. She had missed seeing this. Gemma’s mother nature and how much Dean loved being with her. He loved hugging her, but she thinks the reason is the same for him as it was for her: he feels safe in Gemma’s arms. He feels protected.

“Well we might have to try and break your fever, Love,” Gemma whispered.

“How do we do that?”

“Well you’d have to sweat it out. We’d wrap you in blankets so you would be really hot, but it will cool you down a little eventually.”

“I don’t want to do that.”

Gemma smiled and scratched his head. “I know, Love, but we might have to if it doesn’t start going down.”

Steph brought over a small cup of water and juice for Dean. Gemma handed him the water first. He took small sips until he finished it, Steph coming over with her soup. She placed it on the coffee table and got more water for Dean. After the third cup of water, he fell asleep in Gemma’s arms as Gemma, after eating half a bowl of soup, fell asleep with her head on Steph’s shoulder. The television illuminated the space, but the house was peaceful and calm as Steph’s eyes began to close, her head resting on top of Gemma’s.

----------------------------------------------

A few weeks have passed and everyone was back to their old selves. Gemma’s illness was gone by the afternoon of the next day, managing to keep the soup down. Dean took about a week and a half, but everyday a little better and better. He was now sitting at the table with a green and red crayon, in his Christmas sweater, while Steph busied herself in the kitchen.

“What are you going to write, Love?” Steph asked, checking the steak on the stove.

“I don’t know yet.”

“Well what do you want?”

He shrugged. The doorbell rang and both of their faces lit up. “Can I answer it?”

“‘Course you can. You know who it is.”

Dean jumped out of his chair and ran to the door, opening quickly. Gemma had already kneeled down, waiting for him as he hugged her. “Hi, Gemma.”

“Hey, Kid. Good day?”

Dean nodded as they walked in together. Dean skipped to the kitchen and Gemma grabbed her surprise that she had put out of site from him. Gemma placed it on the little table, slipped out of her coat, dropping her bag to the floor. She kicked off her shoes and untucked her skit, allowing it to rest on top of her long, navy skirt. “Smells delicious in here,” she commented, walking into the kitchen. Steph smiled. “What are you making?”

“It’s a surprise.”

“A surprise? For me?” Steph nodded. “Well what is it?”

“You’ll see.”

“Can I at least get a kiss?”

Steph nodded, coving the pan. They embraced one another before kissing. Gemma cupped Steph’s face before separating remembering the small child near them. “How was work?” Steph asked.

“Good. Busy as always, but good,” Gemma answered, going to the sink to wash her hands. “Yours?”

“Yeah, same, but oddly enough a lot of Christmas orders coming in.”

“Hm. Is there any particular reason?”

“People like to give their friends silly items for the holidays or someone wants to surprise someone, perhaps.”

Gemma thought back to all the lingerie she had been seeing Steph in recently. Black lace, red silk, blue cotton. She shivered.

“Mum, can I ask her?” Dean started bouncing with excitement.

“Ask me what?”

“Why don’t you give Gemma a few moments to relax, Tigger. She just got here.”

Gemma turned the water off and grabbed a towel to dry her hands. “Ask me what?” She repeated.

Dean was biting his lip and he looked to Steph. She nodded. “Go ahead. I’ll think you’ll combust if you don’t.”

“Gemma?”

“Yes, Love.”

“Do you want to help us decorate our Christmas tree tonight?” His voice was small because he was nervous of the answer. He still hadn’t grasped the concept that on the nights Gemma came over, she was staying there for the night.

Gemma pretended to think about it for a moment and noticed the artificial tree was already standing bare in the living room. Both Dean and Steph were in Christmas sweaters and she smiled. “Explains the sweaters,” she mumbled.

“Exactly,” Steph answered.

Gemma looked down at Dean and smiled. “Of course I want to help.” Steph had talked to Dean about jumping onto Gemma, which is why he was usually greeted with her already on bended knee, but they could both see the excitement was killing him. “Well, come on!” Gemma waved. Gemma picked him up, groaning and turned them a couple of times, both laughing.

“Mum, she’ll help us!”

“I know, Love. I heard her. We’ll do it after dinner, okay?”

Gemma sat down with Dean on her lap. “Now, what do we have here?”

“It’s my letter to Santa.”

“Well what are you going to ask for?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well here’s a good way to start. If you could have anything in the world, what would you want?”

Dean thought for a minute and then pet Jim, who was sitting on the table. “A puppy!”

“Santa makes toys, Love, not puppies,” Steph persuaded.

Gemma looked at her and she shook her head slightly. “What else?”

Dean thought again. “A bike.”

“You want a bike for Christmas?” Gemma asked.

“Yeah. Some people at school have them and I don’t know how to ride yet, but I want to learn.”

“Then I think you know what to write for Santa.”

“But like I say every year,” Steph imputed, “you should ask for a couple things.”

“I know,” Dean answered, starting to write his letter with Gemma’s help. It had been some time since she had been around a child who believed in Santa. She enjoyed watching his excitement and enthusiasm as she helped him sound out words.

“Are you hungry, Love?” Steph asked.

Both Dean and Gemma answered. They looked at one another and laughed. “Why do you call Gemma, ‘Love’?” Dean asked, writing his name.

“Because we love each other and it’s a term of endearment,” Steph stated.

“What does that mean?”

“It’s like a nickname. Like how I call you ‘Tigger’ and ‘Sweetheart’. Can you sit on your own chair, please, so Gemma can eat?”

Dean hopped off her lap, moving to the place he usually sat for dinner. Steph grabbed two plates and set them down in front of Dean and then Gemma. Gemma looked down and smiled. “Steak salad.”

“Yeah. It’s been two months so I thought why not.”

“There’s a little gift for you the hallway.”

“What?” Steph said, walking towards it. Gemma got up and followed behind her. Steph stopped when she saw the bouquet of Christmas roses with elephant ears and heather. She touched each flower delicately, marveled by the gift.

“Flowers made for winter and to bear the cold season,” Gemma stated, wrapping her arms around her torso and resting her chin on Steph’s shoulder.

“They’re beautiful.”

“Do you like them?”

“I love them.” Steph turned her head. Gemma kissed her cheek before they shared a loving kiss, Steph’s hand snaking into Gemma’s hair. Steph turned so they were facing each other, their lips meeting again as they smiled.

“What did you get, Mum?” Dean asked, poking his head out.

“Gem got me these flowers. Aren’t they beautiful?”

Dean nodded, hugging both of them. Gemma reached down and rubbed Dean’s back as they smiled at one another. They kissed one more time.

“Thank you,” Steph whispered.

“Of course. Shall we eat? You hungry, Dean?”

“Yes,” he answered, letting go. He led the way as Steph and Gemma walked with their arms around one another to the table. They talked about Dean’s apparently uneventful day at school throughout dinner.

Dean ate quickly, waiting for Gemma and Steph to finish. “Mummy, can I start?”

“Dean, you need to wait until Gemma and I are done eating and then we will get started. Why don’t you go to the stereo and see if you can find a station that’s playing Christmas music.”

“Okay!”

Gemma smiled. “It’s nice to see a child so excited for Christmas.”

“Yeah. I don’t know who he got that from. Terry and I would put up a tree, but we never got that excited. Maybe it’s the Santa aspect.”

“Definitely is. I remember how excited Tom got every year when he believed in Santa. It makes this time very special.”

“Well he’s six so I’ve only got probably one or two years left of this. I’m always worried some kid at school is going to say it.”

“So what you say is just because he or she doesn’t believe in Mr. Cluas doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. I bought another year of Tom believing from saying that.”

Dean was shuffling through stations. “Yeah. Terry dressed as Santa one year. It was actually quite cute. Big white beard and everything.”

Gemma finished her food and took a sip of water. “Speaking of Terry, any word?”

Steph shook her head no. She put her fork down. “I’m going to have to call him. I know it’s starting to bother Dean and I just want everything out in the open.”

“Yeah. It’s not good for either of them.”

“It’s really not. I think that’s why he clings to you so much.”

“I fill the void?”

“Well yes, but I’m assuming you love him and I know he loves you so he wants to be with you to not feel so lonely.”

“I do love him and care about him.”

“Have you told him that?”

“No. Should I?”

Steph shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Christmas music filled the space. “I found one!”

“Someone is ready!” Steph exclaimed.

Dead nodded, dancing around the living room. Steph laughed. Gemma noticed she was tired, but felt her own smile from watching the way Steph glowed when she watched her son do anything. It was so evident of how much she loved Dean that Gemma wonders if she ever looked at Tom that way.

“Let us wash these dishes, then we will be good to go.”

“If I help, will it go faster?” Dean questioned, walking up to them.

“It could.”

They all washed the dishes together and were finally ready to decorate the tree. Gemma and Steph shared a glass of wine each, while Dean danced around to the music.

“So what’s first?” Gemma asked.

Steph handed out a small red bag. “First, this. It's tradition in our home and you can’t decorate without it.”

Gemma pulled out a burgundy and green sweater. She grinned. “I’ll be right back.” She stepped out of the room and quickly changed into it, returning shortly after.

“Dean wanted me to do it,” Steph whispered, kissing Gemma’s cheek. “Thanks for putting it on.”

“I actually like it.”

 

“That’s because I picked it out. Now,” Steph handed her the strings of lights. “It’s my least favorite thing to do so here you go.”

“And what if I said I didn’t like it.”

Steph pecked Gemma’s lips. “Good luck!”

Gemma pinched Steph’s side, tickling her. She gasped and swatted Gemma’s hand, laughing all the same. Gemma worked through the tree, stringing the lights as best she could all the way to the top. Steph rummaged through a few boxes looking for Dean’s favorite ornament. It was his baby ornament and it’s what he always wanted to hang up first. Gemma finished the lights, pulling her skirt out of the tree where it got stuck. She plugged them in and she watched as Dean’s eyes shined with delight.

“Here you are, Dean. Find a good spot,” Steph said, knowing he’d put it in the same place.

They let Dean take care of the bottom of the tree while Gemma did the top, picking him up so he could put some up top too. Steph went around filling in the holes here and there as Christmas music still filtered through the room.

“Mum?”

“Yes, Love.”

“Can I put the star on the tree?”

“Well I was going to have Gemma do it because she’s the tallest-“ Dean frowned, “but-“

“Come here, Love,” Gemma said, looking at Dean. “I’ll pick you up so you can put it on.”

“Really?”

“Of course.”

Steph handed Dean the star and he carried it as if he had just found buried treasure. Gemma picked him up and held him out. It took a couple of tries, both women encouraging him, but he eventually got it. They cheered him, Gemma lifting him higher only for him to laugh as he came down. She carried him to the couch and he soon sat on his own, leaning against her. Steph turned off the lights so the tree glowed, sitting next to them. She took Gemma’s hand, placing it on her thigh and playing with her fingers.

“It’s beautiful,” Dean stated.

Steph smiled. “It is.”

Gemma looked at Steph in the stillness of the room. Her face lit by the multicolored and white lights. Her teeth were showing as she took it all in. Steph looked at her and bit her lip, meeting Gemma halfway in a small peck, cuddling closer to her.

“Gemma?”

“Yes, Dean.”

“What are you doing on Christmas?”

“Yeah,” Steph agreed. “What are your Christmas plans?”

“I figured I’d be at work.”

“What?!” Steph asked.

“Well I figured you two would have family obligations going on and since it’s just me, I figured working was the best option.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“No.”

“Gemma, you have to be here for Christmas!” Dean insisted. “Mum, can’t she be here for Christmas?”

“Of course she can.”

“You’re sure?”

Steph smiled. “You’re our family now.” Gemma gazed at her, her eyes watering. “No more being alone. Not when you’re with me. Okay?” Gemma nodded, feeling a tear fall down her left cheek. Steph wiped it away and kissed her cheek. “I love you,” she whispered.

“I love you too.”

“And I love you too,” Dean said, crawling on top of Gemma.

“I love you too, Kid.” She kissed the side of his head. “So what do you do for Christmas?”

Dean shrugged. “Open presents.”

Steph laughed. “Yes, we open presents and then my mum will come for Christmas dinner. Christmas Eve, we’ll be attending a party at Pauline’s house. Everyone is invited. We just have to bring something. We’ll put out all the presents on Christmas Eve, after the party and then yeah we’ll wake up, open presents and just be a family.”

“Sounds good.”

“Does that scare you? Being with us on Christmas?”

“No. I’m actually quite happy to not be alone for this one.”

“Good because we want you here.” Steph squeezed Gemma’s hand. “Alright, Dean. It’s getting close to bedtime.”

“No! Can’t I stay up and look at the tree?”

“You’ll see it for the next couple of weeks, Love.”

“But it’s the first night.”

“Sorry, Sweetheart. You’ve got school in the morning. You need a bath and a good night’s sleep.”

“Gemma,” he whined.

“What?” Gemma smirked. “There’s nothing I can do. Mum says off to bed so off you pop.”

Dean sighed. “Tell Gemma good night,” Steph said, standing up and holding her hand out to him.

“Good night,” he said, grumpily.

“Is that it? Do I not get a hug or even a smile?” Gemma pouted out her bottom lip and Dean managed to soften. He wrapped his arms around Gemma’s neck. She rubbed his back and kissed his cheek. “Good night, Love. See you in the morning.”

“Are you taking me to school?” He asked, suddenly seemed in better spirits.

“I am.”

“Yay!!”

“Yes, it’s all very exciting, but time for bed.”

“Are you going to read me a story, Gemma?”

“I can. Once you bathe. You’re all stinky,” she joked.

“Am not!”

“Well your mum thinks so. That’s why you have to take a bath.”

“And not a long one either, please. I’m very tired.”

Dean hugged Gemma one more time before taking Steph’s hand. “I’ll call when he’s ready.”

“Yeah, sounds good. Might get ready for bed myself while he takes a bath.”

Gemma made sure the doors were locked and the lights were off as they headed upstairs together. Dean went straight to bathroom, Steph not far behind him to help with the water and what not. Gemma went into the bedroom with her bag and sat on the edge of the bed. Steph joined her a few moments later, taking the sweater off. Steph watched as she unzipped her skirt and let it fall to her ankles. She stood in between Steph’s legs, only in her underwear. Steph licked her lips.

“Can you keep reading a little longer after he falls asleep?” She asked, running her hands up Gemma’s legs.

“Sure. Why?”

“I see something that I want, but I just need a little bit of time.”

Gemma held the back of Steph’s head so they were looking at one another. Steph’s hands now grabbed Gemma’s bottom and they fell against the mattress. They looked at each other before passionately kissing, hands touching everything they could.

“Wait, he’s not in bed yet.”

Gemma bit Steph’s earlobe. “But I want you now.”

Steph pushed Gemma up to stop her. “After story time and he’ll want you to read a Christmas one. They’re already in his room.”

“I seriously have to wait.”

“Yes! There is a small child still very awake out there and you now he’ll run in here when he’s done so might want to get dressed, but if you wouldn’t mind putting your skirt back on.”

“Why?”

“That was one of the sexiest things I’ve seen you do.”

“You like that?”

“I like watching you undress. Your muscles, the redness of your skin, the look on your face, knowing you’re getting turned on by me watching you.”

“I’m sorry are we not having sex now?”

Steph smiled and rolled her eyes. “Soon.”Steph continued to sit up, pushing Gemma off of her.

“Evil,” Gemma whispered.

“Maybe, but how grateful you’ll be in a little bit.”

“What does that mean?”

Steph bit her lip and shrugged. “Guess you should go read to Dean to find out. Until then,” Steph dragged Gemma back to her skirt and helped her redress.

“You seriously want to see that again?”

“Oh yes. Very much so!” Gemma brought her fingers to her mouth to hide her grin. Steph kissed her cheek. “Don’t you have some reading to do?”

Gemma slipped on a jumper. Steph closed the door behind Gemma and she turned to a freshly clean Dean waiting for her on his bed.

“I thought you were changing,” he questioned.

“I was, but I got distracted. What are we reading tonight?”

Dean held up “Rudolph” and Gemma smiled, joining him on his on small bed. She let him settle before opening the book. She was just about to start reading when Dean asked a question.

“Did you ever read to your son?”

“Yeah, sometimes, when he was your age.”

“Do you miss it?”

“I did, but he grew out of this phase a long time ago.”

“Will I?”

“Yeah probably, but you’re learning to read so soon you’ll want to do it on your own.”

“I don’t know. I like when you read to me.”

“Well then, shall we get started?” Dean nodded, ready for bed.

Gemma read the entire book to make sure Dean had completely fallen asleep. She slid out of the bed and closed the door behind her. She waited outside Steph’s room and decided knocking might be the way to go. She could hear Steph behind the door, fumbling about and smiled at how cute she was. She stood and waited. Steph was on the other side of the door.

“I’m not sure how I feel about this,” Steph stated.

“About what? Open the door.”

“Hold on.”

“Steph, what’s happening?” Gemma turned the knob and opened it. She stepped in to see Steph’s back to her. She liked what she saw so far. Steph’s shoulders were bare, back covered in a corset, followed by black fishnets, red, little shorts that hugged her hips perfectly and red heels. Gemma walked up behind her. “I like what I see so I don’t know what’s wrong-”

Steph’s breasts were out over the bust and Gemma’s words caught in her throat. Steph turned around, red in her cheeks.

“I didn’t think it would look like this. Probably should have tried it on before, but yeah, I’m going to take it off.”

“What?” Gemma asked. “Why? Why would you take it off?”

“You like this?”

“You put my favorite part of your body out in the open and hid the rest and I don’t think I’ve ever been more aroused, so-” Gemma stood up, taking her sweater off. “I think you should take the rest of that stuff off, but leave that corset number on.”

“This turns you on?”

“Yes.”

Steph slowly kicked off her shoes, pulling down to stockings and underwear while Gemma watched, her breath becoming ragged. Steph scooted back so she was at the head of the bed, legs parted, waiting for Gemma to take her. Their eyes never broke contact as Gemma unzipped her skirt, letting it fall to the floor. She stood at the end of the bed and crawled as slowly as she could up to Steph, stopping by Steph’s feet. She sat back on her knees and reached around to unhook her bra. Steph stared at her becoming more and more aroused. Gemma slowly kissed up Steph’s leg, which she spread wider and wider. Gemma swiped through her folds with a broad tongue, Steph’s hip jolting from the mattress, but to her dismay, Gemma kept kissing upwards until she settled with Steph’s nipple in her mouth. She cupped her breasts while she ravished both of them, unable to control her own excitement.

Steph moaned, pulling Gemma up as they met in a heated kiss. Gemma’s thigh fell between Steph’s leg, causing her to moan as she canted her center against it. Gemma followed, feeling how wet Steph was. She kissed down Steph’s body again, nipping skin here and there.

“Take it off!” Steph groaned.

“But your tits,” Gemma complained.

“They’ll still be there if you take the basque off.”

“But they’re on display.”

“Gemma, I will close my legs and this will be over if you don’t get this thing off of me.”

Gemma quickly pulled Steph up. She slowly zipped it down, letting her fingers graze down Steph’s back. Goosebumps arose on Steph’s arms. Once it was finally off, Gemma sighed, she kissed Steph’s belly button and continued her journey. Steph placed her foot against Gemma’s lower back while the other spread as wide as she could, wanting to feel Gemma everywhere. Gemma reached up and cupped Steph’s breast, her other hand rubbing Steph’s inner thigh.

Gemma kissed Steph’s pubic mound, soaking in Steph’s scent that she enjoyed so much. “I love you,” she whispered.

Steph was about to reply, but her words were cut off as Gemma explored with her tongue. She tasted everything she could, teasing her. Steph grabbed the hand that was on her breast, following Gemma’s hand as it squeezed again. Gemma entered her with her tongue and smiled at the strangled cry from Steph’s mouth. She rode Gemma’s tongue as best she could, soon turning into fingers. Gemma finally felt Steph’s hand on her hair, tugging it roughly. She was louder tonight and neither seemed to pay too much attention. Gemma finally circled Steph’s core, her fingers pumping in and out of her. She loved watching Steph from this angle. Her mouth was always open if she wasn’t biting her lip, suppressing her moans.

Steph looked down and they made eye contact. “I’m so close, Gem! Don’t stop!”

Gemma moaned, her tongue lapping up everything she could that was purely Steph. She sucked her center into her mouth and felt Steph’s grip on her hair and the foot on her lower back tightened. Steph grunted again, grinding her hips. Gemma felt her body start to twitch. Whispers of “I’m coming” filled the room before a final wave of ecstasy pushed through her body, causing her to orgasm with a loud moan. She panted as Gemma worked her down. She left her fingers inside as long as she could, placing small kisses up her body. Steph met in a passionate kiss, wanting to taste everything she had to offer. Gemma slowly pulled her fingers out and Steph gasped at the loss.

“You got a little loud there,” Gemma stated, kissing her neck.

“I know. It’s why I miss Terry?”

Gemma stopped. “What?”

“No, I miss Terry not being a coward and taking Dean so we can be alone. I miss experiencing that weekend.”

Gemma smiled. “Me too.”

Steph crawled on top of Gemma, straddling her hips. “What do you want me to do you?”

Gemma licked her lips. She started intently at Steph as her hands rubbed up Steph’s legs. She pushed up, kissing Steph before pushing her back and getting up and off the bed. Steph watched as Gemma straightened her hair and fixed her smeared lipstick in the mirror. She pulled down her underwear, discarding it to the side. She spread her legs and lowered herself down to her forearms. She made eye contact with Steph in the mirror.

“Fuck me.” Her voice was harsh and deep.

Steph had never been more turned on more in her life than she was sitting there, watching Gemma want her like that. She strutted behind her, kissing down her back, her hands on her hips. Gemma pushes back into her, both breathing heavily. Steph ran her hand up Gemma’s inner thighs. Gemma bit her tongue and melted when she felt Steph thrusting inside of her. Steph used as much muscle as she could.

“Harder,” Gemma grunted.

“You sure?”

Gemma nodded. Steph paused, adding a third finger to the mix. Gemma groaned, but accepted it, wanting it, moving her whole body with Steph. Steph watched her hand, seeing and feeling how wet Gemma was, only made her want more of her. She bit Gemma’s shoulder.

“Come here,” Steph whispered. She pulled Gemma to the bed and had her sit. Steph knelt between her legs, just like Gemma had done to her. She didn’t hesitate going straight to Gemma’s center. Gemma moaned at Steph’s warm mouth. She grabbed her hair, scooting closer to the edge of the mattress. Steph loved when Gemma grabbed her hair. She penetrated Gemma with the same amount of fingers, making eye contact with Gemma who was staring at her. Her eyes barely open and her plump bottom lip between her teeth.

Steph reached between her own legs with her free hand, deciding to really practice her multitasking. She thrust into herself while penetrating Gemma. Steph was close and she knew it. She was begging her body come with Gemma, but was worried it would happen.

“Are you touching yourself?” Gemma whispered with a gasp. She always thought watching Steph getting herself off was the sexiest thing.

Steph nodded, groaning at a particular flick of her finger.

“Come here.” Gemma pulled her up and told her to turn around.

“What?”

“Let’s pleasure each other at the same with our mouths so turn around.”

Steph did as she was told, but still didn’t fully understand until she felt Gemma’s tongue again. She moaned and went back to work on her. They worked together with words, swears, tongues and mouths. Gemma came first, but Steph wasn’t too for behind, coming within seconds.

“Of fuck,” Gemma panted.

Steph got up to face Gemma again. “I’m all over your face.”

Gemma smirked. “I don’t mind at all.”

Steph laughed. She ran her hands back up Gemma’s legs and touched her as she licked her come from Gemma’s chin. Gemma bucked her hips uncontrollably, feeling Steph’s tongue and then it entered her mouth. She lavished Steph’s tongue, tasting as much of her as she could as she came a second time.

“Fuck,” Gemma whispered. Steph giggled, snuggling up Gemma as she laid flat on her back. “I can’t move.”

“That good, huh?”

Gemma nodded. “We were too loud tonight.”

“I know, but when I fuck you, I want to be able to here it. I want the whole package, not half.”

Gemma smiled. “Me either.”

Steph got up and moved to put her head on a pillow and Gemma soon followed. She felt something crinkle under her. She reached around and pulled out a red piece of paper. “What is this?” She asked Steph.

“Oh right. Dean wanted me to ask you because he got too embarrassed.”

“Ask me what?”

“They’re doing a Christmas program at his school and he wants you to come. It’s next week and-“

“I’ll be there.”

“You sure?”

“Of course. If Dean wants me there, I’ll be there.”

Steph leaned over her and kissed her. “I love you, Gem.”

Gemma smirked. “I love you too.

----------------------------------------------

Steph sat next to Nita, constantly looking over her shoulder to check the door. Terry was a few rows back, beaming like the proud father he was. The show was starting in less than ten minutes and she hadn’t heard from Gemma, worried she got stuck at the clinic.

“You’re gonna hurt your neck if you keep doing that,” Nita commented.

“I know, but Dean is so excited that she’s coming.”

“More than Terry?”

“Yes. Gemma has been more of a parent recently and keeps him in good spirits.”

“She’ll be here then.”

Steph squeezed Nita’s hand. “You’re always there for me.”

Gemma finally walked in. Her coat was over her arm. She had on a black turtleneck, her hair curled at the bottom and gray trousers.

“How does she always look so stunning?” Nita asked.

“I don’t know,” Steph smiled, putting her arm up. Gemma saw her and smiled.

Terry noticed Steph’s arm in the air and looked back to see Gemma walking up to her. He was growing tired of seeing her face around his ex wife so often and he couldn’t figure out why she was even there. This was a Christmas show for the children’s parents. He watched as she sat down, talking to Steph and greeting Nita. He rolled his eyes with what looked like a kiss on the cheek as she hugged Steph.

“Hi, Love,” Gemma said, excusing herself past a couple of people who were already sitting, thanking them for making room for her. She leaned down. “Can I kiss you or should I not?”

Steph smiled. “Yeah.”

Gemma leaned down, her hair shading from the room, pecking her lips. She got comfortable in her seat, crossing her leg and wrapping her arm around Steph’s shoulder. “Nita, how you doing?”

“Great, thanks. Gemma, this is my husband, Kieron. Kieron, this is Doctor Foster.”

“How ya doin’? Ready for this?”

“To see Dean perform, absolutely.”

“He’s going to be so excited when he sees you,” Steph said, patting Gemma’s thigh, taking her hand.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it. Had a client, I couldn’t get rid of. I raced over here so I’m glad it worked out.”

“Me too. Also, it was decided late last night, but Terry is here. He’s going to do his Christmas with Dean tonight.”

“Oh-.”

“Yeah so I didn’t want him to do it in a cafe or hotel or something, so he’ll come to the house, but I figured you and I could go get dinner somewhere together.”

“Yeah. Sounds good.” Gemma was surprised by this news, but it wasn’t her place to say anything. “Have they actually spoken?”

“No so this could be bad and really awkward, but Terry insisted.”

Piano music started and the curtain came up. They smiled at one another before the show started, lights dimming. It was mostly every grade singing a Christmas song. Terry watched as Dean came on to the stage. Gemma and Steph were closer and he waved excitedly to them, but Terry noticed how he smiled at Gemma. He crossed his arms over his chest like a jealous child. Dean’s song was “Frosty the Snowman”. The kids did the best they could with singing and dancing. Gemma smiled through his whole performance. Once the show was over, Dean came running to Steph, who picked him up.

“You did so good, Tigger!”

“Yeah, Kid. Incredible!”

“Did you like my dancing, Gemma?”

“I loved it, Kid. You were excellent.”

“And Dean there is a surprise here for you, I just have to find it. Why don’t you stay here with Gemma, while I go look for it.”

Dean held his arms out and Gemma took him, knowing he was big enough to stand on his own, but she hugged him before letting him go to the floor. He smiled at her. “Are we getting dinner?”

“Eventually, Love, but Mum wants to show you the surprise first.”

“Am I going to like it?”

“I honestly don’t know.”

Steph came through with Terry and Dean took Gemma’s hand. “I don’t like it.”

Terry smiled and knelt down, the room slowly emptying. “Hey, Mate.”

Steph smiled encouragingly. “Surprise, Love. It’s your dad! Come give him a hug.”

He shook his head no, now standing behind Gemma. “Come on, Love. It’s your dad,” Gemma repeated. “You can be mad and say ‘hi’.”

Dean stepped forward and walked towards him. He allowed Terry to hug him, but he barely embraced him back. Steph looked up at Gemma and all she could do was shrug.

“I’ve got Christmas presents for you and I wanted to talk with ya about some stuff. Figured we could go get dinner and chat for a while.”

“Is Mum and Gemma coming?” Dean asked, looking up at Steph.

“Uh, no. It would just be us, Mate. So we could catch up, you know?” Terry tried to sound encouraging, but Steph could tell Dean was not having any of it.

“Dean, come here, Love. I want to talk to you for a minute. Terry, can you wait outside?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Terry gritted his teeth and looked at Gemma. Gemma wasn’t intimidated and understood that it was painful, but had no sympathy for him. She stood with her back straight, and a slight grimace on her face. He left, trying not to look angry as he passed Dean.

Steph waited until the door was closed. “Dean, I know you’re mad at your dad and I understand why, but he’s come all this way to give you Christmas gifts and to talk to you. I think your dad is sad and all he wants to do is make you happy so can you go with him for me?”

“Will you come?”

“No, Love.”

“Gemma?” He looked up towards her and she walked over, squatting down beside him.

“I won’t either, Love. I’ll be with your mum.”

“I don’t want to, Mummy.”

“I know, Love, but he’s still your dad. He wants to give you your Christmas presents and just spend a little time with you. I think you’ll be able to handle it.”

“Do I have to stay the night with him?”

“No, Dean. Gemma and I will be home later, okay?”

“Okay.”

“That’s my good boy. I’m proud of you and you did so good in the show!”

“I did?” Dean smiled.

“You did.”

He looked up at Gemma. “So good, Kid. I’m proud of you too!”

“Okay, Love. Go hug your dad. He’s going to take you home, to our house, and then Gemma and I will be back in an hour or so, okay?”

Dean nodded.

“And just a reminder, he still doesn’t know about your mum and I so if he asks, we’re just friends.”

“I know. You will tell people when you want them to know.”

“Exactly, Sweetheart. Now be the sweet little boy I know and go make your dad feel better.”

They walked out together and Dean hugged Steph and Gemma before walking off with Terry. Terry still confused, looked at both women curiously before leaving the building.

“He knows,” Steph whispered. “I don’t know how, but he does.”

“Well you don’t know that and you’ve told the people you’re closest to, to not talk to him about it, right?”

“Of course. I can’t deal with that at the moment.”

“I think we’re okay and I’m starving. Where do you want to go?”

“You’re going to judge me.”

“How?”

“I am really in the mood for pizza and a beer.”

Gemma laughed. “Yeah, I could do that. I’ll do anything you want, just tell me where to go.” Gemma wrapped her arm around Steph and they shared a brief kiss before going outside. Gemma drove them to a shabby little pizza place that Steph suggested. It looked old and dirty, but Steph swore by it. They sat at a table with a cheap beer, they casually played with each other’s fingers, talking about their day. After Gemma took a bite of pizza she understood why Steph had taken her there. They polished off a couple slices each, having the rest boxed up so they could return home. They enjoyed their little date, but it was quickly dissolved by the time they got home. They had only been gone for an hour and a half as they walked into a house that was a little too quiet for comfort. Gemma and Steph took their coats off, Gemma offering to hang hers as Steph walked into the living room. Terry sat there alone, his leg bobbing up and down.

“Terry? What happened? Where’s Dean?”

Gemma looked up the stairs.

“We had an argument,” he answered.

“Well where is he?”

“He’s upstairs in his room and he won’t come down!” Terry shouted, standing up. Gemma stepped in at the tone of voice, looking concerned. “And what’s she doing here? This is a family matter!”

“Terry, I won’t allow you to stay in my house if you keep screaming like that so either calm down and talk to me rationally or leave,” Steph said, sternly. “I will not let Dean be raised around this type of environment. It’s not safe for him so tell me what happened?

“I told him about Lisa and the baby. We were good. We had fish and chips, I got him a couple trucks and this stuffed animal from the zoo and then I told him about what happened. That I made a baby with Lisa and that’s why he didn’t see Uncle Barry and that’s why she and I are living together. I told him that, that the baby was his sister.”

“He doesn’t view it that way.”

“Well she is!”

“He doesn’t have to be apart of that if he doesn’t want to be.”

“Yes, he does!” Terry shouted standing too close to Steph for Gemma’s comfort. She moved towards Steph’s side.

“No, he doesn’t, Terry! You have to let him think about this and decide for himself. I told you this was not the time to tell him. I told you to keep him happy and cherry. It’s Christmas for Christ’s sake. You know how much he loves this time of year. I told you not to talk about the shit you did! And now you get to leave and act like it didn’t happen-”

“If think that I don’t think about that weekend, you’re insane, Steph. I think about that weekend ALL the time and everything I wish I would have done differently. You don’t even know nor understand the pain I’m going through by not be able to see him! That is my boy, my mate! And now, he won’t even talk to me. He won’t even look at me.”

“Can you blame him, Terry?!”

“No and I hate myself for it.” Terry’s eyes started to water.

Steph sighed. She looked over at Gemma. “Can you go check on Dean, please, while I talk to Terry.”

“Sure.”

“Terry.”

“I hate what I’ve done to this family. I should be here. I should be seeing all this stuff and I’m not. My son hates me and I don’t blame him,” Gemma heard him say as she stepped out.

She kicked off her heels and walked up the stairs. She knocked on Dean’s door, but had no answer. “Dean?” she called out. She heard sniffling coming from Steph’s bedroom and walked in to see him sitting on the chair, his knees to his chest and Jim clutched in his hand. “Hey, Kid.”
Dean looked up at her and started to untangle himself. She picked him up without hesitating and let him cry against her. She could feel herself flashing back to Tom. The way he cried against her outside of the car in that field when he found out what his dad had done. “I know, Love. I know,” she cooed, rubbing his back.

“Is Daddy bad?”

“He’s not bad, Love. He just made a stupid mistake that had huge consequences.”

“He’s the reason Mummy was so sad for so long.”

“He could have been, yes.”

“And he yelled at me.”

“Did he scare you?” Dean nodded, resting his head against Gemma’s chest. He started to sob. Gemma took his glasses off, setting them to the side and continued to comfort the child. “Dean, I promise you this won’t be easy, but you will eventually forgive him, but this kind of stuff takes time, but I’m here and your mum is here. We won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

“He kept saying she’s my sister, but I don't care what he did. She’s not,” he cried.

“No, she’s not. If you don’t want her to be, she won’t be.”

“I want Daddy to go home.”

“He will, Love. Your mum is talking to him right now, but I think you should at least thank him for your gifts and say goodbye before he leaves. He’s still your dad and he loves you very much. He’s not happy about what he did, but like I said, it had consequences. But saying thank you and bye is the right thing to do.” Dean nodded. Gemma wiped his cheeks as best she could, getting tissue from the bathroom so he could blow his nose. “It’ll be okay. He’ll go home soon and then we’ll get you into bed with a good story. Are you tired?”

Dean nodded. Gemma kissed the side of his head.

“Dean?” Steph called. “Can you come downstairs, please?”

Dean got up and looked back at Gemma, who was still sitting. “Go on.”

“Aren’t you coming?”

“It’s a family meeting, Love, so I’m going to stay up here.

“But you are my family.”

“I know, but I think this should be between the three of you. I’ll be down in a little bit, okay?”

“Okay,” he whispered.

Dean went down one step at a time, taking as long as possible. Once he was finally on the landing, Steph gestured towards the living room, kissing his head.

Dean embraced her tightly. “I’m sorry, Sweetheart.” Dean shrugged. “Where’s Gemma?”

“She said she’s going to stay upstairs.”

“Smart.”

They walked into the living room together, Terry sitting on the chair. He had also been crying and Steph finally managed to feel bad for him. He was a good dad and when they were married, he was a good husband, but she just wanted to rekindle Dean and Terry’s relationship. Dean sat next to her on the couch.

“Go sit with your dad, Love.” Dean did, begrudgingly.

“So, Dean, your dad and I have talked and in a couple weeks, you’re going to go stay with him for a weekend again.”

“I don’t want to,” Dean complained.

“I know, but you need to, Love. I think it would be good for you and your dad.”

“But you did a bad thing,” Dean said, stepping off of Terry’s lap.

“I did, Son. I did a horrible thing to our family and I’ll never be able to apologize enough. But I love you so much and I miss you so much and I’m sorry for what I did, but I can’t take it back as much as I wish I could change everything, I can’t.”

“So after Christmas, while you’re still on holiday, you’re going to spend a Saturday here with him in Sheffield and then the following weekend, you’ll go to Birmingham.”

“Will Lisa be there?”

“Yes,” Terry answered, “And the baby, but she’ll be in our room so you get to have the space to yourself. I’ll get you a real bed too and make it nice for you. I just want to be a better father and I love you so much,” he choked on those words, “and I’m sorry I’ve been such a bad dad.”

Dean looked at Steph. He had never seen Terry this fragile before. “Daddy’s crying.”

“I know. Maybe you should give him a hug so he feels better.”

Dean was hesitant at first, but then ran into his dad’s arms, hugging him tightly. “I love you, Son. I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Daddy. I’m just mad at you.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

Steph wiped her eyes knowing how hard this was on both of them, just wanting to fall into Gemma’s arms. She hated this not only for Dean, but for Terry as well. She never wanted them to not have a relationship. Gemma slipped downstairs to grab her bag and quietly headed back upstairs to do some work while Steph, Dean and Terry managed to have a nice family moment. Dean gave Terry the sweater Steph had bought for him as well as some box kind of thing Dean had made out of popsicles at school. Terry treasured it, even though none of them seemed to have any kind of idea about what it was. He left not long after, having to drive back to Birmingham.

“Gem? You can come down now?”

When they didn’t hear anything, Steph and Dean went upstairs together. He held onto Jim and the stuffed animal Terry had gotten him. Gemma had changed into her pajamas with a book in her hand, sound asleep. Steph smiled, letting her rest and helping Dean get ready for bed.

“You had a big day, Tigger.”

“Is bad that I’m still mad at Daddy?”

“No, Love, but I am so proud of you for coming downstairs and talking to him. He really is upset by what he did, but I wanted him to tell you, not me. I just didn’t plan on it being tonight, but you seem to like this stuffed otter he got you.”

“It’s soft.”

“What’s his name? Jim needs to know for his friend.”

Dean shrugged. “Tom?”

Steph sighed. “I don’t know about that, Sweetheart.”

“That’s Gemma’s son’s name.”

“I know, but it might be hard for her to hear that name all the time.”

“Can I ask her?”

“Sure, but you’ll have to pick another name if she feels uncomfortable, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”

“And you’ll have some new cars to play with tomorrow as well.”

“It’s a remote control.”

“Well that is exciting.”

“Yeah.” Dean thought for a moment, while Steph pulled back his covers. “Gemma told me that I should go downstairs. I guess she was right.”

“She’s pretty smart. I think it was a good idea. Do you feel better?”

“A little, but I’m still mad. Why would he do that?”
Steph lifted her shoulders. “I don’t know, Love, but that’s not something you need to worry about, especially since it’s bedtime for you. It’s late. Do you want me to read you a story?”

He shook his head, eyes already closing. Steph kissed his head and went back into her room. She slipped the book out from Gemma’s hands, placing it on the table and turning her bedside table light off. Gemma stirred only enough to ask how it went.

“I think it went okay. Dean is pretty upset, but that’s to be expected. I at least managed to calm Terry down.”

“That’s good, Love. I’m glad.”

Steph started to change into her pajamas. While she took off her makeup, she asked the one question that had been nagging her. “What did you tell Dean when you came up here to check on him?”

“That his dad loves him and even though he’s angry, he should tell him thank you for the gifts and at least say goodbye.” Steph laid down, and Gemma snuggled up to her, comforted by her scent. “That Terry loves him and he made a mistake.”

“You’re like the parenting guru, Gem, I swear.”

“No, I’m not. I’ve just seen my kid go through it before and now I’m handling it the right way instead of the way I did before.”

“You handled it right, the first time.”

“I think my history proves I did not, but I’m too tired to talk about it.”

Steph kissed Gemma’s forehead. “I love you.”

“Love you too.”

--------------------------------------------------

It was Christmas Eve morning and Dean couldn’t contain himself. He woke bright and early, practically jumping in delight. He left his room and went straight to his mum’s, grabbing Tommy and Jim. Gemma wasn’t exactly fond of the name, but thought the gesture was sweet. She didn’t hear it often enough and Steph had continuously suggested name after name, but Dean stuck to Tommy instead of Tom. He crept in and climbed over Gemma, who awoke with a sharp inhale.

“Dean? Are you alright?” She could tell it was still dark outside.

“It’s Christmas Eve.”

“Yeah it is, Love so why are you up so early?”

“So we can start the day!”

Gemma shook her head. She wrapped an arm around his torso and shushed him. “Just a little more sleep.”

Dean rolled over out of Gemma’s grip. “Mum.”

“Hm?” Steph asked, blinking her eyes open. “Dean, what’s wrong?”

“It’s Christmas Eve!”

“I know, Love and it’s really early. Let Gemma and I sleep a little longer. We were up late last night.”

Their gift wrapping adventure left them up longer than they expected, both buying more gifts for Dean than expected. Most of the time was spent kissing. They managed to control themselves and by the time they laid down upstairs, they were extremely warned out, falling asleep almost immediately.

“Can I go downstairs and turn the tree on?” Dean asked.

“Sure,” Steph agreed. “We’ll be down in a few.”

Dean hopped over Gemma, accidentally kicking her. She jolted and groaned, but turned back into Steph’s embrace.

“Sorry, Gemma!”

“Don’t worry, Love.”

They listened as he ran out of the room and down the stairs.

“Why is he up so early?” Gemma mumbled.

Steph laughed. “He’s a kid excited about Christmas. It’s to be expected.”

“And I was excited to sleep.”

Steph grinned. “You can still do that. I’m used to his early hours so why don’t you rest and I go downstairs with him?”

“Because I sleep better with you next to me.”

“Do you really?” Gemma barely moved her head, but nodded. “Well a few more blissful morning minutes couldn’t hurt.”

“Mum!” Dean shouted.

“Oh my gosh,” Gemma sighed. “I guess our sleep is over.”

“Yeah. We can nap later because he will as well.” Steph leaned up and Gemma rubbed her eyes. They kissed one another.

“What time is Pauline’s party?”

“Around eight.” Steph stretched her arms. “I figured we could take a couple bottles of wine and then I was going to make some little pastries.”

“Sounds good, Love, but can I sleep until then?”

“Mum! ‘White Christmas’ is on!” Dean yelled.

“Come on, Love. Let’s be merry.”

Gemma’s eyes shot wide open. “Let’s get what?!”

Steph laughed. “Let’s BE merry as in cheerful.”

“Oh,” Gemma laughed, “Not that I’d mind down the road.”

“Really? You would want to marry me?”

Gemma shrugged. “Would you, down the line?”

“Marry you?” Steph smiled. “Yeah, I think I would eventually. Why are you proposing?”

“What? No. That would be a little too soon.”

Steph laughed. “Well in the meantime will you BE merry with me and Dean?”

“Of course. After a long shower.”

“Wish I could join you.”

“Yeah, me too, but Dean is ready for his cinnamon buns which is what we do first so your shower will just have to wait.”

“Until when?”

“Until we’re ready to get ready.”

“Traditions?”

“Yes and Dean is a stickler for them so since you’re here and a part of the family, you must follow them. So cinnamon buns while watching a Christmas movie, then we’ll get ready and hang around before going to Pauline’s. Tomorrow, we’ll get up early so Dean can see his Santa gifts. Have a big breakfast and then open gifts. Then Mum will come to help cook the Christmas feast and then we’ll do Christmas stockings after while Christmas movies and music plays in the background.”

“So it’s all very Christmassy?”

“Yes, very much so!”

Gemma could tell that Steph was becoming just excited as Dean and couldn’t help, but take on that energy herself. She smiled and kissed Steph. “Then shall we start with the buns?”

Steph nodded with a curt “yes”. They both slipped on their robes, Steph taking Gemma’s hand as they walked downstairs.

“Happy Christmas Eve!” Dean shouted, hugging them both.

“Happy Christmas Eve,” they said in unison, embracing him.

“Why don’t I get started on the cinnamon buns while you sit with Dean to watch a ‘White Christmas’?”

“Sure.”

“Do you like this movie, Gemma?” He asked, taking her hand and walking to the couch.

“It’s alright.” she whispered, joining him. “I haven’t watched it in some time so I don’t really remember. Do you like it?”

“It’s good.”

“Dean likes a lot of the classics,” Steph said, handing them both a glass of juice.

“Why’s that?” Gemma asked.

“Because I like them.”

“I think you love Christmas a little more than you’re willing to admit.”

“I don’t know what would give you that idea.”

The day passed in pajamas and Christmas movies. Gemma managed to get a nap in, on the couch which put her in better spirits. That evening, she was the last one down the stairs. She was wearing a tight bodice dress that flowed from her waist down. It was burgundy and she wore a cream colored heel. Steph watched her, mouth agape, as Gemma put in some earrings.

“You look amazing,” Steph whispered, when Gemma finally entered the living room.

“So do you, Love!” Steph was in a black, fitted suit with a green, low cut button down tucked in. She wore green heels that matched her shirt perfectly. “And Dean, you look very handsome.”

Dean was in khaki pants with a white button down, green vest and a dark red blazer. “You look pretty,” he replied.

“Thanks. Are we ready to go?”

“Yeah I think so. Are you driving?” Steph asked.

“Was planning too unless you rather call a cab.”

“No driving is fine, I just don’t know how much you’re planning to drink.”

“Not much, honestly. Drinking makes me want to smoke and I’ve been doing so well these past couple of weeks that I don’t want to do that tonight, you know?”

“Well if you do, know I’m proud either way.”

Gemma smiled. They kissed and walked to the foyer. Steph helped Gemma into her coat and vice versa. Steph was fixing her hair while Gemma helped Dean with his. Once everyone was bundled up, they headed towards Gemma’s car.

“Mum, will other kids be there?” Dean asked as they all got situated and Gemma heated up the small space.

“Yeah. Nita’s kids will be there and Stanley.”

“Do I have to hang out with them?”

“Well, no, Sweetheart. Not if you don’t want to, but I bet when you get there, you’ll change your mind.”

Gemma looked in the rearview mirror to see him shrug his shoulders. They listened to Christmas music and sang along, Dean singing the loudest. They parked on the street, in front of Pauline’s house that was outlined in white Christmas lights. Gemma got out and Steph looked back. “No need to worry about the other kids, Tigger. You’re going to have a good time. Okay?”

Gemma opened both their doors and helped Steph get out, holding her hand. They smiled at one another, Steph kissing her cheek. “Oh,” Steph said, wiping a little lipstick from Gemma’s cheek. “I got you.”

“Right on my cheek?”

“Yeah, but I got it off.”

Dean jumped out of the car, landing on his two feet. Steph grabbed the tubberware of pastries and the two bottles of wine they picked up on the way, while Dean took Gemma’s hand. They walked up to the door and rang the doorbell as Steph pulled down Dean’s shirt and sweater that had bunched up in the car.

“Mum!” He whined.

“He’s fine, Steph. Let him be.”

“I just want it to look nice.”

“He looks fine.”

Steph quickly stood up as Pauline opened the door. “Hello, Steph.”

“Hi, Pauline!” They kissed each other’s cheeks. “We brought wine and some cookies.”

“Perfect. Thank you! Come on in. Dean, you look very handsome.”

“What do we say?” Steph asked.

“Thank you,” he mumbled.

“And Gemma. Good to see you again.”

“You as well. Thanks for having me. You look wonderful.” Pauline was in a red business suit.

“Oh thank you and the more the merrier. You can leave your coats here. I’ll take the wine and the cookies. Help yourself to nibbles. Dean the children are upstairs in Stanley’s room.”

“Come on, Dean!” Stanly yelled, running through the rooms with cookies. Dean looked up at Steph.

“Well, go on then.”

Dean smiled. He ran after Stanley, up the stairs.

“Well I guess he got over his shyness.”

“Yeah.” Gemma looked around the room.

“Nervous?”

“A little bit. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a party, but at least I was invited this time.”

“What does that mean?”

“Long story. Hm. Let’s not talk about that here,” Gemma smiled. “Wine?”

“Yes, please.”

Gemma followed Steph throughout the house and to the kitchen. Dawn was there with a tall, slender, red-headed man.

“Steph!” She said sternly.

“What did I do?”

“Nothing.” Dawn looked towards Gemma. “Doctor Foster! Have you met my husband?”

“No, I don’t believe I have.”

Russell was looking over the table, picking up pieces of different things. “Russi,” she swatted him.

“Yeah?”

“Russi, this is Doctor Foster. Steph’s new partner.”

“Well not new,” Steph commented.

Gemma held her hand out. “Nice to meet you.”

He took her hand and shook it. “You as well. I’ve actually had this weird mole thing-” He started to pull on his shirt collar when Dawn hit him.

“Please feel free to book an appointment, but I’m off for the evening.”

“Right, of course.”

They grabbed a glass of wine each and started to wander around. “So you used to clean this entire thing?”

“Yeah, in an apron, no less,” Steph answered.

“I can’t imagine that.”

“Why would you want to?”

“I don’t know. Could be cute.”

“You’ve seen me clean my house.”

“I know, but not in an apron.”

“That is true, but wouldn’t you rather nothing be under it?” Steph raised her eyebrow. Gemma bit her lip around a smile. She leaned in and kissed her.

“If I can’t have you here, I’d suggest you’d not tell me things like that.”

“But I like watching you squirm about.”

Gemma laughed. “I’m sure you do.”

“Gemma, this is my husband, Brian. Brian this is Steph’s… Oh dear! I don’t know what you call each other.” Pauline stuttered through a polite chuckle.

“Brian, this is Doctor Foster, my partner.”

“Lovely to meet you.”

“You as well, Mr. Spake.”

“And hey if you ever need a good price on a good piece of meat-“

“Bryan owns the butchers shop.”

“Oh well then I promise to stop by sometime.”

“Lovely.”

“Is Nita coming?” Steph asked.

“I believe so and Hellie is as well with her parents-”

“Come on, you bloody lot and be on your best behavior. This is a nice house,” Nita smiled. “You’ve taken a big risk allowing my children to come here, Pauline!”

“Kids are upstairs with Stanley and Dean.”

“Off you go!”

All five, Richie carrying the baby ran upstairs. “Hiya!” Nita kissed everyone’s cheeks as they greeted one another. “Well don’t you two look like the power couple.”

“Thank you, I think?” Steph answered, taking Gemma’s hand.

“Gemma.”

“Nita.”

They hugged one another, a little awkwardly as Nita made the rounds greeting everyone. There were a few couples dancing in the main room. Gemma watched them for a little bit before turning to the only person she wanted to be with. “Will you dance with me?” She whispered in Steph’s ear.

“Yeah.” She turned the group. “Excuse us.”

They smiled at each other as they fell into each other’s arms, pecking each other’s lips. They rested their foreheads together as they danced to the music, their bodies pressed against one another. Nita, Pauline and Dawn watched them in awe.

“Next year, early,” Nita stated.

“No, no. Next Christmas, it’s Steph’s favorite holiday,” Dawn added. “Pauline?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Merry Christmas, everyone,” Hellie said, joining the group. When no one answered, she looked to where they were staring. Steph and Gemma were smiling at each other, barely an inch between them. Steph laughed at something, Gemma said, scratching the back of her head.

“June,” Hellie said. “Married in June.”

“I still think by March. Pauline?”

“I’m going to say September. Married by September.”

“They’re not married?” Russell asked, taking a bite of something.

“No, Russi. I’ve told you that.” She looked towards the girls. “He never listens.”

“It’s why I date women,” Hellie joked.

“They never will, Love. Kieron is only good at makin’ babies which is why I’ve got him snipped.”

Russell swallowed and left the group of friends, causing them all to laugh. He walked back to a few of the men he threw darts with at the pub.

“So where’s your new girl, Hellie?”

“She’s in London, with her parents. Could you imagine Bunny Matlock having to attend a Christmas party with her lesbian daughter, let alone, have a lesbian couple in her house?”

Dawn nodded. “She’d die.”

“She’d be dead by the mere thought of me mentioning it So I’m spending Christmas morning with the folks and then leaving to go to her in London midday. And I honestly can’t wait.”

“And are her folks more accepting?” Nita asked.

“Definitely.”

“Well that’ll be good. Oh-” They all watched a frantic Dean pushed through adults to get to them.

“Mum!”

“Dean?”

They watched as both Gemma and Steph knelt down to comfort the child. From what they could see, Dean explained and clearly asked Gemma to look at something. She felt around his ankle, lifting up his pant leg. She helped him take his shoe off and check around his foot. It was clear she assured him, he was okay. Dean wiped his eyes, letting Steph getting help him put his shoe on. He wiped his eyes and hugged Gemma, who picked him up. They danced with him for a song or two, trying to get him to smile. He eventually did as they continued to dance around together.

“It helps, I think, that she is good with Dean. Johnny tried, but nothing compared to this,” Nita whispered.

“That she is,” Pauline agreed. “But she is a mother, isn’t she?”

“That’s the rumor,” Nita answered, not sure if they knew about her son or not.

“She’s definitely got that motherly touch,” Dawn stated.

“Yeah,” Hellie agreed.

Gemma and Steph started walking towards them, Dean in Gemma’s arms, while Steph rested a hand against Gemma’s back.

“All good?” Nita asked.

“Oh yeah, but I think we’re going to head out soon. Dean is getting tired and he woke us up very early this morning so we’re also pretty tired,” Steph answered. “Hi, Hellie!”

“Hey.”

“Where’s your lady friend?” Gemma questioned.

“London with her folks. I’m going tomorrow.”

“That’s great!”

“Yeah I couldn’t even imagine your Mum dealing with it,” Steph commented.

“It’s actually been very entertaining. She avoids her at all costs which means she doesn’t bother with me. I’m enjoying it.”

“Gonna keep her?” Steph asked.

“That’s the plan. How’s Dean? We saw him run towards you.”

Gemma turned him towards Steph. “He’s asleep, but he’s okay.”

“Is Terry coming tomorrow?”

“No. He came up after the school pageant to give Dean his gifts and of course used that time to talk to Dean about Lisa and all of that, but I think we managed to get them on better terms.”

“Well, that’s good,” Hellie commented.

“Yeah. Finally acted like an adult,” Nita agreed. “Do you guys have anything exciting for tomorrow?”

Steph looked at Gemma. “Just celebrating our first Christmas together. Mum will come tomorrow for Christmas dinner, but that’s about it.”

“Gemma, are you excited, Love?” Nita asked.

“I am. I haven’t celebrated with people in some time so I’m very excited to be with them and it’ll be nice to have a young child around.”

“I’m just going to get our coats,” Steph whispered, kissing Gemma’s cheek.

“I’m sure, but you’re definitely good with him.” Nita pointed at Dean.

“What ya mean?”

“He never smiled like that with PC Daniels. He barely would even let him touch him, but he has definitely grown fond of you.”

Gemma didn’t know how to respond so she nodded. “Gem, are we going to soon?” Dean muttered.

Gemma rubbed his back. “Your mum is getting the coats now, Love. Are you ready to go?”

“Yeah, Santa’s coming!”

“He is coming, Love.”

“Come on, Dean. I know you hurt your ankle, but you can stand.”

“What happened?”

“We were jumping off the bed and he said he landed funny,” Stanley came in, explaining.

“Stanley, how many times do I have to tell you! No jumping on the bed!” Pauline scolded.

“We were just having fun.”

“Stanley, come here!” Gemma had never seen Dawn look so stern. “You are staying with nice people and even though it’s your bedroom, it’s still their house so you shouldn’t be jumping on the bed.”

“Sorry, Dawney.”

“Don’t apologize to me.”

Stanley turned to Pauline. “Sorry, Aunty.”

“It’s alright. Just please go straighten it up before I have to see what it looks like.”

Stanley smiled. “I will.”

“Good boy.”

Steph helped Dean slip on his coat, followed by Gemma. “We’re going to head out. Thank you for the lovely time, Pauline.”

“You sure you can’t stay longer, Dear?”

They looked down to see Dean hugging Gemma’s legs, eyes closed. She picked him up. “He seriously woke us around six this morning and has been up and at ‘em since so we’re all rather exhausted,” Gemma said.

“Well, it was lovely having you both here.”

They all said their goodbyes, embracing one another and wishes for tomorrow to be filled with blessings of merriment and happiness. The four women gathered around the door to watch them leave. Steph ahead of them, leading Gemma around the icy spots. They got Dean into the car and shut his door. They chatted for a moment, Steph laughed.

“What are you all looking at?” Brian asked, stepping up behind them. Kieron and Russell soon joined.

“Oh yeah, Nita. I see what you’re saying.”

“As do I,” Brian said, nodding his head.

The four women smirked.

“What’s that Mr. Spake?” Russell took a sip of his drink.

“Those two, Lad, will be married next year.”

They watched as Gemma and Steph kissed. They lingered, both smiling.

“Definitely,” Russell agreed.

“We should stop staring,” Hellie announced when Steph and Gemma waved to them both. They all dispersed clearly embarrassed.

“You really do have lovely friends,” Gemma said.

“Yes, but don’t forget this town is full of gossips.”

“Trust me, Love, I will never forget.”

Dean was awake by the time they got home and as a Christmas Eve tradition, they gathered around the tree and told Gemma it was time to put out the presents. Steph pulled hers out from her special hiding place. Gemma had two tote bags filled with gifts, feeling the season of giving. They placed them all in front of the fireplace, Gemma just following around. She helped Steph move the coffee table to behind the chair and sat next to Steph on the couch. Dean started to pass out the incredible large pile of presents.

“Read the tag, Dean. Who they are for and who they’re from.”

Dean did the best he could, pulling most of his out first, which Steph expected. He picked up a large one. “This is for me!”

“Well I would have never guessed that. Who’s it from?”

“Gemma!”

Steph looked over at her. “It’s what we talked about.”

“I didn’t know it was this big.”

“It’s fine, Love.”

Steph and Gemma finally started to receive some gifts as small piles formed around their feet. A few larger packages for them both along with boxes that were clearly jewelry. They all sat around, Gemma and Steph sharing a quiet glass of wine at home, while Dean drank a little juice.

“So what’s the next tradition?” Gemma asked.

“Christmas pajamas, Dean gets to open one present and then a book before bed, but we need to hurry or Santa won’t come.”

“I don’t have pajamas,” Gemma whispered.

“They’re upstairs.”

They all ran upstairs to change, Steph getting Gemma a pair of dark green, cotton pajamas. Steph’s had Santa’s sleigh and reindeer on them and Dean’s looked like a Santa outfit. He ran downstairs, excited to open a present. He waited in front of the tree until the two women joined them. He smiled, a small little present already in front of him.

“Who’s it from, Sweetheart?”

“Gemma.”

“Can he open that one?”

Gemma looked at the box and nodded. “It’s nothing serious.” Dean opened the box and pulled a thin leather band connected to a string attached to a bracelet. He looked up at her with confusion. “Do you have Jim with you?” Dean held him up. “This is for those days you’re worried you’re going to lose him. I had a special collar, leash and bracelet made just for you.”

He handed the bracelet to Gemma and then the dog. She slipped on his collar. “Hold out your wrist.” He did as he was told, letting Gemma adjust the bracelet so it was snug against his wrist. “Too tight?”

He shook his head no.

“Do you like it or is a bit girly?”

Dean blossomed in a smile. “It’s perfect! Thank you, Gemma!’

“You’re welcome, Love. Do you really like it? You don’t have to wear it, if you don’t.”

“I love it. Now he can sleep next to me in my bed!”

“Well I wouldn’t sleep in it every night, but yes on some nights he can.”

“Let me see,” Steph said, holding out her hand. Dean showed her and she smiled. “I think it’s perfect!”

Dean hugged Gemma. “Ready for that bedtime story?”

“Yes, but I want you and Mum to read it.”

Dean hopped off her lap and headed for the stairs. “Dean! Milk and cookies!”

He stopped where he was and helped Steph put out the special plate for Santa. They all walked up the stairs calmly, letting Dean settle into bed.

“What are we reading?” Gemma asked.

“‘The Night Before Christmas’,” Steph answered. “It’s his favorite.”

They sat and read the whole book. They kissed his head and let him sleep. They waited an hour or so, watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on the television before quietly putting out Santa presents. Keiron helped them with getting his bike over to the house while they were at the party. That’s why they were late to Pauline’s party. Gemma wheeled it in from behind the staircase. It was green and blue with a big red bow on it.

“Did you wrap Santa gifts?” Steph asked, putting out a small Lego set.

“No, but eventually Christmas became very small in the house. This is more than expected.” Gemma pointed to her designated pile.

“It is Christmas.”

“Yes, but you’ve already given me the best gift of all.”

“What? My tits?”

Gemma laughed. “Well yes.” Steph chuckled. “But you gave me family and mindfulness. I’m just… I’m very grateful to spend Christmas with you, my Love.”

Steph embraced Gemma, her arms wrapping around Gemma’s waist. “I am too.” Steph looked to the clock on the wall. “And it is after midnight so Merry Christmas, Love.” Gemma smiled, kissing her yet again. It was soft, but Steph could still feel her whole body come to life when she felt Gemma’s mouth against hers. “Let’s go to bed. Dean will have us up early again.”

“And on Boxing Day?”

“His sleep will return to normal.”

“Hallelujah!”

--------------------------------------------------

“Gemma,” Dean whispered. “Gemma!” He said a little louder. She grunted, but turned towards Steph, whose back was to her. She spooned Steph, pulling her closer. Steph moaned and rubbed her hand down Gemma’s arm to her hands. Dean skipped around the bed to Steph’s side.

“Mum!” He spoke harshly.

“Dean, go to sleep, Love. It’s late. Santa won’t come if you’re awake.”

“Mum, it’s Christmas!”

“What?” Gemma stated. “We just went to sleep five minutes ago.”

“I swear we literally did.”

“But look, Mummy! The sun is shining and it’s Christmas!! Can we go down and see what Santa brought?”

“Go ahead, Dean,” Gemma mumbled, “We’ll be down a little later.”

“Mum!” Dean groaned.

Steph rolled over and blinked her eyes open. Gemma was still very much asleep which she thought was the cutest thing she had ever seen. “Traditions, Love.”

“Hm…”

“We go down together. Always have.”

“So you can see the look of surprise?”

“Yes, Baby.”

“Will there be coffee?”

“The strongest coffee you can imagine. I’ll make it as soon as we’re down there.”

Gemma huffed, but opened her eyes. “Okay. I’m awake.” She sat up. Dean’s hair was everywhere, his glasses skewed and the most excited she had ever seen him. Steph pulled back the covers and held her hand out to Gemma. She sighed, but took it, thankful for the warmth from her Christmas pajamas. She yawned as she followed the two down the stairs, but suddenly felt herself, very much awake as Dean approached the living room. Steph stood by the door, slipping in first.

“I go in when she says I can. She likes to take my picture. Do you know what Santa brought me?”

“I haven’t a clue, but I know it’s going to be amazing.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m assuming you’ve been a very good boy all year.”

“Even after all the stuff with my dad?”

“Dean, you can come in!” Steph shouted from the other side of the door.

Dean stared at Gemma, waiting for an answer. She knelt down beside him and rubbed his arms. “The stuff with your dad has nothing to do with you, Kid. That’s all on your dad. Not wanting to see him, doesn’t make you a naughty kid. It makes you human.”

“Dean? Santa has brought some pretty incredible gifts,” Steph added.

Gemma smiled and nodded her head in the direction. Dean grinned and opened the door. He stopped in complete shock before jumping up and down. “I got a bike!” He screamed. “Santa brought me a bike!” He ran to it, trying to get on.

“Hold on, Tigger. Bikes are for outside.”

“Can I try it now? Please, please, please?!”

“You’ll have all day.”

Dean looked towards Gemma.

“I don’t know why you look at me as if I have a say in the matter. We do what your mum says. We’ll show you later. You’ve got so many gifts to open.”

After Steph made both her and Gemma a strong pot of coffee, they sat in their spaces: Dean in front of the tree and Steph and Gemma on the couch. One by one they opened gifts. Dean received a few games and toys as well as a few new sweaters and some dinosaur t-shirt he really wanted. Gemma and Steph got each other little things they had seen and wanted, but nothing too big or over the top. They each had a gift left, supposedly saving the best for last each time.

Dean was the first to go. “Tigger, this is from Gemma.”

He shook the box. “It has a lot of pieces.”

“Well why don’t you open it,” Gemma suggested.

He ripped the paper open and had the exact same expression he had when he saw his bike. “It’s the Lego pirate ship,” he spoke as soft as ever.

“Do you like it?” Gemma asked.

Dean nodded completely bamboozled by it. He had asked for it. It was on his Santa list, but he always put a lot on there, not expecting to receive everything.

“Well, what do we say Dean?”

He set the box aside and ran to Gemma, hugging her. “Thank you!”

“Of course, Love. I got the approval from your mother and I knew it was what you wanted.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

“You are very, very welcome.”

“Will you help me put it together?”

“Sure, Kid, but later.” Gemma turned to Steph. “Now, you go.”

Steph was holding a small rectangular box. The tag said “to my love with love”. She smiled at Gemma before slowly ripping the paper off. “What is it?” she asked, giddy as ever. Gemma shrugged, waiting in anticipation with Dean on her lap. She soon saw it was a jewelry box. She took a deep breath as she opened the lid. Her facial expression identical to Dean’s.

“Gemma,” she sighed.

“Do you like it?”

“I adore it.” It was a silver necklace with a diamond pendant that carried a single pearl.

“I figured it would be flattering for special events and when you have meetings with the board to give you that extra professional flair.”

“Gemma, I can’t believe you bought this for me. It’s so beautiful.”

“Do you want to put it on?”

“Of course I do.”

“Excuse me, Dean.” He got off her lap. They walked together to the mirror in the foyer, Dean following them. Gemma stood behind Steph, taking the necklace from her hands. She laid it against Steph’s skin and clasped it behind Steph’s neck as Steph held her hair up. Once it was safe, Steph stared at it in the mirror.

“It’s absolutely beautiful, Gem. I mean it’s just stunning.”

“Can I see, Mummy?”

Steph leaned down to show Dean. “Isn’t that pretty?”

Dean nodded his head and took Gemma’s hand. “Good job!”

Gemma laughed. “Thanks, Kid.”

“We have to give Gemma her present!”

“Right. It’s going to seem like nothing after this necklace.”

Gemma smirked. “Steph, this is a gift that I wanted to get you because when I saw it, I knew the only neck it would look beautiful around was yours.” They walked back into the living room, Gemma picking up her neatly packaged gif.

“I know and I love you so much, but this is something else entirely.”

They sat on the couch, Dean sitting next to Steph.

“Can I open it?”

“Open it!” Dean was excited, where Steph looked nervous. She slowly opened the box and moved the tissue paper to see a set of keys.

“The day I had to call you to get Dean because he was sick was the first time I truly realized that there is only one person I want to handle these kind of emergency situations with. You’re barely at your place anyway, but when you are, I know you enjoy the peacefulness of your flat. This is for the other times. The times you pick up Dean from school and stay over. Those late nights where you rather come here and crash then go all the way back to your place. This is to give you a home and a family. I’m not asking you to move in because I still believe that’s too soon, but this is your set so you can come whenever you want.”

“And I picked out the keychain!” Dean added.

Gemma noticed the keychain was a dog. She held the keys in her hand as she wiped a tear from her eye. “I don’t-” she cleared her throat, “I don’t think I have ever gotten a gift with so much meaning.”

“Do you like it?” Dean asked.

“I love it.”

“It’s like we said, Gemma, you’re family now and I want you here more often than not.”

“Me too!” Dean said.

They both smiled, Steph also wiping her eyes. “And this was the best way I could think to tell you. I love you.”

“I love you so much. I love you both so much. You didn’t need to get me anything else other than your company and these keys.”

Dean crawled over and hugged her, Steph following soon enough. Gemma kissed the top of Dean’s head and then Steph’s lips.

“I love you,” she whispered.

“Merry Christmas, Gem.”

“Merry Christmas, Steph.”

Chapter Text

“Mum, can I go outside and try my new bike?” Dean asked, coming downstairs in his dinosaur t-shirt.

“No, Love. We live on a hill. We’ll have to teach you in the park.”

“But I want to try it,” he whined.

“I know you do, Love, but maybe later. Gran’s coming over in a little bit for dinner. Aren’t you getting hungry?”

He nodded with a pout. He crossed his arms and plopped on the couch. Gemma walked into the room, wearing the same Christmas sweater she was given and jeans. Steph was starting her food prep, dressed in Christmas colors. She noticed Dean’s sour mood almost immediately.

“Why are you pouting, Love? It’s Christmas.”

“I want to try my bike.”

“Alright. If your mum doesn’t need help, I’ll take you out.”

“Gem, where are you going to go? He can’t learn on this hill.”

“I’ll take him to the top of the street.”

“Please, Mum.”

Steph was hesitant. “I’m worried he’s going to fall.”

“That’s why he has a helmet and pads. I won’t let him pedal towards the hill. Even I wouldn’t bike that.”

“But I would like to be there.”

“Well when is your mum coming?”

“Soon and she won’t be very happy if I don’t start.”

“The turkey’s in the oven, right?”

“Yes, but you know her. She’s very particular and likes all the ingredients of everything else laid out so she doesn’t have to find them and I just don’t want added stress today.”

“Okay. Well what if we gave it ten minutes? Then we’ll come in and help.”

Steph could see the eagerness in Dean’s face. “Alright. Ten minutes, but if he gets it, let me come watch.”

Gemma walked up to her. Her hands glided past Steph’s waist and hugged her, Steph smiling. “He probably won’t get it in ten minutes,” Gemma whispered in her ear.

“I know.”

They separated, sharing a quick peck. Gemma turned to Dean. “Alright, shoes on, Kid.”

Dean jumped off the couch. “Thanks, Mum!”

“Be careful,” Steph shouted, checking the turkey in the oven. “And put on a jumper!”

“We’ll be back, Love.” Gemma joined Dean in the foyer. “Okay, got your helmet and pads?” Dean nodded. “Go put on a jumper and then we’ll be ready to go.” Gemma wheeled the bike outside and slipped on a coat. Once Dean joined her, they headed to the top of the steep hill. Dean was practically skipping.

“Have you ever been on a bike before?” Gemma asked.

“No,” Dean answered, “but I’m excited!”

“I know, Love.” They reached the top. “Alright, let’s get your helmet on.” Gemma adjusted the straps to make sure it was snug on his head and helped him with his pads.

“Why do I have to wear all these?”

“They protect you in case your fall. You’re about to balance yourself on two wheels.”

“Is it scary?” Dean asked, finally showing his anxiety.

Gemma smiled. “Nothing to be afraid of because I’m going to hold onto you until you think you’re ready, but we don’t have a lot of time before we have to go in and help your mum so this will just be getting used to the feeling moment, alright?”

Dean nodded, more nervous than before. He followed Gemma’s instructions and climbed onto the bike. She smiled. “Now put your feet on the pedals.” Gemma held the bike as steady as she could as he got situated. “Now you’re just going to start pedaling forward, slowly.” Dean started, Gemma holding onto the handle and the seat. Dean was nervous, but they went slowly enough, away from the hill.

“You’re doing great, Love.”

Dean was jerky and squeezed Gemma’s hand that was on the handle. “What do I do when I stop?”

“Pedal backwards”

The bike stopped with a jerk. Gemma wasn’t prepared for it. “What’s wrong? You were doing great?”

“I got scared. What happens if I fall?”

“Well you won’t fall while I’m holding onto it. I know it feels weird and shaky, but that feeling will pass, I promise and well, if you fall, you fall. You get back up and try again. Let’s give it another go, yeah?”

Dean nodded. They went around for a little bit, Dean becoming more steady, trying a little turn. Gemma eventually was only holding the seat, but Dean wasn’t ready for her to let go. Gemma also wanted Steph to be there. They packed it in when they noticed a familiar face coming up to them on the sidewalk.

“Hi, Joan,” Gemma said. “Merry Christmas.”

“Gran!” Dean ran to her and hugged her.

“Hello, Dean.” She looked to Gemma and nodded. “Gemma.”

She smiled in response.

“Gran, Santa brought me a bike for Christmas!”

“Did he?”

“Yeah and Gemma says I’m a natural at it!”

“He’s still getting used to the feeling, but yeah, I think he’s pretty much got it. I want Steph to be here though when I let go and he goes off on his own.” Joan listened, but didn’t reply. She was carrying a rather large bag that seemed to be weighing her down. “Can I help you with your bag?”

“No. That’s alright.”

“I don’t mind.”

“I’ve got it.”

“Okay,” Gemma whispered, following behind Dean and Joan, listening to him talk about his Christmas thus far. Gemma parked the bike in the back, while they waited patiently for her. She started to worry about her presence being there and felt almost like a nuisance. Dean opened the door, using Gemma’s keys and ran to the kitchen, yelling “Gran’s here”. Steph walked out and smiled.

“Merry Christmas, Mum.”

“Merry Christmas, Dear. Lovely flowers.”

“Aren’t they? Gemma got them for me a little while ago.”

Joan didn’t seem pleased by the answer as she walked into the kitchen without saying a word. Steph took a deep breath, looking at Gemma. “How’d it go?”

“Yeah, it went well. I think he could be a natural, but I didn’t let go at all, so we’ll see.”

“Good.” Steph looked in Gemma’s eyes and saw that she was hiding something. She seemed off and nervous. “You alright?”

“Are you sure it’s okay that I’m here with your family?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

“I’m not exactly your mother’s favorite person.”

“No, but you’re my favorite person... and I want you here. Mum knew you were going to be here so don’t let her get to you. She’s always quiet and can be quite frank and rude.”

“I just don’t want to cause drama or make anyone upset on a holiday where people are supposed to be happy. I mean I can go home and get a curry, it’s not a big deal. I don’t want to be in the way.”

Steph cupped Gemma’s cheeks. “Do you want to be here?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want to go home and get a curry for Christmas dinner?”

Gemma paused. “No,” she whispered.

“Then I guess you should stay and enjoy the day with us. Don’t worry about Mum. She’s not going to talk about this stuff in front of him. Even she wouldn’t destroy the spirit of a child on Christmas. She’ll help me cook, we’ll eat, she’ll probably make some biscuits with Dean, we’ll open a few more presents and then she’ll leave and it’ll just be us again. Okay?”

Gemma nodded, grabbing Steph’s wrists and rubbing them. She closed her eyes, trying to center herself.

“I love you, Gem. You are apart of us now and I know my mum can be overbearing, but G-d, I love watching you mess with her.” Gemma laughed. “And I do think she’s trying.”

“She barely said more than five words to me outside.”

“So I’ll give her a little Christmas sherry, loosen her up and we’ll see what becomes of it, but I want you here. I don’t want you to go home. I don’t want to think about you alone in your flat surrounded by images of Tom and being depressed. I want you here, with me, my son and my mum celebrating and being joyous, okay?”

“Yeah.” Gemma’s eyes started to well as her lip trembled.

“Hey, no. No crying on Christmas.”

“Happy tears.”

Steph kissed her cheek and hugged her. “No need for tears, my Love. I’m here and you’re where you’re supposed to be.”

“Thank you,” Gemma whispered, hugging her back.

“Where’s Steph?” Joan asked Dean, glancing at the little food prep she had done.

Dean shrugged.

“Well go get her.”

Dean ran, expecting to go upstairs when he saw them by the door. Steph and Gemma were hugging one another tightly.

“Shh,” Steph cooed, rubbing her back.

“Why are you crying, Gemma?” Dean asked.

Gemma quickly wiped her tears and smiled, lifting her head from Steph’s shoulder. “Happy tears, Love.”

“Dean, go help Gran in the kitchen. We’ll be there in a moment.”

Dean stayed for a minute before doing what he was told.

“Sorry,” Gemma stated.

“It’s alright.” Steph smiled. “My mum can be a pain and make you feel like you’re nothing sometimes, but she has a good heart when she tries. And again, I don’t care what she wants. I told her that you were going to be here, I told her I was giving you a key to my place, I reminded her how important you are to me and how much I love you so if she couldn’t handle that, she wouldn’t be here. She’s trying. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but she is. Her being here is proof of that.”

Gemma nodded, but more tears shed from her eyes. Steph knit her eyebrows. “Love, what is it?”

“I just… I think it’s because I don’t have my mum and she died so long ago that I’ve always felt a closeness with other people’s mums. I don’t know. I was close with Simon’s and I lost her too and sorry.” She sighed. “I’m sorry. You’re right, no tears on Christmas.”

“Just give her time, Love and I’m sure this is hard for you and I’m sorry it is, but we’re here and we’re good. Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Steph wiped the tears from Gemma’s cheeks. “How would your mum react to this?”

Gemma laughed. “What? To us?”

Steph nodded.

“I don’t know. They seemed liberal in their ways, but who’s to say. She always wanted me to be happy, but I don’t know.”

“Do have pictures of them?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“Well, maybe one night, Dean and I can come over and you can tell us about them. I’d love to know more about where you come from and how you grew up when they were with you.”

Gemma smiled shyly. “Yeah, that be good.”

“Steph!” Joan called.

“But until then, please tell me your staying.”

“Of course I am.”

“Good.” Steph ran her hand up Gemma’s back to the base of her neck. She brought Gemma in and they shared a sweet kiss together. “I love you,” she stated as they pulled back.

“I love you too.”

“Come on, let’s make Mum uncomfortable together.”

Steph took Gemma’s hand and guided her into the kitchen.

“Steph, you’ve barely done anything,” Joan complained.

“What? There’s a stuffed turkey in the oven and we have an extra pair of hands to help.”

“Who? Dean?”

“Mum!”

“Think she means mine, Joan. I promise they’re not tainted or anything.” Gemma held up her hands. “And I’m really good at roasted potatoes.”

“Right,” Joan answered. It was clear she was biting her tongue and trying to be as civil as possible. “Then I’ll leave you to it while I make the mince pies.”

“Dean, Sweetheart, will you put on some Christmas music?” Steph asked. “Let’s get everyone into the Christmas spirit.”

“Yes!” He jumped up from the couch, turning on the stereo. Christmas filled the space as Dean started to dance around. “Can I help?”

“Um, there’s not much to help with at the moment,” Steph answered.

Gemma was cutting potatoes when she saw a bag of string beans. “He could rip the ends off these.”

“Yeah, you can do that. Come on, Love.” He sat at the table and waited patiently for Steph. She placed the bag of string beans in front of him as well as a bowl. “So, you’re just going to rip the ends off of each one, like this,” Steph explained, showing him. Dean tentatively did as Steph showed him while Joan watched.

“Why don’t you just go watch the tellie, Dean?”

“Mum, if he wants to help then let’s give him the chance to. He likes cooking.” Steph matted some of his hair down and kissed it. “You’re doing great, Sweetheart. Keep going.” Steph checked the turkey and smiled. “This might be my best turkey yet,” she commented, feeling proud of herself.

Gemma smiled at Steph’s remarks, seasoning the potatoes. Steph walked up to her and kissed her cheek. “How’s it coming?”

“Almost ready for the oven.”

“Good. Turkey should be done in about thirty minutes.”

“Perfect,” Gemma whispered, resting her head against Steph’s.

“I’m just going to help Mum, but we should be eating soon.”

“Why don’t you get started on the pudding, Steph?” Joan suggested.

“Yeah, sure. Do you want some serry, Mum?”

“Oh that would be lovely.”

Steph grabbed a glass and poured it for her. She managed to get a smile out of her mother, thinking maybe they were on the up and up. They all worked diligently finishing all the preparations for their Christmas feast. Dean set the table as best he could despite his height and only being able to see a little bit above it. Gemma noticed the Christmas tree dish set and couldn’t stop grinning at how cute her partner was.

“Dean, dinner’s almost ready so will you go wash your hands please?”

He looked up from putting together his Lego ship and nodded. He bolted from the room as Steph laid the turkey on the table.

“Beautiful turkey, Steph,” Joan commented, placing the stuffing down next to it.

“Thanks, Mum.” Steph could tell the sherry was in full affect. It caused all the small butterflies fluttering in her stomach dissipate. Gemma placed the few more dishes on the table as they gathered around. Dean came skipping back into the room and stood next to his chair.

“I think we’re ready.” Steph sat and they all followed, sitting with her. As Joan said grace, Gemma reached for Steph’s hand that was resting on the table. She wasn’t spiritual and took the opportunity to look at Steph. She was met with innocent eye contact as they smiled at one another. Gemma kissed Steph’s hand as Joan finished her prayer. They let go of one another and passed the food around. Gemma helped Dean load his plate, Joan watching her, but not saying a word. She did everything she could to not feel uncomfortable, mostly keeping her hand on Steph’s leg. Steph would pat it a couple times here and there while chewing her food. Joan and Steph reminisced about old Christmas’s. Gemma listened, but didn’t have much to say. She was avoiding her memories of Tom during this particular season. Steph could tell she was still nervous.

Once dinner was consumed, they sat around the table, nibbling on mince pies and Yorkshire pudding. Steph and Gemma had a glass of wine each, while Joan continued with her sherry. Dean was back at his pirate ship, building it block by block.

“Delicious dinner, Love and an excellent turkey,” Gemma praised.

Steph beamed. “Thank you.”

“Yes, it was very good,” Joan added. Gemma smiled as Joan continued to stare at her. She nodded her head, hoping the glance would disappear. “Tell me,” Joan started, “how does one become a doctor?”

Gemma glanced at Joan. She finished chewing and wiped her mouth. “What ya mean?”

“Why did you go into medicine?”

“I don’t really know. My parents died when I was sixteen. I left home the next year and while trying to figure out who I was, I learned exactly how they passed in the car accident. Everyone told me it was sudden, but it wasn’t. I guess that’s why I wanted to become a doctor so other families wouldn’t have to go through what I did.”

“And do you normally date your patients?”

“Well no, but in all fairness, Steph was never a patient of mine, Dean was.”

“And it's a habit to date kid’s mothers, is it?”

Gemma laughed. “What?”

“Mum, stop it.”

“What? I’m just making polite conversation.”

“You’re really not though. Can we please stay merry for a certain someone.”

“Joan, this is all I’m going to say.”

“Gem-“

Gemma held up her hand. “It’s okay.” She placed her elbows on the table and clasped her fingers together, ready to end this antagonizing nonsense for all. “I was dating and married for a good portion of my practice. I met my ex husband in London, where I was doing my residency. I never lost focus even with him, but he was there so I never had a reason to date my patients. After our divorce, I did my own thing and enjoyed my life. My ex returned which caused issues not only for me, but for my son as well. When he left home, after a year, I left, getting my position here. Steph was not part of my plan. No one was, but here we are and I don’t regret any of it. I love Steph and Dean. It doesn’t waiver or change, but becomes stronger and stronger everyday. So Joan, you don’t have to like me, but I’m in for the long haul.”

Gemma leaned back in her chair, taking Steph’s hand. Steph felt proud to be with someone who spoke so clearly and confidently. She had never dated someone who stated what they wanted, not caring if the person they were talking to liked them or not. Steph swiped her thumb across Gemma’s hand.

“Gemma?”

“Yeah, Kid?”

“Can you help me find the right piece? I don’t see it.”

“Sure, Love.” Gemma looked back to Joan and then to Steph. She kissed Steph’s cheek and squeezed her hand before joining Dean. The room was mostly only lit by the Christmas tree and kitchen. She switched on a lap. “Well, firstly, I think you need more light to see what you’re doing, yeah?”

Dean smiled and nodded. Gemma sat next to him, looking for the piece he couldn’t find. She eventually found it and Dean cheered with excitement. Steph watched them as she felt her heart swell with joyfulness. She looked back at Joan, who acted as if the other two weren’t in the room. “Mum, you have to get over this. I love her.”

Joan sneered.

“And it’s not going to stop because you want it to. I have fallen madly in love with her to the point that I wish I saw her every day and woke up with her every morning. I don’t know what your conflictions really are, but Gemma means everything to me. You knew she was going to be here so I don’t understand why you decided to come here and bring all this stuff up on Christmas? If our relationship makes you so uncomfortable, why are you here?”

“To celebrate with Dean, of course.”

“Well, if that were true, then why all of this? Can’t we just have one day where my relationship isn’t questioned? Where we’re just a happy family sharing a happy day? She’s going to be here at Christmas and birthdays and all the celebrations we’ll have as a family. If you can’t be around that, then I don’t know what to tell you other than I’ll be disappointed if this is always the topic of conversation. You said you were trying and now you’ve taken a giant leap back.”

“I think me being here is trying.”

“Trying would be, being nice to her. Treating her with respect. Acting like she isn’t a leach or a cockroach. I mean would you seriously rather me still be with Terry? A man with a temper who could barely hold a job? Do you want your grandson to grow up around that? Gemma’s a doctor. She has resources to provide for this family. She’s a good woman. She’s strong and loving. I mean look at her with your grandson. When was the last time you’ve seen Dean smile that big? I haven’t seen it in a long, long time. We’re happy. I am so happy. More so than I’ve ever been in my whole life with someone.”

“You’ve already had a falling out once because of this woman. You can’t keep doing that to Dean.”

“We had a falling out because I said something stupid. It wasn’t Gemma’s fault and we reconciled. We even joke that it seems Dean gets sick just to bring us together. And quite frankly, I’m not going to keep doing this. I’m not going to defend myself and my relationship every time I see you. Sometimes you’re so good at being casual and happy and other times, it’s like you wish I weren’t your daughter.”

“Don’t be daft, Steph.”

“I’m not. I’ve always felt that. That you wish I was just a person who did what she was told, but I’m not. I never have been. Ever. And if you don’t want to be here or if you don’t want to be around Gemma, then you can leave.”

“You honestly think that I wish you weren’t my daughter?”

“Yes and I know you’re ashamed of me, but-”

“Stephanie, I have never been ashamed of you. I’m proud of you. You left a good for nothing man, who I never liked and you run a business. What is there not to be proud of?”

“You didn’t like Johnny.”

“He wasn’t good enough for you neither was Terry.”

“And Gemma?”

Joan sighed and rolled her eyes. “I don’t know.”

“If Gemma was a man then, what would you say?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yes you do. You’d be proud. If she was a man, who was a doctor and a caretaker, who looked after Dean when I couldn’t, helped in anyway he could, you’d be so proud. You’d tell everyone that your Steph is with a doctor, but because she’s a woman, you can’t be proud. It brings you shame. It embarrasses you. It makes you ashamed of me.”

“Well when the whole town's talking about it.”

“Maybe they would stop talking about it, if you showed it didn’t bother you. If you told them you didn’t care because I was happy and with a good person.”

“This is nonsense.”

Steph laughed sadly. “Then go.”

“What?”

“I wanted you here because I thought it would be a good experience for all of us. So if this is all nonsense and you can’t tell me you’re happy for me, then go.”

“It’s Christmas.”

“Well if you can be civil and nice, you can stay, but if you’ve just come here to question Gemma and make her feel upset then you can leave. Gemma’s been through enough and I won’t have it. I won’t have you asking her questions like that and making her feel sadness or uncomfortable.”

Steph stood up from the table and took some plates to the sink.

“Mum, with Gemma’s help, I’m almost done!” Dean exclaimed.

“That’s great, Sweetheart.” She dropped the dishes in the sink and walked to the couch. She hovered over both of them. “It looks good. You’ve been working hard over here.”

Gemma looked up at her and rubbed her back. Steph bent down and placed a bruising kiss against her lips.

“Gemma, could you help me with these dishes?” Joan asked.

Gemma paused. “Uh, yeah. Sure.”

Gemma, as hesitantly as possible, started to clear the table while Steph put the remaining food in Tupperware. Joan waited until she cleared the area before she started talking to Gemma.

“Well, it seems you have my daughter quite under your spell,” Joan sighed.

Gemma shook her head. “I rather think she has me under her’s.” It was a joke that fell flat. “There is no spell, Joan. I mean you act as if I’m out to get you, which isn’t the case. I love Steph. That’s it. There’s no dark corners or motives. I just want what’s best for her because I’m deeply in love with her.”

“She was straight before she met you.”

“That’s just a label used by society to put us all in these weird boxes to make people feel uncomfortable. It’s a ridiculous way of thinking and for the record, I was married for fifteen years to a man. Steph and I just have a connection.”

“Oh please.”

“I mean what is so difficult about this? We’re both grown women who don’t need mummy and daddy’s approval. She can do whatever she wants as can I. I’m forty-three for Christ’s sake. So what is this about? What makes you so angry?”

“You’re a woman.”

“And?”

“It’s unnatural.”

“To who? You know Steph doesn’t care what anyone thinks, right? And since the whole town knows, we never have to hide it.”

Joan sighed, handing Gemma a dish to dry. Gemma grabbed a rag and did what she was silently told. Joan paused and glanced towards Steph and Dean in the living room.

“I don’t know how to cope with it.”

“It’s not a matter of coping, Joan. It’s a matter of just accepting it.”

“Well that’s hard for me.”

“Well, knowing Steph and you knowing her better, she’s very stubborn and won’t back down. She’s going to hold her ground and it’s going to lead to her not wanting to see you which will lead to you not seeing Dean, right?”

Joan made a sharp nod.

“I honestly don’t care if you like me or not. You can hate me for all eternity if you’d like, but I think Dean deserves to see his grandmother so just keep that in the back of your mind. And you can ask me questions and get to know me, but I have to trust you and I don’t. Not yet anyway, but when I do, and if I do, I’ll tell you everything that happened before I moved here.” Gemma smirked. “Okay?”

Joan nodded again and the conversation was left. Gemma helped her dry the dishes and put them away. As soon as Gemma was back in the living room, Steph tugged on her arm, pulling her down to the couch. She held her hand and kissed Gemma’s cheek.

“Are you okay?” Steph asked, laying her head on Gemma’s shoulder.

“Perfect.”

“Is she leaving?”

“No, going to get presents I believe.”

“So she’s staying?”

“Seems so, Love.”

“What did you say to her?”

“We just chatted about her acceptance towards us. I agree with you. I think she is trying.”

“I don’t believe that anymore.”

“Give her time, Steph.” Gemma kissed her head and Steph leaned further into her. Gemma wrapped her arm around Steph’s shoulder and rubbed her arm.

“I’m almost done!” Dean said, looking at the two women who both smiled at him.

“Look at that,” Steph whispered, taking Gemma’s free hand.

“Who’s ready for presents?” Joan asked, stepping back into the room. Steph got up to help Joan carry in her bag.

Dean’s hand shot into the air.

“Dean, can you move your Legos to the kitchen table, please?” Steph asked.

Gemma helped him collect all the bits and pieces as Steph went upstairs to get the presents she had for her mother. Once the pirate ship had been moved, Gemma went to her bag and pulled out a few, small packages.

“What are those?” Steph asked, coming down the stairs.

“Gifts for Joan.”

“You bought my mum gifts?”

“Yeah. Is that weird?”

“No.” Steph smiled. “It’s sweet.”

They gathered around the tree as they had done that morning. Gemma took up the chair this time, allowing the family to enjoy their own Christmas. Dean received more presents than needed from his Gran. They took their time, opening one by one. Joan looked down at her small pile and picked one up.

“This is from,” she paused, looking at the tag. “Gemma.” Gemma smiled at the eye contact, hoping Joan would like it. It was a slender item. Joan ripped the paper off, slowly and revealed a box.

“I thought it was something you could wear,” she explained.

Joan opened the box and smiled at the content. She pulled out a silk scarf. It was Joan’s style: neutral toned and not a lot of frills. Joan was mildly excited. “It’s beautiful,” she commented, wrapping the silk fabric around her neck. Steph looked towards Gemma with a surprised look. “Thank you,” Joan stated, clearly caught off guard.

“Your welcome.”

Gemma also gave her a broach that was small and gold, but meaningless. She just wanted Joan to know she appreciates her as Steph’s mom. Joan gave Dean a couple sweaters and one puzzle she thought would help him develop mentally. Steph also received a few clothing items that she was grateful for. Joan had one box left.

“It’s from Gemma.”

Gemma was hesitant, not expecting anything in return. She watched as Joan unwrapped it, revealing a jewelry box. Dean was sitting her lap and looked up towards her, Gemma’s eyes only on Joan. Joan opened the box to see a gold Cross necklace.

Joan gasped. It was a simple cross and Gemma smiled.

“I’m not sure if you wear one, but I thought ‘how perfect’ when I saw it.”

“You didn’t have to do this.”

“I know, but when I saw it, I just had a feeling.”

“Well thank you very much.”

“Again, you’re quite welcome.”

“Do you want me to help you put it on, Mum?”

“Sure, Dear.”

Steph took the necklace and helped her mother. Joan marveled at it. “I feel rather uncomfortable because I did not get you a gift.”

“I wasn’t expecting anything in return. I just saw the few items and thought you would like them.”

Joan’s smile was faint, but it was there. “Well, thank you, again.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Can I see it, Gran?” Dean popped off Gemma’s lap. She looked up at Steph who looked completely enamored with her. Gemma smiled. Dean climbed on the couch to look at the necklace. Steph walked behind Gemma’s chair and hugged her. She kissed her cheek.

“I love you,” she whispered.

“I love you too,” Gemma answered, rubbing the arm wrapped around her.

“Tea?”

“Yeah, that be good.”

“Mum? Tea?”

“Yes, please.”

“Want to help me?” Steph asked, giving Gemma another squeeze.

“Sure, Love.”

Gemma got up and followed Steph into the kitchen. Their backs were to the other two as Gemma stood beside Steph as she filled the kettle with water.

“You did a good job,” Steph whispered.

Gemma placed her hand next to Steph’s and their pinkies played together. “Did I?”

“She’s wearing it.”

“Yeah well. Thought it was good so guess I was right.”

Steph smirked. “I’ll show you how good later tonight.” Steph bit her bottom lip, eyes lustful.

Gemma’s words caught in her throat and it took all her might not to push Steph against the counter and run her hands all over her body. She took a deep breath and licked her lips. “I look forward to it.”

“I know you do, Love.”

They stared at one another, their own imaginations running wild. Gemma was about to make a move when the whistle from the kettle broke them from their stupors. Steph sighed.

“Gemma?”

“Yes, Love.”

“Will you help me with the rest of my ship?”

“Of course.”

Gemma started to lay out the pieces that they had clumped together on the table so it was easier. Gemma was mostly there for emotional support as Dean slowly put it together piece by piece. Joan studied the two of them as they sat at the kitchen table. Steph placed a cup of tea in front of Gemma and handed Dean a biscuit. She grabbed the other saucer and walked it to Joan, sitting beside her.

“She is very good with him,” Joan commented.

Steph looked over at the kitchen table to see Gemma find a piece and Dean high fiving her. “Yeah, she really is.”

“And he is happy?”

“He is really happy, Mum.”

“Has he been teased at school or anything?”

“I don’t think so, no. If he has, he hasn’t talked about it which isn’t like him. He would have told one of us by now.”

“And Terry?”

“He doesn’t know. I’m not ready to talk to him yet. With all the things going on because of Lisa and the baby with Dean, I just don’t want to deal with it.”

“But you will eventually have to.”

“Yeah, but I rather Dean and Terry get back on normal terms before that.”

“When is Dean going back there?”

“Well the first weekend after the New Year, Terry is going to come here so they can go out and do something and then the following week, Dean will be going back to stay with him. Gemma and I have talked about getting a hotel room that weekend in Birmingham, just in case he isn’t happy and wants to come home, but we haven’t finalized everything yet.”

“Has Gemma ever seen one of Terry’s fits?”

“She’s seen him angry, yeah.”

“What does she do?”

Steph smiled. “Stands tall and strong. He doesn’t scare her nor me for that matter, but since she doesn’t really know him, she doesn’t know that he’s never laid a hand on me ever nor Dean. She loves me, Mum.”

Joan sighed. “As you keep saying.”

“Because it’s true. She’s a good person.”

“But why though?”

“I don’t know, Mum. She just, when I met her, just something clicked. Something just felt right about being next to her. I can’t explain it other than love.”

“Whoa!” Gemma exclaimed as Dean pretended to shoot a cannon towards her. Dean laughed, hugging her.

“I’ll do better,” Joan admitted, quietly. “Or at least actually try to do better.”

“That’s all I’m asking for.”

Joan didn’t stay for much longer, even though Steph protested and tried to get her to stay a little longer. They ate sandwiches for dinner, Dean playing with his toys while Gemma and Steph enjoyed the fire. Dean fell asleep on the couch as their Christmas night came to a close. The pirate ship had been completed, treats and snacks had been consumed and it seemed everyone was ready for bed. Steph took Dean upstairs, while Gemma locked everything up and turned off the lights. She laid down on the bed and took a deep breath, letting herself relax from the day.

The bedroom door open and Steph waltzed in, closing it behind her. Steph slipped out of her clothes, sweater first followed by her jeans. Gemma smiled as she watched Steph walk to the end of the bed and then slowly climb on top of her. She hovered over Gemma’s legs.

“You did very good today,” Steph stated, starting to undo Gemma’s jeans.

“So you’ve told me.”

Steph pulled the fabric down, Gemma helping by pushing up her hips. They laughed over the tightness, but Steph finally got her legs free, letting them fall to the floor. Gemma sat up, taking her shirt off before getting comfortable again.

Steph placed kisses on her abdomen, then her breasts and finally her lips. “I think you deserve a reward.”

“You do, do you?”

“Mmhmm.”

Steph took Gemma’s bottom lip between her teeth and pulled it. Gemma hissed, bringing their lips together in a rushed, heated kiss. She grabbed Steph’s backside, but Steph broke the kiss.

“Uh uh,” Steph said, pinning Gemma’s wrists against the bed.

“Why not?”

“Because you deserve an award.”

“And why aren’t you my award?”

“Because I want to do everything I can to make you come.”

Gemma’s breath was ragged as Steph sat her up to unclasped her bra and then proceeded to pull down her underwear, leaving Gemma’s body fully exposed to her. “But I like touching you and feeling you.”

Steph ran her hand up Gemma’s inner thigh. “I know you do, but-” Gemma gasped as she felt Steph’s fingers through her folds. “I want to fuck you like this.” Gemma spread her legs, giving full permission to Steph, moaning under her touch. She kissed Gemma’s cheek, continuously teasing her, but enjoyed Gemma’s grunts and groans in her ear. Steph finally abided and slipped two fingers into Gemma. She was warm and incredibly wet as she thrust in and out of her. Gemma gripped Steph’s hands above her head, moaning into each kiss.

“You’re mouth,” Gemma whispered as Steph pinched her nipple.

“What?”

“I want your mouth.”

Steph smirked, sliding down Gemma’s naked body. “Promise you won’t touch me?”

Gemma groaned. “I honestly cannot make that promise.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to touch you. I know you like it when I pull your hair so I don’t even know why we’re having this conversation.” Steph thought for a minute and they looked at each other, both laughing. “Come here,” Gemma said, cupping Steph’s face and meeting her in a loving kiss. Gemma’s arms circled around Steph’s waist and she hummed. She enjoyed the feeling of Gemma’s hands and arms touching her. It was her reminder of home.

“You’re right, I like this more.”

“I still want my reward though.”

Steph chuckled. “Seriously?”

“Hmm. I mean, you already started it.”

“And you’re really wet.”

She felt Steph’s fingers against her core and moaned. “And I want you.”

“Yeah?”

Gemma gasped and nodded, biting her lip. Steph gave her a peck and then kissed and licked down the front of her body, over her nipples, through her pubic hair until she made contact. Gemma’s hips skyrocketed off the bed. Steph wrapped her arms under Gemma’s thighs to keep her still. She felt Gemma’s hand take a handful of her hair and grip it, causing herself to moan against Gemma’s core.

“You taste so good, Gem.”

“Fuck, Steph,” Gemma moaned in a harsh whisper. Steph smiled before sucking Gemma’s center into her mouth and pushing her fingers inside of her. “You’re killing me,” Gemma groaned, hips now thrusting in time. “I’m close, Steph.” She yanked on Steph’s hair, trying her hardest to keep her hips still, but failing miserably. Steph used her other hand to squeeze Gemma’s breast as a gurgled cry came from Gemma. “Almost,” Gemma moaned. Her body started to convulse and twitch against Steph’s fingers. She pulled back and continued to pump inside of Gemma, now using her free hand to rub her core so her jaw could take a small break. They could both feel it building, working together when:

“Mum?”

Gemma immediately started to cover her body as Steph shot straight up. “Dean, close the door please!”

He abided, closing it. “Shit,” Gemma whispered.

“Do you want to finish?”

“What?”

“I mean, you were close. I could feel it.”

“No, Love! It’s inappropriate with him on the other side of the door.” They quickly got up and Steph started to dress as quickly as possible. Gemma grabbed her pajamas. “I’m going to take a shower.” She walked into the bathroom, turning the water on.

“I need to wash my hands.” Steph quickly ran in after her and washed her hands, continuously checking to make sure the smell of Gemma was gone. “Are you going to touch yourself?” Steph asked.

“Are you going to judge me if I do?”

“No! Not at all. Just wish it was me doing it.”

“Yeah, me too, Love.”

Steph looked in the mirror. “Shit.”

“What?”

“I have to wash my face. You’re all over me.”

“I don’t know why you’re complaining.”

Steph laughed. “I’m not.” She quickly washed her face and dried it before closing the bathroom door. Gemma was just about to step in when she walked back in.

“What?” Gemma asked.

“It smells like sex out there!”

She grabbed a spray bottle and spritzed it on the mattress and the air. “Mummy?”

“Coming, Sweetheart.” She grabbed a shirt, throwing it on while trying to air out the spray in the room. She walked to the door, matting down her hair and opened it. “What’s wrong, Love?”

“I can’t sleep.” Dean pushed through into the space and laid on Gemma’s side of the bed. Steph sighed with relief that it wasn’t her side.

“Well you were sound asleep downstairs.”

“But I woke up. Can I sleep with you?”

“Um,” Steph bit her lip, looking towards the bathroom. She wanted Gemma tremendously. “Wouldn’t you feel better in your own bed?”

Dean laid down and shook his head no. Steph heard the water stop and waited patiently for Gemma. A few moments she stepped out. She smiled at Steph, when she noticed the small visitor.

“Dean?”

“He says he can’t sleep.”

“I can’t,” he complained. “And it’s still Christmas.”

“It is, yes, but that doesn’t mean you get to stay up all night.”

“I could read you a story,” Gemma suggested. Dean nodded, sitting up with excitement. “In your bed.”

Dean slouched and laid back down.

“Dean, you’re a little too big to be sleeping with Mummy,” Steph tried.

“But I like it.”

“I know, Tigger, but it’s not just me in here at the moment so you’d have to sleep between Gemma and I and it would get too hot.”

“I don’t mind.”

Steph sighed and looked up at Gemma. “It’s fine. I’m knackered so maybe we should just go to sleep.”

“But I was hoping we could continue that thing.”

“Well me too, but he has your stubbornness and I don’t know if I can deal with an upset kid and having the energy to do that afterwards. We’ll continue it tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” Steph was disappointed, but the weight of the day fell upon her and she too was getting more and more tired. Gemma kissed her head, but Steph pulled her down to kiss her lips. Dean moved to the middle. Gemma kissed her one time before laying down. Steph watched her and then glanced at Dean.

“Just tonight, Dean.”

He nodded, cuddling up to Gemma. Gemma looked towards Steph. She rubbed his back as they stared at one another.

“Did you take care of that thing?” Steph asked, quietly.

“Yeah.”

“And how was it?”

Gemma smirked. “Not as good as when you take care of it.” Steph rested on her elbow and pushed Gemma’s hair back. “I’m sorry.”

“About what?”

Steph gestured to Dean. “This.”

“Don’t apologize for things you can’t control. It’s alright. We’ll try again tomorrow.”

“Not the answer I want.”

“Nor I, but here we are.”

“I am sorry.”

“Shush. There is absolutely no reason to be. We have all the time in the world to be together, but you only get him this small and young for a few short years.”

“How old was Tom when you stopped allowing him to sleep in your bed?”

Gemma looked up with a sigh, thinking. “Around this age, I think. Maybe another year. Did you two sleep together a lot after Johnny?”

“No, but if he wanted to, I’d let him. It’s a big bed so. Should have known it would turn into this.”

“Well it might not be the reason, but it might not. I would say, if it continues, then you talk to him about it. Not much we can do now.”

“I know.” Steph stared at Gemma as her eyes started to close. “I love you,” she whispered.

The smallest smile crept upon Gemma’s face. “I love you too.”

--------------------------------------------------------------

Gemma awoke the next morning to a feeling she had come to love. Steph placed kisses all around Gemma’s neck. She hummed at the feeling, stretching her body a little bit, turning towards Steph. She could hear Steph’s small giggle fill the space next to her ear. Steph tugged on her earlobe.

“Want me?” Steph whispered.

“Always.”

Gemma felt Steph’s hand slide down the front of her pants. She enjoyed it only for second before she grabbed Steph’s wrist. “Wait! What about Dean?”

Steph laughed. “I moved him hours ago. He gets too hot and I could barely sleep. All I could think about was you and I want you so,” Steph straddled Gemma’s waist. Gemma realized Steph had disrobed from the waist down. “I want to finish what I didn’t get to last night.” Gemma sat up, meeting Steph in a heated kiss. Gemma took her own shirt off, smiling when she caught of whiff of something horrible.

“My breath is awful,” Gemma commented.

“It’s fine.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, Gem. And Dean usually wakes up in about fifteen minutes so we don’t have a lot of time.”

“He doesn’t have school today.”

“He’s an early riser and I’ve been trying to wake you up for over an hour.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes! Why are we talking about this right now? I want your hands between my legs and I want mine between yours and for you to kiss me.”

Gemma looked impressed. “Yes ma’am,” she answered, rubbing Steph’s core. Steph gasped, slipping her hand back into Gemma’s pajama bottoms. They both sighed, clinging to one another.

“We have to be quick,” Steph panted.

“I’m doing the best I can.”

Steph moaned, grinding her hips against Gemma’s hands. “Go inside of me.”

Gemma laid down, pulling Steph with her. Once they were settled, Gemma entered her. She watched her back arch, her eyes close and her head swing backwards, mouth agape. She loved that look on Steph. Knowing she was pleasuring her as best she could and that it had this effect on her. Steph’s hand had stopped moving, unintentionally, as she focused on herself. Gemma did not mind and rubbed herself against Steph’s fingers.

“Fuck, Gemma.” Gemma alternated from penetration to focusing on her center, Steph continuously making sounds in her ear as she barely held herself up.

“Good?”

“Always. Just don’t stop.”

Gemma smiled, kissing the side of her head and then her shoulder. She reached between their bodies and cupped Steph’s breast, pulling her shirt up so they were exposed. Steph laughed.

“You really like my tits, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do.”

Gemma flipped them so Steph was on her back. She never stopped her movements between Steph’s legs as she took a nipple into her mouth. Steph scratched down her back, wrapping her legs around her torso. Gemma went back to her center. She could feel the burning in her arm as she rubbed her, limited by their current state. Steph bit Gemma’s shoulder, feeling her climax escalating. Her moans became higher and higher in pitch.

“Mum?”

“Seriously?” Gemma sighed, pausing.

“Don’t stop. I’m almost there.”

“Is the door locked?”

“No, but just a little more,” Steph humped against Gemma’s hand, her body tightening, gripping Gemma. She moaned into Gemma’s neck as her whole body relaxed and her orgasm rushed through her. Gemma could feel her convulsing against her hand, kissing her neck, but kept her eye on the door.

“Fuck,” Steph whispered. She sat up and tried to compose herself. Her cheeks were flushed as she caught her breath.

“Mummy?”

“I’ll be downstairs in a minute, Love.”

“Can I come in?”

“No!” They both answered. They sat and waited until they heard his little feet head down the stairs.

“Why doesn’t your kid want me to get off?”

“I can still get you off.”

“It feels weird, knowing he’s awake.”

“Well, I can lock the door and then if you’re quick, we can do it.” Steph got up and locked the door. She came back and pulled Gemma’s pajama pants down. She took a deep inhale as she settled between Gemma’s legs. “Can you be quick?”

“Yeah, if you get to work.”

“Why are you being snarky?”

“Because I would like to have sex with you and-”

“And not worry about a kid?”

Gemma sighed. “No, it’s not that. I just, I want to be able to make love to you and it be done in return in one go without conversations like these in between. It’s nothing against the situation, it’s just-”

“Frustrating. I know. I’m sorry.”

Gemma smiled. “Don’t be sorry.”

“Mum? Gemma?” Dean shouted from the bottom of the stairs.

Steph sighed. “I need to rekindle this thing with Terry so we can have another weekend alone.”

“It would be nice, but we can’t do too much about it at the moment.”

“Well, the best I can do now is get your off, very quickly.”

Gemma laughed. “I’d prefer to not have to rush it and the mood is kind of killed considering he’s going to call up again in probably a minute.”

“Yeah, your right.” They kissed one another. “I’m sorry.”

“Stop. I’m not angry, just annoyed. I had an orgasm last night. You had one this morning. That should hold us over until… hmm... tonight?”

“It better be tonight,” Steph agreed, grumpily. “Will you go make him some breakfast so I can shower?”

“Sure, Love.”

They shared a few longing kisses with one another that softened into small pecks. Dean called for a third time and they slowly separated. “And will you tell him to please be patient?”

“Sure.”

They stared at one another for a moment with goofy smiles on their faces. “I love you,” Gemma stated. She met Steph’s lips. “I love you too.” Steph got off her and walked to the bathroom. Gemma watched her go, enjoying the view. She reached down and pulled her pajama pants back up, putting on her shirt and followed, brushing her teeth and washing her hands.

“Do you want coffee, Love?”

“Um,” Steph thought from inside the shower.

“Or tea?”

“No coffee is good.”

“Coffee it is then.”

Gemma slipped on a robe and went downstairs. She saw Dean sitting on the last step. He rested his head against his fist.

“Why so glum?” Gemma asked, passing him.

“Is Mum mad at me?”

“What? No. Why would she be mad at you?”

Gemma walked into the kitchen, Dean following her. “Because she hasn’t answered me.”

“She’s been busy, Love.”

“Are you mad at me?”

“No, Sweetheart. Sometimes adults just need a moment to themselves and that’s what your mum’s doing. The only thing she told me to tell you is to be patient.”

“You mean don’t bother you?”

“More like, if you ask if you can come in and the answer is no and then your mum tells you she’ll be downstairs in a minute, then just listen and wait until you see her.”

“So she is mad at me?”

Gemma knelt down in front of Dean. “No, Love. She’s not mad at you. I’m not mad at you. No one is mad at you. Perhaps when the door is closed and she tells you no, you just respect her wish, yeah?”

Dean nodded. “No sad faces, Love. What do you want for breakfast?”

Dean shrugged. “Why did I wake up in my bed?”

“Your mum said she got hot and moved you. Apparently, you’re like a little furnace in your sleep.” She tickled his sides and he laughed, but she could tell something was bothering him. “What’s going on, Love? Did you see something or hear something?”

“No. I just don’t understand why I’m too big.”

Gemma smiled. “Every kid reaches that time of their life where parents just like their space, Love. Mummies need space sometimes that’s all. I promise.”

“Okay.”

“Do you want to help me make some breakfast?”

“Sure.”

They worked together to make scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. Dean’s mood lifted as he helped Gemma with making the eggs. He listened intently and did everything Gemma told him to do. Steph came down to see breakfast being laid out for her on the table.

“Ooh,” she sung, coming in. Dean smiled at her and ran to hug her. “Morning, Tigger.”

“I helped Gemma with breakfast!”

“You did?”

“Pretty much made the eggs all my himself.”

“Gemma helped me.”

“Well they look delicious. What if we made our plates, ate on the couch and see if there is a Christmas movie to watch?”

Dean nodded, looking towards Gemma.

“We can do whatever you want, Kid and I figured after breakfast and apparently the movie, we could go down to the park. Teach Dean to ride his bike?”

Steph smiled. “And have me freeze?”

“We’ll make sure you have an extra jumper and scarf. I have to go back to work tomorrow so I figured this would be a nice group activity to do on my last day off of the year.”

“Can we, Mum?”

Steph just smiled. “‘Course we can.”

Dean hugged her tightly. They loaded their plates, Steph getting juice for everyone. Everyone was settling on the couch when Steph and Gemma tried to sit next to one another. Dean pushed in between them. They shared a glance, scooting to make room for him. They managed to find “Miracle on 34th Street”. Dean watched intently while eating.

“These eggs could possibly be the best eggs I’ve ever had,” Steph commented. Dean beamed and looked up at her. “So good, Sweetheart.”

“Thanks,” he said, shyly.

As they watched the movie, Gemma’s only interest was Steph. She reached behind the couch, Dean leaning into her, to play with Steph’s hair. Steph looked at her and took her hand. She kissed it and got up.

“Dean can you scoot down, please?”

“Why?”

“So I can sit next to Gemma.”

“But I want to sit next to both of you.”

Steph sighed. She looked at Gemma, who shrugged. “Let’s talk about it later,” she suggested. Steph sat on Gemma’s lap for a minute, just wanting to feel her warmth and security. “How about you two finish this up while I do the dishes,” Gemma suggested.

“You’re sure?”

“‘Course.”

Steph got up and collected the plates, handing them to Gemma. Steph took her place on the couch. Dean quickly cuddled up to her. This new behavior wasn’t going unnoticed by either of the two women.

---------------------------------------------------------

The family of three were upstairs, getting ready to take Dean to the park for his lesson. Dean was content while Steph and Gemma were deep in conversation.

“He’s never been so attached,” Steph said, putting on a thermal shirt.

“Well that’s what I keep saying. Maybe I’m taking up too much of your time together. I have been over here more frequently than not.”

“Yes, but he likes you.”

“Steph, he can like me and miss being alone with you. This isn’t just an adjustment for us, but for him too.”

“I know that. It’s just weird. He’s not like this.”

“Then I think you should talk to him about it.”

“How should I approach it though?”

“You just ask him if there is any particular reason he wants to be around you all the time or why he feels the need to be attached to us.”

“Isn’t that a bit harsh?”

Gemma sighed. She slipped on a wool sock. “I don’t know. I don’t think so, but maybe I am harsh. Regardless, Love, you need to talk to him otherwise it’s going to continue.”

“I know. Should we talk to him together?”

Gemma paused, mid sock. “No. I don’t think so. This needs to be between you and him.”

“You’re right.”

“So I think tomorrow, after my shift, I should just go home. Let you two have your space.”

“I hate that, but it is probably what’s best.”

“Yeah and then maybe it’ll all work out and we can have a full night of shenanigans.”

“Do you mean sex?”

“Yes, obviously.”

“Did you just refer to sex as shenanigans.”

Gemma grinned. “Yeah I did.”

Steph laughed. She cupped Gemma’s cheeks, standing between her legs. “You are so cute.”

Gemma puckered her lips and scrunched her nose. “I wouldn’t describe me as cute. That’s your description, Love. Cute, geeky, and yet incredibly sexy.”

“I think you’re very sexy.”

“Yeah?”

Steph nodded.

“I can live with that.”

Steph rubbed Gemma’s arms. “You think he’s okay though, right?”

“Yeah I do. Kids are fickle little creatures.”

“Should I be worried?”

“No, Love. It might not be anything. He might not even be aware of it. I think some Dean and Steph time is what’s best at the moment and I think he’s fine. Right now, I’m more concerned about your anxiety.”

“I don’t have anxiety.”

“Steph, you worry about this stuff way too much. I mean do you feel calm or do you feel like you’ve got some shortness of breath or butterflies in your stomach? Something like that?”

“No.” Gemma eyed her. “I don’t. And I don’t think it’s bad to be worried about my son.”

“I”m not saying it’s bad. I’m just making sure you’re okay.”

“I’m fine. Seriously I’m good.”

Gemma nodded. “Okay.”

They heard Dean’s door opened and Steph turned around to see him standing in the doorway. “Look at you! Are you ready?”

“Are you going to teach me, Mum?”

“Well I thought Gemma would still do it since she started it.”

Dean shrugged. “Okay.”

“You ready to go, Sweetheart?”

“Yes!”

“Want to help me load the bike into the car?” Gemma asked.

“Okay!”

Gemma stood and kissed the side of Steph’s head. “See you down there.”

“Yeah.”

Gemma and Dean bundled up in their coats, scarves and hats. “Do you have gloves, Kid?”

“He does!” Steph yelled from upstairs.

Gemma laughed. “Got your helmet and pads?” Dean nodded. “Alright.” They grabbed the bike from the back and Gemma allowed Dean to ride it to the front of the house via the alley way. She held onto him the whole time. He hopped off and pushed it to Gemma’s car.

“Can you lift it?” Gemma asked. She opened the back hatch and smiled. Dean tried, but Gemma quickly helped him lift it into the back. “There ya go. Excited?”

“You’ll hold onto me, right?”

“Until you tell me not to.”

“Then yes I’m excited.”

Gemma laughed. “Good. Now we just need your mum and-”

Steph opened the front door. “Dean, do you have your scarf?”

“I’m wearing it!” He answered.

Steph smiled and locked the door, joining them.

“What’s that?” Gemma asked, pointing to Steph’s hand.

“It’s a blanket.”

Gemma laughed. “Are you serious?”

“Don’t make fun of me! I get cold easily.”

“I know, Love, but it’s not that cold.”

“I am a grown woman and if I want to carry a blanket with me to the park to stay warm, I am allowed to do so!”

“I like your blanket,” Dean stated.

“And my son likes my blanket so what’s your problem?” Steph teased.

Gemma just smirked. “No problems. You’re just adorable and I love you.”

Steph smiled. “I love you too.”

It didn’t take long to get to the park. It was a rather quiet, cloudy day as they got out. Gemma helped Dean get the bike out of the back, while Steph wrapped the blanket around herself. Gemma pulled out a thermos and handed it to Steph. “It’s tea. Not as good as a blanket, but can keep your hands warm.”

“You’re very sweet.”

“I can be when I want to be.”

“Come on, Gemma!” Dean had his helmet and pads on, ready to go.

“Coming!” She turned to Steph. “Ready for this?”

“He’s getting so big and I’m getting old.”

Gemma laughed. “At least you’re still sexy.”

Steph hit Gemma’s shoulder. “You won’t say that when my tits are to my knees.”

“That’s physically impossible and I’ll love you no matter what so even they do wobble all the way down to your knees, I will still be there, helping you stuff them into a bra.”

“What more could any woman ask for, really?”

Gemma shrugged. “I don’t know. Someone to make the bed, get you soup when your sick, make sure their kids healthy-”

“Kiss me.” Gemma placed a light kiss against Steph’s lips. “Now go teach my kid how to ride a bike while I stand here.”

“Gemma,” Dean pushed his bike back.

“So sorry, Sir. Your mother is very distracting.”

“Hey. I am not!”

“Let’s go, Kid.”

Gemma, once again, held the bike for Dean to climb on. Steph wouldn’t show it, but she was actually rather excited and happy for this moment. Even though Dean was growing too quickly, she always enjoyed witnessing his milestones. She watched as Gemma and Dean worked together, Gemma jogging along at some point. How her hands went from the handlebars to just his seat. She could feel he was ready. His confidence was growing and he was more centered with the bike.

“Can I let go?” Gemma asked. “I’m only holding onto the seat. You’re practically doing this all by yourself.”

Dean took a deep breath. “Let go.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

Gemma released the seat and Dean took off by himself. Gemma slowed down her jog until she halted, Steph standing beside her.

“I’m doing it!” Dean shouted, pedaling faster, but near them so they could see. A smile was glued to his face. They both cheered him as he continued. Steph looked up at Gemma.

“Did you teach Tom how to ride a bike.”

“I did, yeah. He always says I wasn’t there, but I never missed a moment like this.”

“You’re a good teacher.”

“No, Dean is just a natural.”

“Thank you.”

“Of course. If it wasn’t me, it’d be you, right?”

“Probably Terry.”

“You don’t know how to ride one, do you?”

“No.”

“I could teach you too, you know.”

“Yeah, maybe one day, Love, but for right now, I’m happy with this.”

Steph and Gemma huddled up together as they watched Dean ride around. Eventually they sat on a bench, huddled together under the blanket. After some time and everyone frozen to their bones, they headed back to the house and spent the rest of the day as a family: board games, dinner, stories and bed.

Chapter Text

The problem with Dean had escalated. They continued to talk to him about it and Gemma had stayed less at the house than either of them liked. She had adjusted to their home and having to be at her own flat, led her to go out with her coworkers just so she wouldn’t be alone. She missed those nights with Steph and they could barely talk on the phone without Dean trying to pipe in. After a couple of days, they finally bit the bullet and decided that Gemma would stay the night. Dean, however, tried to sleep with them again. Steph had become so irritated, she yelled at him. It was rare for her to do that and it ended with Dean not talking to her the next morning. Steph had apologized profusely while she took him to Joan’s, but it made no difference.

Gemma and Dean got into Gemma’s car that afternoon to go to the grocery store. Steph was working on location at the recreation building for Ane Summers big New Years Eve bash and didn’t have time to cook dinner. Gemma had the day off and offered to help her out. She picked him up from Joan’s and was told he didn’t talk as much as he usually did. This attitude carried on as he sat in the backseat, arms crossed and a small pout.

“Not talking to me either, are you?” Dean shook his head. “You know your mum didn’t mean to yell at you. She has a short temper sometimes and she’s frustrated because of the New Years Eve party, but she didn’t mean to yell.”

Dean didn’t say anything, but made brief eye contact with her in the rear view mirror. He turned his head quickly and looked back out the window.

Gemma sighed. “If it helps, she was rather upset with herself all night. She felt horrible and the silent treatment didn’t help her feel any better this morning.” Dean shrugged.

Gemma pulled into a parking space and they both just sat there. Gemma got out of the car, turning it off. Dean was expecting her to open his door like she usually did, but instead she got in the back, next to him. He glanced at her before turning away.

“Your mum thinks there is something really going on in that head of yours and asked me to ask you so what’s going on?” When he didn’t reply, Gemma tried to move him so they were facing each other. He obeyed, but still wouldn’t look at her. “Is it me?”

Dean shook his head no.

“Is it your mum?”

He did it again.

“Gran?”

“No.”

Gemma nodded. Silence lingered as Gemma figured it out. “Your dad?”

“Yeah.”

“You miss him?”

Dean nodded.

“Is he the reason you’ve become so attached to being around your mother and I?”

“He’s gone to be with Lisa and the baby. I don’t want Mummy to disappear.”

“With me?”

“Yeah.”

“Sweetheart, I think you should know that your mum loves you more than anything in this world.”

“More than you?”

“Way more than me. You’re apart of her. You know where babies come from, right?”

“Mummy’s tummy.”

“Right. You came from your mum’s stomach and nothing can break the connection you have with her. Not me or anyone else. You will always come first.”

“So why did she yell at me and not want me to be around?”

Gemma smiled, sympathetically. “It’s not that she doesn’t want you to be around, but I’ve told you, adults need alone time too. You don’t need to sleep with us. You’re a big kid! It’s not like we’d leave in the middle of the night without you.”

“Daddy did.”

“When?”

“Anytime they had a fight. He’d go to Uncle Barry’s house and spend the night there. Sometimes I’d wake up and he wouldn’t be home.”

“And what would your Mum say?”

“That he had a sleepover at Uncle Barry’s.”

“But she was always there when you woke up, right?”

“Yeah, but what if you’re not.”

“Love, If I’m not there it’s for two reasons. One: I have an extremely early or very late shift at the clinic or two: you and your mum are having your time alone otherwise I’m there, right?”

“Yeah, but you weren’t this week.”

“Well your mum and I are trying to figure out what’s going on with you. We thought it was me so we decided I should stay home for a few days so you could be with her.”

“But I like it when you’re there.”

Gemma smiled. “Me too, Kid. But you don’t need to worry about losing me. I love you and your mum so much! And don’t ever be worried or scared you’re going to lose your mum because she isn’t going anywhere! The only places she goes without you is to work or the pub. Like I said, she loves you so much, Kid. Yeah?”

Dean nodded and unbuckled his seatbelt. He slid himself over and hugged Gemma. She kissed the side of his head. “It’s okay, Love.” Dean pulled back and she smiled at him. “What do you want for dinner?”

Dean shrugged.

“What if we made a pizza tonight?”

“Order pizza?”

“No, Love. Make it ourselves. Buy the dough and the sauce and whatever toppings we want. How does that sound?”

“Can I help you make it?”

“‘Course. We’ll make it together.”

They got out of the car and Dean waited for Gemma to close the door before taking her hand.

“When’s Mum going to be home?”

“Around 6, I think.”

Dean sighed. “That’s a long time.”

“It’s a few hours, yeah.”

They gathered all the ingredients they wanted, Gemma making sure to get vegetables before heading back to the house. Gemma liked having her key and preferred this place to her flat. Those past few days had been really hard for her. They were barely ever at her’s and she didn’t mind a sleep or two there, but she had been there for four nights. It didn’t feel like home anymore. Steph had even snagged a few of Tom’s photos and brought them to the house so Gemma could see him there too.

Gemma showed Dean how to roll out the dough and helped him stretch it when he needed it. She let him pour the sauce and sprinkle the cheese while she cut pepperonis and a few different vegetables. She handed them to him and he would place them on. She let him set the oven and they waited for it to heat. Once it was ready, Gemma put the pizza in the oven.

Steph came home and wasn’t pleased with the smell of pizza, thinking they ordered out and expecting boxes on the table. She kicked her shoes off and sighed deeply. It had been a very long day of running around and all she wanted was to crawl into bed with Gemma and only Gemma. Her argument with Dean had weighed heavy all day and she tried to ignore the burden she felt with coming home.

She turned in the door frame to see Gemma and Dean working in some sort of math activity book, a spelling one on the table. Steph looked to see no boxes, wondering if they ate without her. She wasn’t that late.

Gemma looked up and smiled. “Hi, Love.”

“Hi.”

“Mummy!”

Dean jumped off the couch and straight to her, hugging around her waist. “Hi, Sweetheart. I see your talking to me again.”

Dean nodded, still hugging her. She looked at Gemma. “He and I had a chat.”

“You did, huh?” Dean looked up at her and smiled. “Well I’m glad to have my sweet boy back.”

“Gemma and I made pizza!”

“You did?”

“Is that alright? It has plenty of vegetables, all fresh ingredients.”

“Yeah sounds good. I was worried you just ordered in.”

“No, Love. New cooking experience for Dean. Should be ready in a few.”

Dean finally let go of her and she walked forward to kiss Gemma. She cupped her cheeks before placing a long smooch against her lips. They rested their foreheads together.

“Long day?”

Steph sat next to her with a plop. “You could say that.” Gemma wrapped her arm around Steph’s shoulder and rubbed her arm. Dean sat on the floor and looked at them. “What you doing, Love?” Steph asked him.

He shrugged.

“Well come here. Tell me about this talk with Gemma.” Dean sat on Steph’s lap and leaned against her, but wouldn’t talk.

“He is worried that he would wake up in the middle of the night and we wouldn’t be there.”

“Where would we be, Love? Probably down here, right? If we’re not upstairs.”

“No, he means gone, gone. Saying something about an Uncle Barry.”

“That was Terry’s best friend until,” she paused and whispered, “Lisa.”

“Ah, okay.”

“And what about Uncle Barry? Hm?” Steph asked looking down at Dean. He was cuddled in her arms and she pushed his hair back so he would look at her.

“That’s where Daddy used to go after a fight.”

“Right.”

“And you left last night after you yelled at me.”

“Honey, I went downstairs. I didn’t leave the house and I would never leave you on your own. Ever.”

“But you didn’t talk to me.”

“No and I should have apologized immediately instead of acting like your father and just leaving, but Dean, I’m never going to leave you. I would never leave you on your own and I am sorry for last night. I was irritated from the day and I, rather badly, threw my frustration into something it wasn’t about and yelled at you. I am sorry.”

“I didn’t like it.”

“I know, Love. I didn’t either.”

Dean reached up to hug her and Steph rubbed his back. Gemma could tell she was exhausted. She had little dark circles developing under her eyes. Gemma patted her leg for support, lightly squeezing around her knee.

“But with that said,” Steph started. Dean leaned back so he could look at her. “Even though I didn’t say it the correct way last night, what I said still stands, Love. You can come to me whenever there is a problem, always. I don’t care if it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night, but no more sleepovers unless something really bad actually happens. Bad dreams, sickness, truly terrified, please come, but just to sleep with us,” Steph shook her head. “You are getting too big for that.”

Dean pouted.

“No, Love. No sad faces.”

“I just don’t understand why.”

“Sweetheart, we’ve both explained it. Adults need alone time and our alone time starts when the children go to sleep,” Gemma explained.

“But what do you need alone time for?”

Both Gemma and Steph stuttered, inappropriate images of each other filling their headspace. “To talk about boring things,” Steph blurted.

“Like what?”

“Um…” Steph hummed.

“The news. The bills. The boring stuff that wouldn’t be entertaining at all, but we can’t be interrupted when doing that because we lose our place and train of thought.”

Gemma looked up at Steph, who mouthed “what?!”. Gemma shrugged.

“That does sound boring,” Dean agreed.

“It’s what puts us to sleep at night,” Steph added.

Gemma nodded.

“But what about those noises?”

Steph felt her stomach drop and her eyes widen. “What noises?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes it’s a lot of whispering and one time it sounded like knocking.”

Gemma and Steph made eye contact. Steph remembers that situation perfectly, watching Gemma bend over for her. She still remembers the way she said ‘fuck me’. She could tell that Gemma knew exactly what he was talking about as well. Gemma shrugged, out of ideas. “Um, must be something outside, Love.”

“Yeah. We do share a wall with the neighbors so it could be them,” Steph stated.

A timer went off and Gemma smiled. “Pizza is done.”

“Yeah! Let’s eat before it goes cold.”

Gemma got up to take the pizza out of the oven. Dean looked at his mom who had a guilty smile. “Want to set the table?” Steph asked.

“Sure.”

Dean got off her lap and she sighed. She leaned forward with her head in her hands and scratched her forehead. She was frustrated; mentally and sexually. She hadn’t been able to sleep with Gemma since Dean almost walked in. They would start, no matter how slow or quick, Dean would call or come in. Steph knew Gemma was also annoyed and it didn’t seem to matter how much they talked about it, Dean didn’t get it. She’s hoping tonight and after her tone of voice last night that he finally understood.

She looked forward, taking another deep breath. Gemma held out her hand and Steph smiled at her. “We’ll make it work and figure it out,” she stated in a hushed tone.

“Yeah.”

“Come on, Love. I got wine.”

“You did?”

Gemma smiled. “Yeah. Good stuff too.”

“Thank you.” Steph took Gemma’s hand and stood up. “I love you.” She embraced Gemma, resting her head on her shoulder.

“I love you too.” She held her as close as possible. They swayed a little back and forth while Dean washed his hands. “Was it a bad day or just a long day?”

Steph sighed, letting Gemma’s scent that no longer smelled of cigarettes, just perfume, consume her. “Both? I couldn’t stop thinking about last night and because I was tired, I was grumpy all day. Then the girls, I love them, I do, but sometimes they just muck about instead of working and it drives me crazy. I just wanted to be here, in your arms only and now all I want to do is go to sleep in your arms. No six year old upset and wanting to sleep with us.”

“I think that can be arranged.” Gemma leaned back, running her hands along Steph’s arms before grasping her wrists. They smiled at one another before sharing a passionate kiss. Steph needed that more than anything, but Gemma laughed, pulling back. “Child, six o’clock. You and me later though.”

“Promise?”

“I would never lie when it comes to sex.” She leaned closer into Steph’s ear. “I haven’t stopped thinking about you all day. How warm you feel and how much I want to taste you.”

Steph felt a shiver through her spine, becoming aroused almost immediately. It took all of her might to not moan. She took a steadying breath to compose herself.

“Pizza,” Gemma whispered.

“Yeah,” Steph agreed.

They finally separated, Dean sitting in his chair, waiting patiently. Steph gasped when she saw the pizza only to see him beam, his eyes bright behind his glasses.

“You didn’t make this,” Steph commented, taking a seat.

“Yes I did.”

“No, this was done by a professional. There is no way you made this.”

“But I did, Mum. Gemma watched me.”

“He did make it and he did most of it. I just cut the vegetables.”

“See?”

“My son is a future chef.”

“I like cooking, but I like drawing too.”

“You could be the first chef artist! You’ll have so many restaurants with delicious foods that will have walls covered with your paintings.”

Dean laughed. “I love you, Mum.”

Steph smile turned teary. “I love you too, Dean. So so much.”

Gemma poured her and Steph a glass of wine each before slicing the pizza, trying to ignore the guilt and pain she felt. Yes she had the voicemail, but she hadn’t heard Tom say ‘I love you’ like that in so long that sadness consumed her.

Dean jumped out of his chair to hug Steph. She kissed the top of his head and there were many whispers of the word “sorry”. Steph cupped his chin and Gemma allowed them to have their moment as mother and son, going back to the sink and washing the cutting board.

“You know you can talk to me about anything, right?”

“Yeah.”

“I love you so much, Tigger.”

“I love you so much.”

“How much?”

Dean spread his arms out. “This much!”

“Whoa! That’s a lot!”

“And you?”

Steph spread her arms out. “This much!”

Dean smiled. He ran to Gemma, hugging her from behind. Gemma smiled when she felt his little body against hers. “I love you, Gemma.”

Gemma turned the water off and twisted to see him. “I love you too, Kid. Should we eat?”

“Yeah.”

Gemma wiped her hands as Steph started to lay individual slices on everyone’s plate. Gemma brought over a bowl of salad. “Made this too.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more happy to come home to a meal,” Steph said.

Gemma shared a little salad on everyone’s plates. “I made the dressing too.”

“I knew I loved you for a reason.”

Gemma chuckled. Steph took a bite of pizza and smiled. “Dean, you did not disappoint, Love! This is great.”

“Thanks.”

Gemma started with the salad, trying to shake off the moment with Dean. Tom used to hug her like that when he was little and when she couldn’t see Dean, she had to remind herself that it wasn’t her son.

“So how was your day off?”

“Brilliant. Went back to sleep after you two left, popped to my apartment and changed, grabbing more clothes and went to a yoga class. It’s really helping with quitting cigarettes.”

“Good, Love.”

“Yeah. Came here, relaxed a little and then picked up Dean.”

“And how was Granny’s?”

Dean shrugged.

“Joan informed me he wasn’t in the best spirits today.”

“Ah, okay.”

“But I'm better now.”

“Good, Sweetheart.”

“And Gemma bought me knew activity books.”

“I saw that, Love. Must have been good.”

“Figured doing some studying while he was off school would do some good.”

“Was it a reward for talking?” Steph questioned.

Gemma looked at her, confused. “No. I saw them, thought it would be helpful and bought them. I didn’t think much beyond that.” Steph nodded, taking another bite. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah.”

“Should I have not bought them?”

“No, it’s fine, Love. I’m sorry. It really has just been a couple of days.”

Gemma patted her hand a couple times before taking it. “I know. I’m sorry.”

“Just one more day and then we get to celebrate.”

Gemma smiled. “Can’t wait.”

“Celebrate what?” Dean asked.

“New Year’s, Sweetheart.”

“Will I be with you guys?”

“No, Love. You’re going to Gran’s remember? Because I have to do a party.”

“What about Gemma?”

“She’ll be with me at the party.”

“Will you come get me when it’s over?”

“Well it won’t be over til late so you’re going to stay the night at your Gran’s and then we’ll come get you the following morning.”

“Okay,” he sighed.

“But on Saturday, your dad’s coming to visit you for the day. Won’t that be exciting?”

“I guess.” Dean was pouting, looking at his plate. He ate slowly and they finally heard him sniffle.

Steph sighed. She didn’t understand this change in him. She couldn’t wrap her head around it. “Come here.” Dean looked up at her, his glasses a little fogged as tears seeped under his frames. “Come here, Love.” He got out of his chair and walked to her. She was expecting him to climb on her lap, but he just stood there and wiped his eyes. Steph took his glasses off and placed them on the table. She stood up and took his hand, both going back to the living room. Gemma stayed at the table, letting them be.

Steph sat on the couch and lifted Dean’s chin and smiled. “Talk to me, Love.”

“I don’t know if I want to see Daddy.”

“Why?”

“I don’t want to see that baby.”

“You’re not going to see the baby. He’s coming here to see you, alone.”

“I miss him.”

“Well that’s why he’s coming.”

“No I miss him from before.”

“I know, Love. I know you do, but your dad is the reason this child exists. He has to take responsibility for his actions and unfortunately that does affect us as a family. And it does affect your relationship with him and for that I am sorry. I am truly sorry that he wasn’t more responsible and that he didn’t think before he did what he did, but he’s still your dad, Love. He still loves you. He still wants to see you and take care of you as best he can. He regrets it, Dean, he really does, but we can’t change what we’ve done in the past and unfortunately, our actions have consequences. The baby is his consequence and so is Lisa. But he’s still your dad.”

“Do I have to see him?”

“Well, no. Not if you don’t want to, but remember how upset he was at Christmas?”

Dean nodded.

“He is really upset with himself and I think, not seeing your father, would hurt him a lot when he’s already really sad. Don’t you think?”

“I don’t want him to be sad.”

“So I think seeing him would be a good idea, yeah?”

“Will you come with us?”

“I wasn’t planning to, but if that’s what you want me to do, Love, I will. We can have a family day all together.”

“Gemma too?”

Gemma looked over at her name. “I don’t think-”

“If she wants to come, but I’ll have to talk to your dad first.”

“I think it should just be you three, if I’m honest,” Gemma stated, still seated at the table. “Your dad misses being with you, Love and he needs to be with just you, I think, or you and your mum.”

“But I want you to come.”

“We’ll see, Love, okay?” Steph asked.

“Okay.”

“Is that all that’s bothering you or is there something else?”

Dean sighed. “Is it bad that I’m still mad at him?”

“No, but if you feel like it’s bad, maybe it’s time to forgive him, Sweetheart. He’s a human and we all make mistakes.”

“Have you forgiven him?”

Steph shared a small smile. “Yeah, I have. You remember what it was like when I stayed at home all the time and your dad worked at the factory?”

“Yeah.”

“Well as much as I loved you and your dad, I wasn’t happy, Love. Since your dad made this error, I have been so much happier in my life. I have a job that I really enjoy and am good at. I have you, the best son in the world,” she tickled his sides and he laughed, “and I have Gemma. I don’t think I’ve ever loved someone as much as I love Gemma.” They shared a smile. “So even though he did a bad thing and upset me at the time, so many good things have come from it and I forgave him because he knew what he did was bad and has apologized multiple times and it did some good. So I would say, let’s at least give him a chance, if you want to.”

“I’ll try.”

“Yeah?”

Dean nodded as Gemma wiped a tear from her cheek.

“Now, can I please eat your delicious pizza?”

“Yes.”

“Yay!”

They walked the short distance back to table, Gemma noticing a difference in him already. Steph kissed Gemma before she sat down with a smile. Gemma pushed away her feelings and returned it, as she felt Steph’s hand pat her leg.

Dean managed to get to sleep easier than he had been that night after Steph and Gemma read him a story together. They went back downstairs, quietly. Gemma started to wash the dishes from earlier that had been left aside for family time. Steph came in with a box.

“Can you help me put bows on these?”

“Sure. Let me just finish these.”

“We can do those later, I have to get these done before work tomorrow.”

“Alright.”

“What’s wrong?” Steph asked.

“Nothing.”

“Gemma, you’re not looking at me and you’re quiet so something is wrong.”

Gemma took a deep breath before facing Steph. “Do you think Tom would have stayed if I had just forgiven Simon?” Gemma leaned back against the sink and folded her arms. Steph could see she was clearly upset. She joined her and rubbed her arms.

“I don’t know, Love. What do you think?”

“I don’t know either. I just always wonder if things were done differently if he’d still be here.”

“He might be, but you wouldn’t be here with me, would you?”

“No.” She paused. “No, I wouldn’t.”

“So maybe it’s not about forgiving Simon. Maybe it’s time you forgive yourself, Love. You can’t keep blaming yourself for everything that happened.”

“If I just hadn’t made him go to that housewarming-”

“I think he went because he wanted to. I think he said he didn’t want to for you, but then felt comfortable enough to go when you told him he should. He then allowed Simon to get in his head. He loves you. You know he loves you.”

Gemma shrugged. She leaned forward and rested her head on Steph’s shoulders, feeling her arms circle around her to rub her back. “I’m sorry. I know you’ve had a long day.”

“Long day or not, I’m still here for you, Gemma. You said those last few days, even though he was struggling, you were there for him, loved him and took care of him.”

“Was I even helping though?”

“I bet you were.”

“He wouldn’t talk to me and he thought I wanted him dead.”

“Shh,” Steph cooed. “Stop, Love. You don’t know what he was thinking when he decided to leave, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t love you. It doesn’t mean he thought you weren’t doing everything you could to make him better. You just don’t know, Love and that’s why you can’t get past this. I don’t know if forgiving Simon would have done anything to help you, but here is what I do know: you’re allowed to miss Tom, you’re allowed to do whatever you can to find him, but you have me, who will do anything I can to help you and you’ve got Dean. I know he’s not your son, but he admires you so much, Gemma and if he can do anything to fill that hole, he will. And I know it’s not the same, I do, but he is there for you and wants you to be happy. And I want nothing more in this world for you to forgive yourself of the past mistakes and know that I love you so much.”

“I know. I love you too.”

“You’re a good person, Gemma. It was one mistake and like I’ve said, you’ll see him again. I know you will.”

Gemma nodded, placing a kiss against Steph’s neck. “Thank you.”

“I am always here for you. I love you.”

Gemma stood up straight and let Steph wipe her eyes. “I love you too.”

“Tom made his own decision. I can’t imagine what it feels like, but I am always here to listen, to soothe, to help, whatever you need from me, Love.”

“And I am here for you as well, so let me help you with your bows.”

“We can talk about it more, you know.”

“It would just be talking in circles.”

“Doesn’t mean we can’t.”

“I’m alright. I just hear how you handle things with this and think that would have been the more responsible way to deal with it and then it just hurts.”

“Yes, but you helped a woman not fall into the same trap you were in. You freed her from having to feel your pain, no matter what happened. And he’ll come back. I don’t know why, but I just always feel like Tom’s not gone forever.”

Gemma nodded. “I do love you. I don’t want you to think that I have regrets about moving here or us because I don’t.”

Steph smiled. “I know, Love. You just want your boy back.”

“Yeah.”

They shared a longing kiss. Steph went back to the table, Gemma following her. Steph started to pull all shapes and sizes of vibrators and dildos from the box. Gemma didn’t know why she felt surprised and then chuckled at the circumstances. She knew what would be coming out of the box. Steph placed about thirty of them on the table and smiled, grabbing the small red ribbons to tie around them.

“So the shorter ones get ribbons around the middle, but the bigger ones should go closer to the top of the shaft.”

Gemma smiled. “This is something I can honestly say, I never expected to do in my lifetime.”

Steph laughed. “Yeah, but it’s fun.”

“Ever use one of these?” Gemma asked, turning one around in her hand.

“No.”

“No? Really?”

Steph shrugged. “I never wanted the fake thing.”

“But what if someone doesn’t have the real thing?”

“Well you’re the first person who didn’t have the real thing.”

“Do you wish I had the real thing?”

Steph scrunched her nose in disgust. “No!”

“Why’s that, Baby?”

“Because I love what you can do on your own and I don’t need it when your fingers are inside of me or your tongue.”

“Are you saying you want me to be inside of you?”

Steph smirked. “Yes.” Gemma leaned in closer to her about to kiss when Steph stopped her. “Once we finish these bows because I seriously need to finish it. We’re setting up the prize table and the complete collection tomorrow.”

Gemma pecked her lips. “Later then.”

Steph cupped her cheek and kissed her again. They worked diligently, tying bows around everything. An hour passed before they were complete. Steph was a little particular about how the bows should be tied, but they managed to get through without arguing. Gemma handed everything to Steph, who placed them back in the box.

“Does Dean know exactly what you do?”

“No, not at all. I tell him I sell things to women to make them feel pretty, but we haven’t gone past that. I don’t bring toys home, unless I have to.”

“And he’s never seen these?”

“Nope. I’ve done really well at making sure he doesn’t pay attention to these things or that he doesn’t see them. I mean he’ll learn one day or another, you know? I’m sure there are teenagers who know what I do so I won’t be surprised if he doesn’t learn it sooner or later.”

“Will you tell him?”

“I mean, I haven’t even told him what sex is yet, but yeah eventurally. Probably not in full context though. He’ll figure that one out on his own.”

“Yeah that he probably will, but I wouldn’t worry about it until it happens.”

“I’m not. I think it’s good he’s being raised in a sex positive household so when the time comes to talk about it, it won’t be the most foreign thing to him.” Gemma smiled. “And now, my Love, I’m going to go shower and get ready for bed.”

“I’ll lock up. Bring up some tea.”

Steph kissed her and they lingered for a moment, their lips barely separated, “And then?” Steph whispered.

“And then?”

Steph bit her bottom lip before accepting another one from Gemma. They smiled at one another before Steph headed upstairs. Gemma closed the box and put it by the door. She checked the front and back door before switching off the lights. She stared at a picture of Dean by the lamp they left on. She sighed, running her finger against the glass before heading upstairs.

Gemma quickly undressed herself and walked into the bathroom.

“Steph?”

“Yeah?”

Gemma pulled back the shower curtain and stepped in. Steph’s back was to her and she wrapped her arms around her waist. Steph jumped before smiling at the familiar feel of Gemma.

“I thought if I announced myself, you wouldn’t jump.”

“I wasn’t expecting you to get in.”

“No?” Steph shook her head and turned to face her. They shared a brief kiss. “I needed to shower so I thought I’d join you.”

“Yeah?” Steph smirked, bringing their lips back together. Gemma smiled into it, pulling Steph even closer. “Well I do actually have to shower.”

“I’m not stopping you.”

“Then why am trapped in your arms?”

“Because I love how your body feels against mine and quite frankly, haven’t felt it in sometime so.”

“Me too,” Steph smiled, “but I’m knackered and ready to lay down.”

“Of course.”

Gemma let her go. She grabbed the bottle of conditioner, allowing Gemma to wet her hair. They giggled together, washing each other’s hair and bodies. It was silly more than sexual, but both were grateful for their quietness together. Steph turned the water off and stepped out, handing Gemma her towel. They stood there for a moment, running fingers over semi-dry skin, sharing small, loving pecks with one another. Whispers of ‘I love you’s’ filled the steamed bathroom.

Their kisses started to deepen as Gemma pushed Steph towards the door. She moaned when her back hit the hard surface, dropping her towel to her feet. She pulled Gemma’s off as well, their bodies melting into one another. Steph managed to get the door open and Gemma followed her out. Steph fell back against the sheets, a hungry look in her eye as Gemma sauntered up to her, resting in between her legs. Their lips met in need of one another, Steph trying to fight for dominance before giving in as she felt Gemma’s hand trace down the front of her body. She sighed as Gemma made contact. She missed how Gemma touched her and made her feel. Gemma readjusted herself to straddle Steph’s hips. She penetrated her, slowly with her middle finger, a loud moan escaping Steph.

“Shh,” Gemma whispered.

“It’s just… oh G-d, Gemma, it’s been too long.”

“I know, but he can clearly hear us.”

“He’s asleep.”

“Not that we know of.”

“Alright. I know that bothered you because of-”

Gemma covered her mouth. “We can talk about all that later. Let’s take advantage of what we do have, yeah?”

Steph nodded, pulling Gemma down to kiss her lips, moaning into her mouth as Gemma started to thrust inside of her, now with two fingers.

“I love you,” Steph whispered.

“I love you too.”

Gemma took one of Steph’s nipples into her mouth, sucking and licking. Steph bit her lip, as her eyes rolled back into her head from pleasure. She felt Gemma’s mouth and tongue, everywhere. “I’ve missed you so much,” Steph whispered, pulling Gemma back into a kiss.

“I’ve missed you too.”

Gemma curled her fingers, swallowing Steph’s moan. Steph couldn’t focus on anything, but what Gemma was doing to her. She could feel the sensation in her lower stomach as Gemma focused on her center. She cried of pleasure into Gemma’s neck, Gemma grinning from ear to ear.

“Gemma,” she whispered, not able to catch her breath. “Oh, fuck, Gemma. I’m close.”

Gemma tugged on her ear with her teeth, just to hear that guttural sound from Steph. She was rewarded, but soon the phone ringing from downstairs caused them to pause, the sound scaring both of them.

“Shit,” Steph whispered.

“Oh, come on!” Gemma shouted. “Can we ignore it?”

Steph sat up to grab her watch, Gemma’s fingers still inside of her. “No, it’s almost midnight. That’s weird for someone to call this late.”

“Are you sure?”

Steph sighed, taking Gemma’s hand away. “I’ll be right back.” She threw on a robe and hurried down the stairs.

“I’ll be here, I guess.” Gemma laid on her back, staring at the ceiling. She pulled the covers back and got warm underneath the sheets when a cry of her name came from downstairs. She quickly put on her own robe and headed downstairs. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s my mum. She sounds panicked.”

Gemma took the phone. “Hello? Joan?”

Joan was breathing hard into the phone. “Gemma. Could you come see me, please? I’m sorry, but I... I’m having trouble breathing.”

“Okay, Joan. Do you have aspirin?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, I want you to take two of them and then just lay down on the couch. Steady breaths. Let me change and I’ll be there very shortly.”

“Thank you.”

Gemma hung up the phone and went to the laundry room. “What’s happened?” Steph asked, clearly worried.

“She’s alright. She’s just having trouble breathing,” Gemma answered throwing on clothes that she knew Steph had washed for her.

Steph’s eyes widened. “Is she alright?”

“I won’t know until I’m there.”

“Well, let me get changed-”

“No, you need to stay here with Dean.” Gemma threw one of Steph’s sweaters over head and grabbed a pair of jeans. “There is no point in upsetting him over something that could be small. You stay here, I’ll call.”

Gemma kissed her head, passing out of the room and back towards the door with a pair of socks in her hand.

“I don’t know if I can do that.”

“You need to. He’s asleep. He doesn’t need to know what’s happening. He just needs to know that his mum is here and if anything happens, Love, I will call you.”

“Is she going to be okay?”

Gemma slid her boots on and stood, grabbing her coat and keys. “She’s going to be fine, Steph. I promise. I will call you as quickly as I can.” Gemma kissed her and left the warmth of home. Steph decided to get dressed as well, just in case she would have to go the hospital. She went upstairs to see Dean sitting on her bed.

“Love, what did I say?”

“I heard the phone ringing. Where’s Gemma?”

Steph smiled. “She’s going to your Gran’s.”

“Why?”

“Because Gran isn’t feeling well and Gemma’s gone to check on her.”

“At the hospital?”

“No, Love. Gran’s house.”

“Is she okay?”

Steph nodded. “She’ll be fine, Love. Will you let me get dressed really quick and then we can lay together?”

Dean nodded, going back to his room. They sat in the living room, Steph rocking Dean the whole time. He eventually went back to sleep, the time of night, getting the best of him. Steph stared at the black television screen, wondering why Gemma hadn’t called yet. She heard a car approach and a door slam. She felt immediate relief when she heard the keys jingle into the door. She sat Dean down against the pillows and rushed to the door. Gemma opened it and smiled.

“She’s fine, Love. She whacked her head on her nightstand, waking herself, but assuming someone else had done it and had a small panic attack.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes. She’s perfectly fine. Feels a little stupid, but fine. I checked the house. I check the doors, the windows; everything was locked. No intruders. She eventually realized she woke up with her head on the nightstand and that it made sense. She couldn’t breathe because of the panic attack. By the time I had gotten there, she calmed down quite a bit. I check her heart and vitals, everything was normal.” Steph rushed Gemma, circling her arms around her, crying in relief. Gemma rubbed her back, soothing her. “It’s alright, Love. She’s fine. She’s healthy.”

“Thank G-d.”

Gemma smiled. “And hey, she called you for me to check on her so I guess she likes me now.”

Steph laughed. She looked at Gemma. “Thank you. You responded so quickly, I thought something was really wrong.”

“Well I was worried she was having a heart attack, but I know, it’s scary, but I’m glad I was here.”

“Me too, Gem. Thank you.”

“Of course.”

“Seriously. You didn’t have to do that.”

“Yeah I did. It’s what I’m supposed to do.”

“What, as a girlfriend?”

Gemma smirked. “No, as a doctor and I guess a caring, girlfriend.” Gemma smoothed the worried lines in Steph’s forehead. “She’s fine.”

“I love you so much.”

“I love you too.”

“Was she nice?”

“Surprisingly, yes, but I assumed that’s more because I was going as a doctor not her daughter’s partner.”

“Or she likes you. She did call you.”

“She did and I’m very happy I could help, but she did interrupt something that I am now, unfortunately, way too tired to continue.”

“Me too and Dean.”

“What about Dean?”

Steph took her hand and led her to the living room. “He heard the phone ring and waited up with me.”

“Because he loves you. I’ll take him up if you find me a shirt to sleep in.”

“Deal.”

Gemma bent over and picked him, groaning at his weight. He blinked his eyes open. “Gemma?”

“Shh, Love. Granny’s perfectly fine and we’re taking you back to bed.”

“You sure?”

“That she’s okay?” Dean nodded slightly, his eyes still closed. “Yes, Love. I’m sure.” Steph followed them upstairs, rubbing Gemma’s back. She put the small child to bed, Steph watching from the door frame. He was already sound asleep, but Gemma reached for the stuffed animal, Tommy, putting it beside him and tucked him in. Gemma kissed his head and followed Steph out the room.

Steph handed Gemma a shirt and sighed as she laid down. Gemma quickly disrobed, wanting nothing more than to get into bed. She slipped on the shirt, sliding in behind Steph. She wrapped her arms around her, kissing the back of her head. Steph turned to face her. “You promise she’s okay.”

“She is, Love. I promise.”

“I’m sorry you had to go out there.”

“I’m more sorry that it’s clear no one in your family wants us to have sex.”

Steph laughed. She nuzzled her head under Gemma’s chin. “I could half ass it, if you wanted.”

Gemma took a deep inhale. “No. If we do it, I want the whole thing. Both of us naked, involved, not having to worry and just going for it. Besides, that late night drive and worriedness has made me more than exhausted. I know you’re tired as well.”

“I am. New Years Eve cannot come soon enough.”

“I know, Love.”

--------------------------------------------

The next day, Pauline, Hellie and Dawn were putting up more decorations, while Nita was putting together the prize table, when Steph walked in. She hadn’t slept well and just wanted this party to be setup so she could go home. She wanted to take a nap. They looked at her as the door slammed. It was clear they were about to ask her what’s wrong, when Steph put her hand up.

“Don’t ask. I’ve had a long night and not a lot of sleep.”

“Oh, get in some time with Gemma?” Dawn asked with a cocky smirk. It soon vanished when Steph glared at her. “Sorry,” she muttered, going back to streamers.

“What’s up?” Nita asked, finishing with the banner on the table.

Steph put the box on the table along with her bag. “Nothing.”

“No, come on. What’s going on?”

Steph licked her lips and sighed. “We’ve just been having so many issues.”

“What you mean?”

“I just want to fuck my girlfriend and have my girlfriend fuck me back.”

“Is she falling asleep?”

“No. We’ve been having these issues with Dean, which I think I’ve settled, but he has constantly interrupted us night after night. I swear, that kid has some sort of sex radar.”

Nita laughed. “And what’s the real reason?”

“He misses his dad and is worried that Gemma and I are going to leave him in the night like Terry used to do after we fought. We reassured him that wasn’t the case and we thought last night we would finally have the opportunity to shag, but-”

“He came in anyway?”

“No, my beautiful boy finally talked about his issues and was fast asleep. My mum called, not that long before I was going to climax, breathing heavy like she just ran a marathon, complaining she couldn’t catch her breath.”

“Is she alright?”

“Oh yeah. Whacked her head on the nightstand and startled herself so bad thinking someone hit her, gave herself a panic attack. Thought it was a heart attack, called me to ask Gemma to come over. She did and that was it. Gemma basically checked that she was okay and then made sure everything was locked like windows and doors. And by the time she got home, Dean had gotten up when he heard the phone and we all just so exhausted we went to sleep.”

“But no sex?”

“No and we’ve spent fewer nights apart since Christmas because we worried that Gemma being around all the time was too much for Dean, but she stayed and I got so frustrated, I yelled at him, which is why I was in a mood yesterday. He forgave me last night and then finally got the message that adults just need their time too, and then my mother calls and cock blocks me.”

“Well not really cock block-”

“You know what I mean. And it’s wearing on Gemma too. I need to sort this shit out with Terry so I can have sex with my partner without worry about being interrupted.”

“Well where’s Dean going to be for the party?”

“With my mum so we’ll have that night, but-”

“I mean, what better way to ring in the New Year with your lover better than that?”

“I have a feeling we’ll get a call at some point saying he wants to come home.”

“Well let’s hope you don’t.”

“That’s what Gemma and I are both praying for.”

Nita started taking the items out of the box and smirked. “What’s her favorite thing to do to ya?”

“What?” Steph asked, cheeks reddening from embarrassment.

“I’m just curious.”

“I don’t know. She likes doing everything.”

“Even one of these?” Nita held up a vibrator.

“No because I told her I don’t need it.”

“What? Why not?”

“Because I like the way she does it and her fingers are long enough, if you catch my drift.”

“But what about girth?”

“Well she doesn’t use just one.”

Nita smirked.

“Stop laughing at me.”

“I’m not laughing at you.”

“Yes you are.”

“What’s the most she’s ever used?”

“Stop,” Steph laughed.

“Two? Three?”

Steph rolled her eyes and shook her head.

“Four?” Nita asked, her eyes wide.

“No! Gosh, just three total and it was amazing.”

“How many have you gotten into her?”

Steph continued to shake her head and hit Nita with her hip. “Fist?”

“No! Three as well. Are you done asking questions?”

“Oh I am never done asking questions when it comes to you two.”

“Are we picking on Steph and her sex life?” Dawn asked.

“Yeah and they haven’t used one of these?” Nita said, picking up the biggest dildo on the table. Steph sighed but smiled.

“Not even a small one?” Hellie asked.

“No. I’m sorry.”

“What? Are you a prude?”

“No, Dawn. How can I be a prude and work in this industry?”

“True. I’ve let Russi use a few. Found out he liked a little himself.”

“That’s enough, Dawn,” Pauline stated.

“I just like Gemma’s touch is all. Why is that weird? You don’t need a toy in the bedroom all the time.”

“What do you do when your jaw starts to hurt?” Hellie looked baffled.

“We use our hands.”

“Oh Steph, you are missing out on a ride with one of those.”

Steph took the vibrator out of Nita’s hands. “With the stallion? This thing is huge!”

“Well length wise, yeah, but width wise, it’s nice.”

They all looked towards Hellie. “Look, I’m finally sleeping with a woman again and we’re exploring our options.”

“Gemma and I have explored.”

“Might need to do a little more, Love,” Nita suggested. “I mean, does she want it?”

“She hasn’t suggested one way or another.”

“Browse through the catalogue. See if there is something in there you’ll both like.”

“If I browse, can we please stop talking about my sex life.”

“Not likely, no,” Nita stated with everyone agreeing with her. Steph smiled at the group before they all broke out into laughter.

“I love you guys, even though you’re a bunch of perverts.” That caused their noise to grow as they all worked together to set up the party.

--------------------------------------------

Gemma sat her car the next night. Steph had informed her to wear something sexy, “but not too sexy that other women would want her”. Gemma wasn’t sure what that meant, but decided she would do her best. She decided on something a little more masculine for the night. She wasn’t sure what to expect, but her hair was completely straight, black trousers and blazer, black button down with a cold necklace that resembled a tie. Black oxfords that had a heel on them, but everything was outlined in gold.

She had dropped Dean off at Joan’s and checked up on her. Joan was feeling much better and had, had no issues with her breathing. She was happy to take Dean for the night, telling him he could stay up til midnight. Gemma picked him up, giving him a huge hug and kissed his cheek, promising they would be there in the morning to pick him up.

She gathered her bearings, getting to the party a little earlier than she expected. Hellie stood outside the door with a large woman. “Hey, Gemma.”

“Hellie, Hi. I’m here a little early.”

“No worries. This should be a blowout tonight. We’ve heard women are coming out as far as Birmingham for this event.”

“That’s exciting.”

“Yeah! Should be a good turn out. Gemma, this is Big Bertha. She’ll be keeping an eye out to make sure no men try to stop by.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” her voice was lighter than Gemma expected, but shook her hand nonetheless.

“You as well.”

“You’ll probably see Gemma a lot tonight for a smoke, but-“

“Actually, I quit so you probably won’t see me as much.”

“Really?” Hellie questioned.

“Yeah. Steph doesn’t like it and it’s not good for Dean to be around so… well all that and I’ve wanted to quit so Steph was as good as reason as any.”

“Well good for you.”

“Thanks.”

“Well regardless if you see her again or not, she’s on the list. She’s Steph’s partner so she can come and go as she likes.”

“You’re in the business too?” Bertha asked.

“No, sexual partners. Steph’s my girlfriend.”

“Oh, that little thing is who you’re with?”

“Yes?”

“Well, aren’t you a lucky one.”

Gemma smiled. “I know.”

“Alright, Bertha, just stick to the list. If they’re names not on here, they pay the ten quid. Come on, Gemma.”

Gemma nodded and followed Hellie inside. She smiled at the room around her that was lit up in pinks, reds, purples and whites. The party favor table was near the stage, while behind one counter was a full bar, behind another had the range of lingerie to choose from, even though she had seen a good half of them on Steph. She noticed a DJ setting up, tables littered everywhere, food being set out on the last empty bar and a small dance floor.

“I think Steph is backstage. I’ll take your coat and let her know you’re here.”

“Thanks, Hellie.” She slipped out of her coat, handing it and her bag to her.

“Wow,” Hellie commented.

“What?”

“You look great.”

“Thanks.”

Gemma walked around a little bit, now understanding why Steph had been so frazzled these past couple of days. Gemma was impressed to say the least. She faced the stage as Steph came out, talking to Dawn. She handed Dawn a clipboard and smiled when she saw Gemma. Dawn waved at her before heading back behind the curtain.

Steph was in a black corset with a gold jacket and gold shorts to match. Her legs were covered by black stockings and gold pumps. “I thought I told you to not dress too sexy,” she commented, coming down the stairs.

Gemma smiled. “Look who’s talking.”

Steph laughed and sauntered up to Gemma. “It’s my party. I have to look like I’m in control.”

Gemma wrapped her arms around Steph’s waste and smirked. “You could control me in this anytime you want.”

“Wait until you see my hat.”

They shared a passionate kiss with one another, lingering after they separated. “I can’t wait for tonight,” Steph whispered, kissing her again.

“Neither can I.”

They took a step back from one another as Gemma continued to look around. “This is just amazing. Are you excited?”

“I’m extremely excited. One of the women from corporate is coming so hopefully, it’ll be good.”

“It’s a Stephanie Kirke party. It’ll be the best!”

“Do you like it?”

Gemma smiled. “This is incredible. I love it and you. I’m so proud of you.”

“Thanks, Gem.”

They embraced one another, Steph letting Gemma calm her nerves.

“Is this her?” Gemma heard an older voice ask.

“Linda, hi! Welcome back.”

“Thank you, Love.”

“And yes, this is probably the woman the girls have been telling you about. Gemma, this is Linda, one of my first party guests at Pauline’s and one of my first sellers.”

Gemma held out her hand and smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“You as well, Dear. Dawn wasn’t lying I see.”

“Lying about what?” Steph asked.

“She is a hot fox.”

Gemma laughed. “Well I’ll take the compliment.”

“Now I have to go help Masculine Vera with something. She talks so low, I can barely hear her and I have no idea what she expects me to do.” Linda excused herself, heading towards the DJ.

“Who?” Gemma asked.

Steph pointed to her. “Masculine Vera. I can see why they call her that, but don’t know when they started it. She has ordered some of the kinkiest stuff and is one of our best clients.”

Gemma looked at the woman in a silver blazer and nodded. “Yeah, I can see it.”

Steph took her arm as they walked around a bit. “I can say, the best thing about this party is Nita won’t give birth.”

“What?”

“Yeah. She gave birth right backstage last time. Pauline and I as midwives. Well, more Pauline than me.”

“Wow, I didn’t know you assisted with a birth.”

“Well I always feel like once you have a baby, you know what you’re doing and can help another woman out.”

“It’s true.”

“Now, my Love, I do have to host this event tonight.”

“Which I am painfully aware of.”

“Do you want to help me or just hangout?”

“Well some of the girls from the clinic are coming and I thought I’d be a good boss and hangout with them, but I can help if you need.”

“No need. I want you to have fun tonight.”

“I plan to.”

“My Russi still looks so good in the peek-a-boo thongs,” Dawn commented, coming from the backstage area. “He is just loving it.”

“Yes, Russell will be showing our male range of underwear.”

“Lovely.”

“And ‘ello to you. Happy you’re here.”

“Hi, Dawn. Glad to be here.”

“It’s going to be a fun night. You’ll get to see Steph in her prime.”

“Can’t wait.”

“Okay, I have to go finish getting ready, Love and check some things, but sit anywhere you like. I’ll be back in a little bit.”

“Sure.”

Steph pulled Gemma by her neck and kissed her hard. It was heated and neither pulled away as they slowly started to make out in front of Dawn. She cleared her throat and both women pulled back after a peck. “Wow, you guys really do need your alone time.”

“We do,” Steph answered, dead panned. “I’ll make sure to find you by midnight, if not before.” She kissed Gemma once before walking to the stage. Gemma watched her walk, ogling her bottom and legs.

“How longs it been?” Dawn asked. “Since you two?”

“Fully without interruptions? Before Christmas.”

Dawn whistled. “That is a long time. My Russi and I would die if we went that long.”

“I might.”

“Dawn! Steph needs you in the back!” Nita grinned. “There she is.”

“Nita.”

“How do you always look bloody amazing?”

Gemma smiled and shrugged.

“Well I look a lot sexier in this lingerie then I did last time.”

“I heard you gave birth last time.”

“I did and am very glad that won’t ever happen again. How are you?”

“Very well, thank you. Excited to see this whole thing.”

“Well I wouldn’t sit too close to the dance floor unless you want Russell humping your face.”

“Not particularly.”

“Good call.”

“So where should I sit. I know about two or three girls coming from the clinic.”

“Front table. You’ll be able to see Steph the best.”

“I see her all the time.”

“Yeah, but I think she’ll like being able to see you.”

Gemma sat at the table and continued to look around.

“Steph!” Hellie called.

“Yeah?” She popped her head around the curtain.

“Whole line of people outside. Are we ready to go?”

“Send them in!”

Gemma watched as a flood of women started entering one by one. They were all giddy and excited, ready to see everything. Most had flyers in their hands as they scattered around. She sat her table, completely content. Hellie brought a glass of white wine for her.

“Steph said it’s what you’d like.”

“Yes, but you didn’t need to bring it to me.”

“She asked me to.”

Gemma looked over to the stage and saw Steph smiling at her. Gemma chuckled and winked before turning back to Hellie.

“Is your new lady friend coming?”

“Yeah she is, but she’ll be here a little later.”

“Well I can’t wait to meet her.”

“Are you saying that because you’re ready for everyone else to gossip about another lesbian couple?”

“Yes, obviously,” Gemma replied, sarcastically, “But I want to see the woman who has made you so happy.”

Hellie blushed and put her head down. “I’ll make sure you’re introduced.”

“Good. Now if you’ll please pray for me, I’ve just made eye contact with my coworkers.”

“What? Do you not like them?”

“I like them in small doses.”

“Well, good luck.”

“Thanks. I’ll see you soon.”

Once it seemed like the room was full and the line was inside, the lights dimmed and Vera started playing a particular style of music. Steph stepped out on the stage and Gemma was completely transfixed.

“Ladies, ladies, ladies,” Steph stated through the microphone. “Welcome to the Ann Summers New Years Eve bash!” The crowd cheered. “We have plenty of selections for you tonight as well as party favors and games for prizes, but to start, it’s all our favorite, women's lingerie collection.”

Gemma’s eyes never once looked away from Steph. She loved watching her shine from the stage as she explained what each model was wearing. She continued to sip her wine as women played games to collect prizes or danced in between each set. Steph started walking around and greeting everyone, Gemma’s table last of course. She sat on her lap and kissed her cheek. Gemma wrapped her arm around Steph’s waist and reached down to squeeze her upper thigh. Steph centered herself between Gemma’s legs and rubbed against her center with her backside. Gemma turned her head away from the table, her hand firmly against Steph’s stomach, pulling her to do that again.

“And how’s this table enjoying the night so far?” Steph asked. They all agreed everything was going well. “And how are Gemma’s coworkers?”

Sarah smiled. “We’re good, Steph.”

“How’s it going, Sarah?”

“I’m well. This one keeping me busy with switching schedules, getting sick, being snarky.”

“My Gemma? Snarky?”

“You know she can be rather bossy.”

“I’m only bossy when need be.”

“And the rescheduling is usually my fault because of Dean.”

“I’ve heard you two are living together now,” Sarah commented.

Steph shook her head. “No, just together, happily, but Gemma I need your help with something in the back if you don’t mind.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Keep your eyes open, Ladies. Male range is next and we have a few more models than we did the last time.”

They cheered with excitement as Steph stood up, taking Gemma’s hand. They slipped backstage, Gemma following Steph wherever she was taking her. Steph looked around before opening a bathroom door and stepping in, pulling Gemma in behind her. The fluorescent light made the white walls and surfaces of the room almost glow.

“This is not flattering light,” Gemma commented.

“Well good thing I’ve seen it all before.”

“And what can I help you with in here?” Gemma asked when she caught the mischievous grin on Steph’s face.

“I’m off for a while on the floor so I figured you could help me with this,” she took Gemma’s hand placed it on her breast as she unbuttoned her jacket. Gemma squeezed her breast and watched her.

“What else can I help you with?”

Steph let her jacket fall to the floor along with her corset followed by her shorts. As she started to undo Gemma’s pants, Gemma laughed, meeting her in a hungry kiss.

“I know this isn’t home, but I’ve been wet all day and the only thing that is going to make me feel better is to have your hands all over my body so I want you to fuck me in this bathroom.”

“And what if someone hears us?”

“Who’s going to hear us?” Steph asked, pulling Gemma’s pants down. “It’s a room full of music and screaming, happy women. No one is going to hear us. Besides I thought you liked shagging in public places.”

“Yeah, when I was in my twenties and not old. We have a nice, warm bed at home,” Gemma answered by kicking off her shoes and stepping out her pants.

“I saw the way you've been looking at me all night. Your eyes wandering my body. Wanting to touch every part of me. Do you really want to wait until we get home?” Steph smirked. She turned around and pulled her black tights down, pushing them aside. She was left in a very revealing thong as she unbuttoned Gemma’s shirt. Gemma didn’t stop her as she stared at Steph’s lower half.

“No one will bother us in here.”

Steph left Gemma’s shirt on her shoulders so the necklace could rest against her skin. She ran her hands up Gemma’s torso and over her breasts to finally resting on the back of her neck. They stared at one another for only a second before Gemma’s lips when on her. Steph sighed at the familiar feeling of Gemma’s mouth on her neck. Gemma cupped her breasts and groped them as their mouths met. They were hungry for one another. Steph moaned at the feel of Gemma’s tongue in her mouth, her hand traveling down Steph’s body.

“Wait, wait,” Steph panted. “I should touch you first. It’s been so long for you. I at least got a taste the other night.”

Gemma turned her towards the sink and Steph caught herself. “I want to watch you come and then you can touch me.” Steph soon realized Gemma would watch herself in the mirror and it turned her on even more than she already was. Gemma’s hands wandered Steph’s body as her right hand slowly traced up Steph’s inner thigh. Gemma playfully bit her shoulder.

“Are you wet for me?” She whispered, seductively.

Steph looked at Gemma through the reflection with a smirk just a devilish as before. “Yes, my Love.”

Gemma closed the distance, immediately making contact with Steph’s center. Steph’s moan vibrated off the walls followed by a laugh from both of them. She bucked her hips into Gemma’s. Gemma grabbed one side of her to keep her still. Gemma looked at her through the mirror as she teased through her folds. Steph liked it, but she could tell she wanted more.

“Spread your legs wider, Love.”

Steph did as she was told and made eye contact with her. Steph raised her eyebrows as if she was challenging Gemma. Gemma grinned from ear to ear, causing Steph to smile before slowing entering her. Steph moaned as Gemma leaned against her to kiss her neck and shoulders. Her hand was in a fluid motion in out of Steph as she rested her chin on Steph’s shoulder.

“You kill me,” she whispered, placing a kiss on her neck. “I love you.”

“Fuck, Gemma.”

Gemma turned her, kissing her instantly, Steph meeting her as Gemma found her way back with her hands. Steph sat on the counter and hissed.

“What?”

“It’s cold.”

They giggled together, Gemma’s hand not stopping as their lips met in a much needed kiss.

--------------------------------------------

“Has anyone seen Steph?” Nita asked, coming up to Dawn, Hellie, Pauline and Linda.

“No,” they all answered.

“I can’t find her anywhere to do the male range show.”

“I’ll do it,” Linda offered. “I know all the stuff and I wouldn’t mind watching a few young men show off their goods.”

Nita smiled. “How could I say no to that? Yeah well, off you go then. Would the rest of you like to help me find her?”

“I’m waiting for Alex,” Hellie said. “She’ll be here soon.”

“Yeah, alright. I’m worried about Steph.”

Hellie took a peak around the curtain. “Gemma’s not at her table either.”

“You don’t think.”

Dawn’s face lit up. “Oh, I hope their shagging each other’s brains out.”

--------------------------------------------

“Gemma!” Steph exclaimed. Her mouth was now in between Steph’s legs and a hand firmly against a breast. “Fuck! Wait. Wait.”

“What?” Gemma asked, looking at Steph. She was out of breath.

“Just let me lay down.”

“On this floor? We don’t know if it’s clean.”

“We’ll put the blazers down.”

“Why?”

Steph shrugged. “I want you on top me. I want to be in your arms.”

Gemma smiled. She spread out the blazers as much as could so Steph could lay down. She went back to in between her legs, but Steph pulled her up and kissed her. Gemma used her hand again, Steph moaning against her lips. Steph wrapped her legs around Gemma’s back as Gemma inserted her fingers again. Their sounds were loud and echoed in the room, neither one of them caring the moment.

--------------------------------------------

“Steph,” Dawn called out as they walked into the back room.

“Did they go to Gemma’s car?” Nita asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe they just stepped out. Gemma’s a smoker, isn’t she?” Pauline questioned.

“She quit,” Dawn answered. “According to Hellie.”

--------------------------------------------

Gemma took Steph’s hand, placing it between her own legs as she straddled Steph. Steph immediately placed two fingers inside of her, trying to match Gemma’s pace. Gemma leaned forward, her lips meeting Steph’s as their hips evened out. The room that had once been chilly to them, was hot as little beads of sweat collected on their lower backs and foreheads. Gemma held herself over Steph, as they looked into each other’s eyes. Steph took the opportunity to curl her fingers and watch as Gemma’s head roll back and a moan escape her lips.

--------------------------------------------

“Wait,” Nita stated.

The three of them walked towards the bathroom door. Gemma, Steph panted. Fuck, Gemma. More. One more.

“Oh my gosh, they really are doing it,” Pauline said, stepping back from the door. Her eyes were wide, trying not to imagine what was happening on the other side of that door. Nita and Dawn stood there. “Girls.”

“Right. Back up,” Nita said.

“You back up.”

“Shush, the two of you! Let them be alone. This is exactly why they’re doing it here because they have no privacy at home.”

Nita and Dawn smiled at one another, laughing to themselves as they walked away.

“Good for them,” Nita said, leaving the two women to their own devices.

--------------------------------------------

They adjusted with Steph now sitting on Gemma’s lap, the same when they had their experience in the car. Steph rode Gemma’s fingers as she circled over Gemma’s center. They were both concentrating, Gemma using both her hands.

“I’m coming,” Steph whispered. “Fuck, Gemma. I’m coming.” She rutted her hips a few more times, feeling it build from within as a powerful orgasm shot through her body. She moaned, Gemma doing the same as stayed inside of her. Steph’s hand lazily moved over her center.

“Love, we’ve been in a while and I don’t want to have to go out there without feeling what you just felt, but these limpy fingers aren’t going to do much for me.”

Steph laughed. She inserted two fingers into Gemma and she circled her core continuously. She kissed Gemma’s neck, pinning her where she was. Gemma’s hips continue to rise as Steph’s tongue licked from her shoulder to her ear.

“I just feel like I need more.”

Steph eyes gleamed. She pulled Gemma up to knees and laid under her. The hungry look in her eyes alone almost made Gemma orgasm on the spot. “Come on,” Steph encouraged.

Gemma knelt down and feeling Steph’s tongue is what seemed to do the trick. She grunted loudly as Steph wrapped her arms around Gemma’s thighs. “Fuck, Steph.” She heard Steph laugh under her, which caused her smile. She bucked her hips a few times and could feel herself getting closer and closer until she jerked forward, Steph’s hair gripped her hand. She rolled off of Steph onto the cold floor as they looked at one another.

Steph grinned as Gemma caught her breath. She cuddled up to her, kissing her chest before resting her head on Steph’s shoulder. Steph kissed her forehead as they both laid there recovering and enjoying their moment of peace to themselves, knowing they wouldn’t have any interruptions.

“You’ve gotten so good at that,” Gemma commented, catching her breath.

“What?”

“Eating me out.” She felt another spasm. “So good.”

They laid a little longer when they heard a loud cheer from the hall. “How long have we been in here?” Steph asked after a few moments passed.

“I don’t know,” Gemma answered, wrapping her shirt tighter around herself. “Long enough that the room was cold, then hot and now is freezing again.”

“I don’t want to get up though.”

“Me either, but we will eventually have to.”

Gemma looked up at Steph. She adjusted herself so she could be looking down on her, resting an arm on the floor. She twirled a piece of Steph’s hair around her finger and sighed contently.

“Perhaps just a little bit longer?” Steph asked.

Gemma nodded in agreement and bent down to kiss her.

--------------------------------------------

The girls were standing around, cheers still ringing in as the male models walked backstage. Dawn stepped out to remind the women to get a drink and share a little dance while they wait for the prize game.

“Has anyone seen Steph?” Hellie asked, standing with Jacqueline from the head office.

“Um, she’s a bit preoccupied at the moment,” Nita stated. Dawn suppressed a laugh.

“Well could you tell her I’d like to talk to her, please?” Jacqueline requested. “And I’m not trying to be urgent, but I need to head out soon and I’ll have to hear from the board if I don’t speak with her before I go.”

“Yes, absolutely.” Nita turned to the girls. “I don’t want to interrupt them.”

“Interrupt who?” Hellie questioned.

“Steph and Gemma.”

“What?”

“They’re having sex.”

“What?!”

“Shush,” Nita exclaimed. “They’ve been having issues at home with Dean so I think they’re taking the opportunity to not be interrupted, but now we have to.”

“Where?”

“In the back room’s bathroom.”

“Well maybe they’re done now,” Dawn suggested.

“Well who should go check?” Nita and Dawn looked straight to Pauline.

“Why me?” Pauline screeched.

“She’ll be embarrassed with you, but knows you won’t talk about it so it won’t be as embarrassing as it would be if it was one of us,” Nita answered.

Pauline huffed. “Fine.”

Nita looked back to Jacqueline and smiled. “Pauline’s going to go get her.”

Jacqueline smiled. “Very well.”

Steph and Gemma were now dressed, leaning against a pool table. Steph sat against it, Gemma’s arms snug around her while as she held onto Gemma’s arms. Their kisses were light and small, but passionate. They smiled at each other after every single kiss.

“Steph!”

They both jumped at Pauline’s voice. “Uh, yeah?” She stood up straight as both of them straightened their clothes.

“Oh there you are,” Pauline said, trying to act like she didn’t hear them earlier. “Hello, Gemma, Dear.”

“Hi, Pauline.”

“What’s going on?” Steph asked.

“Jacqueline is here and wants to talk to you.”

“Head office Jacqueline?”

“That’s the one.”

“Right.” Steph took Gemma’s hand as they made their way back. Gemma straightened out a few hairs on the back of Steph’s hair. She could see every place she had grabbed her, but nothing was going to fix it. Steph swatted her hand away as they made their way back to the front.

“Jacqueline, hi,” Steph greeted, letting go of Gemma’s hand.

“Steph. Good to see you.”

“You as well. Did I finally manage to get us in trouble?”

Jacqueline smiled. “Quite the contrary. We were wondering if you would be willing to do a few seminars further south for a week in the upcoming months. It seems you’ve pulled women here tonight from a good distance away. We’ve had women sign up from York down to Nottingham.”

“Really?”

“So we thought, since you’ve been getting us so many new recruits, we send you down to Chesterfield, Nottingham and go as south as London.”

Steph smiled as she got her thoughts together. “I mean that would be amazing, but I have a son and he has school so I couldn’t drop everything to do that.”

“Well what if we sent to the places that are close so Chesterfield for example, go west for Manchester, you know around the area?”

“That could work, but would I have to stay overnight. Possibly in some locations.”

“I can watch Dean for a night, Love,” Gemma suggested.

“Look, just think it over and we’ll give you a call on Monday with more details and we’ll figure it out. How does that sound?”

Steph smiled. “I mean it sounds great!”

“Good. I was to rely the message, I have and now I must go.”

“It was wonderful to see you.”

“You as well.”

Jacqueline walked off, waving goodbye to the girls. Steph turned to Gemma. “What do I do?”

Gemma grinned. “You do what you want to do. I can look after Dean or can your mum as long as she doesn’t hit her head. We’ll figure it out.”

“I’ve never really been to a lot of places.”

“So? That’s the beauty of your job, Love. You go to these conferences and talk about it while getting paid. We’ll figure it out, but don’t worry about it now. Worry about it on Monday.”

Steph looked up at her. Gemma fell into those bright blue eyes as they kissed one another. “I love you so much, Gem.”

“I love you too.”

“Oy! Didn’t you too have enough of that already?” Nita asked, laughing.

Steph and Gemma laughed with one another before separating. “You heard us, didn’t you?”

“That she wants you to travel for the job? Yeah, we heard.”

“Congrats, Steph,” Dawn smiled.

“Well I don’t know if I’ll take it. I’ll have to hear what they say and then talk to Gemma and Dean to figure out everything.”

“Well you’ll be bloody good at it.”

“Thanks, Neet.”

“And what do you say?” Nita looked to Gemma.

“It’s not my decision to make.”

“And if she says yes?”

“Then I’ll support her and do what I can to make everything go smoothly.”

Steph looked back at Gemma and grinned. Gemma kissed her. “I’m going to go back to my seat. Come find me before midnight.”

“I will, Love. Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Everything.”

“I will do anything to help, always. I want you to have the experiences you deserve as long as I don’t become the babysitter.”

“I promise you won’t.”

Gemma left her with the girls as she went back to the table.

“You do know you’re glowin’, right?” Dawn asked.

“What?”

“You make a party so you can shag your girl in the back room bathroom and think none of us would find out about it. You’re terribly mistaken.”

Steph bit her lip and chuckled. “Well at least it was good.”

“And when you say one more, what did you mean?”

“Oh my G-d, were you guys listening?”

“Just heard a bit,” Dawn stated, trying to be nonchalant.

“Well then I’m not answering that question then.”

“Definitely a finger,” Dawn said.

“One hundred percent,” Nita agreed.

Steph rolled her eyes. “Is that why you sent Pauline?”

“Yeah. Figured you would be less embarrassed with her than if one of us caught you in the act.”

“She didn’t hear anything, did she?”

“Oh, I think she defo did. You could see it in her eyes.”

“Did she see anything?”

“No, none of us saw anything. We just heard one more so…?”

“I’m not answering. What’s left to do?”

“We’ve got the raunchy musical chairs. Whoever wins gets the Stallion,” Dawn answered.

“Brilliant.”

“And then the raffle,” Nita added.

“Excellent. And then New Years? Is Kieron coming?”

“No. He’s with all the little ones. We’ve kissed each other enough.”

“But Mr. Spake is coming and I cannot wait to see his eyes when he sees all this.”

“He’ll be gobsmacked,” Nita joked.

“Guys, this is Alex,” Hellie said, introducing her new girlfriend. She was tall, thin and blonde. She seemed nervous, but held out her hand which Steph shook.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to meet you. I’m Steph.”

“And that’s Nita and Dawn.”

“Nice to meet you all,” Alex stated.

“We’re going to go set up the musical chairs.”

Dawn and Nita excused themselves. “Are you having a good time?” Steph asked.

“Absolutely. Hellie said you started all this.”

“Well a few of us did. I can’t take all the credit and you’re from London?”

“Originally, yes, but I moved up here for a new position and a higher salary so here I am.”

“Well that’s great and Hellie is amazing. You are very lucky to be dating one my dearest and oldest friends.”

Hellie blushed. “Thanks, Steph.”

“You need meet Gemma, um Doctor Foster.”

“That’s Steph’s partner.”

“Oh I didn’t realize you were gay.”

Steph tilted her head. “I guess it’s more bi, but yes I’m dating a woman? I think we’re a little past dating. We’re just together.”

“And how long have you been together?”

“Oh geez, not that long at all for how quickly we’ve progressed. We’ve only known each other for a few months, but I guess sometimes you just know.”

“Well they say lesbians move quickly.”

“Is that a thing?” Steph asked Hellie.

Hellie shrugged. “Could be, but it seems like every time you two have an argument, it makes you stronger so, who cares?”

“Yeah,” Steph laughed. “Well, regardless, I am very much in love with her.”

“And she said she wanted to meet you,” Hellie added.

“Why’s that?”

“She said she wanted to meet the woman that has made me so happy.”

“Aww. Well I think she went back to her table,” Steph answered.

--------------------------------------------

Gemma sat alone at the table, not that she minded. She had fresh images of Steph floating around in her brain. She felt free and like she finally accomplished what she had wanted for so long. She was lost in her daydream when she noticed a figure coming up to her.

“You were gone for so long!” Sarah stated, coming back to the table.

“Yeah, Steph really needed some help.”

“What happened to your hair?”

Gemma quickly patted it down in the back. She exhaled. “Nothing. I’m going to get another drink, do you want anything?”

“They’re starting to come round with the champagne for midnight.”

Gemma looked around and noticed a person coming around with trays full of champagne. She made eye contact with Steph, who nodded her head to come up to her. Nita had the microphone in her hand to announce that there were two minutes left and that everyone should get together on the dance floor to toast the year. Women flooded the middle, with their drinks in their hand. Gemma stepped onto the stage and walked straight to Steph. Her arms circled around Steph’s waste and they held one another close. The room dissolved as they smiled at one another. Nita started the countdown. Everything was moving in slow motion and when the eruption of Happy New Year filled the space, all Gemma could focus on were Steph’s lips as she placed a kiss against them. Steph pulled back, Gemma chasing after hers as they shared another peck.

Gemma’s eyes opened hazily to see Steph smiling at her.

“Happy New Year, my Love.”

“Happy New Year.”

“Oh that right there ladies is what true love looks like,” Nita stated to the audience. “Give it up for your hostess Stephanie Kirke and her beautiful partner, Gemma Foster.” They soon had a spotlight on them causing them both to laugh. Steph gave a look to Nita and rolled her eyes. Nita winked at her. “Alright, ladies, we’ve got about a half hour left. Raffle will be in fifteen minutes so get your dancing in now.”

Gemma and Steph kissed again. “So do you we have to stay and help clean up or does that get done later?”

Steph made a face that clearly told Gemma the answer. “We have to stay and help.”

Gemma groaned.

“But we’ve got a lot of hands so it shouldn’t take too long.”

“But I want to take you home and do so many things to you.”

“Yeah? Like what?”

Gemma shrugged. “I’m not going to reveal all my secrets. Guess you’ll just have to wait until we get home and I get you naked.”

Steph licked her lips before biting it. “Can’t wait.”

Gemma winked. “Me either.”

“Come on. While the women dance, we’ll start cleaning.”

“Auld Lang Syne” started to play and Gemma smiled. “Dance with me to this first.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes, Love.”

Steph wrapped her arms above Gemma’s shoulders as they started to sway back and forth. Gemma took her hand and kissed it before interlocking their fingers and holding it above her heart. They smiled at one another.

Nita, Dawn And Russell looked around the room.

“Bryan has not looked anywhere else other than Pauline,” Nita said.

“That’s cause this stuff terrifies Mr. Spake,” Russell answered, standing in a peek-a-boo thong with a jacket over him wide open. “Except for Mrs. Spake. He loves her for sure.”

“Even after all the stuff with PC Daniels?”

“Mrs. Spake said he left for thirty minutes, came back with flowers and asked her why she felt the need to keep that from him, he didn’t understand. It was hard for him, but I guess Steph helped with that.”

“Course she did, Dawn. And Russell, I have mad respect for you modeling this stuff twice, but could you put the boys away?”

He quickly closed his jacket with a shy smile. “Sorry about that.”

“Come on you lot. If we start cleaning now, we might not be here too late.”

Gemma and Steph had already started while Pauline did the raffle. Mr. Spake had found a nice comfortable spot in the back room, where he stayed until the party was officially over.

Gemma and Steph laughed with one another as they started cleaning tables, completely lost in their own world. Hellie came up to them.

“Gemma.”

“Hellie.”

“This is Alex.” Alex waved.

“Oh right. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“You as well.”

“Big New Year's plans this weekend?”

“No. I think Alex and I are looking forward to a quiet weekend to ourselves.”

“Wish we could have that,” Steph commented.

“Well we were thinking if you guys wanted to get dinner, we could do like a double date on Saturday.”

“Um, I’ll have to let you know. Terry is coming up to see Dean on Saturday and Dean wants me to go with him so it’ll depend on how all of that goes. Can I call you day of?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“And you’re okay with that?” Steph asked Gemma.

“Absolutely.”

“Brilliant.”

With their whole team on board, Steph, Hellie, Nita and Dawn manages to gather all the products and do a small inventory. Hellie dealt with collecting all the earnings and locking it in the safe box. Gemma helped Pauline with getting streamers and what not down. They met the owner and managed to be out by one thirty. They all said their ‘goodbyes’ and ‘Happy New Years’ as they dispersed.

Gemma and Steph hopped into the car safely, Hellie handing her the money box. Russell loaded all the products in the back. They held hands on their ride home, enjoying the quiet. Gemma helped Steph carry in the products inside, placing them by the door. Once their jackets were off and shoes discarded, they looked at each other for only a moment.

“I really like watching you be in charge tonight,” Gemma commented, strutting up to Steph.

“Yeah?”

Gemma nodded, kissing her neck with a sigh. Steph grabbed her, pulling her close. Gemma grabbed her hands, raising them above Steph’s head and pushing them against the wall. “And now I think it’s my turn.”

Steph nodded as Gemma picked her up. She held her against the wall for a minute, Steph gasping, not expecting it. Gemma lifted her a little higher as Steph wrapped her legs around Gemma’s torso. Gemma wasted no time heading towards the stairs, whisking her away to their bedroom.

Chapter Text

The road home was quiet and peaceful. As they pulled out the parking lot, Steph reached over to take Gemma’s hand. Their fingers interlaced as they rested their elbows on the center console. Gemma, not taking her eyes off the road, kissed the back of Steph’s hand. Steph smiled, closing her eyes. It wouldn’t be a long ride home, but she knew her night was far from over and wanted to just let her body rest before the activities really began.

Gemma parked in front of the house, Steph’s eyes opening instantly.

“I’ll grab the stuff from the back.”

“Okay,” Steph whispered. She slowly got out, making sure she had the money box securely in her hand. Gemma followed her up the stairs as Steph unlocked the door.

“I’m worried he’s going to run down the stairs as soon as I open this.”

“He’s at your mum’s. Tonight is for us.”

They walked into a dark house, Steph turning on the small lamp. Gemma dropped the box to the floor, taking a peek inside to see which toys were still there. Steph noticed, but didn’t say anything as she slipped her coat off. They both kicked their shoes off, Gemma hanging up her coat. They stood there for a minute, smiling at each other.

“I really liked watching you be in charge tonight,” Gemma stated, walking up to Steph step by step.

Steph could feel her heart starting to race. “Yeah?”

Gemma nodded. She pushed Steph’s hair to one side before kissing her neck. Steph sighed as Gemma moaned. She wrapped her arms around Gemma’s waist, but soon felt Gemma grabbing her wrists. She pinned them against the wall above Steph’s head. Gemma leaned back only an inch and whispered, “And now I think it’s my turn.”

Steph nodded, meeting Gemma’s lips. Gemma’s hands wandered down Steph’s backside. She bent down to lift her up, Steph’s legs wrapping around her body. Gemma held her against the wall causing Steph to gasp. She lifted her up a little higher and carried her upstairs as quickly as possible. Gemma wasted no time, taking Steph straight to the bedroom. Their breath was hot as their lips met again. Steph’s hands were tangled in Gemma’s hair as if she was grasping at life. She slowly let Steph down to her feet. As soon as she landed, it became a frenzy of undressing. First Steph’s corset and then Gemma’s shirt.

Gemma pushed Steph down on the bed. Steph laughed as Gemma pulled the shorts, stockings and thong down her legs all in one. Steph scooted back so she was resting against the pillows. She watched as Gemma’s chest rose and fell, completely enamored with the sight in front of her. She spread her legs for Gemma and slowly started to touch herself, not breaking eye contact. Gemma stared at her for a moment, licking her lips before biting them. She could feel herself becoming more aroused the longer she watched, but was frozen in place as Steph entered herself.

“Fuck,” Steph gasped, her head rolling back. “Aren’t you going to join me?”

Gemma smirked. “No.”

Steph’s head popped off the pillow. Looking at Gemma, bewildered. “Why?”

“I’m enjoying the show so please keep going.”

“Is this you being in control?”

Gemma raised her eyebrows, the playful smile still on her lips.

“Wouldn’t you rather taste me?” Steph asked, her fingers continuing to move.

“I’ve got all night to taste you so please don’t stop on my account.”

“It’s not as much fun doing it to myself though.”

“I disagree. I think it’s extremely sexy.”

“You do?”

Gemma nodded. “So please.” She stood and watched as Steph continued to touch herself. It was a new angle for her to see what Steph liked. Steph’s eyes never wavered from Gemma’s. After a few moments, Gemma thought she’d add to Steph’s excitement. She slowly unbuttoned and unzipped her pants, Steph’s eyes wandering down her body. She left them open and reached behind, slowly undoing her bra. Steph’s hips started to rut against her hand, small moans escaping her lips. Gemma reached inside in her own pants, rubbing herself, but only for a moment.

“Gemma,” Steph moaned.

Gemma smirked, letting her pants fall to the floor. Steph licked her lips. Gemma walked around the bed and leaned over her.

“Touch me,” Steph begged.

Gemma shook her head no as her hand slipped inside of her underwear. She hovered over Steph, barely letting their lips touch as she moaned into Steph’s mouth. Steph reached forward, pulling Gemma’s lips to her. Gemma quickly straddled Steph, still touching herself.

“Please touch me.”

Gemma smiled. She leaned back just a smidge and used her free hand to penetrate Steph. Steph grunted at the feeling of Gemma’s fingers while Gemma rubbed herself against Steph’s stomach. Her underwear provided an extra amount of friction, moaning at the sensation.

“Fuck, Steph,” Gemma moaned.

Steph stopped touching herself, grabbing Gemma’s thighs, her fingers digging into her skin. Gemma giggled lowly and stopped her, taking her wrists above her head yet again, holding them there as she continued to rut her hips against Steph’s stomach. Steph was completely enamored watching Gemma. The way her hips rolled against her and the quiets sounds of satisfaction that surpassed her lips.

“Gem?”

“Uh! Yeah?”

Gemma let go of her wrists to sit up taller, her abs standing out more . Steph ran her hands over them before sliding her hand between Gemma’s legs. She watched Gemma’s expressions as she teased her through her folds and then slowly entered her. Gemma grinned.

“Yes, Steph,” she moaned, her hips following the pace. She grabbed Steph’s breast, squeezing it. She panted her appraisals to Steph, loving every second of it. Steph reached around, holding Gemma’s bottom, helping guide her hips. Gemma was completely lost in ecstasy as Steph continued to study her. She curled her fingers and Gemma’s jaw went slack, her own hand going back to her center. Steph continued to thrust in her, feeling Gemma drip down her hand.

Gemma leaned forward, falling on top of Steph, kissing her hard. “I love you,” she whispered. Steph noticed Gemma switching hands. Steph’s hips jerked up when she felt Gemma’s fingers between her legs, not expecting it.

“Gemma,” she gasped.

“Together?”

Steph nodded. “I love you.”

Gemma smiled, genuinely. “I love you so much.”

Steph curled her fingers again and Gemma gasped. Steph’s mouth was slack as Gemma entered her. She swallowed before moaning. Gemma kissed her and then her neck. Steph followed, kissing her shoulder.

“Touch yourself,” Gemma demanded.

Steph followed instructions, rubbing herself. She looked down to see Gemma doing the same. Their fingers became sloppy, but both loved the idea of being filled as they orgasmed. Steph looked up to see Gemma watching her hand. She stopped herself and brought her fingers to Gemma’s lips. Gemma immediately sucked on them, moaning at Steph’s taste. Steph could feel Gemma’s tongue licking up every drop of her that she could. The way it moved around and in between her fingers, wet and hot. Steph went back to touching herself, completely lost with Gemma’s saliva on her fingers. Gemma groaned, pulling Steph’s fingers out of her.

“What are you doing?”

“You.”

“What?”

Gemma kissed down Steph’s body, leaving little bites here and there. Her eyes rolled back in her head at the feeling of Gemma’s tongue taking a long, excruciating slow lick. She spread her legs wider, feeling Gemma’s wet hand run up her leg. She devoured Steph, humming through the process. Steph’s fingers scratched the back of Gemma’s head before she pulled her hair, gasping at the flick of her tongue.

“Gem, uh, fuck Gemma.”

Gemma could tell she was close as she felt Steph starting to clamp down around her digits that were continuously pumping in and out of her. Steph gripped the sheets around her, pulling them towards them, moaning loudly as she came. Her back was arched as she panted, catching her breath. Gemma continued her movements and Steph tried to get her to stop, but she couldn’t. She wasn’t even sure she really wanted Gemma to stop. Steph’s thighs squeezed around Gemma’s head as she orgasmed again. Her legs flopped open as her entire body continued to shake. It was like she had been recharged, feeling the sensations running through her veins.

Steph took deep and steady breaths as Gemma placed small, light kisses up her body. She rested her forehead against Steph’s shoulder. Steph cupped the back of her neck, running her fingers through her hair.

“How’d I do?” Gemma asked, also short of breath.

“Amazing as always.”

Gemma rolled onto her back with a sigh. Steph followed, laying on top of her. “Are you still in control?”

Gemma smirked. “No.”

“So I can do whatever I want?”

“Please.”

“Well I’m going to start with these.” Steph pulled Gemma’s underwear down her legs. Steph stared at the amount of moisture between Gemma’s legs. She rubbed Gemma’s feet for a small amount of town and then ran her hands back up her body, tracing her muscles. Steph licked her lips before kissing Gemma. “What do you want?”

“You.”

“Doing what?”

Gemma smiled. “Anything, my Love. Just make me feel good.”

Steph placed her hand in between Gemma’s legs, feeling the heat from her body. She teased around, running her fingers up and down before circling her hole. “Do you want me inside of you?”

“I always want you inside of me.”

“Fucking you?”

“Well what else?”

Steph slipped one finger inside of her and watched as Gemma’s chest started to rise and fall as she watched on. Steph was definitely in control now and Gemma could feel herself becoming more excited.

“Another one?”

Gemma nodded, moving her hips as she felt Steph’s ring finger join her middle. Gemma started to meet each thrust, but it was going too slow and she just wanted Steph to take her. She worked herself so it wouldn’t take too long, but Steph’s pace was not working for her.

“One more?”

“Yes,” she whispered. Her legs wrapped around Steph as she finally started to pick up the pace, moaning at the stretch Steph was giving her. She matched Steph’s movements, wrapping her arms around her as well. “Fuck, Steph.”

“Faster?”

“Yes, Love. Please.”

Steph was back to her normal pace, Gemma completely snug against Steph, moaning in her ear and whispers of gratitude. She was in ecstasy, Steph’s fingers curling again. Gemma bit her shoulder, knowing she was about to orgasm.

“Touch me, please,” she begged.

She loosened her grip on Steph so she could sit back and be more comfortable, her legs still wrapped around her back. She cupped Steph’s neck so they were looking at each other, smiling and laughing. Gemma traced Steph’s bottom lip. It was swollen and red. She leaned up and kissed it, biting it as they broke apart.

She gasped, falling back against the bed, letting go of Steph. Her arms were above her head and her back arched. Steph kissed her nipple. Gemma hissed, grabbing the back of Steph’s head. Gemma grabbed Steph’s thigh. A few moments later an unexpected moan escaped her lips as Steph felt her orgasm.

“Of fuck,” Gemma said, holding Steph’s wrists where they were. “Fuck,” she painted again. “Fuck.”

Steph smiled and Gemma finally let go of her. Steph laid on top of her, Gemma hugging her.

“Good?”

Gemma smiled. “Absolutely incredible.” Her body involuntarily convulsed. “Fuck, Steph.”

Steph traced her fingers across Gemma’s collarbone and she settled on her side. They laid there together in a peaceful cuddle, letting their body’s relax. Gemma shifted to lay on Steph’s chest, kissing her skin.

“Can I ask you something?” Steph asked, hesitantly.

“Always.”

“Do you miss it?”

“Miss what?”

“Sleeping… with a man?”

“What?” Gemma asked, sitting up.

“You know, having sex with a man.”

“Why would I miss having sex with a man when I’m having sex with you?”

“I don’t know.”

“No.” Gemma lifted her chin so Steph would look at her. “What’s going on?”

“I just worry that I’m not…” Steph trailed off.

“Not what?”

“Good enough for you.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t have the real equipment.”

“And?” Gemma took Steph’s hand. “A few hours ago you shagged me in a bathroom by letting me sit on your face which made me have an intense orgasm and you just made love to me with three of these and I absolutely loved it. I loved it a lot.”

“But do you want more?”

“More what?” Steph shrugged and looked up at the ceiling to not meet Gemma’s gaze. “What’s been said?”

“What’s your favorite thing to do to me?

Gemma shrugged. “I think the answer is obvious.”

“What?”

Gemma slid her hand between their bodies and cupped her breast. She smiled.

“Yes, I know you love my tits.”

Gemma let go and sighed. “Why do I need to have a favorite thing? I love doing everything to you and doing whatever you want me to do.”

“And am I doing everything you want me to do?”

“Yes.”

Steph sighed. “I saw you look at the box downstairs when you brought it in and then a couple days ago, you asked if I had ever used a vibrator and seemed surprised that I hadn’t and the girls thought it was weird that we didn’t use them and-“

Gemma covered Steph’s mouth with her hand.

“One, Love, relax. Take a deep breath. Two, of course I looked in the box. It’s a box of random sex toys and let's face it, Ann Summers has a variety of designs which I find interesting. Three, stop talking to them about our sex life. What we do and what we use is none of their business. It doesn’t matter if we use toys or not.”

“But do you wish I could penetrate you like a man?”

“I’m sorry but were you not here ten minutes ago when you were doing exactly that?”

“It’s not the same though.”

“No, it’s not the same.” Steph sighed. “But you have to get rid of this idea that I’m not enjoying sex with you because you’re not a man. Do you miss being with a man?”

“No. I honestly haven’t even thought about it since we started.”

“I haven’t either and I only asked you about you using one because I was curious.”

“So you do want to use them?”

“Steph, I’ve used sex toys before. I’ve explored my possibilities, but I’m not angry or upset if you don’t want to use them.”

“I’m worried that if I enjoy it, you’re going to think that I only want it like that.”

“Love, it’s not a secret that we have enjoyed fucking men. We have both been married and have had sex with men since. I’m not ashamed of that. But sex with you is on a whole other level and I love it so much.”

“You do?”

“Absolutely. I’m not one to lay in bed and have bad sex with someone. I told you that. If I didn’t like something, I’d tell you while it was happening. Sex is supposed to be enjoyable and good, but it’s also all about communicating. Don’t be afraid to ask me questions, but know that I love your fingers, your mouth, your tongue. Baby, I love all of it.”

“Promise?”

Gemma smiled. “Cross my heart.” She kissed Steph’s hand and cupped her cheek. “I love you. I want you. I want everything you do to me. I’ll fuck you in a bathroom, in a kitchen, in our bed, on the street in an alley if you want. I don’t care where it is as long as it’s with you. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“And why do the girls want to know so much about our sex life? Do they want to have sex with another woman or something?”

“I doubt it. I think you fascinate them.”

“Why?”

“I mean, we work in the sex industry. It’s a normal topic of conversation between us.”

“True.”

“Does it make you angry?”

“No, not at all. I just don’t want you to get them into your head and think that I don’t enjoy our sex life. I don’t need plastic or things that vibrate, I just need you.”

“You sure?”

Gemma smiled. She cupped her cheeks and kissed her hard. It was longing and passionate. When she pulled back, she watched as Steph’s lips were still puckered and her eyes closed. “What do you feel when I kiss you?”

“Like nothing wrong will ever happen as long as I’m with you.”

“Is that what you feel when I’m fucking you?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know that’s what I feel when you make love to me?”

Steph opened her eyes. “No, but I should.”

“Exactly. You don’t need to worry. I love you, Steph. I love only you.”

Gemma kissed her forehead. She readjusted so her head was resting on Steph’s chest, feeling her eyes flutter shut.

“I’m sorry,” Steph whispered.

“No need to be.”

“But will you answer the question?”

“What question?”

“Do you want me to use one of those toys on you?”

“Only if it’s an experience you want to have together otherwise no.”

“But you’re interested.”

Gemma sighed. “Steph.”

“I want to talk about it.”

Gemma sat up fully so they could talk face to face. She noticed how concerned Steph really was about the situation. “Let me ask, why are you not interested?”

“It’s not that I’m not interested because I am, but never had a reason to really try anything because I went from Terry to Johnny and the few months in between them, I was sad and confused, trying to figure everything out so what I was selling was the last thing on my mind other than the money coming in.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“You’re holding something back. I can tell.”

Steph sat up, scratching her head. She sighed as Gemma took her hand. “After my first party, I came home to see a box I had forgotten on the bus of lingerie and toys. Terry was up and was rather angry with me that I was selling them after he told me he didn’t want me to. I didn’t tell him I had a party. He was angry and hit the box across the room. He said ‘it looks like you don’t need me at all” and it stuck with me. So I’m worried using anything will make you think I don’t want you because I can get myself off or that toys would be better than what you can do.”

Gemma frowned. “Grubby little wretch,” she commented under her breath. “He felt emasculated by them.”

“And he was embarrassed because everyone at the pub found out, but-“

“It’s not an excuse.”

“That was one of the first nights he went to Barry’s. It’s when we really started to have issues.”

“Do you think that if we use one, I’ll honestly be jealous of it?”

“I just don’t want to like it too much and then not have you.”

Gemma smiled, sympathetically. “Love, toys are more fun with a partner. And they can get tiring. I mean take the bullet we used for example. We haven’t used that since Dean went to Terry’s and I’d say we’ve been doing mighty fine on our own. It’s just something to use to spice it up every once in a while, but again, I only want to use them if it’s something you want us to use together.”

“Do you think we need to spice it up?”

“No. I just fucked you in a public bathroom about four hours ago and got you to touch yourself while I watched, which we should explore more because that was really hot.”

Steph chuckled. “Was it?”

Gemma nodded. “I don’t think I’ve ever been turned on more and I learned a few things I didn’t know you liked.”

“Like what?”

Gemma spread Steph’s legs and pushed the comforter off her back. Steph bent her legs, biting her lip. “Like you like little pats against your clit to get stimulated.” Gemma did just so as Steph felt the light stings cause her arousal. “You like one finger at first, but not all the way in. Just a little tease.” Steph gasped as Gemma continued to show what she learned. “And then when you’re nice and wet, and ready for me, you take as many fingers as you feel is necessary, in this case three-“

“Fuck Gemma,” her hips jumped off the bed.

“And then you go back and forth from penetration to clit stimulation, wanting it to be me touching you, wishing it was me touching you and not your own hand, pulling me into a kiss,” Gemma leaned forward, her mouth hovering over Steph’s, “until... you finally... come.”

Steph’s whole body shook as she orgasmed around Gemma’s fingers, grasping Gemma’s arms. Gemma kissed her then returned to sitting, confidently smiling.

“You did learn a lot,” Steph muttered, catching her breath.

“I’ve always been rather observant.”

“Thank G-d for that.”

Gemma laughed.

“I think I’m paralyzed.”

“That good, huh? See? Who needs toys when I can get to come like that with just my hand.”

“And what about your mouth?”

“You want my mouth too? So greedy.”

Steph leaned forward, pushing Gemma’s thighs so she would uncross her legs. Steph smirked, laying on her stomach. Gemma leaned back against her hands, legs open, waiting on Steph to take charge. Steph kissed and nipped the inside of Gemma’s thighs, Gemma’s light breathy moans already filling the space. Steph licked her outer lips first. Gemma grabbed the back of her head, completely ready for her. She waited, trying to be as patient as possible while Steph continued to tease her, not touching precisely where she needed it.

“You know I’m wet,” Gemma muttered.

“Mhmm.”

“So don’t you want to just fuck me?”

“I don’t know. You made me touch myself and made me wait so now I’m going to make you wait.”

“How long?”

“Not too long. I know this is doing a lot to you, building you up. As much as you act like you don’t, I know you like the wait to get worked up so when I finally do touch you, you don’t have to work as hard or take as long.”

“So again, how long?” Gemma was a mess, grabbing her chest. Her eyes were closed, but the grip on Steph’s hair was getting stronger.

“Hmm…,” Steph paused and answered by taking a long, broad lick surprising Gemma. She immediately laid down, her hips rutting as Steph sucked and teased her center. She hummed in approval at Gemma’s taste, not able to control herself. Gemma spread her legs, pulling Steph’s hair as she rode her tongue.

“Steph,” she panted, her hips moving slowly. “Yes, Love.” Steph reached forward, grabbing Gemma’s breast. Gemma threw her head back against the mattress, her back arching as Steph entered her with her tongue. Gemma’s eyes rolled back into her head as she felt the pressure building. Steph went back to her core, her tongue never stopping, knowing Gemma was close. Gemma’s pitch started getting higher, letting herself be as loud as she wanted. Steph enjoyed every moment, feeling Gemma’s excitement of her chin. Gemma’s hips jerked, Steph slipping two fingers inside of her. Gemma orgasmed seconds later, Steph’s name pouring from her lips.

Steph looked up with a laugh as Gemma caught her breath. Steph watched as her body spasmed. She crawled over her and sat on her stomach, smiling smugly. Gemma opened her eyes and laughed. She grabbed the back of Steph’s neck bringing her into a desperate kiss, moaning at her taste. They pulled back, smiling at one another.

“Oh, fuck,” Gemma moaned.

Steph kissed her neck, Gemma’s arms wrapping around her. Steph got comfortable, laying on top of Gemma. They laid there, breathing and relaxing into one another, completely lost in one another.

“What time is it?” Gemma asked.

Steph sat up just enough to see the alarm clock on her nightstand before laying back down. “Three thirty.”

“Shit,” Gemma mumbled. She grabbed the comforter, pulling it over them.

“Don’t you just want to lay against the pillows?”

“That would cause me to have to sit up and move, when I’m happy here with your head on my chest and in my arms.”

“Well I would like a pillow.”

Steph started to sit up, but Gemma pulled her back down, causing them both to laugh. They turned to their sides, facing one another, holding hands. Gemma leaned forward and kissed her hand lovingly. Steph smiled and scooted closer so her head rested under Gemma’s chin. Their legs were intertwined as their breathing evened out.

They eventually shifted, laying against the pillows and under the comforter. Gemma laid on her stomach, arms above her head under the pillow. Steph cuddled up to her side, her leg in between Gemma’s, her arm stretched across her back, head resting below her shoulder. She placed the lightest kiss against her shoulder blade before letting slumber take over her.

--------------------------------------------

Joan and Dean arrived at the house around noon the next day. Joan figured Steph would be exhausted from the party and decided it would be best to bring Dean to her. Dean took his shoes off and went into the living room, excited to see his mum and Gemma. He wanted to make a big entrance, but stopped when he noticed the room was empty. He looked towards the kitchen that was also desolate.

“They’re not in here.”

“Maybe they went out,” Joan answered, bringing some groceries into the kitchen.

“Without me?”

“Dean, you can’t do everything with them.”

“I know, grownups need alone time, but they said they’d come get me.”

“Well your mum has been working really hard this week so she is probably just exhausted.”

“Gemma too?”

“I can’t answer for her.”

“But where would they be?”

“Steph!” Joan called out. There was no reply. “I’m guessing they're out.”

“Or upstairs.”

“If they’re upstairs, they are most likely asleep, but I’m sure your mum is exhausted. Gemma could be at work. I’m not sure. Help me put these groceries away and tidy so your mother doesn’t have to.”

Dean stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking up. “Mum?!” He called. Still no answer.

Steph jolted awake, Gemma now spooning her from behind. She blinked a few times and looked at the clock, groaning.

“Shit, Gem.”

Gemma’s head bobbed back and forth a couple times, acknowledging Steph’s voice. “Hm? I’m here.”

Steph smiled. “It’s noon, Love.”

“What?” She asked, sitting up lazily and rubbing her face. She looked at Steph before sighing and laying back down. Steph turned to rest on Gemma’s chest. Gemma’s arm held her there as she forced her body to wake up. Steph placed light pecks against her chest.

Steph leaned up to kiss Gemma, who turned her head away.

“My breath is atrocious.”

“It’s fine, Love.”

Steph laid on top of Gemma, smiling at her. “If you kiss me, we can have a little quickie before going to pick up Dean.”

“Only if I kiss you?”

Steph nodded.

“It’s really bad, Steph. I can taste it.”

“Mine’s not much better so come on.”

Gemma chuckled. Her dark eyes and smile glowed in the late morning sun. Steph cupped her cheeks and studied her.

“What?” Gemma asked.

“You’re so beautiful.”

Gemma grinned and sat up, kissing Steph. Steph pulled back with a face of disgust. “You’re right, it is bad.” Gemma looked on in shock and was about to defend herself when Steph smiled. “Just kidding.”

Gemma rolled her eyes, pushing Steph onto her back and pinning her to the mattress. Their bodies now bare from the comforter being tangled under them. Steph laughed as Gemma held her down. They kissed passionately around lazy morning smiles, forgetting that bad breath was even an issue. Gemma kissed down her chest, taking Steph’s nipple into her mouth. She used her tongue to tease the skin as her hand lightly rubbed between Steph’s folds. Gemma moaned when she realized Steph was still wet from the night before. She slowly and cautiously slipped two fingers into her. Steph arched her back, Gemma moving to her other breast and she got comfortable in between her legs.

“Harder,” Steph whispered. She pulled her legs back, giving Gemma as much access to get deeper inside of her. Gemma held herself up and used more force to give Steph the pleasure that she wanted. Steph moaned, running her hands up Gemma’s back as her hips followed Gemma’s rhythm. “Fuck, Gemma.”

Gemma smirked. She placed light kisses everywhere, her fingers never stopping. Steph used her own hand to rub her center, moaning louder. They smiled at one another before meeting in another hungry kiss. Steph moaned into her mouth, feeling Gemma’s tongue against hers. Steph scratched Gemma's back, grasping at her. Gemma gasped, but continued nonetheless. Gemma kissed Steph’s neck, she was panting, breathing heavily when she opened her eyes. They soon widened.

“Dean.”

“What?” Gemma asked.

Gemma stopped completely, following Steph’s eyesight. Dean was standing in the doorway, completely in shock. His eyes were just as alert as his mother’s. Gemma could feel the tension growing as they all stayed there, completely frozen. “Can you close the door, Love and go downstairs? We’ll be there in a minute,” Gemma said, calmly.

Dean’s only response was pulling the door shut. Steph felt her heart ache and stomach drop.
“What’s he doing here?” Steph asked. “I mean am I dreaming or is he in the house?”

“He’s in the house.”

“And he just sa… he just saw us?”

“I honestly don’t know what he saw.”

“Well we’re not covered.”

“He could have just seen skin.”

“What do I do?”

Gemma sat back. “We need to talk to him like an adult. He’s at an age where kids learn about sex and obviously we don’t say all the fundamental things, but we definitely need to talk to him.”

“How is he here?”

“I’m guessing Joan brought him.”

“How did we not hear it?”

“We were probably still asleep.”

“What do we do?”

Gemma nodded. “We let the embarrassment out in here. We can’t show him embarrassment or he’ll think sex is something to be embarrassed about and it’s not.”

“He’s six.”

“It’s a developmental age, Steph. If we look guilty, he could think that the guilt and embarrassment causes sex to be shameful. It’s healthier for him in the long run.” Gemma could see the panic in her eyes. “Look, let’s just get dressed, take a deep breath and talk to him. It happens. Tom walked in on Simon and I when he was around this age and we talked to him so he could understand it.”

“But I can’t perfectly say what I would say if you were Terry. I could at least say, this is how babies are made. Can’t do that with you.”

“Okay, but we don’t have to go into specifics on why we’re having sex. We don’t have to say things like penetration or what specifically we were doing. We just talk to him, we let him ask questions. We answer everything honestly and the best we can.”

“Gemma.”

“I know. I know, Love. I’m sorry.”

“No. It’s not your fault. It’s like you said, it happens, I just- I don’t know what to say to him.”

“I mean this is tricky because this is technically lesbian sex so you’re right, we can’t get away with saying that we’re trying to make babies, but first things first. We get dressed and we calm ourselves down so we can be as relaxed as possible.”

Gemma got off the bed and held her hand out for Steph. “I’m not ready for this.”

“You have to be even if you’re not.”

Steph stood up. She went to the bathroom to relieve herself while Gemma made the bed. She could hear Steph washing her hands as she slipped on a pair of underwear. Steph stood in the doorway. “I’m so dumbfounded. I don’t- I just,” she sighed. She went to her dresser, pulling out a bra.

“Well how much does he know about the body and private areas?” Gemma asked.

“He knows how our bodies are different. He knows that you don’t touch anyone’s privates or allow them to touch yours, which now seems a bit odd.”

“No, it’s good. It’s so he knows that without consent, no one should be touched. That you keep your hands to yourself.”

“But he just walked in on you with our hands-”

“I don’t think he saw any penetration.”

“How do you even know that?”

“Well from his angle and how were on the bed, your legs were held back and I was holding myself up on the left side so I’m assuming my body was blocking what I was doing.”

“Well he could see your arm.”

Gemma walked past her to wash her hands. “Doesn’t mean he saw what we were doing. We were just kissing and I was kissing your neck. I think we should go to him, apologize for him having to see that so he knows that he’s not in trouble and did nothing wrong since we should have locked the door I guess and then just ask him what he saw and go from there.”

Steph nodded in agreement. “Yeah. That sounds like a good plan.”

“And Steph, I hate to say this, but I think we’re going to have to tell Terry because we don’t know what Dean will say to him and he could easily say something about walking in on us.”

“I know.”

“So for right now, let’s deal with Dean, but I think before he leaves Saturday, you or both of us should talk to Terry about us.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s not good that we’ve told Dean to lie and I would hate for Terry’s reaction, no matter what it is, to fall on him.”

“No, I agree.”

“Okay.”

They finished getting dressed, Gemma trying to be as supportive as she could. She could see the worry in her eyes. “It’s fine, Love. You can’t look this worried. It won’t do him good. Kids learn about sex. I mean it’s better to start it earlier than waiting until puberty.” She pressed her fingers against the creases in her forehead. Steph hugged Gemma, feeling Gemma’s strong arms around her. Gemma kissed the top of her head.

“Come on, Love. We can’t have him sitting down there, on his own, thinking things. We need to go and talk to him.”

“Right. I am a parent and this is my responsibility.”

“And I’m right here for support.”

Steph nodded and allowed Gemma to open the door for her. Steph took Gemma’s hand as they walked downstairs together, trying to be as covered as possible. Steph had put on a button down, everything closed except for the top button. Gemma decided on a long cardigan. Dean was sitting on the couch, playing with Jim. Even though he looked innocent, he was clearly upset.

“Morning, Mum.”

“Hi, Love.”

“When did you get here?” Steph asked.

“About twenty minutes ago. Figured I’d save you the hassle of picking him up. I knew you’d be tired. Wasn’t sure if Gemma worked today or not, but I’ve started working on lunch for us including Gemma.”

“Thanks for that.” Steph smiled.

“How was the party last night?”

“Good. Yeah. We made a decent amount of money, had people from literally all over and they offered me a new position.”

“Really?”

“Yes, but I have a lot of options to weigh before I make a decision. They want me to travel around to different cities as a recruiter.”

“Well you would be amazing at that, Steph.”

“Yeah. Thanks. But I need to talk to Dean so,” She held out her hand to him. “Dean, Love, can you come with me?”

Dean took her hand, hesitantly, but when he looked at Gemma it was almost as if he was full of disdain and anger. He smacked her leg in passing.

“Hey!” Steph exclaimed, pulling him away.

“You said you wouldn’t hurt her!” he shouted.

“I didn’t hurt her,” Gemma answered, rubbing her leg.

“What’s he talking about?” Joan asked, curiously.

“Dean Kirke, I don’t care what you think you saw or what happened, we do not hit people, ever,” Steph stated, clear as day. Gemma had never heard her use such a voice.

“What’s happened?” Joan asked again.

“He walked in on us which is why I specifically told you, I would pick him up.” Steph’s voice was soft again as she escorted Dean out the room. Gemma looked back at Joan before following them. All three made their way upstairs and into Dean’s room. Gemma closed the door behind them and stayed next to it while Steph sat down, Dean beside her.

“Before we start talking, you need to apologize to Gemma. I know your dad’s reaction to anger is to hit, but you, Sir, are way better than that and you never do that. You don’t hit anyone.”

He hung his head low. “I’m sorry, Gemma.”

“It’s alright, Love.”

“Dean, she was not hurting me at all.”

“She looked like she was wrestling you.”

“Well the first thing that needs to be said,” Gemma stated, kneeling in front of Dean, “is we’re sorry you saw that.”

“Yes, Love. You did nothing wrong by opening the door.”

“What were you doing then? Was it wrestling?”

“No, Love.” Steph took a deep breath. “We were having sex.”

“But that’s how babies are made.”

“Who told you that?”

“Daddy. He said that daddy’s penises have sperm and mummy’s have eggs. And then they have sex to make babies when they love each other.”

“When did he tell you this?” Steph asked, trying not to get upset.

“The last time I was there. He told me that’s how he made the baby with Lisa.”

“Okay, yes, Love, that is how babies are made. Is that all he said? That we have sex and sperms and eggs?”

“Yeah.”

“Nothing more? Not how sex works or anything?”

“No.”

“Okay.”

Steph looked at Gemma, who smiled. She nodded with encouragement.

“Dean, what exactly did you see?”

“Gemma was on top of you and kissing you. It looked like she was doing something but I couldn’t see and then you stopped when you saw me.”

“And that’s it?” He nodded. “Do you have questions?”

“Why were you naked?” Dean asked.

“Because usually when two adults have sex, they are naked.”

“But you don’t have a penis.”

“No, Love, I don’t.”

“And Gemma doesn’t either.”

“No, Dean. We’re both female.”

“Does Gemma have sperm?”

Steph smiled. “No, Sweetheart. Most females do not have sperm.”

“So why are you trying to make babies?”

“Well we’re not because two women can’t, but sex isn’t always about making babies. What Daddy told you is really just the equipment needed to make babies, but sex isn’t always about that, Love. Sometimes it’s just about being close with the person you love. It’s intimate and nice, but it’s done between two consenting adults. It’s a choice we make together as adults. It’s honestly not something you need to worry about at the moment.”

“And that’s what you were doing?”

“Yes, Love.”

“So when you say you two need alone time?”

“Yeah, sometimes, yes, but other times, Gemma and I just like to be by ourselves.”

Dean looked at his feet and then up at Gemma, who was now sitting on the floor. She smiled at him. “Is sex bad?”

“No,” they sighed simultaneously. “It’s perfectly natural and healthy,” Gemma answered. “But it’s something that happens when you’re older. You don’t need to think about all of that stuff right now. It’s something you do when you’re dating someone and you’re in love.” They both knew love didn’t really matter when it came to sex, but Gemma figured it was better than having to explain more.

“Are you in love?”

“Yeah,” Steph answered with a smile. “Sometimes sex is just a different way to express it, but it’s like Gemma said, it’s very healthy, just still a bit over your head.”

“You’re really young, Dean and you still have a few more years before you need to start honestly thinking about this stuff,” Gemma added. “But you’re also at an age where you’ll probably start hearing about it from other boys at school.”

“That’s true. Which is why I want you to know that you can come to me with any questions about this. I might not answer them right away if I don’t feel like you’re old enough for the answer, but we can and should have open communication about this at all times.”

“Okay,” he whispered.

“And this won’t be the last talk we have about it either so don’t feel like you have to get all your questions answered immediately, alright?”

He nodded. Steph looked to Gemma, seeming a little more relieved, but she could still see the small panic in Steph’s eyes.

“How are you feeling about this?” Gemma asked Dean, patting his knee. He shrugged, not looking at either of them. “Confused?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah? It makes sense. It’s a confusing thing, but it’s alright,” Gemma stated.

“Do you feel bad or sad?” Steph asked.

“I feel bad, but only because I hit your leg.”

Gemma smiled. “You thought I was hurting your mum. It’s completely understandable.”

“Well, I am sorry.”

“I know, Love. Apology accepted.”

“But still, no hitting Dean. I don’t want you to have your father’s temper. You’re better than that, right?”

“Yes.” Dean finally looked up at Steph. “Can I hug you?”

Steph beamed. “Course you can.” Dean stood up and Steph opened her arms. He wrapped his arms around her neck and she picked him up so he was on her lap. “I love you, Dean and I am sorry you saw walked in on that. I know it was probably scary and had I known you were home, that wouldn’t have happened, but it’s important to talk about these things.”

“Why?”

“Well because in a few years, your body is going to change and things will start to be a little different, but again, not something you need to worry about now.”

“Bad different?”

“No, you’ll just start becoming a man instead of my sweet little boy.”

“I’ll still be sweet.”

“Well I hope so.”

Dean smiled.

“Lunch!” Joan yelled.

“Shall we go eat whatever Gran has made for us?”

Dean pulled back and smiled. He climbed off Steph’s lap only to land in Gemma’s arms.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“It’s already forgotten.”

“I love you, Gemma.”

“I love you too, Kid. Do you have any other questions or do you want to talk about it more?” Dean shook his head no. “Right, well, come on, let’s go see what Joan made for lunch.”

He got out of her lap and ran down the stairs. Gemma looked back at Steph.

“He should have more questions,” Steph stated.

“He’s probably processing all of it and will have questions later.”

“Later? I don’t know if I can deal with more questions later.”

“Of course you can. How are you feeling?”

“Honestly, like a real shit parent.” Steph’s eyes started to water. She slunk the floor next to Gemma.

“Yes, well don’t. You are blameless.” Steph rested her head on Gemma’s shoulder. Gemma kissed the top of it. “Bound to happen eventually.”

“I know. I just don’t want him to grow up.”

“But he has to.”

“We should tell him to not talk to the other kids at school about sex. Last thing I need is more gossip about how I’m telling my six year old about how lesbians shag.”

“Yeah we should.”

“Does he have to grow up?”

Gemma smiled. “Yeah he does.”

“I don’t want to deal with a teenage boy.”

“It’s more difficult, but Dean’s so sweet, I can’t imagine him being too bad.”

“I meant the other stuff.”

“What other stuff?”

“Masturbating and really having to talk about sex when he’s not going to want to do that with me. Who wants to talk to their parents about sex?”

“No one and the masturbating thing really isn’t that bad because it’s a part of life. You just learn to always knock when the door is closed. Any door.”

Steph looked at Gemma and laughed. “I should teach Dean that now.”

Gemma chuckled. “Yeah, I think we should and lock the door.”

“Yeah.”

Steph smiled at her. “Thank you for being here with me.”

“Well we were both caught in the act and sometimes it’s eas