Dani has been sat at the kitchen island for a solid two hours working on her laptop, whilst Jamie has been in and out of the house planting flowers, doing general gardening work and keeping the dogs occupied. If they’re both honest, they’re just distracting themselves whilst they wait for the news from Dani's detective friend, Tara, who they met the day before in Owens restaurant. They were informed of a raid, of Jennifer and Tyler being thrown in jail and all this hell being over with.
Jamie walks into the house and over to the fridge. She pretends not to notice the way Dani's eyes are fixated on her biceps; glistening with sweat from manual labour and the sun. She takes a bottle of water from the fridge, opens it and takes a big swig.
She grabs the bottom of her black sleeveless t-shirt with one hand, pulls it up – purposefully revealing her stomach and sports bra – and wipes her face with it. Dani takes a loud breath in and is unabashedly staring when Jamie looks back at her.
“Somethin’ on your mind, Poppins?” Jamie asks with a playful smirk.
Dani clears her throat, shakes her head and looks back down at her laptop screen. “No. Nope. Nothing.”
“Mhmm.” Jamie leans down, her elbows pressed against the cool marble of the counter. “Sure about that?”
Dani glances up over her screen, “I mean, do you have to always look so...” She shakes her head, bites her lip and looks back down.
“Sooo...?” Jamie teases, moves along the counter so she’s just beside Dani now.
Before Dani can respond with anything more than just an innocent smile, her phone chimes. They both look at each other for a long second and then down at the phone. Dani picks it up and unlocks it with her thumbprint.
“It's done,” Dani says quietly, “they got them.”
Jamie lets out the breath she’s been holding in and puts her head down, laughs to herself and then looks back at Dani, who is beaming back at her with her most wonderful smile.
“Well, fuck.” She doesn’t really know what to say, she doesn’t even know how to feel. Only that the fear that’s been hanging over her head like a dark cloud since Jennifer re appeared has cleared, and the sun is finally shining down on her and Dani again.
Dani puts her phone down, stands up and pulls Jamie in. She doesn’t seem to mind that she’s a little hot and sweaty, doesn’t seem to mind that Jamie’s grip on her is vice tight.
They don’t even talk, they just hold each other. Dani runs a hand up Jamie’s bicep and squeezes gently, kisses her shoulder. It's all Jamie needs, just knowing that Dani is here – knowing that Dani is all in, no matter what.
The phone chimes again and Jamie’s heart stops – maybe there’s been a mix up or some kind of problem, but Dani's face tells a different story; relief and slight amusement.
“Tara again. Wants to know if we can get dinner when all this is over. Jesus for a second there I thought she’d made a mistake.” She puts her phone down without sending a reply.
Jamie tries not to let the fact that another woman is clearly interested in her girlfriend bother her, but she’s only human at the end of the day so the feeling settles bitterly in her stomach. She hums, nods her head slowly.
“What?” Dani asks, frowning.
“Got some balls, hasn’t she?” Jamie laughs, turns back to her water and takes another sip.
Dani sighs, takes the bottle from Jamie’s mouth and places it down on the counter, “She invited us to dinner.”
“Pretty sure she only wants to see you.”
“You’re jealous.” Dani sounds amused, and it would infuriate Jamie if she didn’t look so goddamn great with her teeth biting down on the tip of her tongue.
Jamie narrows her eyes, shakes her head unconvincingly.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but...” Dani pauses, lifts Jamie’s t-shirt over her stomach, “shouldn’t she be the jealous one?” her hands find Jamie’s waist, cool hands touching hot skin. Jamie shivers. “No reason for you to be.”
Jamie believes her, a hundred percent knows she’s right and that her own mind is just running away from her.
“Kinda hot though,” Dani says, ghosting Jamie’s lips with her own, “you being jealous. Turns me on a bit, actually.”
Dani steps forward again, tucks her fingers into the waistband of Jamie’s dark khaki sweatpants and pushes her back against the fridge. “Yeah.”
Jamie puts both her hands around Dani's back and kisses her, hard and fast, their tongues meeting immediately. She leans down after a moment, lifts Dani up with ease and places her onto the kitchen island. Standing between her legs now, she bites down onto Dani's bottom lip and flicks her tongue against it. Dani moans, arches her body into Jamie and scratches nails down her back.
No reason at all to be jealous when it's her name falling from Dani's lips as she comes apart on the cold tiles of the kitchen floor not 10 minutes later. No reason at all.
- 6 Months Later -
Most people are cursing the pandemic nearly a year into it. Most people are losing their minds and wishing and praying that it will be over soon. Sure, Jamie and Dani wish they could see their friends and family again, but for the most part, they’re just happy in the most euphoric way possible, that they found each other.
Jamie’s shop was forced closed again. Schools opened and closed again. Pubs and restaurants had a boomed for a while before the government implemented new lockdown measures. Christmas was cancelled. A third lockdown struck and is still in full swing. Thousands more deaths and infections.
But there is also hope. Hope that the numerous vaccines that have been approved will be the beginning of the end of a year of misery for most.
Misery is not a word Jamie and Dani would use to describe their past almost-year together though. No, they would use words more like: prodigious, stunning, extraordinary. They would describe their time together so far – as Flora would say – “perfectly splendid”.
“Jamie?” Dani asks, her head in Jamie’s lap as they watch a movie.
“Hmm?” Jamie strokes her hair, looks down to see Dani's eyes closed.
“I don’t want you to go home tonight.” Dani whispers, her eyes still closed tightly.
They still take it in turns to stay at each others place, basically swapping every other night and hardly ever going a night without sleeping in the same bed as each other.
“I don’t have to.” Jamie says, stroking her thumb softly across Dani's cheek. “I could stay here if you want.”
Dani opens her eyes and sits up. She turns to face Jamie and sighs. “I want you here every night.”
“I could--" Jamie pauses, because once she says what she is about to say, there’s no taking it back, not that she would want to, “I could do that too.”
So, within the space of a week, Jamie has moved her things into Dani's house and has given up the lease on her flat. Jax has made himself comfortable on his bed beside Luna's and Dani has made Jamie comfortable in every single way possible.
To mark the official moving date, Dani has organised a ‘date night’, which typically involves good food, great wine and a movie.
Jamie walks in the door with a bag of Chinese food in one hand and a bag with two bottles of prosecco in the other.
“I’m home.” She shouts for the first time when the door is safely locked behind her, grins happily to herself. There’s no answer from Dani, only the sound of the dogs claws on the wooden flooring in the hallway.
Jamie walks to the kitchen, sets the food on the counter and puts the bottles in the fridge. She fusses over the dogs for a moment and then walks back out to the bottom of the stairs. “Dani?”
“Up here.” Dani responds.
Jamie walks up the stairs, taking two at a time. She crosses the landing and walks into their bedroom. Dani is standing in the corner of the room by the mirror wearing a bathrobe, her hair wet.
“Took a quick shower.” She says, looking at Jamie in the reflection of the mirror.
“Mhm.” Jamie clears her throat. She has seen Dani look this way so many times before, but it never fails to make her mouth dry and her heart rate spike. “S'good, um, foods here.”
Dani turns around and crosses the space between them, “I had a little surprise planned for you,” she starts, slides the leather jacket off Jamie’s arms and throws it onto a chair in the corner of the room, “dessert, I guess you could call it.” With a cheeky grin, she takes both of Jamie’s hands in her own and guides them up to her chest, rests them by the lapels on her robe. “But now I’m thinking I don’t wanna wait.”
Dani smirks and Jamie’s gasps as the bathrobe drops silently to the floor, revealing a black lace bodysuit underneath. When no words come out of Jamie’s open mouth, Dani can’t be surprised.
“Dinner can wait, no?” Dani whispers as she presses her body against Jamie’s and runs her hands down over jean covered thighs.
Jamie’s breath catches in her throat and it takes her a moment to realise Dani asked a question. She nods erratically, “Yes. Yeah, dinner can wait.”
Dani smiles an almost innocent smile, before leaning in to Jamie’s ear. “Take me to bed.”
Global pandemic or not, Jamie didn’t think she would ever meet someone, fall in love and move in with them. In fact, she had accepted that it just wasn’t for her and she was happy. At least, she thought she was happy.
But here she is, with Dani Clayton pressed into their mattress in their house. With her own name falling from Dani's lips like a mantra. With her tongue grazing hot paths from hip bone to nipple. Happy doesn’t even begin to explain the way Jamie feels.
Dani writhes underneath her, her back arching off the bed. The lace bodysuit she’s wearing tickles Jamie’s tongue as it glides over it, her lips wrap around a hard nipple over the thin fabric and teeth graze it. Dani's hand tightens in Jamie’s hair, pulling and it makes Jamie bite a little harder than she intended. The delicious sound that Dani reacts with makes Jamie’s eyes widen – she liked it.
“Oh god,” Dani breathes, sounding a little surprised, “do that again.”
Jamie is holding herself up on one elbow, so she moves her free hand and cups Dani’s other breast, squeezes gently. At the same time, she repeats the bite and Dani moans again, breathes in sharply through gritted teeth and pulls Jamie’s hair so hard that she has no choice but to look up into darkened blue eyes.
Jamie grunts, enjoys the sting on her scalp but enjoys even more the look of pure want on Dani's face; parted lips, furrowed brows, eyes that are begging for Jamie to touch her anywhere, everywhere.
Dani doesn’t even need to tell Jamie what she wants, it's clear from the look in her eyes. It’s clear from the way her jaw clenches and her upper lip curls up slightly, showing just a hint of white teeth.
And maybe if Jamie didn’t come home when she did, Dani would have gotten dressed and Jamie would have been none the wiser, oblivious to the garment lurking beneath Dani's clothes until after dinner and after the movie.
But she did come home. And Dani is looking at her, breathing heavily, waiting patiently and Jamie can only oblige.
She lowers her face again, kisses Dani's neck now and pushes her tongue against cool skin, moistened by her wet hair. Dani hums, arches her body up in search of contact but whines when she has no such luck.
Jamie peppers kisses up Dani's jaw, over to her mouth, meets her eager lips and tongue in a hungry embrace and slides her hand down Dani's ribs to her hip bone.
“This is nice,” Jamie says, slipping her fingers under the bodysuit by Dani's hip, “suits you.”
“Fuck, Jamie,” Dani mutters, pulling on her hair again, “take it off me. I need to... I need to feel you.”
Jamie smirks. She smirks because Dani planned this and she wants to play along. “Hmm, I don’t think I will right now. Think I’m gonna take my time... Enjoy you.”
Dani groans but smiles, puts her head back onto the bed and nods.
“Think you can be good for me?” Jamie whispers right into Dani's ear.
The way Dani shivers underneath her gives Jamie goosebumps. The way Dani nods her head and digs nails into the back of her neck makes Jamie shudder.
“Say it.” Jamie rasps against Dani's cheek.
“I... I’ll be good for you.” Dani’s voice breaks into a whisper part way through in response to Jamie tugging her earlobe between her teeth. “Please.”
“Good girl.” Jamie murmurs into Dani's ear.
Jamie takes her time, smiles into Dani's cheek, moves her lips lower down to her neck, collarbone, the curve of her breasts above black lace, her lower stomach. She gives one hard and quick kiss right to Dani's centre but moves to her left thigh immediately.
Dani is gripping the bed sheets, unable to stay still even for a second. Her skin is soft and warm, her breathing fast and audible and her gaze is piercing as she looks down. Jamie nips at the skin on Dani's thigh, some soft and some sharp.
Dani is nodding gently – a silent beg or a wish as Jamie’s lips graze softly between her legs but settle on her other thigh.
“Fuck.” Dani moans impatiently and Jamie slides up her body.
“What did I say?” Jamie asks, holding herself up with both hands beside Dani’s head, her body hovering over her, one knee between her legs with no contact at all.
Dani takes a deep breath in, “Good... Be good. Sorry.”
Jamie hums, lowers so her thigh presses into the apex of Dani's legs. The reaction is immediate, a moan louder than expected for this kind of contact, but it's obvious Dani is on pins, longing to be touched.
“Can I,” Dani starts and pauses, pulls on the bottom of Jamie’s t-shirt, “Can you take this off?”
Jamie nods and kneels up. She pulls her t-shirt over her head and throws it to the floor. Dani drags nails down her stomach, digging in hard and leaving light red marks down Jamie’s abdomen. It stings in the most delightful way, stoking the fire already blazing in her core.
She leans down again, meets Dani's lips in a hard kiss, bites down on her bottom lip, making her eyes roll back. Jamie knows this is all too slow for Dani – painfully slow. She can tell in the way her hands are grasping, pulling and scratching at any part of Jamie she can find.
After a moment of kissing, Dani's impatience becomes glaringly obvious. She pulls on the button and zipper of Jamie’s jeans and slides her hand down over boxer shorts. Jamie gasps when Dani's fingers press gently over her clit and begin moving slowly.
“Christ.” Jamie whispers. If she had more self-control, she might be able to hold up her earlier promise of taking her time, but she needs to taste Dani's skin. She lets herself stay for a moment, lets Dani's hand move before pulling away and getting off the bed entirely.
Dani leans up on her elbows, watches as Jamie shucks boots and jeans off. The way Dani looks at her – not just in the bedroom, but all the time – never fails to leave butterflies in Jamie’s stomach.
“Move up the bed, baby.” Jamie says, kneeling on the bottom of the bed.
Dani pulls herself up so she’s resting her head on the deep pillows and settles. Jamie crawls up the bed toward her, kisses from left knee to upper thigh. Dani's hand is in her hair again, shaking gently. She continues the path up her body until she reaches her mouth, feels Dani smile, feels Dani's teeth graze her tongue, feels her own entire body tingle when Dani cups her face with both hands.
There’s a moment of softness, of tender touches and kisses, but it quickly changes when Dani deepens the kiss and arches her body up into Jamie’s.
“Jamie...” Dani whispers into Jamie’s mouth. It should be followed by a question, a beg, but Dani's eyes speak for her.
Jamie nods, slides her hand down to the zipper between Dani's breasts and pulls it down to her bellybutton. She slides the lingerie down Dani's body and throws it behind her. She allows herself a second to take in Dani's naked body before covering her like a blanket, kissing every part of skin she finds. Her chest, a breast, her ribs, her stomach, a hip bone.
By the time she makes it between Dani's legs, Dani is panting, grinding her hips up and pulling at Jamie's hair. Jamie doesn’t think there’s anything in the world she could deny Dani as she wraps her lips around her clit, as she teases her entrance with one finger, as she feels Dani's legs tremble by her ears. It only takes seconds for Dani to come and only another second for Jamie to push two fingers inside her and fuck her through it.
Dani mutters a string of words with each rough breath; harder, faster, fuck fuck, right there, don’t stop. Jamie continues, pushes her right to the edge, encourages the movements of Dani's hips by pulling down on her waist. She sucks a nipple into her mouth, feels Dani's nails sink into her shoulder blades as the second orgasm hits.
“Again baby,” Jamie rasps into Dani's ear, “again.”
Dani whines a broken ‘yes', uses one hand to grip the headboard behind her, turns her face into her bicep and mutters, “More, I need more.”
Jamie growls, slowly adds a third finger and pushes in deep. She faintly circles her thumb around Dani's clit, just enough to counter the sting she knows Dani will be feeling right now. She can feel her dripping down her wrist as she fucks her, she curls her fingers in a ‘come-hither’ motion until Dani is clenching so hard it almost hurts.
“Fuck, Jamie. Fuck, I’m—”
She doesn’t need to finish, Dani reaches, pulls Jamie in and kisses her as she comes – it’s not so much a kiss as it is a mash of lips and teeth, both hands holding her impossibly close, Dani's body shakes and Jamie is certain she isn’t breathing.
“Breathe, Dani,” Jamie whispers as she slows, guides Dani back to reality, presses little kisses to her cheek, “breathe.”
Dani releases a jittery breath and slumps back into the mattress, completely spent. She opens her eyes and pulls Jamie into a breathless kiss. It’s slow and expressive and it isn’t until Jamie feels wet on her own cheek that she realises Dani is crying. She pulls away quickly and having already removed her fingers, she settles beside Dani and cradles her head into her chest.
“Did I hurt you? I’m so sorry, Dani, I-“
“No, you didn’t.” Dani says, looking up with glittery eyes. “It's just... That was... Intense, in the very best way.” She giggles sleepily and slides one still-trembling leg between Jamie’s, nestles in close.
“Yeah” Jamie says quietly, planting a kiss on the top of her head and stroking her hair.
“I’ve never... Been this happy. You make me so...” Dani trails off, but she doesn’t need to finish – Jamie feels it, she feels the same.
“Me too, baby. Me too.”
“Owen said he'll look after the dogs.” Jamie says, chucking her phone down onto the sofa.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe we’re doing this.” Dani looks nervous, chewing on the end of her sleeve and pacing the living room.
Jamie approaches, stops her in her tracks and pulls Dani's hand away from her mouth tentatively, “Stop that, come on, it’ll be fine.”
“You don’t know my mom, Jamie.” Dani snaps, but her face softens instantly and she whispers, “Sorry, I just...”
“S'okay. Come here.” Jamie pulls her into a hug, which she knows never fails to calm Dani down.
It's been two years since the beginning of the pandemic. Two years and the world has finally returned to normal. They’ve been busy though – Dani has progressed in her school, now heading up a specialised class and Jamie has expanded her shop and hired extra staff to give her more time to focus on the new landscaping side of the business. Now they have some time and are able to, they have booked tickets to America with plans to visit Dani's hometown.
“It'll be okay, you know that right? We're not even staying with her.” Jamie says in a soft voice, stroking Dani's back with one hand.
“I know. She's a little crazy though. I told you how she reacted when she met Steph.” Dani groans into the material of Jamie’s shirt.
Jamie takes a small step back, one hand on the side of Dani's face. “I’m not Steph.”
From the stories Jamie has heard, Steph and her mom clashed from the beginning. It may have been because she was Dani's first proper girlfriend after coming out, or it may have been because Steph was a controlling piece of shit.
“Oh god, what if we run into her?” Dani asks with wide eyes.
“Then we run into her. We’ve been together almost two years baby, she can’t be surprised that you’ve moved on.” It really wouldn’t be the end of the world, Jamie thinks. She and Dani built their relationship during the worst time imaginable. They are solid as a rock.
“It’s not her I’m bothered about, it’s...”
“Your mum, I know.” Jamie takes Dani's hand and walks her to their sofa. They sit, Dani with her legs flung over Jamie’s lap like it’s the most natural way for her to be sat.
“When I left, she called me stupid. Told me I was making a huge mistake. Running away.” Dani rolls her eyes, shrugs her shoulders. “I finally did something for myself and she couldn’t even pretend to be supportive of me.”
Jamie strokes a hand comfortingly up and down Dani's thigh. “Joke’s on her, look at you now. You’re successful and happy. No one can take that away from you.”
“So we're doing this?” Dani takes a deep breath in. “You’re gonna meet my mom and my friends and... Tina.”
“Ah yes, Tina.” Jamie smirks, remembering the time Dani accidentally left her phone on the call whilst they-
Dani swats at her arm playfully, “Don’t!”
Jamie laughs, pulls her in and kisses the end of her nose. “Look, it’ll be fine. And if it isn’t, we’re safe in the hotel room for a week before we leave for Chicago.”
Dani hums, adjusts her body position and sinks into Jamie’s arms. “I like the sound of that better. Let's do that instead.”
Despite the turbulent flight, Jamie made it to Iowa having had only one minor breakdown during take off. Dani held her hand, reminded her to breathe, quietly soothed her until they reached altitude and ordered her two large whiskies in quick succession to calm her nerves.
What feels like a hundred hours later, Jamie leans back against a cold wall outside the airport and lights a cigarette. Dani is already in line to collect the keys for the rent-a-car they’ve hired – she'll drive first because she knows the roads and the way to the hotel they’ve booked.
“All set?” Jamie says when Dani returns.
“Mhmm.” Dani says nervously. They have an entire night by themselves before they’re due to meet Karen Clayton tomorrow, a night for Dani to settle in to being back in her hometown.
“I’m thinking,” Jamie says as Dani pulls out onto the highway, “room service and a nice long bath tonight.”
Dani grins, her eyes glued to the road, “God, yes please.”
Jamie places her hand on Dani's thigh, squeezes gently and let’s her drive the rest of the way in comfortable silence. Jamie imagines Dani is going through a whole range of emotions as she drives and her main focus is to make sure Dani has the best time possible whilst they’re here. Dani is happy and she deserves for her people to be happy for her.
Dani's childhood house is typically “upper class" as they would say in England; detached, a drive way and garage, a front lawn with a white picket fence, three stories at least with a porch that spans the entire width of the house.
“Jesus, you lived here?” Jamie says with wide eyes, looking up at the house.
Dani sighs. “Yep.”
The look on Dani's face is...dread, Jamie thinks. And although she spent the entire night before making Dani feel comfortable enough to sleep, it seems the anxiety has reared it’s ugly head again. Jamie wants to take it away – stamp it out on the ground like a finished cigarette so Dani can enjoy this reunion.
“Danielle?” A voice calls from the porch.
When Jamie looks over she can see Karen standing on the porch with a huge smile plastered on her face. Dani freezes, instantly grabs Jamie’s hand and holds on like it’s the only thing keeping her on the ground.
“S'okay, Poppins. You’ve got this.” Jamie whispers. The small words of encouragement seem to help because Dani's posture relaxes and she smiles back. With her hand still tangled in Jamie’s, she walks them forward and opens the gate.
“Oh, my girl, look at you!” Karen looks excited to see Dani which Jamie fully understands – she sometimes struggles going a full day without seeing her, so she can only imagine what it would be like to not see her for over two years.
“Hi mom.” Dani says with a small smile.
Karen pulls her in to a hug as soon as she reaches the top step of the porch. Dani is reluctant to let go of Jamie's hand at first, but does.
“Okay, mom, you’re gonna suffocate me.” Dani chuckles and Karen steps back, holds her by the shoulders and takes a long, hard look at her daughter.
“You look well. But tired. Coffee?”
Dani nods, “Sure. Um,” she pauses, looks over to Jamie, “mom, this is Jamie.”
‘Meeting the parents‘ is not something Jamie has ever done before, not since... It's not something she’s ever done before. If the movies tell it true, all she needs to do is to be charming, polite, smile and listen. Can’t be that hard, right?
Karen is cold. Warm enough in front of Dani to not look suspicious, but there’s something that Jamie can see in her eyes. Judgement or... Jealousy, maybe.
Still, Jamie smiles, shakes her hand, says “It's good to finally meet you.” And Karen says it back before inviting them in.
The house is entirely open plan. A central hallway opening up to both directions. There’s a living area with sofa's and chairs. A dining area with a grand table and chandelier. A huge piano and a bar. A bar. The staircase leads up to the second floor, which Jamie is sure will be just as posh as the ground floor.
The kitchen is magnificent, shiny counters and flooring, the entire back wall is just one humongous set of folding doors looking out onto a well dressed decking and lawn. This place is bigger and better than any place Jamie has ever seen in real life. She imagines Dani growing up here – wonders what it would have been like, store’s that question away for later.
“This place looks great, mom.” Dani says, taking a seat at the breakfast bar. Jamie sits beside her, takes Dani's hand as soon as it slides into her lap.
“I had someone come in and get it clean and tidy ready for tonight.” Karen says with her back to them a she fiddles with the coffee machine.
“Tonight?” Dani asks.
“Yeah. A little... Get together,” Karen turns, an innocent smile plays on her lips as she makes eye contact with Dani, “to celebrate your being home.”
“Mom.” Dani says through gritted teeth.
“Oh please, Danielle. I’ve been so excited. Everyone is so excited. We haven’t seen you in over two years. You can’t tell me you’re not ready for a big party... Just like the old days.” Karen tilts her head, clamps her hands together as if she’s begging.
Dani squeezes Jamie’s hand, sighs and gives in. “Okay, fine. But nothing too big.”
Karen squeals, jumps up and down on the spot and turns herself back to the coffee machine.
Jamie shakes Dani’s hand lightly to get her attention and mouths ‘you okay?’. Dani just nods vacantly.
Karen does loosen up around Jamie after a little while whilst they’re discussing plants and flowers. She walks Jamie around her garden and points out various new additions – Jamie won’t tell her that the gardener she’s hired is a bag of shit and needs firing, but she does give advice on the vegetable patch at the bottom of the garden.
Dani is nervous the whole time, watching them from the table on the deck, chewing on her nail and tapping her leg repeatedly. As soon as Karen excuses herself to go to the bathroom, Jamie approaches Dani, kneels in front of her and rests her hands on her lap.
She’s about to speak when Dani sits forward, meets Jamie's lips with a rough kiss and wraps one hand into her hair. It could be the nervous energy that’s disguising itself as desire, or, it could just be desire as Dani slips her tongue into Jamie’s mouth, pulls her in closer and moans softly.
It takes all of Jamie’s willpower to pull back – to leave Dani panting and pink cheeked. “What was that for?”
“Wanted to kiss you.” Dani smiles, a genuine smile for the first time since being at Karen’s. “Sorry.”
“Don’t ever apologise for kissing me. I want you to always kiss me.” Jamie lifts Dani's hand to her mouth, kisses her knuckles.
Karen is humming on her way back through the kitchen, so Jamie jumps back up and sits in the chair beside Dani.
“So, Danielle, tell me about school. How’s it going?” Karen says, sitting down and picking up her glass of wine.
Work is something Dani is very passionate about, so it’s no surprise when she starts firing out sentences with pure joy in her voice. Jamie watches her speak and it fills her heart with adoration. She glances over to Karen who is smiling, but looks like she can’t wait to add her two pence in.
“But what will you do from here?” Karen asks when Dani finishes telling her how much she loves her job and the school and the kids.
“What do you mean?”
“Where can you go in this job? What are you hoping to achieve?” Karen’s voice is low and bitter.
“I’m already doing what I want to do, mom.”
Karen sips her wine, opens her mouth to speak but the doorbell rings and she jumps to her feet, disappears inside the house in a flash.
“I can’t win with her.” Dani says quietly, her eyes low and sad and it makes Jamie’s heart ache. There isn’t much Jamie can say, all she wants to do is take Dani in her arms and hold her in a safe space. She doesn’t have chance to say anything anyway because Karen is walking back outside with another woman and a tall man.
“Look who’s here.” Karen says.
Dani turns and looks genuinely pleased to see the people before her. She stands up and immediately hugs the woman for a long few seconds, then she moves to the taller man. The hug is a bit awkward, but it's friendly and they’re both smiling.
“It's so good to see you both again, how have you been?” Dani asks, her eyes swapping between the two people. Mother and son, Jamie thinks, and the son definitely has an eye for Dani.
After niceties are exchanged, Dani puts her hand on Jamie’s shoulder. “This is Jamie, my girlfriend.”
Not enough, Jamie thinks distantly – they're more than that. But then she supposes they can’t go around introducing each other as ‘soulmates’. It's true, but people might actually be sick.
“It's a pleasure, dear. I’m Judy and this is my son, Edmund.”
Oh. Oh. The childhood boyfriend. Jamie smiles, shakes both their hands and offers them a seat which they gratefully take. The next hour flies by with stories of Dani's childhood, of her and Edmund's friendship and then relationship, of Dani's school days and first place volleyball tournament awards.
It could be the wine that Karen forced into Dani's hand, but she has relaxed a little now, leans comfortably into Jamie and they both pretend they can’t see the probing looks that her mother is throwing their way.
More people begin arriving. Distant relatives, old friends, acquaintances Dani knows from around town – most of whom she can’t remember their name. Before they know it, it's a full on party with alcohol and music and a cacophony of voices.
Dani steals Jamie away up the stairs, pulling on her hand and moving so fast that Jamie almost trips up. She laughs as Dani leads them into a room and closes the door behind them.
“Shh.” Dani puts her finger over Jamie’s lips and pushes her back against the door.
It takes a second, but upon looking around the room they’re in, Jamie can tell it’s Dani's old bedroom. It takes less than a second to realise that Dani brought her here for reasons other than reminiscing.
“Quiet, Jay, please.” Dani whispers. She leans in, kisses Jamie’s neck and pulls the neckline of her t-shirt down so she can gently bite collarbone.
“Fuck, baby, is this really a good idea?” Jamie puts her head back on the door as Dani is tugging at her belt buckle.
“Can you give me one good reason why not?”
This is your mother’s house. There’s a party for you downstairs. The house is filled with people who could walk in at any moment.
“Nope.” Jamie breathes and watches as Dani pulls down the zip on Jamie’s jeans and slides them down her legs just a little, then drops to her knees. “Fuck.”
There’s one kiss to Jamie’s hip bone, stomach, over the front of her boxer shorts. Then there’s fingers up the inside of her thigh and—
Karen’s voice from the bottom of the stairs. Dani jumps up, giggles like she has literally just been caught going down on her girlfriend and puts her index finger over her mouth. Shh. When she hears footsteps coming up the laminated stairs, she shouts, “Be right there, mom.”
Jamie fastens her jeans, laughs. “That was close.”
Dani nods, bites down on her bottom lip, her arms wrapped tightly around Jamie’s waist. “Thanks for being here with me. I really don’t think I could have done this alone.”
“You could have, Poppins. You're a lot braver than you think. But I wouldn’t have let you come alone anyway.” Jamie grins. “We'd better go before she comes back.”
“Okay, but later when she is well and truly slaughtered..” Dani wiggles her eyebrows and turns to grab the door handle.
Karen Clayton's friends, Jamie notices, are like something you’d see on an episode of ‘The Real Housewives', none of them seem to like each other, they’re never seen without a glass of champagne in their hands, they’re always whispering. Whilst Dani is talking to one of them, Jamie steals herself a peaceful moment for a cigarette in the garden.
Her attention is caught when the side gate opens and a woman walks in. She’s tall, long black hair with an undercut, arms coveted in tattoos. Jamie nods in her direction – a friendly hello. The woman smiles back at her and walks into the house. Must be one of Dani's friends, Jamie thinks.
When the gate opens for a second time a couple of moments later, this time Jamie recognises the woman. Short, glasses, dark brown hair in a bob. It’s Tina.
“Oh my good god.” Tina says with a big smile. “Jamie Taylor, in the flesh?”
Jamie laughs, puffs the last of her cigarette and puts it out in the ashtray on the garden table. She turns to Tina, holds out her hand. “Guilty.”
Tina shakes her hand, “It's about time! But um, before we continue, did I see..” She looks around, in to the house and then back to Jamie. “Did I just see her come through here?”
Jamie frowns, looks around. “Dunno, who is her?”
“Steph. Dani's ex.” Tina says pointedly.
“Girl with the tattoos?” Jamie finally asks Tina.
Jamie can see Dani standing with the same ‘housewife’ as earlier, laughing. No sign of Steph anywhere. “She came through a couple minutes ago, didn’t see where she went.”
“I can only imagine it was Karen's doing. The woman has always got her big wooden spoon out.”
Dani looks over and even after nearly two years together, her smile never fails to knock the wind right out of Jamie’s lungs. The look of pure excitement on her face when she spots Tina is joyous. She excuses herself and makes her way over. Instantly she wraps her arms around Tina and holds her close.
“It’s so good to see you, T.”
Tina steps back, a smile wide on her mouth. “Dani, you look amazing. Happiness really suits you.”
Dani grabs Jamie’s hand, stands close and nods. “You could have warned me about this.” Dani waves her free hand around, acknowledging the party around them.
Tina shrugs. “What fun would that be?” She laughs. “Um, have you seen Steph? She’s here.”
Dani, as she always does when she’s uncomfortable, tenses. She shakes her head. “No. Why would she be here?”
Jamie strokes her thumb over Dani's knuckles, pulls her a little closer. Before Tina has a chance to respond, her eyes drift over Dani's shoulder, eyebrows raised as if she is indicating someone is there.
Dani turns her head as Steph comes into view, now standing beside Tina. She doesn’t say anything, just squeezes Jamie’s hand harder.
“Can we talk?” Steph says, her gaze fixed on Dani only.
“Sure,” Dani says, unmoving, “what?”
“Can we go somewhere,” Steph’s eyes drop to Dani's side where she’s holding Jamie’s hand and then back up, “quiet?”
Dani shakes her head, “No. Anything you have to say can be said here.”
The reaction from both Steph and Tina is much the same. Surprise. Jamie smirks, bites the inside of her lip to keep it from being too obvious and thinks, that's my Dani.
Steph shuffles awkwardly on the spot. “Okay. I just wanted to apologise for... Well, you know.”
Dani nods, gives a tight mouthed smile that Jamie recognises as her ‘I'm just amusing you' smile. “Mhmm, thanks. It's all in the past. I’ve moved on.”
Tina's mouth is well and truly hanging open by this point and Jamie can only imagine it's because Dani is standing her ground. Steph, equally as shocked, nods slowly, smiles and walks away.
“Oh my god, Dani!” Tina exclaims in a hushed voice with a grin. She says no more on the matter and Dani relaxes immediately.
The party continues, there are more guests, more introductions. Drinks, lots of drinks. Tina doesn’t leave Jamie’s side when Dani is off making small talk with distant family members. It seems this has become an excuse for people to really get together for the first time since the pandemic ended.
It's fun, Jamie thinks. She’s enjoying watching Dani on her home turf, laughing with friends and filling Jamie in on why there’s an inside joke about Tina's dad and another of their friends.
The sun has finally set. There’s a fire pit, a boom box, a group of people sat around telling stories. And Jamie, sat on the ground with Dani by her side, curled into her chest, gently shivering.
“Want a coat or something?” Jamie asks into Dani's hair, leaving a little kiss there.
“No thanks, this is perfect.” Dani looks up, the orange of the fire reflecting in her eyes and off her face makes Jamie’s heart clench and hold her tighter. “Sorry I’ve been leaving you on your own so much today.”
“No need, I don’t mind. Had a good day?”
“Not over yet, Poppins.”
“What's a Poppins?” Karen cuts in from over the fire, slurring her words a little.
Dani sits up straight, tucks her knees into her chest. It’s not the first time Jamie has seen her do something like this when her mother speaks – clenched fists, a flinch, tense posture – as if she’s trying to protect herself. Jamie puts her arm around Dani's back and takes the reign.
“It’s a nickname. Like Mary Poppins. ‘Cause she’s a teacher and,” Jamie pauses, looks at Dani as she says, “because she’s practically perfect.”
Karen scoffs, other people ‘aww', but Karen scoffs. Jamie ignores it, gives Dani a small kiss on the shoulder and sits back against the wall, accepting Dani back into her arms.
An hour later and having fallen victim to Tina's drinking game, Dani is merrily on her way to being drunk. A group of them sit around a table and Jamie stays when Dani is called away by her now fully inebriated mother.
Dani’s group of friends have accepted Jamie with open arms, even Edmund, who still looks at Dani all doe eyed – not that she can blame him. They listen as she talks about England, accepts invitations to come back and stay around Christmas time, extends invites for them to come and stay with her and Dani.
It took just a whisper and a hidden bite on Jamie’s earlobe for her to follow Dani up the stairs and into her bedroom. Dani, giggling as she closes the door behind them, turns the lock that Jamie definitely didn’t notice was there earlier. She sits on the bed and pulls Jamie by the hand down on top of her.
“Knew the tequila was a good idea.” Jamie jokes, sliding a hand up Dani's dress immediately. Usually she wouldn’t be so forward, but she knows why they’re here and she knows that if this is happening it needs to be quick and dirty.
“Mmhmm, even better idea for you to—fuck!” Dani moans when she feels Jamie’s hand slip under her underwear.
“Jesus,” Jamie mutters as she moves her fingers in small circles around Dani's clit, “you better be quiet.”
“Can’t help it. You make me—” Jamie cuts her off by kissing her at the exact moment she pushes one finger deep inside, gasping as she feels how ready Dani is.
“You’re gonna have to keep it down baby. Can you do that?” Dani is nodding into Jamie’s neck, whimpering softly as Jamie’s finger moves slowly out and then in again. “Pull these down for me, yeah?” Jamie says, pulling back a bit on the fabric with her hand.
Dani slides her underwear down but Jamie doesn’t give her chance to take them completely off before she adjusts the position of her hand and pushes her finger hard and deep.
“Fuck, Jamie, I... Please, I need to...” Dani's hands are soft on the side of Jamie's face. Her eyes dark and peaceful and her voice low and quiet.
Jamie doesn’t respond, she just leans in and kisses her. She strokes her tongue across Dani's lips and then into her mouth, drinks in the way she moans when she adds another finger and curls. Dani's tongue tastes like tequila and champagne and Jamie gets lost in it for a flash before Dani whines too loudly.
“Use your hand.” Jamie sighs against Dani's mouth. Dani loves a challenge, Jamie knows that, but she has very little self control when it comes to sex after she’s had a drink – which only adds to the excitement, to be fair. Dani puts one hand over her mouth and uses the other to pull on Jamie's t-shirt.
She’s slow and sensitive, fingers pushing in deep and then out, a thumb circling Dani's clit just once every time but never enough pressure to send her too far. Her lips gently graze the skin on Dani's neck; small kisses, bites, licks. She considers taking her time, continuing like this until Dani is begging for more. She looks up into Dani's eyes, she has to know what she wants – what she needs. She doesn’t need to ask, Dani can see the question in her eyes. She whispers, “Down. Go down on me, please, I need to feel your mouth.”
Finally, Jamie slips Dani's underwear off and puts them into the back pocket of her jeans. She slowly spreads Dani's legs, kisses up the inside of her thigh and re inserts her fingers into dripping wet arousal. Her tongue connects with Dani's clit with the softest of touch.
She lifts her eyes to see that Dani still has a hand over her mouth, her head back into the mattress, her body winding slowly, chest heaving with each heavy breath. Her free hand flies into Jamie’s hair, pulls when Jamie’s tongue flattens hard against her clit and swipes up. Her fingers curl once, twice and Dani makes a strained noise against her palm, says something that sounds like ‘please don’t stop’.
Jamie smiles against her, continues a steady rhythm and digs the fingers on her free hand into Dani's hip under her dress. With a last wave of curl-and-lick combination, Dani moves her hand from her mouth and mutters ‘kiss me' as she comes.
Jamie kisses her; with fingers still buried inside, the taste of Dani on her lips and she holds her as her body gently twitches.
After a moment of lazy kisses and catching of breath, they get up. “Oops, better not forget these.” Jamie says, pulling Dani's underwear from her back pocket and holding them out to her.
Dani laughs, disappears into the adjoining bathroom, leaving Jamie to take a quick look around the bedroom. The walls are covered in posters of mostly movie and book covers. Apart from an N-Sync poster and to Jamie’s pleasant surprise, a Spice Girls poster. There are polaroid pictures of Dani and her friends stuck around a mirror and string lights above the bed.
Dani comes out of the bathroom and swaps places with Jamie. When they’re both ready, Dani opens the bedroom door and walks out first. Jamie follows, looking down and straightening the belt buckle on her jeans. When she looks back up, she damn near walks into the back of Dani.
“Wh-“ Jamie stops when she sees that Tina is stood there, arms folded across her chest and leaning back against the bannister, “oh shit.”
Tina takes a small step forward and then bends over in laughter. She straightens herself up after a moment, takes Dani's hand and pulls her down the stairs. “Caught the fuckin' live show this time. You need to tell me how she does that.”
The party is finally winding down – people bid their farewells, hug, exchange niceties and how they ‘won’t leave it so long next time'. Jamie is stone cold sober, decided early in the day that she wouldn’t drink so that she can drive them back to the hotel. It's not a bad thing, since she loves the way Dani leans further into her and kisses her every chance she gets when she’s drunk.
Tina leaves once they’ve arranged to meet for coffee in a couple of days. Judy invites them over for dinner one night, Edmund holds Dani close to his chest and whispers something into her hair. And when Dani excuses herself to go to the bathroom, Jamie is left on her own with a very drunk, swaying Mrs Clayton.
“You’re the reason she won’t come home, you know.” Karen says after pounding the remainder of her wine.
Jamie looks over the breakfast bar at her, pretends she didn’t hear. “Sorry, what?”
“Danielle won’t come home because she won’t leave you.”
“I don’t think that’s true, Karen. Besides, I wouldn’t hesitate to follow Dani anywhere she wants to go.”
Karen scoffs again and this time Jamie can’t ignore it. She straightens her back and narrows her eyes, “What is that? Why do you do that?”
Karen frowns, shrugs her shoulders dramatically the way drunk people do. “Do what?”
“Belittle anything positive that I say about Dani. Or anything positive she says about herself, even.” She sounds angry, she knows she does, but she’s had just about enough of Karen making her own daughter out to be anything less than incredible. “Dani is literally the best thing that’s ever happened to me. She's kind and sweet and clever and-“ She stops herself speaking to smile for just a second, “and she’s beautiful and funny. I feel bad for you, Karen, that you can’t seem to see the same things I do. And that every single other person who has been in this house today does.”
Karen looks shocked, her mouth slightly open. Jamie is smart enough to know her words won’t sink in, but if she’s gotten anything across, it's how glaringly obvious it is that she’s head over heels in love with Dani Clayton.
Jamie stands up, grabs her jacket from the hook behind the kitchen door. “Thanks, for a lovely day. Dani really enjoyed herself and it was a pleasure to watch.” She walks down the hallway to wait by the door for Dani, but doesn’t have to wait long because Dani is there, sitting on the bottom step of the staircase, looking up at her.
Jamie isn’t sure if she stepped over the mark, of course she hadn’t meant for Dani to hear any of that, but it's clear from the way Dani is looking at her all teary-eyed that she did.
“Dani, I’m sorry, I d—” Jamie is cut off by Dani throwing herself into her arms and kissing her hard on the lips. Jamie embraces her, breathes a sigh of relief and pulls back. “You okay?”
“No one has ever... Stood up for me to her before.”
Jamie smiles, shrugs her shoulders like it was no big deal and takes her hand. “C'mon, lets go.”
Surprisingly, Karen hasn’t mentioned the conversation-slash-argument between her and Jamie the other night, instead she is sat at a table in a restaurant laughing with Judy and Dani. Jamie isn’t sure if it's because she was plastered and might not remember it, or if she heard it – like, really heard it. Either way, Dani looks happy so that’s what matters.
The coffee Date with Tina the day after turns into an all day event, they even end up changing and going out to a nightclub with her and some other friends. Dani, the whole time checks on Jamie, makes sure she is comfortable and is having a good time. Jamie nods, smiles, says yes. What she won’t say is that it doesn’t matter where they are or what they’re doing, as long as she’s with Dani, she is home.
Tina drags Jamie outside the club by her hand, leaving Dani inside with Sophie and Edmund.
“Can I get a smoke off you, please?” Tina asks, brows raised expectantly.
Jamie nods, pulls the packet from her pocket and takes two out. After lighting them, Tina leans back against a wall, eyes Jamie silently for a long moment. Jamie is stumped, she doesn’t know Tina well enough to be able to read her expression.
“What?” Jamie finally asks.
“I've known Dani for...god, years. I’ve never seen her this happy. I’ve never seen her so at ease and comfortable around a single other person. Even me.” She drags on her cigarette, puffs the smoke out of one side of her mouth.
“Is this the best friend talk?” Jamie smirks. “The one where you tell me that if I hurt her, you’ll find me and kill me?”
“Oh please, I’m not Liam Neeson,” Tina laughs, “no, this isn’t that. I’m simply pointing it out because... Dani doesn’t have anyone over there apart from you and your – from what she tells me – lovely friends. So, in case you ever wondered, I wanted you to know.”
“Can I tell you something?” Jamie asks quietly and waits for Tina to nod. She groans, because what she’s about to say has been kept a secret for months, even from Owen. “I’m... Uh, next week, in Chicago... I’m gonna ask her to marry me.”
The cigarette in Tina’s hand drops from between her fingers to the ground and she gasps. “You... For real? Don’t lie to me.”
“Not lying. Got the ring.”
“Oh my god.”
“You can’t tell her.”
“Oh my fucking god.”
“Tina, I’m serious.”
Not a second later, Tina wraps her arms around Jamie’s neck and pulls her into a cuddle. “I’m so happy for you.”
“She’s gotta say yes yet.” Jamie chuckles nervously.
“She will.” Tina says as she takes a step back and steals Jamie’s cigarette from her hand, taking a long drag.
“Do you think so?” Jamie asks. She’s nervous about it, not because she doubts anything, but because this is the biggest thing she’s ever done. Bigger than jail. Bigger than adopting a dog. Bigger than starting her own business.
“Of course. Have you seen the way she looks at you?” Tina rolls her eyes, “God, what I would give to have someone look at me the way you guys look at each other.”
America, Jamie decides, is beautiful. She definitely wants to come back. To travel. To hire a truck and drive from New York to California with no time limit. On this trip, they chose Chicago because it's only a 3 and a half hour drive from Iowa and Dani loves it there.
Jamie is driving, looking over at Dani every safe chance she gets, listening to her natter on excitedly about pizza of all things.
“I'm not kidding, Jamie, the deep dish is out of this world. I mean... you might die, it’s that good.” Jamie looks over in time to see Dani's face scrunch and her body twist on the seat to face her. “Please don’t, I love you too much.”
See, Jamie doesn’t really have a plan to propose. No, she bought a ring and told herself that when the time is right, she’ll know. Not so surprisingly though, Jamie has thought the time has been right every single day since buying it.
So no, she doesn’t really have a plan except that she thought Chicago would be perfect. What she does know is that she doesn’t want to make it a big deal in a fancy restaurant or at a Cubs game in front of people – Dani would hate that.
It has to be private. Personal. Just the two of them.
And right now, on the open road, surrounded by fields of green and the quiet hum of the radio, it couldn’t be more personal. And that feeling of now, the time is now, hits her like a fucking truck.
She pulls off the highway at the upcoming exit in the middle of fuck-knows-where.
“Um, where are you going?” Dani asks, confused, looking out of the window.
Jamie doesn’t answer. She can’t answer. Her heart is all the way up in her throat and she feels as though she might actually faint. She pulls up as soon as she can down a little road. Dani notices the expression on her face and instantly puts her hand on Jamie’s thigh.
“Are you feeling sick? I can take over, I don’t mind, just let me—"
“Dani.” Jamie cuts her off, takes Dani's hand after it's unclipped her seat belt and holds.
“Oh god. Are you... Have I done something?” Dani's face drops and she looks worried. Jamie realises that her sudden change of direction, her silence and mystery has given Dani the opposite impression.
“No! No, fuck no, baby.” She chuckles in an attempt to reassure Dani. “Can we... Can we get out for a minute?”
Dani nods slowly in response and gets out of her side of the car. Jamie follows along and walks around the car to Dani. She takes a deep breath, tucks her shaking hands into the pockets of her jeans and leans her hip against the car. Dani is looking at her with concerned eyes, standing just inches away.
“I just.. I’ve got a problem.” Jamie says. “Or rather, we've got a problem, Poppins.”
Dani, with her wide, beautiful eyes, smiles a tight lipped smile and whispers, “Oh no.”
“You see... I’m not sick of ya. At all.” Jamie says, matter-of-fact, and finds herself wishing she had rehearsed what the hell she was going to say months ago. “When I think about the future... There’s no version of my life where I don’t see you. Us. And I’ve no idea where we might end up, but I also don’t care... As long as I’m with you.” Her voice is shaky and she wonders if Dani notices, wonders if it's obvious.
“I um... I suppose this isn’t,” Jamie pauses, looks around them at this random spot just outside of Iowa, surrounded by fields and trees, and then back to Dani, “the perfect place, but I swear I’m gonna lose my mind completely if I wait any longer.”
Dani tilts her head, raises an eyebrow just slightly and takes a long, deep breath in. If she knows what’s about to happen, she doesn’t give it away.
Jamie reaches into the chest pocket on her shirt and pulls out a ring. It’s a Claddagh, gold. It shimmers in the reflection of the sun and in the reflection of Dani's eyes as she stares at it.
“Dani... I—I love you, so much. And I want to spend the rest of my life with you... If you’ll have me.” She leans up off the car, takes a small step to bridge the gap between her and Dani. “Will you marry me, Dani?”
“Oh my god.” Dani sighs, her eyes lifting to meet Jamie’s. “Yes! Yes of course I will.” The ring stays pressed between Jamie’s thumb and index finger whilst Dani surges forward to meet Jamie’s lips in a kiss.
Since they’re both smiling so erratically, kissing proves difficult, so Jamie pulls away and holds out the ring to Dani, who takes it and slides it onto the ring finger on her left hand. “It's beautiful, Jamie.”
Jamie grins, runs her thumb over the ring on Dani's hand and breathes out a sigh. “I can’t believe I did this surrounded by fields of fucking corn.” She laughs.
“It's perfect.” Dani says, her voice soft – as soft as the hand she places on the side of Jamie’s face. The excitement of the moment is replaced with a quiet, peaceful energy when Dani presses her forehead against Jamie’s and sighs happily.
Life – more specifically, life with Dani, Jamie thinks as she’s settling back into the drivers seat to continue their journey to Chicago, is fucking amazing.