The first time Jamie snuck out of Dani’s room in the early hours of the morning, she regretted it. Not the least because it was warm in bed, and Dani was wrapped around her in a way that made her never want to move another limb. But the sun was climbing, and Jamie was awake, so she reasoned she should probably sneak back to her flat for a quick shower and a change.
She made it to the kitchen and was quietly sitting on a chair lacing up her boots when she heard the footsteps on the stairs behind her.
She froze, but it was too late.
“Good Morning,” Hannah’s lovely soft voice toned.
How did one negotiate this? Jamie absolutely did not know.
“You’re early this morning.”
Jamie blinked. “Yep. Just, getting a head start you know. Suns up.”
“Indeed.” Hannah busied herself at the tea pot and Jamie finished with her laces. Perhaps, she thought, she had managed to get away with this one.
“Did you sleep well?”
Jamie looked at her, eyes slightly narrowed, as the kettle whistled and Hannah decanted into the pot.
“Miss Clayton still in bed?”
Jamie sighed. “Hannah.”
She watched as Hannah poured two cups of tea, added milk, and brought them to the table, sliding one over to Jamie.
Hannah just smiled, that serene smile that she had, and sipped her tea.
“Ugh.” Jamie slumped back in the chair. “Okay. You got me.”
There was something very smug about the way Hannah was sipping her tea, Jamie decided.
“Nothing to get darling. You’re wearing yesterday’s clothes.”
Jamie looked down. “Bugger.”
“I’m fairly sure Miss Clayton could spare some dresser space. If you wanted to leave a few things here.”
Jamie sighed, picking up her own tea and drinking it. “It’s… new. Not sure we’re up to sharing closet space yet.”
“Well, it’s a big house, I think there’s plenty to go around.”
“Sort of the same thing, isn’t it though.” Jamie drank some more tea. Hannah made excellent tea. “It’s still leaving things in her house, even if it’s not, well, her house.”
Hannah nodded. Jamie knew she wasn’t making much sense. God knows that Dani probably wouldn’t blink an eye if she did want to leave a shirt or two, but it seemed like such a big thing to do. And what Dani and she had seemed so fresh, and new, and fragile, like a baby bird she held in her hands.
Hannah leaned forward, popping her hand on Jamie’s and patting reassuringly. “What a pity you don’t have anywhere else to leave things then. Like a bloody great big greenhouse.”
Getting up at five am was kind of Jamie’s thing. She’d been doing it for years, and it was ingrained now. Not that she couldn’t sleep in, if the night before had brought ample libations or, even better, hours of time stealing with someone else (Dani now, always Dani), but habit was habit.
She liked to get up, have the morning to herself, potter around and get things done before anyone else was around. The little sliver of the day that was all her own.
What she didn’t like, was having a fucking heart attack at five in the bloody morning.
This time she had just closed the door behind her, boots in hand, and turned on her sock feet to find Miles standing mere metres away holding a glass of milk and just staring at her.
It took all of her self-control not to scream.
“Jesus Christ,” she muttered under her breath. Fucking children of the corn, is what she left unsaid.
“That’s Dani’s room.” It was definitely a statement, not a question, and said with some authority.
Jamie, whose brain was still bouncing around her head like a hamster trying to find the exit to maze, had a momentary short circuit. “No it isn’t.”
The subsequent staring contest was, she would later reflect, rather epic.
“You mustn’t hurt her.”
“I’m sorry?” Jamie’s voice carried an edge to it.
“Miss Clayton. You mustn’t hurt her.”
“Look Miles, I-”
“When she came here, I think she was quite sad. She laughed and smiled, but it never went all the way to her eyes. Flora was the same, after mother and father died, and after Rebecca left. But now they both smile. All the way.”
Jamie doesn’t quite know what to say to this information so instead opted for the safe zone and remained silent.
“And, I think you make her smile, quite a lot. You make her happy. And Miss Clayton deserves to be happy, so I think it’s quite important that you mustn’t hurt her.”
With that, he gave her a nod and headed past to his room.
“Still fucking creepy,” she whispered under her breath, grinning at the simple notion that she makes Dani smile, all the way to her eyes.
Sneaking out was becoming both easier, and more difficult. Jamie knew the movements of the household well enough to negotiate a free path most of the time. She did now have a few spare clothes around, in her car, and slowly a shirt or two migrating to Dani’s room (when Dani didn’t steal them, anyway).
She knew the house well, where all the exits were and how to use them. Even the ones that were supposedly locked, except to the groundskeeper with a massive bunch of keys. She was still up early, though it was six now because Dani had kept her up a bit late, and though she wasn’t complaining, some of her less used muscles were aching a bit. A quick glance out the window confirmed her worst fear – Owen’s car already parked.
She threw her clothes on, grabbed her boots, and quietly let herself out the door. Dani wouldn’t wake, never did when Jamie left. Sometime later in the morning she’d wend her way down to the greenhouse with a cup of tea that Jamie would carefully ascertain had been made by someone else, and morning kisses would ensue. Sometimes there were also morning wandering hands, and the occasional morning sliding of hands under sweaters that just begged for it.
The kitchen was obviously off limits, and the front door was not quiet, so Jamie moved down through the back of the house, out the side door, and into the cool morning air. Her brain did some quick calculations – Owen’s car was parked next to hers, ergo, he knew she was here. On the other hand, she really, really, REALLY wanted a cuppa.
She rounded the house, wiped mud ON to her boots, and then came in through the kitchen door like she was wandering up from the greenhouse.
“Morning Owen, you’re here early.”
“Promised Flora breakfast fritatta and who am I to let a lady down?”
He looked at her. “Come up this morning?”
“Yep. Bright and early.”
“Run into Mr Tippet’s cows? Had a devil of a time getting past, the fence must have come down.”
“Oh. No. Uh, must have just missed it.” She cleared her throat and made her way to the teapot. “Want one?”
“Please.” He leaned in, against the bench next to her, with that look on his face that told Jamie he was up to something. “So, nothing to report this morning?”
“Nope. All normal.” She knew her face was perfect. Jamie was a master at giving nothing away, had saved her more times than she could count. “Why?”
“Cos your shirts on inside out love.”
The fourth time Jamie snuck out, she didn’t get caught. It still amazed her that the only person living in the house who still hadn’t made her was Flora. Flora, with her delightful starry eyes and romantic heart, still seemed blissfully oblivious to the love story playing out in front of her.
Not that Jamie and Dani were really bothering to hide anything at this point, at least not from the Hannah and Owen, but they were definitely circumspect in their physical affection. Even if either of them had been remotely inclined, and not fairly private people, both would have demurred with regard to the children anyway.
The problem this cold morning was not, in fact, that someone else caught Jamie, but that she caught herself. She caught herself regretting leaving the bed at all. This wasn’t an uncommon feeling, per se, but she spent enough nights with Dani now that it was par for the course. This morning though, as she shimmied her pants on, she caught sight of herself in the mirror and… stopped.
Her scar was stark white against her shoulder as she turned, so rarely seeing it herself. Dani had a tendency of running a fingertip over it gently, kissing Jamie somewhere on her person laden with love. It was strangely nice that it wasn’t ignored, glossed over like something unimportant.
Today it contrasted rather nicely with the small bruise on the other side of her shoulder, on her collarbone, a mark left in love and passion. Jamie doesn’t look at herself in the mirror often. She knows herself, inside out, doesn’t need to peer too hard at her reflection. The Jamie she has built is one she’s damn proud of, despite the rocky foundations, and one she’d fight tooth and nail not to lose.
She glanced at the bed, at the sleeping form huddled under the blankets and a warmth rushed through her. Her gaze moved back to the woman in the mirror, scarred but whole.
Perhaps, she thought, there was something rather enchanting to this love thing after all.
If there was anything more mortifying than finding yourself in the corridor of your bosses house, just outside your girlfriends room, at five in the morning, then it was doing so while your boss was staring at you with some surprise and also, wearing pyjamas covered in polar bears.
Jamie hadn’t intended to stay over. She tended not to when Henry was home, feeling like it was too awkward to even contemplate. Dani complained, because she couldn’t exactly sneak out and go to Jamie’s flat, but a few nights apart didn’t hurt them. Sure, her bed at home was cold and a lot less pleasant when it was just herself, but Jamie was a tough girl.
Last night though, they had all stayed up in front of the fire, admiring Christmas decorations and drinking Owen’s mulled wine. And Dani’s head had lolled on her shoulder at some point and after gently shuffling her into bed, she hadn’t been able to face the idea of a long drive down a cold, dark road.
Hoping Henry was too wined up to notice, and depending on her own ability to sneak out undetected, she’d chanced it and stayed.
Oh how she regretted it right now.
Behind her were three doors: Flora’s, Miles’ and Dani’s. It did not take a fucking genius to work out which door she’d just come out of.
She watched Henry’s brow furrow, and then he glanced at his watch. “Hmm, five thirty.”
It was still dark, and even in this dimly lit corridor, Jamie felt like a deer in headlights.
“I don’t make you start at five thirty do I?”
“Uh, no sir. No, I usually start around seven.”
“Hmm. Cold today too. Best get back to bed then, no reason to be up until the sun is.” He nodded his head towards Dani’s room and patted her on the arm awkwardly before shuffling off to his own wing, polar bears and all.
“Fuck me,” Jamie whispered when he was gone. Then, all things considered, she turned on her heel and went back to bed.
It was cold. January had brought snow, and then in a rare slight warming that Jamie blamed on climate change, it had brought sleet. The driving, freezing rain was now pelting into the windows at Bly, and Jamie’s damn body clock had woken her up regardless.
She pulled the covers around her and checked her watch, an oddly delicate simple silver wrist band that Dani had given her for Christmas. It suited her wrist perfectly, and she hadn’t wanted to take it off since. She had, because dunking a beautiful watch into fertiliser was rude, but she hadn’t wanted to.
Now, now the last thing she wanted to do was get out of bed. Dani was asleep, facing her, one arm on Jamie’s arm. She loved that, finding Dani always wanting to be touching a part of her as they slept. She didn’t conquer, or smother, but always had that small piece of contact whenever they were together. The pillows smelled like Dani’s raspberry shampoo and Jamie would have been frankly lying if she didn’t acknowledge that she found the tiny sleep noises that Dani made utterly adorable.
It was, as predicted, five thirty am. Instead of carefully extracting herself without letting the cold in, she burrowed closer, sliding in towards Dani and absorbing some of her warmth, her very presence. It seeped into Jamie’s bones in the happiest way.
Unable to help herself, she gently kissed Dani’s forehead, and then pulled back. She knew she was biased, but it really still astounded her that she got to share her time, her bed, herself, with someone as beautiful as Dani Clayton. Here, asleep, with her delicately veined eyelids shrouding those gorgeous blue eyes, and a perfect nose, and perfectly kissable lips, Jamie basked in her luck.
She slid her hand, gently, under Dani’s top and just rested it on the skin of her back. She loved all of Dani, could kiss every inch and write poetry over every curve, but she could still never get over the soft, soft skin at the small of Dani’s back. She’s would never go too much further, not with Dani asleep because boundaries were important, and so was consent, but she couldn’t help but touch this small portion of real estate with the gentle awe it deserved.
She closed her eyes, concentrating on the feel under her fingertips and breathing in Dani’s scent, when she heard the mumbled words.
“S’too early to be ‘wake.”
She smiled into blonde hair. “Go back to sleep then.”
“Can’t. Touching me.”
Her hand stopped. “Sorry.”
A sleepy Dani head emerged from the pillow to bestow a kiss on Jamie’s lips, all cosy and soft. Jamie’s fingers trailed soft motions up and down, around, then dipped down below the waistline of Dani’s flannel pyjamas, tracing the skin of her hip. She would never get enough of this, just being able to touch, to be.
The kiss deepened, still soft and endless, but now, slow moving tongues and suction added in. Jamie dipped Dani back, on to the bed, pulling the blankets around them like a cocoon, letting her hand drift further now. There were no thoughts in her head other than touch, love, warmth.
Slow, unhurried, she slid her hand up under Dani’s shirt, soft caresses, catching Dani as she arched back and bestowing hot kisses down the perfect line of her neck.
No words were needed, as they moved, just the two of them in this small world in their bed. There was no hurry, no frantic removing of clothes. There was just this, together, touching, kissing, fingers finding points and coaxing them to life. When Dani was panting, Jamie’s hand made its way down, finding warm, wet welcome, and stroking. She started slow, narrowed her focus, concentrated on the tiny whimpers and breathless moans each caress brought.
When Dani came, it was like a slow wave of pleasure, spilling itself into Jamie’s hand, hot breath onto Jamie’s neck, soft movements coming to an ebb. She ended wrapping Dani in her arms, just holding her close as her breathing finally came back to a normal pace.
“That’s one way to wake up,” Dani murmured into her neck. “I think I’d like that as my alarm every morning.”
Jamie chuckled gently. “I wouldn’t argue.”
“You’re usually up by now.”
“It was cold. You were warm. Then you were sexy.”
“I thought I was always sexy.”
Jamie nuzzled her head in to blonde hair, so content she could have gone back to sleep. “You are always sexy, but I don’t always have my hand in your pants.”
“Probably best not to scandalise the whole house.”
“Think I’ve managed that by myself by now.”
Dani pulled back a little, looked up at her, confused. “What?”
“The only member of this household who hasn’t caught me sneaking out of your room in the wee hours of the morning is Flora. And that’s because aside from the sleep walking, you couldn’t wake that child with a nuclear bomb.”
“Really?” Dani looked surprised. “You’ve never told me this.”
Jamie shrugged. “I guess it’s to be expected. It has been six months.”
Dani placed her head back on Jamie’s shoulder and sighed. “It has hasn’t it.”
“Good six months too.”
For a few moments, they lay together in quiet warmth, before Dani spoke again. “There is a solution to that problem though.”
Jamie thought she’d tense, she thought that her usual anxiety would come rushing in at this point, because they were about to have this talk. The talk about them merging even more. The next step. Oddly, there was nothing even remotely anxious about her, she was still just wrapped up in Dani, and perfectly content. This was love, and she didn’t have a single worry about it.
“And what’s that Poppins?”
“Stop sneaking out of my room at five am and sleep to a normal hour like everyone else.”
Jamie just laughed.