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London Calling

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Flashbacks of their university mis-adventures filled Anne’s mind as she tried to ignore the loud snores from her travel companion draped across the two chairs opposite her. They had spent many a night on various coaches back to Edinburgh from neighbouring and further flung university towns during their undergrad years. Tib insisting it all added to the experience and was a perfect way to save some money and catch up on sleep. For someone who came from money, Tib was remarkably frugal. Anne had been grateful for that, especially in-between student loan cheques. 

Tib had booked them seats on the first Eurostar of the day, even though she knew she’d probably struggle to make it to the station on time. Anne had been surprised to see her waiting at the St Pancras terminal, until she learned that she hadn’t slept. She had somehow managed to retain the ability to be as refreshed from one hour’s sleep as she would be from eight. This all meant that Anne was subjected to the jarring chorus emanating from Tib’s wide open mouth as she caught up on her sleep. She shook her head as she tried to read the newspaper, she was surrounded by snoring blondes.

She looked into the aisle as she heard the train attendant come through the carriage, the breakfast service was at least one perk of being on the early train. “Pass the peas.” She quickly turned at Tib’s mumbled nonsense. She chuckled lightly, the sleep talking must be fun for the ladies she kept company with.

Anne folded her paper up and smiled as a tray of food was placed in front of her and another in front of Tib, “Would madame like tea or coffee?”

“Tea. Please,” she answered politely.

They both raised their eyebrows as they looked over at Tib who had at least closed her mouth. The attendant looked back at Anne as he inclined his head towards Tib, “And…madame?” 

“Coffee. Black,” came the groggy growl from Tib. Anne tilted her head to look past the attendant with pursed lips. Her eyes were still shut but she was clearly awake enough to make demands. 

Anne unfolded her napkin and lay it across her lap as Tib stretched her arms up and yawned giving Anne a clear view of her tonsils. She gave Anne a sleepy smile. “There don’t seem to be any peas to pass,” she said playfully. 

Tib scrunched up her face, “Why would there be peas?”

“I don’t know, you’re the one who asked me to pass them to you.” Tib shrugged her shoulders as she picked up a croissant. She chewed slowly, pondering what it was she’d meant, then suddenly, “Ha!” Anne looked up. “I remember now. I was dreaming I was having dinner with the Queen.” 

“And there were peas?”

“Yes!” Tib laughed at the memory. “I hope she doesn’t mind that I didn’t say please. I’ll have to come up with more interesting dreams if I’m going to narrate them.”

“Hmm,” Anne took a sip of her tea as she thought back to the dream she’d had the other morning. She still wasn’t convinced that she did move in her sleep. No one she’d ever slept with before had ever mentioned it, although most of those hadn’t stayed until morning. Her eyes widened at the possibility that she had moved the way she had in her dream. Good lord she was surprised she hadn’t scandalised Ann. 

“I suppose you spend most of your time dreaming about Miss Walker.” The mention of her name brought Anne back to the present, “Though you probably don’t need to dream these days.” Tib wiggled her eyebrows as she ripped a piece of the croissant hungrily. 

Anne rolled her eyes, she was absolutely incorrigible. As Tib grinned at her mischievously she had a thought. “Tib-” She couldn’t believe she was going to discuss this with her. “When we were…” She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, “Did we...I-” Tib waited in anticipation. “When we were sleeping...Did I ever…” She took a deep breath steadying herself to say the words.

“Hump my leg?”

“What?” Anne’s voice raised an octave. She was shocked and appalled at Tib’s words, moreso the potential truth behind them. 

Tib smirked back, “Well that’s what you were going to ask, isn’t it?” Anne knew that if she was going to have this conversation this was her chance. There was no one else she could ask, except perhaps Mariana and that would be even worse. Tib would give her an honest answer, once the incessant teasing had stopped.

Anne lowered her voice so they wouldn’t shock the entire carriage, “It seems the other morning with Ann I-”

“Got a little amorous in your sleep.” How was she doing this?

“Yes. Wait. She told you?” Anne paused, no, Ann couldn’t have. She wouldn’t. Could she? She knew that she and Marian had been texting since her last visit, she wasn’t thrilled at first but she was pleased they seemed to be getting along so well. It would certainly make the trip up to Halifax easier. Ann wouldn’t have told Marian would she? She didn’t put it past Marian to text everyone in her phonebook about it.

“No. I used to share a bed with you Lister. On occasion.”

“Oh.” Anne felt her throat go dry. She took another gulp of tea as the realisation of what must have transpired that morning started to make her feel warm. “So I-”

“You do.” Tib was trying not to enjoy the moment too much. It wasn’t often that she saw Anne wanting for words. “Quite a few times if my memory serves me. And I’ve definitely kept those memories.”

“You’ve never said anything.” 

“I thought you knew. You seemed pretty aware when it was happening.” A lascivious grin spread across Tib’s face as she recalled some of the finer details.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

"I wasn’t going to complain. We were in bed together for a reason.” Anne’s face fell. How many times had she been over amorous in bed? Is that why they never stayed? Tib saw her face darken, “It was easy enough to get you to stop. You’re quite agreeable in your sleep.” That made her feel a little better. “But trust me, no one would want you to stop.”

“Oh.” Anne sat back in her chair, a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth.

“Yes. Oh.” Tib allowed her words to sink in as she continued with her breakfast. Judging from the dopey grin on Anne’s face she was going to have a lot of fun at her expense over the next few days.

===

Catherine was sitting on the floor at the foot of Ann’s bed because the entire content of her wardrobe covered every available space. Her head swung from side to side as Ann paced back and forth taking things in and out of the open suitcase on the floor. She’d been like this for most of the morning, despite Catherine helpfully reminding her that they were going to Halifax...not, well, anywhere else. 

“What do you think of this?” Ann was holding up a short yellow halter-neck dress.

“I love it. I loved it when I told you to buy it. But where do you plan on wearing it?” 

Ann huffed and sank to the floor in a heap, her back leaning against her wardrobe. Catherine crawled over on her hands and knees and came to sit next to her. She playfully nudged her with her elbow but that just caused her to groan more loudly. She looked over at the open suitcase, so far she had some socks and a book. I’m not sure who she thought she was fooling thinking she’d actually get any reading done on this trip but she could talk her out of that later.

“Do you know what you’ll be doing up there?” 

“Meeting her family I guess,” Ann sighed defeatedly. 

“Well that will take all of five minutes.” She ignored the sideways glare that Ann shot her. “What would you wear at home?” 

“I don’t know. Depends. Leggings I guess. Or if the tribe were visiting I’d put on a dress.” Ann had never really given much thought to what she was wearing when she’d lived at Crow Nest. There was no one there she cared to impress and her family would always find some fault. When she’d moved to London one of the first things she’d asked Catherine for was to go on a shopping trip so that she could update her wardrobe and fill it with clothes she actually liked. She loved her clothes now but nothing felt appropriate. “I want to make a good impression Cath. This is Anne’s family.”

“It’s Marian, and their aunt, who you’ve met loads of times. And their dad right?”  

“But I wasn’t her girlfriend then,” Ann whined. 

“No you were just the massively wealthy neighbour.” 

Ann leaned back in exasperation, accidentally knocking her head against the wardrobe door. She reached back and started to rub the back of her head as her pout started to form.

“Why don’t you bring what you would bring if you were going to stay at my grandmother’s? If you can impress Granny Rawson then you can impress a Lister.”

Ann flopped dramatically into Catherine’s lap, staring up at her pathetically. 

"Why don’t you ask Anne what you should bring?” Catherine was running out of helpful ideas, or even unhelpful ones.

“Because she’ll think I’m a child!” She threw her hands up in the air.

Catherine dodged the flailing arms effectively, “Well what’s she bringing?”

“I don’t know.” She thought for a moment, “Black obviously. Whatever it is she’ll be ridiculously good-looking and I’ll look like-” An scrunched her eyes shut in frustration, “I just want to fit in.”

“Annie, if you haven’t noticed, your girlfriend doesn’t exactly fit in.” That seemed to work, it at least got Ann to open her eyes again. “When did we ever go anywhere that everyone’s head didn’t turn as soon as Anne Lister walked into the room?” Ann thought for a moment, she had a point. Catherine smiled down at her, “And I know you probably hadn’t noticed because you were too busy ogling Anne, but quite a few heads turn when you walk in too.” 

Ann rolled her eyes dismissively. “It’s true Ann! I’m almost sad that I’m not there for your grand coming out. The ladies of Halifax are going to have a fit!” They both started to giggle at the thought of all of the old biddies gasping in horror at the sight of them doing something scandalous like holding hands. “And the way the two of you look at each other it’s verging on obscene.” She smacked Catherine’s arm playfully. 

She wished she was going up there with her, but she hadn’t felt right inviting her up when Anne had organised this trip for her to meet her family. She hadn’t told any of the tribe that she’d be home, and Anne had given her family strict instructions not to tell anyone either. Hopefully they could just spend the week holed up in Shibden, getting to know her family better without any London interruptions. 

“Now,” she tilted her head back to look up at Catherine, “What are your sleepwear options? Not that I expect you to be getting much sleep.” 

Ann blushed, she hoped Catherine was right. She had been giving this topic considerable thought too. She started to chew on her bottom lip, “I think we need to go shopping.” 

A broad grin spread across Catherine’s face as she threw her hands up in the air, “Yes!”

===

Tib looked on curiously as Anne used her spoon to carefully nudge the scoop of ice-cream that sat on top of her waffle until it was more centrally placed. She took the biscoff cookie from the side of her coffee cup and broke the corner off and carefully sprinkled the crumbs on top of the ice-cream. She sat back, her brow furrowed in concentration as she surveyed the creation, rotating it left and then right just a fraction. 

When she seemed to be happy she took out her phone and took a picture. A scowl formed on her face as she looked at the result. Tib put her fork down and folded her arms across her chest as she marvelled at the strange sight. Anne put her phone down and arranged the cup of coffee to the side, making sure the handle was at a slight angle to the plate. Finally she picked up her phone again and started to take more pictures from various angles. 

After a dozen or so shots she eventually put her phone down, as she picked up her spoon she noticed Tib staring at her, mouth agape, “What the fuck was that Lister?”

Anne looked at her blankly, “What?” 

Tib exaggeratedly parodied her movements. Spinning her plate through a complete 360 degree turn before miming the action of taking pictures like she was a high fashion photographer. She looked pointedly at Anne, “That.” 

Anne looked down at her food, “It’s for Ann,” she said quietly.

“What was that?” Tib angled her ear towards her even though she’d heard the answer quite clearly.

Anne narrowed her eyes and looked squarely at Tib, answering more confidently, “It’s for Ann.” 

Tib grinned widely, “That’s what I thought you said.” They both turned back to their food before the silence was broken by Tib’s forced cough. Anne distinctly heard the word, “Whipped” spoken followed by an equally realistic cough. 

“She likes photos of food,” Anne tried to explain casually. Tib smiled sweetly as she took another mouthful. “It gives her inspiration to cook.” There was a conciliatory nod, “And eat. She needs to eat more.” Followed by another indulgent nod. “I promised her I’d take photos.” Her voice shrank as she heard herself say the words, “It would make her feel like she was here with me.”

Tib leant forward, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, “W-H-I-P-P-E-D.” 

“Shutup Tib,” she replied with a glare, which Tib responded to with a quick wink. Despite her exasperation at the endless teasing she’d been subjected to all day she found herself smiling wryly back at her.

“You don’t need to explain yourself to me Lister. Whatever keeps you in her good books before your weekend away.” A knowing grin teased Tib’s lips, “I know how you get in Shibden.”

Anne nearly choked on the mouthful on a piece of waffle, “I beg your pardon.”  

She turned to her trying to decide if she really was as unaware as she seemed to be. Anne seemed to have no idea what she was talking about. “You get very-” Tib looked her up and down a little too appreciatively for Anne’s comfort.

“Tib,” she cautioned.

“There she is.” Tib licked her lips suggestively. Anne raised an eyebrow, as she glowered across at her waiting for an explanation. “When you’re home, you get very Mistress of Shibden.” She took in a sharp breath, “Emphasis on the mistress part.” 

Anne balked at Tib’s suggestive tone. There had only been a handful of women that she had brought back to Shibden, most of them when she was younger and trying to create a good impression. She didn’t think she had been any more domineering with any of them than she would normally. Of course she had brought Tib there, admittedly they were wild so she had probably needed some high-handed instruction. She still wasn’t sure her father had forgiven them for raiding his liquor cabinet and drinking some of his finest whiskey. She had replaced it several times over by now but Listers knew how to hold a grudge. 

Then there was Mariana, she’d stayed with her at Shibden more than anyone. For most of their relationship Anne had thought they might eventually settle there, if she could ever get her to give up London. It was Mary who had started her thinking about possible renovations when she remarked how shabby Shibden was looking compared to the other grand ancestral homes she’d visited. The memory of that appraisal still caused her upper lip to curl into a snarl. 

“Oh yeah, I remember that look.” Tib’s lewdness once again caught her attention. “I'll tell Marian to get her earplugs ready,” she added playfully.

“It's not like that.” 

“You were always very good at staying quiet. Despite my many attempts.” Anne wished for the ability to silence her best friend. “Although Ann does look like she'd be one to-”

“Tib!” 

She knew she had gone too far and held her hands up in surrender. She had been winding her up all day, and she was surprised she’d gotten this far with only a few warning glances being sent her way. She was enjoying spending this time with Anne, it had been a long while since either of them had been at the start of something that wasn’t going to be another regret once the dust settled.

“It’s not like that anyway,” Anne muttered, half under her breath. 

“I’m sure the two of you are very..discreet.” Tib had meant the comment to be offhand but she noticed Anne shifting uncomfortably in her seat, averting your gaze. “What do you mean it’s not like that? What isn’t?” 

Anne tilted her head from side to side, “We haven’t-” She looked up at Tib willing her to read her mind. She looked back at her inquisitively, trying to gleam what she meant. “We haven’t-” Anne was trying to use her hands to explain. “We haven’t-” 

“Fuck!” Tib exclaimed.

“Lower your voice.” Anne pleaded. “But yes, exactly.” 

Tib leaned in closer to her, almost whispering, “What do you mean you two haven’t?” 

All Anne could do was raise her palms up and shrug her shoulders, “There was the business with Mariana. Then she was staying at Samuel’s. Then I was tired. Then she was drunk.”

“Wait. That’s about four excuses too many. I did come on this trip with Anne Lister?” Tib rubbed the back of her neck as she tried to comprehend what had just been shared with her. There were plenty of stories about Anne’s romantic entanglements, and for good reason. It was good practice to keep an eye on any lady you entered a room with if Anne was there. 

“Bad timing.” 

Tib let out a big sigh before turning sharply to her, “Hang on. So you could be back in London right now, with your girlfriend, and you’re here with me? Keeping me sober?” Anne slowly nodded. “Well never let it be said you’re a bad friend Lister.” Tib raised her glass and clinked it against an imaginary glass. “That is the only reason right?”

Anne narrowed her eyes, “Of course. What else would it be?”

“I don’t know.” Tib raised her eyebrows, “Maybe this one means a bit more to you.” They exchanged a knowing glance as Anne sank back into her chair with a thoughtful, “Hmm.”

Tib smiled cheekily, “Or you’re just old and past it.”

Not for the first time that day Anne wondered why she had agreed to this trip.

==

Anne had called her to say goodnight, the only problem was that being an hour ahead meant that Ann was not remotely tired when she’d called. She could hear the weariness in her voice so didn’t want to ask her to stay up another hour on the off chance that she might be ready to sleep. Instead, she’d said goodnight to Anne and sat up reading, or at least she made an attempt to read. It was almost impossible to do anything with the sound of Anne’s low heavy voice still echoing in her mind and through the rest of her body.

They’d talked briefly about the trip to Shibden. She hadn’t worried her with her wardrobe woes. Those were mostly resolved now. Anne told her that she would be back from Brussels on Friday afternoon as she had a few meetings before they left. Thomas would be driving them up, then Anne planned to give him the rest of the time off so that he could see his family. From the sounds of it the trip was uncharacteristically long. It had been a while since her last visit and with the Mayor’s Office officially closed for the summer it was the perfect time. 

Ann wondered how long she’d be able to stay away from her work. She knew that she’d been fortunate to have so much time with her since they started seeing each other. The past week was testament to how busy she would normally be. It was obvious that the amount of time they’d spent together could not be sustained, especially if it meant that Anne was doing 15 hour days and coming home exhausted. As much as she didn’t want to share her, she knew they would have to find a balance. 

She felt a little guilty at wanting to monopolise all of her time, but she’d spent a lifetime dreaming of having her in her life. Anne never made her feel like she was inadequate or what she was saying or thinking was trivial. There was so much she could be doing and yet she chose to spend her time with her. That mix was intoxicating, she couldn’t be blamed for wanting it all the time. 

The past weekend had been almost perfect, she could have done without the hangover but being able to spend countless hours in Anne’s arms was heaven. She had been so caring and attentive. They’d spent hours holding each other and in the spaces where she had felt less fragile, Anne had been more than generous with her luxuriant kisses. 

She sank deeper into her covers as she thought back to the feel of Anne’s perfect mouth moving against hers whilst her strong arms enveloped her in her embrace exactly where she lay. She closed her eyes as she remembered the press of her chest and firm abs against her. She felt herself moving up and down against her mattress, picturing herself rubbing against Anne’s front in the same way. A quiet moan slipped from her slightly parted lips. 

Her left hand slowly made its way down her torso, grazing the side of her breast. The other hand played with the hem of her t-shirt the same way Anne had done so a few mornings ago. She gently squeezed her breast, massaging it through the thin fabric. Her already hard nipple pushing up into her palm. 

She moved her right hand under her shirt, her hand pressing firmly against her soft stomach as she imagined Anne placing a torturous trail of kisses along her neck as she arched back into the pillow. Her hips started to slowly rise from the bed of their own accord seeking out the touch she craved. She felt the ghost of Anne’s hot breath against her ear, her smooth voice whispering, “Lower.” 

Ann moved her hand down between her legs, she could feel how wet she was through the ruined fabric. Another wanton moan escaped at the first brush against her sensitive core. She slipped her hand into her underwear, the ample slickness coating the fingers she imagined were Anne’s. The room filled with her soft moans as she pictured her skilful fingers moving languidly along her core and up to her hard clit.

She rolled her hips up, trying to increase the pressure on her clit as she drew agonizingly slow rhythmic circles. She felt herself growing increasingly wetter. The sound of slick movements filling her ears. There was a short gasp as her hand moved down, her finger gliding easily inside her. Pushing deeper with each wanton groan as her orgasm threatened to erupt. 

Her other hand quickly moving down to form tight circles on her clit, the movements no longer gentle as she pushed against her own hands wanting them so much to be Anne’s. Her hips rose off the bed as her fingers worked quickly, strumming her aching clit. She closed her eyes tighter, her mouth hanging open, as her stomach muscles contracted. She was so close. The pressure perfect on her clit as she curled her finger inside of her. Just a little more and she would be lost completely, and then she heard it. The sound of Anne’s voice heavy with lust and want, “You’re mine.” 

She came hard, her body rising from her bed suspended for a moment before she fell back against the sheets. Her body gasped for air as her orgasm continued to move through her. Everything seemed brilliantly bright. She brought her left hand up to rest against her forehead as she tried to slow her breath, her heart thundering in her chest. Her breathy pants filling the room as she smiled dreamily. Euphoria taking over her entire body.

She lay still, unable to move. Her arms at her side. The delicious thoughts of Anne being the cause of her undoing flooding her mind. Their trip couldn’t come soon enough.