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“I’m not sick,” Anne rasped, even as her wife pushed her back into bed. “Adney-”

“Absolutely not,” Ann said firmly as she wrapped Anne firmly in sheets and blankets. “You’re probably running a fever, your nose won’t stop dripping, and you spent half the night hacking away.”

“Did not,” Anne grumbled before her darling wife shoved a thermometer between her lips.

“Dearest, I’ve shared a bed with you for what? Four years now? Nearly five? I know your snores and your coughs, love.” Ann pulled out the thermometer and shook her head. “Bed. I’m serious.”

“Can I have my book?” Anne wiggled the blankets loose. “Journal too, darling.”

“No.” 

Turning on her heel, Ann disappeared into their closet. Anne sat up forcefully in bed, brow furrowed.

“What d’you mean ‘no?’”

“What I said,” Ann called; Anne could hear the telltale sound of her dressing in the other room. Anne tried to climb out of bed, but her head pounded. She fell back into the pillows with a groan. “Don’t even try it, Pony. I’ve got to run to the school, and I’ll be back around twelve-thirty.” Ann reappeared, as stunning and brilliant as the day of their wedding. “If I hear you’re out of this bed before then, you’re in big trouble.”

Anne caught her wife’s wrist as she moved to the door.

“And what?” Anne’s dry throat only augmented her attempt at a husky drawl. “You’ll have me over your-” 

Then, of course, she broke out into a fit of coughing. Ann chuckled, shook her head, and kissed Anne’s clammy forehead. 

With her wife gone, Anne disintegrated into the bed. She really did feel unwell. It had been ages since she’d had a cold, and she had forgotten just how much they debilitated her. Her body ached, and not even in the satisfying way that hard work brought. Her head spun, and she had a lump in her throat. Swallowing was painful. With a groan, she curled herself into a tight ball and fell asleep.

Bleary-eyed, Anne blinked awake several hours later. The hazy outline of her clock read just past noon. Even though her head still pounded, Anne found herself smiling weakly. Not long until Ann would be home again soon.

Four years of marriage, and Ann still filled her with a singular kind of joy. A peaceful sort of excitement - no nerves or stress, just warmth and the tender touch of her hand in Anne’s. The sun slanted into their bedroom by this hour, and Anne admired the way it caught her rings. Scratched and dented now, the twin engagement and wedding rings were her prized possession. Even in the fog of her sickness, Anne felt a rush remembering their trip to Paris, Ann’s proposal, the floor and the wall and the bed. Anne shivered. Maybe she could shake this thing and pull her wife into bed when she got home.

After all, Anne mused, a good orgasm was supposed to help clear congestion, wasn’t it? Ann wouldn’t be home for fifteen minutes, and now that Anne had the idea… she couldn’t much shake it. Closing her eyes, Anne rolled onto her back. 

Choosing a memory was a rare treat. Usually, Anne had the pleasure of holding her wife in her arms when she felt on the amoroso . It had been weeks since Anne had the diminished pleasure of her own hand between her legs. She tried to avoid it, but no couple had perfect synchronicity with these things. Of course, Ann was infinitely better, in every way. Still, there was a freshness to it, a little change of pace. Anne conjured the slope of her wife’s ass a few nights ago, the way her hips had felt in Anne’s hands, the slickness of their bodies that night in the chaumiere. 

Oh, yes, Anne thought as her hand slipped into her boxers, this will work nicely.

Ann had been a maddening tease that evening. They’d been out to dinner - Ann had worn that dress - she’d traced her hand over Anne’s thigh as they drove home. It had made Anne wild. She’d been nearly feral by the time they got to Shibden, driving directly to the hut and tearing her wife’s clothes from her before the door even closed. 

Slow circles over her center. Anne sniffed a gob of mucus back in her throat and spread her hips a bit further. 

The taste of Ann on her tongue, the warmth of her skin, the intoxicating tenor of her breathless cries. 

Yes, yes, Anne thought impatiently as she fast-forwarded the evening in her mind.

Ann slipping the strap between her lips, squeezing Anne’s ass as she took her deeper. 

Ann flipping onto her back, looking over her shoulder, playfully wiggling her ass in the air.

Ann saying the filthiest things in that perfect, breathless, daring way of hers.

Fire burned between Anne’s legs at the memory; she strummed her clit more harshly. She was so, so close.

The delicious rhythm of their bodies moving together, underscored by Ann’s increasingly loud moans. The crisp slap of Anne’s palm against her ass. The rosy blush that started to spread across Ann’s back, contrasting so perfectly with the whiteness of her knuckles. 

With a gasp, Anne curled upward as her release washed over her. She fell back into the pillows with a sigh, wiping snot from under her nose with the back of her hand. Perhaps, she thought ruefully, it was better that Ann hadn’t been around to see that. Still, her headache was almost entirely gone. She felt all-around invigorated. She’d have to remember this the next time one of them was under the weather. 

Her eyes flicked to the clock once more. 12:40. Ann still not back. Suddenly, Anne’s good mood ebbed. She should be back by now. Where the hell was she? Anne checked her phone - nothing from Ann, but several messages from Washington. Her head clear and adrenaline still coursing through her veins, Anne blew her nose, washed her hands, dressed, and stomped out into the late summer day.

They were preparing for the new term - Anne, her wife, and the estate. Marian was off doing - well, whatever Marian usually did. Father was getting harder of hearing, but he was still mobile. Aunt Anne seemed younger than ever. Ann’s presence in the house had brought her to life. Twisting her wedding ring absently as she trotted up to Washington’s truck, she realized Ann had done much the same thing for her. 

Fifteen minutes later, Anne felt a possessive hand tug on the back of her shirt.

“She’s got to be going, Mr. Washington,” her wife said primly. “Have a lovely day.”

“But I -” Not for the first time, Anne marveled at the strength of her wife’s small hands. “Adney, I wasn’t done with him.”

“Yes, you were,” Ann said forcefully. “You’re sick, and you’re meant to be in bed.”

“I am not sick,” Anne said, pulling her wife into a secluded spot near the back door; Ann tried to pout, but she draped her arms around Anne’s neck nonetheless. “I’m feeling much better.”

“I gave you instructions, Pony.”

“I stayed in bed until 12:30, as instructed.” Anne kissed her pouting lips. “You can’t be cross with me.”

“Maybe I can,” Ann teased, leaning in for another kiss. “Maybe I don’t want to.”

“Why not?” Anne caught her lips again, pressing her wife into the stone.

“I have big news.” Anne kissed the side of her wife’s neck, running her hands along the curves of her hips. “It’s important, Pony.”

“I’m sure it is,” Anne husked, fitting her thigh between Ann’s.

“Listen,” Ann giggled, tugging slightly on Anne’s hair. “Pony, really!”

“You’re so sexy,” Anne whispered in her ear. “I touched myself while you were gone.”

Ann pulled her hair again, forcing Anne to straighten and meet her gaze. Ann’s eyes were wide, her lips parted. A crooked smile curved across Anne’s face as she kissed her wife again, a little more deeply this time. She was already calculating the risk of being caught against the desperation already creeping into her fingertips, when Ann pulled away.

“I have to tell you something,” she said, breathless. “It’s important.”

“Can’t it wait?” Anne slipped a hand under Ann’s shirt.

“No,” her wife said firmly, one hand pressing flatly against Anne’s sternum. “There’s a - there’s this girl. She’s - uh, she’s, well, she’s young and she’s - her mum works at the school. She’s made up her mind, and she - well, she knows me - knows us! She’s going to uni in the fall, and she - it’s all set up, you know, but the - well, it’s just she - she’s pregnant.”

Anne held her breath. They’d set up that nursery a year ago, gone through heartbreak and false starts and dead ends. They avoided the topic most days, keeping the door closed and their hearts guarded. Ann cupped her cheek gently, smiling softly.

“She wants to meet us.”

Chapter Text

Was it possible to feel tired in one’s bones ? Ann had felt this kind of exhaustion before, but only at the lowest points of her depression. Not this kind of tiredness that stemmed from - shocking as it may seem - physical labor. 

“Here we are, darling,” she cooed, gently tipping Sam’s head back and washing her tiny scalp. “That’s a good girl, my love.”

Only a few months, and Ann was already an expert at this. Bath time was easily her favorite - a private moment between Mummy and daughter. The rest of the family cleared away, only occasional intrusions from her wife, who still got all flustered and nervous around her own daughter. Oh, she was excellent at diaper-changing and feeding and even midnight soothing, but Anne still treated Sam like a porcelain figurine. 

Ann chuckled to herself, remembering the way Anne had run about the house in the week before the delivery. Drill in hand, hair wild, eyes aflame, Anne had raced across every inch of Shibden, mending and smoothing and baby-proofing. The squeaky stair - magically silent. The rough edge along the railing - softer than butter. Each and every outlet - covered. One morning, three days before Sam was born, Ann had caught her wife in the hallway outside their room.

“Pony,” she’d said, sharply but not unkindly. Anne had her back to her, up high on the step ladder, sanding something on the ceiling. She didn’t turn around. Ann cleared her throat. “Pony?”

“What?” Anne paused for an instant, her voice sounding dazed. 

“Come down here.”

“Busy.”

“Pony,” Ann drawled, closing the distance and wrapping her hand around her wife’s firm calf. “You do know you’re overdoing it just a bit, don’t you?”

“You want our child to get a sliver, do you?” Anne snapped.

Ann let the comment roll right past her; by now, she was certainly used to Anne’s sharp tongue and knew better than to take it personally. She trailed her hand up higher, along the ticklish back of Anne’s thigh. 

“From the ceiling?”

Anne froze, then dropped her arms to her sides. She looked deflated as she climbed down the steps and pulled Ann into a tight hug.

“I’m an idiot.”

Ann just squeezed her tighter and kissed her cheek.

“You’re a mum.”

Even the memory now brought a warmth to Ann’s chest, and she kissed her daughter’s soapy head. Sam gurgled happily, and Ann lifted her out of the water. Wrapping her in a perfectly fluffy towel, Ann admired her daughter’s wide blue eyes, her wisps of blonde hair, the hint of a scowl along her eyebrows. She was a perfect mixture of Ann and Anne, even if they didn’t share DNA. It didn’t matter; Ann knew it didn’t matter. This wonderful creature was her baby just as surely as Anne was her wife, as Shibden was their home, as the stars hung in the Halifax sky. 

“My favorite ladies,” Anne purred as Ann snuck into their bedroom. Sam was already starting to doze in her arms, and Ann hoped to slip her into her bassinet without much fuss. “Doesn’t Mumma get a turn?”

“She’s almost -”

Then, of course, Sam shrieked. Of course. Ann sighed in defeat, passing the wiggling, screaming bundle to her wife. Maybe it’s as something about Anne’s cologne, her pheromones, her sheer presence in the room - Sam could always tell. She rarely went to sleep without passing an hour or two in Anne’s arms, alternating between fussing and beaming. Ann was almost jealous of this ritual, even though she knew she’d just had the baby all to herself. 

This was the most at-ease Anne got with Sam: Anne in her boxers and t-shirt, Sam in her tiny little onesie, bouncing around the room and begging for some quiet. Ann kissed her wife’s temple and padded into the closet. Being home all day with the family was blissful. Maddening. Wonderful. Excruciating. Indescribably - special. Ann stretched her arms above her head and slipped into the shower.

She longed for the limitless hours before motherhood - the long showers, the indulgent baths, the hours of lovemaking alone in their bedroom. Now, they were lucky to get ten minutes to shower and five minutes for sex. On the nights they weren’t passed out before dark, that is. 

Besides, Ann thought as she hurriedly lathered her hair. Anne could handle Sam alone for hours; there wasn’t a real reason for her to rush right now. Mostly, Ann was greedy. She wanted every moment of Sam’s life catalogued, every laugh and frown and curl of tiny fingers. Taking a luxurious bath might be nice, but it was nothing compared to being with her family. 

“How is she?” Ann whispered when she returned, toweling her wet hair before pulling on a threadbare t-shirt. 

“Gorgeous,” Anne said softly, her left arm crooked underneath Sam, her right index finger caught in her tiny clutches. Ann climbed into bed next to them, perching on her knees and slipping her hand along Anne’s shoulders. Anne looked up at her, eyes widening; her tongue ran along her bottom lip. “Almost as gorgeous as her mum.”

Ann rolled her eyes and kissed the crown of her wife’s head before snuggling into bed next to her. Gingerly, Anne tried to stand up, but Sam started to cry once more. Sighing, Anne got to her feet and resumed her bouncing. Ann giggled at her.

“What?”

“You’re a handsome mum,” Ann said appreciatively. “And so impatient.”

“Impatient?” Anne barked, which only made the baby cry louder; she rolled her eyes and spoke in a soothing tone. “How am I impatient?”

“You always think she’ll go to sleep right away, when you know she won’t.” 

Ann pulled out her sketchbook and pencil, studying her wife and child. 

“No, the thing is she does ,” Anne urged, her voice barely above a whisper as Sam’s cries turned to gurgles. “She just wakes back up.”

“Exactly,” Ann laughed. “That’s what you always forget.”

Anne scoffed and turned away, dancing around the room with little Samantha in her arms. She was so beautiful like this - the crinkles around her dark eyes, the flex of her muscular arms supporting Sam, the smirk playing at her lips as she shot glances at Ann. 

“What are you doing, Mrs. Lister?”

“None of your business, Mrs. Walker.”

Anne hummed and made her slow, nerve-wracking path to the bassinet. Gently, Anne lowered the baby and backed away, as if from a live bomb. Ann counted to ten in her mind, and when there was still silence at the end, she knew they’d done it. Sam was a good sleeper once she got in her bed; they probably had four hours until she woke up again. Anne vaulted into bed and kissed Ann in triumph. They giggled as they fell into the sheets together. 

“How was your day?” Anne asked, even though they’d spent the entire day together. They were immensely grateful that Sam happened to be an early summer baby, so they could spend her first few months without worrying about work. 

“Alright, I guess,” Ann whispered, snuggling closer and slinging one leg over Anne’s hip; she relished the feeling of her wife’s strong arms around her, those intelligent brown eyes studying her. “I spent most of my time with the most beautiful girl.”

Anne smiled broadly. 

“You were there, too, of course, darling.”

Anne laughed and pulled her closer, stealing Ann’s breath with a punishing kiss. In an instant, Ann was jelly in her arms, rolling onto her back and opening her mouth. Anne’s knee fit perfectly between her legs; her broad back was meant to be wrapped in Ann’s slender arms. 

“You’re hot,” Anne husked in her ear. A thrill raced down Ann’s spine - it had been ages . “Can we -”

They’d never actually had sex with the baby in the room - a fair amount of rushed bathroom fumbles and blackmailing Marian into babysitting had served them well enough so far. Ann longed to spend hours in bed with her wife, wrapped up and breathless and sweaty. From the way Anne’s hands moved across her body, Ann knew she felt the same way. 

“Yes,” Ann breathed, arching up into Anne’s touch. 

“I love you, Adney,” Anne whispered in her ear, one strong hand sliding Ann’s nightshirt up to her hip. “You’re perfect.”

Of course, it had to be this moment that a sharp knock sounded against the door. Sam started crying immediately. Ann dashed to the baby, and Anne to the door. Sam quieted as soon as Ann picked her up, which never failed to thrill this new mum. She heard her wife groan and spun around to find Marian in the doorway.

Your driver, Anne!” 

“He’s your bloody boyfriend,” Anne shot back, dropping into the faded armchair in the corner. Even in her boxers and t-shirt, Anne could command a room. Ann longed for just a bit of privacy, just a few moments; it never took long. “You’ve woken the baby, you know.”

“Hello, Sammy,” Marian cooed, before wheeling on her sister. “Can’t you call him into work this weekend or something?”

“No,” Anne said flatly, crossing her legs in that commanding way of hers; Ann turned around to avoid drooling. “I’ve already allocated the budget for this month, and it does not include overtime for the toy boy.”

“He’s not -” Marian stomped her foot. “Little Ann! Can you help me with her?”

“I don’t know, Marian,” Ann said playfully; “you did just interrupt us.”

“Oh my God ,” Marian groaned, falling backward onto their bed. The wives exchanged a look, and Marian shot to her feet. “Oh! Is that - were you - oh, God. ” 

“What’s the problem?” Ann asked as she passed Sam to her wife. 

“Well, it’s just - Thomas has these plans, apparently, that - well, they involve Scotland and camping and - and - and his ex-girlfriend!”

“Oh, no,” Anne murmured, a smug grin on her lips. Ann tugged gently on her hair. 

“I don’t think - I mean, there’s nothing going on between them, but -” Marian shook her head. “I’d just rather he not go.”

“Have you told him that?” Ann asked gently.

“Well, no,” Marian said sheepishly. “I don’t want him to think -”

“Sister,” Anne said authoritatively, rising and wrapping an arm around her wife’s waist. “He’s your boyfriend. Talk to him, instead of us. Otherwise, we will continue, with what we were doing.”

With that, their baby between them, Anne leaned forward and planted a deep, wet kiss on Ann’s lips. For a blissful moment, Ann melted into her embrace, the warmth of her wife’s kiss and the strength of her arm. Ann giggled and broke away once she heard the bedroom door slam shut. 

“Not very nice, Pony,” Ann laughed as she crawled back into bed. 

“Perhaps not.” Anne kissed Sam’s forehead and backed away from the bassinet. “She deserves it, though.”

“I guess.” Ann rolled on her side, sighing happily as Anne wrapped herself around her back. “I’m so glad I’m not straight.”

“Me too,” Anne purred, kissing her neck.

Ann wished desperately that she could muster the energy to pick up where they’d left off, but her eyelids had grown so heavy. Soft kisses peppered her neck, and Ann pulled her wife’s arms more tightly around her waist. She kissed the bony knuckles of her strong hands. 

“Pony, I -”

“I know,” Anne whispered, nuzzling her face into Ann’s neck. “I’m beat.”

“I love you, darling.”

“I love you, too.”

And that was enough, actually. Not so long ago, they’d been the type to stay up all night in each other’s arms, doing any number of dirty things. Their lustful appetite seemed like the stuff of legends, or, at least, of Tib’s jokes and Marian’s eye rolls. Ann knew her wife’s body as well as she knew her own, and certainly Anne could map Ann’s skin with her eyes closed. They’d crashed together in every way imaginable, but now they fell asleep with their clothes on. Tonight’s embrace felt like one of their most intimate - satisfied, innocent, with their daughter sleeping nearby. 

Chapter Text

“She’s almost got it,” Ann said excitedly as her wife emerged from the bathroom. “You almost missed it!”

“I haven’t missed anything,” Anne said as she dropped onto the carpet across from her. “It’s too early.”

“It is not,” Ann said sharply. “Eight months, that’s what they say.”

“She turned eight months yesterday,” Anne said gently, not wanting to upset her eager little wife. “It may be a little early.”

“Nonsense,” Aunt Anne said as she entered the living room. “You were running about at seven months.”

“That’s impossible.” 

Anne held her arms out as Sam crawled slowly toward her. Aunt Anne just shrugged, but Anne didn’t miss the way she winked at Ann. With a roll of her eyes, Anne turned her attention back to her daughter. So much bigger now, Sam was practically an adult, at least in the eyes of her mums. It was bitterly cold outside, nothing to do on the estate, and the usual start-of-term doldrums; Anne was grateful for the protective warmth of her family. She looked up from Sam’s determined trek and into her wife’s soft blue eyes - Ann really had changed everything, hadn’t she?

Just a few years ago, Anne had abhorred this kind of forced family time, would’ve looked for any excuse to get out of the house. Now, she spent every free hour among these dark-wood walls, relishing the laughter and annoyance of her very eccentric brood. Before it had turned so cold, Anne used to traipse about the grounds with Sam strapped to her chest, sleeping soundly as her mother barked at the men. This will all be yours one day , Anne used to telegraph to her, got to make sure it looks nice for you. 

“Once Antsy started walking,” Aunt Anne continued, “it was all bruises and scraped knees.”

“Was it?” Ann giggled.

“Very clumsy,” Father said, appearing from the kitchen and making his way to his recliner. “Cut her head open on a bookshelf one day. Bled like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Father,” Anne admonished, slightly embarrassed.

“Broke her arm when she was three,” he went on. “Tiny little cast - bright pink.”

“It was not!” Anne cried, over the laughter of her wife and aunt.

“Absolutely was,” Father said. “I bet I’ve got a picture somewhere.”

“Would it even be in color?” Ann joked, rising to sit in the big chair behind Anne, who swatted her playfully as she passed. “Etched on a stone tablet, maybe?”

“Probably,” Father said, with a good-natured smile. “It’s a wonder you mess around with us old folks.”

“Mostly just Pony here,” Ann said affectionately. “You two act younger than I do, most days.”

“We haven’t got a baby to raise,” Aunt Anne said. 

Anne barely heard them, preferring to tune out their silly banter, especially since it was almost always at her expense. Instead. she focused on dancing Sam around, making her laugh, holding her little hands and grinning at her tiny smile. Tiny readjusted herself in her bed, and Sam crawled toward her ancient protector. The little dog was well into her seniority now, but she hardly acted like it; in fact, she’d been just as energized by Sam’s arrival as the rest of the family. Anne had been forced to apologize to Washington for Tiny’s viscous growls the first time he’d looked in on the baby - she was fiercely protective from the start. 

Leaning back, Anne looked up at her wife perched above her. Ann was smiling, chatting with Father and Aunt, her golden hair tied up in that perfect bun and her blue eyes sparkling as always. Anne took her hand, squeezed gently, then kissed the back of it. A silent signal between them - Sam was occupied and had two (mostly) competent babysitters. Now was as good a time as any to sneak upstairs.

“Where’s Sam’s blanket?” Ann asked, feigning nonchalance. “Did we leave it upstairs, darling?”

“I think we must have,” Anne said, catching up. “Let’s go look.”

Biting her lip to keep from laughing, Anne followed her wife up the stairs, trying to avoid sweeping Ann in her arms right there in the hallway. Ann looked coyly over her shoulder, that giddy smile like the first time they’d made love. A shiver raced along Anne’s spine - it had been too long.

Only a week, in truth, but that was rather a long time for them. They managed a few nights here and there, sometimes a quick meeting in the bathroom or pantry. It was difficult, with the baby, but they made it work. Honestly, the sight of Ann with their child filled Anne alternately with soft warmth and pent-up lust. 

“Come here,” Anne growled as she shut the bedroom door. 

In an instant, Ann was in her arms, legs wrapped around her waist, kissing her deeply and slowly. Anne relished the warm press of her wife’s body, the gentle slide of her lips, the erotic melody of hums passing between them. One hand slipped under Ann’s top, along her soft belly and under the thin fabric of her bra.

“You’re hot,” Anne whispered, turning her lips to the pale column of her wife’s neck. “Fuck, you’re hot.”

“Do you think -” Ann was breathless, interrupting herself with a soft moan as Anne teased her nipple. “Oh, Pony.”

“Yes, my darling,” Anne purred, rolling her hips into her wife. “I can’t wait to taste you.”

Clumsily, Anne set her wife down, dropped to her knees, wrenched open Ann’s jeans. She was on fire, pressing her lips to the pale skin just above Ann’s panties. Ann threaded her fingers through Anne’s hair, still panting as she spoke.

“But, Pony, what if -”

“We’ll be quiet,” Anne soothed. She caught the elastic of Ann’s panties between her teeth and snapped them playfully against her skin. “Don’t worry.”

“Anne,” her wife said a bit more firmly; Anne looked up at her. “What if Sam takes a step while we’re up here?”

With her hands on her wife’s hips and her lips so very close to what she wanted to taste, Anne hung her head and laughed. Ann scratched the back of her wife’s head, and their giggles turned into a satisfied sort of sigh. 

“Are you upset with me?” Ann asked softly.

“No,” Anne answered honestly. She kissed her wife’s stomach once more before rising to her feet. “You’re perfect.”

“Am I?” Ann draped her arms around Anne’s neck and kissed her softly. “I’m just afraid I’ll be distracted.”

“You don’t have to hurt my feelings,” Anne teased as she fastened Ann’s trousers.

“What?”

“I’d like to think,” Anne said lowly, leaning in until her lips nearly brushed Ann’s, “that a kiss from me would take your mind off everything entirely.”

For a moment, Anne thought her wife would kiss her. She looked so conflicted, so close to diving over the edge and into bed. Then she smiled.

“She’s our daughter, Pony.”

Anne smiled, too, and kissed her wife slowly. Ann melted into her, and for a long, blissful moment, they were the only people on earth. Then Sam’s face appeared in her mind, and Anne pulled away. She wanted to see their daughter walk just as much as Ann did. What if they’d already missed it?

“Let’s go.”

They raced down the stairs again, rushing into the living room hand-in-hand. Father had fallen asleep, and Aunt Anne was knitting. Sam looked up at the sight of her mums,and she staggered slowly to her feet. Anne and Ann froze where they stood; Anne felt her heart catch in her throat. Sam took a single, clumsy step, then dropped back on her behind. In an instant, both of them descended on her, with Anne’s long arms reaching her first and wrapping her up safely. 

“That’s a very good girl,” Ann cooed and rubbed between Sam’s shoulder blades. “What a smart girl.”

“Oh, my darling,” Anne said, fighting back to tears, unsure if she was speaking to her daughter or her wife. “Oh, I love you so much. I love you so, so much.”

Chapter Text

“Run, girls!” Anne bellowed from the sidelines. “Get in front of it!”

“Calm down,” her wife said soothingly, snaking a hand around her waist. “They’re just five.”

“I know how old they are, and I also know they need to get in front of the bloody ball.”

“Pony,” Ann said, chuckling at her wife’s insatiable competitive nature, “they don’t know what that means.”

“I’ve told them.”

“I know you have, Coach Lister,” Ann said indulgently. “At least Sam isn’t sitting down this week.”

“Small miracles.”

“She might not be sporty,” Ann told her for what felt like the thousandth time. “That’s okay.”

“Of course it is,” Anne snapped, her fingers tightening around the coach clipboard. “It’s just -”

“Pass it to Sam!” Ann slipped screamed at the tiny player who had, unwittingly, found herself with the ball at her feet. “She’s open!”

For a moment, both wives were silent as they watched small legs toddle over to the ball. Two teams of players became a huddled mass of five-year-olds, none of whom seemed to have the least idea what football even was. Some child on the opposing team picked up the ball with her hands, and the whistle blew. Ann and Anne sighed in frustration.

“Maybe she’s not sporty,” Ann admitted.

“Ah, doesn’t feel so good, does it, Coach Lister?” Anne said. 

Ann laughed and squeezed her wife’s side playfully, taking this opportunity to look up at her co-coach. Still so handsome, ten years in. Of course, she had the requisite grey strands weaving into her dark locks, but her jaw was just as strong as ever, her neck just a regal, her body as lithe and mouth-watering as the first time Ann saw her, now 30 years ago. 

They wore matching shirts on this warm summer day, white with red bands around the collar and edges of the sleeves, and “Coach Lister” emblazoned across the back. Anne had a baseball cap settled low on her head, a whistle swinging around her neck. Her little shorts had made Ann salivate when they dressed this morning, forcing her to pull Anne back into bed for a morning shag. Moving Sam into her own big-girl room had been bittersweet, but the boost to their sex life had been huge.

Sam’s little football league had been a compromise - Anne wanted them to spend the summer traveling, but Ann wanted to stick close to home. Ann wanted Sam to have the summer entirely free, but Anne wanted her to have at least one constructive activity. In the end, they’d settled on either flute lessons or football practice. After hours of pleading from the family, they decided on football. Easier on the ears. Until one of the Coaches Lister got upset.

“Yellow?” Anne shouted to the referee. “That’s just blatant, that-”

“Five years old,” Ann said soothingly, rubbing her wife’s back. “They’re five whole years old.”

“Old enough to know better,” Anne grumbled and wrapped her arm around Ann’s shoulders.

They stood quietly for a few moments, watching the knot of children surrounding the ball travel up and down the miniature field. It was sweet, honestly, their earnest little faces, not yet corrupted by competition. Sam spent the rest of the half standing on the sideline and running the toe of her fancy cleats along the chalk line. 

“Over here,” Anne bellowed once the whistle sounded for half time. 

The tiny red shirts waddled toward them, and Ann pulled away to retrieve their snacks. She’d been rather proud of this, the orange slices and water and juice and crackers. By the time she got back to the huddle, Anne was in a crouch, pointing animatedly at her clipboard.

“Yes, darling, now if you’d just go up here -”

“I have three cats!” The player interrupted Anne, holding up three fingers. 

“That’s lovely,” Anne said gently, though her wife heard annoyance creeping into her voice. “Now, when the game goes on-”

“Isn’t it over?” One child whined. “I’m thirsty.”

“Well-”

“Me too!” Another girl pouted. “I want to go home.”

“This is my home,” Sam said proudly, pointing to Shibden in the distance. “You come over after.”

“Really?” A chorus of voices piped up.

“Girls!” Anne cried in frustration.

“Snack time,” Ann called, breaking into the circle. “Here we are.”

The strategy session devolved into loud chewing and slurping and chattering. Anne plopped onto her behind on the grass, pulling Ann down next to her. She slung her arm around Ann’s shoulders again, pulled her close, kissed the top of her head. A perfectly sunny day, happy children around them, snuggling into the broad chest of the most perfect woman on the planet - heaven was real, Ann decided, and this was it.

“They’re nutters,” Anne whispered in her ear. “Why do we do this?”

“You love it,” Ann teased, tugging on Anne’s whistle and tilting her chin.

Anne smiled and kissed her chastely; the team erupted into squeals and giggles. Ann blushed and covered her face.

“What are you looking at?” Anne scolded playfully. “Mums kiss sometimes!”

“Gross!” Sam cried, a broad grin on her face; this was a new trick she’d learned from Marian, one that drove her mums crazy but made the rest of the family laugh and laugh. 

“Come here,” Anne growled, pulling their daughter into her lap. Soon they were all giggling and roughhousing, and Ann couldn’t believe how happy she was. The referee whistled once more. “Here we go, ladies!”

The second half was no better than the first, but neither coach minded. It was lovely enough standing in the sun like this, even if Sam let the ball roll between her legs and into the goal no fewer than four times. Ann didn’t care - their daughter was beautiful and smart and strong and creative and uncoordinated. She leaned into her wife’s broad chest and looked at her watch. At least it would be over soon.

“Go!” Anne bellowed out of nowhere. “Take the shot! Sam, baby!”

Ann searched the sea of tiny figures, finding their daughter’s dark head near the goal post. She was fiddling with a blade of grass, it seemed, and she turned to show it to the goalkeeper for the other team. Ann’s breath caught in her chest. As Sam turned, she’d nudged the ball with the side of her foot. It seemed to roll in slow motion - the goalkeeper spoke animatedly to Sam, and then - Anne’s fingers tightened around her shoulder - the ball crossed the line.

“Goal!” Anne shouted, jumping into the air; the referee’s whistle blew. “Goal! Goal!”

“Anne!” Ann cried, grabbing her wife’s shirt to steady her; Anne kissed her soundly and turned back to the field. “Pony, be quiet.”

The team raced toward them, Sam toddling near the middle. Ann dropped into a crouch and scooped their girl into her arms and covered her giggling face in kisses. 

“Sammy!” Anne crowed, ruffling her hair. “You did it!”

“Did we win, Mummy?” Sam asked, giggling and wiggling in Ann’s arms. 

“Well, no,” Ann admitted, “but we’re very proud of you.”

“Come here.” Anne lifted Sam onto her shoulders. “The conquering hero.”

“We won!” Sam shouted as they started to walk back to the house. “We won!”

“You did very well,” Ann told her, lacing her fingers between Anne’s. 

“Did they win?” Marian asked as they burst into the kitchen. 

“Yes!” Sam cried as Anne lowered her to the floor. “We did so good.”

“So well ,” Anne corrected, but Sam was already babbling to her aunt.

“Leave her alone,” Ann scolded as they passed through to the living room. “She scored a goal today.”

“By accident ,” Anne hissed in her ear; a shot of arousal raced along Ann’s spine - she didn’t have to look at her wife’s face to know the rakish grin spreading there. “What do you think, Adney? Shall we sneak upstairs and score one ourselves?”

“No,” Ann laughed and pushed her wife into their large, worn armchair. “We have to celebrate.”

“That’s what I’m saying,” Anne teased, pulling Ann into her lap.

For a long, blissful moment, Ann straddled her wife and kissed her. Anne’s strong hands cupped her face and her hips; her lithe tongue slipped past Ann’s lips. Then a loud thump sounded on the floor. 

“How was it?” Aunt Anne asked brightly.

 Flushing, Ann shuffled out of Anne’s lap, but her wife just pulled her back, this time across her lap. More chaste, sure, but Ann couldn’t banish the redness from her skin. Anne draped a long arm around her back, the other over Ann’s knees.

“Terrific,” Anne answered, unphased at their being caught mid-snog. “Sam scored a goal.”

“Did she?” Aunt Anne beamed, and Ann felt a rush of affection. She was getting older, but studiously avoiding the walker they offered her. Her trusty cane by her side, Aunt Anne seemed determined to stick around for decades yet. “I’m sure you’re very proud.”

“I won! I won!” Sam cried as she ran into the room and clambered into Ann’s lap. “Didn’t I, Mumma?”

“You did a very good job, darling,” Anne said gently. “You didn’t win, but you did your best.”

“I scored a goal,” Sam told her great-aunt excitedly. “I ran past all the other players.” Ann shook her head where Sam couldn’t see. “And I kicked really hard.” Ann kept shaking her head. “She couldn’t even stop it! It was like -”

“Wait, wait!” Captain Lister shuffled into the room as quickly as he could. “I want to hear it.”

“Papa, listen ,” Sam said, already mirroring the tone her mother took with wayward students. “I already told it!”

“Tell it again,” Anne urged, smoothing her daughter’s wild hair with one hand; the other traced soft, shapeless patterns along Ann’s back. “Papa wants to hear every detail.”

Sam started her laborious, embellished tale, and Ann snuggled into her wife’s chest. She’d never understood why Anne liked to have her in her lap; being on top like this suited her much more. For sex, sure, but also just for closeness’s sake. They’d spent countless nights wrapped up together like this, Anne the firm foundation folding Ann in her strong arms. And yet, with little Sam in her lap, Ann started to understand the appeal. She always felt comforted being surrounded by Anne, but now she understood how comforting being the protector could be. 

“Oh! And,” Sam said in that breathless way of hers. “Mumma kissed Mummy, and it was so gross.”

“Was it?” Marian teased from the couch.

“Yeah!” Sam said happily, snuggling into Ann’s chest. “We were all just like ‘ewwwwww.’”

“I bet you were,” Aunt Anne said indulgently.

“I’ve done the same thing,” Marian agreed.

“Be quiet,” Anne scolded. 

“Did they have fun?” Aunt Anne asked the mums.

“Oh, yes,” Ann said. “She seems to be really taking to it.”

“She might enjoy the grass more than the game,” Anne said sardonically.

Ann nudged her wife with her shoulder, inadvertently waking Sam. Captain Lister stood slowly and made for the kitchen. 

“Going to the pros, is she?” He asked as he disappeared.

Anne leaned forward and whispered in her daughter’s ear. Sam piped up, her voice loud and clear, parroting her mother’s words.

“I’m gonna play for Man- uh,” a quick look to her mother, “Manchester United.”

In the kitchen, a glass broke. The rest of the family broke into laughter. Ann slipped to her feet with the half-dozing Sam in her arms.

“Nap for this one,” she said.

“This one too,” her wife said with a yawn.

They climbed the stairs together, drifting into Sam’s room and tucking her in. Ann slipped Sam’s favorite stuffed hedgehog under her arms, kissed her forehead, and took Anne’s hand. Warmth flooded her body as her wife’s gentle lips pressed to her temple. Quietly, they crept out of the room.

“She’s perfect, isn’t she?” Ann asked happily, swinging their clasped hands.

“Takes after her mum,” Anne said, pulling Ann into their room. “Will you nap with me, love?”

“I didn’t think my Pony took naps,” she teased.

“Being a mum changes a person,” Anne said loftily, flopping onto their bed and tugging Ann into her arms. “And a coach.”

“Oh, Coach Lister,” Ann said in a sultry voice. “I’d like to blow your whistle.”

Anne guffawed and kissed her. Their limbs were heavy, languid as they traced collarbones and arms and hips. They faced each other on the bed, Ann hiking her leg over her wife’s hip. Anne’s broad hand slipped under Ann’s shirt, along the line of her bra, over the swells of her breasts. Breaking the kiss, Ann hummed softly then turned her attention to her wife’s neck.

“She is remarkable, isn’t she?” Anne said softly.

“Who?” Ann said against her skin.

“Sam.”

Ann froze, pulled away, and studied her wife’s surprised face.

“Pony.”

“Adney.”

“Youre talking about our daughter.”

“Sure.”

“Right now?”

“Well, a few moments ago,” Anne shrugged.

Ann smacked her belly.

“Motherhood has changed you,” Ann said as she snuggled in Anne’s arms and closed her eyes.

“Me?” Anne asked, half-yawning.

“My insatiable, sex-fiend Pony has turned into Coach Mumma Lister, napping in the afternoon instead of shagging.”

Anne laughed, and Ann joined her. They snuggled a little closer together, sighing in unison. They laid together in silence so long that Ann thought Anne was asleep. Then she heard her wife’s deep voice rasp quietly, almost timidly.

“Is that a bad thing?”

“Of course not.” Anne kissed her wife’s throat. “I love you, my darling. Every side of you.”

Chapter Text

“She’ll be fine,” Anne soothed as she buttoned up her trousers. 

“We’ve never left her overnight,” Ann said as she brushed her hair in the mirror.

“We-”

The loud whir of the hair dryer cut her off; Anne leaned against the doorway, arms crossed, fixing her wife with a sardonic gaze. Oh, she was bloody gorgeous like this. Fresh from the shower, in just her black lingerie, golden curls taking shape under the careful guidance of her brush and ridiculously expensive sprays and dryer and creams. They’d had this date night on the calendar for six months, but it kept getting pushed back. Sam’s extracurriculars and Ann’s school fairs and all the duties Anne took on being Department Head - it added up. 

They hadn’t even been having enough sex, Anne thought when Ann winked at her in the mirror. Autumn was always busy for the family, and it was even worse this year. Motherhood exhausted them both, and sex was the first thing off the list. It had been several nights since they had the energy and the privacy to do anything more than kiss. Far too long, Anne thought as she admired the curve of her wife’s ass and the smooth, creamy expanse of her skin.

“We’ll only be in the chaumiere,” Anne said when the dryer finally turned off. “We’ll actually be right here.”

“Still,” Ann said, now working on her makeup. “What if she gets scared?”

“She’s six years old, darling.”

“And she still sleeps in our bed eight nights a month.”

“Been counting?” Anne purred, sidling up to her wife and wrapping her arms around her waist.

“You’re a bad influence,” Ann teased, leaning back against Anne. “No time.”

“Merciless.” Anne nipped at her pulse point. “I’m going to ravish you tonight.”

Ann hummed and twisted away, pointing to Anne’s starched shirt and tie hanging off the rack. Pulling her top on, Anne thought briefly of those days they spent building out this closet, those childless days of endless sex and wrestling and emptiness. It hadn’t felt empty at the time, but looking back, it seemed empty. She buttoned up her shirt.

“Heels?” She hissed as Ann stepped into her sky-high grey pumps. “Can we skip dinner? Order in?”

“No,” Ann said with a teasing smile; she tottered over in her simple green dress, then set about tying Anne’s tie. “We both need a night out, Pony. You know it.”

“I just need you,” Anne husked, stealing a quick kiss. 

“Needy Pony,” Ann teased and straightened Anne’s collar. “I can’t wait to fuck you.”

“Then don't.” Anne clasped her hands behind Ann’s back, grinding her hips against Ann’s. “Quick one, right now.”

“Pony,” Ann whined, snaking her fingers through Anne’s hair. “We can’t. I want to eat out.”

“Me too,” Anne purred, bringing their lips together once more.

“Bad girl,” Ann said, breathless as they parted. “No more.”

With a groan of frustration, Anne followed her wife out of their bedroom. Sam was already in her pajamas, dancing around the living room with Tiny. Marian barely looked up as the mums came into the room. 

“We’re off,” Ann said, eyes wide and nervous; Anne slipped a reassuring hand along her lower back. “Don’t miss us too much.”

“We won’t!” Marian said with a smile.

“Hush.” Anne pushed her sister’s shoulder. “Come say goodbye, love.”

“Bye, Mumma,” Sam said, hugging Anne tightly. “Bye, Mummy.”

“Good night, sweet girl,” Ann said, holding the girl close and sounding near tears. “We’ll be back before you get up in the morning.”

“Okay,” Sam nodded eagerly.

“But if you need us, Aunt Marian can call us any time.”

“Okay.”

“So, if you get scared -”

“She’s fine, Mummy,” Anne said gently, rubbing Ann’s back. “Isn’t Sammy fine?”

“Yeah,” Sam said proudly. “Auntie M gonna let me have ice cream and-”

“No, she’s not!” Marian interrupted. “Straight to bed, right?”

Sam’s eyes went wide, swinging slowly from her mums to her aunt. She nodded slowly, then turned back to Anne and Ann.

“We’re good.”

Anne laughed, and her wife straightened. She slung an arm around Ann’s shoulders, and they slipped out of the house. She was still laughing as they climbed into the car.

“She’s bad,” Anne chuckled.

“We should really talk to Marian about that,” Ann said seriously. “She can’t keep-”

“Sam is! Sam’s bad,” Anne said. “She’s as bad as Marian.”

“No, Marian is the adult. She should-”

“Oh, let them have fun,” Anne said, kissing the back of her wife’s hand. “It’s one night. No school tomorrow.”

Ann clicked her tongue, but said no more. Their hands found each other over the center console, a comfortable silence stretching between them. Anne had forgotten how much space their daughter took up, how every cell in their bodies turned to her when she was in the room. In this childress space, Anne wasn’t sure what to do. She enjoyed the silence, for now, and the warm press of Ann’s hand in hers. By the time they reached the restaurant, Anne almost felt sleepy.

“I have a proposal,” Ann said, turning urgently to her. 

“Yes, I’ll marry you,” Anne answered with a wink.

“Oh, good.” Anne kissed her wife’s hand. “Tonight, though, uh,” Ann chuckled, “what if we said no kid talk? Would that - uh - would that be alright?”

“You don’t want to talk about Sam?” Anne’s brow furrowed with her question. 

“I want to feel like a grown-up,” Ann said, shaking her head. “Not like a mum or a teacher or - I don’t know what else. I want to be a woman, out of a date with her incredibly sexy wife.”

Anne felt a blush creeping up her neck, her mouth dry at the earnest look on her wife’s face.

“Is that alright?” Ann asked.

“Of course,” Anne said emphatically and squeezed her hand. “Absolutely.”

Walking into a restaurant with Ann Walker Lister on her arm was a sublime pleasure that Anne never tired of. The warmth of her body pressing against Anne’s side, the exquisite curve of her lower back fitting into Anne’s hand, the eyes of the other diners assessing them as they pass. Anne pulled out her wife’s chair before dropping into her own. Flicking out her napkin, she fixed Ann with a broad grin.

“You really are gorgeous, do you know that?”

Ann flushed and shook her head, already studying the menu. Anne slipped the soft edge of her brogue along Ann’s calf, just for a moment, then pulled away. She watched her wife bite her lip, a soft blush dusting her pale skin. They’d be lucky if they made it through their meal without defiling the loo.

 

“So I called Vere yesterday,” Anne said between bites. “Not a single derogatory remark about Donald, are you proud?”

“Extremely,” Ann said. “How is she?”

“Oh, fine, you know. Married to a man and suffering for it.”

“Pony,” Ann scolded.

“I cannot pretend to understand it,” Anne said with a shrug, “but my goddaughter is fine, and that’s what matters.”

“Good.” Ann smiled widely, sitting back from her plate. “Tib still coming over tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Ann’s groaned. “With that girl.”

“Your student!” Ann giggled. “Her girlfriend of what? Probably ten years now.”

Anne sighed and leaned back. The relationship between Tib and Pic continued to confound and annoy her. A thoughtless act on Anne’s part, giving Pic that business card, had some very serious ripple effects. She couldn’t decide if she regretted it or not.

“They want to take a trip, sometime next summer.” Ann raised her eyebrows. “I know, I know. I did tell her we’re mums now.”

“Tell Pic I'd love to, but my liver just can’t handle it.”

“I know,” Anne chuckled. “Tib kept pushing and pushing, as if we could be like her!” She shook her head, remembering how sick they’d both been. “It’s a miracle any of us got home.”

“Tib was sober, darling,”

“But she’s an idiot.”

They both laughed at that, and Anne brushed her fingertips over her wife’s. Electricity shot between them, and so, of course, Ann would order dessert. Typical. 

“Adney,” Anne whined. “Can’t we go home?”

“Proper night out,” Ann said primly, even as her stockinged foot played along Anne’s calf. “Besides, I haven’t even told you about my conversation with Liz.”

“Oh?”

“She wants to plan a reunion, all the cousins.” Ann’s foot teased her leg, hooked around her ankle. “She’s tearing her hair out with Mary, teenager stuff.” Now Ann was toying with Anne’s hand, her slender fingers tracing shapeless, maddening patterns. “Sackville wants to show you his invention.”

“Sounds lovely,” Anne choked out, arousal rising in her gut.

“I think we’ll be busy this summer,” Ann said, her voice low and sultry. “This long, hot summer.”

“Adney,” she whined again.

Ann smiled and tapped Anne’s wedding ring.

“Fancy a trip to the loo?”

“Yes!” Anne stood up, perhaps a bit too quickly, scraping her chair loudly against the floor.

“Not me,” Ann said with a simple shrug, a devilish smile teasing at her lips. “See you soon, Pony.”

With a strangled huff, Anne turned away from her wife and strode quickly to the bathroom. A dozen years ago, she might’ve relieved herself of this desire, but she’d long broken that habit. No, instead she splashed cold water on her face and stared at her flushed cheeks in the mirror. A few touches to her calf and to her hand, and Anne was panting like a teenager. She used to go months between seeing Marianna, but now? A few days without Ann’s touch was almost painful.

Sam was perfect, excellent, the best thing that had ever happened to either of them. Watching her grow was the supreme pleasure of Anne’s life, and every bit of growth thrilled her. Yet each step into the future also took Sam just a little further away. Anne had rejoiced at getting their bedroom and privacy back, but she still mourned the closeness of their tiny trio. Sam still climbed into their bed some nights, still had nightmares, though Anne suspected some of it was desire for attention. Only last week, Anne had just settled herself on top of her wife when the shy knock came at their door. 

“Get a grip,” Anne hissed to her reflection. “Soon.”

By the time she got back to their table, Ann was halfway through her torte. Anne watched her, the way her fingers curled around the fork, the way her lips closed around each bite, the way her tongue darted out to catch a crumb. The cold water had not been enough. 

“You look hungry, Pony,” Ann said softly. “Fancy a bite?”

“Oh, yes,” Anne said, licking her lips. 

“Incorrigible,” Ann giggled as the check came. Anne set down her card before her wife could. “Pony.”

“I’m taking you out, aren’t I?”

“Pony.”

“We’re not arguing over this.”

“Pony,” Ann said firmly. “It’s fine for you to pay, my darling, but.” She paused, fighting back a smile. “That’s your university ID card.”

Anne looked down and laughed. She’d been so caught up in the curve of her wife’s mouth that she hadn’t paid an ounce of attention. Chuckling, she changed out the cards. Ann was still teasing her as they strode out into the evening.

“Not even the same color ,” Ann went on. “Not even close!”

“Adney,” Anne laughed, squeezing her close by the waist. “You’re mean to me tonight.”

“Am I?” Ann twisted out of her grasp and leaned against the car. 

The parking lot was dim, deserted. Anne closed the distance between them, covering Ann with the length of her body. Her hands gravitated to Ann’s hips, her lips grazed her ear.

“I’m so wet for you, Ann Waker.”

“Yeah?” 

Ann’s arms laced around her neck, her hips rolling up against Anne’s.

“Can we go home already?”

“Kiss me first.”

Anne grinned and crashed their lips together. She pressed her wife into the solid frame of the car, snaking one leg between Ann’s and grinding their hips together. Ann moaned softly into her mouth, tangling her fingers in Anne’s hair. For a long, exquisite moment, they moved together in a perfect flurry of lips and hands and hips. Then Ann whined.

“Adney?” Anne gasped for breath as she pulled away. “Have I hurt you?”

“We have to go home.”

Anne laughed and opened the door for her wife, shoving her playfully inside. She hopped into the driver’s seat in a hurry, racing down the Halifax streets until they hit the back roads of Shibden. Ann’s hand traced along the back of her neck, up into her hair.

“I can’t wait for you to fuck me,” Ann said softly. “I need to feel you on top of me.” Anne groaned. “Feel your strong arms around me. Your lips on my neck.”

Anne slammed the car into park, and they tumbled out in unison. Their hands found each other as they hurried into the hut, barely closing the door behind them before crashing together once again. They were giggling and panting and kissing and groping; Ann was already kicking off her heels, tugging at Anne’s tie, vaulting into Anne’s arms.

“Fuck, Adney,” Anne breathed between kisses.

“You’re perfect,” Ann said into her hair, pressing their bodies impossibly closer.

“You’re so beautiful.” Anne fumbled over the zipper of Ann’s dress, kissing her sloppily and stumbling toward the bedroom. “This bloody dress.”

“You love this dress.” Ann smoothed Anne’s hair back from her face. “You’ve been drooling over it all night.”

“I have.” Anne kissed her again, then dropped her onto the bed. “You’re driving me crazy, Miss Walker.”

She ran her hands up Ann’s legs, under the hem of her skirt, to the clasps of the garter belt. With a deft hand, she unclipped each one in turn, all the while kissing the bare skin above the soft stockings. Ann had only recently grown self-conscious about her legs, and, despite Anne’s praise, turned to stockings to cover and smooth. Anne didn’t much mind; it made the unwrapping that much sweeter. 

“Fuck, Pony,” Ann sighed as Anne started to roll down the fabric on her left leg. “You’re amazing.”

“I am?” Anne purred, now freeing Ann’s right leg and covering her skin with kisses.

“How do you even - the - fuck.”

“What’s that, darling?” Anne said with a smirk, hooking her fingers in the waistband of Ann’s panties.

“Oh, just make love to me,” Ann said impatiently, already lifting her hips.

“Making love, is it?” Anne asked. 

“Always.”

Ann sat up and slowly removed Anne’s tie, her shirt, her bra. Soft lips pressed to Anne’s collarbone, the length of her neck, the underside of her jaw, the slope of her shoulder. Delicate hands fumbled over her belt, the button of her trousers, the elastic of her boxers. Anne threaded her fingers through those perfectly golden curls, tilted Ann’s head back, and studied her for a moment. She still took Anne’s breath away. Anne kissed her once, deeply, then pulled away to step out of her bottoms. Ann shucked her dress, shaking her shoulders playfully as Anne climbed into bed.

“Come and get me.”

Anne growled and lunged forward, catching her wife’s lips in a fierce kiss. She reached one hand beneath Ann, expertly unfastening her bra in a single motion. Moving lower, Anne covered every inch of flushed skin in soft kisses, savoring the taste of Ann’s skin on her lips.

“I love you,” Ann said softly, arching upward as Anne took her nipple in her mouth. “Good Lord, do I love you.”

“I love you,” Anne said against her warm skin, tracing a slow pattern across Ann’s chest before taking her other nipple between her lips. 

Ann hummed, twisting her hips as Anne unhooked her garter belt, slipped it and her panties down her legs. Anne was on fire, placing hungry kisses and greedy hands along her wife’s legs and hips. Gentle hands tangled in her hair, the room slowly filling with Ann’s heavy breathing and needy keening.

“Pony,” she whined as Anne spread her legs. “Yes, Pony, please.”

Dipping into her wife’s core was as close to heaven as Anne had ever found. She relished nothing more than the taste of Ann’s arousal on her tongue, the soft skin of Ann’s hips and thighs under her hands, the intense pleasure of unraveling her wife slowly. Ann babbled above her, pulling tightly on Anne’s hair and rolling her hips into Anne’s mouth. 

As Ann’s whines grew higher, needier, and less coherent, Anne felt her own arousal growing in time. Nothing affected her quite so much as this delicate worship. She found her hips rocking fruitlessly against the bed as she took Ann’s clit gently between her teeth; with one final, broad stroke of her tongue, she sent Ann into a shuddering release. 

With light kisses, Anne traced her way back up Ann’s body until she hovered over her beautiful, breathless face. Ann’s eyes were half-closed, but she managed to take Anne’s face in her hands and kiss her deeply. Anne moaned as they parted, desperation coursing through her veins. 

“Oh, darling,” Ann sighed, pulling Anne heavily on top of her. “Oh, it’s been ages.”

“It has,” Anne murmured into the slick skin of her neck; she relished the joining of their bodies, totally naked and totally patient, no judging ears in the next room, no snoring dog at the foot of the bed, no blaring alarm in the morning. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you ,” Ann said appreciatively, tracing her fingertips along Anne’s back. “Are you always that good at that?”

Anne propped herself up on her elbows, looking down incredulously at her wife. They broke out into laughter.

“Always,” Anne said emphatically before kissing her again. “You know that.”

“I do,” Ann said as she trailed her hand along Anne’s neck, between her breasts, down to the apex of her thighs. “I really do.”

Anne’s eyes slipped closed as Ann’s wandering fingers found her clit. She rolled her hips in tandem with Ann’s expert strokes, holding herself over her wife and stretching her neck to accept greedy kisses along her pulse point and clavicle. Ann’s voice was low and sultry as she whispered in Anne’s ear.

“You’re so hot, Pony. You made me come so hard, baby, and I - fuck, you’re so wet. You’re close, aren’t you?” Anne nodded frantically, her body already trembling. “Oh, darling, you’re amazing.”

Anne felt her core clench, then her hamstring.

“Wait,” she croaked. “Stop.”

Ann froze, a soft sound of question dying on her lips.

Anne felt every day of fifty-two years old; her knees just wouldn’t work like they used to. Reluctantly, she sat back on her heels, catching her breath and stretching her arms above her head. Her abdominal muscles burned, and she couldn’t keep her hands steadying She kept her eyes closed, shame burning her face. For a long moment, she sat just like that, her leg still aching, though not nearly as much as her heart. What a damned old fool, Anne cursed herself. 

“Come here,” Ann said softly, one tender hand flat against Anne’s belly. “Lie down, love.”

“I’m alright,” Anne said, eyes still closed.

“Anne,” her wife said, this time more firmly. “Lie down here next to me.”

Anne eased her eyes open slowly, finding her wife smiling kindly at her. She curled a hand around Anne’s hip, gently pulling her forward. Anne relented and flopped onto her back; she draped one forearm over her eyes, embarrassment still clinging to her. Soft lips pressed to her forehead.

“What hurts, baby?”

“Nothing.”

“Anne.”

“I’m fine.”

“Anne Lister.”

“Forget it.”

“Anne Walker Lister,” Ann said in that tone usually reserved for chastising their daughter. “Tell me what hurts, and I’ll fix it.”

“Leg,” Anne grumbled. “Right one.”

“This perfect leg?” Ann said easily, her hands smoothing over Anne’s thighs. “What a naughty thing.” She moved lower, gently massaging Anne’s calf. “Let’s have a stretch.”

Like a practiced trainer, Ann pressed Anne’s leg toward her chest, gently stretching and easing the tired muscle. It may have taken hours or mere minutes, but Anne could have cried from relief. Ann whispered encouraging words as she worked, praising Anne’s body and reminiscing about times their roles had been reversed. When she placed a final, parting kiss just above Anne’s hip bone, Anne felt like a new woman. Perhaps she wasn’t too old after all.

“Ready to come out, Pony?” 

Anne moved her forearm from her eyes, and her chest filled at the sight of her wife hovering over her. Their lips met, slow and searching. Ann’s hands roamed her neck, her shoulder, her breasts, stopping short at her waist. Anne deepened their kiss, covered Ann’s hand with her own and guided her between her legs. They shared a breath as Ann found her center once more.

“I love you, Anne.” Ann’s voice was as soft as velvet, even as her fingers stoked fire between Anne’s legs. “You’re so handsome.” She kissed Anne’s throat. “So strong.” She pressed a bit harder. “So sexy.”

“Ann,” she gasped, desperately pulling her wife impossibly closer. “Ann, Ann.”

“Come for me, darling. I love you.”

Anne exploded, vaulting into the warm waters of her release, surrounded by the perfect, all-encompassing love of her wife. Ann kissed her neck and jaw gently as Anne returned to her body. Breathless, she pulled Ann’s lips to her own, kissing her sloppily. They pulled away, a pair of tired smiles in the dim room. Ann settled on her chest, their hearts beating in unison.

Though it had been forbidden, Anne found her thoughts drifting to Sam. Was she already asleep? Had Marian kept her up too late? Did she have a stomachache from the rich foods the family undoubtedly fed her in the absence of her strict mums? Ann’s breathing slowed, and Anne wished for her journal. She needed somewhere to put this energy. For an eternity, she stared at the ceiling, Sam’s smiling face dancing in the darkness.

“What are you thinking about?” Ann asked, her voice thick with sleep.

“Nothing,” Anne lied, brushing her hand along Ann’s back. “Let’s go to sleep.”

“I wonder if Sam’s alright.”

Anne chuckled, shaking her head and looking down at her wife.

“I thought we had a no-kid-talk rule.”

Ann shrugged sheepishly.

“Shall we go back?” Anne asked.

Ann nodded eagerly, already climbing off of Anne and stumbling into her dress. They raced back to the main house, creeping into the silent house before shedding their dinner clothes in favor of pajamas. 

“She’s probably asleep,” Anne whispered, her hand on the doorknob. “Should we wake her?”

“We’ll just check on her,” Ann reasoned. “Just make sure she’s sleeping well.”

“Right,” Anne said with a grin. “Wake her up to see how she’s sleeping.”

Ann smacked her belly playfully; Anne caught her hand, kissed the back of it, and led her wife into the hallway. Easing open their daughter’s door, they both froze when they found the little room empty. Ann turned to her, eyes wide in fear. Anne shook her head.

“Marian.”

Before they even opened the door, Anne could hear laughter on the other side. Rolling her eyes, she flung the door wide. In the center of the large bed sat Marian and Sam, surrounded by mountains of candy wrappers and half-full crisp bags. Marian’s face fell, but Sam’s lit up.

“Mumma! We’re having a sleepover!”

“We are not,” Marian hissed, sweeping the wrappers to the floor. 

“Can we join you?” Ann asked gamely. 

“Mums don’t come to sleepovers,” Sam said authoritatively.

“Yes, we do!” Ann climbed into bed next to Sam, reaching behind the little girl to squeeze Marian’s shoulder. “Do you want us to leave you alone?”

“It’s fine,” Marian answered quietly, nodding to Ann.

“Mumma!” Sam called to Anne, still hovering near the door. “Come on! Auntie M was going to read to me, but you’re better.”

“Am I?” Anne asked with a broad grin; she closed the distance between them, wedging herself on the edge of Marian’s bed, snaking one arm around Ann’s waist more for space than anything else. “I suppose I’ll have to.”

Marian groaned, underscored by Ann and Sam’s giggles. She tossed the book to Anne with a scoff, but Anne could see the enjoyment in her eyes. It was amazing what Sam had done for their sisterly relationship. Anne snuggled cozily around her wife, their child nestled next to them, Marian fitting perfectly in their family tableau. Before long, all three of them were snoring, and Anne was left, once more, wishing for her journal. She stared at the ceiling, wondering at the infinite grace and benevolence that had led her to this blissful night. 

Chapter Text

Ann hated being home late, but she couldn’t help it today. Cleaning up the art room had turned into mindless chatter, and before she knew it, it was after five o’clock. Sam had soccer practice after school, so Anne was picking her up. They probably hadn’t even started Sam’s homework - procrastinators, both of them. She’d raced home, and she was breathless as she tumbled out of the car. Ann braced herself as she burst into the parlor-turned-battleground.

Oh.

They had started the homework, two dark heads bent over the table, mother so like daughter. Ann paused a moment in the doorway to study them. Sam had changed out of her school uniform, her dark hair escaping the neat braid Anne had plaited for her this morning. She tapped her pencil impatiently, her wide blue eyes glassed over as she listened to her mother. Next to her, Anne had clearly pulled her hair back in a rush, a messy braid hanging along her slender neck; more threads of silver intertwined with the deep brown every day. The sight of it made Ann weak. In her hand, Anne’s glasses flashed across the air as she gestured animatedly, clearly mid-speech. She had a thick rainbow jumper around her shoulders, a gift from Sam last Christmas. In private, Anne professed to hate it, but she wore it whenever Sam asked. 

“Knock, knock,” Ann said jovially, and her girls spun around to face her. “What have we got here?”

“Mumma is not helping me,” Sam pouted.

“I am!” Anne said in protest. “We’re doing spelling.”

“It’s impossible,” Sam said dramatically, handing Ann her homework sheet. “Mumma doesn’t make any sense.”

“Maybe Sammy doesn’t listen,” Anne said, trying to tease, but Ann could hear the frustration in her voice.

“Girls,” Ann said with a chuckle. “We can all get along. Let’s try it again.”

Ann watched her wife and child slog through the list of words, her brow quickly furrowing. Anne wasn’t helping Sam at all, not giving a funny voice or pronunciation to help her learn. She was saying the words like they were a secret code, and Sam understood them no better. 

“Now, darling,” Anne said as she reviewed Sam’s practice paper, “this first word, a good way to remember is the etymology. This comes from the Greek-”

“Pony,” Ann said softly, shaking her head just once.

“It helps,” Anne protested earnestly.

“She’s six.”

“And a half,” Sam said seriously, looking up at her mums with those wide eyes. 

“How do you do it?” Anne asked, handing over the answer sheet. 

Ann studied the words, wondering why they even still had spelling tests. She bit her lip.

“You call the words,” Anne said, pointing to the sheet in Ann’s hand. “See how you like it, Mrs. Lister.”

“Mummy’s a teacher,” Sam said proudly.

“Mumma is too!” Anne said, aghast.

“Not, like, a real one.”

“Samantha,” Ann reprimanded. “Your Mumma is the smartest woman I know and a fine teacher.”

Sam looked down, chastened. Ann squeezed her wife’s shoulder. 

“But if she can’t teach you these words,” Ann said playfully, “I’m not so sure.”

“Come here,” Anne laughed, pulling Ann sidelong into her lap and pressing her lips forcefully to Ann’s cheek. “Give it a go, Adney.”

Ann giggled and settled on her wife’s lap, her back to Anne’s face. Anne hooked her chin over Ann’s shoulder, her arms wrapped around Ann’s waist. Ann cleared her throat theatrically.

“Ready?”

Pencil poised over paper, Sam nodded seriously.

 

Twenty minutes later, they were all barely holding onto their sanity. Sam had mastered nine of the ten words, but she just couldn’t grasp the last one. Ann started to wonder what kind of sadistic teacher assigned this to six-year-olds anyway. Anne was making her satisfied, all-knowing sounds, which only made Ann more frustrated. Finally, Sam dropped her head against the table with a groan.

“I’m stupid.”

“You are not,” Ann said emphatically, slipping from Anne’s grasp and dropping to her knees next to their daughter. “You’re brilliant. You’re working so hard. You’re doing so well.”

“And we are finished for the night,” Anne said, rising from her seat. “No more school tonight.”

“But I have - I -” Sam looked at her folder, a few blank pages peeking out. “Mumma, I can’t.”

“Yes, my darling.” Anne kissed the top of their daughter’s head. “You can. You will. This brain in here.” Ann scratched the back of Sam’s head in much the same way she scratched Anne’s, following her wife’s lead. “This brain is so important. Mumma and I won’t be upset with you, and your teacher won’t either. It’s more important that you get some food in your belly.” Anne tickled Sam, continuing her speech over her bright giggles. “And some rest tonight.”

“We’re so proud of you,” Ann said seriously before kissing Sam’s temple.

“I have to learn ,” Sam said weakly.

“You are,” Anne said as she lifted Sam into her arms; Sam was too big to be carried, really, but Ann knew how much her wife enjoyed holding their daughter in her arms. “Tonight’s lesson is the most important of all: school is important, but you are more important.” Sam nodded, wiping her eyes. “If you get a bad mark on spelling, or you lose points for your homework, that’s okay. You , Samantha Walker Lister, are the most important. If we have to pick between homework and your well-being, we’re picking you.”

“What Mummy said,” Ann echoed with a chuckle, following her wife and daughter into the dining room.

 

Later, with Sam in bed, Ann and Anne curled up in their chair in front of the fire, Marian stretched out on the couch, the octogenarians dozing in their recliners. Ann fiddled with her wife’s hair, enjoying the mindless, innocent way Anne stroked her thigh. These evenings were everything Ann had dreamed of, back when she lived at Crow Nest. Anne’s hand dared higher; she slipped a thumb under Ann’s jumper. The warm pad of her thumb drove Ann crazy; even with her eyes closed, Anne was maddening. Ann needed a distraction.

“Anne here was stumped by Sam’s homework tonight.”

“What!” Anne sputtered, her eyes flashing open. “I was not!”

“Couldn’t get through the words,” Ann teased.

“She’s always been a poor student,” Aunt Anne said, her eyes still closed.

“I am not!”

“She got kicked out, you know,” Marian said conspiratorially.

“I know,” Ann said with a shake of her head. “It’ll be good luck Sam doesn’t pick it up from her.”

“Now, Adney,” Anne said, exasperated. “I did a good job in there tonight.”

“You did, of course.” Ann kissed the grey hair at her wife’s temple. 

“It’s C-A-T,” Marian said slowly.

“Oh!” Anne reached over, trying to swat Marian’s foot. “You lot.”

“You love us,” Ann said sweetly, peppering the side of her wife’s face with kisses. “You couldn’t get on without us.”

“I bloody well could,” Anne grumbled, squeezing Ann’s leg. “I should toss you lot out on your ear.”

“I’d like to see you try,” Captain Lister said in his gruff way, rising from his seat and shuffling out of the room. “Good night, ladies. Good night, Chief.”

Anne tilted her head seriously, mirroring her father’s military bearing. Ann always found this moment endearing, father and daughter connecting in the only way they could. She took her wife’s hand and interlaced their fingers. 

Slowly, the rest of the family made their exits, and Ann was left with her sleepy wife and a dying fire. She kissed Anne’s knuckles. 

“You know I was teasing you, don’t you, darling?”

“Perhaps,” Anne said loftily. 

“Pony, dearest, I am so proud of you and what an amazing mum you are.” Ann softly kissed the side of her wife’s jaw. “You are so, so amazing. I’m so lucky to be a mum with you. Our daughter is bright and confident and hard-working, and that’s because of you.”

“Forgiven,” Anne said happily, leaning forward to catch Ann in a quick kiss.

“Still want to homeschool?” Ann teased, shifting to straddle her wife and cup her handsome face in her hands. 

“Hell no,” Anne grinned and kissed her again. 

Their kiss deepened, and Anne’s hands drifted to Ann’s ass. Ann slipped her hands in Anne’s hair, ruining her braid. Anne hummed softly and bit her lip.

“Off to bed, Mummy.” She spanked Ann crisply. “No more shagging in the living room.”

Ann kissed her once more before climbing off her lap. She stretched leisurely before heading to the stairs.

“Pony, we haven’t shagged in this room in years .”

Anne laughed and chased her up the stairs, wrapping Ann in her arms on the landing and kissing her fiercely. Then she pulled away and tugged Ann up the rest of the stairs and into their bedroom. Breathless and giggling, Ann leaned against the door. Anne closed the distance between them in a single stride and took her by the waist.

“Quiet, Miss Walker,” Ann purred in her ear.

Her maddening lips traced along Ann’s neck, her hands roaming Ann’s body. Ann leaned into her firm body, relishing the strength of Anne’s back in her arms. Slowly, they turned, and Ann walked backward to the bed. She pulled Anne on top of her, humming softly as Anne’s knee pressed between her legs.

“Fuck me, Pony,” Ann whispered. “In your rainbow jumper.”

Anne barked out a laugh, tearing the cardigan from her shoulders before dropping back on top of her wife.

“That bloody jumper,” she said ruefully before catching Ann’s lips again.

Ann slipped her hands under Anne’s shirt; her muscles rippled under Ann’s fingertips, sending a jolt of electricity through her. With a soft moan, Anne kissed her again, over and over as she snaked one hand between them to find Ann’s breast. They moved as one, a single, perfect being working in harmony. Fire skated along Ann’s skin, every touch stoking the flame even higher. Somehow, Ann managed, clumsily, to flick open Anne’s trousers. 

It was then, of course, that the knock came.

They shared a panicked look, and Anne scrambled to her feet. She fastened her trousers before opening the door.

“Mumma?” 

“Darling?” Anne crouched down. “What’s wrong?”

“I had a bad dream.”

“Oh, my love.”

Ann sat up slowly, still catching her breath. Sam crawled into her arms, seeming much more younger than her years. They settled against the headboard, Sam sitting on Ann’s lap and holding her stuffed hedgehog. 

“What happened in your dream?” Ann asked, smoothing her daughter’s hair, already wild and tangled from sleep.

Sam started to explain, speaking in that slow way of hers. Ann cooed and soothed, watching her wife undress in the closet. She longed to be the one to unbutton Anne’s shirt, push down her trousers, and cover her body with kisses instead of faded pajamas. Anne padded back to the bed and slipped under the covers, motioning for Sam to do the same. Always wanting to be just like her mum, Sam mirrored her exactly, tiny little head on the pillow, hedgehog held close to chest, wide eyes searching Anne’s face. Ann snuck away to get read for bed.

“Listen closely, alright?” Anne said, her voice low and soothing. “It’s okay to be stressed, and it’s okay to be scared. There’s no spelling monster, and if there is, I’ll slay it.” From the closet, Ann heard her daughter’s bright giggles. “Your teacher won’t be cross with you, and you’re still perfectly brilliant. Mummy and I wouldn’t give you bad advice, would we?”

“No,” Sam said.

“Of course not. Now, Miss Lister, are you here to stay or are you going back to your bed?”

Ann hovered in the doorway, where Sam couldn’t see her; Anne winked at her. After a long pause, Sam answered loudly and confidently. 

“I’m going back!”

“Good girl.” Anne kissed her forehead. “Let’s go, shall we?”

Ann’s heart swelled as she watched her wife and daughter scramble out of bed, but then Sam froze. 

“Mumma?”

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“Your jumper,” Sam said seriously, eyes wide with worry. “You’ve forgotten it.”

Anne bit her lip, and Ann stifled a giggle.

“I have,” Anne said carefully, picking up the cardigan. “I’d better hang it up.”

“Do you like it?”

“I love it,” Anne said, her tone less than convincing.

“Wear it,” Sam said eagerly.

Anne sighed, clearly searching for an excuse. Ann laughed and took her daughters hand, leading her back to her room.

“Do you know that your Mumma used to wear only black?”

“Really?”

“Oh, yes,” Ann said. “No color at all.”

Sam crawled into bed, and Ann tucked her in.

“Why?” 

“It’s a very long story, my love. Maybe one day she’ll tell you.”

Sam nodded, her eyes already closing. Ann kissed her daughter's forehead and slipped out of the room. Anne was scribbling in her journal when she returned.

“It’s like that?” Ann asked.

Anne didn’t even look up.

“Like what?”

“We were in the middle of something.”

“Yes, and then our daughter came in,” Anne said. “I’ve rather lost my appetite.”

Ann clicked her tongue and turned into the closet, an idea formulating in her mind. A few moments of digging, and she had it. Ann draped herself theatrically in the closet doorway, then cleared her throat.

“Pony?”

Anne hummed in question, but didn’t look up.

“Dearest,” Ann said, lilting over the word. “Look here.”

Anne looked up, and her jaw dropped. Ann stood in the doorway wearing nothing but that rainbow jumper. In an instant, Anne was on her feet, crossing the room, pressing Ann into the door jamb. Her lips pressed hungrily to Ann’s, her hands slipping under the jumper and caressing Ann’s skin, her throat humming with those delicious, needy little sounds. 

“Perhaps I haven’t lost it after all,” Anne husked, then lifted Ann into her arms. 

Ann laughed and tightened her legs around her wife’s waist, happily accepting Anne’s sharp kisses along her neck. Somehow, they managed to get Ann on the bed, Anne’s pajamas on the floor, their cores pressed together. Gentle hands turned desperate; soft sighs morphed into hurried whispers. 

“You’re amazing.”

“I love you.”

“Right there.”

“Yes, I -”

“Fuck.”

“Quiet, darling.”

“Just - faster.”

A blur of arms and backs and hips, underscored by moans and shushes and breathless laughter. Ann was burning, hurtling to her release and scrambling desperately to bring her wife with her. Anne grunted lowly in her ear, whispering encouragements and endearments, each word shooting straight to Ann’s core. 

“Yes, baby,” Ann panted, hands grappling over the slick expanse of Anne’s back; why was she still wearing this heavy jumper? “Baby, please.”

With a twist and a stroke, Anne sent her into oblivion, following closely behind with her own trembling, babbling release. Their ecstasy lasted for a long, perfect moment, and then they collapsed into each other. Anne chuckled softly and rolled onto her back. 

“Oh, Adney,” she sighed. “Oh, Lord.”

“I love you,” Ann said as she curled into her wife’s side, wrapping an arm around Anne’s waist and resting her head on Anne’s broad shoulder. 

“I love you.” Anne kissed the top of Ann’s head; she snaked a hand under the sweaty cardigan, squeezing Ann’s ass playfully. “And I love this jumper.”

Chapter Text

“You look lovely, darling,” Ann told their teenage daughter, standing behind her in their bathroom. “Stop touching your hair.”

“Mum,” Sam groaned, tugging on her hair. “What if - I don’t look right!”

Anne blocked the doorway, preventing Sam from leaving. In truth, Anne agreed with Sam; she didn’t look right, because she looked like an adult. At fourteen, she was radiant, but much too old. Anne wished she could block her forever, keep her in their tiny bathroom for eternity. This dating business was decidedly not her idea.

“You look beautiful,” Anne said seriously, taking her daughters hands. 

“Maybe I should cancel,” Sam said, shaking her head at the ground. “I don’t know, I -”

“Lovely idea,” Anne said, smiling broadly. “Not just a pretty face.”

“Anne,” her wife scolded, shooting daggers at Anne with her eyes. “Finn will be here in five minutes, and we’re all very excited.”

Sam groaned, and Anne hummed. She wrapped an arm around her daughter’s shoulders, now nearly as high as hers, and ushered her downstairs. It was a big night for Sam, her very first date with a nice little non-binary child called Finn. She’d had a few crushes and flirtations before, but never a proper date. The Listers were in charge of driving the kids to the restaurant, and Finn’s parents were going to pick them up. Anne had no intentions of dropping them off; her binoculars were already safely packed in the family car.

“Be nice,” Ann hissed as the doorbell rang.

“Finn,” Anne said seriously as she swung the door open to find a studious-looking kid with curly, asymmetrical hair and large glasses; at least they’d put on a suit, Anne noted with satisfaction. “Come in.”

“Hi, Finn,” Ann said warmly. “We’re so happy to meet you.”

“Hey,” Sam said, a quiet shyness in her voice; Anne looked at her boisterous girl in alarm. 

“Hey,” Finn said, shifting their glasses nervously.

“Sit down, sit down.” Anne shifted into professor mode. When Finn and Sam tried to sit on the couch, Anne barked at them. “Not there!” She pointed to the hardback chairs near the fireplace. “There.”

“Anne,” her wife warned, sitting down in their large armchair. Anne perched on the edge, propping herself up with one arm behind Ann’s head. “Be nice.”

“Finn is a guest in our home, and they intend to spend an evening with our child. I have questions.”

“We’ve played football together for ages,” Sam said petulantly.

“Exactly why I have concerns,” Anne joked, drawing a chuckle from Finn. She turned on them. “What’s funny?”

“I - uh, I - I don’t know.” Finn looked up at her sheepishly. “Ma’am.”

Anne hummed and studied the pair of them. A nice couple she supposed, but she did not relish the image of her daughter and this hoodlum doing - well, anything. She fixed the interloper with a withering stare.

“What kind of marks do you get?”

“Uh, good ones?” Finn offered. “Sam and I have the same classes.”

“How often have you been suspended from school?”

“Never?” Finn looked at Sam, whose cheeks burned crimson. “I - uh, I don’t get in trouble, Mrs. Lister.”

“You talking to me?” Anne asked. Finn nodded. “Dr. Lister, child. I’ve been a doctor longer than you’ve been alive.”

“Oh, uh, I’m - I’m sorry. I - I didn’t know. Are you at the hospital or a GP or?”

“University,” Ann said easily, reaching over to squeeze her wife’s knee. “My wife is a doctor of Classics.”

Anne bit her tongue, rebuilding her ego from that blow. Ann continued to smooth her knee as she spoke.

“What do you do for fun, Finn?”

“Read, mostly. Hikes, when I can get away. I’ve - uh, I’ve always wanted to tour Shibden.”

“Absolutely not,” Anne said firmly.

“Why not?” Her wife asked. “Sam could show them every nook and cranny”

“I’m not letting you two go cavorting off on the estate.” She gave Ann a meaningful look. “I know what’s out there in those nooks and crannies.”

“There are hardly wolves, Mum,” Sam said flippantly. 

“I’m not letting you out of my sights,” Anne said seriously. “I was a teenager once, too.”

Finn nodded, then seemed to gather up all of their strength. They cleared their throat and met Anne’s gaze with a surprisingly confident expression of their own.

“I know you’re testing me, ma’am, and I don’t mind. I just - well, I hope you’d trust your daughter even if you don’t trust me. I’ve looked up to you for a long time, Mrs. - uh, Dr. Lister, as a queer person in our part of the country. And I’m - um, forgive me for being - uh, maybe being bold, but I - I’m surprised you’re reverting to such old-fashioned, patriarchal, heteronormative stereotypes.”

Three jaws hung open, but Finn’s remained firmly set. Anne started to see her actions more clearly, and this teenager was right. She swallowed, then nodded.

“Test passed,” she said, her throat dry. 

“We’d better go,” Ann said crisply, patting Anne’s knee.

In the car, Anne tried to find common ground with this surprising date of her daughter’s. They didn’t have much in common, but Anne found Finn to be a game conversationalist with a keen eye for humor. Plans were already forming in Anne’s mind to keep this interesting person in Sam’s life.

“Be safe,” Ann said as they pulled up to the restaurant.

“Home by eleven,” Anne said slowly and seriously. 

“Yes, ma’am,” Finn said with a mock salute.

As they walked into the restaurant, Sam looked back over her shoulder - her face beaming, her eyes shining. Anne’s chest ached. It would be so much easier if she didn’t like the little punk.

“We’re not leaving, are we?” Ann asked as Anne pulled away. 

“Course not,” Anne said with a chuckle. “Round the block then back.”

“They’re nice, aren’t they?” Ann said, taking Anne’s left hand in her right. “Certainly put you in your place.”

“That’s for sure.”

They drove in silence for a few moments, until Anne pulled into park on the side of the restaurant. They had a mostly unimpeded view of the teenagers’ table. Sam was animated, talking excitedly. Anne wished she could see Finn’s face, gauge their sincerity. 

“Did you go on a lot of dates?” Ann asked.

“In general?”

“As a teenager.”

“Oh, no,” Anne said. “Not even once, I don’t think. It wasn’t exactly easy, taking girls out back then. Eliza and I stuck to our room.”

“Right,” Ann said softly.

“Did you?” Anne asked, turning to face her wife. 

“No!” Ann laughed. “No, no. One boy in my chemistry class asked me out, and as soon as I got in his car, I threw up all over his interior.”

“Adney!” Anne cried, laughing and studying her blushing wife. “Did you really?”

“Physiological reaction,” Ann said with a shake of her head. “I didn’t know I was gay yet, but my body did.”

“Poor guy.”

“Poor guy?” Ann sputtered. “Poor - p-poor guy? I was sick for three days!” Anne tried to speak but she was still laughing; Ann kept going, laughing and ranting. “Poor guy. My wife feels sorry for the boy - the boy who took me on my first date. Not me! Not sick little Ann, scared to death and dreaming of Anne Lister every night, no!”

“Adney,” Anne managed, still breathless. “Adney, Adney, wait.”

“You’re ridiculous, Pony,” Ann said with a sigh. “I can’t believe you.”

Anne looked over her shoulder. Ann caught her gaze, and Anne raised her eyebrows. With a soft giggle, they tumbled out of the car and into the backseat. Ann slid perfectly into her side, fitting under her arm and against her chest. She smoothed one hand along Anne’s belly before interlacing their fingers. Anne could still see the kids from here, but it was infinitely more comfortable in the back.

“It’s for the best that we never went out as teenagers,” she said thoughtfully. “When I was Sam’s age, you were a toddler.”

“And when I was Sam’s age, you were another woman’s mistress.”

Anne hummed softly, agreeing with Ann’s assessment, even if she didn’t like it. For decades, she barely saw past her next meeting with Mariana. Now she’d spent about as long with Ann. Her hair was grayer, and she needed her glasses more and more frequently. Her legs tired more quickly, but she was still full of energy. Her sixtieth birthday had been an ego blow more than anything else; Anne felt as youthful as she had in the attic with Eliza Raine, in a muffled closet at Lawton Hall, in the parlor at Crow Nest on a sunny March day during a pandemic.

“Is that -,” Ann poked her side, rousing Anne from her thoughts. “Is that a hand-hold?”

Anne squinted at the restaurant. Sure enough, Finn’s hand covered Sam’s on the table. The mums turned to each other in horror. 

“Well, I think that’s very forward,” Anne said.

“I agree,” Ann said, her eyes wide with shock and outrage. “They’ve been in there five minutes.”

“Actually, it’s been -”

“Exaggeration, Pony.”

“Right.”

“Do you think - no.”

“What?” Anne squeezed her wife’s hand. “What?”

“Do you think they’ve already - you know, done anything?”

All thought in Anne’s head ceased. They stared at each other for a long, torturous moment. Anne tried to form words, but her brain couldn’t function. Finally, Ann managed to speak, barely above a whisper.

“She knows about protection, doesn’t she?”

The tension broke, and Anne fell into body-shaking laughter. After a beat, Ann joined her.

“Yes, darling,” Anne said, wiping her eyes. “You remember we sat her down last year.”

“I’ve blocked that from my mind,” Ann said, hand over her face. “I can’t believe how thorough you were.”

“A young woman needs to know these things.” Anne kissed the back of her wife’s hand. “Even if she’ll never use them.”

“She’d better not!” Ann cried. “I - she’s much too young.”

“I was about her age,” Anne said.

“You’re not my daughter.”

“True,” she chuckled, pulling her wife closer and kissing the crown of her head. “Fourteen feels awfully old, though, when you’re living it. I was ready to drop out and set up home with Eliza.”

“Sam still sleeps with that hedgehog,” Ann pointed out.

“Right,” Anne nodded. “She can have sex when she’s - what do you think? Eighteen?”

“Thirty.”

“Adney!” 

Ann giggled and shook her head against Anne’s chest.

“I don’t want her to grow up.”

“Me neither,” Anne said softly.

“We should’ve had more kids,” Ann said. “We’ll be lonely without her.”

“Now, Mrs. Lister,” Anne laughed, “just two days ago, you wished we’d never had children at all.”

“Pony,” Ann whined, “I was about to come, and she called us. She called us to order her curry, when I was centimeters from an orgasm!”

“She didn’t know that!”

“Bloody well better not,” Ann laughed. “Do you think she’s ever - you know, suspected?”

“Suspected what?”

“Well, she’s never walked in on us, has she?”

“Definitely not,” Anne said.

“Then, do you think - like, do you think she’s had moments like ‘oh, God, they were just shagging.’”

“She’d better not!” Anne cried; this thought had never occurred to her.

“It has been a lot lately, hasn't it?” Ann said, a cheeky smile tugging at her lips. 

“Is this a proud Adney?” Anne teased. “Mrs. Lister pleased with herself?”

“You know, we’re sat here watching teenagers hold hands when we could be shagging at home.”

“You want to leave her unsupervised?”

“Well, no,” Ann drawled, slipping a hand under Anne’s shirt, tickling her sensitive skin. “I’m just trying to use our time efficiently.”

“I’ve taught you well,” Anne husked.

“They hovered together for a moment, then Ann tilted her chin. Anne caught her wife’s lips in a slow, searching kiss. Small hands slipped along her back, up to her shoulders; Ann’s lips parted, begging her deeper. Anne twisted them, kissing her wife over and over, one eye trained on the restaurant.

“Stay with me,” Ann whispered between kisses. “Close your eyes.”

Ann knew her too well. For a blissful moment, Anne did close her eyes, relishing the steamy warmth of the car, the softness of her wife’s lips, the sweet taste of her tongue. Tilting her head, she traveled along Ann’s neck and under her jaw. It wouldn’t hurt to look just for a moment, would it?

They were on the sidewalk. Sam and Finn. Sam was looking up the street, and -

“Oh my God!” Anne shouted, effectively dropping Ann to the seat of the car and pressing herself against the window. “They’re snogging!”

In reality, a wild exaggeration, but there was no denying the root of it. Finn had tapped Sam’s shoulder, smiled, and placed a quick, awkward kiss on her lips. They were both blushing. Anne and Ann turned to each other.

“I feel bad,” Anne said at the same moment Ann said,

“They’re so cute.”

“Adney!”

“Well!” Ann shrugged. “They’re sweet together.”

“It’s an invasion of privacy.”

“Was it?” Ann held up Anne’s binoculars. 

“Alright, alright,” Anne said, shaking her head. “Let’s go.”

“Go?”

“We’ve got to beat the kids back to Shibden, or they’ll wonder where we’ve been.”

Ann’s face fell as understanding clicked in her eyes. They laughed the whole way home. They’d barely gotten in the door when the bell rang. Anne fought to keep a straight face as she swung the door open.

“Your daughter,” a well-dressed man said, Sam and Finn by his side. He extended his hand; Anne crushed it. “Nice to see you, Dr. Lister. Mrs. Lister.”

“And you, Mr. Murray,” Anne said. “Can we invite you in?”

“Not tonight, I’m afraid. Thank you both. Come along Finn.”

Anne didn’t miss the way Finn’s hand grazed Sam’s or the blush spreading across their faces as they parted. Being a teenager, she thought, nothing like it.

“Details,” Ann demanded with a grin, wrapping Sam in her arms and pulling her up the stairs. “Mumma’s going to make us some tea, we’ll get in our pajamas, and you’ll tell us all about it.”

“Mum,” Sam groaned. “I’m tired.”

“No excuses,” Ann said happily. “I want to hear all about it.”

Anne rolled her eyes and went about getting the tea. She locked up the house and thought about how different her own teenage romances had been, how alone she’d always felt, how impossible and claustrophobic the closet had felt. She climbed the stairs carefully, balancing a tray of tea and biscuits, her heart full. Forty-five years since she’d felt so desperate and restless; she never imagined she could feel so content and settled.

“They’re, like, really smart, though,” Sam was saying, all bundled in a pair of Anne’s sweats and lying flat on the bed; Ann was perched next to her, leaning against the headboard in her nightshirt, her legs curled underneath her, a brilliant smile on her face as she beamed down at their daughter. “Like, Finn knows so much about Halifax and history and stuff.”

“Sounds boring,” Anne teased. She set up the tray and kissed Finn’s forehead, then Ann’s. “Back in a tick.”

Anne pulled on her pajamas and rushed back into the room; she was almost embarrassed by her interest in Sam’s date. She wasn’t usually interested in gossip; in fact, she completely tuned out when Marian or Catherine ranted to Ann about their dating misery. With Sam, she wanted every detail.

“Who paid?” She asked, climbing into bed and mirroring Ann’s posture. Anne laid a long arm on the headboard, and their hands found each other. She could almost weep at the closeness of their tiny family.

“We split it,” Sam said defensively. “It’s only fair.”

“Dates aren’t about being fair,” Anne said derisively.

“It’s fine,” Ann cut in. “Maybe Finn hasn’t got a lot of money.”

“I saw the father’s car.”

“Not the same thing,” Ann said.

“It was fine ,” Sam said sincerely. “We had a really good time. I really like them.”

“When’s the next date?” Ann asked.

“Tuesday.”

“A school night?” Anne shouted; her wife squeezed her hand, forcing her to take a deep breath. “I mean, haven’t you got school the next day, darling?”

“We were just going to walk around the estate, if that’s alright, Mum?” Sam turned from Ann to Anne, then back to Ann. “That’s okay, isn’t it?”

“Of course,” Ann soothed. “Wherever you want to go.”

“Within reason,” Anne said seriously.

“Mum!” Sam sat up sharply and turned to Anne. “I know Shibden. You know I know Shibden. Finn is genuinely really interested, and I really want to show them.”

“It’s romantic,” Ann implored, wrapping her arms around Sam’s waist and squeezing her from behind. “Holding hands, long walks, just talking.”

“Alright,” Anne grumbled. “Off to bed with you.” Sam made a small squeal of joy, hugged both her mums, and scrambled for the door. Anne called out to her just before she left. “No snogging, by the way. Not on my land.”

“We - uh, we - uh,” Sam sputtered, eyes flicking between Ann and Anne. “We haven’t even -”

“Yes, you have,” Ann said seriously. “A mother knows.”

Anne nodded sagely, speaking in a serious tone. 

“Two mothers know twice as much.”

Sam groaned and flung out of the room. Her mum’s collapsed into giggles, falling into each other’s arms. Anne kissed her wife’s cheeks, the corners of her laughing mouth, the perfect tip of her nose. 

“You’re silly,” Ann laughed as they curled up together. “I’m so glad she had a good time.”

“Did she, honestly?” Anne asked.

“Oh, yeah. She and Finn are in love, to hear her tell it. It does sound like they treated her well, and she enjoyed herself.”

“Good,” Anne said, stroking her wife’s hair.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m worried about that kid.”

Ann propped herself up and caught Anne’s eye.

“Why?”

“Finn’s so into Shibden, and they said they looked up to me. I just - well, I wonder if they aren’t using Sam to get to me.”

Ann stared at her for a long moment, her face unreadable. Then she burst out laughing. Anne’s face fell; she scoffed and bucked her hips at the maddening woman on top of her, but Ann couldn’t stop laughing. Finally, she took a deep breath and answered.

“Pony, darling, dearest, my love. I adore you. But. There is no way that that child - that Finn is going out with Sam to get at you .”

“Why not?” Anne asked, her lower lip already jutting out.

“I love you, dearest, you know that,” Ann said, cupping Anne’s face in her hands, “but you are sixty years old.”

Anne started to protest, but Ann cut her with a searing kiss. Before she could make her point, Ann had stolen every thought from her brain and breath from her lungs. In an instant, Anne became a pool of jelly under Ann’s hands and lips. By the time she came up for air an hour later, sweaty and naked and breathless, Anne had forgotten those teenage troubles entirely; she felt more like a teenager herself. 

Chapter Text

The next morning, Ann woke to soft kisses along her neck, her wife’s firm body behind her. She hummed softly, pulling Anne’s strong arm more firmly around her waist. It had been ages since they’d dawdled in bed like this.

“How long?” She breathed.

“Hours,” Anne husked in her ear, one hand slipping over her breasts, along her stomach, between her thighs. “It’s before eight, my love.”

“Too early,” Ann murmured happily, rolling her hips into her wife’s delicate strokes. “Aren’t you tired?”

“Not after last night.” Anne nipped her ear one. “I’m energized.”

Ann smiled and rolled onto her back, pulling her wife on top of her; their lips found each other lazily, Anne still teasing her center. Dark brown hair passed through Ann’s fingers, flecks of grey catching in the weak morning sun. Now that Sam was a teenager, they got to fall asleep naked more often, even if they sometimes lacked the energy to do more than cuddle. Ann’s fifties were fast approaching, and she welcomed each year with a smile. Another year with Anne, at Shibden, in this impossible dream of a life.

“I love you,” she whispered. 

Anne grinned and kissed her again. Their hips rolled in unison as Anne’s long fingers stroked Ann closer and closer to her release. 

Then the door swung open.

“Finn wants to come over today!”

Time seemed to stand still. Anne flung the covers from around her waist over their heads, dropping onto Ann’s chest as the sheets landed on top of them. In this dark, humid cave, they locked eyes; Ann couldn’t decide if she wanted to cry or laugh.

“What are you doing?” Sam cried. “What - I - God .”

“Samantha,” Anne said authoritatively, poking her head out and turning to their daughter. “You usually knock before you come in here.”

“You’re not usually shagging when I come in here!” Sam shouted.

“You don’t know that,” Anne joked.

Ann felt like she might die on the spot.

“It’s disgusting,” Sam said. “It’s - like - like, that’s so - I can’t. I -”

“I won’t be spoken to in this way,” Anne said evenly, though Ann could hear the frustration in her voice. “Is there a reason you came in here?”

“Not anymore, since apparently you’re locked in here shagging! Which you're - ugh! It’s disgusting! It’s awful. Why didn’t you lock the door? Parents aren’t supposed to - like, ever!” Sam shouted. 

“More often than you think!” Anne shouted back.

Ann heard the door open then slam shut. She flung the sheets back from her face with a loud groan. Anne was already out of bed and dressing.

“Pony,” Ann whined. “I can’t believe - I - what are we going to do?”

“Well, that Finn isn’t coming over, that’s for sure,” Anne snapped.

“Hey, Pony, are - I don’t think that’s fair.”

“She can’t speak to us like that.” Anne tugged on a t-shirt, her eyes wild with anger. “We’re her bloody parents, and she’s not giving us any bloody privacy.”

“She didn’t know,” Ann said, crossing the room to wrap her arms around her wife. “It’s okay. Hey, Anne.” She forced Anne to meet her eyes. “It’s okay. We’ll work it out.”

For a long moment, neither of them spoke. They’d never quarreled with Sam, not like this. Ann knew that Sam’s words had triggered her wife, reminded her of the comments and derision she’d spent a lifetime rising above. 

“Listen,” Ann said softly. “She couldn’t have known. She’s - she has no idea what you’ve been through, what we’ve been through. She barely even knows how we met.” They shared a smile at the memory. “She’s a kid reacting to seeing her parents having sex. That’s normal. I’ll speak with her.”

“I’m going out,” Anne said quietly. She kissed Ann quickly, then disappeared.

When she got downstairs, Ann found Sam huddled at the kitchen table, typing furiously on her phone. Ann plucked the device from her hands and pocketed it. 

“None of that,” she said seriously. “You've hurt your mum’s feelings today, and you’re grounded.”

I’m grounded? I - I didn’t even do anything. You were the ones who -”

“Darling,” Ann said gently, taking her daughter’s hand in hers. “I’m sorry we shocked you. I really am. Mum’s sorry about that too.” Sam looked away, a blush creeping up her neck. “I walked in on my parents when I was younger than you, and it was much worse. I saw my father’s -” Ann chuckled and shook her head. “Doesn’t matter. It’s a shock, and I get that.”

“Yeah,” Sam said softly. 

“That said,” Ann continued. “You can’t go around calling your mums disgusting. It’s perfectly natural, even if you don’t like seeing it.”

Sam nodded and mumbled an apology, and Ann let the moment go. Surely, they’d revisit this topic when Anne returned from wherever she’d gone. For now, Ann wanted to distract her daughter, hopefully flushing away whatever images she now had in her head. 

By midday, they’d settled on the couch with the television on their favorite, trashiest program. Ann relished these moments with Sam, the connection they shared that was only for them. Sam laid between her legs, her head on Ann’s belly. It had been nearly a year since they’d sat like this - Sam thought herself much too grown up to cuddle with her mum.

“Here I am,” Anne called from the landing. “Did you miss me?”

“We thought you were out,” Ann sputtered as her wife swept into the room. 

“Only in the office, darling.” 

Anne dropped a kiss on Ann’s forehead, then Sam’s. It was only now that Ann could see the thick books Anne carried - no, not books, journals. 

“Listen, Sam,” Anne said, sitting across from them. “I’m sorry about what you saw this morning, and I’m sorry for shouting at you.”

“I’m sorry, Mumma,” Sam whispered, fiddling with the string of her hoodie. 

“Very good, now, you don’t know what Mummy and I were like before you.”

“Tib’s told me some stories,” Sam said with a shy smile.

“Don’t listen to Tib,” Anne said with a wave of her hand. “I’ve been keeping this log, this - well, narrative, I guess, since shortly after you were born. It’s got the whole story of how your mother and I met, how we fell in love, and all our sordid, embarrassing histories.”

“Not too much, I hope,” Ann said. This was the first she’d heard of this log. “Some things - well, I'd hate to bore Sam.”

“I’ll let you read it first then, Mum.” She tossed the first book in the stack to Ann. “All about the pandemic and our engagement.” 

Ann flipped through the pages. Sure enough, the words “Crow Nest,” “Covid,” and “quarantine” popped out at her. She reached for the next book.

“You see, Sam, love, I want you to know our story. It’s important, I think, to tell these stories. See how far we’ve come. Your mum and me, sure, but also our society. There were times in my life I’ve been called disgusting.” Ann reached out to take her wife’s hand. “And it wasn’t because I was somebody’s mum.”

“I’m sorry,” Sam said, regret lacing her voice. “I didn’t even - I just - I am sorry.”

“I know,” Anne said sincerely. “That’s why it’s important for you to know where we came from.” She squeezed Ann’s hand. “Where you come from.”

“I’ll have to review this, Dr. Lister,” Ann teased, remembering the way they spent most of their quarantine. She plucked Anne’s glasses from her head and settled them on her own nose. “Before you pass on some filth to poor Sammy.” 

“Abridged, of course darling,” Anne said. “I’m not peddling smut to our child.”

Ann flicked through the third volume, amazed at the level of detail her wife could record. There must be hundreds of thousands of words here. She paused on a section, rereading the short paragraphs once more. Ann looked up at her wife, this brilliant woman who had burst into her life and broken her open. Anne Lister, who changed the world for the better with every stroke of her pen - Ann couldn’t believe they’d found each other. She couldn’t help smiling as she asked her wife: 

“Hang on, did you write a section from Argus’s perspective?”