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(let's be) Alone Together

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-

 

It's been three weeks since the announcement. Full national lockdown.

 

Don't meet anyone outside your household; suits Jamie, really - she can count the number of people she chooses to spend her time with on one hand. 

 

Don't go to work unless you're a key worker; okay, this is a little less exciting since her flower shop is her entire life, but safety first.

 

Don't leave your home unless for food or exercise; this particular rule fits nicely to be honest, she will take Jax, her 3 year old Springer Spaniel, out to the park every day, but otherwise, staying in the comfort of her little flat sounds lovely. 

 

Jax is the happiest he's ever been, having Jamie at home 24 hours a day to follow around, nuzzle into whenever she sits with her feet up on the sofa and he somehow manages to steal all the covers during the night. It's not a regular occurrence, letting him sleep in the bed with her, but she has become just as dependant on him as he has on her these last few weeks.

 

"Come on, boy." Jamie waves the lead at him and strokes the tuft of hair atop his head. His tail wags and he jumps excitedly up at her. 

 

With the lead secured, they walk the hall and down the one flight of stairs to the exit door. 

 

The street is eerily quiet, shutters down on all but two shops. One pharmacy and one convenience store. Cars are parked on both sides of the road, unmoved for days. At least people are following the rules. 

 

She passes 'A Batter Place', her best friend Owen's restaurant, where the shutters are also closed. She looks up to the balcony above just in case he is there. Occasionally he will be and they'll have a quick chat, but otherwise their conversations are had entirely over the phone. 

 

The park is just round the corner. As soon as they pass through the gates, Jamie takes the lead off an all too eager Jax and let's him run. He's a good boy, doesn't stray too far and constantly checks behind him to make sure Jamie is still in sight. 

 

There's only them, an old couple with a small yappy dog and a jogger doing laps of the park. It's a huge space, with paths breaking up three fields, newly planted trees, bushes lining the outskirts and a large willow tree standing central in one of the fields. 

 

"Jax, fetch!" Jamie throws the tennis ball she hid in her pocket and he sprints off towards it. 

 

20 minutes of launching a ball as far as possible takes it's toll. Jax is fast and very impatient, barks at her every time she refuses to throw it. 

 

"Ya little shit, one more." She laughs and throws the ball. 

 

It's become almost normal now, talking to her dog. There's been very little face to face human interaction; besides the occasional balcony-to-street chat with Owen and the forced hello and goodbye from the shop keeper. 

 

Her phone, like the rest of Britain, has also become her best friend. She speaks to Owen and Hannah at least once a day, Henry every other day to see how the kids are coping.

 

A couple of times a week, she checks on her shop, makes sure the plants are surviving, drops a bouquet of flowers in the foyer of the nursing home in town, all with her dog by her side.

 

Jax hasn't come back with the ball this time and appears to have disappeared down a path and around a corner.

 

"Jax!" Jamie shouts and then whistles to try to get his attention. She picks up her pace towards where she last saw him and hears him bark. He comes running back round the corner just a moment later with no ball in his mouth, but he is being followed by another dog. The unknown canine has the tennis ball in it's mouth, hot on Jax's tail. 

 

"Fuck." Jamie whispers, apprehensive.

 

Jax stops when he reaches her and barks. The other dog stops too, sits and drops the ball at Jamie's feet. 

 

"Who's ya friend, kid?" Jamie crouches, holds out her hand to the black and white Border Collie and waits as it sniffs her. There's a purple collar with a tag, so definitely not a stray. Jamie leans in closer, strokes the dog and takes a quick look at the tag on the collar. 

 

"Luna." Jamie says, smiles at the pretty name and strokes her head. "Where's your human, eh, Luna?" She strokes her again and is met with a lick to the hand. 

 

She looks up when she hears a distant yell and sees someone running around the corner. Luna looks back and Jamie assumes this is her owner. A blonde woman, who puts a hand over her chest as soon as she sees her dog. Relief, Jamie thinks.

 

Jamie picks up the ball, stands up straight and walks towards the young woman, the two dogs following by her side eying the yellow felt in her hand.

 

"Take it she's yours?" Jamie asks, stopping at a safe distance away and nodding down at Luna.

 

The woman sighs, smiles a little and nods. "Yeah. I'm so sorry, she never runs off like that." 

 

The first thing Jamie notices is that she is American. Closely followed by the fact she is absolutely drop dead gorgeous. 

 

"S'alright, think she just wanted to play." Jamie holds up the ball and both dogs bark at her. "Do you mind if I.." Jamie points to one side, asking if it's okay that she throw it for the dogs. 

 

The woman shakes her head and smiles. Jamie turns, throws the ball hard and the dogs dart after it. 

 

"Some throw." The woman says with a giggle. 

 

Jamie turns to face her, "Yeah, had enough practice the past few weeks." 

 

The blonde smiles, "I'm Dani." 

 

"Jamie." She smiles, "I'd uh, shake your hand but, well, yanno." 

 

Dani laughs and looks down at the ground briefly to stop herself from staring.

 

"How have you been coping?" It sounds like a stupid question when Jamie asks it and she cringes at herself.

 

"Okay, I guess. It's a little strange. I've not really been in England all that long." Dani answers and folds her arms across her torso.

 

The dogs run back, this time Jax drops the ball at Jamie's feet. She picks it up and throws it again then turns back to Dani. 

 

"No? That must be odd, how long have you been here?"

 

"It is, but it's fine. I've been here for six months now, just glad I have Luna to keep me company. What about you?"

 

"Got Jax. Who I talk to like he is human and understands what I'm saying." Jamie laughs. 

 

"Yeah, I do that too." Dani says, looking over at Luna.

 

"I take it you're on furlough then?" Jamie asks after a moment. 

 

"Yeah, but there's every chance I'll be called in if I'm needed. They just kept a few teachers working, what with only some kids still going to school." 

 

Jamie nods, throws the ball again when it's dropped at her feet. She doesn't see which one it was this time, too busy paying attention to Dani. 

 

"Are you still working or?" Dani hugs her arms into herself tighter. 

 

"I own the florist in town, so no, I've had to close up unfortunately."

 

"On the high street? I've passed that place, it looks lovely." Dani says with a toothy smile. 

 

"Well thank you. You'll have to stop by when all this is over, I'll put together my best bouquet for ya." Jamie gives a lopsided smile and is pleased when Dani nods in approval. 

 

"It was nice to meet you, Jamie. I better get this one back. Maybe I'll see you around?" 

 

It sounds like a question when Dani says it so Jamie nods, "Yeah, that would be great. Take care, yeah?" 

 

Dani clicks her fingers at her side and Luna comes running. She bends down a little, strokes Luna's head and gives her a little treat from her pocket. She clips the lead onto the collar and stands. She smiles at Jamie, head tilted just a little and then turns and walks away.

 

Jamie watches for a moment, then turns back to Jax, who is looking up at her, panting. "When I said fetch, I didn't mean for you to bring back a pretty lady." She laughs and he barks and spins on the spot. Jamie clips his lead back on and walks towards the gates.

 

They'll be back later in the day, usually take a walk down to the canal on the other side of the park. They do not go near the water though - Jax likes the ducks, but the ducks do not like Jax. 

 

Back in the flat, Jamie fills the water bowl up for Jax and puts it on the floor for him, strokes his back as he drinks. She flicks the kettle on and takes her phone out. It's gone lunch time on a Monday, which means Flora will be starting a video call any minute. She manages to make a cup of tea and settle on the sofa with Jax at her side before Henry's name pops up on the screen.

 

"Hey!" Jamie smiles at the screen when she sees Flora's face pop up. 

 

"Hi Jamie, where is Jax?" Flora looks as though she is trying to search her screen for him.

 

"Nice to see you too, gremlin'." She tilts the phone down to Jax, "Here he is." 

 

"Awwww! I miss him. I do wish I could see him properly again." 

 

Jamie lifts the phone back up and sees Flora's sad face, "Soon, you'll see him again soon. What have you been up to?" 

 

"Uncle Henry has been colouring in with us today. He said we get to hang the pictures in our bedrooms." Flora is beaming, leaning against the table infront of her. Henry got a phone holder for these times because Flora cannot keep still.

 

"That sounds lovely. How is Miles?" 

 

"Miles is just perfectly splendid. He is outside playing with a football. Have you been to the park today?"

 

"I have, and Jax even made a new friend." 

 

Flora gasps, "He did? Oh please tell me everything." 

 

"She stole his ball," Jamie grins, "then they played together."

 

"What is her name?" Flora looks adorable, leaning on one hand, fully invested in the story. 

 

"She is called Luna."

 

"How strange, Miss Clayton has a doggy called Luna and she is beautiful. One day she brought her to school and let all of us stroke her."

 

Jamie raises an eyebrow. A happy coincidence? Although Dani did say that she is a teacher. "Maybe it's the same dog, Flora." 

 

"I have to go now, but we will speak soon. Love you and Jax!" Flora blows a kiss to the camera and Jamie waves just in time, before the screen goes blank. 

 

Jamie let's Jax rest his head on her lap and strokes his head. He sighs and wags his tail lazily against the back of the sofa. 

 

She picks up her cup of tea and sips. Her fingers tap on the front of her phone nervously and she wonders if Dani actually is Flora's school teacher, Miss Clayton. She will not check Facebook, she absolutely will not. 

 

The rest of the day goes as most others do. She makes dinner using a recipe that Owen has sent, talks to him on the phone in the evening for half an hour. It's surprising how much they have to talk about even though there is absolutely nothing going on in their lives. He fawns over the manager of his restaurant, Hannah, who he hasn't seen since he was forced to close. 

 

"She's the beef to my stroganoff." Is one of Jamie's favourite ways he has described her. 

 

She knows Hannah, of course, they're all really close friends. It's no secret to anyone but Owen and Hannah that they're head over heels in love with eachother, but all of Jamie's attempts to bring them together have failed thus far.

 

Jamie takes Jax out again, showers, watches an episode of House on telly, sits in the garden on the ground floor with a cigarette and watches as Jax sniffs every eye level plant and shrub.

 

Then she sleeps. 

 

Most nights are restless, some nights her dreams are plagued with childhood memories that she manages to forget when conscious, but that torture her whilst she is asleep.

 

The only thing she remembers about last nights dreams though, are flashes of blonde hair, blue eyes and a bright white smile.

 

-

 

The news in the morning only spews more terrifying statistics so she turns the TV off and groans into her pillow. Jax rests his head right beside her, sighs as if he is copying her and it makes her laugh. 

 

"Come on, boy." 

 

She drags herself out of bed, pushes her hair back with a bandana, slips on some socks and trainers and walks out to the living room. Jax follows behind her. The first thing she does every morning is take him down to the garden, has a cigarette, checks the progress of the vegetable patch and sits peacefully on an iron chair.

 

Being a gardener certainly has it's advantages. The other residents of the building love it because Jamie transformed their large communal area into somewhere that is nice to spend time. Rose bushes, Peonies, Lavender and Spiraea to name a few. Benches and floor lights and even a small water feature in one corner. 

 

Back upstairs, she sets about her day. Showers, brushes her teeth, feeds them both and gets dressed. Having Jax means that she at least makes the effort of putting clothes on every day and gets some exercise in. When she is ready, she walks to the park with Jax. Briefly, she wonders if she will run into Dani again, then she wonders if she should mention Flora. Quickly decides against that one, doesn't want to sound creepy.

 

It takes one glance to notice that she is there, sitting on a bench watching as Luna runs in circles around the park. Jax pulls the lead a little and Jamie laughs and unclips him. He runs off in Luna's direction the second he is free. 

 

Dani looks over to Jamie now, having noticed there's another dog. She smiles her big smile and gives a small wave. Jamie approaches her, keeping two metres distance.

 

"Mornin', how you doing?" Jamie asks. 

 

Dani sighs, nods her head slowly and looks down at the ground, "I feel a little," her smile simmers down to just a slight upturn of her lips on either side, "shitty, to be honest."

 

Jamie resists the urge to sit down beside her. "Yeah, I get like that sometimes, too. It's tough, not being allowed to see anyone or do anything we would normally do," Dani looks up at her now, "but it'll get better." She pauses, and speaks again to try to get the message firmly across, "It will." 

 

Dani gives a closed mouth smile, "Thank you, I think I needed to hear that." 

 

Jax comes running over and sits in front of Dani with his head tilted. His tongue hangs out of the side of his mouth and he waits patiently. 

 

"What a gorgeous dog. What's he.. or she, called?" Dani asks, holding her hand out to Jax. 

 

Jamie chuckles, "Jax. And he's a cheeky little shite, he wants whatever treats you have in your pocket." 

 

Dani looks over at Jamie with a smile, "Is it okay that I.." she says whilst putting her other hand in her coat pocket.

 

Jamie nods and watches as Dani takes a treat out of her pocket and holds it out for Jax. He takes it gently and spins around, a little trick Jamie taught him as a way of saying thanks. Although, the more he does it the more he gets, so he has probably caught onto that too. 

 

Dani cradles his face in both her hands and speaks unintelligibly to him, in that voice all people use whenever they're talking to dogs. Or babies. Jamie smiles cheerily because it's so adorable to see. Luna has arrived in front of Dani now, pawing her for attention.

 

"Oop, is someone jealous?" Dani giggles and hands her own dog a treat too. The two go running off together and Dani watches them. "He's lovely, you seem to have him well trained." 

 

"I do my best. He goes everywhere with me so he's a bit of a clingy fucker, but I love him." Jamie looks at Dani, "Did you bring Luna with you from the States?"

 

"God, yeah. I wasn't about to leave her with my mother." Dani laughs and shakes her head. 

 

"How are your family coping with everything over there?" Jamie asks and whistles for Jax. When he turns, she throws the ball across in his direction. 

 

"Okay, I think. I don't really speak to them much." Dani frowns a little. "I just keep up to date with how they're doing through Facebook." 

 

Jamie notices the look on her face and regrets asking, it's clearly a sticky situation for Dani. "Shit, sorry Dani."

 

"No, no it's fine." She smiles reassuringly, "It's better that I'm here. I really would rather be alone. I wasn't aware that praying for some alone time would mean total world isolation though." Dani gives a dry laugh and shrugs her shoulders. 

 

"Oh, so we have you to blame then?" Jamie says with a smirk, "suppose I'll let you off."

 

Dani laughs and stands up when Luna drops the ball at her feet. She picks it up and throws it. Jamie watches as she bites her lip in concentration. 

 

"Impressive." Jamie laughs, "what have you been doing with your alone time so far then?" 

 

"Netflix," Dani says, wiping her hands on her coat, "a lot of Netflix. What about you?"

 

"Pretty much the same thing. Although I'm working my way through House at the moment." 

 

"I've not seen that. Is it good?" 

 

"Well, if you enjoy an American medial drama and dry, sarcastic British humour, it's definitely worth a watch. I can lend you the DVDs if you want?" 

 

She kicks herself internally. Who the fuck offers to lend DVDs anymore? Before she can think of a follow up comment, Dani is nodding at her. 

 

"Yeah, I'd like that. Thanks." 

 

Jamie clears her throat, "Okay," she looks over at the dogs, "they seem to get along." 

 

Dani grins and sits back down on the bench, "Yeah, we haven't really socialised much since getting to England so it's nice."

 

The thought of Dani not having many friends in a new and strange country in the middle of a global pandemic really tugs at Jamie's heart strings.

 

"Well, I bring Jax here every day and Luna is always welcome to join." She smiles, a little shy. It's the first time she's ever used her dog as an invitation to spend time with a woman - an excuse, really, because she really would like to see more of Dani.

 

Dani smiles, a tender smile. "I think she'd like that." 

 

Jamie looks away, because looking at Dani makes her stomach do a strange flip and forces her heart to beat in overtime. She watches Jax come running back over and lie on his stomach, a tell tale sign that he has worn himself out and that he is in need of a good drink of water. 

 

"Ya ready to go, boy?" Jamie crouches down and clips his lead on, then looks up at Dani. "Same time tomorrow?" 

 

"Tomorrow." Dani nods. 

 

-

Chapter Text

Jamie wakes up feeling rather giddy; there were no dreams last night, no good or bad, just heavy and welcome sleep that she feels deep in her muscles. Jax is beside her, still asleep, so she steals the time to shower and brush her teeth before Jax demands a trip to the garden and to be fed.

 

At nearly 11, she puts her collection of House DVD's into a bag, all but the 8th one that she started last night, and heads to the door. Jax comes running and she puts on his lead. 

 

"Shall we go see your friend, eh?" She asks. Jax barks at her in response. 

 

They leave and walk their usual route down the street. Owen is hanging over his balcony this morning, cradling a cup of tea. 

 

"Owen!" Jamie shouts, makes him jump, which in turn causes his tea to spill down onto the street. 

 

"Christ, Jamie! I was enjoying that!" 

 

Jamie laughs and pulls Jax back so he doesn't decide to lick the newly formed puddle on the floor. "Sorry mate, y’alright?" 

 

"Bored out of my skull, got a house full of blueberry muffins up here. I was gonna drop some at your door later," he looks suspiciously at the bag in her hand, "what you got there?" 

 

Jamie looks at the bag in her hand and shrugs, "Just some DVD's," she looks back up to Owen who is smirking now, "lending 'em to someone." 

 

"Hannah?" 

 

"No, Owen, if it was Hannah I would have said I was lending them to Hannah." She smirks, "You don't know her, she's a fellow dog walker." 

 

Owen narrows his eyes, sighs heavily and leans on the rail with his elbows. "Need to get myself a damn dog." 

 

"Yeah right," Jamie takes a few steps forwards, being led by Jax, "gotta go, looking forward to those muffins. See you later." 

 

"See ya!" He shouts after her.

 

She is pleased Owen didn't press on the topic of her lending something to a stranger she met on the park, but he will stew on it and will grill her later on the phone, no doubt about it.

 

On the park, she unclips Jax's lead and let's him run. She emerges from the path onto one of the fields to see Dani sitting on the same bench as the day before. 

 

Jax reaches her before Jamie does, jumping up at her and showering her with kisses. 

 

"Oi, stop terrorising the innocent American!" Jamie shouts, ultimately getting Dani's attention. 

 

Dani just laughs, stands up and gives him a treat from her pocket. She turns to Jamie with a smile, "God, it's good to see you."

 

"And I come bearing gifts," Jamie grins and puts the bag on the bench, "as promised." 

 

"Thank you, think I'll start that later." Dani waits until Jamie steps back to pick up the bag. "Fancy a walk?" 

 

Jamie looks around, there's hardly anyone on the park again so there's plenty of room to walk together at a safe distance. 

 

"Sure. You can tell me all about your evening." 

 

They set off walking side by side down a path and Jamie throws the ball across the field. 

 

"Not much to tell, to be honest, I was in bed by nine because I was so bored," Dani laughs, "It's really starting to get lonely now."

 

Jamie looks at her as they walk. She feels bad and wants to ask if she can do anything to help, but she's only met Dani three times now, so doesn't want to come on too strong. It's enough time for Jamie to know she absolutely wants to continue spending time with her though.

 

In fact, she thinks Dani is pretty bloody fantastic; From her endearing accent, the dimples on her cheeks when she smiles in a certain way, the way the sunlight hits her blue eyes and makes them twinkle, all the way to her full, pink lips and how well she wears those high rise jeans. 

 

Fantastic isn't a word befitting such a beauty.

 

Dani looks ahead as she walks and swings Luna's lead absentmindedly by her side. She doesn't seem to mind that Jamie hasn't responded, just laughs when she sees Luna and Jax crash into each other and the list of 'things Jamie likes about Dani' just keeps on growing.

 

"How old is Jax?" Dani asks, snapping Jamie from her thoughts. 

 

"Three, and a pain in the arse." 

 

Dani laughs again and looks at Jamie, "Where are you from? You sound different from other Londoners I've met." 

 

"Ouch, that's offensive," Jamie smirks back at her, "calling me a Londoner I mean. I'm from up north." She kicks the grass beneath her feet and looks down. Talking about where she is from is her least favourite subject.

 

"Oh? Where they call them muffins and buns instead of rolls and cobs?" Dani asks with a cheeky smile.

 

Jamie laughs, slides her hands into the pockets of her jeans and nods, "Yep. And I must say, I'm impressed with your bread knowledge. You'd get on well with my best mate." 

 

"What are they like?" 

 

"Muffins and buns or Owen?" 

 

"Owen." Dani laughs and swings the lead at Jamie, gently hitting her on the back of her leg with it.

 

Jamie manages to grab the end of the rope and keeps it in her hand, "I'm certainly not opposed to the idea of a little light spanking, but at least invite a girl out for a drink first." She winks, a lopsided grin on her face. 

 

She really didn't know how Dani would react, but what she wasn't expecting was for her to blush and part her lips. 

 

There's a few moments of eye contact, a moment where Dani bites her bottom lip and a fleeting thought that if Jamie were to tug on the rope in her hand, she could pull Dani in close- 

 

She decides to break first, her own thoughts getting away from her rather quickly. She drops the rope from her hand and clears her throat. "Owen is a chef, he owns the restaurant in town, A Batter Place, heard of it?" 

 

"Oh! Yeah of course, I've been there a couple of times. I remember the name made me laugh the first time." 

 

"Of course it did," Jamie scoffs, "he is the master of puns." 

 

"I think it's funny." 

 

"I'll tell him you said so." 

 

They reach the end of a path, where Luna and Jax are lay breathless on the grass. 

 

"I always feel so bad, they run and run but don't get a drink until they get home. Jax almost always drowns himself, I have to physically hold him back sometimes." Jamie snickers and crouches down to stroke him. 

 

"I literally just live on the other side of this gate," Dani points, "I could always get them a bowl of water and put it in the garden, if you want?" 

 

Jamie looks up at her and can't help but smile, "Really?" 

 

"Yeah, absolutely. Come on." 

 

Jamie hooks the lead onto Jax and stands up. Luna follows Dani, close by her side and out of the gate. Dani really was serious, her house basically backs onto the park, with a small front garden and a light blue mini cooper sitting on the driveway. 

 

Jamie laughs, "Really went all out when you moved here, huh?" She points at the car when Dani looks back at her.

 

"Hey, I could have got the one with the union jack on the roof, but I didn't. That counts for something, right?" 

 

Jamie nods in agreement and leans against the short wall to the garden. Dani walks up the drive, through a gate which she closes behind her. "Just a sec." 

 

It's a small semi detached house that Dani lives in. Jamie looks over the garden with a keen eye; the grass seems to be well looked after, but the flower beds that border the small lawn are bare. She imagines what it could look like, makes a mental note to ask Dani if she would like her to plant something for her sometime. 

 

She takes her cigarettes from her pocket and leans forward on her elbows onto the wall, looking in at the garden. She lights up and waits. 

 

Dani returns a couple of moments later. She's left the bag Jamie gave her in her house and has brought out a silver bowl filled with water. She places it on the lawn and opens her gate. "Jax, come here." 

 

Surprisingly, he listens to her and goes running in the direction of her voice. It doesn't take him long to notice the bowl of water, which he and Luna both drink from simultaneously. 

 

Dani walks towards the wall, "Would you like anything? I could get a bottle of water for you."

 

"Oh, no, thank you. I'm good," she slides her cigarettes across the wall with the lighter, "do you want one?" 

 

Dani hesitates for a moment, but eventually nods. She opens the packet, delicately takes out a cigarette, puts it between her lips and lights it. 

 

How the act of Dani lighting a cigarette is so attractive is beyond Jamie. Dani puffs out a plume of smoke along with a sound of pure enjoyment that knocks the wind right out of Jamie's lungs. 

 

"God, it's been some time since I last smoked." She mutters and takes another drag. 

 

Jamie clears her throat, "You managed to quit? Hope I've not just ruined it." 

 

"I was more of a social smoker, but my ex hated it, so I stopped. And well, I've not done much socialising since moving here so." Dani shrugs. 

 

"Why did you move here, if you don't mind me asking?" 

 

Dani sighs, looks down at the ground and flicks the ash off the end of her cig. "Um, short version; bad break up and I needed a fresh start." 

 

Jamie senses the hurt in her voice and decides not to delve deeper, "Ah, well if you ever need someone to tell the long version to, I'm a great listener. And I make a cracking cup of tea." She winks and smiles her lopsided smile.

 

Dani blushes just like before and averts her eyes to look down at the ground. Jamie, secretly pleased with herself, pushes the thought of Dani being flustered by her to the corner of her mind. 

 

"So you're a school teacher?" 

 

"Yeah, over at Bly Primary."

 

"My.. well, my good friends niece and nephew go there. Flora actually mentioned a teacher who has a dog to me, I wondered if it might be you she was talking about."

 

"Flora? Wingrave?" Dani questions with a raised brow.

 

"Yes, you know her?" 

 

"I'm her teacher!" Dani beams, "she is just... perfectly splendid." 

 

Jamie laughs at the sweetness in Dani's voice as she uses Flora's catchphrase. "Well, you'll be pleased to hear, you have been compared to a fictional British national treasure, Poppins."

 

Dani laughs and leans against the wall herself, the pair of them still a safe distance apart.

 

"I wish I could invite you in for tea," Dani says after a moment, looking back at her house, "or maybe even for that drink you mentioned." 

 

Jamie notices the flirtatious tone of Dani's voice when she mentions the drink. It's as unexpected as it is welcome and she feels herself blushing this time under the gaze of Dani. 

 

"Well," Jamie starts, "it's certainly not the same, but we could have a virtual drink, if you fancy it?" 

 

Dani stares, tilts her head and eventually nods, "Yeah, I'd like that." 

 

"Great, I can give you my number and then you can just text me whenever you want." 

 

Dani takes her phone from her pocket, "You're going to regret you said that." 

 

Jamie knows she's joking, but goes along with it anyway, "I assure you, I will not." 

 

Dani looks up at her through her eyelashes for a second and bites her lip gently. Jamie reads out her number and watches as Dani types it in. She feels her phone vibrate in her pocket. 

 

"Just texted you." Dani states. 

 

Before Jamie gets chance to respond, the heavens above open suddenly, showering them both with rain. 

 

"Fuck," Jamie laughs, "better go," she quickly picks the pack of cigarettes up from the wall and throws them to Dani, "talk to you later?" 

 

Dani giggles, stuffs the packet into her coat and nods.

 

"Jax!" Jamie shouts. He takes a running jump over the short wall and stands by her side. 

 

With one last look at Dani, Jamie smiles, "See ya, Poppins." 

 

-

 

When Jamie makes it home, she finds a box of blueberry muffins waiting for her on her welcome mat with a note on top. She bends and picks them up, then unlocks her door. Jax walks in first, shakes his wet fur all over the place, which would usually really grind Jamie's gears, but she's too happy to care right now. 

 

She places the box on the table and discards her soaking wet coat onto the coat rack. The first thing she does after is takes her phone from her jeans pocket. 

 

+44778 *** 840:

  Dani Clayton x

 

Jamie smiles, puts her phone down on the table and Heads to her bedroom. She changes into some sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt, ties her hair back out of the way and flicks the kettle on.

 

She turns back to her phone, saves Dani's number and hovers over the keypad. She's suddenly nervous and lost for words. She considers not texting, leaving it for a while until something clever or charming comes to her. But before she lands on a final decision, she sees the three dots that show Dani is typing.

 

. . .

 

. . .

 

Dani Clayton:

Hope you didn’t get too wet.

 

Oh god. Don’t. Type. A. Crude. Response. The urge to send back a simple ‘wink’ emoji is almost too much, but she just walks to her sofa, sinks back into the cushions and types.

 

Jamie:

Drenched, actually. But I only live round the corner myself. And I got home to a box of homemade blueberry muffins waiting on my doorstep.

 

Dani Clayton:

I’m jealous!

 

Jamie:

I'll give you one tomorrow.

 

Dani Clayton:

A muffin or...? ;)

 

Jamie almost drops her phone and inhales sharply, loud enough to get Jax's attention, who is sulking because he isn’t allowed on the sofa when he has wet fur.

 

Jamie:

Poppins, you flirt.

. . .

 

Dani Clayton:

So this virtual drink.. How is that going to work?

 

Jamie:

FaceTime, alcohol, music.. see where that takes us. Sound good?

 

Dani Clayton:

Great. I’m pretty much free any time so, just let me know.

 

Is tonight too soon? Jamie ponders, tries to come up with a reason why it would be but can’t find one. It's not like either of them have to get up for work in the morning.

 

Jamie:

Tonight? Say, 7pm?

 

. . .

 

Dani Clayton:

 Can’t wait.

 

Most of the video calls Jamie has done the past few weeks have been with Flora and Miles, or Owen if he’s showing her his latest bakes and fancy meals. So this will be different and she is suddenly nervous at the prospect.

 

Jamie stands up from the sofa and flicks the central heating on.

 

“Come here, boy.” She taps her leg so Jax comes over. She wraps a towel around him and does her best to dry him off. His bed is in front of the radiator anyway so she walks him over, “lie down, you’ll warm up soon.”

 

He does as he’s told and she pats him on the head. She walks back over to the kitchenette and opens the fridge to find, nothing. She curses under her breath and sighs. The only constant source of food in her little flat is for Jax, she never let’s his run out. Her own? Not so much.

 

So she grabs a jacket, puts a pair of trainers on and heads out, leaving Jax to warm up.

 

She puts the black face mask she has over her mouth and nose, sanitises her hands with alcohol gel and heads into the shop. It is quite literally a small convenience store, not much fresh food but it’ll do for today before she braves the supermarket tomorrow.

 

Necessities bought, she walks back home. Jax jumps up at her as soon as she gets in. Doesn’t matter if she has been gone 10 minutes or an hour, he is still so excited to see her. She laughs at him and puts her bag on the table next to the box of muffins.

 

She completely forgot the note that sits on top of it, so she opens it:

 

Who's the girl?

I’ve been asking to borrow your Six Feet Under box set for months. You don’t lend your shit to just anyone.

Owen.

 

He finishes the note with a terrible drawing of a chef's hat and an animated cake. Jamie shakes her head and sighs, looks at Jax who is tilting his head up at her.

 

“Remind me again why we’re friends with Owen?”

 

Jax barks in response.

 

“Yeah I know... he feeds us.”

 

She opens the box and bites into a muffin, before deciding she should probably call him to thank him. She picks her phone up and calls.

 

“Hey, thanks for the muffins.” She says.

 

“You’re welcome. Did you get the note?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Well?”

 

“Well what?”

 

“Jamie.” His voice is stern.

 

“Fine. I met her on the park the other day. She has a dog too and we just kind of, met up again yesterday and today.”

 

Owen squeals, “Ah! What’s she like?”

 

“American.”

 

“Oh. You hate Americans.”

 

“Evidently, not this one. She’s a teacher at Bly Primary.”

 

“Wait,” Owen pauses and Jamie knows exactly where this is going, “isn’t Flora’s teacher American? The pretty blonde one?”

 

Jamie stays silent. Owen often picks Flora and Miles up from school when Henry can’t get there so it makes sense that he might know who Dani is.

 

“It's her isn’t it?” He asks.

 

“Yeah, Dani is Flora’s school teacher.”

 

“Wow. She doesn’t shut up about her favourite Miss Clayton. She’s called Dani?” He asks, sounding way too interested.

 

“Yeah, why?” Jamie asks, frowns at the phone.

 

“No reason.” Owen responds, clearly having put his phone on speaker. He is one of those people; a ‘facebook stalker', so it doesn’t take Jamie much time to figure it out.

 

“Owen, don’t you dare!”

 

“You should see her profile picture. She’s not my type, but I can definitely see why you like her.”

 

“Owen!” Jamie snaps, “you’re a shite, you know that?”

 

“You love me.”

 

“I love your muffins, now fuck off.” Jamie laughs and hangs up. She looks over at Jax, who is lying on his side enjoying the heat coming off the radiator, then she opens her texts to Owen and types.

 

Jamie:

Do love ya really, mate.

 

She throws her phone to the sofa and looks out of the window. It stopped raining before she went to the shop, but now it’s bucketing it down again. Jax will not, under any circumstances, go outside when the weather is like this. He is a bit of a diva, actually. So any attempt at taking him out again later will be futile if it stays like this.

 

As expected, hours later, the rain has not let up and after managing to push Jax out into the communal garden outside and stand under a small canopy for a cigarette, she takes her sulking dog back upstairs.

 

It's almost 7, so she grabs a beer from the fridge and sits on the sofa. Jax jumps up beside her, leans his entire body onto her chest and puts his face under her chin.

 

Jamie laughs, “All fuckin’ day you’ve had to do this, and now you want a cuddle.” Of course she gives in, cuddles him and tries to push, but he is insistent on staying.

 

Her phone rings, the screen immediately showing her face, half covered by Jax's. She manages to press the answer button, greeted instantly by Dani's smiling face.

 

“I swear,” Jamie struggles to speak as Jax rests more weight on her chest, “this is not usually how we usually sit.”

 

Dani laughs, “looks rather cosy, actually.”

 

“Rather it was you, do you?” Jamie asks with a smirk, feeling rather brave.

 

Even on a video call, she can see Dani blush and it's ridiculously charming. “Well, Jax does look like he would give an amazing cuddle, so yes.”

 

“Ouch, Poppins,” Jamie fakes a pain in her chest and holds her hand over her heart, “your words, they wound me.”

 

Jamie notices that Dani is lay on her stomach on what she assumes is her bed, she moves a little and runs her hand through her hair, “I’m sorry, I’ll make it up to you.”

 

Jamie manages to push Jax off her, “Oi, fuck off now.” He responds by swiping his tongue up the side of her cheek. “Little shite.” She wipes her cheek with the sleeve of her shirt and leans onto the arm of the sofa, finally free from Jax's weight. “Sorry about that, where were we?”

 

Dani is laughing and it's bloody lovely; soft and musical. She rests her chin on her hand. “I believe I hurt your feelings.”

 

“Ah yes, and you were saying something about making it up to me?” Jamie grins and reaches to her side table for the bottle of beer.

 

“I’ll think of something, I’m sure. Can’t promise anything as exciting as blueberry muffins, but I make a mean lasagne.”

 

“That’s mighty convenient, my nickname is actually Garfield.”

 

“Really?” Dani asks excitedly.

 

Jamie smirks, “No, I’m just fuckin' with ya. Although I am a big fan of lasagne.”

 

Dani stands up from her lying position on the bed and walks to a different room, “Well then I will make it for you sometime.” She looks past the phone as she walks down the stairs.

 

“Where you taking me?” Jamie asks with a grin.

 

“For wine and a cigarette.” Dani chuckles. “Care to join?”

 

Jamie stands up, grabs her cigarettes from the table and walks to the double doors that lead out to the small balcony, “Absolutely.” Luckily, the balcony above shields her from the rain that is still falling.

 

Dani is standing at a door, she holds a lit cigarette between her fingers and lifts a glass of wine to her lips with the same hand.

 

“So, how was the rest of your day?” Dani asks, and Jamie realises she’s been too distracted just watching her that she hasn’t even lit her own cigarette yet.

 

She lights it and takes a quick drag, “Was alright. Had a sulky dog all day though, he hates the rain. What about you?”

 

“I didn’t do much, spoke to a woman from work who asked me to put together a couple of lesson plans. That’s about as exciting it got.”

 

“Well I do hope I can make our virtual drink a little more exciting than that.” Jamie says before sipping her beer.

 

“Already have.” Dani almost whispers.

 

The next two hours absolutely fly by; they talk about their work, speak very briefly about the pandemic, discuss their favourite music and films. Currently, Jamie is listening as Dani rips apart the plot to some Nicholas Cage movie she watched last night.

 

Dani stops talking when she realises that Jamie is smirking. “What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

 

“Not that I don’t really enjoy the sound of your voice, but you did hear me when I said I haven’t seen it, didn’t you?” Jamie laughs and narrows her eyes playfully.

 

Dani tilts her head and with the tip of her tongue, licks her bottom lip. “You like the sound of my voice?”

 

Jamie swallows and nods, “Yeah.”

 

Dani smiles a wide smile and looks down for a second. If she hadn’t switched the light in her bedroom for just a lamp, Jamie would probably be able to see the blush creeping over Dani's cheeks.

 

“I like your smile too.” Jamie says, allowing the effects of the alcohol to take over her confidence.

 

Dani sucks her lips into her mouth for a moment and then covers her mouth with her free hand as she smiles again. “You’ve made me shy now.”

 

“I know,” Jamie grins, “it’s cute.”

 

“Cute?” Dani laughs, “That’s what you’re giving me? Cute?” She rolls her eyes and huffs.

 

“Well, amongst many other things, yes.” Jamie turns up one side of her lips just a little and leans into the camera, “maybe next time I’ll tell you another thing I like about you.”

 

“Jamie,” Dani says with raised eyebrows, “are you asking me for a second date?”

 

Jamie feels herself blushing. This certainly feels like a date, not in the conventional sense, but a date nonetheless. Although it hasn’t been made clear until now that Dani thinks so too.

 

“I am, yeah.” Jamie finally says. “How about Saturday?”

 

“Perfect.”

 

They sit for a moment silently, just looking at eachother.

Jamie, on her sofa with Jax resting his head on her lap, and Dani, sat with her back against the headboard of her bed.

 

“Where's Luna at right now?”

 

Dani looks around her phone, then flips the camera from selfie mode, revealing her sleeping Collie curled up beside her legs. Bare legs from where her shorts cut off in the middle of her thighs, one ankle crossed over the other.

 

Jamie’s mouth goes instantly dry and for a second she forgets that just because Dani switched her camera, she’ll still be able to see Jamie on her phone. So she clears her throat lightly, looks only at Luna and breathes out a small laugh.

 

“She's as clingy as mine then?”

 

Dani switches her camera back to show her face and nods, “Oh yeah, definitely.”

 

“Speaking of, I best take him out to the garden. I can take you with me though, unless you need to go?”

 

Dani shakes her head, “Nope, don’t need to go.”

 

Jamie smiles at her and then turns her attention to Jax. “Come on, boy, lets go out.” Jax jumps down and heads straight to the door.

 

Down in the garden, Jamie lights up a cigarette. It's stopped raining, so she walks down the garden path. It's dark, but the lights stuck in the grass help guide the way.

 

“Any plans for tomorrow?” Jamie asks.

 

“I actually have to drive this one to,” Dani pauses and looks over at Luna, then back to Jamie and whispers, “the v e t in the morning.”

 

“Oh no, she alright?”

 

“She’s fine, just a check up. Since she is a foreigner, they wanted to see her again to double check.” Dani laughs and adjusts so she is lying back a little.

 

“Good. So we'll miss you at the park in the morning?”

 

“I’m afraid so.”

 

Jamie can’t help being a little disappointed, but she’s literally spent the last two and a half hours staring at Dani, so she can’t complain too much.

 

“That’s a shame. Who's Jax gonna play with now?” She smiles cheekily.

 

Dani just laughs and tucks a fallen strand of blonde hair behind her ear. “What are you doing tomorrow?”

 

“I’ve gotta stop by the shop, makes sure everything is surviving, probably have to stick around there for a while. Then I’ll drop a bunch of flowers off at the old folks home down the road. Then,” she shrugs, “nothing else on the agenda.”

 

“That's so sweet that you do that.”

 

“It makes ‘em smile so, job well done I suppose.”

 

When Jamie gets back upstairs, she sits back on the sofa and gets comfortable. The food container with blueberry muffins in catches Jamie’s eye and reminds her of her earlier conversation with Owen.

 

“Oh hey, my friend Owen thinks he might have met you before. He picks Flora up from school sometimes.”

 

“Oh, huh,” Dani pauses, “her uncle is Henry, right?” Jamie nods at her, “there is another guy who comes to collect her sometimes. He's got a killer moustache?”

 

Jamie laughs heartily and puts her head in her free hand, “Well fuck,” she raises her head back up and smiles, “you like his restaurant and his moustache, he's gonna love you.”

 

“Yeah, well he sounds pretty awesome. Is he taken?” Dani asks with a straight face.

 

Jamie doesn’t know how to react, for a second she thinks she has just played matchmaker for the woman she has a massive crush on and her best friend.

 

But then Dani laughs, “I’m kidding, Jamie. He's not my type.”

 

Jamie let’s out the breath she didn’t realise she was holding and smiles in relief. “What is your type?” Bold question, one she hopes will give her the answer she so desperately wants to hear.

 

Dani stares, her eyes dart across the screen and she very gently pulls a small part of her bottom lip between her teeth, “I’m looking at her.”

 

The act of breathing suddenly becomes twice as hard and Jamie has to physically pinch herself to bring her back to earth.

 

“Thank fuck.” Jamie mutters under her breath.

 

“I wish I’d met you six months ago.” Dani says quietly.

 

“Me too, Poppins.” Jamie nods.

 

There’s a comfortable silence again, just for a few moments. Needed, actually, so Jamie can gather her thoughts and ground herself fully.

 

“I better go. Got an early morning,” Dani says and sits up on her bed, “thank you for an amazing first virtual date.”

 

Jamie smiles, “It has been, hasn’t it?” She sits forward on the sofa and leans her elbows on her knees. “Goodnight, Dani.”

 

“Night, Jamie.” Dani replies with a closed mouth smile that accents her dimples, before ending the video call.

 

Jamie sits back on her sofa and looks up at the ceiling. No doubt about it, best date of her life. Something about not being able to be close to, touch, kiss or be kissed by Dani heightened the experience.

 

Saturday cannot come soon enough.

-

Chapter Text

“I had a virtual date last night.” Jamie says down the speaker phone.

 

“You had a,” Owen pauses for a long second, “with Miss Clayton?”

 

“Dani,” Jamie corrects him, “yes.”

 

“How was it?” He asks, the tone of his voice makes it clear that he is grinning.

 

“It was amazing. We have another one on Saturday.”

 

“What’s she like?”

 

Jamie is in her flower shop, cutting the end of some long stemmed roses to go into her already half constructed bouquet. She smiles when she thinks of Dani.

 

“She's amazing.”

 

“Do you have any other adjectives in your vocabulary?”

 

Jamie laughs and sticks her middle finger up at the phone, “None that are good enough, mate.”

 

“Holy shit. Someone rendered Jamie Taylor speechless?”

 

“Fuck off,” she laughs, “I mentioned you, by the way. Said you sometimes pick Flora up, she knows who you are.”

 

“Oh, what did she say?”

 

“She said she likes your moustache.”

 

“She did?”

 

“Owen, I can fucking hear you blushing,” she laughs, “but yes, she did. She also likes your restaurant.”

 

“She has good taste. What’s she doing hanging around you?”

 

“Cheeky twat.”

 

He laughs down the phone, “Just kidding, JT. Your dog is adorable, so I really don’t blame her.”

 

“I’m hanging up now. Talk to you later.”

 

“Bye." And he hangs up.

 

Jamie finishes adding the roses to the bouquet and looks down at Jax, who is lay at her feet. She clicks with her mouth and he stands up. Her shop is still going strong, money hasn’t dried up yet and she’s doing everything she can to preserve as much as possible. She knows the losses will hit hard, but that’s a problem she will face another time.

 

They walk down the street, Jamie with Jax's lead in one hand and flowers in the other. It's just a few minutes walk to the care home. Since the country went into lockdown, the people residing in these homes have been unable to receive visitors, so dropping a bouquet of flowers in the foyer a couple of times a week to be placed in the communal living area is just a small token from Jamie to them. She just kind of did it one day and a few days later found a thank you card through the door of her shop from the staff. The start of a new tradition.

 

The park is empty again and Jamie knows that Dani won’t be there today, but it doesn’t stop her from looking like if she searches hard enough Dani will magically appear.

 

Jax runs and runs, chases a ball, chases a small dog, chases a pigeon. Jamie laughs because it doesn’t matter what he is doing, he is a happy dog. Unless it's raining, of course.

 

“Jax, come on.” She shouts and begins the walk back to the gate. He runs up beside her and accepts a treat from her hand.

 

Jamie got Jax when he was just a puppy, just 10 weeks old. He had been abandoned, found malnourished and dirty in an alleyway. The local dogs home took him in, but what he needed was a home and someone who could really look after him. Enter Jamie. After seeing the advert on Facebook, she went straight there and didn’t leave without him.

 

In the three years leading up to now, she nurtured him back to health and trained him. The once timid and nervous pup has grown into a beautiful liver and white bundle of joy that doesn’t leave Jamie’s side. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

When she settles him at home, she decides to text Dani before she leaves to go to the supermarket.

 

Jamie:

Hey Poppins, how did Luna get on?

 

She puts her phone in her pocket and locks the front door behind her. She takes her truck, the first time it’s been moved in a week. The supermarket is currently her least favourite place to go, from the queueing system to people not caring enough to wear a mask. Today, luck seems to be on her side. No queue. She walks around the shop, picking out things that she will need. Her phone buzzes in her pocket.

 

Dani Clayton:

Perfect health! How are you today?

 

Jamie:

Glad to hear it. I’m great, just in Tesco, do you need anything?

 

Dani Clayton:

No thank you, I’m good for a few days.

 

Jamie Clayton:

You sure? I don’t mind.

 

Dani Clayton:

I’m sure. There’s nothing I need.

 

Jamie:

I’ve been thinking about our date on Saturday.

 

Dani Clayton:

Yeah?

 

Jamie:

Thinking that maybe it's too far away. How are you fixed for tomorrow instead?

 

Dani Clayton:

It wasn’t just me then? Tomorrow is perfect.

 

Bringing the date forward forces butterflies into Jamie’s stomach, a feeling that has become familiar to her over the past few days. A feeling that she enjoys whenever she thinks about, sees or speaks to Dani.

 

So she plans the date in her mind. They can’t spend physical time together - and yes, as much as she would like to be able to walk Dani home at the end of the date, thank her for a lovely evening and possibly kiss her goodnight, any kind of date with Dani is more than she would have ever expected.

 

-

 

Friday morning brings stormy weather and another silent argument with Jax about going for a walk. Jamie gives up and settles for a mid morning bath instead.

 

Sunk under the safe warmth of water and bubbles, she lets her mind wander. She has worked hard to get where she is now; turned her life around from being an unhappy child, jumping from foster home to foster home, to a couple of years behind bars that she does her best to completely forget, to becoming a small business owner with a happy, boring life.

 

It's her and Jax against this disease ridden world.

 

Her and Jax with their handful of friends. And Dani and Luna.

 

Jamie has planned the second date carefully, and she is pleased when she looks out of the window after her bath to see that it is no longer raining.

 

Over the days, she has listened to everything Dani has told her carefully. Her favourite colour; purple. Her favourite animal; dogs. Her favourite musical; Hairspray. Her favourite ice cream flavour; cookie dough. She can’t stand Christina Aguilera and hates it when people call her Danielle. All this amongst many other facts.

 

She gets dressed. Black jeans, doc martens, a dark purple and black flannel shirt over a black vest and she lets her brown curls frame either side of her face.

 

For Jax, she ties a red bandana around his neck, letting it fall down over his chest area. He looks handsome, although the tuft of fur atop his head is beginning to look a bit messy; brown curls that remind Jamie a little of her own hair.

 

She takes Jax to the garden, to her shop and for a little walk around the block. Everything is in order for tonight. She has a video call with Flora and Miles, a phone call with Hannah and catches up on the daily news.

 

She leaves her flat at around half five, a bag in one hand and Jax's lead in the other. First, she goes to her shop and collects the bouquet of flowers she arranged earlier; a beautiful purple and white mix of calla lillies, foxglove, a little lavender and carnations. And on it's own, one long stemmed red rose.

 

They cut across the park so Jax can go for a run. Before they reach the gate to the end of the park near Dani's house, she calls him back to straighten the bandana around his neck.

 

Dani doesn’t know anything of this. Jamie has put together a bag of treats ahead of their date. A bottle of red wine,  a tub of peanut butter flavoured Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and popcorn. Everything one might need for a movie night.

 

When they reach Dani's house, Jamie takes the lead off Jax and walks him up the driveway to the gate. She quietly opens the gate and carefully places the flowers and the bag on the doorstep.

 

She instructs Jax to sit facing the door. The red rose, with the thorns carefully removed, she places in his mouth.

 

“Good boy,” she whispers, “stay.”

 

She presses the doorbell and steps back outside the gate and leans against the wall.

 

A moment passes and the door opens. Jax wags his tail as soon as he sees Dani but stays sitting with the rose in his mouth. Dani looks at him with a wide smile and adoration in her eyes and then over at Jamie.

 

“What’s this?” Dani asks with a giggle.

 

“Just getting you ready for our date, Poppins.” She nods down at the flowers and bag on the doorstep.

 

“Oh my god,” she bends and picks the flowers up, along with the bag, “they’re beautiful. Did you..?”

 

“Course I did,” Jamie says and opens the gate. She walks in and stands beside Jax, “this is from him, though. He insisted.” Jamie smirks and clicks her fingers in front of her so Jax knows to move.

 

He walks to Dani and waits patiently for her to take the rose.

 

“Thank you, Jax.” She says down at him and takes the rose carefully from his mouth. He barks in response and returns to Jamie’s side.

 

“See you in an hour?” Jamie asks.

 

Dani nods, her smile still unchanged.

 

Jamie clips the lead back onto Jax's collar and walks out of the gate with him.

 

“Good boy,” Jamie says down at Jax, “think you melted her heart a little bit there.”

 

She lets Jax run for a little bit and feels a little like she’s floating along the grass. She doesn’t remember the last time another person made her feel this way, she doesn’t think anyone ever has, actually.

 

Just before seven o’clock, she sits back on her sofa and hits the video call button on Dani's contact page.

 

“Hi!” Dani says immediately with a big smile.

 

“Hey, you.”

 

“You, Jamie, are the sweetest. These flowers,” she turns so the camera shows the bouquet of flowers sitting in a vase on the side table beside her couch, “are perfect. Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome, I’m glad you like them. Did you check the bag?”

 

Dani giggles and nods, “I did.”

 

“Can you guess what I have planned?”

 

“Oh um,” Dani purses her lips and looks up as though she is thinking and then looks back to the camera with a smirk, “are we going to get drunk and have an ice cream fight?”

 

Jamie widens her eyes and laughs, “No, but that actually sounds better.”

 

“I’m guessing a movie?” Dani asks.

 

“If you’re up for it?”

 

“Definitely! What do you have in mind?” She reaches for something beside her.

 

“I’m letting you choose. Anything but that Nicholas Cage move you were telling me about the other night though.” Jamie laughs and picks up her remote.

 

“I’m not even sure that could be classed as a movie.” She laughs. “Netflix?”

 

Jamie nods and turns on the application on her TV. “What kind of thing are you in the mood for?” When she looks back at her phone, Dani is staring and smiling. “What?”

 

“Nothing, I just..” she trails off and looks down, “I just really like you.” She finishes and looks back up.

 

Jamie can’t help but smile, she bites the inside of her cheek to stop from looking too pleased and smirks instead. “That’s good to know, ‘cause I kinda like you too, Poppins.”

 

Somehow, watching a movie has been put on the back burner and instead, they have been talking for an hour straight. Jamie explains how she got Jax and Dani about how she got Luna. Turns out they’re very similar stories, only Dani rescued Luna herself after finding her on a field, chained to a tree.

 

“She was terrified for weeks after. I couldn’t take her to a field with too many trees. It broke my heart. But she's fine now.”

 

“Thank god for you, Dani Clayton.”

 

Dani smiles into the camera, “I like the way you say my name.”

 

“Oh you do?”

 

“Yeah. I just realised something though, I don’t even know your surname.” Dani leans against the side of her sofa and rests her head on her hand.

 

“Taylor. Can I expect you to Facebook stalk me next?”

 

“Maybe.”

 

“Can’t say I’d mind.”

 

Dani stands up and walks into a different room. “Wine?” she asks.

 

“Great idea.” Jamie follows suit and heads to her kitchen too.

 

After pouring a glass of wine, Jamie leans against a kitchen counter and watches Dani pour her own. She’s resting her phone against something so she doesn’t have to hold it whilst she opens the freezer and pulls out the ice cream.

 

She waves it in front of the camera, “You remembered my favourite flavour.”

 

Jamie nods and watches as Dani leans forward against the counter where her phone is and dips a spoon into ice cream.

 

“How long do you think this will continue for?” Dani asks, a hint of sadness in her voice.

 

Jamie sighs, “I dunno, it’s almost been a month now.”

 

“Yeah,” Dani lifts the spoon to her mouth and licks her lips after swallowing, “fuck me, that’s good.”

 

Jamie laughs and takes a sip of wine. She never thought that watching someone eat ice cream could be so sexy, but Dani with her perfect lips and tongue and the way she says ‘fuck me' - definitely sexy.

 

“Glad you like it.”

 

“I’d share if I could, bet you’d like this.” Dani says, holding out the spoon.”

 

“Yeah,” Jamie clears her throat, “I bet I would.”

 

“Oh, the movie,” Dani states, “I got carried away talking.”

 

“S'alright. I told you already, I like the sound of your voice.”

 

Dani giggles and puts the lid back on the ice cream and places it back into the freezer.

 

“You did say that.” Dani says when she comes back into view.

 

“I wish I could take you out properly.” Jamie says as she walks back to her sofa.

 

“What would we be doing?” Dani asks, sips her wine and takes her seat back on the sofa.

 

“Depends on you, really. I could drive us into London and take you to a fancy restaurant. Or we could keep it local and go to Owens restaurant and then to the pub.”

 

“Probably best to keep it local,” Dani says with a raised eyebrow and a cheeky smile, “you know, because of the dogs.”

 

“Ah yeah, the dogs.” Jamie smirks.

 

“We should do that, when we are allowed."

 

“Dani,” Jamie tilts her head, “are you asking me out on a real life date?”

 

“Shut up.” Dani laughs and then nods.

 

“I’d love to.”

 

Jax jumps onto the sofa beside Jamie now and rests his head on her chest, in clear view of the camera. She strokes him with her free hand. “Told you, he’s clingy.”

 

Dani laughs and sips her wine. “So this movie then. How do you like Sandra Bullock?”

 

“What kind of a question is that? Love a bit of Sandy B.” Jamie smirks.

 

“Oceans 8?”

 

“Sounds great. But don’t be getting any ideas, I won’t be able to say no if you ever ask me to be your getaway driver.” Jamie chuckles and finds the movie. “Tell me when you’re ready.”

 

“All set.”

 

They play the movie at the same time and it starts well. Jamie glances at Dani every so often, watches her reactions and agrees when she says that Cate Blanchett is out of this world. It's about half an hour in when she realises she’s hardly been paying attention to the film. When she isn’t looking at Dani, she’s thinking about her and it makes it hard to concentrate.

 

“Pause the film.” Dani says suddenly.

 

Jamie does, then looks back at Dani. “What's up?”

 

“It’s hard to concentrate when you’re on my screen.” She says quietly.

 

“Really? I was just thinking the same thing. Clearly I did not think this through when I planned the date.”

 

“It was a solid plan, you know how much I like movies,” she smiles, “but I think I like talking to you more.”

 

Jamie feels herself blushing and picks up her wine, hiding the smile on her lips as she sips it.

 

“Oh, I see I made you shy this evening?” Dani says, proud of herself.

 

Jamie shakes her head and bites her bottom lip. She can’t think of a suitable response, so just drinks more of her wine.

 

“It's cute.” Dani says teasingly.

 

“Cute. Okay, now I get it and I apologise for calling you cute last time.” Jamie smirks and taps her finger on the side of her glass.

 

“Tell me about your shop.” Dani says, adjusting position so she is half lay on her couch.

 

“What do you wanna know?”

 

“Everything.” Dani smiles.

 

“Uh, well I opened it a few years ago. Before that I worked for an old mate who had his own landscaping firm, then he fucked off to New Zealand, so I opened the shop. Best thing I ever did.”

 

“Why did you move here?”

 

Jamie presses her lips tight together and looks down at her lap. She stands up and walks to her balcony. “That's a long story, Poppins.”

 

Dani seems to have noticed Jamie’s reaction and frowns. “I’m sorry, you don’t have to talk about it.”

 

“No, it's,” Jamie lights a cigarette and takes a long drag. She looks back at Dani, who’s expression is soft and understanding, “it's not that I don’t want to talk about it, it's just not really ‘date material’, if that makes sense.”

 

“Yeah, alright. We can talk about it another time then. Whenever you want.”

 

“What got you into teaching?” Jamie asks, changing topic swiftly.

 

“I wanted to make a difference. When I was growing up, my mom was pretty absent after my dad died. Teachers at school really helped. And if I can be that level of support for at least one child, I’d say that’s a good life choice.”

 

Dani Clayton, it turns out, really is practically perfect. Jamie has been told about Flora's teacher before, never by name, but Henry has told her how helpful her teacher has been. Only now does it sink in properly that it's Dani.

 

“Think you’ll be glad to hear you’ve definitely helped at least one kiddo out.”

 

Dani narrows her eyes, as if asking who.

 

“Flora. You know about her parents, right?”

 

Dani nods, “Yeah, so sad. She is such a happy little girl though and she is so eager to learn about everything. We shouldn’t have favourites but, she’s mine.” She smiles.

 

“God, don’t tell her that.” Jamie laughs and finishes her cigarette.

 

“Wonder how she would react if she found out we know eachother.” Dani giggles.

 

“Her favourite teacher and the owner of her favourite dog? Oh she’d lose her mind for sure.”

 

Dani turns on her side, now fully lying on the sofa. The camera is closer to her face and Jamie realises it's the first time she has seen her properly up close. Despite already thinking that she is breathtaking, Dani once again manages to make Jamie forget to breathe out.

 

“What are you thinking?” Dani asks.

 

Jamie hesitates for a second, “Thinking ‘bout you,” she crosses her legs on her couch and leans into the camera a little, “wish I could be sat with you.”

 

“God, I know. Although, I am lying down so, you’d have to be lay with me.”

 

“I wouldn’t be complaining.” Jamie winks.

 

“Stop it, because I will ask you to break lockdown rules just to come and give me a cuddle.”

 

“Dani,” Jamie sighs and puts her head down for a second before looking back up and groaning lightly under her breath, “you’re killing me.”

 

It would be too easy to walk down the road, over the park and through Dani's front door. It would be too easy to sit beside Dani on her sofa and hold her like she’s wanted to do since the moment she met her. And for a fleeting moment, Jamie thinks she should do it – she knows they’re both sticking to the rules, she knows they’re both careful, so why not?

 

Her better judgement gets the best of her though and she quickly pushes that thought to the back of her mind.

 

There’s a moment of silence, where they just look at eachother. Dani pulls a blanket from the back of her sofa over her body and shivers a little.

 

“Cold?” Jamie asks.

 

“A little, yeah. And tired. I’ve not been sleeping much lately.”

 

“Any reason?”

 

“It’s like, as soon as I get in bed, I just can’t seem to settle.” She covers her mouth with her hand and yawns, “I end up just lying there for hours.”

 

“I get that. You could always call me, Poppins. Might have a few lullabies up my sleeve to help you drift off.”

 

“I’ll keep that in mind. But having you on the other end of my phone at three in the morning might end up being even more distracting though.” There’s a flirtatious tone to Dani's voice, one that Jamie simply cannot ignore.

 

“Distractions might also help. I could think of a few ways.” Jamie half smiles and raises an eyebrow suggestively.

 

Dani leans up on her elbow abruptly, her lips slightly parted, “Oh please elaborate.”

 

“That would be telling, Poppins. But if the situation ever arises, I’d be happy to demonstrate.” She winks.

 

“Tease.” Dani whispers before lying back down.

 

Jamie can see how tired she is. And as much as she would love to continue this date, she doesn’t want to stand in the way of Dani getting a good night’s rest.

 

“I’m gonna let you go. You look ‘bout ready to sleep.”

 

“Oh,” Dani says, leaning up on her elbow again, “I’m sorry, you just make me feel.. relaxed. A lot of other things too.”

 

“Maybe tomorrow you can tell me about all those other things.” Jamie smiles. “Get some sleep. Thank you for another lovely date. Goodnight.”

 

“Goodnight, Jamie.”

 

Jamie ends the call and lies back on her sofa. She’s known this woman for less than a week, but every part of her tells her there’s something so right about being part of Dani's life.

 

-

 

It's Saturday morning and Jamie is stood in her garden when she feels her phone vibrating in her pocket. Dani is calling.

 

“Hey, you.” She says with a smile.

 

“Hi, I hope you don’t mind me calling.” Dani says, not in her usual cheerful voice.

 

“Course not, is everything okay?”

 

Dani sighs and Jamie can hear other voices in the background, “Um, I.. Fuck,” Dani groans.

 

“Poppins, what’s going on?” Jamie asks, concerned.

 

“I’ve been in an accident,” Dani says. “someone crashed into the side of my car at the lights and I..” she pauses for a moment, “I didn’t know who else to call.”

 

“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Jamie asks, already having ran back up the stairs to her flat.

 

“No, well.. yeah, but I’m fine. I just need a few stitches so the paramedics need to take me to the hospital.” She sounds ridiculously calm, considering.

 

“Fuck, alright. Do you need anything? Is Luna with you?”

 

“She’s fine, she was in the back on the other side. She’s just shaken up. Could I ask a huge favour?”

 

“Where are you? I’ll come get her and she can stay with me until you get home.” She grabs her car keys from the counter and heads downstairs and our to her truck.

 

“Jamie,” Dani sniffs, “thank you. I’m at the junction near the library.”

 

“I’m on my way,” Jamie puts the phone on speaker phone, sits it in her lap and sets off, “how bad are you hurt?”

 

“I’ve got a pretty nice cut on my arm and my favourite shirt is ruined, but other than that, just a bump on the head.”

 

“What the hell happened?”

 

“The lights went green so I pulled out and,” she pauses and takes a sharp breath in, “he just came out of nowhere, right into the side of me. I don’t really remember much else, except seeing him speed off.”

 

“He fucking left you?”

 

“Mmhm.”

 

Jamie curses under her breath and drives. It’s a few minutes of silence, just the sound of the paramedics in the background. Jamie turns a corner near the library and sees Dani's mini cooper being hauled onto a recovery truck, the clear markings of the front of another car across the entire drivers side.

 

“Jesus, Dani. I’m here, gimme a sec.”

 

“Okay, thanks.”

 

She parks the truck, reaches into the back seat and grabs a jumper with her shops insignia on - “The Leafling" written in emerald green. She gets out and puts a mask on, knowing she will have to go a little closer to Dani in order to get Luna’s lead from her. She rounds the side of the ambulance to see Dani sat on the back of it.

 

The entire right side of her light blue shirt is covered in blood, her forearm is bandaged and she has what looks like a small cut on the side of her face just near her ear. She wasn’t joking about her shirt being ruined.

 

Dani looks up at her, teary eyed and pale, but with a smile. Always a smile.

 

“Christ,” Jamie steps to the side. She notices Dani's left hand gripping Luna's lead for dear life, her knuckles white. “give her here, Dani, it’s okay.” She holds out her hand.

 

Dani nods and holds out the lead. Jamie grabs it a little lower than where Dani's hand is and looks at her face. She’s staring, pupils blown, simply refusing to let go of the rope. Jamie looks over at a paramedic who is waiting patiently for the exchange to take place so they can take her to the hospital.

 

“She alright?” Jamie asks quietly.

 

“A little out of it, we gave her a shot of morphine for the pain. She's got a pretty deep cut on her forearm that needs attention and they’ll want to check her for signs of concussion. Otherwise, a bit banged up but she’s pretty lucky.”

 

Jamie nods and looks back at Dani, tugs a little on the lead. “S'alright, Poppins. I’ve got her. Promise.” Dani nods and finally let’s go.

 

“The police will take a statement from her at the hospital.” The paramedic says.

 

She looks back at Dani, who has her head resting in her left hand now. The urge to step forward and give her some kind of comfort is almost unbearable.

 

So instead, she crouches down, closer to eye level now. “Dani.” She says, which gets her attention and she looks up. “Give me a call later, yeah?” She hands over the jumper, it'll definitely be needed.

 

She nods, a drunken smile plastered on her face. “I will.”

 

The paramedic steps towards her and helps her stand and get into the back of the ambulance. Jamie hears Dani’s attempt at whispering, “she’s really hot, isn’t she?” to the paramedic as he instructs her to lie back on the bed.

 

Jamie laughs under her breath, “Alright girl, let’s get you back.” She says down to Luna, who is watching Dani.

 

The doors to the ambulance shut and Jamie walks back to her truck. She lets Luna jump up into the front seat and closes the door. She spends a little time fussing over her before she starts the engine. She reverses her truck and turns around, back in the direction of her flat.

 

-

 

It's been three hours since Jamie collected Luna, who has completely taken over Jax's bed. She has calmed down now, although it did take some time. Jamie has been pacing quite a bit, she's cleaned her entire flat and burned through five cigarettes. Much more than she usually smokes but she’s on edge and can’t help but be worried.

 

She practically jumps on her phone when it rings, flashing Dani's name across the screen.

 

“Hey.”

 

“Hi.” Dani's voice is soft and quiet.

 

“How are you feeling?” Jamie asks and sits back on her sofa.

 

Dani sighs, “I feel terrible.”

 

“Is there anything I can do?”

 

“The one thing I want you to do... we can’t.”

 

“Cheeky.”

 

Dani laughs. Really laughs, and Jamie smiles down the phone. “Not what I meant.” Dani finally says and Jamie can hear her smile in her voice. “How is Luna? I feel so bad for dumping her on you like that.”

 

“One sec,” Jamie pulls the phone away from her ear and takes a picture of Luna, fast asleep in Jax's bed and she sends it to Dani, “check your messages.”

 

Dani falls silent for a moment. “Really made herself at home hasn’t she?” she laughs, “I don’t know how to thank you, Jamie."

 

“No need, just glad I could help. Do you need me to bring you anything?”

 

“No thank you, I’m wearing your jumper and they’re letting me go home soon. I’m just waiting for painkillers.”

 

“Okay, just let me know when you’re home and I’ll bring Luna back for you. Got your stitches then?”

 

“Yep! Seven of them. No concussion, though.”

 

“Good,” Jamie says and then sighs, “I’m sorry this happened to you, Poppins.”

 

Dani is silent, just the sound of her light breathing down the phone. “I think they’re about to let me go.”

 

“Alright, see you soon, then.”

 

Dani hangs up after whispering a goodbye.

 

Jamie decides to leave, she walks the dogs through the park and waits outside Dani's house for her. Luna and Jax lie on the lawn in her front garden and Jamie sits on the wall. She puts on her mask, just in case she needs to help in any way, better to be safe.

 

Jamie jumps down from the wall when she sees a taxi pull up outside the house. Dani gets out of the back, clearly in some pain. She’s wearing a blue surgical face mask, Jamie's jumper and her own jeans, stained with a little blood down her right hip. She walks slowly with her injured arm tucked across her torso.

 

“Hey,” she whispers, “it's good to see you.”

 

“Even better to see you, Poppins. You alright?”

 

Dani nods and stops walking before she gets too close. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a bit beat up is all.”

 

“You call me if there’s anything you need, yeah? If you need me to take Luna out or get you food or anything, I can help.”

 

She can’t see Dani's mouth, but thinks she is smiling whilst she nods. Under normal circumstances, there’s no chance Jamie would be letting her go home alone.

 

Jamie walks up the drive and opens the gate, then stands back so Dani can walk through. She struggles a little to get her keys out of her pocket but manages. Luna is excitedly wagging her tail beside Dani and runs into the house as soon as the door is open.

 

“Jamie,” Dani says quietly and turns around, “thank you.”

 

Jamie nods and clicks her fingers so Jax comes over. “Get some rest, bet they’ve got you on some decent painkillers.”

 

“They’ll put me right to sleep, I’m sure.” Dani laughs. There’s a long pause, before she mouths the word ‘bye’ and closes the door.

 

-

 

On Sunday morning, Jamie wakes up with a Facebook notification from 3am. “Dani Clayton sent you a friend request". First, Jamie smiles and opens the app, then she realises the time it was sent. She accepts the request and looks carefully at the profile picture. Dani and Luna.

 

She closes off the app and opens her texts.

 

Jamie:

Morning, Poppins. How are you feeling?

 

Dani Clayton:

Sore, but better. The painkillers definitely help.

 

Jamie:

Couldn’t sleep again last night? Noticed the time on the fb add you sent me.

 

Dani Clayton:

I slept, just woke up a couple of times..

I was thinking about you and wanted to see you.

 

Jamie:

So you booty called my Facebook profile? Poppins.. I’m pleasantly surprised.

 

Dani Clayton:

So was I when I saw your page. You look good in overalls.

 

Jamie:

For future reference, I wouldn’t be opposed to surprise 3am phone calls to help send you off to sleep.

 

Dani Clayton:

Sleeping was the last thing on my mind last night.

 

Jamie:

Dani.. This is literal torture..

 

 Dani Clayton:

I’m sorry.

 

Jamie:

Not you, you’re perfect. The situation is torture. Just knowing you’re literally around the corner..

 

-

Chapter Text

-

 

Taking care of Dani from a distance is not an easy task. Dani is independent and hates asking for help, so Jamie takes it slow.

 

For the first few days, she takes Luna out for her so Dani can rest her arm and injured body. The painkillers are strong enough to cloud her judgement, so she doesn’t put up much of a fight. And still, with tired doped up eyes and a bruised face, she is the most beautiful person Jamie has ever seen.

 

When she’s back on her feet, Dani does nothing but thank Jamie for her help. She asks “how can I make it up to you?” at least three times a day. Jamie only responds with a “don’t worry about it” or “buy me a drink when we are allowed out” or her favourite, a suggestive wink that makes Dani blush and giggle.

 

It's been another four weeks of the pandemic. Another four weeks of rules and “stay home" orders. Although the government are trying to outline plans to get life back to normal. May 10th brought an announcement that non essential retail would re open on 15th June; good news for Jamie’s shop, however she is still yet to decide if opening would be sensible.

 

The days are all relatively the same, but since meeting Dani, the rules are getting progressively harder to stick to. They meet on the park every day for at least an hour, they text all day long, there are phone calls, video calls. They laugh and flirt and they both know their feelings are growing, they’re honest about it - embrace it even. They agree that it will be so worth it when this is finally all over.

 

Dani's arm is healing nicely, although she does have the beginnings of a big scar down her forearm. Her car has been repaired but she is yet to get back to driving it; the accident having completely knocked her confidence. So she orders her shopping online and has it delivered, despite Jamie insisting.

 

So she delivers random things every now and then. A big bag of Wotsits and a two litre bottle of Iron Bru one day; because why the hell not? A candle that smells like lavender another day and a new bouquet of flowers every week. She buys Luna a pink bandana that matches Jax's red one and she has a new food bowl delivered with her name on it.

 

Dani's reactions to each surprise is usually a picture of herself pulling some kind of face. The Iron Bru was definitely not to her liking. The selfie’s with the flowers warm Jamie’s heart. The picture of the candle lit at the end of the bath, bubbles and Dani’s bare knees makes Jamie’s heart skip.

 

They have become inseparable in every way other than together.

 

But Jamie still makes time for her friends. Like now, on a video group chat with Owen, Hannah and Henry.

 

“Still hot for teacher?” Owen says with a mocking laugh.

 

“Good lord, Owen.” Jamie laughs and then nods eagerly. “Yes. Yes I am.”

 

“She sounds lovely, dear.” Hannah says before bringing her mug to her mouth.

 

“I can confirm, Miss Clayton is indeed very lovely. Despite the obvious fact that she is.. American.” Henry pulls a face whilst speaking the last word, but quickly smiles after.

 

Jamie doesn’t usually talk about her personal relationships with women to her friends. But this one, Dani, isn’t just another woman, not just another ‘notch in the bedpost' so to speak.

 

No, with Dani, she feels butterflies when she sees her name pop up on her phone screen. She feels her heart race when she sees her on the park. She feels her entire body tingle when Dani speaks down her ear on the phone. Not to mention the physical and emotional attraction. Jamie simply cannot get enough of her.

 

They decide to do a quiz, Henry being the quiz master and asking the most bizarre questions on geography. Jamie sulks because who the fuck knows what the capital of Yemen is?

 

Hannah wins. She cheers with a huge smile and Jamie watches Owen swoon. He might as well be an emoji with heart eyes. She makes a note tease him about that later.

 

It's nine pm by the time she gets off the call. She takes Jax down to the garden and wonders what Dani is doing. She is constantly wondering what Dani is doing. So she sends a quick text.

 

Jamie:

Thinking bout ya..

 

Dani Clayton:

Oh yeah?

 

Jamie:

Most of the time, actually.

 

Dani Clayton:

What kind of things do you think about?

 

Jamie:

About finally getting to be within touching distance of you.

 

Dani Clayton:

And would you? ..touch me?

 

Jamie:

Do you want me to?

 

Dani Clayton:

God, yes I want you to.

 

It's hard to read her text and not imagine how those words would sound coming out of Dani's mouth. Quiet, drawn out, breathy. Like the way she has spoken down the phone before during particularly flirtatious conversations - never explicit, just bordering.

 

Jamie swallows hard and opens the door to the building. She whistles for Jax to come in and waits with her eyes still fixed on her phone.

 

Jamie:

This lockdown is killing me.. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have almost turned up at your place, just to kiss you.

 

Dani Clayton:

Jamie...

I think about that a lot. It’s probably a good thing I don’t know where you live. I don’t think I’d have the same restraint as you.

 

Jamie:

So you would.. just turn up?

 

Dani Clayton:

I don’t know.. maybe.. what’s your address? Let’s find out.

 

 Jamie:

Poppins, if you show up at my door, I won’t let you leave.

 

Dani Clayton:

That could work. I’ll bring my pyjamas.

 

Jamie:

Oh you won’t be needing those.

 

Dani Clayton:

What’s your address?

 

Jamie laughs down at her phone and considers it. Jax finally decides to saunter back into the building and walks up the stairs. Jamie follows slowly behind, thinking about what it would be like to have Dani knock on her door unexpectedly.

 

Jamie:

How about this..

2 weeks..

If in 2 weeks we still aren’t allowed to meet up, I pack a bag, bring Jax and we bunk up with you until its over. How does that sound?

 

Dani Clayton:

It sounds like this may be the longest 2 weeks of my life. Otherwise, perfect.

 

Jamie:

Good.

 

Plenty of other people became lockdown buddies when it all started. Fair enough, they’re technically not meant to do it, but neither of them are flouting the rules and they’re both extremely sage and sensible. Until then though, Jamie will take any part of Dani she can, because even just being given the time of the day from her is golden. In her dreams is where she will keep the thoughts of being able to hold Dani.

 

-

 

Waiting for government updates has become a tedious yet necessary chore, constantly waiting for any further lifts on restrictions, specifically those to do with household mixing.

 

The entire population of the country are losing their minds and Jamie is sick of seeing Joe fucking Wicks on her TV every morning. The nations PE teacher can fuck off when just the sight of him makes Jax bark like crazy for some unknown, bizarre reason. God forbid she leaves the TV on whilst showering in the morning.

 

“For fucks sake, Jax. How many times,” She stumbles, grasping a towel around her dripping wet body, “his hair is not as pretty as yours, okay?” she turns the telly off and walks back to the bathroom.

 

She can feel it in her bones, today is going to be one of those days.

 

And today, well today really can go to hell and stay there. It starts with a phone call; Flora, crying because Miles broke one of her dolls.

 

“It wasn’t just any doll, Jamie, it was my Miss Clayton doll.”

 

“You... have a Miss Clayton doll?” Jamie asks with a small smile.

 

“Yes, silly. Uncle Henry says she is your girlfriend now. She must have a doll.” Flora, in all her sweetness says it like it should be obvious.

 

“I think what Uncle Henry meant was that Miss Clayton is a girl who is my friend.”

 

“I don’t think so. He definitely said girlfriend.”

 

Fucking Henry. Not that there would be anything remotely wrong with being Dani’s girlfriend. But she is Flora's teacher, Flora who is 8 and very outspoken. Flora who will be on the group video chat that Dani will be joining for the first time tomorrow night to meet Jamie’s friends.

 

And then there’s her shop, with the mysteriously broken window on the back door, soil all over the fucking place, shattered pots and trampled flowers. Whatever they came in for wasn’t here, Jamie had emptied the safe when she closed up so the only damage done is to her flowers and plants.

 

“Fuck my life..”

 

It takes her two agonising hours to clean it all up. An hour of telling Jax off for continuously trying to walk over broken glass. A ten minute wait on the phone to the non emergent police line to report the break in. The second it takes for the piece of glass she leans back onto to cut right into the palm of her left hand.

 

“Fuck!” She reaches for a towel that’s hanging on a hook and presses it into her hand as hard as she can to stem the bleeding.

 

The first aid box under the till leaves a lot to be desired, just a small bandage and a bit of tape. It’ll have to do for now. She stands up, clears the glass out of the way and heads to the door. She is already late meeting Dani on the park and is irrationally pissed off about it.

 

Jax walks by her side, carrying his own lead in his mouth. On the park, he drops it at the gate and runs. Jamie bends to pick it up, stuffs the handle into her back pocket and pulls her sanitizer out. It stings as it sinks into the bandage, but she shakes it off and continues her walk.

 

Dani, in a floral blue summer dress, is smiling at Jax as he hurtles towards her. She’s stunning. Breath-taking. Just the sight of her is enough to settle the anger in Jamie’s mind and replace it with a calm euphoria.

 

As soon as she reaches the bench, Dani turns to her with a wide smile and bright eyes. “Hey! How are you?”

 

Jamie smiles back, nods, “I’m alright.” It doesn’t come out right, she tries but her smile fades rather quickly.

 

Dani doesn’t believe her, she frowns. “What’s-" Her eyes dart down to Jamie’s hand, “Oh my god, what happened, you’re bleeding.” she grabs Jamie’s arm, runs soft and gentle fingers down her wrist and holds Jamie’s hand in her own, inspecting the blood soaked bandage.

 

For a moment - the most glorious moment in Jamie’s entire life - she forgets. She forgets about the lockdown, the rules, the pandemic. Right now everything is Dani.

 

Their eyes meet and Jamie’s chest pounds, they are closer right now than they have ever been and the rush of adrenaline that runs through her veins is almost intoxicating. This is the first time in 6 weeks that they have touched and Jamie is certain that a strong gust of wind blown her way would knock her straight over.

 

Then it snaps back. Reality. Hard and fast.

 

Dani steps back and let’s Jamie’s hand go quickly but gently. “I- I’m sorry, I.. didn’t..”

 

“It’s alright,” Jamie smiles, clears her throat and takes a deep breath, “it’s alright.” She says with more conviction.

 

“What,” Dani pauses and looks back down at Jamie’s hand, “what happened?”

 

“Someone broke into my shop. Trashed it. I leant back on a piece of glass and.. yeah..” Jamie shrugs. She feels no pain. In fact she feels almost high. She puts her right hand into her pocket and pinches her thigh through her jeans, just to make sure she isn’t dreaming.

 

“Did you call the police?”

 

“Yeah. Not much they can do. They didn’t take anything, just destroyed all of my flowers and plants.”

 

“God, I’m so sorry Jamie. Come on, I have a first aid kit at home, you need to wrap that properly.” Dani turns before Jamie can protest.

 

Jamie can’t help but think how hot Dani is when she is demanding. Her ‘teacher voice' well and truly out.

 

Dani turns around to see Jamie standing still. “Come on. I won’t ask again.” And she turns to continue her walk.

 

“Fuck me.” Jamie whispers under her breath, finding herself completely and utterly turned on.

 

“I heard that.” Dani says loudly from in front of her.

 

Jamie laughs and picks up her pace.

 

The dogs hardly ever bother them anymore. They are more than happy to run around together and fight over sticks and chase the birds. When they end up in Dani’s front garden with their daily bowl of shared water, they rest whilst Dani and Jamie stand on opposite sides of the wall talking.

 

Jamie leans against the wall whilst Dani runs inside. She comes back out with a large green first aid box and places it onto her wall. “Here you go.”

 

“Jesus, is this the part where you tell me you’re a doomsday prepper?” Jamie laughs as she opens the box.

 

“I’m a year four teacher, so practically the same thing.” Dani chuckles.

 

Jamie removes the bandage from her hand and replaces it with a large plaster that covers the entire cut. She’ll clean it up properly later, but in her own flat where Dani won’t be able to see her wince in pain.

 

“Take a few of those,” Dani says, “you’ll need to change it later.”

 

Jamie nods and takes a few plasters out and tucks them into her pocket. Whatever adrenaline was warming her veins has fades and her head begins to pound, she leans against the wall on her elbows and looks up at Dani.

 

“So look, you know this video chat tomorrow night?”

 

Dani nods as she puts the box onto her doorstep. “Yeah?”

 

“Well, Henry will be there. Which means Flora will probably make an appearance.”

 

Dani smiles, “That will be nice.”

 

“Well, maybe but..” Jamie sighs, “Henry apparently told her that you’re my girlfriend now and she’s gotten carried away and made a doll of you for her doll house and I swear I haven’t said anything like that but-"

 

“Jamie,” Dani cuts her rambling speech off, “calm down, it's okay. She’s just a kid, she won’t understand properly.”

 

Jamie stares because Dani is just perfect. The very existence of someone as kind and sweet as Dani gives Jamie hope.

 

Eventually, she smiles. She feels like she is smiling with her entire body, but the look on Dani's face tells her different.

 

“Are you okay?” Dani finally asks, concern showing on her face.

 

“Yeah, just a rough day so far. My head is banging.”

 

“You should go home and get some rest. Give me a call later?”

 

As much as she doesn’t want to, Dani is right. She feels as though her skull is splitting and just needs to lie down.

 

Jamie nods and whistles for Jax who jumps the wall as usual. “Thanks, Poppins. See ya.”

 

She walks home through the park, it's slow, but as fast as her legs will take her. She feels bad, having spent not even twenty minutes with Dani and fuck does she miss her.

 

Her bed is welcoming as soon as she gets home. She falls onto it, covers her head with the duvet and shuts the world out.

 

There’s an announcement, possibly the most sickening yet, but there are no words coming out of the TV. She fights with the remote for volume, but it's ripped from her hands. She turns to see a faceless person, features faded to nothing. Her blood runs cold and the room darkens. This isn’t her living room. The sound of metal on metal, the slam of a gate and a prison buzzer so loud it’s almost deafening.

 

Jamie wakes. Jax is barking at her from beside the bed. She sits up too quickly; it was just a dream. A bad dream. Jax jumps up and rests his head on her shoulder and she holds him. There’s a comfort in cuddling a dog that she never knew possible before she got him. A comfort she has been thankful for every day since.

 

-

 

“How did you sleep?” Dani asks.

 

It took all of an hour after waking up to give in and call Dani.

 

“Um, okay I think. How was your day? I’m sorry I had to leave.”

 

“It’s been quiet, but fine. Don’t apologise, I just wish I could have taken care of you properly.”

 

“Poppins,” Jamie smirks and Dani laughs at just the tone of her voice, “I wish you could have too.”

 

“There’s an announcement tomorrow, maybe things will work in our favour.” Dani says quietly.

 

Jamie sighs, “Fuck, I hope so.”

 

There’s a moment of silence and Jamie can sense that Dani is thinking. The sound of her mouth opening and then closing quickly and the little noise that almost speaking makes in her throat.

 

“What is it?” Jamie asks.

 

“I touched you.” Dani answers immediately.

 

“I know.”

 

“It was an accident.”

 

“Dani,” Jamie says sternly, “I’m not sorry it happened. I’m glad it did.”

 

“You are? You’re not worried?”

 

“The only thing I’m worried about is that I won’t ever feel you touch me again.”

 

Dani hums, “I will. I will and I won’t stop for as long as you let me.”

 

Jamie’s heart flips, it skips, it fucking melts and she doesn’t realise until a tear drips off her cheek that she is crying. No one in her life has ever spoken to her like Dani does, so the sincere tone and the way Jamie can tell she really means it - well it means more than she could ever explain. She takes a deep, quiet breath and wipes her cheek.

 

“You really are amazing, do you know that?” Jamie’s voice breaks a little as she speaks so she clears her throat.

 

“Jamie,” Dani says her name softly, “what’s wrong?”

 

“Honestly, Poppins, I’m just having one of those days.” Jamie finishes with a small laugh.

 

“Can I do anything to help?”

 

“You already are.”

 

-

 

It's beyond her, really, how she went from feeling ridiculously low just two hours ago, to now; happily tipsy and still on the phone to Dani.

 

She sits in a chair on her balcony with a cigarette in one hand and her phone pressed against her ear with the other.

 

“You’re telling me that if you had to choose between a skydive and a cage swim with sharks, you’d pick the sharks?” Jamie laughs, “you are crazy.”

 

“Says the woman who wants to jump out of a plane.”

 

“Rather that than get eaten by sharks.”

 

Dani laughs and pours herself another glass of wine. “I’ve just emptied the bottle. Whoops.”

 

Jamie finishes her cigarette and picks up her glass. “I've g-" She spills it, all over herself, “Shit.”

 

“What?”

 

“I spilt it.”

 

“How?”

 

“Dunno, it just.. kind of jumped out and now I’m wearing it.”

 

Dani is quiet for a second, and then, “Show me.” Jamie laughs, but, “I'm serious, show me.”

 

Jamie puts her on speaker, opens her camera and switches it to front view. She takes a picture of herself, capturing just the bottom half of her face and her torso; her flannel shirt unbuttoned with only a sports bra underneath, showing red wine coating her neck and chest. She sends it and takes her off speaker.

 

“There, you perv.”

 

“Holy.. fuck..” Dani breathes.

 

“Like what you see?” Jamie says with a smirk. She takes off her shirt and wipes the wine from her skin.

 

“Jamie, you look..”

 

“You’re drunk.” Jamie laughs.

 

“That may be so, but even sober I don’t think I could stop my mind wandering.”

 

Jamie stands from the chair on the balcony and walks back into her flat, “Is that right?”

 

“Yeah.. right now I’m thinking,” Dani breathes in and let’s out a light moan after, “about how much nicer that wine would taste if I licked it right off your neck.”

 

Jamie, standing at her sink in the bathroom, closes her eyes and imagines how that would feel. “Fuck..”

 

“I wasn’t going to tell you this but, I had a dream about you last night.” Dani says, her voice a little lower.

 

“Oh? And what happened in this dream of yours?”

 

“Are you sure you want to know? It was a very.. very nice dream.”

 

Jamie walks to her bedroom and lies on the bed, “Christ, yes I want to know.”

 

“Well,” Dani pauses, “you had me pinned against my bedroom door,” she pauses again and breathes in through gritted teeth, “your lips were on my neck and your hands were all over my body and,” she breathes out the word ‘fuck' and hums quietly, “I was so close. You had me so... And then I woke up.”

 

The flat is hot, too fucking hot. The image is painted so clearly in Jamie’s mind that she can practically see Dani pressed against a door when she closes her eyes.

 

“That sounds like a,” Jamie swallows hard and forces herself to breathe in, “nice dream.”

 

“Would have been nicer if it didn’t end so abruptly.”

 

“What have I told you about calling if you ever need help getting back to sleep?”

 

“I would have done but,” Dani chuckles, “well, you know.”

 

Jamie knows. Of course she knows. And fuck, the thought of Dani touching herself whilst thinking of her sets her on fire.

 

“Well there’s an image that’ll stay with me.” Jamie almost whispers. Any louder and she doesn’t think her vocal chords will do as they should.

 

“Mm, I hope so. Do you think of me when you..?”

 

She won’t lie, she’s human and Dani has a way of turning her on in a way no one ever has before. Sometimes with just a look, sometimes with just a word. And Dani knows it. Dani does it on purpose. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise for her to learn.

 

“Yeah I do.”

 

“The thought of that really, really turns me on.”

 

“Maybe you should do something about that. Maybe move to your bedroom.”

 

“I’m already there.”

 

“Fuck. Tell me what you’re doing right now.”

 

Dani is quiet for a moment, before there’s a heavy breath and she moans. Jamie’s phone vibrates in her hand.

 

She looks at it and opens the picture Dani has just sent her. Her hand resting on the inside of her bare thigh, fingers ghosting over the front of red lacy underwear.

 

Jamie’s mouth goes dry as she looks at the picture and she gasps. She’s unaware of it herself until she hears Dani giggle.

 

“You got it, then?”

 

“I wish I was there.”

 

“Tell me what you would do, Jamie.”

 

Jamie breathes in, lies back on her pillows and closes her eyes. “I'd kiss you, I’d kiss your mouth, your jaw, your neck, your chest. I’d kiss you everywhere but where you need me to.”

 

“Please.” Dani whimpers.

 

“When you ask so nicely like that, I’d give in.” Jamie bites down on her lip and listens to the sound of movement from Dani. “Tell me what you feel.”

 

“I’m so wet.” It's barely loud enough when Dani speaks, her words drawn out between heavy breaths.

 

“I’d start slow, using my tongue. I’d taste you.. Fuck, I bet you taste so good.” Jamie rolls her eyes back at the thought.

 

“What else?” Dani asks impatiently.

 

“I'd keep going, faster until you’re about to come..”

 

Dani is panting and moaning quietly on the other end of the phone and Jamie can hear her and the sound the sheets make under her body. She can only imagine what Dani is doing to herself or the way she looks whilst doing it.

 

“And then I’d stop and I’d fuck you.”

 

Dani moans louder and Jamie doesn’t even realise she’s sliding her own hand into her underwear until she feels how wet she is herself. “Oh fuck.”

 

“Carry on.” Dani basically orders.

 

Jamie moves her fingers instinctively against herself and let’s out a quiet, low moan. “I'd fuck you until you pull on my hair because you can’t keep your hands to yourself.”

 

Dani whimpers and curses under her breath. The noises - despite them being a little more muffled now, from a pillow or a blanket being bitten down on, maybe – push Jamie closer herself.

 

“When I feel your legs begin to tremble, I’ll use my tongue as well.. and now,” Jamie pauses, closes her eyes again and silences a moan from escaping her lips, “now I’ll let you come.”

 

“Jamie, fu- I’m..” And Dani does.

 

The sound of Dani falling apart is fucking glorious and Jamie’s fingers move faster and harder against herself. She lets herself go at the same time, falling into a day dream so realistic that she can almost taste Dani's lips.

 

Dani stifles a laugh and sighs, “That escalated quickly.”

 

“Yeah,” Jamie laughs, “good though.”

 

“Why haven’t we done that before?”

 

“I dunno, but I’m glad we did.”

 

Dani sends a picture shortly after, curled up under her duvet with pure lust in her eyes. Jamie stares at it for a while and wishes she could hold her, but instead just whispers “you’re beautiful” so quietly that she’s not sure Dani even hears her.

 

Dani falls asleep on the phone half way through a unintelligible sentence. Jamie giggles silently and hangs up after a few moments, but not before whispering. “Goodnight, Poppins.”

 

-

 

The Prime Minister announces that as of June 1st, up to 6 people from different households can meet outside for as long as they want with social distancing in place. It seems like the easing of lockdown rules is beginning and it fills Jamie with hope.

 

Jamie has her laptop set up on her balcony ready for the group chat to start. The weather has been ridiculous this year, the hottest it’s been in years, probably, so Jamie is thankful for her balcony which provides a nice breeze and shelter from the sun.

 

She grabs a beer from the fridge and sits down on her outdoor chair. She strokes Jax who sits beside her and looks out over the quiet street below. Her phone rings.

 

“Hey, you.”

 

“Hi. I just wanted to call quickly to let you know I am thinking about you.” Dani says, sounding a little rushed.

 

“Is that so?” Jamie smirks.

 

“Yep. About last night, too.”

 

“Poppins,” Jamie bites the inside of her cheek to distract from the thoughts, “you’re about to meet my friends on a video chat, don’t plant that seed in my mind.”

 

Dani laughs, “Just make sure you have your phone with you.”

 

She hangs up.

 

Jamie, as always, is blown away by the things Dani does and says. For example, this morning on the park, Jamie couldn’t stop thinking about the night before and was totally off her game. Dani however, not phased one little bit.

 

She logs onto the party chat and waits. Dani’s face shows up just a second later, angelic as always with a smile that could melt the hearts of even the toughest criminals.

 

“Well hey, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.” Jamie says to Dani at the exact moment Owen logs in.

 

“Thanks Jamie, but I thought I had the wrong bits for you?” Owen answers instead.

 

Dani laughs at him and Jamie flips him off.

 

“Hi, Dani.” Owen says with a wave.

 

“Hey.” Dani replies, a smile still gracing her lips.

 

Hannah is next, closely followed by Henry with Miles and Flora either side of him.

 

Jamie sips her beer and braces herself for the start of what will likely be a hectic chat to begin with.

 

-

Chapter Text

-

“Miss Clayton!” Flora yells with an expression of pure adoration on her face, “Oh, it's so good to see you again.”

 

Jamie watches Dani's face light up as Flora speaks, she smiles and waves. “Hi Flora, how are you?”

 

“Perfectly splendid, thank you. This is my brother, Miles.” She points over to her brother, “you know my Uncle Henry,” Flora then points to her own screen, “this is Hannah, this is Owen and you know Jamie.” Flora sits back beside Henry and smiles, proud of herself.

 

Dani giggles, “Thank you for the introduction, Flora.”

 

“It's nice to meet you, Dani,” Hannah says, “we’ve heard so much about you.”

 

Jamie blushes a little because yes, she has told her friends about Dani - she doesn’t shut up about her as of late, actually, but Dani doesn’t know that.

 

“Hi Hannah, it's good to meet you too. All good things, I hope?” Dani raises an eyebrow and smiles.

 

“Some bad.” Owen says with a cough.

 

“Owen!” Jamie snaps, “Fu-.. get lost.” Jamie snips, remembering just in time that there are children in the chat.

 

Owen just laughs and sticks his tongue out at her. Dani doesn’t seem to react with anything other than a smile.  

 

Flora, as expected, dominates the chat for a good fifteen minutes, demanding to see Jax and Luna. She comments on their matching bandanas; thinks they’re very cute and asks if they’re best friends. Dani says they are. Dani has the patience of a Saint when it comes to Flora – when it comes to anything, actually.

 

Henry orders the kids to go and play before bedtime, so they say goodbye and run off. Jamie sits back now and listens as Dani talks to the only people on earth she considers family.

 

Dani is interesting. Dani is interested in everything anyone has to say. She listens to Henry talk about work and the kids. She offers to help with a little schooling now that they’re allowed to meet outside. Henry is made up with it, thanks her profusely and they arrange to meet on the park on Monday.

 

She listens to Owen talking about his restaurant and the way he talks about Hannah as though she is made of gold.

 

She listens to Hannah explain how much she loves her job and how amazing Owen is. This prompts a sneaky text to Jamie simply asking, “why aren’t these two together again?”

 

Dani fits right in, like she is meant to be here.

 

Dani fits right in Jamie’s heart too, like she has always been there.

 

Dani, for all her sweet responses, innocent smiles and tremendous effort whilst talking to Owen, Hannah and Henry, has been secretly driving Jamie crazy with little text messages. Just short one lines like; “thinking about how you sounded last night.” and “you look hot when you bite your lip.”

 

The woman has a super power. Because no one other than Jamie would know she is sending such messages, whilst still maintaining conversations with three strangers she has just met. Jamie has no such super power and has been absent from conversations for a solid ten minutes. Luckily, Dani keeps them occupied so no one seems to notice.

 

When the video call ends, Jamie takes Jax down to the garden. The chat couldn’t have gone better and Jamie is itching to call Dani and speak to her about it, but before she gets chance to, Owen is calling her.

 

“Hey.”

 

“Dani is lovely.” Owen says.

 

“Yeah, she really is.”

 

“I think I need to tell Hannah.”

 

“Owen.”

 

“It's your fault. I saw your face whenever Dani spoke. I hear the way you talk about her. You two are gonna be great together. Hannah is my one, Jamie, like I think Dani is yours.”

 

Jamie takes a drag of the cigarette she had lit whilst Owen was talking. She doesn’t say anything at first, just let’s his words sink in.

 

“Okay, Owen. I think you should.” She finally says.

 

“Okay. Wish me luck.”

 

“You don’t need it.”

 

Owen chuckles and puts the phone down.

 

Jamie sits on a bench and smokes her cigarette. It's obvious, she realises, how much she likes Dani. She wonders if Dani knows just how much. They haven’t really had those conversations, they just enjoy spending their time together. But Jamie has spent every day since first meeting Dani in mid April falling for her. Falling hard.

 

Relationships aren’t something Jamie is used to or all that comfortable with, to be honest. People let other people down all the time and it's exhaustive. But Dani, well, she thinks Dani might be worth it.

 

She heads back upstairs with Jax and calls Dani.

 

“Hey.”

 

“I was waiting for you to call.”

 

“I’m sorry, Owen phoned. He's decided to talk to Hannah, tell her the way he feels.” Jamie says whilst lying back on her bed.

 

“That’s so good. I’m happy for them, they’re obviously infatuated with each other.”

 

“Yeah, have been for years.”

 

“I enjoyed meeting them, they’re all so lovely. Thank you for introducing me to them.”

 

Jamie smiles. She won’t say how much of a big deal it is to her that Dani met them. That they like Dani and she likes them. “I’m glad I did.”

 

“What are you doing?” Dani asks after a moment.

 

“Just lying on my bed, you?”

 

“Oh.. Same.” Dani says quietly. There are layers to the way she says it though, like it’s an invitation.

 

“Dani..” Jamie says.

 

“I like the way you say my name.” It’s just a whisper when it leaves Dani’s lips, then she breathes in deeply and hums quietly.

 

“Oh yeah?”

 

“Yeah, say it again.”

 

Jamie pauses for a long second, closes her eyes and im1agines she’s there with her lips right next to Dani's ear, their bodies pressed together on the bed.

 

“Dani.” She finally says. Low and breathy.

 

Dani gasps quietly in response.

 

Tonight, Dani tells Jamie what she wants; for them to be close, skin on skin, slow and soft. She tells Jamie what she wants to do to her; to feel her, kiss her, taste her and make her beg for more. Tonight, Dani comes with Jamie's name falling from her lips in the most delicious moan.

 

-

 

Jamie misses Dani on Monday morning. She misses her every morning, despite having never woken up next to her.

 

“How did it go today?” Jamie asks, referencing the outdoor class that Dani held for Flora and Miles today. She holds the phone between her ear and shoulder whilst planting some seeds into a tray in her shop.

 

“So good, Flora loved it. Miles was delightful. Luna enjoyed having kids to play with.” Dani is smiling, Jamie can hear it in her voice. “Missed you though.”

 

“I thought about coming, but didn’t want to be a distraction, you know?”

 

Dani laughs, “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. I find it difficult to keep my eyes off you most of the time as it is.”

 

“Oh, I know. I see you, Poppins.” Jamie smirks.

 

“I wish I could see you right now.”

 

“Hmm.” Jamie wipes the soil from her hands with a towel and takes the phone from between her ear and shoulder, she presses the video call button and waits.

 

Dani’s face appears close up on the screen and actually takes Jamie’s breath away for a moment. It takes her a second to adjust to the sight. She clears her throat, smiles and walks into the back room of her shop.

 

“Better?”

 

Dani smiles at her, “Much.”

 

“So, this is my home away from home.” Jamie shows the small back room of her shop by angling the camera.

 

“I can’t wait to see it properly.”

 

“I can’t wait to show you. I wanna show you everything.”

 

“You do?”

 

“Yeah,” Jamie sits down on the small sofa in the room and leans back, “you’re the only person I’ve ever met who I feel like I can really be myself around.”

 

Dani smiles at her and tilts her head.

 

“You asked me a question during our first date..” Jamie pauses.

 

“I asked why you moved here.” Dani says.

 

“Yeah,” Jamie clears her throat, “I came to London when I was 16. Ran away from a really shite foster home, figured I’d be safer anywhere else and really couldn’t stand to be in the system anymore.”

 

Jamie continues. She spills her life story out to Dani. About her mother and father, her brothers, the various foster parents she had, the agonising train journey from some nameless town in in Yorkshire that she managed to walk to one night, to London, just a 16 year old kid with no money and nowhere to stay. The almost two years she spent in jail at 18 for being in the wrong place at the wrong time - by no means innocent, but that’s a story for another day.

 

Dani listens, but Jamie hardly looks up at her. She’s not ashamed; the life she’s had has made her who she is today and she is damn proud of where she is now, but looking at Dani whilst she is revealing her most vulnerable self makes her heart pound.

 

“It's there I started gardening. And I fuckin' loved it.”

 

She looks at Dani now, who is outside and walking. Jamie obviously missed the part where Dani put earphones in and left her house.

 

“Where are you off to?” Jamie asks with a little smile.

 

“To see you. Meet me outside your shop in a minute.”

 

Before Jamie has time to respond, Dani hangs up.

 

Outside her shop, she waits with Jax. She hasn’t seen Dani today so this surprise is very welcome. It's even more welcome when she sees Dani walking up the street towards her, dressed in light blue jeans and a white t-shirt tucked into them and Luna by her side as always.

 

“To what do I owe this pleasure?” Jamie asks when Dani stops two metres away.

 

“Felt like you might want some company.” Dani says, gripping Luna’s lead with both hands now.

 

Jamie just smiles. She knows what Dani is getting at. She knows she turned up because of everything Jamie has just shared. Her caring and compassionate personality is one of the reasons Jamie likes her so much.

 

Every time Jamie sees her, she wants to kiss her. Today, with Dani just showing up like this after baring her soul, it's even harder to stay away. She actually takes a small step forward and Dani’s chest rises with a sharp intake of breath, her lips slightly parted. It would be so easy to pull her in, to see for the first time what her lips feel like and her mind manages to convince her it’s a good idea. It manages to convince her to do it.

 

Before she can take another step forward, a car beeps it's horn nearby, breaking both of them from their thoughts and ultimately stopping Jamie from closing the gap between them.

 

Dani looks disappointed for a second, like she knows what was about to happen, but then she smiles her perfect Dani smile.

 

“Thank you for coming.” Jamie says, hoping to distract herself. They have come this far, they can go a little longer.

 

Dani ends up leaning against the door frame at The Leafling, looking into the shop as Jamie potters around taking care of her flowers and plants. She asks questions because she is genuinely interested and she comments on how beautiful everything is. Of course, the shop had been trashed recently, so there is nowhere near as much stock as usual.

 

“You should see it when it's in full swing.” Jamie says.

 

“I’m sure I will. Have you decided if you’re opening on the 15th yet?”

 

“I dunno, I’m leaning towards yes. It’ll be nice to start making some money again.”

 

“How far is your place from here?”

 

Jamie stops what she is doing, looks over at Dani and smirks. “Not sure it’s a good idea I tell you that. Who knows when you might show up there spontaneously.”

 

“Are you saying you wouldn’t like it if I did?” Dani says with a pout.

 

“Oh no, I would love it. That’s the problem at the moment isn’t it? You show up at my door and I’m afraid you won’t be leaving for at least forty eight hours.”

 

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Dani bites her lip, her eyes unashamedly looking Jamie up and down.

 

Jamie laughs quietly. “I live in the building over the road there.” She nods in the direction. “Number 27.”

 

Whilst Dani is looking behind her at the building, Jamie walks towards her, keeps her distance and leans against the large glass window at the front of the shop.

 

“You’re thinking about it now, aren’t you?”

 

Dani looks at her, “Thinking about what?”

 

“Turning up at my place and being held hostage for two days.” Jamie smirks playfully.

 

Dani sucks her lips into her mouth and looks down at the ground for a second. “Maybe I am.”

 

“Good. Me too.”

 

“Has it been two weeks yet?” Dani giggles, and then in the faintest whisper, says, “I really need to touch you.”

 

The idea of touching each other has become a need rather than a want. It’s clear in the way they look at each other, in the tension in the air between them whenever they are together.

 

Jamie almost gives in. But instead she holds her forearm with her other hand and digs the heels of her boots into the ground to keep herself from moving.

 

She clears her throat and grins, “You need to stop looking at me like that.”

 

“Like what?” Dani raises an eyebrow.

 

Jamie narrows her eyes, “Like you wanna lock that door, take me into the back room and have your wicked way with me.”

 

Dani laughs and shrugs her shoulders, “I was just thinking about what to have for dinner, actually.”  

 

Jamie smirks and pushes herself off the window, “Same thing really.” She whispers as she walks past Dani to the other side of the shop.

 

Dani's shy laugh and the way she blushes is adorable. They stay quiet for a little while, then Jamie asks if Dani wants to join her in dropping the flowers at the nursing home. Now that they’re allowed to meet people outside, they don’t need to feel bad about doing something other than walking the dogs.

 

Dani tells Jamie about her grandparents on the way, a heart-breaking story of true love. She tells her about how her father died when she was young and how her mother never fully recovered and instead chose to drink her feelings, leaving Dani to fend for herself a lot of the time.

 

Dani talks about how she had her first experience with a woman in high school, a kiss for a dare, but that it felt right compared to the rough kisses of her then boyfriend. She came out properly in college and started dating a woman, but they didn’t work out and stayed close friends.

 

Jamie tells Dani that she discovered her sexuality in London and has only had one proper relationship. One very toxic relationship all those years ago. Women have come and gone since then, never any interest in taking it further though. Until Dani.

 

Today has felt like another step forward for them and Jamie feels lighter somehow. There’s been no judgement, only understanding. For every layer Jamie peels back of herself, Dani does the same. Being in the company of another person has never felt so good, but it only makes the ache in her chest heavier; the only cure would be to reach out and hold Dani's hand. But she won’t. Not yet.

 

“I have a video meeting at four, so I better go.” Dani says whilst looking at her watch.

 

They’re on the park somehow, sitting on opposite ends of the bench. It’s probably not quite two metres between them, but they’re not exactly close.

 

Jamie nods, “Alright. Text me later if you want.”

 

Dani smiles and tilts her head, “Like you even need to wonder if I want to.”

 

Jamie shrugs and smirks. She looks over to where the dogs are playing and whistles. “Right, well, I’ll speak to ya later, Poppins.” She stands up and begins to walk away. She turns after a few steps just to get one last look at Dani.

 

She is completely besotted. And she fucking loves it.

 

-

 

The week drags on, each day much the same. Each day consumed with hours of conversations with Dani. They talk about places they want to go, things they want to do, the first place they’ll go to eat when they’re allowed – Owen’s restaurant of course.

 

One thing Jamie notices is that the things they talk about doing are always the two of them together. Like, when Dani talks about going back to Iowa to visit her friends – she says she can’t wait for Jamie to meet them. And when Jamie talks about driving from London, through France and up to Denmark - she explains the entire journey with Dani by her side.

 

Dani meets Henry and the kids on Thursday for an outdoor lesson. Friday night is quiz night. Jamie and Dani meet Owen and Hannah on the park on Saturday for a picnic. On Sunday, Jamie drops a big bag of Doritos and a six pack of beer on Dani's doorstep with a note instructing her to call at seven pm so they can binge watch a Netflix show all night.

 

They talk all night on Monday, well into the early hours of Tuesday morning. They spend hours adding songs to a playlist on Spotify and they tell stories and exchange feelings through music lyrics. It’s all very unlike Jamie, but then she has never had anyone like Dani to share this side of her with before. It's never been so easy to love someone before.

 

Wednesday 10th June is by far the greatest day of 2020. The evening press conference brings the news that people living alone are allowed to ‘bubble’ with one other household from Saturday. They’re allowed to meet indoors. They’re allowed to stay over night. They do not have to social distance.

 

Jamie almost drops the glass of water she has in her hand, but places it down on the table just in time. She picks up her phone to call Dani at the exact moment Dani is calling her.

 

“Are you seeing this?” Jamie answers.

 

“I am.”

 

“Fuck.” Jamie whispers with a small smile on her lips. She has known this day would come, but she never expected to be this nervous about finally getting to be in the same personal space as Dani.

 

“Jamie?” Dani says quietly.

 

“Yeah, Poppins?”

 

“Will you come over on Saturday? Will you,” Dani pauses for a moment, “stay over?”

 

“Dani,” Jamie says seriously, “I will come over as soon as it turns midnight if that’s what you want.”

 

“Yes, that’s what I want.” Dani answers so fast, her voice a little shaky.

 

“You got it. I’ll have to bring Jax though, that okay?”

 

“Absolutely. I can’t wait.”

 

They won’t talk about how their two week deal is due to be up in a couple of days - just the day before the rules change, actually. It's almost as if some kind of higher power knew and chose to grant them their wish. Jamie can’t quit smiling, she can’t even think of any words to say because she is so happy with this news.

 

There’s two full days to get through yet. Two days of meeting on the park at a distance. Two days of more phone calls and texts, knowing that come Saturday, they will finally be able to kiss.

 

These are going to be the longest two days of Jamie’s life.

 

-

 

“I spoke to Hannah last night after the announcement.” Owen says down the phone.

 

“And?”

 

“She seemed surprised, like it hasn’t been obvious that I’ve been madly in love with her for years.”

 

“Owen, what did she say?”

 

He's silent. Jamie bites her thumbnail and scrunches her face up to prepare herself for whatever he might say. She’s not worried, she knows Hannah feels the same, but can’t be certain she will admit to it.

 

“She said she feels the same way, Jamie. Hannah Grose said she loves me too.”

 

“What have I been telling you all this time? Seriously Owen, I’m so fuckin happy for you.” Jamie grins. This has been a long time coming and to finally hear her friends admitting their feelings for each other only adds to the high she has been riding since the announcement yesterday.

 

“We're going to bubble, I’m going to cook for her and give her a proper at home date. I hope you don’t mind, I figured you would be bubbling with Dani.”

 

“I am indeed. I’m going over on Friday night. Fuck, I should do something special.”

 

Owen laughs heartily, “I don’t think you need to, you two haven’t been in the same room as each other once this whole time, I reckon that will be special enough.”

 

Jamie nods, “Mhmm. I’m nervous though. I don’t wanna fuck it up.”

 

“How could you fuck it up?”

 

“I dunno. I just really want this to work. I really lo-.. like her.” She cringes and hopes that he missed it.

 

“Ahhh yes, the L word.” Owen says, an obvious smirk on his lips as he speaks.

 

“Why must you always talk about that show, Owen? We're not all like that.” Jamie jokes, attempting to brush over the fact that he obviously understands what she means.

 

“N'awww. Dani is the Carmen to your Shane. The Tina to your Bette. The-“

 

“Shut the fuck up.”

 

“Rude. You made me watch it.”

 

“No, you heard there was a show purely based around the lives of a group lesbians and you made me watch it.”

 

“Don’t pretend you didn’t enjoy it.”

 

“I’m going now, you weirdo,” Jamie laughs, “and hey? I’m happy for you. Don’t fuck it up.”

 

“You too.”

 

Jamie lies back on her sofa. She just has to get through tomorrow. If she wakes up at 8am, there’s sixteen hours before she can see Dani properly. Her heart thumps at the thought. She groans and covers her face with both hands and decides that she is definitely thinking too much into this.

 

On Friday morning, she wakes up to a text from Dani.

 

Dani Clayton:

I hope you know I’m not letting you leave for the entire weekend. Pack a bag.

 

Jamie:

I won’t be putting up a fight, don’t worry.

 

Jamie goes to the supermarket in the morning, so misses meeting Dani on the park like they usually do. Probably a blessing really, because seeing her in person before midnight would be way too hard to resist.

 

She buys wine, because she has a feeling she’ll need at least one glass to calm her nerves before she walks to Dani’s. She buys Yorkshire Tea since she remembers Dani mentioning a while ago that she doesn’t buy tea bags because she doesn’t really know how to make it. The rest of the shopping list slips her mind and she just wanders around the store aimlessly.

 

Jamie fills the rest of the day with distractions. A few hours in her shop, a drive up to a nearby lake with Jax, she packs a bag as instructed by Dani, showers and dresses in skinny black jeans, a vest and her favourite flannel shirt.

 

Finally, she makes it to eleven pm without going too out of her mind. The nerves are eating away at her though whilst she tries to figure out what she’ll do when Dani opens the door.

 

Does she kiss her straight away?

 

Does she wait for Dani to kiss her first?

 

Does she say even say hello?

 

Maybe she has gone a little out of her mind after all.

 

It’s eleven forty five, so she grabs her bag and Jax's lead and leaves her flat. “Come on boy, we’re going for a sleepover.” Jax wags his tail like he understands what she means and runs down the stairs ahead of her.

 

Jamie parks her truck on Dani's driveway behind her mini and turns off the engine. She drove because walking through the park at midnight would not be wise. There’s five minutes until midnight, the red L.E.D blinks loudly at her on the dashboard.

 

“Fuck it.” She whispers and opens the door. What’s a few minutes going to change? They’ve waited long enough.

 

Once out, she grabs her bag and moves to one side for Jax to jump out. She opens the gate, closes it quietly behind her and approaches the doorstep.

 

Jamie knocks. Jax sits. She looks down at him and whispers “good boy” softly. When she looks back up, Dani is there with the door open, just inches away.

 

Dani up close is stunning. Heart stoppingly beautiful. Her smile even brighter than Jamie ever thought possible.

 

“I’m early.” Are the only words able to come out of Jamie’s mouth.

-

Chapter Text

-

Seconds. That’s all it takes for Dani to step forward and place both hands on either side of Jamie’s face, to press her lips hard against Jamie’s and kiss her with everything she has.

 

Seconds, for Jamie to melt into the perfection of Dani's lips. The feelings of the past two months spill into the air around them, covering them like a warm blanket.   

 

In this moment, nothing else matters, not the pandemic or the fact that they’re in plain view of any nosey neighbours. Just Dani. Her lips, her soft hands and the tiny noise of contentment she makes in her throat.

 

Jamie raises her free hand and rests it on Dani's elbow, softly squeezing. She inches her body closer so they’re flush together. The new contact is electric and steals the breath right from Jamie’s lungs.

 

Jax barks from beside them, startling them from their embrace.

 

“Fuck,” Jamie whispers and laughs under her breath as she rests her forehead against Dani's and runs her hand gently up her arm, “you gonna invite us in or what?”

 

Dani pulls back and chuckles, “Yeah, sorry.” She grabs hold of Jamie’s hand and pulls her into the house. Jax follows and runs off down the hall where Luna is stood waiting. Dani closes the door behind them and locks it, her hand still gripping Jamie's like she is afraid to let go.

 

Jamie places her bag on the floor beside a side table and tugs gently on Dani's hand, pulling her into her arms and directly into another kiss. This time, she puts one hand on the back of Dani's neck and sinks her fingertips into her blonde hair.

 

She can feel her own heart pounding in her chest. She can feel the warmth of Dani's body against her own and Dani's hands tracing underneath the back of her shirt over her vest.

 

Of all the times Jamie has thought about finally getting to kiss Dani, no single thought compares to the real thing. Her senses are overwhelmed with the taste of Dani's lips, the smell of her perfume and the way her body feels pressed against her.

 

Jamie let’s slip a quiet moan as she feels the tip of Dani’s tongue brush against her lips and immediately grants access, parting her lips and meeting Dani's tongue with her own.

 

Dani presses Jamie back against a wall, her hands resting on Jamie’s waist. The kiss is hot and intense and only fans the flames that have been burning in her stomach since she first set eyes on Dani on the doorstep. Jamie pulls back first for two reasons; one because the need for oxygen takes over, and two because if things continue this way they may not make it out of the hallway at all.

 

She tucks a stray piece of Dani's hair behind her ear and looks right into sparkling blue eyes, staring in wonder.

 

Dani smiles shyly at her, a slight blush on her cheeks. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

 

“I am too.” Jamie whispers.

 

“Come on, let me get you a drink.” Dani takes her hand, pulls her away from the wall and down the hall into the kitchen.

 

Dani's kitchen is huge and modern, all black and chrome fixtures with an island set in the centre. She lets go of Jamie’s hand and opens the fridge.

 

“Beer?” She asks whilst looking back at Jamie.

 

Jamie, usually confident and alert, is completely distracted by the sight of Dani and the sound of her voice.

 

Dani chuckles and takes two beers out of the fridge anyway.

 

Jamie snaps back, suddenly aware, “Sorry, I just,” she pauses, leans back against the island and clears her throat, “I’m still trying to convince myself that this is real.”

 

Dani walks over and stands in front of her, a small smile on her lips. “It's real,” she says quietly. She puts the bottles to one side and takes another step forward, “let me show you.”

 

Jamie breathes in deeply as she feels Dani slide her hands down her arms and into her own, interlocking their fingers together.

 

“It's real,” Dani whispers and kisses the corner of Jamie’s mouth, “you’re real,” she kisses the other side, “I'm real.”

 

Jamie turns her face ever so slightly to meet Dani's lips. Kisses her once, and then again. Dani pulls Jamie's hands and places them on her waist then puts her own hands behind Jamie’s neck.

 

“See?” Dani whispers.

 

“God, you’re beautiful.” Jamie says.

 

Dani blushes, looks down at the ground and bites her bottom lip. Jamie wants to kiss it, wants to suck it into her own mouth and bite gently, just to see what reaction she will get.

 

Instead, she puts two fingers under Dani's chin and lifts her face so she’s looking back at her. Feeling braver, she leans in and kisses her. Their tongues meet almost instantly and they kiss slow at first, but Dani's tongue quickly becomes more determined. Jamie slides one hand into Dani's hair and pulls her body in closer with the other.

 

Dani moans involuntarily as she is pulled in and until now, that sound has only been heard over the phone. A sound so glorious that it makes Jamie weak at the knees. Dani pulls Jamie away from the counter and although the attempt to continue kissing whilst walking towards the living room is admirable, it’s just not possible.

 

She pushes Jamie down onto the sofa, lifts her mid-thigh length skirt just a little to give her more movement and straddles her. They’re kissing again now, harder and faster than before, more tongue and heavier breathing. Now Jamie bites down on Dani’s lip, tugging it lightly between her teeth. Dani groans and Jamie opens her eyes to see Dani staring right back at her.

 

Dark, lust filled eyes that Jamie sinks into. She lets go of Dani's lip as she feels her shirt being pulled from her arms and leans forward so it can be removed. Dani leans in and kisses her shoulder, over the strap of her vest top and up her neck.

 

“Fuck,” Jamie whispers as Dani sucks lightly on her neck, “Dani.”

 

“Hmm?” Dani responds, kisses up Jamie’s neck to just below her ear.

 

“This is,” Jamie gasps when Dani nibbles her earlobe, “not that I don't like where this is going, but do you want to slow down a bit?”

 

Dani, with one hand tangled in Jamie’s hair and the other scratching nails lightly up and down her arm, hums into her ear, “Do you want to?”

 

Jamie isn’t sure how to answer, she doesn’t want to, but she doesn’t want Dani to feel like this is expected. Before she has time to respond, Dani grinds her hips down into her lap slowly.

 

“I want this, if that’s what you’re worried about.” She speaks quietly into Jamie’s ear, her hips picking up a slow and steady rhythm. “We've waited long enough, don’t you think?”

 

“Fuck.” She can’t help it, the word just kind of falls out. “Yes.”

 

Dani smirks as she presses more kisses to Jamie’s neck. There will definitely be marks there in the morning, but she can’t bring herself to care. Jamie sits forward and adjusts position so she can lift Dani, turn and lay her back on the couch. She hovers above her, using one arm to keep her up and the other to slide under Dani’s sweater, ghosting fingertips over her stomach.

 

Dani whimpers and uses both hands to grip onto the back of Jamie’s vest. She puts her head back when Jamie pushes a thumb into the divot by her hip, and there is that moan again, louder this time. Jamie leans down and kisses along her jaw, down to her exposed neck.

 

“Jamie.” Dani whispers, her hands now under Jamie’s top, nails digging into her back.

 

“Yeah?” Jamie continues and sucks on Dani's pulse point, drinking in the taste, the sounds, the scent.

 

“I need you.” Dani scratches harder now.

 

Jamie lowers her hand to the hem of Dani's skirt and lifts it a little more. She puts one knee between her legs and moves so her thigh rests against the apex of Dani's thighs.

 

“I’ve got you, Dani.” Jamie says, looking up into Dani's eyes now, then she puts some pressure behind her thigh.

 

“Oh fuck.” Dani breathes out, her eyes roll back and her teeth bite down onto her bottom lip in an attempt to quieten herself.

 

Jamie lifts Dani's skirt higher, this time so she can see the purple lace beneath them. She then kneels up because Dani is pulling her vest up, she takes over, pulls it over her head and throws it to one side.

 

Dani’s eyes explore the new sight of toned abs and black bra and so do her hands. Soft hands gliding down the centre of Jamie’s chest, down her stomach and to the waistband of her jeans.

 

Before she knows what has happened, Jamie is on the floor on her back and Dani is on top of her, smiling down with a quiet giggle. Dani pulls her sweater off, revealing a matching purple lace bra covering perfect breasts.

 

Jamie leans up on her elbows as Dani dips down to kiss her. She feels her bra unclip and the straps fall down her arms.

 

Dani practically crawls down her body, the sight alone makes Jamie want to beg for the first time in her life. Dani maintains eye contact the whole time. When she slides Jamie’s bra off. When she kisses Jamie’s chest between her breasts. When she moves her head to the left and takes a pert nipple into her mouth.

 

Jamie closes her eyes at the sensation. Light sucking, the flick of Dani's tongue, the gentle graze of teeth. One hand is in Dani's hair now, pulling a little harder than she should.

 

Dani turns her attention to the other breast. One hand is keeping her up, the other pops the button on Jamie’s jeans and slides the zipper down.

 

This is an entirely new experience for Jamie. She is giving herself freely to Dani, letting her do as she pleases, completely at her mercy.

 

“Can I?” Dani asks, whilst tugging on Jamie’s unzipped jeans and trailing wet kisses up her chest.

 

Jamie nods, “mhmm.” Dani kisses, really kisses, open-mouthed and sending shivers down Jamie’s spine.

 

She pulls away, kneels up with her legs either side of Jamie’s and trails her index finger down the centre of Jamie’s torso.

 

Jamie still has her boots on, so she kicks them off without making Dani move. The sensation of Dani's finger down her body makes it hard to stay leaning up on her elbows, so she gives in and lays on her back, thankful for the high pile carpet in Dani's living room.

 

Jamie notices the zipper at the side of Dani's skirt. A zipper that goes down the full length of it. She reaches out and pulls it down ever so slowly, looking up at Dani as she does. It reaches the bottom and the skirt falls from Dani's waist.

 

Jamie’s mouth goes dry and her heart skips. Because holy fucking god is Dani stunning. She moves the garment out of the way and runs her hands up Dani's thighs. When she reaches the lace sitting on her hips, she strokes back down, nails lightly scratching.

 

Dani shudders and puts her head back, one hand gripping onto the front of Jamie’s boxers. She seems to be distracted and oh the sight. Jamie quickly lifts up, flips Dani over onto her back leans down to kiss her.

 

There’s no rush between them. There’s pure want and adoration and the need to be touched, but there’s no rush.

 

Dani pushes Jamie’s jeans down as much as she can, so Jamie breaks the kiss and kneels up, she manages to take her jeans off without having to move too much and settles her thigh between Dani's legs.

 

“Fuck, Dani.” Jamie whispers as she feels just how wet Dani is, soaking through lace onto her bare skin.

 

“You..” Dani moans as Jamie presses her thigh against her, “your fault.”

 

Jamie smirks, pleased with herself, obviously. Her hand travels from Dani's thigh slowly up to her side, over her ribs and then over her breast, where she squeezes.

 

“Fuck,” Dani moans, “please, I-" She stops talking, replaces words with a loud moan as Jamie pushes her leg harder. Dani's hips move, searching for more friction.

 

“Since you asked so nicely.” Jamie leans down, kisses Dani’s lips, her chin, jaw, neck; where she stays for a moment to suck lightly on her pulse point, down to her collarbone, where she bites. All the while, her hand is pulling down ruined underwear.

 

Dani lifts off the floor so they can be pulled down. Her body is trembling, Jamie can feel it under her mouth. She can feel Dani's heart beating hard when she kisses down her sternum. She can feel one of Dani's hands gripping onto her bicep, the one that’s keeping her up.

 

Jamie slides her fingers up the inside of Dani's thigh, pleased when Dani opens her legs wider. She sighs heavily when she feels Dani's arousal coating her fingers. Warm, slick wetness that she wants to sink into.

 

So she does. She lifts her head to kiss Dani as she pushes one finger inside her. Dani lets out a muffled moan into Jamie’s mouth, nails digging into her bicep and Dani's other hand now in her hair.

 

She slides her finger out and back in deeper. She wants to take her time learning what Dani likes, but Dani is panting “more" into her mouth, no longer able to kiss her back.

 

Jamie obliges, adds another finger and pushes in just as deep. Dani moans louder, her head pressed back against the floor with eyes shut. Jamie makes slow circular motions inside her, matches the movement with her tongue on Dani's neck.

 

“Jamie, fuck me.. please.” Dani whimpers, getting Jamie’s attention and looking up at her now.

 

Dani swearing like that is possibly the hottest fucking thing Jamie has ever heard. She nods, chews on her bottom lip and picks up the pace, thrusting her fingers in and out. She can feel Dani dripping down her hand, pooling in her palm and she has to resist the urge to dip down and taste her.

 

Listening to Dani moan and breathe like this is almost enough to push her over the edge, she is turned on way more than she has ever been before.

 

“God, yes,” Dani tugs on Jamie’s hair, her other hand still holding onto her bicep, nails digging in hard enough to leave marks, “please don’t stop.”

 

Jamie leans down, kisses over Dani's bra, bites her nipple through the lace. She looks up, watches as Dani’s brows furrow, lips part and the most heavenly sounds escape them.

 

She curls her fingers inside as she fucks her, glides her thumb over her clit repeatedly and licks her nipple again. Dani arches her back off the floor, her walls tighten, legs tremble and she comes hard, crying out a strangled “Jamie, I’m co-” before covering her mouth with the hand that was holding onto Jamie’s arm to muffle her screams.

 

Jamie rests her forehead against Dani's chest, her own breathing ragged, her heart thumping. She slows her fingers right down when Dani closes her thighs a little and her body twitches a couple of times.

 

She looks up at Dani, completely enchanted by her pink cheeks and the slight glisten of sweat on skin. Dani just smiles at her and pulls her up and into a kiss. It's slow and deep; tongues brushing together as if painting a piece of art. Jamie gently removes her fingers, smirking as Dani gasps.

 

Dani adjusts so she is lay on her side and Jamie is beside her. She pulls her in close so their bodies are flush together. Jamie thinks she should say something, but she’s too busy kissing every part of Dani’s face that she can.

 

They stay this way for a few moments, enjoying each others lips, losing and then catching their breath, until Dani rests her head on Jamie’s chest. Jamie holds her like she is a precious gem and strokes one hand up and down her back.

 

“Your heart is beating so hard.” Dani whispers.

 

“Yeah I know. Has been since you opened the door earlier.” Jamie kisses the top of her head.

 

Dani lifts her face and looks into Jamie’s eyes. Jamie takes a deep breath in, because for the umpteenth time tonight, Dani takes it away.

 

“We should probably get off the floor.” Dani chuckles.

 

Jamie nods and laughs, “Yeah.”

 

Dani sits up, grabs Jamie’s shirt from the sofa and puts it on. She fastens the buttons and when she looks up, she sees Jamie staring at her with a raised brow.

 

“What?”

 

Jamie smirks and leans up on her elbows, “Nothin’.”

 

There’s something about Dani wearing her clothes that sits very nicely with Jamie, she could look at it all day in fact. Dani just laughs and throws Jamie’s vest at her.

 

“Put that on.” Dani gets up and walks away.

 

Jamie watches Dani walk away. The shirt is long enough that it covers her modesty, but Jamie knows what lies just beneath it. She puts her vest on and stands up, follows Dani to the kitchen.

 

“Do you want anything?” Dani asks, clearly aware that Jamie is behind her.

 

Jamie presses herself against Dani's back and pushes her forward a little so her hips rest against the counter in front of her. “Just you.” Jamie whispers into her ear.

 

Dani gasps, puts her head back and Jamie immediately leans in and kisses her exposed neck. Dani moves her hand behind her, rests it on Jamie’s thigh and moans. “Wha-" She stops talking when Jamie's hand slides under her shirt and settles over her breast, squeezing lightly.

 

Jamie gently bites on Dani's shoulder and then slides her hand teasingly down her stomach. Dani tenses and digs her nails into Jamie’s thigh and Jamie can sense the anticipation, the want and need to be touched again.

 

Her hand slides lower and Dani pushes back a little so there’s room for Jamie’s hand between her and the counter.

 

The first touch almost knocks Jamie over. Dani is so wet again. “Holy fuck.” She whispers into her ear. She puts her other hand around Dani, rests it on her chest just below her throat and she kisses her neck.

 

She could take her time, drag it out for as long as Dani can handle it, but the need to feel Dani come as she holds her like this takes over. She holds her close, kisses, nips and licks her neck. She circles her fingers over Dani's clit until just moments later she is having to hold her up as she comes.

 

Dani turns around in her arms and rests her head against Jamie’s shoulder, her breath hot and heavy on her neck.

 

“Sorry, I couldn’t resist.” Jamie says with a chuckle, holding Dani close.

 

“Mmm. Don’t apologise.” Dani says quietly, tightening her arms around Jamie’s back.

 

Jamie just holds Dani and waits for her breathing to settle. Finally being able to do this - not just the sex, but having Dani in her arms - makes Jamie’s heart swell. Nothing has ever felt so right.

 

The sight of Luna’s dog bowls in the corner reminds her that the dogs are around somewhere, having completely forgotten about them whilst wrapped up in all things Dani.

 

“Uh.. where are the dogs?” She finally says.

 

Dani pulls back, looks around, “No idea, actually.”

 

Jamie steps back and whistles. A moment later, there’s the sound of thudding of paws running down the stairs, a scratch on laminate as they slip at the bottom and then Jax and Luna bound through the door.

 

Jax stands beside Jamie, looking up at her with his tail wagging. “Y'alright boy?” She strokes his head. He is quickly distracted by Dani opening the back door and goes running outside with Luna.

 

“He's got a new best friend, it seems.” Jamie says.

 

Dani hands her a bottle of water, “It's nice. Keeps them distracted.”

 

Jamie sips the water, watching Dani as she smirks and stands in front of her. Watches as her eyes scan down Jamie’s body. “Like what you see, Poppins?” Jamie gives a crooked smile and puts the cap back on the bottle.

 

Dani bites her bottom lip, reaches out with one hand and scrunches Jamie’s top in her fist. “Mmhm,” she pulls a little, “shall we..” she pauses when Jamie steps in closer and kisses her cheek. She makes a quiet noise of approval and pulls on the fabric harder. “Bedroom?”

 

Jamie moves her mouth to meet Dani's, kisses her softly, her tongue glides against Dani’s bottom lip and she knows she doesn’t need to answer that question.

 

The dogs come back into the kitchen and walk straight past them. Dani groans and pulls away, she lets Jamie go and slides away from her. With the back door closed, she walks back to Jamie, grabs her hand and pulls her out of the room.

 

-

Chapter Text

-

Dani is, as Jamie suspected, a huge tease. She had stripped Jamie naked by the time they reached the top of the stairs, disposing of the shirt and bra she still had on too. Right now though, she has her legs either side of Jamie’s body, kneeling, pinning her to the bed. She leans down, kisses Jamie’s neck. The skin on skin contact is delicious when Dani rolls her hips. The feeling of Dani twitching, coupled with the delightful little moan she makes, when she gets just the right amount of friction between her legs makes Jamie’s heart pound.

 

Jamie has one hand in Dani’s hair, the other hand is holding onto her hip, pushing her down, encouraging every roll. There’s a fire burning in her abdomen, an intense ache between her legs that is becoming increasingly harder to deal with every second.

 

“Christ.” Jamie whispers into Dani's ear just as she feels teeth sink into her neck. She sucks in a breath of air between clenched teeth and moans. She hears Dani hum as she soothes the bitten skin with kisses.

 

Dani adjusts so their bodies are flush together, one leg between Jamie’s. She trails a hand down Jamie’s body, lifts her face to look into Jamie’s eyes as she runs fingers down between her legs.

 

“Oh god.” Dani whispers as she feels how wet Jamie is. She rolls her eyes back a little and let’s her fingers sink in to wetness.

 

Dani doesn’t need instruction or approval for anything she does, she somehow already knows how to send Jamie’s mind reeling off the edge of a cliff, wondering what on earth she has done to deserve meeting this incredible woman.

 

She sinks two fingers inside Jamie, right up to her knuckles, slow but hard, and curls. She kisses Jamie at the same time, her tongue eager but sensitive in her mouth.

 

Dani is slow and methodical, pushing Jamie closer to release but never enough to achieve it. Over and over again until Jamie feels like she has to come soon or she might break in half.

 

“Fuck, Dani.” Jamie moans, gripping the bed sheets with one hand.

 

She knows how much Dani likes it when she says her name, just from the times conversations have become a little heated on the phone, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise when Dani gasps and increases the speed of her fingers inside her in response.

 

Jamie kisses her, her hands wrapped around her body, nails digging into her back. Sex with other women would generally be a lot of give and not much contact - but with Dani, she wants their bodies pressed together when she comes. Wants to kiss her and be kissed back in the moment.

 

She can feel Dani's heart beat, hear the light moans that Dani makes in her throat and the bite of teeth in her bottom lip. All until she can feel nothing but her orgasm taking over her entire body once Dani curls her fingers in just the right place and strokes her thumb over sensitive nerves.

 

She holds closer than she ever has before. Moans louder and kisses harder than she ever has before. She doesn’t know if it’s because they have been building a relationship for all this time, unable to touch, or if it’s because she is head over heels and fantastically in love with Dani Clayton, but she is certain that tonight is the best night of her entire life.

 

Dani buries her face into Jamie’s neck, kisses as she slowly removes her fingers. Jamie, still with her arms wrapped around Dani, smiles into her hair.

 

“That was..” Jamie mutters, trails off when she realises she can’t find the right word.

 

Dani lifts her head, “Amazing?” she settles herself beside Jamie, lay on her side with her hand resting on her stomach.

 

“And then some.” Jamie laughs, turning her head to look at Dani.

 

“Are you convinced yet?” Dani asks, trailing a finger along Jamie’s ribs, “that this is real?”

 

“I’ll let you know in the morning.” Jamie responds with a smile. Dani adjusts, pulls the duvet over and invites Jamie in.

 

-

 

Jamie opens her eyes to find the space in the bed next to her empty. For a split second, she is certain that last night was a dream - perfect, but too good to be true, maybe?

 

That is until her eyes adjust to find that this is most definitely not her bedroom. There’s a framed picture of the Eiffel Tower on the wall in black and white, next to a picture of the Statue of Liberty, also in black and white. On the bedside table there is a picture of Dani, with her big bright smile, holding Luna.

 

Jamie sits up to find a note beside her.

 

Morning,

Taken the dogs out, you were well away.

Your bag is by the bed, help yourself to the shower.

See you soon.

Dani.

 

Dani left her a note. A note. A simple thing that makes her feel all warm and fuzzy inside. She rolls off the bed and grabs her bag, pulls out her toothbrush and heads into the en-suite bathroom connected to Dani's room.

 

The warm water soaks her, soothes the small visible bruises left on her neck and shoulder. Pleasant memories of the night before flood her brain and she smiles. Dani well and truly has Jamie right in the palm of her band. And Jamie doesn’t mind. She loves it.

 

When she makes it downstairs, she finds Dani sat on a stool at the island with a coffee, her phone pressed to her ear.

 

“It’s about time! How did it happen? Tell me everything.” Dani says excitedly down the phone.

 

Jamie walks around so she is opposite Dani, catches her attention and gives a lopsided smile. She puts her bag down on the floor and pulls her cigarettes from her pocket. Dani, who is seemingly listening to someone talk endlessly on the other end of the phone, watches Jamie move to the back door, her bottom lip caught between her teeth and the index finger on her free hand trailing the rim of her coffee cup.  

 

Jamie pretends she doesn’t notice and stands by the open back door, she places the cigarette between her lips and lights it. After taking a drag, she glances back at Dani, who is unabashedly staring at the curve of Jamie’s hip where her t-shirt has ridden up.

 

Of course, the look on Dani's face is irresistible and way too hot to ignore. Jamie stubs the end of the only partially smoked cigarette on the wall and walks towards Dani.

 

“No, no. I’m here. I’m just... listening.” Dani says down the phone, her voice breaking a little, eyes focused only on Jamie.

 

Jamie smirks and spins Dani round on the stool. She stands between her legs, moves her hair out of the way of one side of her neck and dips down to kiss.

 

Dani does well to disguise the gasp by clearing her throat, her free hand now buried in Jamie’s hair, pulling gently. Jamie runs her hands up Dani's legs, lifting the summer dress she is wearing along the way. She ghosts fingers along smooth skin, nips gently on Dani's collarbone, tucks fingertips under the side of her underwear, lifts her lips to Dani's free ear and breathes softly.

 

“I um,” Dani pauses, obviously struggling to hide reactions, but she is still pulling on Jamie’s hair, arching her body towards her, “I haven’t spoken to him in a while.”

 

Jamie can hear a woman talking on the other end of the phone, one of Dani's friends, she thinks.

 

“Why? What did..” She pauses when she feels Jamie's hands slide her legs further apart, “what did he say?”

 

Jamie smirks, still breathing lightly into Dani's ear. She is aware she hasn’t said good morning yet. Hasn’t kissed her yet, even. But Dani isn’t complaining, if anything, Dani is encouraging it just by using her body movements and pulling Jamie’s hair.

 

Jamie uses two fingers on one hand to move Dani's underwear out of the way whilst two fingers on her other hand slide through already silky wet folds. Jamie gasps into Dani’s ear, along with a very light whisper of “naughty". Dani pulls harder on her hair in response, nodding.

 

With just one finger, Jamie slides inside Dani. The aim here is to tease, to drive Dani crazy whilst she is so obviously involved in a deep conversation with a friend. It's difficult though, because all Jamie can think about is sinking to her knees and using her tongue instead.

 

Jamie is slow, pulling out and running her finger over Dani's clit, then back down and inside again. Dani is keeping it together ever so well, responding to her friend with just one word answers or mumbles so she knows she is still listening.

 

Jamie moves her head back and looks into Dani's eyes. She slides her finger out and lifts it to her parted lips, slipping it into her mouth. Dani gasps, this time very audibly, and watches as Jamie licks her finger.

 

“I’m gonna have to call you back.” Dani says down the phone, before placing the phone back on the counter.

 

Dani kisses her now, moaning when her tongue meets Jamie’s, tasting herself. They stay in a hot, fast embrace for a moment, before Jamie pulls Dani off the stool and this time does drop to her knees.

 

“Fuck,” Dani says, moans as her underwear is pulled quite roughly down her legs, “oh god, yes.” She says, like she is answering an unasked question of whether this is okay.

 

Jamie looks up at her as her tongue connects. She holds onto one thigh, the other is holding up her dress. She slides her tongue up the length of Dani's centre, hisses as Dani pulls a fistful of her hair in return.

 

Dani leans back against the counter, one hand holding onto the cold marble to keep her up. She is looking down, keeping eye contact, her tip lip turned up on one side a little with teeth clenched.

 

“You taste so good.” Jamie whispers as she traces a finger up Dani's inner thigh, higher until she sinks inside.

 

Dani moans, writhes, bites down on her bottom lip and pushes her hips forward into Jamie’s tongue.

 

Oh fuck, don’t stop that." Dani manages to say through heavy breaths and moans.

 

Jamie continues, adding another finger, her tongue whipping, until a few minutes later Dani is clenching around her fingers, repeating Jamie’s name in a chant before gently pushing her face away when it becomes too sensitive.

 

Jamie stands up and allows herself to be pulled into a kiss. She lets the bottom of Dani's dress go and wraps her arms around Dani’s waist.

 

“That,” Dani says breathlessly, kisses once again, “was quite a way to say good morning.”

 

Jamie laughs, “Yeah, I suppose it was.”

 

“I’m not complaining,” Dani says, “if anything, I encourage it.”

 

Jamie nods in agreement and kisses Dani's cheek, “Won’t take much, I assure you.” She smirks, licks her bottom lip. “Let's try this again shall we. Good morning, Poppins. How did you sleep?”

 

“Oh, very well thank you. Best I have in ages actually.”

 

“Good. Was Jax alright for you this morning?”

 

“He was fine. Do you want coffee?”

 

“Tea please, I brought some.”

 

Dani smiles and steps back. She stops for a second, looks around and bends to pick her underwear from the floor. Jamie chuckles, bites her lip and walks around to where she left her bag. She takes out the box of Yorkshire Tea and hands it to Dani, before taking a seat on a stool.

 

She watches Dani boil the kettle and take two mugs from a cupboard.

 

“That was my friend on the phone before,” Dani says as she puts a tea bag in each of the mugs, “she and our other friend have been staying with each other since the start of the pandemic and have ended up together. They’ve been into each other for years but he has always been a bit of a.. ladies man, let’s say.”

 

The kettle boils, clicks and Dani lifts it, pours the water into the cups to just above the halfway point.

 

“They actually met through a one night stand, but he really got on with our group of friends. Do you take sugar?” Dani looks up, a mountain of sugar on the tea spoon in her hand. Jamie shakes her head. “But yeah, he finally asked her out properly.”

 

Jamie cringes a little for two reasons. One; at how much milk Dani puts into tea. And two; at how little time she waited to put it in. But then, Jamie has been warned about Dani’s lack of tea making skills so isn’t surprised.

 

“Sounds a little familiar, that story, few details changed.” Jamie says, cradling the cup of way-too-milky-tea in her hands.

 

“Hannah and Owen?” Dani asks, reaching for her phone.

 

Jamie just nods and smiles, “mhmm.”

 

Dani's face drops as she looks at her phone, “Oh fuck,” she covers her mouth with her free hand, “fuck, Jamie.”

 

“What is it? Is everything okay?” Jamie asks, brow raised and a little worried.

 

Dani begins to pace a small area of the kitchen, scrolling down her phone. “Oh god, you... just read this.” She passes Jamie the phone.

 

Jamie looks at the screen, a long row of messages from someone called Tina.

 

DANI.

You forgot to hang up.

I’m not mad..

But if you’re gonna blow me off so your girlfriend can fuck you..

You could at least tell me!

Sounded like you were having fun though.

Tell Jamie I said hello.

I didn’t stick around too long, just long enough to know what was going on.

Dirty fuckers.

 

Jamie sucks her lips into her mouth, trying not to laugh, but quite clearly very amused. She looks over at Dani, who is staring, looking absolutely mortified. Okay, this could go badly, this could be their first fight. It was Jamie’s fault after all. But she knows Dani. Well enough to know that she doesn’t take things too seriously. So she sets the phone down on the counter and bites back a laugh.

 

“At least she took it well,” Jamie says, “tell her we'll send her the bill.”

 

“You’re not,” Dani starts, frowns, “mad about this?”

 

Jamie let’s out the laugh she has been holding, “No, Dani. I’m not mad. It’s not like you did it on purpose. Total accident, could happen to anyone.”

 

Dani laughs, still looks incredibly embarrassed, but laughs. She grabs her phone and locks it, placing it into her pocket. “I was too distracted to check if I had hung up,” she leans forward on the counter and puts her head in her hands, “I can’t believe it. Just glad it was Tina and not anyone else.”

 

“So you’ve told her about me?” Jamie asks, wanting to bring up the whole ‘girlfriend’ comment too, but that can wait.

 

“Of course I have." Dani answers and sips her tea.

 

This bit of information makes Jamie feel a little shy, actually. Even though she knows that her and Dani are more than just friends and she has introduced Dani to her friends already, the thought of her meaning enough to Dani that she has told her friends about her, is really rather warming.

 

“Is that okay?” Dani asks.

 

“Yeah, absolutely, just wondered.” Jamie smiles, happy. She sips her tea and pulls a face. “Christ, Poppins. You weren’t joking when you said you couldn’t make tea.”

 

Dani looks shocked, “What? It tastes fine to me.”

 

“American.” Jamie mumbles with a smirk. “I’ll teach you how.”

 

-

 

Jax appears to be incredibly happy, running around Dani's garden with Luna. The fact they get along so well is a blessing, it makes them both less clingy so when Jamie and Dani are sat on a blanket in the garden, they have space for once. The sun has been out for what seems like endless weeks now, the hottest summer in years they say.

 

“This is not the weather I expected for England.” Dani says, lay on her stomach, leant up on her elbows and twirling a piece of grass around her fingers.

 

“Nah, it's not usually this hot.” Jamie, lay on her back, looks to the side of her at Dani. “What do ya wanna do today?”

 

Dani looks back at her, “We could watch a movie, order food, drink some wine, maybe?”

 

Jamie smiles and nods, “Sounds good to me, Poppins.” She turns onto her side and clears her throat, “I uh, I wanted to ask..” Jamie trails off, looks down.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Now that we’re allowed to do this, maybe you could come stay with me one night next week?” She looks back up at Dani, “I’m gonna open the shop back up on Monday so, won’t have the same time to walk Jax in the mornings and..” She stops talking.

 

“You’ll miss me, huh?” Dani says with a teasing grin.

 

Jamie laughs and slumps back onto her back, looking up to the sky she nods, “Yeah, I will.”

 

Dani moves in closer, plants a kiss on Jamie’s cheek. “Of course I will come over. Just tell me when and I’ll be there.”

 

Jamie smiles up at her. What she wants to ask is ‘forever?’. But she doesn’t. She just turns her face to meet Dani’s lips and kisses her instead. Only a few seconds later, they are disturbed by both dogs by their side, nudging Dani. She laughs and moves out of the way, leaving enough room for Jax to rest his head on Jamie’s chest.

 

“Little jealous there, boy?” Jamie laughs, stroking him. She sits up, fusses over him.

 

Dani stands, looks down at her watch and sighs. “I better call Tina back, she’ll be up by now.”

 

“Tell her I said hi.” Jamie says with a smirk and a playful wink.

 

Dani blushes, “Just try to keep your hands to yourself this time, yeah?” And she walks away.

 

“Can’t make any promises!” Jamie shouts after her, watching her disappear into the house.

 

Jamie stands, walks around the garden, giving Dani some space. It’s a wonder, really, how she manages to keep her head on straight when Dani is around. Even now as she hears her laughing on the phone from the kitchen, she feels her heartbeat quicken. She doesn’t even know what she is laughing at, but the sound, oh, the sound of her laughter is enough to give her butterflies.

 

She throws a ball down the garden, watches Jax and Luna run for it, praises them when Luna brings it back and drops it to the ground. Jax is next, jumping high into the air to catch it.

 

Dani comes back a few minutes later, wraps her arms around Jamie’s waist from behind. “Hi.”

 

“How did that go?” Jamie asks, turning around to face her and resting her hands on Dani's hips.

 

“Fine. She found it really funny actually. She asks so many questions though.”

 

“Such as?”

 

“What you look like. If you have Facebook. If we..” Dani pauses, clears her throat, “if we're together.”

 

Jamie smirks, “And what did you say?”

 

Dani looks down, shrugs her shoulders. “Told her you’re gorgeous, that you do have Facebook, so maybe expect a friend request. And um, I don’t know. I d-, are we? Together?” She looks up now, sucking her bottom lip in nervously.   

 

Jamie doesn’t respond straight away. She wants to, her brain is screaming ‘yes, yes!’ but her mouth will not move. It’s the look on Dani's face that’s rendered her speechless, she thinks – shy, unsure, hopeful. She manages to nod eagerly before Dani gets the wrong idea and pulls her in closer.

 

“We are?” Dani asks quietly.

 

“Yes, if that’s what you want. I’m not seeing anyone else. Or speaking to anyone else. Only you, Poppins.” What she won’t say, is that she hasn’t been talking to anyone else since the day she met her. All advances rejected or blocked and the dating app she occasionally perused deleted the very same day.

 

She didn’t know Dani at the time, not hardly, but there was something about her. A familiarity of sorts. Impossible to ignore.

 

Jamie feels Dani's body relax, her eyes close and she rests her forehead against Jamie’s. “Neither am I.”

 

Jamie smiles, kisses her once, very faintly whispers “thank fuck", then kisses her again, hard and almost desperate.

 

Dani makes a noise in her throat and pulls back, her cheeks flush and eyes glistening. She glances to the side and laughs. “Mr Jones is watching.”

 

“Ey?” Jamie says, confused.

 

“My neighbour.” Dani says quiet and amused, nodding to the side of them. “Don’t look though. He’s a sweet old man, just incredibly nosey.”

 

Jamie nods, “Ahh, I see. Best get inside then, hadn’t we? Wouldn’t want him to witness any wandering hands.” She grabs Dani's hand and pulls her back into the house, whistling for the dogs to come running.

 

-

Chapter Text

-

“How was your weekend?” Jamie asks, her phone on the counter in front of her.

 

“It was,” Owen says, pauses for dramatic effect and squeals, “the best weekend of my life.”

 

Jamie laughs, “I know exactly what you mean. What did you do?”

 

“I cooked her a slap up meal, we talked, we laughed, we planned a trip to Paris. Which, by the way, you and Dani are welcome to join,” Owen sighs happily, “what about you?”

 

Jamie opens her mouth to speak but smiles instead.

 

“Can’t tell me?” Owen says.

 

“No, I-“

 

“Too explicit?”

 

“No, it-“

 

“You fucked up didn’t you?”

 

“Owe-"

 

“What did you do?”

 

“Christ, Owen! I didn’t fuck up. We.. we kinda.. well we’re together.”

 

Owen is silent. Jamie has her hands in soil so can’t touch her phone to see if the call is still running.

 

“Owen?”

 

 “Shut. The. Front. Fucking. Door.” He finally says, “you, Jamie Taylor, have a girlfriend?”

 

She rolls her eyes, sighs audibly. “Yes.”

 

“Well, slap my arse and call me Sally.”

 

Jamie laughs, “I will do no such thing. Why is this so hard for you to believe?”

 

“Well, because I know you.” He says quite seriously, “You don’t do commitment, not since..”

 

“I know.” Jamie responds, cringes at the mention of her only ex. A long time ago, another lifetime ago it feels like, she gave her everything to someone, did time for someone, only to be tossed aside after the matter like an old ragdoll; used and abandoned.

 

“And this is what you want?”

 

“Yeah. Not even a single doubt about it, Owen.”

 

“I’m happy for you. You deserve to be happy, Jamie. You deserve someone like Dani.”

 

“I am a hundred percent confident that there is no one else on this planet like Dani, mate.” The bell above the door rings and Jamie looks up to see a customer. “Gotta shoot, catch you later.” She wipes her hands on a towel and hangs up the phone.

 

“Morning, Mr Jones. How are you this morning?” Jamie says, smiles at the elderly man. She already knows what he wants - a bouquet of flowers of Jamie’s choice for his wife. Every week without fail.

 

“Hello, dear. Sure am glad to have you open again, Joyce has missed your flowers.” He approaches the counter, adjusts his face mask and stops short of the screen separating them.

 

“I am too, Arthur. Usual?”

 

“Please."

 

She sets about creating the bouquet in silence. Glad to be getting back to her work. Arthur doesn’t speak much, just watches her work, grateful when he is handed the flowers, always with the same “they’re perfect, she will love them.” comment that never fails to make Jamie smile.

 

Normality. This feels like normality. Back to the thing she loves so much.

 

-

 

It's been a day since Jamie and Dani saw each other last, having decided between them to wait until Wednesday so Jamie can focus on work and get back into the swing of things. Work distracted her for the most part, getting back into a routine, but now she is home and freshly showered with nothing to do with the rest of the evening. She opens the text chain between her and Dani, the last one being a selfie of Dani on the park, Luna chasing behind her. Jamie's simple reply was, ‘wish we were there.’

 

She's about to send a text when her phone pings, flashing a notification from Facebook.

 

Dani Clayton updated your relationship status. Accept?

 

Jamie smiles and taps the request, hits accept without thinking twice about it. There will be comments, she thinks, Dani's family and friends, maybe. Owen and Hannah will have something to add. Doesn’t bother her if the whole world sees that she is in a relationship with Dani Clayton - if anything, she is proud of that fact. Proud and extremely lucky.

 

She stares at the screen for a moment, reading and re reading the post with a grin on her face. People are liking it, leaving little hearts and the comments have started already.

 

Karen Clayton: How lovely. Call me.

 

Owen Sharma: So happy for you two. Love’s young dream.

 

Tina Warren: Yay! Happy for you. Feel like I already know Jamie so well.

 

Jamie laughs, she immediately knows what Tina is getting at. And knows Dani will likely be blushing at her phone right now.

 

Should she comment too? Is that weird? She’s never been in this situation before. Never once changed that relationship status from ‘Single’ – never once wanted to. So she writes a quick “I'm a very lucky woman🖤and posts it before she changes her mind.

 

She sits back on her sofa, locks her phone and sighs. Jax copies and sighs from his bed, lay on his stomach facing Jamie, looking up at her with big sad eyes.

 

“I know bud, I miss them too.”

 

She sits back, resists the urge to get up and walk around the corner to Dani's house. Resists any urge to pick up her phone and text or call. She could, she knows she could and that Dani will be lovely and perfect. But she also knows that if she does either of those things, she will not sleep.

 

So she focuses on the TV in an attempt to distract herself, drags herself off to bed at eleven and this time does text Dani.

 

Jamie: Goodnight, Poppins.

 

She checks her phone at half five in the morning. The changed relationship post is fine. Pleasant, even - the amount of love and support Dani has is truly warming.

 

There’s a few friend requests; Tina, that’s fair. Accept. Someone called Beth with an all too revealing profile picture, no mutual friends so nothing to do with Dani. Decline. The next one is interesting. Karen Clayton; all blonde hair, teeth and a bottle of wine. Maybe she should talk to Dani before accepting that one.

 

By the time ten am rolls around, she hasn’t had chance to stop and breathe - between driving to the garden centre, phoning a supplier, re potting some of her best sellers and dealing with Jax whilst he repeatedly scratches at the door to the back of the shop.

 

Just as she is about to pick up her phone to call Dani, wanting to say good morning at the very least, the bell above the door chimes. She sighs, slides her phone into her pocket and stands behind the counter.

 

The customer, wearing a mask, wanders around the shop silently. He's not the first one to come in since she opened this morning, but he is the first person to not say hello or even make eye contact. She shrugs, busies herself with her planner and leaves him to it.

 

A few minutes later, he's at the counter in front of her. She smiles politely, met only with a cold stare.

 

“You Jamie Taylor?” He asks with a nod, a broad cockney accent falling from his mouth.

 

She often gets people coming into the shop asking for her by name - the perks of recommendations from other customers. So she nods and rests her hands on the counter in front of her.

 

This man, with his neck tattoos, messy beard and a scar on his cheek just nods slowly, looking her up and down and doing his best to be intimidating, she thinks.

 

“Yeah, can I help you with something?” She’s a little on edge now, so her tone of voice is sharp and she is frowning.

 

He says nothing and it’s impossible to read his facial expression because of the mask. He finally, after a long stare, shakes his head and turns around. He leaves the shop without another word.

 

Jamie is still frowning just a moment later when Dani and Luna walk through the door.

 

“Whoa, what happened? Who do I need to beat up?” Dani says, removing her mask and walking behind the counter and right into Jamie’s arms.

 

Dani is relaxing. Just her presence puts Jamie at ease, her arms wrapped around her body help to ebb the confusion and irritation from the last visitor and her lips pressed gently to her cheek helps her forget the feeling completely.

 

“Nothing. S’all good. Just a... weird customer is all.” Jamie says, frown long gone. She kisses Dani now, loses herself in the rush of adrenaline that Dani's lips bring. A surprise visit from her girlfriend is just what she needed.

 

“I missed you.” Dani says quietly into Jamie’s neck

 

“Missed you too, Poppins.” Jamie holds her, kisses her hair, “what brings you here this morning?”

 

“Wanted to see you,” Dani says, lifting her head, “wanted to kiss you.”

 

Jamie grins, groans quietly in frustration, “I know we said tomorrow night but, how do you feel about tonight instead?”

 

Dani smirks, licks her lips and pushes her body in closer. “Tonight is good. I could cook for you, if you want.”

 

“I do believe I was once promised lasagne.”

 

Dani giggles and pecks Jamie on the lips, “Okay. What time?”

 

“Anytime you like. I should be done around here at about four.”

 

Dani looks around the shop and Jamie can see the cogs turning behind her eyes, a flicker of mischief and a raised eyebrow when she looks back to Jamie.

 

“Fancy going into the back to make out?” She says quietly, staring right at Jamie's lips.

 

Jamie really doesn’t need to think about the answer to that question. She grabs Dani's hand and pulls her into the back of the shop, closes the door behind them and pushes Dani back up against it. She rests her hands on the wood either side of Dani's shoulders and leans in.

 

“Maybe this,” Dani gasps as Jamie kisses her neck, “wasn’t such a good idea.”

 

Jamie stops abruptly, looks at Dani, “huh?”

 

“No, carry on,” Dani pulls Jamie back in by the collar of her shirt, “I just mean.. now I don’t want to stop.”

 

Jamie smiles into Dani's neck, sucks gently over her pulse point before moving to her lips. She knows exactly how Dani feels, but it doesn’t stop her from resting her thigh between Dani's legs.

 

Dani moans, tightens her grip on the back of Jamie’s shirt and arches into her. Kissing Dani is by far Jamie’s favourite thing to do; from the way their tongues move perfectly together, the fullness of Dani's lips, the way she absolutely cannot keep her hands to herself, now sliding them up under the back of Jamie’s top.

 

The bell at the front of the shop chimes and Dani jumps.

 

“Fuckin' perfect.” Jamie mutters.

 

Dani giggles, “Work comes first.”

 

Jamie nods, places a kiss on Dani's cheek and pushes herself off the door.

 

“I’ll see you later, okay?” Dani says, clicking her fingers so Luna comes over.

 

“Yeah, good.” Jamie smiles, opens the door and walks out first.

 

Standing by the counter is Owen. Even with a mask covering is mouth and nose, Jamie can tell he is grinning like a cheshire cat when he sees Dani walk out behind her.

 

“Ooooh, what were you two up to back there?” He says teasingly, raising his eyebrows repeatedly.

 

“Piss off.” Jamie says with a smirk.

 

“Are you aware that there’s a guy outside just.. staring at your shop?” Owen asks, looks outside. “Oh, he’s gone.”

 

Jamie frowns, “Shaved head? Neck tattoos?”

 

”Yeah, you know him?”

 

“No. But he came in before, seemed to know me. Bit weird to be honest.” She shrugs, shakes her head. “What do you want anyway?”

 

“Just to say hello,” He looks at Dani, “how are you, Dani?”

 

“Good thanks. You?” Dani smiles, placing her mask back over her face.

 

“Oh, you know, only the happiest man on the planet.”

 

“Christ,” Jamie laughs, “what the hell did Hannah do to you?”

 

Dani chuckles, leans in to Jamie and kisses her cheek through the mask. “Only the same as what you’ve done to me.” She whispers, before stepping back. “See you later.” She says louder, looking at Jamie and then to Owen, before walking to the door and leaving with Luna.

 

Jamie looks at Owen, blushing. “Don’t.” She says when she sees his eyes smiling.

 

“No judgement here, Jamie.” He holds his hands up in defence and shrugs.

 

Owen ends up sticking around the shop for a couple of hours, telling Jamie all about his weekend. He describes Hannah with the same love and adoration that the British have for Princess Diana. In the same way Johnny Cash spoke about June Carter. She draws the line when he makes a Grease reference though.

 

“Oh please, you couldn’t cut it as a T-Bird.” She laughs, watches as Owen dramatically runs a hand through the side of his hair.

 

“Anyway, that's me done. I’ll get out of your way,” He claps his hands together, “speak to you later.”

 

“Thanks for the company.” She nods at him as he leaves.

 

-

 

The lasagne will be great, Jamie is certain. It will be great, but right now all she can think about is the way Dani's jeans cling to her legs. About how nice it would feel to slide her hands into the back pockets of them. To bend her over the counter, slide her hand down the front of those jeans and-

 

“Jamie.”

 

Dani caught her staring. At her ass. And she could be embarrassed about it, but the way Dani is looking at her and biting her bottom lip tells her she definitely doesn’t need to be.

 

“Sorry, what?” Jamie finally says.

 

“I was asking,” Dani pauses as she walks across the kitchen to where Jamie is sitting on wooden chair, “if you’re hungry,” she sits in Jamie’s lap facing her with both hands on either side of her face, “guess I got my answer.”

 

Jamie puts her hands around the back of Dani’s waist. “Yeah, somethin’ like that.”

 

Dani is smirking, sliding one hand into Jamie’s hair, tangling her fingers into brown curls and pulling gently. Jamie whimpers when she feels Dani's lips just under her ear, pulls Dani in closer.

 

“You know, we could always,” Dani pauses to bite gently on Jamie’s earlobe, “heat the food up later.”

 

Jamie stands, lifting Dani along with her, who squeals and laughs. She walks the few steps towards the bedroom with Dani’s legs wrapped around her waist and gently lowers her onto the bed. Dani is giggling, tugging on Jamie's clothing.

 

Over the course of a weekend, Jamie has discovered a few little things that seem to send Dani crazy – how she likes it when Jamie rests a hand flat against her ribs when she is kissing her. How Jamie looks up at her from between her legs, tongue sliding through wet heat. How she likes to be kissed when Jamie is fucking her slow, bodies close. And, possibly her favourite, how Dani's top lip curls when she wants it harder and faster, usually coupled with a rough tug of hair or nails scratching down her back.

 

Dani pays attention to Jamie in a way no one else ever has. It makes her nervous at first, the newness off it, having Dani take control. Dani sitting up, pulling Jamie into her lap, sliding fingers inside her, guiding her hips down. Jamie falls apart with their bodies pressed together, with Dani biting her neck and with her own hands wrapped up in blonde hair.

 

The after though, all cuddles, sweet kisses and breathlessness – this is what love is, she thinks.

 

“How did this happen?” Dani asks, trailing her finger across a scar on Jamie’s abdomen.

 

“Oh, um,” Jamie sighs, “that is the result of a prison made shiv.”

 

Dani sits up, her eyes wide with shock, staring at the scar. Jamie panics, wonders if Dani forgot about the whole ‘prison thing’. But then her eyes go soft when she looks up at Jamie’s face. “I’m so sorry,” she starts, runs her thumb along the raised white skin, “that you had to go through that. Did it hurt?”

 

Jamie nods, “Yeah, bought me a couple of weeks in the hospital though so I wasn’t complaining.”

 

“How?” Dani asks, seems to register the confusion on Jamie’s face, “How did it happen? And why.. why would someone do something like that?”

 

Jamie sits up too, she can tell Dani she doesn’t want to talk about it and knows she would understand. But for the first time ever, she finds herself wanting to talk about it. Wanting to share every part of her life with Dani.

 

“I'd been inside for over a year, kept myself to myself. Had my work detail in the gardens, kept myself busy so I could sleep at night. But, the thing about prison,” Jamie pauses, takes a deep breath in and clears her throat, “it's cold, Dani. Everything about it; the walls, the inmates, the guards... especially the guards.”

 

Dani, having taken hold of Jamie’s hand just a moment ago, squeezes lightly.

 

“If the women have something on a guard, they’re as good as fucked. They’re blackmailed to bring drugs in.. phones.. weapons. Over and over again. It's a lot to witness, to hear, to see. Have you ever seen someone get beaten within an inch of their life because they refused to let someone cut in line for the shower?”

 

Dani shakes her head.

 

“I snapped one day. A particular group of women were ruthless and I wasn’t going to sit back and watch...that.” She winces, bites down on her tongue, stares dead at blanket that she is now white knuckle gripping with her free hand. “I knew it, as soon as I opened my mouth, that I’d be dead within a couple of days. And the guards knew, too. They knew when they called me to go with them to medical. They knew when they opened the door that those fucking women were waiting for me.”

 

Jamie let’s out a laugh. Not because it’s funny, but because she survived.

 

“I’d accepted it, you know? Death. But hell, I wasn’t going down without a fight. Four women I expected. The knife however, I did not. I don’t really remember what happened after the door closed, apart from waking up in ICU. And then solitary. Got out not long after.”

 

Dani is looking at her with her head tilted, her thumb stroking Jamie’s knuckles.

 

“Never told anyone that, yanno.” Jamie admits, looking Dani in the eyes.

 

Dani gives a closed mouth smile, lifts Jamie’s hand to her mouth and kisses her knuckles. “I’m glad you feel like you can tell me about it.”

 

“Yeah,” Jamie says, “I can.”

 

-

 

Getting out of bed this morning is a challenge. Because Dani is still there next to her. She looks peaceful and beautiful and Jamie can’t help but stare for a moment. It's way too early to wake her up, so she just very gently kisses her cheek and gets out of bed.

 

The dogs are asleep on the sofa when she enters the living room after showering and getting dressed for work. She decides to leave Jax there and will text Dani asking her to bring him to the shop when she leaves. Although she really wouldn’t mind if Dani chose to just spend the day relaxing in her flat.

 

She leaves a spare key on the kitchen counter next to the coffee machine that she absolutely knows Dani will make use of.

 

At the shop, she opens the door to find a letter on the floor. It’s way too early for post and it’s been hand written with no stamp. She flicks the lights on and opens the envelope. It is a letter and it's the most unexpected and shocking thing she has ever read. She opens the door and steps out onto the street. There’s no one around apart from one person walking away and when he glances back, she recognises him as the man who came into her shop yesterday, only this time he is wearing no mask so his smirk is clear.

 

If anyone could see her now, they might say it looks as though she has seen a ghost. Which to be honest, is how she feels. She doesn’t know who the man is, but she sure as fuck knows who the letter is from.

 

“Shit.”

 

-

Chapter Text

-

 

The letter is from Jennifer. Her ex girlfriend. Her first girlfriend. Jennifer, who took Jamie home to her big time drug dealer father. Jennifer, who preyed on the innocence and naivety of a seventeen year old Jamie and made her believe that without her, she was worthless.

 

Given her upbringing, Jamie held on tight. There was a solid year of life with this woman. She transported and dealt drugs and in return received a life of luxury and – what she thought at the time – love.

 

Jennifer had her nails in deep and when the time came for her to ask Jamie for the biggest favour yet, Jamie didn’t hesitate to say yes. Prison. Although by the time she got out, she had decided that a life of crime wasn’t for her, she wanted more. So she approached Jennifer, asked her to move away with her. It was then it became clear – Jennifer never loved her. Jamie was just a pawn, a toy, a possession, a warm body in her bed.

 

A family like Jennifer’s isn’t one a person can just leave. Jamie had witnessed some awful shit, but since she did time for them she had been given a pass, vowing her silence.

 

The letter that she has in her hand is an apology. An ask for forgiveness. Her father is dead and Jennifer wants to make amends.

 

Jamie hasn’t thought about this woman in years and never expected something like this. She screws up the paper, throws it into the bin, absolutely no way is she calling the number left on the page.

 

It takes an hour for her to get her mind in order, a row of four cigarettes and two cups of tea. It’s almost painful, remembering the darkest times of her life and the woman who made Jamie believe that people aren’t worth it. It’s a reminder of how far she has come too, though.

 

She has found things that make her happy, that make her proud, that make her glad to be alive - Her business, her friends, her dog and most recently. Dani.

 

She finally opens the shop, puts the letter to the back of her mind, buries her hands in soil, draws up plans for a project she will be working on soon and when the door opens and Dani walks in, she feels as though she can finally breathe easy again.

 

“Hi.” Dani says sweetly, letting the dogs run ahead to the back room. She walks around the counter to Jamie and pulls down her mask.

 

“Hey, Poppins,” Jamie says, kisses her on the lips, “sleep okay?”

 

“Wonderfully, thanks. Here you go.” Dani holds out the spare key to Jamie. She takes it and drops it into her pocket. “You alright? You seem.. on edge.”

 

Dani knows a little bit about why Jamie went to prison. Well, she knows it was because of someone else. She won’t lie to her about this, but the truth makes her nervous.

 

“Yeah, I.. I got a letter. From someone I used to.. know.. from before.. years ago.”

 

“Oh?” Dani tilts her head.

 

“My.. ex. But I’m not remotely interested in reconnecting with her. It's just come as a bit of a shock, is all." Jamie’s past is just that, her past and she has no desire to re open old wounds.

 

“What does she want?” Dani asks.

 

“To apologise, apparently. She’s the reason I did time, so I don’t wanna hear it.”

 

Dani smiles. A perfect, warming smile that makes Jamie melt. “You don’t need to do anything you don’t want to do.”

 

“Fuck, it’s good to see you.” Jamie says quietly, pulling Dani in to her chest and holding her. Dani has never once judged her or asked too many questions about Jamie’s past, only listens and comforts.

 

“Come over tonight?” Dani says, kissing Jamie’s cheek. “You’re closed on Thursdays, right?”

 

Jamie nods.

 

“Come over. Stay over. Let me make you feel better.” Dani smirks, kisses Jamie’s lips.

 

Jamie let’s out a sigh of approval, smiles into the kiss and holds onto Dani's waist. She pulls back and nods. “Yes please.”

 

It turns out that a night with Dani is just what she needs. They’re two bottles of wine down, listening to a playlist of power ballads on Spotify. Nothing pleases Jamie more than being the reason for Dani's laugh; teasing her with a terrible imitation of her accent and the way she says certain words, play fighting with the dogs in the middle of the living room and showing off the tricks she taught Jax.

 

A little tipsy, Jamie stumbles onto the couch, watches as Dani makes her way back from the kitchen just in time for ‘Black Velvet’ to start playing. A song that Jamie soon realises that she will never be able to listen to again without picturing Dani slowly strip down to her underwear.

 

Dani crawls onto her lap, straddling her on the couch. She takes one of Jamie’s hands and slides it down into the front of her thong.

 

“Touch me.. please.” Dani whispers, kneeling up a little to give Jamie more room.

 

Jamie gasps when she feels her fingers stroke through slick wetness. She moans when Dani puts her hands on her shoulders and grinds her hips down.

 

“Feel me, Jamie.” Dani moans into Jamie’s ear.

 

Jamie uses her free hand to pull down Dani's underwear as much as she can, fingers gently pressing against her clit in small, slow circles.

 

Dani closes her eyes, bites down on her lip, puts her head back just a little and continues moving her hips. Jamie encourages the movement with her free hand on her waist then slowly slips two fingers inside, pulling Dani down onto them. Dani rests her head onto Jamie’s shoulder in response and moans loudly before biting.

 

Jamie hisses, pulls Dani down harder onto her fingers, lets the feeling of Dani's mouth, lips, teeth and tongue on her skin take her over, lets the feeling of Dani around her fingers consume her every thought.

 

Drunk Dani is relentless, loud, rough. She wants and she needs and Jamie is more than happy to give. Especially as Dani tugs hard on her hair and whispers ‘more’ into her ear. Jamie adds a third finger slowly and Dani digs nails into her back, she presses her face into Jamie’s neck, her breath hot and heavy.

 

Jamie adjusts a little, lets her ride, curls until Dani is trembling, clenching, coming around her fingers with an almost silent cry. Dani collapses breathless onto Jamie, her hands and lips now soft and gentle on her skin.

 

“Christ,” Jamie murmurs, “you’re gonna be the death of me, Poppins.”

 

Dani giggles, moves to kiss Jamie’s lips. “Did it help?” she asks, sliding one hand down under Jamie’s shirt and into her bra, “to take your mind off things?”

 

Jamie moans, “Yeah it did.”

 

Dani hums into Jamie’s ear, “You don’t think I’m done with you yet, do you?”

 

Jamie closes her eyes as Dani closes her palm around her breast, shakes her head.

 

“Good,” Dani says, pauses for a moment and then, “bedroom.”

 

-

 

A week passes in a flash. Dani stays almost every night at Jamie’s flat, stopping by the shop in the morning to drop Jax off along with the key. It brings a little more sunshine every morning to Jamie’s day. The note, Jennifer and the tattooed man have been forgotten about and Jamie is happy in her bubble with Dani.

 

It's Wednesday again already and when Dani walks in the shop with the dogs, Jamie stares at her. Every time she sees her, she falls harder. She loves her, she knows it, she feels it in her bones. She won’t tell her yet though.

 

“What is it?” Dani asks, looking around.

 

Jamie snaps out of her trance, smiles and pulls Dani in by her hand. “Nothing, sorry. I.. You’re just very pretty.” She pulls the mask down from Dani's face and kisses her lips.

 

Dani smiles, steps back and holds out the key for Jamie to take. “Here you go.”

 

Jamie looks down at the key in her hand, glances up to Dani and takes a deep breath in. “Keep it.”

 

Dani raises an eyebrow. “I.. what?”

 

“Keep it. Y’know, if you want, I um, it's,” Jamie stutters, takes a step back as she registers Dani's slightly shocked expression and sighs, “you don’t have to, if it's too.. soon- what?”

 

Dani grabs her arm, “Jamie.” Her expression is soft, a small smile on her lips that immediately puts Jamie at ease. “I want to.”

 

Jamie stares blankly, waiting for the other shoe to drop. “...But?”

 

Dani giggles, wraps her fingers around the braces of Jamie’s overalls and pulls her in close. “No but. Just... yes.”

 

Jamie smiles, a big goofy smile and she kisses her because if she doesn’t, she feels as though she might explode.

 

She pulls back quickly, “Oh, you need a..” she pulls her own keys from her pocket and unclips a keyring. A small silver flower. She takes the key from Dani and hooks it on, before passing it back to her, “a keyring.”

 

Dani examines the metal, stroking her thumb over the embossed flower. “What is it?” she asks, looking back up at Jamie.

 

“Just a flower, Poppins.” She smiles. She won’t tell her what it actually is. She won’t tell her it’s a moonflower. She won’t tell her what it means to her. She won’t tell her yet.

 

“Still coming over tonight?” Dani asks, looking up from the key.

 

Jamie nods, “Definitely.” She just has to make it through the rest of the day without letting her thoughts distract her too much.

 

The latest government announcement is the re opening of pubs and restaurants on the 4th July, much to Dani's amusement. Pubs before Schools. So very backwards. It does mean that Owen can open his restaurant though. It also means that they get to have a proper night out together.

 

“This means I get to take you on a proper date,” Jamie says, hovering over Dani on the bed, “I get to pick you up,” she kisses Dani's neck, “take you for a meal,” she leans up, kisses her lips, “take you for a proper drink,” she presses her thigh between her legs, “take you home.”

 

Dani pulls down on Jamie’s back, her breathing ragged, “I like the sound of that.”

 

“Hmm, I bet you do. We both know you’re wild when you’re drunk.” Jamie smirks, remembering the week before. She very slowly lifts Dani's skirt over her hips.

 

Dani bites her lip, rolls her eyes and sniggers, “I didn’t hear you complaining.” She places her hand into Jamie’s hair, pushes, guiding her down her body.

 

Jamie settles between Dani's legs, pleased to find Dani's underwear already soaked through, “Mm.. Definitely no complaining from me.” She pulls down the navy lace, runs her tongue up the inside of Dani's thigh.

 

“So you like it a little,” Dani gasps when Jamie's tongue travels up the length of her centre, “rough?”

 

Jamie smirks, looks up at her, “I think we established that last week.” She doesn’t give Dani chance to respond with words when she pushes her tongue inside her.

 

It's amazing how Dani reacts to her; just a few words, a look, a racy text message and in this case - an innocent touch when Jamie thanked her for a beer by placing her hand on the small of her back and kissing her cheek. Dani took her by the hand and led her up the stairs to her room right that second.

 

Dani knows what she wants and she isn’t afraid to ask for it. And Jamie knows what Dani likes by now. She knows how to make her come within minutes using her tongue. She knows how to make her come just by using words, light breaths in her ear, fingers teasing but not touching. And each time is a new electric moment.

 

By the time they make it back downstairs for dinner, Jamie notices she has several missed calls from Owen, five text messages and a voicemail. She opens the messages, the first few just variations of her name in capital letters, the last two with formal invites to her and Dani to a restaurant opening and a lock in.

 

“Owen has invited us to a lock in on the fourth when he re opens.” She looks over at Dani who is in the kitchen.

 

“Great. Tell him I expect cocktails.” She grins and Jamie swoons. It takes every fibre in her entire body not to let those three words fall from her lips. Not. Yet.

 

-

 

The fourth of July. It's a Saturday of course, because the government are not smart. Owen has made preparations within his restaurant, sanitising stations, spaced out tables, spaced out stools at the bar, clear screens wherever possible and has had reusable masks made with the logo on for his staff. He gifted Jamie and Dani one too, because ‘word of mouth is the best form of advertisement’. Jamie won’t forget rolling her eyes at the statement and won’t forget the way Dani laughed at him when he winked.

 

It's a chance to dress up, to really try to impress Dani. They haven’t seen each other for two days now, and not for lack of trying either, but Jamie has had to work extra and travel to and from meetings with a new client. But it’s Saturday and the shop is closed on Sunday’s, so she knows that the next twenty four hours at least will be spent in the company of Dani.

 

At seven pm, she takes Jax and walks across the park on the way to Dani's. The plan is for them to drop Luna and Jax off at Jamie’s, because she lives closer to Owen’s restaurant. So she walks the path, careful not to get mud on her clean patent black doc martens. She has skinny black trousers tucked into them, black suspender braces hang at the side of her legs and the white shirt tucked in is unbuttoned to the middle of her breastbone.

 

Owen wanted to do something different, insisting on a black and white theme, so she knows Dani will likely be in black. Nothing she imagined before getting to the door comes close. A dress, long sleeves, cut only just low enough to show collarbone, mid thigh length, legs bare.

 

“Hi.” Dani says, stepping down from her doorstep.

 

“Poppins, you.. wow.” All adjectives have disappeared from her brain - she’s not sure there’s one good enough in existence anyway.

 

Dani laughs, closes the door behind her when Luna runs outside. “You look great.” She takes hold of one of the suspender belts hanging at the side of Jamie’s legs and wraps it around her fingers, stepping in closer. “I like these.”

 

Their faces are just centimetres apart and the tension between them is solid – the way Jamie pulls Dani in by the waist, the way Dani won’t take her eyes off Jamie’s lips.

 

“We'd better.. go.” Jamie finally says, her voice a little shaky.

 

Dani tucks a piece of her blonde hair behind her ear and nods, “Yeah, we should.”

 

Jamie groans. Dani's house is right there. She can count how many steps it would take to get to Dani's bed. But they promised. So Jamie leans in, kisses her tenderly and takes her by the hand.

 

They walk hand in hand back into town, drop off Luna and Jax and walk down the road to Owen’s restaurant. He has managed to make it safe enough to still be busy and people from all around town have come out to enjoy a meal and a drink.

 

“Jamie!” Owen shouts from the bar, waving them over.

 

“Alright?”

 

“Sorted you guys a table. The booth in the corner there,” He points to an area by the bar, “pick your poison, love.” Owen hands Dani the cocktail menu.

 

“I'll have whatever you recommend.” Dani says with a smile, passing the menu to Jamie.

 

“Same. Just keep em' coming.” Jamie winks, takes Dani's hand and walks her to their seats.

 

They sit opposite each other and Jamie instantly regrets it because she can no longer feel the warmth of Dani's skin. It doesn’t take long for Dani to get up and sit beside Jamie instead, to lean against her and rest her hand on her thigh.

 

Despite it being a very different experience to before the pandemic, people are in good spirits. Hannah is working with Owen, Henry has even come out and has taken a spot at the bar. Jamie and Dani eat and then move to sit at the bar themselves. And other people from the town enjoy their first night out in months.

 

“Rum and coke for you,” Owen hands a glass to Jamie, “and a pornstar martini for you." He places the cocktail and a shot of prosecco in front of Dani. “I’m opening the back later for just a few people.”

 

“The back?” Dani asks.

 

“Yeah, behind the bar is another room. Pool tables, jukebox, dart board, smoking area.” Jamie says, resting her hand on Dani's thigh.

 

“I had no idea, only ever been in this bit.”

 

“You’re part of the inner circle now, Poppins.” Jamie winks and then looks back at Owen. “Rebecca coming later?”

 

Owen nods, “She is, should be here soon. Wait,” Owen turns to Dani, “do you know Rebecca? She works at the same school as you. Rebecca Jessel.”

 

“Yes!” Dani says, “she has that boyfriend doesn’t she, what’s his name?”

 

Jamie, Owen, Hannah and Henry all groan in unison, murmurs of ‘Peter fuckin' Quint' echo from Jamie and Owen.

 

Dani frowns, “What?”

 

Jamie looks over her shoulder to the door as it opens and in walk Rebecca and Peter. “I'll tell you later.” She whispers and kisses Dani's cheek.

 

Dani and Rebecca get along really well and have spent the last hour talking and laughing at a safe distance. Peter is bending Henry's ear and Jamie is more than happy holding Dani as she leans back into her. If this is the new normal, well it's definitely something she could get used to.

 

As the restaurant begins to slow down and the majority of people left are just sat drinking at their tables, Owen opens the door to the other room.

 

“Fancy a smoke before we head in?” Jamie asks quietly into Dani's ear, feels her shiver.

 

Dani looks back at her and nods. They walk through the back of the restaurant and out to the smoking area. The light on the wall comes on when they walk by it.

 

“Having a good night?” Jamie asks, pulling the cigarettes from her pants pocket.

 

“It’s great,” she smiles, takes the packet from Jamie’s hand and puts them down on the table beside them, “kinda miss you though, does that sound weird?”

 

Jamie shakes her head, “Not at all,” she pulls Dani in by her hand, “we're used to being the only people in the room.”

 

Dani laughs, nods her head, puts both hands on the collars of Jamie’s shirt and pulls her in sharply. Jamie looks around them to make sure they’re alone, before guiding Dani back against a wall.

 

“It's nice being out with you. Although, this dress,” Jamie looks down, her hands slowly stroking up Dani's waist, “just makes me wanna take you home.”

 

Dani laughs, puts both arms over Jamie’s shoulders and places her hand in her hair, “Nothing stopping you.” She whispers, before pulling her in and kissing her.

 

Dani has a way of making Jamie feel like she’s the only person who’s ever been kissed, every single time it makes her breath catch, her knees weak and her heart flutter.

 

-

 

As the weeks roll on, more letters arrive at Jamie’s shop. She doesn’t even open them now, just burns them or throws them away. Jennifer hasn’t delivered any of them herself, which means she isn’t in town.

 

“You should call her, Jamie.” Dani says, leaning over the counter in the shop.

 

Jamie looks up at her from where she is sat on the floor, frowns, “What?”

 

“Well,” Dani starts, walks around the counter and leans back against the front of it, “she’s not getting the message and from what you’ve told me about her, she doesn’t seem the type to just give up.”

 

Jamie stands up, dusts her hands off on her overalls and crosses her arms, “I don’t want to speak to her.”

 

Dani looks oddly amused, she smirks and shrugs her shoulders, “Then I’ll speak to her for you.”

 

Jamie can’t help but smile at the gesture, she steps closer to Dani, “You would do that... for me?” She puts her hands on the counter either side of Dani.

 

Dani nods, her gaze flitting from Jamie’s eyes to her mouth and her breath catches when Jamie‘s body presses against her. “Yeah.”

 

“As much as I appreciate the offer, I wouldn’t let you get caught up with the likes of her, Poppins.” Jamie plants a kiss to Dani's cheek and pushes herself away.

 

“Then you need to talk to her. Tell her you’ve moved on.”

 

Dani has a point. The letters haven’t stopped, they’ve just become more frequent. She didn’t think this day would ever come, but Jamie knows she needs to face Jennifer one more time. “Okay, I’ll do it.”

 

“Go on then. I’ll watch the shop for you.” Dani orders in her ‘teacher voice’ which she knows Jamie cannot resist.

 

“Yes boss.” She teases, holding her hands up and walking past Dani to the back room.

 

She grabs the latest letter that came this morning and opens it. Jennifer is apparently very upset, bordering on angry. It isn’t surprising since this woman has always gotten exactly what she wants. Jamie types the number into her phone, making sure she is calling from a private number.

 

The line rings and for a moment she thinks she might get away with leaving a voicemail, but,

 

“Jamie?”

 

“How’d you know it was me?” Jamie asks, confused.

 

“You’re the only one I gave this number to.”

 

“Right,” Jamie pauses for a second, takes a deep breath, “I’m calling to ask you to stop writing.”

 

“Oh. But I thought.. Why?”

 

“Because I want nothing to do with you.”

 

“Jamie. That isn’t true.”

 

“It is. I’ve moved on, Jennifer.”

 

There’s silence, but Jamie can hear her breathing, the snap of what sounds like a pencil in the background.

 

“Tyler said something about a girlfriend. Tell me, Jamie, how is she?”

 

“Leave her out of this.” Jamie says through gritted teeth.

 

“Does she know what you got up to? Does she know what you did?” Jennifer is angry, her voice raised.

 

“Jen.” Jamie snaps, a warning in her voice.

 

“I’m sorry, you.. I just, I miss you and you can’t tell me you don’t miss me. I know you do.”

 

“Jen. Listen to me. It's been eight years. I don’t miss you, I don’t want you back, I have moved on. Please, don’t contact me again.” Jamie hangs up the phone immediately.

 

Jamie has never been more sure of anything, leaning against the door frame, watching as Dani waves out a customer. Dani, who has spent the past few weeks helping in the shop. Dani, who has proven that love and ownership  are opposites. And this, with her arms around Dani's waist in a now empty shop, this is love.

 

-

Chapter Text

-

Dani Clayton:

Wanna go out tonight?

 

Jamie:

Absolutely, where to?

 

Dani Clayton:

Owen's?

 

Jamie:

Sure. Pick you up at 6?

 

Dani Clayton:

May not be necessary, I’m still in your bed.

Took the dogs out, came right back.

Come home?

 

It's just a turn of phrase, she knows that, but Dani asking her to come home, to her own home, well that makes her really fucking happy.

 

Jamie:

Tempting.

 

There’s a minute, and then Dani sends a picture. Herself, smiling, on the bed in one of Jamie’s shirts, both dogs lay beside her.

 

Jamie:

My new lock screen photo right there.

 

Never, not once, has Jamie had another woman on the front of her phone. Always Jax and before him, it was always a different kind of flower. Maybe Dani will never understand what that means to Jamie, but it doesn’t matter - Jamie knows.

 

The last couple of hours aren’t too painful, customers come and go and the thought of Dani in her bed stays in the forefront of her mind. Finally, she is locking the door to the shop and is on her way home.

 

What she isn’t expecting to find, is Dani standing in the kitchen, with wet hair up in a messy bun, wearing nothing but an oversized t-shirt and making pancakes.

 

Jamie throws her keys onto the counter and immediately wraps her arms around Dani's waist from behind. “Looks great.” She whispers.

 

Dani laughs, “Can’t promise they’ll be nice.”

 

“Wasn’t talking about the pancakes, Poppins.” Jamie nips at Dani's earlobe and runs her hands down her stomach.

 

“Jamie,” Dani breathes out, giggles when she feels Jamie slide a hand up under her t-shirt, “you’re gonna make me burn them.”

 

“You’re right,” Jamie says, kisses the back of Dani's neck and steps away, “just gonna shower, back in a minute.”

 

Jamie can tell that Dani is in some kind of mood today. She stayed in her bed all day, she showered, she made sure she was wearing very little when Jamie got home and now.. well, now she is sitting beside her in Owen’s restaurant guiding Jamie’s hand between her thighs and up her skirt.

 

Jamie gasps, “Holy fuck, Dani, you’re not..” ..wearing. any. underwear.

 

Dani smirks, bites her bottom lip and shakes her head.

 

“Bathroom. Now.” Jamie says, standing up.

 

“You’re not leaving already are you?” Owen asks, suddenly  appearing beside the booth.

 

Jamie shoots Dani a look and then turns to Owen. “No, no.. not leaving.”

 

“Good. I finish in half an hour and Rebecca is on her way. Fancy a bit of Pool and Darts?”

 

“Yes!” Dani says excitedly.

 

“Great, come on, I’ll open the back room for you now.”

 

Jamie grabs Dani’s hand and pulls her along, whispers “later" into her ear as they walk.

 

It's been an hour. An hour of watching Dani bend over the pool table to take a shot. An hour of Dani touching Jamie whenever they swap places. An hour of going out of her damn mind when Dani kisses her when no one is looking, the taste of tequila and lime on her tongue. Maintaining conversations whilst in the presence of this woman is incredibly challenging.

 

And finally, Dani takes Jamie’s hand and innocently walks them past their friends and towards the ladies bathroom. Jamie finds herself taken over by pure desire, she needs to feel Dani’s lips on her own and she needs it now.

 

“Fuck,” Jamie pants when Dani pushes her inside a cubicle and up against the closed door, “tequila really agrees with you.”

 

“It's not the tequila,” Dani whispers into Jamie’s neck whilst unbuttoning her shirt, “it's you.”

 

Jamie flips them around to the side of the tiny area, hikes Dani's skirt up over her hips with a rough pull and scratches nails up her thighs. She kisses her, sucks her bottom lip into her mouth and gently bites. Dani moans, bucks her hips forward in search of any kind of contact.

 

“Jamie, fuck..” Dani whines. She has one hand in Jamie’s hair and the other above her head, holding onto the top of the cubicle wall. “Please.”

 

A low growl forms in Jamie throat. She knows Dani wants her, she knows she wants it quick and dirty and she simply  cannot deny her that pleasure. With one smooth motion, Jamie slides her fingers through slick, wet heat and immediately pushes them inside Dani.

 

One thing she loves about Dani is how vocal she is, especially after she’s had a drink, but they’re in Owen's restaurant and if someone-

 

The door to the bathroom squeaks open and someone walks in. Jamie quickly places her free hand over Dani's mouth and whispers a quick ‘shh'. Dani nods and her eyes roll back when Jamie, unable to help herself, curls her fingers.

 

The person chooses a cubicle on the other side of the room and Jamie is insanely glad of it. That and of the background music because otherwise the sound of Dani's heavy breathing would definitely give the game away.

 

Jamie smirks. She’s enjoying it; watching Dani grip the top of the wall, watching her brows furrow, watching her try to keep quiet and now opting to bite into Jamie's palm to help.

 

She keeps her movements slow. It would do neither of them any good to get caught. But if she pushes her fingers in harder every few seconds, makes Dani bite harder, well who can blame her really?

 

The woman is finally washing her hands and Jamie makes the most of the few seconds that the hand dryer is whirring loudly to really sink her fingers in, remove her hand from Dani's mouth and replace2 it with her lips instead.

 

The dryer stops and they hear the door close. Dani lifts one leg, rests it against the wall opposite her to give Jamie more room and breaks the kiss to put her head back, a strained moan escapes her lips and she takes the hand from Jamie’s hair and places it over her own mouth.

 

“Good girl,” Jamie mutters, which only spurs on another moan from Dani, “quiet, baby.”

 

Dani nods erratically, quietly groans as Jamie sinks to her knees, looking up at her the whole time. For a moment she forgets where they are. She would love to take her time, but this is risky and apparently, Dani likes risky.

 

Jamie places small kisses high on Dani's inner thigh, her fingers still curling and she knows that as soon as she presses her tongue against Dani's clit that she will be coming within seconds. So she does; a little pressure, a little suction and a fast whip of her tongue has Dani arching, clenching, grinding herself against Jamie’s face until it's too much to handle.

 

Jamie stands, removes her fingers slowly and let’s herself be pulled into a kiss. Dani's moan when she tastes herself on Jamie’s lips is something she will never tire of hearing.

 

“Feel better?” Jamie asks, holding Dani's still trembling body.

 

“Mmm, think so.” She shakes down her skirt and pulls Jamie impossibly closer. “You have no idea how badly I’ve wanted that all day.”

 

“I think I have some kind of idea, Poppins.” Jamie smirks. “We better get back out there.”

 

Dani nods, places a wet kiss on Jamie’s lips and unlocks the cubicle to let her out. Jamie washes her hands and re buttons her shirt whilst Dani makes sure she’s decent. They leave the bathroom a couple of minutes later hand in hand and go back to the games room. Jamie leaves Dani at the table with a quick kiss on the forehead and goes to the bar to get new drinks.

 

Owen eyes her from a couple of stools away. He’s glaring.

 

“What?” Jamie asks, confused.

 

“You just had sex in my bathroom didn’t you?”

 

“What? No! Why would you th-"

 

“You’ve not fastened your shirt properly.” He nods down at her torso, stands from his stool and walks in the direction of Dani, asking if she wants a game of pool.

 

Jamie looks down and true enough, her shirt is definitely buttoned up completely wonky.

 

Fuck.

 

-

 

Dani is ecstatic when she gets the call in early-August that she’ll be going back to work at the start of the new school year in September. She’s spent the day sending Jamie picture messages of new clothes she’s ordered online, along with a screenshot of an order she’s placed with Ann Summers, but has edited it to blur out whatever it is she’s bought.

 

Jamie:

I mean.. that’s just teasing.

What is it?

Dani?

 

Dani Clayton:

Surprise for you.

 

Jamie now struggles to remember what life was like on a daily basis before Dani came into it. She doesn’t remember a time when she was ever this happy. And she wants to tell Dani that – to admit that Dani is the reason. But she won’t. She hasn’t let herself open up to a single soul since Jennifer, and even though her heart is telling her to let Dani break that invisible barrier of terror, her head is fighting against it. And is winning.

 

It's been two weeks since the phone call with Jennifer and Jamie is pretty certain that she got the message across.

 

Well, until now that is.

 

She’s in the smoking area on a Saturday evening, standing between Dani's legs as she sits on the bench table. And out of the corner of her eye - through the door to the restaurant, she notices something.

 

Someone.

 

Orange hair. Green eyes. Pierced nose and lip. Jennifer.

 

Jamie stops breathing. Freezes. Feels herself tense up. Dani notices right away and puts a hand softly on Jamie’s cheek.

 

“Hey... you okay?” Dani asks with obvious concern.

 

Jamie looks at her. She stares for a moment because she has a horrible, horrible feeling about this. She bites the inside of her cheek hard - a nervous habit she inherited in jail - tastes blood and tilts her head to one side a little.

 

“I... Dani, I am so... so sorry.” Jamie’s voice is shaky. She apologises because she knows the only reason Jennifer would ever come here is to cause trouble. She apologises because she truly means it.

 

Dani is looking at her, searching her eyes, and doesn’t seem to mind the fact that Jamie is holding onto her for dear life.

 

As Jennifer and the tattooed-neck-man make their way out to the smoking area, Jamie steps back, takes Dani's hand and ushers her down from the bench.

 

“I honestly didn’t think that she would just show up. I.. I’m sorry.”

 

“Jamie, who-"

 

“You’re a hard woman to track down, Taylor.” Jennifer speaks as she gets outside, cutting Dani off.

 

Jamie doesn’t look at her, she just squeezes Dani's hand a little tighter and closes her eyes.

 

She realises quite quickly that this feeling coursing through her veins is fear. Fear of what Jennifer might do or say. Fear of being dragged back down to darkness. Fear of buried memories being unearthed. But most of all – Fear of losing Dani because of it.

 

“What are you doing here, Jennifer?” Jamie opens her eyes, looks up at Jennifer at last. Her jaw is tensed, teeth still digging into now tender and broken flesh on the inside of her cheek.

 

“Well I thought after our little phone conversation--" Jennifer stops mid sentence, turns and looks at Dani, “I’m sorry, honey, do you mind giving us a minute?”

 

Dani actually scoffs, her mouth falls open at the request and she nods once. “Actually yes, I do mind.”

 

Jamie can’t help but marvel in the boldness of Dani. Of the way she stands up for herself. Of the way she only grips Jamie’s hand tighter. She marvels, and then she worries.

 

Jennifer looks shocked and amused. She isn’t used to people standing up to her like that – or she wasn’t back in the day.

 

“Hmm. Found yourself one with a smart mouth huh?” Jennifer looks back at Jamie now, smirks. She looks to the man beside her, “Tyler, would you mind..?”

 

He nods, turns and closes the door to the restaurant and then walks past Jennifer and towards Jamie and Dani. Jamie steps in front of Dani, pushes her back a little and clenches her fists by her side.

 

“You stay the fuck away from her.” Jamie says through gritted teeth. Tyler tries to get around her but Jamie doesn’t allow it, blocks him. “I’m serious.”

 

Tyler looks back to Jennifer, who folds her arms across her chest and nods. With one swift movement, he lands a fist directly and unexpectedly to Jamie’s stomach. She doubles over, the wind completely knocked out of her. Then there’s a fist to the side of her face, fully knocking her to the ground.

 

She can hear nothing but the sound of her heartbeat in her ears and Jennifer’s sadistic laugh which drowns out a gasp from Dani. It makes her want to be sick, and she might if she could actually breathe. But then she sees Tyler moving in the direction of Dani and she desperately tries to get up - he stops her with a boot to the ribs. Twice. Hard.

 

When she opens her eyes, her face pressed to the cold concrete beneath her, she sees Dani pinned against the wall, Tyler’s hands holding her shoulders back against it.

 

The fear has been replaced with rage. Rage and guilt. She definitely has a broken rib or two and a bust lip, but she tries to get to her feet again.

 

Jennifer appears next to her, lowering herself to one knee. She takes a fistful of Jamie’s hair with her left hand and punches her in the face with her right. Jamie’s head falls down to the ground with a thud, along with the rest of her body.

 

“This could have gone differently, Jamie.” Jennifer says, laughing. She grabs Jamie’s hair again, lifts her head from the ground and forces her to look at her. “I just wanted to see you, give you a chance to come to your senses.”

 

Jamie, stupidly, laughs. “No.”

 

She expects another punch to the face, another kick to the stomach maybe, but instead, Jennifer lets go of her hair and walks away over to Dani.

 

“Has she told you what we used to get up to, Dani?” Jennifer asks, tucks a piece of Dani's hair behind her ear. “How we used to sit and get high. Drive around town selling drugs. Transport drugs around the country. Watch my father beat ten tonnes of shit out of someone just for looking at him – or me – in the wrong way,” as she speaks, her face gets closer to Dani's until she is right by her ear and has her hand pressed against her throat, “Has she told you how we would spend every night together, fucking til the sun came up? How she went to prison for me. She ever tell you any of that?”

 

Jamie somehow makes it to her feet unnoticed, she grabs the back of Tyler’s jacket, spins him around and lands a punch to his face. The blinding pain in her side stops it from being hard enough to do any real damage, just makes him stumble back, only to return the favour himself twice as hard.

 

Back on the ground, she leans up on her elbow and coughs out a mouthful of blood. Her face, just under her eye, now definitely cut open on one side and dripping blood down her cheek. She looks over at Dani, who is still being held by her throat.

 

“Guess not.” Jennifer says with a cackle. “I hate to break it to you, Dani, but you’ve chosen a bad egg. A wilted flower, if you will.”

 

“Please stop.” Dani chokes out.

 

As if by some miracle, the door opens. Jamie doesn’t even bother looking up to see who it is, just focuses on Dani. She focuses on Dani because after this there is absolutely no chance that this perfect woman will stick around. A simple fact she will just have to learn to live with.

 

“What the fu-‐ Vinny!” It’s Owen. Oh thank god it's Owen, calling for his huge ex-boxer employee.

 

“It's alright.” Jennifer says, lets go of Dani. “We're done here.”

 

She walks towards Jamie, crouches beside her, puts her hand roughly under Jamie’s chin and whispers, “It was so nice to see you again, Taylor.” She smirks and walks away slowly.

 

In her mind, she's gotten up and wiped that smirk right from Jennifer’s face. In her mind, Dani wasn’t here to witness any of this. In her mind, she never met Jennifer at all.

 

They’re gone. Jamie knows they’re gone because Dani is by her side, pulling her body up and into her chest, cradling her and whispering something. She can’t hear a thing, just a ringing in her ears and as the adrenaline settles and she lets herself be held, she feels hot, stinging tears slip down her cheeks.

 

It’s too much. Too much. Jamie adjusts, winces. She needs to move. Tries to fight the physical contact.

 

“It’s okay, Jamie, just stay here, it’s okay.” Dani soothes.

 

Dani fucking soothes her and it’s all she can do not to ask why. She whimpers and after a moment of silence, she finally speaks, “Dani, I.. I’m.. I’m so sorry.”

 

“Shh.” Dani responds, stroking her hair back.

 

Owen is here again, sitting on the floor in front of her with a bag of ice and a bottle of whisky. But Jamie can’t move.

 

She’s frozen. Frozen in time and space. Frozen in Dani’s arms. She can’t move, not now, not when she has convinced herself that as soon as she does, Dani will be gone from her life forever.

 

Owen is talking to Dani, but no words are registering. He leans in and places the ice bag on Jamie’s stomach.

 

Jamie can feel it, the darkness, the low voices that she hasn’t heard in so many years. It’s typical, she thinks. Karma. To find herself happy, settled, so deeply in love – and just like years ago, Jennifer is here to ruin it all. It's what she deserves, anyway, with all the shit she’s done. She’s a fool for ever believing she could be happy. She has already begun the grieving process in her mind.

 

“...we should really get her to the hospital.” Owen says to Dani.

 

“No,” Jamie snaps, finally lifts some weight off Dani, “no hospital.”

 

“Jamie, you could ha--"

 

“Nothing I’ve not been through before.” Jamie shuffles back along the floor and out of Dani's arms. She recognises this feeling from jail after a beating, minus, thank christ, the stab wound. She reaches a nearby wall, leans back against it.

 

Owen decides to place the whisky bottle beside Jamie and leave them alone, giving Dani a small pat on the shoulder on his way.

 

Dani knows there’s something more than just the physical pain here, Jamie can sense it in the air between them.

 

“Jamie,” Dani says, moving herself over so she’s leaning in front of her, “Jamie, look at me.”

 

She can’t – she wants to – but she can’t.

 

Dani puts a hand on the side of Jamie’s face that isn’t cut and swollen and turns her head gently - so gently - until Jamie has no choice but to look at her. At her worried and beautiful face.  

 

“Oh, baby,” Dani whispers, “come here.” She pulls carefully until Jamie is leaning into her chest again.

 

Jamie’s mind spins, how is she being so kind? Why is she? Can’t bring herself to ask just yet. She doesn’t know how much time has passed before the physical pain she feels evolves to include exhaustion and nausea. She whines, winces as she moves and sits back up against the wall. Her heart rate has finally returned to normal, along with her breathing, although a little tight.

 

“Are.. you okay? What can I do?” Dani asks, and the genuine worry in her voice hits Jamie in the stomach like another punch.

 

“Why.. why are you still here?” Jamie asks, her voice hoarse. She allows herself a little hope.

 

“What do you mean? Like I’d be anywhere else right now.”

 

“Dani.”

 

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

 

Jamie is frowning. “I just.. I don’t deserve you.”

 

“Yes, actually,” Dani says sternly, “you do. What you don’t deserve is this. I should have kept my mouth shut, if I hadn’t sp--"

 

“Don’t do that.” Jamie interrupts before Dani can finish that sentence. “This wasn’t your fault. It would have happened anyway.”

 

Dani doesn’t say anything else, she just opens the bottle of whisky beside her and takes a long swig, then hands it to Jamie, who does the same. It stings her lip, stings the cut inside of her cheek, but the warm sensation down her throat is more than welcome.

 

“I’m so sorry this happened to you, Jamie.”

 

Jamie looks at her, stares right into her eyes. She thinks she sees it there too, the same feeling she has. Love... Surely not.

 

“You don’t have to stay, I understand if you--" Jamie is stopped by Dani's lips pressing hard against her own.

 

She is actually kissing her and not running for the hills. Unexpected.. Delicious.. Painful.. Worth it.

 

Jamie moves a little, the pain is nothing compared to the feeling of relief in this kiss. At least, she thinks she isn’t showing signs of pain, but Dani pulls away quickly, rests her hand against Jamie’s ribs carefully.

 

“Fuck, sorry. Can we go home? Let me look after you.”

 

Jamie nods and let’s Dani help her up. Jamie struggles, groans, uses the wall to help and holds her stomach with one hand. Maybe she should be embarrassed, but actually she’s just too shocked that Dani is choosing to stay to feel anything other than relief. The greatest of luck, maybe.

 

Dani sits her on the bench, “Stay here okay, I’m just gonna get Owen to let us out the back.”

 

“Dani, wait.” Jamie says, managing to grab Dani’s hand before she walks off, “You have blood on your..” Jamie taps her own lips with her free hand.

 

Dani just smiles, leans in and kisses her again, before turning and walking back into the building.

 

Jamie let’s herself feel for a moment. Looks around the ground at the various patches of her own blood that Owen is going to have to wash down when they’re gone. The thud in her head grows stronger, as does the swell of her heart when she realises that Dani, sweet sweet Dani may very well love her too.

-

Chapter Text

-

“Are you sure we shouldn’t take her to the hospital?” Owen asks, holding Jamie up whilst Dani opens the door to Jamie’s flat.

 

“No, I’m not sure, but she said no hospital.” Dani swings the door open and walks in, ushering Jax and Luna out of the way.

 

“I just think that cut may need stitches.” Owen says, concern coating his voice as he walks Jamie into the room and across to the sofa.

 

“I’ll clean her up and see.” Dani sounds angry. Angry and upset.

 

Owen places Jamie down on the sofa gently and she groans. Her entire left side is beaten and bruised. The left side of her face cut, bleeding, bottom lip sliced open. She keeps her right hand held tight to the ribs on her left side and takes sharp breaths in and out.

 

Jax is sat in front of Jamie, whimpering softly. He knows something is wrong. Knows his human is injured.

 

“I’ll take the dogs downstairs.” Owen says, taking the leads from the hook on the door. Luna goes at the sight of her lead but Jax is rooted to the spot, staring at Jamie. “Jax, come on.”

 

Nothing. Jamie is looking back at him. She nods her head, “It’s okay boy.” She whispers. Jax whines and then walks off in the direction of Owen.

 

Jamie doesn’t look over at Dani when she hears the door close behind Owen, she’s too embarrassed. She just stares down at her lap, at the blood stains on her white t-shirt.

 

Dani appears in front of her, kneeling in between her legs. “Baby..” She puts her hand on the right side of Jamie’s face, strokes an arc with her thumb.

 

The softness of Dani's hand and voice simply melts Jamie’s heart. The way she says ‘baby’ – it rolls off her tongue like she has always called her it. Jamie looks at her, into her eyes.

 

“You’re angry.” Jamie’s says. Half a question, half a statement.

 

“Of course I’m angry. Look at you.” Dani says, tilting her head.

 

Dani doesn’t move her hand, doesn’t stop stroking her cheek, doesn’t stop looking at her.

 

“I’m so sorry, Dani,” She means it, she means it with every part of her, “your.. your throat, are you okay?” Jamie can see the red marks left from Jennifer’s fingers and it makes her feel nauseous.

 

“I’m fine, Jamie. Please don’t apologise. This wasn’t your fault. It’s not you I’m angry with, okay?” Dani gives a small smile and moves her hand away. She picks up the first aid box that she brought from the kitchen and opens a small paper packet with an antiseptic wipe in.

 

“Really?” Jamie asks, her mind struggling to imagine Dani not being angry with her.

 

Dani leans up, rests one hand on Jamie’s leg and uses the other to wipe blood from her chin. “Really. This might sting.” She moves up to Jamie’s lip, gently wipes over the cut.

 

Jamie winces, closes her eyes for just a second and takes a deep breath in through her nose. She lets Dani work; watches how her brows furrow, eyes narrow, how the tip of her tongue creeps out of the corner of her mouth in concentration. When she pulls away, happy with the way she has cleaned Jamie’s lip, she opens a new wipe.

 

“I would understand if you didn’t want to--"

 

“Jamie.” Dani says sternly, cutting her off.

 

The door opens and Owen walks in with the dogs. Dani looks over at him and smiles. The dogs come over but don’t get too close and Owen sets a bottle of whisky on the couch beside Jamie.

 

“Cheers mate,” Jamie says, “sorry about the trouble.”

 

Owen shakes his head, “Don’t be daft, nothing to apologise for. I’m gonna go, just call if you need anything at all okay?”

 

Jamie nods and Dani does the same. Owen lets himself out and as soon as the door shuts, she watches Dani change right before her eyes. The serious, strong demeanour she had just moments ago transforms into sadness - panic, almost. And Jamie realises she was holding herself together until Owen had left properly.

 

“I thought that they... fuck,” Dani says, shakes her head, takes a shaky breath in, “are you okay? Seriously, tell me how I can help.”

 

Jamie is shocked, to be honest. She had already braced herself before they got in the flat for Dani to tell her she was leaving. That this was too much. She wouldn’t blame her either. But here she is, looking at Jamie with the most sincere, concerned eyes she has ever seen.

 

“I don’t know, I had kind of prepared myself for you to leave.”

 

Dani frowns, looks almost offended. “Why would I leave?”

 

“Well, for starters my crazy ex girlfriend just had you by your throat. You didn’t sign up for this, it's not fair on you.” Jamie’s words are low, drawn out and she can barely keep eye contact with Dani.

 

“No,” Dani says, straightening her back, her hands planted on her lap, “I didn’t sign up for this, but that doesn’t mean I want to leave. I didn’t sign up for a pandemic either, but I met you because of it. And I certainly didn’t plan on falling in--" She stops abruptly, looks down.

 

“W.. I.. what?” Jamie stutters. She’s pretty certain she knows what the end of Dani’s sentence would have been and the thought makes her entire body tingle.

 

Dani looks up at Jamie again, clears her throat, “Since I met you, I.. you were so lovely and so kind and so fucking hot,” Dani laughs, bites down on her lower lip for a second, “and I couldn’t believe it, that you were interested in me. You gave me so much of your time, you took care of me when I was in that accident even though you couldn’t physically come near me. You made me feel... wanted.”

 

Dani's voice is wavering slightly and she kneels up again, leaning her body into Jamie’s knees slightly. “So I’m staying because I want to. I’m staying because I.. I love you.”

 

Jamie feels her entire world lighten, feels her heart begin to race, feels absolutely no pain in this second. She smiles with just the right side of her mouth, reaches with her right hand to cup Dani's face.

 

“I love you too,” Jamie says quietly. So quietly that she isn’t even sure if Dani heard. But she must have because she is smiling right back and her shoulders relax.

 

“You do?” Dani asks, leaning her face into Jamie’s palm.

 

“From the moment I fucking met you.” It might be too much to admit, but on some level that’s how Jamie feels.

 

Then Dani is there, just centimetres from her face. She stares into Jamie’s eyes, then leans in and kisses the corner of Jamie’s mouth tenderly.

 

Jamie let’s herself relax a little, wraps her arm around Dani's back just to hold her. This really isn’t how she imagined the night would go when she finally told Dani how she feels, but this is what they have and in some way.. it’s fucking perfect.

 

Dani moves away, “Let me finish cleaning you up, get some painkillers in you and then we can go to bed, okay?”

 

Jamie nods. She knows the cut on her cheek is much worse than her lip judging from the feeling of wet and dry blood on her cheek and the state of her t-shirt. She trusts Dani though. Wholeheartedly.

 

Dani wipes the blood around it first, including Jamie’s jaw and neck. “It um, it looks pretty deep. You might need this.” She hands Jamie the bottle of whisky, opens the lid.

 

Jamie swigs it. She downs at least three gulps before handing it back to Dani. The liquid is sore on the cuts in her mouth but warm down her throat. She nods, “Ready.”

 

Dani leans in again, gently wipes over the cut. She doesn’t press hard, just wants to make sure there’s no dirt in it so it doesn’t get infected. She’s soft and slow with her movements, careful and kind.

 

“Thank you, Dani.”

 

Dani smiles, leans in, kisses the tip of Jamie’s nose and continues working. When she is pleased with it a moment later, she leans back, “There you are. Let's get you up and changed.”

 

Jamie puts her right hand on the arm of the sofa and attempts to get herself up. She groans, the pain in her ribs is intense and forces her back to sitting down. Dani takes her right arm, pulls gently until she is standing. They struggle to the bedroom, where Jamie leans her back against the nearest wall completely out of breath.

 

“I’m just gonna stay here for a minute.” She says, her head back.

 

Dani doesn’t say anything, just navigates her way around Jamie’s bedroom like she has done so many times before. She collects a new t-shirt and sweat pants and puts them on the bed, before standing in front of Jamie and lifting her t-shirt.

 

Jamie leans up off the wall a bit, lets Dani help guide the garment over her head and off her arms to be tossed to one side. She watches Dani’s face grimace as her eyes look over the damage done to her ribs and stomach below the sports bra she is wearing. Light blue, red and purple bruises already showing on her left side and over to the middle of her abdomen.

 

“Jesus,” Dani whispers, takes Jamie’s hand and walks her over to the bed, “here, sit.”

 

On the bed, Jamie sits on the edge and lays back. She can feel Dani's finger tracing the bruises softly and then she feels her lips kissing the same areas. They’ve been together for a while (since April, if they’re both really honest with each other), they’ve shared stories – good and bad – they’ve been wrapped up in each others beds completely naked, explored each others bodies. But this.. Dani kissing bruises and un buttoning Jamie’s jeans, pulling them gently down her legs and off, this is one of the most intimate moments of Jamie’s entire life.

 

Sweats and a new t-shirt on, Jamie lies back on the bed, curled under the covers with Dani on her right side, resting her head on Jamie’s shoulder.

 

“You should eat something.” Jamie says, breaking the silence that they have been comfortably lay in for the past fifteen minutes, Dani having fed her painkillers and water.

 

“Do you want anything?” Dani lifts her head to ask, kissing Jamie’s cheek softly.

 

Jamie looks back at her, her head may be a little fuzzy from the pills, but just one look at Dani empties her lungs of air and her mind of any clear thoughts. She shakes her head.

 

“No.. no thank you.” Jamie says, adjusting her body a little with a quiet groan.

 

Dani just puts her head back down, takes a deep breath. “Just gonna stay here for a while if that’s okay.”

 

Jamie hugs Dani with her right arm tightly, kisses the top of her head and closes her eyes.

 

-

 

Jamie wakes in the morning stiff as a rock in the same position as she fell asleep in the night before; on her back. Dani isn’t beside her, but she can hear her making conversation with the dogs in the living room. It brings a smile to her face, which in turn brings a wince as she feels the swell of her lip and cheek.

 

“Dani?” She says as she sits up, her voice a little croaky.

 

A second later, Dani appears at the door. She’s wearing a jumper and jeans, her hair up in a ponytail and as always, the sweetest smile on her face.

 

“How are you feeling?” She asks, leaning against the door frame.

 

“Alright. You?”

 

Dani tilts her head accusingly,  “Don’t lie to me.”

 

“Okay, I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. Twice.”

 

“I’ll get you some painkillers. Do you want some tea?”

 

Jamie smirks, “I love you, Poppins, but whatever it is that you make, is not tea.”

 

Dani laughs, nods her head in agreement and walks away. She comes back a moment later with pills and water, sits herself on the side of the bed and hands them to Jamie.

 

“I took the dogs out, they’re fine. I swung by my house to collect a few things so I can stick around here with you until you’re recovered. I brought my--" Dani stops mid sentence, she frowns, “If.. if you want me to, I mean. I don’t have to stay, I just thought that--"

 

“Poppins,” Jamie cuts her off after swallowing the tablets and water, “of course I want you to stay. I’d actually fuckin' love it if you did.”

 

Dani smiles – a wide, happy smile. “Good. Um, Owen called to check in on you, said he’s gonna bring food round later.”

 

Jax and Luna wander into the bedroom and jump onto the bed. They’re gentle, they know not to get too close, so they curl up beside her in Dani's sleeping space. Jamie reaches her right hand out to stroke Jax.

 

“Thank you, Dani. For taking care of us.”

 

Dani just smiles, places her hand onto Jamie’s left hand and entwines their fingers. “Anytime.”

 

“I could murder a shower, I feel like all I can smell is blood.”

 

“Okay, sure, let’s get you up then.”

 

“There’s no chance I’m letting you help me shower, Dani, that’s not happening.” Jamie says with a playful but serious tone.

 

“I don’t mind. What if you like, slip or something?”

 

“Nope. I’ll be fine.” Jamie says, exercising her independence by pulling the duvet away from her body and slowly turning so her feet are on the floor.

 

Admittedly, there’s a lot of pain and stiffness and she does need a hand from Dani to properly stand up. But at least today she can stand up straight and walk, even if it does hurt with every breath.

 

She pads to the bathroom, leaves Dani outside with a light kiss to her lips and she closes the door. She turns on the shower and decides to look in the mirror for the first time.

There’s bruising around the cut on her cheek, which does look quite nasty. There’s also bruising around the cut on the left side of her bottom lip, which particularly annoys her because she can’t kiss properly.

 

She sighs, steps away and gets undressed. Bending and raising arms isn’t easy and just the act of taking off her clothes leaves her breathless, but she manages it.

 

In the shower, she lets the warm water run down her body and avoids getting it on her face too much. It feels nice. Relaxing. Coupled with the painkillers, it feels so nice that she forgets that her movements are restricted, so when she reaches for the bottle of shower gel on the shelf, she has to pull back instantly because a prang of pain jolts through her body.

 

She loses balance and slips, tumbles to the bottom of the bathtub with a crash. She sits up as quickly as she can and laughs. She laughs because if she doesn’t, she’ll cry. She laughs because she was so confident just five minutes ago that she would be okay.

 

“Jamie?” Dani asks through the door. “Are you okay?”

 

“I um.. I fell over.”

 

“I’m coming in.”

 

Jamie looks over to Dani, who gasps and quickly drops to her knees beside the bath. “Are you hurt?”

 

“I’ve got no idea. I’m pumped full of painkillers, I can hardly feel a thing.” Jamie giggles.

 

“Right, I’m coming in.” Dani stands, lifts her jumper over her head and throws it to one side.

 

Jamie watches in awe, mouth slightly open. “You’re... you’re what?”

 

“I warned you this might happen, Jamie, but you had to go and be all miss independent and do it alone. So now I’m coming in to help you shower.”

 

Jamie smirks, stays silent, watches as Dani unbuttons her jeans and begins to pulls them down, before stopping abruptly.

 

“Unless.. you don’t want me to?” Dani asks, head tilted, one eyebrow raised.

 

Jamie nods her head, “Yes... Yes please. I need so much help.” She’s being cheeky and Dani knows it. She lifts her knees to her chest to give Dani room to step into the shower.

 

The picture of this woman – of Dani – standing in front of her in her shower, water trickling down over her chest and down her stomach, is something that will be imprinted in Jamie’s mind forever. Dani holds out her hand, helps Jamie to her feet and pulls her in close, holds their naked bodies together.

 

“No funny business. You’re in no fit state.” Dani practically orders into Jamie’s ear.

 

Jamie laughs. She has Dani naked in the shower, she simply wouldn’t be human if she didn’t enjoy this moment, or maybe think about pushing Dani back against the wall and-

 

“I’m serious." Dani pulls back and looks into Jamie’s eyes.

 

Jamie nods. “Okay, whatever you say, Miss Clayton.”

 

-

 

It's been a little more than a week. A week of each day being able to breathe a little easier. Of plenty of bed rest. Of Owens daily baked goods. Of cuts and bruises slowly healing. Of Dani not leaving her side - it's been a great week, given the circumstances.

 

The TV is on, but Jamie can’t concentrate whilst Dani is sat beside her with her laptop, lesson planning in preparation for the return to school in just under two weeks. The most distracting thing is the insanely short shorts Dani is wearing though.

 

“You’re staring.” Dani says without even looking over.

 

Jamie laughs, “What? No I’m not.”

 

“You are, I can feel it.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re feeling but I’m definitely not staring at you.” Jamie moves herself along the bed, rests her hand on Dani's thigh.

 

“I... Jamie...” Dani takes a deep breath in, finally looks at Jamie, “I'm working.”

 

“I know. I’m just,” Jamie leans in, kisses her cheek, noses her hair out of the way and kisses her jaw right by her ear, “pretend I’m not here.” She whispers.

 

Dani shivers, hums quietly. “How do you expect me to concentrate when- oh.

 

Jamie works her lips down Dani's neck, lightly biting and kissing. She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t doing this on purpose, she knows exactly what Dani likes. And besides, how is she supposed to think about anything else when she is wearing those shorts?

 

“I could always stop, if you want.” Jamie says, pulling away quickly.

 

“Don’t you dare,” Dani snaps, “please.”

 

Jamie resumes, this time pressing kisses harder, biting harder, the hand she has resting on Dani's thigh slides up just under the hem of where her shorts end and Dani lets out the most delicious moan.

 

Jamie hears the snap of the laptop closing and smiles into Dani's neck. She takes the hand from up Dani's shorts and moves the laptop away, placing it behind her on the bed. Then she puts that hand on Dani's lower stomach, teasing fingers across the waistband of her shorts under her t-shirt.

 

“Jamie,” Dani pants, one hand finds its way on top of Jamie’s, “don’t tease.”

 

It surprises Jamie a little, since Dani has been insisting all week that they need to wait until Jamie is fully healed before doing anything like this. Regardless of how many times Jamie has told her she isn’t going to break, Dani has been adamant.

 

Jamie lifts Dani's t-shirt a little, slides fingertips under Dani's shorts and then under the band of her underwear and stops. Dani turns her face to look at her, kisses her.

 

This is also the first proper kiss for a week now that her lip is finally healing well. Dani's tongue hot in her mouth, and it distracts Jamie from moving her hand further. She enjoys it, with Dani's hand soft on the side of her face. It distracts her so much that she doesn’t realise Dani's other hand pushing her own further down until she feels slick, wet heat between Dani's legs.

 

“Jesus,” Jamie breathes into the kiss, pulls away, “Dani, this all for me?”

 

“Mm, I can’t.. I need you to.. fuck.” Dani moans, bucking her hips impatiently.

 

“Oh? But I thought you were busy?” Jamie smirks, her hand still, pushing back against her underwear.

 

Dani is biting down hard on her bottom lip, her forehead pressed against Jamie’s. “Please.”

 

In absolutely no world can Jamie say no to Dani, especially not when she has been thinking about nothing other than making Dani come all fucking day. Jamie lowers her fingers, moans when she feels again just how wet Dani is.

 

“Tell me,” Jamie starts, tugs Dani's bottom lip between her teeth and then let’s go, “tell me what you want.”

 

Dani winds her hips in time with Jamie’s finger that’s slowly teasing her entrance, circling, dipping. Dani digs her nails into Jamie’s forearm, her breathing becoming fast and heavy.

 

“I want you.. inside.. in.. fuck, Jamie.” Dani puts her head back, groans quietly.

 

“Hmm, I understand.” Jamie pushes her index finger in to the second knuckle, and then back out, “You’ll have to be patient though, since I’m still not a hundred percent.” Jamie smirks, leans in over Dani's body to kiss the front of her throat and down to the dip between her collarbone.

 

She fully intends to have Dani squirming, slowly building her up until she begs, but then..

 

“I can help,” Dani says quietly, “if you.. lie down, I can help so you don’t have to move.”

 

Jamie growls, “Fuck, yes.”

 

Dani lifts her back off the headboard, pulls Jamie’s hand from her shorts and climbs into her lap, facing her. She lifts her t-shirt over her head and throws it to the floor, followed by Jamie’s.

 

Jamie can see in Dani's eyes just how much she has missed this intimacy between them. Their week has been filled with closeness; with Jamie lay with her head in Dani's lap whilst they watch a movie, with Dani stroking her hair as she falls to sleep, with Dani cooking and cleaning the flat like it’s her own. She hasn’t complained once.

 

In fact, right now is the first time Jamie has seen Dani frustrated all week. With one hand, Dani flicks the clasp of her bra open behind her and drops it from her arms. Jamie runs her hands up Dani's back, drags nails back down until Dani arches and gasps.

 

Jamie’s lips find Dani’s left nipple and she gently sucks it into her mouth before biting softly. Dani moans and wraps her fingers in Jamie’s hair.

 

“Fuck, I have missed.. your mouth.” Dani pants.

 

Jamie looks up at her, pulls the back of her shorts and underwear down together as much as she can and waits. Dani kneels up, pulls them down and off one leg at a time. Whilst she has room, Jamie slides down into a lying position with Dan still kneeling over her.

 

“You look so good from down here.” Jamie whispers, admiring the view of Dani's stomach, breasts and face and the way her chest rises and falls heavily with each breath.

 

Dani leans forward, grips the headboard with both hands and moves up the bed until her knees are resting either side of Jamie’s head. She looks down as Jamie kisses the inner thigh of her right leg. She lowers herself when Jamie puts both hands on her lower back and pulls her down.

 

She’s looking down still, her brows furrowed in anticipation and lips parted as Jamie swipes her tongue from Dani's centre all the way up to her clit with barely any pressure.

 

“God, baby.. please.” Dani whispers through gritted teeth.

 

Jamie hums, smirks. She’s enjoying watching Dani want and as much as she would love to continue teasing, she’s been dying for a taste all week. She repeats the action, this time with more pressure and she stops at her clit, sucks lightly and then licks repeatedly for a few seconds. Dani whines as soon as it stops, but moans when she feels Jamie’s tongue push inside her.

 

“Fuck.. oh fuck, yes.” Dani whines, pushes her hips down a little, craving more.

 

Jamie can feel her dripping down her chin, can taste her all over her tongue. She digs nails into Dani's back as she moves her tongue back up to her clit, licks again. Jamie knows Dani. She can tell by her reactions what kind of mood she’s in. And simply put, slow isn’t going to cut it tonight.

 

Jamie lifts Dani a little, moves her right hand from behind Dani back under her legs and then lowers her again by pulling with her left hand on her hip. Dani moans when she feels one finger slide inside her and then louder when she feels two.

 

Jamie returns her tongue to her clit, she starts slow; one lick to each thrust of her fingers and Dani is white knuckling the headboard above her. She pushes her fingers in harder, coaxing moans and profanities from Dani's mouth each time.

 

She knows it won’t be long until Dani comes because she can feel her tighten around her fingers and her legs begin to tremble either side of her face. She keeps the pace, pushes harder and licks harder until Dani is falling apart around her.

 

Jamie doesn’t let her come down from it, instead she pulls Dani down further onto her face and onto her fingers. She wraps her lips around her clit and curls her fingers repeatedly, licking and sucking until just a few seconds later, Dani is coming again with an almost silent cry and a hand now in Jamie’s hair, pulling.

 

She slows her movements drastically, lets Dani ride it out above her, looks up at the curtain of hair around her face, the shimmer on her chest and the way she is looking down, grinning with her bottom lip between her teeth.  

 

Dani moves herself, falls onto her back beside Jamie, panting and laughing euphorically. “Oh my god... I love you, Jamie Taylor.”

 

Jamie laughs, wipes her chin with her thumb and leans in. She kisses Dani, their tongues meet instantly and after a few seconds, they rest their foreheads together.

 

“I love you too, Poppins.”

 

-

 

“I need to talk to you about something.” Dani says quietly, obvious nerves in her voice.

 

Jamie tilts her head, looks over the counter at Dani, “Sure, what’s up?”

 

Dani shakes her hands by her sides and takes a deep breath, “Okay. Right, I’m.. I..”

 

“Dani, what’s going on?” Jamie manoeuvres herself around the counter and over to the middle of the shop where Dani is standing, now biting on a nail.

 

“I have this friend. Well, kind of friend.. she’s a detective.”

 

“Right..” Jamie says, standing in front of Dani now. “What about her?”

 

Dani rocks back on her heels, her head dipped and she looks up at Jamie almost entirely through eyelashes. “I’ve asked her if we can meet her. Please don’t be mad, I know you didn’t want the police involved and we don’t have to but--”

 

“Dani,” Jamie sighs, folds her arms, “What has your friend said?”

 

“Just that she can look into it, see if they have anything on Jennifer.” Dani lowers her hand from her mouth now, takes a step closer to Jamie.

 

“I guarantee they will. Cops were always after her dad but could never quite get him. Whenever they got close there was always someone to take the fall.” Jamie rolls her eyes, obviously referencing herself.

 

“So you don’t mind?” Dani asks tentatively.

 

“I’m not exactly happy with the idea, Dani, and wish you’d have talked to me about it first,” Jamie clears her throat, “but okay, we’ll meet her.”

 

“I know, I’m sorry. I just.. I brought it up and she offered to look into it. I wouldn’t have said anything if I didn’t know what her specific line of work was.”

 

Jamie smiles. She knows Dani is just trying to help. They’ve spent the past two weeks watching their backs. Jamie is back at work now after being closed whilst she recovered and Dani goes back to work next week, so they won’t be together all the time like they are at the moment. Besides, Jamie is trying this new thing where she actually lets someone help instead of putting up a wall.

 

“Okay, we’ll see what she knows. It’s all off the record, right?”

 

Dani nods, grins and wraps her arms around Jamie’s shoulders.

 

“How do you know a detective, anyway?” Jamie asks with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Oh, um, she actually gave a presentation to the kids at school. We just got talking and kind of became friends.” Dani shrugs.

 

Jamie steps back, turns on her heel and stands by a box of neatly displayed roses, aimlessly re arranging them, “Hmm, she likes you.”

 

Dani laughs out loud, “What are you talking about?”

 

“You met at school when she gave a presentation to your class. I bet she noticed your accent.. asked why you moved here.. asked when,” Jamie turns to face to Dani now, smirks, “then she gave you her card and told you to drop her a text if you wanted a friend in town.”

 

“How.. do you know that?” Dani looks genuinely shocked.

 

Jamie walks back towards her, pulls her in by the waist. “Cause it’s what I’d do if it were me.”

 

“Well now I feel a fool.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I texted her.”

 

Jamie laughs, kisses Dani on the cheek, “And how did it go?”

 

“She's lovely. We talked about work, traded break up stories, we were meant to get drinks but never got round to it because of the pandemic.” Dani seems to be piecing things together in her mind as she talks.

 

“Damn. She’s gonna be so pissed that she missed her chance... she might actually throw me back in jail.” Jamie jokes teasingly.

 

Dani swats Jamie’s arm, “Shut up. I wasn’t interested in that way. And she knows about you, she commented on my Facebook update.”

 

Jamie raises her eyebrows, surprised. She read those comments and is now wondering which one was from this mystery detective. “Oh yeah? What’s her name?”

 

Dani steps back, tilts her head, “Why? Are you jealous?”

 

Jamie breathes out a hiss of air, “Course not. Just.. I read all those comments.”

 

“You did?”

 

“Of course I did, lots of people like you, Poppins. Some more than others, obviously.” Jamie winks playfully and then walks to the door, flips the open sign to closed and turns back to Dani.

 

Dani just laughs, shrugs, “Maybe, but.. you got me.” She pulls Jamie in by the collar of her shirt.

 

“Hell yeah I did.” Jamie leans in, kisses Dani's lips and cups the back of her head with one hand. She feels Dani physically relax into her body, pulling harder on her collar to bring them closer. Jamie knows there’s nothing to worry about, but if she enjoys the way Dani kisses her when she’s trying to convince her of that, well, who can blame her?

 

Jax barks from beside them, startling them from the embrace. Jamie looks down at him.

 

“Yes, yes I know. Home time.”

-

Chapter Text

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.”

 

“That so?”

 

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?

 

Wrong.

 

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.

 

“Dani, wh-.”

 

“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—

 

Danielle?”

 

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.

 

“Yep.”

 

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?”

 

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?”

 

“Great 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.”

 

“I won’t.”

 

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.