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Clumsy and Clever

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Ann was late again. A scratchy intercom blasted the last call for her flight number as she slid breathlessly in front of a tall, brunette woman with piercing green eyes and a nose covered in freckles.

“Miss... Walker. We kept the doors open just for you.” Her eyes twinkled as she handed the ticket and ID back. Ann adjusted her backpack as the redness crept across her face.

“I- I’m so sorry. Th-thank you so much!” Of course, the woman had to be gorgeous, just to add to the humiliation of the situation. Ann’s eyes darted to the ground as she rushed past and down the ramp. Her fingers instinctively touched the plane as she stepped on board and she nodded shyly to the flight attendant who greeted her. She kept her eyes anchored downward to avoid the stares of all those who were already settled and interested in the flurry her arrival. Finding her seat along the aisle, next to a rather round couple who were bickering back and forth in sharp whispers, she kicked her bag under the seat and heaved a sigh of shaky relief.

She was glad to be headed back home, despite the week’s events. Tears stung at her eyes and her heart ached. Her mental health had been so fragile lately that she couldn’t even enjoy the getaway with her older sister Eliza. She had spent most of the week willing herself to put a smile on. Tearing herself from the 400 thread-count sheets was a near impossibility, especially this morning. Eliza had hardly let her get on the flight, she had been so worried about her. After many, many reassurances that she would be seeking professional help, not without tears, Eliza had let her pack up.

So I’m depressed, she thought, who the hell cares? I manage to get myself to work most days and, with my inheritance, I don’t even need to bother with that. I could just lie in bed and wither away. Her hands gripped the seatbelt and she gritted her teeth as the plane took flight. Her stomach flipped and she was reminded thoroughly of why she hated planes. Her eyelids fluttered shut and she imagined unlocking the door of her home and melting into her couch for the rest of the evening. Just a few more hours, she thought with a sigh, as her seat neighbor elbowed her roughly.

 

Anne Lister had been watching her since she rushed onto the plane. Her eyes had raked over her small frame, taking in her soft blonde waves, form fitting skinny jeans, and the way the light blue top clung to her breasts just so. Her eyebrows raised as she watched the beauty move awkwardly down the aisle to take a seat one row ahead and to the right, the only open spot left on the plane.

Anne breathed in her scent- citrus and soap. She smirked to herself as she thumbed through her book, more focused on the way the woman’s small hands twisted nervously in her hair, legs bouncing, than the words on the page. No ring, she mused, eventually giving up and closing the book. Anne noted a small rainbow flag was pinned to the backpack that she had pushed under the seat in front of her. A smile crept across Anne’s face and she leaned her head back into her seat. She didn’t usually feel so pulled to strangers, but the way this girl bit her lip as she lifted her perfectly sculpted neck to look around...Anne felt undone. Just as she started to wonder what her jaw would feel like under her lips- the flight attendant interrupted with her drink order. Red wine. She savored the oaky flavors and found herself savoring the blonde just as much, imagining how she would ravish her. Slowly, at first, and then…She adjusted her collar and averted her eyes, coughing a bit, as the pretty thing turned around in her seat to request something from the flight attendant.

Soon enough, the plane landed and Anne was impatient to disembark. She checked her watch. Half past four. Mariana should already be here. She stood silently with her work bag on, wretched thing, and used the free moments to shake out her cramped legs and roll up the sleeves of her black button up. Her feelings were constantly in flux with that woman. She was tired of being second to Mariana’s husband, a sort-of secret that everyone knew about. Anne was the one Mariana would stay with whenever there was an ounce of conflict at home, or if things were sorely lacking in other, more intimate, areas. Anne had long ago thrown up an emotional wall, although she was determined to call an end to the thing whenever they were apart. Things were so familiar when they were together, though, and they always seemed to fall into bed together in the end.

The girl in front of her was tucking a flyaway behind her ear and gathering her things. As she stepped into the aisle for her turn, she managed to clumsily knock both Anne and another passenger with the overstuffed bag. She turned quickly to heartily apologize to Anne, who was wearing her mostly cocky, nonchalant smile. “Oh! S-so sorry! I’m so clumsy!” Her blue eyes looked piercing, despite the redness of their edges. Anne waved her off politely and followed her dainty form off the plane.

 

She looks so timid and small, what is with this girl? Surely, a woman as beautiful as her should walk around like the goddess she is. Anne was ready for a distraction. Something new. Perhaps this young woman was just the thing. Anne was bemused by her demeanor but with a few quick steps, caught up to her as they both turned toward baggage claim.

 

_____

 

“What a relief...” a low voice murmured near Ann’s ear, nearly knocking her off her feet. Ann looked up to see the absolutely stunning woman she had just practically knocked over with her bag on the plane. Humiliating. Ann felt her face go hot- panicked.

“Hm?” Ann managed, painfully.

“Oh, I hate flying. Such a relief to be home. And on time, at that!” Her brown eyes crinkled, warmly, and a smile tugged at her lips. Her perfectly soft, gorgeous mouth...Ann shook the thoughts away.

“M-me too. Sorry, again, about the b-bag. I don’t manage well on planes. They give me such t-terrible anxiety.” Ann stuttered, biting her lip and throwing a quick glance up at her. Stop oversharing with the stranger, Ann! God, you have no self-control! She gulped.

Anne nodded sympathetically, readjusting the bag over her shoulder as they walked. The woman was dressed impeccably, black button up tucked into form fitting gray slacks with a thin belt. Silver accents on her ears and around her neck. A large men’s-style watch glinted on her wrist. Her hair was smoothed into a perfect a-line cut, ending right above her shoulders. Ann felt woefully uncomfortable in her casual plane attire and second-(or was it third?) day hair.

 

“I’m Anne.” A well-manicured hand reached out for her own and Ann felt her stomach flip as she shook it, something curling low in her belly. Anne was hot. And only seemed to have eyes for her, for whatever reason.

 

“N-Nice to meet you. I’m Ann Walker,” she managed as she stopped, stunned, in front of their baggage carousel. It hummed on and bags started pouring out. The silence stretched out for a moment as their hands dropped and Ann had no idea where this was going. The woman was standing so close she could smell the leather of her bag, and study the individual lashes below her deep brown eyes. Ann felt very, very grateful she had not missed her plane.

“Hi, Ann Walker. Would you like to get a drink with me sometime?” Anne brushed past Ann’s arm and straightened the rainbow pin on the side of Ann’s bag with a single finger, smiling wide. Ann practically melted on the spot, exhilarated by the question, the touch on her arm, and the embarrassment over still having pins on her bag like a child. She felt her mouth wobble in response. No one had asked her out in ages, unless you counted Thomas Ainsworth. Which she didn’t.

“W-well... I... um...I... “ Ann breathed shakily, pulling her eyes away. She was so grateful Catherine had given her the rainbow pin after she came out to her last summer. She knew she didn’t look the part of a gay woman, but Anne did. She was sexy, well-dressed, confident. All the things Ann definitely wasn’t.

Anne was fishing for something in her bag, brown hair falling over her eyes. She handed a business card over, brushing her fingers effortlessly over Ann’s in the process. Electricity. Ann’s breath hitched as she looked down at it.

 

Anne Lister, CPA
Partner
Shibden CPAs & Advisors

Ann’s eyes glazed over at the phone number and email address, lips still trying to form a proper response.

“I’d love to get to know you better, Miss Walker.” Anne withdrew her hand and looked over at the baggage, breaking their eye contact.

“Ah. This is me.” She swung a compact, black bag down and pulled up the handle.

“Until next time?” she said in a low, hopeful tone.

“Y-yes. I would... like that. Very much.” Ann breathed, still working up the courage to say anything more.

“Good…good,” Anne chuckled softly and leaned back, eyes twinkling as she studied Ann for a moment longer.

“I’m very much looking forward to it,” Anne added, winking back at Ann as she wove her way into the crowd and out of the airport, leaving Ann speechless in her wake.

Chapter Text

Ann had always felt so alone. She was curled up on the couch in fuzzy socks and an oversized sweater, scribbling in her journal. It had been a few days since she got home and most of it was spent either in bed or on the couch. A smattering of cleaning here and there. Her friends always commented about how empty her place was, and these moments were exactly why. No clutter, no cleaning. She liked it like that. She didn’t remember the last time it had been this bad. The emptiness that hung in her body from sunrise to sunset, the tears that clung to her cheeks, and the way that her brain just taunted her, endlessly.

On the glass coffee table in front of her couch was the business card of Anne Lister. She was pretty sure she’d never have enough courage to actually call, despite the ache that the woman caused her. It was too much. Too big. She put down her pen and pulled a blanket over her head.

You are dull and stupid. No woman as beautiful as Anne will ever love you. Once she gets close she will realize how thoroughly inept you are in all areas of your life. You can’t even pick up the phone to call her. She has probably forgotten about you anyway. You are so insignificant. She probably hands out her business card all day long, as smooth as she is. And even if you DID call, what would you say? Ann’s heart swelled with a pang and her body ached.

Suddenly, she sat upright, tossing the blanket off of her head. She caught her reflection in the large mirror and noticed her blonde hair going in every direction, her blood-shot eyes, and blotchy red cheeks. She rubbed her hands over her face and groaned loudly. Stop it, Ann! She hissed to herself. Standing up, she grabbed the card and her phone and paced around the couch. Her heart thudded in her ears and she tried to shut out the voices that screamed in her head. They didn’t want her to call. They never wanted happiness for her. Only days in bed, in miserable solitude forever. She gritted her teeth and started to dial. Oh, she had done this before. Earlier this morning. Last night. The night she arrived home. She always ended up crying on the floor. Ann let out a shaky breath and balled her fist. Not this time.

—-

 

Anne was leaning over her keyboard, squinting at her excel spreadsheet and cursing the disorganized client she was reviewing. Her latest hire, Eugenie, was a godsend and had been cleaning up the mess that the last company had left behind. It was nice to have a senior manager she could rely on. Still, she was flooded with work, and meetings, and client happy hours. 15 hour days were not uncommon for her and that was how she liked it. It kept her mind off of her crumbling love life, a desolate wasteland. Lately, she was swearing off womankind altogether- that is until she had bumped into Ann. She was a smidge disappointed the girl hadn’t called-perhaps she had come on too strongly for the poor thing. She was a bit high strung and faint-hearted. Also, fucking gorgeous. Anne sighed, drumming her hands and checking her watch. She waved the thoughts of Ann and pushed her chair away from the desk in a swift motion. She slipped into her overcoat and tied the waist shut, collecting her necessary items from the desk.

She leaned into the office next door, knocking rapidly on the glass. “Better escape while you can, Sam. It will be waiting for you in the morning.” Samuel Washington, a dear family friend and co-partner at Shibden, looked up groggily from the glow of his computer.

“Off so soon? It’s only 9 pm!” He smirked and stretched his hands out on the desk. “See you tomorrow, boss.”

She nodded at him knowingly and gave him a swift parting wave, moving briskly down the hall to the elevator. The entire office was gone, as it usually was when she left. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and glanced through the news of the day, bookmarking a few articles for later, as she stepped out of the building onto the street. The cold washed over her face and she made her way home in no time. 9:23, to be precise. She shook her watch into place and held her keys up to the reader. A faint beep and click and she was rushing in. The waterfall in the lobby of her condo building spilled familiarly and as she pushed the arrow up button, the phone lit up in her hand with an unknown number.

“Hello?” Anne said distractedly as she stepped on the elevator and jammed the number 20 a few times for good measure.

‘H-hello. Anne? This is…Ann Walker. We met at the airport?” A silvery, tremulous voice carried over the phone. Anne’s eyes opened more fully, and she pressed the phone to her ear as some of the sound was distorted from the elevator. It beeped as she climbed slowly.

“Ann! You called. I was beginning to think…”

“Oh. Anne? Are you there?” Anne crossed the elevator rapidly, leaning against the door, willing it to open faster.

Beep.

“Hi. Ann. Yes. I’m sorry I’m in an elevator!” Anne groaned in frustration. She could hear Ann’s voice breaking up. It sounded as if she was sputtering a long string of sentences.

Beep. The doors opened and Anne burst through, headed for the window.

“-Finally worked up the c-courage.I know I’m talking like a madwoman. Anne, are you there? I hope you understand!” Ann concluded in what sounded like a flourish.

“Certainly,” Anne agreed, although slightly unsure of what she was being so understanding about. “How do you feel about meeting me for tea tomorrow? Are you free?”

“I..I have a shift at the bookstore. I could see you during my break around one, if you like?”

“Perfect,” Anne smiled into the phone. “Bookstore? Which one? I’ll pick you up.”

“Walkers. On Main street?” Anne could hear the smile in Ann’s voice

“Ah. I’m familiar. I might just have to stop in early and have a look around, if that’s alright.” Anne turned and leaned against the wall, running a hand through her hair. Thinking of little Miss Walker with her perfectly pink lips made her heartbeat accelerate.

“I’d l-love that, Anne.”

“Wonderful. Well then. I suppose I will see you tomorrow, Miss Walker.”

“I suppose you will.”

Chapter Text

Ann’s eyes flew open with her alarm as her alarm clock sounded. She had just implemented setting the device across the room so she would at least have to leave her bed for a moment in the mornings. Her therapist had given her that advice, as well as some breathing techniques during panic attacks, in their getting-to-know-you session. She padded over her soft rug and onto the hardwood floor of her bedroom, slamming off the offending noise. She stood more upright and heard her spine pop loudly. Stretched. She took a quick inventory of her thoughts as she pulled her curtains open. Could it be that she felt better today? More…human? Not that therapy had fixed anything so far, she thought as she leaned into the windowsill. Pleasant enough day with puffy white clouds and the sun shining. Anne Lister she mused, biting her lip. After months of pure agony, she was rather looking forward to the day ahead. A welcome change.

She managed a shower, fresh clothes, a dab of makeup and out the door in literal record time. She couldn’t help beaming as she locked the door of her house behind her. Look! You did it! You made it out the door! And early- although most people just get dressed and do this every day. They aren’t as lazy and- Ann cut herself off. She stood herself up straight and made her way to work with a bit of a skip in her step. She was excited, her self-deprecating thoughts slipping into the back of her mind, imagining the moment when Anne would swagger into the store. Maybe Ann should be leaned against the counter right at one o’clock, laughing heartily with Catherine. Anne would be impressed at how confident and brazen she was in her natural element…

“Ann! You’re back. Wow. You look amazing!” Catherine had a look of surprise as Ann stepped into the old bookstore, a long-running family business. Her aunt and sister had insisted she would do best watching over this portion of the family’s affairs. They left her out of all the real estate business, which she appreciated. It was never in her nature to care much about business and she felt mostly content with the few shifts she had at the bookstore. She had Catherine, who was her friend and store manager, but she knew she was forced to report up on how Ann was feeling. The most invasive part of it all was that her family did not support her when she came out. Ann’s Aunt Ann had threatened to cut her off, which was impossible because Ann’s deceased parents had left it all in her name. Aunt Ann was always sending awful men into the store to try to win her over and inviting her to stuffy dinners with eligible bachelors.

Luckily, Catherine and Eliza had been supportive. Her older sister less so, she didn’t understand the appeal of a woman herself, and liked to ask invasive questions about how she was so sure she only liked women. It all made her want to crawl back into the safety of her own bed, in her own home, and stay away from all the prying eyes and questions. She was a disappointment to her family and that was hard to cope with, despite all of her other privileges.

Ann got to work alongside Catherine and soon the day was flying by. She was feeling like her interactions were going so smoothly today and she hoped she would be this on-her-game when Miss Lister walked in the doors. Catherine and her had time to catch up and it felt so good to tell someone else about Anne. Catherine was squealing for her and trying to get every single detail Ann could remember. Ann excitedly obliged, playing with the bottom hem of her flowy shirt. She couldn’t help it- her eyes kept darting to the door every time a customer came in. They broke apart and Catherine went to help the older woman who was requesting help with the perfect gift for her granddaughter.

The clock by the door read 12:30 and Ann was starting to panic. Her palms were sweating. Her stomach was flipping. She headed to the back room to grab a drink of water and lean against a stack of new books that had just come in. The walls were feeling like they were closing in on her. She took slow inhales in through her nose. Took a few beats to breathe out shakily. The floors are wooden. The sky is blue. Today is Wednesday. It’s almost one o’clock. Oh, lord. It’s almost one o’clock. She recited these facts in order to distract her brain. It was sort-of, kind of, mostly not working. That therapist is useless. Besides, you’re beyond hopeless! She heard the shopkeepers bell ring again and it took everything in her to push open the door and exit her sanctuary.

The tall woman was running her fingers along the spines that lined the counter, deep brown eyes locked into place with hers as she pushed through the door. Ann felt the blood drain from her face.

“Miss Walker.” Anne practically purred her name as she approached her in just a few quick steps. Ann couldn’t help but burst into a smile, although she ducked her head to try to hide it.

“Hi. Miss Lister,” Ann murmured. Anne leaned down to give her a quick hug, and Ann inhaled the smell of her perfect hair, a little caught off guard by the simple gesture of affection. “So good to see you again. Thanks for coming here to meet m-me.” Catherine leaned out from behind a bookshelf with an eagar look. “WOW” She mouthed, throwing an exaggerated thumbs up. Ann choked back a laugh.

Anne’s face broke into a wide smile as they separated. “My pleasure, really. So how is your shift going? Lovely store. How long have you worked here?” Anne gestured around, taking in all the rows of books.The floor board croaked under their weight as they regained eye contact. Anne had a stare that just bore into her soul. She looked less intimidating today in well-fitting light jeans with a white shirt tucked in and a casual suit jacket. Still breathtaking.

“As long as I can remember, really. My family has owned this shop since the late 1800’s. I helped out more and more as I grew up. I love it here…” She found herself smiling as she looked around, proud of her home away from home.

“I should have guessed when you said your name was Walker. I’ve been in a few times. I wonder if we’ve bumped into each other before…” Anne pondered aloud, running her thumb over her bottom lip absentmindedly.

“I wonder…” Ann tried to lean her elbow on the counter casually and missed it entirely, stumbling a bit. Anne reached out to steady her, running her warm fingers down her arms. Goosebumps erurpted and Ann turned away to hide her reddening face. Damnit Ann! You’re ridiculous and clumsy!”

“Well…” Anne puffed out. “Actually, I’m here on both business and pleasure. Would you have any hardbound journals in stock? I seem to be in need of a new one this week.”

Ann led her deeper into the store and leaned on the back door while Anne took in the wall of journals. She ran her hands over a few of the larger copies, flipping through the pages. Ann took the opportunity to ask about her job, her family (it seemed they both had Aunts keenly looking after their interests). She loved watching Anne speak. She was so animated, gesticulating with various journals in her hands. They both were laughing heartily at the end of a tale about her most recent uber driver, who was likely drunk upon picking her up. She had kicked him out of the driver’s seat and driven herself to the airport the day they had met. Anne was so bold, it was intoxicating. Ann could not rid herself of her happy grin.
It felt like they were in their own world in the back corner. They must have talked effortlessly for an hour, Anne eventually approaching her with the journal she had long ago decided on. It was so easy with her, Ann mused. She somehow managed to keep up with the woman’s thoughtful questions and she seemed so genuinely interested in Ann’s answers. Anne was so good at casually touching her, tucking her hair behind her ear, a hand on her arm, and they were standing so close… Ann was floating when Catherine ducked sheepishly into their aisle.

“Ann…I’ve got a bit of a line and a customer who needs help placing an order. Can you help for a minute?”

“Of course!” The spell was broken a bit as Ann took a step away from Anne and towards Catherine.

Anne ducked her head and checked her watch. “Sorry to keep you so long. I’ll buy this and be on my way. But…can I see you again?” Catherine rushed back to the front. “As soon as possible?” She added in a lowered tone, locking her eyes onto Ann’s lips. She reached out to run the back of her fingers along Ann’s jaw.

“R-really? Yes! Please,” Ann squeaked out, followed by a low chuckle from Anne. They turned and made their way to the front of the store, emerging to find a bit of a hectic scene. Ann buzzed with electricity, feeling like she was about to get on stage. She tore away reluctantly to take her place at the register, where Catherine was hurriedly packing books into a brown paper WALKERS BOOKS bag. Anne hung at the back of the line, eyes never leaving Ann as she helped the next customer in line with an animated smile. Keep your eyes down, Ann. Don’t make a fool of yourself. She’s watching! She went through the motions. Greeting. Apologizing for the line. Cashiering. Offering her goodbyes and handing out bags.

Finally, Miss Lister was the last customer. She smiled coyly at Ann as she approached. Catherine took her cue and slipped out the front door, yelling back about a lunch break. Anne watched her leave out of the corner of her eye as she pulled a wallet from her back pocket. The door closed with a creaking thud and they were alone. Ann gulped and wished this huge counter wasn’t between them.

She held up a hand as Anne presented her money.

“It’s on the house,” She smiled, picking up a little of Anne’s boldness after their conversation. “I don’t remember the last time I had such a pleasant day.” She casually made her way around the front desk with a small bag for Anne’s gift. Anne laughed and helped her put it in.

“Thank you,” Her smile touched her eyes and her lips parted, placing a hand gently on Ann’s hip. They moved incrementally closer, Ann tipping her jaw up to meet Anne halfway. Ann glanced past them to the busy street, praying that no one was coming in.

Their lips met slowly, tenderly and Ann’s eyes fluttered closed, melting into Anne’s body as she pulled her hips closer. Gentle, soft kisses on her bottom lip gave way to searching, familiarizing. Ann was being pressed backward into the countertop so smoothly. She reached up to run her fingers through Anne’s hair, struggling to hold back noises as Anne grew more passionate. Their tongues met hesitantly at first, shooting a deep ache into Ann’s core and it all made her feel dizzy with lust.

They separated slowly, lips swollen and eyes dancing with exhileration. Anne stepped back and smiled in a self-satisfied way.
“Drinks tonight? I owe you one.” Anne held up the bag, coyly. “I’ll text you the time and place.”

Ann watched Anne saunter away and past the storefront window. Holy shit she thought, covering her mouth with her hand and laughing.

Chapter Text

Anne was smiling more than usual through her regular monotonous meetings. She found herself staring out the window as Eugenie droned on and on about a big client consolidation. She kept replaying that perfect kiss they had shared in Walkers. Anne had a hard time holding herself back when they had met up later that night, but she thought she had cooled things down appropriately. She had to play her cards closer to her chest- drawing Ann in to see exactly what she could bring to the table. Anne was not about to let someone have the upper hand on her again. Her heart had been broken, crumpled, and utterly destroyed over and over. A pit grew in her stomach remembering walking in on Vere and that disgusting brute - rough hands gripping her thighs, her hands in his short, cropped hair; their faces shocked upon her entrance. It didn’t help that Anne and Vere were living together and planning their future together at the time. They were doing all sorts of intentional domesticity, including jointly purchasing the couch that the betrayal happened upon. She had shoved everything into the back of her black four-door car and headed home in pure agony that very night.

She was being a complete idiot letting her guard down so quickly with Miss Walker. They had parted the bar, tipsy, after another deliciously intriguing, hours-long conversation. Their knees had touched the entire time, and Anne had to take a break at one point to splash water on her face. Keeping her hands to herself was fucking maddening. Ann’s blonde locks would fall in front of her bright sparkling eyes whenever she was feeling shy, teeth biting on her supple bottom lip. Conversely, she would grow so animated when in the middle of a long story, especially after her glass of wine was nearing the bottom. There was a spark between them that felt like an ember Anne needed to tend, rather than exploit all of its heat and lose it quickly. Ann was fragile and Anne needed to guide her gently, lest she spook the poor girl.

It had been so difficult to just hug her petite frame goodbye, waving from the sidewalk as she was driven away. Ann had seemed a bit anxious for more physical touch, or maybe just a bit anxious. God, her eyes when we said goodbye…searching, desperate… Anne had shoved her hands deep in her pockets when the car turned the corner, red wine buzzing in her head and belly. She walked home in the drizzle, not even really noticing it- all thoughts on beautiful Ann.

Popping back into the work conversation, she ushered Eugenie back to her seat. Checking her watch, she quickly summarized the entirety of what her senior manager was attempting to convey in half the time. Maybe she wasn’t going to be as useful as she thought, she questioned, glancing over at the girl who studied her with rapt attention. As she wrapped up the meeting, she could see Sam gesturing to the conference room across the hall as the other partners filed in. Another day trapped in back to back meetings meant she would be working into the night, leaving her thoughts of Ann to churn in the back of her mind.

---

Ann sat with one leg curled under her at her antique kitchen table. She stared out of her window and studied the trees swaying gently in her back garden in the falling light. Her heart was pounding and her lips were cracked and dry, eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep. It had been 4 days since the magical kiss in Walkers and 4 days since she completely and totally blew it at their first date. She had been so nervous and awkward that it was absolutely no surprise that Anne hadn’t bothered to kiss her goodnight or contact her since.

Ann twisted her fingers into her hand, spine curved over her long-cold cup of tea. She was being so ridiculous, feeling so crushed by this woman she hardly knew. She had made it into her shift today, but found herself not really present. She had a terrible time smiling at customers, and she found her eyes locked onto the old clock in the corner, counting down the minutes until closing time. Catherine, sensing Ann’s dark emotions, had offered to come over and bring some take-out. Ann had been locking the shops door and whispered out a poor excuse. Something in her wished Catherine would push back and insist on coming, but she never did. She dodged a few more questions and managed to rush away without giving up much. Really, Ann just preferred to be alone. And alone she was.

The world just felt bleak, like all the color had been drained around her. She felt no pleasure or pain, really. Just emptiness. She didn’t even think she could feel the depth of humiliation that the failed date should have caused. She rested her head on the table and felt the tears flow out. She was going to be alone in this big house forever. She had let this incredible woman slip away and pushed all of her amazing friends and even her family away. She knew she was unwell, but where to even start building her life up again? She thought Anne might have lit enough fire under her to propel her forward, but now she was just back right where she had been before. She just needed to forget that they had ever happened.

Her heart leapt in surprise as her phone vibrated loudly across the table. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, blurred screen coming into focus at last. Anne Lister was calling.

“H-hello?” Ann picked up the phone before her brain could tell her otherwise.

“Ann…” Anne Lister’s low voice curled into her ear and sent a warm sensation cascading down her body. “Ann, I’m so sorry I haven’t been able to call. Work has been a complete madhouse. I finally just left this meeting I’ve been in for two hours for a trip to the necessary and thought…I had to hear your voice. How are you?”
Tears were flowing and Ann covered her mouth to stifle the sound. She could not believe that Anne would be calling. She truly thought she’d never hear from her again. She had imagined why thoroughly last night, as she tossed and turned, picturing Anne leaning in to kiss some other, more put-together woman.
“Ann? Are you okay?” Anne’s voices lilted in concern. She could probably hear Ann’s sharp intakes of breath. Pull it together, Ann! Shes going to think you are absolutely MAD!

“I’m f-fine!” She said hurriedly, trying to keep her voice stable. “It’s s-so good to hear from you. I thought for sure-“ Ann cracked, betraying her emotions.

“Ann! What’s going on? What’s happened?” Anne sounded like she was shouting into the phone and Ann felt her body shaking.

“No! S-sorry. It’s stupid. I’m just- I didn’t think you’d ever call. I was h-hoping you would.” Ann stuttered out and then held her breath, sure she was blowing it all over again. What kind of madwoman cries after going on just one date?

“Oh, Ann…” She heard Anne’s voice drop into a softer tone. She could hear street noises behind her, the rumble of a large vehicle passing. “I am so sorry. I had such a wonderful time with you. I’ve just been so busy with this merger and it seems like every single client I’m on has needed me extra this week. Such bad timing. I never meant to make you think…but of course you did.” Anne sighed heavily and let her words hang in the air.

Ann sat up in her chair and covered her eyes with her free hand. She was sure Anne was just saying this to be nice. She probably had gone on other dates or maybe she’d forgotten how awkward Ann is in person. Although, she conceded to herself, the connection had felt mutual. She flashed to their last goodbye, Anne looking like she wanted to lean down to kiss her and instead, just leaning past her for a hug. She felt her heart sink all over again. Maybe she just wanted them to be friends and this was just a friendly call. Ann did have money and the Walker name, which had been a reason people wanted to get close to her all her life.

“I get it. Your work is really important. You should get back to it. I don’t want to keep you,” Ann forced herself to say.

“Ann. Make no mistake. The thought of seeing you again soon is what is making my work life bearable. Where are you?” Anne pressed, sounding distracted. Ann could hear the phone rustling and the hurried strides of Anne’s shoes against a tile floor.

“I...Home.”

“I’m coming over. I feel like I can’t do this justice over the phone.” Ann’s eyebrows shot up as she took in the state of the house around her. Dirty dishes in the sink, half her delivered groceries still in bags on the grand kitchen island- Ann hadn’t even uttered a word before Anne continued.

“I’ll make up some excuse to get away. Send me your address. Ann, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

She heard the beep beep beep of the call ending before the tears started flowing again.

Chapter Text

Anne hopped up the wooden plank entrance and rapped rhythmically with the small brass knocker. The house was rather large for just one person, but immaculately tended on the outside. Vines wove around a trellis and onto the beautiful wood fence that seemed to run around the entire property. Anne was impressed at the acreage so close to downtown and the pristine color of green, even in the darkness, that seemed to radiate from the grounds. The cottage-style home didn’t quite seem to fit on the lot, but it did seem to perfectly embody Ann. White paint contrasted with blue shutters and glowing black, rounded lanterns hung in even balance from the pillared front porch. An over-sized birdcage filled with ornamental objects and straw was propped next to the row of front windows; Anne found herself leaning in to identify the objects inside. A sumptuous outdoor sofa looked perfect for morning tea and the indoor lights glowed through the shade-drawn windows that hung above it. She looked around and found the doorbell, pushing it firmly. Another knock. The door finally opened, and Ann hung in the frame looking meek.

“Anne- Thank you for coming by. I’m alright… really.” Ann ushered her in with a sheepish expression, dressed in tight fitting leggings and a large blue flannel shirt that hung off of her. Her hair was pulled back and loose strands framed her face. She leaned back against the front door as she shut it behind them, nervous.

Anne didn’t even bother to take in the room before she closed the space between them and cupped her perfect jaw in her both hands. Her eyes searched Ann’s. She looked truly exhausted, and yet her look was captivating- a glint of something more.

“You are not alright.” She whispered, sternly. She stroked her thumb along the soft skin of her cheek, brushing over freckles, clearer now in their proximity. “And I am truly sorry if it is at all about me. Which I don’t assume it is. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you, Ann. What’s going on?” Anne pleaded, gently. She truly felt so much tenderness towards the girl and wanted to do anything in the world to stop the tears that were starting to flow.

Ann’s lip started to tremble and she hurriedly brought her hands up to cover her eyes. It took some moments of them standing against the door in silence before Ann finally took a deep breath and spoke.

“I..I haven’t been okay in a long time.” She admitted, putting her hands on Anne’s arms. “That’s just me. The family invalid. The disappointment.Y-You just cheered me up so much when you walked into my life. I thought for sure I had said something wrong or…maybe you had found someone more clever and interesting…” Anne’s heart sank. She felt her insides twist at the thought of being the cause of any of her pain, and cursed herself for letting work take over every moment of her life.

“You are clever. You are interesting. We spent 4 hours together at The Royal Oak.” Anne flashed her her most genuine smile. “I loved hearing about your family history, the books you enjoy, the traveling you’ve done. You don’t seem very invalid to me. In fact, Ann, you are quite possibly the most captivating woman I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.”

Ann’s cheeks flushed and her reserved smile reached her eyes.

“I doubt that, Miss World-Traveler,” Ann laughed, a sense of calm seeming to wash over her her body. Anne ran her fingers down the seam of Ann’s shirt sleeves and interlaced their fingers.

“Now, Miss Walker, since we’re back to titles…” She squeezed Ann’s hands and took a moment to glance at the room behind them. “I am very curious to see more than the front door of your beautiful home. I’ve shut off my phone and refuse to look at my emails until the morning, which will probably be a disaster- but you, my dear, are getting my undivided attention.” Ann chuckled and gave her a pursed-lip smile. Anne wrapped her arms around Ann’s waist and leaned in to whisper in her ear, intoxicated by smell of her.

“I promise to never, ever go so long without checking in on you again.” Anne pressed her lips onto Ann’s earlobe and tenderly kissed her way along her jawline. She opened her eyes to see Ann’s closed in pleasure, mouth open in a delicate smile.

___

Ann happily lead Anne through her house, hands intertwined. She was still feeling shaky from their exchange against the front door. How could Anne melt her with such affection? Her words felt so reassuring and she ached to believe them. It’s too good to be true. she worried. Always worrying. She shoved those thoughts back and instead enjoyed the awe that Anne was expressing when looking around her space.

“Well…here is my kitchen. I didn’t want such a large one because I don’t ever cook, but my Aunt insisted that I would be regretful if I didn’t. I had the most fun figuring out what I wanted it all to look like,” Anne dropped her hand away and ran her fingers over the island, walking around it. She opened the cupboards and the fridge, clicking her tongue as she explored. She stood back and took in the large painting that hung over the antique dining table of a little girl leaning over a pond. Ann smiled in amusement. Miss Lister was a curious woman. The groceries had been shoved into the pantry and she had really done a good job of tidying up, thanks to the utter simplicity of her life.

“Mmm…it truly is gorgeous. You have an amazing eye for design, Ann. I’d love to cook you dinner sometime, this week after work?” Anne questioned and closed the gap between them. She tucked a stray piece of hair behind Ann’s ear, shooting tingles down her spine.

“I-I’d love that.” Ann breathed, stomach on fire with all the feelings that were jumbled up inside of her. The way that Anne made her come alive was something she thought she would never feel again. She felt seen, and admired even, when Anne was around. No one ever looked at her the way she did. They all just looked right through her- and why wouldn’t they? You are nothing special.

“Show me upstairs?” Anne murmured, eyes twinkling with her smile. Ann swallowed and let the wave of heat roll over her as she led her up the stairs. Anne rubbed her thumb along Ann’s hand and wrist as they walked from room to room and the sensation was aching all the way into her chest. She found herself studying the lines of Anne’s face as they laughed and spoke about each painting, room, and choice of décor. She was such a stunning, intelligent woman and she could not believe the pure attraction that Anne conveyed every time they made eye contact. It felt as if Anne was undressing her with every interested glance and she could hardly hold the conversation as they approached the open door of her bedroom.

“Well, this is where the magic happens…”Ann gestured and immediately felt her face grow hot in regret. Really? You idiot. Don’t make her think about you having sex with other people. You only want sex with her. Right now. Good lord. Are we going to have sex?

Anne chuckled and licked her lips as she leaned past the door frame to take in the room. “I can see why…it’s beautiful. Very modern and yet, sensual.” Her eyes studied the framed art that hung as the main focal point of the room: two gender-less bodies intertwined in an embrace, adorned in a flourish of colors and strokes.

“That’s mine, actually. I love to paint. A bit self-absorbed to hang it in here, but I was really inspired by the colors and…well…it just fits.” Ann explained shyly, walking in and waving her arms helplessly.

“It is stunning, Ann. You are incredibly talented. Do you still paint?”

“W-well…I haven’t been inspired much lately. It’s been a rough few months. My creativity seems to go out the window first.” Ann looked around, fiddling with her hands, acutely aware of Anne studying her bed frame. She imagined Anne and herself within the bed, writhing in pleasure…wondering what it would take to make Anne come undone.

“I’m sorry to hear that. Perhaps you should try again? Maybe the inspiration will come once the brush is back in your hand…” Anne reached out for her and Ann nodded, taking in some shaky breaths as they made their way back downstairs. “Your home is absolutely incredible. I continue to be more and more impressed with you, Miss Walker. Now what should we do next to cheer you up?”

“Watch a movie with me? What do you like?” Ann asked, as she guided her to the grand sofa. Anne kicked off her shoes and lay down against the back of the couch, ushering Ann to lie in front. Ann could hardly absorb what was happening, but they both settled in together like puzzle pieces, arranging the couch pillows under their heads. Ann felt so incredibly rejuvenated from the evening, like Anne’s energy was flowing into her and reminding her of all the reasons she was worthwhile in the world. She knew a woman shouldn’t be the thing that made her feel needed, but God, this woman was fucking amazing.

“I’ll watch anything with you,” She murmured into Ann’s hair.

Anne enveloped her tightly, bodies perfectly crushed together, eventually leaning down to place a kiss on the back of her neck. Ann couldn’t control the tremble that cascaded down to her toes, and she felt Anne’s lips smile against her as the opening credits started.

Chapter Text

Ann was intimidated as she approached the massive skyscraper that housed Shibden CPA’s & Advisors. It seemed to touch the cumulous clouds that hung low in the sky that evening. Anne’s last meeting of the day had been cancelled and Ann had happily scrambled around, digging in her closet for something sufficiently sexy to wear on their second date. She settled on a knee-length dress that flowed nicely on her, with a blue rose pattern and a peekaboo shoulder. She had shrugged on her long coat, tucked a stray wave behind her ear, and applied her favorite lipstick before locking her front door. She felt the butterflies rising as she ducked into the looming building, moving her way through the crowd.

The excitement warped quickly into terror as her adrenaline waned. The bodies seemed to swell around her, closing in. The lobby smelled like burnt coffee and heavy cologne, causing her stomach to leap into her throat. Heat rushed down her spine and her racing heartbeat thudded in her fingertips. Sharp shouts coming from the coffee shop pierced through her and business people shoved by, all having a thousand different conversations that collided within her eardrums at the same time. The walls are gray, my name is Ann, the floor is tile. She eventually pushed herself up against the coolness of the wall and closed her eyes as she fought the panic rising over her. . Anne should be coming down any minute. Any minute. Breathe, Ann! Not now. Not now. Not here.

Anne was getting off the elevator, carrying her work bag, when their eyes met across the room almost instantaneously. Anne’s smirk faded to concern and she strode toward her in her blue suit, which was buttoned nicely and had deep pockets. Her brown boots looked freshly polished and her dark hair was masterfully swept back into a low, short ponytail. Ann felt relief flood into her system when Anne finally reached her and wrapped her arms around her in a tight hug. Safe.

“Thanks for coming early. Let’s get you out of here,” She wrapped a protective arm around Ann and pushed through the crowd with ease. Ann let herself be guided and closed her eyes, breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth. She eventually found herself plopped on a park bench with Anne kneeling down in front of her.

“I’m so sorry, Ann. Are you alright? Keep taking those deep breaths. In for one…out for two…” Ann followed her guidance and felt Anne place a kiss on the palm of her hand, sending tingles up her arm. She felt her panic ebbing, eventually melting to a point where she could open her tear-filled eyes.

“Sorry…” was all she could mouth as she felt the tears well up. She berated herself for thinking she could handle such a crowd, and simultaneously agonized that she had just ruined their date night. She met her eyes with a look of pain in her face and Anne leaned in to press a kiss to her cheek.

“No apologies needed. I shouldn’t have asked you to meet me there. It can be so overwhelming…” Anne soothingly murmured, leaning their foreheads together.

“I’ve been looking forward to this all day,” Ann whispered. “And now I’ve spoiled it before it’s even started.”

“Nonsense. When you’re ready, we will head up to my favorite little restaurant on the hill. It is absolutely mouth-watering. I’ve reserved us my favorite booth in a quiet corner. I think we shall be quite happy there.” Anne smiled, and squeezed her hands reassuringly. They stayed together on the park bench, eventually beginning a soft conversation about the trees in the park surrounding them. Ann leaned into her, feeling her heartbeat finally returning to normal.

“I think I’m ready to go. Thank you, Anne. And I’m really s-sorry.” She apologized, searching her eyes and placing a soft kiss on her surprised mouth. She had never been near someone so kind or understanding about her anxieties and it felt like a breath of fresh air rushing into her lungs. Anne smiled as they broke their kiss, offering an arm as they stood and made their way up the hill.

Anne opened the large door of the restaurant for her, winking as they stepped inside to a cozy, candlelit table in the back corner of the restaurant, adorned with a scripted reserved placard. The booth wrapped around them and faced a floor to ceiling window overlooking the sprawling city. The server leaned flirtatiously towards Anne and asked if she’d like her regular bottle brought to the table as they settled in. Ann couldn’t help but regard her suspiciously. Was this an ex-lover? Anne looked appropriately disinterested as she picked up the special dinner menu.

 

“No, thank you,” She replied, making eye contact with Ann over the thick paper. “We’re in the mood for something new.” Ann felt herself flush and she smoothed her napkin down over her lap. We. She was so smooth, even after what they had just gone through. She felt her heart swell as she watched Anne delight as she read out each of their choices. Once they had decided and had the bottle delivered, they both savored the crisp, dry white wine. Ann welcomed the calm into her system.

The ease of it all, she thought, as their conversation flowed from one topic to the next. They watched the sun set color the sky in deep purples and pinks as they had shared and delighted in their flavorful entrees. Anne was urging her to go back to school and take more painting classes- saying she was considering a French tutor to sharpen her own skills. Anne depicted the world in such a fascinating way, and the feeling of excitement was lifting Ann’s spirit. She felt safe and she had a swelling of hope for her future, maybe even their future.

 

“How did I get so lucky to see you that day on the airplane?” Anne murmured, splitting the last of the bottle between their glasses. She had slid around the booth to be nearer to her, extending an arm around her shoulders. “The universe seems to have brought us together, wouldn’t you say?”

 

Ann found herself grinning at the memory of bumping into her and leaned closer, her head feeling clearer than it had in a very long time. “I do believe fate brought you into my life, Anne. You were wonderful today. Well, you’re always wonderful. I feel so…safe when I’m with you,” she found herself saying in almost a whisper, biting down on her lower lip.

Anne leaned in with her bright smile, the reflection of the sunset dancing in her eyes as she hovered over Ann’s breathless mouth. She pressed firm kisses into her, reaching out to put a hand on her face to hold her in their embrace. Their lips were warm and sweet from the wine they shared, eagerly meeting each other’s. The only sound was their quick breaths and dim conversation lulling in the background. Ann felt herself melt closer and she slid her her hands slowly down the lapels of her suit jacket and then back up again, winding her way into the bottom of her hair. Anne’s free hand found a spot on her bare knee, fingertips dancing over her skin as she broke their kiss to move to the corners of her mouth. She ran her lips all the way to Ann’s ear.

 

“You are so sexy,” her voice practically growled as she dragged a single finger up the inside of Ann’s thigh ever so slowly, reaching the edge of her dress. Ann’s flesh rippled into goosebumps and she pulled Anne’s soft lips back to her own, desperation rising to to do things she couldn’t do in public. Anne’s hand inched higher and Ann felt powerless to stop it, although part of her swelled in curiosity- How far could this really go?

A crash at the booth behind them shook them apart suddenly. The dishes clinked together again and they realized the table was being bussed, hearts pounding as the spell was broken. They leaned together and laughed quietly, Anne ducking in to steal a few short kisses.

 

“We should probably get out of here, or we may end up giving our waitress quite the shock,” Anne laughed, running her fingers along the inside of Ann’s hand, tracing unknown patterns. “My place?” She offered in a tone that made Ann want to melt into a puddle. Somehow, she managed to reply affirmatively.

“Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

Anne pulled her keys out of the front of her leather work bag and unlocked the door, pulling Ann in quickly by the hand. She hardly managed to get the door closed before Ann was reaching up and pulling her neck closer, lips melting onto hers with urgency. Well well well she thought, pulling little Miss Walker in close, taking a moment to graze her teeth on her bottom lip before letting her hands wander down to fill her hands with Ann’s perfect ass. She made a small moaning noise that ripped through Anne and she found herself pressing harder into her mouth, tongues exploring and full of need.

Without missing a beat, Anne started undoing the buttons of her suit jacket. Ann helped her slip out of it and they let it crumple onto the floor. She moved onto Ann’s overcoat, untying the the knot in the front determinedly. Ann started an assault on her neck, finding all the most delicate spots. She let an “Ahhh..” of pleasure escape her mouth, eventually succeeding in pulling the coat off. She walked Ann backwards, leaning her into the wall of the kitchen. Ann’s hands reached down for her belt and theirs lips crashed together, the heat between them palpable. Anne reached down as Ann finished unbuckling, swiftly pinning her arms above her head. She felt her throat whimper as she kissed down the side of her neck and onto her perfect collarbones, taking her time in an attempt to make her squirm.

“Oh…God…” Ann sighed, hands flexing in weak resistance, arching her body closer. Anne transferred her arms into one firm grasp and let her right hand reach down between them, inching Ann’s dress up as she made her way back to her mouth. She found the edge of the fabric she was looking for, lace and ran her fingers gently along the seam by her thigh. She could feel Ann holding her breath and it finally came out, raggedly against her lips. She felt the heat radiating as she pressed firmly against the center of Ann, fingers feeling her wetness through the thin material. She shuddered as Ann moaned into her mouth, tongue meeting hers in display of encouragement. Anne let go of her shaking arms in order to hold her more firmly against the wall, moving with the slow rhythm of Ann’s hips.

At some point, they managed to untangle and rush their way down the hall to Anne’s massive king size bed. Anne slipped off her shoes and loose belt, smoothing back a flyaway hair as she pulled Ann back to a rough kiss. She gathered the bottom of Ann’s smooth dress in her hands and started to inch it off and over her head, admiring the slow reveal of her phenomenal body. She was wearing an extremely sexy matching purple bra and panty set, which seemed to indicate she had been hoping Anne would see it, and appreciate it.

“Fuck, Ann. You are…” She struggled for the words to describe her adoration, as Ann laughed shyly and deftly unbuttoned her work shirt. “Is this alright? Is this what you want?” She knew Ann needed extra time and reassurance with most things, but Anne was pretty confident this was going to be an exception to the rule.

“Yes…I want this. I want..you.” Ann breathed the last word with such longing that Anne lifted her up onto the tall bed and crawled on top of her, throwing her own white button up onto the floor. She went to work, finding her mouth while her hands explored all of the places she had been dying to touch. She managed the undo the bra while it was pinned to the bed beneath her, pulling it off in a flourish. Ann’s breasts were small, round, and deliciously perfect. Anne found herself breathing shallowly at the sight of her, light pink and swollen before she even got her mouth on them. Her tongue danced when they met and she sucked gently, causing Ann to arch into her suddenly and dig fingers into her hair.

Soon enough, they resumed their earlier cadence as Anne eased her hand between her legs. She slipped underneath the fabric and felt Ann shaking under her hands as she found her swollen clit. She writhed as Anne explored her, and cried loudly as her finger slipped inside her, tentative at first and then over and over again. Anne could feel her wanting more and she obliged, guiding another inside. Ann kissed her harder in response, while Anne built up their rhythm and used the palm of her hand to rub against her most sensitive need.

Ann was letting out the most delicious noises, their tongues dancing together as their passion reached its breaking point. They were crashing together, Ann’s hips thrusting to meet her hand, their skin contacting in insistent fervor. Anne felt the muscles tightening against her fingers and Ann’s cries became more desperate. She kept her pace steady, slow, and constant. She guided her into the wave as it crashed over her body- a sound of pure ecstasy escaped her throat as her head tossed back and legs tightened around her hand. Anne’s mouth hung open in pleasure as she admired this beautiful woman who was still pulsing rhythmically on her fingers. Ann finally met her gaze, eyes hazy with satisfaction, pulling her down into a tender kiss.

Anne stealthily wiped her fingers on her pants as she lay down beside her, staring up at the ceiling with a grin. She was so fucking turned on by this woman and hadn’t been this happy..ever? She let herself gaze down at Ann’s body, still taking in shaky breaths. Noticing, Ann laughed happily and turned to curl into Anne’s arm. She started tracing her fingers over her stomach and stoking the fire that was already burning.

“That was…incredible, Anne.” She licked her lips and leaned in closer to kiss her jaw, smiling against her. Anne turned her head to kiss her deeply and wrap her body in a warm embrace. Ann surprised her by pushing her back and climbing on top of her, allowing Anne to fully take in the curves of her waist and the way her hair fell onto her bare shoulders.

“Wow…” Anne breathed, reaching up to drag her hands along her supple skin.

“My turn,” She said flirtatiously, capturing Anne’s strong arms and pinning them to the pillow behind her head. The laughter rang from both of them as Anne playfully fought back; knowing she fully intended to lose.

Chapter Text

Ann woke up, naked, morning light streaming into Anne’s bedroom. She rubbed her eyes and pulled the crumpled sheet up a little higher, feeling the emptiness in the bed beside her. Anne’s bedroom. Adjusting herself up on her elbows, she looked around to find Anne curled up in a large armchair with a hard-bound novel in her hands. She was dressed in a black pair of boxers and a T-shirt, and licked her thumb as she turned the page, eyes flicking back and forth as she read. Her hair fell in tangled waves from their lovemaking- Ann flashed back to how her hands felt winding into it and then... the moment Anne shattered and collapsed against her. She found herself slowly smiling as she took in this profound woman who felt so much more human after stripping all the layers away.

Ann felt her gut sink, the gnawing voice creeping in as she suddenly felt very overwhelmed by the newness of the situation. Where were her clothes again? She spied her favorite purple bra hanging haphazardly from a lamp a few feet away. Oh, lord. The passion between them was finally quenched... well, maybe not completely, she conceded as Anne absent-mindlessly ran her thumb along her lip while she read. Her heart flipped. Anne’s eyes finally flicked over and a look of surprise gave way to a soft smile as she closed the book with a one-handed thud.

“Good morning Miss Walker,” Ann bit her lip as Anne took a few steps to climb back onto the bed, lips pressing on the sheet over her thighs, stomach, and then into the sweetest good morning kiss she’d ever had. She felt breathlessly in awe of her, as they slowly moved apart and measured each other in the light of day.

“Good morning,” Ann smiled shyly and reached to run her fingers through Anne’s messy locks. “This feels a bit like a dream...” she murmured, watching Anne’s eyes rake over her thinly-veiled body. Redness bloomed on her bare chest.

“It does. Waking up next to you this morning... and then having the pleasure of watching you sleep so peacefully. I am feeling so incredibly lucky. You are... breathtaking,” Anne looked at her so genuinely that it wiped her feelings of insecurity away for the moment. Ann took the moment to lean in; placing a kiss on Anne’s waiting bottom lip, which quickly gave way into something deeper. Soon, they were rolling around breathlessly, Anne’s hands having tenderly found her skin under the sheet, drawing her as close as she could get.

The butterflies were back as Anne was murmuring about how beautiful she was against open kisses, hands raking over her body. She felt like she was floating above herself, watching as they began grinding together in an effort to satiate the desire that roared between them. Anne’s low noises sent shocks radiating down into her, as did the firm pressure of Anne’s thigh between her legs. She rolled her hips, enjoying the look of pleasure over Anne’s face as she returned the pressure with her own leg. She squeezed her eyes shut as the familiar feeling rose up inside her, mirroring the breathless moans coming from Anne. They moved together in perfect unison, the heat of their bodies together building up. Ann reached her peak and cried out against Anne’s lips, and with a few more motions, Anne began shaking and finally let go into an arc of pleasure.

Their kisses were slow and languid as their throbbing heartbeats returned to their normal rhythms, legs still partially entangled. In the distance, a rhythmic vibration came into focus and threw Ann out of the universe they had created within the bed.

“Ughhhh. My phone. My aunt and I usually check in on weekend mornings. She’s looking for me,” Ann mumbled, burying her face into Anne’s neck. She felt a warm chuckle as Anne pulled her into a tight squeeze.

“Well, you should probably reassure her that you’re safe. I should have told you it’s gone off a few times…” Anne trailed. “Let me find you something to wear.” Ann moaned in protest as they untangled and sighed as Anne presented her a pile of perfectly folded clothes. “I’ll make us some tea and give you some privacy.”

Ann nodded reluctantly as Anne kissed the top of her head and slipped out of the room with a wink. She shakily hopped down from the large bed and pulled on the fitted drawstring pants and Shibden CPA’s and Advisors t-shirt, after plucking her bra from the lamp. A little big, but they smelled like Anne and made her grin like a fool. Her body felt worn and sore from all of their lovemaking, but she was filled with delight thinking that Anne’s feelings were as strong as her own. She wandered around the room, picking up her various clothing items until she found her purse flung in the far corner by the door. Rummaging through it, she pulled out her phone.

6 missed calls.
6 unheard voicemails.
25 text messages.

Good lord. She wasn’t with Anne for that long. Her family was ridiculous. She sat on the floor, legs crossed, as she started to grow through it all. Missed calls and texts from Eliza, Aunt Ann, and Catherine.

{Eliza}: Ann. Where THE HELL are you?

Aunt Ann is frantic.

She’s at your house with the police and you’re not there?

You have to call her back.

Are you okay??!

WHERE ARE YOU?

Ann’s heart thudded in her ears as she moved onto the next urgent messages.

{Catherine}: Ann are you okay?

Where are you? Eliza and your aunt want to know where you are?

Are you with Anne?

Hello?!

She started to go through her missed voicemails, all from her Aunt Ann in increasing franticness but with the same underlying message.

“Ann. The police have contacted me that your home has just been broken into and I need to know you are safe. I’m making my way over there. Call me NOW.” Her hands started shaking and the phone slipped onto the floor. She burst into tears and propped her head into her hands, rocking back and forth, paralyzed with the enormity of what awaited her at home.

---

 

Anne meandered back towards her room with steaming cups in her hands, humming happily. Last night...and this morning...she smirked, had been more than she could have ever hoped for. Little Miss Walker was beautiful, intelligent, and…insatiable. She nudged the door open with her elbow and smiled at the sight of her bed, pillows and blankets crumpled everywhere. She switched gears as she realized Ann was sobbing on the floor, quickly setting the cups on a side table and rushing towards her. The phone lit up as it vibrated, unanswered, again.

“Ann! Darling…what’s wrong?” She folded herself around Ann’s shaking body, pulling her in.

“M-my home…was b-broken into this morning…Everyone is looking for me,” She finally hiccupped, leaning her head back onto Anne’s shoulder.

“Fuck. Ann. I’m so sorry,” Anne sighed, pressing on for more details. “What do you want to do? Are you going to call them back? They’re just worried that you aren’t at the house. Do you want me to come with you when you go?”

“I can’t go alone. I can’t go yet. I c-can’t believe I wasn’t there. I’m always there. I can’t imagine what I would have done. What are they looking for? What have the taken or destroyed?” Ann sputtered out in distress, hands pressing into her eyes. The phone lit up again, vibrating against the floor boards. Anne nodded, brain rapidly digesting all of the facts and processing what was to come. She ached with the understanding that this was not going to be easy on Ann, and that it put quite the damper on their first night together. She leaned to pick up the phone for her.

“Hello?”

“Ann? Wait-hello? Who is this?” A voice incredibly similar to Ann’s cried out over the phone. Ann whirled around in incredulity at Anne answering the phone on her behalf. Her shoulders melted in relief as the call unfolded, with Anne willing to problem-solve even on a small scale.

“Hi, this is Ann’s..friend.. She’s safe at my home. She’s terribly upset, but can you let her aunt know she’s safe and we will make our way over there as soon as we can?”

“Oh..yes..of course. This is her sister Elisabeth. Who is this? The police need her there soon to assess the extent of the damages.”

“I understand, we will hurry over. This is Anne Lister. Nice to meet you, Eliza,” Anne said as warmly as she could before exchanging some more details and hanging up.

“T-thank you,” Ann whispered gratefully, exhaustion washing over her. “My family is s-so overwhelming. I don’t want to go home. Fuck. I don’t ever want to go back.” The tears overflowed in Ann’s eyes and she felt so small as she curled back into Anne.

“Shh…I know. You don’t have to go alone. I’ll come with you and be right by your side- if that’s what you’d like,” She soothed into Ann’s ear, kissing the lobe while rubbing her back in an effort to pacify her crying. After a long moment in their embrace, Anne finally peeled herself away and helped Ann to her feet. She seemed weak and off-balance, so Anne led her to a chair.

“We should go, Ann,” She urged, placing her hands on Ann’s bony knees and searching her eyes. Ann finally nodded grudgingly and resumed collecting her things. Anne hurriedly pulled on a pair of jeans, ran a brush through her hair, put on a ball cap, and slid her wallet into her back pocket. Once Ann seemed as ready as she could be, they intertwined their fingers, and shared a quiet kiss by the front door. Ann sighed into her shoulder.

“I wish we could have stayed in bed all day,” she lamented, looking up with her crystal blue eyes.

“Me too, darling. Another day,” Anne reassured, sadly, leaning to press another tender kiss to her lips. The world crashed back in around them as they stepped out the door and made their way out into the daunting morning ahead.

Chapter Text

The glass from the front window crunched under Ann’s feet as she stepped inside her home, taking in what lay before her. Muddy footprints tracked up and down the hall and onto her rugs, the drawers of her decorative side bar hung open, her favorite lemon-vanilla candles were knocked to the floor, and all the blankets and couch cushions were flung in odd places. It seemed whomever had come in was intent on finding her valuables and tried to pile everything onto the floor in their effort. She felt herself shaking and Anne placed a firm grip on her arms from behind, steadying her.

“Oh Ann! There you are, finally! Do be careful, the glass is tracked absolutely everywhere.” Her Aunt Ann came bustling from the kitchen, looking down as she stepped towards them and over a large throw pillow in her path. “The police are checking upstairs and taking photographs. Thank god I have my key since you were nowhere to be found this morning when the security company contacted me. It seems I never put your name on your own account!” Aunt Ann finally reached her and pulled her into a deep embrace, where Ann found herself melting into her arms in tears.

“I’m s-sorry Aunt. T-thank you. Have you noticed anything missing?” She sniffled out, pulling away from the plump woman who was decked out in a long, flowing yellow dress with dangling crescent earrings, lips smearing in a thick layer of red lipstick. Her aunt had been her protector since the death of her parents: giving advice, helping her accomplish the most menial of tasks, and always quick to make sure she was alright. It wasn’t surprising that Ann’s name wasn’t even on her own homes security system, but it was a little embarrassing in front of Anne.

“Well, from what I’ve noticed, just the television in the next room. Maybe some jewelry or other valuables- I’m sure the police will have you write down a list of things you think are missing. I’m certain we have video of them entering that the police will need access. They climbed through this window here so the alarm for the doors didn’t sound. Useless! The alarm finally went off when they were loading things out the back, so they probably spooked and ran before finishing the job,” Aunt Ann patted her shoulder reassuringly.

Ann sighed and nodded, feeling bewildered. She honestly felt nothing about her physical possessions. It was more about the violation and fear that were rising in her belly. Her home had always felt like a safe space. Hers. Where she could be utterly herself and spend her days in the safety of her bed. She wiped more tears from her cheeks, knowing she would never feel that comfort in this home again. She spotted an officer move from one room to the next in her upstairs hallway and stared emptily past her aunt at the mess. Anne shifted her weight behind her with a crunch, stepping past to reach out a hand.

“We haven’t met. I’m Anne Lister.”

“Ah. Horrible circumstances to meet you under, but hello,” Aunt Ann smiled grimly, shaking her hand. “I’m glad you were both somewhere safe during this mess. Otherwise, you’d need even more therapy!” She chuckled to herself but straightened up as Anne cleared her throat.

“Well, since Anne is here, I’m off to have lunch with the ladies. Police said they are done downstairs so you’re free to dig around. I was thinking we could call someone in to help you clean up since it’s quite a big job…” Aunt Ann waved her arms around.Shes’s sick of dealing with you like a child. “And Ann…You’re free to stay over at my house, you know.” Aunt Ann leaned in confidingly. She felt herself nod as she got a final hug. They watched as she traipsed over the glass before stepping out the front door. Anne looked over at her seriously.

“You’re welcome at my place, too.” She reached out and touched her chin affectionately. “Do you want to point me to a dustpan and I’ll clean up the glass while you take inventory?”

Ann smiled weakly, feeling her heart hitch at the thought of spending another night with her, and led the way to her cleaning closet. I definitely won’t sleep here tonight. The painting of the young girl by the pond hung partially over the door, so they paused to adjust it back into place. Anne’s muscular arms were a small distraction as she lifted the bulk of the frame into place with a grunt. The thieving bastards had shoved her dining table, pointlessly, and Ann groaned when she realized she had left her computer to charge on the island. Long gone.

“Miss Walker?” A redheaded police officer startled both of them as they were taking in the rest of the dining and kitchen area. Ann stepped forward to shake her hand, feeling grateful to have Anne standing by her side. “My name is Officer Winslow. Apologies about your home. We just finished with the photos and I’d like to walk through with you to establish a baseline of the items you may be missing, if you’re ready.” Anne gave her hand a quick squeeze before she followed Winslow out.

___

The day had been bleak. The officers had left Ann in a devastated trance as they moved couches back into place and tried to get everything back in order. Anne had insisted on cleaning the bulk of the mess herself, feeling like it was the least she could do. She felt terrible for the poor girl, who was obviously completely overwhelmed and unable to speak to the depth of it as she moved through her home. She had watched as Ann sat at her dining room table and just stared out the window, content to sit in the crushing emotion. Eventually, she pushed her chair away and started weakly scrubbing dirt marks off the wall of her back door. As Anne dumped another pile of glass into the garbage can, she noticed Ann pausing in frustration to rub tears away with her arm.

Anne ran a mop to erase the footprints, vacuumed, and scrubbed at the dirt on her nice woven rugs. She raided her massive closet of cleaning supplies and tried 3 different products in her effort to bring up the stain. Her hands and knees ached from the labor of it, but it looked brand new when she was finished. She readjusted her hat, smoothing down the hair before sliding it back down. It was a welcome way to extinguish the feelings of anger and resentment she felt for whomever had done this to Ann. The silence that hung between them seemed stifling despite the high ceilings and large windows. Ann was back to standing over the kitchen sink, looking into the distance.

Anne worked her way through the upstairs, carefully putting back together Ann’s vanity and folding the clean clothes that had been recklessly pulled out of drawers. The cruelty. The violation that she would feel to have someone rip through her possessions with such carelessness. She found an open hand-carved jewelry box on the floor, completely empty. She wondered if any prized possessions had been inside, but didn’t think she’d be asking anytime soon. Ann’s voice, hoarse from her day of crying, carried up the stairs as she was pulling the covers back into place and smoothing the corners of the elegant bedspread.

It seemed a cruel twist of fate that their happy night and morning had been wrecked so quickly, but Anne tried her best to shove her disappointment down and be of use. She ran to the hardware store to grab supplies to temporarily deal with the main broken window, grateful for the sunshine on her face and fresh air in her lungs. On her return, Ann was still pacing on the phone with her insurance company, then her aunt, the police station, back to her aunt, plus a check in with Catherine about the bookstore, and finally, an update for her sister Eliza.

She was happy to hear Ann reassuring everyone that she was doing fine and that she’d be safe at Anne’s for the night, but she knew Ann was just putting on a brave face. Most of her stolen possessions were replaceable, but they had managed to make off with Ann’s late mother’s wedding ring. She told Eliza in a whisper, and Anne paused her work on the shattered window to rub Ann’s back as she leaned against the living room wall. When she finally hung up after a heartfelt, tearful string of “I love you’s”, Anne turned her around and wrapped her in an embrace.

“Thank you, Anne, for all you’ve done to help me today. I’m sure you have a thousand places you’d rather be,” Ann sighed into her collarbone, lips against the bare skin that was slick from hard work. Anne ducked her head so they were forehead to forehead.

“There’s absolutely nowhere I’d rather be.” Her lips gently brushed against Ann’s, as she pulled her closer by the waist. “Why don’t you go pack a bag and we’ll call it a day? I need to make you something to eat back at my place.” Ann’s mouth spread into a small smile and her eyelids fluttered open to look up at her.

“That sounds perfect.” They slowly disentangled after sharing another light, gentle kiss. Ann ran her fingers down Anne’s arms, erupting goosebumps in their wake. “I don’t know how I would have done today without you. Well, actually, I would have just been in the fetal position on the floor,” she mused, her eyes dancing for the first time since the morning.

“You would have handled it all just as you did while I was here,” Anne smiled, bringing her soft hands up to kiss her knuckles. Ann shook her head in disagreement as she pulled away.

“Mm. I don’t think so. You do things to me, Anne. You empower me,” She pressed her hands into Anne’s chest, leaning up to her with a earnest look on her face.

“Oh, do I?” Anne cocked an eyebrow, enjoying the feel of her hands on her. Ann nodded, eyes feigning innocence at the double entendre.

“I just want to forget about today,” Ann relented, a sigh coming from her parted lips, covering her eyes in frustration.

“I may be able to help with that…I am a problem-solver, you know,” she said playfully, pulling Ann’s hands down and intertwining their fingers. The soft laugh reached Ann’s eyes as Anne gave her a brilliant, dimpled smile and pulled her upstairs to pack.

Chapter Text

Ann always felt like her inner voice was quieted after visiting her therapist, Sophie. She had warm eyes and wore tight pencil skirts that made her feel a bit flustered. She was wondering if she felt warmth towards her because she was divulging her innermost thoughts and receiving such kindness in return or if she would find her as adorable walking by on the street. She had helped her to work through her feelings of violation caused by the robbery, and Ann had a bit of a bounce in her step after the validation continued to wash over her. She zipped up her hoodie and adjusted her purse so it sat firmly against her hip, thoughts shifting to where they always ended up lately: Anne. Sophie had seemed cautiously optimistic when Ann confessed about their quickly blossoming relationship.

Ann smiled wistfully as she turned the corner, headed for Walkers. She had been staying with Anne for a week now, and she had even given her a portion of the closet to hang her clothes in. Her toothbrush was next to Anne’s by the sink. She had settled into her side of the bed nicely and she enjoyed the perk of watching Anne button up her shirts in the morning before work. She was reminiscing about that first moment she caught up to her in the airport as she checked for cars and hustled across the main street. Then, the way she had looked in the restaurant with her hair pulled back into a low ponytail, suit jacket perfectly tailored to her toned shoulders. Anne in a baseball cap, scrubbing her rug on her hands and knees. Mmm.

The bell rang brightly as she stepped inside the bookstore and Catherine greeted her with arms outstretched.

“My little Ann. How are you holding up?” She said in an endearing tone, squeezing her into her quick hug.

“Remarkably well for little ole me,” Ann smiled as she made her way to the swinging door to set down her things. After leaning down to pull her hair into a tall ponytail, she tucked her WALKERS shirt in and rolled up the short sleeves since they hung a little too long on her arms.

“Thanks for taking on more around the shop. I’m so grateful for you and Anne. You both have completely saved my life this week,” Ann confessed as Catherine pulled out a broom to sweep the front, a look of interest brightening her face.

“No problem, boss. So…How are you and Miss Lister since you’ve conveniently found an excuse to u-haul with her?” Catherine’s eyes twinkled. Ann shot her a look, but couldn’t help but laugh.

“Anne is wonderful. Interesting. Worldly. She hasn’t made me feel unwelcome once and on top of it all- she’s helped me sort out all of the tedious details about insurance and new windows and ugh. She’s been absolutely amazing.” Ann shook her head in disbelief and still felt like she still wasn’t doing Anne enough justice.

“Wow Ann…you really know how to woo them! I bet all the insurance paperwork is really keeping her interested.” Catherine mocked playfully, leaning up against the front counter.

“Hey now. She’s interested. And that’s all the details you’re getting about that.” She smiled, looking away to hide the redness creeping across her cheeks.

“Say no more! Have the cops said anything about getting your stuff back? Or catching anyone who was on the security cam?”

“No, the cops basically told me they’ve exhausted their leads at this point. The video was apparently really poor quality in the low light and the two men were wearing black hoodies. It’s basically a wild goose chase. I think I just have to accept there will be no repercussions or returns,” Ann felt the tears sting at her eyes and she winced at the thought of her mother’s ring. Catherine’s expression softened sympathetically. “I d-don’t care about my tv or computer... it’s just hard to think about ever going home and feeling safe, you know? I’m working through it, but I’m seriously considering moving out.”

“... or moving in with Anne?” Catherine posed, raising her eyebrows suggestively. “I mean- seriously though. Maybe you could consider living with someone until things settle down.” Ann drummed her fingers on the countertop and let their conversation lull into silence as a customer stepped in.

It wasn’t that she hadn’t thought of staying with Anne long-term, but it did seem less romantic to make it into a necessity rather than the moving forward of their relationship. She knew Anne was interested, but not necessarily ready to settle down together. Right? She busied herself with reorganizing the trinkets around the register and her heart thudded as she worked.

___

Anne reached for the handle at Rawson’s and the smell of beer mixed with fried food was familiar as she scanned the cozy interior. It wasn’t the nicest of spots, but the tall booths and low lighting made it as good a spot as ever to have a conversation. She knew she was going to need a drink, too. Pausing at the bar to order, she made her way to an open booth, seat creaking as she slid into it. She tucked a stray hair and adjusted her watch into place on her wrist. It was quiet and empty at 3 in the afternoon; the most entertaining patron being a woman with a tuft of white curls perched at the video lottery machine. She cursed and smacked the side of the machine in frustration as her cards reset.

I Love Rock ‘n Roll played quietly from the jukebox in the corner and Anne took a greedy gulp of her amber beer as it arrived. She was savoring its flavor as the door to the establishment creaked open, revealing a sophisticated brunette woman dressed in form fitting jeans and a white lacy top. A long necklace nestled in the low-cut scoop of the shirt and swung delicately as she made eye contact and moved towards her.

“Hello, stranger,” a smile tugged at her lips as she sat down across from Anne and took a satisfied sip of her waiting manhattan, perspiration already gathering down the sides of the short glass. She settled back into the booth and studied Anne with a measured gaze.

“Mariana. Thanks for coming. How are you?” Anne tilted her head, long fingers nudging the napkin her beer rested on.

“Well, Charles still has his head up his ass if that’s what you’re asking. Where have you been? It’s like you fell off the face of the earth! I really needed you last week. Things are just…awful with him,” Mariana confessed, the curls of her hair swinging with her agitated movements. She reached across the table to meet Anne’s hand, still preoccupied with her napkin. She pulled her hand away in a swift movement, using it to bring her drink up to her lips.

“Oh?” She murmured, keeping her at arms-length.

“Fred, is this about that blonde from the airport you told me about? You know I don’t care what the hell you’re doing. I don’t know why you’d shut me out? It’s me.” Mariana nudged her calf playfully with her shoe, giving a sultry look over her glass.

Anne felt a wave of frustration rush over her as her own arousal grew. This woman. This gorgeous, maddening woman whom she had given everything to and had broken her heart more times than she could count. Mariana always seemed to be waiting in the shadows for an opportunity to fuck with Anne’s head and lay claim to her heart. She had given Mariana all of her, begged her to leave Charles, and proposed all over again. Anne still couldn’t help but maintain their sexual relationship, because deep down she worried Mariana was the only great love of her life.

Ann, on the other hand, had thrown her entire world off course. The fragility of her gave way to such a shimmering glow of inner strength that enamored Anne in a way she had never known. Mariana felt so comfortable and their relationship was like a second skin, one she knew she’d have to rid herself of before she could truly understand the depths of her feelings for Ann.

“Mariana, please,” She sighed, shaking her head in an effort to clear her thoughts. “I’ve been seeing Ann. Yes, from the airport. She’s…well, she’s …everything.” Mariana’s eyes flickered but she maintained her cool exterior.

“Does she know about us?” Mariana cocked an eyebrow.

“Not much,” Anne smoothed down her shirt. “Listen. I wanted to do this in person because I think we both know this has been over for a long time. I can’t do this casually,” She gestured between them.

“That’s what you always say,” Mariana leaned forward and reached for Anne’s hands again. “We always find our way back to each other. Explore this Airport Annie, I don’t fucking care. I know I’ll always have a piece of you.” Anne found herself gritting her teeth before inhaling slowly through her nostrils.

“This is exactly why I wanted to look you in the eye and tell you this- I am done, Mariana,” She squeezed her hands and tried to convey it with kindness. Kindness was something she had not been afforded in their past disintegrations. “I know things with Charles will always be falling apart because that’s what you thrive on. I want-I deserve someone who will love me entirely. Who will spend every evening with me, good or bad. That is not something you’ve ever been willing to commit to.”

“And Ann has?” Mariana feigned resilience but her words were tinged with jealousy.

“She’s certainly more capable than you.” Anne glowered and Mariana looked away in a huff, yanking her arms into her lap. They sat in silence for a few moments, their conversation interrupted by the bartender asking if they needed a refill.

“No, I think we’re done here,” Mariana answered, studying Anne when they were alone again.

“You know I just want you to be happy,” She relented in a sigh, shaking her head.

“I hope so. I think I can be. But this has to be over. For good, Mariana. I need you to understand,” Anne pressed, splaying both hands on the table. “It is never going to happen again between us.”

“You’re willing to throw everything we have built up away…for a girl you hardly know? You’re usually more rational than that, Fred,” Mariana argued, crossing her arms over her chest.

“What am I throwing away, exactly? What is this between us? It’s nothing but a casual connection with no commitment whatsoever. It’s holding me back in everything. I can’t spend my life waiting for you to walk away from Charles.” Mariana bristled.

“I don’t know why you are even bothering to do this. Just to rub it in my face that you have something shiny and new?” Anne couldn’t help but roll her eyes at her childishness. She had always been so frustrating to reason with.

“You have to realize that I’m serious. I’m actually in a good place. I need you to respect that and give me some space. No more late nights knocking on my door. No more…drunken mistakes,” Anne replied firmly, taking her last swig. She watched her chew the inside of her cheek as she considered it all.

“Fine, fine! I get it.” Mariana waved her off. “I hope you and little Airport Annie will be happy together,” She couldn’t help but mock her as Anne signed the bill with a flourish.

“You do deserve it, Fred.”

Mariana pulled Anne into a tight embrace as they stood to leave, reluctant to say good-bye.

“Thank you,” Anne murmured into her hair, heart tugging her toward the door.

Chapter Text

Anne was curled up on the 20th floor, scratching in the pages of her newest journal while Ann bustled noisily in the kitchen. It had been a few hours since she had met up with Mariana and it was fresh it in her mind as she recounted it onto the pages. Her heart still felt heavy from the interaction and she hated that Mariana was on her mind as Ann set the timer on the oven for the chicken she was baking. Anne gave her a slow once-over, admiring her slender legs bearing red terrycloth shorts and an extra-large Shibden CPA’s shirt. She had managed to smear flour onto her cheek and into her pulled-back hair and was completely oblivious to it as she washed the cutting board in the sink. She snapped the journal shut and made her way behind Ann, wrapping her arms around her waist and leaning her chin onto her shoulder.

“It’s adorable watching you be domestic,” She murmured into her ear, lips pressing gently behind it. She felt Ann relax into her with quiet laughter as she finished drying her clean hands on a dish towel.

“We’ll see if you enjoy my cooking just as much,” Ann turned around to face her, leaning back against the counter with a grin. “I hope you like mushrooms because I’m in trouble if not.” Anne grabbed the towel and brought it to her freckled cheek, watching the redness creep over her as she brushed the powder away.

“I love them,” she smiled, working on the bits in her hair until she was satisfied. Ann cleared her throat a little nervously.

“Are you still alright with me s-staying? I hope you can be honest with me. I can go stay with my aunt if you need space? I know this is a lot and we haven’t been seeing each other for that long and I’m sure you’re getting s-sick of me,” She looked up with her bright blue eyes and then darted them away, fidgeting with her hands. Anne considered for a moment, cocking her head to one side.

“Do you seriously believe I’m sick of you?” She asked incredulously, nudging Ann’s chin up with her finger.

“W-well, I’ve been a mess. With your job, I’m sure the last thing you want to do is come home and help me sort all the details. Y-you deserve someone with their…shit together,” She admitted, leveling a gaze at Anne that struck her to her core.

“Just because some grubby bastards broke into your home does not mean you are a mess. I think anyone in your situation would feel just as violated, just as scared.” Anne gestured before closing the distance between them, pressing their bodies together.

“This thing between us,” Anne leaned her nose against Ann’s, pausing to absorb the look of hope in her eyes. “I want you to stay, Ann.”

Ann let out a whisper of a sigh and leaned her mouth onto Anne’s. Their lips met searchingly, Ann reaching into her hair in a way that sent goosebumps down her arms. Anne captured her bottom lip and sucked as they pressed hard into each other, both aching to connect. Their last few nights together had not been as explosive as their first, with Ann feeling completely emotionally wrecked. They had fallen asleep in each other’s arms, but Anne was eager for the opportunity to touch her again. She let her hands drop and squeeze Ann’s ass, pulling her closer still, attempting to fill every bit of empty space that was between them. Her heartbeat throbbed in her ears as Ann let out an approving “Mmm” against her mouth, running her tongue against Anne’s in a slow circular motion. God, this woman.

She broke their kiss to drag her lips along Ann’s pulse point, slipping under her shirt to run her fingers along the smooth skin of her stomach. She traveled further still as Ann leaned back into the kitchen counter, mouth open and eyes closed, breath hitching with each inch in anticipation. Anne let out a satisfied noise as her fingers rounded over the receptive flesh, both hard under her touch.

“Anne…” She gulped hungrily, helpless as her shirt was lifted off and tossed onto the tiled floor. Anne enjoyed the look of her hands, gripping the counter for dear life, as she lapped at the bony edge of her collarbones. She finally gave in to the soft whimpers, leaning down to roll her tongue around her pink, rising nipple. She pulled it into her mouth and sucked, masterfully teasing and spreading her attention between both, feeling the arousal grow between her own legs.

The flesh of Ann’s chest was blotched and eyes filled with need as Anne returned her attention to her lips, drawing her close. Using her knee to spread her legs, she lifted Ann up and into the next room, laying her on the couch. Ann took the opportunity to pull Anne’s shirt off as she climbed on top, pausing to help. It left her in a black sports bra and shorts as she straddled her and teased the skin of her earlobe.

“Ann Walker, you are mine,” She murmured, letting out a moan as Ann’s warm mouth found her neck. She broke away reluctantly, and felt Ann tremble as she kissed and flicked her tongue down her body. She loved taking her time tracing, nibbling all of the freckles, and each little noise Ann tried to stifle into her hand made her ache. She worked her fingers into the hem of her red shorts and tugged them down slowly, watching her wild blue eyes lock onto her own.

Ann’s chest was heaving and she looked completely voracious as her shorts were thrown off. Anne smiled coyly as she knelt onto the floor, drinking in the sight of this delicious woman. She maintained their gaze as she pulled Ann’s lower half closer to her mouth, fingers dancing along her hipbones. She kissed the tender skin inside her thighs and felt her mouth water at the sweet scent of her, before finally letting her tongue dip between the folds. Ann arched and gasped as Anne explored her, greedily discovering her wetness. She finally settled on her most sensitive spot, which throbbed as she flicked, circled, and teased it.

Anne had found the pattern that seemed to be heightening Ann’s pleasure and took the opportunity to guide two fingers inside her, curling them as her knuckles met the outside of her. Ann was rocketed to another level and cried out with each thrust, chin up and gasping. She writhed and tossed her head on the couch cushions as Anne sucked on her gently. Her legs began to tremble uncontrollably, and Anne knew she was almost there. Yes…Yes…yessss she held her tongue to her as the orgasm ripped through her body, moaning “Anne” as she shuddered onto her fingers.

Anne grinned in satisfaction and made her way onto the couch, scooping her into her arms with a laugh. She kissed and caressed her softly, admiring her face of satisfaction as her breathing returned to its normal rhythm. Ann bit her lip as a smile started to spread and she reached up to run a finger along Anne’s jaw.

“I think I’m in love with you,” she whispered, eyes searching her face as if she regretted saying it immediately. Anne couldn’t stop her mouth widening ever-so-slightly as the timer from the oven chimed out and the moment hung in the air.

Chapter Text

The phone ringing tore her from Anne’s embrace, solid arms curled around her body, leg draped protectively over her own. She leaned up and looked at the clock- 9:30 am. Already! She reached out and grabbed it quickly as Anne grumbled and began to disentangle them.

“Ann Walker?” A familiar-ish voice said.

“Yes, this is she,” She croaked, clearing her throat as she sat up more fully.

“This is Officer Winslow. I have some good news.” Her eyebrows shot up and mouth opened, Anne sitting up more fully in the bed as she noticed Ann’s body language.

“Hi, Officer. Good news?” She said hopefully. Anne reached out to grip her bare knee supportively.

“We believe an item of yours has been located at a local shop. A ruby and diamond ring? It was flagged in our database immediately and a suspect has been arrested.” Ann squeezed her eyes shut and still, the tears fell. Mom’s ring. Her shoulders began to shake and she felt Anne’s warm hand on her back, up and down.

“T-thank you,” She whispered into the phone. She had tried to push down any hope that she would ever get any of her things back, but the loss of the ring was a terrible one. The way Elizabeth had reacted when she told her still broke her heart- she couldn’t wait to get it back.

“Who has been arrested?” Anne mouthed, wiping the tears off of her cheek with her thumb. Her warm brown eyes were wide with curiosity.

“Who has been arrested?” Ann repeated, shrugging at Anne.

“Does the name Benjamin Ainsworth ring any bells, Miss Walker?”

It felt like a punch to the gut. Ainsworth? The air had left her lungs and she felt the heat of anger flash across her face, teeth gritting. She had dismissed Thomas’s advances many times over the years and he always seemed progressively more bitter after each rejection. She had been forced to dinner with the Ainsworth family many times, curtesy of her well-meaning aunt who always sat them next to one another. The conversations were pained and forced, and Ann always wondered what signals of affection she could possibly been giving off that made Thomas so interested. None. she confirmed to herself. Ben, Thomas, and Mary were just…odd people and she was always grateful when the night ended. She remembered Ben drinking heavily at each occasion and her aunt whispering about another arrest, but he was otherwise unremarkable.

What would be the point of breaking into her home? To simply terrorize her?

Their last interaction had been particularly more painful, Ann recalled, a feeling of dread washing over her as the memory came back into focus.

The families had all been outside enjoying drinks and laughing loudly, celebrating Ann moving into her new home. Her aunt had insisted she have a housewarming dinner, catered, and somehow the Ainsworth family had finagled their way onto the invite list. She had avoided Thomas for much of the night, but she could feel his eyes watching her throughout all of it. She had broken herself away from the conversation about her landscaping decisions, a little off-kilter from her last glass of wine. She had been feeling happy, a warm glow tickling her cheeks from the alcohol, proud of how well the night had been unfolding. She was checking her pink cheeks in the mirror, and then her face of stunned surprise, as the door met resistance when shutting.

Thomas pushed in and she watched the door slam as he was forcing his unwanted mouth on her. He stank of the beer he had been drinking, and his teeth raked painfully across her bottom lip. The disgust had coiled in her belly and her heart was pounding as she felt herself freeze. His body leaned onto hers and his inept hands were everywhere, cupping her ass- lips sucking greedily at her neck. Her stern “No’s” had fallen on deaf ears and he started to eagerly work his rough hands up the skirt she had been wearing. Her horror finally burst like a dam, all politeness out thrown the window as she shoved him-hard into the opposite wall. He had grabbed onto her nonetheless and she dug her nails into his arm, causing him to hiss and push her off.

“What’s the matter with you, Annie?” He winced, looking down at his reddened arm.

“This is never fucking happening. So STOP!” She had yelled; her voice strangled with emotion and disbelief at his actions, hands shaking as she reached for the handle. He towered over her and smoothed down his button up, eyes raking over her body in violation.

“We’ll see, babe,” He began unrolling his sleeve to cover the marks. His smirk had given her such a disgusted rage as she had yanked open the door and escaped.

What a fucking bastard she shook her head, letting the realization sink in. He felt so entitled to her that if he couldn’t have her, he would just threaten her instead.

“Yes, I know Ben. And I can guarantee his brother, Thomas, is the second one involved,” She said confidently, watching Anne eyes darken in response. She had shared the experience with her, but Ann had waved off that he could have had any involvement. With Thomas ironically taking seminary classes, she had assumed he was too busy to think about her, but apparently he had been stewing.

“Thank you for that information, Miss Walker. You can pick up your ring at your convenience,” Officer Winslow concluded as their call ended.

“Wow,” Ann exhaled, trying to read the mixed expression on Anne’s face. She was out of bed, muttering with her shoulders back and hair disheveled. It was the sharp lines of her neck tensing that jumped out at Ann and made her realize that the normally calm, poised woman was shaking with anger.

“Like he hasn’t done enough already?” Anne raged, pacing the floor in her boxers and white tank top. Her fists were balled as she spoke, spitting out her words. “He tried to assault you and then he breaks into your fucking house like a coward? And a future priest at that! Ha! Why does that not surprise me more?”

“Anne- He didn’t assault me. H-he didn’t make it that far,” Ann stammered, gesturing into the air.

“Actually, that’s the very definition of what he did to you! He deserves to rot in jail. The idiot.” Her teeth bared, punctuating the end of the word with disgust. “Who tries to pawn jewelry they stole? Pathetic fucking amateurs. And what’s with his twat of a brother helping him out? A family affair!”

“Well, Ben is actually the one who has been in trouble before. Multiple intoxicated driving charges, and he was definitely just arrested for domestic assault, but I think his girlfriend dropped that. They were together again last I knew,” Ann’s eyes followed her as she paced.

“What a catch,” Anne hissed, rolling her eyes in exasperation. “Those fucking bastards! They broke your window! Took your mothers RING. You have to press charges. This is disgusting behavior. Ann- You must send a strongly worded letter to his seminary school. What a joke. A man of god.”

“Please don’t be so angry. I know it’s a lot. I just-“ She took a deep breath. “I want to be happy that the ring is back. Anne, you know I thought it was lost forever. We talked about selling my home. I knew that I’d never feel safe again,” She felt her voice grow more heightened with emotion as she spoke.

“I’m not angry at you; I’m just in shock at the behavior of these little privileged, white-“

“Anne.” She broke in, holding her hands up in defeat. “I need you to stop.”

Anne tensed visibly, trying to swallow her fury. She eased into her reading chair with a grumble and it creaked under her weight. Ann felt relief wash over her as Anne pulled out her journal and began writing.

In silence, she climbed out of bed and rummaged through the section of the large walk-in closet Anne had generously let her use. It had been a really strange morning. Her head was spinning from the phone call, as well as the uneasiness she felt about Anne’s anger- justified as it may be. She didn’t need Anne defining things for her or being angry for her. She could handle that all on her own- and she had. It had taken her a long time to use that bathroom again.

It was odd, too, the contrast between this morning and last night. She had dropped the “L” bomb right after her orgasm; she flushed with the memory, having been intoxicated with her feelings of affection for Anne. Anne who could make her laugh, who interested her so much with her quirky, fascinating stories, and who knew exactly the right places to touch…Anne had explained to her over the course of the night how much the word “love” felt loaded to her and that she could never say it back to anyone. However, apparently, Ann was the closest she’d come to it in quite some time. She had tried not to feel crushed, and Anne’s warm, reassuring eyes had pulled her out of her own head. Anne had kissed her afterward in reassurance, warm and tender, so sensual in its promise of more. Ann believed that her feelings were just as strong. Even if she couldn’t bring herself to say it.

After gathering her selections, keen to wash off the morning, she walked by Anne again and felt her hand reach out. Anne put the journal aside and pulled Ann down into her lap, a soft smile touching her eyes as they met.

“I’m sorry,” She offered in a low voice, tucking a stray blonde hair behind her ear. It hadn’t even been a real fight, but Ann appreciated the expression of repentance on Anne’s face.

“Are you?” Ann raised an eyebrow, and slid her fingers under the edge of the shirt that rested across her collarbones. She could tell Anne enjoyed the sensation by the quiet intake of breath.

“Hmm. Yes. I am. I wasn’t thinking about how you were feeling. I’m sorry,” She conceded, cocking her head to expose more of her neck as Ann traced her fingertips up its length. “It’s a wonderful thing your mother’s ring has been found. We should go pick it up. Ann, I promise to keep my feelings about that...insignificant man...to myself.”

Ann chuckled. She was grateful Anne was gifted with such self-awareness.

“That’s what I was thinking…And then you can make it up to me.”

“That’s what I was thinking.”

Chapter Text

Ann flourished her thin paintbrush along the canvas in smooth, short strokes, enjoying the way the brush felt in her hands even as it ached from all the hours she had been at it. She was layering texture into the rolling hill of grass she had created, feeling a happy hum in her throat as her vision was coming to life. Nudging a chunk of blonde hair back with her arm, she paused and wiped her brush onto the paper towel nearby. She’d been at it for hours, though it never seemed that long, each detail judiciously measured and considered. Her mind was clear, floating, and content as she added more creamy oil paint to the bristles. She bit her lip absentmindedly as she worked, back straight and perched on the edge of her cushioned seat. It felt amazing to be painting again, alone in her room. The silence of her home swelled around her and she felt safe again within its walls.

She had been home for only the day, dropping the bags she had packed up from Anne’s along the front entrance, as she shut the door behind her. She had the day off from Walker’s and had meant to be productive around the house, but her easel was calling. It had loomed for months and she always considered it while getting ready for bed, tucked in the corner, assuring herself she’d get back to it soon enough. The blank canvas soon felt daunting because it had been too long and nothing she thought of felt worthwhile enough to sit down and attempt.

Anne knew how much she missed it. She had been thoroughly nudging and encouraging her to get back to it, being eager to fix any part of Ann she could. She just needed to finally sit down and put anything on the canvas, Anne had reasoned. She agreed, but with the stress of the break-in, making up for time missed at work, and the excitement of her new relationship, she hadn’t had the time.

After setting down her things, she had felt pulled to her room like a magnet. It had felt so habitual to pick up her paints and prepare the canvas, arranging all of her materials carefully around her. She had pulled on her painting clothes, an old pair of jeans torn at the knee with various colorful smudges across the thighs. Her white shirt wasn’t much better, patterned in a smattering of bursts and swirls- some of which she could place the exact painting she’d been working on when it had transferred. She picked her smallest canvas, the least intimidating, and an image that had been developing in her mind- a rolling hill with a woman shown from behind. She stood at the top with her skirts whipping around in the wind, taking in the scene. Ann had enjoyed mapping it out with her charcoal stick, outlining the woman’s curves against the hills. Her subject’s broad shoulders and the creases of her dress drew the eye to the center of the painting, projecting a sense of strength and homecoming; New beginnings.

The smell of the turpentine was pulling her back to the hours she had spent in this very spot, before it had been abandoned due to the darkness of mood that had been swirling around her. Painting felt absolving, as if she had wiped her slate clean. The feeling of satisfaction rolled through her as she added the final detail- a single strand of brown hair, drawn out by the wind, in a sweeping wave. She flushed with satisfaction as she pushed back her chair and took in the full painting. It was exactly as she’d imagined. See, you’ve still got it.

Ann was cleaning her brushes when the familiar sound of her doorbell ringing caught her attention. She pulled up her new security app on her phone and laughed when she saw Anne on camera 1- leaning into the front door footage with her wide-mouthed grin, holding up a bag of take-out. She unlocked her door remotely and practically skidded down the staircase to meet her. She was dressed impeccably as always, closing the door in her dark business suit perfectly tailored with a sensible green button up underneath. Her hair was polished even after a long day of working and Ann felt her knees go weak as Anne’s lips pressed onto hers the moment she was close enough. She put her hands low on Anne’s firm stomach to keep her at arms-length, not wanting to smear paint on her. She tasted like a fresh mint and Ann felt herself shiver as their kiss grew longer, the take out bag bumping against her leg.

“Hi,” Ann said shyly when their lips separated.

“Ann…Have you been painting?” Anne leaned in to put another kiss on her bottom lip, a smile in her voice.

“I have! All day,” She admitted, taking the bag as they made their way into the dining room. “Thanks for bringing dinner. It smells amazing!” Her stomach growled loudly, causing Anne to chuckle, and she realized that she had never stopped to eat lunch. The day was such a happy blur- and now much happier.

“You’re welcome. I can’t wait to see it,” Anne was unbuttoning her suit jacket and pulling her shirt out from her pants. Ann felt in a sort of daze as she watched the woman pull off her jacket and fold it nicely over the nearest dining chair, her manicured hand then reaching out to graze the skin peeking between Ann’s jeans and shirt.

“I have to get changed out of these clothes before I can sit,” Ann gestured to her outfit as Anne’s fingers found her hip bone and traced it.

“Is the painting up there?” Anne cocked her head, her eyes traveling up the stairs to her room. Ann laughed.

“You know it is,” She grabbed her hand and led her upstairs, feeling her stomach flip as she led her into the room and left her to go to her closet. She didn’t want to be there when she saw it for the first time.

“This is incredible,” Anne said as she rejoined her, pulling her hair out of the tank top she had pulled on. “I knew you were talented, but this is another level. You did this all today?”

“Thank you,” She blushed, tying the waistband of her flowing lounge pants that she knew hugged her ass just right. “I had a vision and I couldn’t stop until I finished it. I may add a little more detail to the sky now that I look again, but it’s mostly done. It felt so good, Anne. It just flowed out of me and I feel so relieved to get back to it.” She gestured happily.

“I told you you just needed to sit down and do it. You were putting too much pressure on yourself.”

Ann leaned up a put a kiss on her cheek, and then on her mouth when Anne turned her neck to meet her.

“Does it remind you of anyone?” Ann whispered, feeling like she could fall into the depths of Anne’s chestnut eyes as they softened towards her.

“I..I didn’t want to assume,” Anne looked genuinely overwhelmed as she turned back to look, mouth open as she studied it again. “You painted me.”

Ann nestled herself into her, happiness spreading through her bones as Anne pulled her closer.

“My muse,” She murmured, boldly tilting up to press her lips against the strong line of Anne’s jaw. She loved the smell of her soft skin, her perfume was faded from the long work day but Ann could still pick up the deep notes of oak with a hint of rose. She watched as Anne’s eyes fluttered closed and a smile found her mouth, along with a sigh of contentment.

“I don’t even know what to say,” She leaned her chin up to allow Ann’s kisses to proceed down her throat slowly.

“You don’t have to say anything. I’m just lucky I have such an incredible woman to inspire me.” Anne shivered as Ann pulled back to admire her. For such a strong, confident woman, she seemed awfully stunned by the gesture, clear eyes still absorbing the image. Ann wished she could crawl inside her head for a minute, to truly understand what she was feeling. Perhaps it was too big of a gesture too soon? Ann studied her face for answers.

“I love it,” Anne breathed out, her eyes twinkling. Ann felt the redness creeping across her face, feeling slightly embarrassed she had showed her so quickly. She pulled away and reached onto the nearby tabletop, presenting a stack of clothes.

“For you. Will you’ll stay all night?” Ann looked at her hopefully, knowing that as comfortable as she felt with her new-fangled security system, she would be lost without Anne in bed with her tonight. Not looking as incredibly sexy as she did at that very moment. Anne grinned and took the pile.

“How can I say no to that?”
___

Anne had made sure to swat her ass playfully as they made their way downstairs, enjoying the laughter that rose from Ann as she picked up the pace to avoid her. She was still feeling a swirl of emotions from her long day at Shibden, but her body seemed to naturally relax whenever Ann was near. It was like a weight off her shoulders to come home to her every day and debrief. She had known Ann staying at her place was temporary, she was going to have to go back to her own home eventually, but it had come too soon. Anne had made it all the way to the key reader at the entrance of her building before she had spun on her heel and strode her way over to Ann’s instead. She picked up their favorite Thai food as an excuse and hoped she wouldn’t mind the intrusion. It was a little irrational and impulsive, but she didn’t want to spend the evening without her. They found their way to the couch, Anne feeling much more comfortable now that she was out of her work clothes.

There was a growing feeling in her gut that was gnawing at her and she felt it bubbling as Ann sat close, curling her body as near as she could get and still eat. She couldn’t help but watch and laugh as Ann breathed in the smell of the pad see ew. Her blue eyes rolled back in mock pleasure before she slurped a wide noodle into her mouth with her fork.
She’s even beautiful when she’s eating.

“I had the worst fucking day,” Anne started in, and she watched as Ann’s face dropped as she chewed. “…but now I’m here and it’s the best fucking day.”

Ann’s eyes lit back up and she covered her mouth to hide her smile.

“Why was it a bad day? That’s terrible,” Her hand reached out to find Anne’s thigh, squeezing it reassuringly. Her tank top revealed more of the freckled skin dotted along her chest and it made Anne pause to appreciate how incredibly beautiful she was. She groaned a little bit as she pulled herself back to the day she had had.

“Honestly, I spilled my coffee all over my desk this morning and the day just got worse from there. We’re losing a pretty large client. I thought I could call and sway them back, but it seems their decision has been made. Samuel’s team seems to have overlooked quite a few things and the client took a big hit. Honestly, it’s just one thing after another. I have to have my hands in everything for things to run smoothly,” She waved her fork around in frustration, watching Ann's expressions react as she ate and listened.

“I can’t trust anyone to be as detail-oriented as I need them to be. On top of that, we are bringing on two new clients and it has been a bigger undertaking than we thought it would be initially. Basically, I need a vacation.” Anne finished, darting her fork over to Ann’s take-out box to steal a bite.

“You do deserve a vacation. WE deserve a vacation,” Ann mused, a look of sympathy knitting her eyebrows. “I’m sorry you had such rough day. I'm so relieved you're here."

“Like I said, it’s better now,” Anne grinned, setting her box down and then grabbing Ann to pull her onto her lap.

Ann barely managed to put her own dinner down before Anne was at her neck, sucking and kissing while her arms pulled her in tight. Anne reveled in the way she seemed to melt under her touch, blonde eyelashes closed and soft whimpers escaping her lips as their food was forgotten. Ann wrapped her arms around her neck, her body as close as she could get, and Anne felt desperate to hold onto the feeling that was washing over her.

Unhinged. She felt felt herself falling, letting go, as their lips reconnected and the world around them was forgotten.

Chapter Text

Eugenie ducked her head into her office, long, tight curls bouncing, after a short knock on the frame of the open door. Normally, Anne would be happy to see her because she always seemed to present herself at the exact moment when she was needed to offer assistance or playful office banter. Today, however, was different. Each minute stood between her and the weekend she had planned, down to the last pain-staking moment. “Sorry to bother you, Ms. Lister. Mr. Washington’s team, HR, and IT all want to try that new Brazilian place that just opened up down the street. We’re all headed out now. Would you like to join?”

Anne looked up from her laptop, broadcasting a weary expression over the top of her thinly-framed glasses. “I can’t,” She puffed out, trying her best to look disappointed. “I’m still putting out fires. Try the picanha steak- Ann and I loved it. They slice it right at the table. Oh- and the grilled pineapple is phenomenal,” She leaned back into the screen, distracted.

“Oh, I’ve heard about the pineapple. Thanks boss. See you later.” Anne watched, sidelong, as she caught up with the group headed toward the elevator. Samuel held up his arms in a gesture of “Why not?” and Anne pointed somberly at her keyboard. He shook his head and waved goodbye, disappearing from view.

She had spent the last few weeks holed up with these people and she was beginning to go crazy from spending every waking moment with them. She loved Samuel but if she had to listen to another one of his dad jokes she might throttle him. She was grateful for the long weekend ahead, and had sneakily added a few extra days of PTO onto her schedule for the upcoming week. She never took time off and it was well-earned. Not to mention, Ann had been begging her to slow down at work so that they could plan a little getaway.

She stretched out her fingers and adjusted the silver band of her watch, rubbing her temple as she clicked opened her never-ending email inbox. She scrolled and scrolled, her eyes blurring. Ever the goal-maker, she aimed to get through fifty of them before she could leave; an objective that would absolutely force her to pick up the pace. She paused and a smile tugged at her mouth when she saw the most recent subject line: Reservation Confirmation for The Pheasant, Bassenthwaite Lake. The smell of burnt coffee wafted into her office and the hum of distant conversations lulled her as she worked furiously, motivated by the pit stop she had to make before her meet up with Ann.

Her brain felt uncharacteristically muddled as she finished the last of her work and set her away message, directing her clients to contact Samuel Washington in her absence. Her mind was already a thousand miles away, reeling back and forth between apprehension and nervous excitement. A memory pulled at the edges of her thoughts: Ann’s neck extended in pleasure, sun exploding through the window and streaming onto the gentle, freckled curves of her collarbones, the post-lovemaking softness behind her eyes as she had whispered “I think I love you.”

It hit Anne in the gut, slamming her back to the sterile office where everything between the four walls felt dull and washed out. An eager tension settled into her bones as she shut off the computer and cleared her desk, each file and pen finding its spot within the well-organized drawers. She stood and shrugged on her long over-coat, tugging up the collar, and tying it neatly around her waist. Her leather bag found its spot on her shoulder and she was off, fingers nervously winding around her watch as she made her way downstairs and onto the busy street.

Several blocks later, the store she was headed for came into view. The shopkeeper’s bell rang softly as she stepped inside, her flat black shoes padding on the wooden entry stairs as she made her way into the store. She tucked a stay hair back into place as a tall, curvy woman, with an astoundingly full bun on the top of her head, approached her. Her dangling diamond earrings shook as she greeted her with enthusiasm.

“Why hello there! I’m Vanessa. Welcome to Stefan's Jewelers. How may I help you today, Mrs…?” She held out a bejeweled hand and Anne smiled as she shook it firmly.

“Ms. Lister. I actually placed an order and was told it arrived?” She felt the butterflies rising in her stomach.

“Oh! Of course. Lister? Let me step in the back for it!” She bustled out of sight and Anne was left to stroll along the endless, glimmering rows of diamonds and precious stones. They all seemed so similar to her, one shape blending into the next. Some were grotesque in their size and price; all-in-all they just cemented her choice. She was leaned over, analyzing a peculiarly gaudy heart-shaped ruby necklace with a grimace when Vanessa slid the vintage, oval ring box in front of her.

“Here it is. It’s absolutely beautiful, Ms. Lister.” Her heart raced as Vanessa gave her an encouraging nod. Gingerly, she opened the delicately latched container and was struck by the ring nestled inside. The rounded onyx stone was ensconced in sparkling diamonds; not too large and not too loud for the girl she intended it for. It took her breath away as she turned it over in the light, her pulse thudding in her ears as the certainty of her best-laid plans leapt into reality.

“Is it just as you expected?” Vanessa inquired after a few moments.

“Better than,” She murmured, sliding it back into place. “Thank you.”

“You’re all paid, Ms. Lister. Is there anything else I can help you with? Perhaps a necklace to accessorize?” Vanessa tipped her shoulder forward and gestured toward the ruby necklace in an effort to be persuasive.

“Mm. Tempting, but not today. Thanks.” She swung her bag forward and nestled it into a hidden pocket, zipping it closed before saying her goodbyes and making her way back down the stairs.

Her phone rang from the depths of her coat pocket and she reached in, scanning the faces around her to make sure she hadn’t been caught as she exited.

“Hi, Ann,” She grinned, slipping into the flow of pedestrians and picking up her pace along the sidewalk.

“Hi, I’m here,” She said sweetly, the familiar sound of milk being frothed was layered behind her. “Are you coming? I got our favorite spot by the window.”

“What would you say if I told you I couldn’t get away?” Anne felt a little more playful now that work was completed, the ring was safely in her possession, and all she needed to do for the rest of the weekend was to make inimitable memories with her girlfriend. Not a small task, but a welcome one.

“No! Anne. You promised!” Ann whined, heaving a dramatic sigh. It made her bite her lip to stop the smile in her voice.

“I’m so sorry. This client won’t stop sending revisions and I may have to delay our trip to the Lake District,” She stopped at the corner in front of the little café, waiting for the light to change. She could see her in the window, blonde hair falling in curves over her shoulders. She was bent over her mug with the phone against her ear, wrapped in a knitted indigo sweater. Ann knew how much Anne loved that sweater, dangling off one shoulder in a way that always made her crazy. Her heart thrummed as she stepped off the sidewalk and made her way across the street.

“What? No! You told me you could have it all wrapped up by this afternoon! Please, Anne. I miss you. We have to leave tonight,” Ann’s voice was pleading and hushed, sending tingles down to Anne’s fingertips as she laughed softly.

“I miss you,” Her voice lilted on the last word, approaching the window just outside where Ann sat. “God, you are so beautiful.”

She tapped the glass and Ann’s blue eyes shot up, shock melting into confusion and then playful outrage. She put her hands on her hips and tilted her head, her lips forming a tight line in fuax-chastisement.

Anne let out a loud laugh and let the excitement rush through her veins, watching Ann’s expression settle into pure happiness. Their eyes felt drawn to one another like magnets through the paned-glass window. She felt like the luckiest human in the world to be in love with a woman like Ann Walker.

In love.

Ann made an adorable pouty face and waved her inside, impatient for their weekend of relaxation together to begin. Anne gave her a wink and strolled toward the café door, giving her leather bag a subtle pat as she stepped inside.

Chapter Text

Ann dropped her bags at the foot of the bed and crawled onto the perfectly pressed, yellow-quilted bedspread, sighing happily as her body relaxed into the soft mattress. The room was flooded with afternoon sunlight, yellow curtains pulled back to let in the glorious day through two paned windows, as well as the expansive view of the Inn’s mature gardens. A charming white wooden bench was surrounded by colorful perennials, expansive woodland all she could see on the horizon. She imagined having her first steaming cup of coffee between her hands, listening to the morning birds and admiring the flowers up close.

The room was rather large by inn standards, the king bed making it so her outstretched hands couldn’t reach the edges. Two very comfortable looking, high-backed armchairs were angled towards one another with a small, rounded coffee-table nestled in between. Standard table lamps were positioned on most surfaces, a small TV perched on the wall, and a solid antique writing desk was a prominent feature that had gained the attention of her travel companion.

Anne was walking about, inspecting the accommodations with a sharp eye, finally settling her attention on the desk. She ran her fingers over its smooth surface and began flipping absently through the “Things to Do in the Lake District” brochure that was among the rest of the welcome packet.

“This room is arranged so poorly. This desk deserves to be right under the window,” Anne said aloud, almost to herself, as she rolled up the sleeves of her gray sweatshirt and pulled an armchair out of the way. Ann watched in amusement as Anne effortlessly tugged the desk into its rightful spot, stepping back to make sure it looked even below the window. She then pulled the armchairs and coffee-table where the desk had just been.

“Much better. Don’t you agree?” She regarded Ann on the bed, who nodded sweetly up at her. Satisfied, Anne began pulling her things out of her bags, sliding clothes into the set of drawers provided and striding in and out of the bathroom. She was determined to settle in for the long weekend, but the long car ride had obviously left her with some pent up energy. Ann groaned lazily, stretching out her limbs, content to watch the clouds pass by. She had a feeling that wasn’t in Anne’s plan for their getaway. She sat up and joined her in unpacking, nestling her clothes in the drawers right beside Anne’s.

She felt overjoyed to be on this trip together, noting how phenomenal Anne’s ass looked in a pair of jeans as she organized, a rare sight since she was always dressed in impeccably tailored business attire. This was the break from reality that they both desperately needed after the stress of the break-in and Anne’s relentless work schedule. They had gone on dates and practically lived together, but this was their first real trip. It seemed like a big step in their relationship, solidifying that they were the type of couple who took romantic getaways to the Lake District.

Her heart thudded in her ears as she closed the final drawer and turned around to find a calmer Anne, admiring her appreciatively from one of the repositioned arm-chairs. Her brown eyes were seductive as she reached out her hand and beckoned her over.

“So...What’s next on your grand agenda, Miss Lister?” Ann inquired, her comfy blue-striped sundress swaying as she made her way over to her. She squeaked as Anne pulled her onto her lap by the waist and then leaned up to kiss her tenderly. She pressed into her, bringing her hands up to cup her jawline, sighing softly against her mouth. Ann ran her fingers through her hair, intoxicated by the taste and smell of her. She could never get enough of Anne Lister and her swagger, her confidence, and, not least, her skillful hands.

Anne slid her fingers nimbly up the stylishly-long row of brown buttons that ran down the front of her dress, and before she knew it, she had half the dress unbuttoned from the bottom, up.

“Hey! What do you think you’re doing,” She murmured in-between yearning kisses as her legs came into view and the fabric folded away. She could hardly catch her breath with the way she was touching her, pulling her closer, each kiss better than the one before.

“This is definitely next on the schedule,” Anne whispered in a low tone near her ear as she licked and nibbled all around it, causing Ann to shiver with the sound and feel of it. Her plan unfurled as she gently pulled Ann’s leg onto one side of her so that she was kneeling over her lap. “I’ve been imagining unbuttoning this dress all day.” Ann could feel her smile against her lips and she couldn’t help but laugh happily.

Ann’s blond waves hung down as she pressed hungry kisses onto her bottom lip, eliciting a delicious moan as she sucked on it gently. Anne’s hands gripped onto her bare thighs, fingertips nudging the delicate fabric that was suddenly exposed.

“The windows are open,” Ann protested, suddenly remembering where they were, in between Anne’s tongue mingling with her own.

“They can’t see us,” She assured against her mouth, hips beginning to slowly roll up and against her. Ann held onto her shoulders, fingers’ gripping as they moved together. The only sound in the room was each other’s ragged breathing and the ticking of the clock on the wall.

Ann broke away from their intense kiss and Anne groaned in protest until she realized that she was carefully unbuttoning the remainder of her dress. Anne was right, the angle she had put the chair at, in combination with the high wing-back, made it so no one walking by could see what they were up to. Anne’s lips were swollen, breath hitching as Ann locked their eyes together.

“Good lord, Ann,” She said breathlessly, drinking her in. Throwing the dress to the floor, she began exploring every dip, freckle, and curve with her warm hands. Ann closed her eyes and relished the feeling of her palms sliding up her thighs and onto her stomach, cupping her breasts. She gently moved the fabric of her bra aside and her lips connected, tugging the soft flesh into her mouth. Ann reached out to grip the top of the chair, letting out a low noise of appreciation.

Anne was reaching behind her now, unfastening the bra one-handed, all while continuing to lick and kiss her in a way that made her twinge in heated anticipation. Anne moved up to her neck, sucking at the delicate skin there. Ann felt like she was just holding on for dear life, body aching in pleasure, as she rolled her hips against her in hopes of finding friction.

“Please,” She gasped as Anne teased the inside of her thigh, tracing the edge of the white lacy fabric with her thumb.

“Hm?” Anne grinned mischievously against her neck, her tongue darting out to taste it.

“Anne! P-please...” She strained, attempting to shift her hips to force Anne where she needed her. Anne took her time, as any good lover does; she was reveling in the moment that stretched out before her. Anne’s fingers delicately rubbed over the the fabric, easing into a gently rhythm, urged on by Ann’s quiet moans. She let out a shaky breath and Anne tightened her grip on her thigh, eventually sliding the fabric over and letting out a groan of satisfaction at the wetness she found there.

“You are so fucking sexy,” She said, pleasure flashing in her eyes as she began her slow cadence, rocking perfectly with Ann’s hips. She was only aware of the chair under her knees, the passionate lips sucking at her neck and Anne‘s fingers slipping inside her, as they moved together in the chair. Anne knew every motion, every curve of her fingers that drove Ann mad with need, each moment nudging her body closer to the edge. Her eyes dilated and her heartbeat pounded in her chest as Anne fucked her, both deliriously swept up in their moment of pleasure as their rhythm reached its crescendo. Anne pressed hard kisses into her mouth as Ann fell apart, back arching into her as she came- shuddering, shaking, and gasping for air.

“Oh…my god,” She said when she could finally speak again, shuddering as she guided her from between her legs. Anne quietly placed kisses along her jaw and then sweetly on her lips, slow and delicate as Ann’s heart rate slowed. She melted into her, relaxed and humming with contentment, running her fingertips along Anne’s arm as they embraced in silence. She felt safe and whole; the love and care that Anne felt for her always present. Ann wondered how she ever lived without her as they finally made eye contact, Anne’s brilliant smile slowly lighting up her face.

“I don’t think anything this weekend will top that,” Ann remarked, laughing softly.

“Oh, really?” Anne murmured before searching her eyes and kissing her gently.

“You think you can top that?” She pressed, smiling, butterflies rising in her stomach at the thought.

“I’m certain going to try to,” Anne said slyly, raising an eyebrow. “I have big plans for us, Miss Walker.”

Chapter Text

Waking up next to Ann Walker was one of her favorite things in the world. She always ended up on her back, lips parted and breathing softly, airy hums escaping if she listened long enough. She was topless and her chest rose and fell rhythmically, the white sheets gathered around both of their waists as they tossed in the night. She had drawn the shades closed after they had stumbled in from dinner and a few glasses of wine at the cherry-wood bar at the base of their lodgings.

They had talked half-into the night on one of the pillow covered benches next to the fireplace, enthusiastic to learn every small and intimate detail about one another. Anne had shared her adventures of running free as a rambunctious youth, living her life crawling out onto the roof of her house, and seducing her first love at school. She loved how Ann hung on her every story, laughing and reaching out to touch her almost constantly. The way they could banter back and forth felt so easy and natural; their attraction to each other apparent to anyone who was around them for longer than a moment.

She reached out and ran a hand delicately over Ann’s exposed stomach, memories of their impassioned lovemaking in the forefront of her mind. She thought better of waking her up for an encore, seeing as her own body still felt a hum of satisfaction from the two orgasms she had eagerly received. She was well-aware Ann needed quality sleep for the day she had planned ahead.

Anne decided instead to order up breakfast quietly after slipping from the sheets, knowing how hungry Ann would be as soon as her eyes opened. She pulled a shirt from the wooden drawers and settled into the desk in front of the window, drawing one of the shades open just enough to admire the gardens and rippled clouds in the morning sky. Heaven, she thought, pulling one of her favorite pens out and smoothing down a new page. Her eyes lingered, sidelong, at her sleeping Ann before putting pen to paper. She knew she’d remember every moment of their trip without writing it, but couldn’t stop her smile spreading as she started in on the tale of their trip so far.

Approximately two and a half pages of therapeutic scribbling later, a knock jarred her from her intimate thoughts. Miss Walker was stirring as Anne courteously received the tray and tipped the young man handsomely for his effort. She was settling the tray onto the coffee table as Ann padded over to the dresser, an arm draped over her chest shyly. The platter was masterfully arranged and garnished; it overflowed with eggs, fried to perfection, an assortment of bacon and sausages, not to mention toast accompanied with, the apparently delectable, local jelly. The tomatoes looked beautifully ripe and sliced thin and their coffee mugs steamed on either edge. Ann’s stomach growled noisily as she dug through the drawer.

“Good morning,” Anne’s eyes raked over her in admiration, settling into one of the wing-back arm chairs. Ann finally procured her favorite t-shirt, and yanked it on. She pulled her hair free from the collar and met Anne’s gaze, cheeks immediately flushing from her attention. She bit her lip and tucked her hair behind her ear as she sat, inhaling the smell of the food.

“Good morning.” Her blue eyes twinkled and she smiled happily, stretching her arms into the air and making noises of sleepy satisfaction. “Thanks for ordering breakfast, love. I’m starving! How long did you let me sleep in?” She was pouring an excessive amount of cream and sugar into her steaming cup of coffee as Anne smoothed maroon jelly onto her toast.

“Oh, enough. You deserved it after last night.” She raised an eyebrow suggestively, taking her first warm bite.

Ann laughed into her coffee cup, legs curled up underneath her. “Last night was...” She searched for the words, biting her lip to hold back her smile. Anne drew her thumb into her mouth to suck a bit of jelly that had landed there, admiring Ann as she shook her head, wordless.

“Well, I’m hoping that breakfast will reinvigorate us both. We have a busy day ahead and I knew the food would lure you from the bed.” Ann grinned and nodded, leaning over her plate as she devoured a thin slice of bacon. They ate hungrily, forks clinging against their plates.

“We need to get ready and be in the car in an hour if we want to stay on some sort of schedule. I can’t wait for you to see the standing stones. They’re incredible.” Anne gestured grandly; fork in hand, excitement building in her stomach for the day ahead. She lived for traveling and exploring and the Lake District was one of her most treasured destinations. She knew Ann’s instinct was to take things slow and leisurely, but she just knew she was going to love the busy day ahead.

“I know! I can’t believe you told me part of your plan last night. I need to ply you with red wine more often,” Ann mused, laughing brightly at the look that Anne sent her way.

“You agreed that you wanted to be surprised, so I organized it all, and now you want me to spill all my secrets. Also, I seem to remember you were threatening to withhold sex if I didn’t tell you. I’d say that was quite motivating for me,” Anne winked at her.

“Touché, but we both know you would have seduced me in either case,” Ann tilted her head, licking her lips from the salt of the food or their conversation- it didn’t matter. Anne felt her stomach flutter as they shared a warm, electric gaze.

“Mmhmm. You are hard to resist, Miss Walker. I was tempted to wake you up this morning, but I need you well-rested.” Anne checked her watch. They needed to start getting ready, but the look in Ann’s eyes was almost a challenge.

“Tempted?” Ann posed innocently, her eyes dancing, a smile at their corners, as she took another gulp of her coffee. She reached her fingers up into her tousled hair and twirled a piece. Anne flashed back to the first day she laid eyes on her, fingers twirling her hair in an airplane seat. She couldn’t believe how far they’d come.

“Yes. Don’t you start. We don’t have the time for me to,” She paused, considering her wording as Ann’s eyes widened. “...Fuck you how I’d like.” Anne wiped her mouth with her napkin and watched as Ann turned a bright shade of red. She made a small noise signaling her disappointment, eventually tilting her head up as Anne stood and approached her. She took Ann’s chin in her hand.

“I plan to ravish you properly tonight. Over and over. With all of the enthusiasm that you deserve.” The redness continued to spread and Anne relished the ability to make her squirm. Ann broke eye contact and pursed her lips to keep from smiling.

“Fine, I can wait,” She grumbled playfully, looking back up at her.

Ann suddenly stood and wrapped her arms around Anne’s neck, leaning in to place a kiss on her bottom lip. Anne pulled her in tight, feeling her come up on her tiptoes as their lips connected more passionately, tongues intertwining. She tasted like coffee and smelled like her floral shampoo, pulling Anne blissfully back into the space that was just them. It was her favorite place to be at the moment and it almost felt physically painful to end the kiss.

“You’re trying to seduce me,” Anne murmured, breathing out a slow sigh as Ann moved her mouth to her neck, kissing the delicate skin of her throat.

“I’m just hoping to make it more painful while we’re out all day,” She placed a final, biting kiss on her lips, leaving Anne gawking bemusedly as she sauntered into the bathroom to get ready.

The rest of the morning was a blur, a flurry of showering, dressing, and a tantalizing kiss here and there. They managed to make it downstairs right on schedule, to Anne's amazement, in the end. Anne opened Miss Walkers’ door with a flourish, their rental a sleek, black car that smelled like new. Anne placed her hand high on Ann’s thigh as she turned over the engine, slid on her sunglasses, and leaned over for a soft, lingering kiss. They were smiling before they parted and Anne slung her arm behind Ann’s seat to back the car up, her seat low and tilted back, the weight of the ring box settling nicely in one of the many hidden pockets of her jacket. A hum hung low in her stomach as they cruised south alongside Bassenthwaite, blue water sparkling and the clear day stretching before them.

Chapter Text

Ann approached Castlerigg Standing Stones with a look of incredulity. They had walked up to where the land created a natural, grassy plateau, lost in conversation. The surrounding Fells curved up and around them, creating a sprawling amphitheater that made her arms ripple into goosebumps. She stood, speechless, as Anne grinned in satisfaction, their eyes drawn to the stones that lay before them.

“I knew you’d love it,” Anne leaned in and interlaced their fingers, squeezing gently as she pulled her along. They weren’t the only ones who’d decided to visit the stones that day: other couples, solo hikers, and families with children dotted the landscape. Some were having picnics, others were photographing the beauty. Anne led her between the two largest, entry stones and ran her free hand along the smooth rock face.

“Do they know why these stones exist? What this site was used for?” Ann asked as they began strolling around the stones slowly.

“We don’t know why any standing stones exist. We can only guess. These particular standing stones are the oldest in Britain, believed to be erected in the Neolithic period.” Ann felt the power of the ancient site, the connection between past and present seemingly colliding. She felt breathless as she looked out at the mountain peaks and hills that rolled around them in 360 degrees.

“It was likely meant for some sort of religious ceremony or ritual. Some believe it to have been a trading post or, most fascinatingly, an astronomical observatory relating to the sun, the moon, and the stars,” Anne’s brown eyes were bright as she gestured around. She pointed to the other side of the circle. “Castlerigg is unique in that it has a rectangle of stones within the circle itself. There is only one other ring comparable to it.”

“Fascinating,” Ann breathed out, genuinely, enjoying the joy on Anne’s face just as much as the panoramic view. As they completed their walk around the stones, Anne led her out of the ring to absorb the magnitude of the landscape.

“You can see everything from here!” Ann exclaimed in awe, feeling Anne wrap her arms around her from behind. She placed a kiss on her cheek as the wind whipped through their hair. She leaned back into her, feeling blissful.

“You actually can. Over there is Helvellyn. Beautiful isn’t it? That is Skiddaw,” Anne nudged their bodies to face a smaller, sloping range. She motioned in another direction. “That one would be Grasmoor. Finally, Blencathra. Notice it looks like a saddle? Locals call it Saddleback.” Ann shook her head, feeling enamored with the amount of information Anne was espousing. She was hardly taking breaths between sentences, and her exhilaration was contagious. “Metamorphosed rock was discovered on the side of Skiddaw Mountain and they actually made instruments out of it. Lithophones, I believe. Made from Skiddaw Slate. We may be able to see them at our next destination,” She drawled, peaking Ann’s interest.

“Ooh. A hint,” She grinned, attempting to look at Anne up and over her own shoulder. Anne raised her eyebrows suggestively but didn’t give her any more to go on.

“Can you believe people have been standing here, taking in this view, for 5000 years? And now here we are.” Anne nuzzled in, kissing and inhaling the scent of her hair. The sensation of her breath sent shivers down Ann’s spine and she found herself closing her eyes, her heartbeat and their matched breathing was all she could manage to comprehend. It seemed that even with the most beautiful sight in the world rising around her, Anne Lister was all she needed to fill her heart to bursting.

A rather noisy, exuberant couple knocked them out of their bubble.

“Hey! Sorry to interrupt- but could you take a photo of us?” A brunette with a Love the Lakes hat and a matching companion with a travelers backpack was waving from a few feet away when Ann reopened her eyes. Despite the low grumble from Anne, she stepped away and took the photo for them.

“It’s our 20 year anniversary. Tim proposed to me right here!” The woman gushed as Ann handed her back the phone.

“Happy Anniversary,” Anne said cordially, nudging Ann away.

“Happy anniversary! Have a good day!” Ann said back at them, as they walked back towards the standing stones. Anne slung her arm around her as they walked but seemed lost in thought. Ann was surprised when they made it back to the car with no more history lessons.

“Is everything alright?” Ann questioned quietly as they reached the car, noticing Anne’s furrowed brow.

“Hm? Oh. Yes, of course. Sorry. Change of plans.” Anne tapped the side of her head with her finger and then used it to tip her chin up, gently. She broke out into a warm smile and closed the distance between them.

“God, you are so beautiful, Ann,” She breathed it out with such an air of incredulity that Ann felt herself warming and ducking from her gaze. Anne pulled her in for a hug as another car rumbled into the lot and an entire family began pouring out. She felt her puff out a short breath.

“Are you ready for the next leg?”

---
Ann’s blonde hair fell in waves past her shoulders, spilling onto her rose-colored top that wrapped its way around her shoulders. It dipped low, but not too low, showing off her collarbones and the freckles that Anne loved to trace. She found herself studying her date as they drove the winding path into Keswick.

Anne was handsomely dressed in form-fitting dark washed jeans with her favorite Doc Martins laced tight. A gray long-sleeved shirt clung to her muscular frame and the sleek black utility jacket pulled it together expertly, an incredible mix of masculine and feminine that took Ann’s breath away. She loved the way Anne made her feel, her left hand extended possessively on Ann’s thigh. She would squeeze it occasionally and look over at her with this magnetic smile on her face. The silver watch on her wrist would catch the sunlight and reflect prisms onto the ceiling of the car, adding a layer to the magic that was building in her belly. She felt so desperately in love, and this all felt so romantic: A cozy inn in an idyllic setting, making love at all hours of the dayon chairs, ancient standing stones, and all the secrecy of not knowing what was to come. She was sure she would never find a love like theirs ever again, and her heart panged at the thought of losing her.

Anne, apparently her unofficial guide for the entirety of the trip, was explaining that Keswick was located in the heart of the northern Lake District, nestled between the Skiddaw Mountains and Derwent Water Lake. The Lake District national park rose around them as Anne pulled into one of the town’s public parking lots. They were barely parked when Ann took the opportunity to unbuckle herself and pull Anne’s mouth onto her own. Anne made a noise of surprise and then promptly melted into her, pressing back just as hard.

“Mmm. What was that for?” Anne whispered, an inch from Ann’s mouth.

“I just had to. Since I probably won’t be able to where we’re going.” Ann wet her lips, eyes searching the brown eyes that noticeably softened, then creased at the edges with her smile. She leaned in, kissing her one more time.

“You’re probably right. But…” Her eyes twinkled. “Don’t forget about our plans for tonight. Very important.” She said, her lowered tone feigning seriousness.

“Especially the over and over part,” Ann found herself blushing as she said it.

“Mm. That’s my favorite part.” She seductively ran her thumb over Ann’s parted lips before leaning away and pushing open her door, stepping outside and zipping up her utility jacket. Ann sighed, feeling lovesick, pushing her own door open. Anne was there in the same moment to shut it for her and offer her hand, a charming smile on her face.

Her stomach felt like it was doing a thousand somersaults. How was she supposed to act normal out in public with this woman? She was driving her mad.

The town did prove to be a minor distraction with its lovely old buildings and its charming streets. Multicolored flags draped from shop to shop and all sorts of characters were meandering down the streets. She longed to relax into a tea shop and sip as they watched the other tourists, but she knew Anne didn’t have that kind of day planned. They blended into the scene perfectly as they wandered past an unusual building with a tower and single-handed clock.

“That is the Moot Hall. It was built originally in the 1500’s! It’s a tourist information hall now, but the history is just fascinating. It’s got an art gallery inside, but I intend to take you to a better spot that’s just a few minutes’ walk,” Anne gestured in front of them.

“An art gallery?” Ann felt her heart soar, her eyes pleading for more information.

“Well…” She looked at her sidelong, suspiciously, a small smile at her lips. “I suppose we are close enough to tell you. Keswick Museum and Art Gallery is where we are headed. It’s small, but I think you will enjoy the exhibits. I’m partial to the archaeological collection myself, but I just know you will love the art. They have a James Durden piece called June Morning I want you to see. It reminds me of that painting hanging in your dining room?”

Ann guffawed at the comparison, but excitedly leaned onto Anne’s arm.

“Oh, Anne. I can’t wait! This getaway is far exceeding any expectations I could have had.” She brought their clasped hands up, kissing the back of Anne’s hand.

“Good.” Anne smiled in satisfaction, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. She seemed lost in thought for a moment before her eyes brightened.

“Oh! This is The Royal Oak. Many interestingpeople have stayed there, including the Lakeland poets. They have beautiful stained glass windows etched with their names; we’ll have to pop in sometime.”

“But not today,” Ann added, as they turned onto a new street.

“No. Not today,” She said, wistfully. “Hopefully on a return trip?”

Ann looked up at Anne’s profile, her heart thrumming at the thought of visiting this place again. Visiting any place again, with Anne.

They walked by tea houses, soap shops, pubs, and finally the road opened up to a more rural setting. They crossed over a small bridge and cricket fields surrounded them. The area became more wooded and Ann felt like she was floating as she admired the scenery. It was simply icing on the cake that they were headed to an art gallery.

Eventually, they found their way to the Victorian building that housed the museum. They spent a few hours within its walls, devouring the exhibits. Anne could have spent many more hours there, reading every inch of every placard and interrogating the docents. The fervor with which Anne craved knowledge on any subject was incredible to watch, and Ann felt pulled in this time more than ever, enthralled by the conversations they were having.

Anne had a way of making you feel like you were the only person in the entire universe, even while she was speaking with someone else. The warmth radiated from her eyes as they learned more about everything from the Roman ceramic coin collection to the entire biography of the artist James Durden. It was only because Ann’s stomach was growling, the little café on site was not where Anne wanted them to have dinner, that she was finally pulled them away. Their walk back into the heart of the charming English town seemed much quicker, hand’s clasped tight, laughing and rapidly discussing their favorite exhibits.

“My new favorite is the 700-year-old cat in the natural history collection. Entirely based on your reaction to it. Your nose crinkles in the most adorable way.” Anne reached out and tapped her nose affectionately.

“I would have been horrified to find that in my attic! Let alone a museum,” Ann scrunched her nose again.

“I found it completely fascinating, but I can see how you think it’s disgusting. What did you think of the musical stones?” They were stuck walking slowly behind a particularly elderly couple and eventually maneuvered their way around them.

“I loved them. They were absolutely beautiful. Who knew you could play the xylophone!” Ann found herself laughing.

“Just a few notes, thanks to some piano lessons. I can offer you private instruction at a later date, if you’re interested.” She raised an eyebrow and bit her lip.

“I’m interested in private instruction in any subject, Miss Lister.” Ann said, as seriously as she could muster.

“Mm. That can be arranged.” They shared an amused glance before looking away. Anne paused on the street, checking her watch and ushering her into an alcove next to a stone faced building, an optometrist’s office. The flow of pedestrians continued past and motorists whizzed by, a pause from their hiking was well-earned.

“We’re actually a bit ahead of schedule. Our dinner reservations are in an hour. I know of this cute café: Little Chamonix. Maybe we should stop in and people watch?” Anne offered, wrapping her arms around Ann’s waist.

“Oh, I would love that. My feet are starting to ache. You walk so quickly!” Ann hung on her, lifting one foot at a time and rotating it, sweet relief throbbing through her as she arched them.

“I promise the rest of the evening will include substantially less walking, but perhaps we should start in the bathtub when we get home?” She flashed a devilish grin and Ann leaned up to sneak a short kiss, well aware of all the passersby.

“You are full of great ideas this weekend,” Ann said into her ear, feeling her shiver in response. With a reluctant look, Anne drew her back onto the sidewalk. The historic buildings rose around them and the stones clicked under their feet as they embarked on their search of the little café.

Chapter Text

Anne settled back in her chair, wiping her lips with a napkin as she pushed remnants of her hake and butterbean stew to the corner of the table. They were curled into a cozy bench on the second floor of the Fellpack restaurant, a favorite spot for explorers of the Lakes. The table across from them had stolen their extra chairs, and they were happily leaned in close to talk, thighs touching.

Their voices blended in with the conversations that ebbed in the restaurant, where the click of the waiter’s shoes rose up and down the worn staircase, a centerpiece of the establishment. The twinkling glow of the white string lights that roped around the window nearest to them reflected in Ann’s eyes as they finished their meals, her spoon clinking against the rounded bowl as she scooped up the last bits of her risotto. Natural wood shelves adorned the wall and flanked a floor to ceiling image of a sweeping sunset view of the Lake District. Little trinkets, glasses, photos, and books, all odes to hikers and climbers, were tucked into every nook of the place. It felt like coming home after a long day, the lighting low as Anne ran her fingers along the lines of Ann’s palm.

“So.” Anne murmured, her eyes locked onto Ann’s as she tugged at her collar with her free hand. “I was hoping we could talk about something a little more serious.”

Ann shifted in her seat, anxiety erupting behind her eyes. She nodded, buying time as she tipped the last of her ice water to her lips.

“If you like? Is s-something wrong?”

“No! No, of course not. Quite the opposite in fact,” Anne leaned closer, collecting both of Ann’s hands between them.

“First, I know this is a lot to ask. I’m not expecting you to give me an answer tonight. I hope that you’ll consider it and weight it carefully. I’ve been thinking a lot about moving us forward in this relationship.” She gestured between them and rejoined their hands.

“For starters, I think that your place is just too large for one person, and although you designed it so expertly and with such care, I truly think that we would be happiest in a smaller space together. I also know you have some fairly awful memories at that place, curtesy of…” Anne twisted her mouth sourly as Ann’s eyes dimmed, darting away briefly. Anne squeezed her hand and moved on.

“I’ve been missing you so much at mine and I think you could make it into a proper home. We could move some of your things in. Or, we rent it out and find our own place. Together. No more hauling my things to your place after work or vice versa. No more leaving my work shirts at the wrong house or forgetting which house needs groceries. It really is the most practical decision at this point.” She let the sentence drop and studied Ann’s face, sucking in a breath.

Ann bit her lip and reached out to play with the edge of her napkin that rested on the wooden table. At the same moment, their charming waiter approached, bussing their dishes and asking how they enjoyed the meal.

“We loved it,” They said, in surprising unison, causing them both to chuckle at the other. Anne’s heart still pounded in her chest as the waiter left, studying the freckles that peeked above the burgundy top she wore, a constellation on her chest. She watched as Ann’s breathing rose and fell for a few more beats, finally she turned back to Anne.

“So you want to do this out of practicality? You don’t want to buy so many groceries?”

“Ann,” Anne groaned, tipping her chin up, her own eyes pleading. “No! That’s not what I meant. Surely, you know how much I care about you. That came out wrong.”

“You’re asking me to move in with you?” Ann tilted her head, a smile finally pulling at her lips.

“Yes,” She enunciated hopefully, cupping Ann’s cheek in her hands. She had to do better this time. “I want to come home to you every day. I want your clothes hanging in our closet. I want you to tell me how much you hate my rug again and buy one that suits you better. I want to wake up next to you every morning. Brush our teeth side-by-side. Good days and bad. However we do it. We can decide, together.” Ann’s hands squeezed Anne’s thigh as the table next to theirs erupted in laughter.

“I’d like that,” Ann’s smile broke wide, reaching her blue eyes. “I’m glad to know you’re thinking about this because of your feelings for me. Not just for the practicality of it, Anne.” Anne nodded, noting the slight scolding in her tone. She wished she had gone for the romantic speech first as she leaned in to place a tender kiss to her lips. She made a mental note for next time. Ann’s eyes twinkled as the reopened.

“I can move my things in, not all of them because they won’t fit. And- I will most definitely be buying a new rug,” She laughed brightly as Anne shook her head and rolled her eyes. She tucked a blonde lock behind her ear.

“I know we talked about selling the house and I still don’t know if I’m ready for that yet. However, I do agree it is the most practical thing to do at this point.”

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Everything at this point is up to you,” Anne said, in a reassuring tone.

“Up to us,” Ann corrected, leaning onto her shoulder as Anne wrapped her arms around her and pulled their bodies together.

“Exactly,” Anne smiled into her hair, her whole body buzzing with happiness. She squeezed Ann tight, eventually jarring herself away to look at her watch, shock descending over her features. “It’s 7 past 7, we’re late to get our seats!”

They scrambled to grab their things and pay the bill, rushing down the staircase and back onto the street. The glow of the Theatre by the Lake radiated in the distance as they approached, by way of Lake road. Anne tried her best to pull Ann along swiftly, whilst being conscious of her aching feet. The air was chilly as night descended over Keswick; their cheeks red with the cold by the time they filed into the building.

---

Anne procured their tickets seemingly out of nowhere as they approached a white-haired woman in charge of checking them in. She sat behind a small kiosk, surrounded by merchandise all bearing the likeness of the old theatre. The room behind her opened up to a lively bar; its patrons sat around tables, sipping wine or thickly foamed local ales. The deep blue carpeting showed the age of the place, but there was a buzz in the air, an excitement about the performance to come. The walls were adorned with posters of the various theatre actors and past performances, a charming Keswick treasure.

“You’re in seats… B1 and B2 in our balcony. Please enter on level three through door G. Enjoy your evening,” She said warmly, tearing their tickets and handing them back. Anne nodded and clasped their hands together as they made their way to the carpeted flight of stairs. They strolled up to the third floor, Ann slowing to admire the various arts that decorated the walls along the staircase. The crowd thinned out as they made it to the top, much to Ann’s relief. After the day in crowds, she was looking forward to settling into a dark balcony seat and cuddling up to her date. Anne had filled her in on the performance they were about to see on their jog to the theatre, a piece called “The Ladykillers” that was apparently receiving rave reviews in the local Cumberland News.

The theatre was mostly full, a rumble of conversation as they entered. The ceiling opened up to a sweeping curtained stage, the theatre seats curving up and around the centerpiece. They made their way down a few steps glowing in the dim light, finding row B.

“Here we are. Not the center, but there are no bad seats here!” Anne exclaimed, enthusiastically. Her eyes were bright with excitement for the show.

“It’s perfect, Anne. Thank you!” She helped Ann take off her coat and did the same, settling into their red cushioned seats in the front row of the balcony. They were on the far left and surprisingly, not all the seats were filled beside them as the curtain rose and the show began.

The theatre rolled with laughter, Anne and Ann included, as the actors performed. Their stage was unique in that performances happened on two levels, with actors hilariously moving upstairs and downstairs at whim. Their hands were intertwined until they grew too warm, Ann then proceeded to cover her mouth and laugh, or slap her knees at all the amusing lines. Ann couldn’t remember the last time she laughed so hard. Watching Anne also heave with laughter made it all the more enjoyable, her cheeks aching from smiling so much.

As the performance went on, she found herself grinning over the conversation at dinner. They were moving in together. Because she’s in love with you… Her stomach flipped at the thought. She turned to study Anne, who was captivated by the performance. Her brown eyes blazed in the dim light, and the lines around her smiling mouth deepened as she noticed Ann looking at her.

She reached out and ran a hand down Ann’s thigh, to her delight. She closed her eyes at the comforting sensation. She longed for a nice warm cup of tea in her pajamas, or maybe that bath they had mused about earlier, despite how wonderful the show was. Her eyebrows arched in surprise as she felt Anne’s hand moving, slowly but deliberately, back up.

She flashed a look at Anne, who was perfectly poised and staring straight ahead, the stage lights illuminating the content expression that she wore. Anne smoothed her hand back down to her kneecap, squeezing until she got a reaction. Ann slapped her away playfully after jumping, smiling. Anne’s fingers then discovered the line Ann’s thighs made as they pressed together. Her thumb gently stroked along it, sending tingles through her body. Ann was seriously regretting her choice of jeans for their date, wistfully imagining Anne teasing at the edge of the skirt she had decided against while dressing that morning.

Anne continued to tease her silently as they watched the show, her fingers brushing down her legs, swirling unknown patterns that dipped incredibly, scandalously close to her center. She shuddered as Anne wrapped her right arm around around her shoulders and pulled her close, appearing to want to whisper in her ear. Ann leaned in close, heart thrumming at their proximity. Instead, face hidden by blonde waves, she nibbled her ear until Ann was practically squirming in her seat. She had her eyes squeezed shut as another round of roaring laughter erupted from the seats below them; this time Anne and Ann didn’t join in.

Anne again teased along her thighs, her circular motions moving slowly higher until Ann couldn’t help but let out a shaky breath. All she wanted was to be back in their room, alone, to properly finish what Anne was starting. She felt the heat growing between her legs as Anne continued to torment her during the peak of the performance, relentlessly teasing her until her whole body felt like it was shaking with desire.

With extreme reluctance, Ann grasped her hand to stop it. She couldn’t think or breathe, let alone focus on the show that was continuing on around them. She held it in place, catching her breath. She finally turned to meet Anne’s smirking gaze.

“Meet me in two minutes,” She found herself whispering as she grabbed her coat and purse, biting her lip as she stood and made her way up the stairs and out the creaking wooden door that brought her into the bright third floor foyer. It took a moment to adjust to the bright lights, the smell of food rising from the café below. Finally, she found it. She rushed towards the women’s bathroom, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror as she entered the small space. Her lips were plump and eyes glistening, not to mention her hair was a bit of a flat mess from their long day. Her lipstick was long gone, but as she combed her fingers through her hair, Anne slipped in through the door behind her. Their eyes met with electricity and Anne reached for her hand and pulled her down the row of wooden, over-sized doors. She shoved each door as she walked by: they were alone.

The final door stood ajar and Ann pushed her inside, aggressively pulling the arrowed lock and sealing them in privacy. She pushed Anne against the wall, her hands slipping down her thighs as she pressed their bodies together.

“What are you trying to do to me in there?” Ann breathed as she pressed their lips together, haphazardly. She felt Anne grinning as she reached around to grab Ann’s ass and pull her closer. Their lips slammed against each other’s, tongues intertwining passionately. Anne was rolling circles in her mouth as her hands slipped up the back of her shirt to touch the skin there, causing Ann to moan into her open mouth. She was dizzy with lust, all her inhibitions thrown out the window. Her need to be touched was far outweighing her rational brain, the one that was yelling at her that having sex in a theatre bathroom was not ideal. That they could just wait until they made it to their bed…

She leaned away eagerly as Anne began unfastening her jeans, their breathing labored as she succeeded and slid her hand between her legs. Ann felt her limbs shaking as her fingers brushed against the thin fabric. Realizing the angle wasn’t going to work well, Anne backed her hand out, causing a disgruntled sound to come from Ann’s throat. Anne kissed her longingly, clutching her face, their lips meeting over and over. Ann was practically a puddle in her arms, her need coming through in the way she clung to Anne and ran her hands all over her body in desperation.

“Patience,” Anne practically purred, spinning her so that she was the one pressed against the wall, her cheek leaning onto the decorative wallpaper. Her palms clung helplessly as Anne pressed her chest into her back, using both her hands to urge her pants and underwear down. Ann let out a quiet moan as Anne’s hand reached around the front of her and found her clit immediately. She put her fist to her mouth to stifle her noises as Anne found the perfect, delicate motion. She placed breathy kisses onto the back of her neck, her tongue darting out as Ann’s breathing heaved underneath her expert hands. She allowed all her weight to press into the wall, her eyes squeezed shut as throbbing wave began to build, much more quickly than usual.

Anne sensed her closeness and slowed her pace, to Ann’s dismay. She relinquished the hand that she had been using to hold her up with and moved it between them, cupping her ass and squeezing it affectionately. She slipped deep in-between her legs, and upon finding no resistance, pressed her finger up inside her. Ann couldn’t hold her moans in and forgot herself completely as Anne fucked her, pressing her forehead into the wall. Slow and deliciously deliberate in all her motions, Anne thrust her whole body against her as she plunged a second finger inside her. Ann’s mouth fell open in pleasure; the colors swirled behind her eyes and her whole body shook as she reached a fucking incredible orgasm, Anne’s hands working simultaneously to undo her.

Ann was still throbbing and catching her breath a minute later as Anne gently pulled her hands free. They both helped to pull up the clothing, Ann weak from climax.

“Holy fuck,” Ann murmured lazily as she turned around and grabbed Anne’s face with her hands, pulling her into a deep, searching kiss. Her heart ached with love for this woman.

“Mm. I can’t seem to keep my hands off you,” Anne said incredulously against her lips as Ann buttoned her jeans.

“Can we go home? I don’t think I can sit next to you and not touch you anymore,” Ann whispered back, searching her brown eyes, which were lidded with desire. Anne picked up their belongings from where they ended up the floor and unlatched the lock, swinging the door wide so that Ann could walk out before her. Mirth pulled at her lips as Ann studied her curiously.

“Encore when we get to the Inn?”

Chapter Text

On the morning of the last day, Ann was curled up sleepily. Their mutual alarm had gone off an hour ago, but Ann was rolling around, trying to block the streaming sunlight as it flooded into their room, with a pillow over her head. As she slowly awoke, she could hear the scratching of Anne’s pen on paper and the bouncing of her leg as she wrote. She smiled and found herself replaying the events of the last few days, wondering which moments Anne was memorializing.

Morning had always been tough for her, but the new medication she was on seemed to be helping. She couldn’t help but factor in the detail that Anne had come into her life. Somehow, these last few months she had gone from rock bottom to a happy, functioning adult. She had to give herself some of the credit: going to therapy, reaching out for help and taking her medication, and setting aside time for actual self-care like her art were all contributing factors. She no longer felt the urge to languish in bed every day, but she was realistic in knowing that the bad days would still happen. She was feeling more confident than ever that she could succeed in this life, and Anne was absolutely essential in boosting her mental health and illuminating the strength she had always had inside of her.

Anne was soon bustling around the room, filling a bag with items for the hike they had planned that day. She grew louder and louder until the pillows were finally yanked off of her head.

“Hey!” Ann protested, grabbing the pillow back.

“You’re awake! I knew it. We’ve got to get you moving if we’re going to fit this hike in before we leave tonight!”

“What if we just stay in bed all day instead…it’s so nice and cozy here,” Ann mumbled and cuddled back into her pillow, squeezing her eyes shut. When she was met with silence, she opened one eye to see Anne scowling at her with her arms crossed. She looked radiant in the sunlight, with a small twinkle behind her eye, despite her stance.

After much grumbling, Ann found herself being pulled from the bed and escorted to the shower. After quickly washing, she managed to pull her wet hair up, yank on her favorite black leggings and hiking boots, and button up her oversized blue and gray flannel with a piece of toast in her mouth. Anne offered a cup of coffee to her and followed it with a lingering kiss, still tasting like the mint of their toothpaste. Ann cupped its warmth and sighed, before taking a long sip. Mornings, with Anne, might not be the worst thing ever afterall.

“Oh, would you grab my drawing book and pencils?” Ann asked, between bites of toast and sips of coffee, as she dabbed on a light layer of makeup in front of the ornate mirror that hung on the wall.

“Oh, excellent idea,” Anne grabbed them from the desk, along with her journal and added them into the bag.

“Thanks, love. I’m almost done!” Ann swiped the mascara brush across her lashes quickly, and readjusted the wisps of hair that were tumbling out of her messy up-do.

“Good lord, you’re adorable,” Anne shook her head, a goofy smile on her face. She was nonchalantly leaned against the desk, relishing the view. She was a bit overdressed dressed for their hike in dark jeans and a button-up t-shirt, her dark hair styled immaculately in loose waves that hung above her shoulders. Ann felt her breath hitch as she caught Anne’s dark eyes in the mirror, a blush rising to her cheeks as Anne moved towards her. Her arms looped around her waist and Ann leaned back into her, closing her eyes as Anne leaned to kiss her exposed neck.

She couldn’t help but let out a small sigh of appreciation as Anne’s warm breath on her skin sent goosebumps rippling down her arms. She felt safe and loved within her embrace, and they shared a smile in the reflection. She finally had something to look forward to, someone to share the good and bad times with. They were going to take the next step in their relationship and she marveled at feeling utterly content in her life. Everything she had gone through had led her to this point. To Anne.

“Mm. We should go before I have to devour you again,” Anne pressed another light kiss to the side of her neck, bringing up her watch to look at the time. Ann shuddered, but nodded. She turned her head and leaned so their mouths could connect, their kiss light and sweet. The feeling of Anne’s lips left her own tingling as they grabbed their jackets and made their way out the door.

____

Anne’s palms were sweating as she unlatched the wooden gate, covered in moss, and heaved it open enough for them to get though. They were only a few minutes’ walk from the front door of The Pheasant Inn, the hostess having pointed out the direction to head in. The bartender had heartily recommended the hike to Sale Fell on their first evening at the Inn, while they were cozied up at the bar, indicating that mornings were the best time to go for a clear view and solitude.

Ann’s hair bobbed as she walked up the sloping footpath, her strides short compared to her own, and she found herself trying to clear her head by focusing on and matching her pace. She adjusted the backpack on her shoulders and inhaled the cool morning air into her lungs, puffing it out slowly to ease her eager heart. The loop was approximately 4 miles and, if they walked leisurely, they should be back to the Inn in approximately 2 hours. Her stomach flipped at the thought of them coming back, considering all the possible options of what the mood would be like.

She had learned from asking Ann to move in with her that she should take a more romantic angle, but it wasn’t her first instinct. She had been practicing in her head all morning as she tried to stay busy getting them ready to go. Will she refuse? What would their long drive home look like if she does? Imagining living her life without Ann sent a pang through her body and she shook the thought away and reached for the reassurance of her hand.

About an hour into their hike, they were far enough up the path that the trees were behind them, and the ridge carried them up at an easy angle. She had done further research, of course, and knew the hike wouldn’t be too challenging. She wanted grand views and the opportunity to be alone once they reached the top. A peek of Bassenthwaite Lake rippled at the base of the hills and both of them enjoyed the silence of the panorama, the padding of their footsteps the only sound they could hear.

“When we get back, we should start moving my things in. I know Catherine could use some of my furniture at her place, I’ll think I’ll offer it to her,” Ann said, a bit breathlessly, as they made their way up the grassy path along the ridge. Gorse bushes flanked either side of the worn dirt trail, and ahead, an old-looking half-wall of gray stone began to line the walkway.

“Ah, I’m sure she’ll appreciate that,” Anne pulled at the collar of her button up, distracted as they reached a second wooden gate, nestled between the rock walls. The underbrush grew thicker and taller, tipped with a vibrant yellow, and the longer brown grass waved alongside them.

“I’m still shocked you asked me to move in. I mean, well, I know we are already practically living together, but it was so sweet that you asked. Even if you fell into nervous practicality instead of a grand gesture,” Ann shook her head, nudging her in the side. Anne laughed, a bit wistfully, before pulling Ann in to kiss the top of her head. The ridge before them opened up to a much steeper grassy hill that made Ann’s eyes widen. She pressed on without a word and Anne continued the conversation.

“I was so relieved you said yes.”

“Really? You thought I’d say no?” Ann said in a disbelieving tone.

“Well, I hoped not. But I couldn’t be sure.”

“You can always be sure, with me,” Ann squeezed her hand and brought it to her lips for a kiss, moving a flyaway hair from her face. Anne’s stomach flipped, but she felt clear-headed and exhilarated as they took their final steps to reach the top of the fell.

The hills and mountain tops were familiarly majestic from their day at Castlerigg. Skiddaw rose impressively over the top of the glittering Bassenthwaite Lake. They marveled at the cluster of white sailboats floating on top of the water, Anne deducing it was a boating club of some sort. The air felt clear and light at the summit; the sky a brilliant blue with a few sparse white clouds clinging to the topmost ranges. Gentle wind hissing through the fells rippled the short grass as they walked over it.

“Wow, this is phenomenal, Anne,” Ann remarked, allowing herself to be pulled as Anne tugged her towards the wooden, nicely-positioned bench that was perched just below the summit. Anne leaned the bag against the seat and wrapped her arms around her small frame, breathing in the citrusy scent of her. They sat in awed silence of the view: the blues in the sky were contrasted with the deep hues of green that covered the hillsides, all which could be seen for miles and miles. They had lucked out with such a clear morning in Cumbria.

“Aren’t you going to tell me the history of the area or the elaborate name of every hill? Or perhaps the species of bird that are flocking overhead?” Ann joked, breaking the quiet, perhaps sensing Anne’s nerves.

“Ah. Yes, I’m distracted. Sorry about that.” Anne ran a hand through her hair, tousling it. She felt as if her heart was beating loud enough for Ann to hear it through her chest.

“Is everything alright?” Ann pulled away from her arms so she could turn and face Anne, a concerned look blotted her features, blonde wisps floating on the wind. “Are you second guessing asking me to move in?”

“What? No. That isn’t it,” Anne waved her off, looking out into the distance. Her fingertips were tingling and it felt like her whole body was electrified with fear. A few beats later, she stood and shook her arms out, taking a deep breath before turning to face Ann. Ann sat, looking utterly petrified, against the backdrop of the grassy ridgeline. Her delicate pink lips were parted and her hands clasped together, her fingers nervously playing with the amethyst ring on her finger. The shirt she wore flapped in the wind and even from a few feet away, Anne could see the tendons in her neck, strained with the nervous energy that hung between them. Anne had never felt more enamored with a woman in her life. She had to take the risk.

“Ann. I wanted to bring you here this weekend not just for a holiday, but to really show you what this relationship means to me. When I saw you that day on the airline, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of you. I felt pulled to you, magnetically.” She gestured between them and she saw Ann’s features relax, incrementally, as she spoke.

“That’s why I had to say hello. And then, when we kissed in your bookshop-” Anne bit her lip to hold back the smile from the memory. “I spent the whole evening writing about you. Imagining what a life with you could be like. This thing between us has just kept growing and growing and now- I can hardly think of anything else. You are everything to me,” She stepped closer to the bench and nudged Ann’s chin up with her finger. She could see the tears welling up behind her long eyelashes.

“Anne…” She breathed, a single tear rolled down her cheek. Ann stood and they clasped their hands together as they closed the space between them, magnetized. She was close enough to lean down and kiss, but Anne pressed on.

“I have searched my whole lifetime for someone who would commit to me fully- and I refuse to compromise on that front. You accept me. You love me for who I am. You make me better, Ann!” She stepped closer still and Ann stood with her mouth ajar, a look of wonderment on her face.

“I want to be there to see you recognize what an incredible, strong, and passionate woman you are. I want to be the one that you lean on, that you trust, that you go to bed with every single night.” Tears were streaming down Ann’s face and Anne wiped them away with a brush of her thumb.

“I want us to keep building this life together. Through good and bad, Ann. I want all of it. I want you to be…” Anne said a silent prayer under her breath before releasing Ann’s hands. She unzipped her jacket and pulled out the antique oval box from the inside pocket. She locked onto Ann’s sparkling blue eyes, the tears flowing constantly now, and slowly knelt onto the dirt in front of her.

“My wife,” Anne opened the box to reveal the shimmering onyx ring, lifting it upwards for her to see. Ann’s hands flew to her mouth and she squeezed her eyes shut, silent sobs bowing her body. Anne felt her own tears begin to well up at the sight of the Ann’s emotion over the top of the open ring box. Her own breathing felt shallow, and erratic, and her mouth went dry as she attempted to speak.

“I love you, Ann Walker,” Her low voice cracked with emotion. “Will you marry me?”

Ann’s watery eyes flew open and she sunk down onto her knees. Her hands flew to Anne’s cheeks, now tear streaked, grabbing and studying her with a look of pure adoration.

“I love you, Anne. I always have,” Ann exhaled shakily, inches from her. “Yes, a thousand times, Yes!”

Anne’s heart soared as their lips pressed together, wet with salty tears. Ann’s hands were in her hair and they couldn’t get close enough, kissing over and over as they hung onto each other. Anne finally laughed through the tears and pulled away, the ring box still in one hand. Ann caught her breath and shook her head in disbelief as Anne slid the polished ring onto her slender finger.

“Oh, Anne. I love it. I love you. That was beautiful,” She wiped her eyes with her sleeve and found Anne’s waiting lips again, hungry for more.

“I saw it in the window and I knew it was yours,” Anne circled the jewel with her thumb, proud that her instinct had been correct. She helped her up from their kneeling position and led her back to the bench.

“You planned this whole holiday so you could propose?” Ann whispered as she wrapped her arms around Anne’s neck and moved to sit on her lap, fresh tears in the corners of her eyes.

“Well, yes,” Anne spoke softly, her body wracked from the buildup of nerves. “God, you make me so happy Ann. I want to make you as happy as you make me,” She delicately kissed her bottom lip as it spread into a smile.

“You do! I can’t believe you did this all for me. You’re so clever and wonderful and interesting,” Ann looked out over Bassenthwaite. “I’m just boring, clumsy…and anxious. You really, honestly, want to spend the rest of your life with someone like me?”

“Yes,” Anne confirmed, without missing a beat. “You’re beautiful and talented. And clever and interesting. Ann, I’m far from perfect. You know that better than anyone.” A smile hinted at Ann’s lips as she turned back.

“I want to be imperfect together. We’ll face all our obstacles side-by-side, and share all of our triumphs. There’s no one else in this world that I’d rather spend my evening hours with,” Anne murmured and leaned in, kissing slowly down the side of her neck. Ann’s eyes fluttered closed with a smile. “I want to leave here and start our new chapter together.”

“A new chapter. I like that,” Ann agreed, biting her lip and letting out a little noise as Anne nipped at her neck.

Sitting on the wooden bench, intertwined, the grandeur of the fells encompassed them on that vibrant day. Anne felt a deep satisfaction grow within her as the reality of what had just happened hit her like a ton of bricks. She was in love with Ann. She had said yes.

Neither could stop smiling when, eventually, they headed down the winding path hand-in-hand; they passed the sheep farms and the ruins of the old Keswick church. Soon enough they were back to the doorstep of the Inn, Anne holding open the door so that Ann, beaming, could enter first.

It was a morning they would never forget.

Chapter Text

6 months later

They stood in line, yawning, waiting for their turn to board the plane. The crisp air of the morning invaded Ann’s thin clothing as they approached the metal staircase leading to the plane, the echo of Anne’s footsteps clanging on the stairs behind her. The night was beginning its slow fade into daylight, stars still dotting the sky, the sun hovering just below the distant horizon.

Ann reached a hand up to touch the airplane as she stepped on, nodding politely to the flight attendant as she passed. Anne’s palm rested securely on the small of her back as they walked and she couldn’t remember ever feeling so calm before a flight as she did that morning; Peaceful and happy. Not to mention she had been on time thanks to Anne: A perk of her always having her eyes on her watch.

They found their seats towards the front quickly, and Anne staggered backwards as Ann narrowly missed elbowing her in the face with her weak attempt to lift the bag into the overhead compartment.

“Sorry, love,” She said sheepishly, as Anne shot her an amused look and pushed the heavy suitcase the rest of the way into the bin. She grunted under the bags weight and shrugged off her own as she sat.

“Ann. We’re only going for a week!”

“I know, I know. I couldn’t make up my mind so I just brought…well, everything!” Ann said animatedly, a grin spreading across her face. They settled in, catching each other’s eyes as they buckled and watched the rest of the traveler’s board. Anne reached out her hand and smiled broadly as Ann filled it, both feeling their nerves peaking as the plane began rumbling down the runway.

Ann studied her face contently; happy to see Anne’s eyes finally reopen as their jarring takeoff melted into a smooth ascent. She bit her lip and smiled encouragingly, clasping her other hand over the top of their linked hands.

“We’re on our way!”

“Mm. The worst of it is over! What a relief,” Anne exhaled, the lines on her face smoothing and her body visibly relaxing. “I don’t think I’ll ever love flying, but our honeymoon is certainly brightening the experience.”

Her fingertips reached over to Ann’s sparkling wedding ring, lips curving into a smile. Ann nodded in agreement, eyes twinkling as she remembered the whirlwind of their ceremony. It had been an intimate gathering with some family, mostly friends, speeches, and even some dancing. Her favorite moment of their day was seared into her heart: Anne reciting the vows she had written her, standing in her perfectly tailored blue suit, her brown eyes filled with love. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience, and Ann still cried every time she thought of her earnest profession of love. She blinked rapidly as her vision blurred.

She brought her wife’s thick gold ring to her lips and kissed it gently, and her heart soared when she did the same. She leaned in for a long, lingering kiss, both ducking their heads shyly afterward when they remembered where they were.

“I still can’t believe we’re married,” Ann whispered, leaning her head onto Anne’s arm, her stomach filled with butterflies.

“It’s surreal. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop smiling,” Anne said in a low voice, leaning her head back on the headrest with a satisfied sigh. She let her hand run up and down Ann’s leg, squeezing it reassuringly.

“Don’t you start. We have all week for that!” Ann hissed, a playful smirk on her face.

“Well, hopefully not just one week…” Anne mused, eyes drawn to the sight of the sunrise outside their window. She reached in her nearby bag, pulling out her book and handing Ann her drawing pad and pencils.

“Right. Forever. You’re stuck with me,” Ann laughed brightly, the gold in her hair illuminated by the sunlight that flooded in the tiny arched window. She flipped open to a familiar page after leaning over to admire the puffy white clouds beneath them. The real world somehow continued on below, microscopically.

Anne started to thumb through the pages, but she couldn’t pull her eyes away from Ann’s profile. She remembered the way she tilted her head back as she laughed, the genuine happiness in her eyes as they danced slowly around the room on their wedding day.

Ann was bent over her drawing of Sale Fell, biting her lip, fingers twisting in her golden hair as she pulled the image from memory. She began expertly outlining the wooden bench that they had sat upon the day of the proposal, every notch and curve coming to life on the page, the final detail in the masterpiece of her sketch.

Anne smiled quietly as she admired her wife, and her talent, the opened book unread in her hands. She felt a quiet calm in her heart as the the plane banked and accelerated, the sky stained with orange and pink as the new day broke.