“You wantin’ to go get your head down, love?”
Dani blushes, having been caught stifling a yawn into Jamie’s shoulder. They’re cuddled up together on the couch, several blankets draped over them, watching reruns of Cheers (which, Dani suspects, Jamie isn’t the biggest fan of, taking into account how many times she’s grumbled about “shite American humor.” She watches it with Dani anyway) long after the sun has gone down. A quick glance at the clock hung on the wall tells Dani it’s a little past midnight. She can stay up for a couple more episodes; she’s managed to stay up way into the AM before.
“No,” she whines, wrapping both arms around one of Jamie’s to keep the gardener there. “Not tired yet.”
She feels rather than hears Jamie’s low chuckle. “If you say so. But, er – you mind lettin’ me go for just one sec so I can get my book? Just remembered I’ve seen this episode before.”
Dani rolls her eyes at the blatant lie. “Fine,” she huffs, releasing her girlfriend with a pout. Jamie laughs and presses a fond kiss to Dani’s temple, rising from the couch and heading to the bedroom.
But then, a few moments later:
Dani throws the blankets off of herself and sits up straight, suddenly wide awake. “Jamie? You okay?”
No answer. Dani’s about to investigate when she hears her girlfriend’s footsteps round the corner. The gardener plops herself next to Dani as if nothing happened, staring straight ahead.
“Um–” Dani leans forward to try and catch Jamie’s gaze, which flicks no further than to the television. “Everything all right?”
“Fine!” Jamie answers too quickly, too loudly. She’s alarmingly pale, Dani notices, those freckles she’s come to adore standing stark against white skin. Those lovely green eyes, wide with panic she’s clearly trying to restrain, finally meet Dani’s. “I’m fine,” she repeats, a little more calmly.
“Right,” Dani says, not at all convinced. “It’s just – I heard you scream.”
Jamie clears her throat loudly – a nervous tic, Dani’s come to learn. “Must’ve been hearin’ things.”
“Uh-huh.” Dani glances down at Jamie’s lap, where her hands are drawn into tight, white-knuckled fists. “You didn’t get your book.”
“Ah.” Jamie drops her gaze, rubbing her palms up and down her thighs in an anxious gesture. “Yeah. Changed my mind.”
Now Dani knows something is wrong. “You hate this show.”
At that, Jamie snorts and honest-to-God giggles, as if the very idea is completely absurd. “Nah. Grown on me quite a bit, actually. Don’t mind watchin’ it twice.”
Dani sighs, tossing her blanket aside. “Jamie.” She reaches over to grip Jamie’s freezing hands in her own and squeezes them gently. They’ve gone rather clammy. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothin’,” Jamie mutters, once again too quickly. “Nothin’, just – let’s just watch your show, yeah?” She flashes Dani what is probably meant to be a reassuring smile, but instead looks more like a grimace, quietly pleading.
Her pleas go unanswered. “All right, that’s it.” Dani stands and moves to head to the bedroom, but Jamie shoots to her feet, blocking her path. Dani narrows her eyes.
“What’s in the bedroom, Jamie?” She asks tersely.
“Nothin’!” At Dani’s glare, Jamie hesitates slightly. “Nothin’, honest, I – it’s silly–”
“So there is something in the bedroom?”
Jamie freezes. Ha. Caught you. With a satisfied nod and a hum, Dani walks around her girlfriend and rounds the corner – she hears Jamie follow her, but the gardener says nothing, doesn’t try to stop her a second time.
It’s just outside their bedroom door that she spots the problem.
“Oh,” she breathes, chuckling lightly in relief and turning back to Jamie. “Is that–”
She cuts herself off at the sight of her girlfriend, pressed up into the corner of the hallway, arms wrapped around herself tight, gaze fixed firmly on the ground and away from Dani – and the cause of their issue.
“Right,” Dani says lightly. “Okay. No problem. I’ll fix this.”
She kneels and gently cups her hands around it – noticing Jamie’s full-body flinch – and heads into the bedroom where, thankfully, the window is already wide open, thanks to the world’s shortest heatwave earlier in the day. And then, it’s out of her hands, out of their apartment, out of their lives forever.
She washes her hands in the bathroom sink – just to be sure – before approaching Jamie: still scrunched into the corner of the hallway, still hugging herself; still resolutely avoiding Dani’s gaze.
“You’re scared of spiders,” Dani softly states.
Jamie’s face reddens, and a muscle in her cheek jumps before she nods. “Yeah.”
Dani hums in thought. And then she says: “But you’re a gard–”
“Yes, Dani, I am well aware of my job, ta.” Dani recoils slightly at Jamie’s tone – an echo of a similar one she used eons ago, in a shredded rose garden. Jamie, noticing Dani’s reaction, scrubs her hands over her face roughly with a frustrated growl. Softer, she says, “Fuckin’ embarrassin’, I know.”
“It isn’t,” Dani assures her, moving towards her girlfriend cautiously. “It isn’t, I’m sorry, I–” Jamie still won’t look at her, so she offers, “I’m scared of clowns.”
Incredulous emerald eyes meet her own. “What–”
“And thunder,” Dani presses on. “And small spaces. That’s – that’s why I always leave the bathroom door open. I’m always afraid that – I don’t know – that I’ll somehow get locked in there, I guess. I know it’s silly.”
“‘S’not silly,” Jamie says immediately, eliciting a smile and a small laugh from the both of them. She finally unfolds herself from the space between the walls and steps forward, taking both of Dani’s hands and gently swinging both their arms between them.
“Guess I should thank you,” she mumbles, pulling Dani closer, “for gettin’ rid of the fucker.” She pulls Dani in for a chaste kiss; just a gentle brush of lips against lips, tender and sweet. When they part, she puffs a soft chuckle against Dani’s mouth. “My knight in shining purple.”
Dani rolls her eyes and shoves her girlfriend playfully with a grin. “You wanna go get your book, now?”
Jamie smirks. Oh no. “Actually,” she whispers, running her fingers up and down Dani’s arm. “I’ve thought of a way I can thank you properly… If you’re willin’ to let me.”
Always, Dani thinks. Around a suddenly dry throat, she rasps, “I think it depends on what it is.”
Jamie reaches down and takes both of her hands, walking backwards to gently pull her to their bedroom. “Let me show you, then.”
She does; and afterwards, Dani muses to herself: maybe I should try being the hero more often.