Even after all these years, Jamie still struggled to relax once she shut her eyes. She struggled to unclench her jaw. She struggled to remind herself that she had, in fact, left the door open as she always did. That she'd filled every available basin in the hotel room with water.
She had, of course. She'd completed every sacred ritual. She'd never missed a step. Not once.
She exhaled a slow, shuddering breath as she began to hover somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. A breath that caught in her throat when she felt a slight chill at her side and then the comforting weight of a hand.
Of Dani’s hand.
“You told our story beautifully.”
Her voice was almost unchanged, even if Jamie’s had mellowed with age. The only difference, really, was in the undertones. As though she was once-removed.
“Did I?” Jamie asked with a faint curve of her lips as she cursed herself for forgetting her sleep mask. “I took a few creative liberties.”
“I liked the ambiguous ending,” Dani complimented, and that hand slowly moved to Jamie’s hair to come through it.
Jamie had worried, once upon a time. She'd thought to dye it. She could only assume Dani looked the same as she always had, and, well, she simply didn't. But the greyer it got, the more Dani seemed apt to touch it.
So, she'd let it go. She'd let it go because she would do anything to give Dani even one more thing to hold onto.
“I thought you might,” Jamie responded without a slight furrow between her brows. “I didn't know if you would come here tonight.”
“Anywhere you go,” Dani responded, a slight waver in her voice. It sounded further for a split second before it was full and real again.
“Can't resist?” Jamie asked, disregarding the waver to avoid it happening again. “It's the hair, isn't it? You fucked about and got yourself an older woman through the longest, most utterly ridiculous game of chess ever played?”
“You caught me,” Dani sounded amused. Adoring. Like she always did. “I did all of this because I knew you'd go grey beautifully someday.”
“I wish I could see you,” Jamie breathed those words without thinking. She regretted them the moment she said them. “Sorry, Love.”
“It's okay,” Dani breathed, and Jamie could've sworn she heard a smile in her voice. No fading. Thank God.
“You know, they say it's easy to get lucky at weddings,” Jamie said as she turned her head away from where she felt Dani to lessen the temptation of looking. “That's just what they say.”
Dani’s resulting laughter was almost more of a feeling than a sound, and it glided across the skin of Jamie’s exposed neck just before a brush of lips made itself known. Cool and soft. A whisper of a kiss.
“Who says that?” Dani asked, and Jamie sighed as she felt the lengths of Dani’s fingers comb slowly through her hair to brush it further out of the way.
“They,” Jamie responded with a little curve of her lips, and Dani sighed just beneath her ear as she reached further over the back of the chair she was in to rest a hand against her chest.
“Oh, I see. ‘They'. Alright, then.”
Jamie didn't say anything for a moment.
Dani was sure if she could see her eyes they would have been searching for something.
“It's okay, you know,” Dani said as she righted herself and slowly moved to the front of the chair.
“Is it?” Jamie asked with a furrow of her brows, now following the subtle sounds of Dani’s movements. “Are you feeling strong, today? Present?”
“I am,” Dani said, and trailed her fingertips down Jamie’s knee. “Your story, maybe. Hearing you tell it.”
“Will you lie down with me, then?” Jamie asked, chasing Dani’s hand with her own until their fingertips met. They passed through, at first, but only for a moment before Dani remembered herself and solidified for her.
That had taken her years. So many years.
Like all the rest had.
Yet, Jamie had been unwavering. Even in the beginning when it was only a feeling, she'd been stalwart in her devotion. So devoted that Dani felt the pull of her always. The realness of her. So devoted that Dani had slowly, painstakingly worked out how to touch her. How to speak to her.
But only when she finally allowed herself to believe Jamie would never stop waiting. Only when she realized it would have hurt her more for Dani to stop trying.
“Of course, I'll lay with you,” Dani said, pulling herself out of that line of thinking as quickly as she could once she realized how dangerous it was. She'd almost gone.
Jamie had felt it, too. She could tell by the way she was leaning forward in her seat grasping desperately at her hand lest it fell through her fingertips.
Jamie let out a sigh of relief, and she stood. She was still for a moment - feeling Dani’s closeness in so many ways. She wondered what the eyes that would look back at her might look like if she opened her own.
She didn't dare.
“So, you interested in seeing me trip on everything from this chair to the bed tonight, or can you take me to it?”
“Do ‘they’ have anything to say about it?” Dani asked dryly, and Jamie was truly lost for a beat or two before she found herself sulking at having been beaten at her own game.
Dani was in a merciful mood tonight, though, it seemed. She was leading Jamie to the bed without another word. Helping her out of her sleep clothes with easy, familiar hands.
Before Jamie could even get the question out, she felt her hand suddenly guided forward until it was cradling the softness of Dani’s bare breast.
“I am now,” Dani murmured, and Jamie lifted a brow in acknowledgment.
“I see that…” she mused. “You know. With my hands. Like a sea urchin.”
“I am so aroused I can't even begin to tell you,” Jamie said, sounding tired. Tired and in love. Both very easy things to feel with Jamie. Accepted things to feel with Jamie.
But then Jamie had always accepted all of her, hadn't she? From the very beginning?
“It's the hair. I know.”
“If you don't get into bed I'm leaving, actually,” Dani stated in a rather matter-of-fact tone that had Jamie holding up her hands in defeat and finding the bed with the backs of her legs.
Soon, she was comfortably on her stomach with her cheek on the pillow - eyes shut more easily now as Dani traced her fingertips over the freckles on her back. Dani had learned those lines a thousand times over. The constellations of the universe that was Jamie’s skin. Pale and soft and wonderful.
And Dani could feel her, now. A little. Enough.
That had taken the longest. Maybe because she was rarely concerned about herself. Not that Jamie wasn't concerned enough about her for the both of them.
She tried not to regret all the years she'd gone without feeling Jamie’s skin beneath her fingertips, because it was enough to feel it now. It was enough to watch her back rise and fall slowly with each breath she took as her own never would again.
But Dani always wanted more than just that. So did Jamie, though, so it worked out just fine.
Tonight seemed no different despite the lack of familiarity about the room. There was familiarity, instead, in the way Jamie’s breath hitched when Dani’s hand finally ran slowly down the back of one of her thighs - cool and soft and altogether unlike any true human touch. Distinctly, decidedly Dani.
“Didn't realize you were in a teasing mood tonight, Love,” Jamie whispered, and Dani laughed softly.
“So sorry,” Dani lied, falling into the same banter they'd shared for years and years and years.
Jamie didn't manage her usual witty retort, however. Dani’s hand had trailed far enough up between her thighs that she instead gasped hard into the pillow she'd pressed her face into.
Dani had known for so long just how to touch her. The years that had passed while she wasn't yet able to had been terrible.
She made up for those years nearly every night with gentle touches against her clit and deft fingers that explored and filled her expertly until she was coming undone and shuddering all over.
Dani was already pulling her hand away to lean in and press comfort and reassurance into the skin of Jamie’s back by way of soft kisses when she suddenly found herself rolled over beneath Jamie.
She was shocked.
They both were.
Maybe it was the story Jamie had told. Maybe she'd dredged up too many memories of a time when things had been real and whole and they'd had the world at their fingertips. Or maybe, after all these years, she'd just run out of patience.
All she knew was that she was staring, breathless, down into Dani’s eyes. Soft and blue and only hers.
Because the lady of the lake was Dani, now.
And she was looking at her for the first time in so, so long.
“Jamie-” Dani whispered the name with fear in her voice. “Jamie, I'm not...please..”
She could only assume Jamie’s eyes had fallen upon a monster.
She had no way of knowing that Dani looked the way she had on their last night together. That for every silver hair on Jamie’s head there was one of honeyed blonde on Dani’s.
All Jamie could do was gasp. All she could do was reach up to run her trembling fingertips over features so familiar she felt herself shatter in the deepest of ways.
“I can see you,” Jamie whispered the obvious as her tears fell and slipped down the very real, very present skin of Dani’s face.
“What do I look like?” Dani finally had the courage to ask - her voice a whisper. And oh, she was trying to stay. Trying not to fade. The waver in that whisper had said as much.
“Like yourself,” Jamie reassured quickly, with a soft sniffle.
It was so utterly overwhelming. She was still riding the aftershocks of pleasure running through her body, and now this. Now she was looking into eyes she hadn’t seen in years. Watching a soft, nervous, familiar smile form on equally soft, beloved lips.
“Can you stay like this? For a while, at least?” Jamie asked as she propped herself up over Dani. She was still cool. Cool enough that Jamie might have found it uncomfortable in any other circumstance. But now, here and now it felt like...it felt like submerging yourself in a lake that was just this side of too cold to have any business swimming in.
“I can try,” Dani offered with as much confidence as she could muster.
Jame leaned in and kissed her, then. Soft and lingering and shallow and she could feel Dani smiling into it because yes, it was still possible for Dani to enjoy things. It was still possible for her to want them just as Jamie did.
Jamie continued on in this vein for a while until she heard a shuddering breath leave Dani. Compulsory and unneeded, but it had happened, nonetheless. That breath had followed a faint roll of Dani’s hips up against her own.
“Can I touch you?” Jamie asked in response, lowering her hand to stroke slowly along Dani’s inner thigh.
“We can try,” Dani said, because that was all she had to offer. All the guarantee she could make.
Jamie went about it carefully. As one would if one’s lover were a ghost in danger of slipping away at any given moment. At any given precious moment.
Yet, she stayed.
She stayed and gasped in shock beneath Jamie when Jamie finally touched her where she hadn’t in so long. She gasped and clung to her to get her closer. To anchor her.
And so, of course, Jamie pressed her face into Dani’s neck to allow her to wrap her arms around the back of her own as her own gasps filled the room. Gasps that came in response to each and every evidence of the pleasure Dani was feeling. Each and every utterance was proof. Proof that she could give to Dani what the world hadn’t allowed them in so long. Far too long.
When Dani came, Jamie fell through her and into the bed with a sharp, shocked gasp. As though it was so overwhelming she could no longer focus her energy on being corporeal. For a moment, they were no longer two people.
It was a blur of emotion and sensation that left Jamie utterly breathless and dazed. All at once, she could feel Dani’s devotion. Her love. The pleasure wracking her...no. Their body.
She never wanted it to end. This beautiful, perfect union. In her almost drunken haze, she wanted them to be one forever.
But the lady in the lake was Dani, now, too.
And she wouldn’t.
She would never.
It had only lasted a moment. And then it was gone. Dani was gone.
Jamie was both free of her and utterly bereft all at once.
She could have buried her face in the nearest pillow and sobbed were it not for a barely-perceptible touch along her sweat-slicked, bare back. Cooling skin that was far too hot.
Her panic receded beneath that touch, and she slid a hand along the surface of the bed until it found Dani’s. It passed right through at first.
But Dani had enough strength, it seemed, to twine their fingers together one last time that night.
“Tomorrow,” Dani whispered - her voice sounding somewhere-else.
Jamie nodded. She still hadn’t fully recovered from whatever had just happened.
Possession, maybe. However fleeting.
And so, she knew Dani had to go.
Because love and possession were two very different things.
And she’d been in Dani’s thoughts, now. She knew the boundless depths of her love even more surely than she already had.
It was so pure.
Any facet of Jamie that might have thought to ask Dani to stay that way with her forever slipped away like the winter breezes back at Bly had swept the leaves for her in the fall. Swept them away to leave Jamie standing in her cover-alls leaning on a rake doing her best to look charming when her Poppins stepped out into the crisp, clean air of the countryside.
“I like that memory, too,”
Another echo of Dani’s voice.
“I go there a lot. And I almost hate to tell you this, but you were very charming.”
When Jamie opened her eyes, Dani was gone.
But she didn’t feel alone.
Jamie had never felt alone. Never again, really, after she’d first laid eyes on Dani at Bly. Something in her had known, then.
And she knew there were other nights. There would always be other nights.